Posts Tagged bread and butter pickles

Now what did I do?

I wish I could remember what went into this latest batch of bread and butter pickles.

IMG_0366

I started, as always, with my yellowing copy of the NY Times food section from last July, which offers an easy, but oversweet recipe from a “make-em-don’t-buy-em” section on things to go with burgers. It’s one of those “tweak now” recipes that makes enough pickles to store in the fridge for a week or so. I love it.

There have been many experiments with this one, but I almost always add more vinegar than the recipe says, some sliced up garlic and a lot less sugar (probably only half the amount the recipe says). And I throw in herbs and spices according to mood or based on what’s in the pantry or the garden.

But the latest iteration is quite possibly the best I’ve ever made, with a chilli kick, the coolness of mint and a pink glow that came because I used the pickling brine I had left over from a couple of batches of pickled beets rather than mixing sugar, vinegar and spice anew. I know I added chilli, mint and mustard seeds, but can I ever make it work again?

My mother never followed recipes either. I guess I inherited the just-be-clueless gene.
IMG_0361

Advertisements

Comments (2)

Yellow plums with fennel; coriander-cukes

Our backyard, as anyone who followed our home renovation blog will know, is far too small for us to live on the produce, but we are growing heirloom tomatoes on the third floor deck, as well as a riot of herbs and salad greens at ground level. We had many meals of  lettuce and mustard greens before they decided to go to seed, and the chard is ready for harvest.

But we also have two fennel plants that are trying hard to go to seed rather than to bulb, and Vietnamese coriander that has taken over a large chunk of precious real estate. If I cut back the coriander, can I use that instead of dill in my newest batch of modified bread and butter pickles? And what about fennel flavored jam, given that fennel is like aniseed, and aniseed works with fruit?

So yellow plum fennel jam and coriander cucumber pickles were the two experiments today.

I salted the cukes, a la New York Times recommendation, and then layered them in a jar with biting Vietnamese coriander and  mustard greens before pouring in a vinegar/sugar/peppercorn/coriander/allspice mix. (I’ve been cutting the sugar each time I make these pickles; I’m down to about half of the NY Times recipe by now.)

It will take a day or so to see how well that experiment worked.

Edit: Vietnamese coriander and cukes is perhaps not the most inspired combination. The cucumbers seem to have more burn and bite than actual taste, and I can’t even taste the (also biting) mustard greens I threw in at the last minute. But I have a lot of Vietnamese coriander. There must be some other recipes out there that work.

Rating: 3 (out of 5)
It’s getting better day by day

But let me say that the jam is good. It was bright yellow before I added the finely chopped fennel flowers/buds/baby seeds, and the last minute addition turned it into a delicate yellow-kiwi, with flecks and tiny strands of green, like the saffron strands in a really good risotto. It’s a subtle hint of aniseed in a tart, but very plum-like jam.

My inspiration was Culinaria Eugenius, who took blue zwetschgen plums  and added fennel seeds and slivovic in a jam venture that took 45 minutes to boil down. Mine was a smaller batch and a faster boil, with just 10 minutes rolling boil for a surprisingly firm set. A silly experiment that ended up well.

Yellow plum jam with fennel
3 cups yellow plums, pitted and quartered (I used a quart of fruit, so  just over 3 squished down cups)
2 cups sugar (well, maybe 2-1/4 cups)
juice of one lemon
about 2 tbsp of finely chopped fennel flowers (chopped from my two fennel plants in the hope they will  grow into nice fennel bulbs one day)

Mix fruit, sugar and lemon and let it sit around for an hour or so until the sugar starts to melt. Heat, slowly until the sugar is all dissolved, and then at a rapid boil until it sets. Add the chopped up fennel and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Bottle in sterilized jars. I didn’t bother to water bath. I got just 2-1/2 jars, and they will be just fine by themselves.

My final venture was an attempt to use up last final jalapeno after buying two for last week’s peach jalapeno jam and wimpily only using one of them. I carefully donned rubber gloves to chop the jalapeno, and used it in a rather-runny apricot jalapeno jam. I think the fruit was too ripe, and I made midweek and decided 10 minutes of boiling would be enough. I can’t give you the recipe as I can’t remember the proportions, and the bite seems a little tame. I’ve got to be less wimpy with jalapeno.

But it does look very pretty — a brilliant orange with little flecks of green. The plum fennel venture is on the left.

Aug 3 edit: The apricot jalapeno venture really is rather nice. The main taste is one of apricot, which always was one of my favorite jams, but there’s also a very, very gentle kick. Interestingly, I can’t taste the bitter almond flavor from the apricot kernels at all. Maybe that one takes more time to emerge.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)
It loses a point for being a little too runny to put on bread (which doesn’t matter when I slop it into plain Greek yogurt), but it wins on  taste and color and even for that gentle bite. Maybe I’ll live dangerously and try 1-1/2 jalapenos next time.

Leave a Comment

Kicking it up a notch

A while back I made a peach white peppercorn preserve that wowed me with its gentle hint of subtle fire. I tried it again a year later with nectarines and black pepper, and it didn’t quite cut it. But then the peach season rolled around again, and it was time to expermiment.

The main event between times was a short trip to Santa Fe, and its absolutely amazing farmers’ market. The stalls there offered so many different sorts of hot pepper, that my peaches and peppercorns venture seemed sort of tame. So while we redid the white pepper jam because it was so damn good, I voted for something with jalapenos too this time, and because it’s my kitchen when the vote is one-to-one, I win. (Well, if truth be told, canning buddy didn’t actually complain)

I did a bit of internet searching, and rejected everything that used pectin, as well as one recipe that told me to puree the peaches in a food processor before getting the jam under way. (I like chunks in my jam.) But then I blundered into Homesicktexan, who seemed to meet all my peach jalapeno jam criteria, including not proposing an indecently large volume of jam, in case we ended up not liking it.

Here’s what we did, which is close to the recipe in the link, but not quite there because we ran out of peaches, and I wimped out on the jalapeno.

Peach jalapeno jam (based on Homesick Texan’s recipe)
Just over 2 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
Just under 2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Add sugar to peaches and let it sit around for a bit until the sugar is mostly dissolved. (It was a hot day, it took about an hour). Add lemon juice and chopped up jalapeno and boil until it sets. Lisa suggests simmering for 40 minutes; ours was ready in about 20. Bottle in hot jars, water bath, if you are waterbathing sort of person.

It’s a little lemony (that was the only bit of the recipe we didn’t change), and it has a very gentle, very subtle bite.

We’re kicking up the jamming, just one notch.

From there we went to the hugely successful apricot lemon chutney from previous years and to a corn red pepper relish, because the corn has just come into season and I wanted to roast peppers on the new gas stove and try out my  new corn zipper.

First off, let me say the corn zipper works like a charm, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.

The relish seems a little sweet right now, but it might mature.

Corn, pepper, basil relish (adapted, to add fire and remove celery, from The Complete Book of Pickling)
4 chopped, roasted red peppers, skin removed
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp dill seeds
3 cups cider vinegar
8 cups corn kernels
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely chopped basil (we used a mix of Thai, lemon and regular)

Roast the peppers by putting them directly on the gas burner and turning them round as they sizzle and char. Dunk in cold water, and peel off most of the skin, and then chop them and set aside.

Put all the ingredients except the red pepper and basil in a preserving kettle or heavy saucepan, heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then simmer for 30 minutes or so until it thickens. Add the peppers and simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir in basil and ladle into hot jars. Water bath for 15 minutes.

Aug 3 edit: It might have been a mistake to crack these open while fresh corn is still in season, but I admit I’m underwhelmed. There’s a nice spice undertone, but the overwhelming taste is sugar and bought canned peppers. No indication of the tender loving care that went into the preparation, and far too much sweetness for me.

Rating: 2 (out of 5)
Not one I’m going to bother to make again unless I tweak the recipe very violently.

And finally, I introduced canning buddy to the keep-in-the-fridge bread-and-butter pickles, making my third venture for this one in just three weeks. I’ve been taking slices into the office with me to kick up my lunch, and I even had a very small pickle sandwich (pickles and a single slice of bread) before today’s horribly hot and humid 64km bike ride. It helped keep me going for 47 of those kilometers and then I heat-stroked/bonked.

Here were the pickles, after their first introduction to the spice/vinegar/dill/garlic mix.

And this was the overall fruits of a morning of pretty intensive labor. Canning buddy is away for a month now, so I need to work out what I want to do solo before she returns.

Comments (5)

Pretty as a pickle

Why did noone ever tell me how easy bread-and-butter pickles are?

Inspired by a seriously simple New York Times recipe I put together a sweet sour batch in not much more than the time it took to bring sour cherries up to boil (see below), and we’ve already eaten almost half the jar. This is an eat-now pickle rather than a can-and-keep one, which makes it faster, but I was flabbergasted at how easy it is. Slice cucumbers, salt them, and leave them sitting on the kitchen counter (the recipe said the fridge, but the fridge was full) while you go off to the store. When that’s done, boil up some vinegar, sugar and spices, pour over the (drained) cukes and wait an hour or so before you eat them. My only changes: adding mustard seeds because I wanted more of a kick, and substituting chive blossom vinegar because I made it when the chive blossoms were out and needed something to use it in. I forgot to add the dill.

Very pretty, very tasty. They won’t last long.

Then it was on to sour cherries, which always make incredibly fleeting performances in the farmers’ market at around this time of year. I bought a quart, which came out as a mere 3-1/2 cups of stoned cherries. There wasn’t going to be much jam.

Looking for inspiration, I seized on the recipe book I used for one of the raspberry jams last week because it was the only one I could find that didn’t add bought pectin. It used pectin-filled Granny Smith apples instead, and that added a little bulk as well. I cut the apples, increased the lemon juice, and had a jam about 20 minutes from starting the stove.

Sour cherry vanilla jam (based on Madelaine Bullwinkle’s Gourmet Preserves)
3-1/2 cups pitted sour cherries
2 cups chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Simmer apples and cherries for 15 minutes until they are soft. The recipe said to  chop them in a food processor ahead of time, but I like my jams with chunks, so I just used a potato masher to squish the fruits down a little as they simmered.

Add vanilla, and then the sugar (in 3-4 parts), bringing back to a simmer between each lot of sugar and making sure one batch has dissolved before adding the next one.

Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes until it sets. Again, the recipe said 10 minutes, but that was clearly far too long.

It looks good, it tastes good. Very, very tart. It made three jars.

Comments (4)