Archive for ‘Preserving’

August 17, 2012

Why Haven’t I Done This Before? | Watermelon Rind Pickles

I picked up a beautiful, heavy and sweet local watermelon at my neighborhood Giant Eagle Market District.  I still can’t believe that this is my normal, everyday, hey-we’re-out-of-milk grocery store – it’s humongous.  But I have to give them props: for being as huge as they are, they do try for a couple of months to really bring in a bunch of locally grown and raised produce.  I really like that.

So back home, I was cutting it up and then slicing up all the leftover rinds so that they would break down faster in the compost pile and it hit me.  People make pickles out of this stuff.   And thankfully it’s less for the compost pile to try to digest, which is a good thing this time of year, just ask my husband, who often gets stuck with the job of carting out all the scraps.  He’s a good man.

Is that a cucumber in the foreground? No! Just a well trimmed watermelon rind.

So a quick browse around and it’s a simpler method than I even thought.  For half of a medium watermelon the brine is

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June 27, 2012

Good on Everything | Ajvar

This is something I will be making repeatedly throughout the summer.

Roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, finely chopped, along with copious amounts of garlic and a bit of olive oil and salt.  I was quite astonished to find the depth of flavor in something that truly only had four ingredients.  Roasting is certainly what certainly makes it so good.  And the thing is, with a gas stove (or this summer the grill, which is in near constant use) roasting takes almost no time.  Five to seven minutes or so straight on the burner over the heat, turning every so often to completely blacken the outsides.  Put in a covered container to steam and cool for 10 minutes, the skins on the peppers slide off like a silk dress.

This is sexy stuff.

I want it on steaks, on fish.  On these balkan burgers.  On regular burgers.  In my eggs.

In this recipe, I included a bit of roasted eggplant (at which Balkan traditionalists would have been shocked and horrified) but I found it gave a gorgeous texture.

For some background: ajvar is typically made in Serbia in the fall, where in small towns its process requires just about everybody who lives there to pitch in and help.  The peppers are roasted, peeled and deseeded.  Everything is pureed and put up in jars for the winter.  Only here, I can’t wait that long: I ate spoons of it out of the dish while we were waiting for company to arrive.  They were lucky they got here when they did.  I would have eaten it all.

Lovely stuff.

Make some.

Ajvar

2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped

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May 26, 2012

Luxury | Copper River Gravlax

I’d been following the FB posts of Dorothy Lane Market and tracking when the Copper River salmon was coming in.  It was the king that was in the store Friday.  Its brief season is only May and June.  But it is so very, very worth making every effort to find and indulge in it the fleeting moments you can catch it.

This year, I did something I almost can’t believe I did with the costly pound I purchased.

I made gravlax.

Making true gravlax requires no smoking.  It is, in essence, the purest Scandinavian method of preserving fish.

Only the best salmon, lovely coarse sea salt, pounded peppercorns, sugar, a handful of backyard dill.  Wrapped tightly in clingfilm and flipped twice a day for two days.

The dry salt-sugar coat results in the fish giving up all its water content and producing a oceany brine that the fish luxuriates in for the duration of its cure.

Once removed from its bath, it is finely shaved and mounded on potatoes, or garden baby greens for the most precious of all culinary experiences.

But the most important aspect of all of this?  You can do it.  You don’t need any special equipment or know how.  Make it and enjoy it.  While it lasts.

Copper River Gravlax, made using the instructions from Rick Stein in Complete Seafood.  If you don’t have this book, I don’t know what else to tell you except that you have to get it.  You have to.

One pound Copper River King Salmon

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March 17, 2012

It’s Not Just for St. Patrick’s | Scratch Corned Beef

When we visited our farmer friend Dick Jensen a few weeks ago for maple tapping, we picked up some of his lovingly raised and delicious grass-fed beef.  We blew through the short ribs (I still owe you some posts on those, two ways) but we also bought a brisket with the full intention of having it as corned beef.

And everyone loves it for St. Patrick’s Day.  But consider it as something you could make anytime.  It makes enough for leftovers for a couple of days.  Turn it into amazing sandwiches with a little Russian dressing and coleslaw.  Add some leftover potatoes that you par boiled and then roasted in fat and turn it into hash.  This is not your out of the can variety.

It’s worth the effort.

There is a bit of wiggle room just how long you choose to brine your brisket. 

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August 23, 2011

A Quick Pickle | Szechuan and Dill

These are my first pickles.

I thank sites like Hounds in the Kitchen and Food in Jars for giving me the nudge in the direction of preserving and pickling.

What is it about these methods that seem so daunting?  Perhaps it is that you hear stories of the six thousand pints that your grandmother used to make at one sitting. (Who has time?)  Perhaps it’s the old stories that it won’t keep as well as you hope.  Fear mongers.  Truly folks, don’t listen.  You can put up just a few pints at a time, in two hours or less.

And the satisfaction of a pickle from a cucumber you grew or just picked up at a farmers’ market is like nothing else.

I made up my own pickling spice, because I think things can be a bit boring if you go the conventional route.  I like a bit of extra spice.  I also kicked in some fresh ginger in some and a massive quantity of garlic as well.  They turned out crispy and salty and kind of awesome.

PK Szechuan Dill Pickling Spice

1 t caraway seeds

1 T corriander seeds

1 t cumin seeds

1 t celery seeds

5 cloves

10 juniper berries

8 green cardamom pods

1 T black peppercorns

1 T Szechuan peppercorns

2 T dill seed

Lightly crush all larger spices, especially the cardamom pods and juniper berries.  Use in quantities as your pickle recipe advises.

Playlist included My Heart Skips a Beat by The Secret Sisters.

 

July 11, 2011

Summer Salad | Pickled Cherries and Serrano Ham

I adore the big pots of mesclun that have been moved to the shadier spots in my backyard now summer is in full swing.  A few snips and I have the base for a fabulous summer lunch.

There’s no real dressing to make, just assembling a couple of ingredients, including a few slices of Serrano ham, shavings of Parmesan and a handful of yellow cherries pickled with Chinese Five Spice.  Somehow these three things paired with just picked lettuces and tender herbs result in a taste greater than the sum of their parts.

The cherries were the result of about an hour in the kitchen over the weekend.  Now preserved for the dark days of winter, I couldn’t help but crack into one of the jars for this salad.  And I’m glad I did.  I have to make more of these while cherries are still in season.  I did not make enough.  These cherries are not only wonderful in this salad, but perfection with a cheese plate.  I want to have plenty on hand to dish out with nibbles of cheese when friends pop in for a cocktail.

For the salad, combine

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July 9, 2011

After the Preserves | Fruit and Herb Vinegars

I’ve got three different bottles of fruit and herbs steeping in vinegar in the dark recesses of my basement spice shelves.  Birthed out of a craving for something savory out of all the pounds and pounds of fruit Cherub and I have been picking with friends lately.  I’ve made cobblers, pies, and grunts.  I’ve made syrups, jams and jellies (albeit almost accidentally, but that’s another post).  What to do with the dregs from the blueberry syrup?  The excess from 20 pounds of cherries?  Toss them in vinegar along with some herbs.  Let it steep for a few weeks in a dark spot, shaking the jars every once in a while when you walk by.  It’s as easy as that, and the flavors are only limited by your imagination.  And honestly, can you think of a nicer hostess gift?  Just strain into a vintage bottle, and cork.  Present with a handwritten tag noting the contents or perhaps a recipe for a simple vinaigrette.  You’re most certain to be invited back.

From left to right: Blueberry Tarragon, Cherry Shiso, and Cherry Balsamic

A few guidelines: for deepest flavor use

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