My Freezer Is A Wall Of Jalapenos: How To Preserve Hot Peppers, Pt.2

Right before the frost this past year, I stashed a lot of hot peppers in my freezer. I already wrote this post about preserving peppers, which included the whole idea of just stashing them in the freezer for later in the winter instead of rushing to deal with all of them right away.  Since “later in the winter” is officially here, I’m trying to deal with this ridiculous wall of peppers when I open the freezer door, and I thought I’d share a couple of the recipes that I’m making.  chilis!Before you say it, I know, hot pepper jelly is always my absolute favorite idea for using chili peppers, but I already have enough hot pepper jelly to last through several apocalypses. And since people always ask for a good recipe for hot pepper jelly, here’s my tip: I’ve tried almost all of them, and in the end I decided my favorite is just the recipe in the sure-gel box.  The high sugar one. It turns out awesome.

So, if you’ve already made enough hot pepper jelly to satisfy the cravings of your friends, relatives, and hungry neighbors, here are a few more ideas:

Escabeche Vegetables, from Canning For A New Generation, by Liana Krisoff-

I’ve had pickles similar to these in lots of taquerias in San Francisco. They’re addictive, with the kind of spicy heat that makes you almost want to stop eating them, but they’re so good you just have to have one more, even though you’re starting to sweat.  They’re perfect with a beer and a burrito, and I’m so excited to have my own jars in the pantry now.

escabeche vegetables

Fermented Sriracha, from The Hungry Tigress

I haven’t actually tasted it yet since the peppers are still fermenting on the windowsill, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna end up doing a monster batch once I taste this first one (because sriracha is inherently delicious and there’s no way one small batch is gonna do the trick).

fermenting chilis

Candied Jalapenos, seen in many places around the internet, but I used this recipe from Foodie with Family:

I’ve never tried these before, but I’ve heard people go absolutely crazy about them, and I can’t wait to see how they taste.

candied jalapenos

Jalapeno Bread and Butter Pickles, from Simply Recipes:

I’m really excited for these, because I generally like bread and butter anything.  I can hear them screaming out to get put on top of a burger, fresh off the grill, or maybe diced and put in egg salad if you wanted to get really crazy.

jalapeno bread and butter pickles

I haven’t actually tried any of these yet since pickles need a few days to mellow out after you make them, but I’ll report back when I do.  Can you think of any recipes that I’m missing? If you have something you love to make, please leave a link in the comments. I still have ten huge bags of jalapenos in my freezer and I really need to get them outta there!

Allium Blossom Vinegar

Over the last couple weeks, we’ve been harvesting all of our alliums from the garden.  One of my beds of red onions had started shooting up flower stalks before I got to it, and after seeing the chive blossom vinegar from Food In Jars last year,  I thought I would try and turn the blossoms into something lovely.

The result:

You have to try this.  It takes two minutes. The jar looks gorgeous sitting on the pantry shelf.  And the flavor makes every savory thing that you cook taste awesome.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Snip some chive blossoms or onion blossoms or garlic blossoms, or some garlic scapes even.  No specific amount, just estimate and try to get about as much will fill a quart jar.

2. Wash them thoroughly, then dry them thoroughly.

3. Put them in a clean jar.  They should be pretty loosely packed with plenty of room for the vinegar around all of the blossoms and stalks.

4. Cover them with vinegar. I used white vinegar. You could use white wine or champagne vinegar too, of course, though I kind of like that the white vinegar was a really neutral blank slate.  (but really I bought it because it was dirt cheap).

5. Let the jar sit in a cool, dark corner for a couple of weeks.

6. Take off the lid and smell the vinegar; it will probably smell wonderfully aromatic, like scallions.  If you’re happy with how strong the infusion is, go ahead and strain out the blossoms and it’s ready to use.

7. Decide that it’s delicious and go chop down every allium flower in the garden so you can actually get a couple quarts for the pantry.

I ended up playing around with several varieties of alliums. This second set of pictures are blossoms from elephant garlic, one of my favorite things in the garden.  The garlic cloves are massive and a snap to peel, they shoot up gorgeous purple flower blossoms that look great in cut flower bouquets, and the vinegar made from the flowers has a lovely green garlic scent to it.

Oh, and a recipe suggestion-

We had grilled eggplant, roasted potatoes and falafel with tzatziki sauce the other night.  The tzatziki was just plain yogurt with diced cucumber, chopped fresh dill, black pepper and a generous pour of the onion blossom vinegar stirred in, and it was… explosive!

Fermented Things

As you might remember, the May Cook It 2012 Project was to ferment something.  I made traditional napa cabbage kimchi, which was delicious and gone already (I need to fork over the big money for a crock, so I can make a huge batch!) So, before I post the recipe for these amazing canned brandied cherries that I can’t stop eating, I wanted to share these other projects from my fellow bloggers:

The Kitchen Ninja made these beautiful lacto-fermented dill pickles.  I’m so happy she made them since this is such a classic and delicious fermentation project.  The remoulade recipe included also looks pretty epic, and since I’m a fiend for a good po’boy I’m sure we’ll give this a try once the cucumbers come in.

There really is nothing quite as beautiful as a jar of pickles, right? (or a jar of canned apricots… or dilly beans.  Yes. Not only do I spend huge amounts of time photographing canned goods, I’m also actively aware of which canned goods I think are the most beautiful and interesting to photograph.)

Speaking of beautiful… that brings me to the lovely glowing bottles of fizzy homemade ginger beer from Homemade Trade. What a brilliant idea!

I basically read Aimee’s post and then ran to the store as fast as I could to buy a big huge piece of ginger so I could make the project myself.  Because, you know, one of the main things I’ve learned from the fermentation challenge was that it is so, so easy, so you might as well give it a try. There’s so little work involved, so few ingredients, and so little equipment.  Time is the only thing you really need…

(I really did go get ginger. My starter is just starting to fizz = so exciting I can barely deal with it)

Aimee and Ninj: always inspiring to read what you’re up to! such beautiful projects…

and to everyone else: Don’t forget, the June Cook it 2012 resolution is to make jam, so if you haven’t yet, go get yourself some fruit and get jamming.

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To be included in the jam round-up post, e-mail me a link to your post by July 15, 2012.  My e-mail is thejamgirl@gmail.com

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Cook it! 2012 May Resolution

It’s that time again… In case you’re just showing up to the party,  this year a little group of us decided to tackle a different kitchen project every month.  It began as a New Year’s Resolution, a decision to devote some time to learning new skills and having fun messing around in the kitchen.  So far, we’ve made pasta from scratch, baked bread, made fresh butter and fresh cheese.

Now that the sun is out and the garden is starting to grow like crazy, I thought it would be a good idea to get away from dry goods and dairy and start doing something with all these veggies.   Which brings me to the May resolution–  to keep it really broad, let’s just say…. the goal is to ferment something.  It could be something with vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi, or it could be wine, beer, kombucha, sourdough bread…  whatever.

I haven’t done nearly enough projects involving fermentation and I wanted to devote some time to learning about this ancient method of food preservation.  Wikipedia says that there’s evidence that people were fermenting beverages in Babylon around 3000 B.C.   (After doing manual farm labor in the sun all day, my brilliant insights regarding this are:  Holy crap.  That is a long time ago.)   The whole concept of it is magical, that you can take some cabbage or cucumbers or whatever and combine them with salt and then wait awhile and *poof* the vegetables preserve themselves.   I love the simplicity.

I’m also drawn to the fact that the produce isn’t really cooked, (unlike preservation via canning) so it will be higher in vitamins and minerals.  And, as you may know, the process of fermentation also creates all of the beneficial microorganisms that make for healthy digestive systems.

— and that last phrase, right there, is why I think I haven’t bothered much with fermentation in the past.   It wasn’t a conscious decision at all.  I fell in love with jam-making and all those jewel-toned jars so easily.  Discussions about jam usually mean talking about apricots and strawberries, and whether or not Weck jars are worth the price.  It seems like chatting about fermentation, on the other hand, almost invariably fast forwards right to conversations about pooping.   If you google kimchi and start researching health benefits, you get a couple sentences into the article and then hear about how eating kimchi helps prevent yeast infections — because really, nothing says “domestic goddess” like healthy girl parts.

So, yeah, health benefits aside, I’m really just doing this because I wanted a way to preserve all these spring vegetables.

The ferment that I made first this month is a traditional napa cabbage kimchi.  Kimchi doesn’t have to be made with napa cabbage, but there’s something about the texture of the fermented cabbage that I really love.  I started small with this project, doing a mini-batch since I don’t own any big fermenting crocks.

Small Batch Kimchi

This recipe is adapted from The Hungry Tigress’ Kimchi Primer, since I know absolutely nothing about making kimchi but she seems like she’s got it down pretty well.  This version is (I think) somewhat traditional, but I used easter egg radishes from my garden instead of asian daikon radishes.  It’s also a little heavy on the radish part since I had a lot of them and they needed preserving.

cook time: 25 minutes active cooking, and then a couple days to ferment

makes: about 2 quart jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized napa cabbage
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 1/2 c.green garlic tops, spring onion tops or scallions, diced
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs. ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • about 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

for the brine:

  • 1/2 c. sea salt
  • 2 quarts filtered water

Wash the cabbage and slice it into two inch squares.  Wash the radishes, remove the tops, and slice them into very thin rounds.  Combine the salt and water in a large nonreactive bowl and stir well to combine.  Add the cabbage and radishes to the brine.  To keep the veggies from floating, put a plate on top of them and then cover the whole thing with saran wrap.  Leave it out at room temperature overnight to soak.

The next morning, drain the vegetables, reserving the brine.  Mix together all of the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl (the minced garlic bulb and ginger, green garlic tops, paprika, sugar and cayenne).   Pour this mixture over the cabbage and radishes.  Give a few stirs to make sure everything’s nicely combined.

Transfer the seasoned vegetable mixture to two clean quart jars* and cover with the reserved brine.  Screw on lids and set in a warm, dark corner somewhere in your house.  For the next few days, you’ll need to open the jars and stir them with a clean wooden spoon or chopstick  (to make sure everything is fully submerged in the brine).   The kimchi takes anywhere from 3-6 days to ferment.  It’s hard to describe exactly how you know that it’s fermented, but if you taste it every day, you’ll know when it’s there.  How? Because it tastes awesome. You’ll know.  Once it’s fermented, move it to the fridge.  This will slow everything way down and keep the flavors and textures from changing too much.  Once the kimchi is in the fridge, it will last for months and months.

*I like to sterilize my jars for fridge pickles and ferments because, I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

And then you can have stuff like this for breakfast.  I was making a small bowl of basmati rice with some kimchi, and J. looked at it and said “you should put an egg on that” and man oh man oh man oh man was he right.  Kimchi is good as it is, but it into rice with warm egg yolk  it will definitely put a grin on your face.  Salty, creamy, warm and spicy, it’s hard to beat as far as quick meals go.

Kimchi Breakfast Bowl

serves: 1

cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. steamed basmati rice
  • a few tablespoons of kimchi
  • 1 egg, cooked however you like, seasoned with fresh cracked black pepper (sunny side up or over easy works best for this)
  • any of these: chopped fresh scallions, dried or fresh chilis, a tiny splash of ume plum vinegar or soy sauce, leftover chicken, some salted peanuts or cashews, fresh cilantro….. (whatever ya got)

Combine the kimchi and rice in a bowl.  Top with the egg. Garnish with whatever toppings you have on hand and feel like eating.

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To be included in the fermenting round-up, send me an e-mail at thejamgirl@gmail.com with the link to your post by June 15, 2012. If whatever you’re making hasn’t fully fermented yet, just tell us your plans and what you’ve done so far.

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How To Preserve Radishes

I love spring salads with baby greens with thinly sliced radishes and mustard vinaigrette, and radishes are lovely roasted in the oven and tossed with brown butter.  Every spring, though, we always end up with a bit too much and I end up needing to preserve some for later to keep them from going in the compost.

Over the years, I’ve managed to find a few ways to preserve radishes, even though they’re not usually a vegetable that screams out for preservation.  Radishes are so delicate that one heat wave can ruin them – leave them in the garden a few days too long and they turn tough and spicy.  We try to pick them at their peak, when they’re small, crisp and sweet, and turn them into something tasty while they’re still perfect.  These preservation methods will help extend the season a little bit, so that you don’t have to figure out how to do crazy things like eat a whole bed of radishes in four days.

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES
Radishes make perfect pickles.  They’re so crunchy already, and when you put them in a brine in the fridge they’ll stay crisp for weeks.  Spiced with white wine, green garlic and fresh herbs from the spring garden, these pickles are savory and delicious.

PICKLED RADISHES

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Makes: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • about 2 bunches of radishes
  • 1 c. pinot grigio
  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • 1 c. water
  • 3″ section of stem from green garlic  (or fresh garlic tops, or scapes would work too)
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 small sprig of fennel
  • 1 sprig marjoram
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbs. sugar

In a nonreactive pot, combine all of the ingredients except the radishes.  Bring everything to a boil and then let it simmer for a five minutes to infuse the brine with the fresh herbs.  Turn off the heat and let cool until lukewarm.  Meanwhile, cut the radishes into smaller pieces.  Depending on the size and shape, you can cut them into halves, quarters, wedges or rounds (whatever makes you happy).  Pack the radishes into a clean quart jar.*  Remove the cooked herbs from the brine and discard.  Pour the brine over them.  Screw on the lid and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.  The radishes take about three days to taste properly pickled.As the radishes sit in the vinegar, the red from the outside of the roots will dye the whole thing a vibrant shade of hot pink.

NOTE: The fresh herbs that I used are entirely optional based on what I had in my garden. Feel free to switch things around based on what you have.

*Sterilize the jar to make the pickles last longer in the fridge.

RADISH BUTTER
This radish butter is so wonderful, such an elegant way to use ugly radishes that are split, cracked or were forgotten in the garden a few days too long.The technique is simple: Grate the radishes in a food processor and then mix them together with softened butter and fresh herbs.  The result is essentially the flavor of the whole spring garden in a compound butter, perfect for spreading on toasted sourdough bread.  This lasts for a week in the fridge, and we’ve had success freezing it for 1-2 months.

RADISH BUTTER

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Makes: 3 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • about 16 radishes
  • 1 1/2 c. salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 tbs. thinly sliced garlic greens (from the growing tops of the garlic in the garden)
  • 2 tbs. chopped fennel fronds
  • fresh cracked black pepper

Grate the radishes in a food processor or on a manual grater.  Blot the mixture dry with a clean kitchen towel.  Add in the softened butter and the fresh herbs and mix until everything is thoroughly combined.  Season with fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

Cabbages are Pretty

This post is really just an excuse to photograph cabbages.

Now that that’s out of the way:

I made sauerkraut using the recipe from Food In Jars and it’s finally ready.

When my schedule is rolling along correctly, I like to do a batch of preserving every week, the day after the farmers market.  Ideally, every scrap of unsold produce – those last few tomatoes, extra zucchini, that one little cabbage that no one wanted-  gets turned into something.  (I know, sorry chickens, there’s plenty of grass for you girls).  This keeps the pantry stocked and also makes sure that the garden stays completely picked so that it keeps producing at maximum capacity.  I can all kinds of things, make jams, dehydrate some stuff in the oven, infuse the occasional liqueur.  I’ve been trying to incorporate more ferments into the mix since they’re so easy and require so few supplies. These cabbages I have in my garden right now are a variety called Deadon, and the seeds are available from Johnny’s Seeds here.  I love the shades of deep purple to the palest green on their leaves; they’re really quite stunning. The general idea of this recipe is that you cut up cabbage, put it in a jar with salt and fennel seeds, and then wait. …. and wait some more….When you think the sauerkraut is, well, sauerkraut, taste it.  If it tastes lackluster, just let it sit for awhile longer.  It’ll get to a point that you’ll taste it and it’ll be super tangy and wonderful and you’ll want to keep taking more tastes and then eat the whole jar …. and that means it’s done. I think it’s pretty crazy that I can cut up some vegetables and put them on a shelf in a jar with some salt and then come back later and they’re not only edible, they’re delicious! There’s something about fermenting….  I really don’t know anything about the chemistry of it, or why it works (I should probably read up on that, though…)  I do know that when I ferment stuff it makes me feel like I have magic superpowers over produce.  You should try it.

Top 10 Posts from 2011

Wasting time on the internet reading Top 10 lists is such a delightful tradition right before Jan 1.  I want to enable anyone else who enjoys it as much as I do, by writing yet another top 10 list.  You know you love ’em.  Don’t go be productive, sit here on the computer, for just another few minutes.

1. How To Preserve 100+ lbs. of Tomatoes With Almost No Work

This is probably my favorite post too, detailing the massive amounts of tomato preservation that happens at the farm every summer.  Sometimes I come home from the farmers market with more tomatoes than I actually took, which is completely ridiculous.  At the end of the market, when vendors have unsold tomatoes, if I hear mutters of “ah, feed ’em to the chickens,” I try to get in on the action before the hens.  End of summer, heavily discounted tomatoes are where it’s at.

2. Stout Beer Jelly

This is such a weird jelly.  It’s good and all, but…  This post made it to the front page of reddit, which hurt my brain, since there are so many other preserves I’ve made that I would recommend more than this one.  It’s a novelty jelly.  It’s definitely really tasty in certain situations, like on grilled lamb, or with toasted pumpernickel bread with cream cheese.  This is what happens if you, um, partake on St. Patrick’s Day and are a huge canning nerd, and then you decide to start making jelly out of random stuff in the kitchen.

So here’s the deal: I’m working on a new version, with tart cherries, some dried spices and bay leaves.  Please, I beg you, wait for the updated recipe before you make this. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

3. Vanilla Peach Jam

This jam is killer, and this post has step-by-step instructions for beginners.  Vanilla bean and ripe, juicy peaches is a pretty perfect combination.

4. Chocolate Plum Jam

I spent days and days and days canning in the commercial kitchen I use (that’s the door, in the picture below) for the National Heirloom Expo this September. The chocolate plum jam was a creation for that event, which you can make at home if you didn’t get to go.  It’s another winner, absolutely delicious.

5. Concord Grape Jam

What’s not to love about grape jam? It’s heavenly…

6. Pineapple Weed Tea

So…  I was all excited about how popular this post was, sitting in my living room going “gosh it’s so great that people are so interested in foraging these days”… and then I realized, after reading the search terms a little more closely:

There’s a strain of marijuana named “pineapple” and when I wrote “pineapple weed tea” a lot of people thought that I meant I was making tea out of marijuana and got really excited about my blog.

Am I naive? Yes. Is this post about getting high off your tea? Sadly, no. Is it still delicious tea? Yes.

7. My Grandma Molly’s Recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind

Pickled watermelon was all kinds of trendy this year, and I saw recipes popping up all over the place.  Well, this is the exact recipe that my grandma from North Carolina was making, decades ago.  It’s a tedious recipe, true, but keep a jar in the fridge during the summer, and you’ll be rewarded with the most deliciously sweet, cold, crunchy pickle you’ve ever had.  People sometimes ask me what this pickle is for, exactly, and let me just say: Fried Chicken.  A big southern dinner is never complete without a little glass dish of pickles out on the table.

8. Pear Cardamom Jam 

This is my personal favorite jam, the one that I put on my toast.  Pears have such a bold, juicy flavor- I can’t get enough.

9. Candied Buddha’s Hand

One of the most exotic fruits you’ll ever see, chopped up in little pieces, cooked in sugar and turned into sweet little bites, perfect for putting in bread, cookies and fruitcake.

10. Kimchi

‘cuz kimchi is totally a thing now, like cupcakes and making jam…

This is a small batch recipe that ferments in the fridge, adapted from The Hungry Tigress, who adapted it from Tart and Sweet, which is a fantastic cookbook that I just got for Christmas! Funny how it works like that… (Thanks, my sweet little sister, you rock).

And that’s the top 10…

Thanks for reading this year, and here’s to another epic year of jamming pickling fermenting baking roasting braising gardening and all that stuff that we all love! Happy New Year!

How To Preserve A Whole Season Of Hot Peppers With Virtually No Work

It’s starting to really feel like fall here in the hills of Mendocino.  Over the course of two weeks we’ve transitioned from hot, dry, sunny September days to chilly October mornings where the fog hangs thick over the vineyards in the valley.Even though we’re transitioning into winter it still feels oddly like spring… after months of staring at dead grass and start thistle, it’s like a breath of fresh air to look at the ground and see actual green stuff coming up:

Around now, I try to be vigilant in keeping the all of the vegetables in the garden completely picked. It could theoretically frost at any time, and these days the farm is way too big to wait until a frost warning to start picking everything. (Also, if there’s a frost warning, it’s probably chilly as hell and I’d rather pick peppers on a sunny afternoon than in the dark, bundled up in winter clothes with mittens and a head lamp.)

I’m yearning for the post-frost relaxation that’s just around the corner. I’m way too busy for really complicated preserving projects, so I had to deal with these peppers in the fastest, most efficient way possible. Here’s everything I’ve learned in my years of preserving about how to get it done.

THE FREEZER IS YOUR FRIEND

Hot peppers freeze really, really well. In general, I try to stick to one method of preservation, meaning that I don’t like canning out of the freezer. In my experience, canned goods taste the best when you get the produce from the field to the jar in as little time as possible.  Hot peppers are my exception, though. The advantage of freezing hot peppers (other than the time) is how much easier they are to work with when they’re frozen.

  • To freeze the peppers, either vacuum seal them or put them in thick ziploc bags designed for the freezer. Label and date and throw ’em in the freezer.
  • When you want to use them, don’t thaw them first. They’re much easier to seed and mince while they’re still rock hard, and since they’re so small they often thaw right on the cutting board when you’re working with them.  To seed the peppers, cut the stem end off first, then slice the pepper in half lengthwise, and then run a (gloved) finger down each half to brush the seeds out.
  • All hot pepper varieties freeze well, whether they’re thick or thin-skinned.
  • Note: Frozen peppers will lose a lot of their crunch, so the only project you won’t really be able to do later is make pickled peppers.

RISTRAS

Thin-skinned red chilis dry very well, and look wonderful strung into ristras.  I love having all my projects hanging in the kitchen: garlic braids, bouquets of bay laurel and flowering marjoram, a few different varieties of dried pepper ristras, and maybe some edible flowers for tea like pineapple weed or calendula.

If you’re growing your own peppers, the seed catalogue often specifies if the varieties are good for drying. If not, look for varieties like cayenne or thai. Steer clear of jalapenos and other green chilis, or any of the mild Italian frying peppers- their flesh is too thick and will mold before it dries. Shopping at a farmers market, keep your eyes peeled for piles of red chilis.  This time of the year, you can usually get ridiculous deals for huge amounts of peppers.

For this project, you’ll need a relatively sturdy sewing needle and some fishing line.  Please note: This is not the traditional style of braided ristra from New Mexico, but rather the infinitely simpler and faster Busy Preserver Method.Thread your needle with fishing line. Measure out an arm-length or so of line. Push the needle through the top of a chili. Gently move the chili to the other end of the line, leaving a few extra inches. Tie the fishing line in a loop around the top of the chili so it stays in place. Now just thread the rest of the chilis onto the fishing line until you get a length that you like.  Tie a loop around the top chili to hold it in place.It’s important to hang the ristras somewhere quite warm and dry at first. If it’s sunny they can even go right out in the full sun. Once they’re fully dried they should last a year, or more. I put the dried peppers in all kinds of soups, stews, salsas and sauces. If you want to rehydrate them, place the chilis in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for 20 minutes, and they’ll be soft and ready to cook with.

ITALIAN PICKLED PEPPERS

Remember the thick-skinned peppers that don’t dry well? and all of those mild Italian frying peppers? This is a super fast pickle that you can make it you don’t want to freeze them.  This is my dad’s recipe, and it reminds me of sitting at the kitchen table with him while dinner cooked, drinking red wine, eating cheese and crackers and these pickles.  They look lovely on a big antipasti plate with salami, prosciutto, marinated artichoke hearts, and cheeses.

You’ll need: a few pint jars

Ingredients:

  • Any peppers you have that you don’t want to freeze or dry: a combination of colors, shapes, and heat levels is nice for this. (Jimmy Nardello works particularly well in this pickle)
  • 2-3 peeled garlic cloves per jar
  • 3-4 green olives with pimento per jar (just snag a few from an open jar in the fridge. No crazy stuff like green olives stuffed with blue cheese! Just plain old martini olives)
  •  whole black peppercorns, 2-3 per jar
  •  Vinegar to cover all this, either apple cider or white vinegar, or a mixture of the two

Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash lids and jars in hot, soapy water.

Put some vinegar in a non-reactive pot and bring it to a boil. ((Yes, you have to estimate how much you’ll need to cover the peppers.) Wash your peppers.  Once the jars are sterilized, pack the whole peppers into hot jars with the olives, garlic and peppercorns. Cover the peppers with the boiling vinegar, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Use a chopstick to poke around and remove the air bubbles. Adjust the headspace. Wipe rims clean and put on the lids. Process 10 minutes.

A DIRTY, DIRTY TIME-SAVING SECRET: I make these almost every year and have never – not ever- processed them the way the USDA tells you too to make sure they’re safe. I just sterilize my jars in the oven, put the peppers in the jars, cover the peppers with boiling vinegar, put the lids on, and call it done.  The lids seal if you put them on while the vinegar is still piping hot. Technically this should be a refrigerator pickle and not a shelf-stable canned good, but we’ve been making it for years in my family and never had any problems…  Crazy. The USDA would say I’m going to die, but the pickles are crunchy and delicious every year.

P.S. There is a distinct lack of picture for this recipe! I haven’t made them yet this year but I will update the post with a picture when I do.

LATER… HOT PEPPER JELLY

 I use almost all those frozen peppers for hot pepper jelly.  If you haven’t had it before, you must. It’s sweet, spicy, tangy and delicious. Try it with cream cheese and crackers.  I like making breakfast quesadillas with scrambled eggs, hot pepper jelly, cheddar cheese and cilantro. You can put it in a pot of chili and on warm cornbread with butter. You can turn it into a dipping sauce by melting it down and adding some chopped fresh herbs.  You can brush it onto steak for fajitas. You can stir-fry green beans and tofu with it. Pretty much anywhere you’d use hot sauce, you can use hot pepper jelly instead.  It’s that amazing.

There’s not really any need for me to write out the recipe, it’s in the pectin box. I’ve tried almost all of them: Ball (both high and low sugar), liquid Certo, Pomona’s. They’re all delicious.  If you want a nice low-sugar pepper jelly, I would recommend Pomona’s, a natural pectin available at most health-food stores.  The fun part is that you can really play around with the variety of peppers used in the recipe. All of the pectin boxes call for a certain amount of sweet bell peppers and a certain amount of hot peppers, but I adjust it for how I want the finished product to taste. The important part is that the recipe in the box will call for a certain amount of prepared peppers (e.g. 4 1/2 c.) and you need to match this amount with whichever types of peppers you decide to use. Don’t decrease or increase it, keep the ratio of peppers/liquid/sugar the same as what the original recipe calls for.

The possibilities are endless using the different pepper varieties and heat levels available. Make it fresh, if you want, but pulling the frozen peppers out in December to make jelly for holiday gifts makes for a really great afternoon project.

Happy preserving!

Pickled Pearl Onions For Some Serious Bloody Marys

It’s really hot outside and I sprained my ankle. That’s the summary of life right now.  Or maybe I have tendonitis or something.  Either way, I can’t do anything except hobble around like an old lady.  I’m going to make cocktails tonight since not being able to work makes me angry. Here’s the more exciting part that makes me happy, instead of angry:

Pickled Pearl Onions With Horseradish Root and Thai Chilis

Pickled pearl onions that are sweet and sour and spicy all at once, with a wonderful extra kick from whole, unprepared horseradish root are going to make for some serious beverages. Onions and other aliums are in season right now and when I saw bunches of pearl onions at the farmers market, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Is that bad? That pearl onions instantly take my brain to cocktails? Nah…We have a lot of pearl onions in the garden that should be ready in a few weeks, and while I had grand ideas about serving them with braised meats or roasting them in balsamic vinegar, I have a feeling that they’re not going to make it into any dinners.

This recipe is a loose adaptation from a recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which is an absolute must-have for anyone interested in canning.

Pickled Pearl Onions

makes: 4  1/2 pint jars

cook time: 12 hours soaking in brine plus 45 minutes active cooking time

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. pearl onions, peeled, tops removed (don’t throw them away, make kimchi!)
  • 1/4 c. kosher salt
  • water
  • 2 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. mustard seeds
  • 4 pieces of very thinly sliced horseradish root*
  • 4 small dried thai chili peppers (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 bay leaves, split into pieces

1. In a large glass bowl, combine onions and salt and add water to cover.  Cover the bowl and set aside for 12 hours.

2. Sterilize jars and lids. Bring boiling water canner to a boil.

3. The next day, drain the onions in a colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.  In a medium sized, nonreactive pot bring the vinegar, sugar, horseradish and spices to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes to infuse the vinegar.

4. Pack the onions into hot jars and cover with the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Divide the spices and horseradish equally among each of the jars. Remove air bubbles with a wooden chopstick or skewer and adjust the headspace if necessary. Wipe rims and screw on lids. Process for 10 minutes.

*The natural food store in my town had whole horseradish root in their produce section, and I’m willing to be that stores like Whole Foods would have it too. If you can’t find it, substitute 3 tsp. prepared horseradish when you’re simmering all the spices in the vinegar.

P.S. So, if I could walk and hadn’t spent four hours this morning doing an hour’s worth of work, I would have a picture and a tested recipe for the internet universe.  It didn’t happen. It’s too good to leave this out though…

J’s Fantastic Dirty Bloody Marys

This is an approximation of an amazing cocktail that my boyfriend makes. I don’t even know everything that goes in there, but we can try, right? Caution: I’ve made this many times, but never written it down, so some of these amounts are definitely approximations.

serves: 1

makes: 1 cocktail

special equipment: a glass for your cocktail

Ingredients:

  • a shot or two of vodka
  • cold tomato juice (or bloody mary mix) to fill the glass about 3/4 full
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
  • a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tbs. green olive juice
  • 3 green olives
  • juice from 1 lemon wedge
  • a dash of your favorite hot sauce (tabasco, tapatio, etc.)
  • garnish: 1 stick celery, 2 pickled onions

Mix all that together in your glass. Drink. Repeat as needed. 

Kimchi, And A Lot Of Hard Work

The farm has been a whirlwind of activity for the last few weeks. Late May through early June is always characterized by the frantic rush to transition everything from winter to summer. We’ve finally done it, though. Weeds have been wacked. Compost has been hauled from here to there.  Garden beds have been tilled and prepared for planting.  The irrigation system is back up and running. Starts have moved from the greenhouse to the ground. Seeds have been planted. The tomatoes are caged and the peas are trellised.  Flowers are blooming. Fruit trees are growing and ripening. The hens are starting to lay eggs like crazy.In another month, when we harvest all of the garlic, onions, cabbages, lettuce and peas, we’ll have another big round of work. Until then, though, I can breathe easy knowing the bulk of the gardening work is finished. (Now I’m switching to jam! I’m driving to the city this weekend to shop all the big farmers markets for berries and other fruit. I’m on a search for good, sweet organic strawberries and I think I’m going to have to leave town to find the organic part, unfortunately. That’s a story for another day, though.)

Despite the fact that I haven’t been cooking a whole lot, I want to share the one preserving recipe that I’ve been making over and over again. It’s so simple that you can make it even if you’re working back-breaking long hours and don’t even have time to bathe properly.

kimchi with savoy cabbage and garlic scapes

Whatever-Kind-Of-Greens-You-Have Kimchi, an adaptation of Ramp Greens Kimchi from the Hungry Tigress

I got the idea for this from the Tigress, who made a fantastic looking ramp greens kimchi. We don’t have ramp greens here but we do have lots and lots of other kind of greens. I particularly like this kimchi recipe because it’s vegan; a lot of recipes have anchovy paste or fish sauce in them. I don’t have any issue with those products but I’m a tired farm girl and I am not in the mood to drive to town for anchovy paste.

This recipe will work with pretty much any greens you have. I’ve made it with savoy cabbages, kale, garlic scapes, and rainbow chard.  I would avoid traditional types of cabbage because the leaves are so thick, but napa cabbage, collard greens, boy choy and mustard greens would all be fine.

Equipment needed: 2 quart jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. greens such as savoy cabbage or rainbow chard
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 dried cayenne peppers, crushed
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 tbs. fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tbs. garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. unrefined peanut oil (or toasted sesame oil)

1. Sterilize two quart jars.

2. Wash greens and roughly chop into 1/2″ strips. 

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the greens. Mix together thoroughly. Add the greens to the bowl and mix well, making sure to coat everything evenly.

4. Divide the greens between the two jars. Loosely screw on lids and leave unrefrigerated overnight. The next day, give each jar a good shake. Put them into the fridge for a week to lightly ferment the greens. Each day or so, take the jars out and give the jar a shake and stir up the greens a little bit so that the ones on the top of the jar eventually end up at the bottom. The greens will shrink down and if you’ll probably want to combine them into one jar after a 4-5 days.

5. In about a week, the kimchi is ready.  You’ll know because the greens smell slightly sour and you won’t be able to resist digging in any longer.  Eat it in sandwiches, wraps, salads, as a side dish with stir fry or rice, or all on its own.  You will love it, I guarantee.

rainbow chard kimchi