Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vodka Tonic Quick Pickles

When I lived for a brief year in Chicago my apartment was placed directly across the street from a restaurant who earned the title of having the best Bloody Mary's in all of Chicago.


And the beverages were fancy...the garnish especially.  It was huge amounts of meat, peppers, pickles, onions, tomatoes, and so on situated on the rim of the glass.  

So, I was thinking about that place (missing their lobster roll brunch sandwich) and was thinking about edible fun garnishes for beverages.

So I whipped up a fun quick pickle to garnish a Vodka Tonic, Gimlet (vodka and lime), Salty Dog (vodka and grapefruit), or...of coarse a Bloody Mary.

Before I started the farm...when I was thinking about what I wanted to grow/produce,  for a moment considered only growing apples and potatoes and distilling my own brand of craft vodka.

So I flew out to Colorado to take a distilling class.  I realized it wasn't for me but I did find one of their Vodkas very interesting. It was a spicy hot vodka that they highly recommended with grapefruit juice. It was definitely give pairing these pickles with a Salty Dog.... just a thought.

Vodka Tonic Quick Pickles  

1 canning jar
2-3 pickling cucumbers, sliced into spears
3/4 cup tonic water
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup vodka of your choosing
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp peppercorns

Pack jar with pickle spears.  Add red pepper flakes and peppercorns to the jar.  Combine vodka and tonic in a bowl and then add to jar.  You will most likely have some extra vodka throw it in a cup and enjoy.

Allow to "pickle" for 2 days before using.

These pickles a hot but smooth.  Really fresh tasting and a great addition to party beverages.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pickling Guidelines

Pickles are an item that fit info almost all lifestyles.  They are snackable and add a satisfying crunch to burgers, sandwiches, potato salad, tune salad, etc.

Pickles are also a great thing to start out canning if you are new to the craft.

And I am about to set you up for success....

Pickling Guidelines:

The Crunch
Fresh is always best...that's why I always pick the day before or day of farmers' markets and the Buying Club.  The golden rule is to process pickles with in 24 hours of being picked.

Remove the blossom end! This is very important when it comes to quality of your finished product.  By removing at least 1/16th of an inch from the blossom end you are cutting down on the amount of mold that is harbored in that area of the vegetable.

Use pickling cucumbers since they are grown for pickling.

I have also heard of people preferring to make pickles in pint jars rather than quarts.  The shorter processing time can give you a better crunch. Simply Canning is one that recommends the pint jars.

Lastly don't be confused if a recipe calls for grape leaves. Grape leaves contain Scupernin which stops enzymes that can soften pickles.

The Salt
Salt in pickles is a "functional ingredient" which means that it can not be removed or altered.

Also there is little room to "get fancy" with the type of salt you're using.  Pickling salt is the best. Table salt is fine too but choose one that is not iodized because it will turn your pickles a darker color.

Did you know that Kosher salt is flaked? This means that a cup of pickling salt and a cup of kosher salt are not the same. Kosher salt is a good choice for canning but you need to weigh it.  To help you cut out some testing and math: 1 cup of table salt weighs 10.2 ounces.

Soaking pickles in a solution of water and salt (brine) before pickling draws out the water in the vegetable which, in addition to the list above, give you a more firm pickle.

Pickling Solution
For pickles: 1 cup water to 1 cup vinegar (vinegar must be 5% acidity)
For items closer in acidity to beets you use 1 cup water to 2 cups vinegar.

Sugar and Spice

3 fresh dill heads = 1 tablespoon of dry dill

For sweet pickles, if you aren't thrilled about tons of white sugar search out a honey sweetened recipe

In a recipe you can change around the spices but don't exceed the total amount that originally in the recipe.

Get to it....
Now that you're "in the know" about pickles time to try it out.  My advice is to start with a recipe that doesn't call for pounds and pounds of pickling cucumbers. Look for a smaller recipe and progress from there. This will allow you to see if you like cider vinegar or white, if you like bay leaves or not, etc.

Have fun!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Green Bean Bake

 I really enjoy growing "green" beans...and purple and wax beans too. The only down side...they take forever and a day to pick.

I was recently approached by a customer at a farmers' market who stated she really wanted fresh beans.
Her: Were these picked today?
Me: What?! Do you know how long it takes to pick green beans? I would have had to wake up at 3 AM to get these picked and get to the market.  I try to leave at 6:30 AM to get here and set up on time.

We both laugh.

So since they require a bit of labor I like them to last - I want left overs!  This dish is as good warm as it is cold.

This is the green bean "casserole" I grew up on.  We call it a casserole but it's really more of a bake type item. No mushroom cream soup in this dish. No sir.

green bean bake
Green Bean Bake

2 quarts of Green, Purple, or Wax Beans {or if you're feeling frisky mix them together}
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 white vinegar
onion flakes {this is not something I ever measure...just do what feel right}
break crumbs {enough to cover the green beans}

Preheat oven to 350.

Steam your green beans until they are just tender.  Toss with olive oil, vinegar, onion flakes, salt and pepper.
Place in a baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs over top until beans are covered...just a nice coating...don't skimp and don't suffocate with crumbs.

Sprinkle with paprika and dot with butter.

Place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.


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