A Summer Picnic
Saturday, August 01, 2015
As soon as I tasted our naturally fermented pickles made a few weeks ago, I knew we had to put a picnic together.
Headhouse Market newcomber La Divisa meats made it easy, with a wonderful thinly sliced ham we slathered with Green Aisle Grocery’s horseradish on Ric’s Bread. And of course there had to be a tomato sandwich.
For dessert, I cooked down a bunch of rhubarb from our garden and made a rhubarb fool. This was one of those too pretty desserts I had never gotten around to trying. Definitely worth the minimal effort in the summer - it was cool, slightly tart, and did I mention pretty?
Half Sour Pickles
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
As if there is any other kind. It took me a few years of canning before I realized vinegar preserving was not going to get me the slightly crisp, garlicky, mildly pungent taste I was looking for in a dill pickle. I had given up until last summer’s food swap, when Amanda of Phickle traded us a giant jar of naturally fermented pickles. They were perfect. A few days ago we received a big haul of kirby pickles, so I prepared them according to these directions. I learned two interesting things from the article preceding the recipe. First, cutting off the blossom end of the cucumber can help prevent soft pickles, as the blossom ends contain enzymes which can soften your pickles. The article also mentioned adding grape leaves, which contain tannins that counteract softening as the pickle ferments. (This Penn State Extension article does an excellent job explaining the science behind and practical methods for crispy pickles.) The photo above shows one jar in all its loveliness, and the second jar already wearing its baggie full of water to keep air out during fermentation. Not quite as pretty, but a necessary part of safe fermentation. I plan to ferment these two jars for different amounts of time to see how long it takes to achieve the results I want. With any luck, there will be no puckering sourness and no softness, and I will celebrate by making a giant grilled cheese sandwich to eat them with.
Last Year’s Jam
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
I’m not a super-preserver or anything, but by this point, I’ve established a regular seasonal pattern of jam-making: sour cherry at the beginning of summer, plum at the end of summer, and quince in the late fall. While I’ve also finally achieved a decent amount of cabinet space in my kitchen, it’s not unlimited, which means right around now I start thinking about clearing out some space to prepare for the cycle to begin again.
I used some of the plum as a cake filling a couple of weeks ago, and this week I rolled a jar of the quince into some buttery, flaky rugelach. (The sour cherry, alas, never seems to make it past a few months, because I love it too much.) You can use whichever jar is pushing its way to the front of your pantry, or whatever looks good at the market this weekend.
(Adapted from Rugelach, Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, 2010)
Makes 48 cookies
For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 cubes
8 tablespoons (1 8-ounce block) cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup jam needing to be used up, in this case quince
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Fine sea salt for sprinkling
Combine the flour, sugar and salt for the pastry in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly to blend the dry ingredients, then add the butter and mix on low until mostly broken up and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the cream cheese just until a damp, shaggy dough forms, then turn out onto a clean countertop and knead briefly to create a mostly cohesive block. Divide into four equal parts and pat into 4-inch disks, tightly wrapping each individually. Refrigerate at least two hours and preferably overnight.
When ready to bake, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners and preheat the oven to 350 F.
Roll one disk of pastry between sheets of parchment paper to a diameter of 12 inches and a thickness of about a quarter inch. Spread the pastry with a quarter of the jam, and evenly coat with a quarter of the walnuts and a small pinch of salt. Using a pizza cutter or sharp chef’s knife, slice the pastry into 12 approximately equal wedges. Starting with the outside edge, roll each wedge toward the point and place, point-side down, on a lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining wedges, setting the cookies 2 inches apart. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to firm the cookies back up as you repeat the process with the remaining pastry disks, jam and walnuts.
Bake each sheet of cookies on the center rack for 25-28 minutes, until pale gold on top and a slightly darker golden brown at the edges, rotating the pans as necessary for even browning. Immediately transfer the baked cookies on their parchment to cooling racks and cool completely.
Cookies will keep well in airtight containers for up to 5 days.
Life Hands You A Dwarf Lemon Tree
Friday, February 08, 2013
It may seem strange to see a blog on local food in and around Philadelphia, PA include a post on lemons, but I can assure you that these lemons were grown right here in Philadelphia. More specifically, I can assure you that they were grown in my house in Queen Village. We’ve had a dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree for several years, and we’ve gotten impressive (if intermittent) fruit. Nonetheless, last Sunday I picked four lemons.
Of course, I was then left with a quandary of what to do with them. These lemons were far too special (organic! Meyer Lemons! grown in my house!) to just use for their juice or zest. So, I decided to preserve them according to River Cottage Preserves. It’s a basic recipe: salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, and black peppercorns. You sterilize a wide-mouth jar, add all of the ingredients, and then wait four weeks for the rinds to soften. It is probably the easiest preserve recipe I have ever tried.
And the results? I’ll let you know in another three weeks, but I generally prefer them diced as a condiment to fish.
How To: Cleaning Black Walnuts
Monday, November 07, 2011
My wedding anniversary came to pass a few weeks ago, and my husband, as usual, gave me a gift. No, not jewelry or flowers—a box of foraged black walnuts.
True, it’s an odd gift, but certainly not one I’ll ever turn away. My husband collected the walnuts from a tree near where he works, and they’ve been resting on our back porch ever since. What have I been waiting for? Well, the outer hulls need to soften up. You’ll know it’s time get rid of the hull when you can easily dent it with your thumbnail. Any harder, and you won’t be able to cut into the hull with any degree of success.
If you’ve never attempted to de-hull black walnuts, be forewarned: it can get messy. The flesh inside the husk can permanently dye everything in its path dark brown, so pick up a pair of protective gloves—latex is good. Some people recommend gloves that are rated to withstand solvents. It’s not a terrible idea, but not entirely necessary…as long as the gloves are strong.
Okay, so you’ve got your gloves. You also need a sharp knife, a bucket of water, a trash bag, and a bunch of newspapers over which to work. Slice into the hull with your knife, but don’t press in too hard. It’s not that you’re going to damage the walnut shell—but the shell is so hard, it’ll dull your knife. Drag your blade around the hull of the walnut until you’ve got a solid slice around the equator. Another word of warning: you may see maggots (husk fly maggots, to be exact). They’re gross, but it doesn’t mean the inner nut is bad.
Twist the two hull halves apart, drop the hull in the trash, and the nut in the water. Repeat until you’re all finished up. And yes, it’s best to toss the hulls in the trash instead of adding them to your compost heap because there are compounds in black walnut hulls that are toxic to plants. Granted, if you hunt on the internet hard enough, there are ways to use the hulls—making ink, herbal hair dye, etc.
When you’ve got a bucket full of walnuts, stir the water with a stick. I don’t just mean a leisurely stir, either—agitate the crap out of the water and nuts because you’re trying to encourage the remaining bits of hull to fall off. Drain the water (remember: walnut hulls are toxic to plants, so don’t pour the water directly onto your prized peonies—it can also kill off earthworms) and fill up the bucket with clean water. You may need to repeat the process up to four times to get clean walnut shells.
At this point, spread the walnuts out in a box or on a screen and allow them to air dry for a few hours in the sun. Having an overcast day? No worries—put the walnuts on a cookie sheet and place them in an unlit gas oven for 24 to 48 hours for drying. If you don’t have a gas oven, you can try drying them in your oven after you’ve baked something: the oven needs to be at around 100 degrees.
But you’re not done yet! Gather the dried walnuts into a mesh bag and hang on your back patio or some other ventilated indoor area for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. This is technically described as the curing period. Don’t attempt to shell them until you can shake a nut and hear the meat rattle within.
So you wait it out, and your walnuts are finally ready—this is where the hard part begins. Ever tried to crack a black walnut? It’s really tough—the process and the shell. I’ve heard of people running over black walnuts with a car to help crack the shells. I personally have attempted to de-shell them by banging the crap out of a walnut shell with a hammer. Probably the easiest way to crack black walnuts, though, is with a vise: place the nut end-to-end in the vise. Place a container under the nut. Crank the vise until the nut just cracks. Some people recommend soaking the nuts in water again for an hour or two before you undertake cracking—it allegedly cuts down on the amount of flying shell debris. When you’re finished with the cracking, turn your attention to the bowl of nuts. It’s unlikely you’ll get many whole pieces of walnut freed from the shell during this process. Yes, you can use a pick to pry the meat out, but if you would rather have whole meats you’ll need some kind of cutter to remove more of the shell. I’ve read that some people use wire cutters.
Use the nuts within the next few months—there is quite a bit of oil in the nuts, so they can go bad. If you wish to store them long term, you’ll need to freeze the nutmeats.
Yeah, it’s a lot of work. Why would anyone bother? Well, a few reasons, really. First and foremost, black walnuts taste better than regular walnuts. But also, they’re really nutritious—chock full omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for our brains.
Aside from eating them out of hand, there are some really interesting things you can do with black walnuts. I love this recipe for acorn squash lasagna with black walnut cream—you can make it almost entirely out of locally grown ingredients. Other options: banana-black walnut cake with caramel frosting, black walnut ice cream, black walnut shortbread cookies, black walnut pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, black walnut brittle, pork tenderloin with black walnut mole sauce, pickled walnuts, shiitake and black walnut tartare, and black walnut stuffing with figs and bacon.
Fermentation Hoe Down!
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
The newly formed Fermentation Society of Philadelphia is having its first event this month! Come to see workshops and to share your own recipes will fellow fermenters.
FYI, an omission from the flyer: Be prepared to give a little donation to compensate the church for the use of its space.
Drying Fresh Herbs
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Sadly, almost all of my herbs got eaten by squirrels, killed by the heat wave, poisoned by black walnuts, or crushed by construction materials. This past week I decided that instead of harvesting my own, I’d order some lemon balm from the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA and still have plenty of winter tea. Lemon Balm can be dried like most herbs from your garden - easily. The fastest method is to lay the herbs on a cookie sheet and place them in your oven. Just a little heat - 100 degrees - can try the herbs in an hour or two, or if you have a gas oven with a pilot light you can leave them in there overnight and wake up to dried herbs in the morning. I usually remove leaves before drying, but with some tough leaves, like rosemary, it is easier to dry them on the stalk and then remove them later.
Some people prefer to hang their herbs by their stalks. These bunches, hanging over a kitchen sink, in front of a window, or in a dry attic look and smell lovely, though they can take a bit longer to dry. If left undisturbed, they may hang intact for months, but watch out - they can also get dusty!
Canning: Hot Cherry Peppers
Monday, August 30, 2010
It’s no secret that I love hot pepper. And pickles. Pickled hot peppers? Yes, please. I bought some lovely hot cherry peppers on the side of the road in New Jersey, and then got a big bag in my CSA last week, so I decided to give them all the pickling treatment so that I can enjoy them with cheese, and all kinds of other things, later this winter. I’ve been using this recipe from Martha Stewart, and I have to say, it’s just about perfect.
Canning: Pickled Carrots
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Carrots are just fine, but sometimes they feel a little boring to me. Pickled carrots to the rescue! They’ve got more kick than fresh, are easy to make (especially when you have a bag of baby carrots hanging around) and a delicious snack with hummus. You can make these pickles over night in the refrigerator, or can them, like I did above. I love them at picnics! I started with this recipe originally published in Gourmet magazine. I cut the sugar a bit, and used dried hot thai peppers for extra kick. Adjust the garlic, dill and hot peppers to your liking!
Canning: Jalepeno Salsa
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Often when I make salsa, I don’t really use a recipe. I glance at a few in trusty canning cookbooks, and then just use what I have. The above salsa is about two parts tomatoes, one part fresh chopped jalepenos, one part diced red onions, a generous splash of cider vinegar, 3 chopped garlic cloves, a dash of salt, and the juice of half a lime. And let me tell you, it’s kicking. I cooked it down on the stove for about 20 minutes just to reduce some of the water, and made two quick pint jars of salsa.
Canning: Gold Tomato Sauce
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
My CSA arrived on Monday, but on Tuesday I was leaving for Alaska for 10 days. What to do? Blanch and freeze the greens and can everything else. Much like Marissa from the local canning blog “Food in Jars,” I enjoy small batch canning. It’s an easy evening project and lets you use up all kinds of odds and ends before they pass their ripeness. This golden tomato sauce is based on a recipe I saw recently on 101 recipes, but I added just a few red cherry tomatoes, languishing on the counter, for a little variation.
Learn to Can to August Tomatoes!
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Does the thought of hot-water bath canning make you nervous? But you still want to preserve your harvest bounty (or the bounty of your local CSA or farmers market) for the winter? Sign-up for this quick workshop, learn what you need to know, and go home with your first jar of canned tomatoes!
Canning Workshop 2: Learn how to preserve your food
Saturday, September 11, 11am-1pm
The Restaurant School, 4100 Walnut Street (entrance on 41st Street)
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Hello! My name is Erica and I’m excited to join the Farm to Philly team! I’m a community garden organizer and local food lover from West Philadelphia, check out my bio for more info on the gardens I tend in Philadelphia and Camden, NJ.
For my first post I decided to go with a tried-and-true recipe that I am constantly making in my kitchen; sauerkraut. Cabbage is a great winter staple, I get mine at Mariposa Food Co-op where they’ve recently been selling small cabbages that are perfect for a mini batch of kraut.
The first step is to assemble your equipment: a ceramic crock or (food-grade) plastic bucket and a dish that fits snugly into it. I found my crock at a second-hand store, but you can sometimes buy them at housewares stores. You’ll also need a cutting board, a glass mason jar with lid, a knife, a dish cloth and a large bowl.
Your ingredients are one small cabbage, sea salt, and water. The amounts depend on the size of your crock, but I use one small head of cabbage, ½ cup of water, and 3 or 4 Tbs of salt in my ½ gallon crock.
Thinly shred the cabbage. I find that the best way to do this is to cut it in half and slice thinly from the cut side. When you’ve cut off a handful of cabbage, put it in the bowl and sprinkle it with salt. Keep doing this until you’ve shredded the entire cabbage, layering the cabbage and salt as you go. Put the cabbage in the crock and mash it down with your fist to get it tightly packed. Mix together one teaspoon of salt in a cup of water and pour it over the cabbage until the cabbage is submerged. Put the dish into the crock and put it down so the cabbage is under the salt water. Fill the mason jar with water and use it to weigh the plate down. Cover the entire thing with a dish cloth to keep away flies and dust, and place it in a dark corner of your kitchen.
Taste the sauerkraut daily to observe the fermentation process. When it has reached the perfect amount of “sourness,” take it out of the crock and place it in a mason jar in the fridge. For me, it takes between 1.5 and 2.5 weeks in the winter to reach the perfect point (less time in the summer). To see the original recipe I used and more fermented food recipes, check out wildfermentation.com. Enjoy!
CSA Report: Blooming Glen Farm
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
(Click photo to read notes at flick’r regarding names/quantities of share.)
The Blooming Glen Farm farmers gifted us with green tomatoes, tomatillos, arugula and butternut squash this week. More potatoes, onions, peppers, garlic and greens were also waiting for us. The weather may be cooling down, but we still had fresh herbs to pick, and even managed to put together a wild flower bouquet.
I’m excited to make a batch of Nanny’s (our farmer Tricia’s grandmother) green tomato relish with those tomatoes. I’ve used this recipe for the last couple years and just love it. The quantities are to produce a big batch for canning (about 10 to 12 pint jars), so adjust as needed.
Nanny’s Green Tomato Relish
Put through chopper (or chop by hand), and drain:
1 peck green tomatoes (roughly 20apple size)
6 large onions
6 green peppers
6 red peppers
3/4 pint sugar
2 pints vinegar
1 T whole cloves, in cloth or tea ball
1 stick cinnamon
Boil about 20 minutes, until sugar is dissolved, remove cinnamon stick and cloves.
In a big pot, pour syrup over over relish and add:
1 T Salt
1 T celery seed
1 T mustard seed
Boil 15 minutes, then process in boiling water canner for 15 minutes.
It’s always a treat to open a can of this sweet, crunchy and colorful relish in the dark days of winter!
I Can Can! Now What?
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Despite my recent success in canning, I realize that I am not content. I know how to can, but I don’t know how it’s going to taste. I’ve grasped the specific techniques of canning, so the food will not (or, at least, should not) spoil, but how will it taste months from now? Will I open a jar of pickled onions in December and smile – or grimace?
At this point, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t much to be done. First, I suspect that I am overreacting, and that everything I’ve canned will be “good” if not “fantastic.” Second, this is the first time I’ve attempted to comprehensively preserve food for the winter, so I should allow some room for improvement. Thus, with the intention of noting (on this blog, no less), the results and with an eye to improving things next year, I look at this as “Canning: Phase One,” mastering technique. Next year, it will be “Canning: Phase Two,” enhancing flavor.
Having said that, I am not entirely content to simply “preserve.” As we’ve canned, we’ve tried to appropriately flavor the fruits and vegetables, but that wasn’t the main focus. With the following recipe, however, we were much more conscious of that. I suppose this makes sense: as you grasp the basics of technique, you turn your attention to the more subtle – and difficult – task of taste.
For these pickles, we made some changes to the original, and the results are as follows.
6 pint jars, rings, and lids
6 medium cucumbers
1 bunch of dill, separated into individual fronds
4 cloves garlic, sliced into slivers
5 cups water
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
dried chilies (optional)
1. Cut the cucumbers into spears. Be sure to cut them short enough to fit into the jars. (Once I trimmed the ends, I found that cutting the cucumbers in half, crosswise, created the appropriate length.)
Fill a large bowl with cold water and 2 teaspoons salt, stir to dissolve the salt, and add the cucumbers. Allow to sit for at least one hour.
2. In large stock pot or canning pot (We used a stockpot with the pasta insert), cover the jars, lids, and rings in cold water and slowly bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.
3. Meanwhile, bring the water, 2 tablespoons of salt, peppercorns, cumin seeds, and mustard seeds in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat.
4. First, drain the cucumbers. Then, set up your workspace: have the pot of sterilized jars, brine, tongs, funnel, dill fronds, cucumbers easily accessible. (We tend to clear the kitchen table and have everything set up right there, laying out newspaper on which we pack the hot, sterilized jars.)
5. Layer in the cucumbers, dill, garlic, and chilies (if desired) in each of the pint jars. Using the funnel, add the brine until within one half-inch of the top. Cover each jar with a sterilized lid, place the ring over the lid, tighten it, and then loosen it one quarter-turn. Place the jars back into the stock pot or canning pot and slowly bring the pot to a simmer for ten minutes.
6. Remove the jars from the water bath and allow to cool. Within an hour, you should hear the jars “pop” as they cool and seal. Once cooled, check the seal by removing the ring and lifting the jar a few inches by the lid. If the lid remains in place, the jar is sealed.