September 1, 2011 § 3 Comments
What does a gardener do when a little thing like a hurricane is imminent? She cleans out the garden of all ripe, nearly ripe and totally unripe tomatoes, that’s what she does.
Ripe tomatoes have been dispatched to salsa, gazpacho and pizza toppings.
Somewhat ripe tomatoes are on a tray and ripening, possibly for a sauce.
Ripe cherry tomatoes are … well, in a bowl and thinking of what they want to become. Possibly tomato cobbler. We’ll see.
The unripe tomatoes – interestingly all cherries – are destined to be pickled.
I know what you’re thinking: Pickling is soo sooo very trendy. Maybe it is. BUT … I’ve been pickling green cherry tomatoes since 1994. My housemate at the time – Lou – had been pickling since forever and shared the recipe. Pickle the cherries at the end of the season – right as you’re grabbing them off the vine before the first frost – and they are good and pickly and presentable as hostess gifts for fall dinner parties. Oh, that Lou.
A couple of notes:
1. Pickling green fruit is key here. Too much red ripe deliciousness and they cherry will swell and burst, making a jar full of mush. But, I do try to add a cherry or two to the jar that is turning just a bit orange. It’s pretty. So so pretty.
2. Would it be okay to cut green slicing tomatoes into chunks and pickle them? Well, yeah, maybe. I’d remove the pulp and use just the flesh. We want to avoid mush.
3. And with the pickling spices, garlic clove and sneaky pepper, they taste just fabulous. Ohhhh …. yum.
Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes ala Lou
- 21 8oz. jelly jars with new lids and rings
- 8 cups white distilled vinegar
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup salt
-Don’t have enough tomatoes to fill 21 jars? Work the proportions for the number of jars you can fill. I quartered the recipe and it filled 6ish jars.
-Boil the above and let cool.
To each jar, add:
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp mustard seed
- 1 chili pepper, aka “a sneaky pepper”
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 garlic clove
-Add tomatoes to each jar, filling to within about 1/4-1/2 in. of the rim of the jar. Don’t jam them in too tightly – they may burst if forced.
-When the liquid has cooled, fill each jar to cover the tomatoes. Place a lid on each jar and tighten the ring. Let sit out overnight and then place in the refrigerator.
What about preserving them with canning? It’s definitely doable! I’m not the one to tell you how to do it. Really. Even though I witnessed my mother can jars and jars of everything from apricots to zucchini, none of it stuck in my head. And if something goes wrong … like when that jar of canned tuna wasn’t sealed properly … it can go terribly wrong. And I’m not gonna be responsible for your botulism.
January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Fresh garden parsley in January, yo.”
That’s from my “Linguine with Clam Sauce: The Payoff” post. I had bragged about how our homegrown parsley is like Methuselah—it just keeps on keepin’ on even after being in our fridge for nearly two months. What the hell kinda parsley are we using, after all? Plastic?
No, not plastic. In fact, it’s one of those no-named varieties of flat-leafed parsley seedlings we bought from a pop-up garden center back in May. It’s the most gutsy plant we have in our community garden plot, and we couldn’t kill it if we tried. I planted pretty much every seedling that was broadcast-sown in the 4-in. pot we purchased—and every single plant survived.
Here are the growing instructions: Nothing special; water now and then.
I’m not kidding you. Nothing special. And, as a result, the two rows of parsley grew into a small hedge. In fact, it’ll probably come back from the dead when the soil warms this spring.
Just as the living stuff is indestructible, so too is the harvested parsley. Here’s how we prepared and stored the herb:
- Gently wash with cold water.
- Remove stems. Reserve stems for your stash of veggies for making veggie stock.
- Lay leaves flattish on towel to air dry excess water. Best thing about parsley as a plant is that it’s sturdy—it’ll dry before it begins to wilt.
- Once dry, store loosely in zip-lock freezer bag. Put in refrigerator. Since the storage bags are a bit thicker, I think that helps prolong the parsley’s life.
We also stashed six or eight of these zip-locks in the freezer, where it forms frozen sheets. When we run out of the fresh stuff, we’ll break off a corner of the frozen parsley sheet and add it to soups, stews, pasta, and so forth.
More importantly, this is what we DON’T do: Store the parsley wet, wrapped in a moist paper towel in a sealed bag. The humidity just seems to build up along the bag’s sides, eventually making the leaves black and slimy. Sure, we’ll do this if we’re in a hurry or we know we’ll use the whole batch quickly. But it’s not something I’d do for long-term storage.
Will our parsley-storage technique work with the store-bought stuff? I don’t know—we haven’t had to buy the fresh stuff in years. But please do give it a try and let Dainty Dot know the results.
And did I mention, we also have fresh dill from the garden still going strong in the fridge, as well? It’s like a magic tomb, that refrigerator of ours.
January 3, 2011 § 2 Comments
That was the subject line of the email we received from our friend Karen. For $15, she picked up a shellfish license that allows her to walk around in the low-tide sands of Provincetown, clawing for clams and such. She picked up two licenses, actually, so she could share the experience with folks like us. My partner, Jennifer, and I were going to be in Provincetown for New Year’s weekend, and she knew we’d be up for a hunting-gathering experience.
Armed with an official clam rake, purchased new for our first clamming experience, we joined Karen and Robin at low tide on New Year’s Eve afternoon. We picked a spot east of town. For about 30 minutes we raked around the wet sand of the flats. Nothing. Okay, I lied. We found two clams – one of which was less than 1 in. thick and we had to dig back into its home.
Apparently conditions hadn’t been ideal for clams in that spot this summer. Karen knew of another spot about 2 miles further west and we sped off to hopefully richer clamming fields.
The first sign we reached fertile ground was the mass of rake-armed people out on the flats. Second sign: full clam baskets dangling from arms of weary food gatherers. After trudging through a bit of shallow water (note to self: purchase galoshes) we spent all of a minute raking before we hit the jackpot. Robin hit the clam jackpot first, actually. Then Karen. You don’t have to dig deep to find these critters. They’re just below the surface. I’d hit a few miscues – some empty scallop shells, a hunk of asphalt – but when you hit a clam with a tine, you know from the sound and from the bulk you’ve found your treasure.
When I found my first clam – a quahog – I was rewarded with more than one actually. They tend to hang out in batches. My batches tended to have three. Robin found up to six in several spots. All told, the four of us walked off the flats with about 50-60 clams.
Speaking of walking off the flats, we ran into the local shellfish commissioner while calling it a day. An affable guy, he explained the quahogs we found pretty much stay near the surface. The softshell steamers are a bit further down. The longer-tined rakes, like the one we bought, are ideal for harvesting those. Rather than just randomly digging 6-in. holes hoping to hit payload, the commissioner said to look for tear-shaped hole in the sand. Spot those, and you’ll likely find your steamers.
Don’t like clams because of the sand? Karen says there’s a trick to getting the clams to give it up. Throw them into a bucket, fill with water, add a bunch of baking soda and let them sit overnight. Not sure exactly how that works, but if she says it works, that’s enough proof for me.
I’ll let you know if it works. Meanwhile, I’m looking for my best linguine and clam sauce recipe. Harvesting and cooking – it’s so primeval.