August 23, 2010

Food Preservation Weekend

Ah, a weekend with no obligations. No waking up early, my mind already racing with things to do that day. Just the Sunday paper, my kitchen, my boyfriend, and 48 hours of nothing. I did take the weekend to complete two food preservation projects I'd been wanting to do this season, but I don't consider that an obligation. I started my fermented pickles on Saturday, and on Sunday, I made corn relish. Yeehaw.

While I can't say they'll turn out alright, I can say that fermenting pickles is ridiculously easy. I started with 8 lbs. of pickling cucumbers, a 5-gallon food-grade bucket, some spices, and some vinegar.

After layering the spices and cucumbers in alternate layers, I added the brine and weighed down the cucumbers with a glass bowl and a brick from the sidewalk (I'll put it back, I promise!).

After my cukes were already to go, I just covered them with a kitchen towel and placed them under my dining room table. With the cool weather we're having, it's about 70 degrees in my apartment- the perfect temperature for fermenting.

Now I get to check them obsessively until they're done fermenting! They'll start to bubble soon, and then a few weeks later will stop. That's when the fermenting process is complete. I know those who value fermentation for its health benefits will disapprove, but I'm going to heat process my pickles when they are fully fermented. Then I'll be able to put up my pickles until winter, rather than try to store a 5-gallon bucket in my fridge.

I'll update you on the fermenting process when something changes!

And can I just say, making corn relish is a lot of work! I mean, I knew that, but yeah, still a lot of work. But it's well worth it, and the recipe for it (as well as fermented dill pickles) is below.

Pickled Corn Relish
From the National Center for Home Food Preservation

10 cups fresh whole kernel corn (16 to 20 medium-size ears), or six 10-ounce packages of frozen corn
2-1/2 cups diced sweet red peppers
2-1/2 cups diced sweet green peppers
2-1/2 cups chopped celery
1-1/4 cups diced onions
1-3/4 cups sugar
5 cups vinegar (5 percent)
2-1/2 tbsp canning or pickling salt
2-1/2 tsp celery seed
2-1/2 tbsp dry mustard
1-1/4 tsp turmeric
Yield: About 9 pints

Boil ears of corn 5 minutes. Dip in cold water. Cut whole kernels from cob or use six 10-ounce frozen packages of corn. Combine peppers, celery, onions, sugar, vinegar, salt, and celery seed in a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix mustard and turmeric in 1/2 cup of the simmered mixture. Add this mixture and corn to the hot mixture. Simmer another 5 minutes. If desired, thicken mixture with flour paste (1/4 cup flour blended in 1/4 cup water) and stir frequently. Fill jars with hot mixture, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Dill Pickles
From the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Use the following quantities for each gallon capcity of your container.

4 lbs of 4-inch pickling cucumbers
2 tbsp dill seed or 4 to 5 heads fresh or dry dill weed
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup vinegar (5 percent)
8 cups water and one or more of the following ingredients:
2 cloves garlic (optional)
2 dried red peppers (optional)
2 tsp whole mixed pickling spices (optional)

Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch slice off blossom end and discard. Leave 1/4-inch of stem attached. Place half of dill and spices on bottom of a clean, suitable container. Add cucumbers, remaining dill, and spices. Dissolve salt in vinegar and water and pour over cucumbers. Add suitable cover and weight. Store where temperature is between 70ºF and 75ºF for about 3 to 4 weeks while fermenting.

For more information on fermenting, please visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation's page on fermenting.