April – Fermented Lemon Pickle with Indian 5-Spices

April – Fermented Lemon Pickle with Indian 5-Spices

You will find recipes for fermenting vegetables (and sometimes fruit) in every culture. it is a way to preserve seasonal vegetables, increase their nutritional potency, and add a ton of flavor as well. In its simplest form, fermenting vegetables just involves submerging vegetables in salty liquid and leaving them alone to let the wild bacteria do its work.

Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Moroccan preserved lemons, Chinese pickles, Indian pickles, Japanese umeboshi are all examples of fermented vegetables and fruits. In his book, The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz explains that although you can call fermented vegetables pickled, all pickles are not fermented. The “Dill pickles” found in grocery stores are vegetables preserved in vinegar and are not fermented. It is important to know this difference as eating fermented foods has a lot of health benefits.  

Katz in his book observes correctly that Indian pickling is not an unified tradition – each state, each region, each sub-culture, and even each family has its prized pickling method.  Most will add heated mustard or sesame oil, but some may not.  Some will leave it out in the sun, but some will just leave it in a cool place inside.  Some will add lemon juice, some will not. But throughout India you will find fermented lemon pickle served with rice and yogurt. It is a pantry staple.

This fermented lemon pickle is definitely out of my usual comfort zone, but it was so intriguing. I love the mix of spices, and I just happened to have them all on hand having recently visited the Oaktown Spice Shop. I thought, why not? Go for it! I’m posting  the recipe, even though it has to cure for another month, because there are many of us right now with a glut of Meyer lemons, you may want to try it.

I found this recipe on the blog hungry tigress. There are two parts to the blog, tigress in a pickle and tigress in a jam. Check out this blog for wonderful recipes on preserving, pickling and fermenting. I made the recipe exactly how it was written on her blog, you can read the original here.

Meyer Lemon Pickle with Indian 5-Spices

makes 1/2 gallon or two quart jars

Ingredients

  • 13 organic Meyer lemons, washed and wiped dry
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • scant 1/2 cup fine sea salt
  • scant 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of cayenne powder or ground chili of choice
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • optional: 1/4 teaspoon of asafoetida powder

Method

  1. Wash and wipe the lemons with a dry cloth. Slice 12 of them in quarters lengthwise, slice each quarter through its width into three pieces. Remove the seeds as you go. Put the lemons into a large bowl and try to catch as much juice as possible, adding it to the bowl as you go.
  2. In a heavy dry skillet toast the 5 whole spices on medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. As soon as you smell a wonderful aroma and the fenugreek seeds have turned a shade darker, they are ready. If you are using the asafoetida powder, add it the last few seconds before turning everything out onto a plate to cool.IMG_4333
  3. Once cool, grind them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Add them to the lemons along with the salt, sugar, cayenne, and turmeric. Stir until all is combined.
  4. Scoop all into a immaculately dry half gallon (or into two quart jars) glass jar with a tight fitting lid. The recipe warns that the jar and all utensils that touch the pickle must be dry because even a little water could lead to spoilage of the lemons.
  5. Place the jar in a sunny windowsill. Give the jar a shake every day or so, or keep in right side up one day and upside down the next.
  6. Every few days open the cap, carefully, as there will be fermentation going on inside and it will sizzle a bit when you open the lid. The pickle should be done in about 3 weeks, taste it to see if the flavor and texture is to your liking. You want some firmness to remain.
  7. Store in the refrigerator and it will easily last for a year or more. Be sure to use a clean dry spoon each time.
    Meyer Lemon Fermented Pickle with Indian 5-Spices

    Meyer Lemon Fermented Pickle with Indian 5-Spices

    I love this pickle with plain brown rice or another grain, with a dollop of yogurt on the side to cut the heat. But, my husband prefers it whirled in a blender with some mayonnaise. It it a wonderful sauce for roasted vegetables, fish, or chicken. It also makes a wonderful salad dressing, whirled to a smooth consistency in a food processor (I use my mini one) and thinned with a little olive oil.

Fermented Lemon Pickle, olive oil and mayonnaise

Fermented Lemon Pickle, olive oil and mayonnaise

Summer Detox Salad

Summer Detox Salad

April – Preserved Lemons

April – Preserved Lemons

You could say that my life is coming up lemons. The best kind, Meyers. An abundance has me making marmalade, preserving, and pickling. I’m sharing the recipe I use for preserved or salted lemons. There are lots of them out there once you start a search. And you don’t have to use Meyers, regular supermarket lemons (you will want to buy organic unwaxed ones) make good preserved lemons as well. It will perhaps be a bit more tart but still delicious. It’s easy to make preserved lemons, it only takes a little patience during the curing time. The little jars you find at gourmet stores are outrageously expensive. Start salting now and you will have lemons to flavor your late summer recipes. The Bon appetit website has a wonderful slideshow highlighting various recipes where they are used, find a link here. Preserved lemons are amazingly adaptable and add flavor to many dishes, not just in Middle Eastern cooking. They are a pantry staple at my house. They add a lovely lemony perfume to a dish without adding acidity.

You can find recipes out there for speeding this up, search the web for them if you are interested. This cure takes about 3 months but the results are worth the wait. To use the lemons once they are ready, rinse off the salt and remove the pulp. It’s the rind that you use. Some cookbooks also recommend scraping off the white pith on the inside of the rind before you use them. I don’t find it absolutely necessary. 

My recipe comes from the book The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant. I have posted several recipes from the book. It is my “go to” source of recipes for making and cooking with pickles, preserves, and Aigre-doux. The recipe is more a ratio, you can scale it up or down depending on how many lemons are available. I have read that it also works for oranges, although I haven’t tried it.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups kosher salt, plus more if needed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup herbes de Provence
  • 10 lemons, washed and well scrubbed, dried

This is enough cure for at least a dozen large lemons.

Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, and herbes de Provence
  2. Slice the ends off 8 of the lemons and slice into wedges, top to bottom, leaving the wedges connected at one end. Smaller lemons can be cut into 4 wedges, larger ones 6.
  3. Layer some of the cure at the base of a ceramic or glass storage container. Layer in the lemons, sprinkling some of the cure into the center of each before placing it in the jar. Keep layering lemons, add more cure between each layer as well.
  4. Squeeze the juice from the two additional lemons into the jar and coat generously with the salt mixture. If the lemons are not completely covered by juice, sprinkle a layer of salt over the top.
  5. Set aside at room temperature for 4 to 5 days. In a few days lemon juice will leach out of the wedges and mix with the salt, creating a brine.
  6. After 4 or 5 days the lemons should be covered by brine. Check to see that they are submerged. If not you may want to put a plastic lid on top and put a weight on top. I use a glass ramekin on top of the plastic lid to prevent the lemons from bobbing to the surface (that will inhibit proper curing).
  7. Place in a cool, dark corner, giving the lemons and occasional stir, for at least a month but ideally 4 months.
  8. Once cured the lemons will keep for at least a year in the refrigerator as long as they are submerged.

 

Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons

Small jars make wonderful gifts for those who are not blessed with a lemon tree in their backyard.

April – Meyer Lemon Marmalade

April – Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

An abundant harvest of Meyer lemons from my backyard tree has me searching for ways to preserve them before they drop to the ground. So far I have made Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux, salted preserved lemons, quick lemon pickle from Madhur Jaffrey’s book World Vegetarian, lemon pickle with Indian 5-spices from the blog Tigress in a pickle, and now Meyer lemon marmalade. There are still several dozen on the tree and I see another batch or two of this marmalade in my near future. This was my first experience with marmalade and it is delicious, with the added bonus of being easy.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

My recipe came from an issue of Gourmet, December 1999.

Yield 6 (1/2 pint) jars

Ingredients

  • 6 organic Meyer lemons, washed and dried
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 cups of sugar

Equipment

  • 6 (1/2 pint) Mason type jars, sterilized
  • Rings and tops, heated in hot water
  • Cheesecloth
  • Kitchen string
  • Hot water canner

Preparation

  1. Cut a large square of cheesecloth and have some kitchen string at the ready. Halve the lemons crosswise and remove the seeds, saving them on the cheesecloth. The seeds will release natural pectin to thicken the marmalade.
  2. Thinly slice each lemon half, if large you may want to quarter the halves and then slice. I wanted a more chunky marmalade so the slices are larger. Try to reserve as much juice as possible. As sliced, place the lemons into a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot. Tie up the seeds and place them into the pot with the lemons and 4 cups of water.
  3. Let the mixture stand, covered, at room temperature for 24 hours.

    Meyer Lemon Marmalade

    Meyer Lemon Marmalade

  4. The next day bring the lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to about 4 cups. This will take 45 minutes to an hour.
  5. Prepare your hot water canner and sterilize your jars. You will need enough water to cover the sealed jars by 1 inch.
  6. Remove the cloth bag of seeds from the pot and stir in the sugar, bring back to a boil.
  7. Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of the mixture dropped on a cold plate gels. This will take 15-25 minutes.

    Meyer Lemon Marmalade

    Meyer Lemon Marmalade

  8. Ladle the marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe rims with a dampened cloth and seal with lids.
  9. Process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes, transfer with tongs to a rack and cool completely. Check to see all the jars have sealed.
Tea and Marmalade

Tea and Marmalade

The marmalade will keep, stored in a cool, dark place, up to a year. Mine will not last that long.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Irish Butter on Toast

Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Irish Butter on Toast

I’m taking this to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday. Come join us at Fiesta Friday #116 by adding your link to FiestaFriday.net and the co-hosts’ blogs. The co-hosts this week are Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Cynthia @ eatmunchlove.

April – Preserving Meyer Lemons – Meyer Lemon Aigre-doux

April – Preserving Meyer Lemons – Meyer Lemon Aigre-doux

In April, many of the backyards in Northern California host heavily laden Meyer lemon trees. I can almost hear my tree groan as the branches are bent to the ground with fruit. This year I am determined to preserve as many of the lemons as possible. We suffered the mysterious overnight loss of all the lemons from the tree last year. I’m telling you, literally overnight the tree was bare! Who? What? Neighborhood foragers? It turns out there was a family of opossums nesting in the corner of the yard. Mother opossum must have had a huge dinner of lemons.

opossum family

opossum family

Poor babies, what must have her milk tasted like after all that gluttony? But, they certainly didn’t have any chance of catching scurvy!

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons are so sweet that you can eat the rind. When he was a small child, I once found my son snacking on one he had pulled from the tree as if it were an apple.

I am determined to preserve the bounty before mother possum comes for a return visit.

The following is a recipe I have made for several years (with the exception of last). Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux comes from the book The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant. It is my most often used cookbook for interesting twists on preserving. Paul writes “Meyer lemon aigre-doux is extremely versatile. In spring I make an emulsified vinaigrette to dress grilled asparagus or delicate butter lemon leaves. Just pick out any visible seeds, blend the wedges and aigre-doux liquid until smooth, then drizzle in good olive oil (I also like to add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard). The result is a creamy as mayonnaise. In summer I’ll make a citrus relish to pair with fresh summer green and wax beans by dicing the wedges crosswise and mixing them with celery root slices, chives and olive oil.” 

It is a lovely addition to a marinade for lamb or chicken, and a quick sauce for fish.

“Aigre-doux” is the French term for sweet-and-sour. It’s a mixture of fruit with wine, vinegar, and spices. I’ve made several types from the book (grapes, mandarin orange, cranberry) but the lemon is my absolute favorite.

Meyer lemon aigre-doux vinaigrette

Meyer lemon aigre-doux vinaigrette

I can attest to it being absolutely delicious on grilled asparagus.

Grilled asparagus with Meyer lemon aigre-doux vinaigrette

Grilled asparagus with Meyer lemon aigre-doux vinaigrette

Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux

Ingredients:

  • 2-3/4 cups of white wine (624 grams)
  • 1-1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of Champagne vinegar (312 grams)
  • 1 cup of honey (330 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt (3 grams)
  • 11 to 12 cups of Meyer lemons, ends trimmed and cut into about 6 wedges (depending on the size of your lemons this will be 12 to 14 lemons) (1362 grams)
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs of thyme

Directions:

  1. In a pot over medium-high heat, bring the wine, vinegar, honey and salt to a boil. Keep hot.
  2. Scald 6 pint jars (or run them through the dishwasher) in a large pot of simmering water fitted with a rack – use this pot to process the jars. IMG_4266Right before filling, put the jars on the counter. Into each jar add 1 bay leaf and 1 thyme sprig. IMG_4267Pack the lemon wedges into the jars, using about 12 wedges per jar. IMG_4268Meanwhile soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal.
  3. Carefully pour the hot brine over the lemons, leaving a 1/2 inch space from the rim of the jar. Check the jars for air pockets, adding more brine if necessary. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth or paper towel, seal with the lids, then screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
  4. Place the jars on the rack in the pot and make sure they are covered by about 1 inch of hot water.
  5. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Start the timer when the water comes to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave for several minutes before removing the jars from the hot water canner.

IMG_4273

I think I will try making marmalade with them. Don’t you think it would be lovely for holiday gifts?

Do you have any favorite recipes for preserving lemons? I will salt some, of course. And there is lemon curd, but does anyone know if it freezes well? I will have LOTS of lemon curd.

I am taking the lemons to dress a salad at Fiesta Friday #114. Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie at Fiesta Friday and co-hosted by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. Click on the links to see all the wonderful party food.

February – Out-of-Season Tomato Flavor Booster

February – Out-of-Season Tomato Flavor Booster

I try, as much as possible, to cook and eat seasonally. Seasonal produce is more flavorful, has more nutrients, and hasn’t traveled for miles thus increasing its carbon footprint. I also enjoy the anticipation of the first strawberries or asparagus or squash or tomatoes. But…sometime in the midst of winter I miss tomatoes. In an effort to satisfy this craving I tried a recipe recently posted in the New York Times. The author (Amanda Cohen from Dirt Candy) claimed that tomatoes don’t have to be eaten in season to taste good. Frankly I was dubious, but willing to give it a try. IMG_4133

These tomatoes were available at my local Trader Joe’s, organic but from Mexico. They look better in the picture, definitely more red than they did in the package. Eating one sliced in a sandwich was a ho-hum experience. Amanda’s method is to slow roast them in olive oil, with the added benefit of that lovely tomato flavored oil. It’s almost like making a confit. The resulting tomatoes can be used in a tomato sauce or chopped on a bruschetta.

Following is her method. I will be posting the a recipe for her Roasted Tomato-Coconut Sauce.

Roasted Out-of-Season Tomatoes

  • 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes (any kind)
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 slices of peeled ginger, about 1/8 inch thick
  • 2-3 sprigs of basil or other fresh herb
  • 5-6 cups of extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Heat oven to 275 degrees F (she recommended 250 degrees F but in my oven that was too low, every oven is different).
  2. If using large tomatoes, cut them in half. If using cherry tomatoes, leave them whole.
  3. Combine tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and basil in a baking dish that will hold the tomatoes in one layer.
  4.  Pour over them enough olive oil to to reach almost to the top of the tomatoes.
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for at least 2 hours, mine took an extra 30 minutes. The tomatoes should start to collapse and be showing some brown spots.
  6. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and let the tomatoes cool. Drain the oil into a separate container. Refrigerate or freeze the tomatoes.
Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

The tomatoes will last for a week in the fridge, the olive oil for about 2 weeks. For longer storage you can freeze the tomatoes. I made 2 batches and reused the oil. That gave it an even more concentrated tomato flavor.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

And, what do I think? How were they? I would say that they will rival most good quality canned tomatoes. Cooking didn’t improve the color but it did concentrate the flavor. They needed a lot of salt, a touch of sugar, and a drop of lemon juice to round things out. Mid-summer tomatoes would be amazing, I will make several batches this coming summer to store in the freezer for times of cravings such as this. I imagine the olive oil would be even more flavorful as well.

On a bruschetta I paired a chopped tomato with ricotta (soft goat cheese would also be good) and an arugula salad dressed with lemon, tomato oil, salt and garlic. A drizzle of tomato oil completed it. IMG_4135

Dress the arugula salad with lots of lemon juice, tomato olive oil, garlic and salt. The tomatoes need all those flavor boosters. Baby kale would also be good here.

December – Easiest Ever Applesauce

December – Easiest Ever Applesauce

My friend Linda in Fort Bragg gifted me a huge bag of apples from her backyard tree. These were organic, and wonderfully sweet Gala apples.

Gala Apples

Gala Apples

There were too many for our small family to eat before they went bad and the apples were too delicious to go to waste. I decided to make applesauce. The sauce would be delicious later in the year with roast pork or simply with yogurt for breakfast. They were so sweet I wouldn’t need to add much sugar or honey. To make things even easier for myself, I decided to keep the skin. It’s good for you, isn’t it? If you are not convinced, see the notes at the bottom of this post. By the time the apples cooked down the skin had melted into the apples, it  was not noticeable. What the skin did do was gave the applesauce a gorgeous pink tint, helped by a small handful of cranberries. I froze this sauce (the canner was in the garage and I didn’t feel like all that “to-do”) to keep the freshness (yes, it did do that). This is the easiest ever applesauce but you could also call it lazy woman’s applesauce!

Easiest Ever Applesauce (recipe makes 2 quarts)

  • 5-6 lbs. of apples, each washed, cored and cut into 7 pieces, unpeeled
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • handful of cranberries (optional)
  • 2 inch piece of lemon rind
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1/2-1 cup of water
Gala Applesauce

Gala Applesauce

  1. Sterilize 4 pint or 2 quart heat-proof jars by running them through the dishwasher on the hot cycle or filling with boiling water.
  2. Add the apples, cranberries (if using), lemon, vanilla, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of water to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and turn the heat to medium.
  3. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning and checking to see if you need to add additional water.

    Gala Applesauce with Cranberries

    Gala Applesauce with Cranberries

  4. Using a potato masher, mash in the pan until your desired chunkiness. Taste and add honey to taste, these apples didn’t need much. I’ve seen a recommendation in other recipes for 1/8 cup of sugar to each quart of sauce.
  5. Fill the jars leaving 1 inch at the top to allow room for expansion.
  6. Screw on the lids and and let the jars cool on the counter before placing in your freezer.
  1. Gala Applesauce

Gala Applesauce

If you have an abundance to apples from your own backyard tree (or a kind neighbors), I recommend this easy recipe. Adjust the amount of honey to the sweetness of the apples. A serving of this applesauce has the goodness of fresh apples with very little added sugar, with the extra benefit of keeping the skin. Doubtful? Here is more about the important nutrients contained in the peel:

The peel is home to ursolic acid, an important compound in the obesity-fighting ability of apples. Ursolic acid seems to increase muscle and brown fat, which in turn up calorie burn, thereby lowering obesity risk, at least in mice, according to a 2012 study.

In addition to the higher doses of certain nutrients, the apple skin offers several other health advantages. Eating the apple skin might reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, including liver, breast and colon cancers, according to Cornell University. The peel contains compounds called triterpenoids that have the power to destroy cancer cells, as well as prevent new cancerous cells from growing, Cornell University reports. A 2009 article published in the “Journal of Food Science” reports that the antioxidants in apple peels can help protect your heart health by preventing the oxidation of polyunsaturated fats. Oxidation of fats increases your risk of heart disease. – See more at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/470237-does-the-apple-skin-have-the-most-nutrients/#sthash.C4zhbiLi.dpuf

Lastly, an unpeeled apple has 5.4 grams of fiber, a peeled one only 2.8. Your microbiome will thank you for the peel.

Moral of the story, eat the peel. Wash it well if the apples aren’t organic, but it is still better to eat the peel even if they are not.

Applesauce with Vanilla Yogurt

Applesauce with Vanilla Yogurt

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Jazzmine at A Dash of Jazz and the theme is nostalgia.

Our Growing Edge

Our Growing Edge