The Day in Condiments

August 9, 2011

Dilly-Dill Pickles, 2010

Last summer, we had Pickle Day. We made Dilly-Dill pickles, and that was all.  No. That wasn’t the end of it.  Those seven litres of pickles lasted us through the winter. And, after they were gone, our talk about those pickles lasted another season, with plans and plots about what to do for our Summer of Funner 2011. The kids wanted to up the ante by making their favourite condiments along with a sweeter pickle. And, after they were done, I topped it off by making myself a “cook’s treat.”

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A Tale of Two Mustards 

On our  trip to the Evergreen Brickworks Bea had done her very own mustard tasting. So, it was no surprise that she would want to tackle mustard on our day in condiments.  Little did we know how EASY it would be! Sure, we had to do a little Monday night “homework”…We had to research mustard recipes in our favourite cookbooks and online, coming up with two basic recipes that we thought we might tackle.  Then, we had to ready our yellow potions so that they could sit in the refrigerator overnight. Still, the mustard making was easy!

For our Maple Balsamic Mustard, we played off of the recipe for grainy mustard in our well-worn copy of The Joy of Cooking.  In a glass bowl, Tobes mixed 6 tablespoons of mustard seed, 1/3 cup each balsamic and white wine vinegars, 1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, 1/2 teaspoon tumeric, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  We covered the mixture with cling-wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

For our Yellow Honey Mustard, we tweaked Alex Christensen’s recipe from  Simple, Good, and Tasty. Bea had a great time stirring together 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds, 3/4 cup of cider vinegar, 1/3 cup water,  2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric. We covered this bowl and set it in the fridge as well.

The next morning, I set up the kitchen for canning. I brought up the giant black “cauldron” from the basement with great cheers of “Halloween, Halloween!” from the kids at their breakfast.  I filled this monster-belly with water, placed it on the stove, and set it on to boil. I put a pile of new metal canning lids (the flat tops that go underneath the screw tops) in a small pot of water at a low simmer.  And, I piled the screw tops on the shaft of a wooden meat cleaver to keep them in check. After their breakfast, the kids rattled the screw-top cleaver and helped me load the dishwasher with a few dozen glass jar. We set them on the “sterilize” cycle.

After we had set up shop, we opened the refrigerator to have a look at our mustards. The kids were excited to see what had happened to their potions!  The mustard seeds had “sucked up” a great deal of the fluid and expanded. “Cool, Cool!!! Giants, Giants!!!” they shouted. It reminded me of their reactions to the incredible growing sponge toys they had thrown into the bath a few summers ago.

CUTTING THE MUSTARD…The next step was to pulverize our mustard mixtures with a hand-held blender. The Yellow Mustard was rather thick, so I decided to let the kids do this themselves.  They wanted this mustard to retain some of its grainy texture, so they blended it together just until the mustard turned a beautiful orange-flecked yellow.  Then, I had them add a cup of honey to the mixture and pulverize again until the mixture was just blended.  (If you are not a “sweets”person, you can leave the honey out of the mix altogther. Just note that then you will have about half the yield.)

The Balsamic Mustard was a bit grainier, and the bowl had more of an open mouth, so I had to do the initial blending of this potion myself. It was a good thing I did, because I caught a few mustard seeds on my eyelashes and on my arms . (Hmm…material for a kids story about warrior mice?)  Then, I had Bea finish it off by adding a cup of maple syrup to the potion and blending it a little more. (You can also leave the syrup out of this recipe.)

We used our canning funnel to fill our 1/2-pint jars, sterilized and hot from the dishwasher, with our mustards.  I taught Beatrice about “headspace,” and we used one of her rulers to measure 1/2 inch at the top of each jar.  All in all, we filled 3 half-pint jars with the Yellow Honey Mustard and 2 half-pint jars with the Maple Balsamic, with not a drop to spare. [If, for some reason you are a bit short, you can add a bit of commercial mustard from the fridge to top up your last jar. Just spoon in and stir. Through our research on the web, we learned that people often buy big plastic vats of condiments in from big-box stores and re-can/re-process them in smaller jars for a smarter, prettier, and longer shelf-life!]

GO FISH!!! After we had filled our five jars, Tobes used the magnet pen to fish lids out of their pot of water and place them on top of the mustard jars. He then applied the screwtops. I checked that these were tight enough (but not too tight) and then I ran the processing. To process our jars of mustard, we carefully placed them in the rack of our canning pot so that they were covered with a few inches of water.  We covered the pot with its top and raised the heat until the water came back up to a full, rolling boil. Then, we set the timer at 10 minutes and sang the “bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble” song.

I used tongs to remove the hot jars from the water in the canning pot. We set them aside to cool. After about an hour, we checked for perfect seals by ensuring that the lids were sunken and did not wibble-wobble at the touch!

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Pickles and Relish, Stage One

We had to prepare our veggies for the Bread & Butter Pickles and our Sweet & Tangy Pickle Relish before we could pickle them.  I figured that the kids were old enough to do the scrubbing as well as at least a portion of the slicing! So I had them help me clean and prep our ingredients. First, we scrubbed our giant tub full of pickling cucumbers and sliced off the tips.

Then, we washed a bowl full of small sweet peppers (about 16), sliced off the tops, and removed the ribs and seeds. Next, we used our small paring knife to peel and smashed 6 cloves of garlic. Finally, we peeled and halved about 12 large vidalia onions. Then, I had the kids slice a few of the pickles before releasing them to play for a few minutes in the living room.

For our Bread & Butter Pickles, I sliced enough small pickling cucumbers to fill 16 cups, throwing them into a large stock pot.  I also sliced 6 of our vidalia onions (12 halves) and mixed them in with the cucumbers. Just as I was finishing, the kids moseyed back into the kitchen to add 1/3 cup of pickling salt and our smashed garlic (6 cloves) to the pot. We stirred it all together, and then we covered our salted mixture with a layer of crushed ice.  We put the lid on our pot (upside down, so it would be more streamlined!) and placed it in the fridge to rest for three hours.

Then, on to the “chopping” for the Sweet & Tangy Pickle Relish. There was no way that we were going to finely dice our pickles, peppers and onions by hand!  With the food processor on pulse, we diced up enough cucumbers to fill 6 measuring cups. (We had to add half of an English Cucumber because we ran of the little pickling ones – no biggee!) We dumped these 6 cups of chopped cukes  in a large glass bowl.  Next, we diced up 3 cups worth of onions, and 3 cups worth of sweet peppers and added them to the mix.

Finally, we added 1/4 cup of pickling salt to this mixture, stirred it all with a giant spoon, covered it with the lid of the mixing bowl, and set it out on the coutertop to rest for 3 hours.

It was time for a well-deserved break from what Tobes had dubbed our “pickle-dickle marathon”

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Turtle Break!

Baby “Ninja Turtles” – Artist Unknown. We found this photo online. We hope and pray these turtles were not injured during their photo shoot!

The kids and I took a “long lunch,” indulging ourselves by munching our cold cuts, cheese, and crackers in front of a movie. Since Tobes has been preoccupied with everything “turtle,” I thought it was about time I showed the kids the eighties hit, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”  I had a laugh over my favourite scene in the movie, when the ninja rat narrates the history of how he rescued the four baby turtles from the sewers and how he became their mentor through a kind of miraculous period of growth and transformation. It was just as kitschy as ever! And the kids loved the pizza jokes!  Then, after some more extended play time, we went back to the kitchen, a.k.a. the Pickle Room!

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Pickles and Relish, Phase Two

To get back to the pickling, we seized our colanders, rinsing our pickles in a large-holed sieve and our pickle relish in a fine mesh strainer.  We sprayed them thoroughly with cold water and left them to dry.

For our Bread & Butter Pickles, we filled a large stock pot with 4 cups each of sugar and vinegar, 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds, 2 teaspoons of tumeric, and 2 teaspoons of celery seed.  Bea stirred this “pickle juice” until the mixture came to a boil.  Then, I poured in our cucumber, onion, and garlic store and, Bea stirred the ingredients together. We knew the pickles were ready to can when the mixture had come back up to a rolling boil.

The next step was to fill our pint jars (8 of them!) with pickles! Bea used a spoon to place the pickles into the jars via a funnel. After she finished with the veggies, I used a ladle to collect the remaining liquid in the pot, filling the jars with liquid to 1/2 inch below the rim.  (We didn’t quite have enough liquid to do the job, so I just mixed a bit more vinegar and water in a cup and added it to the last jar. I distinguished this jar from the rest by using a different style of lid from the rest so that I could be sure not to give this one out as a present or a donation.)  Then, Tobes came through with his magnet wand and topped off the remaining 7 jars with lids and screw tops.  We processed the jars in our canner for 10 minutes at a full boil.

As pickles were processing, we refilled our stock pot with more “pickle juice” for the Sweet & Tangy Pickle Relish. This time, we used a bit less fluid, heating up 3 cups each white sugar and cider vinegar, with the addition of 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds, and 1 teaspoon each of celery seed and tumeric. To this pungent concoction, we added our chopped veggies, boiling the mixture for 10 minutes.

Finally, we canned the relish. Leaving 1/2 inch headspace, we filled 6 half-pint jars and 1 pint jar with our brew.  We also had about 1/2 cup of relish leftover for the fridge — I’m thinking fish and tartar sauce for tomorrow’s supper!  We processed the jars for 10 minutes and organized a huge display of condiments on the kitchen counterop!

We certainly outdid ourselves!

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UPDATE! UPDATE!: Be sure to check out the labels we made for these canned goods over at our school-year sister site,  The Lunchbox Season.

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Cook’s Treat: Spiced Blueberry Port Wine Jam

The kids were exhausted! They retreated over to the couches to read and then to play some video games.  But ,the canning equipment was out already, so I thought, come now, let’s make some jam, some “adult” jam (i.e. jam with a good deal of booze in it).  I had a great excuse! We have been having problems with our freezer, lately. It’s been so full of summer fruits and veggies from the local farmer’s markets that it’s not always regulating its temperature properly! So, doing my duty, I removed a very large bag of bluberries from the freezer and rinsed them in the colander.  Then, I got down a bottle of port wine from the cupboard and got to work.

I was looking at the recipe for Blackberry Port Jam in the recent Better Homes and Gardens canning supplement someone had given me as a gift (we riffed on the pickle and relish recipes from here, by the way). I didn’t have liquid pectin handy, though (it doesn’t always substitute well well with the powdered) and I wasn’t sure if swapping the same general measure of blueberries for blackberries would result  in the same general measure of liquid once the berries were mashed.  Luckily, Lucy Baker at Serious Eats had done this for me!  With a few subtle changes to her recipe, I was on my way to making my own Spiced Blueberry Port Wine Jam.

In a large stock pot, I took 6 cups of blueberries and gently pulverized them with my hand-blender.  Then, I added 1 package of powdered pectin and whisked this into the berries until dissolved.  Next, I added 1 cup of tawny port, 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon each of cloves and allspice. Once this came to a rolling boil, I added 5 1/2 cups of sugar and stirred the mixture until it came to a rolling boil.  I let the mixture boil hard for 1 1/2 minutes and removed the pot from the stove.  There wasn’t any foam to remove from the surface, so, with the hot jam, I filled six half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. (I had a remaining 1/2 cup of jam for a quick-cool-and-eat!)  I sealed the six half-pint jars with lids and screwtops and processed them for 10 minutes at a rolling boil.

And there we have it, a cook’s treat to complete our motherlode!

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The Day in Condiments, Ingredients

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MUSTARDS

Maple Balsamic
(makes 2 half-pints)

6 tbs mustard seeds
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/3 c white wine vinegar
1.5 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs chopped garlic
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp salt
*1 c maple syrup

Yellow Honey
(makes 3 half-pints)

1/2 c mustard seeds
3/4 c cider vinegar
1/3 c water
2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp tumeric
*1 c honey

*sweeteners are optional and are added after the other ingredients have set for 24 hours and are pulverized.  Recipes without sweeteners yield about half the amount of mustard.

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PICKLED THINGS

Bread & Butter Pickles
(makes 8 pints)

16 c sliced pickling cucumbers
6 onions, sliced
1/3 c pickling salt
6 cloves garlic, smashed
4 c sugar
4 c cider vinegar
2 tbs mustard seed
2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp celery seed

Sweet & Tangy Pickle Relish
(makes 8 half-pints)

6 cups finely chopped pickling or fresh cucumbers
3 c finely chopped onion
3 c finely chopped sweet peppers
1/4 c pickling salt
3 c sugar
3 c cider vinegar
2 tbs mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp tumeric

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COOK’S TREAT

Spiced Blueberry & Port Wine Jam
(6 half-pints)

5.5 c sugar
6 c blueberries (from frozen)
1 package pectin powder
1 c tawny port
1 tsp unsalted butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

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About Roseanne Carrara

I produce seasonal parenting sites at http://www.thelunchboxseason.com [Sept-June] and http://www.summeroffunner.com [June-Sept]. My professional writing site is http://www.roseannecarrara.com

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