Thursday, March 1, 2012

In A Pickle

Today I have been free of all hospital duty and have done a few errands and been on the phone with admissions for various schools following up on the receipt of a gozillion forms. While I was on hold I was looking out the window admiring the beautiful day. It truly looks like spring is upon us. The redbud trees are blooming, the pear tree is in full bloom, there were out 10 robins in the back yard, an anorexic squirrel was running on the fence and a white chicken was pecking away in the yard next door???

My neighbors form 2 doors down have a few chickens in their backyard. I don't know why. Are they pets, laying hens, or are they going to invite the entire neighborhood to a fried chicken dinner sometime in the not to distant future? Dunno, but it kind of creeps me out. One of them is an escape artist who flies to the top of the 6 foot fence then flops down in the next door neighbors backyard. Chickens are not supposed to be hanging around my house scratching and pooping. ( I have not seen them do that yet but I am assuming it is a smaller version of goose poop which I am completely familiar with, since millions of endangered Canadian Geese now call Birmingham home.) Chickens are supposed to be packaged in nice white little styrofoam trays, wrapped tightly in plastic with a price per pound. I really don't like seeing the blooming chicken out there and like less the thought that the chicken could wind up in my yard. ( Can anyone say phobia?)

Which leaves me with a comment about the starving squirrel. Most squirrels are nice and plump with bushy tails and they look kind of cute even though we know they are nothing more than rats with furry tails. Appearance really is everything! This dude or dudette is a seriously skinny version of squirrel with a very bare tail. If there is such a thing as Hair Club for Squirrels this one could not only be a member but also the president. i can only hope it is healthy and maybe just some rawboned teen guy squirrel whose tail has not come in yet. Keeping my eye out just to see what happens.

You might wonder what this has to do with pickles and the answer would be nothing. I was just stuck on hold, at the table with a notebook filled with questions and nothing better to do than look out the window. But before I start window watching and dreaming of summer let me get back to pickles. About a week ago Publix had a super deal on grapes and strawberries which I overbought and then I bought a box of kumquats because they were very pretty. We had eaten many of the grapes and strawberries but not all of them. What could I do with the ones we didn't eat? I remembered pinning pickled grapes on Pinterest and then started wondering if I could find a recipe for pickled strawberries too. The kumquats were strictly for eating until I ate one and then remembered why I don't like them. They are the original sweet tarts of the fruit world. The first bite is so sweet and mild followed by a lip puckering acidic sour taste. When my jaws loosened from the sour induced locked position I vowed I would not eat another one. But what to do with the remaining 47 kumquats. Ah yes, search for a kumquat pickle recipe!

I would like to report the search for all was successful, so I got busy preparing the jars and getting in the canning mode. ( Who am I kidding? I stuck 3 jars in the dishwasher with the rest of a load of dishes and turned it on. Since I was only making one jar of each and am storing them in the fridge who really cares if everything is boiled?

Pickled Red Grapes

1 pound red seedless grapes
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

Wash grapes and remove from stem
Slice stem end off of the grapes and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water and sugar. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
Place spices into the bottom of a quart jar.
Put grapes into the jar on top of the spices.
Pour hot vinegar into jar over grapes.
Let grapes sit until cool. Screw lid on the jar and refrigerate.
24 hours later Voila! Pickles!

Now you might think this sounds gross and to be honest the pickles by themselves are pretty weird, but pair them with some soft goat cheese and it is out of this world good. I will also try it with Havarti since I think the mild cheese would work well with the sharp pickled grapes.

Instead of sugar I substituted Splenda. It seems to have worked very well. I will probably make a jar of these whenever this one gets close to being empty.

Strawberry Pickles

14 strawberries, stems removed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 serrano, sliced into thin rounds
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 sprig of mint

Place the strawberries in a quart Mason Jar

In a saucepan, add the vinegar, salt, sugar, and serrano. Bring to a boil and then allow the liquids to cool to room temperature. Pour over the strawberries, add the peppercorns and mint, and then seal the jar, turning upside once or twice to mix around the ingredients. Place in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Slice and use on turkey or chicken sandwiches.
The jury is still out on these. I had no fresh mint so I used dried and the same for the pepper. Instead I used pepper flakes. Since I did not follow the directions totally I will refrain from telling what I really think about this. The strawberries are a little too mushy and the vinegar is too sharp and pronounced. I will try this again in the summer when my mint is growing and add more than a sprig. I will use a fresh and very hot pepper and will use half cider and half balsamic vinegar and see how that changes things. The apple cider overpowers the strawberry flavor totally. I did not use it on a chicken sandwich but did use it on top of a cracker with a piece of salami* . The salty meat helped but it is still not very good

* Salami aside: We have been married nearly 40 years and in all that time as far as I can remember we have never had a slice of salami in this house. I am wondering who this who is buying a pound of salami and what they did with my husband?

Pickled Kumquat

1 1/2 cups of kumquats, sliced in half and any seeds easily accessible discarded
1/4teaspoon of salt
3/4 cups of white vinegar
1/4 cup of sugar
2 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
2 peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 cinnamon stick

Put the kumquats in a pan. Cover with water and add the salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Put the vinegar, sugar, and spices in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the kumquats to the hot liquid. Simmer for 1 minute. Put in a 1 pint canning jar ( Marie's dressing jar) and let it live in the fridge.

As odd as this sounds it has all kinds of deliciousness in it. Serve it over roasted pork, or chicken and it is superb. Bake onions and pour a little over them and it is divine. I am so sorry we live in a kumquat free zone or I would make this in bulk and go through the steps to can and water process it. It is that good. the only step I took off the recipe path was to use Splenda instead of sugar. I am sure this is not as syrupy as it would have been, but the previously sour fruit has been tamed and coaxed into this deliciously sweet strongly citrus flavored mouthful of heaven. I did save some of the seeds. Wonder if I can get them to grow? Will try!

Dang! Now I covet kumquats!

Oh yeah this post counts in the February total, I just didn't get it written until today.

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