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Archive for the ‘Apples’ Category

On January 8, 2011 I graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Gwinnett College with a degree in Business Administration, Finance concentration. To celebrate the event, I catered my own graduation party last Saturday night. As much as possible, I used local and/or organic food. It was a lot of work, but at the end of it all my exhausted foodie spirit was satisfied! Various food porn photos from the event are below! Click on the pics for the larger version.

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Pickled shrimp: sounds scarier than it really is.

My pickle frenzy resulted in a large variety of pickled items in my fridge. They are kind of taking over. So far I’ve pickled asparagus, butternut squash and pumpkin, shrimp, beets, mushrooms, broccoli, apples and onions. Yes, I pickled shrimp. The recipe calls for white peppercorns but I didn’t have any so I used black…I can see why she said to use white peppercorns. The black ones kind of look like…eyes…

Anyway, here are my findings:

Apple and Onion: I made this one too early. This really needs to go with Thanksgiving dinner. The cinnamon mixed with the vinegar is fun and suprising. I could totally see this going with any kind of a roast.

Asparagus: kind of disappointed in this one. I was hoping that it would be more like the dilled green beans. But it’s not. Somewhat blah. If I preserve asparagus again, it will be a straight up canning job.

Pickle buffet: broccoli in the ramekin and mushrooms in the jar. Shrimp, asparagus and butternut squash on the plate.

Beets: as I mentioned before, I really liked these ones. The Morrocan-style spices really make it interesting. Strong, though. You can’t just sit and munch mindlessly. Not that I ever do that.

Broccoli: this one is pretty good. Refreshing, a nice addition to a salad or a rich main course where the fat needs to be cut a little bit. I like it.

Butternut squash and pumpkin: Not bad on this one. Definately a better use than throwing out the pumpkin, which is what would have happened to it otherwise. Even test subject Bill liked this one. Sweet and sour…I should try it on ice cream. Wait a minute. Pickles and ice cream….NOOOOOO!

Mushrooms: these are very good – I would put these on a small plates buffet. Along side cheese and olives and crusty bread…oh yeah.

Apple and onion pickle. Looks rather refined, doesn't it?

Shrimp: they were not as creepy as I was thinking they would be. These could be little snackies to go along with the mushrooms in the above scenario. They actually kind of taste like the cooked shrimp they use at the sushi bar. Not creepy or freaky at all, even though it is pickled seafood. Rather messy to eat though.

All of these pickles were vinegar-based pickles. However, thanks to my successful kimchi experience I’ve been playing around with fermentation. Look for an upcoming post on dill pickles and sauerkraut. I have been absolutely devouring Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Wow! The world of microorganisms…who knew! And with the recent addition of a Gairtopf fermentation crock I’ll be a level 7 food freak in no time at all.

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If some of my Facebook feedback is any indicator, pickles (other than the boring dills you put on your burger) have gotten a bad rap. The mere mention of pickled beets is enough to send people running for cover. Even regular old pickled cucumbers are anathema if they are any different than Vlasic. How did the ancient and historically important pickle become a target of such ire? Are there some really vile pickle makers out there destroying pickling’s reputation?

If so, I am here to right the wrongs. I will be the pickle super hero. Armed with my new book, I will bring pickles back to their rightful place: front and center, part of everyone’s diet!

Ok, maybe not. But I will be pickling everything I can get my hands on. Pickling is an important method of preserving. You can do shelf stable vegetables in a waterbath canner if they are pickled without fear of the dreaded botulism. You can pickle just about any veggie (an some fruits). And I intend to pickle as many as I can get my hands on.

I recently pickled some asparagus, a vegetable indicative of spring if ever there was one. Since I canned them, and I hate to just can one thing when I’ve got that ginormous pot of boiling water going, I decided to do another pickle, too. Pumpkin and butternut squash.

Pumpkin and butternut squash pickled and cannedI know what you’re thinking. Well, maybe not. I try not to use those words. But seriously, who pickles pumpkin? Or butternut squash? Well, apparently Linda Ziedrich, author of the Joy of Pickling does. Using her recipe for a sweet and sour pickle brine I cut up the remaining pumpkin and butternut squash left on my counter and canned the little suckers. I’m a little nervous about this one. I mean, especially the pumpkin. It’s been on my counter for a long time. I can’t even remember when I got it. I would venture to say…well…months. But it was still hard on the outside. The squash, too. The insides were a little dry but they smelled ok.

Ok, I’m justifying. But it was either pickle them or throw them away, and how I hate to toss good food. So there are three pints of pickled pumpkin and squash sitting in my pantry waiting patiently three weeks until they are supposed to be fit to eat. I’ll report back.

Pickling broccoliSince I was up to my ears in cool pickle recipes, I went a little hog wild. I pickled a LOT of stuff as refrigerator or “quick” pickles. I pickled broccoli. I pickled apples and onions (yes, together.) I pickled beets in a kind of Moroccan style brine with toasted cumin seeds (which by the way I found only at one Whole Foods that had them in bins where you could buy in bulk – or in my case by the table spoon).

Now, the beets are good. Very unique and tart Pickling apple and onionand kind of savory thanks to the cumin. I like ‘em. Those are the only ones so far that are ready. The rest of them I have to wait at least a week before eating. A WEEK. Rude. Now that’s a pickle. I want to eat them, but I don’t want to have them before their prime and add to the anti-pickle bias with a bad pickle. So I’ll be patient. I’ll stare at them a minute each day and wonder how they’re coming along with their bad selves, pickling away in the dark recesses of my Maytag. This is going to be a long week or two.

Pickling beets

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Well ok, I didn’t actually get canned myself, but a bunch of other stuff in my house did. So what if it’s been more than twenty years since I helped my mom do canning back home? Heck yeah, let’s fly by the seat of our pants like always and do some canning.

 It all started innocently enough. I was hanging out at the farmer’s market Saturday morning, minding my own business. It was a dreary, drizzly, generally unappealing morning. So bad, in fact, that many of the vendors didn’t even show up. Neither did the customers. I felt like I had the whole six stands to myself.

 I chatted up a few of the vendors, discussing scones and herbs before finally making the rounds to the rest of the tables. When customers are sparse and the morning is wearing on, the vendors are ready to wheel and deal. I ended up getting a killer deal on about nine pounds of tomatoes (not to mention some already cleaned and cut pole beans…nice).

 And that, your honor, is how the great tomato massacre began.

 I’d been contemplating canning for a while, but was pretty scared of the whole prospect. I mean, making something shelf stable is no laughing matter. But I’d invested in a nice waterbath canner and wanted to try my hand. After reading about waterbath canners, pressure canners and canned botulism, I decided to stick with tried and true waterbath recipes. I’ll pass on the canned botulism, thanks.

The Great Tomato Massacre

The Great Tomato Massacre

 I found a good looking recipe for canned tomato sauce here. I was excited and got to work hacking away at the tomatoes. It was a veritable saucy bloodbath. It also took forever. I suppose I’ll have to have a kid, since it would have been nice to have an extra pair of hands to peel, seed and chop. Maybe I could borrow a neighbor’s kid next time…

 I got my tomato sauce together and put it on to simmer for several hours. I then turned my attention to the glut of apples I had somehow accumulated on my kitchen counter due to my CSA box and too much time at the farmer’s market. It just so happened that I also had a canned apple recipe. I could do the apples while the sauce was simmering. That’s called multitasking! (Or time management, I’m not sure which…)

Canning Station: Jars and lids in hot water, simmering tomato sauce, boiling water and simmering apples

Canning Station: Jars and lids in hot water, simmering tomato sauce, boiling water and simmering apples

 My simple syrup was simmering, my waterbath was boiling. The apples went into the syrup to boil for a few minutes, then into my hot jars they went. It was a bit messy since I couldn’t find a stupid wide mouth funnel anywhere that morning, but I think I managed. Jarred, topped and banded, into the boiling bath the jars went.

 I was so proud when I pulled them out. They were beautiful! Then I heard the pop, pop, pop of the lids sealing and marveled at my own greatness. Well, pride comes before a fall.

Canned apples!

Canned apples!

 The tomato sauce was ready. I jarred it up in pints in the same manner (I halved the recipe but didn’t get anywhere near half the yield the recipe stated…maybe I simmered too long and now have tomato sauce concentrate…anyway, I digress.) and dunked them in the water. About fifteen minutes into the processing time, I opened the refrigerator and saw the lemon juice (that I specifically sent test subject Bill to the store to buy because I was short) that was supposed to go into the sauce before it went into the jars. (For pH

They sure look nice...

They sure look nice...

reasons, the lemon juice is added to better stabilize the sauce.)

 My heart fell out and hit the floor with a thud. After all that work, to screw it up at the very end…I deserve three kung faux pas for that one. Derrr!

 Anyway, I let the jars finish processing and did what any normal person would do. I went crying to my mom and finished off the rest of the bottle of wine that didn’t go into the sauce.

You know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself...

You know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself...

 Mom kindly assured me that my sauce would be ok without the lemon juice, that she had done it before and it turned out just fine. She then shared with me a very sad story about a time when she had to throw out 24 jars of green beans because she misread the processing time. Thanks, Mom.

 I also sent the following email to the webmaster of the site that I got the recipe from:

 “What would happen, hypothetically, if you forgot to put the lemon juice in before canning the tomato sauce? Not that I did that or anything.”

 The friendly response indicated I could recan with the lemon juice and reprocess. I figured I’d screwed it up enough for one time around so I decided to just refrigerate my jars. I’ve got the space in between my yogurt and my pickles. [Note: I tried the tomato sauce one week later and it is the bomb. I had it with some mozzarella sticks and it is super yummy!]

Dilled and rather pickled green beans

Dilled and rather pickled green beans

 Undaunted (or insane) I tried my hand again the next day with some Dilled Green Beans. This was a fairly simple recipe. Trim the beans, pack them and the other ingredients into hot jars and pour a boiling salt/water/vinegar solution over them. Top, band and boil. This went much better than the day before (experience is a great teacher). Only issue was that even though I halved the recipe, half the liquid wasn’t enough so I had to quick boil some more while my beans waited.

 It was a success, as all my lids were sucked down 24 hours later. And darned if they don’t look totally cool. I love opening up my pantry and seeing my canned apples and canned pickled green beans. I did it. I preserved!

 Here’s what I took away from this experience: 

  • Read all your directions and make sure you have everything on hand.
  • Make a checklist and go through it before you lid your jars.
  • Check for bubbles and make sure you get them all pushed out before lidding.
  • A wide mouth funnel is your friend. Get one.
  • A jar lifter for pulling hot jars out of boiling water will save your fingers. Note to self: get jar lifter.
  • Don’t use a wet potholder to pull something out of a 400 degree oven. Not that I did that or anything.
  • A water bath canner will steam for a long time after you turn the heat off.
  • Sticking your hand into the water where you’ve been heating your jars and lids may not be advisable. Also not something that I did.
  • Resist the urge to play with your jars after you pull them out of the canner.
  • Popping is a good thing.
  • Canned botulism = bad. If it smells funny or you’re not sure about something, don’t eat it. This is actually serious this time. Public service announcement. Don’t kill yourself.
  • There is something inherently satisfying about making something shelf stable. Independence!

With a few successes and a few kung faux pas under my belt, I can safely say that I will try canning again. It is a lot of work, but what else are you going to do over the weekend that you can enjoy for months to come?

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When I was a kid we had several apple trees out back. The apples were good for throwing at siblings, feeding broken pieces (run over by the lawn mower) to hogs, and making applesauce. One afternoon my friend Joy and I were left unattended and we made enough applesauce to feed a hungry platoon.

I got about three pounds of apples over the last couple of weeks from my CSA so this morning I woke up thinking about applesauce. I hit Allrecipes and came up with two recipes I wanted to try, so I decided on a head-to-head competition between the two recipes.

Battleground Applesauce

Battleground Applesauce

 Applesauce A included ground cloves, which was the only ingredient different between the two. Amounts of apple, water, cinnamon and sugar and cooking times were different.

I have the same complaint about both recipes. They both use very subjective amounts of apples. 6 cups and 4 apples. Depending on the size of your chunks or the size of your apples, you could end up with a vast disparity in the total amount of fruit going into the sauce. I would have preferred apples by weight.

Both Applesauce A and Applesauce B called for 3/4 cup of water even though the amount of apples going into it were different. I ended up reducing them both to 2/3 cup and still ended up with excess water. My apples were sweet so I cut the amount of sugar down on both recipes as well.

The result?

Applesauce A on the left, B on the right.

Applesauce A on the left, B on the right.

Applesauce A with its cloves tasted and smelled like Christmas. Mmmm. Using the potato ricer on it and then adding some crushed pieces made a nice, slightly chunky consistency. I would use this if I was going to make an applesauce cake or something, or just eat straight up. Which I did.

Applesauce B was very well spiced and sugared. Putting it in the food processor to pulverize it gave it a nice, smooth texture. I’d eat this straight, on pancakes, on English muffins, on toast, or anything else I could think of.

Finally, an objective taste test: Test Subject Bill, after given an opportunity to sample both sauces and approving both, chose applesauce B for his lunch. Therefore I declare Applesauce B the winner by a very close margin.

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