I have a serious question: why are all of the jam and jelly canning classes left until August? Do the preservation experts of the world not realize that strawberry season will be upon us in the blink of an eye? And that perhaps some of us would be interested in learning to properly preserve them at the peak of freshness?
I’ve bought a few books on preserving, and I’m ready to take the plunge, but for some reason, oh I don’t know why, I’m a little scared of botulism. That was one of the reassuring things about making beer – despite the long list of ingredients, and the multi-staged sanitizing efforts, our teacher swore to us that if we messed up, our beer would not make us physically ill. The worst thing that could happen is that we’d brew a batch of horrible tasting but perfectly healthy beer.
That, I cannot say for jam. One wrong move and you’re done, correct? Maybe I’ve read one person’s horror story and am making sweeping generalizations. But one person or many, I’ve been scarred. Jamming can wait until I have a professional tell me the same thing as our beer instructor: relax, you’ll be fine, your jam won’t kill you. Reader, if you’re that jamming professional from whom I seek validation, please speak up. And if anyone knows of a jam/canning class in NYC before the summer starts, I will pay you back with Bitcoins and praise.
But pickles…I’ll blow through a batch of pickles in a few days so there’s never any need to worry about long storage times. And it’s just about the easiest thing you can do in a jar. Water, salt, sugar, vinegar, that’s it. Throw some spices into the mix and you can take the flavor profile in any direction you’d like – classic with dill and coriander, or exotic, like I did last week with some beets, using cinnamon and star anise.
A few weeks ago I tried out some Vietnamese Do Chua – carrot and daikon radish thinly-sliced and left to marinate for a few days in a simple bath of water, white sugar, salt and vinegar.
Let me tell you, there is nothing like homemade Do Chua when you’re craving Banh Mi. Not craving Banh Mi yet? Get yourself over to your nearest Vietnamese takeout spot where you can sample the real deal. And if you’re up for it, Banh Mi is pretty easy to make at home – it took 20 minutes to make this bad boy and my stomach was singing all afternoon.
And given that Easter is just around the corner, it would be an oversight not to include the recipe for those beet pickles that I mentioned earlier. The ones with the cinnamon and star anise. They’ll make beet lovers out of the most ardent beet haters, I promise, and I never lie on this blog.
Aside from ending up with lovely pickled beets that can be used in all sorts of salads and sandwiches, toss in some hard boiled eggs you’ll end up with gorgeous pink-tinted eggs. Festive for Easter, and perfect as a fancy deviled egg bar snack to match those kickin’ cocktails that I hope you’re all making at home.
Not only will you be making yourself fancy bar snacks and awesome cocktails, but your breakfast will get a facelift when you start using the onion from the beet pickles to make a quick breakfast tartine.
Really, I do eat like this at home on weekdays. Because there is no reason not to. It’s as easy to slather a piece of toast with some ricotta and the odds and ends from your pickle jars in the fridge than it is to make a PB&J. And personally, I think it tastes a whole lot better.
If you need Mason jars, they’re springing up all over the place – any kitchen supply store should have them, along with your go-to home stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and The Container Store. And of course there’s always Amazon which stocks them in every size imaginable. Buying Mason jars can quickly become an addiction, you have been warned….
So go ahead and get your pickle on. And let’s vow together to do this jam thing. It’s a bucket list item that I’ve been putting off for years, but I’m tackling it this summer head on. At least I’ll have the mason jars.
- 3 large red beets
- 5 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup white cider vinegar
- 2-4 pieces of star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 red onion sliced into rings
- 1 heaping Tablespoon of salt
- Place eggs in a small pot, covered with over an inch of water. Bring to boil, cover with lid, then remove from heat for 20 minutes. After letting the eggs sit, place into a bowl of ice water, then peel.
- Trim the ends off the red beets and place in a snug pot, cover with water, and place a lid on them. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for about 20-30 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Remove the beets from the water, and once cool, rub off the skins and slice into ¼ inch rounds. Do not discard the water.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the pot of purple beet water (except for the eggs and red onion). Place back on high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Into a large mason jar, add the peeled beets, cinnamon and star anise. Finally, add the eggs and red onion. Pour the pickling liquid over the jar’s ingredients.
- Store in refrigerator at least overnight before serving.
- To make deviled eggs, follow any recipe you would normally use- cut in half, scoop our the yolk, mix with some mayo and/or other seasonings, heap back into the eggs and serve.