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3 Ways to Get in a Pickle, and More Pickling Tips

Posted by: on Jul 2, 2017 | 2 Comments

Sarah Voiland and Steve Munn canning pickles. Having a pickling party can make time fly by! Be sure to swap recipes, too.

Welcome to the wonderful world of pickling! Whether you’re a vinegary veteran or just learning about pickling, we hope this page has some new and interesting information for you. We include a couple basic pickling tips, a breakdown of 3 different types of pickling – from canned pickles to refrigerator quickles to lactofermented foods – plus a few recipes, and resources.

Order in Bulk for Preserving

If you’re planning on pickling in large batches, you can place a Bulk Order with the farm. Please place your order by 12 pm two days before your preferred pickup date. Check our bulk order page for new kinds of produce available as the season progresses!

 

Basics of Pickling

–Always use the freshest quality produce possible.

–Do not use any produce that is discolored or rotting. Pare down to the good parts only.

–Sanitize your equipment and jars as required by each recipe, and maintain a clean workspace.

–Recipes and ratios are important. Never alter the vinegar/salt/water/produce ratio of a pickling recipe for canning. This is what keeps the pickle preserved, and a weaker brine could result in harmful bacteria growth. Only use canning recipes for canning, as Quickles recipes will likely not be strong enough. Salt to vegetable ratio is key for ferments, so make sure you attend to your salt when lacto-fermenting.

–Pickle new things! Bet you never thought about pickling snap peas, rhubarb, peaches, mustard greens, or garlic scapes, did you? Don’t forget about foraged wild foods too– ramps and fiddleheads in spring make popular pickles as well.

Here’s a rundown on some basic pickling facts and a few recipes from Colorado State University.

A Couple Good Tips:

Trim the Ends
The blossom end of a cucumber contains enzymes that will make your pickles less crunchy, so cut 1/8 inch off that end. It usually has a teeny brown spot, and the other end has the stem. If you don’t know which end it is, do both ends 🙂 True for all three types of pickles!

Save the Brine
You can save the brine from favorite vinegar pickles (yours or store bought), boil it, and pour it hot over more vegetables to make quickles with very similar flavors. Store in the fridge. This can make one feel like a kitchen wizard.

Use the Picklers
A word on types of cucumbers.
While you can pickle any type of cuke, pickling cucumbers (aka kirby) are built for it. They have thinner skin that is more permeable to flavor and smaller fruit size for fitting into jars. They also strike me as a little less juicy, which is good for retaining structure. Slicing or salad cucumbers are okay for pickling, but better for salads and such. Also of note, some grocery store cucumbers may be sealed in a little wax, so it is better to get yours at a farmers market or to ask and make sure you are not getting waxed fruit at the grocers.

What to Pickle

Garlic scapes make a lovely, spicy pickle! Though when packing they always want to e-scape the jar.

Cucumbers, carrots, beets, green beans, garlic scapes, radishes, sweet or hot peppers, snap or snow peas, summer squash, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, green tomatoes, mustard greens, shallots, daikon, melon, onion, okra, apples, peaches, rhubarb, basil, and more!

Pickling flavor combinations:

While you can’t alter the ratios of vinegar/salt/water/produce in canned pickles, you can alter the spicing of pickles to be what you like!

For dill flavor on any produce, cukes, green beans or other: Dill, white vinegar (for vinegar recipes), salt, garlic, peppercorns. Add celery seed and mustard seed for more flavors. Dill seed can be used in the winter season when fresh dill is unavailable.

For spiced sweet pickles: Cider vinegar (for vinegar recipes), sugar, salt, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric. Add ground cloves, peppercorns, cayenne for more flavors.

Add kick to any pickles with crushed red peppers, cayenne powder, or a whole fresh hot pepper or so in the jar. Whole peppers make your jars good-looking too.

More spice ideas to play with: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander, fennel seeds, whole cloves, allspice, anise, curry powder, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, fresh oregano, thyme, savory, tarragon, basil. You get the notion 🙂

 

3 Ways to Pickle….

1. Quickles or Refrigerator Pickles

Quickles made with red radish and kohlrabi. You can see the pickling spices there on top!

Quick pickles don’t need to be canned– you just mix them up and put them in the refrigerator. They are good in the fridge for a week or a few months, depending on the recipe. These are a great way to start making pickles. While some people say to wait x long in their recipes, you can always start tasting them right away and know that the flavors will keep developing.

Upsides to quickles:

  • They are very quick and easy.
  • You don’t need to be as concerned with your brine recipe–while you should always be careful in preparing your recipes and using the correct amounts of salt and vinegar to preserve the product, refrigeration will help keep quickles preserved.
  • Because you can make them in small batches, quickles can be a good way to test out different flavor combinations before undertaking a larger canning project.

Downsides to quickles:

  • They take up valuable fridge space.
  • They won’t last nearly as long as a well-canned pickle.

Try some of these Recipes:

Dill Quickles from Red Fire Farm

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas from Smitten Kitchen

Easy Japanese Pickled Cucumbers from The Kitchn

You can also use any canned pickle recipe you find for quickle making, and just put it in the fridge instead of canning it.

 

2. Canning Pickles

Bread & Butter Pickles, canned. These things take any sandwich to the next level.

At least one summer day spent over a hot, humid stove is a small sacrifice to make for a stocked pantry of homemade preserves and pickles. Be on the lookout for recipes that only make small batches or single jars, of which there are many in The Pickled Pantry book listed below. This way, it will be a lot easier to whip up a patch of pickles when you don’t have much time, want to try a new recipe, or are working with a limited amount of produce.

On the other hand, I like to plan big days of pickling to get things dirty once and come out with a lot of pickles for eating and presents. If you are doing this method, here are some steps to plan your day:

  1. Set a date in the season of the produce you want to preserve, invite friends if you like
  2. Choose your recipes and figure out where you will get your ingredients ahead of time, aiming to get your produce as fresh as possible
  3. Inventory your equipment and jars a week beforehand so you can get more of anything
  4. Set up your kitchen the night before, imagine where you will put things, and plan for an easy lunch the next day
  5. Start early on your designated day, because I can’t count the numbers of times I took longer than I thought 🙂

If you are new to canning, I recommend finding a friend who has done it before, or a local group, to can with, as the process has many little steps, and it will just be more fun to learn in person than by reading a book. That said this Complete Guide to Home Canning by the USDA is a pretty good resource for learning, as are the books in the section below.

Make sure you use a recipe designed for canning, as getting the right vinegar/salt/produce/water ratio is key for safe preservation. Also make sure to use vinegar that has a measured acidity of 5% labeled on the bottle, as that is the acidity expected for canning recipes.

Recipes to Try:

Classic bread and butter sweet pickles from Red Fire Farm

Fiddlehead Pickles from the University of Maine

Basic Pickled Jalapeno Peppers from Food in Jars

Here’s another great resource for canning recipes and methods: The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

3. Lacto-fermented Pickles

Lacto-fermenting cucumbers with garlic scapes and a couple wild harvested grape leaves to help keep them crunchy. You can see my methods here for keeping the cukes under the brine :)… Another canning jar full of water on top and a plastic bag twist-tied over all to limit air flow.

These are easy and really good for you. Fermentation preserves foods without cooking out the beneficial enzymes and probiotics. When you boil your jars in canning, that’s just a simple way of pasteurizing the contents. However, as you boil away potentially harmful bacteria, you also lose some of the really helpful microbes that your body needs to function and digest.

You can create a context for those beneficial bacteria to thrive, one that is also safe to eat. Thats how lactofermentation works. By submerging vegetables in a salty brine, you create anaerobic conditions that make wonderful, flavorful foods!

For more information on the health benefits of fermented foods, check out this page from Greenfield’s own Real Pickles. And there is new news that fermented foods may help reduce anxiety, which is lovely.

How to make them:

Wash and prep your vegetables to whatever size you like for eating. Weigh them out, and then weigh out salt at 2.5% of your vegetable weight. So for 1 lb of vegetables you would weigh out .025 lb of salt. Massage the vegetables with salt and pack into a very clean non-metal food-safe container, like a quart glass ball jar. Mash down with a weight of some kind, cover to prevent flies or dirt getting in (the less airflow the better), and let sit a few hours to bring out juices. If juices do not submerge the vegetables, add a little water until vegetables are fully submerged. This liquid is called brine. Let sit covered and weighted in a cool spot out of the sun for 3 weeks or so checking every couple days to skim mold off the top of the brine. You can taste them as they go and stop the ferment at any time you like it by putting it in the fridge. Read more details in the recipes and books below.

I have also had good success making a brine of about 2-3 Tbs salt per quart of water, mixing the 2 Tbs into some water and pouring that over cut vegetables in a quart jar, filling to cover the vegetables. This method is less exact. Half-gallon ball jars are pretty great containers for doing a batch for my family of four.

Basic Tips:

  • Use only sea salts or kosher salts that do not contain iodine or caking agents that could mess with your bacteria.
  • Use non-chlorinated water.
  • Keep vegetables submerged in brine at all times.
  • You can ferment pretty much all produce and combining is fun, as is adding various spices and herbs.
  • Add a few grape leaves, oak leaves, or horseradish leaves to your cucumber ferments to provide some tannins to help keep them crunchy.

Fun with your Brine:

Use your leftover brine, after eating your ferments, in mixed drinks and other food. Probiotic dirty martinis anybody 😉 Also great for adding to salad dressings, and anywhere else you can think of.

Fermenting Recipes:

Daikon Ginger Pickle from Red Fire Farm

Homemade Sauerkraut from Nourishing Kitchen

Fermented Sour Pickles from Wild Fermentation

Fermented Nettle Kimchi from The Fermentista’s Kitchen

Books We Like

Consider supporting your local book store if you purchase these titles! Most allow you to pre-order for pickup.

The Pickled Pantry: from Apples to Zucchini, 150 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys & More by Andrea Chesman

Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves by Karen Solomon

Put ‘Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Wild Fermentation: the Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes, and Pastes by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey

 

It can get rather silly in the kitchen.

Happy pickling! We’d love to see photos of your final products and swap recipes: send them to recipes@redfirefarm.com, or share on our farm Facebook or Instagram.

You can get ingredients for preserves by ordering in Bulk from the farm. We update our bulk order page frequently to reflect what’s seasonal and available. Or visit our farmers’ markets and produce stands for daily selections of organic produce. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you around the farm!

The Art of Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Posted by: on Jun 22, 2017 | No Comments

Chocolate + strawberries = heavenly.

Farm-fresh organic berries and decadent chocolate go together very easily for a wonderful dessert or gift.

We keep our fresh berries stocked at our farm stores in Granby and Montague and at summer markets during the month of June. You can also come and Pick Your Own! Or order in bulk on our website.  While this short season lasts, chocolate dipped berries are one of our favorite things to eat.

Six Tips for perfecting the art:

1.  Ripe strawberries are key!

You want sweet and flavorful berries.  When selecting the berries to dip in chocolate make sure they are ripe and red but not so ripe that they are mushy. Bright green greens of super-fresh berries are prettiest.

2. Keep them at room temperature.

Before covering them in chocolate, refrain from putting them in the fridge-let the berries sit on the counter for a bit, as water will condense on cold berries.

3. Wash AND dry!

When prepping your berries for chocolate make sure they aren’t wet.  Damp berries will cause the chocolate to clump and loose its smooth texture.

4. Choose the chocolate you love

– Use dark chocolate or milk chocolate bars or your favorite chocolate chips. Taza Chocolate is made in Somerville, MA, and their dark bars are wonderful for this.

5. Melt chocolate with a double boiler.

Put some water in a sauce pan and with heat-safe bowl on top.  The water in the sauce pan should be high enough to surround most of the bowl but not high enough that it gets in the bowl. Keep the water at a low simmer, put the chocolate with some milk in the bowl and stir until it melts!

6. Get creative!

Chocolate is perfect on its own on berries but don’t be afraid to personalize the recipe. Add some white chocolate drizzle, toasted coconut, sprinkles, slivered almonds, or crushed walnuts to your berries!

A Recipe for Making Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This recipe makes enough for a small batch. Double or so for more.

1 cup chocolate chips or broken up chocolate bar 
1 1/2 tsp coconut oil (this makes the chocolate smoother, shortening can be used also)
6-12 Strawberries

  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler with the coconut oil, mixing well ’til smooth. Prep a plate or baking sheet with parchment or wax paper on top. When the chocolate is smooth, hold the berries by the stem or greens and dip each berry in, twisting to coat each side. Then lay the berry on the parchment paper. They look pretty when you can still see some of the red top of the berry.
Put your full plate of berries into the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so to set the chocolate. Then they are ready to serve!

Additions to sprinkle on top right after dipping in chocolate:

Melted white chocolate, drizzled decoratively using a fork
Coconut flakes (toasted or untoasted)
Finely chopped nuts, like walnuts, pecans, slivered almonds, or cashews
Salt or sugar crystals
Sprinkles
Bacon crumbles (what?! 🙂
Pretzel shards

Enjoy!

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

Posted by: on May 4, 2017 | No Comments

Take 1-2 bunches of asparagus, wash and trim. Lay on a baking sheet with a sliced red onion or chopped green garlic (optional). Toss with 3-4 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, 2 tbs soy sauce.

   Bake at 400 until tender, or starting to brown. You can stir them once if you are like me and enjoy them cooked a little longer and browner. Sea salt to taste.

 Fresh organic asparagus at our stands in Granby and Montague in May and early June! Local asparagus is only around for a couple weeks. Not a bad idea to eat it daily while it’s here…

Pesto

Pesto

Posted by: on Feb 23, 2016 | No Comments

Putting up pesto for winter is a great idea when basil is plentiful.  Once made, pesto freezes really well in ice cube trays or other portion-sized containers.  We have bulk basil available for ordering and also basil and parsley in the PYO patch.

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 cup parsley sprigs
1/3  cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/3  cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until desired smoothness is reached.  Have with fresh diced tomatoes on pasta or a sandwich.

Freezing Summer Produce

Freezing Summer Produce

Posted by: on Feb 23, 2016 | No Comments

Having frozen peppers, zucchini, and eggplant on hand is perfect for lasagna, stir fry, pizza, pasta sauce, ratatouille, baked goods, and so many other recipes.

Summer Squash and Zucchini

Grate summer squash or zucchini or cut into slices. (Food processors are great here.) Blanch for 3 minutes. Toss into a strainer and rinse with cold water until cooled. Store in a freezer bag, in the freezer!

Many folks don’t blanch the grated version, and it preserves well. If you have a zucchini bread or other recipe you really like, freeze measured bags in the quantity that recipe requires.

Freezing Peppers 

Freezing peppers is the easiest preserving you can do! Just core out the seeds and cut out any bad spots, chop to your desired size, and freeze. No blanching needed. This is true of all types of peppers, green, colorful, hot, whatever you’ve got.
We just quickly chop them into big sections that are flat for fitting more in the freezer, and then cut those up to whatever size when we take them out for use.

And they are really great color and flavor to have later in the winter chopped up into sauces and stirfrys.
Freezing peppers ready for stuffing is really great also because they don’t need all the baking time to soften. Doing Jalapenos like that for filling with cream cheese is quite tasty.

Roasted Peppers

Heat broiler on high. Roast peppers whole on a sheet pan for 10 minutes. Rotate browned peppers and broil another 10 minutes. Throw into a pot and cover. When cool to handle, slip most of the skin off, de-stem and de-seed. Store in olive oil in the fridge or serve immediately.

Freezing Eggplant

Set aside a bowl of cold water. Cut the eggplant in half inch slices or strips and submerge in boiling water. This may be difficult since eggplants like to float, but be creative in keeping them underwater. When the water returns to a boil, wait 40 seconds and then remove and dump them in the cold water to stop all cooking. Place eggplant on a cookie tray and place in the freezer until eggplant is frozen. Frozen eggplant can now be bagged up and individual slices can be removed and defrosted for any of your midwinter cooking needs.

Quickles: Refrigerator Pickles

Quickles: Refrigerator Pickles

Posted by: on Feb 23, 2016 | No Comments

1 lb. pickling cucumbers 
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups cold water
1 T sugar
2 T kosher salt
1 t. mustard seed
1 t. whole peppercorns
1⁄2 t. red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh dill
5 cloves garlic, peeled

Evenly divide the garlic, dill and cucumbers among four wide-mouthed pint jars. You can cut up the pickling cukes however you want, from slices to halves, etc. (smaller slices soak up the flavor faster). You can pack as many cukes into the jars as possible, even more than the recipe calls for if there’s space.

In a bowl, mix together vinegar, water, red pepper flakes, salt, mustard seed and dill seed to make a flavored brine. Use a funnel to fill each jar with brining liquid. If the cukes aren’t mostly covered, you can add a little more cold water and shake it up. Cap tightly and refrigerate at least one week before eating (or eat some right away and every day after, to see what they’re like:).

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

Posted by: on Feb 23, 2016 | No Comments

9 medium pickling cucumbers, sliced 
2 onions, sliced
2 Tbs. salt
1 and 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed
1/8 tsp cayenne (opt)
1/4 tsp turmeric (opt)
1/8 tsp ground cloves (opt)

Use fresh cucumbers; trim 1/8th inch of the blossom ends off, wash and slice. Slice onions. Mix vegetables with salt and let stand 1 hour. Drain, and rinse with 2 cups cold water, draining that water away too. Combine vinegar, sugar, celery and mustard seeds (and any other spices) in a pot and heat to boiling. Cook 3 minutes.
Pack vegetables into jars (2-3 pint wide-mouthed jars), add hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Seal at once and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Cool and store.

Spiced Pickled Summer Squash

Spiced Pickled Summer Squash

Posted by: on Feb 23, 2016 | No Comments

From Red Fire Chef Kristen Schafenacker, 2007 

2 lbs zucchini or summer squash
2 medium onions
¼ cup kosher salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1+ cup sugar
2 t. mustard seed
1 t. red pepper flakes
2 t. celery seed
1 sliver fresh ginger

Place the vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, ginger, red pepper, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sliced onions and bring to a boil. Pack canning containers tightly with squash and fill with hot brining liquid. Submerge closed jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Sofrito

Sofrito

Posted by: on Feb 23, 2016 | No Comments

From Sarah Voiland, 2011 

Sofrito is a delicious flavoring substance that is classic in Puerto Rican cooking. You add it to anything from rice and beans, to soups and slow cooker dishes, to omlettes, to sauces for meat dishes. Once made, sofrito freezes really well in ice cube trays or other portion-sized containers for winter!  It will also keep well in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.

1 onion
1 green pepper
2-3 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp oregano (more if fresh)
2-4 tbs olive oil
salt to taste
1 tsp capers (opt.)
1-3 hot peppers (opt.)
1-2 roasted red peppers (opt.)
a few to a bunch of pitted olives (opt.)
Other optionals: black pepper, cayenne, paste tomatoes, cumin, culantro, annatto, celery, parsley, and many more!

No hard and fast recipe here! Something to play with! Multiply recipe for winter freezing. Wash, deseed, trim as needed. Chop into large chunks. Put all in blender, in batches if need be. Mix everything in a bowl at the end if you did batches. Then refrigerate and freeze for later use. Or use some now!
To use, put some in a pan with oil and saute to meld the flavors before adding rice to boil or whatever it’s in your plans to make.
Lovely with red peppers too!

Tomato Sauce, Farmer-Style

Tomato Sauce, Farmer-Style

Posted by: on Feb 23, 2016 | No Comments

From Sarah Voiland, 2011

Here’s a quick description of how we make our sauce here, the short-cut way. We like to do just tomatoes, and then add our other sauce ingredients like onions, carrots, frozen peppers, garlic etc. in the winter when we go to use the sauce. Then you can make anything you want with it, from spaghetti sauce to tomato soup.

  1. We get lots of tomatoes and wash them and cut out the stem parts and bad spots.
  2. Then chop them in large chunks and puree them, skins, seeds and all in the blender or food processor.
  3. Then put the puree in a big pot, and bring to a boil then simmer on low, stirring, until you get the thickness you want. The real key is having a good pot with a thick bottom that will keep stuff from sticking and burning on the bottom, and keeping an eye on it. A stirrer with a flat bottom edge that you can swipe across the bottom of the pan is great.
  4. Once you have your thickness, you can it, using the boiling water method, 30 to 45 minutes or whatever your how-to-boiling-water-bath info source says. We’re a big fan of the wide mouth quart jars -easier to clean later on.

Here’s a great resource for canning recipes and methods: The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Varieties of Tomatoes for Sauce 
You can make really flavorful sauces from mixed heirloom varieties. Heirlooms may take a little bit longer to cook down, but the flavor is great. Paste or Saucing Tomatoes have less juice and cook down faster, and also taste really good. I make big batches with the paste tomatoes, and then I like to make some batches with certain varieties of tomatoes, like an all Brandywine Sauce, and a sauce with only white, yellow and orange tomato varieties. Red Slicing types are great for salsa, and can also make good sauce with a little longer cooking time than with paste varieties.