Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Relishing the Summer

I almost entitled this post "In A Pickle" which gives you an idea of what it will be about.

It is the beginning of August. Our blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are on slipping away with the last carefree days of summer. The cherries have staged a ruby colored finale and will lead the stone fruit into hibernation before the month is out. Corn will make its own last stand soon, followed by melons and tomatoes. And here I am frantically trying to hang on to them all.

Yes. I have embraced seasonal eating with its shifting colors and bursting diversity. We have lived without apples all spring and summer and celebrated loudly when the earliest of the bunch - Gravensteins - tiptoed back into our farmers' market last week. My youngest partied the hardest - downing six apples in a two hour period. Asparagus announced our spring and pomegranates the fall. Welcoming seasonal produce is the easy part of eating locally.

It's the letting go that is hard.

That is why every locavore I know works to put a little summer away for winter, a touch of April to enjoy in the austere days of January. Extending the season is not all the difficult, doesn't consume much carbon and is downright irresistible. You can freeze, dehydrate or can. The latter is my personal favorite. There is something so wonderfully old fashioned about stirring fruit into a magical mass of sugar, of dipping jars into a bubbling cauldron.

I'm no jam addict like Jennconspiracy or marathoner like Chile. But I can hold my own with water bath canner.

Last year, I learned to make jam - piling my cupboards with jewel toned jars. They glittered with strawberry, golden raspberry and blueberry jams, quince and apple jelly, and cinnamon brown apple butter. In the fall, I stretched beyond jam, trying my hand at chutney and even pickles. Six months later, the chutney was a beautiful memory and the Hamburger Dills livened up our Easter potato salad.

This week, my favorite farmer, Sapphira, had the first tight little pickling cucumbers of the season. On a whim, I decided to pickle them and stuffed a reusable produce bag full. I ended up a pound shy for the pickle recipe. With my waterbath canner brimming with blackberry jam's hot water leftovers and the kids at summer camp for another two hours, I couldn't let a few missing cucumbers slow me down. I decided to relish the summer instead of pickle it.

Following the Cucumber Relish recipe from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, I chopped up my farmers' market cukes. I substituted the green and white peppers donated by a generous friend with an overflowing CSA box and diced my petite, homegrown onions planted last fall and dug out of the ground the day of.

Did I relish the relish?

Unlike pickles and chutney, which take months to marinate, the cucumber relish was delightfully delectable the day of. And, like everything I've canned, it puts its storebought cousin to shame.

2 quarts chopped cucumbers (about 8 medium)
2 cups chopped sweet green peppers (about 4 peppers)
2 cups sweet red peppers (about 4 peppers)
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon tumeric
1/2 cup salt
4 quarts cold water, divided
1 1 /2 cups brown sugar
1 quart vinegar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 teaspoons whole allspice
2 teaspoons whole clovers

Combine vegetables in a large bowl, sprinkle with tumeric. Dissolve salt in 2 quarts cold water and pour over vegetables; let stand 3 to 4 hours. Drain; cover vegetables with 2 quarts cold water and let stand 1 hour. Drain thoroughly. Combine sugar and vinegar in a large saucepot. Tie spices in a spice bag (I used quadrupled over cheesecloth tied with undyed thread and regular spices as I didn't have any cinnamon sticks or whole allspice on hand). Add to sugar mixture. Bring to a boil; pour over vegetables. Cover; let stand 12 to 18 hours. Bring vegetables to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until hot throughout. Pack hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.


arduous said...

GB, why don't you live next door so I could just go over to your house and get over my fear of canning?

Or alternately, I could just go to your house to eat, because let's be honest, that would just be so much easier! ;)

Anonymous said...

Yummy! I froze 8 qts of blueberries from the pick your own orchard this week and some summer squash that we grew - Hurry up tomatoes!!!

MamaBird said...

Um, yeah, like arduous said. And? I *love* relish, and weirdly it's one of those products that bugs me horribly cause there is no alternative to conventional, often laced with HFCS. Thanks for sharing!

Heather @ SGF said...

There's definitely something inherently satisfying about canning. It's like saying to ourselves, no matter what happens, we've got skills and will be just fine. The relish looks great, gb!

eco 'burban mom said...

Oh, sounds so yummy, I could eat it right out of the jar with a spoon. And, where did you get those nice looking jars? All I have been able to find are the regular Ball type. Not that I don't like those too, when empty they make handy glasses! And, I will have you know, I am now addicted to canning. Better than cigarettes or booze I guess! ;o)

Chile said...

Yum! I brought home a couple cukes from the CSA. Maybe I'll make some relish. Actually, I am planning to make relish, but I'll be using my mom's green tomato relish recipe. (The farmer had to pick the tomatoes green because they are burning in the field. Yes, it's that hot!)

Arduous, canning with someone else is an excellent way to get over that fear!

Green Bean said...

Arduous: It would be SO easy, wouldn't it? When you come back from London, you need to move up here and I'll feed you on a regular basis. By then we might have Beany too so we'll all be eating good.

Anonymous: Frozen blueberries are my favorite! And are tomatoes taking forever this year or is it just me?

MamaBird: I know! All storebought relish is actually pretty disgusting. It is overly sweet, stuffed with HFCS. This recipe was super easy and, to my mind, what relish should taste like.

Heather: It does feel good to can. Like we're in charge. Like we know what's in our food. Like we can still feed ourselves and our family something without scary additives.

EcoBurbs: Um, what do you think I did? Yup. Ate it straight with a spoon. Mmmm.aovwk

Green Bean said...

Chile: Burning in the field! We're having the opposite problem. It never gets hot enough for the tomatoes to ripen. I guess I can do that same with those green tomatoes if all else fails. And you are so right. After my green book club canned together, many of the members went home and did it on their own.

Abbie said...

Thanks for the inspiration! I'm not a big relish fan, but I like to make my own tartar sauce... so having home homemade relish on hand would relieve me of chopping up dill pickles every time I want to make it.
If you want some quick satisfaction when you get more cukes, try the quick dill pickle recipe I posted about the other week. Here's the link:

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I still haven't tried canning yet. :-( My grandmother tried to get me a canner for my birthday, but it was the wrong kind to do what I wanted it to do - in fact, what I read said it was plain unsafe, it was steam canner.

Your relish looks and sounds fantastic. How wonderful is it going to be to dine on this relish in the middle of winter?

Luckily, even though I haven't been able to can, I've been able to freeze and dry, so I will at least be able to keep some of the summer with me in winter. I'm also going to try my hand at a small indoor garden.

Allie said...

I share arduous's fear of canning. I wish I could get over it.

Green Bean said...

EcoBurbs: Forgot to mention the jars. I reuse jelly or chutney jars because, yes, I did run out of the latter last year and I had to buy a jar of jelly while on vacation. I always choose the cute jars. Now, of course, if I suddenly stop posting, suspect botulism.

Abbie: Thank you for the wonderful looking recipe!! I'm headed to the farmers' market today for some cukies.

Jennifer: Hey, freezing and dehydrating works too! I packed a way a bunch of berries last fall and, as you may have read, a tad too much squash.

Allie: See what Chile wrote. The way to get over fear of canning is to can with others. Know anyone? Where are you? You might end up finding someone through the APLS regional groups once we get those up and running.

Verde said...

Ohh, I relish the idea of canning.

Don't talk about the summer slippig away! I'm in denile, I've got my head in the sands of endless summer because around here winter is harsh.

Bobbi said...

Nice relish recipe! I'm knee deep into canning dill pickles - my family's favorite!

eco 'burban mom said...

Hey, if all those ORNG girls out there on the west coast can inject botulism into their faces, I am pretty sure a green superhero can survive a little relish in last year's jar! ;o) Either way, might want to post that little 911 number next to the phone for the kiddies!

jennconspiracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jennconspiracy said...

I can't wait to try your cucumber pickle!

I'm going to try canning bread and butter pickles with Japanese cucumbers as soon as I get more from my sweetie's garden or when I have more in my garden. I need to plant green beans so I can make spicy dilly beans...

I swear - I'm nearly done with fruit - just peaches, figs, concord grapes and maybe pears... then I move onto tomatoes and pickles.

I really need a bigger kitchen.

And it's not an addiction - it's experimentation. By next year, I will have a sense of what I like best, eat most and where the best fruits are to be had. :)

Stephanie said...

It'll get hot enough for tomatoes to ripen... after I leave to go back to school. Sigh. I love home-grown tomatoes. :(

At least I got cherry tomatoes from the farmer's market last week. :)

Much as I appreciate the recipe for relish (mmm pickles)... I think I need to learn to cook before I can. Then I'll know what to do with these things. Argh, I dislike cooking. But I love reading about it!

Green Bean said...

Verde: "Relish the idea of canning". Now THAT is a clever title. Darn. Should have used that one. ;-)

Bobbi: Hope they turn out. I'm going to try Abbie's pickle recipe tomorrow.

EcoBurbs: Noted. Have given boys instructions. Stay posted.

Jennconspiracy: Denial is the first sign of addiction. Ahem.

Stephanie: Bah! You aren't supposed to love cooking yet. I didn't. Okay, well I did like baking (and mostly eating) chocolate chip cookies. But cooking otherwise? No interest until I graduated from graduate school.

jennconspiracy said...

Oh, believe me - I know all about addiction having raised a 12-step mother.

This is experimentation. Not addiction. I am refining and learning. Now, if I was doing the same thing over and over again... that would be "masters swimming."

Oh, wait...

It's ok - if you don't want any apricot chipotle jam for the holidays, I can give it away to other people. :P

Stephanie said...

You know what, that makes me feel much better. =) Thanks.

kale for sale said...

You earned your cape on these. They look beautiful. But what do you eat relish on?

Green Bean said...

Jennconspiracy: Apricot Chipotle? Um, yeah, okay, it's totally not addiction. Just experimentation. It seems really smart to do it that way. Yeah, you are brilliant. Great. Whatever, JUST GIVE ME THE JAM!!!

Stephanie: Of course! And if you never love to cook, heck, girl, you can knit like nobody's business!

Katrina: In egg salad or potato salad. On veggie burgers or maybe a cheese sandwich . . . I guess. I don't usually use relish but I didn't have enough cukes for pickles. It tasted awesome when I packed it so I ate it just on the spoon. I'm sure I'll use it for something. Or give it to one of my favorite bloggers next time I see them. When are you available to get together again, Katrina?

jennconspiracy said...

ha ha ha - now who's addicted.

I'm the jam pusher... first one is free... ;)

kale for sale said...

Not soon enough!


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