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Archive for the ‘Canning’ Category

It’s 105 degrees in the shade today, and newscasters are warning that “it’s dangerous out there.”

So what’s a girl to do when the temperatures are soaring, the sun is blazing, and it’s a high ozone alert day?
Stay inside, of course!

Disclaimer: I did get up early and go for a walk. Would have gone stir-crazy otherwise!

After breakfast, the kitchen became canning central. I canned six pints of corn relish, four pints of dilly beans and four quarts of cucumber pickles.

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Now, any fool will tell you it’s not a good idea to heat up your kitchen cooking on a day like today. So even though I still have a batch of zucchini relish to can, and I had wanted to make a Thai-inspired tofu dish, I’m done cooking for the day.

Next came lunch: a cool, delicious salad:

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Now I have the whole afternoon ahead of me. I could catch up on some of my TV shows…

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… or read some books about the beach…

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… or maybe I’ll just follow Nanaline’s lead and take a nap!

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How are you spending your Saturday?

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As my garden has grown over the years, I’ve slowly ventured into preserving the produce. It took several years of walking by the pressure canners in Wal-Mart and Target before I actually bought one. Then the canner sat in my attic for another year until I finally got up the nerve to use it.

I still don’t use the pressure option — something about fear of explosions is stopping me… But I’ve been pretty successful with pickling my vegetables using the hot-water bath canning method.

I’ve pickled squash, carrots, collards, mustard greens, and green beans. I’ve preserved chutney and salsa. And when I don’t have the time or desire to pull out the canner, I make refrigerator pickles.

I’ve used this method to pickle garlic chives, kohlrabi, beans, tomatillos and carrots. I also have made the most delicious cucumber pickles. (Unfortunately I can’t link to the recipe as my print-out doesn’t have the web address on it.)

While I love the ease of refrigerator pickles, I find I can’t eat them fast enough. And they are beginning to take up too much space in my fridge! So the recent glut of pickling cucumbers has made me research other preservation options.

I spent this past Friday evening perusing my cookbooks and the web. There’s numerous recipes out there for pickling cucumbers. But brining the cucumbers seemed too time consuming, not to mention complicated. I needed something simple and quick that I could do on Saturday.

So I pulled out my trusty copy of “The Joy of Pickling,” by Linda Ziedrich, and I was in luck! A recipe for quick dill pickles.

Saturday morning, I began my pickling project. I heated quart jars, and filled them with quartered cucumbers, dill, garlic, dried cayenne pepper, and black peppercorns. Then I added the hot vinegar mixture and processed according to instructions. The jars came out perfectly sealed.

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Quick and easy! So quick, in fact, that I had the time to process some dilly beans as well!

The cucumber pickles are supposed to sit a few weeks before opening, so it will be awhile before I know how they taste.

One small dilemma: I still have more pickling cucumbers coming in. My neighbor B. likes bread and butter pickles, and “The Joy of Pickling” does have a recipe for those. But I didn’t care for the bread and butter pickles my Aunt E. made, so I’m hesitant to make those. I fear that I am, at heart, a dill pickle girl.

So what about you? What are your favorite kind of cucumber pickles? And do you have an easy recipe for pickling cucumbers that you would like to share?

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It’s strawberry season here in North Carolina, and the locally grown berries are delicious! So each year about this time, I head to the farmer’s market to stock up on strawberries.

Each Friday, I buy a big bucket and eat about half the berries. Yes, this means eating them several times a day! As for the rest, I usually divide into half-cup portions and freeze for later consumption.

But today I decided to branch out snd try freezer jam. I had seen a recipe by local cafe owner Sara Foster that looked incredibly easy — and it was!

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of OrganicGardening.com

Whole thing, start to finish, including washing dishes, took less than an hour.

First, I cut up the strawberries and put them in a bowl.

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Then I heated the balsamic vinegar until it reduced by half. I poured it over the strawberries, added the sea salt, and mashed.

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Then I mixed the sugar and instant fruit pectin in another bowl.

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Finally, I mixed all the ingredients and placed in jars. The recipe calls for 8-oz. jars. Because I only had two available, I ended up using some pint jars as well.

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Into the freezer the strawberry jam went. I can’t wait to try some!

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For at least three weeks now, we’ve had gorgeous weather during the week, followed by rain on the weekends. So what’s a gardener, who welcomes rain but wishes it didn’t happen on prime work days, to do?

Sometimes I get in some long-distance walking. But this weekend, I opted for a project instead: pickling greens.

Last year, I made a batch of Liana Krissoff’s pickled collard greens. The recipe is in her book, Canning for a New Generation. Unfortunately I can’t find a similar recipe online, and I think I would be violating copyright by putting hers on my blog, even with attribution. So sorry, no recipe.

This year I modified her recipe, using mustard greens instead of collards, and jalepeno instead if habanero. At this point, I’m still unclear if I can put down my adaptation, but to be safe, I won’t.

Picking greens takes some time, mostly in the picking, washing and chopping. If you don’t have a large batch growing, or you just want to save time, you could buy some pre-cut, pre-washed greens.

Here’s my mustard greens, freshly picked, soaking in the kitchen sink:

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I then washed each individual leaf, destemmed, and tore into tiny pieces. The individual washing was very important, at least for me, since I live in the land of slugs. (Sorry, slugs. May you rest in peace!)

Then I put the greens in an old pillowcase, went outside on the deck, and twirled the pillowcase to shake off any remaining water. Who knew my old college pillowcase would someday be used like a salad spinner?

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I then put the greens, along with some jalepeno, garlic and onion in pint-sized canning jars. The recipe says to pack tight because once you add the hot vinegar concoction, the greens will wilt.

Well, I packed those greens in, but not enough, because when I took them out of the canner, the jars were only about half full of greens.

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I guess I should have figured something was amiss when I had plenty of greens left over. So, I might not be able to give any of these pickled greens as gifts, but at least that will mean more for me!

Oh, and I wilted the rest of the greens and ate them with some chickpeas, along with a carrot soup. Yum!

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When I first started writing about my favorite things, I thought it would be easy. There are just so many things in this world that bring me joy!

But trying to relate schnitzel with noodles to something I love has been a bit of a challenge. I’ve already talked about the foods I like to eat, so what to do?

I could focus on how this has been a challenging week for me, diet-wise, but eating too much or succombing to my sugar addiction doesn’t really make me happy or relieve stress, no matter what I tell myself while reaching for that Foster’s Market macaroon.

So instead I’ll focus on some of my favorite cookbooks.

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Laurel’s Kitchen was the first cookbook I bought after becoming a vegetarian 20-something years ago. One look at the worn-out cover reveals how well-used this cookbook has been. Laurel inspired me to bake bread from scratch, and attempt homemade pasta.

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Next came a few Moosewood cookbooks, though my favorite is “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant.” I really like that this cookbook focuses on different cuisines, though I must admit that when I want to eat Asian food, I just go to a restaurant. My favorite recipes in this book are perhaps the simplest: Rumpledethumps and Pasta y Fagioli.

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DaddyNell gave me “Passionate Vegetarian” a few years ago. I mostly make the soups, and am in love with her gumbo recipe. Other favorites are the Pumpkin-Tomato Bisque (super easy too!) and the Union Square Cafe Borscht.

I want to spend more time with this cookbook and make more of the recipes, but often I’m short of time and want to make something quick and easy.

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So I often pull out the “400 Soups” cookbook given to me by my neighbors. This cookbook, while not vegetarian, has a nice selection of bean and vegetable soups that are quick and easy.

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And, over the past few years, I’ve begun canning. The idea was to preserve my garden produce. Thanks to fun books like “Canning for a New Generation” and “The Joy of Pickling,” I am enjoying learning a new craft (skill?) and creating delicious gifts to share with family and friends.

So those are a few of my favorite cookbooks. Though I also scan the internet for recipes and am often printing and filing for future reference.

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So when the dog bites or the bee stings or I’m feeling hungry, I simply remember my favorite cookbooks abd then I don’t feel so bad. (Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.)

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I just packed up a bag full of homemade gifts for co-workers.

The bag contains: pickled collard greens, zucchini, tomatillos, and green beans, made with produce from the garden. There’s also some spiced apple butter, made with apples from the NC mountains; and the last of the pear-ginger preserves, blueberry butter and chocolate balsamic vinegar, made with ingredients purchased at Costco.

So now that I’ve cleaned out the cupboard, it’s about time to pull out the seed catalogs and place orders for the 2012 garden. And to peruse my canning books for more recipes for next year’s gifts. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the cold January nights.

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Saturday was an away football game, so I finally had time to finish putting my summer garden to bed for the winter.

Into the compost bins went half-dead pepper and tomatillo plants. But not before I got my last harvest of summer goodies.

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So today I pulled out Linda Ziedrich’s “Joy of Pickling,” and got to work making a version of her pickled tomatillos.

I cut up a pound of tomatillos, some sweet peppers (I used mostly banana peppers because that’s what I had), a small amount of jalepeno (had only three tiny ones), some fresh garlic and several sprigs of oregano. All these went into a quart jar.

Then I put vinegar, pickling salt, cumin and sugar on to heat. After it boiled, I poured the vinegar into the quart jar and let it cool.

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Once cooled, I put a plastic top on the jar and moved it to the fridge to sit for a few days before indulging.

I can’t wait to try it! And to make Linda’s pickled broccoli and pickled cauliflower!

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