Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup 3/17/10

Another great March Can Jam update:

Local Kitchen adds alliums to a classic sweet jam and finds that it has "a depth of flavor that must be tasted to be believed" (Strawberry Rhubarb & Caramelized Onion Jam). If onions were as rare as truffles, onions would be more expensive. They are savory, yet work surprisingly well with sweet. Perhaps it is all their inherent sugars that only come out through long, slow cooking.

I just noticed citrumelos for the first time at last Sunday's Hollywood Farmers' Market and, apparently, so did The Kitchn (Citrus Spotlight: Citrumelos). Check out the nice photos and description (and find out why they're also called "marmalade fruit").

Delightful Country Cookin' has a photo-rich description of making a berry-citrus jam, excellent for those just getting started in canning (Blueberry-Lime Jam). And, hey, plenty of blueberries and limes in our farmers' markets right now.

Put a Lid On It is in the process of making classic pickled eggs, pickled in beet brine. Of course, that means first you have to pickle some beets. To keep her husband happy, she also pickles some okra (Pickled Okra and Pickled Beets). Here in Los Angeles, if you want some classic pickled eggs and don't want to have to pickle beets first ... you can find the purplish delicacies at Philippes; they go great with the French Dips.

On her blog for the Denver Post, Well Preserved, preserving guru Eugenia Bone pickles that underutilized aromatic, fennel (Pickled Fennel). I use fennel whenever I have the option. There is hardly a dish that uses mirepoix that I don't think can be improved with fennel. Pickling provides even more options for me to use fennel.

Cooking in Someone Else's Kitchen makes a chile jam from chiles they froze last fall (A Little Summer Heat). The recipe they used was a British recipe and called for "jam sugar," which is sugar combined with pectin. They made the recipe with regular granulated sugar and, of course, it failed to set. They reprocessed with pectin and it worked.

The conversations started by Sara Dickerson's Slate article continue.

The Art of the Rural agrees with the Dickerson (Putting Up).
I often make pâté and have cured different meats (duck prosciutto, bresaola, etc.) and I like having a cabinet full of pickled onions, green beans or bread and butter pickles to have on hand for the occasions when I can slice open a new celebration of pork fat. But last fall I went to Whole Foods to buy 5 lbs of cucumbers for my pickles only to discover that conventional cucumbers were $2.50 each! There was nothing frugal or practical in pickling these and, in fact, it was an expensive little project.
Ummmm ... duh? What did you think would happen if you buy all your produce at Whole Paycheck? Try this for an experiment ... buy some all-beef patties, special sauce (mayo and thousand island), lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun at Whole Foods and you'll (surprise, surprise) discover that Big Macs are less expensive.

Well, I guess that it's it for the food revolution. Back to fast food it is.

Amazon blog Al Dente is a little less gullible when it comes frugal canning (The Inevitable Canning Backlash).
Now, the author here is a generally fabulous food writer. I normally nod my head at her sharp and astute articles, but this one had me shaking it the other way. I can't argue with the assertion that buying a slew of new canning equipment and jamming up a ribbon-wrapped collection of $5/lb heirloom tomatoes isn't particularly frugal. The process does pencil out nicely, though, if you re-use those cans year after year, and choose tomatoes from the cheapie seconds bins, or grab 20 pounds of inexpensive fruit from the U-Pick, or if you do belong to that not-particularly-endangered category of zealous gardeners with too many cucumbers.
On the other hand, Dining@Large, the Baltimore Sun's dining blog, joins Dickerson's canning backlash trend (Top Ten Retro Foods We Wish Would Stay in the Past).
2. Home-canned anything

I love the whole locavore logic behind canning and, honestly, I'd like to try it. But Sara Dickerman in Slate nails what's wrong with this homespun hobby's becoming "ridiculously trendy." She calls it "showy industriousness." "These culinary trophies are emblematic of a project-based food relationship that we urban food junkies are prone to indulge these days: athletic all-weekend bouts of cheesemaking or bacon curing or jam and pickle making are so much more bloggable and boastworthy than making a decent brown-bag lunch five days in a row." And then there's the botulism thing.
I'm beginning to think that pampered food writers only know "showy industriousness" and are unaware that many people are actually industrious. Being writers, the concept of industriousness is probably foreign to them. For example, instead of writing lame and lazy top ten lists (really, how bereft of ideas do you have to be in order to resort to a 1990s-style top ten list?), perhaps salaried food writers could share what brown bag lunch they're bringing to work five days in a row, since they seem to be so hot on the concept.

Oh, and speaking of retro things that should stay in the past, perhaps you could get rid of the "@" in your blog name? Those were cool back when modems were.

Plate to Plate lets one of the commentators on the Slate piece do the speaking for them (Much Ado About Canning).

Dickerson thinks canning $5/lb tomatoes is not very frugal. I agree, but finding inexpensive canning tomatoes is not that difficult. For example, one CSA has a good bargain for those who join by the ides of April: free canning tomatoes (Join our CSA by April 15. Receive Free Canning Tomatoes).
No matter how efficient we get as a farm, there will always be "extra" tomatoes at the end of the day between mid-August and the end of October. Some are too ripe. Some are seconds that got bruised or damaged in the picking process. Some have a bug bite or two. Some are just not quite right for selling. Our breeding rows are also the source of tomatoes that don't fit into our markets.