I have to say I am a sweet pickle person. I can open a jar of sweet pickles and eat the entire thing. It is more fun with a friend, but I can definitely do it by myself.

I got this recipe from a woman who lived outside Iowa City. These pickles were one of the first (maybe the first) canning endeavors that I undertook on my own. In my tiny apartment without proper supplies. I burned myself, but ended up with 6 jars of lovely pickles. Needless to say, I was hooked.

The cucumbers are cut and left to sit, covered in salt and ice water. The salt draws moisture out of the cucumbers which results in crispy pickles!

After the cucumbers have sat for several hours, the vinegar, sugar and spices are heated up. The cucumbers are then heated in the syrup for 5 minutes and then ladled into jars and processed.

I am wondering how this batch will come out as I did let the cucumbers sit in the fridge for several days…it was just too hot to be working over a pot of boiling water!

cool cool cucumber

July 27, 2010

A friend gave me a bag of huge cucumbers the other day. They were overgrown for sure, and so I decided to juice them. It is hot hot hot here, and so I have been motivated to lie on the couch and take naps. And drink cool cucumber juice. With sugar and lime. And a bit of mint.

I halved and quartered the cucumbers and put them in the champion juicer. I left the juice in the fridge to cool off, and then when it was cool I added sugar, fresh lime juice and fresh mint.

And sat around on the couch drinking it. Not doing much else…

Note: For the record, its not quite as good as Binghi Mon’s cucumber juice, found at various locations around town…

russian pickles

July 24, 2010

This morning I got to the market early and found some pickling cucumbers, dill, and garlic. I picked some grape leaves at my dad’s house, and a handful of oak leaves from a tree in my yard.

I used a recipe from The Joy of Pickling and Preserving for Russian dill pickles. Oak leaves are added for flavor (instead of fermenting the pickles in an oak barrel which I don’t have..).

Pickles are a no heat project which is great since it is so hot today! Wash the jar, layer the cucumbers, herbs, and spices, and cover with salt water. EASY.

This recipe included hot peppers, garlic, mustard and coriander seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaves. The pickles are covered with a layer of oak leaves, and then some grape leaves, and then pressed down with a glass disk to keep everything submerged in the brine.

pickle success!

July 21, 2010

My first batch of pickles had a narrow escape. Everything was going hunky dory, and then I went out of town for the weekend. Usually when I leave home with a batch of something brewing, my mom looks after it. I forgot to tell her about the pickles, and fortunately they survived the two and a half day absence. I came home and they had finished fermenting. They bright green cucumbers had turned a deep olive green, and the bubbles had stopped rising to the surface of the jar.

I was a little worried about the brine, as some of the white scum that usually forms on the surface had started sinking into the jar. I washed the pickles, and then stuck them in a clean jar filled with salt water. That was the first thing that came to mind to do. As far as I am concerned, the pickles narrowly missed being ruined…I most certainly am not going to leave home and forget my pickles again!

The finished pickles are crispy, bright and tasty. My mom and I are going to make potato salad for them, and I am already planning on making another batch of sour dills…

roasted vegetable tart

July 13, 2010

A customer has been telling me about this tart for a while. She was in the store this morning, and we talked about it again. The basic directions are to make a tart with a cheese layer, then top it with roasted vegetables.

On the way home from work I picked up a package of feta cheese, a tub of ricotta cheese, and a box of butter.

I raided my fridge, my mom’s fridge, and the garden for fresh vegetables and herbs. Beets, basil, eggplant, zucchini, leeks, thyme, corn, and tomatoes. All from the garden, market, or csa. We were loaded with stuff. I washed and chopped up the beets and leeks and put them in my cast iron casserole and started roasting them. Then I made the dough for the crust. It needed to chill in the fridge for a while, so meanwhile, I peeled and chopped the eggplant and zucchini, and added them to the roasting vegetables, one at a time.

Next I mixed up the base layer of the tart. A package of feta cheese, 3/4 of a tub of ricotta cheese, and a little bit of prairie breeze cheese. To this mixture I added some chopped pickled pimentos, a handful of chopped basil, and some black pepper.

Time to roll out the dough and prebake the crusts.

I made two crusts, and put them in the oven for a little while first to bake so that they were nice and crispy when I was finished. While they were baking, I chopped some tomatoes, and cut the kernels off of a few ears of corn. I sauteed this in butter, with fresh basil and salt.

When the crusts were finished baking, I took them out and layered the filling. The cheese mixture first, then the roasted vegetables, finishing with the corn and tomatoes for color.

I put the tarts back in the oven, and baked them for about an hour (I think..). I took them out and served them right away..they probably should have sat for a few minutes to settle first, but I was a little behind schedule…

Just a little note: I had a few pieces of tart left and put them in the fridge overnight. They tasted way better cold and the next day!!

pickles for jeanne

July 10, 2010

My friend Jeanne and I were talking about pickles the other day, and she told me about a recipe that her mother used to make. Mustard pickles. 2 quarts cucumber, 2 quarts cauliflower, 2 quarts pearl onions. Covered with a mess of vinegar, sugar, mustard, turmeric, and flour. The recipe calls for a gallon of vinegar! (I cut the recipe in half…)

When I told my mom about the recipe, she said that my grampa used to make the same pickles, or a slight variation. We looked in Joy of Cooking, and they were right there, too, again slightly different.

I followed Jeanne’s recipe pretty much exactly. I went to the market this morning, bright and early, and picked up some small onions, pickling cucumbers, and cauliflower. I took them home and cut, cleaned, and blanched them in boiling salted water. Then I strained and cooled them, and they sat in the fridge for the rest of the day, draining off any excess juices. (The recipe calls for cooking them and then letting them drain over night. I looked at several different recipes, and each is a little different, cooking some things more than others, etc.)

When I got home this afternoon, I started the canning pot going and made the paste of sorts to pour over the vegetables. Vinegar with sugar, mustard, turmeric and flour. I mixed the dry ingredients together and then added some vinegar to form a thick paste. Then I added this to the rest of the vinegar in the pot and heated it until boiling.

Meanwhile, I took the drained vegetables out of the fridge and divided them between 8 pint jars. When the vinegar mixture was just to boiling, I poured it over the vegetables, sealed the jars and processed them as usual.

This is my first attempt at making sour pickles. I have made sweet bread and butter pickles, and pickled other things, but never have I fermented cucumbers for pickles. A friend dropped off a bag of pickling cucumbers to the store a few days ago, and today I remembered them in my fridge and set out to make something with them!

I found a recipe in my pickling cookbook (The Joy of Pickling) for a brined dill pickle using horseradish and mustard seeds. I love horseradish, and tried to find some fresh in town. I had no luck, and then called my friend Bob in East Pleasant Plain and he pulled up several plants for me. I have way more than I needed for the recipe, so I am going to preserve the rest in sugar and vinegar, and then plant the tops of the roots so that I can start a patch of my own!

The recipe also called for a handful of grape leaves. I picked some from my dad’s vine, and laid them in the bottom of the jar. I then layered the cucumbers, dill sprigs, chopped horseradish, onion slices, mustard seeds, and celery leaves in a 3 liter glass jar.

I am excited to watch the fermentation process through the glass.

After I had added all the ingredients to the jar I added the brine, and covered the entire thing with another batch of grape leaves. Then on top of that I placed a ziplock bag filled with brine to weight the ingredients down. It is very important that the vegetables remain submerged at all times!

The pickles will ferment for 2 to 3 weeks. After they have fermented fully, they are ready to eat, and should last in the fridge for about 4 months. I could also jar them, but don’t think that will be necessary…