Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pickle Me This

So, this is going to be an almost picture-free post.  Why, you may ask (come on, I can hear you asking…..).  Well.  For a couple of reasons.  First, I again, really didn’t think the outcome was going to be worthy of a photographic extravaganz-o of the steps and preparation and mise en place that went with making these delightful little nummies.

More importantly (she says, looking sheepish and sort of embarrassed), I didn’t think I’d like the output enough to want to share them with all y’all.

Frankly, I was just looking for a reason to be able to throw away excess, rapidly decomposing produce without feeling guilty about it.

I figured…….I got teeeeeny-tiny green tomatoes off of my valiant plant that would a) never ripen and b) never grow large enough to bread and fry.  I *could* just toss them into the trash now, or….*FLASH OF BRILLIANCE*….I could pickle them and then throw them into the trash when I realize I hate the finished product.  Why, the latter is the obviously more attractive option !  No shame in tossing something that sucks, as opposed to tossing something that rots because you can’t figure out what the hell else to do with it.

Same deal-io with the zucchini.  I had a surfeit from The Growing Experience.  I stuffed ‘em, I roasted ‘em to toss into pasta, I grilled ‘em, I ate ‘em as crudités.  I was getting done with zucchini….(and I have another 2 giant specimens in my crisper as I type….zucchini fritters are up for later in the week….).  So for those zukes starting to get a little long gone on the Road To Slimy….let’s try a zucchini pickle and I can toss them with a clear conscience, since they will clearly suck because, well, homemade pickles are…..A Project.

Oh, and the radishes.  Bought ‘em.  Forgot about them.  In the pickle frenzy thought….ehhhhh, why not.  For the same reason.   To far gone to leave too much longer in the crisper.  Not fitting in the delightful may-new (thanks, Julia) plans for the week.  Why not…..PICKLE ‘em ?!?!?  So I can then toss them with no tsuris.

Well, why not ?  Hmmmmmm.  First up.  Pickling, as I said is a “PROJECT”.  Canning jars.  Jar lifters.  A huge, HUGE vat ‘o’ boiling water into which you which you drop those canning jars, and lids, and rings, and *gasp*…..sterilize them !  Now, I know enough about microbiology to know that I shouldn’t be messing around with this stuff.  After all, I never actually, technically, passed a college-level math class.  Add in the fact that you’re usually doing all this canning stuff in the dead of summer, when the humidity is 90-plus percent, and the temperatures are 100-plus degrees, and *I* have no air-conditioning, and well, that doesn’t sound like a good time in Cow-Town for me.

I’d much rather be sitting on the verandah sipping a tall, iced, cool, delightful adult beverage, fanning myself gently with a lace fan and charming the pants, errrrr, socks off of the Tarleton Twins……(raise your hand if you got the “Gone With The Wind” reference….).

But I digress…..

In short, I thought “pickling” was a major PITA.  Something best left to mega-Corporations, like Vlasic and Claussen and Heinz.  Or to farm wives in the Frozen North, where even the summers are chill and you don’t mind having several gallons of water at a rolling boil on your stove in August.

Pickling was something….difficult.  Vaguely scary.  And out of my reach and purview.  The concept of pickling scared me.  A lot.

It was close to…..*gasp/shudder*…..CANNING !

And then, there’s that pesky thing called botulism to worry about, after all.  A little dose of that added to your side dish could be seriously considered NOT good eats.

But those precious little green tomatoes, that my valiant plant, after all it struggled through, had given me, sat on my counter for a day or so, calling to me, and I just could NOT figure out what to do with them.  And I just could NOT bring myself to toss them.  And somewhere, in the dark, scary dregs of my so-called memory, I seemed to have a vision of a quick pickle.  Not one that would last through the long, dark, cold winter (yeah, I like I have those here, but you get the drift), but a “refrigerator” pickle that comes together quickly, sits in a brine for a bit, and then gets eaten post haste.  No need for scary science projects, no need for huge, open cauldrons of boiling water, no need for extra equipment.

Just some vinegar, some clean jars, some veggies, some spices and a bit of time.

And I thought…..I can do this.  And it turns out, I can.

So.  Next year, TWO tomato plants.  So I can have lots and lots of green tomatoes, as well as the ripe ones, for my beautiful fried greenies, and for a near-constant supply of pickled green tomatoes.  About the best thing I’ve put in my mouth in the past month or so.  And the zucchini pickles…..sublime !  Absolutely sublime.  As are the radish pickles.

Here they are, lined up in their little, pretty, clean jars.

Tomatoes on the left, radishes in the middle and Mr. Zucchini on the right.  Note that the jars had all been run through a dishwasher first.  That’s pretty much a sterilization cycle.  But to be sure I didn’t invite any furry nasties to the party (there are good bugs, and bad bugs.  Good bugs grow bread, and beer, and wine, bad bugs make you sick.  We don’t invite bad bugs….), I filled the jars up with boiling water and let it sit until I was ready to fill them.  Then I *carefully* dumped the hot water out, packed in the spices, herbs, flavorings and veggies, filled them with the hot brine, and sealed them.  Once cool (about an hour or two on the counter, sealed), into the fridge.  So far, they’ve all kept about two weeks, but I certainly keep an eye on them, and use my nose and common sense to make sure they’re OK before I nibble down on the pickley-tart goodness.  Just say no to slime, people.

But, trust me, they won’t last long enough to slime in your fridge.

Here’s the recipes.  Get yourself into a pickle.  If not now, then save them for next summer when the produce is high, and you can’t eat it all.  These kinds of “pickles” are not a bad place to find yourself !

Pickled Green Tomatoes
Yields – 1 quart jar

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1&1/4 cup distilled (or spring) water (or tap water if your tap water is good and doesn’t have any off flavors)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound firm green tomatoes
1/2 serrano chile, stemmed, or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes.
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 tablespoons dill seeds
1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

Choose tomatoes that are solidly green, with no trace of red or orange.  Thoroughly wash and cut into halves or quarters, depending upon the size.  If your tap water has a neutral taste, feel free to use it.  Otherwise, use bottled or spring water.  The pepper will not make the pickled tomatoes hot, but will give the mix a nice background depth and complexity.

Use a quart jar that has a good, sturdy seal.  Mason/Ball jars are great, with a new lid.  Fill the jar with boiling water, and submerge the lid and ring in boiling water as well.  If repurposing another type of jar, submerge the lid in boiling water, and fill the jar as above.

Prep the tomatoes, the chile and garlic cloves.  Make sure any bad or soft spots have been removed, along with the cores/stems, but leave the seeds in the chile.  Combine the water, vinegar and salt in a non-reactive saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and stir until the salt dissolves.  Keep on a low simmer.

Carefully dump the water from the jar, and add in the garlic, dill seeds, peppercorns and chile pepper.  Pack the prepped tomatoes into the jar, leaving about 1/2-3/4 inch head space at the top.  Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes and spices to within 1/4-inch of the top.  Wipe the jar top, put on the lid, and tighten the ring.  Let sit on the counter until cool to the touch, about an hour or two.  Age for at least two days in the refrigerator.  Will keep for up to two weeks.

Zucchini Pickles
Yields – 1 quart jar

3 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1&1/2 tablespoons fine-grain salt (sea salt is best, but at least non-iodized)
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs
1 small fresh red or green chile pepper, very thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
3/4 cups cider vinegar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar

Thoroughly wash and trim the zucchini.  Slice about 1/4-inch thick (a mandolin or V-slicer works great for this).  Toss the zucchini, onion and shallots together with the salt in a strainer or colander, and place over a bowl to catch the liquid.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.  Toss a couple of times during the draining process.  When drained thoroughly, shake and toss the vegetable mixture to release as much liquid as possible.  You want the veg as dry as you can get it, but no need to go to the extent of wringing in a towel.

Sterilize a clean jar by filling with boiling water and submerging the ring/lid in boiling water as well.  Combine the vinegars in a small saucepan with the sugar and bring to a boil.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and keep on a low simmer.  Carefully dump the hot water from the jar and put in the chile pepper, dill, garlic and mustard seed.  Pack with the drained zucchini/onion/shallot mixture.  Pour the hot brine over the veggies, cover, and let sit on the counter until cool.  Refrigerate for at least a day or two, will keep up to a week (or a bit longer).

Quick Pickled Radishes
Yield – 1 pint jar (about 2 servings)

1 bunch red radishes
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Wash radishes well.  Trim stem and roots, and cut radishes into wedges (I made them wayyyyyyyy too thin.  I’d do quarters of the radishes next time).

Combine the water, vinegar, honey and salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and stir to dissolve honey.  Keep at a low simmer.

Sterilize a clean jar by filling with boiling water, and submerging the lid/ring in boiling water.  Carefully dump the hot water and pack the jar with the prepped radishes.  Cover with the hot brine, seal, and let cool on the counter.  When cool, chill in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.  Will keep up to a week.  These are absolutely GREAT on tacos !

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad I ran across this! I'm very excited to have found a way to eat our green cherry & grape maters:) You're a fun writer, it was a pleasure to read through this!