Archive | pickles, relishes, chutneys RSS feed for this section

Preserving Ramps and Dehydrator Thoughts

ramps - Food in Jars

Ramps are members of the onion family that grow wild throughout the eastern US and Canada. They are one of the first fresh, edible things that appear each spring, and in recent years, have developed something of an obsessive following among the foodie set. (They’re so popular that we’re now facing issues around overharvesting.)

ramp roots - Food in Jars

Traditionally, people would forage their own ramps, but these days we urban dwellers can often find them at our local farmers markets and farmstands. Several vendors at my local market had them for $16 a pound and I treated myself to a precious $10 worth.

excalibur dehydrator - Food in Jars

I had a pair of plans for those ramps. I wanted to pickle the root ends, and dehydrate the leaves so that I could grind them into powder. The dehydration plan came to be thanks to my recent obsession with the Bar Tartine cookbook (thanks to Karen Solomon for making sure I understood its greatness) as well as the fact that the folks from Excalibur sent me one of their stackable dehydrators to play with this season.

dehydrator trays with ramps - Food in Jars

For years now, Excalibur dehydrators have been the gold standard for both home and commercial dehydration. Part of their appeal has long been the fact that their trays slide in and out (rather than stacking) and they didn’t require a central hole for air circulation. The downside of these models has been their high price point.

More recently, they brought to market a stackable model that is more affordable, but still incorporates their vast dehydration expertise.

crisp ramp stems - Food in Jars

It’s this more price accessible model that they sent me to use. While I still long for one of their fancy models that allows you to do things like make fruit leather without working around the hole and move trays without needing to stack and readjust, this unit is a very large step up from the Nesco dehydrator I’ve been using since 2009.

ramp roots in jars - Food in Jars

So far, I’m really pleased with this unit. It comes with non-stick protector sheets and two trays for making fruit leather. The squared shape means that you can get a goodly amount on the trays (even working around the central hole). It runs far more quietly than my old model. And while it sounds like a silly thing, I so appreciate the on/off switch (you turned on my old Nesco by plugging it into the wall).

crisp leaves in blender - Food in Jars

Now, let’s talk a little more about my ramp pickles and powder. The pickle is a basic one. I didn’t do anything more than trim the roots off, and tuck what remained in a pint jar with small pinches of red chili flakes, black peppercorns, and mustard seeds.

ground ramp leaves - Food in Jars

I combined 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt in a measuring cup and microwaved it until the salt was dissolved. Then I poured the hot brine over the ramps stems and let it sit on the counter until it was cool enough to go into the fridge. Done.

ramp leaf powder - Food in Jars

Once the leaves were totally crisp, I put them into the container for my Vitamix and blended until they were mostly powdered. A perfectionist might have sifted out the larger pieces and run them through the a spice grinder, but I was happy with imprecise textural mix.

ramp powder jar - Food in Jars

My plan is to use this funky, oniony powder to enhance vinaigrettes, dips, and sauces (I’m planning on stirring some into plain yogurt this weekend to eat with hummus and pita). The pickles will be diced and stirred into grain salads all summer long.

What have you been preserving lately? Any late spring favorites?

Disclosure: As I mentioned above, Excalibur sent me the dehydrator you see above. I will be featuring it throughout the summer and fall. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

Comments { 9 }

Homemade Fig Mustard

Finished Fig Mustard - Food in Jars

I’ve been in California for the last week and I’ve spent most of that time sitting on my best friend’s couch, trying to recover from the flu. This was supposed to be the triumphant start to my book tour, but instead I’ve been forced to lay very low.

It’s been a lesson in flexibility and surrender, as well as a reminder that I’ve pushed myself too hard over the last year. However, thanks to a cocktail of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, decongestants, and Tamiflu, I am starting to feel human again. And so I thought I’d drop in to talk about mustard.

Fig Mustard in New Persian - Food in Jars

Mustard has long been one of my favorite condiments. I learned to love it when I was very young as an accompaniment to hot dogs and turkey bologna, and as an adult, eat it with cheese, sausage, and cold turkey. And I do so love a toasted cheese sandwich with spicy, flavorful mustard.

Dried Figs - Food in Jars

The inspiration for this particular mustard came from Louisa Shafia’s wonderful book, The New Persian Kitchen. I revisited my copy earlier this year because Joy and I were featuring the book on Local Mouthful and this mustard practically leapt off the page at me.

Toasted Mustard Seeds - Food in Jars

I marked it a couple months ago, but finally made it just a few days before I left for this trip (admittedly, I was stockpiling recipes so that I’d have some things to post here while I was away). I ended up tweaking the ingredients a little and streamlining the process.

Fig Mustard in Pot - Food in Jars

I increased the amount of acid a bit, both because I wanted the finished flavor to be a bit tangier and because I wanted to ensure that it would be safe for canning. I also opted to use an immersion blender for the pureeing process, rather than transfer the mustard to a blender or food processor. Beyond that, the recipe is all Louisa.

While I haven’t dug into my jars yet, I feel certain that this mustard will be magical on turkey sandwiches. I bet it would also work nicely as a glaze for roasted chicken legs and thighs.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 17 }

The Agricola Cookbook and a Kimchi Recipe

finished kimchi - Food in Jars

I am a relative newcomer to kimchi. It wasn’t part of my family’s pickle culture (we leaned Jewish and Japanese) when I was growing up and I don’t think I had even so much as a taste of it until college. After that first bite, spent about a decade feeling kimchi-neutral. I’d eat a bite or two at Korean restaurants, but it wasn’t something I sought out.

Agricola - Food in Jars

Then something shifted. I became someone who always had a jar of kimchi (whether homemade or store bought) in the fridge. These days, I eat it with eggs, layered into quesadillas, on top of avocado toast, or even just out of the jar when nothing else appeals. It is one of my favorite ways to add flavor and texture to just about everything.

kimchi recipe - Food in Jars

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different recipes for kimchi, and oddly, the proportions for my favorite version don’t come from a specialized fermentation book or one devoted to Korean cuisine. Instead, the foundational recipe comes from the Agricola Cookbook, a book born from a farm and restaurant in the Princeton, NJ area.

napa cabbage - Food in Jars

The essentials of basic kimchi (and what I mean by basic is that this is the kimchi most commonly found in the US) are the same. They are napa cabbage, daikon, green onion, garlic, ginger, salt, and chile powder. Some recipes have you add rice flour (for thickening the spice paste), shrimp paste or fish sauce (to increase the funky umami), apple or asian pear (for sweetness), or carrot (for more crunch and color).

salted napa cabbage - Food in Jars

For my uses, I find that the simpler approach is best. The most exotic ingredient you’ll find in my batch is the Korean chili powder called gochugaru that gives kimchi its trademark color and spice. You can get it at most large Asian grocery stores, though I typically buy it a pound at a time from Amazon.

kimchi close - Food in Jars

The process takes about a week. I start by salting the cabbage and letting it rest overnight. The next day, I rinse and drain it, add the julienned daikon (made using one of these peelers), and lengths of green onion. I make a spice paste with garlic, ginger, and sugar, add the gochugaru and then rub it into the vegetables. Then I pack it into a jar or crock where it can ferment for five or six days. When it’s done, I transfer it into a jar for the fridge and start eating down the batch. Easy and delicious.

I’ll be taking some of this kimchi with me to the next Philly Food Swap. It’s on Monday, November 9 and there are still spots available, if you want to join us!

Continue Reading →

Comments { 17 }

CSA Cooking: Single Quart Fermented Dilly Beans

Philly Food Works September share

Last Thursday, the nice folks from Philly Foodworks dropped off my September share of goodies. The box contained a little bag of spring mix, 12 ounces of perfect green beans, one hefty eggplant, a tiny watermelon, both hot and sweet peppers, half a dozen ears of corn, a bundle of sweet corn, one giant heirloom tomato, six multigrain bagels from Metropolitan, and a bottle of sweet and spicy hot sauce.

bean close-up

Despite the utter chaos of the weekend (a family wedding, loads of visiting cousins, my mom in town, and my mother-in-law’s on-going health issues), I managed to cook, process, and preserve a goodly amount of the bounty in the box and I can feel how my future self is already appreciative.

12 ounces green beans

I combined the sweet and hot peppers with a head of garlic, some ginger, and a salt brine and it’s on the countertop turning into hot sauce as I type. I made a trio of easy salads with the corn, spring mix, eggplant, and tomato.

My mom and I split the watermelon, each taking a half and digging in with spoons (though I did save the rind for pickling). And with three people in the apartment, the bagels certainly didn’t last long.

beans in a jar

That leaves us with the hot sauce, swiss chard and the beans. I’ve been dribbling the hot sauce on scrambled eggs. The chard leaves are destined for a pot of soup, while the stems will make more of these pickles. And the beans are also on their way to becoming pickles. One of my favorite pickles, in fact.

beans in a jar side

I hinted at these pickles last fall when I gave away a short stack of preserving books. The bones of the recipe comes from the wonderful book Fermented Vegetables, though I’ve scaled it down (as I so often do). It ends up being an easy, adaptable pickle that stays super crisp, is effervescently tart, and just happen to have all those gut-friendly bacteria swimming about.

Make as big or as small a batch as you want. Just make them! And look for the hot sauce recipe next week!

Continue Reading →

Comments { 14 }

Gingery Pickled Peaches

finished pickled peaches

Last weekend, I taught a canning and preserving workshop at the Omega Institute in the Hudson Valley. On my drive up there, my car was packed to the gills with pots and pans, jars, bowls, cutting boards, jars (I brought 13 cases and ended up dashing out between sessions for two more boxes of quarter pints), and well over 100 pounds of produce.

pickled peach segments

Of the 12 preserves we made over the course of the weekend, a full five featured peaches. We canned them in quarters, made peach salsa, tossed slices in cinnamon and dehydrated them, did a batch of chunky, vanilla-laced jam, and finally made jelly out of the peach-flavored juice leftover from canning the quarters. It is, after all, the season for peach canning.

filling jars with pickled peaches

One thing we did not do was make pickled fruit (though I did consider it when building the class schedule). We were making a chutney and doing a couple of other styles of pickling as well, so there just wasn’t room. However, had we had just a little more time, I would have slipped in this recipe for pickled peaches.

full jars pickled peaches

There is something about pickled fruit that I just really like. A few slivers spooned from a jar easily serves as a sweet, bright, and tangy counterpoint to any number of meals (and is particularly welcome during the relentless cold and grey of winter). I particularly like to braise well-salted chicken thighs in a slurry of browned onions slices and pickled peach segments. Served over creamy millet, it’s a winner of a dish come November.

pickled peaches overhead

The eagle-eyed among you might look and this recipe and think that it looks familiar. If you have this thought, you are not wrong. The brine is identical to the one I use for my Gingery Pickled Blueberries and works equally well with peeled pear slices. Pickled fruit. It’s hard to go wrong.

Note: You may notice that in these pictures, the peaches are not peeled, yet in the recipe below, I tell you to peel them. I was feeling particularly lazy the day I made these and skipped the peeling step. If you don’t mind having the skins on, feel free to be like me. However, for a more refined pickled peach, remove the skins.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 19 }

Slightly Sweet Zucchini Fridge Pickles

two jars of finished pickles

When I was in Portland a couple weeks ago, my parents’ garden was in full swing. There were pole beans, baby greens in a big tub, slicing cucumbers, and an endless number of zucchini. I spent most of my time there preoccupied by the zucchini and all the culinary options it offers.

three zucchini

I pan-fried thick rounds in olive oil and garlic one night. The next day I made a big batch of zucchini butter to spread on toast and toss with pasta. I also made a huge batch of quick zucchini pickles for my parents to layer into their sandwiches.

zucchini in food processor

One thing you might notice about this recipe is that it calls for whole grain mustard rather than dried mustard seeds. This choice was driven entirely by what my mom had available in the house. And truly, I think the prepared mustard was a really nice addition. It adds a bit of extra body to the liquid and a nice roundness to the finished pickle.

finished zucchini pickles top

Because I made these pickles with an eye towards sandwiches, the slices are pretty thin. I you prefer something a little chunkier, feel free to do a thicker cut. You could also process these in a boiling water bath. However, if you have the fridge space, the texture of the fridge version really is a bit more sturdy and toothsome (which I like). To each his own!

Continue Reading →

Comments { 12 }