Can you Can? I CAN!!!

Alright, so I have been bitten by the canning bug! It is itching and I cannot make it stop! 

 

Not very long ago I found a wonderful book online which explained the basics about canning; Food in Jars by Marissa McClellan. In her book she presents very basic recipes for the beginner canner. These are recipes that do not require a pressure canner but rather use a water bath canning method. Along with her recipes, she includes water bath times and tips to ensure your jars have been processed adequately.

As a rule of thumb, foods that are acidic or have added vinegar (as in pickles) or lemon juice can be processed in a water bath. This is a faster way to create an air tight seal in the jars. On the other hand, foods with a pH level of 4.6 or above are considered low acid. In turn, these foods must be processed with a pressure  canner because the pressure will create the high temperatures required to kill the bacteria that causes many illnesses such as botulism.  If the vegetables or fruits being canned are delicate and do not stand up well to the heat, it’s a good idea to do a refrigerator pickling process. It is always important to sterilize the jars and lids used in canning by boiling them in water. Likewise, you want to wash hands, clean surfaces, and disinfect veggies, fruits, and other foods being used. Of course if you have worked with food before, this is always an important step in food prep.

Because I do not have a pressure canner,  I used a water bath method to prepare a wonderful pickled cauliflower. Since it’s the season of giving, Im really excited to give out my little jars filled with the ubiquitous cauliflower, except this time the flavor packed tanginess will come as a pleasant surprise as it gets eaten on a crispy baked cracker and sprinkled with some soft cream cheese, perhaps topped with a sundried tomato slice.

Pickled Cauliflower (adapted from the book; Food in Jars)

You will need…..

  • A large stock pot with a rack to place on the bottom
  • 3 ea 1pint/ 500 ml mason jars
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 3 tbs pickling salt
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard seed ( I toasted these)
  • 1 1/12 tsp cumin seed ( i toasted these)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp peppercorns
  • small cauliflower (cut into florets)

Method

  1. Sterilize jars and lids by submerging them into simmering water in the stockpot while the recipe ingredients get get prepared.
  2. combine vinegar with 1 1/2 cups of water, add salt and bring the brine to a boil.
  3. Remove jars from water bath and drain all water from jars.
  4. Slice the lemon and place it in the jars.  Divide the spices equally into each jar. Prepare the cauliflower by cutting the florets and arranging them equally into the jars.
  5. Pour brine over cauliflower in jars.
  6. Tapping will push all air bubbles to the top. Assemble lids and tightly secure them on the jars.
  7. Place jars inside stockpot with boiling water, use a rack to keep them elevated from the bottom of the pot but allow the water level to cover the jars completely  Boil for 10 minutes. Allow them too cool countertop.

 

Refrigerator Pickles

Pickles, I once thought, were those round and tangy, mushy and lackluster circles that I did not want inside my burger.  I never knew a good pickle until I started working with food. I still remember the moment that I tasted a crisp, clean cucumber pickle. The ying yang of sweetness and acidity was a perfect match for the juicy fat of a hamburger, the way it should always be. I have actually learned that pickles are not always cucumbers. You can pickle carrots, and jalapenos, which are a staple in almost any Mexican household. During my pickling/canning phase, I pickled those utterly cute baby carrots and some unforgivingly spicy jalapeno peppers. Like I said before, I cannot stop this pickling madness, I want to pickle everything in my fridge………….

Fantastic Indian Flavors

For the last several weeks I have been a madwoman running all over town trying to submit applications for my culinary internship, researching recipes for my catering class at school, and trying to catch up on anything that I may have forgotten along the way in my chaotic daily routine.  Some of the highlights of these days include the success of my vegan zucchini bread among the Le Cordon Bleu students who couldn’t eat enough of it and successfully cooking cashew korma! It was a big night for me last night because I have been trying forever to achieve the perplexity of flavors that are found in Indian food. Don’t get me wrong, my attempts at curry are indeed delicious, but I don’t think they would be called Indian per se (until last night of course)!

It all started this past weekend when I went out for some lunch with a dear friend of mine.  We ate at a local restaurant that offered a delicious starter plate called the “Tour of India”. Imagine the excitement!! Both my friend and I are absolute fans of Indian cuisine, so this was definitely a “must try”.  The appetizer was delicious and exquisitely flavored with a tangy curry flavor followed by a punch of spiciness. This got me thinking it was about time that I tried another one of my curry concoctions in the kitchen.

There was cauliflower in the fridge that needed to be eaten along with a big container of cashews and I instantly remembered a korma dish that I usually eat at my favorite Indian restaurant.  Before embarking in the adventure tho, I had to research a bit about what korma really is and where it comes from.

I discovered korma is an Indian dish that is prepared with coconut milk and a nut based sauce like cashews. Mixed together the nuts and coconut milk help balance out the heat of the curry  and make a milder dish. Other versions use yogurt (at very low heat) or cream and bechamel based sauces

Ingredients

1 c raw cashews

2 tbs canola oil

1 m onion

1 inch size piece ginger

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbs coriander ground

1 ts ground red pepper

1 tbs curry powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 tbs tomato paste

1 can coconut milk

1 cauliflower

3 chopped carrots

1/2 c peas

1 caramelized red onion

Method

1. Soak the cashews in enough warm water to cover them up completely. Set aside.

2. Cut the cauliflowers into 2 inch florets and chop carrots into 1 inch rounds.  You may choose to steam the vegetables or even roast them in the oven to give more flavor. I roasted mine at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Make sure that you check them constantly to avoid burning or overcooking.  To check for doneness, stick a pairing knife into the vegetable, if the knife comes right out without resistance, then its done. Set them aside

3. In another pan, pour 1 tbs oil and slice red onions. Using low heat, slowly saute onions until they turn a light brown color. This will take about 25-30 minutes. Caramelization must be done at low controlled heat and  additional oil must be added from time to time throughout the cooking process to keep the onions from drying. With the heat, the starches of the onion turn to sugar and caramelize to give off a rich sweet flavor.

4. Make a puree out of the ginger, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

5. In a large pot heat oil and add puree.  Saute puree until it turns a slightly golden color.

6. Meanwhile, drain the cashews and puree them until smooth.

7.  Once the puree of onions, garlic, and ginger reaches a golden color, add the curry, coriander, garam masala mix, and ground red pepper. Stir until it incorporates into the puree mix then add the tomato paste.

8. Saute for another 5 minutes, then pour in the coconut milk , cashew puree, and an additional can of water. Blend well.

9. Simmer sauce for about 5 minutes on low heat and you will notice the sauce begin to thicken. The curry will not be smooth like a bechamel sauce because of the cashews and the onion/garlic puree.

10. Season  with salt and pepper. Finally add the vegetables, peas, onions and mix well, making sure that the vegetables are smothered in korma.

Serve with white basmati rice.

Curried cauliflower and potatoes

I  want to learn how to cook every single Indian recipe in existence. That is my dream. Indian food represents comfort food to me because of its exotic and spicy flavors that remind me a lot of the Mexican spices that my mom used when she cooked for us growing up. The spicier the better! The thing about Indian food though is that it carries this mysterious secret with it that refuses to be revealed to me because every time I try to cook an Indian dish, it doesn’t taste the way I wanted it to taste. It still has a distinctive curry flavor, and the food is still delicious, yet I feel like I need to submerge myself in the Indian culture to understand their food and the history that led up to modern Indian cuisine.

I have been reading the book ” Food in History”, and after reading the introduction, I immediately skipped to the chapter that explains a lot of the history of Indian food. It helped me understand why vegetarianism is an important part of the Indian food culture.  The cuisine varies from region to region, with great Aryan, Persian, Greek, and central Asian influences along the Indus valley.  While Europeans where hesitant to use most fruits in their cooking and Chinese scarcely used dairy, the book explains that Indian cuisine made good use of both of these ingredients, which resulted in splendid and exotic dishes.  The Northwestern part of India had a large nomadic influence and thus, more meat was consumed here than the southern tip of the country.

The teachings of the Buddha and Mahavira were opposed to the caste system and to the slaughter of animals based on the belief of the reincarnation of souls. This philosophy provided the greatest influence to the vegetarian cuisine of the south.

I have decided that at some point in my career, I will travel to India to learn more about the history of these foods, as well as the complexity of their flavors. Of course for now, I’m lucky to live very close to an amazing little vegetarian Indian restaurant that will satisfy my craving for delicious curry.

A couple of days ago I decided to make a curried cauliflower dish. Before this, my only attempt to use curry powder was mixed in with yogurt to make curried egg salad, and in lentils. I was feeling brave, so I decided to make my curry using a curry cream sauce from a textbook given to me at school. This dish is traditionally called aloo gobi from the Punjab state in northern region of India.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs white flour

1/2 onion diced

3 crushed garlic cloves

2 Tbs ginger paste ( or peel some fresh ginger and crush it with the garlic press)

3 tbs curry powder (spicy)

1/2 c cream

1 cup water

2 cups cauliflower

1 cup diced and peeled potatoes

1/3 c fresh green peas

salt /pepper to taste

1. It was very easy to make this dish because most of the work is completed during the first steps of cooking.  The best way to make a hearty, creamy sauce is to use a roux base which is the flour and butter to use as thickener.  Use equal parts butter and flour for this recipe. Melt the butter in the large pot and add onions.Make sure the heat remains between medium to high heat.

2. Let the onions sweat a little bit, then add garlic, curry, ginger and stir in until it is all coated in butter. By this time the aroma will be amazing.

3. Add the flour into the mix and stir until it becomes a paste. Some of it will stick to the bottom of the pan but it doesn’t matter because as soon as  the water is added, whisking it vigorously  will dissolve any lumps.

4. Add the potatoes, cauliflower and cream into the pot  and let everything simmer until the potatoes become soft. Once they are soft add the peas. Finally, season with salt and pepper.

Serve with steamed basmati rice or jasmine rice.