16 March 2010

Can Jam - March - It's a Two-fer (Pickled Onions / Shallot Confiture)

Pickled Whole Onions (sigh)
I fell in love with pickled onions when I lived in England. A Ploughman's lunch to me is ideal food, but I'm the type that prefers bread and cheese over almost anything and the cheese is England - well, I'm spoiled - thank goodness for Sweet Home Farm nearby or I would despair that I would ever have truly artistic cheese again.  Anyway, so Ploughman's being ideal food and goes well with real beer - what more can a girl want? Come on. 

Pickled Whole Onions
1 pound boiling onions
3 cups H2O
1T salt
1 t mace berries
1 t allspice berries
1 t cloves, whole
2 cinnamon stick, about 4" long
6 black peppercorns
3 cups cider vinegar

Remove skins from each onion, trimming off the root cluster at the bottom; the root helps keep the onion intact. In a glass bowl, mix together 2 cups of H2O and salt to make a brine. Add the peeled onions and let stand 24 hours at room temperature.
The next day, cut out an 8" square of cheesecloth and place spices in the center and close and tie off the spice bag. In a non-reactive saucepan bring vinegar and cup of water to a boil over high heat. Add spice bag, reduce heat to medium low and simmer 20 minutes. Discard spice bag and add onions. Raise heat, and bring to boil, the remove from heat.
Pack the onions into hot, sterilized jars and ladle in hot vinegar mixture, filling with a half inch of the rims. Using a damp cloth, wipe the rims clean. Attach lides and process 40 minutes [40 frigging minutes??? WTH?) Cool jars, check for seal, will keep for up to one year. The Glass Pantry
Georgeanne Breman p. 126
Beauty of the Book: Categorized by season, this is probably one of themost beautiful preserving books I've seen. Lots of white space, which to my geeky self is important. Very diverse group of preserved items: green almond conserve, vin de cerise, candied rose petals, pickled baby corn, pears pickled in merlot, anch chili sauce. I could go on and on.
 Comments from the Counter: Onions were 2 pounds 4 oz until peeled and trimmed to a more reasonable 1 pound and 12 oz. Type of salt not specified so I used table salt. Used boiling water to help peel onions - much easier! Wasn't sure if I should trim the top of the onions, but looked at photo in book and decided to go ahead and do so.  No mace berries, what is that anyway?  Will find out.  
Since I had almost 2 pounds of onions, so I added 1 cup of cider vinegar and 1/2 cup of water to the pickling liquid. Created these in the step method and it worked well. 
Yield: 3 pints. Added about a T of cider vinegar to top off each can.
Can't wait to try these!

Shallot Confiture
2.5 lbs shallots
1/4 c salt
6 c white vinegar or white wine vinegar
4 c granulated sugar
For Spices:
4 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
3 strips of lemon rind
1 T caraway seeds
1 T cloves
1/2 tsp bird's eye chilies
Peel the shallots by blanching in boiling water for a few minutes.  Make sure that the root end remains intact; otherwise the shallots will disintegrate during cooking.
Place the peeled shallots in a large glass bowl. Cover with cold water and add the salt. Mix well until the salt is dissolved then weight down and leave for 24 hours.
Put the vinegar, sugar, and spice bag in noncorrosive saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil steadily for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Skim well.
Drain the shallots, rinse well, then drain again. Carefully add them to the boiling syrup. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the
heat and let cool, then cover and let stand overnight.
The next day, bring the mixture slowly to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Cool and let stand overnight as before.
The next day, bring the mixture slowly to a boil, then simmer very gently for 2-2 1/2 hours, or until the shallots are translucent and golden brown.
Carefully lift the shallots out of the syrup with a slotted spoon and pack them loosely into the hot, sterilized jars. Return the syrup to a boil and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes. Pour into the jars, then seal. The shallots are ready to eat immediately, but improve with age. Process in water bath for 20 minutes. 2 year Shelf Life

Preserving Oded Schwartz page 161

Comments from the Counter:
Takes 4 days - yikes. But pretty minimal work involved.
These won't last long because I snuck it one and it's so good - totally worth doing. If they get better over time, it just might be too much.
Used the step method described here.
Recipe changes: Made a half recipe and now see that was a huge mistake
Used white vinegar - didn't have enough white wine vinegar at the time.
Used three Minneloa orange strips instead of lemon rind and serrated peeler makes this super easy.
No cloves, used 10 Allspice berries
Used about a tsp of freshly sliced finger hot pepper.

Yield: One pint - so should have doubled this ... but will make again. 
Book Notes:
Extremely interesting and unique. Lovely photos (no, really beautiful
to look at which is, in and of itself, an inspiration) and lots on
techniques. Some things I know I will never do (Smoking Fish), but
are still interesting to read about. I have made several recipes from
this book over the years and really enjoy it.

The Meadow Sel Gris

So I bought a little sirloin filet for dinner. It's finally spring and almost light late enough for some after work grilling and it was a Friday after all. So MotH has hot Italian sausages on the grill along with burgers for the boy and a little steak pour moi. I reviewed the neat finishing salt brochure and there it was "... try this on a juicy steak..." Okay you're on The Meadow Sel Gris.

Results: Nice... love the crunch and the brinyness. Super - I might want to grind it down a bit next time, but still nifty. Imagine having hand-harvested salt from South China - pretty damn cool.

And the brochure gave me a giggle...
"When life hands you lemons, break out the tequila and salt." Unknown - Sounds like a plan to me.


The River Birches have their first tiny leaves.Wisteria has huge buds about to explode. Jeep is covered in pollen and the inside of my mouth is itching (icky). It must be spring. 
Cheddar-Parmesan Crackers

Yield: 3 dozen crackers, serves 8 to 10
4 ounces cheddar, coarsely grated
2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
In the bowl of a food processor, place all ingredients except the butter and water. Pulse 5 times. Add the butter and pulse again until the butter pieces are the size of BBs. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse just until the dough holds together. If the dough is still crumbly, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.
Turn the dough out onto a large piece of waxed paper. Roll the dough into a log, 9 to 10 inches long, and square off the ends. Refrigerate, well wrapped, for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Or freeze it for up to 1 month. (You may want to cut the log in half or in thirds to freeze if you think you will want to defrost a smaller amount at a time.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
To make the crackers, cut the log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet 1-inch apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the crackers are a light golden color. Turn the crackers and bake for 3 to 5 more minutes, or until they are golden around the edges. Cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature.
Comments from the Counter: These are the best cheddar crackers ever and I have made them since 2006.
Still having issues with temperature and time – not sure what to do, but the old oven may be part of the problem – it burned at 375 degrees in the old oven, but this one is better, I think.
I use more cayenne - it gives a nice heat at the end of the cracker taste - very good. Heaping 1/4 tsp of both mustard and cayenne.
Not this time, but previously I have made these after freezing them - just as good and nice to have on hand. 
These are truly the best cheese cracker in my extensive repertoire -- I mean if you have a section 2" thick in your recipe binder just for cheese crackers ... probably not stable mentally, but you have some damn good crackers. 

Canning is Planning

And not like planning for the future - tomatoes in February, anyone? No, I've noticed that if you read ahead and plan a bit you can make canning something you do on a regular basis. I've been trying to can by what I call the step method - where can I break the recipe so I do one part today and finish or do another part tomorrow and then have several recipes in the right place to process several things in my big water canner on one day. I was able to do that with the Tigress' Can Jam (allium) this month and have everything ready to can both pickled onions and shallot confiture at the same time. Pretty nifty and it saves energy by having all of this done in one afternoon - esp since it takes FOR-Frigging-EVER for the water to heat

So here's how it works:
For pickled onions. Yesterday I peeled the onions and made the pickling liquid. Put the onions in the fridge and the same with the liquid. Since the shallot confiture took four days, I planned for 5 days. Day one - four - followed the recipe, but at the end of day four refrigerated shallots in liquid until today. So today, I began with the recipe for the pickled onions - picked up where the liquid is simmering and added onions and brought to a boil 

as instructed and removed from the heat. By that damn time the damn water was finally boiling, the pickled onions were ready to go in the jars and in they went. The onions needed to be in the water bath an astonishing (at least to me) 40 minutes. So that gave time to heat
the shallots in syrup, get them in sterile jars and into the canner for the last twenty minutes of the onion processing and they were both finished at the same time. More canning in simple steps saving time and energy.

*By FOR-Frigging-EVER, I mean about an hour!