Have you ever tried pickling?
I hadn’t either, until a couple of weeks ago. Hadn’t even really thought about it until finishing Molly Wizenburg’sA Homemade Life a couple of weeks before that. The timing was perfect. I’d been thinking about our upcoming barbeque, flipping through magazines and cookbooks trying to decide what to make. Our overall plan was simple - we would provide all of the makings for pulled pork sandwiches, some snackie appetizers and, of course, dessert. Our guests would each bring a side dish to share and beverages of choice. Easy, cost-effective, everybody gets to contribute AND you learn about some great new salads for future summer parties.
However, when you’re throwing a party and only contributing a few key dishes to the event, the pressure is on to make those dishes shine. Especially if your name is Andrea and you write a food blog. It isn’t outside pressure; its completely internal. I do it to myself, and not because I feel the need to impress my guests (which is a nice bonus, if it happens), but simply because I don’t get many opportunities to cook for that many people. Smoking a 10-pound pork shoulder for 10-12 hours isn’t something that Brian and I do every weekend, as nice as that sounds. And I certainly wouldn’t make 24 cupcakes on a whim without a special occasion or at least an office full of male co-workers to take them to. So, when given an excuse to prepare something indulgent or time-consuming, I jump. And start planning weeks in advance.
The pulled pork was an easy decision, we’d been wanting to try something similar for quite some time. I left Brian in charge of consulting with the local farmer that supplied the shoulder (Double H Farm - fabulous people and Big Green Egg owners as well!) and finding the right vinegar-based barbeque sauce recipe to go along with it. The cupcakes were much more difficult - I was emailing back and forth with my cupcake consultant the day before the party, still trying to determine the perfect frosting for those decadent cakes mere hours before I was planning to make it. Luckily, I had decided on the "snackie appetizer" portion of our food contribution weeks prior, and the sugar snap peas and carrots had been nestled in their brine, resting in our fridge for a full five days.
When I chose to make pickles, the idea seemed to jive well with my overly-indulgent, time-consuming criteria for recipe selection. They were certainly delicious enough, and were crowd-pleasers that elicited impressed reactions from our guests ("you made pickles?!?"). But here's the thing...they were so incredibly easy to make. So easy that I'm already brainstorming about all of the other vegetables I can pickle this summer, especially those that we are growing in our garden. Cucumbers? Check. ...Beets? Check... Okra? Check...
Many thanks to Whitney for introducing me to the pickled sugar snaps recipe, and Molly for the carrots.
Pickled Sugar Snap Peasrecipe from smitten kitchen, who adapted from the joy of pickling via epicurious
1-1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
1-1/4 cups cold water
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 pound sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
a few pinches of red pepper flakes
In a non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, salt and sugar until both are dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the cold water.
When the vinegar mixture is cool, pack the sugar snaps, red pepper flakes and garlic into jars or a large bowl (I used three 1-pint jars) and pour the brine over them. If you run out of brine (I was just short) mix together equal parts water and vinegar to add to the jars. Cover with a non-reactive lid if using jars, or plastic wrap if using a bowl.
Store in the refrigerator. They will be lightly pickled after 24 hours. We ate ours at the 5-day mark, and they were absolutely perfect. The original recipe says to wait 2 weeks for them to reach optimum flavor, but they can (and probably will be) consumed long before that.
1-1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds (original recipe calls for brown, I only had yellow)
1-1/2 pounds small carrots, or large carrots cut into matchsticks 1/2" thick by 3" long
In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups of vinegar, water, sugar, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt and mustard seeds to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining vinegar.
Place the carrots in a large, heat-proof bowl. Pour the warm brine over them and let sit until the brine cools to room temperature.
While the carrots cool, clean your canning jars and lids in warm, soapy water (I used three 1-pint jars).
Once the carrots are cool, arrange them in the jars so that they are nice and snug. Feel free to use your fingers. Using a ladle, distribute the brine evenly amongst the jars. The carrots should be completely covered by brine. If they are not then add a mixture of 2 parts vinegar, 1 part water.
Seal firmly and refrigerate for at least 3 days. We consumed most of them at the 5-day mark, and they were delicious, but I think they were even better after a full week.
My goodness. I have really been slacking on the bellaterraposts. And its a shame, really, because things are progressing beautifully in our little garden. And now, looking at all of the pictures I've uploaded I feel a bit overwhelmed because there are so many things to tell you all about.
Such as how strawberries make a lovely addition to a simple salad, especially when you drizzle poppyseed dressing over the top. And how sugar snap peas are a fine enhancement for that same salad with their delightful crunch and sweet flavor. Oh, and that lettuce and spinach? Fresh from our garden as well. All the rain we've had this year has kept our lettuces very happy, we didn't have nearly the bounty in 2008 as we've had this summer.
And I can't forget to mention that a strawberry rhubarb syrup is delicious spooned over a lemon bundt cake, a recipe I'll share with you as soon as I can weed through the gazillion other drafts waiting (im)patiently in my drafts folder.
And what about the blackberries? They've multiplied exponentially this year, completely taking over the southern edge of the garden and providing respite from the afternoon sun for the tender herbs, onions and lettuces in their shadow.
Even as I write this post, these pictures I am about to share with you are already inaccurate. For now, the blackberries have started to turn a rosy red. In just a few weeks they will morph into plump purple berries the size of my thumb and provide endless possibilities for jams, pies and ice creams. I can't wait. I really can't.
But the sugar snaps, they are our greatest accomplishment yet this season. In years past we've started the seeds to0 late, so that just as the plants are starting to produce the heat zaps them and they crumple to the ground, leaving us with just enough peas to munch on in the garden but never enough to make it back to the kitchen. This year though, we've got more peas than we know what to do with. Each day I am bringing a bowl-full inside after popping half a dozen into my mouth while picking. They are delicious in salads and added last-minute to a stir-fry. The less you cook them the better - you don't want them to lose their wonderful crunch.
My latest use for sugar snaps comes from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit. The peas added a nice sweetness to a salad that threatened to be overwhelming with its spicy radishes, red onions and caesar dressing. I loved the textures as well - the crunchy sugar snaps and radishes were a nice compliment for the softer potatoes. Its a nice addition to any picnic or cook-out, and if you make it just for you there will be plenty for lunch all week long.
I decided to make this salad the day before we were to join some friends for dinner, thinking that potato salad is always more delicious after having sat overnight in the fridge. And it was delicious the second day, although no more so than the first, and certainly less beautiful. The vibrant colors you see below were captured just after the salad was assembled, with the potatoes still slightly warm. The next day all of the colors mellowed and meshed together, leaving a not-nearly-as-nice presentation. I won't make the mistake again.
Caesar Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peasfrom Bon Appetit, June 2009
1-1/2 lbs unpeeled assorted baby potatoes, cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch slices
8oz trimmed sugar snap peas
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
Steam potatoes on steamer rack set in large pot until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add sugar snap peas and steam until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Transfer veggies to a large bowl, cool slightly, then add radishes and onion.
Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove and dijon mustard together in a small bowl until well blended. Whisk in parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
Add dressing to potato mixture and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.