Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

Dilled pickles

August 22nd, 2011

First taste of this year's pickles

This year’s canning has once again expanded by a single vegetable.  The first year I taught myself to preserve veggies in jars, I started with a simple green bean pickle.  The second fall’s canning included a batch of spicy cauliflower pickles.  2011 has brought five pounds (so far) of dilled cucumber pickles, along with the usual batch of beans.  For some reason, I’ve always been afraid to make a batch of these standbys.  Canning wasn’t something I ever watched my mom or my grandma do each year, so every new batch of preserves begins with a spoonful of trepidation.

After putting up five jars of stubby Hutterite cukes, I’m not sure why I was so scared of these.  The process was just as simple as my standard bean pickles, and the results, tested early this weekend, were sour, crispy and farm-picked fresh.  I can’t wait to see how the flavours evolve over the winter and am thinking of filling another ten jars this weekend.

5 pounds of pickling cucumbers, washed but left whole
5 tablespoons of pickling salt
10 big heads of dill, gone to seed
15 cloves of garlic, peeled but whole
5 tsp whole black peppercorns
white vinegar
cold water

The night before you’re going to pickle the cucumbers, toss them in a big bowl of ice water and leave them in the fridge overnight.  This should help them stay crispier after being canned.
The day of the canning, start by sterlizing 5 wide mouth mason jars.  I boil mine for 10 minutes in my giant canning pot, but you can use a dishwasher with a sterlization setting.
While the jars are bubbling away, immerse the sealing lids into a pan of hot, but not boiling water.
Get all your ingredients ready to go so you can quickly stuff the jars while they are still hot.
Pull the jars out of the canner, pour out all the water and line them up, ready to stuff.  They’ll be very, very hot, so you’ll want to use heavy potholders or silicone oven mitts to hold onto them.
For each jar, put in 1 tbsp of salt, 2 heads of dill, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp of peppercorns and then stuff with the cucumbers.  You want to pack the cukes in as tightly as possible to stop them from floating in the liquid.
Once the jar is stuff, fill halfway with vinegar, them the second half with water, leaving an inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
Remove a lid from the hot water, screw on the band tightly and set aside while you fill the remaining jars.
Once all five jars have been filled, lower them carefully into a canner full of boiling water. Make sure the water covers the tops of the jars by at least an inch.
When the water has returned to a boil, start the timer and process the jars for 10 minutes, plus additional time depending on your altitude.  I let my jars boil for 20 minutes, them pull the jars out and let them cool overnight on a doubled-over teatowel.
If the jars have sealed correctly, once they’re cool, the lids of the jars should be sucked in towards the pickles, and shouldn’t make a popping sound if pressed in their centres.  If you have any jars that haven’t properly sealed, you can keep them in the fridge and eat them over the next few weeks.  Otherwise, solidly sealed jars should keep for ages in a cool, dark space.

For more detailed canning information, I find the Bernardin site is an invaluable resource.

Note: You’ll notice I don’t boil my brine before adding it to the jars.  This is how I’ve done my pickled beans for three years running, and I find they stay extremely crisp and have had no problems with pickles going bad.  The important part seems to be the amount of salt and the 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water in each jar.  If you feel more comfortable using a hot brine, by all means, go ahead.

Broccoli Salad with Grilled Tofu

June 14th, 2011

Dinner outside

My patio furniture is out, my flower pots are overflowing – must be time to start eating dinners outside.

Spicy Grilled Tofu

1 block of extra-firm tofu, sliced in half horizontally
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil

Take the half block of tofu, wrap it in a smooth cotton napkin and press it with something heavy for at least 15 minutes to remove excess moisture. (I use a wide-bottomed jug of water from the fridge)
Mix together the rest of the ingredients to form a spicy marinade.
Once the tofu is sufficiently squashed, lay it in the marinade for at least 30 minutes, turning over ever 5 minutes or so.
Heat up the barbecue.  Once it’s nice and hot, smear on some canola oil and grill the tofu.
As the tofu is grilling, flip with a quarter turn every 1-2 minutes to make pretty grill marks.

Grilled tofu with broccoli salad

Broccoli, Tomato and Chick Pea Salad

1 crown of broccoli, cut into florets
2-3 Roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Steam the broccoli florets until tender-crisp. As soon as they are done, rinse them in icy cold water to stop the cooking process.
In a large bowl, whisk together the green onions, mustard, parsley, vinegar, oil and seasonings.
Stir the dressing and vegetables together and let chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or overnight).

Grilled Pizza

August 16th, 2010

Grilling pizza and tomatoes

That, right there?  My new favourite dinner.  One of the things I wanted to try as soon as I got the barbecue figured out was a grilled pizza.  I’d heard it’s a good way to replicate the flavour of a pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, and as a bonus, it doesn’t heat the house up during the summer.

Grilled pizza

The method is fairly simple: you roll out the dough to the size you want, toss it on the grill – beside the lit burner, not above it – and then flip it once it starts to get crisp and toasty.  Add the toppings, close the lid, cook until the cheese gets melty, and you’re done.  I topped this baby with a super thin layer of tomato sauce, ham, artichoke hearts, green olive and fresh basil leaves.  I also skewered some cherry tomatoes from the market and let them roast over the flames until they started to burst.  Beautiful stuff.

Summer Dishes

August 9th, 2010

A bit of an update on the things I’ve been making recently:

First steak

I finally bought my very own barbecue!  Last night, I threw down a thick little steak and a couple of portobello mushrooms.  Great stuff.

Summer salad

My summer veg pots are coming along nicely.  My tomato plants are crammed full of little green babies, and my lettuce is finally far enough along to pick.  The raspberry bushes are producing a bumper crop – along with some goat cheese from the market, I can pull together a nice little lunch from the yard.

Borscht

Before my parents left for the coast (maybe they’ll bring me a salmon…) my mom made a big batch of borscht, my favourite summer soup.  This batch was made using the recipe in the Rebar cookbook, with lots of white beans and fresh dill.  Probably the most amazing version I’ve ever had.

Hail Caesar, eh?

July 5th, 2010

Ah, Canada Day weekend.   The best weekend of the year for sitting out on the deck and letting the afternoon drift by.  Good thing I had just the drink in mind to keep my hydrated during all that lounging about:

Caesars

The people in charge of the press for the Caesar’s 40th anniversary asked me if I would like a kit sent to me for the Canada Day weekend. I said sure, thinking it would be a small box with the hot sauce and other fixings. Instead, the delivery guy showed up with this:

Caesar kit

Which was filled with all this:

Caesar kit

It also came with a recipe for a variation of the classic Caesar recipe, the Bay Street Bracer.  Hence the cucumber.  It’s a nice switch-up from the usual, and the cucumber actually give the drink a brighter, more refreshing taste than a celery stick.  Much appreciated on a hot day, and since I think we’re in for a lot of those this summer, I have a feeling I’ll be spending plenty of time on the deck with friends and one of these time-honoured Canadian drinks.

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