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Pickled Italian Plums

vertical pickled plums

These pickled plums may be my favorite new preserve of this summer. They are a bit sweet, slightly spiced, and super tangy. Much like other pickled fruit, they are something of a two for one product, because once the fruit is gone, you can pour the flavorful syrup into sparkling water or use it to flavor batches of homemade vinaigrette.

italian plums

Like all pickled fruit, this recipe works best if you start with fruit that is just slightly underripe. You want to choose fruit that has plenty of flavor and a bit of give, but still has enough robustness to retain the integrity of the slices once they’ve simmered for a bit.

slivered plums

I kept the spices relatively restrained in this pickle, bundling up just star anise, whole cloves, black peppercorns, and a little crushed red chili flake for heat. Because spices are always the place where can personalize a preserve, if you make this one on your own, feel free to take that cheese cloth packet in any direction you’d like.

A short length of cinnamon stick would have fit in nicely and a few gently crushed cardamom pods would also play nicely.

plum spices

If the plums are already gone in your area, don’t think that your opportunities for pickled fruit are over. You could try this with tender slices of pears or hunks of soft fleshed apple (a golden delicious would be a nice choice).

finished jars of pickled plums

Looking for more pickled fruit? I’ve got so many other seasonal options for you! Naturally sweetened apple date chutney. Honey sweetened peach chutney (make it while the peaches last!). Pickled asian pears (this recipe is from Karen Solomon’s gorgeous book Asian Pickles). Persimmon and pear chutney (persimmons will be here soon). Pear chutney with dried cherries and ginger. Pickled cranberries (the. best.).

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Peach Mostarda

vertical peach mostarda

In my area, peach season is down to its final days for this year. I spotted a few left at the farmers market this morning and actually passed them by, but only because I am insane and picked up another half bushel over the weekend. I need to make a batch of salsa, and have several recipes for the new book to test, thus the purchase.

bowl of peaches

A couple weeks ago, just before I headed up to Toronto, I spent a full day canning. I had a ton of peaches and tomatoes, and knew that they wouldn’t last my weekend away. I made sauce, I canned whole peeled tomatoes, I made grape jam, and came up with this preserve.

Peach mostarda. Delicious with cheese. Recipe coming soon to a blog near you.

Mostardas are much like chutneys, in that they are both sweet and savory. However, instead of getting their savory nature from onions, garlic, or shallots, the sweetness is broken up with a conservative application of mustard oil and other sharp spices.

le parfait peach mostarda

Now, you should consider this a cheater’s mostarda. Because of US regulations, it is impossible to get the super-strong mustard oil with which true mostardas are made. However, the combination of mustard seeds and cayenne give this preserve a satisfying level of sinus clearing mustardiness.

I made this mostarda with Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog in mind, but it will also pair deliciously with crumbly aged cheddars and creamy, spreadable goat cheeses.

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Marinated Carrot Salad for the Fridge

root veg at Union Square

On Saturday, I drove up to New York and spent a few hours at the Union Square Greenmarket, trying to look like a friendly and helpful canning expert. I talked to a lot of people, emptied three pints of jam in samples, and sold 11 books (I had higher hopes for such a highly trafficked market, but the sun was brutal and people kept moving).

Still, I think that the trip was worth it, for the people I talked to and for the fact that the stall I was positioned next to had the most gorgeous array of root vegetables I’d seen in a long time. I must have watched at least 100 people stop to take pictures of those heaps of carrots and beets (they weren’t so interested in the celery).

marinated carrots

Standing in proximity, I started thinking about how much I rely on carrots in my daily cooking. On nights when dinnertime inspiration is low, I turn them into a pureed soup (my favorite is the recipe with toasted almonds that’s in the original Moosewood Cookbook). When I need an easy side, I cut them into sticks and roast them in olive oil. Snacks around my apartment almost always involve a sliced carrot and a tub of hummus.

And at those times when I want something that I can make ahead and keep in the fridge for those moments when hunger strikes, I blanch them lightly and toss them with a quick vinaigrette. It’s a bit like the pickled carrots you’ll find at falafel joints. I originally wrote this recipe for Serious Eats, during my phase as their In a Pickle contributor. Still, it’s a good one and worthy of another moment in the sun.

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Sweet Cherry Chutney

sweet cherries

I spent last Friday evening at the Whole Foods Market in Devon, PA, teaching a group of lovely ladies how to make and preserve a small batch of sweet cherry chutney.

Because it takes a bit longer than jam to cook down, I don’t often choose chutney for my classes and demos. But it happened to fit nicely for this particular class, and I’m so glad it did because it reminded me of just how good this particular preserve is.

chopped sweet cherries

I went home on Friday night with a stash of cherries from the sale and spent a chunk of time over the weekend pitting the cherries and slicing them into quarters (because I’m insane like that). I ended up making a larger, slightly tweaked version from the one we made in class, but it was no less delicious.

finished chutney

Once you get through the pitting of the cherries, this chutney couldn’t be simpler. It’s really just a matter of getting the ingredients into the pot, bringing them to a boil, and then cooking until the ingredients marry and the liquid evaporates. There’s no need to monitor the temperature or check for set. It’s done when it doesn’t look watery anymore.

Another nice things about making a preserve like this is that you can break up the cooking time. While my batch was simmering, Scott and I decided that we wanted to go for a walk. I just turned off the stove and slid the pot to a cool burner. When we got back, I brought the chutney back to a low bubble and finished it off.

Oh, and one more thing. If you don’t have the mental fortitude to pit and chop 4 pounds of cherries, try making this chutney with plums. It works just as well and isn’t as tedious.

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Homemade Kimchi

half gallon of kimchi - Food in Jars

I’ve been talking a lot about fancy salts and how to use them in preserving this week. On Tuesday, I shared a recipe for a quick, spicy cucumber pickle (which I’ve been eating non-stop on salads for the last couple days. It’s intensely garlicky and I love it). Today, we’re using some of that gorgeous salt in a batch of kimchi.

shredded kimchi veg - Food in Jars

I came relatively late to the world of kimchi. I’d eat it when at a Korean restaurant, but it wasn’t really something I started seeking out until a couple years ago. At first, I satisfied my kimchi craving by buying packets of the stuff from the Trader Joe’s refrigerator case, but soon found myself going through two or three a week. It was time to start making it myself.

salt and crushed peppers - Food in Jars

I will be the first to say that my technique isn’t the most authentic on the planet. I don’t use rice flour (because I’m lazy and don’t want to add another thing to my pantry) and I pretty much toss whatever vegetables in that I have (there are red radishes in this batch because I had some and wanted to use them up).

I also pack my shredded and seasoned veg into a half gallon jar and let it do its fermenty thing, without airlocks or any kind of weight. I just press it down with a clean hand once a day and keep an eye out for any sort of surface funk.

spiced kimchi veg - Food in Jars

This batch is a combination of shredded napa cabbage, grated carrot and daikon radish, shaved red radish bits, the tops of spring onions, ginger, garlic, grey sea salt, and gochugaru (that’s the Korean red chili powder and this is the only special ingredient I keep around specifically for kimchi making. It’s just not the same without it). Essentially, I combine all the ingredients, knead them together with with clean hands, pack the whole mess into a jar, and let it sit for a while.

tossed kimchi veg - Food in Jars

For those of you who aren’t regular kimchi eaters, let’s talk about to use this spicy, tangy fermented pickle. I scoop a couple forkfuls onto nearly every salad I make. It’s good stirred into soups (carrot or lentil are particularly good vehicles). And it’s miraculous gently warmed and eaten with scrambled eggs (Alana taught me that trick).

How do you eat your kimchi?

PS – For a more authentic recipe, along with everything you want to know about the world of fermenting, I highly suggest you visit my friend Amanda’s blog, Phickle. She’s incredibly knowledgeable and her site is a fantastic resource.

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Spicy Quick Pickled Cucumbers

salted cucumbers - Food in Jars

In yesterday’s post about fancy salts, I mentioned that I would be sharing a couple of tasty ways to use these more esoteric salts in batches of pickles. This first recipe is one that uses a generous teaspoon of fleur de sel (though you can also use kosher salt if that’s what you’ve got) to pull some liquid out of the cucumbers and firm up their texture a little.

brine and salted cucumbers - Food in Jars

This pickle is loosely based on the recipe for smacked cucumber in Fuchsia Dunlop’s book Every Grain of Rice. I made it for the first time last year and it rapidly became one of my favorite things to eat (so crunchy! so spicy!). However, it’s the sort of thing that should be made and eaten within the same hour and so I tried to make a version that would keep its texture a little bit longer.

brined cucumbers - Food in Jars

You start by peeling, seeding, and slicing the two cucumbers. Heap the pieces in a bowl and sprinkle with one teaspoon of fleur de sel. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cucumbers and then let them sit for about half an hour. When the time is up, there should be a goodly accumulation of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Drain that out, toss the cucumbers again and try draining them once more. I tend to do this three or four times, until the cucumbers aren’t releasing anymore water.

quick pickled cucumbers - Food in Jars

While the cucumbers sit with the salt, mix up the pickling liquid (all the exact amounts can be found in the organized recipe below). It’s a slurry of grated garlic, grated ginger, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and coarse ground red chili powder (I use the kind meant for making kimchi). Finally, combine the cucumbers and the dressing and stir to combine.

You can eat this pickle immediately (truly, it’s one of the quickest), or you can funnel it into a jar and eat it by the forkful over the next day or two. It’s fiery from the chili powder and garlic, and I find it endlessly delicious.

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