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Sunday, August 8, 2010

I'm in a bit of a pickle...

Wow, this has been one crazy summer. From the first weeks of the kids being out of school, we have had non-stop company. Our family from both sides, our friends, and a multitude of visiting pets have graced us with their presence this summer. It's been wonderful to see everyone and we've had a blast.

As I mentioned in my last post, summer's bounty keeps showing up at my doorstep. And I love it! It's been a saving grace when I have a house full of guests and enough veggies to feed them. But really, one can only eat so many cucumbers. And being a Yankee, I'm just getting my feet wet preparing okra, let alone a ton of it. The peppers are gorgeous, but we can't eat this many. To waste them would be awful. It's really a bit of a pickle.

I used to be afraid of canning. I wasn't confident about the process and I was wary about something that could sit on a shelf for literally years and be safe to eat. Canning is something that should be left to the experienced, I thought. I was certain that I would poison us. Unless I was extremely careful, botulism would surely be in our future. Plus, I'm an instant gratification type of person. Waiting a couple hours for the food to be done is too long -- pickles can take weeks to soak up all that flavor. So I steered clear...until this summer. I was going to have to overcome my fear and impatience for the sake of these beautiful, plentiful veggies.

What I did figure out is that if the jar seals properly, you know it. If it doesn't, you can just put your creation in the fridge. Refrigerator pickles last for weeks! This is how I did the pickled peppers from the last post, and we're still eating them. Yum! Pickles of all sorts are delicious and light and add so much flavor to your food -- you can skip the mayo and just throw on a pickle! Chop them up and mix them with your tuna or chicken for a flavorful salad. I've altered The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad to include whatever we have pickled -- sometimes it's a bit sweet, sometimes spicy and zingy. Fabulous!

Taylor created this zesty recipe and it is SO good. Pickling is a matter of taste. If you like sweet pickles, you'll need some sugar. Dill pickles are awesome. Most versions are salty. These are spicy, salty and "dilly." I almost prefer eating the onions in the jar over the cucumbers. I suspect you could use this recipe for any veggie that you want to pickle. Give it a shot and let us know what you end up with!

Taylor's Spicy Dills
Makes 2 large jars

3 medium-large cucumbers
1 medium onion
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
4 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dill seed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Sterilize the jars and lids in your dishwasher, home canner, or boiling water. If you're canning these for preservation, follow the canning directions on your canner or jars. If you're making these as refrigerator pickles, simply sterilize and pack the jars and put them in the refrigerator.

Thinly slice the onion and slice the cucumbers crosswise or in spears. Heat remaining ingredients in a small saucepan until boiling. Pack onions and cucumbers tightly into hot jars, then add hot liquid, leaving 1/4 inch headroom at the top of the jar. Seal and process if using a long-term canning method. Add a lid, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate if making refrigerator pickles. These were good after a few hours and even better after a few days. Let's see what happens after a month. I'll let you know!

If you have canning or pickling tips for me, please share! I'm new at this!

This summer has been busy and fun, but it hasn't left me much time for blogging. However, The Svelte Gourmet is still making headlines. I was featured this week in Charleston's Post & Courier with my Baked Eggplant Parmesan recipe and I won Recipe4Living's "Summertime Sippers" contest with my PB&B Milkshake. Check them out!

Also, don't forget -- The Svelte Gourmet: A Month Of Main Courses cookbook is on sale through the end of August. Only $14.99! It's available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!
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