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I love the initial stages of a research project (ie. preserving in jars) when all these avenues of information start opening up & you start having to ‘strain the juice from the pulp’ for where to get your information.
Whilst the Internet has an overwhelming amount of recipes & tips, it’s hard to go past a good recipe book that you can rely on over the years.
One of my favorites is a 1963 re-print of Helen M. Cox’s ‘The Hostess Cook Book’ it is a relic to a more reasonably tempo’d lifestyle, but it also has some killer recipes in there: lemon butter anyone? Reading through the index I can’t imaging what some of the recipes would taste or look like: angels on horseback, bobbers, Hawaiian toss, ham rainbow mould… Back from a time when menus were poetic. My mind wonders at the possibilities. Reminds me of some of Heston Blumenthal’s well publicized adventures.
A couple of my recent acquisitions are: -’Traditional Kitchen Wisdom’ in the edited New Burlington Books “Back to Basics” series which I liked because of the related kitchen garden information included (tips on soil development & growing seasons) as well as broad food storage information, & great detail on ‘how to’ pickle. I plan on running some pickling workshops for interested friends and colleagues so this book is a good point of reference to make available.
-Sally Wise’s 2008 book ‘A Year in a Bottle’ through ABC Books/Harper Collins. Though it has some incredible looking recipes for an array of storable domestic treats, what made me want to buy this book was the extensive trouble shooting chart. This is an incredibly useful text.
Oddly enough, I wouldn’t classify any of these books as ‘food-porn’ which so many cooking books are nowadays. I guess you’d have to be pretty serious about your food storage to get into this area of the culinary arts by choice.
Dear fellow enthusiasts, if you have any favourite food pickling/preserving references, I’d love to hear them.
Spiced Pickled Onion 1st Draft
Original notes with some amendments.
Some reflection on tasting the pickled onions given the initial recipe (pouring in the heated vinegar): the onions taste pretty damn good, not at all soggy like I feared that they would be. Perhaps I got lucky? Will have to replicate the recipe when the stores of onions run low, or a stash of small onions become available. (April 9, 2013)
It’s done! Onions pickled for the upcoming Makeshift jar-swap at Carriageworks/Eveleigh Growers Market this Saturday morning.
Am not sure about swapping these with the general public. Probably better to test on some suspecting family & friends first.
It was great getting the produce from the market, particularly the closing-time bargains.
Spiced Pickled Onion Recipe – makes 6 small jars, depending on how you cram the onions in.
This recipe has been inspired by a few others. As most recommend waiting about a month before eating, I’ll have to amend the recipe to taste as needed in the future.
1/2 – 1 cup sea salt
Approx. 2.5L water
1.5kg small onions
4tbsp. Brown sugar
4 cups vinegar ( I split it: 2 malt v; 1 apple cider v; 1 verjuice)
De-seeded chili thinly sliced, whole cloves, whole peppercorns, ground allspice, and crushed bay-leaves to taste.
Peel onions (skins can be saved for dye-stuffs, or mulch in the garden); place onions in a large bowl/pot; mix half of the salt in with enough water to cover onions fully, and weigh the onions under the brine (I use a side-dish). Change the brine after a day, and let sit for another day or two in a cool shady place.
Sterilize your jars and lids by boiling them in water for 20mins. Whilst this is going on, you can prep the spices, and bring the vinegar/verjuice and sugar mix to almost a simmer in a non reactive pan. You can also wash the onions if you prefer them less salty.
Once the jars are sterilized, carefully take them out of the water-bath ( I find that a wooden spatula and a thick kitchen towel work well), so that as little water remains in the jars and lids as possible.
Throw some of the spices in, and start wedging the onions around the jar. Though more experienced picklers may look down on this suggestion, I suggest cutting down more onions to cram them in. Alternate between layering the onions and filling gaps with more spices to taste. Don’t fill the jar higher than the bottom of the rim-thread: remember that you’ll have to fill the jar with juice to cover the onions (& chillies) so that they’re not exposed to air, which can lead to spoiling or exploding jars if you’re unlucky. On top of this, the juice shouldn’t be up to the rim of the jar either.
When you can’t fill the jar anymore, carefully pour (or ladle) the *
steaming hot cooled vinegar concoction into the jars. Make sure that it is a milliliter or two above the onions, but ideally at least .5cm below the rim of the jar. Use a clean towel that you’ve dipped in the boiling jar water to run around the rim (thread) of the jar, you don’t want the vacuum seal of the jar compromised by any contamination. Use a dry towel to hold the jar and screw the lid on tightly.
The jars that I’m using are pretty standard produce jars, on which the lids pop-up when the vacuum seal is broken. I find that after the produce has cooled in the jar, a vacuum seal has formed. If after cooling you can still compress the lid, the jar isn’t sealed, and won’t keep. You can try unsealing the jar, checking for an obstruction, then resealing and boiling the jar for 20mins. If you just can’t get the jar to seal, I suggest that you put the jar in the fridge, and make delicious balsamy caramelized onions until the jar is used up or the produce starts to get a bit funky.
To caramelized the onions. Chop the onions into slivers. Throw into a pot with some of the vinegar concoction and a slice or two of butter to take the edge off it, & simmer on medium heat until it reduces right down. Lovely to eat with poached eggs & crusty bread.
The picked onions should last in a cool & shady place for around 6 months. Though it could last for more, you need to use your nose and common sense to test it out.
After the jars cooled I wasn’t convinced that an airtight seal had formed, so I boiled the jars (waterline well and truly above the lids) for 20min just to be doubly sure.
*modification after finding some other onion pickling instructions that demand cooled vinegar so that the onions remain crisp! Damn! http://porkandgin.com/recipes/pickled-onions/ and http://www.abc.net.au/tasmania/stories/s2003867.htm
The later, by Sally Wise has lots of interesting info & variation suggestions.
It’s been a while since our last swap. But my basil needed a significant trim, and pesto is always a welcome addition to the pantry. So, brushing up on my jar sterilization technique (just to be sure), I found the instructions here: http://veget-eat.blogspot.com.au/2009/06/boiling-jars-to-preserve-your-home-made.html?m=1 to my liking. Cheers bloggers!
Enjoying some late arvo gardening after returning from a weekend trip to C’berra. Some spoils for 6 jars: natural bokashi liquid fertiliser & nasturtium seedlings for a bit of natural pest control as well as flowers for salad.
I also found out over the weekend that French Marigold is very good at getting rid of pests. Will let you know how that goes.
Additionally, good airflow can really reduce the flying pests. Pity my arms are so short that I have to stand on a chair to open & shut the windows.
After re-potting &/or pruning I also sprayed the leaves with Organix EcoGuard for some extra oomph. That’s where you really want the windows open (& where the afore-made smudge-sticks come into their own): peeee-ew!
If i need some excitement I might spray the foliage with my home-made natural insect repellent later. So look-out Darlo! I think that recipe will make it into a 6Jars soon as well.
Making Lavender Smudge Sticks:
Smudge sticks are small bundles of the woody/stem parts of herbs that are dried out and burnt to get rid of bad smells and to ‘clear the air.’ They apparently originate from Native American purification rites. I’m by no means an expert in this area, I just use these smudge sticks to clear the air and thought that I’d share how I make these.
Typical types of herbs that are used to make smudge sticks are white sage and lavender, but also rosemary sprigs and cedar needles would be a nice addition: I’m sure that there are a bunch of other possibilities, but I’m going to stick to simple lavender for today.
I particularly like Lavender because it has a relaxing aroma, keeps moths out of cupboards and stored items and it’s anti-bacterial. As a designer/maker of textile artefacts I’ve got a pretty good store of materials that I’m constantly guarding from moth attack. Cedarwood and lavender are invaluable for this (I’m not a fan of the smell of pure camphor), and by making these smudge sticks I’ve also increased my supply of dried lavender trimmings that I can squeeze into little muslin bags and throw into my stores of materials to keep moths away.
French Lavender is being used for these smudge sticks, it has a higher camphor/resin content than English Lavender (aka Lavender Angustifolia/Officialis). Therefore whilst French Lavender is great for keeping away moths, I’d be less inclined to use it in cooking than the English Lavender.
MAKING THE SMUDGE STICKS:
Availability & cost:
I bought four bunches of lavender from my local farmers market for $12. The cost and the availability will be determined by the season, so I prefer to stock up when I can, now is the ideal time (in the Southern Hemisphere) when weather is getting warmer and the winter wardrobe is being packed away. The four bunches yielded ten 15cm long smudge sticks and about four cups of lavender trimmings (including the flowers).
After the drying process was complete, the making of the sticks takes from about three hours: it depends on how many you are making.
What you will need:
- A week or two in a warm dry place;
- Bunch/es of lavender, or whatever herb you want to use;
- Twine, and a dry/warm place to hang the bunches from till they dry;
- Kitchen scissors or clean garden scissors;
- A long dish in which to re-wet the herb stems for binding the sticks;
- A tea towel;
- A large plate or tray on which you can store your work.
- A couple of large jars or a bowl that can hold the estimated volume of your dried herb trimmings;
- To use of the smudge sticks you’ll need matches, and I also use an old whiskey glass with some marbles in it to douse the embers when I’ve ‘smoked the place out’ enough.
1. Untie the bundles of herbs and line up the stems so that they all run the same way, let them dry like this for a day or two until the bottom of the stems are no longer waterlogged. Turn them over if necessary to ensure that all the leaves and stems that were in the centre of the bundle have dried.
2. Re-bundle the herbs into manageable bunches, and tie tightly with twine near the root-end of the bundle so that you can hang them up-side-down in a warm dry place (not in direct sun for the whole day). Leave the bunches to dry for a couple of days.
3. You will get leaves and possibly flowers of the herb coming off throughout the making of smudge sticks. Until the herbs have dried out, dry these bits off and place them in a jar or bowl where you can collect the clippings for later use in herb bags, potpourri or whatever.
4. After a couple of days take the drying herb bunches down, untie them, mix them around then re-bundle them. In doing so the bunches will have a chance to dry through more evenly. Re-hang the bunches upside-down again for a few more days, or until dry.
5. When fully dry, take the bunches down, untie them and strip them of about half of the leaves and most of the flower heads. Save these in the remnants bowl/jar.
6. In the long dish, set aside three fully stripped (no leaves or flowers) long stems and cover them with water for an hour or two until they have become supple enough to be used to bind the sticks: fully dried ones are too brittle for this.
7. Break the remaining bundles of herbs into small bunches of about six stems. Align the bottoms of the stems, then measure up and cut it off after 15cm. Keep laying the herb stems along the little bundle and cut off the excess. Save the smaller excess pieces for the remnants jar, these can be cut up later. I find that a good sized smudge stick is about 15cm long (approximately a hands length) and 2.5cm in diameter. This roughly equates to about six stems per smudge stick.
8. Once you have got this little bundle neatly aligned, take three of the supple soaked stems and pat them dry on a tea towel.
9. Hold the bundle tightly in one hand, and with the other hand take the end of the supple stem, wedge it into one end of the bundle until it doesn’t pop out if you twist it around the bundle (nor should it stick out the other side). Twist the supple stem tightly around the bundle, I find that in the initial twist if you twist the stem back upon itself then it will hold the bundle better. When you come to the end of the supple stem stick it into the middle of the bundle: make sure that it is pulled tightly. Repeat this step going the other way with another of the three supple stems, and repeat again with the third going whichever way looks less tightly bound. With the second two you can work the ends of the stem underneath the existing stem/s to secure them.
10. There you have your smudge stick, it’s best to leave it to dry for a day or two before use, just so that the supple binding stems can dry out. You can cut-off any rough ends, but I find that if you line the stems up in the first place that they’re usually neat little bundles and don’t need trimming.
CAUTIONS ABOUT USING SMUDGE STICKS:
- DO NOT LET CHILDREN USE smudge sticks, or at least don’t let them use smudge sticks unsupervised. It is playing with fire after all, so USE YOUR COMMON SENSE.
- When burning smudge sticks you’re not trying to get a roaring flame going, you just need to light one end of the stick till the embers alight and give off a gentle amount of smoke.
- To douse the embers of a burning smudge stick you just need to cut off the oxygen supply to it. I use an old heavy bottomed glass with marbles in it: you just put in the burning end and jiggle it around the marbles until all the embers have been extinguished. NEVER LEAVE A SMUDGE STICK BURNING AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR HAND, ALWAYS DOUSE THE EMBERS. Again, use your common sense.
- If you wet the stick it will not light, this is why so much time is spent drying the herbs in the first place. If the stick gets wet just let it dry out.
- Avoid using smudge sticks around flammable substances ie. Paper, synthetic materials etc.
- Know where your fire alarms are and don’t light the smudge stick around them. Obviously.