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Preserving Know-how

Preserving Know-how/ Winter

Preserving Lemons

Preserving Lemons

January always makes me think about citrus. It is the time of year when we find Clementines, Meyer lemons, Seville oranges, blood oranges and fruits from Florida. The colours, aromas and tastes of citrus brighten up cold winter days. This month I will focus on citrus beginning with Preserved Lemons.

Preserved lemons are central to North African cuisines. They add a bright, salty, tang to Moroccan tagines, roast chicken, pasta, labneh, salads, grain bowls, vinaigrettes and sauces. Technically speaking, preserved lemons are fermented in a brine created with salt and lemon juice. It takes about a month for the lemon rinds to soften to a desirable texture through the fermentation process. Once this is achieved, the lemons will last in the fridge for up to a year. Although it is possible to use the entire preserved lemon, it is more typical to use only the rind, thinly sliced or minced.

Any well-scrubbed lemon is fine to use, but I prefer Meyer lemons that have a thin skin and a gentle flavour. Some older recipes use far too much salt, but updated recipes have addressed this issue achieving the right ratio of salt to acid. I like the recipe from “The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving”.

After thoroughly washing 8 to 10 lemons, place each with stem-side down on a cutting board. Cut through almost to the bottom making an X pattern. Open the lemon like a flower and massage in 1 tsp.(5ml) of pickling salt. Close the lemon and put into a 1 litre jar pressing down to release juices. Repeat with lemons packing tightly into the jar leaving a 1 inch headspace. Squeeze juice from remaining lemons and pour into jar to cover the lemons. They must be kept submerged to keep them safe so add additional lemon juice as needed. Cover the jar with plastic wrap and screw on lids and rings. Leave on the counter for 3 days to kick-start the fermentation process. Then move to the fridge.

Let your imagination run wild with applications of the preserved lemons to your cooking. Whether adding to soups, sauces, vegetables, meats, grains or pressed yogurt, it will brighten the dish in taste and appearance. Preserving lemons is a simple, quick way to capture the sun in a jar during the winter months.

For information: preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

 

Preserving Know-how/ Summer

Get Pickling

I may not be Peter Piper, but I certainly have more than one peck of pickled peppers in my pantry. Well, pickled peppers, garlic scapes, asparagus, cucumbers, beans, carrots, beets and mixed garden vegetables. Let’s just say I love pickles! While summer’s bounty continues, it’s the perfect time to pickle.

The easy place to start is by making quick refrigerator pickles. Any vegetable will do or a mix of colourful vegetables from the garden. Add garlic, jalapeno, dill, thyme, coriander seeds or any combination of flavours you like. Place in a sterilized jar and cover with a brine as per recipe instructions. Refrigerate for at least 4 days and then taste. They will keep for 3 months. Easy and delicious.

Dip your toe into the world of fermentation by making half sour fermented dill pickles. Let the lactobacillis bacteria do the preservation work for you. You don’t need special equipment to make a 1 litre of fermented dills. It is only a matter of preparing the pickling cucumbers, placing in the mason jar, adding herbs and spices and then pouring in a brine and ensuring the cucumbers stay below the brine. The fermenting period can be between 4 to 7 days. Refrigerate to halt the fermentation process and enjoy for months ahead. An authentic deli-style pickle.

Pickling vegetables (even fruits) for long-term storage requires that they be water-bath processed. Always use a modern, tested recipe and never adjust the vinegar to water ratio. Any vinegar (white, apple cider, balsamic, sherry) can be used as long as it is at least 5% acid. Pickling salt should be used or pure sea salt but avoid all salts with chemicals (table salt) or anti-caking agents. Even some Kosher salts have anti-caking agents. If you are using a commercial pickling spice, hands down, the best is from the Bulk Barn. There spice blend is richly complex and aromatic unlike the usual brands available in grocery stores.

There has long been debate about how best to make pickles crispier. In days gone by, grape leaves were added to each jar. Alum was also a commonly used addition. The commercial brand “Pickle Crisp” is also an option. The truth is there are three ways to make pickled cucumbers crispier. First, use the freshest pickling cucumbers available. Second, trim the blossom ends off by 1/16 inch to remove the enzyme that causes cucumbers to soften. And, third, brine the cucumbers in salted cold water for at least 4 hours. Home processed pickles will be softer by nature but that’s okay with me!

Whether you’re doing a quick refrigerator pickle, a fermented pickle or a water-bath pickle, you’ll be making the most of fresh summer produce. Add the pickles to a charcuterie board, sandwich, burger and as a snack or condiment tray. Pickles are wonderful in every season.

For recipes and resources contact:

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Salsa

Fall/ Preserving Know-how

Apples, Apples, Apples!

Apples and Thanksgiving simply go together. For many people, apple picking is a family tradition and the bounty is so beautiful in all its red, gold and green colours. A pie or crisp in the oven, apple sauce on the stove or cider simmering fills the house with an aroma of sweetness and spice, contrasting by the crisp outdoor temperatures. There’s nothing like returning home from a Fall hike to the smell of apples cooking in the kitchen.

One of the most efficient ways to preserve apples is by making apple jelly. The reason is because nothing goes to waste. The pulp from the juice extraction process can be transformed into apple sauce or used as the basis of fruit leather. Very efficient!

As with any jelly making process, the apples are cooked with water until softened. If you are using organic apples or have treated the apples with a baking soda bath to remove pesticide residue, there is no reason to peel or even core the apples. Just chop and throw them into a large pot with enough water to prevent sticking. You can add a cinnamon stick, star anise and/or nutmeg, cloves or allspice. Cook about 20 minutes until soft. Remove whole spices and pour the mixture into a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth lined sieve. Let it drip without squeezing for at least two hours. The extracted juice can be used right away or filtered again through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove any sediment. Apples are high in pectin, so it is quite easy to make jelly without the addition of commercial pectin. But if using commercial pectin, I prefer the liquid pectin for jellies. No time to extract the juice? Use filtered apple cider with or without added spices.

The residual pulp should be put through a food mill to remove skins, cores and seeds. This pulp is apple sauce which can be frozen, canned or put into a dehydrator at 125 for 10 to 12 hours to produce apple leather. A couple of tips: If you are canning the apple sauce, it needs to be acidified with lemon juice (see Bernardin or Ball recipes) and it may be sweetened if desired with white or brown sugar or honey. Pure, unsweetened apple leather will please children and adults alike. But if you wish to sweeten it, corn syrup is better than sugar which will eventually crystalize. So simple to create three recipes from 6 lbs of apples!

Why not try some spiced apple jelly with your Turkey or an apple sauce tart topped with sliced apples and a glaze made from melted apple jelly. Really, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy our wonderful apple season.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Preserving Know-how/ Winter

Kimchi Making

Kimchi

Last week I facilitated a Zoom workshop for Agriculture Grey-Bruce on fermentation. I chose a focus on Kimchi because it’s so popular and is easy to make. Kimchi is a Korean fermented pickle that is primarily made with cabbage but not always. It’s said that there are as many Kimchi recipes as there are families in Korea. After fermenting, Kimchi has a salty-tangy taste with a touch of heat and slight miso finish.

In a recent issue of Cooks Illustrated, several stages of Kimchi fermentation were explained from an unfermented crisp salad-like Kimchi (Geotjeori) to the Kimchi we are used to with a short fermentation, to one more intense called Shin Kimchi used for cooking, to finally one that is very pungent after a 6 month fermentation. In Korea, Kimchi is eaten with almost every meal. It is a great accompaniment to rice bowls, fried rice, vegetables, meats or eggs.

Pictured here is Baechu (cabbage) Kimchi using a 2 lb Nappa cabbage with julienne of carrots and leeks. You can add onions, radishes, Asian pears if you like. I cut the cabbage into 2 inch strips but Koreans often leave the cabbage in large quarters or sixths. The cabbage and vegetables are massaged with 2.5 tsp of pickling salt (or sea salt). The salt extracts juices from the vegetables. Let rest for 2 hours. Add 3 TBSP fish sauce and/or ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce (your choice). Two TBSP of grated ginger is a must and Kimchi always has garlic. I used one large clove but I read recipes that had as many as 22! The unique flavour of Kimchi comes from ½ cup Korean chili flakes or powder (Gochugaru). There really isn’t a substitute so order online or find it in a local Asian market. Use gloves to mix in additions to prevent chili burn. Once mixed, push cabbage into a crock or 1 litre Mason jar. Press down very firmly to remove air. The juices will rise above the cabbage which is what you want. Place a cabbage leaf on top or parchment as a barrier and weigh down the cabbage. It must stay below the brine to be safe. I have used a weight and silicone top from Lee Valley, the latter allowing for the release of carbon dioxide as fermentation happens. You can also use a 4 oz mason jar filled with water or double freezer bags, one filled with water. Top with cheese cloth, cotton or a fermentation lid with air release. Check daily. Skim if necessary. In about 9 – 11 days the fermentation should be complete. At this point you can move the jar to the fridge to halt fermentation. Serve as you wish.

Enjoy Kimchi and other fermented foods. For information: preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Kimchi

Baechu (cabbage) Kimchi

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Serves: 6
Cooking Time: 1 hour

Pictured here is Baechu (cabbage) Kimchi

Ingredients

  • 2 lb Nappa cabbage with julienne of carrots and leeks.
  • Onions, radishes, Asian pear
  • Pickling Salt or Sea Salt
  • 3 tbsp Fish Sauce and/or 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsps Grated Ginger
  • One large clove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup Korean Chili Flakes or Powder(Gochugaru)

Instructions

1

Using a 2 lb Nappa cabbage with julienne of carrots and leeks. You can add onions, radishes, Asian pears if you like. I cut the cabbage into 2 inch strips but Koreans often leave the cabbage in large quarters or sixths. The cabbage and vegetables are massaged with 2.5 tsp of pickling salt (or sea salt). The salt extracts juices from the vegetables. Let rest for 2 hours. Add 3 TBSP fish sauce and/or ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce (your choice). Two TBSP of grated ginger is a must and Kimchi always has garlic. I used one large clove but I read recipes that had as many as 22! The unique flavour of Kimchi comes from ½ cup Korean chili flakes or powder (Gochugaru). There really isn’t a substitute so order online or find it in a local Asian market. Use gloves to mix in additions to prevent chili burn. Once mixed, push cabbage into a crock or 1 litre Mason jar. Press down very firmly to remove air. The juices will rise above the cabbage which is what you want. Place a cabbage leaf on top or parchment as a barrier and weigh down the cabbage. It must stay below the brine to be safe. I have used a weight and silicone top from Lee Valley, the latter allowing for the release of carbon dioxide as fermentation happens. You can also use a 4 oz mason jar filled with water or double freezer bags, one filled with water. Top with cheese cloth, cotton or a fermentation lid with air release. Check daily. Skim if necessary. In about 9 – 11 days the fermentation should be complete. At this point you can move the jar to the fridge to halt fermentation. Serve as you wish.

Preserving Know-how

Butter Me Up!

You may be wondering what butter making has to do with preserving? Well, I’m hoping to inspire you to try making it at home using the secret method of great butter. Fermentation!

For years, I have been on a mission to make good butter; something you might get in a small French café in Normandy. Maybe the dream was grandiose but still, I wanted to try. I read recipes, searched out non-homogenized herds, and bought expensive high butter fat cream. I made several batches. The results? Expensive and just okay.

Not long ago, I was reading “Cooks Illustrated” and saw a recipe for butter. I was shocked it called for pasteurized store-bought heavy cream (35%) (not ultra-filtered)! But I was intrigued by the recommended method. This recipe called for an initial period for fermentation (live culturing) before making the butter. Giving this process time to do its wonderful thing turned ho-hum butter into something really delicious.

In this recipe, stir 2 TBSP of buttermilk into 2 litres of heavy cream. Cover and rest on the counter for several days until the cream takes on a consistency of sour cream. This took 3 days, but ambient temperature will affect the timing. Using a stand mixer, food processor or even a hand mixer, whip the cream starting slowly and increasing speed. Warning: Cover the mixer or processor with plastic wrap because once the cream separates it sprays up like a volcano! Whip the cream for several minutes until the butter looks like butter surrounded by a milky liquid or “buttermilk”. Strain this off and use it for baking. It can be frozen. Fill a big bowl with ice and water and wash the butter to remove rancid causing milk solids. Dry off the butter and knead in ¼ tsp salt (optional). Voila! You have butter. I divided it into approximately ½ cup sticks, wrapped each in wax paper, put it in a freezer bag and popped it in the freezer.

Fermenting the cream for several days resulted in the best butter I’ve made. Okay, it’s not Normandy butter where the cows graze on grass kissed by the salt of the Atlantic, but this is darn good butter!

For information: preservingwithmartha@gmail.com