Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pickles and Plums

The week before the steam show was not all tomatoes and savory, I did sneak in a jam for my sweet tooth. I love plum jam, and while I like red plum jam a bit better than white plum, this mixed batch turned out quite well. With the plums being $0.75 a pound, it also helps me to overlook the fact that the red plums were in the minority in this batch. I keep the peels on the plums because I like the candied feeling they give to the jam. The plums were also really juicy, so the need to macerate them for a while just did not need to happen. It helped me get much more done in a short time since I did not have much time to spare.

I did let them sit for a bit in the stock pot with the sugar to let some of the juices start to flow before I started the cook. This jam cooked up quickly, and I wished I had made a larger batch. I did temper this desire with a trip to the pantry to look over the large number of other jams that I made this year and to ask myself seriously if I would be able to eat them all this year. My answer was no, and my plan to make a second batch of plum dissolved as quickly as it solidified in my mind.

I ended up with four beautiful jars of jam. I really love the color of purple that this combination of different varieties of plums gave to the jam. I also like the size that I cut the pieces this year versus the last year. The peel pieces last year, while wonderful texture and super candied pieces of tastiness, they were just too big. The peels could become almost distracting to the rest of the jam, so this year's smaller pieces will be better I think. I will have to see when a jar finally gets cracked open.

I also made some pickles on the day that we left for the show. It was a final canning project that I could fit in the morning before our red eye flight to Iowa. I wanted to make several types of pickles this year, so that if I did not like one type I would not be stuck with lots of jars of them for the year. I decided to make a half order of a recipe from a family friend as well as a refrigerator pickle recipe that I hoped would be a good impostor for Dan's favorite commercial pickles.

The pickling cucumbers that I bought were also a great steal at $0.75 a pound. Needless to say I got some great deals that week at the Farmer's Market. For the hot processed pickles, I had to brine them for three hours with sliced onions. While the Pickle Crisp I bought said this was unnecessary, I was worried that if I did not brine the pickles that it would be missing the key ingredient of salt in the pickles. I made sure that the cucumbers and onions did not float to the top of the liquid by weighing them down with an inverted plate. As years of pickling experts will tell you, this is the perfect technique to make sure things stay where you want them to when soaking them.

I then made up the storing brine for these pickles. It was rather simple, using white sugar, white vinegar, mustard seed, and celery seeds. After simmering that up for a bit, the cucumbers and onions went into the pot to get warmed over before going into the hot jars. For once I was able to pack the jars correctly on the first try so that things were not floating all the way to the top with all sorts of liquid looking lonely at the bottom.

Next, I made up the brine for the refrigerator pickles. I did these as spears, so they would be just like the store bought version. I made up my own version of a pickling spice mix for this. It turned out rather well, and then I threw that into the vinegar, sugar, and added the specific spices to the jar that the recipe needed. The biggest thing was the garlic. We like garlic flavors, so I chopped up a bunch for the two jars. I tasted these earlier this week, and I really like them. While they are not the exact same as the store pickles, I really like them on their own.

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