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Pickling session
Tuesday June 28th 2011

Nothing like an abundance of veggies from the Farm Box to get one thinking of preserving.  This week we had an abundance of green beans and carrots. The carrots we actually had 5 shares worth! See, someone didn’t pick up their box, so we inherited their carrots in addition to ours. Then there were three people, count ‘em three(!), who decided they didn’t like carrots and put them in the trade box. Wow, these folks don’t know what they’re missing.

I’ve pickled a fair bit in the past, but was a bit rusty, so I pick up my copy of the Joy of Pickling, which I picked up at Omnivore Books. A pretty good book,  in a category with a large number of books, none of which I really like. A couple tips though from me to you dear reader. One, ignore anything the USDA says about preserving. Sure, it’ll be safe enough to survive the armageddon, but it’ll taste like crap! And two, when preserving fruit, ignore the sugar add recommendations from the package of pectin you buy – they assume you’re buying tasteless commercially grown nasty fruit. The fruit from the Farm Box (or upicks, or bulk orders) are full of natural sugar. I seriously cut the sugar adds to about a 1/5th of what they say. So if the package says add ten cups, I add two.

So back to my surplus of carrots and beans. First I peeled, then cut either in half or in quarters lengthwise depending on original size.

And then tipped and tailed the beans.

The carrots were getting a fridge pickle treatment, meaning they were not going to be “processed” in boiling water in their jars with the lids on. So they needed to get cooked a little bit to soften up, then plunged in an ice water bath.

Then they got stuffed in freshly cleaned jars. The eagle eye will see that some of the carrot jars are different – in three of them I put in some fennel fronds from the fennel from the farm box, and also some sliced garlic. The other three jars were plain. In the beans I added some garlic, some mustard seed, and some hot chili flakes. I wanted the beans to be more reminiscent of the beans they put in bloody marys in New Orleans! Yumm!

The vinegar was basically the same. Half white wine vinegar (I ran out during this so I substituted in some rice wine vinegar, and when that ran out I used red wine vinegar!), half water, with some salt and pepper. The beans were processed in boiling water for what was supposed to be 5 minutes, but I forgot about them so they boiled for around 8 or 9. Hope they aren’t too soggy.

The carrots are happily ensconced in the fridge and the beans are in a cool place. Now I just have to wait a while for the vinegar to do it’s magic! I’ll report back.

easy dinner with Mark
Thursday June 02nd 2011

Our dear friend Mark stopped by the other night to pick up some wine, and we were lucky enough that he was able to stay for dinner. Pick up wine, you ask? Well, Mark has a big birthday coming up and is throwing himself a party! Getting catering, bartender, the works, and asked me to help select some wines. So that’s what he was picking up that night – 5 cases of wine. I think he said he invited about 25-30 people – should be one hell of a party! Crazy Castro boys, I tell ya.

We were running around all evening, with soccer practice and the like, so I whipped together as low an impact dinner as possible.

First I boiled up some new potatoes, then made yet another mistake that has consistently proven to not be a mistake! See, once they were cooked I drained off the water, then put it back on the heat to dry them off completely. Then a couple pads of butter went on, a little shake, some salt and voila. Except I forgot to turn off the heat!! So I’m smelling browned butter and freak out, quickly pulling the potatoes out into a bowl. But look at that photo – they’re brilliant! And topped with some chopped up chives from the Farm Box and they were perfect. Yumm

I had taken out a pound each of Marin Sun Farms beef and pork the night before, so decided to ship up some Danish meatballs (aka frikadeller). Chopped up onion, some thyme, oregano, an egg, pepper, and more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy. The batch in the picture here isn’t as brown as the second batch. The joy of a seasoned pan, I guess.

Then fried up some bacon and topped up some creamy salad (aka Caesar salad) for the girls, though we ate our fair share too!

For dessert, Emma got all creative in the kitchen and plated up 5 lovely looking plates for us all. Two strawberries from the Farm Box nestled along side a homemade chocolate chip cookie on top of a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s. Thanks Emma!

For the wine, we started with a Beaujolais Blanc (made from 100% Chardonnay) from Dominique Cornin, but for the dinner we switched to red and had a 2007 Crozes Hermitages from the producert Albert Bouquin. A Crozes is a region in the Northern Rhone valley in southern france, and is usually made from 100% Syrah, though a little Marsanne or Rousanne (yes, white grapes!) can be added in to soften the Syrah and/or to add a perfumed character. This Crozes went will with the meatballs, as they were somewhat delicately flavoured, and the wine was a lighter style (at least compared to the US or Australia) so didn’t overpower the food.

It was great to see Mark and we’re so looking forward to his birthday party!