Tag Archives | Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

Quick Pickles for the April Mastery Challenge

Get your Mastery Challenge on with a batch of quick pickles!

Happy April, friends! This month, the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is focusing on quick pickles. Also often known as refrigerator pickles, these pickles are typically made in small batches, involve a vinegar brine, need little time to age (often, they’re good to go in just a few hours), and spend the entirety of their lifetime in the fridge.

As in previous months, remember that the goal of this challenge is to help you expand your skills while creating something that you’ll actually use. So choose a project or recipe that will satisfy both your own learning and help you make something delicious.

Why a Quick Pickle?

While I like a preserved pickle as much as the next canner, there are a number of reasons why I often turn to small batches of quick pickles when I have produce that needs to be used up or kept from the compost pile.

They’re easy to make and you can make a batch as big or small as you want (years ago, I shared a small batch I’d made simply to keep a single English cucumber from going bad).

You can also be creative when you’re making a quick pickle. Because it’s not a going into a boiling water bath canner, you aren’t wedded to ratios of vinegar and water to ensure safety. You can reduce vinegar amounts and use lower acid vinegars like those made with rice wine (which are typically 4.2% vinegars rather than the 5% pickle-ready versions).

Quick pickles also have a firmer texture. If you’re someone for whom a pickle is judged on its snappy crunch, quick pickles are the way to go. Because they’re not exposed to the prolonged heat of a boiling water bath, they don’t soften nearly as much as a preserved pickle does.

What Should I Pickle Quickly?

The great thing about this style of pickling is that nearly every variety of fruit and vegetable is fair game. I often use this technique when I want pickled onions to heap on a burger, some tangy fruit to add to a grain salad, or a pickles to take to a potluck or cookout.

If you’re a fairly traditional pickle eater, consider starting with a basic batch of Garlic Dill Pickles. Snappy and bright, they’re one of my very favorite pickles. Another good option are thinly sliced carrots and radishes. I also turn to quick pickling when I want to use up odds and ends that might otherwise get trashed. The quick pickled chard stems at the end of this post are a good example of that kind of pickling. And while we’re not yet into the depths of zucchini season, keep this one tucked into the back of your mind when you’re swimming in zucchini.

On the fruity end of things, consider these pickled peaches. As written, it’s not a quick pickle recipe, but a quick version of those same peaches would have been sturdier and more textured. These pickled blueberries are much the same as the peaches.

And, a final one perfect for the Easter and Passover holidays coming soon. Pickled Red Beet Eggs!

And here are some suggestions from around the internet.

Quick Pickled Strawberries || Quick Pickled Red Onions || Quick Pickled Asparagus || Quick Pickled Carrot Spears || Quick Daikon and Carrot Pickle || Spicy Refrigerator Pickled Peppers || Quick Pickled Fennel with Orange || Quick Pickled Apple

 

To Blanch or Not to Blanch?

One of the nice things about making quick pickles is that they don’t require a lot of preparation. However, denser things like asparagus, carrots, green beans, and beets absorb pickle brine better after they’ve had 30-60 seconds in a pot of boiling water. It’s not absolutely required, but cuts down the amount of time they’ll need in order to take on the flavors you carefully tucked into your brine.

If you hate the idea of adding a blanching step, you can either skip it or slice and dice the vegetables into increasingly small bits. Just know that the finished pickles will need a few days longer in the fridge and that they’ll always retain an element of their raw texture.

Vinegars and Flavor Elements

Like I mentioned above, one of the best things about making quick pickles is that there’s so much space to be creative. You can use the wacky vinegars you picked up on vacation, or fill half the jar with fresh herbs to add flavor. My only word of advise is that less is often more when it comes to pickling. Don’t heap your entire herb garden into a single batch, hoping for greatness. Creative restraint is your friend.

How Long Can I Keep My Quick Pickles?

Provided that you took care to start with squeaky clean containers* and you have the available refrigerator space, quick pickles can last for months in the fridge. I once had a jar of quick pickled cucumbers that I kept for nearly a year and they were amazing when we finally unearthed the jar from the far reaches of the fridge.

However, if you’re opening and closing the jar on a regularly basis, they are best when eaten within four to six weeks of being made. After that they often soften and or develop mold. As always, the rule of thumb is that if you have any doubt about the safety of your pickles, throw them out.

*A great thing about quick pickling is that you can skip the traditional mason jars. Any vessel with a tightly fitting lid will do the job here (like the reused peanut butter jars pictured at the top of this post).

How Do I Use a Quick Pickle?

Quick pickles are great on sandwiches. They work beautifully chopped and tossed with a grain salad. I’m a big fan of adding them to potato salad. They brighten all manner of tuna salads and salmon cakes. Turn them into tartar sauce or Russian dressing.

What are you planning on making for this month’s quick pickle challenge?

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Mastery Challenge March Round-Up: Jellies and Shrubs

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That’s it! March is all wrapped up and so is our jellies and shrubs challenge. This month, 262 people submitted their projects and lots more joined the conversation in the Facebook group and on Instagram. As always, it was a joy for me to see so many people trying new recipes and finding ways to make and create.

Much like last month, there was a lot to choose from within the challenge parameters. I was surprised and delighted that so many people took on shrubs. As you’ll see in the satisfaction numbers further down, I feel like this month turned a lot of shrub-skeptics into shrub lovers (though not all of you loved the shrubs. And that’s okay too!).

Another thing that was fun to see what that a lot of you made more than one project for the challenge. There’s never a requirement to try the skill more than once, but the more you play around with a particular preserving style, the more you can come to understand it and make it part of your culinary dialect.

Now, here are the numbers that I thought were most interesting. At the start of this month, a number of you had uneasy or negative feelings about shrubs. And I get it. Sometimes the idea of making a sweetened, vinegar based syrup seems a little weird even to me (and I’ve been doing it for years now).

But at the end of the month, a vast majority of those of you who made the shrubs now have an exceedingly positive attitude towards them. Heidi in Rockville, MD said in her comment, “I can’t stop making shrubs!!!! Fun, easy, and sooooo delicious with some soda water or seltzer. They are amazing!” So glad you’re so enthused, Heidi!

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The Jellies

 

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The Shrubs

Also, don’t miss the round-up Mary did of the projects her preserving group completed!

Big thanks to everyone who participated this month! In April, we’re making quick pickles. Hope you all can join in for that!

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Raspberry Meyer Lemon Shrub

This raspberry meyer lemon shrub is the perfect take for anyone who’s a little bit skeptical about the idea of using syrup-y, vinegar infused concoctions in their own kitchens. The lemon tempers the vinegar and makes for a bright, flavorful concentrate.

This month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge has been all about jellies and shrubs. We’ve been doing a lot of talking about jellies here on the blog, but not nearly as much about shrubs. Today, that changes.

This raspberry meyer lemon shrub is one of my favorites because the berries bring vivid color and flavor, and the lemons help moderate the sharpness of the vinegar.

This is an uncooked shrub and you start simply by muddling 6 ounces of raspberries and 8 ounces of granulated sugar together (I love my Masontops Pickle Packer for this task).

Once the berries are well smashed into the sugar, you zest 2 meyer lemons into the jar.

Cut open those lemons and squeeze the juice into the jar.

Then, in goes 1 cup of apple cider vinegar.

Stir it together and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, pull the jar out of the fridge. Give it a good stir to make sure that all the sugar has dissolved into the fruit juice.

Set a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the macerating fruit and syrup through.

Use a silicone spatula and really work the seeds around in the sieve so that you get all the liquid into the bowl.

Such a great color!

Once the shrub is finished, it will keep in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. Pour it into sparkling water, drizzle it on fruit, use it to top ice cream, or make a vinaigrette out of it.

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Mastery Challenge February Round-up: Salt Preserving

Grace Lee’s gorgeously vivid kimchi.

February has drawn to a close and so it’s time to wrap up the second round of the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. I continue to be so honored and delighted that so many of you are going along with me on this crazy journey!

This month, we focused on preserving with salt and so many of you spent your time exploring the many options. There were 325 of you that submitted projects to the spreadsheet (down from last month’s 600-ish number, but still great). I think it’s safe to say that even more of you attempted preserved citrus, gravlax, cured eggs, soup base, herbes salées, sauerkraut, and more than reported it.

I loved seeing the positive trend in feelings about salt preserving. We only scratched the surface of a very deep food preservation tradition and I do hope that some of you keep exploring this area.

Dried Herb Salt, Herbes Salées, & Soup Base

Sauerkraut & Kimchi

Chopping collards from Brit in the South

Preserved Citrus

Photo from Cheese and Cracker Jacks

Gravlax & Cured Egg Yolks

Laurie Kane’s gorgeous beet gravlax

 

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Krauty the Vampire Slayer from Ferment Your Vegetables

One of the things I’m enjoying about the Mastery Challenge is that it’s motivating me to try new recipes and different preserving techniques right along with you all. This month, in addition to doing a batch of garlic herb salt and some preserved lemons, I pulled down my copy of Amanda Feifer‘s Ferment Your Vegetables in search of something new to try that would meet the perimeters of the February project.

There’s so much to love in Ferment Your Vegetables, but nothing delights me more about this book than the fact that so many of the krauts and kimchis are scaled to make just one quart’s worth. It means that you can explore flavors and styles without overwhelming your kitchen with bubbling crocks.

I settled on Amanda’s recipe for Krauty the Vampire Slayer, because it sounded delicious and also felt like it served as a useful reminder that kraut is essentially a blank slate. You can always combine just cabbage and salt for a traditional batch, but why not mix it up with shredded beets, macadamia nuts, or as you do in this recipe, a whole head of roasted garlic cloves?

The recipe is simple. You cut a head of garlic in half across the equator, tuck it into an oven-safe dish, and roast until caramelized and tender. Once it is cool, shred two pounds of green cabbage and massage it with a tablespoon of salt (keep squeezing and kneading until there’s a goodly bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Pack the garlicky cabbage into a wide mouth quart jar, weigh it down, cover the jar, set it on a small plate or saucer and let it ferment until you like the flavor.

My batch has been humming along since Wednesday afternoon and already smells deliciously funky (I’m going to let it go until at least the two week mark). I’m so happy to have been reminded of the world of krauts that exist out there beyond my beloved carrot and cabbage variety and plan on exploring more of Amanda’s single quart creations in the coming weeks!

If you’re looking for one more project for this month’s challenge, I highly recommend this kraut!

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Mastery Challenge: Cured Duck Egg Yolks

Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is back, this time with her February #fijchallenge project. These cured duck yolks have me itching to work up a batch myself!

As soon as I saw the focus of February’s Mastery Challenge, I got excited. A focus on salt curing for the month of February would give me a reason to try preserving a food I had read about but never attempted, nor tasted, myself: cured egg yolks.

The curing process transforms yolks — already the coveted portion of the egg in most preparations — from runny, fatty richness into a solid form, a concentration that calls to mind umami-rich Alpine cheese.

Slivered onto a salad, grated over a simple fresh pasta dish, or stirred into a soup, it’s a way to add lots of flavor and richness (plus a pop of gorgeous golden color) to all kinds of dishes.

I was even more excited to try out this preserve with one of my favorite farmers’ market finds: pasture-raised duck eggs from Livengood Family Farm, a multigenerational diversified vegetable and livestock farm in Lancaster County, my source at the Clark Park Farmers’ Market here in West Philly.

This recipe from Bon Appétit seemed straightforward enough and quick, eschewing the slower method of wrapping each cured yolk in cheesecloth and hanging it to dry in favor of a few hours in a low oven or dehydrator.

Since I was using 12 instead of four yolks and they’d be larger in size, I planned to triple the amounts of salt and sugar. Once I had my kosher salt and sugar mixed together — the Bon Appetit recipe calls for roughly a 60-40 ratio — it was time to get cracking.

A note on cracking eggs: If you’ve worked with duck eggs before, you know that the membrane beneath the shell can be much tougher than that of a chicken egg, making a clean break (and an unbroken yolk) harder to achieve.

So while I’d learned to crack chicken eggs on a flat surface to prevent shards of shell from being driven into the egg, I carefully tapped the equator of each duck egg on the rim of my bowl in hopes of a clean break.

I wish I could tell you that this worked perfectly, but a full half of my dozen yolks got the better of me and broke, either during cracking or separating. This happened even when I switched to separating the eggs by letting the whites flow through my fingers rather than passing the yolk from shell to shell.

If you plan to make this recipe with duck eggs, you may want to stock up on a few more than you think you need — and plan to cook some egg dishes with the whites and broken yolk you may accumulate.

If you use chicken eggs, it’s still important to treat the yolks very gently, but I imagine you’ll have a better unbroken-to-broken yolk ratio.

All told, I ended up with six intact yolks — a bummer considering that I could have gotten away with using half as much salt and sugar if I’d known I’d have half as many to work with. Consider separating your yolks first, then mixing your salt and sugar based on how many you’ll separate intact to help prevent waste.

The rest of the process is pretty straightforward: lay about half of your cure mixture in a shallow pan, then make gentle depressions with the back of the spoon in which to gently nestle your yolks. (I’ve also seen lots of photos in the FIJ Community of the salt and yolks in the cups of muffin tins, an ingenious idea that makes thriftier use of the curing ingredients.)

Cover with the remaining cure, wrap the dish tightly in plastic, and chill for four days. (Due to life happening, mine stayed in for an extra two days and were perfectly fine.)

When it’s time, pull the pan from the fridge and carefully excavate the yolks from the curing bed with your fingers, or scoop gently from the bottom with a slotted spoon.

No need to worry about breakage now — the yolks will have solidified considerably — but they’re still quite soft and jelly-like.

If you’ll be drying your yolks in the dehydrator, prepare a clean rack by brushing the screen with vegetable oil or applying nonstick cooking spray. For oven drying, grease up a metal rack set in a sheet pan and preheat the oven to 150 degrees.

Give the yolks a quick rinse under cool tap water, then pat them dry with a paper towel. Work quickly, because at this stage, they’re very sticky. Lay out your yolks on the oiled rack, taking care to leave space for airflow in between.

Dry the yolks at 150 for one and a half to two and a half hours, until they resemble hard, grate-able cheese in texture. (You can also let them dry in your unheated oven for two days if, like mine, yours doesn’t go that low.)

If you have the space and a nice warm kitchen, wrap and tie each yolk in cheesecloth and hang to dry for about a week. Once dried, wrap or store your yolks in an airtight container and chill for up to a month.

There you have it: your own personal stash of culinary gold dust.

Use it to boost the richness and savory factor of just about any dish. I’m looking forward to grating my yolks over pasta carbonara, steamed or sautéed veggies, and tempura-fried mushrooms.

Cured Duck Egg Yolks

Ingredients

  • 1 dozen duck eggs (chicken or goose would work too)
  • 4 1/4 cups kosher salt
  • 3 3/4 cups sugar
  • Oil or nonstick cooking spray (to grease the drying rack)

Instructions

  1. Collect three medium-sized bowls. One will be for your unbroken yolks, one for the whites, and one for any yolks that might break during the separation process. (If you're not worried about keeping whites and broken yolks separate for other uses, you can put them both in the same bowl.)
  2. Separate the duck eggs. On the rim of the bowl you're using to collect the whites, gently tap each egg around its equator, going around until the shell and membrane have both broken and you are able to open the egg with a relatively clean break. You can pass the yolk from one half of the shell to the other as you would chicken eggs, or gently turn the egg into your palm and allow the white to flow through your slightly separated fingers while holding onto the yolk (recommended to avoid yolk breakage). Collect intact yolks in their own bowl (it's OK if a little white clings to the yolk). Drop whites and broken yolks into their own bowls if you'd like to use them on their own in other recipes.
  3. If all your yolks are intact and usable, mix the full amount of salt and sugar together in a large bowl. If more than a few are unusable, cut the amount of salt and sugar by one third. If half are unusable, cut the amount of salt and sugar by half, and so on.
  4. Pour half the salt and sugar mixture into a shallow pan (9"x13" for a full dozen yolks; an 8"x8" would probably work better for a half dozen). Spread the mixture evenly, then use the back of a spoon to create gentle, evenly spaced depressions in the curing mixture, one for each yolk. Carefully pour each yolk into your hand and then place each one into its own depression in the curing bed.
  5. Gently spoon the other half of the curing mixture over the yolks, ensuring that they are completely covered. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to six days.
  6. When six days are up, remove the pan from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap.
  7. Prepare a dehydrator rack or, for oven drying, a metal rack set inside a sheet pan and grease the rack with vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray. If using, preheat the oven to 150 degrees. (If you plan to use the oven dry method but 150 is too low for your oven, you'll simply place the yolks on the rack and into an unheated oven for 2 days.)
  8. Carefully remove the yolks, which will have become somewhat solid, to a separate dish. Rinse each yolk gently under cool water, then pat dry with a paper towel. Place each yolk on the oiled rack, leaving space between the yolks for air flow.
  9. Place the rack with the yolks into the dehydrator or oven at 150 for one and a half to two and a half hours. You'll know the yolks are sufficiently dry when their texture and firmness resembles a hard-aged cheese.
  10. Remove the yolks from the rack and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month. Grate as desired over your favorite dishes to add a rich umami element.
http://foodinjars.com/2017/02/mastery-challenge-cured-duck-egg-yolks/

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