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How to Make Dandelion-Infused Honey

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is dropping in today with an inspired yet simple idea – honey infused with bright dandelion blossoms! It reminds me of the lemon verbena honey I made back in the very early days of this site. -Marisa

I pride myself on knowing all sorts of unique preserving methods and recipes that make the most of each season. I’m also incredibly thrifty, preferring (with food, at least) to make, grow, barter, or glean what I eat rather than buying ready made.

So it was shocking when some amazing culinary artists in my neighborhood announced that they had made a limited-edition product that had never even occurred to me before.

Frances Rose and Acorn of K Is for Kitchen offer lots of different culinary services in our West Philadelphia neighborhood, and one of those is making ethically sourced value-added products. They make all manner of sauces, butters, pestos, and other treats, rotating with the seasons. And they has a little stash of a very special honey, a summertime wildflower honey infused with (wait for it)…dandelion blossoms.

Such a simple idea! How had I never seen or heard of this before from any farmer or forager I’d worked with? I had to try some — luckily, I was able to get my hands on a jar.

My first thought is that the flowers might add some bitterness to the honey — not unwelcome in such a sweet food — but I was wrong. The dandelion blossoms add a bright floral quality and a depth to the honey’s sweetness, creating complexity by combining two utterly simple ingredients.

To make this delectable treat, find a field or lawn where you can be sure that the plants haven’t been sprayed and the soil is not contaminated (the front yard where I live fits the bill here, but there are plenty of urban green spaces with dandelions that I wouldn’t use for food — so select your site carefully). The dandelions should be in full bloom, big and fluffy and bright yellow.

Then, simply snip or pick the heads of the flowers off and collect them in a clean bag or basket (I cheated and used my straw gardening hat). Leave the stem behind, but the green calyx just beneath the flower is ok. I collected three or four big handfuls, which were enough to mostly fill a pint jar.

When you get back to the kitchen, go over your blooms carefully to make sure you’ve removed any bits of grass, leaves, or stems and any hitchhiking insects. It was too early for spring honey, but I had a jar of local wildflower honey (probably from last fall’s harvest) on hand to infuse.

Then loosely put your flowers in the jar. You don’t want to pack them too densely or else the honey won’t penetrate. Pour over the honey and then give the mixture a few stirs with a knife or chopstick to make sure the flowers are submerged and remove any bubbles that may be trapped.

Then, simply pop a lid on your jar and set it in a cool, dark place to infuse. Give it at least two weeks, then taste; leave it longer for a stronger flavor. The flowers will take up less space once they’re suffused with the honey; if you have room in the jar and want to add another handful or two, you can do that, too.

When you’re ready to use the honey, there’s no need to strain the flowers out — I find they look really pretty in a jar or even in a pinch bowl for serving, and I just add them to my herbal tea when the rest of the honey is gone.

Dandelion honey is less of a recipe more of a reminder that in a long-coming, cool spring, even the humblest of weeds presents an exciting opportunity for beauty and flavor. Spring is ephemeral, and this is one way to capture a really special part of it. Your honey will keep for up to a year.

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Getting Your Kitchen Ready for Spring

An unorganized freezer

Where I am, it feels like spring has sprung — about three weeks early for the calendar, but after the crazy severe winter we’ve had, I’ll take it. Winter aconite and snowdrops are blooming, the days are getting longer, and I had to take off two of my four layers while walking around downtown Philly earlier this week.

Part of me doesn’t feel quite ready for spring and everything it brings — prepping the garden, starting seeds, lots of cleaning — and another part of me can’t wait to walk around outside in a tank top and dig in the dirt.

To help ease the transition into spring, I’ve been making a mental list of the tasks I’ll tackle around my kitchen in the coming weeks. Every year, organizing the freezer — the one on top of my fridge and my apartment-sized chest freezer — is on the list.

 

In a short burst of activity, I took the initiative to tackle the upright freezer. I admit that I didn’t defrost and fully clean it, but I was short on time and eager to make a little progress and get the clutter out, so I did a quick cull and organize — it took all of 15 minutes, but made me feel accomplished and life a little tidier.

When I do a deep dive into the freezers, I always discover forgotten treasures I can add into my meal planning and some, er, missed opportunities that are long overdue for a trip to the compost bucket.

I found a pack of ground lamb from a friend’s farm that I had forgotten about, plus some freezer-burned smoothie berries from at least 2 summers ago…and a bag of cherry tomatoes from (yikes) 2015. Also discovered: Dried mushrooms a friend had given me at least five years ago, an ancient handful of pistachios, and nearly unrecognizable roasted jalapeños also went into the compost.

What was left? Lots of ice packs (I like to have an easy-to-grab stash for cheese events, but there were way too many in there), frozen pastured meats, 2017-edition current bagged veggies, ginger and turmeric, stock makings (leek tops and celery), whole wheat tortillas (they were on sale), and a tub of the best pumpkin puree, a reminder to make one last batch of brown butter pumpkin muffins before the weather turns.

The freezer’s cluttered door shelves looked much tidier, with containers of tomato broth, frozen bananas, cheesemaking cultures, and both sweet cream and cultured butter sitting upright with a bag of chipotle peppers and a few veggie dumplings. (Please don’t judge my Wawa coffee — it was purchased on Christmas morning last year so that my partner and I could survive the holiday in a caffeine-free household, and I decided we’d keep it for emergencies.)

The tomato broth and one of the bags of lima beans will go into a soup with some parmesan rinds and maybe some orzo or Israeli couscous before the weather gets much warmer, and I’ll use the other bag with the sweet corn and roasted poblanos (they’re in there too), a jar of tomatillo sauce, and chicken thighs to make a chunky green chili. Don’t you love shopping your own freezer?

Here are a few of the other tasks I’ll take care of as the season changes so that I’m ready for a delicious season of cooking and preserving:

  • Deep-cleaning the stove top (including behind the dials)
  • Culling, cleaning, and organizing the chest freezer (I need to devote a day to this one)
  • Performing a ruthless KonMari of my pantry — I have cans of fava beans in there from 2011 that I somehow haven’t been able to make myself throw away
  • An inventory of both full and empty jars in my canning closet
  • Getting rid of the bottles I never use on top of the fridge and deep cleaning that surface
  • Selling or giving away kitchenware I never use

What are some of the ways you get your kitchen ready for spring (and the forthcoming canning season)?

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How to Make Meyer Lemon Confit

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is dropping in today with a brilliant idea for how to make lemon confit. These oil-poached lemon slices produce both deeply infused olive oil and tender slivers of lemon, ready to be chopped and stirred into braises, vinaigrettes, and batches of hummus. I am planning on starting a batch of my own immediately. -Marisa

A grouping of lemons on a kitchen towel for lemon confit

Every winter, I look forward to my box of tart, aromatic sunshine from Lemon Ladies Orchard, which I first learned about thanks to Marisa’s devotion to them on this very blog.

Sometimes I ask for it as a Christmas gift and spend the week between the holidays happily preserving. But this year, I ordered up a five-pound box of their gorgeous, organic Meyer lemons to brighten things up during the long midwinter stretch in February.

Sliced lemons for lemon confit

So far, I’ve preserved lemons in salt, made lemon syrup (the classic Joy of Cooking lemonade concentrate recipe that my mom made when I was a kid is my favorite), infused vinegar with the excess peels, and dehydrated several racks of thin slices to pop in my herbal tea till these precious lemons come into season next year.

I’ve reserved a handful for lemon bars and maybe a mini batch of velvety lemon curd, too. But I really wanted to try something new this year, maybe something savory. This Los Angeles Times compilation of 100 ways to use Meyer lemons — intended to ease the burden on Californians blessed with a backyard citrus bounty — offered an idea I’d never tried before: Meyer lemon confit.

Sliced lemons in a pot for lemon confit

You’ll often see salt-preserved lemons referred to this way (“confit” comes from the French word “confire,” meaning to preserve, so it makes sense). But this method preserves the lemons in fat — olive oil, to be precise. Slice the lemons, cover with oil, and cook them at the barest simmer over very low heat for an hour.

The olive oil is infused with a heady combination of brightness from the lemon oil, tartness from the juice, and a bitter undertone from the pith. The lemon itself becomes milder, the peel tender — almost like salt-preserving the lemon, minus the long wait and without the overpowering saltiness.

Lemon confit cooking at a bare simmer
Scoop out the oil and use it in salad dressings or marinades, then top the veggies with finely-diced pieces of lemon. Puree the mixture with fresh herbs and use as a dip for crusty, fresh bread or pita. Chop the thin-skinned lemons and toss them with steamed red potatoes and herbs in a vinegary potato salad, or rub minced lemons on chicken thighs before roasting. I bet you could add a whole new dimension to a lemony olive oil cake with this infused oil, too.

Two jars of lemon confit

You could take this preparation a step further and make variations with other flavors: add herbs like thyme or rosemary, or maybe a bundle of parsley stems; another option could be bay leaves and black peppercorns.

While this recipe can’t be canned, your lemon confit will keep for at least two weeks in the fridge (or months in the freezer), so you can add a lush, lemony note to dishes long after Meyer lemon season has ended. How are you preserving Meyer lemons this winter to last all year long?

How to Make Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Confit

Ingredients

  • 6 organic Meyer lemons
  • Olive oil to cover (around 2 cups)
  • Optional: herbs and spices like black peppercorns, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, or parsley stems

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the lemons, then halve lengthwise and cut into slices between 1/4" and 1/2". Put the slices in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized pot or saucepan. Add good olive oil (it doesn't have to be extra virgin) to cover the lemon slices.
  2. Heat the mixture under the lowest possible heat for one hour. You're looking for a slow simmer — the occasional lazy bubble — but want to avoid a full simmer.
  3. When time's up, remove the pot from the heat. As soon as the mixture is cool, seal in jars, label with the date, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
http://foodinjars.com/2018/03/how-to-make-meyer-lemon-confit-olive-oil/

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How to Make Fromage Fort

Happy New Year, friends! For our first post of the year, Alex Jones swings by with a recipe for fromage fort. It’s a thrifty and delicious spread that is the perfect way to use up those scraps of cheese leftover from your holiday entertaining. -Marisa

Scrapes of cheese for fromage fort

For as long as I can remember, cheese has always been a part of my holiday celebrations.

Growing up, a hunk of sharp cheddar and a wedge of Brie were must-haves leading up to Christmas, and Christmas Eve with relatives in Quebec usually meant a festive spread of nibbles centered around a raclette machine, melting slices of pungent Alpine-style cheeses over potatoes, bread, and veggies.

After scoring a cheap raclette machine of my own at my local Aldi last January, I had friends over for an evening of melted cheese, hot cider, and parlor games just before the Christmas holiday. After the revelry, a few scraps of cheese remained — and rather than tossing them into the compost, I tucked them away in the fridge to make one of my favorite thrifty, easy, cheesy recipes: fromage fort.

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How to Brew Bracing Homemade Fire Cider

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is dropping in today with a recipe for homemade fire cider. This invigorating tonic is said to help boost your immune system and keep you healthy throughout the winter cold and flu season! -Marisa

Ingredients for homemade fire cider

Where I am in Philadelphia, the leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler after a warm start to fall, and root crops are ready to harvest.

That means it’s time to start a batch of homemade fire cider.

This spicy, bracing infusion has been used for centuries as a way to preserve herbs and vegetables that also have medicinal value. Whipping up a big batch at the end of the growing season means that you’ve got a tasty tonic to sip on or use in recipes like sauces, marinades, and salad dressings.

I first tried making this recipe years ago, when I was a CSA manager tasked with finding with a handful of new and interesting recipes to include with each share of vegetables. One week, we included horseradish in the boxes, and I came upon the now familiar recipe.

I loved the ritual, the acidic flavor, and the kick — a powerful whoosh of horseradish, garlic, and onion straight to the nose. I’m not sure whether it was thanks to the homemade fire cider or something else, but I didn’t get sick that winter.

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How to Make Elderflower Cordial

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones has stopped by (on her birthday! Happy day, Alex!) to show us how to make elderflower cordial with fresh, foraged elderflower blossoms. Read on to see how easy it is to make your own batch! – Marisa

Freshly picked elderflowers for elderflower cordial

As an apartment-dweller who loves plants, I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood rich in community garden spaces. I can count a dozen community gardens less than a mile from my home in West Philly; I currently tend plots in three of them.

The garden I’ve been with the longest is one of the oldest in the neighborhood, built on the site of a demolished apartment building down the block from where I live. It’s been around for a few decades, and the common spaces have been planted with perennial fruit trees and shrubs that have had lots of time to establish.

While the peaches, plums, and figs never seem to ripen, our sour cherry tree, gooseberry bush, and kiwi berry vines are prolific. We also boast a specimen of one of the most exciting (to me) perennial fruits: An elderberry bush.

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