Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pickling Berries

A few weeks ago, the wife of one of my softball teammates told me that she saw a recipe for pickled berries that she was interested in trying. She sent me the image of the recipe a few days later, and so when I saw these gorgeous red currants at the farmer's market this morning, I knew I had to try pickling them.
I found a Danish recipe, but it contained a preservative that I neither had nor wanted to use. And then I found an Alice Waters recipe adaptation which sounded more my style. I'm not sure yet what I'll do with them, but I have a few ideas. I could put them on a salad, serve them with some cheese and bread (Danish-style), but I'll most likely serve them alongside a venison and spaetzle.

Here's how I did it.

Pickled Red Currants
1 pint fresh red currants
1 cup champagne vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
10 each of juniper & allspice berries
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp pickling spices

Wash the jars out thoroughly with hot water, including the lids and place them near the stove. Wash your currants and place them carefully in the jars. Most of them will come off the stems, but leave some on the stems as they'll make a nice garnish in bunches. Chop your juniper and allspice berries on a cutting board. Add a bit of pickling spice to each jar. Bring the champagne vinegar, sugar, crushed berries, and cinnamon to a boil. (I added a dash of salt, too). Quickly pour the boiling liquid into the jars so that the berries are covered. Leave them to pickle for a few weeks before trying them in a dish.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Of Kitchens & Meth Labs

Have you ever made freshly prepared horseradish? All you need is some horseradish root, vinegar, water, a little salt.....and a gas mask. Seriously, fresh horseradish preparation is NO JOKE. I bought two gnarly looking roots at a farmer's market in the Hamptons back in May, and they stayed dormant in a brown bag in the fridge's veggie drawer for almost a month before I had the time to prepare it. I roughly followed this recipe, but it was literally: peel the horseradish, chop it into manageable pieces, run it around in a food processor until it is broken up into small chips, and then stuff it into a glass jar. I think I stuffed it too tight because I don't think that the white vinegar I covered it with really suffused the root overnight, but people seemed to love it, so it was probably okay to pack it tight. Then you pour white vinegar over it (enough to cover it, and a little more), cover the jar, and leave it for 24 hours. Then drain the excess vinegar into a bowl, add a little bit of salt, and reserve it. Return the suffused horseradish to the food processor and process away until the pieces are pretty fine.

If you're familiar with horseradish, then you'll know what consistency you want. If you're not, they should be little tiny pieces that resemble bulghur wheat or coarse breadcrumbs. Return the horseradish pieces to the jar, and then stir in the reserved vinegar until you get a wet consistency. Cover the jar and refrigerate.

Back to the gas mask part: Seriously. This stuff is potent. If your eyes water when you peel an onion, be prepared to weep. But it's more than that. It's actually hard to breathe in a closed space with so much horseradish. Even two or three rooms away, people will be affected. It was summertime when I made this, hot in our small Brooklyn apartment, and I feel like I seriously endangered our health by not taking precautions. Hence the title of the post: you should really think of your kitchen as a kind of meth lab during this endeavor. Gloves and a little paper gas/infectious disease mask are really a must for this process. I think you can get one of those paper masks at a well-stocked pharmacy. I plan to make a lot more of this next year, and I will definitely plan in advance.

It's really ready to use pretty soon after you return it to the jar. And look at all the things you can do with it! About a month after I prepared it, I used it to make horseradish pickles, bloody marys, and cocktail sauce with peeled shrimp. Next up: horseradish sauce for turkey sandwiches!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Global Babyfoods!

I totally think I hit on a niche market: baby food from around the world! I joined friends for an amazing dinner at Brooklyn Commune for a family-style vegetarian meal one night a few weeks ago. One of the dishes they served was a quinoa salad with grilled portobello mushrooms slathered in a creamy carrot sauce. Of course I asked the chef for the ingredients, and they were graciously provided by our server: carrots, tomato, cardamom, ginger, and coconut milk. I haven't mastered the proportions yet, so I won't post a recipe, but I served it this past weekend at a Fourth of July BBQ and guess who loved it more than me? THIS BABY RIGHT HERE! Actually one of the cutest and fun babies ever. She just couldn't get enough of it. I spiced up the recipe with a generous amount of pepper, garlic, and onion, but that was no problem for Allissa. Thanks, Erica and Allan for such a great addition to the world. And the inspiration for my new company: Global Babyfoods!