Posts Tagged beets

Relishing radishes

I think the veggies I picked at the community garden were radishes rather than turnips — they had that radish bite. But they prove that you can ferment just about anything, and that it has to be my favorite foolproof preservation method of the moment. It was one of those serendipity moments. I thought I was picking greens for soup and salads. But I tugged a whole plant up by mistake, and there was this fat pink-white bulb at the end of it. Two meals from one plant! Awesome.

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But I digress. How was I going to handle a basket of radishes (or possibly turnips), in the knowledge that only one of the two of us is eating proper food right now (the spouse is relegated to munching mush after a long-awaited hospital adventure)?

Continuing the fermentation theme of the last couple of weeks, I tried two experiments — grated and chunked — with beets for color and ginger for an extra bite. The recipe? Well, there isn’t one really. Weigh the grated veggies and add about salt to make up 1.5 percent of their weight, and make up a 3 percent salt brine to pour over the chunks. Squish the veggies well down into the jar, adding brine to the jar with the chunks, weight the vegetables beneath the liquid with a smaller jar filled with water (or brine), cover with cheesecloth and wait. I threw a few slices of ginger in with the chunked veggies, and grated a very large chunk of ginger with the grated ones. The recipes say use filtered/bottled water, but I used regular Toronto tap water. It seemed to work last time.

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The two jars bubbled away happily on the countertop for about five warmish days, and the brine spilled over into the pie plate several times, forcing me to remove bulk or pour off brine. The taste? It’s a vinegary pickle with a radish/ginger bite, especially for the grated veggies. It’s almost Middle Eastern, and I’m rather proud of how well it worked. And both pickles are a beautiful, beautiful dark beet red.

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The bonus: the greens are delicious, like Asian salad greens with a spicy crunch. I ate them in salads, steamed with butter or olive oil, with omelet or scrambled eggs for an instant low-cal supper, and then in a spinach soup without the spinach.

This community garden stuff really is quite fun.

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Bubbling away

Canning buddy and I signed up for a pickling class last week, on the logic that we needed to broaden out beyond our jams and chutney comfort zone and try something new. We’ve done a few pickles — cukes and beets in particular — but there’s always stuff to learn.

We didn’t realize quite how new it was until we actually sat down for the start of the two hour lesson. Our pickles wouldn’t be regular vinegar pickles at all. We were using veggies, salt and air to ferment our food, in what teacher lady assured us was by far the safest method of preserving anything because the good bacteria slaughtered the bad.

I admit the whole thing was a bit of a shock to a system that’s been focusing frantically on sterilization, water baths and making sure no bugs come anywhere near our food, as my fellow classmates and I happily shredded a dozen cabbages and reshaped random veggies (beets, carrots, onions, garlic, turnips, ginger) into discs and wedges. You add salt (for cabbage) or brine (for veggies) and wait for the bubbles, the fermentation smell and the miraculous transformation.

If you look very, very carefully, you’ll see the little bubbles at the top, which shows the bacteria are happily doing their stuff as my jar of weighted down veggies sit on the kitchen counter.

The kraut was less happy, and (following another set of guidelines) I added a little brine today, which seemed to get it bubbling nicely as well. It smells pretty evil right now. I am told the good smell follows the bad one, so I am prepared to wait a bit, provided it doesn’t stink the kitchen out too much.

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I’ll report back in a couple of weeks, but would welcome feedback from anyone who has actually succeeded in this particular sort of alchemy.

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Cook the books: spoiled for choice

So after a hiccup in the last couple of months, I bonded with the Mile End Cookbook after a marathon session with canning supremo over at Eat locally, Blog globally. We’ve both been playing with the Cook The Books challenge this year, so we thought we might as well play this round together. We were going to make the challah, perhaps with a side order of cinnamon buns (my last two attempts at those were good but not perfection), but we just kept going.

We ended up with two beautiful challah, a slightly sweet, plaited egg bread with poppyseed coating, and perhaps the best cinammon buns in the world (could that be the 2 sticks of butter that went into the filling?), as well as a raft of pickles that might take months to get through.

The list went like this:

Challah: Light, chewy, slightly sweet, but perfect with a sharp goat cheese or even the pickles (see below). I wish they were a little darker, but maybe my oven doesn’t heat as hot as it ought to heat. So you get a before shot not an after one.

Cinnamon buns: The real deal. Sticky, sweet, slightly nutty, with two sorts of sugar, pecans, maple syrup as well as all that butter in the filling. Eat locally took half the batch, and the rest was gone before lunchtime the next day.

Beets: Cooked in the brine rather cooked and then brined. A little much allspice/clove, but I think they will mellow down nicely.

Red onions: Crunchy, sweet, acid, salty and almost not tasting of onions at all, in a very, very good way. Amazingly pretty pink half rings

Mushrooms: Similar recipe to last time, but I used all olive oil for the post brining oil bath. I suspect they will last even less time than the last batch, which was gone within a week, stirred into salads and enjoyed.

And then I made two batches of horseradish, one with beets and one without. Both already seem good at clearing the sinuses, and the taste is far better than the store bought stuff.

Anyone got recipes that use lots of horseradish, or stuff to eat it with?

As for the book, I liked the stuff we did, with clear, easy to follow instructions. But there’s a lot of stuff (smoked meat, brisket, pickled tongues, sauerkraut) that just take a lot of time, so I won’t prioritize those. But hey, it was fun.

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Some like ’em not

There are people out there who can’t stand beets, and people who love them. And then there are people like me, who love beets, but resent them for needing more than 12-1/2 minutes to cook. Once in a blue moon I buy beets, roast them with olive oil, salt and a little balsamic vinegar and really enjoy them. But usually I buy them, and let them languish in the fridge for weeks. Soft, wrinkled beets are only good for the compost.

So this week, inspired by four batches of increasingly successful modified bread and butter pickles, I tried a new (for me) experiment to transform two quarts of smallish beets into something that actually lasts.

The idea was simple: pickled beets. But I wasn’t  inspired by any of the recipes I found, which meant mixing and matching from a host of internet/recipe book ideas. I wanted something spicier and less sweet than most of the recipes I found, and I did want to water bath the finished product so I could be sure it would last. I added allspice, because it worked so well with the cucumbers, and crushed red pepper as well as black peppercorns because I wanted a bit of a kick. And I threw in a few sliced up cloves of garlic, because deep purple pickled garlic reminds me of Moscow, and because it was really good. The liquid was a mix of cider vinegar (half organic, half regular because that’s what was in the pantry), and the juice the beets cooked in. That should add a notch of flavor, no?

The recipe I followed more than the others says to let them mature at least 6-8 weeks before sampling the bounty, but I’m not sure I can wait that long.

Anyone got any experience on how long one really needs to wait?

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Oranges and lemons (and ginger and spring onions)

I’ve been lagging on  updating stuff again, but there were two real marmalade sessions since the Meyer lemon adventure back last month, along with another batch of preserved lemons and a few other odds and sods. The first session celebrated the arrival of Seville oranges in Toronto, and the second one was because one marmalade session clearly wasn’t going to cut it. Then we tried (and possibly failed) to recreate the sounds-nicer-than-it looks apricot date chutney from the New Jersey weekend and threw together a beet relish to give the food processor a workout.  I know I’ve posted about this one before, but I’m damned if I can find the link to post it here. And I have not got any pictures, because I have a new computer and have not managed to download the camera program yet.

But the real revelation in the latest cooking ventures was a ginger scallion sauce from one of those many canning/cooking blogs out there. It probably  probably took 10 minutes from start to finish, including the time it took to dig the food processor out of its hiding place. Recipe is simple. Chop scallions and ginger. Add salt. Heat oil to smoking point and pour oil over the other ingredients, trying hard to not splash yourself with sizzling oil in the process. I’ve been using it to give a zing to cheese and avocado sandwiches, and was planning to add to pasta today before the spouse started cooking ingredients that didn’t seem to want to go with that.

Thanks, Lottie and Doof for the super-easy recipe.

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Ode to the food processor


The first time I made a beet relish, a couple of years ago, I chopped the beets up very finely by hand, winning blisters on four fingers in the process. Last year I almost killed the smallest of baby food processors, loading onions and beets, one at a time, into its tiny bowl for chopping. I started to wonder if it was worth the effort.

This year, thanks to a gift certificate that translated into much of a smart new Cuisinart, things were different, and the machine made amazingly light work of a half dozen very large beets and the same number of gigantic onions.
Now why didn’t I think of that before?
After perhaps 30 minutes of peeling and chopping, followed by about the same amount of time of cooking, we had almost a dozen purple jars just waiting for cheese, meat or veggies to eat with.

Of course one relish is not enough for the main December canning session, so we went for apples too, peeling and chopping for a curried apple date chutney that knocked our socks off last time around. It starts as a bulky mass that fills a large preserving kettle and simmers down to an amber pulp with a delicate curry kick. I will cut the sugar next time though. Time will tell — chutneys always taste better after a month — but it seems just a notch too sweet.

The final adventure to round off the morning was an onion marmalade. Just four jars, but it’s a tried and tested recipe that went down well last time. My worry is that we were spoiled with the seriously yummy fig-onion-tomato relish from a few weeks back, and it may not match up to those exalted standards. There’s something to be said for the time it takes to caramelize onions.

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