notes from maggie's farm
To 'put by' is an old deep-country way of saying to 'save something you don't have to use now, against the time when you'll need it.' Putting food by is the antidote for running scared. Janet Greene, The New Putting Food ByThis week, sandwiched between Ball Canning's National Can It Forward Day, and Canning Across America's Can-A-Rama, we're all about putting food by on notes from maggie's farm.
In the last few years, as our food supply has undergone scrutiny and our pocketbooks have undergone shrinkage, preserving the harvest of our own hard work in the garden, or the fruits of labor we gather from local farmers' markets, has experienced a resurgence in popularity."Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, ‘What a pity!’ When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle." Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
In addition to the practicality of the matter, we enjoy this link to the homespun craft of a simpler time, and in the depths of winter, delight in the reminder of the best days of our burgeoning gardens. As any gardener knows, it's feast or famine with our favorite berries, greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and the like, and it all comes in like gangbusters. We eat as much as our tummies will allow, fresh from the vine, and with the abundance that's left, we save for those days upon which we'll pine for the precious treat of a preserved favorite crop.
While we couldn't possibly fit all the preserving possibilities into one single week, we'll do our best to hit the high spots-- a few simple recipes you might like to tackle on your own, tips for safe food preservation, a pictorial on preservation, preserving by infusing liqueurs, and the basics of jamming, pickling, fermenting, and more.
We'll start with a simple recipe for putting by what's possibly the easiest thing to grow in these scorching summer days in our region--peppers.
We love pickles around here. Fermented deli-style garlic dills, bread and butter pickles, asian-style quick pickles, pickled this and pickled that, we love them all. What we can't seem to keep in the house, however, is my husband's favorite-- pickled pepper rings. We eat them straight out of the can, as well as atop hot dogs, poboys, grinders, as a complement to our homemade cheeses.... heck, the sky's the limit! When you see how incredibly easy they are, you'll wonder, like we did, why you've been buying them from the market shelves all these years. Mild, medium, or hot; traditional banana peppers or any other favorite variety--these pretty little jars will be the 'most popular kids' of your own larder.
Per Pint Jar--
1 head of fresh dill seed (or 1 tsp dried dill seed)
2 cloves peeled whole garlic
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 cup water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 pound washed, dried, and sliced peppers--we've used mild and medium New Mexico Hatch chiles for this batch. Feel free to use your favorite mild, medium or hot peppers.
1 tablespoon Kosher salt--we've used this lime basil infused salt that was a delightful gift from our friend, Kristina, at GirlGoneGrits. (Learn more about flavoring your own salts this weekend on saturday with a sprinkling of salt, at notes from maggie's farm.)
Wash and sterilize (with boiling water, on in the top rack of a dishwasher) jar, lid, and ring of a pint-sized canning jar.
Combine brine ingredients in a non-aluminum sauce pan. Bring to a simmer.
Slice peppers in 1/4 inch rings. Pack jar firmly. (You may omit seeds, if a very mild pepper ring is desired. But I wouldn't.)
Bring simmering brine to a full boil. Slowly pour over pepper rings in jar. Wipe rim of jar well, top with lid, and screw on ring.
Bring to room temperature before refrigerating. Pepper rings will reach optimum flavor from 5-8 days.
These pickled pepper rings will keep under refrigeration indefinitely. Should you wish to water-bath can these to allow for shelf-stability, they may be processed in boiling water for 10 minutes. More on water-bath canning on tomorrow's tips for tuesday: preservation basics.
Did you know?
Salt preserves foods by creating a hostile environment for certain microorganisms. Within foods, salt brine dehydrates bacterial cells, alters osmotic pressure and inhibits bacterial growth and subsequent spoilage.
Pickling is one of the oldest methods of preserving foods. Pickling is the preserving of food in an acid (usually vinegar), and it is this acid environment that prevents undesirable bacteria growth.
For water-bath or pressure-canned pickling, foods are salted or soaked in brine first to draw out moisture that would dilute the acid that is added to 'pickle' the food.
Learn more about safe food preservation tomorrow, on tips for tuesday: preservation basics at notes from maggie's farm.
National Center for Home Food Preservation