Belt and Suspenders

“Do you cook?,” the seller’s agent asked me. “You are just going to love having two stoves, especially if you do any preserving.” She really didn’t need to sell me on the kitchen in our now-house; it’s huge and filled with the light. Yes, it was a little odd to have an electric stove top at one end of the counters and an entire electric stove and oven on the other end, but I just went with it.

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(Rich would like to assure everyone that we replaced the electric stove and oven with an electric induction unit. It was pricey but about equal to getting a gas line and a mid-range gas stove. Induction uses electromagnetic fields to heat up the pot itself instead of the cooktop. Your pots need to have some magnetic material in them, but we made sure almost all ours would work before we pulled the trigger. It really is magical – safer than regular electric, with the heat control of gas. And it boils a whole pot of water in like 3 minutes.)

In the past year I have used both stove tops exactly twice. First it was to fry piles of latkes at Chanukah, when it really did cut down on time to have four frying pans going at once. The second time was at Pesach, where there are never enough burners or countertop space for all the cooking that needs to get done. Now it’s summer time, so prime pickling and preserving season. And just as the realtor foresaw, the two stove tops really have come in handy.

I did pause for a moment considering if I should be sharing pickling recipes with you, because chances are you don’t have a second stove top to set an enormous pot of water on to boil and continue making dinner on another stove top. But I saw a very old, very dear friend on Sunday who is preserving nonstop right now in a not-huge New York kitchen. Perhaps some of you feel the same, or would with a little nudge.

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The driving force behind all the pickling and preserving is the book Ball Canning Back to Basics: A Foolproof Guide to Canning, James, Jellies, Pickles & More, an absolutely terrific book that breaks the recipes down into clear, step-by-step directions. Honestly, the recipes are so clearly written and easy to follow that I’m constantly opening the book up to search for something new to make. It’s become rather addictive. As the cover touts, “If you can boil water, you can make your own delectable jams and jellies, try your hand at fresh-pack pickling, and jar savory sauces.”

Now, I must admit it helps if you have a little hardware at your disposal, including jars, a massive stock pot to process the jars, heat proof gloves, and a canning set. But you buy those things once and then you have them for years.

First thing I pickled were the pickling cukes from the CSA, but those took a little work. I had to brine the gherkins overnight, then make the pickling brine, sterilize jars, add the pickles, dill, brine and process. It took some doing, I’m not going to lie. But the pickles were great, and I highly recommend the recipe.

What I am going to share with you is the pickled hot peppers, or pepperoncini, because it’s prime hot pepper season. I love having a jar of there on the door of the fridge. I add them to sandwiches for a little kick, or chop them into a salad with roasted beets, chickpeas, feta, cucumber and sunflower seeds. Or I just pop one into my mouth as I walk by the fridge.

 

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The directions are to make 5 (1-pint) jars, but if you only want to make 1 or 2 jars you have my permission to do so. You can buy several gallons of white vinegar for about $3, so don’t worry about saving leftover brine and not enough peppers.

To prep the jars, wash them in very hot soapy water. Do not dry the washed bottles or jars, but put them upright on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and put in the oven. Turn on the heat to 350F and once the oven has reached this temperature, leave the bottles or jars in the oven for 20 minutes to ensure they are completely sterilized. Wear protective oven mitts when handling hot bottles and jars.

Pepperoncini – Pickled Hot Peppers from Ball Canning Back to Basics

Ingredients

3 pounds hot peppers (such as banana, jalapeno, or serrano peppers)

1 quart plus 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)

2 cups water

3 garlic cloves, crushed

Ball Pickle Crisp Granules (optional – I just used kosher salt I had in the house)

Directions

Rinse the hot peppers under cold running water; drain. Remove the stems and blossom ends from the peppers. Cut the peppers into 1-inch pieces. Place the peppers in a large bowl.

Combine the vinegar, water, and garlic in a large stainless-steel or enameled saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove heat to a simmer; simmer 5 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic.

Pack the hot peppers into a hot jar, leaving ½-inch headspace. Ladle the hot liquid over the peppers, leaving ½-inch headspace. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt to jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the jar rim. Center the lid on the jar. Apply the band, and adjust to finger-tip tight. Place the jar in the boiling water. Repeat until all the jars are filled.

Process the jars 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat; remove the lid, and let the jars stand 5 minutes. Remove the jars and cool.

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Home on the Range

According to the Internet and her book jacket, Shannon Stonger and her husband have five children, various farm animals and live off the grid on their five-acre homestead in Texas. I want that to sink in for just a second. This woman has five children and somehow managed to write a cookbook. A good one, I might add.

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I have two little girls and live very much on the grid, and I can barely get up three paragraphs once a week on this blog. How she found the time to sit and write a book is blowing my mind right now.

When her book Traditionally Fermented Foods arrived in the mail in late May, I honed in on the kimchi, or, as she puts it, “Homestead ‘Chi”. Most everything I needed for it was in the CSA: cabbage, turnips, and green onions. All that was left to add was garlic, spice, and time, and I’d eventually have kimchi.

And, oh, how I tended to my kimchi. For the first week I had to “burp” the built-up gases nightly, by quickly opening and shutting the cap. It gave the most satisfying little exhale. Of course, this was pre-snake, back when I would go down to the basement.

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The ‘chi rested for about a month and a half in two large jars at the bottom of the stairs. I’d fashioned the fermentation weights with stones I found outside and wrapped in cheesecloth. I know they sell special weights in kitchen stores, but I encourage you to improvise as well.

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And while your kimchi ferments, there’s much, much more in the book to try.  A sourdough section, kombucha, and a dairy section with kefir and sour cream.

We’ve stirred our kimchi into leftover brown rice and topped it with a scallion salad and fried egg for a meal.  I tucked some of it into a grilled cheese sandwich on Sunday night and it was PHENOMENAL. It’s become a go-to condiment in our house, right next to the ketchup, mustard and sriracha.

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To prep the jars, wash them in very hot soapy water. Do not dry the washed bottles or jars, but put them upright on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and put in the oven. Turn on the heat to 350F and once the oven has reached this temperature, leave the bottles or jars in the oven for 20 minutes to ensure they are completely sterilized. Wear protective oven mitts when handling hot bottles and jars.

Homestead ‘Chi from Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stonger

Ingredients

2 medium heads green cabbage

2 large (softball-size) turnips, grated

12 green onions, chopped roughly

8 large garlic cloves, minced

3-4 tbsp (45-60 g) salt (4 tbsp [60g] only if temperatures exceed 80F (27C])

3 tbsp (22g) ground sweet paprika

1-2 tbsp (2-4g) red pepper flakes or 1/4 -1/2 cup (43-85) diced hot peppers

Directions

Shred the cabbage thinly using a knife and cutting board or mandolin. Add the cabbage and all remaining ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Mix well with hands to combine. Pound the cabbage with a mallet or potato masher to release the juices. Alternatively, allow to sit, covered for 1 hour to allow the juices to be released.

Pack kimchi tightly in a half-gallon (2-L)-size jar or 2 quart (1-L)-size jars, leaving at least 2 inches (50mm) of headspace. Add the fermentation weight of your choosing. Check that the brine is above the level of the fermentation weight. If not, mix 1 cup (236ml) of water with 1 ½ teaspoons (8g) of salt and pour this brine into the jar until the fermentation weight is completely covered.

Place at cool room temperature (60 to 80F [16 to 27C], optimally) and allow to ferment for at least three weeks. If you haven’t used an airlock, then during this period, especially during the first 5 to 7 days, you will need to burp the jars by quickly opening them to release the built-up gases that result from the fermentation. To do so, carefully and quickly open the jar, listen for the release of gas and close jar back up with just a bit of the gases still remaining inside.

This ferment pairs wonderfully with eggs, beans and salads, and makes a delicious spread when mixed with soft cheese.

 

 

 

Blueberries for gals

It was only after we’d returned from our annual trip to Maine for the Fourth of July that the berries out back really started to ripen. Now, every day after work and camp, the girls and I head out back. Bea is still a little too young to only pick the ripe berries, but Lilli gets it. In bowls, Tupperware, and sometimes in the folds of our dresses, we collect the day’s berries.

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There’s another Maine connection to this post, in that I’d been waiting for ripe blueberries to make this recipe from The Lost Kitchen cookbook. The Lost Kitchen is this restaurant in Freedom, Maine, that opens up its doors to reservations only a few months a year. The chef is Erin French, and she forages her ingredients, and sources things directly from the farmers and fishermen. She’s considered a true visionary when it comes to farm to table, or, in some cases, ocean to table.

And this cookbook, oh my, this cookbook. We started the book in the spring with the macerated shallot vinaigrette (shallot, rice wine vinegar, olive oil and a couple twists of pepper) drizzled over asparagus from the front yard. I made the rest of my colleague’s yard rhubarb into compote, which I then baked into a rhubarb spoon cake. And the parsnip needhams were a smash hit at Bea’s birthday party.

But really I was just working my way up to this recipe: Fresh Blueberries with Basil Custard Cream. And yes, this recipe truly is seasonal: The basil started coming in the farm share last week, right on time to be paired with the ripe blueberries out back. And yes, the recipe is as astoundingly delicious and delightful as it sounds.

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First you steep the basil in warmed heavy cream, milk and sugar for 20 minutes. Then you make a custard with four egg yolks and chill it. If you’re anything like us, while that’s all steeping and chilling, you use the leftover egg whites to make meringues. I’m including a bonus recipe after the main one so you’ll have something to do with your four egg whites. Rich broke up his meringues into the custard and had himself an Eton Mess. I personally preferred the recipe as written, but still thought it was a great idea.

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Eton Mess or not, this recipe is a stunner. In the next day or two I’m going to take some more of our berries and make Summer Berries with Ginger-Cream Shortcakes. It is worth noting that because this book is set on the coastal shores of Maine there’s a ton of shellfish in the book. Not my thing, but if it is yours, you’ll love the book even more than I do, and that’s saying a lot.

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Fresh Blueberries with Basil Custard Cream from The Lost Kitchen by Erin French

Ingredients

1 cup whole milk

3 cups heavy cream

¼ cup sugar

1 cup basil leaves, plus more for garnish

4 large egg yolks

1 pint blueberries

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, 1 cup of the cream, and the sugar. Bring to a slow boil over low heat, just to let the sugar dissolve. Remove from the heat.

Tear the basil leaves and add them to the hot mixture. Let steep for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl. Slowly pour the cream mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly until well incorporated. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly but does not boil. Strain it through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the basil and any curdled egg bits. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill completely.

Whip the remaining 2 cups to stiff peaks. Fold in the custard and serve in bowls with the blueberries, garnishing with basil leaves.

Meringue Clouds from flour by Joanne Chang

We skipped the almonds and halved this recipe with perfect results. I prefer a chewy meringue, so ours were done at the 3 hour mark. I have read about some meringue bakers who set their cookies in the oven at night and open the oven door the next morning. It’s entirely your preference.

Ingredients

8 egg whites

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

1 cup (140 grams) confectioners’ sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (100 grams) sliced almonds, toasted

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 175 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft peaks form. (This step will take 6 to 8 minutes if using a handheld mixer.) The whites will start to froth and disappear. Keep whipping until you can see the tines of the whip leaving a sight trail in the whites. To test for the soft-peak stage, stop the mixer and lift the whip out of the whites, the whites should peak and then droop.

On medium speed, add the granulated sugar in three equal additions, mixing for 1 minute after each addition. When all of the granulated sugar has been incorporated into the egg whites, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for about 30 seconds longer.

In a small bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold the confectioners’ sugar mixture into the beaten egg whites. Then, fold in the almonds, reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish.

Use large spoon to make baseball-size billowing mounds of meringue on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2 to 3 inches apart. You should have 8 mounds. Sprinkle the reserved almonds evenly on top of the meringues.

Bake for about 3 hours, or until the meringues are firm to the touch and you can remove them easily from the baking sheet without them falling apart. For meringues with a soft, chewy center, remove them from the oven at this point and let them cool. For fully crisped meringues, turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the closed oven for at least 6 hours or up to 12 hours.

The meringues can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.