Category: onion

Quick little sweet pickles.

Vintage Home Pickling book.

Ahhh, pickles. You come into my life every summer at the demand of the pickle-obsessed people in my family, you sit pretty on shelves or in the refrigerator for a while and then you’re gobbled up and before I know it, I’m making more of you. Good thing I’m not a pickle fan myself. In the words of the infamous notorious Biggie Smalls: “Never get high off your own supply.” Yes, he was talking about crack, but the principle is the same.

If I actually ate pickles, then I’d never have any to give away (or sell… *ahem*), and then people would annoy me more than they already do to make more. I’m not sure how many folks out there could somehow relate the “Ten Crack Commandments” to pickles, but what can I say?

Quick sweet pickles made with cinnamon, clove & red onion.

Did you know that “pickle” is derived from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine? Betcha didn’t. But now you do!

Any who, I found this beautiful pickle recipe at Honey & Jam. The photos were so lovely, I knew I’d have to replicate it myself. My mother is a fan of sweet pickles; give her a jar of sweet gherkins & she’ll eat the whole thing. So I thought she’d appreciate these, lovely little quick pickles made with sugar, a stick of cinnamon & some cloves. The fact that they’re quick pickles, or refrigerator pickles, makes life easier. I love canning but on a super hot day it’s nice to just slap things in the fridge & not worry about processing.

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Maple-whiskey pickles; version 2.0.

The Pickle Sisters, c. 1920′s, image courtesy of Retronaut

A safe assumption here would be that you’re a new reader who doesn’t remember the previous version of these I created. That would be not only the safest assumption, but the most logical, seeing as how I’m sure the majority of people who are googling “whiskey maple pickles” or some variation of that haven’t been reading my blog (although THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN). Because let’s face it, if they were, they’d have known about the previous incarnation of this recipe & they wouldn’t need to be Googling it. But I am not naive nor conceited enough to think everyone in the world knows about/reads my blog.

So here’s a little recap: last year I made pickles. In those pickles, there was not only the usual suspects: dill, pickling spices, salt, vinegar, etc… but also maple syrup & bourbon.

Seriously.

They were pretty awesome, and I don’t even like pickles (!). I do, however, make them for other people’s enjoyment. And Jay loves him some pickles.

Maple Whiskey pickles made with Cabin Fever whiskey!

If you’re too lazy to click a link, then here’s a little more in-depth copy + paste for ya from the original post:

… Maple-bourbon pickles. Inspired by the Brooklyn Brine Company’s Whiskey Sour pickles, which I first saw in Williams-Sonoma. I decided to make a jar or two of these for Jay. I’m not cheap, far from it, but paying $12.95 for 24 oz. of pickles seemed a bit… over-indulgent. Especially when I figured I could make them myself. At first he wasn’t sure how he’d feel about them, but then he had one of their pickles when he played a show at the St. Vitus Bar & raved about it, so I thought “Why not make one teensy jar of them & see?” It seemed unique enough. How bad could it be? It’s pickles + whiskey. That’s a pretty rock star pickle.

In case you’re wondering, [a Pickleback] is an actual thing you can order in some bars. That name for it originated at The Bushwick Country Club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2007. It’s a shot of whiskey (from what I’ve read, it’s usually Jameson, but at The Bushwick Country Club they use Old Crow) with a pickle juice, or brine, chaser (they use McClure’s [pickles]). The brine neutralizes the burn of the alcohol & the taste of the whiskey. Once I learned that, through a NYT article from almost 2 years ago, I thought the whiskey pickle idea was even more interesting.

I had high hopes back then that my versions of these two insanely genius pickles would be pretty awesome, if not perfectly awesome. And Jay confirmed that they were, noting that his favorite of the two (between the plain bourbon pickles & the maple-bourbon) was indeed the batch with maple syrup.

Jay is a big pickle guy, but he said those were probably his favorites of all the ones I made (until he had the hop pickles- but that’s another story). Anyway, he had a bunch of pickles open in the fridge and then Superstorm Sandy hit & knocked out the power FOR YEARS & YEARS. Or a few weeks. Whatever. And then after weeks of sitting in a refrigerator that wasn’t on, all those pickle jars had to be thrown away, whether they were almost empty or practically full. It was very sad to see all that work tossed in the garbage- especially since I only had a few unopened jars of pickles left and none of them were the bourbon pickles. *insert long sigh*

Maple whiskey pickle prep

But alas… the story continues. You see, a friend of Jay’s owns a bar in Brooklyn called The Monro Pub. And through him Jay discovered this whiskey called Cabin Fever, which is essentially Grade B dark maple syrup blended with 80 proof whiskey.

For real. This is a thing.

Cabin Fever maple whiskey pickles

And upon hearing of such a wondrous thing, and then tasting such a wondrous thing, I decided that the only thing left to do would be to remake those maple-whiskey pickles using this delectable & convenient whiskey product. Not to mention the fact that now I have a better camera, so I can take nicer pictures of these lovely little pickles.

I know, it’s not really pickling season yet. But like I said last week about those strawberry jam cakes… sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

MARILLA’S SUPER AWESOME MAPLE-WHISKEY PICKLES WITH CABIN FEVER WHISKEY

Makes about 2 pints, recipe can be doubled or tripled

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 small pickling cucumbers (about 1- 1 1/2 pounds), or regular cucumbers if you’re going to slice them into chips… I usually use Kirby’s myself (just don’t use the large waxed ones! Persian cucumbers are okay, not perfect but they’ll work)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons Cabin Fever maple whiskey
  • 1 tablespoon pickling salt
  • 2 heads fresh dill, or 2 sprigs of fresh dill PLUS 1/2 heaping teaspoon dill seeds, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
  • a dash of freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes or one half of a small Serrano chili pepper, finely diced
  • dash of chili powder- OPTIONAL
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • a few slices of onions (“rings”)- OPTIONAL

Directions:

  1. Cut a thin slice from the ends of each cucumber. This prevents a “mushy” pickle, as the ends of cucumbers contain an enzyme that makes them mushy. Then slice cucumbers as you like- slices, spears or sandwich-size; or leave them whole. Place jars in canner to sterilize them and place lids in hot water to soften seal.
  2. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove hot jars from canner. Pour 3 tablespoons Cabin Fever maple whiskey in each jar. Place 1 head fresh dill or 1 heaping teaspoon dill seeds, onion (if using), 1/4 teaspoon pickling spice, the mustard seed, black pepper, onions, hot pepper flakes and 1 minced clove of garlic into each jar; pack in cucumbers tightly.
  3. Pour boiling vinegar/water mixture over cucumbers to within ½ inch of rim (head space). Place lids & bands. Process 10 minutes for pint jars and 15 minutes for quart jars.
  4. Allow jars to sit for at least one week before opening for optimal flavor, but no one will kill you if you crack one open early.

Maple whiskey pickle jar... ready for cucumbers & brine!

Cabin Fever is definitely the whiskey to use for this. It makes it easier, kills two birds with one stone, whatever cliche you want to use. It takes the guesswork out of finding both a good quality maple syrup & a good whiskey (especially if you’re whiskey-stupid like I am). I usually depend on Jay to tell me what’s whiskey, what’s bourbon, what’s rye & what just plain sucks. But then there’s always the problem of making sure you’ve got a nice maple syrup that isn’t just 90% high-fructose corn syrup colored brown. This way, I know I can use this and it’ll work out just fine and not taste like gasoline pickles.

If you’re interested in the original recipe (using bourbon & maple syrup), then follow your nose here. Included in that post is also a recipe for plain bourbon pickles, and whiskey can definitely be substituted as you see fit.

Speaking of whiskey- I found a new favorite blog: Pork & Whisk(e)y.

Maple whiskey pickles!

Note: please follow all the appropriate canning procedures when creating your pickles. I will not be held responsible for your botulism related medical issues and/or death. Make sure you know what you’re doing before attempting to jar any shelf-stable food products. Alternately, make them according to the recipe and as soon as the jars are cooled, place them in the refrigerator.

Pickles made with Cabin Fever maple whiskey! on Punk Domestics

Summertime… and the livin’s easy.

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”
-Sylvia Plath

 

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Summer has pretty much all but flown by, hasn’t it? Seems like yesterday I posted a little group of pictures of the start of summer… & now all the Back-to-School stuff has infiltrated the stores & it seems as though summer is breathing its last breaths. Not only that, but we’ve been really getting pounded with rain, and when it’s a cool day combined with rain it seems far more like fall than summer. As far as I’m concerned, there’s plenty of summer left. But I don’t think many other people agree with me. Which sucks, actually, because I feel like I’m being forced to buy sweaters and trench coats and rain boots and I AM NOT READY FOR THAT. I’m still playing in the garden, enjoying the sunshine, wearing tank tops, cutoffs & flip flops. I won’t automatically shift into “fall mode” in late August and you can’t make me. It’s been raining a lot here lately, actually, and quite heavily. But despite the rain, it’s still warm, and I’m getting a little tired of emptying the water out of my fire pit and trying to keep my plants alive and standing. Oh, August rain. You can tell, though, that there’s a change in the air. The breeze is different, the sun patterns are different. Fall is coming.

However… those days when it’s still over 85° degrees with insane humidity and the sun is beating down on me brutally, I’m reminded that yes, it is indeed still summer. So I’m relishing it. Still having picnics & cook-outs on my insect plates!

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But at this time of year I feel like a kid- you know how it is when you’re young, and when it’s still summer, and you’re inhaling the scent of chlorine off your skin, catching bugs in jars, staying up late & peeling the sunburned skin off your back… but everyone else (read: adults) seems to be talking about what textbooks you need, who ended up in Mrs. So-and-So’s class, why you need five 3-subject notebooks for Science and whether or not you read your summer reading books (I always did). There’s something to be said for the excitement of shopping for school supplies. The way you feel when you open that notebook and the first page is clean, unruffled and stark white, and it’s similar to the school year itself; right now, it’s a clean slate, anything can happen. It’s filled with promise and the first few weeks (and pages) are nice and smooth. Then it all goes to shit. By the end of the year, the notebook is dog-eared, frayed and probably has no cover left on it, not to mention is stained with almost every lunch you’ve eaten since at least November. Wait, I’m getting off track here. Anyway while there is something to be said for all that newness & excitement… let’s not forget though that the end of summer is officially September 21st, which means fall is technically a little less than one full month away.

There’s still a ton of summer left, true. Lots of beach days (although with no lifeguards), barbecues, warm nights sitting outside until it’s way late, enjoying the nice weather. But the date on the calendar means school starts very soon if it hasn’t already, & those last minute vacations are coming to an end. And most people mark the end of summer as Labor Day, so as summer itself “winds to a close,” it’s time to squeeze in all those summery recipes I didn’t make yet. I said this summer would be the summer of me making stuff I never made before… and that really didn’t go as planned. The summer switched rapidly between being swelteringly hot and torrentially rainy; like some kind of bizarre New York rainforest. So most of the time it was just too hot to cook, even when it rained. I wanted to make Miemo’s mama’s egg rolls, but it was too hot to fry anything! But this is definitely something I never made before that it wasn’t too hot to make: pickled shrimp.

Briny, faintly spicy pickled shrimp are a staple of Southern cuisine. In this Georgia-inspired version from from Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South (Clarkson Potter, 2011), frozen raw shrimp are a fine substitute for fresh. As Hugh notes in his comment below, if the shrimp remain covered with oil, they’ll last for “a good week in the fridge. The longer they sit in their pickle liquid, the picklier they get.”

This recipe first appeared in our October 2011 issue along with Wendell Brock’s book review “Sweet and Tart: A Southerly Course and A New Turn in the South.”

-Saveur

Old Bay Seasoning is something every household should have, at all times. It’s excellent on seafood, yes, but it’s also great for tons of other things: popcorn, french fries, hard-boiled eggs, corn-on-the-cob, etc. If you’ve never had it- get it. I guarantee you you’ll love it. It’s just a simple mix: paprika, mustard, celery seed, ground bay leaf, both black and red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, salt, mace and ginger. But it’s so good. And the little can is so vintage looking!

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PICKLED SHRIMP (directly from Saveur/Hugh Acheson, with my notes in Italics)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 lb. (26–30 count) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I left the tails on)
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds (I didn’t crush them)
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice berries (I omitted them)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped (I used a lot less, but mine was dried parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (I used a white onion)

Directions:

  1. Bring Old Bay and 8 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan; add shrimp, reduce heat to low, and cook until shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to chill; drain again.
  2. Finely grind celery seeds and allspice in a spice grinder (I didn’t do this!); transfer to a bowl and stir in oil, juice, parsley, salt, chile flakes, garlic, and bay leaves. In a 1-qt. glass jar, layer shrimp and onions; pour over oil mixture. Cover with lid; chill overnight before serving.

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I hope that you don’t get turned off or stick your nose up at the idea of these. If you like shrimp, and you like a mildy tangy, briny flavor that pickled foods have, then you’ll love these. Plus… anything in olive oil is awesome, am I right? It’s actually the same principle as Ceviche de Camarones, the popular Latin version of a shrimp cocktail. They’re excellent as a side dish to grilled steak, grilled chicken, or even grilled fish. A perfect addition to your Labor Day festivities this weekend. And the oil can be used as a vinaigrette, not to mention if you let the jar come to room temperature & put some of the shrimp & oil over hot pasta, it’s kinda like a cheater’s version of shrimp scampi. You could use them in a kind of Southern taco, too. Roll up some flour tortillas and put some of these bad boys in there with some of the onions and a little lettuce. They’re relatively easy to make, and… they last for a week in the fridge! Just make sure they’re totally submerged & covered with oil at all times. And as with everything, when in doubt- throw it out! If it smells funkadelic or looks weird, toss it. But mine was in the fridge for about 9 days, and on the ninth day it was finally finished and nobody died. Yet. (I kid, I kid)

And yes, like it says above, you can use frozen shrimp. I did! I also left the tails on, obviously. Interactive food, guys, interactive food. Make people work for it. Side note: the oil might coagulate in the refrigerator. Mine actually didn’t fully coagulate for a couple of days, I suspect because of the addition of the lemon juice. But anyway, if you manage to keep them for longer than an evening and they coagulate, all you do is take the jar out a little ahead of time. This way it’ll come to room temperature, liquify & be fine to eat within 15-20 minutes.

Everybody loves a picnic!

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
-James Henry

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I love picnics. I don’t have them often, of course, but I’ve had a few over the course of my life & they’ve always been fun. When I was a kid, my mom used to have “backyard picnics” where we just set up a simple little picnic on the grass in the yard. It wasn’t anything crazy, usually a few sandwiches with the crusts cut off (mine was always either peanut butter or potato chip; yes I ate potato chip sandwiches) and some soda or sparkling water and some snacks. Once or twice on a rainy day we even had an indoor picnic on the floor and had pizza or Chinese food. It was so much fun.

And then you grow up and your sense of fun changes. You forget to do little fun things every now and then, “just because.”;

Taking a cue from that, I decided to have one now. As a “grown-up.” I have these two vintage picnic baskets sitting around that I never used. Plus I’ve been working really hard, on a variety of things (like the new Recipe Index!). I figured, why do I have to actually go somewhere to have a picnic when I can have one right here?! You can have a picnic anywhere- even inside, like I said. Martha Stewart recently did a segment on the Today show about how to prepare a picnic entirely in jars! There are tons of ways to do a picnic, from traditional to un-traditional. Bring cold foods, hot foods, room-temperature foods, salads, wine & cheese. Whatever you like.

The first usage of the word ‘picnic’ is traced to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française, which mentions pique-nique as being of recent origin; it marks the first appearance of the word in print. The term was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something. Whether picnic is actually based on the verb piquer which means ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ with the rhyming nique meaning “thing of little importance” is doubted; the Oxford English Dictionary says it is of unknown provenance. The word predates lynching in the United States; claims that it is derived from a shortening of ‘pick a n—-r’ are untrue.[2]

The word ‘picnic’ first appeared in English in a letter of the Gallicized Lord Chesterfield in 1748 (OED), who associates it with card-playing, drinking and conversation, and may have entered the English language from this French word.[3] The practice of an elegant meal eaten out-of-doors, rather than a harvester worker’s dinner in the harvest field, was connected with respite from hunting from the Middle Ages; the excuse for the pleasurable outing of 1723 in François Lemoyne‘s painting Hunt Picnic is still offered in the context of a hunt.

After the French Revolution in 1789, royal parks became open to the public for the first time. Picnicking in the parks became a popular activity amongst the newly enfranchised citizens.

Early in the 19th century, a fashionable group of Londoners (including Edwin Young) formed the ‘Picnic Society‘. Members met in the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments with no one particular host. Interest in the society waned in the 1850s as the founders died.[4]

From the 1830s, Romantic American landscape painting of spectacular scenery often included a group of picnickers in the foreground. An early American illustration of the picnic is Thomas Cole‘s The Pic-Nic of 1846 (Brooklyn Museum of Art).[5] In it, a guitarist serenades the genteel social group in the Hudson River Valley with the Catskills visible in the distance. Cole’s well-dressed young picnickers having finished their repast, served from splint baskets on blue-and-white china, stroll about in the woodland and boat on the lake.

The image of picnics as a peaceful social activity can be utilised for political protest, too. In this context, a picnic functions as a temporary occupation of significant public territory. A famous example of this is the Pan-European Picnic held on both sides of the Hungarian/Austrian border on the 19 August 1989 as part of the struggle towards German reunification.

In 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. In the United States, likewise, the 4 July celebration of American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday.

-Wikipedia

I decided to try my hand at a new recipe for a healthier macaroni salad to serve at my little picnic. It’s got basically 3/4 the calories of regular macaroni salad, and it’s got something like 1/3 the fat. Not that these things bother me particularly, because I don’t eat macaroni salad & don’t really count calories anyway, but you can’t have a picnic without some kind of mayo-based or carb-based salad, and I thought it’d be an interesting thing to try. Everyone is looking to cut down on fat nowadays. Not me. I like fat.


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Eh. Let’s just call this a new twist on macaroni salad. From what I hear it’s too delicious to be considered “low fat” or anything. And about my “I like fat” comment above; I really do like it. But that doesn’t mean you have to. I’m just being an asshole. Obviously, if you have dietary restrictions or health issues, lower fat diets are important. It’s just that I don’t. So I like fat. And I can’t really apologize for that.

‘Kay, now that that’s settled.. on to the salad!

CREAMY MACARONI SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound macaroni (I used small shells)
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 hard-boiled large eggs, whites roughly chopped, yolks left whole
  • 2 dill pickle spears, chopped
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons chives for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions in salted boiling water. Drain and return to the pot it was cooked in.
  2. Meanwhile, mash the two egg yolks in a large bowl with a fork. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, and the lemon juice; stir together until creamy & smooth.
  3. Add pasta to mayonnaise mixture, and using a silicone spatula, flip and stir the pasta until evenly coated in the mayo mix. Add the egg whites, red onions and chopped pickles and mix well.
  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

This salad can be stored in the fridge an airtight container for up to three days. If it’s too dry after taking it out of the fridge, you can add a tablespoon more yogurt (or mayo, whatever). Just do yourself a favor and don’t accidentally buy vanilla yogurt. You’ll gross yourself out big time if you use that…

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The cool thing about macaroni salads (& potato salads) is that you can add pretty much anything you like, within reason. You can add radishes, celery, sliced Bell peppers, dill, slivered carrots, exchange the lemon juice for vinegar, etc. Take out stuff you don’t like, add stuff you do. This other macaroni salad I made is a great example of that. You can personalize it 100% and yet it’s always guaranteed to be delicious.

As far as a picnic goes- it’s easy. You don’t even need anything crazy. Some bread (mine was a French baguette), cheese (I had some provolone & goat’s milk brie), macaroni or potato salad, fried chicken if you’re really ambitious, maybe some cold cuts or cold leftover chicken, some fresh fruit (& whipped cream if you like- I had strawberries, cherries, oranges & nectarines), maybe some warm-weather friendly cupcakes, a jar or two of pickles (I brought red wine vinegar/red onion pickles & dilly beans), maybe some sliced cucumbers & yogurt, baby carrots & ranch dressing, a refreshing drink or two (maybe even some wine- not pictured) and some cutlery and napkins… that’s it. You’re ready to go! Lucky for you, I took some photos of my little picnic before digging in.

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Today might be a rainy/thunderstorm-y day here in New York & a bunch of other places on the East Coast, but when are you having your summer picnic?

Red onion revolution.


Happy July! I guess summer is officially in full swing, right? Summer is the time for fresh everything. Fresh veggies, fresh fruit, fresh herbs. And obviously, taking advantage of having those fresh herbs around is a must. So I try and use my fresh dill (see above) for pickles rather than dill seed as much as I can. ‘Cause before you know it, it’ll be fall and then winter again, and this will all be a memory. And because it’s summer, it’s also pickling time. Which means that anything and everything is in danger of being pickled.

So watch your back around me. You might end up in a mason jar, like this red onion.

Yup. Pickled red onions. Another stupid easy refrigerator pickle recipe that takes about 10 minutes to make and that looks absolutely gorgeous. I found the recipe on Punk Domestics, so big thanks to them & Comfy Cuisine for making the burgers & hot dogs at my day-after-father’s-day barbecue extra awesome. Yep- that’s right- these pickled onions are excellent on hot dogs, too. And sandwiches. AND THEY’RE SO EASY TO MAKE.

Fridge pickles were my foray into the world of canning. Just last year around this time, I ordered a canning kit and as it was on it’s way, I made some jars of refrigerator pickles. Just to get a feel for it. It was so fun and easy, I knew I wanted to keep doing it. So I made some rhubarb ‘fridge jam. The cool thing is that you can use any kind of jar for refrigerator pickles (and refrigerator jam). An old spaghetti sauce jar, an old pickle jar, an old glass mayo or peanut butter jar, a decorative jar, basically anything that’s food safe. But it doesn’t have to be a canning jar!

I actually got the jars I used for the onions (and the pickles below) at a local dollar store. The name is ‘Frutta Delprato’; I had never heard of them (a simple Google told me they’re available in NZ and AUS- weird!), they had a gold tone one-piece screw-on lid, and it didn’t seem canning-safe or as reliably made as a Ball jar, so I got a few to just use for quick fridge pickles and fridge jam. And of course for storage. It’s always good to have extra jars lying around, especially for excess pastas, grains, rice, nuts, granola, etc. Just be sure to always sanitize them. I know it sounds really obvious, but it’s a must for any food storage container, especially when making pickles or jams. Thoroughly wash both the jar and the lid in very hot sudsy water and rinse before using. I should really thank the canning boom & this whole Pinterest mason jar craze for making this stuff so freakin’ popular & readily available. I plan on going back to that dollar store and stocking up on some more of these jars.

You can get jars in many shapes and sizes: Leifheit jars, Quattro Stagioni, Le Parfait or these pretty Bormioli Rocco jars are all excellent ideas for storage or refrigerator pickles. Of course you can use your canning jars too, but I find that I’d rather use a separate jar and save the canning safe ones for actual canning. Although apparently Quattro Stagioni can be used for actual canning too, I can’t personally vouch.

PATTI’S PICKLED ONIONS (adapted from Comfy Cuisine to make one half-pint)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced thinly

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add sliced onion and blanch for 1 minute. Drain.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring brine ingredients to a full boil. Add drained onions and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Let cool and pack into pint jar.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.

And that’s it. Seriously. You’re done.

The only thing is… you might have bought an extra red onion or two. Or maybe not all of your red onion would fit in one jar. And maybe you also have some extra brine. That means you’ll want to make something else to use those up. So you might want to make some red onion refrigerator pickles.


Pickles, pickles, everywhere. Wow, look at this: a two for one recipe post today! You guys are so lucky. I hadn’t made pickles with red onions before, just white onions. Now I’m wondering why I never did! It seems kinda obvious now that I think about it. It might be because I have mostly white onions in the house, and when I have a red onion I use it for salad (I adore red onions in a nice crisp salad with blue cheese dressing!).

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES WITH RED WINE VINEGAR & RED ONION

Makes about one pint (16-oz.) jar

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium pickling cucumbers, or one large cucumber (unwaxed), sliced
  • 3-4 sliced red onion “rings”
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher or pickling salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed slightly
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill (or 1/4 teaspoon dill seed)

Directions:

  1. Boil the vinegar, water, pickling spice and salt in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, put your garlic and red onion in the jar, and then pack your veggies in the jars. If you prefer a less raw taste, you can blanch them first or even cook them in the brine. They’ll stay crisper if you don’t, however, and that’s how we like ‘em here: crisp.
  2. Pour your just-boiled brine over the veggies in the jars. Wipe the mouths clean and seal. Don’t seal too tight or the lids will explode when you open it from the building of gases as it ferments.
  3. Let them sit in the fridge for one to three weeks before eating. The longer they sit, the stronger the flavor.

I really like the way the red onion looks in the jars, don’t you? It’s pretty.

So it took me like, I don’t know, a half hour tops to make both of these. Probably less. Don’t tell me you don’t have time for this stuff, ’cause that’s a bunch of crap. Anyone who says they don’t have time to cook, or bake, or make things is a freakin’ lunatic liar. I swear. And you can hate me for saying this but it’s true. Not everything takes a long time- you’re probably just lazy.

But that’s okay. Save the awesomeness for people like me.

And speaking of awesomeness, this year’s Can-It-Forward Day is July 14th. Don’t forget to get involved. Here’s a little info and background from FreshPreserving.com:

National Can-It-Forward Day

Join National Can-It-Forward Day on Saturday, July 14, 2012!

National Can-It-Forward Day lets everyone share the joy of fresh preserving. If you love garden fresh produce, we would love to show you how easy it is to preserve it to enjoy throughout the year. Whether you’re new to canning or are a Master Canner, we have recipes, tips and tricks to help make fresh preserving easy and fun!

This year the National Can It Forward Day will originate from Minnetrista a cultural center in East Central Indiana, and the original home of the Ball Brothers. On Saturday, July 14th, Jarden Home Brands, the makers of Ball® brand fresh preserving products, and the Minnetrista Master Preservers will demonstrate just how easy it is to preserve fresh produce for delicious results. And, chefs from the American Culinary Federation will share their recipes using these preserved products. New and exciting this year is the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker. Watch as it transforms fresh fruit, sugar and pectin into mouthwatering homemade jam. This small kitchen appliance allows you to enjoy homemade jam or jelly in just 30 minutes. It uses SmartStir™ Technology to automatically and consistently stir your jam or jelly while it cooks. You don’t have any guesswork and you don’t stand over a hot stove – you just set it and go! Who ever dreamed delicious could be this easy?

Set aside some time to learn simple ways to preserve the fresh food you love and share your canning knowledge with friends and family. Whether you watch us on-line, host a home canning party or join us in person, we hope you’ll share your stories. Like us on Facebook then post your Can-It-Forward Day stories and photos on our page and in your status updates. And, join the conversation on Twitter with #CanItForward. No matter how you participate, we want you to enjoy fresh preserving and Can-It-Forward Day.

It’s a great way to start canning, if you’re new to it. There will be video demonstrations and all kinds of fun stuff. Plus, there are downloadable jar labels, and a list of amazing nationwide Farmer’s markets that are participating in the 2012 Discover You Can program℠. So get on it! The Fresh Preserving website has tons of info for you. Canning isn’t something to be scared of, it’s totally fun… so get yourself some jars, some equipment & some fruits & veggies and start preserving. Shit. Making something new is so awesome & empowering, even if it’s just pickles. Stop being afraid of new things. If you take just one thing away from this blog, make it that. Alright… enough preaching for today.

And if you’re not into preserving, but you’re into baking, and you’re also into small kitchen appliances & KitchenAid.. then you’ll like this news. It’s somewhat exciting. I was asked by MarketVine (a Dell company) to create a little mini-store filled with a select amount of my favorite KitchenAid items. It’s right here on the website, and of course, you can always buy other things that aren’t in my store, since all of the items are sold via KitchenAid.com! There are great prices on there, and also some great refurbished items available for a low price. The store can be accessed by all pages on the blog just by clicking the banner up at the top- you see it? The one that says “My Favorite KitchenAid Things”? Yep. That one. Just click it and you’ll be transported to my little store where you can shop till your hearts content. You all know how much I love KitchenAid, and Lola, and so this is very exciting for me. If you’ve always wanted your own Lola… then go get one!

Grilled pickles, a.k.a. barbecue-in-a-jar.

Joy comes to you in many ways. I find joy in lots of things- my family, spending time with Jay, cooking, baking, gardening, my pets (especially when they’re all cuddly & sleepy), fashion magazines, a nice cup of high quality coffee with cream & sugar, the color of the leaves in the fall, the smell of fresh herbs being chopped, walking through a museum, a summer rain, the J. Crew catalog coming in the mail, drinking a good bottle of wine, the smell of fresh oranges being sliced, Lola, anything Le Creuset, my new ‘as-yet-unnamed’ digital KitchenAid hand mixer, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting, beautiful well-done tattoos, watching movies, a delicious dark chocolaty stout, sleeping late in freshly laundered sheets, eating a good meal of greasy pub food, a new pair of menswear-style pajamas, Central Park in the spring, shopping for handbags & shoes & lingerie & kitchen gadgets… and lots more. I find joy in writing about things I find joy in, apparently. I even find joy in buying produce. Probably because I buy most things with a specific idea of what I’m using it for, so I’m already excited & looking forward to it. But more so than that, I just like the colors of the fruits & vegetables, the shiny finish or rough textures, the irregularities, the perfection. It’s always an exciting trip, that trip to the fruit market or farmer’s market. And now that cucumber season is here, that means pickling, which also excites me & brings me joy. Mainly because my pickles are the most requested item I make next to cupcakes. And people are always asking for more, more, more; whether it’s more of new & different kinds or just more of the regular old kind. I don’t like pickles, myself, but it’s a perfect example of creating things just because people I love enjoy them.

Another thing that brings me joy? The smell of a charcoal grill.

There’s nothing like that smell. Gas grills may be great and all, but my heart will always belong to charcoal. You can’t get the same flavor on a gas grill, carcinogens be damned. Now… you’ve heard of fried pickles, surely. I even posted a recipe for them myself. Those are a slightly fattier & more decadent delight than these. These, they’re different. These pickles are pickles that are grilled, not fried, but they aren’t grilled after they’re pickled. They’re grilled before.

Basically, you wash & slice your cukes & onions, then grill them. Let them cool, then jar ‘em up. What you end up with is an amazingly different pickle. The charbroiled pickle… sorta. I got the idea & basic recipe from an article over at Serious Eats. What I did, though, was I grilled a jalapeno & added it in to two of the jars as well. I thought maybe that would add a totally different flavor profile to it than just the crushed red pepper. For the other jar, I just left it at about a ¼ teaspoon-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes.

The coolest thing though is that they don’t have to be processed. You can make these into refrigerator pickles, too! So don’t be scared to try them. And unlike me, don’t be scared to leave them on long enough to get really good grill marks. I was so worried they’d burn, my marks were a little weak. Eh. Whatever.

GRILLED PICKLES (adapted from a recipe created by Chris Lilly posted on Serious Eats)

Makes about 3 one-pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups distilled white vinegar, 5%
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 3 small jalapeno peppers (or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, as called for in the original recipe)
  • 5 large cucumbers, cut into 4 to 5-inch spears
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into ½-inch disks and skewered horizontally
  • 6 sprigs dill
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt (and red pepper if using), whisking until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.
  3. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cucumbers, onions & peppers on grill. Cook cucumbers until lightly browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Cook onions until charred on both sides and slightly softened, about 4 minutes per side. Cook jalapenos just until they “blister” a little. Remove to tray. Allow to cool. Quarter onions.
  4. Place 2 sprigs of dill and 1 teaspoon of garlic in each jar. Divide cucumbers and onions equally between each jar. Pour in pickling liquid, leaving ½”-inch of headroom between liquid and top of jar. Refrigerate for 1-2 days before eating for quick pickles, or process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes to seal lids, then store in a cool, dark place.

When you open the jar, you’re hit with a smell of smoke. You really wouldn’t believe it, but the smokiness overpowers the dill and the vinegar! It smells like a charcoal grill in a jar. On that note let me say that if you have a gas grill, I don’t think the flavor or odor will be anything like this. You might get great grill-marks, but I don’t think you’ll get the smokiness you get with a charcoal grill. And if you’re one of those expert smoker people, then maybe using different kinds of wood as well can get you different flavors & smells. Same goes for using different peppers. Try a Serrano, or if you’re daring, try a Habanero for a crazy-hot smokiness.

I’d like to try these in different ways- maybe made with apple cider vinegar or maybe some booze. I’d even like to try a grilled Giardiniera, or grilled zucchini pickles. I really think this idea is kinda genius for summertime. A jar of these & a jar of that Guinness barbecue sauce would make any dad happy on Father’s Day, don’t you think?

Beers & barbecues.

It’s that time of year again. When everyone starts to grill their meats, when the sun sets later and when corn on the cob becomes the staple side dish. It’s been an unusually warm winter and an early spring, despite the temperatures dropping quite low at night lately (which has threatened crops that started to grow far too early when it was 80° degrees in March), it is indeed only a few weeks from the unofficial start of summer: Memorial Day.

I saw this recipe at The Black Peppercorn and I knew I’d have to make it myself. I’ve made Guinness cupcakes, Guinness jelly, even put Guinness in macaroni & cheese. Why not Guinness barbecue sauce? Beer & barbecues go together like… rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong. Or peanut butter & jelly. I love me a good beer. Don’t you?

This was my first attempt at a barbecue sauce. I was a bit nervous, actually, but I think it all worked out just fine in the end.

GUINNESS BARBECUE SAUCE (adapted slightly from The Black Peppercorn)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, minced (I used one very large white onion)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup Guinness beer
  • ½ cup white distilled 5% vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 “shakes” Tabasco sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 18-oz. can tomato paste

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion, and garlic to the saucepan and saute until they are tender and beginning to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the molasses, beer, brown sugar, both vinegars, salt, pepper and cayenne . Bring to a boil. Let it cook with a low rolling boil for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste & Tabasco and lower the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool slightly. Puree, I did so right in the pot using an immersion blender.
  5. For shelf-stable sauce: pour into hot sterilized jars to within ½” from the top. Process in a waterbath for 20 minutes for pint jars, 15 for half-pints. Allow to cool overnight, then check the seals. As always, if the top pops up and down, the seal is damaged and you have to put it in your refrigerator and use right away. If you’re using the sauce immediately or don’t want to make it shelf-stable, you can pour into any container and either use right away or put it in the fridge.

There’s no end to the possibilities for this sauce. You can make it hotter, make it sweeter, do whatever you want. You could even totally alter it and use some Jack Daniel’s or Jameson, or a lighter beer. Play with it, tinker with it. Come up with your own sauce! And the best part? It doesn’t have to be a “canned” recipe. You can use it right away or put half in the fridge in a Tupperware. But if you do decide to jar it up, just know I got 5 half-pint jars and I would’ve had enough for a 4 oz. jar as well. And also know that in order to “can” it, the acidity has to be of a certain percent, so do your research before you tinker with it!

So how did it taste?

Right before I put it on the grill!

e…

Delicious. I had it on a steak and it was just great. Not too sweet, not too tangy, not too overpowering. It’s a subtle taste, and you could taste the actual steak, not just the sauce like can happen with some sauces. And it actually mellowed more in the jar, after processing. Initially it was a bit tangier, after a day or two it was much mellower. I can’t wait to try it on chicken next. Actually, I can’t wait to try my hand at making more barbecue sauces & dipping sauces in the future. Thai hot & sweet dipping sauce, anyone!?

“Bartender, I’ll have a pickleback.”

**ATTENTION! ATTENTION! In April 2013, I did a redo of the maple-bourbon pickles in this post, version 2.0 if you will, made with Cabin Fever maple blended whiskey. This wonderful recipe can be found here: maple-whiskey pickles, version 2.0, so check it out!**

I haven’t made pickles since September. Probably because cucumbers are no longer “in season”; meaning I can still get them, but they’re far from the best quality. They’re somewhat wonky-looking for the most part. But of course, I can pick a pickle pretty good, so I decided instead of waiting for cucumber season I just went for it & picked the best damn cucumbers I could out of the offerings at the store. Why? Because I wanted to make some of these.

Bourbon pickles & maple-bourbon pickles. Inspired by the Brooklyn Brine Company’s Whiskey Sour pickles, which I first saw in Williams-Sonoma. I decided to make a jar or two of these for Jay. I’m not cheap, far from it, but paying $12.95 for 24 oz. of pickles seemed a bit… over-indulgent. Especially when I figured I could make them myself. At first he wasn’t sure how he’d feel about them, but then he had one of their pickles when he played a show at the St. Vitus Bar & raved about it, so I thought “Why not make one teensy jar of them & see?” It seemed unique enough. How bad could it be? It’s pickles + whiskey. That’s a pretty rock star pickle.

That is not actually Brooklyn, it’s San Antonio. Whatever.

I mean, dude up there just got back from the Netherlands where he performed with Cannibal Corpse, Behemoth, Napalm Death & a ton of other famous metal bands. Crazy, right?

So yeah. I had to make him something special, & this is something special. Like I said, its one rock star pickle. Not to mention the fact that it includes whiskey makes it appropriate for St. Patty’s Day too. I mean, pickles are green, whiskey reminds me of being Irish (Irish whiskey, Irish coffee, hello?) and that’s enough for me. In case you’re wondering, a Pickleback is an actual thing you can order in some bars. That name for it originated at The Bushwick Country Club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2007. It’s a shot of whiskey (from what I’ve read, it’s usually Jameson, but at The Bushwick Country Club they use Old Crow) with a pickle juice, or brine, chaser (they use McClure’s). The brine neutralizes the burn of the alcohol & the taste of the whiskey. Once I learned that, through a NYT article from almost 2 years ago, I thought the whiskey pickle idea was even more interesting. See, I’m not a whiskey girl. All I know about it is that if I’m forced to drink it in any capacity & I’m given a choice… I’ll take Jameson over Jack any damn day of the week. But other than that forget it. I’m lost. Whiskey, Rye, Bourbon, it’s all Greek to me. So I asked Jay what to use in these & he gave me a bottle of Blanton’s to use. It’s not a super high-end bourbon, yet it’s not the cheapest, so the flavor is decent. You don’t want to use cheap stuff for this, it might sounds obvious but really… the flavor is going to dictate the pickles so please don’t use gasoline-tasting whiskey just to save money. Use one that actually can be enjoyed on it’s own.

New York & pickles are synonymous it seems, especially to New Yorkers. So therefore Brooklyn has quite a history with pickles. I love Brooklyn. I spend some of my spare time looking at gorgeous pre-war apartments (that I’ll probably never actually move into) with exposed brick in Brooklyn (along with many other places like the Upper & Lower East Side, etc). I think Brooklyn is amazing (for the most part, there are a lot of shitty things about it too). I love the Brooklyn Bowl, I love the Brooklyn Brewery & I love Radegast Hall. I’ve never been to the St. Vitus Bar but from what I heard it’s sweet, I have been to Duff’s though (not impressed- seeing that “metal” chick from Fuse dancing on tables in a corset isn’t my idea of fun). And now there’s Brooklyn Brine Co. And the thing I like about Brooklyn Brine Co. is that they’re making interesting things like this & lavender asparagus, chipotle carrots & fennel beets. Not to mention their maple bourbon bread & butter pickles. Yeah, I know. Needless to say those were on Jay’s list too, so I had to make them as well (keep reading for that). So yes, I dig what they’re doing over there. But I’m confident enough that I can do it too; and not have to buy theirs.

MARILLA’S “PICKLEBACK” WHISKEY-BRINE PICKLES

Makes about 4 pints

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 small pickling cucumbers (about 3 pounds), or regular cucumbers if you’re going to slice them into chips… I usually use Kirby’s myself (just don’t use the large waxed ones!)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 4 heads fresh dill or 4 heaping teaspoons dill seeds
  • 2 teaspoons pickling spice
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seed
  • a dash of freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes or one Serrano chili pepper, finely diced
  • dash of chili powder (optional)
  • 4 small cloves garlic

Directions:

  1. Cut a thin slice from the ends of each cucumber. This prevents a “mushy” pickle, as the ends of cucumbers contain an enzyme that makes them mushy. Then slice cucumbers as you like- slices, spears or sandwich-size; or leave them whole. Place jars in canner to sterilize them and place lids in hot water to soften seal.
  2. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove hot jars from canner. Pour ⅛ cup whiskey or bourbon in each jar. Place 1 head fresh dill or 1 heaping teaspoon dill seeds, ½ teaspoon pickling spice, the mustard seed, black pepper, hot pepper flakes and 1 smashed clove of garlic into each jar; pack in cucumbers tightly.
  3. Pour boiling vinegar/water mixture over cucumbers to within ½ inch of rim (head space). Place lids & bands. Process 10 minutes for pint jars and 15 minutes for quart jars.
  4. Allow jars to sit for at least one week before opening for optimal flavor, but no one will kill you if you crack one open early.

The color changes after the processing in the water bath. Ever notice that about pickles? That they’re usually a darker army-green in the jar, whereas Kosher dills stay brighter? That all has to do with fermenting vs. processing, and the vinegar brine vs. a salty water brine. End of today’s lesson.

Because of the apple cider vinegar & whiskey, they should be a bit on the sweeter side, but not too sweet. The white vinegar, garlic, peppers & salt would make up for it. I made this recipe up based on the ingredients the Brooklyn Brine Co. lists as being in their Whiskey Sour pickles, so I am in no way saying it’s the same exact flavor or pickle- especially since I didn’t use the same type of peppers or the same brand of whiskey (they use Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Rye Whiskey). This is just my version of it. That said, they do sell a pickling kit, however I do not think it’s for their Whiskey pickles, unless they include a recipe for it in the recipe packet.

As far as the maple bourbon pickles, I just used the same recipe as above, but I added caramelized onions, ⅛ cup good quality maple syrup (added with the whiskey) and omitted the hot pepper. I also cut the cukes into “chips” with a crinkled cutter instead of making spears. I also couldn’t find decent Kirby’s so I used small “snacking” cucumbers, which are longer & thinner than Kirby’s, hence the tiny little chips I got. I also added some caramelized onions to the regular bourbon pickles, because I made more than I needed for just one jar.

As soon as these babies are opened & Jay gives me his expert opinion, I’ll come back & edit this with the reviews & results.

EDIT 3/15/12: Okay the results are in! Consensus is that they’re both “fucking awesome.” Jay favors the maple-bourbon but said they’re both equally amazing. The regular bourbon batch could’ve used a slightly bigger hit of heat, so keep that in mind. I’d go for doubling the amount of pepper flakes in the recipe above; if you’re using actual Serrano you might be fine, especially if you leave in the seeds. In the spirit of knowledge, I tried both & it’s amazing how true it is that the vinegary pickle brine & the bourbon interact in such a way that you end up without the intensity of the alcohol & without the super tang of the brine. Good luck & happy pickling!

Blanton's bourbon & (maple-bourbon) pickles. on Punk Domestics

Rah, rah, ah-ah-ah, Roma, roma-ma.

That’s seriously all I heard in my head over & over as I canned my tomatoes. No joke. Why? Because three of them were Roma’s. Lady Gaga, you’ve done it again… you’ve managed to associate an average everyday mundane household task with a fantasically catchy earworm of a song. Just like I sang the chorus to ‘Telephone’ every time my phone rang for months, how I sang “Mah mah mah pokuh face mah mah pokuh faaaace” at the mere mention of a card game, or how I changed the words to ‘Paparazzi’ from “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, papa, papa-razzi” to “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you hug me, puppa, puppa Indy” & chased the poor dog around the house singing it. *sigh*

It all makes sense though. Sort of. Tomatoes à la Lady Gaga. Right?

Maybe. Has a certain ring to it.

By the way, did you know she went to a Catholic high school that has the same name as the one I went to, that’s also in NY? Betcha didn’t.

Lady Gaga probably wouldn’t think so. And although she herself might be Italian, and I might be talking about Roma tomatoes, but this is really not an old fashioned Italian recipe at all. It’s more Russian or Romanian, as pickled tomatoes are really big over there. Roma tomatoes are known as the best tomatoes to use for canning sauces & for sauce in general, really. They have the most ‘meat’ on them, the least skin, and far less water content; meaning they make a thicker sauce with less work. This was my first year growing Roma’s, and I wasn’t really sure when I planted them what I was going to do with them, but once I started to get into canning I knew that I’d probably can ‘em up right away. Although I had prepared to jar them up as a sauce originally, what I ended up doing was pretty different: pickled green & red tomatoes, inspired by a Liana Krissoff recipe. And not just Roma’s, Better Boy’s too. Better Boy’s are juicy yet meaty tomatoes that are larger than Roma’s (yet really aren’t all that large) and the plants yield quite a large amount of fruit each season. There’s no song that immediately comes to mind when I hear “Better Boy”, however.

Better Boy’s (top left & two green’s) and Roma’s (bottom)

I picked two Better Boy tomatoes while they were green, and two that were turning red/orange, also three Roma’s. I ended up with three half-pint jars of pickled tomato goodness. Of course, I adjusted the recipe to utilize the amount of tomatoes I had. If you have more, then by all means use them- but just adjust the recipe for your own needs. I have more tomatoes growing, but I thought a few jars of these were plenty. I don’t like to put up huge batches of things, I not only don’t have the room but I’m not a fan of monotony. I do this for fun, not to survive over a long winter… & canning 20 jars of the same thing gets tedious and boring. I like to mix it up.

Tomatoes, and their iffy acid levels are on the borderline of “what can be safely canned using a water bath process.” Many people will tell you not to can your own tomato sauce or whole tomatoes without a pressure canner. I think that’s silly, considering the addition of lemon juice or citric acid solves the acid dilemma right off the bat, and processing them for a good 20+ minutes definitely kills the bad guys that are in there anyway. Not to mention the fact I know plenty of people who make ancient (well, not quite ancient) family sauce recipes & jar them every year and none of them have ever died. With these, though, there’s not much of a chance for anything gross to even survive from the get go. The use of lemon juice ups the acid and the vinegar/salt & water bath do the rest. Of course, I’m not saying go out & can up some beef stew in a water bath… that’s a bit different. But tomatoes, tomatoes are okay, especially with the right acid level. So don’t let people make you feel bad for canning your own tomato sauce with that age old family recipe: you will not single-handedly kill your entire family. Unless you’re an idiot who shouldn’t be canning, period. But anyway… if the thought of it still scares you, try these to use up your tomatoes. They’re surprising. Very easy, very delicious & very unique.

I say green & red tomatoes, but really none of mine were 100% mature or fully red. They were more orangey, some with yellow. They look red in the jars, though, so there ya go.

PICKLED GREEN & RED TOMATOES

Makes 3 half-pint jars

First you get:

  • 2 pounds smallish green & red tomatoes, different varieties are okay just so long as they’re all in varying degrees of maturity, but none too soft, ripe or too small/large (make sure that when sliced, they fit in the jars nicely); or about 6-7 small/medium tomatoes
  • 2 cups distilled 5% acidity white vinegar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 rounded tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • pinch of dried sage
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • one medium sweet onion, sliced (optional)

Then you get your pickle on this way:

  1. Wash the tomatoes thoroughly, remove the stem & “core” at the tops and slice them into ¼” -to- ½” thick round slices. Soak the sliced tomatoes in the lemon juice in a medium bowl for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sanitize your jars & lids, keeping them hot.
  2. Combine the vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, mustard seeds, sage and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Place the tomato mixture in the hot jars, stacking them nicely and also making sure they’re packed as tight as possible (you can also add sliced sweet onion in between tomato layers at this point if you like). Ladle in the liquid, pausing to remove air bubbles & air pockets with a small rubber spatula or chopstick as you go. Fill the jars with the liquid, leaving ¼” headspace. Discard any extra liquid.
  3. Wipe rims and place lids & bands on. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to cool, dark area & do not disturb for 12 hours. Check for seal after one hour, and if it hasn’t sealed, refrigerate and use immediately. Refrigerate all jars right before opening & using, they just taste better chilled.

This would also work with different kinds of heirloom tomatoes. The jars would look gorgeous piled high with different colored tomatoes- dark red, purpleish, yellow, green, red, orange, etc. Can you imagine how these would look? Phenomenal. Or these. But either way, plain ol’ tomatoes did the job just right. If you don’t have pickling salt, Kosher salt is fine. Regular Iodized salt will cause a cloudy liquid, however, so I’d avoid it for aesthetic reasons. You can certainly use all red tomatoes too, so if you’re getting bored with sauce or traditional canned tomatoes, maybe give a jar or two of these a try. I didn’t use the onion, myself, but Liana says it’s another option.

I highly recommend these on a sandwich; roast chicken with mayonnaise & freshly ground black pepper. Equally good on a sandwich also made with some sliced Bell peppers in oil, or even on a grilled cheese made with Monterey Jack cheese on sourdough bread, and apparently even delicious right out of the jar. So do as you wish as far as that goes. I won’t tell anyone if you eat them by themselves. It’ll be our secret. Wanna know one of my secrets? I like turtles.

With this batch of tomatoes, I really wanted to jar up some sauce. But in the meantime, damn, I’m glad I pickled these.

You’re so fresh… you salsa fresca, you.

I mentioned this weekend that I can’t stand to have the oven on in hot weather. I need fresh, cold (or cool, or at least room temperature) food this time of year: salads, etc. Salsa is included in that list of cold foods. A jar of salsa & a bag of chips & I’m all set. Although the past 2 days have been pretty cool, temperature wise, I made this on one of the hottest days on record in New York.

I should state before continuing with the post/recipe for salsa that I am indeed a salsa fanatic. Salsa in almost any shape & form- salsa verde, chunky salsa, mild salsa, hot salsa, salsa with lots of cilantro, salsa with corn & black beans- you name it, I will love it. Except for peach or mango salsas. My salsa has to have tomato or tomatillo in it. So when I happened upon my new favorite blog (thanks mom), Food In Jars, I immediately looked for a quick salsa recipe. Salsa means ‘sauce’ in Spanish, and it’s basically a cold version of an Italian tomato sauce with different herbs, and often no cooking required, particularly with ‘salsa fresca’ or ‘fresh sauce.’ Salsa fresca is also sometimes referred to as ‘pico de gallo’ or ‘the rooster’s beak’, referring either to way it was eaten (with the thumb and forefinger, mimicking a rooster pecking) or the shape of the chili peppers used to make it. Although according to the almighty and always correct Wikipedia:

Another suggested etymology is that pico is derived from the verb picar, which has two meanings: 1) to mince or chop, and 2) to bite, sting or peck. The rooster, gallo in Spanish, is a common metaphor for the hyper-masculine (“macho“) male in Mexican culture. One example of such machismo is taking pride in withstanding the spicy burn of chilis.

However, neither theory can be considered definite, as they assume the use of hot chilis. In many regions of Mexico the term “pico de gallo” refers to any of a variety of salads, condiments or fillings made with sweet fruits, tomatoes, tomatillos, avocado or mild chilis — not necessarily with hot chilis, or any chilis at all. Thus, the name could be a simple allusion to the bird feed-like minced texture and appearance of the sauce.[2]

Although I always considered pico de gallo to be drier, drier as in not as liquidy as regular salsa, and this salsa is liquidy. However I chopped my onion kind of rough, not very fine, so I made it more like a pico. I also added a ton more cilantro because I love it. I also used two pretty small organic “on the vine” tomatoes as opposed to one large one, so it was definitely not as tomato-y. Yes, I know, there isn’t really much to making salsa, and yes, I could’ve figured it out on my own without a recipe (especially since it’s essentially the same as the pico de gallo I’ve made before… but I digress). But it’s easier when you’ve got an idea of exactly how much of what to put in the first time. I plan on experimenting with this, for sure. And next time I make those chicken flautas, I’ll have this on the side & in the filling, thankyouverymuch.

But for now, here’s the basic Salsa Fresca recipe from Marisa at FIJ. Make it & revel in the mouth-puckeringly acidic deliciousness.

HOMEMADE SALSA FRESCA (from Food In Jars)

Makes approximately one pint

Ingredients:

  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • ½ white/yellow onion, finely minced (I used about a little over ¼ of an extremely large white onion)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, washed and chopped (I just tore the leaves off, I didn’t chop)
  • 1 – 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced (you can leave the seeds in if you want a hotter flavor, I used one & omitted the seeds)
  • 1 lime, juiced (about 2 – 2 ½ tablespoons, for you measurement-obsessed freaks)
  • 2 big pinches of salt

Directions:

  1. Mix everything together in a glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving, but half an hour is even better.
  2. Store leftovers (if there are any) in a glass canning jar.

I used a washed-out spaghetti sauce jar to save the leftovers in, although the recipe’s author is right: there isn’t much left. Let me just say this is amazingly excellent with some Garden of Eatin’ blue corn tortilla chips. Heavenly, as a matter of fact. Or rather, since I don’t really believe in “heaven”, I’d like to think that my version of heaven would be unlimited fresh salsa & chips. Not sure how long this would last in the fridge, but mine didn’t even make it past the next afternoon. Also, if you’re new to cooking, and you aren’t sure how to dice a tomato, here’s a quick rundown of how it’s done; no judgement here. We all start somewhere! And make sure you roll your lime firmly on the counter before cutting & juicing it, that releases all the juice from the pulp and makes it easier to get every last bit out.

Also, an interesting fact I ran into on Wikipedia that I’d like to share with you all:

In a 2010 press release the Centers for Disease Control reported that during the 1998-to-2008 period, 1 out of 25 foodborne illnesses with identified food sources was traced back to restaurant salsa or guacamole.[5] According to a 2010 July 13 news item by journalist Elizabeth Weise, a 2008 outbreak of Salmonella was traced back to the peppers used in salsa.[6] Originally reported to the CDC by the New Mexico Department of Health, over the course of several months, the outbreak sickened a total of 1,442 people in 43 states and resulted in 286 hospitalizations.[7] Weise reports:

 

“Refrigeration is the key to safe salsa, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety, who published a paper on the topic earlier this year.[8] ‘An unusual finding was if you used fresh garlic and fresh lime juice, it prevented the growth’ of bacteria. ‘You couldn’t use powdered, it had to be fresh,’ he says.”

Crazy, huh? You learn something new everyday. That should ease the fears of some of you germ-phobes, though. Just make sure your salsa’s are made with fresh ingredients and you’re good. Besides, who’s afraid of a little E. Coli or Salmonella?

OH! I almost forgot: I am also now a member at Punk Domestics. So come see me over there & we can discuss canning & pickling & micro-farming. You know, all that hardcore punk rock stuff.