Rosemary Cocktail Onions

I’m kind of addicted to tiny vegetables–baby carrots, mini eggplants, and of course, tiny onions. Not to mention that I love savory cocktails, so cocktail onions are kind of a necessity around here. Unfortunately, some of the commercial ones have either a really flat and bland flavor profile or a ton of preservatives that you don’t really need. So, I made my own. It’s slightly herbal, but the brine itself is still simple enough that it doesn’t have a ton of strong flavors that would compete with the onions.

Some notes: If you grow your own rosemary and bay leaves, they’ll make this recipe even better. Otherwise, if you don’t have access to the fresh stuff a dried bay leaf and a couple pinches of dried rosemary will work too. Also, you’ll make more brine than you need when you prepare this recipe. I prefer having too much brine to not enough so I don’t have to stop the whole preparation process to make another batch. This recipe yields one pint, but you can multiply it very easily.

Rosemary Cocktail Onions

10 oz white pearl onions
6 peppercorns
2 cups water
2 cups vinegar
2 tbsp salt
1 bay leaf
2 small sprigs rosemary

-Prepare your canning jars (I used two half pint jars) by placing in boiling water to sterilize (if you haven’t canned before, this is a pretty good tutorial)
-Combine all ingredients besides onions and rosemary in a pan and simmer for ten minutes.
-Meanwhile, drop the onions (peels and all) into boiling water and boil for three minutes.
-Remove the onions to a bowl of ice water.
-Cut off the root end of the onion, and gently squeeze the top to push the onion out of its skin.
-Remove sterilized jars from water and add a rosemary sprig to the bottom of each.
-Divide the onions between the jars, and ladle hot brine over them to cover, leaving 1/2 inch of space in the jar.
-Top with lids and rings, place in hot water bath and process for 15 minutes.

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Midwest to Southeast Beer Mustard

As many of you know, I moved from Iowa to Florida about two years ago (and moved from Colorado to Iowa about ten years before that). There are things I love about every state I’ve lived in, but one thing that sticks with me is the food. That, and the beer–I’m blessed with a habit of moving to states with really excellent beer options. Each state has its own approach to food, whether that be specialty dishes, portion sizes, food philosophies, or the influences of immigration patterns. Just as each state has shaped me in all other areas of my life, each state’s foodways, and the memories of cooking with friends and family, show up in each dish I prepare. Today, one of my awesome and inspiring library friends posted a photo of some jars of mustard she’s making, and it made me miss Iowa (where I first learned to make mustard). Armed with a Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale (not from Iowa, I know, but Michigan’s closer than Florida, right?) and one of north Florida’s specialties, Tupelo honey, I went to work.

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The result is a hearty whole grain mustard with a great flavor. Using a pale ale rather than a stout keeps the flavor light, and this beer in particular balances well with the rich, floral honey. If you haven’t had Tupelo honey, it’s this delicious, thick, magical concoction that is made with the flowers of Tupelo trees, found in swamps in our area of the country. Tupelo honey is unique to this part of the country (and particularly, this part of the South), but it’s delicious enough that if you can’t get it near you it’s worth ordering online. In the spirit of buying local, my honey comes from Orchard Pond farm right here in Tallahassee (and who, conveniently, have their stellar honey for sale on their website). Make sure to use white distilled vinegar in this recipe to keep the flavors crisp–cider or white wine vinegars will overwhelm the subtle yet oh-so-important undertones of the beer and the honey. This mustard is full of flavor, but still mellow enough to go well alongside just about any food you wish. Best of all, this recipe makes just the right amount to fill a pint jar.

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Midwest to Southwest Mustard

1/4 c yellow mustard seeds
1/3 c brown mustard seeds
1/2 c yellow mustard powder
2 1/2 tbsp Tupelo honey
1 c Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp finely ground sea salt

-In a medium saute pan (I used a cast iron skillet), toast the mustard seeds until fragrant.
-Crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle, just enough to open them but not enough to pulverize them (if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, a Ziploc bag and rolling pin might work, although I haven’t tried it)
-Add the seeds to a pint jar along with all the other ingredients (honey, mustard powder, beer, salt, vinegar), and stir to combine.
-Close the lid, and let it sit in the fridge for two days so the seeds can absorb the moisture from the beer and soften.
-Enjoy!

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Kimchi kimchi kimchi!

Given how much I love making and eating sauerkraut (this is the recipe I use), it should come as no great shock that I also love its spicy, but also fermented cabbage-y, cousin kimchi. I do a hybrid of a couple recipes, and honestly I don’t always measure out each ingredient, but I’ll put down a rough estimate of what I usually use for you to use as a guide. I’ve also put bean sprouts in a couple times, although I’ve been told it’s even better without them by the folks I’ve shared it with (I happen to like it both ways). I’ve been meaning to write down what I put in mine for a while after a few requests, so here you go! I know the post is a bit long and rambling, but I promise the process is as simple as chopping and grating some things, tossing them with tasty flavorings, and letting them sit there a while. The purpose of all the words and steps isn’t to scare anyone off, it’s to try to clarify the process as much as possible so you won’t be intimidated by making this incredibly simple and heathy food. And the reward is jar upon jar of delicious kimchi!

First, the ingredients…

-1 large head napa cabbage
-fermented chili paste (learn more about it here: available at Asian groceries)*
-about 2-3 tbsp fish sauce (also available in Asian grocery stores. This has an image of the brand I use. Just make sure to *not* give the thicker, opaque sauce)**
-chopped garlic scapes (or green garlic; it looks like scallions)–I use one bunch, which usually has about a dozen of the little guys in it.
-1 daikon radish, grated
-1 ginger root, grated
-sea salt
*I use about 1/4 cup in mine, which is spicy but doesn’t punch you in the face too much. You can obviously adjust it to your tastes. The same peppers are available in powder form, which is what is traditionally used, but until recently I had trouble finding it so I’ve always just used the paste).
**Fish sauce won’t make your kimchi taste like fish–instead, it gives it a savory flavor that is delicious. You’ll find the amount that’s right for you, but I tend to stick with a few generous splashes from my bottle when making a batch.

Next, the preparation…
My technique is a combination of the sauerkraut recipe I mentioned before, and this very helpful kimchi primer. I use Tigress’ primer to feel out the proportions of ingredients I want to use, what size pieces to cut the cabbage into, how long to soak everything, etc. I use the Headspace kraut-in-a-jar method for the actual fermentation, because it keeps the lid on tightly enough to help calm my paranoia about bugs getting in my food (I am in Florida, after all), and because it keeps the house from smelling like fermented cabbage (which my upstairs neighbor probably appreciates). Just like with the kraut, make sure to loosen the ring on your lid ever-so-slightly every few days, or when you press on the top of the jar and it doesn’t give it all. If you don’t release a bit of pressure once in a while, you risk getting a face full of brine when you do open the jar to check on your food. Incidentally, you can use the same in-jar method for my new favorite hot sauce, which I made a *ton* of this year.
OK, that was kind of a long, rambling rant. Ready to make some kimchi? Good. Here’s how:
1. Wash all your veggies, grate the radish and ginger, chop the garlic scapes, and core and chop your cabbage.
2. Combine all your veggies and roots (everything but the salt, pepper paste, and fish sauce). I usually use two large mixing bowls for each batch, so when I make a lot of kimchi I end up using every bowl and pot I have. Press down, and make sure to leave some space at the top, since you’re adding liquid to it.*
3. Pour brine (or salt water) over the veggies to cover them. For my brine (and all my salt needs), I only use fine sea salt, which is available in my natural food co-op in bulk and which has a flavor and texture I prefer over other salts. Tigress calls for  1/4 c sea salt to quart of water, which is roughly the ratio I use as well.
4. The next day, drain your veggies with a fine mesh strainer (but preserve the brine!) and toss them with the fish sauce and the hot pepper paste until everything is nice and thoroughly coated (I wear latex gloves for this).
5. Put the mixture into jars, filling most (but not all) of the way (I follow Tigress here too and go with 3/4 full). Pour the reserved brine over the top of each jar until the mixture is covered, then put on the lids and set aside to ferment (I choose a place away from direct sunlight or heat, such as the corner of my counter top).
*I’ve also made a quick kimchi without the overnight soaking before, and it turned out pretty well (although the soaked version was a tad better). If you’re in a rush, you can skip the overnight soaking (steps 2-3). Just make sure you are still combining all your veggies before you mix them with peppers and jar them up so you get some of each in all your jars.

And finally…you have kimchi!
Once your kimchi is all jarred up, it’s just a matter of waiting for it to ferment as long as you’d like. The speed of fermentation varies dramatically depending on all sorts of environmental factors, so I check any ferment I’m doing every day. I open the jars and smell the kimchi, and I’ll pluck a piece out to taste. If it’s not done, you’ll know (really), and once it gets to a level of softness and ferment-y flavor that you like, go ahead and put it in the fridge (which is cool enough to keep the probiotic critters from continuing to ferment it). Kimchi keeps for a long time (Tigress says a year, I’ve never kept it around much longer than a month before I’ve eaten through it or given it away as gifts), and goes with just about everything.
Do you have other ways of preparing kimchi? Other ingredients you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

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Lacto-Fermented Pesto

I planted a ton of basil this year, and I’ve been looking for ways to preserve it so I can enjoy it in the winter. I searched around for lacto-fermented pesto recipes, but all the ones I found seemed to have a ton of brine in them. Then the thought occurred that I could modify the sauerkraut recipe I use to get enough basil packed in the jars to make a thicker pesto. Best of all, it’s super easy! Once the pesto is done fermenting, just dump the whole jar into the blender or food processor and process until it’s the texture you like. As an added bonus, toss the stems in some water with some sugar and a pinch of sea salt to make an excellent basil simple syrup.
I made two jars so I could try it out, and it worked very well! I ate one jar right away, and canned the other in a hot water bath to see if it would hold up (it does). The flavor is about the same as regular old pesto, but slightly more savory thanks to the fermentation process. Because it’s packed in brine, it also is thinner than traditional pesto, but still is a good consistency to toss with pastas, stir in to soups, or add to just about anything else!

Jars of pesto

The jars prior to fermenting.

Lacto-Fermented Pesto

~3 cups fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp salt (I use sea salt)
1 1/2-2 c water
2 cloves garlic
2 pint jars

-Tightly pack the basil leaves into the pint jars, pressing down as you add more leaves to the jars.
-Place a clove of garlic on top of each jar.
-Mix the salt in the water until dissolved.
-Pour the brine over the leaves until they are covered.
-Place the lids of the jars and set aside for two weeks to ferment.

Basil Simple Syrup

1 cup basil stems
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
pinch sea salt

-Combine water, salt, and basil in a pot.
-Heat until simmering, and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the infusion is as strong as you would like.
-Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Pickled Turmeric

I got a bunch of fresh turmeric from Red Hills Online Market last week with the intention of testing it out as a pickle. The recipes I found mostly used lemon juice, but I have a ton of oranges left over for making a 60-person King Cake for a New Orleans-themed party, so I decided to use them up. Here’s the recipe that inspired me, although I’m using the juice of more pieces of citrus so the proportions are a bit different. If you want to use lemon juice or learn more about the healing properties of turmeric, check it out! Next up, I’m thinking of doing a lacto-fermented turmeric pickle. If anyone has other suggestions for fresh turmeric root, let me know!

Fresh turmeric, washed and peeled (I peel it my rubbing it with a spoon. This was about 1/2 a pound, which is the size the bags I got were).
1 1/2 tbsp salt
Juice of 3 oranges (depending on the size of your jar–I wanted my juice to cover my turmeric).

-Slice the turmeric into 1/4 inch pieces (it stains all the things, so bear that it mind before you set it on anything you don’t want stained).
-Place the turmeric into a jar.
-Add the juice and salt, put the lid on, and shake to combine.
-Pop it in the fridge and wait a few days
-Eat!

Note (aka Pickled Turmeric for the Lazy): I made some without peeling it or even seeding the oranges, and it turned out fine. Peeling it *is* a bit of a pain if you have especially knobby turmeric. The seeds of the oranges just end up in the brine, and if you decide to use the brine for something (brines are great in salad dressing…) you can always fish them out, so don’t stress yourself out about getting every single one.

Candied Violets

When I was a kid, my mom and I would candy violets every spring. We would eat them by themselves or use them as decorations (they are cute on cakes). I started some seeds a while back and just harvested a tiny handful of violets, so I decided I would candy them! Here’s how to do it:

Candied Violets
1 egg white
sugar
violets (washed and completely dried)

-Sprinkle a layer of sugar on a plate.
-(Very) carefully paint the egg white on the flowers (I usually just do the fronts, if you’re brave you do the backs too). I use my finger for this because it gives me the most control, but you could use a small paint brush too.
-Set the flower painted side down in the sugar, making sure all the painted surfaces are covered.
-Let the flowers dry.
-That’s it!

 

Coffee Liqueur

I love homemade coffee liqueur, but for some reason I haven’t been doing much infusing lately so it’s taken me a while to get around to trying it. I’m getting some yummy raw cream in a couple weeks, so now seemed like the perfect time to make something tasty to enjoy it with. I had initially thought about using clear liquor for it, but then it occurred to me that the caramel-y notes of the rum I had in the pantry might go really well with the coffee I have (I prefer beans from Central and South America, so that’s what I used here). Make sure you’re using good beans here! Just like using wine in cooking, you want something you enjoy the flavor of as that flavor is going to carry over to the finished product. The number of recipes I saw online that encouraged people to opt for cheap grounds made me cringe! Some recipes added vanilla and lots of spices, but I want to try just the straight coffee infusion this time around and see how the flavor of these delicious coffee beans comes through. I just put it up today, so I’ll be checking it every few days and we’ll see how it turned out! As with other infusions, I’ll make a simple syrup (sugar and water, I add a pinch of salt too) to add to it to sweeten it up a bit after it’s infused.

Update: I strained it after 4 days and it was perfect. Snuck a little bit of coconut cream from my dinner (trying my hand at haw mok pla using the leaves from my banana trees, along with one of my favorite things–lime rice!) and had a pre-dinner cocktail that was really delicious but also made it incredibly hard to concentrate on cooking. Mmm.

Coffee Liqueur

2 cups dark rum (not spiced)
1 cup whole coffee beans, coarsely chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt

-Combine rum and coffee in a container with a sealing lid (I always use glass or other nonreactive containers, just in case).
-Let sit until the coffee flavor is as strong as you would like it (I’m guessing  2-3 weeks).
-Strain the infusion and set aside.
-Combine water, sugar, and salt in a pot. Stir and heat until the sugar and salt dissolve completely.
-Add the simple syrup to the infusion.
-I like to drink it with some cream or half and half (or even just milk).

Kumquat Marmalade, Part 2

A little while back I shared my recipe for maple kumquat marmalade. We Floridians are rolling in fresh citrus this time of year, so my friends who gifted me the kumquats for that marmalade gifted me another gallon bag of them in exchange for using my canning pot. These kumquats were perfectly ripe and so tasty, and when you get citrus like that the best thing to do is make sure you are bringing out all those great flavors (instead of masking them behind other ingredients). Making this was such a fun experience: few things in the world beat taking the time to slow down and experience a perfectly fresh ingredient while it’s being prepared (my whole house smelled like fresh citrus, it was delightful). Adding fresh bay leaves to my citrus preserves is my new favorite way to bring in some exciting flavor elements that are subtle enough to let the main ingredient(s) shine. I canned 3 jars of this stuff this morning, so I’ll have plenty to last me once our citrus trees are done fruiting.

Simple Kumquat Marmalade
1 gallon (I’m guessing it was ~2-3 lbs worth) fresh kumquats
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 – 1 c sugar (depending on your tastes)
2 fresh bay leaves
1 c water

-Slice the kumquats in to little rounds, taking care to remove the seeds as you go.
-Place the sliced fruit in a nonreactive bowl and add half the sugar. Toss to coat the kumquats evenly.
-Let sit overnight to remove some of the bitterness from the fruit and start the preserving process.
-The next day, add the kumquats, the rest of the sugar, bay leaves, salt, and water to a pot and simmer until the water is absorbed (it will still be chunky, you just don’t want it to be soupy).
-Place in to canning jars and process in a hot water bath (or just keep it in the fridge).

Preserved Tangerines Three Ways

From left to right: Peppery tangerines, chai spiced, and herbed.

Here in Florida, you stumble across tasty winter citrus every time you go shopping. The last time I went to get produce at Tomatoland (kind of like a permanent farm stand/small grocery store), there were big stacks of tangerines calling my name. I bought dozens of them, thinking I would make some marmalade, but I’m still eating up my last batch of marmalade and wanted to do something a bit different. I always have preserved lemons in my fridge: when I’m almost out I just toss some more together and wait a few weeks. Usually I just add salt and sliced lemons to a jar, but I’ve been wanting to add spices. These tangerines provided the perfect opportunity to experiment! I had grand plans for waiting to post this until the tangerines are done preserving (it does take several weeks), but I felt eager to share the fruits of my labor while there’s still plenty of time to use in-season citrus. Given how easy it is to make these things, they’re pretty much guaranteed to turn out well, so that makes it a little easier to share now too. A couple notes here: you don’t have to be a slave to the measuring spoon with these. I usually just add a layer of citrus and sprinkle on salt (and herbs and spices, if I’m using them) between each layer. As I add a new layer of citrus, I press them down before sprinkling with salt. Basically the process looks like this:
Slice citrus into wedges, salt bottom of jar. Add a layer of wedges, press, sprinkle with salt. Add another layer, press, salt, and repeat until your jar is full. Honestly, I have never measured the salt and they turn out fine. Just make sure you are  salting and packing them tightly so that your citrus releases its juices. Then, leave the jars somewhere cool and dark for a month, shaking them when you think about it. Keep an eye on them the first few days, though: if they haven’t released enough juice to cover the fruit, add some more freshly squeezed juice to the jars and re-cover. After 3-4 weeks, you’ll have soft, yummy citrus you can add to just about anything, plus delicious brine that makes great dressings and sauces!

Chai Spiced Tangerines
I always have this spice mixture around, too. If you go to the link, you’ll find the proprotions of the spices to use (make sure to toast them first!), and you can use them in chai syrup or blend the dry spices with tea. I use them to flavor sauces and desserts too. These tangerines would be good in sweet and savory applications: I could see them going well in a rice dish with lots of raisins and toasted nuts, or sliced and put on top of a chocolate cake.
For this recipe, makes sure your spices cool completely after toasting. You can leave the toasted spices whole or you can grind them in a spice grinder. I made mine a couple days ago and ground them, so I went with the ground spices. I used about 2 1/2 tbsp of the ground spices for a pint of preserved tangerines. I also used sea salt in this and the other recipes because I like it’s clear, briny flavor best. You can also use kosher salt if you feel so inclined, but you may have to adjust the amount.

1/4 c sea salt
2 1/2 tbsp ground chai spices
2-3 tangerines, cut into wedges

-Sprinkle some salt and spices in the bottom of a pint jar.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Top with another layer of salt and spices.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt and spices.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

Peppery Tangerines
These tangerines use spices that I see in a lot of recipes for preserved lemons, which means I’ll be substituting them in recipes where spiced, preserved lemons are used (Moroccan cooking, for example). There are plenty of examples over at Punk Domestics to provide inspiration!

1/4 c sea salt
2 small bay leaves
1 dried cayenne pepper, halved (you could substitute other peppers here: guajillo peppers, for example, would make for a nice smoky addition)
1 tsp peppercorns (I had tricolored peppercorns, but you can use black peppercorns or whatever ones you have around)

-Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a pint jar and add the cayenne pepper.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Add bay leaves.
-Top with another layer of salt.
-Add peppercorns.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

Herbed Tangerines
The flavors I used here remind me of the flavors found in foods from Provence. I’m planning on using these tangerines to spice up French dishes and to flavor roasted chicken.

1/4 c sea salt
1/2 whole nutmeg nut (I had one that I had partially used for grating, if you only have a whole nut you can just use that and rough up the surface so it releases its flavor).
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp lavender flowers

-Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a pint jar and add the nutmeg.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Add rosemary sprig.
-Top with another layer of salt.
-Add lavender.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

This recipe is on Punk Domestics!

Preserved Tangerines Three Ways on Punk Domestics

Tired of Store-Bought Perfume? Make your Own!

A little while ago it came out that the Komen Foundation’s perfume contains carcinogens. While I have other reasons for being skeptical of Komen, the perfume controversy got me to thinking about other ways perfumes could be made. I purchased perfumes that simply consist of plant extracts that have been infused in alcohol, and I have also used  essential oils as perfume. I like the former especially because the fragrance is lighter and can be used in a mister.
Long story short, I’ve started making my own perfume. There are still a couple (that are, as far as I know, carcinogen-free) that I will buy, but when I just want a simple scent, making my own is easy and fun! So far, I have just done lavender, but you can use anything you like (herbs, flowers, citrus zest, etc.)
For the perfume I made here, I used a bunch of lavender from Bluebird Hill Farm in NC. The best part is that their bunches of 50 stems fit perfectly in a pint jar for easy infusing! Just turn the stems with the flowers facing down, set in a jar, snip the stems, cover with vodka or everclear, and wait (I have vodka, so that’s what I’m using). I am waiting a month because it want it to be stronger than my infused vodkas, which usually infuse for a week or two, but you might wait more or less depending on what plants you decide to use.
I’m planning on blending some fragrances next, and I’m definitely planning on giving this perfume as a gift!

Lavender Perfume
1 bunch lavender
vodka
Pint jar, with lid

-Turn the lavender so the stems are facing down, and put into a pint jar.
-Snip off the excess length from the stems (I cut them just a tiny bit shorter than the jar).
-Add enough vodka or everclear to cover.
-Top with the lid and close tightly. Let sit (away from sunlight is probably best) for one month.
-Use! You have a couple options for this (and probably more than I haven’t thought of):

  1. Keep in the jar with the flowers. To use, dip your finger in and dab the scent on.
  2. Strain the flowers out, and funnel into a perfume bottle to use as a spritz for yourself or to scent linens and such.