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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Gingery Pickled Blueberries for International Can-It-Forward Day

Sad news, friends. The livestream isn’t working. We’re recording demos as I type, and they’ll be available tomorrow. The Ball Mason Jar Celebrity Auction and the special $5 deal on the Ball Canning Discovery Kit (use the coupon code CIFD15 to get the discount) are still happening, so make sure to check them out.

finished pickled blueberries horizontal

It’s International Can-It-Forward Day! Time to stop what you’re doing, get yourself some produce and head to the canning pot. If blueberries are still in season, may I suggest a batch of Gingery Pickled Blueberries?

blueberries in colander

When I first started pickling fruit four or five years ago, I experienced a lot of resistance. People weren’t familiar with it and so often dismissed it as unappealing. However, thanks to both the increasing popularity of shrubs/drinking vinegars and chefs who started putting all manner of pickled fruit on their menus, I’m finding a more welcome climate out there for these tangy preserves.

pouring berries into colander

I find that pickled blueberries are a really great introduction to the world of pickled fruit. For one thing, the require almost no preparation (pickled peaches are also delicious, but you’ve got to scald those peels off). You give the berries a quick rinse and look them over to remove any stubborn stems.

berry-stained tools

The brine is nothing more than vinegar, water, sugar, and some sliced ginger. Once it boils, you tumble the berries in and cook for a few minutes. Once they’ve started to boil and the brine turns dark purple, the cooking portion is done. You get the berries in the jars, top them off with brine, pop the lids and rings on, and into the canning pot they go.

pickled blueberries side

I like to eat these berries with cheese or scattered on top of a salad of baby arugula, feta, and toasted almonds. They pair really well with creamy cheeses, and I’ll often take a jar to parties with a log of goat cheese and some sturdy crackers. They also go really nicely anywhere that you’d serve cranberry sauce.

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CSA Cooking: Zucchini, Fennel, and Green Pepper Relish

fennel zucchini pepper relish

Relish is one of those condiments that doesn’t get as much love as it should. Most people associate it with hot dogs and not much else. However, I find that a mixed relish like this one has much to offer.

During the glut of the summer growing season, it can be pressed into service as a catch-all for produce that would otherwise go unloved. And once in jars, it brings welcome crunch and pucker to cheese boards, sandwiches, burgers, and salmon cakes.

This particular batch absorbed the green peppers and onion from my July Philly Foodworks share, along with two heft zucchini and some young, sweet fennel bulbs. It left our apartment smelling like the most delicious sandwich shop ever for at least 24 hours, and while I’ve not yet cracked open a jar, I have grand plans for it once the weather starts to cool.

I’m curious. How many of you out there are relish lovers? If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopping you?

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