Pickled onions – I’ve been meaning to do a batch for two years. I have this vision of having a sophisticated cocktail party and, whilst wearing a cardigan, I offer my guests some form of dirty martini with a homemade pickled onion on the side. The more likely reality is that I will end up eating an entire jar of pickled onions by myself on the couch while watching a few games of football in the winter.
I introduced the topic of hunting to this forum in February (the article was called Confessions of a One-Time Vegetarian which attempts to give a balanced introduction on my own moral journey related to hunting). The onset of fall means that we are in full-on preparation mode for the coming season.
Dana and I have added to our family this week – he is too young to hunt this year and will eventually join me in the bush. Our main hope for Shaeffer is to be a good pal – I would far rather a great friend and poor hunter than the other way around. He is a Vizsla (Hungarian bird-hunting dog). He is named after the pond on our property near Huntsville (Shaeffers Pond).
We will update our journeys with Shaeffer as it relates to food. For now he is stalking his toys and living a life between crazy energy and absolute sleep.
There were no plans to preserve yesterday – but sometimes I see something that melts a little piece of my heart and calls me to the jarring process (Im really not all that dramatic – but its the closest I can come to describing what happens).
I ran into a bin full of Ontario Romano Beans. They looked super cool. I bought a pile of them and took them home.
The domain of design on this blog belongs to Dana – a 15 year Graphic Designer with her own business makes her our resident expert. I have learned a lot about design from Dana and many of our friends who make careers from design. Discussions around our house frequently discuss the value of form over function (and the inverse), the role of design in food (and other things) and the general presence of visual stimuli all around us.
I was at the large grocery store on Sunday (there are far fewer markets opened on Sundays – though I am told a good one exists in Unionville). We do buy from the large chains as well as the markets – where possible we try to be local. We had company coming and I was in a pinch so off to the market. Found some pork, carrots, parsnips and needed another veg. I went to the squash section and noticed a lot of imported gourds when closer inspection revealed this beast (it is about 3 pounds):
It has been an exceptional week of preserving – so many posts to get caught up on. We have pickled onions, garlic and cucumbers. We had made sauce, stewed tomatoes and pears with Kahlua. Our newly minted preserving shelf is overfilling and it is definitely time to do some eating!
We recently had a question in our comments in regards to peaches and how to stop them from floating (you can see the thread and Anu’s question here). We use the same trick for peaches as we do for pickles so I thought I might be able to share a bit about floating fruit and veggies in preserving.
Here is a few thoughts:
- Floating happens to the best of us. As long as your seal is tight and your headspace the right amount, you should not have to worry about it other than a possible loss of color in the fruit at the top of the float. Exposed parts can become tougher and less tasty. Rotate jars from time to time and shake things up in the jar to rotate in the fruit (just not in the first 24 hours).
- Take care to pack them tightly and eliminate air bubbles before processing. Large air pockets will work their way to the top of the jar during boiling – this can loosen your fruit.
- Susan (a friend from work) tells me her mother placed a piece of rye bread at the top of her pickles to keep them submerged. I have never seen this and suspect it would not be seen as a safe practice today though it worked for her family for years. I have never seen this done.
Now for the ultimate tip – something I call seatbelting:
We use bottle neck jars (i.e. not widemouth) for anything that can float. We pack fruit or veggies tightly and start by placing them vertically until we get near the top. As we near the top, we rotate the contents so they are perpendicular to their lower counterparts and ensure they are too wide to float. We essentially use a layer of sideways produce as seatbelt to hold the lower layers in. This has worked great with beans, pickles and pears this year. For peaches I would place an entire half peach at the top of a jar (but lower than the bottleneck) to stop the rest from rising.
Look at the top of the jar of pickles below and note the horizontal pickle wedged in the neck of the jar to hold the others down – there are several sideways pickles in the entire jar:
Note this jar of beans – only one of the beans can be seen as a seatbelt from the front of the jar:
Note here that all of the beans not touching the bottom are seatbelting the others in:
Anyone have any other tricks out there?
We are coming to the end of our sauce adventure. The jarring process is involved – we need clean bottles that have been heated and will need to work fast to fill them before placing them in a boiling water bath. We process our 1 liter jars for about 35 minutes – the goal is to raise all of the contents of your jar up to 212 degrees (fairly easy for sauce itself, more time is needed if you are adding solids such as pieces of garlic).
We follow a tested recipe that we trust a great deal. We add fresh herbs, garlic and a touch of salt to each hot jar before filling them with hot sauce. Note that these are not required – I add them as it can be difficult to get local garlic and herbs in late winter and spring which is why we take this extra step.
It starts off pink, begins to foam like mad and ends a delightful shade of red. The secret to cooking a tomato sauce for canning/preserving is patience.
Boiling tomatoes at a full roll is to be avoided at all costs. The goal of cooking your sauce down is to bring it to a simmer and slowly cook it down. We raise the heat to the point that small bubbles appear on the surface of the liquid without turning to a rolling boil. This is tricky at the beginning since a full boil can hide under the the layer of foam. Push it aside to see what is happening under the surface of the sauce.
Once you have purchased your tomatoes and let them ripen for a few days, it is sauce day! This is a very exciting day of the year to me – it starts early in the morning and goes through most of they day. It is a day of tradition, family and a few beer or glasses of wine (though be cautious – 300 pounds of molten tomato does have an element of danger after all).
We start by washing the tomatoes in large buckets and then we slice each one lengthwise. There are a lot of people who skip this step and put the whole tomatoes directly into the tomato press. We cut them to look for hidden rot and deep bruising that you may miss if examining only the surface. We generally find less then 12 tomatoes like this a year (from 6-8 bushels).
Your sauce will never be better than its ingredients. Selecting the right tomatoes for the job is, without question, a make-it or break-it decision. You are looking for ripe tomatoes that are fleshy (seeds and skin are discarded in the process after all).
Back to the Tomato Sauce series tomorrow – promise.
I was up at 5am this morning (I leave for work just after 7:00am). I had purchased some fresh cucumbers yesterday and had stored them in the fridge overnight.