Accidental Kosher Dill Relish & 2 Recipes

Although I am a couple of days late, this post is in honor of National Can-It-Forward Day, which occurred this past Saturday, August 1st.

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I do love a good kosher dill.  What makes a pickle “kosher” you ask?  Well, according to wikipedia, a “kosher” dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.  I also notice that other spices are typically added, such as bay leaf, mustard seeds, and hot pepper.  I have done a bit of experimenting and have found a lovely flavor combination that all starts with the Dill Pickle recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and using the kosher-style variation.

The flavor of these pickles was everything I had hoped for, although the texture was a bit on the mushy side, but not so much that they could not be salvaged in some way.  I strained the finished product and placed the brine in a saucepan to heat.  While it was heating, I took the pickles (not the spices), and transferred them to the food processor.  A few pulses later I had a lovely, chunky, relish consistency which then got added to the hot brine.  A few minutes was all it took to heat the mixture through, then I filled the jars and processed as normal.  This relish is a great addition to my repertoire, making it particularly enjoyable for those who prefer a relish that is not sweet.

I have since made another batch of kosher dills, this time using Ball Pickle Crisp.  No longer do I want to run the risk of having mushy pickles!

Kosher Dills
Kosher Dills – another week before I can try, but they look delicious!
KOSHER DILL PICKLES
Yield: About 7 pints
  • 8 pounds 4-6 inch cucumbers, washed, 1/16 inch of blossom end removed, cut lengthwise into halves or wedges
  • 3/4 cup sugar, preferably organic
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt or kosher salt
  • 1 quart white distilled vinegar
  • 1 quart water
  • 3 T. pickling spice (I prefer to make my own (recipe to follow)
  • 1 head green dill per jar or 1/2 tsp. dill seed per jar
  • 1 bay leaf (per jar)
  • 1 clove fresh garlic (per jar)
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (per jar)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed (per jar)

Combine sugar, salt, vinegar, and water in a large saucepot, tie pickling spice into a spice bag using a piece of cheesecloth and bakers twine.  Add the bag to the brine, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pack cucumbers into hot, prepared pint jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Add 1 head dill or 1/2 tsp dill seed, 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp mustard seed to each jar.  Ladle hot liquid into jars, remove air bubbles, add more brine as needed to reach 1/2″ headspace.  Add 1/8 tsp Pickle Crisp to each jar.  Adjust 2 piece lids, process jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

I usually allow 4-6 weeks for these pickles to sit to develop the best flavor.


A delicious array of spices to make your own Pickling Spice
A delicious array of spices to make your own Pickling Spice
DIY PICKLING SPICE
  • 3 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns
  • 3 Tablespoons Whole Allspice
  • 3 Tablespoons Coriander Seed
  • 3 Tablespoons Mustard Seed
  • 3 Tablespoons Juniper Berries
  • 1 Tablespoon Whole Cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon Dill Seed
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick, broken into pieces (I found that a mortar and pestle did this job wonderfully!)

Pour all spices into a jar, seal, shake to combine.  Use any time a recipe calls for a mixed pickling spice.

A couple of tips:

  • For these pickles, use a pickling cucumber.  They have less water that a traditional cucumber.  Here in Hawaii the closest thing I have found is a Thai cucumber, which works beautifully.
  • Only use kosher or pickling salt.  Table salt has added iodine, which will cause your pickles to discolor and give them an “off” taste.


For The Love of Beets

I love beets.  I love their flavor.  I love their texture.  They are my favorite vegetable.  A magic word combination on a restaurant menu is “beets and goat cheese”.  Yum!  And I LOVE pickled beets.  Just simply pickled and vinegar-y, with a touch of sweetness.  At any salad bar, I would make a bee-line for the pickled beets to top my salad.  Imagine my disappointment when every pickled beet recipe I came across and every wonderful friend who ever gifted me a jar just was not up to snuff.  So yes, I am also a beet snob.  They were too sweet and full of too many spices.  So I never bothered making them.

Enter “Food In Jars” by Marisa McClellan.  I can not thank her enough for including this pickled beet recipe!  It is everything I have always looked for in a pickled beet – vinegar-y with a touch of sweetness and a hint of ginger.  So I must share it with you!  This recipe has no modifications, which is unusual for me.  I often make changes to either make the recipe my own, incorporate unusual ingredients, or make them safe for canning.  None of these were necessary here!

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Gingery Pickled Beets                                                                           Makes approximately (3) 1-pint Jars
INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 Pounds Beets, Any Color
  • 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2 T. Pickling or Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup Sugar (Preferably Organic)
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • (1) 2-inch Piece of Fresh Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Scrub the beets, removing the greens and long roots.  Place the beets in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium, and simmer until the beets are just tender, about 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your beets.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  when the beets are cool enough to handle, rub the skins off with your fingers.  (Wear plastic gloves to avoid stained hands.)  Cut the beets into wedges and set aside.

Prepare a boiling water bath and 4 regular mouth 1 pint jars.  (Going off recipe for a minute – if you do not know this process, refer to Marisa’s post at her blog for details).  One change I would recommend – let them sit in the pot of boiling water for 10 minutes before filling with anything in order to thoroughly sterilize them.

In a pot, combine the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, cinnamon stick, and ginger slices.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low until ready to use.

Jars filled with beets, ready for the addition of the brine.
Jars filled with beets, ready for the addition of the brine.

Pack your beet wedges into sterilized jars.  slowly pour the hot brine over the beets in each jar, making sure to tuck 2-3 ginger slices into each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Use a wooden chopstick and gently poke it around the edge of the jar interior to dislodge any bubbles.  Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.

Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel, apply the lids, tighten the rings finger tight, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, if between sea level and 1,000 feet in altitude.  For avery additional 2,000 feet of altitude, add 5 minutes to the processing time.  (e.g: If you live at 5,000 feet, your processing time would be 20 minutes).  And if you live in the tropics, process everything for 20 minutes!

– from “Food In Jars”, by Marisa McClellan

I find that these beets are delicious within a couple of days, but TRY to let them cure for a week before enjoying.  Confession time – after taking the first picture of the full jar of beets, I promptly ate the ENTIRE jar.

All gone!
All gone!

Storing Vanilla Beans

This weekend I stayed home, recovered from the after effects of the flu bug that bit me the weekend prior, and made 14 batches of preserves to take to the Farmer’s Market this week.  It was busy, but fulfilling.

I also learned how to store vanilla beans.  I buy my vanilla beans in bulk and, knowing the time and effort it takes to produce vanilla beans, the last thing I want is for them to get any mold on them or dry out.

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After a quick internet search (isn’t it amazing how so much information is right at our fingertips?), I discovered the key is to store them in an airtight container, away from as much light as possible.  And airtight means something more substantial than a Ziplok!

I divided the beans into small bundles – you don’t want to have to open and reseal every time you just need one or two – and busted out the trusty vacuum sealer.

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After sealing them into bundles of 12, their height fit perfectly into a quart Ball jar.  Bonus that it is one of the Heritage Collection green jars to keep out light!  IMG_1430

I labeled the jar with my oh-so-fun Brother P-Touch labeler, and now my vanilla beans will be viable for a year or more!

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Vanilla beans can be quite affordable by buying in bulk – I purchased mine on Amazon.  They add such wonderful depth to dishes, and having a reliable storage method makes the purchase totally worth it!

Changes!

So many new things going on and I am not prioritizing my blog time! I am hoping making this more of a priority will be one of these new changes.
In the meantime…
I have registered my new business name with the state of Hawaii – Mauka Girl Creations. The catalyst to doing this is a bill introduced into the Hawaii State Senate that would allow cottage food production in the state of Hawaii. For a state as isolated as we are, self sustainability is not just a buzzword, it is a priority. Economically this law could be huge for the state. People would be able to create their products and actually make some money to support their families. And, for me, to do the work I love, in the place I love, would be such delicious icing on the cake! So I am closely following the bill’s progress and submitting testimony when I can. My hope is to keep things updated here!
And I have also started a new job as the production manager at the Kauai Juice Co. This is a fantastic small business that started out making delicious kombucha and kale chips. 2 months ago they began producing cold pressed juices and nut milks that are so healthy and so ono (delicious).  For more on what they do you can always check out their website at kauaijuiceco.com. They actually approached me, having heard about my chef training. It was an exciting and humbling day for me – having a friend with enough faith in me to recommend me for the management position, and the owners of the juice company having the faith and trust in her to go for it and hire me on the spot. Everyone is very excited!
And, the final big change about to occur is the building of a gourmet pantry! The one thing lacking in our wonderful home is the kind of kitchen storage I really need. We buy in bulk, I do a lot of canning, and we own large kitchen equipment (yes, yes, as well as a lot of kitchen equipment…) So I just happened to say to my husband, “could you imagine how awesome it would be if the guest room was a pantry?” And by saying it out loud, I could not stop thinking about it. So we have agreed the guest room is to become a pantry! After an office/craft room, a walk in pantry has always been a dream room to have. The progress of the transition will hopefully be documented here!
So, busy, busy – but in a fabulous, “new” way!
Aloha –

Is It Possible?

Is it still possible to find our passion later in life?  I am always inspired by the fact that Julia Child found her passion in her 40’s – it means there is still hope for me!  But I often get discouraged that I don’t have a ready answer to “What do you do?”  My training makes me a pastry chef, but my lifestyle and desires do not.  I do not want the daily grind of being in a restaurant.  I do want to do something useful, something that I enjoy.  So my latest notions have me, once again, looking at teaching intimate cooking classes…  Each day brings new ideas and new support from great friends, so I think, with time and patience, something beautiful will reveal itself.  

So, on that note, I have been doing some fun things in the kitchen.  I just finished a much needed cleanse and am determined to still enjoy wonderful food and wine, but keep losing weight and make better decisions about my food choices.  So when I saw some friends had shared these nut bars, I thought that it was a perfect opportunity to make a healthy snack that I can have on hand.  They are a bit high in calories, but they cannot be beat for the good fats and protein they contain.  They also are very reminiscent in taste to those 7 layer dream bars (the ones with coconut, butterscotch and chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, nuts, graham cracker crust, and butter) but so much better for you!  Don’t get me wrong, I will rarely turn down a 7 layer bar, but for something to constantly have in my freezer, these bars are probably a better choice…  And, as usual, I have done some tweaking to the recipes.  This time it was not so much ingredients or amounts, but more technique changes that should make them a bit easier to contend with.  They are modeled after KIND bars, but much less expensive and you have the ability to mix and match your nuts and fruits.  Thank you to thenourishinghome.com for the original recipes.

 

CHEWY CHERRY CHOCOLATE BARS (grain free)

Yield: 8 bars

1/3 cup (4 oz.) honey

2 T. (.6 oz.) coconut flour

1 T. (.8 oz.) almond butter

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1 cup (2.5 oz.) unsweetened coconut flakes, roughly chopped

1 cup (5 oz.) chopped raw cashews

1/3 cup (1.2 oz.) chopped macadamia nuts

¼ cup (2 oz.) mini chocolate chips

¼ cup (1.3 oz.) chopped dried cranberries or cherries

APPROXIMATE nutritional info (per bar):

356 calories, 23 g fat, 35 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5.4 g protein

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FRUIT & NUT BARS (grain free)

Yield: 8 bars

1/3 cup (4 oz.) honey

2 T. (.6 oz.) coconut flour

1 T. (.8 oz.) almond butter*

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1 cup (2.5 oz.) unsweetened coconut flakes, roughly chopped

1 cup (5 oz.) pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts*

½ cup chopped dried fruit

            I used ¼ cup (1.5 oz) apricots and ¼ cup (1 oz.) goji berries

 *To make these bars nut free, substitute sunflower seed butter for the almond butter and sunflower seeds for the walnuts.

APPROXIMATE nutritional info (per bar):

255 calories, 16 g fat, 25 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6.1 g protein

Directions to assemble bars:  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line an 8×8 baking dish with a strip of parchment paper, leaving 6-8″ hanging over each side (this will help pull bars out after they have cooled).  In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients, making sure coconut, nuts, and fruit are chopped first!  

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One tip – give them a good medium coarse chop.  You don’t want it too fine or powdery, the bars will be really gooey.  And you don’t want them chopped too coarsely, they won’t stick together.  Mix together well (your hands work REALLY well for this, I do wear gloves, though).  

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Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Fold parchment strips over mixture and, using a measuring cup, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan.  

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Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and let cool completely in the pan.  Once cool, pull out with parchment paper strips, cut into 8 bars, wrap each individually, and store in the freezer. 

 

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Enjoy!  Until next time – 

 

 

The Lilikoi (Passionfruit) Experiment

I like to think I am pretty savvy in the kitchen, that making some jelly is not rocket science.  Well it isn’t rocket science, but there is some science and strategy involved – something I tend to forget, due to belief in aforementioned savviness…   And when you are A) making jelly in new environmental conditions – both weather wise and equipment wise (This process has made me have some doubts about my stove…) and B) using fruits that are not “standard”, there is bound to be some experimentation involved, which I am all for.  I just didn’t realize how much experimentation I was in for. We are having a bumper crop of lilikoi this year and I have been looking forward to making some jelly and curd with them.  Finding a recipe was the first challenge.  All of the ones I came across were about 75% of what I needed – they used a different kind of pectin, they used too much sugar for my liking, etc.  So I compiled what I thought would be a good place to start.  Then I checked my equipment and ingredients.  Jars?  Check.  Pectin?  Check.  Juice?  Double check.  Sugar?  Ummm, not so much.  Having already been to town that day, I kept my fingers crossed that the little corner store down the road would have what I needed, which they did.  Back home, I measured out my juice and sugar.  But wait – the recipe I have calls for liquid pectin and I prefer to use powdered.  So I had to figure out the conversion from liquid to powdered.  Done.   Again a bump –  I use low/no sugar needed pectin – I don’t need this much sugar!  After more – oh let’s just call it what it is – guessing (lilikois are sour, sour cherry is sour…you get the idea), I put the juice, sugar, and Hawaiian chili peppers (yes, I am attempting a lilikoi pepper jelly – spicy, tart, and sweet) in the pot….oops.  Remember when I said there is some strategy involved?  This is the time where it comes into play – typically one should boil the juice with a small portion of the sugar and the pectin before adding the remaining sugar.  Too late now, so I throw caution to the wind and just decided to see what would happen (I seem to say that a lot in my kitchen).  I dissolved the sugar, brought the mixture to a boil, and added the pectin, mixed with 1/4 cup sugar.  Again it was brought to a hard, rolling boil and I let it boil for 1 minute.  I then tested the “jell” of my jelly…which was too runny, so I whisked in another tablespoon of pectin, brought it to a hard boil again, let it go for 1 minute.  Again I tested, and I started doubting.  I told myself, “this will firm up, it is hot in my kitchen, I’m sure it will be fine.”  Deep down, I think I knew it wasn’t going to work.  But I charged ahead anyway!  The mixture was ladled into sterilized jars and processed for 5 minutes.  And…it didn’t set.  Although it does taste wonderful.  I put a jar into the refrigerator to see if the cold might help.

The not set jelly
The not set jelly

Day 2 of the lilikoi experiment – I am attempting to fix the jelly, since the cold did not help the set.  I went to pickyourown.org, where they have wonderfully detailed instructions on how to fix a runny jelly.  I learned (by reading this time, not experimenting!) that you should only use low/no sugar needed pectin to fix runny jams or jellies since using the regular pectin may make it too sweet.  Okay, back to the task at hand.  I followed their directions and got to the point where I could test the “jell” again.  And…it seemed okay.  Or maybe I just wanted to move on and had decided I would be happy with lilikoi pepper syrup (it does make a fabulous glaze for grilled pork tenderloin).  Either way, I went ahead with filling the jars and processing them for 5 minutes. So, at this point I now have, what seems to be some nice lilikoi pepper jelly firming up.  By Day 3 I have now read somewhere that it can take up to two weeks for jams or jellies to reach their full set…  So we shall see, but all signs are pointing to yes!  And on one more research note – in all the years I have made jams and jellies, NOWHERE did it ever say anything about cooking the mixture to a certain temperature.  I guess “bring to a full rolling boil and let boil for 1 minute” seemed like adequate enough directions, in fact, I had never had any reason to doubt this, since it always worked for me in the past.  Remember I said I was having doubts about my stove?  I feel like it lacks the strength to bring these mixtures to the full boil they need.  I recently read that jams and jellies need to reach a set point of 220 degrees, which is about 20 degrees cooler than soft boil stage, which seems to make sense.  So the next time I make jam or jelly, I am going to try the temperature method.  I’ll let you know how it turns out. Without further ado and rambling, here is the recipe I configured and the directions I should have followed, along with some photos for color! LILOKOI PEPPER JELLY (Yields approx. 4 cups)

3 1/2 cups lilikoi juice

2 1/2 cups sugar (cane or raw), keeping 1/4 c. in separate bowl to mix with pectin

4 T. low/No sugar needed pectin (I use the powdered kind from Ball)

8 Hawaiian Chili Peppers, sliced thin (can substitute small, red thai chilies) IMG_1706

Hawaiian Chili Pepper
Hawaiian Chili Pepper
Lilikoi Juice
Lilikoi Juice

Wash jars and lids, start water boiling in canner.  Once water boils, place jars in and sterilize for 10 minutes.  Keep them hot until ready to fill.  Place lids in small saucepan and pour boiling water over, keep warm. Measure out your ingredients.  Mix pectin with 1/4 cup sugar (this will keep it from clumping) Mix the lilikoi juice with the sugar/pectin mix in a large pot and bring it to a full boil, stirring often.  Optional: add 1 tsp butter at this point to reduce foaming.

In the pot
In the pot
Starting to boil
Starting to boil

Add the remaining sugar to the mixture and bring to a full rolling boil (one that cannot be stirred down), stirring often.  Let mixture boil for 1 minute. Turn the heat down and test for “jell” by scooping a small amount out with a spoon that has been kept in ice water or by putting some on a plate that has been kept in the freezer.  Once mixture cools to room temperature, if it is a consistency you like, move on to the next step.  If it is too runny, whisk 1-2 T. of pectin into mixture and bring to a rolling boil again, letting it boil for 1 minute.

It never hurts to test more than once!
It never hurts to test more than once!
Ice water/spoon method
Ice water/spoon method

Skim off the foam, fill jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe rims of jars, place lids on, finger tighten rings, and place in boiling water canner for 5 minutes. Remove, let cool, and enjoy!

The finished product!
The finished product!
Such a beautiful color - I love the bits of pepper floating in it.
Such a beautiful color – I love the bits of pepper floating in it.