Sometimes, the idea of “preservation” brings up images of other people. Hippies with epic sauerkraut crocks. Farmers with 200 pounds of tomatoes. Brooklyn hipsters with secret connections at the Greenmarket. People with more time, less work, more gardening skills, better grandmothers who taught them how to make blueberry jam.
In reality, at least in this kitchen, preservation tends to happen in tiny bursts. I shove a handful of green beens into brine, push it into the back of the fridge, forget about it for a few months. The presence of plums on the counter creates a mist of fruit flies and I fight them back, slicing each plum into two open rounds for a freezer bag. Sage slid into a jar of vinegar. Long red peppers roasted, blended, stored in the fridge for another day’s lunch.
Really, I’m just taking one thing and turning it into another that might last just a little bit longer.
My favorite fridge pickle brine right now is from a new book called Mastering Fermentation. Combine 2 cups of water, 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt, 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard, and (here’s the kicker) 2 tablespoons sauerkraut brine. Make the brine and store it in the fridge, and then any time you have a few too many radishes, turnips, green beans–anything, pack them into a clean jar, cover with brine, and fasten a piece of cheesecloth or thinly woven fabric to the top with a rubber band. leave out on the counter for 8 hours or so. Replace the cheesecloth with a lid, and put the jar in the refrigerator. The beauty of having the brine already made in the refrigerator is that you can make pickles before you even realize you’ve embarked on “preserving.” Two minutes later, you’re done. Tomorrow, you can eat them.
This weekend, Joey and I had one of those money conversations. I laid out all the numbers in the back of my notebook, and we crossed off numbers, added others back in, tried to figure out how to make the math work. Nearly everyone I know is facing this right now in some way. We came up with something of a solution (anyone out there in the market for a car?), and went for a walk. On our way back through the yard, we stopped at the weedy garden bed that I left to its own devices back in mid-summer. Before I knew it, we were both down on our knees, Joey digging up potatoes, me, reaching my hand into the self-seeded tomatillo plants, feeling for those that were bursting out of their lanterns. Sadie came outside and started a potato pile of her own, talking us all the while through the plot of the book she’d just finished. Rosie burst out of the screen door carrying the cat, and together they worked on some dance move on the porch.
Joey said how hard it was to worry about money when every time he stuck his hand in the dirt, there was another potato.
“We are rich in potatoes!”
I agreed. Sadie kept talking. Rosie and the cat danced on the porch.
Just taking one thing and turning it into another so it can last a little…bit…longer.
(I ate something like this years ago in Turkey, and then I came back and tried to recreate it. I didn’t know what it was called, and I certainly didn’t realize it was such a staple in so many countries. I also missed the essential main ingredient, roasted red peppers, and as a result had to write a post about how delicious it was even though it looked exactly like baby poop. That given, there are probably as many versions as muhammara as there are people who make it. I’ve seen it with feta, walnuts, tomato, and any combination of herbs and spices. This one is inspired by what I had in the kitchen, some of the fancy spices in the back of my pantry that don’t get used enough, and the recipe in Mollie Katzen’s new book (!), The Heart of the Plate. More on that book soon, I promise. Feel free to leave out any spices, and toss in others that seem like a good idea.)
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
1/2 pound carrots, halved and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 1/2 pounds red peppers
1/3 cup toasted almonds
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon dried sumac
1 teaspoon aleppo pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the carrots with olive oil and a hefty pinch of salt, lay out on a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cut each pepper in half lengthwise. Remove the white pith and the seeds, and lay them, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush each pepper with olive oil. When the carrots are roasted, remove the tray from the oven, switch the oven over to the broil setting, and put the peppers on the upper rack of the oven. Keep a close eye on them. When the skins bubble up and blacken (about 5 minutes in my oven), take the tray out of the oven. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a tight fitting plate. Let them sit for about 20 minutes, then pull the peppers out of their skins. (If you have another way you like to roast peppers, certainly do it that way. The grill, stovetop, or just a hot oven will do it, too.)
3. Combine the carrots, roasted peppers and any juice that gathered in the bowl where they sat, almonds, garlic, pomegranate molasses, sumac, aleppo pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and a glug of olive oil in the food processor. Process until the mixture is fairly uniform. Store in the fridge, with a layer of olive oil over top, for up to a week. This also freezes well, and tastes good on just about everything.
You are rich in potatoes, ideas, words, humor, skill, and lyricism.
Also, if one wanted to make sauerkraut brine…?
Rich also in good friends 🙂
And if one wanted to make sauerkraut brine, one would only need to make sauerkraut! Or a nice bit of brine from any fancy California farmers’ market jar would do. Let me know if you want the former and I’ll pass along directions. xo
I get excited everytime a new post of yours pops up on my reader! Thank you for sharing your life and inspiring others!
Oh, thank you, Christy. It means so much to me that you look forward to them.
Margit Van Schaick says
Alana, that’s what we need: ideas for what to make to eat, as nutritious as possible, and very delicious, yet as thrifty and inexpensive as possible, too. Better yet, something wonderful made mostly of stuff we grew in our gardens, no matter how small they may be. I can grow a great deal in my three elevated garden beds, 4×8 feet, one foot deep filled with organic compost. They’re right outside my kitchen door, and with the July monsoon weather w e had, far more productive than my Big Garden, inaccessible during all those rains and so quickly full of thriving weeds. I highly recommend having both type of gardens, if possible, so as to try to have a fail-safe system ensuring that we’ll have a good crop of edible plants. With some simple season extensions, we can harvest for quite a long time. I cannot afford to buy all the produce I need to eat well, not at any farmer’s markets or organic farms here in southern Vermont, where a bunch of six radishes costs $2.50! A nd tomatoes never go under $2.25 per pound. There’s no way I could shop at Whole Foods, even if there were one near here. I’m sure there are many of us who would benefit by practical ideas for how to eat well while being concerned about how to make ends meet.
Thank you for this, Margit! I agree- these little intersections of saving money and eating well are so useful to me, too, especially when they use food I can grow myself. I’ll keep doing my best to share them, and the theme is definitely working its way through my second book as we speak.
Heather Fuller says
What a timely post, Steve and I spent sometime this weekend working out how we would financially get through until January (little here and a little there and I think we found the path) and just last night I took a step back in my kitchen and realized just how many things I had put up for the winter. It was a bit of a shock because I did it little by little.
I started with dilly beans and dill relish because my cucumber plant (the only plant to make it in the small garden) had exploded and the beans from the CSA were out of control good and we could not eat them fast enough. Just 3 jars of each but that is all we will need. Then on to the marathon that tomatoes are with 10 jars of sauce and 8 jars of tomatoes. When they kept coming in I moved on to 4 jars of pizza sauce, 2 jars of ketchup and 2 jars of fruit ketchup. And so far we have 6 pints of pickled jalapenos but there is no way that is going to be enough to get us through the year!
We picked so much fruit that we have 6 pounds of blueberries and 20 pound of peaches in the freezer along with the 6 gallons of cherry tomatoes that we picked at our CSA. Next up apples.
No matter what this winter throws at us I can rest easy knowing that we have many fantastic meals in our future.
Such riches! Thanks for this window into your pantry. I love it.
Rich in potatoes! I am rich in tomatillos! What should I do with them besides chop them up and secretly add them into everything I make? Any ideas?
Knee-deep in tomatillos myself right now, I’m ready for your question! I just made a batch of essentially the Ball recipe for tomatillo salsa, and it came out pretty well (although a bit runny). So if you’re a canner, I’d do a batch of that. Also, in my book, I have a roasted salsa that combines roasted tomatillos with roasted tomatoes, and it freezes really well. It’s a variation on the basic salsa, if by any chance you have the book on your shelf! Let me know if you need either of those recipes and I’ll pass them along. Also- roasted tomatillos thrown in the blender, then stirred into black bean soup is fantastic.
I had been thinking of doing the Ball recipe, and after you mentioned it, I went for it yesterday! Let’s just say that the little bit left that didn’t fit into a jar went into my belly that afternoon; it was pretty tasty! I have also roasted tomatillos and tomatoes and mixed with cream cheese, other cheeses, and herbs and baked to make a yummy cheesy dip. I have cookbook overload so I now resort to checking out books from the library, and luckily our little Wyoming one has yours! So I will get it out again. I should just buy it and save the hassle…Thank you!
Jenny C says
My favorite thing for tomatillos is from Local Kitchen: http://localkitchenblog.com/2009/09/29/chile-verde-base/. It’s a sauce you can freeze and then use later for stewing pork. YUM.
I look forward to your post each week. I have just retired. I have fears of only making it on one check not the bi-weekly I was getting. But I read your blog and others who thrive on simplicity and I am encouraged. I now have time to freeze and can where I did not before. Thanks for making my day brighter.
Thank you, Paula. You’ve brightened up my day, too.
In the name of all things good, the last few years I have spent amassing a large collection of books (many cookbooks), crafting things, how-to’s, reference books – all working toward that simple, sufficient life. Ironically having all these things is anything but simple and I have found myself so overwhelmed by all the amazing cookbooks on my shelf that making any meal has become this complicated task that some how has become about so much more than simply food. Mollie Katzen, Nigel Slater, Alice Waters, MFK Fisher, Heidi Swanson, Sara Forte, The Tassajara Cookbook. Sally Fallon. There are new newfangled Paleo books in there alongside some ancient grain books. (Let’s not even get into WHAT we are supposed to eat. Post on that? :))
And I realized yesterday that while each of these cookbooks are probably amazing and all of them were “recommended” by some person or blogger whom I trust, I am failing to really connect with any single one of them because there are simply too many to take a significant time with just one.
The thought of purging any of them from my collection at this point seemed even more stressful but I did take every single cookbook off my shelves (there are probably 60, with only one family cookbook and one church cookbook in there!) and I got real about them.
Started by deciding which of these cookbooks, if any, I absolutely without a doubt use and enjoy and would keep if I had to throw all the rest away – there were only three: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters (number two is coming out next month!) and Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila.
Homemade Pantry is simple and fun to read and even if there is nothing I want to cook in there on a particular day, it some how inspires me. There is something about the underlying process of deciding What’s For Dinner that HP (unintentionally?) addresses. It’s about more than recipes and I’m sorry I don’t have any better words at this moment to describe it but the point I’m trying to make is that while I’m not trying to simplify your money conversations, if you wanted to write another book – you will sell many copies.
Meanwhile, I have made a promise to not purchase any more cookbooks until every last book that remains on my shelf holds that same value.
Oh, Heather- it’s hard to do, but you’ve rendered me speechless. To say that it feels like an honor to end up in those books on your shelf just doesn’t quite do it, but I hope my gratitude comes through.
And thank you, also for your thoughtful comment. I, too, refer to The Art of Simple Food all the time, and whenever I hear someone doesn’t own it, it’s always my gift for them. Oddly enough, Alice Waters and I share a very talented and wonderful editor at Clarkson Potter, and as soon as she told me they were working on a new book (years ago, now!) I started counting the days. I know it will be just as useful as the first. And as for your request for a post on all those messages about what we should and shouldn’t eat? I’m on it! The issue seems to be making quite an appearance in my next book, which I’m working on now. Although it won’t be out for AGES, I’ll definitely be trying to work my way through some of my questions here with all of you in the meantime. Thank you, Heather. You’re comment means so much to me.
JoAnn C. says
I managed to score fifteen pounds of FREE potatoes and ten pounds of
FREE onions this past weekend. I roasted and froze ten pounds of potatoes and have plans for many, many potato meals for us these next two weeks to use up the remaining 5 pounds. We are on a budget, like everyone else, and I did have to sell my car to pay medical bills, but we will not starve. We will be okay, as I’m sure you will be too.
Sloppy lentils over oven fried potatoes and onion rings with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese for tonight’s dinner, creamy potato and onion soup yesterday. Thanks for the brine recipe, I see pickled onions on the horizon.
Ah JoAnn, we can all live like queens on potatoes and lentils, right? And less cars means more walks. You’re comments are always an inspiration for me. 🙂
Margit Van Schaick says
Here I am again! Your post triggered so many thoughts about food security—one of these being that we can still get a good crop of radishes and leaf lettuce if we sow seeds right now. And, remember to try to stock up on organic potatoes and garlic for the Winter. 100 Lbs. or more of potatoes is a good start. And, remember to plant garlic and shallots!
Yes, yes, yes! Love it. Keep it all coming. 🙂
Margo, Thrift at Home says
“rich in potatoes” – love that.
I’m fascinated by the brine pickles. They’re not really fermented, right, more like marinated? I’m curious why you turn the jar on its side after the brine is in – wouldn’t the brine just leak out through the cheesecloth? I must be misunderstanding. There’s a Chinese pickle in Sandor Katz’s fermentation book – it’s a brine kept on the countertop and veggies are just tossed in now and then. I’m wanting to do that. . .
Margo- it’s true, when I read this recipe in Mastering Fermentation, it seemed like a stretch to call them fermented. I’m used to weeks out on the counter, not hours! But I think the idea here is that the sauerkraut brine gives it a little kick start, and that even 8 hours on the counter gives it time to begin to ferment. Kind of like a fermented quick pickle? Whatever it does, it’s pretty tasty. And no- no need to turn the jar on its side, it just sits right way up on the counter. Sorry for any confusion!
Totally plagiarizing what Cheryl said, at the outset, up there. All that, and then some.
Also: the reality bit. Also: muhammara!!! I’ve made it, and not loved it, BUT, I so love the look of this version! No bread (fuggy), yes carrots (color! sweet!!), and I have every one of those weird, funny spices. Off to the market this weekend, then, to make it all last just a little longer…
Pirate Jeni says
OH MY Muhummara! There is a Persian food place not far from me that serves this amazing dip… now I can make my own! Whee!!
What a treat to remember to check your blog today and read something that reminds me we’re not so all alone with financial struggles. And that we are so blessed with a freezer full of summer fruits and veggies and pesto and all kind of good things to eat at the same time. I take a deep breath and repeat my favorite saying from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Rich in potatoes – that really resonated with me. Thank you for such a great reminder to count your riches, wherever you may find them.
We are also trying to sell a car…….
And definitely trying to make it all work out, get us through the winter.
What I have right now is too many dried apricots. I bought a bunch from the bulk section and they are TOO dry, not TASTY dry. So I’m trying to figure out some way to make them into another thing.
(I was imagining a nice dip of chocolate, but maybe I’d eat them all up in one sitting, with nothing left for anybody else.)
Any thoughts? (Remember, I’m in the remedial category.)
Heather Fuller says
My grandmother always stew dried apricots (and prunes) and we ate them over oatmeal, in our yogurt and as a side to pork or lamb.
Is is a loose recipe – depending on how sweet the apricots are you use a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of pounds apricots to cups of sugar.
For example if the apricots are tart use 1 pound apricots and 1 cup of sugar; if they are sweet then you might prefer 1 pound apricots to 1/2 cups sugar. I use less sugar and then top with a little brown sugar when serving.
Basically you wash and soak the apricots for a minimum of 2 hours but you can leave them overnight in enough water to cover them by 1/2 inch.
In the same water they were soaked in bring the pan to a simmer and cover the pot, simmer for 15 minute.
Take the cover off and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Keep them covered in the fridge.
Dried apricots are also a wonderful addition to any stew ; vegetable, chicken, lamb or pork. I would look for Moroccan recipes.
Heather! Brilliant! I didn’t even THINK of rehydrating them. You’ve inspired me now, maybe I’ll have a fun recipe to share on my blog. Thanks again.
Alana has the BEST readers!
Alana I love your blog so much. You are so big-hearted in your posts, and simultaneously so useful. If that makes sense. Rich in potatoes indeed, and your point about small-batch preserving – really, it is what I needed to hear. Making soup for the freezer so those tomatoes on the counter aren’t wasted counts, right? And now I have pickles and muhammara to try my hand at. Can’t wait.
Tess @ Tips on Healthy Living says
Where did you find your ingredients like pomegranate molasses and dried sumac? This looks so delicious– I would love to try this recipe!
Hi Tess, Yes, odd as they are, they’re both ingredients to have around, especially if you want to cook from any of the Ottolenghi cookbooks. I’ve found that Pomegranate molasses is usually in any slightly upscale or gourmet store, and it’s usually just a few about 5 bucks for a bottle. Here’s an online link:http://www.olivenation.com/Pomegranate-Molasses-P7360.aspx?gdftrk=gdfV21779_a_7c145_a_7c4385_a_7cCFXA&gclid=CNCDkt2x9LkCFYii4AodWnkANQ
Sumac is a little harder, but again, totally worth it if you like to make middle eastern food. In New York, they sell it at the spice store in Grand Central, and I’m sure they have it at Penzey’s and kalustyans.com (they’re both online, too). But if you’re in a hurry to make you’re muhammara, you can leave it out! Just taste it and play around with the spices you have in your kitchen. Sumac is citrusy, so I’d add in some lemon, too.
Jessica @ One Shiny Star says
A girl after my own heart. A friend stopped by with a bag of sweet peppers from her garden. A week later and with no idea what to do with them… I am now the proud owner of a peck (…or…. four pints) of pickled peppers! Preservation comes to me as a necessity to avoid waste.