Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It's Always Preserving Season

The height of summer is usually associated with preserving, and indeed, all those luscious stone fruits and tomatoes and cukes and zukes mean some hot sessions in the kitchen if you're a canner.  But really, at any time of the year -- even winter -- there is something from the garden or farmers' market or just the grocery store that can be put up in jars to serve you for the weeks and months ahead.  Leeks and onions can be made into savory confits, mushrooms can be packed in olive oil, and dried fruits can be made into jam.  Many of these preserved can be cooked up very quickly and stored in the fridge, without the need for waterbath canning.

Here in California lemons are available year round, and I was surprised to find a lemon tree in the garden here in our new place in Northern California.  I thought we were too far north for citrus, but the tree is doing well and a few weeks ago I found myself with several dozen lemons that ripened all at once.  Hating to waste produce, I scrambled to figure out what to do with that much lemon. 

I had planned on making a big batch of salt-preserved lemons but discovered to my dismay that I had left the lemons on the tree too long and they were over-ripe.  So I did the easy thing:  I squeezed most of them, put the strained juice in ice cube trays to freeze, then stored the frozen cubes in freezer bags.  Very handy for when you need a tablespoon or so of lemon juice for a recipe. 

That still left me with a whole lotta lemons, so I decided on making a batch of pickled garlic.  Aside from the peeling, this was quick and easy:  whole garlic cloves, lemon slices, mustard seed, and some other spices put up in a vinegar brine.  Pickled garlic is great in vinaigrette and can be used in any recipe calling for garlic.


Aren't they pretty?  I love seeing them when I open the pantry door.  I divided the recipe into smaller jars so that I could give some away, but next time I think I'll halve the recipe and make just one large jar. 
After I canned this batch of garlic, I still had a large number of cloves left, so I made a quick jar of pickled garlic to go straight into the fridge.  I tweaked the recipe because I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand (how did I not have any peppercorns?), but here is the original from The Glass Pantry by Georgeanne Brennan. 
1 cup peeled garlic cloves (from about 6 heads)
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp allspice berries
2 or 3 juniper berries
1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
Put the cloves in a dry sterilized jar.  Add the bay leaves and spices, and then pour in enough vinegar to cover the garlic.  Cover the jar with a lid and store in the fridge for up to 4 months.  Makes about 1/2 pint.

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