Category Archives: May

Half Sour Pickles

We’ve got a bumper crop of cucumbers from the garden right now, and fermenting is an easy, quick way to preserve them.  I find that it’s less work than canning, and the crunch of a fermented cucumber is hard to beat.  I’ve been referring to The Art of Fermentation by the fermentation guru, Sandor Ellix Katz, for guidance.  He recommends a 3.5% salt brine to make a crunchy, short fermenting pickle, and I’ve used this brine with great results.

To ferment cucumbers, you’ll need some basic fermenting equipment: a one quart canning jar, a weight, a lid with a seal and an airlock.  For the salt, I’m using Himalayan salt that I purchased from Fermentools, but you can use any salt that you prefer to make the 3.5% brine.  The weights I’m using are from a four piece set called Pickle Pebbles.  We made lids for fermenting with a box of the Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage caps.  Frank drilled a hole in the middle of each one and then placed a BPA-free food grade silicone grommet in each hole.  A reusable food grade silicone seal goes inside each cap and a plastic airlock goes on top.

To make pickles in a one quart jar, I used approximately one pound per jar.  You may need more or less than this depending on the size of the cucumbers.  I have found that the smaller cucumbers result in the tastiest, crunchiest pickles, so save the big cucumbers for another use. After cleaning the cucumbers in water, remove the blossom end and slice into spears or leave whole.

Make the brine by adding Himalayan salt to filtered water and stirring to dissolve (if you choose to use a different salt, use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of sea salt or pickling salt to two cups of water to make a 3.5% brine).  To help the cucumbers stay crunchy, Katz recommends adding “grape leaves, oak leaves, cherry leaves, or other tannin-rich plant materials”.  I’ve got a Champanel grapevine in my garden, so I’ve been using one grape leaf in each quart jar.  The leaf goes in the very bottom of the jar, and then you pack the cucumbers in the jar along with dillweed or dill seed, and garlic if you like.  I also sometimes add a dried chile or fresh pepper along with some black peppercorns or mustard seed.  Fit in as many cucumbers as you can, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace.

Place the weight in the jar, and pour the brine in until the cucumbers and the weight are fully submerged.  Place the seal in the lid, and then screw on the lid and add the airlock.  (The airlock should have water in it up to the top line).Ferment for about eight days in a 75 degree kitchen, taking care to keep them out of direct sunlight.  Fermentation could occur in a shorter or longer time period than eight days, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.  I would taste the cucumbers after a few days to get an idea of how far along they are.  There is really no right or wrong answer; they are ready when they taste good to you.  The jar on the left below is fully fermented while the two on the right are the ones prepared for this post.

After eight days, my pickles are ready.  Remove the weight and the airlock, put on a new lid and refrigerate.  These will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Half Sour Pickles
Author: 
Serves: 1 quart
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb pickling cucumbers, blossom ends trimmed
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • 1 dill head, washed or 1 tsp dill seed
  • 1 grape leaf, washed
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled (optional)
  • 1 dried chile or 1 fresh pepper (optional)
Instructions
  1. Add the salt to the water to make the brine.
  2. Place the grape leaf in the bottom of the jar.
  3. Add the dill head, or dill weed to the bottom of the jar.
  4. Add the pepper and garlic, if using.
  5. Pack the cucumbers into the canning jar, leaving ½ inch headspace.
  6. Add the weight. Pour the brine over the cucumbers until the cucumbers and the weight are covered.
  7. Place the seal in the lid, and screw the lid on the jar.
  8. Put water in the airlock, and attach the airlock to the lid.
  9. Ferment for about eight days, tasting along the way as needed.
  10. When the pickles taste ready to you, refrigerate.

Tomato Soup

Tomatoes are abundant now, and making tomato soup is a great way to use a lot of them at one time.  My recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup from the cookbook Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.

tomato soup ingredients

First, roughly chop about four pounds of tomatoes and dice the onions and carrots.

diced tomato diced onion carrot

Heat the olive oil, and sauté  the onions and carrots until tender.  Add the garlic.

sauteed carrots onions

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, chicken broth, salt and pepper.

cooked tomatoes

After the soup has cooked for about 40 minutes, add the cream and then process the soup through a food mill.  I have the OXO Good Grips food mill, and it is a very functional tool to use when it comes to processing tomatoes to remove the skins and seeds.

food mill food mill tomato soup

Discard the pulp and serve the soup with homemade croutons.

rosemary ciabatta croutons tomato soup is ready

Tomato Soup
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ cups diced onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 pounds tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 six ounce can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped basil leaves
  • 4 cups of chicken broth or stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the onions and carrots and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir well.
  5. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.
  6. Add the cream to the soup and process it through a food mill into a bowl, discarding only the dry pulp that's left.
  7. Serve with homemade croutons.