Sunday, February 28, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/28/10

Chickens in the Road has a nice little tutorial on making your own lard from excess fat (Make Your Own Lard). I'm not so sure about canning the lard, that isn't recommended by the USDA as far as I know, but freezing is a good way to store it.

Cooking in lard itself can be a food preservation method. The root of the cooking term "confit", for example, actually comes from the French word meaning "to preserve". By cooking and storing duck or goose in its own rendered fat, the meat could be preserved for months without refrigeration. That isn't recommended now, but you can still make confit today and store it in the refrigerator for a month if it isn't salt cured, and several months if it is first salt cured and then confited. The same principle works for such items as rillettes, which were made and then preserved with a layer of fat on top.

Slow cookers (aka Crock Pots) are a great and easy way to make confit.

Well Preserved is getting started in making sauerkraut (Fermenting Sauerkraut - Day 1). Excellent! When you want to get started in experimenting with fermented food, sauerkraut is the one I recommend to start with. It is quick and easy to prepare ... and they virtually always work. And, once you've got the basics down, it is easy to modify with various spices and other vegetables to make an almost infinite variety of different flavors and textures.

Laughing Duck Farm is giving away a retro-canning book (retro in look, updated in safety - The Farmer's Wife Canning & Preserving Cookbook), all you have to do to enter is post a comment on their blog (!!!! Giveaway !!!!).

Speaking of retro, 40sZen on Etsy is selling some vintage canning labels (Vintage Canning Jar Labels Rust Craft, in Box). They're cool just to look at.

Tigress in a Pickle goes over this month's Can Jam - alliums (Alliums). Kitchen Jam has some quick ideas, but intends to do more research (Tigress CanJam March: Exploring Alliums This Month).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/27/10

Fruit Detective David Karp's Market Watch report this week in the LA Times is all about two wonderfully preservable items: Minneola tangelos and cauliflower (Market Watch: At Ventura Downtown Farmers Market, Minneola Tangelos and Cauliflower). The purple cauliflower is beautiful, but remember when pickling it, that the blue color will enter the water a bit.

Chile Chews makes potato-based CSA soup and discusses potato cultivation (Potatoes for Soup). What I found interesting is that she paired the soup with pickled onions and apples (hello, March Can Jam).

Trash to Treasure Decorating has some interesting ideas for decorating canning jars by filling the jars with something interesting and topping it with a votive candle holder, so it is both decorative and a candle (Ideas for Canning Jars & a Friday Blog Hop).

She was too late to join the Can Jam, but Sidewalk Shoes made some pickled carrots anyway (Pickled Rosemary Carrots). I'd be very interested in seeing how they come out. The rosemary would be very savory and there would be some heat from the chile peppers.

Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars guest blogs at The Kitchn with some ideas on making your own canning equipment (How To Make Your Own Canning Equipment). Since canning kits can easily be found for less than $15, the most useful aspect is on how to make a canning rack for your canning pot.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/26/10

Small Measure has announced the ingredient for March's Can Jam (March Can Jam: Alliums!).
From tender, green scallions, chives, scapes, ramps, and leeks to papery, husky onions, shallots, and garlic, the Allium family is the vegetable world equivalent of the guest who shows up at 6:50 p.m. for the cocktail party that begins at 7:00-by showing up early and as motivated as possible, they get the party started. Alliums are ready for the good times to begin again.
As noted in the announcement, be sure to use a tested recipe or properly acidify your alliums for water bath canning as they aren't acidic enough on their own.

Kevin West discovers the awe-inducing fragrant properties of bergamot a little too late (Bergamot: What Not To Do).
While cutting the fruit, I got an inkling of its strength and added only one of the two [bergamots to six pounds of oranges]. But after the heat of cooking unleashed its full fury, even that one fruit proved to be 99 parts too much. Its intensity burned the lips, and its smell—so alluring in the infinite dilution of eau de cologne—caused me the same panicky, suffocating feeling as do certain industrial cleaning products.
Read the whole thing.

The Paupered Chef hates vodka. It isn't my favorite, but the Paupered Chef despises it. So, when he ended up stuck with a partial bottle of the stuff, he turned it into an infused, or compound gin (Homemade Compound Gin (No Bathtub Required)). The results aren't the equivalent of a high-quality distilled gin, but good enough that the vodka-hating chef may actually buy some vodka just to make more homemade gin. Might I also suggest making some homemade aquavit as well?

Of course, this is only for home use. Unfortunately, according to Grubstreet San Francisco, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is cracking down on housemade infused spirits - tarragon-infused vodka one of the victims (Bars Running Scared as Alcohol Board Cracks Down on Infused Booze). Apparently, the law was meant to prevent bars from increasing the alcohol content of distilled spirits, but is now being interpreted, broadly, to prohibit altering the spirits in any way. Heaven forbid bars make good, interesting drinks.

Anarchy in a Jar alters a blood orange marmalade recipe they posted last year - removing the meyer lemons, since they were overwhelmed by the flavor of the blood oranges (Blood Oranges Zest My World).

Put a Lid on It makes a "real jam" for her honey with strawberries from the market. I'll note that last week was the first time since last season that the strawberries at the market started tasting like strawberries again, instead of pretty, but tart and fairly flavorless berries. Still, being a chef and all, there has to be a twist, and PaLoI turns to a chef's not-so-secret helper, Culinary Artistry. Everyone should have this book. It is an encyclopedia of flavor pairings. Look up an ingredient and the book will let you know what flavors go well with it. From this, PaLoI gets the idea of pairing the strawberries with balsamic vinegar (Strawberry Balsamic Jam).

The sequel, The Flavor Bible, is also a must have. When you want to change up a jam with an additional flavor, consult one (or both) of these books for some flavor ideas. I also use these books to cook from the pantry. When I have an ingredient and I'm not sure what to do with it, I look it up in one of these books and I am usually inspired to make something with it.

The New York Times continues coverage of the tomato bribery scandal - and the details keep getting worse (Bribes Let Tomato Vendor Sell Tainted Food):
In addition, prosecutors say that for years, SK Foods shipped its customers millions of pounds of bulk tomato paste and puree that fell short of basic quality standards — with falsified documentation to mask the problems. Often that meant mold counts so high the sale should have been prohibited under federal law; at other times it involved breaching specifications in the sales contracts, such as acidity levels or the age of the product.

The scope of the tainted shipments was much broader than the bribery scheme, touching more than 55 companies. In some cases, companies detected problems and sent the products back — but in many cases, according to prosecutors, they did not, and the tainted ingredients wound up in food sold to consumers.
The prosecutors say the product wasn't a health risk, but read the whole article. Seriously, read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Preservation Supplement to LA Times Food Section 2/25/10

This week's LA Times Food Section features an article on Filipino chefs at top restaurants, but no Filipino food in those restaurants (Filipino Food: Off the Menu). This is truly a tragedy. I was in the military for nearly twelve years (enlisted Marine/Navy officer) and visited the Philippines at least half-a-dozen times. This is a cuisine that should get more recognition; it is a deep fusion of Chinese, Spanish, Mexican and other influences. Such a plethora of culinary sources might have been confusing 10 or 20 years ago, but not today. Bring on the Filipino-influenced cuisine, I say.

For example, how about a marmalade made with calamansi, the Philippine's famous citrus? (Kalamansi / Calamondin Marmalade a la Marketman)
It is on the bitter side, but the kalamansi flavor is superb. The texture is exactly as I wished for. If you don’t like bitterish flavors, don’t even think about doing this recipe. If, however, you are a fan of really good orange marmalade, you may find this kalamansi version an interesting alternative.
On Saturday, the Jewish festival of Purim begins. As this article explains, one of the important ways to celebrate the holiday is with gifts of food, particularly ready-to-eat food (At Purim, Food is a Blessing).

Of course, there are no mentions of home preserved food, but they would be perfect for the holiday. For example, the LA Times suggests a gift of bread, wine and cheese. Why not a little chutney or preserves with that as well? Hamantaschen are very traditional, but why not fill them with homemade preserves (fig jam sounds good)? Or perhaps you can give a DIY basket with all the fixings for hummus, including home canned garbanzo beans and some preserved lemons. Seems like a good idea to this goy.

In this week's restaurant review, the Tar Pit gets two stars (downgraded due to inconsistent execution) and some great compliments on its cocktail program (The Review: The Tar Pit is Campanile Chef-Owner Mark Peel’s Supper Club).

There are plenty of interesting infusions on the cocktail menu, as well as housemade ginger beer and lime syrup. Cocktails and food preservation. I've always thought bars need to do more preserving - house pickles, syrups, and infusions.

On the kitchen side, the appetizer of pickled deviled eggs is another "why didn't I think of that" moment. They serve their crab cakes with a preserved lemon remoulade. Pickled turnips (with seared salmon, a fatty fish) and onions (with cheese and charcuterie) also show up on the menu.

You can get a lot of good ideas for making and using preserved foods by checking out what is going on in the newer restaurants.

Taking the Cure - Weekly Email


It's that time of year. The weather is vacillating between winter and spring, wildflower season is nearly upon us (be sure to check for the wildflower hotline), and shamrock shakes are sprouting at participating McDonald's.

When the shamrock shakes appear, it must mean that St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner. Which means it is time to start thinking about curing some beef brisket to make homemade corned beef. Time to take the cure. Which, in this case, is about five to seven days; you're going to need to plan ahead for that corned beef and cabbage dinner.

Before that though, an announcement. Fellow Master Food Preserver Delilah Snell and I will be hosting a canning demo a week from this Sunday, on March 7th from 10am-12pm at the Hollywood Farmers' Market. We will be canning spicy asparagus pickles from the ones that are showing up in the market now. Did I mention that it is free?

Back to the cure.

Preservation Link Roundup 2/25/10

Well Preserved is on a yogurt kick. Last week they drained regular yogurt to make Greek-style yogurt and yesterday they discussed making yogurt in their dehydrator (Making Yogurt in the Dehydrator – the Night Time Stood Still).

I have the best yogurt maker in the world, the Salton YM9 - 1 Quart Yogurt Maker. Unfortunately, it is no longer manufactured - sorry. It is great for making 1 quart of yogurt at a time, usually enough for 3-5 days for me. But when I need to make more yogurt all at once, I turn to my dehydrator.

Well Preserved doesn't mention what sort of dehydrator they have, but almost certainly it is a box type, such as an Excalibur. The Ronco-style round tray dehydrators can be used to make yogurt, but in small tubs, not in large quart mason jars. In a box dehydrator, you just remove enough trays to fit the jars you want and then place them on the bottom. I like pint and quart jars for yogurt, but you could make a whole passel of 8-oz or 4-oz jars if you like pre-divided individual servings. Set to about 115 degrees F, the dehydrator will keep the yogurt at the right temperature for growth.

Ah, dehydrators. So useful. Bonus, after making yogurt with your dehydrator, you can make yogurt leather. Mix 2 parts yogurt to 1 part of your favorite jam, spread 1/4-inch thick on a leather drying sheet (offset spatula, thank you), 130 degrees until leather consistency, pliable, but not sticky. Cut into bite size pieces, my nieces call it "candy" - heh, heh.

Two Frog Home has been doing a great series on stocking your pantry (Pantry Stocking :: Buying in Bulk and Pantry Stocking :: Finding Space). Good tips.

Of course, while taking care of your pantry don't forget the refrigerator (the mainstay of food preservation). The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on how appliance manufacturers are redesigning their refrigerators so that they are easier to clean and keep organized (Why Won't Anyone Clean Me?). The most important issue, actually, is education - teaching people how to properly store goods in their refrigerator.
People often don't store things properly anyway. Four years ago, in an effort to understand how people organize their fridges, Sub-Zero bought a week's worth of groceries and asked a group of 12 customers to put away the items in refrigerators at the company's research facilities in Madison, Wis.

What ensued was chaos. People put meat and soda cans in the crisper drawers, which have a temperature and humidity meant for veggies. They put their milk in shelves on the door. While the door shelves seem to be a perfect fit for a carton of milk, Sub-Zero says the area is the worst place to store dairy products because it's the warmest part of the fridge.
Read the whole thing. I like this tip:
Ms. Johnson [training manager at Merry Maids] recommends that people explore the depths of their fridges once a week for food that needs to be tossed. She suggests cleaning one shelf at a time so that the task is less overwhelming.
Flying Tomato Farms does something interesting when making homemade bouillon - they roast their vegetables first (Eureka! Homemade Bouillon). Sounds like a real good idea to me. Freeze in a jar or as cubes.

The Foodinista makes a variation on an old-school classic (Baked Brie with Apricot-Rosemary Chutney). If you already have some canned chutney handy, this is ridiculously quick and easy to make. You just need some puff pastry or phyllo, a wheel of brie, 10 mintues of prep, a little oven time and you've got something spectacular when entertaining.

Eleanor Barkhorn of The Atlantic's Food Section cooks from her pantry, where she finds a can of Tuscan white beans and garbanzo beans (After Snowpocalypse, Bean Soup). The bean soup she created was simple and easy and sounds decidedly satisfying. Convenience food from the pantry made with canned beans ... hm, sounds familiar. The only thing is that the soup contains cream and she froze it. Soups with cream that are frozen have a tendency to separate. Better to freeze the soup without cream and add the cream when reheating.

Delilah Snell loves the look of Weck canning jars (Must...Have...These...Jars). If you buy her a case, she promises to give you one back filled with something delicious. Rufus and Clementine also like the jars and have put together a little guide to getting some (In Pursuit of | A Weck Resource Guide). Be sure to use new rubber gaskets when canning, do no reuse gaskets.

The Herald Journal News of Utah publishes an article celebrating eating home canned food in the middle of winter (Home Canner Glory).
Home-canners, this is your moment of glory.

Now is the payback for the weeks of hard labor - hours spent up to your elbows in tomato pulp and peach skins. The foolhardy folks who scoffed at your industry can only dream of the rich fruit of the summer. They’ll ingest the counterfeit meat product and fried starch at fast food restaurants while you dine on colorful bottled treasures from your cellar, one luscious quart at a time.
Heh. There are a few recipes for using home canned goods as well.

Nurse Elizabeth also celebrates her canned bounty (Canned Poached Pears).
Tonite, in the dead of winter, I ate a perfect October pear, frozen in time. YUM. You can’t even get that at Whole Foods right now!

And to me, Canned Poached Pears is, to date, the most awesome thing I have ever made in my kitchen. Not because of the taste, though. Don’t get me wrong, it is a delicious, savory dessert. But the idea that I am preserving fruit when it is just perfect, then poaching it while it is already sealed in the jars (preserving the alcohol content-YES!), then cracking a jar open for an elaborate, special occasion dessert 6 months to 2 years after I made it is, to me, nothing short of awesome.
They have citrus up in Canada? Who knew? The Toronto Sun has three recipes for marmalade, plus good tips for making and canning it (Making Marmalade).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/24/10

February's Can Jam is over and Tigress in a Pickle has the complete roundup (Can Jam February Round Up: Carrot). Quite an impressive list! A must-read.

Ideas in Food has discovered the value of presoaking beans and nuts before cooking in a pressure cooker (Just Add Water). As usual, they use this method to add flavor as well:
Our lives have now changed. The simple principle of hydrating the ingredients before cooking them has shaved three quarters of the time off of cooking. It also allows us to impart a flavor into the ingredients: for instance pine nuts in rosemary tea and almonds in smoked water.
I wonder what sort of flavors would work well with beans?

Eat in OC visits and reviews breakfast at a traditional German restaurant in Anaheim, Jagerhaus (Jagerhaus - Anaheim). I'm disappointed that they didn't try the German omelettes on the menu, which feature either Polish Sausage or Kielbasa, onions and sauerkraut. Yes, sauerkraut in an omelette. Give it a try. Bonus, they serve a housemade applesauce/butter with their toast.

Nina Corbett has posted her February Can Jam entry (Vietnamese Pickled Carrots and Daikon). She explains why do chua works so well in bánh mì:
Often scattered on bahn mi, Vietnams answer to the hoagie, carrot daikon pickles are a simple and delicious counterpoint to the sandwiches rich ingredients, pate, roast pork and yes, mayo. Don’t forget, Vietnam was long occupied by the French (hence the pate and mayo). Do Chua adds a complex flavor and crunch to almost anything. Serve alongside rich meats or in a Vietnamese lettuce taco, I like grilled shrimp or pork, with piles of fresh mint and cilantro. And of course tuck them into some crazy PO BOY of your own design.
The acidity and piquancy of pickles often matches well with fat, cutting through it for a complex, balanced flavor.

More, Please, a blog from one of the writers for the LA Weekly's Squid Ink, pointed something out last week that we food preservers should remember - you don't always have to make full recipes of jam (Jam for Jam's Sake - Blueberry Jam).
Here in SoCal, we get blueberries at the markets year round. And I like blueberry jam, but I’m not so crazy for it that I want or need jars of it sitting around. So I made a nice small batch out of one carton of berries. Just enough for me to enjoy in the coming month or so on some toast as I head out the door. It’s a recipe that can be adapted with small changes for almost any kind of fruit – strawberries, oranges, peaches, raspberries, etc. As you make more jam, like with any cooking skill, you develop a better sense of what each fruit needs more or less of – more pectin for some berries, less for other fruits, more sugar in one to balance the acid, less in another to let the fruit really shine. You’ll get the hang of it.
Re-Nest provides a recipe for quick pack dill pickles (How to Pickle Anything). The problem is that the instructions are safe, but a bit overkill. You don't have to sterilize jars if the processing time is 10 minutes or more. There is no mention of using a plastic or wooden stick to remove air bubbles. The processing time they use is five minutes longer than is necessary for quarts, and is twice as long as is necessary for the pint jars they also recommend. Overlong processing of pickles will harm their texture.

It is good to see canning recipes get press, but I fear that between the extra work (sterilizing jars) and quality-reducing overlong processing times may turn off those who start with these recipes.

Little Homestead in the City has a great photo-filled post of making three-citrus marmalade with a curious goat (Putting Up). Bonus, they also show off their homemade ginger beer.

The Kitchn highlights one of my favorite greens, the Napa Cabbage (Seasonal Spotlight: Napa Cabbage). I actually had a Napa Cabbage salad as part of my dinner last night. I find it has a milder/sweeter taste than other cabbages.

Napa Cabbage is, of course, the classic kimchee ingredient, but try it in sauerkraut and quick pickles of all sorts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Honeyed Kumquats-Delilah's first blog post!

Hello fellow food preservationists!
My name is Delilah and i am a Master Food Preserver (mostly in Orange County). I do a weekly recipe based off my CSA basket and well this past week was perfect for a blog post here.
i will be making weekly contributions to the blog with recipes, products, adventures in food preservation and any classes that might be coming up. If you want to see my day job you can go here or if you want to read my blog, try here.
I am usually at the Hollywood Farmers' market on the 1st Sunday of the month so stop by and say hello!

basket inventory: kale, chard (rainbow!), sprouts, radish, 2 kinds of lettuce, mandarins, tangerines, limes, lemons, strawberries, celery, kumquats, herbs

Kumquats seem to have a limited number of uses, most of the time people just eat them raw...but after a few weeks, that can be a little too much. Our CSA has been serving up kumquats for the past few weeks and i have accumulated a little stockpile of them...perfect time for canning.
This reminded me of a recipe i have been using from Linda Ziedrich's: The Joy of Jam, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves.

Honeyed Kumquats
(from The Joy of Jam, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves)

  • 1 # stemmed kumquats
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 3/4c. sugar
  • 1/2c. honey
let the kumquats sit in boiling water for 10 min, rinse them then slit each one and boil them in water for another 10 min.
in a saucepan, combine the other items, add kumquats and boil together for 25, set aside for at least 8 hours.
pour into a jar and put in the fridge, lasts a month at least OR...
heat the mixture again, skim off foam and ladle into jars leaving 1" head space. process in a boiling water bath for 15 min.

(honey from Backyard Bees)

(bees really like the warmed honey mix)

this recipe is incredible for ice cream and super for making a simple cake gourmet.

NOTE: if you are making this in the daytime, you kitchen might fill-up with bees (we had about 15 bees my little kitchen while making this)! make it at night if you are afraid of them.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/23/10

Wow, is canning growing in popularity. The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting statistic in an article on gardening trends (Garden Trends: What's In and Out for 2010).
Domesticity is back. People are returning to a simpler life of cooking, gardening, and even raising chickens! According to LOHAS – Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability – seed sales are up 30 to 50 percent and canning sales saw a whopping 45 percent increase.

Produce sharing with community-supported agricultural farms and produce exchanges are springing up throughout urban and suburban and rural communities. The take-home message is: urban farming is cool; urban wastelands are not. [emphasis added]
Yesterday I linked to Well Preserved's post on making tzatziki and thickening their homemade yogurt (Tzatziki, Thickening Yogurt and Other Favourites…). I forgot to mention ... save the leftover whey. It is protein-rich and full of probiotic bacteria. I drink it straight, mix it into smoothies, use it as a substitute for buttermilk (think low fat ranch-style dressing - or in baked goods), or in anything that calls for water and you want to add flavor and tartness. It freezes well if you can't use it all at once. Finally, it is useful for lacto-fermentations.

Department of "Hey, that was my idea":

Serious Eats is all excited about a food truck in D.C. selling oatmeal with a brûléed top (Oatmeal Brûlée from the Sweetgreen Truck in Washington, D.C.). Darn. I did that years ago.

I'm a huge fan of porridges (basically any grain or legume boiled and served as a mush). Porridges are one of the earliest cooked foods and a staple item for most of human history. Not only are there many different styles of oats, but so many different grains to make porridge from. Try some groats or quinoa for something different.

So what is the food preservation angle? How about another idea that some hip new food truck can steal? Jam or canned pie filling can be put on top of the oatmeal, but rather than simply stir it in, top that with a crumble topping (including more oats), place in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and crispy and ... oatmeal fruit crumble.

The Burlington Free Press has some suggestions on using chutneys (Tips for Using What You Have on Hand: Chutney). Once you find some that you like, you'll be coming up with all sorts of things they can be used for. Hmmmm ... maybe with some drained yogurt for a spread or a dip?

All Types of Cooking, And a Whole Lot of Canning Here! enthusiastically recommends pressure canning home made stock (Canning Chicken Stock). I couldn't agree more. Never let bones go to waste. Freeze them, if necessary, until you have enough for a batch of stock. I always buy pork shoulder bone-in, so I can save the bones - and, it is usually less expensive that way. My shrimp are always purchased uncooked, shell-on so that I can freeze the shells for stock later (used my entire stock of shrimp shells to make a lobster bisque a few weeks ago). You get the picture.

Apparently, yesterday was National Margarita Day. Now there is nothing like freshly made sour mix. However, when you want to mix a drink, a fresh sour mix isn't always conveniently available. And forget that store bought stuff. Seriously. That stuff is horrible. I'd rather go parched then drink something with that stuff in it. However, making your own canned sour mix is a possibility. It won't be as good as the fresh stuff, but it is better than the store-bought junk. Equal parts (by volume) water, fresh lemon juice, fresh lime juice and sugar. Some of the zest from the fruit is also nice. Bring all ingredients to a boil, let infuse for 10 minutes and strain out zest. Can as you would a syrup.

I've been remiss in linking to several good posts from jelly fan What Julia Ate. Most recently she discovered a chutney she really liked (The Heavy Heavy Carrot Apple Chutney Sound).
I am on the chutney train, people. I really didn't think this was going to be good while I was cooking it. I thought, damn, I put too much in. Made it too complicated. But lordy, is this good. I don't often eat chutney out of the jar but I am now a convert
For the February Can Jam she made the popular (with a few small twists) Vietnamese Carrot and Daikon Pickle.

Jelly doesn't always get the respect it should, I think, but Julia aims to change that. Just one example, using jelly in cocktails (Jelly Toddy). Yes! Heck yes. Now I have to go make some coffee liqueur.

Jellies and marmalades are also great in tea, or just hot water, of course. Koreans make something very similar to a citron or yuzu marmalade, stir it into hot water and call it citron or yuzu tea or yujacha. It is considered a winter sore throat/cold remedy. A little brandy added is a bonus.

Preservation Link Roundup 2/22/10

Yogurt (aka, fermented preserved milk) is an amazing thing. Too often people just eat it straight (not a bad thing), but it really has to be considered a cooking ingredient to make full use of it. Well Preserved strains their yogurt to achieve a thicker, Greek-style yogurt (labneh) that they use to make tzatziki (Tzatziki, Thickening Yogurt and Other Favourites…). Tzatziki is wonderful stuff and good on a whole bunch of different things, like sandwiches, baked potatoes, fresh, roasted or grilled veggies and as a side to meats. With a little creativity you can use it with many different dishes and with a few small variations, you've got an Indian raita.

Channel 11 in Atlanta reports on an incredible-sounding local conference by Georgia Organics (Georgia Organics asks you to "Reclaim Agriculture"). The keynote speaker was Carlo Petrini, founder of the international Slow Food Movement. Education tracks included food preservation, of course.
The session on growing your own fruit and using fruit trees and bushes in your landscaping is completely packed. Not surprising after a Georgia Organics fruit tree sale held in January, "The sale was a huge success and we were just so excited about the response, just delighted to see that so many people came out and were interested. There are close to 2500 new fruited tree plants in Atlanta now that people can enjoy," says Lindsay Bonfanti, Georgia Organics intern and organizer of the sale.
The article doesn't mention it, but it isn't a coincidence that Georgia also has several community canning centers.

Big Black Dogs made some lovely-looking pomegranate molasses cookies (Pomegranate Molasses Cookies). Pomegranate molasses is another of those secret ingredients that you can use to lift ordinary recipes into something unique. Do you (or a neighbor) have a pomegranate tree? You can make your own molasses with the excess juice and can it.

The Canning Across America blog is back after a couple of months of inactivity with a discussion and recipe for lemon-rosemary marmalade (Now is the Season for Making Marmalade). Rosemary is a great addition to a Meyer lemon marmalade as it takes the flavor to a more savory dimension. Still good for sophisticated desserts, it would also pair well with a variety of entrees and side dishes.

A late February Can Jam post trickles in.

Plot 22 (as in community gardening plot) makes dilled carrot pickles - with multi-hued carrots (Tigress’ Can Jam February: Dilled Heirloom Carrots)! The purple carrots do bleed into the liquid (the anthocyanins that make the color purple are water soluble), but they look great anyway!

Speaking of anthocyanins, Stresscake made blood orange marmalade with a shot of crème de cassis (A Bit ‘o Jarred Sunshine … Blood Orange Marmalade). Sounds like a winning flavor combination to me. I'm also intrigued by her suggestion of using Campari as a flavoring as well. Campari is fairly bitter, so it might match up nicely with a sweet orange marmalade. It would probably be too bitter for a bitter orange marmalade.

And to tie together the first and last items, be sure to check out Stresscake's recipe for Marmalade-Yogurt Cake (I Could be a Parisian ... Marmalade Yogurt Cake).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Beans, Beans, Beans - Weekly Email


More mixed weather, but we sure do need that rain. When the sun does comes out, the air and sky are so clear it is a wonder. It definitely feels like spring is around the corner (although maybe it is just the unseasonably warm weather when it isn't raining). Over these next couple of weeks, we might start seeing some early spring vegetables and fruit. Early asparagus, rhubarb, that sort of thing. Isn't California grand?

Of course, that means I need to finish work on my winter canning, before spring is in full bloom and I'm overwhelmed.

Winter vegetables are still abundant and beautiful in the markets, especially the multi-hued carrots that are just gorgeous to look at. I've been blogging about the February Can Jam, which is dedicated to carrots, all week. The canners out there have come out with all sorts of interesting ideas for using carrots in butters, chutneys, slaws, jams and a variety of pickles. So many different textures and flavors are available, it is truly amazing. And to think of all the possible dishes these canned goods would go with. Imagine filleting open a pork loin, slathering it with carrot-apple-chipotle butter, rolling it back up and roasting it. Sweet, earthy, smoky and pork ... wow.

Check out some of the carrot possibilities by scrolling down on the PreserveNation blog:

Not all canning is flashy like that, however. Winter is actually a good time to store up some convenience foods, so that you can enjoy the spring and summer without spending all day over the stove. Which brings me to this weeks topic: beans. Yes, beans.

Beans may not sound very exciting, but they can be eaten with any meal and are incredibly versatile, used in virtually every culture. They're also a nutritional powerhouse, full of protein, fiber, potassium, folate and also low in fat. Dried, they are very, very inexpensive and easily stored. The problem is that dried beans can take a long time to cook, which means when you're hurried, you'll rush right past them. Can those beans, and they are ready to eat simply by popping off the lid.

Beans with rice provide a fundamental nutritional base on any table. Pickles and relishes make a nice accompaniment to beans. I add them to soups, stews and, of course, chilis. Cold and rinsed, they go well in salads. Cold and pureed, a dip is a fine thing. One of my favorite beans to can is the garbanzo. That way, I'm only 10 minutes away from some freshly made hummus. The possibilities are endless, and when the beans are so easy to use, you'll get more use out of them.

The only problem, of course, is that you'll need a pressure canner.

The procedure is simple. Clean the beans (small stones often sneak through, especially when you buy in bulk), soak the beans overnight, boil for only 30 minutes, and then pressure can (with or without salt). You only have to boil the beans for 30 minutes because they will finish cooking in the pressure canner. Detailed instructions can be found here:

Couldn't be simpler. You can do all sorts of beans for canning. My favorites are pinto, black, kidney and garbanzo. But use whatever you like. I may try canning some tuscan-style white beans this year.

Now, normally, I advocate using farmers markets produce. However, the heirloom beans now available (love you, Rancho Gordo) are just too expensive for canning. Bulk beans, especially in ethnic markets, are much more economical.

Well, that is all for this week. I'll be at the Studio City farmers market this Sunday, not Hollywood. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at:

Be sure to check out the blog:

And/or join our facebook group:


Friday, February 19, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/20/10

February's Carrot Can Jam is coming to an end, with plenty of interesting results.

Doris and Jilly Cook try a chutney recipe, but aren't entirely happy with it (Apple Carrot Chutney). Chutney's are like that. Sometimes you find an amazing new flavor, other times ... the flavor is amazing in a different way. It also sounds as if D&J will be discussing one piece lid systems.

It isn't do chua, but Food in Jars makes a similar carrot and daikon pickle (February Can Jam: Pickled Carrots and Daikon). Most do chua is made with julienned vegetables, but FiJ cut their veg on a mandoline, making for a different appearance and texture. This is something you can often do to add a little variety to your pickles. For example, instead of pickle "chips," why not pickle "batons"?

Kitchen Jam uses a trick that I like to pull, adding chipotle to sweet jams (February Can Jam: Spicy Carrot-Apple Chipotle Butter). The smoky heat of the pickled, smoked jalapeños pairs very well with fruit flavors, particularly berries. One of these days I'm going to try to make a mostarda with chipotles.

Oh, Briggsy has a meandering (in a good way), link-filled post that eventually gets around to a Can Jam recipe (February Can Jam: Carrots! Pickled Mexican-Inspired Carrots with Onion and Jalapeño). These are a favorite of mine ... I add them to beans, rice, even guacamole (gives it some texture).

There are other things to can than carrots. For example, mushrooms.

Granny Miller (no relation), explains how to can mushrooms with a pressure canner - actually, a pressure cooker is used (which is definitely not recommended) - but everything else is kosher (Home Canning Mushrooms And A Modified Rant). The rant has quite a few interesting facts as well:
Pennsylvania has been growing and producing mushrooms since the 1890’s, and historically mushrooms have been the Commonwealth’s most valuable cash crop. Last I checked Pennsylvania produces over 35% of all fresh mushrooms sold in the United States; and that number is down from 50% just 3 years ago.

Pennsylvania mushroom farmers not only produce a valuable crop, but they also purchase and recycle large quantities of manure, straw, compost and other farm products. Not to mention that Pennsylvania mushroom farmers have found a good use for old coalmines.
Mushroom farming sounds like a good part of a green farming system. I should learn more about it.

If you don't have a pressure canner, no worries. Why not pickle those mushrooms? National Center for Home Food Preservation: Marinated Whole Mushrooms.

Living the Frugal Life has some good instructions on making seed vaults using mason jars (Being Thrifty - Or Doomerish - With Seeds: Creating Your Own Seed Vault). The labeling information is particularly good.

Diner's Journal from the New York Times reports on a movement to plant an edible garden outside of City Hall (Plans for Real Growth at City Hall). Not a bad idea, but I would love to do some preserving out of these public gardens.

I missed this locavore backlash article that came out last week in the New York Times (A Balance Between the Factory and the Local Farm). I love this quote:
Some of these so-called locavores may think they are part of a national movement that will replace corporate food factories with small family farms. But as much of the East Coast lies blanketed beneath a foot or more of snow, it’s as good a time as any to raise a few questions about the trend’s viability.
First sentence, strawman ... hello. Second sentence ... gee, I guess when the East Coast was buried under snow 200 years ago and locavore was the only choice, everyone just starved to death. Or, maybe, they had something called "food preservation". Hmmm...

Just another locavore backlash article that takes some cheap potshots without actually delving into the mess that our current agriculture system is in. How about more analysis and solutions and less snark?

Finally, a sad note. The last sardine canning factory in the U.S. is closing (Stinson Canning Facility is Closing). I'm a big fan of sardines and they have quite a history here in the U.S., especially in California (Cannery Row, anyone?). Part of the problem is that we've been stripping the oceans of too many fish:
Over the past 6 years, annual total allowable catch levels of herring have decreased by 50% - from 180,000 metric tons in 2004 to 91,200 metric tons for 2010.
We've really messed things up. And our fisheries continue to suffer.

Preservation Link Roundup 2/19/10

First, a Can Jam update:

Tigress in a Jam had a difficult time finding local carrots for her Can Jam (California carrots were available, natch), so she decided to add a local ingredient to make a Carrot-Apple Butter (w/ Cardamom). Later, however, she did get some local carrots and match them with some ingredients from her freezer (a good way to do things) for Carrot-Rhubarb Jam (w/ Rosemary) (Carrots: Buttered & Jammed). Using ingredients from the freezer is a great way to match flavors out of season.

Well Preserved make a better carrot cake jam and a great way to use it: over a campfire between two pieces of bread in a pie iron (Can Jam - Carrot Cake Campfire Toast Pie).

Delicious Potager - love the name! - unfortunately used up the last of her own garden's carrots just before the ingredient for this month's Can Jam was announced (Tigress' Can Jam: Classic Pickled Carrots). Hers was a basic recipe, but she'll have some experience for her next crop.

Kevin West was on a shopping spree for rare citrus at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market and discusses his finds (Rare Citrus: Bergamots, Kaffir Limes, Seville Oranges). For more information, you should know that Southern California is home to one of the greatest citrus research collections in the world: the University of California Riverside
Citrus Variety Collection
. And if you want a great day trip to see over 70 varieties of citrus, be sure to visit California Citrus State Historic Park - in Riverside, of course. Definitely worth a trip, especially now, during peak citrus season.

Two Frog Home has a good piece on how you can stock your pantry with home preserved foods (Pantry Stocking :: Food Preservation). The article is short, but it is a good look at how one family approaches food preservation.

I'm so envious. Chickens in the Road received a gift from a reader: a collection of vintage canning books and catalogs (Treasure Trove). If you like vintage canning jars and recipe books, you definitely have to check out her photo-rich post.

Last summer, Cold Cereal & Toast canned some summer peaches from their CSA share. Now, in February, they are using local peaches to bake some delicious-sounding muffins (Channeling Summer: Peach Muffins).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Preservation Supplement to LA Times Food Section 2/18/10

This week's LA Times Food Section's cover story this week is on a very important issue: local food politics (Food Politics in L.A.: Hungry for Change).

One of the most interesting things about food politics is that so much of what is important and what can be done, can be done and should be done at the local level. Although there are national policies that are important (*cough*more federal funds for school food*cough*), much more can be done on the local level, taking into account the local foodshed. Many of the issues involve access to better food, whether through better markets in poor neighborhoods, more support for food banks, farmers' markets and community gardens, or restricting access to edible-food-like products such as fast food moratoriums and banning soda machines in schools.

Most of these issues are best dealt with at the local level. Much more can be said, and should be ... I'll touch on these topics as I blog.

Of course, I have a pet project of mine: a community canning center. Such a canning center would support local food banks, community gardens and farmers' markets. It could be used by entrepreneurs and local restaurants. I want local restaurants to rely more on the local foodshed, and one way they can do this is to do some food preservation themselves. A community canning center would have the space and specialized equipment that might not be feasible for a restaurant. It would also be an education space, for adults and school children and a base of operations for a Master Food Preserver program.

I could go on, but that is my pet project for local food politics. If you're interested in helping, let me know.

Yesterday, at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market, I met David Karp, aka the fruit detective. His "Market Watch" column highlights what's best in the farmers markets (Fennel Showing Up at Farmers Markets). This week he highlights fennel (preserve it pickled or pressure canned in a soup), mandarins (preserve it in marmalade, segments canned in syrup, or dried), and wild chanterelles (preserve through drying).

Wow, this week both reviews feature restaurants that make and use preserved foods.

"The Find" heads to San Gabriel for the cuisine of Liuzhou at Happy Kitchen (A Happy Union of Chinese Flavors). Liuzhou cuisine not only includes pickles and smoked goods, but the signature dish of Happy Kitchen is luosifen, a snail-broth soup that includes preserved cabbage. Preserved cabbage and soup ... a classic combination in many cuisines.

S. Irene Virbila is 3-star impressed with the Lazy Ox Canteen near Little Tokyo and, after reading her review, I'm impressed too (Magic in the Air at Lazy Ox). According to the review, Chef Josef Centeno is putting out incredible small plates, with many specialties - many featuring preserved foods. "He pickles...He cures. And God knows what else....He even makes his own stoneground mustard." There is housemade sriracha and quince mostarda.

I can't wait to try it ... sounds like a perfect place to stop before heading to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/18/10

Slashfood passes on the news that the European Food Safety Authority is concerned that one or more of the flavorings in artificial smoke flavor may be toxic to humans (Smoke-Flavoring in Some Foods May Be Toxic).
The European Food Safety Authority examined 11 smoke flavorings used in the European Union and found that several of the flavorings had chemicals in them that could cause cell damage in high quantities.
Time to go back to real smoke flavor.

One way to add real smoke flavor, without actually smoking something, is to use actually smoked salt. Coincidentally, smoked salt is the flavor of the week for Anarchy in a Jar (Flavor of the Week: Smoked Salt). Just be sure your salt is actually smoked. Also, note that there are various flavors of smoke. Alder and applewood are quite different.

Stick a Fork in It, the OC Weekly's food blog, promotes making preserved lemons (Cliché-Killing Preserved Lemons).
A tagine is a good trial dish for a first batch, to taste the lemons in what may be thought of as their natural environment, but if they become a standard flavor in your kitchen, you'll find yourself chopping them up to add into just about any dish.
Hmm, that sounds familiar.

The SF Gate reports on the seed trends for gardening this year (Seed Trends - Food Gardening, Pickling). What's hot? Food, particularly food that can be preserved.
Since last year, Josh Kirschenbaum, product development director for Oregon's Territorial Seed Co., has seen a jump in sales of vegetables for home preserving, including pickling cucumbers and saucing tomatoes.
In other trend news, Jarden Home Brands, owners of Ball and Kerr, report that they beat expectations and saw increased profits, according to Reuters (Jarden Profit Beats View, Sees Sales Growth).
With an average price of $30 for its products, Jarden has managed to appeal to consumers looking to entertain in their homes or cook their own food while saving money. Products geared to home canning and fishing, for example, had strong sales, [Chief Executive Martin] Franklin said.
If you do a lot of canning, Two Frog Home has a good tip to save money: buy canning lids by the case (Bulk Canning Lids). Other ways are to save money is to buy on sale (usually late fall), or special order through an ACE Hardware (but see if you can negotiate a discount on a full case). If you don't plan on using a full case, why not split a case with a canning friend?

Chef Talk has a nice primer on canning meat using the raw pack method (Hot to Can Meat AKA Jar Meat).

Carrot Can Jam update: provides a great description of her pickling process for baby carrots (Pickled Baby Carrots: Tigress Can Jam #2).

Local Kitchen (local, that is, if you're from New York's Hudson Valley) struggled with the can jam because she didn't want to make more marmalade and doesn't like carrot pickles. So, after some searching, she modified (safely, I might add since she used more acidic ingredients than the original tested recipe) a recipe for carrot pepper salsa (Can Jam: Apple Carrot Chilé Chutney). Looks and sounds great!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/17/10

More carrots? Absolutely. Plan on seeing more carrots in this space for the rest of the month ... thanks to the Carrot Can Jam for the month of February.

All Types of Cooking, and a Whole Lot of Canning Here! makes carrot pickles (Carrot Pickles). She uses the cold pack method, in which you place the vegetables in the jar cold and pour boiling brine over them. It's easy, and allows you to make pretty jars, with the vegetables artfully arranged. One note: when cutting the vegetables to fit the jar, don't forget to take into account the headspace. I usually cut one stick to the proper length and use that as a measuring stick for the rest of my carrots (or asparagus, green beans, etc.).

Big Black Dogs solves the cutting the vegetable issue by using those "baby carrots" you buy in bags at the supermarket (Pickled Carrots). I say "baby carrots" in quotes because they are actually mature carrots industrially processed into the convenient "baby" shape. Still, they make a great pickle. From Big Black Dogs' photos, it looks like they fit the 4oz jars pretty darn well.

This isn't for the Can Jam, but Well Preserved dehydrated some orange taproots and was quite happy with the results (Dehydrated Onions and Carrots). You know, if it wasn't such an old method of preserving food, quite possible the oldest, dehydrated foods would probably be a fashionable example of molecular gastronomy. The textural changes can be a fantastic opportunity for using familiar ingredients in new ways. Why not try using those dried onions in a breading, for example?

Now for something non-carrot related.

It is lucky that I have access to as many kumquats as I can use because good kumquat recipes keep coming down the pike. Case in point, Tigress in a Pickle's Indian-style fermented kumquat pickle (Rajisthani Kumquat Pickle).

Barefoot Gypsy Blog is quite frugal. She buys partially used candles at yard sales and then melts them together into new candles. She was torn about using canning jars for her recycled candles, but decided they looked so good that it was okay to use them for candles instead of food (Recycled Candles in Canning Jars). The instructions are quite good.

Re-Nest has some handy advice for buying and storing bulk foods (How to Buy and Store Bulk Foods). I knew how to store bulk foods, but I definitely learned some things about buying them. Good, helpful tips.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/16/10

The LA Weekly's Squid Ink updates on what's fresh in the local farmers' markets (What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Chamomile Gets a Boost from the Rains). Chamomile ... what a wonderful flavoring for certain jams and jellies. It has a particular affinity for citrus, especially lemons. Lemon-Chamomile marmalade, anyone?

Cooking Issues, the tech/food blog from the French Culinary Institute, has been experimenting with making stocks using a pressure canner (All-American, natch!) and goes into detail about the results (Pressure Cooked Stock 2: Changing Pressures, Playing with Chemistry). Conclusion: pressure-canned stock is the winner, but you need to use a non-venting lid. Guess I'll have to look into getting a non-venting lid for my canner - which would make it a sterilizer, not a canner - but great for making stock - then I switch lids, and can the stock.

Mother's Kitchen cans a classic and integral part of bánh mì sandwiches (Vietnamese Carrots and Daikon Pickle). This do chua is great on its own, but having some around for last minute sandwich making is a good thing. Bonus, though she is in Michigan, the carrots and daikon were from California.

Of course carrot slaws aren't only good on Vietnamese sandwiches. Put a Lid on It is canning a carrot and onion slaw for, presumably, Western-style sandwiches (Carrots and Onion Sandwich Slaw).

Nina Corbett has a recipe I can use with the basket of kumquats sitting on my kitchen counter right now (Kumquats in Honey Ginger Syrup). I've already made and canned some syrup and marmalade last week, but slicing all those kumquats into rings is very time consuming. Nina's recipe sounds much quicker and easier. I might cut the kumquats in half and seed them for easier eating later (and serving to friends and family). I also might add a little bit of an orange liqueur or, perhaps, some brandy.

Kevin West waxes rhapsodic about citrus culture and geography in suburban Southern California and adopts a free tree from Fallen Fruit (The Great Fruit Tree Giveaway).
Planting a tree is always an optimistic act, and planting a fruit tree is doubly so: you assume that you'll be around to enjoy the literal fruits of your effort. Planting my two Meyer lemon trees in California was something more, though, and more specific. It was a kind of declaration: about starting over, about setting down roots for a new future—about staking my claim on the California Dream.
Dream on Kevin!

Farm to Table is really excited about the wonderful beets now in market, providing some nutritional information as well as a brief history of this important vegetable (Beet Envy). They also have a recipe for beet pickles. Most pickled beets are quick pickles, made with a brine of vinegar, sugar and salt. F2T's recipe is for another type of beet pickle, fermented!

F2T discusses using Mason canning jars for the fermentation. One thing you might consider when using a Mason jar for fermentation is to put the flat lid on upside down, with the silicon ring up and screwing it on loosely. This will help ensure there isn't an airtight seal by accident, for example, by temperature variations creating a loose seal.

Well Preserved's Cheap Tuesday Gourmet discusses how home food preservation can improve both flavor and economy, whether freezing roasted red peppers or canning beans (Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – Calling All Food Preservers).
From now on we will also price all of our preserving posts (based on ingredients). Not all of our preserves will be considered cheap (wild blueberries with maple syrup is an adorable jam but not for the most cost conscious), but I want to help get the message out that preserving can help make a significant difference – in the amount of food that rots, the cost of what you eat and the quality and taste of what appears on your plate.
Pricing preserves is a great idea. I'll have to incorporate that in my journals and jars sometimes.

Preservation Link Roundup 2/15/10

The Foodinista makes sunchoke pickles (Here Comes the Sunchoke). This isn't a canning recipe, but it is a great idea nonetheless. I've been planning on doing some research for a tested canning recipe for sunchokes or developing one.

If you haven't tried sunchokes yet, I highly recommend it. Raw, they have the crunchy texture of jícama, but with an earthy, delicate flavor of true artichoke hearts. They're great roasted or steamed. Purée them into soup (with stock and/or, mmmm, cream), or into a mash. A gratin is also a good idea. Bonus, they are native to North America.

Last week, Kevin West made the case for pickles with barbecue (BBQ & Pickles). Today, Coconut & Lime shows how jams and jellies can be used with barbecue as well (Blueberry-Balsamic Slow Cooker Pork):
I [Coconut & Lime] love using jams as a short cut to flavor in quick barbecue sauces, it adds a not too sweet, fruity flavor without a lot of effort or adding sugar. Not to mention that adding jam helps me use up all of the jams I seem to accumulate/compulsively buy but since I don't actually eat jam or jelly or preserves on toast or bread or whatever people eat jam on I end up with piles and piles of them, unopened and wasting their potential.
One thing to consider when choosing a jam to use in this method is to think about what sort of wine you want to pair with it, and choose the fruit that best pairs with the wine. I'm thinking cherries with a tempranillo.

Food in Jars celebrates more than a year of serious canning with a return to marmalade - funny how the seasons return like that (Three-Citrus Marmalade Recipe). She uses a serrated peeler, which is normally for soft fruit (i.e., tomatoes, peaches). I would recommend a better non-serrated peeler. The problem with serrated peelers is that they will peel a soft fruit very well, and the skin on your fingers and thumbs is a lot like a soft fruit. It is much easier to injure yourself with a serrated peeler.

You know, when someone is doing a home harvested meal and they break out the moose steaks, wild leeks and crab - you begin to wonder if you are living in the right place - nah, Southern California still rules. Nevertheless, I have to say I'm impressed when Well Preserved's moose steaks weren't butchered properly to enjoy on the grill and they had to improvise with a stir fry instead, getting all the ingredients from their pantry (The Joys of a Pantry). Stir fries are always a great way to cook from your pantry.

Well Preserved also has gotten a lot of use out of their dehydrator: pineapple, apple and citrus (Adventures in Dehydrating - Pineapples and Apples). Dried fruit makes a great snack, of course, but it is also very useful in cooking. There are a lot of recipes where you want to add flavor, but not too much more moisture, indeed, you might want to reduce the moisture. Dried fruits and vegetables are great for that.

Kevin West initiates a series of guest bloggers with a wonderful piece on cooking for romance, from your pantry by baker/author Amanda Miller (Guest Blogger Amanda Miller's Salt-Preserved Lemons). Gee, aren't preserved lemons useful?

Sauerkraut, is there nothing you can't do? The LA Times People's Pharmacy recommends sauerkraut for curing canker sores (Sauerkraut as a Remedy for Canker Sores):
Trauma to the mouth from sharp food can trigger a canker sore (aphthous ulcer). So can immune suppression or a deficiency of folic acid, vitamin B-12 and iron. A 1930s remedy recommended swishing sauerkraut juice in the mouth several times a day. Perhaps the bacteria that ferment cabbage into sauerkraut provide helpful nutrients.
A shout out to my friend Alexandra Agajanian who gave me a beautiful can of sauerkraut on Sunday. It looks fantastic ... can't wait to try it.

Preserved Citrus - Weekly Email


Fantastic weather this week, perfect for going on a walk. One of the great things about Southern California is that just by walking around your neighborhood, chances are you will see plenty of fruit trees. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the fruit you see will go to waste. Don't let it go to waste. Take a chance. Talk to your neighbors and ask them if you can pick their fruit to make jam, marmalade, conserves, or whatever else you'd like to make. Offer to give them some of the results. I've never had anyone say no.

This time of year the most common types of fruit you see is citrus. Tons and tons of citrus. Lemons, oranges, tangerines and even the occasional lime.

Marmalade is the obvious use, and a great one, but for my money the most culinarily useful preserved product you can make with citrus is preserved with salt. Preserved lemons are one of my "secret" goto ingredients when I want to punch up a dish. Seriously, you need these in your refrigerator.

Preserved lemons themselves are very common in Northern African cuisine, particularly Moroccan. They are also common in Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes, but their uses go far beyond tagines and pho. You can use preserved citrus in nearly everything, you just have to realize what it is: salty, citrus rind pickles.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 2/12/10

As anyone who knows me knows ... I am a huge fan of pickles. So how excited was I that I could express my fandom on Facebook? Very. Express your fandom: Can this Pickle get More Fans than Nickleback?.

The Kitchn, has a good idea for keeping your freezer nice and full of a variety of home frozen meals without hitting the frozen foods aisle in the supermarket (Great Idea! Start a Freezer Meal Cooperative).
A group of six (or more) people decide on a certain amount of meals for a six-week period. Angie's group does 12 meals. Then each person prepares two of the meals, and freezes enough for all six people in the group. (It's obviously a lot easier to prepare and freeze a lot of one or two recipes, rather than 12 recipes!)

Then they distribute the frozen meals among themselves, and everyone has a frozen yet homemade meal for their family twice a week.
Ah, convenience! One of the wonderful things about food preservation plus, in this case, community ... another benefit of food preservation if you share it with others.

Food Safety News reports on a new food preservation technique developed at Washington State University (New Technology Extends Food Shelf Life).
Juming Tang, a professor in the WSU Department of Biological Systems Engineering, led a team of industry, university, and U.S. military scientists to create this technology. The outcome not only results in food with a longer shelf-life, but also food with better flavor and nutritional value when compared to more traditional food processing methods such as canning....

The team's Microwave Sterilization Process technology submerges the packaged food in pressurized hot water while concurrently heating it with microwaves at a frequency of 915 MHz--this frequency penetrates food much more deeply than home microwave ovens. This combination eliminates food pathogens and spoilage microorganisms in five to eight minutes and produces foods with much higher quality than conventionally processed products.
It doesn't sound as if this technique will be reaching the home soon, if ever, but I like keeping up with food preservation news.

Dancer and local foods activist Leda Meredith has a guest post on the Farm to Table blog on how food preservation and local foods go together (Why Food Preservation is an Important Part of Eating Local and Two Ways to get Started). She's preaching to the choir. I also like that she has a recipe for a fermented fruit chutney, something I've never tried, but will now.

Delilah Snell visits a friend's mother's garden and kitchen and helps in making some fermented dills and lemon curd made with agave syrup rather than sugar (A Rainy Afternoon with Joanne - Lemon Curd Recipe). The curd isn't for canning, but can be kept in the refrigerator or longer in the freezer. There are cannable curds, but because they contain butter and eggs (generally a no-no in canning), their shelf-stable life is only 2-3 months.

My curds usually don't last that long, so I don't bother canning them.

Preservation Supplement to LA Times Food Section 2/11/10

This week's LA Times Food Section is a bit all over the place with dumplings for Chinese New Year and Crack Pie (no, not that sort of crack). There are a couple of articles that touch on food preservation, however.

The first is on the difficulties that artisan spirit makers are facing (Sober Times for Artisan Spirit Makers).

The craft brew movement has resulted in a plethora of artisanal beers everywhere you go. It's virtually impossible to keep up with all the varieties, let alone the brewers. Still, without a thriving beer movement there are so many lambics, bocks, and rausch beers that we'd never have the opportunity to try. Similarly, in the last few years there has been a movement to create artisinal and craft hard liquors; whiskeys, rums, gins, etc. Unfortunately, though this sounds like a good idea, actually getting a business off the ground is a lot more difficult than it seems.

Although the article doesn't mention it, I think one of the problems is that it is illegal to distill spirits at home (no moonshine). Artisanal beer got a huge boost from homebrewers. I think it is safe to say that there wouldn't be much of an craft beer movement without the training and experience many artisans gained through homebrewing. Moreover, the existence of drinkers who learned to drink more sophisticated beers through homebrewing created a ready-made market for artisan beer. Because of the anti-moonshine laws, the same can't be said for spirits.

Repeal the prohibition on moonshine, I say ... give a boost to our artisanal spirit makers!

However, just because you can't distill your own vodka, doesn't make you can't make your own infusions and liqueurs. One suffering business talked to in the article makes saffron- and tarragon-infused vodka. Fruit liqueurs are also very easy to make - add fruit, sugar and vodka - let infuse for a few weeks, strain and bottle. Fantastic.

"The Find" visits a Lebanese restaurant this week (Middle Eastern Food to Dig into). Unsurprisingly, pickles are not mentioned. Yet, you will almost always find pickles with Lebanese food. Kabees el Lift, turnip pickles (colored red by beetroot), are the classic. Kabees el Qarnabeet, pickled cauliflower, is also very common.

Perhaps pickles weren't served, but chances were they were simply ignored by the reviewer. There are space constraints, of course, but pickles are too often ignored in restaurant reviews.

By the way, the "pungent, creamy garlic paste" the reviewer liked both with french fries and grilled chicken? It is most likely Toum. Absolutely fantastic stuff. I highly recommend giving it a try ... like aioli, it goes with many different things. Not really a food preservation thing, but this stuff is really, really good.

Finally, the reviewer was impressed with the hummus, one of my favorite condiments. Hummus is something that I throw together in ten minutes whenever I need a quick dip or spread. I'm able to do this because I've pressure canned the garbanzo beans already, so I just have to open the can, rinse and drain. Highly convenient ... and cheap, since you can often find that dried garbanzo beans are quite inexpensive in the right ethnic supermarkets.

Preservation Link Roundup 2/11/10 points out that the Smithsonian Institute has an incredible collection of vintage seed catalogs, which they then use to turn into gorgeous homemade seed envelopes (DIY Seed Envelopes: Museum-Quality). Why not use some of these images to make jar labels?

Couponing in Critical Times has a post that not only shares local bargains (if you live in Knoxville, TN) but, if you scroll near the bottom, has a very nice set of tips for using dehydrated fruits (Stockpiling, Emergency Preparedness, and Food Security). For example,
Most recipes call for you to rehydrate the foods in a warm liquid. Instead of using water, try to use a more flavorful liquid. For fruits use warm juice or if you prefer wine or brandy. For vegetables, use the cooking liquid from your soup or a stock or broth.
Food preservation guru Linda Ziedrich discusses her experiment with curing her own olives, one batch with brine, one with lye (Cure Your Own Olives). She uses the University of California's Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling - ANR publication 8267 [PDF]. Another note, she lets us know that you can buy raw olives online, if you don't have a tree readily available, or want to try different varieties.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Food (Preservation) Rules

In his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, food author Michael Pollan famously coined a call to action for how and what we eat: "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much." After studying nutrition and the ways food is produced in this country, he came to the conclusion that what and how we should eat is not really all that complicated. Rather than focusing on the complexities of carbohydrates, ratios of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, and the benefits of dietary fiber, he figured out that we can improve our physical health, benefit our environment and, at least in my view, cultivate our souls, by following his simple call to action.

Of course, such a simple saying leads to many more questions. "Eat Food"? Of course we eat food, what else would we eat? What Pollan means by "Eat Food" is to avoid things that are edible, but designed and developed by food scientists, made with ingredients chemically derived from corn and soy, and things no one keeps in their home pantry. In other words, Pollan is talking about real food, food that our ancestors ate for tens of thousands of years, before the industrial food revolution that really took off in the mid-part of the last century. Of course, this is just a very brief explanation of one part of Pollan's Rule, and much more could be said about it.

Therefore, in order to make it easier to follow his call to action, and to better understand what it means, Pollan has published a slim book with 64 rules that expand and frame his trademark saying. Each of the rules is short and simple, but Pollan also adds a paragraph or two of commentary to each rule, explaining a bit more about their origin and what they mean. The book, Food Rules, is a quick read, but full of wisdom and something that everyone who cares about food should have. It's only $5 on Amazon right now (Amazon: Food Rules). So what do you have to lose?

In any case, I would like to highlight a few of the rules and provide my own commentary on how they apply to food preservation - something I think is an important part of "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."

Rule 2: Don't Eat Anything Your Great-Grandmother Wouldn't Recognize as Food

Not only would your grandmother recognize most home preserved foods, she probably knew how to make them herself. Indeed, it is a tragedy of our age that food preservation skills have gone into decline, skipping a generation or two or three. It is time to make the preserved foods your great-grandmother knew how to make.

Rule 5: Avoid Foods That Have Some Form of Sugar (or Sweetener) Listed Among the Top Three Ingredients.

Ah. Hm. So much for most jams and jellies. Except that there is an exception for special occasion foods (Rule 60). Actually, what this rule is really all about is the fact that sugar and all the variations thereof (High Fructose Corn Syrup, I'm talking about you) have snuck into many processed foods where we might not expect sugar ... and even where we might expect some sugar, processed foods contain obscene amounts. We know that jams and jellies have a lot of sugar, unless they're specially made to have lower sugar, so I think they're fine under this rule, used in moderation.

Rule 12: Shop the Peripheries of the Supermarket and Stay Out of the Middle

The periphery of the market is where the bakery, produce, dairy and butcher sections of the supermarket reside. The center section is where most of the heavily processed foods are. Shop on the periphery, and you are usually getting real food. Which is not to say that there isn't real food in the center section ... I mean, where else will you get your dried pasta? Nevertheless, by doing your own food preservation, you will be able to reduce the amount of items you need from the middle section of the supermarket.

Rule 13: Eat Only Foods that will Eventually Rot

Ah. Hm. Well, so much for food preservation. Of course, Pollan is referring to things like Twinkies, which have a shelf-life of twenty-five days (25!). Unnaturally long for baked goods. Other than fruit cakes, I can't think of any regular baking recipes that are moist and tender for nearly a month. Pollan does mention honey as having an indefinite shelf life, but I think that goes for all sorts of home food preservation.

Rule 16: Buy Your Snacks at the Farmers' Market

Ah, come on, Pollan. Yes, you can buy delicious dried fruit at the farmers' market, but you can also make your own dried fruit at home, often even better, thank you very much. I haven't seen my famous basil-infused sun-dried cherry tomatoes at any farmers' market. This is a good rule, if only it included making your own.

Rule 28: If You Have the Space, Buy a Freezer

Food preservation 101. A stand alone freezer is great for storage (and economy).

Rule 33: Eat Some Foods that have been Predigested by Bacteria or Fungi

Fermentation! Need I sing its praises anymore?

Rule 59: Try Not to Eat Alone
Rule 63: Cook

Both these rules are great. Eating should be a social affair, and cooking your own food is fantastic. I'd sort of like to combine them for food preservation, however. I do a lot of preservation on my own, but it is much more satisfying to preserve with friends and family.

Rule 62: Plant a Vegetable Garden, if You Have the Space, a Window Box if you Don't

Once you start gardening, sooner or later you will have more food than you can cook and give away. You can let it rot. Or ... you can preserve it one way or another.

These are just a few of Pollan's food rules. I could have spent more time discussing how they intersect with food preservation, but I think it would be better if you went and read the book and figured it out on your own. Enjoy!