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9Apr/110

Mexican-style Pickled Veggies

In Austin all the Mexican joints have an addition to their salsa bar that I rarely see elsewhere – pickled sliced vegetables. The blend always includes carrots and jalapenos, and sometimes onion, cauliflower or other firm veggies. They are sour, spicy, and delicious. I’ve pickled many things, but never hit the distinctive flavor of these Mexican pickles.

After reading a number of recipes, I think I’ve got it just about nailed. This will be a standard “fresh pack” pickling recipe – you will need a water bath canner, which is easy to improvise if necessary. If you haven’t done this type of pickling, do a few google searches – there is a LOT written about it. It is very easy, but food safety requires that you understand the basics.

Ingredients

  • Carrots and other veggies, sliced into regular sizes and shapes (carrots on the bias, cauliflower into pieces, jalapenos halved and seeded, etc.)
  • Brine (this is enough for 2-3 quart jars full of veggies, make as much as you need)
    • 1.75 cups White Vinegar
    • 0.25 cups Cider Vinegar
    • 1.5 tsp Salt (pickling salt preferred)
  • Spices for each jar (again, get as much as you need for your batch size)
    • 2 cloves Garlic
    • 1 tsp Paprika
    • 10 Black Peppercorns
    • 3 Bay Leaves (this is the key ingredient for that authentic flavor)
    • 1 tsp Ground Mustard
    • Optional – more spicy in the form of cayenne or similar

Process

Slice and dice your veggies into desired shapes. Traditional seems to be carrots sliced on the bias, jalapenos halved and seeded, cauliflower and onions into “chunks”, but really, it is up to you.

Load the fresh veggies into canning jars – I prefer wide-mouth quart jars. Make sure you have fresh lids (rings can be reused, lids should not).

Get your water bath canner fired up – I like to have it at a low boil before starting my brine so that I can load the jars into the canner as soon as possible after filling with brine.

Bring your brine to a boil. I find I needed one “batch” for each 2-3 jars, but it depends on your veggie density. Add the spices and bay leaves directly to each jar, and then pour the brine over the veggies, filling the jar to 1/2″ from the top. Tap to shake out the bubbles, add a bit more brine if necessary, and then put on a lid and a ring (ring should be finger tight only, just enough to hold it together).

Load the jars into your water bath canner, and return to a boil. Measured from when the canner is boiling again, you should process for 15-20 minutes (USDA has charts based on altitude for fresh-pack pickling process times). After processing, pull the jars out and let them sit on the counter until cool. Once they are cool, remove the rings and let the jars hang out for at least a week in a cool dark place. Then crack them open and enjoy! I like them by themselves, or on tacos, or in burritos. Remember not to eat the bay leaves. Once open they do need to be refrigerated.

19Sep/100

Vanilla Bourbon Peach Jam

I received about 6 pounds of peaches from a friend’s trees, and decided to look for something to do with them. You can only gorge on fresh peaches so long!

I tried this recipe, adapted from Blondie’s Cakes and Things, which was in turn adapted from Bean Town Baker. Wacky!

Here are the values I used:

Vanilla Bourbon Peach Jam
  • 6 pounds of peaches, or 5 pounds after peeling and pitting
  • 1 package Pectin for low-sugar recipes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 vanilla beans – split with the tasty gunk scraped out of the inside – reserve the shells
  • 6 Tbsp Kentucky Bourbon
  • 1 Tbsp Frangelico Liqueur (hazelnut)
Equipment Needed
  • 8-10 twelve ounce canning jars with unused canning lids
  • water bath canner (or just a very large pot)
  • large pot
  • immersion blender (or potato masher and strong arms)
  • jar lifter
Process

Begin by peeling and pitting all the fruits. Some recipes call for blanching the fruits in boiling water to aid peeling, but these peaches peeled by hand very easily. You can scale the rest of the recipe based on your final fruit weight. Don’t worry about brown spots or bruises, but do remove anything that looks moldy or truly “gone bad”. While peeling I toss the fruits into a bowl with the lemon juice, tossing occasionally, to limit browning.

5 pounds of peaches, broken down!

Add the fruits, lemon juice, sugar and honey to a large pot and put over medium-low heat. Mash everything up with the masher or immersion blender to your desired consistency, and stir well to combine. Taste the sweetness level – my peaches were very ripe so I used less sugar, you may need more.

A southern treat - booze in everything!

When the mixture has come to a boil, add the package of dry pectin, mix well to prevent clumping, and return to a boil for 1 minute. At the end of the minute, remove from heat, add your vanilla bean gunk, bourbon and liqueur and mix thoroughly.

I put a short chunk of the vanilla bean itself into each jar, then ladled the mixture into the jars to 1/4″ from the top of the jar. Put the canning lids on the jars, and tighten the rings to finger-tight only. Place the jars into a large pot or water-bath canner with at least 1″ of water covering the jars, and boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars, and allow to cool at room temperature. Any that do not seal their lids (they shouldn’t “pop” when you press on them) after cooling should be put in the fridge and used first.

The completed jam! I got about 8.5 12oz jars worth.

Note: When water bath canning, you should read up on the recommended times for your region. Different altitudes call for different canning times. Your local university extension office probably has a whole page on canning, and the USDA publishes lots of useful information as well! Familiarize yourself with the basics of water bath canning before diving into it. It is very easy to do, but you want to make sure you are doing it right to prevent the spread of disease.

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1Oct/093

Pickled Asparagus Experiment

I tried a pickled asparagus experiment. I purchased 3 pounds of asparagus on sale, and decided to pickle the hell out of it. I used a recipe from the blog Food in Jars. It’s a great blog, but unfortunately in this case, the recipe was not a success. I have a theory why, which may be as simple as a transcription error in the recipe, though I may have made a mistake elsewhere in the process.

For my own records, here is the recipe I used:

Pickled Asparagus, adapted from Putting Up by Stephen Palmer Dowdney
  • 4 pounds asparagus, trimmed to fit your pint jars and blanched in boiling water for approximately 10 seconds
  • 3 cups vinegar (half apple cider vinegar, half white vinegar)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons Penzeys pickling spice
  • 3 small jalapeno peppers
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled

I blanched the asparagus for 15 seconds before jarring. I added the spices, and poured in the brine mixture. I processed in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. After processing, the asparagus were shriveled, as though the moisture had been sucked out of them. In retrospect, the recipe seemed to have a lot more salt than the other pickling recipes, about 50% more. Perhaps the recipe should have been 1/4 cup of salt or something similar.

I’ll still try them when they have finished pickling, but my hopes for good texture are not high. A future experiment with a modified saline level should prove useful.

20Sep/090

Pickled Brussels Sprouts – Experiment 1

For my own reference, and your potential amusement, here is the documentation of pickling Brussels Sprouts from the garden. I used a hot-pack canning method (read up on it for context) with water bath processing.

Notes:

  • 1 lb of sprouts fills about one quart canning jar.
  • Sprouts were boiled in a light brine for 4 minutes before packing.
  • Brine: 5 cups white vinegar (5%), 5 cups water, 5 oz. salt
  • Flavoring for each quart jar:
    • 1.5 jalapeno peppers, sliced, seeds in
    • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
    • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard, ground
    • 1 teaspoon cumin, whole
    • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard, whole
    • 1.5 teaspoons dried dill
  • Processed for 15 minutes

Results:

???
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    3Jul/090

    Fettuccine Alfredo Recipe

    To celebrate getting four fresh tomatoes from the garden, we made a traditional alfredo. Here is the recipe.

    Fettuccine Alfredo

    Ingredients

    • 1 pound fresh or frozen Fettuccine pasta
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 shallot or small sweet onion
    • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
    • Optional: A few small fresh chopped tomatoes

    Process

    Boil at least 4 quarts of water, and add a few tablespoons of salt to the water. Boil the pasta according to the directions on the packaging (usually 2-3 minutes for fresh pasta). Drain and rinse.

    While the water is boiling for the pasta, melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. When it is melted, add the shallot or small onion, and cook for a minute, or until the shallot is soft. Do not allow it to brown! Add the cup of heavy cream, and bring to a boil, reducing heat to low. Simmer, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce reduces slightly. Add the salt to taste, and remove from heat.

    Return the pasta to the pot, and add half the parmesan cheese, the tomato and the parsley. Slowly pour in the sauce, tossing as you go. The residual heat will melt the parmesan. When tossed, add freshly ground pepper to taste (I like a lot). Serve with another quick grind of pepper on top, and a sprinkle of the remaining parmesan cheese.