Tag Archive for food preservation

Just Right Bread-and-Butter Pickles

As it turns out, when pickles are good, we eat lots of them. If they are too acid or too sweet, they languish in the pantry. I’ve tried many vegetables and many styles over the years and have concluded that we really only eat a few: “cornichons”, tiny tart cucumber pickles that are a staple of French picnic along with saucisson, baguette, butter, and a pot of “moutarde extra forte”; and bread-and-butter pickles… but only if they aren’t too sweet.

The pickling cucumber plantings are doing fairly well this year. Not well enough to make a lot of cornichons, but well enough to make bread and butters. So bread-and-butters we’ve been making, not too sweet, just right. We eat them with or piled in sandwiches, potato salad, sandwich between fried eggplants, with cold chicken or cold meat … you name it!

Happy to share my recipe below.

bread & butter 3

Read more

Beet & Chocolate

beet chocolate cake IMG_1699

I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot  tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it is loved. As much for taste as for its uncanny ability to color everything sanguine.

But that perceived flaw is also a strength. One can turn beets into a natural food coloring. Years ago, I made preserved cherries from a Greek recipe that called for dropping a chunk of beet-root in the jar of preserve to enhance its color. The cherries tastes faintly of beet – fine with me since I like beets.

Then, a few days ago, at breakfast, leaving through an older issue of Saveur magazine, I stopped turning the page at the gorgeous photo of icing in the most lovely shades of pink. Colored by beet powder! According to the article, beetroot powder has some earthy sweetness but  does not have a strong taste. I was intrigued.

I made beet root powder. Because right now we have beets. The recipe for DIY beetroot powder is here. A mandoline is helpful to slice the beet paper-thin. After drying the beet slices in my yard-sale food dehydrator (they looked like rose petals!), I pulverized the dehydrated slices in my Vitamix. Worked like a charm!

beet powder IMG_1679 beet powder IMG_1684

Then I wanted to make icing. And use it. Read more

Preserving Peppers

A sample of peppers I grew this year.

Three bushels of peppers picked in the last 3 weeks. We are eating plenty of peppers, but still…  Something MUST be done. I have used several techniques to preserve them. Peppers are still available at farmers’ market and you may have had a good harvest before the frost too. So here is what I do to preserve my peppers: drying, freezing and several ways to pickle, including hot chunky sauce. Read more

Thoughts on Canning Tomatoes

Students who take my canning class tell me that one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to canning is … surprise!…  time. (the other is the commendable desire not to sicken one’s family)

I will not prattle about how time used now is time saved later … and other opinions/musings/ramblings etc. I have expressed myself about food preserving in general and  canning specifically before here.

I will not give an on-line canning lesson either – that’s much better done in this nifty, detailed and clearly written USDA guide.  And here, also are the answer to a bunch of commonly asked canning questions from the same source.

All laid out for water-bath canning tomato sauce

But I am here to tell you that canning tomato sauce does not have to be a day-long process. Tasks can be broken down is steps that be performed over several days, with the last day being a couple of hours. Total time is somewhat longer than if done at once. But, for for me, 4 times 2 hours is more manageable than 7 hours at once. Read more

On Beeing A Cicada (or: Food Preservation)

La Cigale, ayant chanté
Tout l’été,
Se trouva fort dépourvue
Quand la bise fut venue. *

Jean de LA FONTAINE (La Cigale et La Fourmi)

While I don’t think you have to toil the entire summer to put some food by, this is certainly the time to practice food preservation.

Why? Self-sufficiency, thriftiness, budgetary contraints, desire to eat well, and convenience are all factors in my desire to do so. And yes, I do mean “convenience”. What’s more convenient than going to one’s pantry to pick up a jar of tomato juice, a pint jar of vanilla peaches, and a bag of dry zucchini chips and cherry tomatoes, open the freezer for some roasted peppers, and pesto cubes, and proceed to make a good soup full of summer flavors and a peach cobbler? It’s late and the closest country store is an 18 miles return trip (it’s closed at this hour anyway) and the closest grocery store is 60 miles away… so yes, it is convenient to have a pantry. Even if grocery stores are not that far, it still make sense to put food up now, when so many veggies are abundant, at peak flavors and with peak nutrients.

– Dry: herbs, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, plums, blueberries etc

– Can: tomatoes, peaches, plums, nectarines, tomatilloes, etc

– Freeze: cherry tomatoes, strawberries, wineberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, corn, green beans, swiss chard, pesto etc

– Jam: all the fruit you can think of

– Pickle: peppers, cucumbers, okra, beans, purslane (either can or make refrigerator pickle, or even lacto-ferment – the original pickling at which I am trying my hand this summer)

– Make liqueurs & syrups: herbs & fruit

yes, it does take some time, but it’s much easier to tackle if you just do a little every day. Then it won’t feel like this unsurmountable mountain. For example, after dinner, chop, bag & freeze 2 bagful of peppers, or cherry tomatoes, or slice enough zucchini for one dehydrator batch.That may take only 20 minutes – quite manageable. Then, maybe twice a month, set aside a morning to do some canning. And watch your pantry fill… just like the garden, start small, get used to the different techniques. And of course, only preserve things you will eat!!! (no need to make 10 quarts of Salsa if your family might only eat a pint or two the entire winter…)

* The Cicada, having spent the whole summer singing
Found itself rather without food
Once the winter winds started to blow