Category Archives: Vegan

Quick Pickled Green Beans

beans_spices_and_garlic_oh_my

This year, we have so many green beans (and purple, and yellow) that it’s a little hard to keep up. Between a 4′ x 4′ plot of bush beans and a couple trellises of climbing beans, I’m lugging a big basket of pods into the house every morning.

stages_of_bean_development

And when I find myself staring at a pile of fresh beans that I don’t feel like blanching and sealing for the freezer, I turn to the easiest possible method of preserving them, quick pickled green beans:

pack_raw_beans_in_jars_with_spices

Note that these pickled green beans are not the standard hot-processed “Dilly Beans,” which I’ve tried to embrace on many occasions but always found limp and aggressively vinegary. These beans are another story altogether. I included instructions for hot-processing these as well, if you feel you must, but I almost never bother canning my beans.

Quick pickles are great for two reasons: First, they aren’t all limp like their boiled counterparts. And more importantly, they couldn’t be easier. Just cram your vegetables and some spices into a jar, add vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio, and pop it in the fridge. They don’t keep for years like hot-processed pickles, but once you taste them they won’t be sticking around longer than a month anyway.

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 quarts

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Delicious, crunchy, and perfect alongside a Bloody Mary (or a sandwich).

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds green beans, stems intact, washed and dried
  • 9 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 9 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • a handful of washed fresh grape leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pack green beans evenly into quart-sized jars, along with garlic, salt, spices, and grape leaves if using.
  2. Fill jars halfway with white vinegar, then top off with cool filtered water.
  3. Put lids on jars and flip upside down for a few minutes to distribute the spices.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 3 days to develop flavors. Pickles will be at their prime in 2 weeks, and will last up to a month.
  5. To can:
  6. Heat vinegar, water, and salt to a boil first, and pour over beans and spices in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, adding time for altitude (I process for 15 minutes here at 6,000 feet).

Notes

Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/quick-pickled-green-beans/

Chokecherry Jelly

chokecherries_in_the_sun

Last weekend, I got a text from my neighbor: “The chokecherries are ripe. Get them before the birds do!” And so my plans for the evening changed. I grabbed my buckets and headed across the street, where clusters of tiny cherries glistened on the bushes lining our dirt road.

chokecherries_everywhere

Chokecherries are a wild cherry that is native across most of the United States, and I’ve been harvesting them ever since I was little. At family picnics I’d tuck clusters of the bright, astringent jewels into my pockets for later, only to be forgotten until laundry day when my mom would open the washer to find a pile of purple-stained dress shirts. There wasn’t much she could say; she got in trouble for the same thing as a kid.

add_some_unripe_chokecherries_for_extra_pectin

Eaten right off the tree, chokecherries are extremely tart, and they’re mostly pit. But mixed with a whole lot of sugar, their delicious flavor comes out — imagine a much better version of the fake “wild cherry” stuff.

Chokecherries are easy to identify if you know what you’re looking for (namely, serrated leaves and small cherries hanging in clusters). But do a little reading first to ensure you’ve got chokecherries and not buckthorn, which would make for a truly memorable jelly (but not in a good way).

chokecherries_have_serrated_leaves

Whenever I harvest chokecherries, I tend to go a little overboard. I look at all those perfect little cherries, hours away from being stripped by the birds and the hornets, and I’m compelled to collect as many of them as humanly possible.

And then two or three hours later, sweaty and mosquito-bitten, I stand staring at 20 pounds of chokecherries that need to be picked through, and I wonder why I always get myself into these situations.

chokecherry_stemming_station

So if you’re going to be de-stemming 20 pounds of chokecherries, or even 5, there are a few things you’re going to need:

  1. Ideally a helper, but only someone with good attention to detail and fine motor skills. They’ll only be creating more work for you if they miss a bunch of stems and/or blemished fruit.
  2. That TV series you’ve been meaning to marathon-watch, books on tape, anything to keep your mind occupied for hours on end.
  3. Cocktails and caffeine, but not too much of either. (Refer back to #1).

This time, I set aside the ripest cherries for a batch of chokecherry wine, and the less-ripe cherries for jelly (since they add pectin and help it set).

I rinse the cherries in small batches (about 1-2 cups) as I pick through them, then once they’re all clean I boil and strain them to make juice for jelly. Or syrup, as the case may be.

milling_chokecherry_juice

The first time I attempted a batch of jelly on my own, my Mom passed down a bit of chokecherry wisdom she got from my grandmother: “If you try to make jelly, you’ll get syrup, and vice versa. So if you want jelly, try for syrup.”

Fortunately, I like chokecherry syrup even better than I like jelly, so I was secretly glad when my first batch didn’t set. For the second batch, I used my neighbor’s tried-and-true recipe and ended up with a delicious, perfectly set batch of chokecherry jelly. So hopefully it’ll work like a charm for you too, but if you get syrup, that’s just part of the challenge.

It’s possible to remake jellies that don’t set, but sometimes they get grainy so I just call it good at syrup (or “preserves” if it’s lumpy.)

outdoor_canning_setup

And a few words about my canning setup: I do most of my canning outdoors now, and I highly recommend doing it this way. While it’s entirely possible to do all of this on an electric stove in a tiny kitchen (and I have, many times) it’s so much better to do all the boiling outside while the cool evening air drifts through the house. It works so well for me that I eventually got a second propane burner and hot water canner so I can have multiple batches going at once, and they’re already getting plenty of use this summer.

sterilize_jars_by_boiling_at_least_10_minutes

The only downside is the mosquitoes, and the fact that it can be a little hard to see the jars at night (but a headlamp fixes that problem).

cool_on_rack_and_enjoy_the_sound_of_jars_sealing

Few things are as satisfying as lifting jars out of a hot water bath and listening to the *PING!* as each one seals. But picking wild cherries on the side of a road, and then turning them into something utterly delicious? Right up there.

Chokecherry Jelly

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: about 5 cups

Chokecherry Jelly

Wild chokecherries grow across most of the United States, and they make a delicious sweet-tart jelly.

Ingredients

  • About 4 pounds chokecherries, de-stemmed (to make 3 1/2 cups chokecherry juice)**
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (1.75 oz) box powdered pectin
  • **About 1/3 of your chokecherries should be underripe, as the additional pectin will help your jelly set. If not, you may end up with syrup, which is also delicious.
  • Special equipment:
  • Clean 4 or 8 oz. canning jars with new lids
  • A 21.5-quart hot water canner
  • Canning funnel and utensils (tongs, jar lifter, etc.)

Instructions

    To make juice:
  1. Place your washed, de-stemmed cherries in a large pot and cover with filtered water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Crush the fruit using a muddler or potato masher and hang it in a jelly bag to strain overnight, or if (like me) you don't have a jelly bag run the cherries through a sieve or foley mill. Allow the juice to settle for a few hours and carefully pour the top layer into another jar, leaving the sediment behind.
  3. Sterilize the jars:
  4. Put jars (a few more than you think you'll need) into a hot water canner and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and boil for at least 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.
  5. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and remove from heat. Put jar lids in the hot water and cover until you're ready to use them.
  6. To make the jelly:
  7. Put a few small plates in the freezer to chill (you'll use these to test the jelly). Measure out the sugar and set aside.
  8. Bring your juice to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
  9. Add the pectin and stir until smooth, then bring to a full rolling boil and add the sugar all at once. Boil for exactly one minute and remove from heat. Skim any foam from the top.
  10. Dribble a small amount onto your chilled plate and put it back into the freezer for a minute. Then, pull it out and hold it sideways. If the jelly stays put, it's ready to process.
  11. Process the jelly:
  12. Remove your jars from the hot water bath and drain upside down on a clean towel.
  13. Using a canning funnel, carefully ladle the jelly into your jars, leaving 1/4" of air space at the top. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth and top with sterilized lids and screw tops. If you have a partial jar do not process it, just use it ASAP.
  14. Carefully place jars in canner, adding boiling water to bring level 2" above jar tops. Bring canner to a boil and then process for 5 minutes, plus additional time for altitude (at 6.000 feet, I process mine for 15 minutes). Find your processing time here.
  15. Remove jars from water bath and allow to cool. Check jars to make sure they have sealed, any jars that don't seal should be stored in the fridge and used first.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/chokecherry-jelly/

Sunchoke Soup

We were all hoping for a foot or two of accumulation. But a day of heavy, slushy snow melting right into the ground was almost as sweet.

melting_as_it_hits

Even sweeter were the sunchokes I dug the day before.

sunchokes_freshly_dug

sunchoke_soup_finished

Do you know about sunchokes? They’re also called Jerusalem Artichokes, and they have a flavor reminiscent of artichokes. But they’re actually related to the sunflower, and the “choke” is a tuber that grows underground and looks a lot like ginger root.

sunchoke_payload

Sunchokes are similar to potatoes, but much higher in fiber and with a subtle, earthy, nutty flavor. A little like mushrooms, a little like artichokes. Hard to describe, but totally delicious. Use them in place of potatoes, or in combination with them. Or eat them raw.

sunchoke_soup_ingredients

 

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