Category: preserved foods

Hop Pickles, take two!

Black Swallowtail caterpillar hanging out on the dill in my garden.

Ohhhh, summer. The sun is beating down on you relentlessly. Where the caterpillars are crawling all over the dill waiting to grow into butterflies, the heat is stifling… and the humidity makes you want to kill babies.

Maybe its not that bad. But it is pretty bad.

However on the upside the gardens are overflowing with vegetables, the flowers have never looked prettier, and it’s PICKLE TIME.

Cucumber garden harvest- prepped for making hop pickles.

I had a bunch of pickling cucumbers to harvest, of course I had to grab my dill heads and use them before those Black Swallowtail caterpillars ate ’em all! So yeah. It’s pickle time. Better yet… it’s HOP PICKLE TIME.

Yes. Hop pickles. Remember those? I made them about 3 years ago for the first time after learning about Brooklyn Brine’s Hop Pickles. The Brooklyn Brine variety is made with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA & some Cascade hop oil. Mine are made with straight up beer- this time, a Pilsner.

Hop pickles made with Coney Island Brewing Co. Mermaid Pilsner.

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Bringin’ the summer heat with Ring Of Fire peach jam.

Peaches and "Ring of Fire" peppers.

Today’s recipe is a mishmosh of using up a little of what my garden has to offer and using the gorgeous seasonal stone fruits sent to me from the Washington State Fruit Commission (because I am a “Canbassador” for them). This is the time of year I start thinking about what needs to be cut back & dried before the end of summer starts to kick in, and what needs to be used fresh now. Plus I have more peppers than I can count! Add that to the massive amount of stunningly perfect peaches and nectarines I received, and you’ve got this.

And it burns, burns, burns, burns.. that ring of fire… that ring of fireYou all know Johnny Cash is one of my favorite artists of all time, right? You should. Him and June (and that whole era of music, really) are absolutely some of my favorites. I could watch Walk The Line a million times, as well as the documentary about their performance at Folsom, and basically love every song- save for the extreme preachy gospel stuff- that he/they have done.

Peaches & peppers.

So it stands to reason I’d grow a hot pepper named after one of his and June’s most popular songs (she wrote it, you know): the Ring Of Fire pepper.

And of course when I got those gorgeous yellow peaches, I was thinking of what to do with them. So I thought, hey, that peach & pepper salsa was a mighty big hit. Why not incorporate a hot pepper into some peach preserves? Sure it’s been done before- but I never did it. I decided to not wait until the peppers got red because of two reasons: 1) I didn’t want the peaches to get too soft while I waited and 2) then they’d be pretty freakin’ hot; about 20,000- 50,000 Scoville Heat Units. Here’s what they look like red:

Ring of Fire cayennes!

To put that heat in perspective, a habanero has about 100,000 – 300,000 SHU and a jalapeno has about between 2,500 – 10,000 SHU. So while this Cayenne variety isn’t crazy hot, when red it has a pretty good amount of heat. I used it while green, so it was still a little spicy and a bit hot- but not too bad. A pleasant heat. Just a little hotter than your average jalapeño.

Ring Of Fire peach + pepper jam. #Canbassador

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Nectarine blackberry preserves with purple ruffled basil.

Nectarine blackberry purple basil preserves. #sweetpreservation #canbassador

I’ve been posting about being a “Canbassador” for the Washington State Fruit Commission quite a bit this summer. First it was cherries, I recovered a gigantic box of gorgeous straight from the orchard Rainier Fruit Co. cherries and I made some awesome recipes with them- I even managed to bake up some delicious mini-pies and make a sauce with them! Then, I got a second huge shipment of a mix of yellow peaches and gorgeous yellow nectarines. They were so beautiful sitting in bowls around my kitchen/dining room.

Nectarine blackberry purple basil preserves. #sweetpreservation

I made some peach preserves with hot peppers from our garden (you’ll see that recipe soon), peach salsa and peach peel butter with vanilla bean and apple brandy. But the nectarines. I was stumped.

Then I bought some blackberries on sale because they were beautiful and perfect and cheap. I do that sometimes. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them, but I buy them.

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New green “Perfection” Ball jars & pickles!

As you probably know (if you actually read my blog- do people do that anymore?), and as you can probably tell, I’ve been “canning” for awhile now. Yes- I’m one of those insufferable people who doesn’t buy Mason jars for crafting or wedding centerpieces, but for their actual purpose: preserving food.

What a snob!

Whiskey pickles in green "Perfection" limited edition Ball jars.

And through all of this canning trial and error that I’ve done over the past 5 years, I’ve discovered some things. I’ve made A LOT of pickles. Tons. Even before I grew my own cucumbers I made jar after jar after jar each year. Pickles are best in pint or quart jars (unless they’re bread & butter pickles, you can cram them into some 8-oz. jars or even some Collection Elite® “squat” pint jars if need be). I prefer quart/pint jars with a shoulder to keep the cukes down in the jar and not floating up too high. And that the prettiest pickles are made in the new green limited edition “Perfection” jars!

Whiskey pickles in green "Perfection" limited edition Ball jars.

I bought a case of the Ball® quart sized green Heritage collection “Perfection” jars specifically because I knew they’d be perfect (no pun intended) for pickling. They were hard to find near me- which is odd, because I was able to get the blue and purple ones just fine! So I ordered them on freshpreserving.com. I also ordered some plastic screw-on lids because Jay’s favorite pickles are fermented Kosher dills that don’t get processed, so why waste the two-piece lids?

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Cherries in the snow- uh, syrup.

Cherries in a light almond-y syrup. #sweetpreservation

Remember that Revlon lipstick, Cherries in the Snow? I believe they still make it. I remember as a kid my mom wore it, and I loved the name. What a great name for a lipstick. It was one of their best sellers for many, many years by the time I came along. Anyway… I always think of that lipstick when I see cherries, so it was more than a great name, it was great marketing!

This post isn’t really about Revlon or makeup or anything related to it at all, actually. It is, however, about cherries. Sweet, perfect cherries from the Rainier Fruit Company. And of course, part 1 (part 1… yes, there will be more) of what I did with them!

Rainier Company cherries! #sweetpreservation

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Raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Did you know how many types of basil there are? In my short life experience with growing it, I’ve grown Thai basil, Genovese basil, sweet basil, amethyst basil, Greek basil & cinnamon basil. And there are plenty more varieties. This year, we kept it to 3 kinds; sweet basil, purple ruffles basil (which has deep purple ruffled leaves & has an almost anise smell to it) and cinnamon basil. And it’s not just basil I love experimenting with. We have two types of dill, two types of oregano, three types of sage…

I love having them around, especially to sneak into jams and preserves. They’re always unexpected, and leave the taster saying, “Wait.. what is that flavor?!”

Small-batch raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Two years ago I did it with blueberries and regular basil. The year before that? I popped some cilantro into raspberry jam with jalapeños. Last year I made my dad an experimental small jar of mixed berry jam with cinnamon basil, and it was such a hit I decided to try it again. This time, I’m doing a plain raspberry jam… with a sneaky little bit of cinnamon basil strewn in.

Cinnamon basil -which is also known as Mexican spice basil- smells like a strange combo of basil & cinnamon; moreso cinnamon. It’s a very unique smell & flavor. It actually contains the same chemical (methyl cinnamate) that gives cinnamon it’s flavor. When popped into a jam, it really helps the jam straddle that line between sweet & savory.

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Ready for rhubarb: baked & pickled.

Bowl of rhubarb (click through for two rhubarb recipes)

Rhubarb comes and goes very quickly. It’s fleeting, rhubarb season. You simply cannot just walk into a store here and get rhubarb any time you want during the growing season. It sells out of the markets & supermarkets almost immediately. My mother absolutely LOVES rhubarb, and the season usually coincides with Mother’s Day, so I try and get some to make her something special. When I find it, I try to grab it. But if its not the greatest quality, or if its on the pricey side, I skip it. The stalk I bought for these two recipes was pretty huge, and I paid a little over $2.00 for it. It went into these pickles and also the next recipe which you’ll see in a few days (so keep that in mind).

So yes, in this post, it’s a two-for-one. One rhubarb cake recipe, and one pickled rhubarb recipe. First, the cake!

Rhubarb cake.

Rhubarb is really, really pretty. There are two main kinds; the bright pinkish red kind (this one) and the light pink and green kind. And then there are a bunch in between, of course, but those are the two main color types you’ll find in your store/market. Both colors are fine for any purpose, so long as you be sure to cut off all the leaves, if they come with them still attached. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous! This is especially important to remember if you buy your stalks from a farmer or a farmer’s market, or get them from someone who grows it. I know the brighter pink ones are more “attractive” aesthetically, but the pinkish/green ones can be very pretty too. I like to use a mix if I can find both.

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