I love citrus fruits, but I find that the selection up here in the chilly DC metro is horrid. No offense to Texas, but I don’t like their grapefruits. This is why I was ecstatic when my loving parents sent me a crate of fresh Florida citrus (juice oranges, Minneola tangelos, and white grapefruits). As much as I loved to eat these beauties fresh out of hand, though, I was rushing against the clock to finish them before they past their prime. Additionally, I in my selfishness wanted to save the flavor for the summer months. That is what canning is for, right?
This year, President’s Day was gray and dreary, so I could think of no better way to spend my day off than making some of the prettiest preserves I could imagine – pickled red onions and mixed citrus marmalade.
Last summer, when I spent a weekend in Boston, I picked up a quick lunch at a burrito/wrap restaurant after walking the Freedom Trail. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, or much at all about the burrito I ate, except that it was really good and had the prettiest pickled onions in it.
Wishing to recreate the flavor of those onions, I searched the Internet for ideas and recipes. I found two that I really like: this one from David Lebovitz, which had the spices i wanted, and this one from Food in Jars, which I liked because it could be canned. So I combined the measurements from one with the spices from the other to create the following pickles.
I started by boiling three large red onions (roughly 3 lbs) in water for four minutes.
After draining the onions, I made a hot brine from white vinegar, water, sugar, pickling salt, black peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, chili peppers, and ground allspice (I didn’t have any whole on hand). I added the onions and took the mixture off the burner.
After dividing the mixture into three jars, I processed them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. The reward was three jars of stunning pink onions, no food coloring needed. I haven’t tried them yet, since the ought to sit for a bit before serving, but they look so pretty I can’t wait to try them.
Happy New Year. A lot of people ask me why I spend so much time and effort preserving my own foods when there are perfectly good grocery stores around selling quality jams, pickles, and canned tomatoes. And in the heat of August, when I am laboring in the kitchen over pot after pot of tomatoes, I often wonder myself. Given that I pay $0.49 per pound of whole tomatoes and it takes not quite a pound and a half to make one pint of canned tomatoes, I am getting a pretty good deal, but time is money, and canning is a lot of work.
This year, in addition to canning stewed tomatoes, I also made salsa, tomato paste (two tiny jars!), and slow roasted cherry tomatoes for freezing. Now I must say that these little beauties are spectacular. I roasted them at 180 degrees (the lowest my oven goes) for about twelve hours per batch, sometimes longer. The smallest ones dried out completely and taste just like sun-dried tomatoes, while the larger ones remained juicy but became oh-so-sweet. Seriously, they taste like tomato candy. But as good as they are, I only managed to get two and a half quart size freezer baggies of tomatoes. For all the chopping and electric bills involved, these seem like less of a bargain.
On nights like tonight, though, in the dead of winter when it barely ever gets above freezing, all that work seems worth it. Because for dinner tonight I made my favorite summer salad. Well, a variation of it. Actually, I have never made this salad the same way twice. The only mandatory ingredients are things I usually have on hand: avocados, mozzarella cheese, and (frozen) roasted corn. The dressing is made of two cubes each of Dorot’s frozen herbs – garlic, basil, and cilantro mixed with lime juice. Tonight I mixed it in with mayo because I had some homemade that needed using up. I wouldn’t bother with store bought mayo for this salad; it doesn’t really need it. I also added a handful of my frozen tomatoes to the salad tonight, defrosted with the corn.
This is really a “kitchen sink” style salad; pretty much anything can be tossed in. In the past I have added black beans, arugula, bell pepper, and anything else that was on hand. I bet boiled potatoes would be excellent. There is no real recipe, but I try to keep the proportions even on the cheese, corn and avocado. I overdressed it a little tonight, but it was still pretty good.
To go with the salad a made
this soupby a href=”http://smittenkitchen.com/”target=”_blank”>
smitten kitchen almost exactly by the recipe. I ran short on cumin so I added some chili powder for depth and I didn’t want to use beef stock for obvious reasons, so I added an extra cup of tomatoes (my own of course) and then three cups of water with a vegetarian bouillon cube. The soup was really good and the flavors complemented the salad. All in all it was a tasty dinner, with plenty of leftovers.
When I think of my first canning project of the summer, my thoughts usually turn to ruby red strawberries or tart rhubarb stalks, but the common denominator is sugar, and lots of it. However, this year, I broke out the mason jars for the first time over kim chi, slightly pickled but mostly fermented Korean vegetables. *Note: I did not process the kim chi in a boiling water bath, so it is to be used up within a month or so. *Related Note: Does anyone want any kim chi?
While the most common vegetable base for kim chi is Napa or Korean cabbage, there are actually many different types of kim chi based on all sorts of vegetables. Anyone who says otherwise does not know what he or she is talking about. Since I was blessed with an abundance of bok choy this week from my CSA membership (more details soon), I decided to make a kim chi based on bok choy, with Korean radish, Korean leeks, and green onions. *Note on ingedients: I went to the local GrandMart (a very extensive ethnic supermarket with an awesome produce department) to procure the Korean radish and chili powder, and I happened to see Korean leeks, which I had not known even existed, on sale for $0.99 a bunch.
I combined two different recipes to make my kim chi, because there were aspects of both that I liked and disliked. I still managed to miss a step and I may have ruined the kim chi, despite my best efforts to save it. I guess I will find out in a few days.
- 1 large head bok choy
- 1 Korean radish (could substitute daikon)
- 2-3 Korean leeks
- 5-6 green onions (mine had red bulbs)
- 8 cloves garlic
- A knob of ginger, 3 inches long and peeled
- 1 1/2 cup Korean red pepper powder
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup kosher salt
1. Chop the bok choy and radish into bite size pieces. Cover with salt and let sit overnight in a glass bowl.
2. Drain the brine off the vegetables (the salt will have brought out the juices from the vegetables a la osmosis). Rinse the vegetables!
3. Slice the leeks and onions, press or finely mince the garlic, and grate the ginger, combine in a separate glass or ceramic bowl. Add the pepper powder and a little bit of the brine and stir to make a paste.
4. Mix the paste with the vegetables. I used a spoon; if you use your hands you might want to wear gloves.
5. Spoon the mixture into sterilized jars. Too off with brine, fresh water, or a mixture of the two, depending on how salty the vegetables were.
6. Let it sit for a few days at room temperature until it starts to ferment (bubbles will form), then move it to the fridge. Use within one month.
*Never eat anything if you are unsure if it is safe. “When in doubt, throw it out!”
I really expected to have a job by now. However, I am still unemployed, and I have had to find ways to keep busy. Then, I see all the pictures on facebook of the cool places that people have gone this summer and I get jealous because I didn’t go anywhere cool. But I have been doing things. So, here is a quick update about what I have been doing.
These are the preserves (and pickles) that I have made so far this summer. From left to right (most recent to oldest):
- Fig Jam (I only have one tiny jar of this)
- Pickled Beets
- Rhubarb Marmalade
- Tart Cherries in Syrup
- Cherry Walnut Conserves
- Cherry-Blueberry Preserves
- Raspberry Jam
- Raspberry Chocolate Sauce
- Strawberry Jam
If you want any, let me know. For some of the preserves, I have many jars available. Variations including peaches, blackberries, and tomatoes will be forthcoming. In my opinion, I have far too many red jars. I need to change it up a bit. Pickles would help, also.
I have also been trying my hand at vegetable gardening, but alas, a my thumbs are far from green. My tomato and pepper plants are still (somewhat) alive, but something tells me that the yields will be meager. I do have a few tomatoes (three), and one pepper, forming already. If you saw my plants, you would be surprised that there were any fruits, so I am going to claim whatever I can get from them as a success, and hope to do better next year.