Asian-Inspired Refrigerator Pickles

finished fridge pickles

I had the first incarnation of these pickles at a potluck I hosted nearly two years ago. My friend Wendy brought them to the party, and by the end of the night, the once overflowing bowl was reduced to a puddle of brine and with three little spears bobbling amidst the hot peppers and onion slivers. Crisp, fragrant and flavorful, they seemed to pair perfectly with every other dish on the table.

When the evening wrapped up, Wendy gave me permission to pour the leftover brine into a jar to save and reuse. The next day I added a fresh batch of cucumber spears and let the sweet/sour liquid work its magic. These days, I make these quick fridge pickles regularly during the spring, summer and fall, when kirby cucumbers are readily available (these do okay when made with English cucumbers, but not so well when made with waxed cukes). The brine can be reused several times (trash it when it gets cloudy).

Feel free to alter this recipe to your liking. Wendy’s original recipe calls for shallots and cilantro. I used scallions and mint because that’s what I had. If you don’t want your pickles to be too spicy, use half a hot pepper (or none at all if you can stand the heat). The recipe is after the jump.

ingredients for fridge pickles

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Strawberry jam winner + a bonus recipe

CSA rhubarb and strawberries

We have a winner in the strawberry jam giveaway! I really do wish I could send jam to all of you, but with 55 entries, that would more than clean me out, jam-wise (I need to save a few jars to get me through the dark, frigid days of January and February). Hopefully though, the strawberry jam post has compelled some of you to make your own (you do need to act fast though, as strawberry season is short and here in Philly, it’s drawing to a close) and I firmly believe that it tastes better when you’ve made it with your own two hands. But enough with that, it’s time to announce that the lucky recipient of this truly delectable strawberry jam is comment #51, left by Rebekah Denn of Eat All About It.

In other news, as many of you know, I teach some canning classes here in Philly. Last weekend, I did a class in which we made a huge batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam. Someone asking the comments whether I’d be willing to share that recipe on the blog. Well, of course! It’s a good recipe and can be easily halved (it makes just over seven pints as written, which is a whole heck of a lot of jam) if you don’t have that much fruit. The recipe is after the jump.

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Strawberry Jam

rows of jars

Several weeks ago, I got up early on Saturday morning, collected my friend Shay(she’s my regular fruit-picking buddy) and drove half an hour out into the New Jersey countryside. We spent the rest of the morning in the field of Gaventa’s strawberry farm, crouching over the rows of plants, plucking handfuls of berries into our containers. I stopped picked only when the back of my neck had turned a bright pink (I somehow only got sunscreen on my front, it made for an entertaining burn) and the knees of my jeans were stained red from kneeling on errant berries between the rows.

foam-filled measuring cup

I brought home nearly 15 pounds of hard-earned berries (they were $1.35 a pound, I love how inexpensive things can be when you just invest a bit of your own labor). I washed and chopped nearly all of them (I kept about two quarts unchopped for plain old eating) within a couple of hours of getting them home.

I tossed approximately 10 overflowing cups of the processed berries with two cups of sugar and a broken-up vanilla bean and then tucked them into the fridge for a rest, so that they could get nice and vanilla-y. The rest I frozen in quart-sized yogurt containers, using the sugar syrup method recommended by Doris and Jilly (if you haven’t checked out that site yet, do it. There’s lots of good preserving info there).

filled jars

I actually left the strawberries in the fridge for nearly two days before I got around to making jam. When it came time to cook the berries down, I fished the vanilla pieces out (squeezing out the vanilla seeds so that the jam was beautifully flecked) and then poured the berries and all the juice they had produced into my 10 quart stainless steel pot (this stuff foams, so give yourself plenty of room). I added the rest of the sugar and then proceeded to cook the crap out of those berries (that’s the official term) in order to assure a good, jammy set.

saucer test

Of all the jams I’ve made so far this year, this one is my very favorite. There’s something special about strawberry jam and when it’s scented with vanilla and so rich in color, it’s just that much more amazing. Get yourself some strawberries and make this jam. Or, if you don’t feel like making your own batch, I do have one half pint jar to give away. Leave a comment by Friday afternoon for a chance to win.

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Using Your Preserves: Glazed Chicken

chicken prep

For the last few months, I’ve been making jam at a dizzying speed. While I hot water process most of what I make for long term storage and gifting, my fridge is still full of jars of jam (mostly half empty ones that hold the overflow from each batch). I can only eat so much jam on toast or stirred into yogurt/oatmeal and so have been taking serious measures to get a handle on my multiplying jam supply.

One tactic I employ when faced with an abundance of jam, is to encorporate it into recipes. I make thumbprint cookies, glaze fruit tarts and fill baked goods. But what to do when you can’t stand another sweet treat? Use jam to spice up your main meal!

glazed chicken

My mother has always been a devotee of the humble chicken leg and they appeared by the half dozen on our dinner table during my childhood at least once a week. She liked to bake them and would rotate through a handful of flavor enhancers, including teriyaki sauce, homemade honey mustard, good seasons italian dressing and thinned out jam.

jam-glazed chicken

Last night, I channeled her by warming up a few spoonfuls of yellow plum and ginger jam in the microwave and slathering it over two bone-in chicken breasts. Sprinkled with salt and roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes, the main course took two minutes to prep and was delicious (there was enough leftover to top our lunch salads today as well!).

jam-glazed chicken dinner

You can use just about any jam (although I find that strawberry is best reserved for toast and yogurt) as a glaze/marinade on savory items. I like plum, apricot and cherry best for chicken. A sweet/tart marmalade is nice on salmon. You could even fancy up a marinated and baked tofu with a sweet slick of fruit spread.

What’s your favorite way to use jams, jellies and preserves beyond breakfast?

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Strawberry/Raspberry Jam Winner

straw_rasp jam winner As is my norm, I’m a couple days late in announcing the winner of my latest giveway. What can I say, the weekend seems to always get away from me. The lucky winner of this jar of jam (although I must admit, this one is more sauce-like than jammy) is Lydia of The Perfect Pantry.

For those of you who did not win, take heart. There will be a fresh and tasty giveaway coming later this week, so you’ll have another chance at a jar of homemade jam.

Did anyone can anything wonderful this weekend? I made a batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam for the class at Foster’s on Saturday morning and bought plums for a batch of jam that I didn’t quite get to. Let’s here about your projects!

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Breakfast in a Jar

Yogurt, jam, oats and pecans

My co-workers are so accustomed to me pulling jars of food out of my bag, that they don’t even blink when they hear the click of glass tapping down on my desktop. I use jars to bring cereal, soup, cut veggies, sliced fruit and iced coffee to work with me (admittedly, I eat at my desk more often than I should). One of my favorite workday breakfasts is the homemade “parfait” you see above.

One of the great things about this little meal is that it takes about 30 seconds to prepare. I make it with a half cup scoop of rolled oats, 3-4 spoonfuls of plain yogurt, a pour of runny jam and a palmful of pecans. I wait to stir it until I get to work, so that the oats don’t get too soft before I’m ready to eat.

What’s your favorite workday breakfast? Extra points if you bring it with you in a jar!

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