Posts Tagged spices

Mustard

I made my first mustard this month, and even sneaked the tiniest jar back home from New Jersey, given that it fell well under the 100ml gels and liquids airport restrictions. A fun and easy adventure, to be honest, and a huge money saver, given the cost of good bought mustard. Couldn’t be much easier either.

Dijon style mustard

1/4 cup black mustard seeds
1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp honey

Pour the wine and vinegar over the seeds and soak for two days to let the seeds swell up a little. Add the salt and honey and food process until it’s as smooth as you want it to be. Transfer mustard into a clean jar and seal.

Wait another two days.

Store in the fridge. And if you store it in a Dijon Mustard jar, nobody will ever know the difference.

A word of warning, and you can’t really tell what this is going to taste right after the food processing because all you get is mustard fire — the flavours need time to mellow and meld together , hence the post-processing waiting period. We ate our little bottle on burgers after a week. It was still plenty hot, and plenty tasty.

And of course given the negligible cost of mustard seeds (available in bulk from any Indian store) compared to the non-negligible cost of ready-made mustard, you can experiment with the acid and the sweetening and you can add extra ingredients at will. Agave syrup rather than honey? Lemon juice instead of wine? Throw in some (pitted) olives? Horseradish? Preserved lemons? Small quantities at the start, until you know whether you are going to like the finished product

How easy is that?

 

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Creative with carrots

I’ve been on a fermentation kick for the last few months, focusing on small batch stuff, so I can ring the changes with spices and seasonings and never get fed up of what I’ve made.

It’s easy. I grate vegetables in the food processor (mostly carrots, but I’m open to other suggestions), squeeze them together with salt and spice, squish down in a jar and wait.  I liked carrots with cumin and fennel, but fermented carrot with dill seed was sort of blah.

After a few versions where the brine bubbled out  the jar, I have concluded that 400-450 grams of veggies just pack down into a 500g Mason jar.

Fermented carrots

450 grams carrots
7 grams of salt
1/2 tsp of spice

Grate the carrots finely and use your hands to mix them with the salt and spice, squishing the veggies together until brine starts to come out. Push down into a wide-mouthed jar, trying to get rid of any air spaces, and then push a clean, narrow jar down on top of it. I sometimes fill that jar with water to weight it down, or I get lazy and I use an unopened jar of jam or chutney.

Cover with a cloth to stop dust getting in, and leave on the countertop until it bubbles its way to your preferred degree of tanginess. I start tasting my carrots after 2-3 days, and they are usually done after 4-5 days. But some recipes say it takes a week or even two. It depends on how warm your kitchen is, and on the mood of the carrots.

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A few tips:

  • You want 1-2 percent salt to vegetables by weight, so it’s easier using a digital scale (set to metric) than using measuring cups and spoons. But there are recipes that use cup measurements if that’s your thing.
  • Don’t overdo the spices.
  • The amount of liquid you end up with is totally unpredictable. After about two days, the brine rises to the top of the jar, and sometimes bubbles over (store your jar on a plate or a bowl). But after 4-5 days that liquid seems to soak back into the carrots.
  • If you have leftovers that won’t squish into your jar, just eat it as a (slightly salty) salad.
  • You can add extra brine if the carrots dry up, but they are usually tangy enough for my taste by the time that happens, so I move them to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process.
  • The books say the fermented veggies will keep for weeks or even months. My small batches never last that long — I add a forkful to my lunchtime sandwiches (they taste awesome with home-made hummus), or throw them into a salad for extra taste and crunch.
  • This is probably total coincidence, but I’ve lost a little weight since I started eating my fermented veggies on a regular basis. All those good fermenting bugs seem to do very nice things to my digestive system.

Next up: Friends over at http://www.wellpreserved.ca point me to this recipe, which I am going to do as soon as I’ve started eating the carrot batch that’s bubbling away right now. I mean how can you go wrong with carrots and ginger?

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It wasn’t a disaster

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I suppose in a year and a bit of bread making, and a lot of playing fast-and-loose with recipes, it was inevitable that not everything is going to work out quite the way you think it should. There was the (delicious) wheatberry bread where I broke a filling cracking down on a kernel, and the bread that never rose, and ended up as tasty, solid, twice baked-bagel chips. But most of them have been pretty wonderful, bringing the challenge of how not to eat a whole loaf of bread at a single sitting.

The basic non-recipe comprises 6-7 cups of flour (usually a mix of white, brown and something vaguely exotic), 3 (ish) cups of water, a tablespoon each of salt and fat, two teaspoons of dried yeast, a quarter cup of honey (or other sweetener) and a cup or two of Other Stuff, which could be nuts, or grains, or oat flakes, plus maybe a spoonful of cumin or coriander to make things a little bit more interesting. My recent favorite used spelt flour for a third of the flour and walnuts for the extra. It was very lovely.

But today’s adventure had me wondering if I should actually start measuring things  again, and reminded me that using up “the rest of that flour” might not be a particularly smart way of following a recipe. The idea was to do a 2:2:2 ratio of stoneground whole wheat bread flour, stoneground white bread flour and spelt flour, and maybe up the flour just a little because I wanted my two loaves to be a little bit larger than they were last time. For extras I chose some leftover pumpkin seeds, a couple of spoons of lightly ground flax seeds and half a cup of  hemp hearts, which the internet tells me are a protein-rich superfood. I added about a teaspoon of cumin too, just because I like the taste.

Then I discovered a baggie of a couple of cups of red fife flour in the freezer, so I decided to use that instead of the spelt even though it was freezer cold. And I was so close to finishing the wholewheat flour, that I just kept pouring that in after my two cups were full. Total flour? Seven cups, perhaps. Maybe a bit more. I didn’t measure it, and I didn’t weigh it, and I just threw in something over 3 cups of water and hoped for the best.

Hmm.

This dough was sloppier than anything  I’ve ever worked with — it practically walked off the countertop while I was reaching over for the coconut oil. It stuck to my hands, my clothes and anything that came anywhere near it. And the extra (white) flour I added in an attempt to make it slightly less sticky was fresh from the freezer too, so it chilled the dough some more and probably slowed the kneading/rising process. After twenty nervous minutes and a lot of extra ice cold flour I had a dough that I could almost handle, so I kept going until it felt good and elastic before putting it to one side to let the yeast do its stuff.

It rose, threatening to spill over the bowl.

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I squished it down and transfered it to tins and let it rise again, and baked it for about 55 minutes, first at 425F and then down to 350F.

And to my deepest surprise, it’s a really, really nice bread, with a good crust, a healthy chew and a lovely taste. And of course, having no idea what I actually did,  there’s no way I am going to be able to make it exactly the same again.

Lessons:

  • Those cookbook writers know what they are talking about when they say it’s better for a dough to be too wet than too dry
  • A stand mixer would be really nice for a dough this wet
  • You do need to knead bread to develop the gluten, and even sloppy doughs might (might) turn into something you can use
  • Experimentation is often very scary. But it sometimes works
  • You may never be able to recreate a newly invented recipe, which is actually rather sad

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Now what did I do?

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

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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.
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Pears ‘n ginger

Access to a well-endowed pear tree does require a certain creativity, and while last week’s five-spice pear chutney is getting a medium-high rating after a far-too-early taste test, it seemed sensible to ring the changes a little rather than making the same untried recipe twice.

But the recipes for pear-ginger jam, my want-to-do recipe for this weekend, were just all over the map. There was a preserve that called for seven cups of pear and one of sugar (how is that one going to set?), and there was one calling for four cups of pears and seven of sugar, which seemed like a recipe for sugar overload to me — the pears are ripe and they are already very sweet.

So I decided to improvise.

First ingredient was a bowl of somewhat small crabapples we gleaned from a Toronto roadside tree a week or so ago. They were not really red enough (or big enough) to make crabapple jelly, but I figured I could boil them with water and use that liquid to add a little kick and a crabapple pectin set. The rest of the recipe were based on the Bernadin cook book, but the changes were beyond a tweak.

Pear ginger jam sauce
1 cup crabapple liquid (which was what remained after simmering those babies with water for 40 minutes or so and then letting them drip in a jelly bag for a couple of hours.)
5 cups pears, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup of finely chopped ginger root
4 cups sugar (I think it was a little less than that in the end)

Cook pears with crabapple liquid and lemon juice for 10 minutes until they are pretty soft. Add sugar and bring to rolling boil until it sets. That took about another 10 minutes. Bottle in clean, sterilized jars. Seal and water bath for 10 minutes.

The result. Four jars of a golden jam sauce with chunks of paler pear. It’s sweet, with a strong pear taste and a definite ginger kick.

Did I ever say how much I like ginger?

But it’s also several notches notch too runny, almost a syrup rather than a jam. Maybe I didn’t boil the crabapples long enough, or let them drip all the pectin out of the pulp before I got bored and started cooking the jam. Or maybe the set I thought I got when I drizzled some onto a cool saucer wasn’t really a set at all.

Let’s call this a pear, ginger sauce, all ready for pancakes or ice cream.

Ratings:
Pear ginger jam sauce: 3 (out of 5). It gets five out of five for taste, loses two for being a sauce rather than a jam.

Pear five-spice chutney: 3-1/2 (out of five). Points for taste, color and texture, but this one is a couple of notches too sweet.

Anyone want a jar of pear ginger syrup/sauce?

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Pears, pickles and an (old) new stove

Is it logical to get really, really excited about a second-hand stove?

But after cursing madly for a year about the pathetic inability of a new ceramic topped stove to hold a rolling boil, and hence create a jam that actually sets, we took the gas-powered route this week, swapping the almost new stove out for a far older one from the spouse’s old home and getting ready for the instant responsiveness that goes with gas. And after a single burst of making things, I am proud to say that it works. The stove top is big enough to fit both a preserving kettle and a canning saucepan, which is always a good thing, and the ingredients went from boil to simmer in a tiny twist of a dial.

The recipe — a surprisingly simple pear chutney with chinese five-spice as its only seasoning, was an effort to use up the treeload of pears that’s filling up the basement and the fridge right now. It ended up a gentle tawny brown, with white flecks from the garlic and red flecks from the chile. And while it tastes a little over sweet right now, I’m assuming it will mellow with age.

From that Costco find, The Complete Guide to Pickling

8 cups chopped peeled pears (we sort of lost count of this one, it might have been eight, or seven, or perhaps nine)
1-1/2 cups finely chopped onions
4 cloves minced garlic (they were very small cloves, so we used eight)
1 hot pepper, seeded and minced (very large pepper, so we used half)
1-1/2 cups sugar (will cut the sugar next time)
1-1/2 tsp salt (recipe said pickling salt, used regular. What’s the difference?)
1-1/2 tsp five spice powder (fresh from the Asian supermarket, smelled yummy)
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup rice vinegar

Simmer ingredients together in a large saucepan until the mix is thick enough to mound on a spoon. Bottle in sterilized jars, making sure to remove the air pockets and wipe down the rims before you seal it. Simmer in a water bath for 10 minutes if you want to be really sure that there won’t be nasty bugs.

Anyone got any clues what to do with the next dozen pounds of pears?

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Zucchini jam

Well this is a new one for me. But inspired by yet another of those internet recipes, I made a small batch of lemon zucchini jam today, using the last of the somewhat scraggly lemon basil from the patio and market-fresh zucchini and lemons.

It’s a 2-day recipe, which is always a bit of a nuisance, with a first-day simmer and a second-day boil. but I think it’s going to be worth the wait. The six jars are a delicate kiwi green in color, with darker green flecks from the basil, and it has a better set than anything I made since we bought a swish-looking ceramic-top stove last year.

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For anyone looking at ceramic-top stoves, and hoping to make jam on them, all I can say is “don’t.” They just don’t hold a rolling boil in the way a regular stove does, and that means a jam won’t set properly, or takes forever.

I’m thinking zucchini jam (courgette jam, for those of you across the pond) will be good spread thick on wholewheat bread or toast, or perhaps on top of a semi-sweet pound cake. The taste is apparently more marmalade than jam, which is probably a good thing.

That jam was one of five ventures in a hectic canning morning, mostly to take advantage of the seriously yummy plums and peaches that are crowding the farmers’ market right now.

We made a plum lime chutney that tastes a little vinegary but should mellow with age, and a peach chutney with a definite chili kick, as well as the tried and tested peach pistachio preserve from last year and a few jars of spicy pickled plums and peaches. I let myself experiment with the pickled fruit, throwing in cinnamon and allspice as well as a generous handful of dried orange peels from what is quite possibly the best spice store in the (Western) world. Kalustyan’s on Lexington Avenue is perhaps my dream shop, with more spices than I ever thought was possible, all of them fresher than anything I’ve seen elsewhere. I counted about five different sorts of peppercorn last time I was there, and always regretted not buying a selection to try them out. Their web site shows 490 different sorts of spices, and they do mail order.

I wonder what dried green mango tastes like? Beet powder?

I wonder if they send goods up to the Great White North?

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