Garlicky Dill Pickles

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 | 5 Comments »

Roasted Corn + Basil Soup

Corn + basil soup

We’re in Tofino at the moment, eating as many summery things as possible – including but not limited to: Dungeness crab we caught ourselves (to great excitement from the cousins) using the scraps left over from our roasted salmon and trout, fresh halibut, lingcod and fish tacos, strawberries from Port Alberni, locally cured bacon and sausage, jelly doughnuts named after the mayor, kale and tiny yellow tomatoes from Catface mountain, peaches, Damson plums and blueberries from the Okanagan, Bamfield Seaweed Salad, eggs from Nanoose bay, Humboldt shrimp, goat cheese and fresh garlic from Salt Spring Island, bunches of fresh basil and as many blackberries as we can pick and carry home.

And the restaurants. There are so many good things to eat here – one of our favourites has always been Shelter, a comfortable space with beautiful woodwork and a fireplace and consistently good food. Yesterday we went after the beach – they do a late lunch – and ordered the daily soup, made with roasted corn and fresh basil. It was so fantastic that I went and introduced myself to the chef and grilled him (nicely) about how he made it. He kindly obliged and walked me through his process.

soup 1

It wouldn’t have been difficult to go home and attempt a roasted corn chowder with wads of basil, but it was interesting to hear how he did it – a method I wouldn’t have used. He roasted the corn whole, by the cob, still in its husk, then scraped the kernels off while they were still warm and simmered the scraped cobs in vegetable stock while preparing the rest of the soup. He sweated the onions and celery, then added gobs of fresh basil, the stock, and a splash of cream, pureed and strained it to get rid of any bits. I strained the first half, then decided I rather liked the rough puree and added the rest as-is. It was delicious even without the cream, but with a litre in the fridge (for berry crisp emergencies) we had to add a splash. It’s all about ingesting as much of summer as we possibly can.

Roasted Corn + Basil Soup

4-6 ears corn on the cob
2 L vegetable or chicken stock
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
a big handful of fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a splash of cream

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the cobs of corn, in their husks, on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut the kernels of corn off the cob into a bowl, and put the cleaned cobs into a pot with the stock; bring to a simmer. (Toss the husks and silk.)

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or medium Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat and saute the onion and celery for 8-10 minutes, until soft and very limp, without browning them. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes. Shake the flour over the sauteed veggies and stir to coat.

After about 20 minutes, pour the stock off the cobs onto the sauteed veggies. Add the corn kernels (keeping about 1/4 back to add to the pureed soup) and basil and bring to a simmer; cook for a few minutes, season with salt and pepper, and puree right in the pot with a hand-held immersion blender or carefully transfer to a regular blender in batches to puree.

If you like, strain through a coarse sieve to get rid of most of the solids – I did this with half, but liked the texture of the pureed soup so left the rest unstrained. Return to the pot, add a splash of cream and heat through. Serve topped with the reserved whole kernels of corn.

Serves 4-6.

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August 09 2015 | soup and vegetarian | 5 Comments »

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