Ziedrich’s cookbooks include Cold Soups, The Joy of Pickling, and The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. She keeps a large organic garden on her family homestead east of Albany, Oregon.
200 Classic and Contemporary Recipes Showcasing the Fabulous Flavors of Fresh Fruits
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In my community potlucks are as popular as ever. Sometimes cards are provided for identifying dishes and any common allergens they contain. Among my local friends, the host always makes sure that there’s something starchy yet gluten-free, for the fellow who can’t eat wheat.
Thanks for the really interesting article.
I’m wondering about the roses and sea buckthorn: Is the rose-flavored vinegar combined with the fruit juice, or are the pickled rose petals combined with the juice? Or both? How is this sour drink served?
When beans are slow to cook, sometimes the problem is the cooking water. Because my well water is hard--it has a high level of calcium--I now buy distilled water for cooking chickpeas, lentils, and split peas. But I have no problem cooking New World beans in tap water.
Regarding the old-bean problem, it’s wise to look for a “best by” date. Even more helpful would be a harvest date, but apparently not even a “best by” date is required by law. Perhaps we should work to change this.
Before you eat or cook a gooseberry, you must top and tail it--that is, pull off the stem and the shriveled, dry blossom. These are my first harvest of Hinnomaki, an old Finnish variety. They’re not only prettier than my green gooseberries (Oregon Champ, a nineteenth-century variety from Salem, Oregon); they’re also sweeter.
Because I’d never done it before, I decided to can the gooseberries in syrup. For a cup of fruit, I used 1/3 cup each sugar and water. That’s a heavy syrup, but not as heavy as recommended by the old preserving book I consulted, which also told me to pour some of the syrup into the jar before adding the berries. This is supposed to keep the berries from floating, as apparently is the Extension recommendation to dip the berries in syrup for 30 second and then drain them before putting them in the jar and pouring the syrup over.
After putting the berries in the jar, you pour the syrup over, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, and then process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.
Although I put some of the syrup in the jar before adding the berries, they floated. They’re beautiful anyway, though, and they should be delicious next winter, over ice cream, cheesecake, or pound cake.
This year’s long, wet spring in western Oregon pleased my Alexandria strawberries, which I planted last year under the arching canes of an old climbing rose. The pale pink roses, white from a distance, are just beginning to bloom, and breathing in their fragrance while tasting the just-ripe berries made me dream of my jam pot.
Introduced by Park Seed in 1964, Alexandria is one of several seed-propagated varieties of Fragaria vesca, the European woodland or alpine strawberry. Although the fruits of Alexandria are bigger than those of other Fragaria vesca cultivars, the longest of my berries measure less than an inch. The fruits ripen over a long period, so you have to plant a lot of starts if you want to collect enough berries for jam. For these reasons, many gardeners treat the Alexandria strawberry as an ornamental ground cover rather than a food source. But eating one of the perfectly ripe berries produces a shocking rush of flavor. However jaded you are from crunching gigantic green-picked strawberries from California, you will recognize Alexandria’s flavor as the essence of strawberry.
I collected a couple of handfuls of berries and then looked up at the rose bower. I hadn’t yet made rose preserves this year, and I’d missed the peak bloom of both the rugosas and the delicate pink wild roses. But I knew I could find roses enough to combine with the strawberries. The flowers overhead were too pale for a red jam, sadly. For better color and an equally delicious aroma, I collected some pink moss roses, pulling the blossoms away from each calyx with one hand and, with the other, clipping off each petal’s pale, slightly bitter base with the tiny scissors of my pocket knife.
Then I remembered the rhubarb stalks I’d harvested a few hours earlier. Rhubarb can be problematic for preservers and bakers because it is typically ambivalent about color. The varieties that are red inside and out tend to lack vigor, and all-green varieties are hard to find. Most rhubarb in home gardens has red or red-speckled skin but green flesh, and even red rhubarb skin may lose much of its color in the wrong growing conditions. The color problem is one reason rhubarb is so often combined with strawberries. The happy marriage of flavors is another reason; the tartness of the rhubarb complements the sweet perfume of the strawberries. But full-scented roses marry well with rhubarb and strawberry both, so why not a ménage-a trois? This I had to try.
Rhubarb–Rose–Alpine Strawberry Jam
1 pound rhubarb, cut crosswise ½ inch thick
3 ounces Alexandria strawberries (about ¾ cup)
2 ½ ounces fragrant unsprayed rose petals (about 1 ½ cups, well packed)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups sugar
In a bowl, gently mix the ingredients. Cover the bowl, and leave it at room temperature for about 8 hours, until the sugar has mostly dissolved.
Pour the mixture into a preserving pan, and set the pan over medium heat. Stir gently. When the sugar is completely dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high. Boil, stirring occasionally.
The mixture will thicken in just a few minutes as the rhubarb fibers separate. When the mixture has reached a jam-like consistency, remove the pan from the heat. Ladle the jam into jars, and close them. You should have about 3 cups.
You can process the jars in a boiling-water bath, if you like, for 5 minutes if you have sterilized them or 10 minutes if you haven’t._
To smell and to eat, this jam is fantastic. I have captured June in a jar.
I found these at Barbur World Foods, a Portland neighborhood grocery–cum–Mediterranean specialty market, where green almonds make their appearance every spring. At the stage you see here the almond kernel is hard but still moist, rather like a shell bean (think of edamame—soybeans—briefly boiled in their pods, or cooked fresh fava beans). The nut has a pale skin that easily peels away with the fingers. You might add a few of the kernels to a jar of apricot or peach jam, or sauté them in a little olive oil and eat them sprinkled with salt. Or enjoy them just as they are, for their mild, pleasant vegetable flavor, enhanced perhaps with the perfume of bitter almond, which I tasted in the batch I bought last year but not, for some reason, in this year’s.
At an earlier stage of greenness, the kernel is a translucent gel and the fruit is edible whole. At this point the green almond, like a green walnut, can be pickled in vinegar or preserved in syrup. I hope I’ll be able to experiment with green almond pickles and preserves in a few years, when my newly planted Hall’s Hardy almond tree (a cross between a peach and an almond) grows up.
I’m just back from the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Portland, where I signed books at the Culinary Book Fair and attended workshops on topics that included Lebanese and Peruvian cuisine, memories of James Beard (with Madhur Jaffrey and Judith Jones), and Pacific seafood (with steelhead, Dungeness crab, and Oregon shrimp prepared by Gary Puetz--my favorite meal of the week!). Have a look at Willamette Week’s article on the conference and book fair (http://wweek.com/columns/headout/), which includes my recipe for Moroccan Pickled Beets.
I first made parsnip soup many years ago, after listening with my then-small eldest child to Peggy Seeger sing, “What Did You Have for Your Supper?” on the record American Folk Songs for Children (see Note). I didn’t read the song’s title in the record notes, though, and I heard the words as “What’ll you have for your supper?”
What’ll you have for your supper,
Jimmy Randall, my son?
What’ll you have for your supper,
My own little one?
Sweet milk and sweet parsnips;
Mother make my bed soon,
Because I’m tired at the heart
And I want to lie down.
With each sweet Peggy’s voice soared to the top of the octave; Jimmy was pleading for sweet white comfort food that Mother and no other could provide. Or so I thought.
Little did I know that I was hearing a surviving fragment of “Lord Randall,” an Anglo-Scottish ballad about a man who may actually have lived, in the thirteenth century or thereabouts, until he was poisoned—by his sweetheart at dinner, according to most versions of the song. Typical versions say that she also poisons Randall’s dogs, who “swell up.” Feeling poorly after the meal, Randall goes home to his mother. The story is told through conversation between mother and son as poor Randall heads for his deathbed. Fuller versions don’t mention milk or parsnips; usually he has eaten eels or other fish. And Mother is always less curious about the tainted food than she is about the distribution of Randall’s worldly goods.
The parsnip has been popular since Roman times, though it was probably thin and woody and suitable only for flavoring until about the time Lord Randall was getting sick on eels. Then gardeners developed it into a fleshy, aromatic root that at its best cooks up quite tender. The parsnip is still a trial for the gardener; with seeds slower to sprout even than those of most other umbellales, the plant take months to grow to size while the gardener repeatedly weeds around the root. Then it must stay in the ground even longer, well mulched, until it is sweetened by frost. Finally it can be stored in a cellar or left in the ground, depending on your climate, until some cold night in winter or early spring when you’re craving something sweet, starchy, and soothing.
The modern English name parsnip may have been influenced by parsley, for a white-rooted cousin, and turnip, for an unrelated and fleshier root vegetable. The parsnip is even more like the carrot than like either of these, but sweeter and starchier, with no bitterness. People who describe the parsnip’s flavor as “nutty” are probably thinking of chestnuts.
Parsnips are good roasted, fried, pureed with apples or carrots or potatoes, diced in chicken pot pie, and flavored with curry powder or ginger. But when I heard Peggy’s song I knew just what I wanted to make with parsnips, and it’s what I most like to make with them today:
Saute some diced onion in butter. Add diced parsnips (don’t bother to peel them first). Add chicken stock, and cook the parsnips in the stock until they are tender. Add milk, cream, or half-and-half. Season with salt, white pepper, and grated nutmeg. Puree the soup in a blender, and reheat it if needed.
I don’t believe Jimmy Randall ever got sick on sweet milk and parsnips. It was his mother who fed him the soup, I’m sure, and he woke up the next morning feeling fit and lively. Even his dogs survived. At least that’s how I like to sing the song.
NOTE: Rounder Records 8001/8002/8003. Sung and played by Peggy and her brother, Mike Seeger, the 94 songs on this album are from the book American Folk Songs for Children, by their mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger. The book is still in print, and the album is now available on CD.
Finally I am running out of quinces. I have two trees, of the variety called Pineapple, and they produce more reliably than any of the apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees in my lowland orchard. So I always give away quinces, and this year I even sold some. Yet it’s January 20, and still I have a box of the fruit left in the unheated guest bedroom.
I’m not complaining. Quinces are good for a lot of things. From the nineteenth century until after World War II, quinces were valued especially for their pectin. People would cook the sliced fruit in water, and then either make the liquid into jelly or boil it down until it was sour and viscous before combining it with other fruits in jelly or jam. For centuries before that quinces were made into paste, the original marmalade—or, simply, thick, sliceable jam—to be served as finger food. Quince paste has never lost popularity in Spain or parts of Latin America, and it seems to be coming back into style in the United States. Even more appealing than quince paste, to me, are pastes from quinces combined with other fruits, such as berries and plums. Quinces also make delightful, fragrant syrups (I most like a raw syrup of quince and honey), and jams that can turn out red or white, and smooth or rough, depending on your method. Cooked in syrup for nearly two hours, quince cubes or slices become a ruby-red spoon sweet. Steeped in vodka with sugar, quinces become an aromatic liqueur. Poached in white wine with honey, they become a tart relish for roasts or even a dessert. Quinces combine well with apples in pie, and some people like them best simply hollowed out (with a coring tool that looks like a small, heavy spoon with a pointed tip) and baked whole like an apple.
Having made all those things this year, I wanted to try something different. I gazed at the quinces, sitting in the guest bedroom beside the last of the peppers (peppers keep much longer in a cool guest room, by the way, than they do in a refrigerator), and I wanted to combine the two. I’d already made some wonderful quince–red pepper jelly. What else could I try? I decided on—
1 to 2 tablespoons mustard oil (see Note)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pound peeled and sliced or diced quinces
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 medium-large (about 1/2 pound) onion, halved and sliced thin
2 ounces small fresh hot red peppers (I used jalapeños and Fresnos), sliced thin
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped gingerroot
1 teaspoon salt
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons raisins
Heat the oil in a preserving pan. Add the garlic and cumin seeds, and stir them over medium heat until they release their aroma. Immediately add the remaining ingredients. Boil the mixture gently, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the quince is tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
When the quince has cooled, store it in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Note: Available in Indian markets, mustard oil is always labeled in the United States as “for external use only.” The USDA requires this labeling because the oil contains erucic acid, which is said to cause “nutritional deficiencies as well as cardiac lesions” in lab rats (mustard seeds and prepared mustard also contain this natural chemical, of course). Mustard oil has a very strong flavor. If you’re not sure you like it, use only 1 tablespoon. If you’re sure you don’t like it, or if none is available, substitute another oil.
This recipe is actually a variant of one I developed for apple chutney, and that chutney turned out equally delicious. So if your guest bedroom is filled with apples rather than quinces, this is a good way to use them.
When my friends Wendy and Greg handed me a gorgeous, huge red cabbage from their garden a couple of months ago, Greg told me he loves to make red-cabbage sauerkraut. The Pickle Lady was humbled; I’d never made or even tasted sauerkraut from red cabbages! Now I knew what I would do with my beautiful cabbage.
I decided to take as my model a low-salt red-cabbage sauerkraut recipe from an odd little Canadian cookbook, Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home. I cut the head fine, using a mandoline, and mixed the shredded cabbage with some apple and onion slices, a bay leaf, caraway seeds, and juniper berries. As always in making sauerkraut, I tossed the mixture with salt and packed it firmly into a crock. But several hours later the cabbage had released almost no juice. This was problematic; when you’re making sauerkraut, the cabbage must be well covered with liquid to keep from rotting. The Canadian authors, warning that red cabbage is “a very hard vegetable,” suggested pressing “thoroughly with a potato masher,” but this didn’t work for me. I could have added some brine from one of the big jars of fermented pickles in my garage refrigerator, following another suggestion from the Canadian authors, but then the sauerkraut would have tasted of dill and garlic. A final suggestion from the Canadians was to add whey, strained out of buttermilk or kefir, which they said would jump-start the fermentation. That sounded to me like an unnecessary bother. So I decided to add fresh brine--that is, salted water.
Two weeks later, I pulled from my crock heaps of gloriously hot-pink, tart, delicious sauerkraut. Here’s the recipe. You can add more spices or leave them out, as you prefer.
4 pounds finely shredded red cabbage, plus a few whole outer leaves
1 large apple, cored and sliced thin
1 medium-large onion, sliced thin
1 Mediterranean bay leaf
Pinch of caraway seeds
3 juniper berries
3 tablespoons pickling salt (fine, pure salt)
1 quart water
In a large bowl or stockpot, thoroughly mix the shredded cabbage, apple, onion, bay, caraway, juniper berries, and 1 ½ tablespoons salt. Pack the mixture firmly in a crock or gallon jar. Wait an hour or two for the salt to dissolve.
Stir the remaining 1½ tablespoons salt into the water, and keep stirring until the liquid is clear. Pour the brine over the cabbage mixture. Lay the whole cabbage leaves on top, and add weights. (I used the weights that come with a Harsch pickling crock. With an ordinary crock, cover the cabbage with a plate that just fits inside the crock, and weight the plate with a capped, water-filled glass jar. If you’re using a gallon glass jar, weight the cabbage with a freezer-weight plastic bag filled with brine in the proportion of 1½ tablespoons salt to 1 quart water.) The cabbage mixture should be well covered with liquid. If it isn’t, add more brine in the same proportion. Keep the crock or jar at warm room temperature for two to three days, until fermentation gets underway, and then set it in a cooler place. If you’re using an ordinary crock, you’ll need to skim the brine occasionally.
Begin tasting the sauerkraut after two weeks. When it’s as sour as you like, transfer it to a clean jar, and store the jar in the refrigerator. If you like, you can freeze some of your kraut in plastic bags, rigid plastic containers, or glass jars. I don’t recommend canning it. Although with the addition of brine my recipe is saltier than the Canadians’ version, the sauerkraut will still be less salty than the USDA approves for canning.
Maybe you’ve replaced your old plastic water bottle with a stainless-steel one to avoid exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to reproductive abnormalities and increased risks of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. But did you know you could be ingesting BPA through commercially canned food? BPA is a component of the epoxy resin that has long been used to line metal food cans. Consumer Reports (December 2009) tested for BPA in 19 name-brand canned foods—soups, juice, tuna, corn, chili, tomato sauce, corned beef, and green beans—and found the chemical in all of them. Organic brands didn’t necessarily have less than nonorganic brands, and even cans labeled “BPA-free” contained the chemical. The highest levels were in green beans, vegetable soup, and chicken-noodle soup. “A 165-pound adult eating one serving of canned green beans from our sample . . . could ingest about 0.2 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day, about 80 times higher than our experts’ recommended daily upper limit,” the magazine reports. FDA guidelines allow a much higher daily exposure, 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight. According to a congressional subcommittee, however, the FDA has relied too heavily on studies sponsored by the plastics industry and should re-evaluate BPA’s safety.
Aren’t you glad you get most of your “canned” foods out of glass jars?
I’d never heard of Pickle Crisp until a couple of weeks ago, when I was giving a radio interview and a caller mentioned the product. Pickle Crisp, I learned, is a trade name for calcium chloride, a common additive in commercial canning. Calcium chloride is used for several purposes, but in pickles it is mainly a firming agent.
On searching the Web for more information, I learned that Pickle Crisp had been marketed by Jarden, the company that makes Ball jars, but was no longer available.
To find out more, I contacted Lauren Devine at Jarden. The company sold Pickle Crisp for about two years. It was intended to replace pickling lime, which home picklers, particularly in the South, have long used to firm such pickles as bread-and-butters and pickled figs. But lime is troublesome to use: You must first soak the fruit or vegetable pieces in a mixture of lime and water, and then rinse and soak them repeatedly until the water is clear and the lime won’t affect the pickle’s pH much. Calcium chloride is easier to use: You add 1/8 teaspoon along with the fruit or vegetable pieces and the pickling liquid to a pint jar, or 1/4 teaspoon to a quart jar. (Jarden has tested Pickle Crisp only with fresh pickles, not with fermented ones.)
Unfortunately for Jarden, sales of Pickle Crisp were slow, and only upon removing the product from the market did Jarden realize that there was much demand for it. Jarden decided to bring the product back, but in improved form. The old Pickle Crisp was a powder that tended to dissolve into steam. The new version will have bigger grains.
The new Pickle Crisp should be in the home-canning sections of supermarkets and farm-supply stores next March or April. In the meantime, if you want to try pickling with calcium chloride you can order it by that name at www.bulkfood.com/calciumchloride.asp.
A low, sprawling annual plant, the nasturtium can enliven your salads all summer with its tender, round leaves and orange edible flowers. But don’t forget to pick the seeds. If they’re already brown, save them to plant next year. If they’re still green, plunk them into vinegar, so you can enjoy them in sauces and salads all winter. Pickled nasturtium seeds (or pods, or buds, as they are variously called) taste much like pickled capers, but they’re crunchier and a little peppery. As Euell Gibbons said, “Nasturtium buds make better capers than capers do.”
This year I had just a single pot of nasturtiums, and they were plagued by aphids both in spring and in late summer. But the plants flowered and produced seeds, and when I walked by the pot I’d pick the fat green ones. In The Joy of Pickling, I provide a variant of Eliza Smith’s rather complex recipe for pickled nasturtium pods, from her 1727 cookbook The Compleat Housewife. This year I decided to do something simpler: In early July, I combined 1/2 cup cider vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small jar, and stirred to dissolve the salt. I covered the jar tightly and set it on a cupboard shelf. And then I added nasturtium pods, a few at a time over the next three months, until aphids and cold weather did in the plants.
That’s all you need for pickling nasturtium pods: vinegar and a little salt. Refrigeration isn’t necessary. If I don’t eat them all sooner, my pickled nasturtium pods will last in the cupboard until next summer, when the nasturtiums will be blooming again.
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