Canning 2011 Complete

Apparently it’s been a rather long week of silence on my end of interwebz land.

I’ve been having piss poor internet connections all week long that would just roll over and die from about 2pm til early evening. Why that hour in particular I have no idea, but I do know there are generally no issues when The Hubbs plays WoW from after dindin until bedtime. Annoying doesn’t even begin to describe how much frustration I get because of the drops. It’s kind of embarassing to realize that most of my contact with the outside world revolves around something as seemingly simple as a working internet connection.

So yea, if by chance people have been trying to get a hold of me since last week, my appologies if I have been missing you.

But anyhow. On to the important stuff: TOMATO MARATHON!

Last weekend was the Tomato Marathon of Doom, which I successfully completed on Tuesday with a final double batch of the Picante Sauce. On the whole, I am exceedingly impressed and pleased with all the stuff I made with that whole box of tomatoes. I used a jar of the canned tomatoes for the first time to make ratatouille for dinner on Thursday night family dindin and it was pretty darn tasty. Interestingly enough, compared to a regular commercial canned tomatoes, the batch I made in jars taste a lot better! I really didn’t think “canned tomatoes” would taste different, but they do.

As for the picante sauce, we tried a jar of it on the Labour Day Monday whilst at J & Miss R’s playing D&D and it wasreally, really good. It had just enough warmth to it from the jalapenos and hot red peppers but it wasn’t mind blowingly hot and it didn’t feel like your tongue was being bitten off, either. The only other seasoning to the sauce was salt, pepper and oregano. It would make a fantastic tomato base for quite a few different recipes if you didn’t want to just eat it straight from the jar with a bowl of tortilla chips beside you. It would be really fantastic used as a pizza sauce instead of a plain ol’ tomato sauce, used as a zippier pasta sauce mixed with a jar of plain canned tomatoes, a really wonderfully spicy tomato soup diluted with some milk or just plain water, and I think the best idea yet would be as a bloody mary/caesar.

Once the Tomato Marathon was over, I decided to take a sampling of the lacto-fermented garlic dill pickles that I had sitting around in its crock for about a week and a half on Thursday. I have to admit, lacto-fermenting stuff is a bit scary looking if you’ve never contemplated the notion of vegetables sitting around in a salt water solution, left to its own devices and nature’s whims. Today’s North American culture is so engrained with the hyper-cleanliness of things that the idea of leaving something to ferment (aka ROT) in its own natural juices that everyone gets all paranoid that you’re going to get sick and die from eating something that isn’t 100% clean or pasteurized.

I will admit, that the first time I looked into the crock to skim off the scummies and floaties from my crock, I was kind of shocked. But I promised myself that I would see this project to the end and make sure to sample the pickles before giving them to anyone else. I figured that with my immune system, if I don’t get sick (very unlikely chance to begin with) no one else will. As predicted, my mother freaked out with the idea of eating them, but whatever, it’s my mother.

The pickles were pretty good! Once they were soaked overnight, at least. HOLY MOLY were they salty! I was really surprised at how salty they turned out to be straight out of the crock. I admit, the white stuff on my pickle was not the most appetizing looking and so I gave it a brief rinse under running water before initial sampling. The garlic & dill flavours were noticeable, but hard to distinguish with the overwhelming saltiness. Once I decided that the sourness of the pickles was to my liking, I had to figure out how to properly store them.

I had originally considered the idea of taking the brine the pickles had been sitting in and boiling it to kill off all the questionable beasties in the water, but then as I was boiling everything on the stove, I realized a couple of things: A) boiling the liquid to “sterilize” it would only increase the salt content of the brine because of the water being evaporated by the boiling process B) it stank something fierce.

So I decided to chuck out the brine, gave all my pickles a quick wash in fresh water and then let them soak overnight in the fridge in a bucket of cold water to leech out the excess saltiness while I considered my options. 24 hours did a marvelous job of getting out the salt yet still leaving the garlic-dill flavour. I was impressed.

After much consideration, I decided to go the route of “refridgerator pickle”. I didn’t want to do a traditional garlic-dill process which would involve the whole sterilizing and pasteurizing of pickles at a specific temperature in a boiling water bath since I had had more than enough of canning for the year. Plus, to be honest, I was just dead tired from the week’s preserving of tomatoes. I was aiming for something to be as little work as possible, which is another reason why I had tried lacto-fermenting in the first place. Lo and behold, the Company’s Coming preserves book came to my rescue: Bucket Pickles.

I realize that it would seem a lot of people are not fans of sweet pickles, but to be honest, I quite like them. Especially when you pair them with a plate of cheese and kielbasa sausages and crackers. The recipe for Bucket Pickles is ridiculously simple and I made it even simpler. Normally the recipe would require sliced onions and some sliced bell peppers, but I used only my lacto-fermented pickles.

Basic recipe is: get 4L ice cream pail, mix in sugar, vinegar, salt, celery seeds, tumeric and mustard seeds together. Add in your sliced veggies and let sit for 2 hours. Stir a bit and add more veggies, then cover the pail and throw it into the fridge. End of story. Apparently it’ll last up to 6 1/2 months in the fridge this way.

So that is what I made in the end — Lacto-fermented garlic-dill Bucket Pickles. ^_^

All in all, I think I did pretty darn awesome this year for preserving and canning. Will I do tomatoes again next year? That is a very good question and I am leaning towards yes. While it did take a ridiculous amount of energy out of me, I am thinking that the results are well worth the pain and suffering I endured to complete the experiments of the year.

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