Thursday, April 8, 2010

Preservation Link Roundup - Catching Up - 4/8/10

So, last week was spring break for many as well as Easter and I had to work six days. I work the afternoons/evenings and in the mornings I was driving an hour each way to interview for my new job. So far this week I've had to drive to my new job twice in order to sign all the paperwork that goes with starting in a new place. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that when you get a new job you need to show proof that you can be employed (passport or SSN card and Drivers License, etc.) so, I had to make that second trip to take care of that little detail. In any case, that is what has kept me from my updates. It'll take me a some time to get caught up, so please be patient. I've also got a few special posts planned (such as a book review), but those will have to wait as well. Oh, yeah, and I've got to get some studying in for my Master Gardener class (I dropped my studies for Advanced Sommelier for now, but will have to pick that back up in the summer).

The New York Times Magazine has a review of the Little House Cookbook, based on the cooking found in Laura Ingall Wilder's Little House books (Little House in the Hood). Preservation, of course, was an important part of life in the big woods and on the prairie, and it isn't clear how much preservation makes it into the book, though the review touches on it, but it would be interesting to learn more about preservation in frontier America.

The Jam and Jelly Lady provides a "semi-homemade" recipe for a trifle, layers of pound cake, cream (in this case, a tarter cream cheese mixture), fruit and jam (Strawberry Amaretto Trifle). The actual recipe is here: Jammin' Good Food. Trifles are simple, fresh and delicious. Garnish with some fresh mint and served chilled as they are wonderful warm spring evening or summer desserts. They can be prepared well ahead of time and don't require any cooking, unless you insist on making your own pound cake (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). They are wonderful for playing with flavors as well. Add your favorite liqueur, herb or even spice.

Well Preserved has just been going crazy with some wonderful spring preserving posts:
  • Dandelion Wine, Jelly and Coffee - A fine introduction to the possibilities of preserving dandelions.
  • Lamb Jerky - Something delicious that you are unlikely to find in your local megalomart or even gourmet food store.
  • Rhubarb Two Ways - Simple jams and a chutney. I can't recommend playing with rhubarb enough - it is another of those secret ingredients that can punch up so many different dishes without anyone knowing for sure what you've done.
  • Beech Tree Noyau (Infused Gin) - I'm not really sure if there are beech trees in Southern California, but if I find any, I'm going to give this a try.
  • Asparagus - Pickled and Pressure Canned - I'm a fan of pickling asparagus, of course, but haven't tried pressure canning them yet. I'll have to give it a try.
  • Pickled Fiddleheads - I used to forage these in New England, but haven't found many in Southern California (though last week on one of my walks I did find some Alpine Strawberries). They're delicious freshly steamed or sautéed, but pickling sounds delicious as well.
  • Wild Leeks (or Ramps) - There is very useful advice on foraging - making sure to leave enough after harvesting for the wild crop to flourish.
Serious Eats alerted me to the fact that I missed Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, which is held each April 2nd (Happy Peanut Butter and Jelly Day). What an opportunity to make something special to celebrate the holiday. It is going on my calendar for next year.

Tired of traditional scones? Looking for something a tad bit healthier? Why not try some oatcake bannocks? Serious Eats has a recipe for what may be the scone's wholegrain ancestor (Sunday Brunch: Bannocks). Delicious with clotted cream and your favorite jam or marmalade.

Food in Jars turns some whole preserved fruit into a delicious cake (Pear Cake). Sounds great, would probably work with a number of different fruits and FiJ recommends it with yogurt for breakfast ... sounds like my way to start the day.

Hot Water Bath comes home to a nearly empty pantry and improvises some Triscuit/chevre/pickled pepper snacks (Thank Goodness I Canned: Pickled Hot Peppers). They may not sound particularly fancy, but I bet they tasted pretty darn good. Hot pickled peppers are great to have around - and don't forget the brine:
The canning brine (I use a very standard 2 parts vinegar, 2 parts water, 1/2 part kosher salt) can likewise be used in marinades, drinks (yes! Really!), as a stir-in for plain rice or potatoes, or to punch up the flavor in all kinds of otherwise insipid dishes.
Leda Meredith's Urban Homestead makes a pizza chock full 'o local preserving goodness: tomato puree leftover from some home canned tomatoes, lacto-fermented garlic, in state cheese and foraged wild greens (Wild Pizza Improv).

Miia Monthly's sauerkraut is ready for eating (Sauerkraut is Done). She uses an interesting technique before putting the sauerkraut in the refrigerator, however - she removes the brine, boils it, chills it and puts the kraut back into the brine and refrigerates it.

Tigress in a Jam provides a little more guidance on April's Can Jam: Herbs (Preserving Herbs in Jars). Tigress points to some of her favorite herb books, some links, and provides these comments:
the rules state that the food in focus must be integral to the canned product. in the first few months when canning citrus, carrots and alliums it was easy to consider the chosen produce to be the main ingredient. this month's herbs are a little different and i would interpret integral as being essential to the flavor of the preserve but not necessarily the main ingredient.

this will open up a world of possibilities and i hope will allow those in zones where things are beginning to burst from the ground and jump off the trees to take advantage of what's springing in tandem with the essential herb. and for those of us who are still anticipating spring's abundance it may offer an opportunity to use up the last of the root-cellared produce.

finally, herbs are generally considered the leafy green parts of a plant (i would include flowers in here too) while spices are derived from other parts of the plant, particularly the seeds, berries, bark and roots. so while spices are certainly welcome in this month's entry they are not considered the food in focus and must be in addition to the integral herb.
Finally, for today, Two Frog Home shares a homemade pattern for knitting a cover for mason jars - perfects for gifts (Knitted Jar Pouch). Darn cool.

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