Pickled Strawberries

These pickled strawberries are bright, crunchy and versatile. They are a delicious addition to salads. They are great coarsely chopped, tossed with fresh herbs and served with seafood or use as an accompaniment on a cheese plate.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
6 ounces ice
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 ounce fresh ginger, sliced
1/2 cup lime juice
1 basket of strawberries cut into quarters

METHOD:

Place white and red vinegar and sugar-salt-spice ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Transfer the liquid to a container and add the ice. Cool the mixture completely.

Once chilled, add the lime juice then strain the pickling liquid over the strawberries pressing down on them gently to submerge. Allow them to pickle until desired flavor is achieved.

SOURCE: Recipe from Kendra Baker, The Picnic Basket

How to Make Cherry Balsamic Vinegar

Even though this vinegar will have a lovely cherry flavor after infusing for a week, allowing the cherries to steep in the vinegar a few more weeks will result in a much deeper, robust flavor. It’s definitely worth the wait!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups cherries, washed, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 cups good quality, dark balsamic vinegar

METHOD:

Place pitted and chopped cherries into a sterilized quart mason jar with lid.

Fill the jar with balsamic vinegar a few inches above the cherries (about 2 cups). Cover jar and let steep for at least one week — but longer is better!

Strain the vinegar into a sterilized jar or bottle, discarding the cherries.

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

Easy Pickled Beets

Tangy pickled beets are always a welcome treat with a meal or served on a salad.

INGREDIENTS:

8 medium fresh beets
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
1-1/2 teaspoons whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt

METHOD:

Scrub beets and trim tops to 1 inch. Place beets in a large sauce pan. Add water to cover beets. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 25-30 minutes or until beets are tender tender. Drain beets and allow to cool.

Peel beets and slice into uniform sized slices. Place in a bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, cloves, allspice and salt. Bring to a boil; boil 5 minutes. Pour over beets. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Drain before serving.

Beets will keep well for up to two weeks in the fridge.

YIELD:  6-8 servings

Fresh Blueberry Jam

Blueberry-Preserves-1One of the easiest and most flavorful jams to make — enjoy this delectable, tangy preserve on toast, scones, or stir into your favorite yogurt.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups prepared blueberries (about 1 1/2 quarts fully ripe blueberries)
1 (1.75 oz. powdered pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter
4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

METHOD:

Assemble canning equipment and jars. Fill water-bath canner half full with water. Set over high heat until it comes to a simmer.

Sanitize canning jars, lids and screw bands. Set aside.

Sort  through blueberries and remove any stems. Place in colander and wash blueberries under cool water. Crush blueberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. Measure exactly 4 cups of crushed blueberries and juice into 8-10 heavy bottomed pot.

Stir pectin into crushed blueberries in pot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred on high heat), stirring constantly.

Pour in sugar from bowl and stir until sugar is incorporated. Return mixture to a full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Immediately ladle jam into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads with clean towel, if needed. Cover with two-piece lids and screw bands tightly.

Place jars in rack in water bath canner. Carefully Lower rack into canner. Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add more boiling water, if necessary. Cover canner with lid and bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes.

Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. If lids “click” or spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.

Quick Pickled Carrots Scented with Lavender and Fennel

A variation on a quickle, this uses a hot brine to soften up the carrots a little. I enjoy using lavender in savory dishes, and find lavender and fennel go well together.

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups vinegar, rice or white wine
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt, crushed
1 teaspoon culinary lavender
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bunch Chantenay carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch thick coins

METHOD:
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until the sugar and salt disappear, then add the fennel seed, thyme, bay leaf, and pepper. Boil 1 minute.

Add the lavender and the carrots, and boil 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Cover the carrots and refrigerate until cold. If you are going to keep the carrots for more than a day or two, remove the carrots from the solution and strain the solution and discard the herbs and spices before returning the carrots to the solution. This will keep the lavender from becoming overwhelming.

Remove carrots from solution and drain before serving. Carrots should keep around 2 weeks.

Chef’s Notes:
If you like a more vinegary pickle, decrease the water to 1/2 cup. If you like them a little sweeter, increase the sugar content up to 1 cup. You could try adding other vegetables such as blanched (par cook them 1 minute) and peeled pearl onions, or the white parts of scallions to the mix.

YIELD: Serves 4

Quick Pickled Fennel

If it sits still long enough, I’m bound to use this quick pickling technique on most anything it seems. It works beautifully with fennel, giving a sweet and sour taste that is reminiscent of a mild sauerkraut. Simple, quick, and versatile. Use it to top a salad, or put it in sandwiches. It’s great on grilled fish or roast pork as well. If you heat it up it can be used like sauerkraut with sausages and potatoes. Use it for topping Swedish crispbread with coarse mustard and pâté and crispbread with labne and smoked salmon. The fennel/licorice flavor is enhanced with a pinch of fennel seeds, but it is not “in your face” fennel/licorice flavor. This is one of those times when you’d like to use your fixed blade slicer.

INGREDIENTS:
1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds removed (and reserved for something like fennel broth or oil)
Salt as needed-around a ½ tablespoon
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed or powdered

METHOD:
Put the sugar and vinegar into a jar with a tight seal and shake like mad until the sugar dissolves, or put the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Add the fennel seeds to the solution and vigorously shake/whisk until the solution starts to taste of fennel seeds.

Split the fennel bulb through the root and trim away most of the core. Using a fixed blade slicer or very sharp, longer knife, slice the bulb across the width very thinly-1/8th inch or thinner.

Put the fennel into a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle lightly with the salt, tossing with the fingers to get the salt all over the fennel. Use just enough salt to get all of the fennel. Toss to separate all the slices of fennel and work the salt in a little. You should feel the slices begin to wilt a little. Set aside for 8 minutes.

After 8 minutes, place the fennel into a strainer and rinse. Set the strainer into a bowl just smaller than the strainer and fill it with water, swishing the strainer with the fennel in it around in the water. Use the fingers to work the fennel, getting all the salt off. Drain and refill, then repeat for three times total. Taste the fennel-there should be no salt remaining on the outside, and the flavor should not be overly salty either. A little saltiness is okay. Transfer to the pickling solution and submerge the fennel.

The fennel should be ready to use within 10-15 minutes. Store in the refrigerator, it will keep for 4-5 days.

Chef’s Notes:
If you want to bump up the fennel flavor, add a few drops of pastis to the solution, or other fennel/licorice flavored liqueur. You could also toast a few fennel seeds to go with the un-toasted ones already used, or you could add a few anise seeds to round out the flavor profile. You could add herbs that that are complementary to fennel as well, such as tarragon or lavender.

YIELD: 1-2 cups fennel quickles

Rosemary, Garlic, Walnut Kefir Cheese

This creamy, savory kefir cheese uses a few simple ingredients and makes a healthy spread for crackers, a dip for veggies, or a unique addition for sandwiches.  

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup kefir cheese (here’s the recipe)
1 tablespoon minced rosemary (fresh, not dried)
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely minced
5-6 whole walnuts, roughly chopped
Pinch Himalayan sea salt (to taste)
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Seed crackers, or other hearty crackers
Microgreens or sprouts, for garnish (optional)

METHOD:

Place kefir cheese in a small bowl. Add minced rosemary and garlic and stir to combine. Stir in walnuts. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix until thoroughly combined. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Chill.

Spread on hearty seed crackers, and top with a sprinkle of sprouts. Also delicious as a spread on a sandwich or as a dip with veggies.

Beet Kvass

Beetroot JuiceKvass is an earthy healthy elixir of fermented beet juice that originated in the Ukraine. Use beet kvass to add a little zing to salad dressings (use like vinegar), sauces or soups like Borscht — its ruby color is spectacular.

INGREDIENTS:

3 large organic beets, peeled and chopped coarsely (do NOT grate!)
1/4 cup kefir whey or juice from sauerkraut
1 tablespoon sea salt or Himalayan salt
Filtered, non-chlorinated water
Half gallon glass jar

METHOD:

Place chopped beets in bottom of half gallon jar. Add whey or sauerkraut juice and salt.

Fill jar with filtered water and stir.

Cover with a towel or cheesecloth and leave on the counter at room temperature for two days to ferment. Transfer to fridge.

To start the second batch of kvass, save at least a cup of the first batch as an innoculent.

Consume as desired — we enjoy 3-4 ounces each morning and evening.

Kefir Cream Cheese

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????INGREDIENTS:
4 cups homemade kefir, cultured at least 24-48 hours to thicken

METHOD:
Place a large coffee filter (round pleated basket style) in a strainer and place the strainer in a large bowl. Gently pour kefir into the coffee strainer. The whey (the liquid that will seep through the filter) will drip into the bowl. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The following morning, remove the cheese from the strainer and reserve the leftover whey that has dripped into the bowl. (Add whey to beverages, smoothies, soups, stir it into your finished kefir. Pets are also very fond of whey as a treat.)

To finish cheese, you can leave it plain and use like cream cheese. Or, add a pinch of salt, pepper, some minced garlic, minced fresh herbs of your choice and pepper. Shape into flattened ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator. Serve with crackers.

YIELD: 1 cup

Blenheim Apricot Jam

Apricot jam

INGREDIENTS:

5 cups ripe Blenheim apricots (about 3-1/2 lb.)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin (powder)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine (helps reduce foam)

METHOD:

Bring boiling-water canner, filled two-thirds with water, to simmer. Wash jars in dishwasher and keep warm. Wash screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use.

Finely chop unpeeled apricots. Measure exactly 5 cups prepared fruit into heavy-bottom 8-quart sauce pot. Stir in lemon juice.

Stir pectin into prepared fruit in saucepot. Add butter. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Bring to full rolling boil and boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Add teaspoon vanilla extract. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle jam immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly.

Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches.) Cover with lid and bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Carefully remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Allow about two weeks for jam to set completely. Always store preserves in cool, dry, dark place.