A Flurry of Florets

When I heard that conventional cauliflower is actually quite hard to grow for the small organic farmer (weed management is a big issue), I needn’t have worried I wouldn’t be seeing any of the Brassicaceae turning up at all at my local market. I spied some lovely and almost Sci-Fi looking Romanseco cauliflower, which I thought would be happy being pickled.

 

Romanescocauliflower

I used Marisa McLellan’s recipe of “Lemony Pickled Cauliflower” Continue reading

Hurry up pickles

With the March’s Jelly challenge over (while I did make some it wasn’t a resounding success and vow to revisit this in berry season…) April’s is almost done too. Quick pickles (or sometimes known as refrigerator pickles) is a great way to kick off the pickling season. If you are in the northern climes, there isn’t much growing yet. Luckily you can still use local produce.

Wintering root veggies like carrots, turnips and rutabagas fit the bill nicely. These chubby little carrots sliced into sticks, and into a hot brine solution with some pepper flakes, lemon zest and peppercorns make a crunchy treat. No need to haul out the water bath canner because quick pickles are just that-prepare the brine, fill the jars and store in the refrigerator. Although they should last for about 3 weeks or so, I bet they’ll be gobbled up before that!

 

 

Well that was easy…..

Waiting, waiting, patiently waiting…After 5 days, time to take the plunge….

Newdills

Voila! 2 jars of new dills ready for the fridge. Had I put a little more salt, and been a little more patient, I would be looking at full on sour dills. But happy with the results of my first time crock fermentation. Look out sauerkraut here I come!!

What a crock…

Picklesincrock

For some reason, after an initial burst of enthusiasm in ramp season, I’ve been slow off the mark to get to my canning. I find it sort of creeps up on you, first you wait and wait til the ground thaws, then a few things start poking their heads up like ramps, asparagus and rhubarb. Then another wait while lettuces and radishes take the stage. Then before you know it, it’s full on frontal assault of summer squash, beans, peas, carrots and other colourful vegetables.

This year, I decided to tackle a small fear of mine, to try out fermented pickles as I love sour dills. I started out with a small batch (2 pounds worth of cucumbers) and did a bit of a “cheater” version of sour dills which adds in a bit of vinegar to help kick-start the fermentation. True sour or kosher dills only utilize water, salt and seasoning to achieve pickle glory. But as this is my first attempt at it, and using an olde time crock, I thought I would like a measure of success before I go whole hog and try it the classic method.

So, I’ve immersed these lovely cukes in my crock with water, salt, vinegar, dill and garlic, put the handy weights on top (as well as another mason jar to really submerge them) and I will keep an eye on it in the coming days. As it is a sizzling temperature both inside and outside, I suspect it won’t take long for the fermentation process to kick in. Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

 

Ramping up for the season

Spring. Renewal. When the ground starts to thaw but it’s still too cold to work the soil for planting. That’s when the hidden surprises of wild edibles poke their heads out. I must admit, when someone boasts they can deliver a bursting bag of ramps to you, I take it with a grain of salt. Really? ? Are you sure? You know Lily of the Valley looks JUST like ramps….

Well, true to his word, Al the forager came through in spades….A bag bursting with the first taste of Ontario Wild Leeks. Squeal!!

Rampsinwaiting

What a treat. I’ve never seen so many beauties…..I also had no idea how labour intensive they would be! Thankfully with a little help with washing, rinsing, trimming and cutting I could embark upon the main event…pickling Continue reading

Out with the old, in with the new

Oldpickles

This time of year I’m so anxious to get my hands on the new and  fresh produce that sometimes I get ahead of myself. Frequently I still have jars left over from last season that really should be used up, but I’m less inclined to as fresh asparagus, strawberries and tender turnips are much more appealing than slightly soft year old dill pickles.

 I found a way of freeing up my jars without the guilt of actually dumping the contents in the compost. Dehydrate! Start by slicing your pickles to about 1/8″ thick, place on the dehydrator racks on a low setting and letting it do its magic (some 5-8 hours later). This will result in dime sized dill pickle pellets.

Why would anyone want dill pickle pellets? Well for starters you can throw them into a spice/coffee grinder (make sure it’s clean of all coffee residue), grind them up, add a little sea salt and you have an excellent popcorn topper! You could also add the ground mixture to salad dressings, ground meat for tacos or even a funky salt rimmer for a casesar!

If you don’t have a dehydrator on hand (which most people don’t), I think putting it on a baking sheet in an oven on the lowest setting c. 200 F. for about 6-8 hours will probably do the trick. I’d be interested to know anyone out there who has tried dehydrating in the oven.

 

Natural Sweetness

I love beets from their dark green tops to their ruby red bottoms. But one thing that has always bothered meBeets2 about canning beets is the amount of sugar required in recipes. From a couple of tablespoons to as much as a cup. I did a little bit of research on this, and apparently the sugar has nothing to do with preservation, but everything to do with taste. Well! This was a game changer.

My favourite octogenarian Joyce suggested I roast them first to bring out the natural caramelized flavour of beets without the added sugar. Brilliant! Now when I can beets, I roast them first, slip the skins, add the brine without any extra sugar and throw in a few cloves for good measure. What a difference! The true flavour shines through without that sickly cloying sweetness that some beets (especially commercial ones) have.

 

Taco Toppers

Sweet cabbages

Sweet cabbages

Tired of the same ol’ grated yellow cheese topping for your tacos? Why not try curtido? What’s curtido you ask? Well, traditionally it’s a lightly fermented Latin American version not dissimilar to sauerkraut. It usually includes sliced cabbage, grated carrots and thinly sliced onions and is a favourite to add to pupusas-those diabolically tasty stuffy fried corn tortillas.

It’s deceptively simply yet packed full of flavour. Local cabbage is at it’s prime right now, super sweet and firm, like these beauties from North Gate Organics, a small farm just north of Cobourg.

If you want a lesson on making curtido for yourself, check out our upcoming workshop on August 13th.

You say fennel, I say finocchio

fennel copy

It sort of rolls off your tongue when you say it in Italian. It sounds way sexier than fennel which to me conjures up the image of an overweight waitress at a road stop diner. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but really, try saying “I’m having finocchio for dinner tonight”. Doesn’t that sound divine?

Fennel is an underused vegetable in this country. While it seems to share equal time with eggplant and peppers in Italy, we don’t give it the same respect. At best we buy it as a novelty, but let’s face it , lots of us don’t exactly know what to do with it. Also, the taste seems a bit, well, foreign to us. If you grew up eating anise, drinking absinthe or ouzo maybe it would seem friendlier. But a licorice flavoured vegetable? Technically it’s not even a vegetable-despite having a large bulb, but a herb. Maybe that’s what confuses us so much.

One of the tastiest ways of preparing fennel is oven roasting with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This sweetens it and mellows out the strong taste usually associated with fennel. But eating thinly sliced raw in salads and side dishes are equally satisfying, especially when you can get your hands on young fresh fennel early on in the season (typically July-September).

Finally you can pickle fennel! Add some fresh mint and dill seed to your vinegar brine and eccolo, you have a crunchy, tangy, slightly sweet concoction that can be tossed into salads, used as lamb burger topping, scattered inside falafel wraps or tacos.

Tell me what you would use them for!

 

Deep Freeze of January

As the mercury registers a teeth rattling -18 Celsius outside, days of canning fresh produce seem a long way off. No matter, I grab a jar of perfectly plump pickled cipollini onions from the pantry. These beauties I snagged in the summer from Stephen at  Fiddlehead Farm in Prince Edward County. I’ll add them into a fiery adobe rice and beans dish tonight. Pure gold on a frosty January day.Image