Category Archives: Preserving

Easy Pickled Cherries and Cherry Pit Liqueur

pickled_cherriesWhen I sent my friend a text of the pickled cherries I was brining, he joked, “You’re like that Portlandia episode.”

Truth be told, my whole life could be a Portlandia episode, but I’m especially ok with this one. I am currently experiencing pickle-mania and am trading in my jam recipes for pickle recipes. Since I’ve gotten so into pickling via fermentation (my recent batch of fermented giardiniera finds its way onto my plate at every meal), pickling is even easier.

bowl_of_cherriesI finally broke down and bought the pickling bible everyone has told me about, The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich, and it is amazing! I was dog-earing pages of recipes I wanted to try on my way out of the bookstore door. And there are so many fermentation pickles to try! The one that has really got me smitten though is the pickled cherries. I’ve had the book for a week and I’ve already made it twice. What makes it even better is that you don’t have to fire up the canner for this one. Inexperienced canners can pickle their hearts out – no canning supplies required!

jarI first had pickled cherries at last summer’s Outstanding in the Field and of all the amazing food we had that evening, the cherries are what I remember most. I don’t know if it was taste that got me or the fact that it had never occurred to me before to pickle something like a cherry. Whatever it was, I was hooked and when I cracked open my new pickling book, it was the first  thing I looked for and the first recipe I tried. I think you should try it too. Once you catch a glimpse and a whiff of the beautiful, fragrant brine, you’ll be so glad you did. The fact that the recipe is so dang simple is just the icing on the cake.

Pickled Cherries

Adapted from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich 

Makes 1 pint

Ingredients:

2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and stemmed (Bing cherries make the most lovely colored brine)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 water
1 cardamom pod, cracked open
1 cinnamon stick

Method:

Day 1:
Place the cherries in a bowl and cover with the vinegar. Cover the bowl with a towel or some cheesecloth and let the cherries soak overnight.

Day 2:
Strain the vinegar into a nonreactive sauce pan and set the cherries aside. The cherries are not cooked or heated throughout the entire process to preserve their texture. Add the sugar, water and spices into the vinegar in the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Once the brine liquid is cool, pour over the cherries and let them stand at room temperature for 3 days. Again, cover the bowl with a towel or cheesecloth.

Day 5:
Once again, strain the pickling liquid into a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Add the cherries to a warm, sterilized mason jar. Once the brine is cool, pour it over the cherries, completely covering them. Close the jar tightly with a nonreactive cap –either the plastic reusable mason jar lids or the two-piece metal lid with a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper in between the jar and the metal lid. That will keep it from rusting should the vinegary brine come in contact with the metal lid.

Store in the fridge or another cool, dark place for at least 1 month before eating. In her pickling cookbook, Ziedrich says the pickled cherries “will keep well even unrefrigerated for about 1 year.”

Enjoy!

cherry_pit_vodka

Bonus: Cherry Pit Liqueur

While pitting cherries, put the pits in a sterile mason jar. Cover with vodka or brandy and let it infuse for a couple of weeks. Make sure all the pits are completely covered with alcohol! The bits of cherry and pits lend an almond flavor to the alcohol – it’s easy to make and delicious. Once infused, strain the alcohol into a sterile mason jar to store and add the infused goodness to your homemade cocktails.

Cardamom-spiced Pickled Rhubarb: Spice Up Your Salads

Ask me what I’ve been eating for lunch (and dinner) for the past month and you’ll get this response: Salad. And the day before? Salad. How about the day before that? Salad.

When you grow this:carpet_of_lettuce

You get this:salad_lunch

It’s all salad, all the time. And I’m not complaining. I’ve been looking forward to this time all year. But as to be expected when you’re eating basically the same thing everyday, it can get a little old. I’ve been super creative, mixing up different vinaigrettes and tossing in all kinds of different legumes, nuts and seeds for protein. But nothing made me smile like the first bite of salad I ate with pickled rhubarb sprinkled in. I ’bout lost my mind.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I found myself accidentally tuning out the conversation around me for a few moments when I started eating yesterday’s rhubarb-spiked salad at work. I almost lifted my eyes from my big bowl of greens and swooned, “this pickled rhubarb is so good. It’s just so, so good!” I thought better of it and kept the rhubarb raving to myself…until now.

040912-201101-finished-rhubarb-pickles-610-1I pretty much followed Marisa McClellan’s recipe, but swapped out the star anise for one cardamom pod (one pod per jar). If you don’t like cardamom, don’t add it to the jar. The cardamom ends up being the dominant flavor here, which is fine by me. Also, the final stalks end up a little on the soft side, but with a pair of kitchen shears, it cuts up just fine.

Marisa also mentions saving the pickling liquid to use as a drinking vinegar. Uh, seriously? Shrub and rhubarb vinaigrette, here I come! As if I needed another reason to love this canning project. Seriously, dust off your water bath canner and put up some rhubarb! It’ll have you looking forward to your salads again.

Check out my post, 20 Salad Suggestions, for more salad inspiration!

Image of the jar of pickled rhubarb stalks from Serious Eats

Homemade Ginger Beer Q and A

IMG_3712My DIY ginger beer tutorial is my most popular post to date! It’s been viewed by more people than any other post I’ve written. And honestly, I’m not surprised. It is one of the most fun and rewarding homemade kitchen projects you’ll make. For me though, writing the post about ginger beer was almost as fun as making the beer itself. It started a dialogue of questions and answers, updates and encouragement as lots of people started brewing ginger beer at home. The conversations and excitement around this DIY kitchen project have been energizing!

I decided to compile the ginger beer-making questions I’ve received into one post. Give this project a try and keep the questions coming – I will help you along the way! Feel free to send me your updates too – I love to hear about how your project is going!

Bottles and Bottling Equipment

Is it safe to use recycled standard glass beer bottles as long as they’re cleaned and sanitized first?

Yes you can! Just not the twist off cap bottles if you want to use a bottle capper like I showed in my ginger beer video. You’ll need pop top bottles for that!

How do I sanitize recycled bottles?

If you have a sanitize cycle on your dishwasher, that would be the easiest way to prep your bottles. Otherwise, the National Geographic Green Living page suggests a method similar to that used to sanitize canning jars:

To sanitize the bottles, you can place them in the dishwasher and use the sanitize setting. The moist heat will kill pathogens inside and outside. If you don’t have a dishwasher, try boiling the bottles to remove the pathogens. Fill a large pot with enough water to submerge the bottles. Heat the water and the bottles on the stove until they come to a rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Then remove the bottles from the water and dry them with a clean towel.

Where can I purchase the bottles, caps and cappers?

I purchased my supplies locally, at Cellar Homebrew in North Greenwood/Shoreline.

Custom bottle caps?

Yep! You can order them here!

Ginger Bug and Fizz (Natural Carbonation)

No yeast?

Nope! Not in this recipe. The combination of fresh ginger with the skin on, sugar and water create the “bug” that gives this ginger beer its fizz.

What if my bug is ready, but I’m not ready to bottle it?

According to fermentation master, Sandor Katz, once the bug is active, if you’re not ready to use it, you can keep feeding it with fresh ginger and sugar every couple of days. However, if the bubbles are gone and it seems like your bug is no longer active, I’d just start over again.

I’ve heard my bottles could explode from the pressure created by the carbonation. Is that true?

From what I’ve read that seems to be true. I’ve never had a bottle explode, but just to be sure, it might be worth it to store your bottles where it wouldn’t be a messy disaster (or dangerous) if a bottle did explode from the carbonation.

I opened one of my bottles two weeks into the rest period and it had little fizz. What did I do wrong? 

It is very possible it just needs a little more time to ferment. One new ginger brewer said about this experience, “…another week later I opened another bottle and WOW. This is the BEST ginger beer I have ever had. It was perfect.”

 

Ginger Beer Recipe

How many bottles does this recipe typically fill? 

About 10 or 11 (beer bottles like the one in the photo above)

How long can I keep the bottled ginger beer before I drink it?

I have kept my bottles of ginger beer for a few months before opening them, I just had to open the cap ridiculously slow to prevent losing half the bottle because of all the carbonation. I wonder now if that length of time changes the alcohol content. (More research needed for this one.)

Can I use other sugars, like brown sugar, to make the bug?

I’d say that organic sugar is the way to go – the less refined, the better.

What can I do to spice it up a bit?

I think the flavor of this ginger beer is divine – I wouldn’t change a thing. However, if you want to make it a bit spicier, you can adjust the amount of ginger you add, during part two.

Do you have to use water to make the bug? Would it work with juice?

I wouldn’t use juice because of the things that get added to juice as it is processed. Stick with water and sugar as specified in the recipe.

Is the beverage supposed to be cloudy? Is that sediment normal?

Yes to both.

What is the alcoholic content for this recipe?

It is nonalcoholic. Sandor Katz says, It’s “a soft drink, fermented just enough to create fermentation but not enough to contribute any appreciable level of alcohol.”

 

General Fermentation Questions

Is there any serious risk of food borne diseases, like botulism?

I am a big food hypochondriac when it comes to canning and preserving food. Being safe is super important to me. From what I’ve learned about food borne illness, I feel safe using this ginger beer recipe because of the acid present in the recipe via the lemon juice and the way I seal the bottles in air-tight containers (bottles).

Here are a few links about the topic of fermentation and food safety:

The Three Biggest Fermenting Mistakes

But I Thought It Was Anaerobic If It Was Under The Brine

Debunking the Botulism Fear

Midwinter Merriment: Start Seeds Indoors

Here it is – a countdown til spring. From now until the first day of spring, I will post ways to make the dreary days of midwinter a little more merry.

Day 15: Start seeds indoors.

seedlingsNothing is as satisfying as getting your hands dirty in February as you sow seeds indoors that will be transplanted outdoors in late spring. Visions of tomatoes dance in my head and watching for sprouting seeds like a kid with her nose pressed up against a window is delightful! Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!

Still not sure what to grow when in the Pacific NW? The Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide is my go-to resources and it will show you the way!

Check out this article from Organic Gardening magazine for tips on getting your seeds started!

Day 16: Sew a sassy garden tool belt.
Day 17: A class that keeps on giving!
Day 18: Buy yourself some flowers.
Day 19: Go to the park and play!
Day 20: Plant peas (and sign up for my free newsletter!)
Day 21: Take a gardening class.
Day 22:Plant bare root.
Day 23: Sign up for Seattle Seedling’s Spring Fling!
Day 24: Plant primroses.
Day 25: Get yourself a doughnut and make it “for here.”
Day 26: Frequent the Farmers’ Market
Day 27: Eat Root Vegetables Disguised as Cake!
Day 28: Be a Garden Show Goer.
Day 29: Drink more hot chocolate.
Day 30: Create a springtime “advent” calendar.