May – Pickled Asparagus

May – Pickled Asparagus

I just can’t get enough of asparagus when it first comes into season! By the end of May I am looking for ways to preserve it for the rest of the year. Out of season asparagus is often shipped long distances and can be dry and lacking in that wonderful grassy flavor (not to mention enormously expensive and environmentally irresponsible). I want to take full advantage of the long spring season, there are so many ways of serving it. Have you ever thought of combining different cooking methods with the same vegetable? The combination of fresh asparagus and pickled ones in an inspiration. Think thinly sliced or finely chopped pickled spears combined with sour cream (or even better, creme fraiche) as a sauce for fresh asparagus cooked on the grill. You could add equal parts mayonnaise if you want. Serving it as a sauce elevates the vegetable to a new level. What about putting a poached egg on top, serving all on top of a slice of crisp toast? I could see a slice of crisped prosciutto somewhere in there as well or even a slice meaty bacon. Yum!

I am getting ahead of myself because a simple platter of grilled or roast asparagus with pickled asparagus sauce is delicious.

Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

But first you need the pickled asparagus. I have found jars in better grocery stores but they are the tiny grassy spears, and are quite costly. It is far easier to pickle your own when asparagus is in season.

For pickling you can use either thin or thicker spears, peel the ends of the thicker ones first. if you haven’t done this before you can find the tips here. I found large mouth quart canning jars so I could pickle the longest spears possible. But you can cut them into smaller pieces and use pint jars if that is all you have. Either way pack them with the tips up to preserve the shape as much as possible.

Start with 4 pounds of asparagus to ensure enough for 3 quarts. I purchased 3 large bunches, thinking it would be enough (it looked like an enormous amount) and was short a 1 quart container. You’ll need about 16 cups (hard to measure). At the end I had one unused sterile quart container and extra pickling solution…what to do? I found a head of celery in the fridge and remembered reading somewhere about the joys of pickled celery. Why not? Now I have a jar of pickled celery and will let you know how I like it.

Asparagus waiting to be pickled

If you have to buy your asparagus a day or two ahead, store them like flowers with the ends in cool water.

Pickled Asparagus

For 4 quarts:

Ingredients:

  • 6 1/2 cups of white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 8 sprigs of fresh fennel fronds if available
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 16 cups of asparagus or 4 pounds

Method:

  1. First bring the water in your canning jar to a boil. I find this takes the longest and always start it at the very beginning of the canning process. You can use the water to scald 4 quart canning jars. Or, I find it easier to run them through the dishwasher, then place them open side down on a clean dishtowel until you are ready to fill them.
  2. In a dry small skillet, toast the fennel seeds on medium heat until they are turning golden brown and aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove and place on a plate to cool.
  3. Prepare the asparagus by measuring the length you will need for your jars, snap and peel the ends once the appropriate size. You really only need to peel the ends of medium or large asparagus stalks.
  4. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil. You will use this to blanch the asparagus. While it is coming to a boil, put a large bowl of ice water in the sink. Once it comes to a boil, add the asparagus in batches. Set a timer for 1 minute, then remove the stalks from the boiling water and drop them into the ice bath to cool quickly. Once cool, remove them to a clean dishtowel lined tray. Repeat as necessary until they are all blanched.
  5. In a pot bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil. This is your brine. Keep hot.
  6. In a small pot soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the seal.
  7. Now you are ready. Turn the jars right side up and add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 bay leaf, and 2 garlic halves to each jar. Pack the asparagus in tightly, tips up.
  8. Carefully pour the hot brine over the asparagus in the jars. Leave about 1 inch of head space. Check for air pockets and add more liquid if needed. Wipe the rims, add the lids and screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
  9. Place the jars in the pot with the lid, add water to cover the jars (by about an inch if possible). Bring the water back to boil, cover, and process for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars for a few minutes. Remove the jars and let cool completely. Check to make sure the lid pops in, indicating proper canning.

And here is the lone jar of pickled celery.

Pickled Celery

The inspiration for this recipe came from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy. It is probably one of my most used books on preserving.

I think I will take this as part of my recipe for asparagus with pickle sauce to the party at Fiesta Friday #226, it will be lovely as part of the buffet. You can find the link to Angie’s Fiesta Friday blog here. Follow the listed links at the bottom to any of the blogs that interest you. Angie’s cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

If you are a blogger yourself, please add your link to the list.

TGIF everyone!

 

 

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.