Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beets Can't Be Beat

I stopped at the Chicago Farmstand on my way home from work this afternoon, and they had some lovely beets from a local farmer on sale. I can't resist beets; they can be prepared sweet or savory and marry well with so many other flavors. I knew I had a small chunk of feta at home in the fridge, the rest of this salad I threw together with found ingredients. A little chopped parsley would be a nice addition to this salad.

Impromptu Beet Salad

3-4 medium beets
1/2 English cucumber
1/2 yellow onion
4 oz feta cheese
juice of 1/2 lemon
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the root and greens from each of the beets. Place one beet on a piece of foil; drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Fold the foil around the beet to seal in a hobo pack. Repeat with remaining beets. Place the hobo packs on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven for an hour; beets are done when you can easily pierce them with the tip of a knife, like a baked potato. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, halve the cucumber and thinly slice it. Thinly slice the onion as well. When beets are cool enough to handle, remove them from the foil and peel the skins off. This will turn your fingertips a lovely shade of pink. Quarter the beets and slice. Combine the beets, cucumber, and onion in a bowl; toss with the lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Crumble the feta over the salad, toss again, and salt and pepper to taste. May be served chilled or at room temperature.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In a Pickle

For the last several years, I've spent at least part of annual vacation in East Otto canning the best the summer has to offer. This year, inspired by the fantastic products offered by Rick's Picks, I thought I'd try some pickles.

I was able to source some locally grown cucumbers at the market in Springville. I wanted my pickles to be sweet and spicy, so I added some ginger and some sliced jalapeno peppers to the brine. I made two brines for my pickles; one with tumeric, and one without. I also used a mix of white and apple cider vinegars, to add a depth of flavor and sweetness to the brine.

The process is pretty simple if you have ever canned before. The only difference is you must salt the sliced cukes and onions down for a couple of hours before you jar them. This draws quite a bit of water out of the vegetables, and allows them to absorb the flavorful brine.

Spicy Pickles Two Ways

6 cucumbers
3 onions
½ cup pickling salt
large knob ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
3 jalapenos, sliced into rounds
1 tablespoon cloves
2 tablespoons allspice berries
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
4 cups white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons turmeric

Wash the cucumbers and slice them ¼ inch thick. Cover with about 2/3 of the salt; gently mix with your hands to ensure that the slices are evenly salted. Peel and slice the onion and cover with the remainder of the salt. Let the cucumbers and the onion sit for up to 4 hours.
Once the vegetables have rendered much of their liquid, rinse them well under cold water.

Prepare the pickling brine. In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons turmeric, 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, 2 cups of white vinegar, and 1 cup apple cider vinegar. Heat until the sugar has dissolved. In a second large saucepan, combine the same ingredients, omitting the turmeric.

Prepare eight pint jars for canning. Into each jar, place 4 cloves, 8 allspice berries, and a few slices of jalapeno and ginger. Pack the jars with the onions and the pickle slices, adding more jalapeno and ginger about halfway up the jars.

Fill four jars with the turmeric-spiced pickling brine, and four jars with the other brine. Seal the jars, and process them for 15 minutes.

Yield: 8 pint jars of pickles

Friday, September 11, 2009