Guest Post: Aged Persian Garlic Pickles from Stefanie Kulhanek

Ingredients 1

Today’s guest post comes to us from Stefanie Kulhanek. She is an ecologist and science educator living in Montreal, Canada who currently works at the Montreal botanical gardens and Biodome. She has done extensive work with local non-profit organisations promoting urban agriculture and community composting in both Montreal and Toronto.

Stefanie first began canning and preserving 8 years ago as a way to deal with surplus from her garden. Since then she had attended various courses and workshops on the topic and loves to experiment with new recipes. Her other hobbies include winemaking, foraging for wild edibles, growing mushrooms and even cultivating Bonsai trees from native species.

Garlic bulbs

Last fall I was first introduced to the fascinating food item know as Seer Torshi; a unique garlic pickle of Persian origin, which is often aged for seven years or more. I was attending a workshop given by a friend on the topic of unusual foods that she’d discovered while traveling. Amongst the various goodies I sampled at the event, Seer Torshi impressed me the most!

When raw garlic cloves are immersed in plain white vinegar for a very long time, a rather magical transformation occurs. The cloves turn from crisp white to ivory, sometimes with hints of blue-green (see the note at the end of the post), eventually fading to a light brown that deepens with age. After several years the cloves become very tender, mild and almost fruity, while both the garlic and its brine take on a deep mahogany colour – reminiscent of balsamic vinegar.

ingredients 2

Seer Torshi is mainly served as an appetizer, much like olives or a fine cheese and is rarely added to recipes. In fact, given its lengthy aging time and supposed medicinal qualities, this pickled garlic is considered a real delicacy and it’s definitely quite addictive.

I was lucky enough to leave the workshop with what remained of an 8-year old jar and a determination to make a batch myself. After doing some research I learned that, while traditional Seer Torshi requires only minimal preparation but lots of patience, there are also several short-cuts that can be taken to reduce aging time substantially. I decided to try my hand at both methods, based on the recipes below.

Fermentation

Method 1: Old school Seer Torshi (makes 1 pint)

4-6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 1 pint mason jar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey

  • Split garlic heads into individual cloves but don’t peel them, otherwise they’ll turn to mush as they age. Try to choose similar sized cloves and pack them tightly into a pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar.
  • Add the honey and salt to the vinegar and stir to dissolve. Then fill the jar with the vinegar mixture leaving about 1 inch of headspace. You may need to put something sterile on top of the garlic to ensure it stays immersed.
  • Place the lid on the jar but don’t seal it too tightly. The garlic should actually undergo a short fermentation and the gas will need to be released by loosening the cap about twice a day for the first week or so. Alternatively use a jar fitted with an airlock.
  • After the fermentation subsides, the garlic should have softened and no longer float. You can then remove the weight, top up with vinegar and re-seal the jar. It should be stored in a cool, dark spot for a minimum of 1 year but ideally for 7!

blue garlic

Method 2: “Quick and dirty” Seer Torshi (1 pint batch)

4-6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 1 pint mason jar
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • Split garlic heads into individual cloves but do not peel them.
  • Add garlic and white vinegar to a stainless steel pot and heat uncovered on medium-high until simmering. Add salt and honey and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool. The garlic cloves will have soften somewhat but should still be fairly firm with their skins intact.
  • Pack the garlic cloves into pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar. Add 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and then fill the jar with the cooled white vinegar mixture, leaving about an inch of headspace.
  • Unlike the traditional method, this garlic pickle should not ferment. Also as that garlic is pre-cooked, it tends to sink in the brine and shouldn’t need to be weighed down. I imagine you could process the jar at this point to seal it – I didn’t bother. Store in a cool, dark spot for a minimum or 3 months or up to 1 year.

garlic in different states

A note on garlic turning blue-green

Under certain conditions, garlic may develop a blue-green hue especially when exposed to certain acids or fats. This is the result of various reactions between the sulphur compounds and enzymes than naturally occur in garlic and the fat or acid it’s exposed to. It doesn’t effect the safety or even the flavour of the food but can be a bit unappealing to some.

When making Seer Torshi using the traditional methods, some degree of blueing is likely. The extent however, will depend on anything from the age of the garlic to the chemistry of the soil in which it was grown. In any case there’s no need for alarm, as the colour will eventually fade to brown. If using the quick method the garlic shouldn’t turn blue as boiling destroys the enzymes responsible for the colour change.

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The Philly Farm & Food Fest is Coming!

Philly Farm & Food Fest

Things have been pretty quiet on the event front for me lately (what with the book writing and all), but I’ve got a fun event coming up next week. I’ll be at the 4th annual Philly Farm and Food Fest at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from 11 am to 4 pm. This event brings together farmers, food producers, and other makers from around the region for a delicious day of tasting, learning, and shopping.

I’ll be there to sign books and offer a jam making demonstration, but I’m not the only local author who will be there. A whole group of us are taking over a classroom and offering signings at the Cookbook Stall’s corner. Here’s the demo schedule and the signing schedule.

Demo Schedule
11:15 – Meat Lite with Tara Matazara Desmond and Joy Manning: How to get the most bang from your local meat dollar
12:15 – Stumped for Sides with Tara Matazara Desmond
1:15 – Preserving with Natural Sweeteners with me, Marisa McClellan
2:15 – ​Going Beyond Kombucha with Amanda Feifer
3:15 – Pasta from Liguria with Jeff Michaud

Cookbook Signing Schedule
11 am – Jeremy Nolen & Marisa McClellan
12 noon – George Hummel & Allyson Kramer
1 pm – Tara Matazara Desmond & Joy Manning
2 pm – Matt Teacher & Jeff Michaud
3 pm – Aliza Green

Tickets are available now and can be purchased here. General admission tickets are $20 and kids 12 and under are free.

Oh, and there’s just one other thing going on that day. From 10-11 am, there’s a special Industry Preview Hour for wholesale buyers. It’s a great opportunity for folks to discover new products or resources for their businesses (with coffee and pastry from La Colombe). If you’re in that category, leave a comment on this post so I can send you a discount code that will get you $25 off the $40 admission fee.

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Giveaway: The Optimist Cleaning Kit

The Optimist kit front

For the last decade, I’ve kept an ugly, industrial-looking spray bottle of diluted white vinegar under my sink. I use it mostly as a simple, non-toxic countertop spray that’s good for quick clean-ups during meal prep. While it’s been effective enough, both the look of the spray bottle and the unadulterated scent of vinegar leave something to be desired.

The Optimist kit back

Enter The Optimist Co. Founded by Devin Donaldson after conventional cleaning products left her with a nasty asthma attack, they focus on simple, effective, non-toxic cleaning products that will help you keep your home spotless without compromising your health or the planet.

contents of The Optimist kit

Devin sent me The Optimist Co.’s Make Your Own Cleaning Products Kit to try out a few weeks back. It comes with two amber-colored spray bottles with the cleaning formulas printed on the labels, a small bottle of castile soap and three small bottles of essential oils to make your custom scents.

Add some white vinegar and flat club soda* from your pantry to the mix and you have everything you need to build both an all-purpose spray (Time to Shine) and a glass and surface cleaner (Bright Side).

Making The Optimist Bright Side cleaner

I made up both bottles the same day that the kit arrived. I followed the suggested recipes almost exactly, making only one change to the Bright Side. It suggests that you use plain white vinegar but instead, I used some of the lemon-infused vinegar I’d made during my Meyer lemon frenzy back in January (that’s what’s in the smaller measuring cup in the picture above). Bolstered with the enclosed lemon essential oil, every spray of that cleanser is a olfactory pleasure.

I’ve been using these sprays exclusively since they arrived and could not be more pleased with their effectiveness. I use them without worry around food, because I know that if a few droplets land on the contents of the fruit basket, no one will be harmed. Plus, they are far prettier than my old bottle of watered down vinegar.

The Optimist Bright Side

I know that lots of you are trying to make your own homes more non-toxic and sustainable and homemade cleaning products are a very good way to start yourself on that path. To that end, Devin is offering up three of her Make Your Own Cleaning Products Kit for this week’s giveaway. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share one thing you’ve done to make your cleaning routine a little more sustainable.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, April 11, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, April 12, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

*When we talked, I asked Devin what the flat club soda added to the mix and she said that it helps the cleaner wipe away streak-free, particularly on stainless steel appliances. So clever!

Disclosure: The Optimist Co. sent me the make your own kit at no cost to me for review and photography purposes. They are also providing the units for this giveaway. No additional payment has been made and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

Links: Quick Pickles, Nut Butters, and Winners

A solitary homemade waffle

This weekend was about family and book work. My extended family gathered at my cousin’s house on Friday night for our Seder. Saturday was devoted to hunkering down in my local coffee shop to work on the book draft. And on Sunday, my mother-in-law came over for a simple Easter brunch.

I like nothing more than food, family, and productivity, so I had a very lovely time. I hope your weekends were equally good and balanced! Now, links!

glass dharma end labels

I so enjoyed reading all your straw stories last week during the Glass Dharma giveaway. The three people who won the $25 gift certificates are #77/Julie Parker, #139/Rebecca, #168/Anita. If you didn’t win, make sure to check out their Earth Day straw giveaway (all you have to do is pay shipping)!

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Other People’s Preserves: McVicker Pickles Rainbow Cumin-Pepper Carrots from Garibaldi Goods

rainbow cumin-pepper carrots

Other People’s Preserve is my opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the very delicious jams, pickles, and condiments being made by dedicated professionals. If you see one of these products out in the wild, consider picking up a jar, tub, or bottle!

I am exceedingly fond of pickles with attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a crunchy spear just about any way it comes, but when pickles immediately telegraph personality like McVicker Pickles do, I am sold before I even pick up the jar. And if they are crisp, earthy, and just slightly spicy like the jar of Rainbow Cumin-Pepper Carrots you see up above, well, consider me in pickle heaven.

McVicker lid

The brain behind McVicker Pickles is Kelly McVicker. Raised in the prairie, she brought her pickling know-how to San Francisco and has been sharing it with the Bay Area (and beyond) since 2012. In addition to making a variety of pickles for sale, she also teaches preserving classes (including some really fun sounding ones like Whiskey Picks Not Whiskey Dicks: Pickling With Beer & Booze).

top of McVicker pickles

This jar came to me by way of Garibaldi Goods, the third installment in a monthly series we’ve been doing together. Garibaldi Goods is an online shop that features artisanal, small batch products all made in the fine state of California (place of my birth!). This month, you can get free shipping on all of their products by using the code “foodinjars”. The code is valid through April 30, 2015.

Disclosure: The folks at Garibaldi Goods sent me this jar of McVicker Pickles for sampling and photography purposes. All thoughts and opinions remain entirely my own. 

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Cookbooks: Better on Toast

Better on Toast cover

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that I’m a big fan of putting things on toast (though lately, I’ve been on something of a soft boiled egg kick). I think that toast is an equally good vehicle for pickles and kraut as it for jams and butters and I have made many a meal over the years out of a slice of toast topped with a few scraps of cheese and a goodly layer of relish.

toast picture from Better on Toast

So when I heard that there was a book coming out called Better on Toast by Jill Donenfeld, I made a point of searching out a copy. I figured it would contain some good inspiration for my own toast practice, and also might offer some ideas for those of you who looking to use up your preserves in fresh ways.

salmon rillettes Better on Toast

The book opens with a introduction that goes deep into Jill’s love of toast and the many ways you can transform a humble slab of bread into toast (traditional toasting, grilled, pan toasted, or oven toasted). Then, it proceeds into sections devoted to breakfast, hor d’oeuvres, non-veg toppings, veg toppings, and finally things to do with your extra bread.

Pesto Swirl Better on Toast

I think the beauty of this book is that while it offers a number of actual recipes, it should be used more as an inspirational guide. Because Jill’s ideas can easily translate to the specific contents of your own pantry without too much issue.

Grilled Cheese Better on Toast

For instances, the recipe above for Grilled Cheese with Romaine and Bosc Pear (page 123). When pears aren’t in season, you could just as easily make this with canned pears from your pantry, or even with a couple dabs of pear vanilla jam. A few pages later, she’s got you heaping golden beets on a piece of toast topped with yogurt that’s been spiced with vadouvan. Steal the idea and use your own pickled beets instead.

Better on Toast spine

If you struggle how to use up your preserves and love toast (I realize it’s an endangered species these days), this might be a good book to add to your wish list or library queue.

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