Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cucumber quick-pickle or cucumber salad

Call it whatever you like, but this is an easy, satisfying summer preparation.

6 Kirby cucumbers (each about 5" long), or three conventional green cucumbers
1/4 c vinegar (red wine, rice, white, cider -- anything but balsamic)
1 1/2 Tbp sugar
1 Tbp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 scallions (or half a small yellow or red onion), sliced
several cloves of garlic, smashed (optional)

Wash the cukes.  If you're using Kirbys (pickling cukes, unwaxed), then you can either leave the cukes unpeeled, or 'stripe' them.  If you're using conventional green, waxed salad cukes, peel them completely.

I found "salt and pepper" cukes at the farm stand over the weekend.  Never seen them before -- they're yellow-skinned, and the skin is a bit tough.  But they have a beautiful greenish seed core.  Quite attractive.  I 'striped' these cukes, then sliced them in 1/8-inch slices on the mandoline.

Salt the sliced cukes, and mix them well, distributing the salt over all.  Add sugar, vinegar, black and red pepper, and mix well.  Add the scallions or onions.  You can add garlic if you wish -- but leave it in large chunks so that you don't inadvertently eat the cloves.  Though tasty, you'll likely not have many friends afterwards. 

You can eat these pickles immediately, but frankly, they improve immensely upon sitting.  I typically let the mixture sit at room temperature for a couple hours, covered, then pop them into a container in the fridge. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Strawberry refrigerator jam

I bought a few quarts of strawberries on the way home from the shore last weekend.  I cleaned up one quart for a friend in recovery from surgery, and used another to make a quick batch of strawberry jam.  It's 'refrigerator' jam insofar as it's not processed after cooking for long-term storage at room temperature.  This is jam you make and eat.

1 qt ripe strawberries (And apologies, I didn't weigh them.  This is one quart dry measure.)
2 cups sugar
pinch salt
juice of half a lemon

Hull the berries, and halve or slice them, depending on how large they are, and place in a pot -- at least a 4-qt pot -- you need the extra room.  Add the sugar, salt, and lemon juice.

Bring to a boil over high heat, and stir.  As the water in the fruit begins to boil off, the jam mixture will start to bubble up.  You know you've achieved a high enough temperature when your stirring does not knock down the bubbles.  Be very careful not to let it boil over, removing it from the heat and stirring vigorously as necessary. 

Continue to cook the mixture for about 20 minutes until it thickens, and reaches a temperature of 220°F, at which point it's done.

Pour into a clean jar (I used a clean 1-quart mason jar), cover, and let sit at room temperature until it is cool.  You'll see that it sets up nicely when it comes to room temperature.  Tighten the lid, and pop into the fridge.

I really cannot adequately describe how remarkable the taste of homemade strawberry jam is.  Words fail.

By the way, the best resource for jam- and jelly-making is the National Center for Home Food Preservation, based at the University of Georgia. 

 Ruby red jam.  Springtime in a jar. 

And on a cracker with some butter.