Browsing Category

Summer

Preserving Recipes/ Summer

Get Pickling

It is the wonderful time of year for pickling. The gardens and markets are bursting with fresh vegetables and fruits. And pickling enables us to enjoy local, healthy produce all year round. There are several approaches to pickling such as refrigerator pickles for short-term use, fresh pack quick process pickles for long-term storage, and fermented or brined pickles. What these methods have in common is that they use a brine and pickling solution to control acidity which is necessary for safe preserving. Pickles, relishes, salsas, chutneys and even pickled fruit add tang to any meal.

Fresh Pack Quick Process Pickles

This method is easy to do and involves covering vegetables or fruit with a boiling solution of vinegar, spices, seasoning and sometimes sugar and water. This is called the pickling solution. Many recipes call for the vegetables to be brined in a salt and water bath for several hours before they are pickled. The purpose of the brining is to extract water from the vegetables so that they will later absorb the pickling solution more readily and it also creates a crisper product.

Fermented Pickles

In this method, vegetables are submerged in a salt-water brine for one to several weeks. The brine controls bacteria, preventing the growth of spoilage bacteria while allowing the growth of lactobacillus bacteria which produces lactic acid. Weights are necessary to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine to prevent the growth of molds and yeast.

Pickling requires specific amount of salt and vinegar to create a safe canning environment. Don’t be tempted to cut back on salt. It is a functional element of pickling. The salt bonds with water reducing microbial growth. Only use pickling salt or salt that is free from added iodine or anti-caking products. Because pickling controls acidity, it is important to use vinegar that is at least 5% acetic acid. To maintain the proper level of acidity you can’t just add extra vegetables (which are alkaline) to a recipe as this creates a potentially unsafe canning environment. So, stick to a tested recipe that specifies the correct amount of salt and acid for vegetables or fruit.

I have been expanding my pickling this year. Salsa, relish, chili sauce, dill and bread & butter pickles, mustard pickles, pickled asparagus, carrots, beans, beets, and wonderful mixed pickle blends using cauliflower, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet and hot peppers, carrots and spices to create a beautiful salad in a jar. Coming up? Spiced pickled crab apples!

I know many of you are keen picklers. If you haven’t done much in the way of pickling, give it a shot. There is nothing nicer than opening a jar of vegetable or fruit pickles to accompany lunch or super or just as a snack. Even for breakfast! Scrambled eggs and chili sauce!

For information: preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Preserving Recipes/ Summer

Zucchini Yummies

Zucchini Balls

Zucchini are beginning their summer bounty. Even people with just one plant are always on the lookout for different ways to use this vegetable. Snuck into sweet breads or marmalade; substituted for cucumbers in relish, dills or bread & butter pickles; dehydrated for use in winter soups; or blossoms stuffed with a savoury meat filling. The uses of zucchini are endless.

Here is a super simple, versatile recipe for baked zucchini balls. Great as an appetizer or as a substitute for meatballs in any recipe. They also freeze well. In the photo, I served them with a garlic scape pesto.

For information: preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Zucchini Balls

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of grated zucchini, seeds removed and well drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs (I use gluten free panko)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 4 TBSP finely chopped herbs (if using dried herbs, 4 tsp)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Instructions

1

Set oven at 400. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

2

Wash zucchini. Remove seeds. Grate zucchini on a box grater.

3

Salt the zucchini and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then squeeze it firmly until all liquid is removed. Roll it in a paper towel to remove final liquid residue.

4

In a medium bowl, stir eggs, herbs and cheese. Add zucchini and breadcrumbs. Mix.

5

Roll into 1.5-inch balls and bake for 20 minutes until brown. Serve hot or at room temperature. Freeze leftovers once cool.

6

Customize the recipe: Go Greek and use feta cheese and oregano and serve with tzatziki; go French and use Gruyere cheese and serve with a tarragon-Dijon mayo; go Italian and use mozzarella and basil and serve with roasted tomato sauce; or go vegan and remove cheese all together.

7

Because of high moisture content zucchini and cousins summer squash don’t freeze or pressure can very well. Think mush! But they are wonderful pickled, barbecued, or used fresh in baked goods, soup or appetizers.

 

 

Preserving Recipes/ Summer

Flavoured Vinegars

Flavoured Vinegar

Add a sparkle to your vinaigrette. Create beautiful, unique gifts. Decorate using bottles filled with colourful flavoured vinegars. Featured here are two vinegars I recently made, one with chive blossoms and the other with tarragon. Herbs, spices, and fruit can be added to any vinegar if it is at least 5% acidity. Knowing how to properly make these vinegars will ensure a safe product without yeast causing cloudiness.

Vinegar is one of the very few foods that has played remarkable roles in cooking, medicine, food preservation and cleaning! Incredibly, its history dates back to 5000 BCE. Today we enjoy many varieties of vinegars which can be elevated to exquisite levels with the addition of fruit, herbs, and spices. Give it a try!

For information: preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Flavoured Vinegar

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Ingredients

  • For each 500 ml of vinegar, use:
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh, washed, and sanitized herbs
  • 3 TBSP dried herbs
  • 1 to 2 cups fruit, frozen is great
  • Rind of one orange or lemon
  • Other additions may include peeled garlic, peppercorns, jalapeno peppers, spices such as cinnamon or star anise.

Instructions

1

Choose Your Combo

2

Select the type of vinegar you want to work with and the herbs, spice, and fruit. Milder vinegars such as wine or champagne are best suited for tender herbs. Cider vinegar goes well with fruit. White vinegar is sharp but is suitable for stronger herbs and spices.

3

Sterilize & Sanitize

4

Sterilize canning jars by boiling them for 10 minutes. Keep them warm until you are ready to pour in vinegar that has been heated to just below boiling point. For fresh herbs, wash carefully. Then sanitize the sprigs in a solution of 1 tsp bleach and 6 cups water. Rinse thoroughly and dry. This step is important to prevent bacteria & yeast formation. Pour vinegar over herbs, spice, or fruit. Put sterilized lids on and move the jars to a cool, dark location.

5

Percolate & Decant

6

Let the infusion rest a minimum of 10 days but full flavourings will happen in about 3 weeks.  After this resting period, strain the vinegar through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Sterilize jars for final bottling. Pour heated vinegar into jars. If desired, add a sprig of clean, sanitized herbs, fruit, or spices. Apply a tightly fitting lid. Date and label the jars.

7

Flavoured vinegars are best used within 3 months. Fruit vinegars can discolour after that time. Refrigeration will extend the quality to up to 8 months according to the University of Georgia.

8

A couple of caveats: Use only commercial vinegars for this purpose. Also note that flavoured vinegars can be safely made at home, but flavoured oils cannot. Flavoured oils pose a botulism risk so stick with flavouring vinegars for home use and for gifts.

 

 

Summer

Currants in Abundance

I am lucky to know someone who has several currant bushes and is eager to have them picked and used. Red, white, and black currants, so plentiful, I couldn’t possibly use them all. With gratitude, I ventured down the path of learning about and preserving these stunning little fruits.

Currants were cultivated in Scandinavia centuries ago and were domesticated in Europe during the mid 1500s. The term “currant” was used because of the fruit’s resemblance to dried currants from Greece made from small seedless grapes. Currants are anti-oxidants and are Vitamin C powerhouses. Black currants provide 338 % of daily Vitamin C requirements. During WWII, the extreme shortage of citrus fruit in England prompted Winston Churchill to encourage people to grow black currants to stave off scurvy!

Currants are excellent as jams and jellies. They are exceptionally high in pectin and acid which make them perfect for jams and jellies. Black currants are the base of the liqueur called “Cassis” which can be made at home. Black and white currants can be added to a fruit salad or baked goods, but red currants are too tart to be eaten raw. Still, red currants have a long history of being used as a jelly, sometimes solo or sometimes mixed with port, citrus, and mustard (Olde English Cumberland Sauce) and used with game or other rich meats. All currants can be frozen or dehydrated.

If you are making jams and jellies, there are a few helpful tips. Unlike black and white currants, red currants are tarter and have large seeds which generally should be removed using a food mill. I made a jam of black and red currants without seeding the red ones and it worked out nicely because of the balance between red and black. But I also made a raspberry-red currant jam where I cooked the red currants first and passed them through the food mill creating a puree. It’s really a matter of personal taste. Because currants are so high in pectin, do not be tempted to add commercial pectin. A nasty hard mass will result! Remember also, currant jams and jellies will continue to firm-up for 24 hours after they are removed from the canner.

There are many recipes from reputable sources, but for a flexible batch format, I like the recommendation from chef David Lobovitz who suggests a 1 to 1 ratio of currant puree to sugar. Once the mixture comes to a full rolling boil, boil hard for about 8 minutes. Check the gel point. If desired, add a teaspoon or two of Cassis or Kirsch. For long-term storage, process in a water bath or steam canner for 10 minutes. Rest for five minutes and remove to allow the jars to rest undisturbed for 24 hours.

For more information:

Preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

For information: preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

 

 

 

Preserving Recipes/ Summer

All Around the Mulberry Bush

I recently stumbled upon a grand, sprawling and very ancient mulberry tree. Although most mulberries have a short life span, it’s reported that there are specimens 250 years old! White, red, and black mulberry bushes and trees originated in China and India thousands of years ago and were domesticated around the world thereafter. Some cultivation was specifically done to feed silkworms that enjoyed the leaves. Today, wild, and domestic mulberries abound. I think of them as an old-fashioned fruit often made into pies, jams, jellies, juices, wine, and ice cream.

Mulberries are rich in Vitamin C and are therefore considered to be a “power food” with high anti-oxidant capabilities. They have low acidity and are low in pectin, both of which inform food preservation practice. This means that jams and jellies will require acidification and a generous addition of pectin. You can dehydrate, freeze, can whole in water, syrup, or juice, or make jams & jellies. Jelly might be preferred because just like raspberries, mulberries also have a lot of little seeds that aren’t pleasant.

The National Centre for Home Food Preservation provides recipes using both powered and liquid pectin. There are many online stories about failed sets with mulberries, so I suggest you use this recipe if you’re lucky enough to have mulberries in your backyard.

“Round and round the mulberry bush” is an old English nursery rhyme familiar to many of us. Though we would not find many monkeys chasing weasels these days, we are still fortunate to find mulberry trees and bushes providing us with beautiful fruit for preserving.

For information: preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Mulberry Jelly (yield is 8 cups)

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Ingredients

  • 3 cups mulberry juice (extracted from 3 pounds of berries, cleaned, and trimmed)
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 2 pouches liquid pectin

Instructions

1

Put cleaned mulberries in a large pan, crush them until juices are released. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Put into a dampened  jelly bag or cheesecloth lined sieve and drain off the juices. Measure 3 cups.

2

Add juice, sugar and lemon juice to the pot and bring to a full rolling boil (the boil cannot be beaten down). Add the full packets of liquid pectin. Bring back to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour into clean, hot jars. Clean rims of jars. Affix lids and rings to ‘finger-tip tight’.

3

Place jars in a boiling water bath canner or steam canner and process for 10 minutes adjusting for altitude. Let rest 5 minutes. Remove to a heat-proof surface and let stand for 24 hours. Check seals, label, and store for up to 2 years.

 

 

Summer

Gooseberries

Gooseberries

I am most grateful to a reader of my regular column “Worth Preserving” in the Dundalk Harold and Flesherton Advance who got in touch with me about her over-abundance of gooseberries (thank you Jean). She generously offered 10 pounds and off I started on a gooseberry journey.

I first read a reputable source saying the gooseberries are so named because they were often served with (you guessed it) goose! According to British Food: A History, this isn’t the case. Although true that gooseberries pair well with goose and other poultry, the name comes from Old Norman/Middle English words “grosse, grosier” or, in French “groiselle” which means red currant. Yes, the gooseberry is a relative of currants. They are all part of the ribes genus of which there are 150 different species. Gooseberries date back to 15th century in England when there were growing registries and gooseberry clubs by the hundreds.

The gooseberry has a long history in part because it was a relatively easy bush to grow, provided early fruits, and was plentiful. What generations before didn’t know was how good gooseberries are for health. They are very high in Vit C, are antioxidants, are rich in fibre. They are associated with heart health, brain health, stabilizing blood sugar levels and immune system function. Not too shabby on the health front.

Gooseberries are a little finicky to work with. They need to have the tops and tails removed which is time-consuming to be sure. I decided I could cope with some “tops and tailing” but not for the whole 10 pounds.  I first chose a Bernardin recipe for Gooseberry Conserve that mixes gooseberries with orange and golden raisins, it’s a lovely combination of flavours that could be used for an accompaniment to meats, poultry or even a spice cake or ice cream. And then I turned my attention to gooseberry jelly using a recipe from “So Easy to Preserve” that is the recipe book from the University of Georgia, home of the National Centre for Home Food Preservation in the US. The jelly turned out to be a most gorgeous pink. Still with an edge of sweet/sour, I can see this jelly as an accompaniment to poultry or as a glaze on meats. If you like the little bit of tartness, the jelly would also be great for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Generous gifts lead to new learnings and experimentation. Sometimes nature’s bounty is in our backyard ready to share, to teach us about history and health, and to contribute to our winter pantry.

Get in touch:

Preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

martha@thevalleypreservery.ca

Summer

Shrubs and Switchels

In a recent post, I mentioned making rhubarb juice as a lovely old-fashioned summer drink. Trust me, I’ve been making a lot of it. Sweetened, lightly sweetened, unsweetened, and combined with strawberry juice. All this juice making got me investigating other old-fashioned summer drinks like shrubs and switchels. They are examples of extremely healthy, vinegar-based food preservation methods from days gone by and they are making a come-back!

 

Since it is haying season, let’s start with the switchel also called the “haymakers punch”. A switchel is a sweetened drinking vinegar often infused with ginger that can be made with or without alcohol. It is sometimes referred to as the original home brew or somewhat akin to ginger ale. A jug of switchel would go with those who were haying and was also a popular tavern or university student drink in the 17th and 18th century. The original blends included water, molasses, ginger (and rum or brandy). For those labouring under the hot summer sun, the switchel quenched thirst and provided a good deal of potassium for electrolyte balance. Modern versions of the switchel include water, ginger and sweetener such as maple syrup, honey or simple syrup.

 

The shrub is also a drinking vinegar that is sweetened generally with fruits and sometimes herbs. Mixing fruit, sugar and vinegar was one way of preserving fruit into the colder months. A shrub is more like a syrup designed to be mixed with drink. They were used as medicinal cordials or added to drinks as you would a bitter. Now, shrubs are very popular additions to cocktails.

 

To make a shrub, a cold-pressed method is recommended meaning the fruit and sugar are mixed together and placed in a fridge for several hours or days depending on the fruit. This will allow the extraction of the juice. The juice is strained, and the vinegar is added. The bottled shrub can be refrigerated for 6 to 8 weeks. Michael Dietsch from “Serious Eats” suggests 1 cup berries, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup red wine vinegar (although any vinegar can be used). Once this shrub is made, it can be mixed with sparkling water or made into a cocktail such as a martini: One ounce each of the shrub, vodka and vermouth topped with sparkling water.

 

They say, “what goes around comes around” and that adage seems to hold true when it comes to old fashioned acidulated beverages like switchels and shrubs. The take-away is that nature provides us with wonderful fruits that can be preserved in many forms. Whether you are home canning fruit juices or trying your hand at a switchel or shrub, all forms of preserving are ways to embrace the past while guiding us toward a wholesome and self-reliant future.

Preserving Know-how/ Summer

Tomato Season Approaches

“You say tomata and I say tomato.” Whatever your pronunciation, we can all agree that tomatoes are beginning to ripen on the vine. For all you foodies, get ready to preserve these fruits to brighten any snowy winter day. Tomatoes are perfect for freezing, drying or canning.

Freezing: Tomatoes can be cored, blanched, peeled and frozen whole or in quarters. Or roast tomatoes, garlic drizzled with olive oil at 350 for an hour until edges are darkening. Put in blender or food processor with additional oil and a large bunch of basil. Process until smooth. Freeze in containers for excellent winter sauce.

Drying: Tomatoes can be dried in a dehydrator for later use on pizza or pasta. Tomato pulp can also be dried as fruit leather and eaten or added to soups & sauces.

Canning: Homemade tomato sauce, chili sauce, salsa or simple canned tomatoes are hands down the most useful winter preserves. It is important to understand that the pH of tomatoes is around 7.6. This is critically important in order to choose the correct, safe canning method. Today’s tomatoes are less acidic than they once were. In part this is due to hybridization and also changes to growing conditions. This means that all tomatoes that are processed in a water-bath canning situation must be acidified. Chili sauce and salsas have added vinegar enough to increase acidity to a safe level. It is also essential to add 1 TBSP of bottled lemon juice to each 500 ml jar of tomatoes or tomato sauce to ensure safety. This might not be what your grandmother did, but it is required today. If you want to make stewed tomatoes or create a tomato sauce with vegetables or meats, pressure canning is necessary in order to raise the processing temperature to 240 degrees.

Stock up the pantry with tomatoes for winter: Freeze them, dry them or can them. Follow a reputable modern recipe (see Bernardin, Ball or Centre for Home Food Preservation websites) and specified methods to ensure high quality, safe tomato products for the home pantry.

For information about recipes or workshops, contact Martha Rogers:

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