Archive | July, 2011

Pickled Green Strawberries

26 Jul

*update: I get a lot of search hits on this post. I’m wondering if anyone else tried them and how they turned out. I’d love to hear from anyone who makes these and what, if any, changes you tried.

I  serve on the board of an incredible local non profit, Grow Pittsburgh.  This weekend GP held their first member event at Braddock Farms, a local urban farm oasis situated in the shadow of the Edgar J. Thompson Steelworks. It is a truly wondrous place, as I discovered this weekend.  For this event we, the board members, were tasked with providing finger food for the event. Guess what I wanted to make…pickles!  I know, you are shocked, SHOCKED!

Reaching out to Farmer Marshal for a list of available produce for pickling, he sent a list that included green strawberries.  Green strawberries??  Really?? Intrigued, I turned to teh googles.  And you know what I found when I searched for recipes?  Nothing. Nada, zip, zilcho, bupkiss. There is nary a recipe to be found.  There are enough restaurant review blogs and online menus that make mention of pickled green strawberries for me to presume they are in fact edible.  But no recipes. So I set out to create my own.

I retrieved a bag of dainty little strawberries from the Grow Pittsburgh offices and got to work.

After much reading of recipes and wandering around indecisively, I created a pickle of 1 part vinegar, 1 part sugar, 1/2 part water which I brought to a boil to dissolve the sugar, then set in the freezer to cool.

Into a large mason jar I added my flavorings:

  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Annis seeds
  • Peppercorns
  • Fresh ginger slices
  • Orange rind

Add stemmed strawberries to the jar and pour on cool brine.

I refrigerated them for 2 days and unveiled them at the event.  Admittedly they are a little scary looking…

But man-oh-man are they delicious.  I was skeptical. I’m sure you are too. Most people sampled one at my urging, though not without clear trepidation.  Never fear! Despite their apparently sketchy look, these retain the soul of a strawberry. Its hard to explain the flavor; they taste like a strawberry without the sweetness, but also lack the bitter, almost starchy flavor and consistency of an unripe berry.  The pickling softens them and sweetens them and gives them a lovely refreshing flavor.  I provided crackers, and a selection of cream, blue, and feta cheese to accompany the pickles and they were a huge hit. Riley probably ate the most, not even bothering with the cheese, just stabbing them with a toothpick and greedily munching away!

The real problem here is probably finding green strawberries.  You really need to either have a strawberry patch or go pay to pick your own suring the short strawberry season.  In other words, try these, you’ll love them, but they will be a rare and special treat not an every day favorite.

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Kohlerwhatnow?

22 Jul

Remember when I said I made pickled Kholerabi? I bet you were all like, “Whaaaat???? What the freak is kholerabi?”

Well, that’s a legitimate question, because kholerabi is an imaginary word, but kohlrabi, which is what I actually pickled, is this:

As my beloved pickle book says (oh yes, it is beloved) kohlrabi is a cabbage that puts all its energy into a bulbous beginning.  It looks a little scary but it really isn’t and the end product is deeeeelicious!

Just trim the leaves

Try to use a traditional peeler, discover this doesn’t work, worry this sucker is going to put up a fight, give up on peeler.

Find sharp knife and discover peeling a kholrabi is easy if you have any thing sharper than a butter knife.

And viola! On to the pickling…

This recipe is from my new soul mate, The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich.

1 1/2 lbs Kohlrabi, peeled and cut into pieces
1 1/2 t  pickling salt
1/2 c. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. water
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon, in strips
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. black peppercorns, crushed
4 thin slices fresh ginger (I used generously large pieces because we love ginger)
1/4 t. hot pepper flakes

In a bowl, toss kohlrabi with salt. Let stand for about 1 hour.

Drain it and place it in jars—I made 2 smaller jars so I could share with friends, but since it is made to be immediately consumed, unless you are giving it away, put it all in one jar.

Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil and immediately pour them over the kohlrabi and mix. Cover and let cool to room temperature.

After it cools, refrigerate it and let it sit for a day or two.  It keeps for about 3 weeks, but I guarantee, it wont last that long. These are DELICIOUS!

One of the things I love about these is that though all the pickles have ginger, lemon and garlic overtones, occasionally you get one that was nestled up against a slice of ginger or a strip of lemon zest and it has an extra kick of flavor to it.  Overall these are just scrumptious, addicting little treats. I took some to a picnic recently and they were devoured. Best part, totally fat free.  They satisfy a craving for a crunchy treat but are pretty much entirely wholesome!

Too busy for pickles???

15 Jul

The girls clown, Eliza photobombs

No, just too busy to post about it. Last Saturday we crossed the Johnstown Flood Museum off the bucket list.  The flood museum was everything I expected it to be and we also enjoyed the Wagner-Ritter house down the street. Johnstown was like the town that time forgot though. The number of storefronts and signs that looked untouched for 40 years was epic.  If you wanted to film a movie about the 1960s, this would be the place!  Even the Johnstown Giant Eagle hadn’t been updated. It’s almost as if the big wigs thought painting the sign would make it look too out of place!

On the way home we stopped at Schramms and though there was no giant Dill, there was plenty of other local produce available for preserving.

As you can see I made more pickle pickles and more dilly beans. But I also veered into uncharted territory to produce pickled kholerabi and pickled blue berries.  I’ll save the kholerabi for another time, but the Blueberries, zomg, you HAVE to try these!

You start by tying up some cloves and some allspice berries in cheese cloth and bringing it to a boil with red wine vinegar.  Toss in your blueberries and simmer to heat through then let stand 8 hours.

The Blueberries are drained and the juice added to sugar and boiled down to thicken.  Place the berries into jars whole and the hot syrup poured over them.  They are sealed and processed and you have whole pickled blueberries.

The author stated that she serves them instead of cranberries with turkey and I can see that. The cloves, allspice and vinegar mean that these berries would certainly pair well with a savory application.  I think they would also go nicely with cheese, but then again, what wouldn’t?  I tasted the syrup and it was heavenly;  that tart sweet duality in any food is such a delight. These might also be nice with a dollop of pepper to bring a little heat, but then again, they were pretty perfect as made.

We are going blueberry picking this weekend and I may in fact pickle whatever we bring home. This is way better than jam in my opinion, and I haven’t quite managed to get my jam making skills under control…

…To wit: I made nectarine jam and some of the jars were fine but others looked like this:

What happened??

Too little pectin? Not enough lemon juice? Too much sugar? Not enough sugar???  The problem stems from my bulk pectin order in that I am sort of flying blind on how much to use. I think it was too little but I’m not sure how to fix this problem. Any expert jam makers out there with advice, I’d love to hear it. I view failed experiments as learning experiences…except where food is concerned. I can’t help but be bitterly disappointed.  🙂

Ugh. Well the Peach Chutney turned out wonderful (except I forgot the peppers so it has NO heat at all) so maybe I’ll stick to chutneys. I’m not much of a jam girl anyway.

So many other wonderful food experiences to tell you about, too little time.  I DO want to post a picture of these brilliant beauties:

Vodka Lemon Jello Shots

 

These were made by the roommate of Alix Levy, so perhaps that beautiful food charm does spread.  Though it hasn’t done me a bit of good…

These are, as the caption suggests, lemon vodka jello shots served in a lemon rind.  I KNOW, RIGHT???

Also, just because it’s pretty:

pickles…PICKLES!

8 Jul

by Linda Ziedrich

It arrived!  And despite this being a belt tightening week, I bought it.  There are many things to love about this book, but I think chief among them is the weird variety of produce she pickles.  The ones that made me go hmmmm include:

  • cantaloupe
  • purslane
  • oranges
  • cherries
  • blueberries
  • plums
  • broccoli
  • okra
  • grapes…

And so on.  That’s pickled. Not turned into a chutney but strait up pickled.  As exciting as those all sound, what I had in my kitchen to pickle were more snap peas and some cukes.  The snap pea recipe I found on http://www.epicurious.com was actually from this book!  And I set out to make traditional dill pickles from the cucumbers. There are a lot, like 100s, of different methods and recipes for pickling cucumbers with dill.  As always I chose a recipe that fit my time table, the ingredients I had on hand, and my preference.  I didn’t have time for a 24 hour (or 12) soak so I found a recipe that called for none of that. I cant find the recipe I used but it called for mixing up your vinegar, salt and water then pouring it, simmering, over a jar full of cukes, garlic, dill and jalapenos.

Let me just say pickling is soooo easy, it is amazing it yields such yummy treats.   And I’m learning lessons as I go.  My revelation on Tuesday night was that I should parse out the pickles so I have the right number of jars, and don’t have to fuss with it once the jars are sterile.

I made several different shapes of pickles with the same recipe as well. I have two jars of whole pickles, three jars of spears and a jar of slices.

The other totally awesome thing about pickles is they are so pretty in the jar. The big dill heads, bright green jalapenos, chunks of garlic and happy little cucumbers remind me of the row after row of jars my grandmother put up every year. This compels me to call my Aunt and get her recipe for pickled peppers. The big heads of dill floating in the brine always fascinated me for some reason.

I’m including this gratuitous picture of the pickled snap peas I made at the same time because I finally seem to have gotten the hang of artful jar filling!  So about 90 minutes to 2 hours of pickling on a busy weeknight (which included time to put in some laundry and switch it, tuck in my daughter, let the dogs out, etc) and I put up 1 large (quart) jar, 4 medium jars (pint) and 1 small jar of spicy garlic dill pickles and four jars (2 medium, 2 small) of pickled snap peas.  Like I said, easy.

I also love this book for it’s chapter on quick pickles. Most of which are ready in under 24 hours, but only last a few weeks.  I’m impatiently waiting for much of my goodies to be ready so one night I threw together some quick pickled onions which I served on top of steak tacos with kholerabi jalapeno slaw.  Yuum .

And easy.

Slice an onion and cover with boiling water for one minute. Drain.

 Boil together 1/4 white wine vinegar and 1/2 cup water with 1/2 tsp pickling salt, 3 crushed allspice berries, 10 crushed pepper corns and 2 cloves garlic, minced.

Pour over the onion and let it sit for 2 hours* and viola!

Pickles are such a great alternative to high fat accompaniments like cheese and sauces!  Check the calorie difference between a taco with lean meat (or better yet beans/tofu) pickles and slaw v. a taco loaded with cheese, avocado and sour cream!

*two hours didn’t happen. It was closer to 1. They were still fantastic. Robby threw some in his guacamole and said it brought the flavor to another level.

July 4th as a food holiday

5 Jul

Every holiday is a food holiday in my family, including the fourth of July.  I generally don’t make red white and blue food (I didn’t make that lovely platter or anything visually thematic in fact), our theme is more seasonal fare and family favorites. From the red chocolate chip cookies my Aunt makes four our family reunion every year, to the veggies I picked up at a farm stand and pickled, my weekend revolved around food, friends and family.

First: Jerky!  (And this is only related to the holiday in that I took of a little early on Friday and went to the bookstore to review this book I ordered…)

I ordered a book on Jerky. I’m not sure if its worth buying (I REALLY WANT IT) because jerky is surprisingly easy to make and hard to mess up.  But it is a pretty awesome book. The author seems to have surveyed the known universe for jerky information including recipes from survivalists that tell you how to make jerky after the power grid fails and you are without the niceties of civilization.  Recipes for exotic meats include large flightless birds (ostrich and emus) and big cats (lions, lynx, bobcat, etc).  And then there is this:

Yep, that there is a recipe for Varmint Jerky. Like I said, I WANT THIS BOOK.

In the category of amazing things I made and didn’t take pictures of this weekend* you can include Vermontucky Lemonade, which is essentially lemon juice, maple syrup, water and bourbon.  Vermontucky.  This is another recipe from Smitten Kitchen (told you it would show up often!).  It is dangerous. The lemon and maple sugar are strong enough flavors to temper the edge of the bourbon to make this a highly drinkable drink.  Yummmmmm.

Also, and I believe I’ve mentioned this one before, Watermelon Jalapeno Popsicles. So easy, so good! And if you don’t have pectin lying around, I’d say go ahead and try them without.  While you are at it, may I suggest tossing some watermelon in the blender to make watermelon juice? It is so good and a great summer mixer. Unlike other fruits, you don’t need a juicer or even a strainer to get something drinkable.  When my bumper crop of watermelons takes over the neighborhood, I’m thinking about canning/freezing some of this juice to have around through the winter.

Annnd canning. You didn’t think I went all weekend without canning did you??

I’m pretty sure this is what dinosaurs ate.

We got this dill from Schramm’s in Jeanette, along with cherries, pickling cukes (as my gramma called them), green beans and kholerabi.  Have you ever seen dill that big??? I haven’t.

That’s my dad holding it. He came out for our Tomer Family Reunion (my mom’s family). If you are from the area, you might know of Tomer’s Greenhouse in Murrysville or Daugherty’s Farm Stand across the street. That’s my family. My mom was a Tomer, my dad a cousin of the Daugherty’s.

It’s all beginning to make sense now isn’t it? The canning, the pickling…it’s a return to my roots.

So of course after a long day at the family reunion I had to whip up some pickles when we got home at 9pm.  (Even the dogs were looking at me like I had lost my marbles)

I had some sugar snap peas I got at the farmers market that HAD to be used though and I was excited to make dilly beans so I threw a pot of water on the stove upon walking through the door and got to work.

Not only have I never made pickled green beans, I’ve never HAD pickled green beans, so I was flying blind on the recipe.  I have sort of developed a set of criteria though for looking for recipes. Among other things, I’m looking for recipes which don’t have to be kept in cold storage because you know we wont have electricity after the revolution right?? I kid, I kid. Actually something tumbles out of my overfull refrigerator as it is, I just don’t want to add MORE. Especially unwelcome is anything intended to be stored for a while before consumption.

So I found this recipe for crisp pickled green beans which also had the advantage of not requiring the beans to be steamed in advance. One less step at 10pm on a Saturday night seemed like a win.

I got my pickling liquid going and realized quickly I had issues. The beans were curved and on a good day I can’t get my produce to sit neatly in the jar. Solution:

I used the dill to tie together the beans. It *kind of* worked. One bundle got away from me and went in all akimbo. And the curvature of the beans meant it was hard to get a big enough bunch to really fill the jar snugly. I seem to always end up with a lot of extra room in my jars as the veg shrink. But the dill heads look really nice in the jar so the result wasn’t a total slop fest.

Not bad for a late night session

Dill Beans Pretty and Strait

I am sure they will still taste good...

Pickled Snap Peas with Dill

  The great thing about pickling, like jerky, is that as long as you have the basics covered, you can riff on the theme for infinite variations.  Which I imagine is how you learn.  My sugar snap peas were at their end and a number of pods were just not nice enough to pickle. As a whim, after I ate a few peas, I decided to throw them in the pickle and see how they work out.  I’ll let you know! But that is part of the fun for sure.

Monday I was cooking for our picnic, Watermelon Jalepeno Popsicles, Vermontucky Lemonade, and Baked Beans which I ruined (notice didn’t blog about that!). But I still had cukes sitting around and I’ve been dying to make Bread and Butter pickles so amid the prep work I threw together a batch of these. Again, there are 1000 recipes out there, so I compared until I found one I liked because it had a lot of seasoning. Of course I immediately diverted from it because I didn’t have celery seeds.

Also, I had no idea how much my cucumbers weighed, so I guessed one recipe would be enough.  Nope.  Had to toss in extra portion of everything after I added the veggies which means it actually was on the stove a lot longer than called for. I sampled a slice and it tasted great so I don’t think it hurt them, though I expect these will not be crisp at all.

Bread and Butter Pickles

I can’t wait to try these! So it was a good weekend for food and fun all around. I cannot wait until my pickle book comes in. I think we can officially dub this the Summer of Canapalooza.

*I am a terrible blogger, as you know. I generally am more interested in eating my food than taking pictures of it and periodically forget to take pictures of what I am cooking.  This weekend was full of epic blogger fail.  All sorts of goodies eaten and made and I photographed almost none of it.

**In my searching for the recipes I used I came across this blog: Food in Jars. SQUEEEEE!  So excited to peruse this later tonight!