Cucumbers are in season and they are plentiful at the Farmers’ Market. Want to make something other than cucumber salad? Try pickles. Making pickles isn’t complicated. You can preserve homemade pickles using three basic methods: lactic fermentation (cured with a salt brine), canning (soaked in pickling lime) or refrigeration (immersed in a vinegar solution).
Many enthusiasts swear fermentation yields a better pickle than the pickles made with vinegar. They are also called “crock pickles” or “brine pickles”.
Place the recipe ingredients inside the crock. Make the pickle brine and pour into the crock. Cover with a weight to keep food submerged and drape with a towel to keep out the dust. Ferment at room temperature for 2 or more weeks. Check container daily and skim any scum from the top. Fermentation bubbles may be visible. Taste pickles regularly.
When the pickles reach a flavor you like, you have three options for storing them:
1. Refrigerate to slow fermentation. Pickles should last 4 to 6 months this way. Note that pickled vegetables last longer than pickled fruits, which generally keep well for only 2 to 3 months.
2. Store in a dark, cool spot, such as the basement, where your homemade pickles will continue to ferment but should stay safe for several months.
3. Can fermented pickles for extended storage. The heat of canning compromises their crisp texture and kills the beneficial bacteria, but the flavor will remain. Canned fermented food could last a couple of years.
Kosher Dill Pickles
This recipe, adapted from, The Joy of Pickling, uses grape, oak or sour cherry leaves, which contain tannins believed to help keep fermented homemade pickles crisp. Store-bought, canned grape leaves will also work. Yield: 1 gallon.
Clean, gallon-sized glass jar or ceramic crock
Gallon-sized plastic bag or fitted crock weights
- 1 handful clean grape, oak or sour cherry leaves
- Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed
- Peeled cloves from 2 to 3 heads of garlic
- 2 quarts water
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 6 tablespoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
- 1/4 cup dill seed or 2 handfuls dill fronds
Place the leaves in the bottom of a clean crock. Slice blossom ends off the cucumbers and pack cucumbers into the crock, smallest ones first, adding garlic cloves throughout. Do not fill the crock more than two-thirds full.
In a separate container, stir together water, vinegar, salt and dill until salt dissolves. Pour this brine over the cucumbers until the liquid is an inch above the cucumbers when you’re pressing them down. If your crock has weights, set them on top of the cucumbers to submerge them. If you don’t have special weights, fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with water and set it on top to keep cucumbers submerged. Cover the crock with towel to keep out dust.
Ferment pickles for 1 to 4 weeks at room temperature, checking crock daily. Scum may develop on top; this is normal. Carefully lift off the weight and rinse it to remove scum. Skim scum from the top of the container before replacing the weight and towel. Do this daily.
You may notice bubbles after the first few days, indicating lactic fermentation is underway. After a week, begin tasting the pickles daily. Keep fermenting until you enjoy the flavor.
To store, place crock in a cool, dry, dark spot (the basement, for example), or remove pickles to smaller, lidded containers in the refrigerator. (If using metal lids, place a piece of plastic wrap between the container and the lid.) You may rinse fermented pickles and cover them with fresh pickle brine and seasonings or strain and reuse the original brine. The pickle flavor will improve after about a month in cooler conditions.
Note: If pickles become slimy or moldy during fermentation, discard them and try again.
Canned Vinegar Pickles
(If you are new to canning methods, the Ball Canning Company has excellent directions. visit their website at http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started)
Most modern pickling recipes rely on an acetic acid (vinegar) solution and heat treatment to preserve the vegetables. Vinegar pickles can be sweet, spicy or extremely sour. Popular examples include bread-and-butter pickles, sour gherkins and dill beans. You must use vinegar with at least 5 percent acidity to produce pickles that are safe for long-term storage.
Distilled white vinegar is the best choice because it’s inexpensive and won’t darken the cucumbers and its flavor is mild in comparison to cider, malt or wine vinegars. Avoid using rice vinegar and homemade vinegars, because their acidity is usually too weak. Always use canning recipes that have been tested for safety.
Heat vinegar, water and seasonings to make a brine. Pack whole or chopped ingredients into sterilized canning jars. Cover with hot brine, leaving appropriate head space. Apply lids and rings. Process jars in a boiling water bath.
Vinegar-Preserved Old-Fashioned Lime Pickles
This combination of ingredients and techniques makes a super-crisp, complex flavored sweet-and-sour pickle. Pre-soaking cucumbers in pickling lime keeps them very crisp.
Yield: 4 quarts.
4 quart-sized canning jars with lids and rings
Water bath canner with rack
Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed
- 1 cup food-grade pickling lime (calcium hydroxide)
- 1/2 cup pickling salt
- 1 gallon cold water
- 2 quarts cider or white wine vinegar (minimum 5 percent acidity; cider vinegar will darken pickles)
- 6 cups granulated sugar or 5-1⁄4 cups honey (honey will darken the brine)
- 2-1⁄2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
- 2 teaspoons mixed pickling spice, store-bought or homemade
- 3 pounds white or yellow onions, diced
Homemade Pickling Spice
Enclose the spices in cheesecloth and close the top with kitchen string.
- 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 1-inch piece of turmeric root, peeled, or 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small, whole, dried chile pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried chile pepper
- 1 teaspoon dill seed
- 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
To prepare cucumbers for soaking:
Cut them into quarter-inch slices and discard the ends. In a 2-gallon or larger non reactive (glass, plastic or ceramic) container mix pickling lime with salt and water. Add cucumbers and soak for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Scoop slices from lime solution, rinse in a colander and soak for 1 hour in fresh, cold water. Repeat rinsing and soaking in cold water at least two more times to completely remove the pickling lime. Drain well.
In a large pot, whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spice or your homemade spice packet. Add onions. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to make a syrup.
Sterilize 4 quart-sized canning jars and lids in boiling water. Pack cucumbers and onions into the jars and pour hot syrup over them, leaving a half-inch head space. Use a knife or chopstick to eliminate air bubbles. Wipe jar rims clean. Apply lids and rings.
The pickles can be canned via low-temperature pasteurization to avoid the higher heat that softens them.
Fill the canner halfway with water and heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Set filled jars in the canner and continually monitor water temperature for 30 minutes. Make adjustments to maintain 180 degrees for the duration. The thermometer reading should never exceed 185 degrees. (Learn more about how to make pickles using the low-temperature pasteurization method at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.)
Alternatively, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. The flavor of vinegar pickles will improve after about a month in storage.
Sometimes called “quick pickles,” refrigerator pickles are technically vinegar pickles minus the canning. You can adjust a refrigerator pickle recipe — to use less salt or sugar or none at all — without food-safety fears. Refrigerator pickles stay crisp because the cucumbers are not subjected to heat. Making pickles using this method is fast and they are typically ready to eat within a day but should be consumed within a few months.
Prepare vinegar solution and pour over sliced vegetables. Cover and refrigerate.
Easy Refrigerator Pickles
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon dill seed
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
- 6 pickling cucumbers
- 3/4 ounce fresh dill
Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns, dill seed, mustard seeds and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir.
Quarter pickling cucumbers lengthwise or in thick round circles and place in a 1 quart glass jar; add fresh dill. Top with hot vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Pickles will be ready to eat the next day and will stay good for roughly a month.
Any combination of vegetables can be used in place of the cucumbers in the easy refrigerator pickle recipe. Here are a few examples:
- 6 Kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
- 6 young spring carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 1 handful large scallion pieces or green beans
- A few pieces of cauliflower
- 4 small hot red chiles or 2 jalapenos
Interested in learning how to prepare Nordic Food? Here is your chance.
From September 13-20, 2014, New York City will be hosting the second annual NORTH Food Festival. You can attend one of the elegant dinners or attend the first ever Nordic Hot Dog Championship where Chefs battle it out for the prestigious title of Nordic Hot Dog Champion. If you will be in the area, you may want to sign up for some cooking classes. Here are just two of the featured classes. The remainder are listed on the website.
Cooking Lessons on Preparing Nordic Seafood
Cooking Lessons on Nordic Pastry Making
Here is a Video from the 2013 Festival to pique your interest.
For more information on the North Food Festival:
There are just about as many different types of condiments as there are different types of food, with various cultures having versions that are unique or particularly important to the people of that culture. Common examples of condiments include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, soy sauce, barbecue sauce and relish. Often added to a food to introduce new flavors or enhance existing ones, a condiment is seldom served or eaten by itself and does not typically contribute much nutritional value.
Many condiments are culturally connected to different types of foods. French fries are often eaten in America with ketchup, while in Belgium they are often served with mayonnaise and, in the United Kingdom, they are commonly sprinkled with vinegar. Similarly, certain types of foods are often served with specific condiments, such as soy sauce being commonly served with Asian dishes and grated cheese, such as Parmesan, being a staple condiment of Italian cuisine.
Condiments and spreads add that little kick to many dishes and, whether you’re eating hummus as a dip for vegetables or blue cheese sauce on chicken wings, these additions have become essential accompaniments. Sometimes, though, those little additions aren’t doing you any favors. Most of them aren’t very good for you. Most condiments, like ketchup, have a ton of added sugar and very little nutritional value. Even bottled salad dressing usually has a lot of fat and sugar in it!
Not all condiments are dangerous (especially when they’re made at home), but added ingredients can cause problems. While ’50 percent less sodium’ or ‘less fat’ seems appealing, these labels can get confusing. It’s important to understand how to read labels and not just compare them with other products. Light salad dressings, for example, can get tricky, according to Women’s Health Magazine, since most people assume ‘light’ refers to healthier, they often end up using more. Some lowfat condiments add extra sugar or salt to make up for fat and taste.
Sometimes, condiments may be the reason your meals are unhealthy. As far as nutrition goes, most of us already know that adding a few dabs of ketchup on your burger won’t kill you. Getting rid of condiments and sauces altogether isn’t the answer either, instead, look for healthier options and make homemade recipes as alternatives. Try the recipes below for some healthy homemade versions of your favorite condiments.
Makes about 3 ½ cups
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 28 ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes with juices
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spices, stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, paste and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half. This will take about 20 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and vinegar. Stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run through a food processor until very smooth.
Return to the saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Gently reheat over low heat for 8 minutes.
Pour into a sterilized jar and place in the refrigerator until needed. Use extra ketchup to make some of the sauces below.
Seafood Cocktail Sauce
- 1 cup homemade ketchup (recipe above)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (or more if you want it hotter)
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, recipe below
- Large pinch of Kosher salt
Mix all ingredients together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, hot sauce or horseradish to taste.
Chill until ready to use – for best results allow sauce to chill at least 1 hour before serving.
Peach Barbecue Sauce
About 4 cups
- 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon onion salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 2 cups homemade ketchup (recipe above)
- 1 cup peach purée (recipe below)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon butter, cubed and well chilled
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
(You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)
Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated.
This sauce freezes well.
Makes 1 cup, enough for the recipe above.
- 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
Process peaches, sugar and water in a blender 1 minute or until smooth.
Herbed Honey Mustard
- 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
- 3 tablespoons dry yellow mustard
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup tarragon vinegar (or any herb vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Put the seeds, dry mustard, and water in a bowl. Let this mixture stand 2 hours or until the seeds become soft. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes.
When the seeds are soft, put the mixture in the food processor and run until the mixture is smooth. This takes about 5 minutes.
Add the vinegar, honey, salt and herbs. Place in a lidded jar and allow to stand at room temperature to mellow (about 1 1/2 hours).
Store the jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for several months.
Olive Oil Mayonnaise
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup plus 1 cup light olive oil (Not extra virgin.)
Place the egg and lemon juice in a blender or food processor bowl. Let them come to room temperature together, about 30-60 minutes.
Add the dry mustard, salt and 1/4 cup of the oil. Blend until well mixed – about 20 to 30 seconds.
Incorporate the remaining 1 cup oil into the mixture. To do this, you must pour very slowly… the skinniest drizzle you can manage and still have movement in the oil. This takes about three minutes.
If you’re using a blender, you’ll hear the pitch change as the liquid starts to form the emulsion. Eventually, the substance inside the blender will start to look like regular mayonnaise.
Store in the refrigerator.
Homemade Tartar Sauce
- 1/2 cup homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
- 1/4 cup pickle relish, see recipe below
- 1/2 teaspoon capers, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce or more to taste (recipe below)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill
Makes about ¾ cup of tartar sauce.
Sweet Pickle Relish
Great sandwich spread.
Makes 3 cups
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Pinch crushed red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 medium or 4 small cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
Add cucumbers, bell pepper and onion. Return to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Transfer to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. This mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Easy Refrigerator Pickles
Use these pickles to top your burger.
Makes 3 cups
- 3 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
- 1 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Place cucumbers and onions in a large bowl; set aside.
Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture in the bowl; cool.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. You can, then, transfer the mixture to jars with tight fitting lids and store them in the refrigerator.
Homemade Hot Sauce
Makes 2 cups
- 12 ounces red jalapenos, stems removed but not the seeds and sliced
- 7 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey
Wear gloves to clean the peppers and don’t touch your eyes.
In a large jar, combine the sliced chiles (and seeds), garlic, kosher salt and cider vinegar. Screw the lid on and give it a few little shakes to mix. Leave the mixture on the counter overnight.
The next day, pour the contents of the jar into a medium saucepan and add the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
When cool, pour the mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth (this will take a few minutes). Stop and scrape the sides down a couple of times.
Pour into a jar and store it into the refrigerator for up to one month.
Blue Cheese “Hot Wing” Dip
Makes about 1/1/2 cups
- 4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- 2 tablespoons homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 small garlic clove (or half a large), minced
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (recipe above)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- 2 oz good quality crumbled blue cheese
Pulse the first the 10 ingredients in a food processor 4 times or just until blended. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and gently stir in blue cheese.
Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
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