Post #3071: Tis the season to put down some pickles….

Summer has been full of things thus far, and so has work – leaving me little extra-curricular time for posting on my blog. But I think I’m going to return to writing about food since we are in the season of bounty and the preserving instinct has once again kicked in (not to mention cooking! but more in the next post on that).

We’ve just wrapped up our long weekend open house (with camping in the yard) – which started on Friday and ended around noon yesterday – and as at the end of every party, we were left with a glut of a few things. At every one of our gatherings we supply the main food items for breakfast and dinners (with grazing foods for lunch) – but we usually ask that people bring a few other things to share – particularly those that get expensive. This year those requests were for coffee and limes (for drinks). Our friends are generous when we ask – the result being that whatever we desire we get times ten. Last year was cheese, and we never did eat it all before it went bad.

With coffee — it’s not such a problem — it keeps in the freezer and we drink it every morning so we’ll go through it happily. Limes – on the other hand — need to get used.

And so as exhausted as I was yesterday, I managed to rouse myself from the couch to deal with some of the leftover foods. The pictures in this post represent some serious good eating in our future as I am in the process of:

  • Lime pickle using this recipe
  • Lacto-fermented dill-green beans (3 tbsp to 4 cups of water for the brine ratio)
  • Salt-preserved eggs from the book Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon – these are salt cured with star anise, in the shell and raw for five weeks – which flavours them for addition to fried rice and other dishes.

As we were preparing for our weekend, I also managed to put my hands on some meyer lemons (first ones I have seen in over a year) and now have three jars of salt-curing lemons in my cupboard as well.

In the kitchen today, Brian is making tomato sauce out of 30 pounds of roma tomatoes that we bought through – this being the first year in our relationship that we couldn’t make the timing work to be in the interior to buy late-season offerings (I have a trip to Toronto at the end of August when would normally go). I also have 20 pounds of cherries that need pitting before going on the dehydrator – so I expect when my working day is done I’ll be sitting outside on the deck and taking care of that.

As always – I have more plans in the wings as I am expanding my cooking repertoire and new flavours, sauces, and pickles are on the menu. Still need to track down a few ingredients at the asian markets when I am back in Vancouver this fall – but looking forward to some new dishes and techniques to bring to the table.



Post #2078: Report back on the olive experiment

Remember how I bought ten pounds of olives back in September – and I wasn’t really sure what to do with them or how they would turn out? Well. I’m glad to report that the water-cured olives have so far turned out great, and the brine-fermented olives seem to be doing their thing. Here is the blow-by-blow on what I think about each:

Water-Cured: Cracked

IMG_20151206_121818952Besides lye-curing, the quickest way to cure olives is by water curing them. This involves breaching the flesh of the fruit and then soaking them in water for up to a month, changing the water each day. This leaches the bitter oleuropein out of the fruit, and once that is done, you can cure the olives in brine.

One way that you prep olives for water-curing is by cracking them with a back of a spoon – you don’t want the pits to come loose, by you do want to create a split in the fruit so the water can do its work. We transferred these olives from the water to a herb-brine at the end of October and started eating these about two weeks ago. Here is what my cracked olives look like now, two and a half months after I started the process:


By far, this is the quickest fermenting method as the smashed olive allows for a lot of “flushing” to happen in the water cure. Also, these olives pick up the brine flavours quickly (after four days in the brine they were edible). On the downside, the smashed olives seem to be degrading relatively quickly and they are softer on the inside than I would like. We have eaten close to half of the jar, so that’s fine – and I’m thinking of turning the rest into tapenade.

Water-cured: Cut

EverytIMG_20151206_121828892hing about these olives is the same as above except instead of smashing them, I took a paring knife to each one and made an incision. They look much nicer as a result, and they have held their firmness since being transferred into the fridge. They are certainly more bitter than the smashed ones, but not unbearably so and I think the slight bitter taste gives them a bit of kick. This combination with the brine makes for a very edible table olive, and truly – these can be ready in as little as six weeks. I just broke these open for eating today though and I do think the extra month in brine really makes a positive difference.

Brine-Fermented, Unbroken

IMG_20151206_121920582These olives have also been kicking around in the curing process for two and a half months, but unlike the water-cured olives they still about about two and a half months to go. Brine fermenting leaves the olives intact, but takes much longer to cure them. You can see from the picture that the olives look a lot more “whole” and less degraded than the split examples above (the photo at the head of this article is of the brine-fermented olives you see on the plate here. Although I know these are far from ready, I did brave a taste today – I couldn’t help myself really since I was photographing after all. And though these are still on the not-as-edible side of bitter – they are actually ok, as in they don’t make you gag from the astringency. I definitely want to leave them until the new year – but by far these had the strongest flavouring from the brine, plus they are as firm as ripe olives can be with no degradation of the flesh at all. I don’t think these olives fermented as actively as I would have liked in the beginning, but still they seem to be well on their way to becoming an edible thing.

Overall I am quite pleased with the olive experiment so far and have no problem serving the water-cured olives over the holiday season. That means that when olives come into Vancouver in early fall, there is plenty of time to cure some up for Christmas gifts with the water-curing method. Though cutting is more work, I think that I prefer this over the smashed olives because it leaves the fruit with better consistency over time – but if you don’t mind a softer olive, or want olives for tapenade, the smashed route leaves them less bitter.

I’m really looking forward to the brine-fermented olives in the new year – and I highly recommend trying this out when you have fresh olives available. I can easily see doing double the amount next year and putting together some Christmas gifts of small jars of olives to give away with the other seasonal treats.

Alchemy in jars


Happy yeast!

This post rightfully belongs to Tuesday, but I’ve been a bit preoccupied with work things, social things and other things – and so it’s now Thursday and I’m finally getting around to posting on phase two of the Blueberry-Pomegranate Wine which I completed on Monday afternoon – that is the activation of the yeast (one packet of red wine, dissolve in one cup of the wine-juice and let stand until it froths), and the addition of said yeast to the primary along with 2 teaspoons of acid blend, 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient, 1/2 a teaspoon of pectic enzyme and the same again of tannin. My airlock is currently bubbling away which means my ferment is happy and active. I expect by Monday it will have died down and be ready for the secondary. Initial hydrometer reading is 1.020 which you might note is much lower than the initial mead reading of two weeks ago. I’m thinking that after this batch of wine goes into the secondary, I am going to try a second batch of mead – but a dry mead this time to compare to the fruity version I’ve got going already.

Also on Monday night, I started two batches of mustard seed soaking which I will grind up into a paste tonight when I get home. I’m trying two different recipes below – a basic yellow mustard with horseradish added for kick, and a beer mustard which uses both yellow and brown mustard seeds.


There is something endlessly appealing about things in jars on the counter becoming other things – the alchemy of cooking, canning, fermenting, brewing.


Another day, another brew.


This afternoon has been a putter-around-the-house-until band practice kinda space – particularly as 1) I drank a little too much at our bbq last night and 2) It’s raining outside.

The first rhubarb ketchup of the season is simmering away on the stove as I write this, and I’m plotting two kinds of mustard to start soaking after I get this post up – I am definitely feeling the start of a new food season upon us as I pulled the last of the blueberries from 2013 our of the freezer and weighed them for the Blueberry-Pomegranate Wine I have been thinking about for the last couple of weeks. Again, this recipe comes from True Brews and makes a one gallon batch. According to the book, this comes out the most like red wine of any of the fruit wines so I’m curious about that.

Before I go any further I want to point out the picture up top – which is the blueberry-lavender mead I posted about earlier this week. As you can see from today’s picture, the mead has  clarified a lot, and there is now quite a bit of sediment at the bottom of the jug. If I age this beyond 1 month, I will siphon it again before letting it sit – purpose being to clarify the liquid as much as possible with each racking.

Anyhow – today’s recipe calls for 3 pounds of blueberries, 2 cups of pomegranate juice, 5 & 2/3rd cups of sugar and 12 cups of water to start out (plus a Campden tablet).


I started with the blueberries frozen and weighed them on the kitchen scale. I have read elsewhere that using frozen blueberries in liquor-making is optimal because the freezing and then thawing of fruit brings out its sweetness – think ice wine. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’m pretty sure that using frozen fruit can’t hurt the process in any way.


I thought I had several mesh bags to secure the fruit in, but it turns out – I had none – so I wrapped my blueberries up in cheesecloth instead (note to self – buy more cheesecloth and mesh bags). I keep quite a bit of fabric in the kitchen these days for just such eventualities.

imagePomegranate juice isn’t something that I normally buy – it’s rather expensive ($9 for a bottle) and a bit tart for everyday drinking. I just grabbed the stuff from Donald’s market that was not blended with other fruits. There was no way that I was going to purchase enough pomegranates to make my own pure juice – I figured this was the next best thing.

The process for making the wine is very straightforward: After sterilizing all the tools you are about to use, combine the sugar and water on the stove and bring to a simmer. Don’t boil it, you are essentially just heating it until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is combined, take the pot off the heat and let the mixture cool down to room temperature.


Combine the sugar-water and pomegranate juice in the primary and then add the bag(s) of fruit. Using clean hands or a sterilized potato masher, get as much juice out of the fruit as possible . Once everything is mixed together, crush a campden tablet and snap on the lid with an airlock. (You can take your original hydrometer reading before putting the lid on, but I forgot so I will take mine tomorrow when I add the yeast).

And that’s it! For about $10 in ingredients I have another 3 bottles of wine on the way.

Blueberry Lavender Mead Step Three

imageOn the Mead front: After one week (in my case 8 days) of sitting in the primary (the plastic bucket) – it’s time for racking the mead. First I sanitized my siphon hose and pump and the 1-gallon jar. Removing the bag of fruit from the mix, I siphoned the liquid into the gallon jug and capped it with the airlock. Now it sits in my basement (you want this stored in a cool/dark place) on the shelf awaiting its maturation process. This can be bottled after one month, or it can sit and age for six months. This part will depend on how impatient I get with the process. Next up? Blueberry-Pomegranate Wine.