Tag Archives: canning

Basil Marinated Cauliflower

2010-01-01 00.00.00-30The clearance rack at the grocery store is one of my favorite places. I know I’ve talked about this .49/lb rack-of-glory, but it never ceases to amaze me.  Sure, I could go dumpster dive most of this produce later that night for free, but honestly, I don’t have time. .49/lb is a good enough bargain for me. This head of cauliflower was chilling there the other day so I thought it would be a great opportunity to test out a  basil marinated recipe before the big heads were ready in the fields (although I have since learned that we won’t be planting any because they ‘are a pain in the ass’). Canning and drying are the main way I justify buying my produce in nearly-rotten-bulk. It gets eaten that night and what isn’t eaten is pickled, dehydrated, and frozen. This means that I when I decide to check out the clearance section I am committing the rest of my evening to being in the kitchen – not a bad thing at all.

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Basil Marinated Cauliflower
One head makes about 4 16 oz jars, give or take (I reuse jars and tend to be inconsistent with the jar sizes I use per batch so the measurements are more of an estimate)

1 Head Cauliflower – cut into florets, washed and drained thoroughly
1/4 c White Wine Vinegar
1/4 c Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 c Water
1/2 T Pickling Salt
1 t Dijon Mustard
1 Red Shallot – finely minced. (I used 3 scallions, because they were readily available from the farm)
1 Garlic Clove – finely minced
1/2 c Basil leaves – rinsed and cut into strips
1 T Whole Black Peppercorns

Lightly blanch the florets and then let sit in a cold water bath while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Whisk together the vinegars, water, salt, and mustard in a small cook pot. Bring to a low simmer and add the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes. Remove the brine from the heat and add in the basil.

Drain the cauliflower well and pack the florets into jars, leaving 1″ of head space per jar. Divide the peppercorns evenly among the jars and toss in. I like to do this after I’ve added the veggies to my jars just in case I come up short on veggies and have prepped too many jars.

Pour the brine into each jar until it covers the cauliflower. At this point you can screw on the lids and set the jars in fridge overnight and serve as a salad the next day or you can process the cauliflower in a hot water bath for 10 minutes and enjoy as a pickled cauliflower later on in the season.


Ol’ Reliable Pickled Radishes

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What would a spring harvest be without a surplus of radishes? Actually, I imagine there are very mixed responses, depending on who you’re talking to (the ones harvesting vs. the ones eating). Despite developing a good litany of curses every time I kneeled into wet grass to bundle another 96 bunches of radishes, I do still love them. Whether sliced thinly on toast with olive oil, salt, and dill, or roasted with last fall’s beets and carrots, this little root is definitely something I rely on. As many cooks before me already know, they make damn fine pickles.

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This recipe is definitely one of the most reliable. It has many close relatives in the cooking world and is certainly nothing new or innovative. The only thing I like to do is carve a few whole radishes to look like jack-o-lanterns and have a jar of spooky radish heads once October rolls around.

Ol’ Reliable Pickled Radishes
Makes about 3 quarts.

12 Radishes
1/2 t Yellow Mustard Seeds
1/4 t Coriander Seeds
1 T Black Peppercorns
1 Garlic Clove – finely minced
1/2 c Cider Vinegar
1/4 c Brown Sugar
1 c Water
1 T Kosher Salt (The ratio here, if you run short of brine, is 1 heaping T of salt to 1 c of Water)

Wash the radishes thoroughly and slice into 1/4″ – 1/8″ slices, depending on your preference. Set slices in a bowl with ice to keep them crisp while prepping the spices and brine.

Mix the spices and garlic together in a bowl, distribute evenly among the jars you have prepared (hot water bath for sterilizing, ya’ know). In a sauce pan, mix brown sugar, water, vinegar, and salt together. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. It is important to not let this boil too rapidly or for too long because you will loose a lot of your liquid to evaporation and your brine will be thrown out of whack.

Pack the jars with the sliced radishes, leaving an inch of head space at the top of each jar. Top off each jar with the just-boiled brine, raising the content level to about 1/2″ of headspace.

Clean the mouths of the jars, screw on the lids, and process in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes. The pickles can be stored in the fridge or in a dark place while they ferment and should be ready to snack on in 1-2 weeks.

The pickles are good eaten on their own, they are also good on toast with olive oil and dill (no salt this time!), and are great in stir fries.

Strawberry Rhubarb Balsamic Jam

ImageI understand that this post is a little bit behind peak strawberry season, but I’m putting it up anyways, in the hopes that some of you have a few pounds of strawberries you stashed in your freezers just waiting for that perfect jam recipe to come around.

ImageA friend of mine gave me the last few stalks from her rhubarb bush a week before the strawberries were really in full swing, so I stashed them in a glass of water in the fridge and crossed my fingers that they’d still be intact when the time came. Except for the ends curling up, they were basically perfect.

For this particular batch I had a few slightly bruised apples that needed tending, so I threw them in with the rhubarb and strawberries. I think it made the jam a little bit thicker and a little lighter than without, so it may become a regular feature. Lemme’ know what you think if you get to experimenting.

Strawberry Rhubarb Balsamic Jam

Made 2 1/12 lbs of jam – with this method the total jam equals out to the same weight of fruit used. I’ll include the ratios so you can sub in other kinds of fruit – I’ve been using red plums and strawberries and have my eyes on a pineapple variation.

1 1/2 lb Strawberries – washed and quartered with the greens removed
1/2 lb Rhubarb – cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 lb of Apples – I used Gala because they were what I had on hand, peeled and cut into chunks.
2 cups Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Honey
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Toss the fruit with the sugar and honey and let sit, covered, in a nonreactive bowl for about 30 minutes. Macerating the fruit like this seems to help the jam cook down a little bit faster. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen so I try to figure out ways to make my cooking process more efficient without loosing any flavor or food-integrity.

Scrape the fruit/sugar/juice mixture into a deep but wide sauce pan – the wider the base the faster the jam will cook down. Add in the honey and the balsamic vinegar – bring the mix to a low simmer and stir (continuously is great but unnecessary, so long as you don’t let any of it stick to the bottom and burn) until the fruit has mostly broken down into indistinct pieces.


I always like to use the immersion blender at this point and blast the jam to make a smoother spread – I feel like it disperse the flavors more evenly and I have a more consistent product. I’m also weird about chunky textures. This cooking down process should take about 30 minutes, but to be sure, take a small spoon full of jam and dab it onto a plate. Tilt the plate to its side, if the jam runs, it isn’t ready, but if it stays in place, it is ready to jar or freeze or eat all at once.

ImageI like to put mine in sterilized 16 oz jars, leaving about 1/2″ of headspace, and process in a hot water bath for about 15 minutes. It usually gets eaten well before it would go bad without any canning, but we eat a lot of toast around here.

The basic ratio to remember is 1 lb of sugar and 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar to 1lb of fruit. So far this ratio has worked out pretty well with other types of fruit.

Winter Is Coming

ImageFrom left to right: Pesto, garlic-jalapeno carrots, pickled shallots, pickled garlic, sourdough starter, orange oil (not for eating but for cleaning), apple vinegar, and kombucha.

ImageFrom left to right: Kombucha. Lots of it.

I have started in on my goal of preserving the bulk of my food for the winter. This includes anything besides water that I want to drink. I’ll be buying flour, sugar, rice, and most of my spices, but the idea is for everything else to come from my own stores. This little row is just a small sample of what my ‘fermenting shelf’ is now holding. I keep being told that working on (3!) a farm will eventually break me of my constant search for food and eliminate the urge to glean and forage – so far these feelings have only intensified. Having very little income, a whole slew of food allergies and intolerance, and a life long love of foraging and cooking makes me believe that I’ll never grow out of it. I promise to post as much about each individual project as I can, but for now, pictures of pretty bottles and jars!

Canning Tomatoes

The tomatoes have finally succumbed to the heat and turned an unappealing flaky brown. Before shriveling up they put on a pretty good show of about 14 lbs from 2 plants for 2 months. This was with only one round of fertilizer and spotty-at-best watering. My friend/neighbor/mentor Denise came over and helped me process these 14 lbs of tomatoes into jars of sauce. We both learned a number of things during the process that in hindsight were definite rookie mistakes but valuable learning opportunities none the less.

First mistake: Freezing the tomatoes whole without de-seeding them first. Not only was it incredibly uncomfortable handling frozen tomatoes (despite defrosting attempts), but we lost a considerable amount of tomato mass when trying to separate the seeds when they were still a part of the tomato slushie. Next time, I will definitely peel, seed, and quarter the tomatoes as I harvest and then freeze them. It may seem super obvious to y’all but I thought I was saving myself time.

I did save the tomato guts to try and preserve some seeds. The process worked just fine until I moved the stinky fermenting bowl outside to get rid of the smell. The typical Texas heat combined with our convection oven of a patio turned my fermenting bowl of seeds and tomato guts into a crispy tomato seed chip. I dumped its remains in the compost and will be only a little surprised if I have a mountain of tomatoes in the fall.

Second Mistake: ALWAYS READ YOUR CANNER INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY. At least seven times. While the canning process itself went well, we completely skimmed over the part of the instructions telling us to pour boiling water into the canner, not try to get the water to boil inside the canner. Eventually we corrected our mistake and in our own goofy way corrected the situation. (We did use a coffee mug to transfer the almost boiling water to another pot to boil. I know there are simpler ways but we seem to want to avoid those).

After that, everything went pretty smoothly. The tomatoes were cooking down with 1/4 cup of lemon juice and the jars were sterilized.
We filled half of the jars with plain sauce and dropped a basil ice cube and some oregano in the other half. Another minor mistake on my part was repeatedly forgetting that the jars and tomato sauce were both incredibly hot.
We loaded the jars into the canner per instructions and crossed our fingers as we watched the pressure rise. My canner requires 8 minutes at 5 lbs of pressure for the tomatoes to work properly. It was a little anticlimactic when the canner hit 5lbs and 8 minutes later I had to turn the heat off and then wait almost 6 hours for the pressure to drop and the canner to cool.
But it was all worth it. Yes, we did only end up with 5 jars. I think this was mostly due to the first mistake of freezing the tomatoes whole and the amount of mass that was lost during the seeding process. But the lids are all sealed and the sauce looks great. This was the first time either of us had ever canned before and it was pretty exciting and equally nerve wracking. Another thing we decided after this process is that we’ll have to have way more than 14lbs of tomatoes for this process to be repeated. 3 hours of labor for only 5 jars of sauce was kind of a let down, even though it is incredibly satisfying to serve a meal with your own homemade and home preserved produce.