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Pickling

Preserving Journal 2011

Here in Southern Ontario the window of availability for most produce worth preserving is just a few weeks long. That makes it difficult to refine recipes unless you keep a good journal that gets updated every year. What’s a blog for if not that sort of thing? So, here is my 2011 preserving round up post. (My instalment from 2009 can be found here.)

Wild Grape-Wild Apple, Hawthorn, and Wild Grape jelly.

Wild Grape-Wild Apple, Hawthorn, and Wild Grape jelly.

The Jellies: I was sceptical about whether these were worth the input in time and ingredients but they really are cool to look at and taste delicious. Also, the apple jelly (which I neglected to photograph) took home a ribbon from the Beaverton Fall Fair. For texture and taste the wild apple-wild grape was best. Small jars are key. Next year: Concentrate on recipes containing apple. (more…)

Off to the Fair

Today, a break from all the wine content (but please don’t forget to vote for my LCBO blog challenge entry) for a brief guide to entering your preserves for competition.

To be honest I had never done this before this year. So, take this as a rough beginner’s guide and not as expert and sage advice from on high.

I started my quest for a ribbon by asking We Sure Can! author Sarah Hood for her advice. Sarah was good enough to point me in the direction of fellow WSC contributors Shae Irving and Yvonne Tremblay. Yvonne is a five-time grand champion at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (“the big show” for fairs here in Southern Ontario) and Shae has a bunch of posts on her site Hitchhiking to Heaven about entering the Marin County Fair. These include results from this year and results from 2010 with her guide. (more…)

Preserving Party

Canning food can be a lot of work that goes much more easily when divided between many hands. After our massive tomato sauce session (two bushels worth) at the cottage last year this isn’t a new idea to me. This year was the first time, though, I’d gotten together with friends for a preserving party.

These sinks are ideal for shocking the skins off peaches.

These sinks are ideal for shocking the skins off peaches.

We were lucky that one of the group teaches at a small private school north of the city, King’s College School, that generously donated the use of their kitchen for our purposes. Working in what amounted to a small commercial kitchen, with ten full-power gas burners and a huge amount of counter space really helped. (more…)

Pickle Problems

Earlier in the week, I had a post that was intended to be my simplified recipe for wild, lacto-fermented dill pickles. It went a little long and still I feel like there are questions to answer so this post is intended as a sort of troubleshooting guide for that recipe. Unless you’re familiar with the process, that I adapted from Sandor Katz’s recipe in Wild Fermentation it’s best to read the original post before this one.

That seems like a lot of cucumbers. Well, yes, half a bushel, or a couple ounces shy of twenty-four pounds is a lot of cucumbers. I’ll update this post later in the year if this turns out to be more than we can eat but this is really where the volume discounts kick in. Two years ago when I bought the cucumbers from the same market vendor by the basket I paid roughly $4/kg ($10 for 2,670 g) but the pre-ordered half bushel worked out to more like $2/kg ($20 for 10,858 g). A full bushel is an even better deal at $35.

I’ll leave the commentary on how this difference illustrates a big hole in the economic model of farmers’ markets for another post.

Cukes like hot weather but also benefit flavour-wise from cooler nights so if you have the choice, like we do in Toronto, between warmer sources (Niagara) or cooler ones (north of the city) go with the latter. I’ve had very good luck with Willowtree Farms from Port Perry, ON and all the prices here are from them. (more…)

Wild Dill Pickles Recipe

Pickles at the one-week mark

Other than bacon, dill pickles may be my most frequent topic for posts. I’ve veered from strictly mainstream with posts about deep-frying pickles and making Jello shooters from the brine (seriously) but in 2009 I also did a background post on my second batch of homemade pickles and then a comparison between mine and similar store-bought pickles. With my fifth batch (in four years) of lacto-fermented, kosher dill pickles fermenting in the crock I think I’ve gained enough experience to offer some guidance to others.

I’m going to do a couple posts this week on these pickles. Today’s will be a straight-up recipe and the second will be a more in-depth troubleshooting post.

What distinguishes this recipe from other dill pickle recipes is that no vinegar is added to the brine. Cucumbers and flavourful ingredients are left in a salty brine for a few weeks at room temperature. “Wild” lactobacilli that are either already present in the container, on one of the ingredients, or land in the brine digest the sugars in the cucumbers and produce lactic acid which flavours the brine and keeps other micro-organisms from taking over.

This recipe is adapted from Sandor Katz’s Sour Pickles in his excellent book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Lve-Culture Foods. Especially since the recipes trick comes from him credit is definitely due in this case. Wild Fermentation is a very useful book that is full of rare gems.

Update: After three weeks in the crock we have pickle success. For the fermenting period (July 30 to August 20) we had daytime temperatures that were roughly average (high 20′s in Celsius) for this time of year in southern Ontario. By the last of the three weeks it had started to get cooler at night (down to about 15C) on a more reliable basis.

By the time I was ready to transfer the pickles to jars the scum on the top of the brine was a slightly darker off-white shade. The pickles were sour, not too salty, had lots of garlic punch, and had a good, if not perfect, crunch.

In jars they’ll last in the refrigerator for about two to three months–some sources even say as long as six.

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