I know I should be putting up tomatoes right now…but sadly when I hit the farmer’s market yesterday I was on my bike and I didn’t have confidence I could get the gorgeous, ripe heirlooms I saw home without major squashage. In hunting for more durable produce, I came across a stand with a whole assortment of colorful hot peppers; I bought enough to fill two quart jars (a quarter peck) and, inspired by Mother Goose, I pickled them! And photographed them with the Manhattan skyline.
When I was about ten, I went to a traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve. Truthfully, there might not have been exactly seven fishes, but there were many courses and there were many old Italians; the dinner was held my grandmother’s best friend Marie. Marie lived in the same Florida development as my grandparents, so I always saw her when I went to visit them; I don’t think I realized until I was about seven that we weren’t related. She is a fabulous cook, and her Christmas Eve banquet was one of my formative food experiences; I remember sitting through antipasti, pastas, fish, cheeses, desserts, thinking “I want to be able to do this one day.” One of the antipasti served at the start of this dinner was a traditional Sicilian pickled eggplant – melanzane sott’olio. I was not a huge fan, but my parents went nuts over it and my mom got the recipe. It languished in her recipe box for years, but since I’ve got a more developed palate than I did at ten, and I’ve been getting into pickles, I decided to try it out…
I promised recipes last week and I’m not one to break promises, so here’s a quickie in celebration of the fact that I’ll be free of the bar exam in a week. Another winner from The Dallas Junior League Cookbook: nectarine-tomato chutney.
Over the past several years I’ve gotten really into my annual Oscars party. I enjoy the actual awards show well enough…but what I really love about the awards season is coming up with ridiculous punning dishes based on Best Picture nominee titles. Such as…pickling beets for 127 Hours.
I love pickled cucumbers: I’m a little ashamed that, like Snooki, I’ll often stand my tiny self (only part Guidette, sadly) in front of the fridge and just eat pickles out of the jar. Thankfully, I’m a little less orange and a little less be-pouffed. And I’m a little more adventurous: I just branched out from classic pickled cucumbers to try pickled grapes.
Sorry for the hiatus, everyone! This little thing known as “law school” crept up on me…but now that I’m back to more important things I figured I should get re-started with a bang! Or with the small but satisfying pop of a Ball jar vacuum-sealing…
I always thought canning was a really huge process, but I recently discovered that the sealing part can be taken care of mostly with boiling water. And that one can make many, many lovely preserves/conserves/jams/jellies/chutneys/etc. without ever touching (or, more importantly, finding) pectin. I already had a big lobster pot deep enough fill with water to cover pint jars, and I picked up a jar lifter…and was ready to go!
The recipe below is actually one-third of a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook: I could not handle 6 pounds each of pears and sugar on my first go at canning. I kind of tasted some of the conserve that didn’t fit in my jars, but it was still so hot that I mostly just burned my tongue. What flavor did register around my cries of “Hot! Hot! Hot!” was gorgeously spicy and fruity. I’ll report back for real when I crack Jar #1 this Friday for a friend’s pancake breakfast party.
Pear-Ginger Conserves (Fills 3 pint jars)
2.5 lbs ripe pears, peeled and chopped
2 lbs sugar
Peel and juice of 1 lemon**
4 oz. crystallized ginger, chopped
To make conserve:
Put all ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 10 minutes until it passes a “sheet test.” Be careful to watch the conserve so it doesn’t burn or caramelize.
**Use a peeler to remove the zest of the lemon in small pieces, leaving the bitter white pith. Then open and juice the lemon.
Fill a large pot with water to 2 inches above the top of whatever jars you’re using. Bring to a boil. While the conserve is bubbling, boil the jars and lids for at least 5 minutes to sterilize. Remove and fill while still hot. Screw the lids on – not too tight – and place upright in the boiling water. The jars should not touch each other or the sides of the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove and wait for the top of the lid to pop in. And your jar is sealed for months! Voila!