Monday, June 20, 2011

Canning Adventures

Several weeks into summer vacation and I'm still having trouble unwinding. After the seemingly endless cycle of classes, studying, and exams, with little time for other activities, it's strange to have nothing I have to do. No one is going to give me a failing grade if I don't finish the book I'm reading today, or tomorrow, or next week. There will be no negative consequences if I sleep until 11 AM or spend the entire day in bed watching TV. But I'm still having some trouble letting go of all that anxious energy. Therefore, I've been canning.

Canning is a soothing process. For each recipe, you follow the same routine: filling a huge pot of water, sterilizing jars, softening lids, heating brine, processing full jars in boiling water. It takes patience. But it requires few ingredients, just salt, vinegar, sugar, and fresh fruit or vegetables. As many who know me will attest, I like delayed gratification and there is nothing that captures that more than nine jars of pickled brussel sprouts that will be eaten many months from now in the depths of New England winter.

Here is what I've made so far:

Crunchy, strange, and deceptively delicious.
Note: I omitted the dill (didn't have any). I also realized that my vinegar was less than 5% acid, so I refrigerated them instead, as 5% acidity is required to kill the bacteria that lurk in canned goods.

I'm in love with these! Ruby hued and sweet with hints of clove the beets are as wonderful as the pink-stained eggs.

I adore all things Chinese and pickle-y, so this was heaven for me. I will say they might not appeal to all taste buds. Even better than the fermented beans themselves was the pork dish we cooked them in last night. Utterly divine!
Note: this recipe was taken from Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty. She is one of the best contemporary Chinese cookery writers out there. If you have any interest in cooking authentic Chinese food at home, her cookbooks are a must!

And last, but certainly not least, many jars of pickled delights from my new cookbook obsession, Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff. The recipes are interesting -- it's not just another collection of dusty versions of blackberry jam or strawberry preserves. So far I've made: Sushi Ginger, Pickled Asparagus, and Wasabi Dilly Beans. All have been phenomenal and I'm looking forward to trying out her recipes for Pineapple Jam with Five Spice Powder and real Kosher sour pickles.

I hope you've enjoyed this new style of post. I think the Student Epicure is going to become a blend of my own recipes and what gems I've found amidst my myriad cookbooks and Internet searches. Let's see how the summer goes!

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