Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Chard Lovin' Mama

A new blog, from a real farm wife. Chard Girl is the nom de blog of Julia of Mariquita Farms, a fantastic organic farm in Watsonville. They have a website (see the links list at right) and a CSA under the moniker Two Small Farms.

Right now, she's talking elderberry pie, made by chef James Ormsby, late of Bruno's, PlumpJack, and numerous other very good places. I've picked wild mushrooms with him, and eaten his incredible backyard spit-roasted pork, and I can attest that anything he cooks is something you'll be very happy to put in your mouth. So I'm considering that elderberry pie, since we've got piles of shiny eggplant-purple elderberries ripe for the asking here. And I am on 'snack duty' for the garden crew these week...

Elsewhere in the farm-to-table adventures, my little kitchen-garden plot yielded half a dozen very groovy Suyo Long cucumbers, now languishing as four jars of bread-and-butter pickles (two of the cukes were too huge to pickle; the cooks made them into something vaguely Chinese for breakfast instead.) Very, very simple, and people who like this kind of pickle really love these, especially with a burger or a grilled cheese sandwich. If you're not getting all locavore-ish by using your own garden cukes, nice little Kirby (also called pickling) cukes are your best option, since they don't have the wet seedy middles of your average cuke. This recipe came from a back issue of Simple Cooking, John Thorne's excellent food newsletter.

Bread & Butter Pickles

[makes 4 pint jars]

6 cups pickling (Kirby) cucumbers, sliced
1 red onion, peeled
1 green pepper
1/4 cup fine sea salt

2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon whole mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed (optional)
1 teaspoon ground hot red chile pepper
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cider vinegar

4 pint-sized glass canning jars, with two-part tops (rings and lids)

Wash the cucumbers but do not peel. Cut off the ends, and then slice cukes into thick slices. Peel the onion and chop into bite-sized chunks. Seed, core, and shred the green pepper. Toss all these with the salt in a nonreactive bowl (glass, enamel, ceramic, stainless steel, NOT aluminum), cover, and let stand 3 hours.

Meanwhile, put 4 pint canning jars (without rings or lids) into a large, deep pot. Fill with water to cover by at least an inch or so. Bring pot to a boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes to sterilize the jars. Turn off the heat, drop in metal rings and leave jars in the hot water while you prepare the pickles.

Drain cukes thoroughly in a colander, rinsing well with cold water, and set aside. Put all the syrup ingredients to a large pot, bring to a boil, and cook, boiling, for 5 minutes. Then mix in the pickle ingredients. Bring the syrup back up to just below a boil, stirring occasionally.

Pack into the pint preserving jars, leaving 1/4-inch of space at the top of the jar. Wipe jar rim with a paper towel dipped in hot water. Using tongs, dip each flat lid into the hot water from the jars’ boiling. Then place lid over jar and screw on metal ring until it is finger-tight.

Replace sealed jars in pot of hot water (you may need to bail out some excess water from the pot.) Bring pot back to a boil and process jars for an additional 10 minutes. This is not a crucial step but helps ensure a good seal.

After processing, remove jars from hot water with tongs and set on a towel or cooling rack. Do not move until completely cooled. When jar is cool, test seal by pressing down on the middle of the lid. If it pops up and down, it didn’t seal properly; it’s safe to eat but must be stored in the fridge like an opened jar. Jars that have sealed can be kept in a cool dry place for up to a year. Pickles are best if you let the jars sit for a few days before eating.


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