Archive for the 'preserves' Category

Garlicky Dill Pickles


I’ve been oddly addicted to dill pickles lately – as in, I’ve been eating my way through jars and jars of them, ice cold, straight from the fridge. Recycling last week was scary.

And so I did not procrastinate this time when I came across bags of knobbly thumb-sized pickling cukes at the market – I bought the biggest bag I could ($22 worth-I may have overdid it) and W and I turned them into pickles the other night, after coming home from his cousin’s birthday dinner, before going to bed. Even when you have that much to work with, making pickles isn’t an all-day endeavor – it really isn’t as big a deal as it sounds.

making pickles

Start with the snappiest cukes possible – a bendy cucumber means a bendy pickle. Tuck a couple peeled garlic cloves and a big sprig of fresh dill into each clean jar (I like to run them through the dishwasher first), then pack in as many cucumbers as you can wedge – considering that they will shrink as they pickle. Kids love this – it’s like a culinary version of Tetris. While you do this, heat some vinegar, water and coarse salt on the stove to dissolve the salt. Pour the hot brine over the pickles and pop on the lids. The processing part is what tends to freak people out – it only requires lowering the jars into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, then taking them back out. (Don’t go over 10, or they’ll start to cook and won’t be as crunchy.) Many dill pickles skip this step, so if you want to just keep them in the fridge, they’ll be fine – especially if you start with warm jars and hot brine.

(Amy has more detailed instructions on her site.)

Garlicky Dill Pickles

Most recipes call for regular white vinegar, which is 5% acetic acid, but Amy uses pickling vinegar, which is available in grocery stores and produces a more sour, pickley pickle. Adapted from The Canning Kitchen, by Amy Bronee.

5 lb (or howevermany you come home with) small pickling cucumbers
peeled garlic cloves – enough for a couple per jar
1 bunch fresh dill
4 cups water
2 3/4 cups pickling vinegar (7% acetic acid) or white vinegar
1/3 cup coarse pickling salt

Rinse your cucumbers and wash about 8 jars. Drop a garlic clove or two into each jar, and a few large dill fronds. Pack the cucumbers snugly into the jars, starting with the bigger ones and filling any gaps with the smaller. (You could also do spears – cut them into quarters lengthwise, then put the cucumbers back together before packing into jars to keep them crisp.)

Meanwhile, bring the water, vinegar and salt in a saucepan to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the salt dissolves and the mixture turns clear.

Ladle the hot brine over the packed cucumbers, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes – I of course didn’t read this part fully, and put them in for 10 minutes and then took them out, but Amy says to start timing when the water in the canner returns to a full boil. When the processing time is up, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Leave the jars in the canner for 5 more minutes.

Let them cool – you’ll hear the satisfying pop of each lid as it gets suctioned down, showing that it has successfully sealed. (If it doesn’t, store it in the fridge.) If you can manage, wait 3-4 weeks before you crack one open.

Makes about 8 500 mL jars.

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August 18 2015 | preserves | 6 Comments »

Nanking Cherry Jelly

nanking cherry jam 1

It’s time. The bushes are heavy with ripe Nanking cherries, and the birds haven’t managed to get at them all – Nankings are those small, brilliant red cherries that grow up against their branches, rather than dangle on stems like a Bing or Evans. A kind neighbour took pity on me picking cherries out by the road and brought me a bag she had picked from her back yard. This is what I call being neighbourly. (And yes, she got the biggest jar on her step this morning.) Nanking cherries are perhaps my favourite foraged fruit – and yet there’s not a lot you can do with them. They’re juicy but pit-heavy; I’ve heard of people pitting theirs to make pies, but can’t imagine what you’d be left with. I’m not sure I’m up to the task.

nanking jelly 1

It’s much easier to dump all you can manage to pick into a big pot, add a bit of water, and coax them to release their juice on the stovetop, mashing with a potato masher to relieve the pits of their flesh before pouring the ruby sludge through a sieve into a bowl. What you wind up with is this brilliant red juice that can be sweetened into syrup to use in cocktails and sparkling water, or simmered with sugar, lemon juice and a bit of pectin (for insurance purposes) to make crazy lovely jelly.

Nanking cherry jelly 5nanking cherry jam 2

A paper muffin liner makes an easy jar label – with a built-in skirt! And I sprayed some snap-on lids with chalkboard spray paint. I’m so Pinterest-y.

I’ve never attempted Nanking cherry jelly without pectin as a backup – mostly, I think, because the bushes are few and far between and I didn’t want to have to find more; also because most recipes out there call for packaged pectin. But this jelly sets up so quickly and easily – and is so solid – that I suspect it would work with less or even no added pectin. And if for some reason it doesn’t set, we already know the syrup could be put to perfectly good use – if not in Prosecco or a G&T, drizzled over pancakes – so that’s hardly a problem.

The problem with most jam and jelly recipes is that they call for a specific measurement of fruit, and when you’re picking your own, you’re not likely to come up with an exact number. Most recipes I found for Nanking cherry jelly called for around 16 cups, and I only wound up at around 13 because a kind neighbour took pity on me picking cherries out by the street and came out to share an enormous bag she had harvested from her back yard. But if you have less, you can still make jelly – just go by the quantity of juice you manage to extract, and add sugar (and pectin) accordingly.

Nanking Cherry Jelly

Nanking cherries
lemon juice

Put as many cherries as you’ve managed to pick into a large pot, add half a cup to a cup of water (less than a cup if you have under 8 cups of berries; a cup if it’s more?) and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the cherries soften and start to release their juices, mashing occasionally with a potato masher.

Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl – or use a jelly bag if you have one. Leave it if you want a clear jelly, or swirl a spoon around in the sieve to coax out as much juice as you can. (This is what I do.) When you get out as much as you can, toss the sludge with all the pits in it, and put the juice back into the pot.

Measure out about as much sugar as you have juice and set it aside. Add about 1 Tbsp. lemon juice per 2 cups of juice to the juice, and shake in some packaged pectin – I had about 5 cups of juice and used about half a package. (Most recipes call for a packet for 6 cups of juice; you can totally guesstimate here.) Bring the juice-pectin mixture to a full rolling boil, then stir in the sugar. Bring it back to a full, hard boil for 2 full minutes – this means a rolling boil you can’t stir down. Remove from the heat and skim any foam off the surface. Ladle into hot, clean jars, seal and cool.

Makes as much as you like.

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July 18 2015 | preserves | 8 Comments »

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