Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easy Refrigerator Pickled Asparagus

A tale of the quick and the slow.

The April FIJ Challenge is quick pickles, also known as refrigerator pickles as they are not canned and must be stored in the fridge (rather than on the shelf). Given nice asparagus is so plentiful in the markets these days and DH and I just planted some crowns in the fine hope of picking our own in a year or two, it seemed like good practice to try this recipe: Easy Refrigerator Pickled Asparagus.

It was a hit. From the cook's perspective, the recipe is indeed easy. There's photographic evidence, barely, of the results – this quart jar used to be full. Apparently the quick in quick pickles refers to more than just the speed with which they can be prepared. The asparagus pickles disappeared so fast, I didn't even hear the happy chomping. The only clue was an off-hand observation that the pickle flavor got stronger as time went by.

Not-full jar of asparagus pickles

Aficionados of quick pickles claim they are brighter-tasting and crisper than their processed analogs, and can be put up in smaller batches. Considerable virtues indeed, although as my refrigerator space is limited I can't say they outweigh the value of preserving large quantities of the harvest in a shelf-stable way. Not to mention that when the happy chompers realized this, they began agitating for canned pickled asparagus in increasingly louder and grumpier tones. Also for tweaks to the pickling spices. Oh my.

Much of the fun, and value, of the can-along is seeing what others make. I'm enamored of the many examples of pickled hard-boiled eggs that triumphantly graced Easter sideboards in multi-colored splendor... but the once-happy, then agitated chompers at casa Jersey Knitter turned positively revolting at the prospect. Something about how HB eggs are a perfect food that must be spared hideous adulterants. Well, except for a bit of salt... or soy sauce... or mayonnaise... then there's potato salad... and HB eggs and gravlax (I made more gravlax)....

It's enough to drive a cook to slow knitting.

Twisted Madness progress

While the rest of Sock Madness charges along (Round 2 ends today!), I've been working on the second sock of the qualifying pattern, Twisted Madness. Slowly, because the pattern stitch makes my wrists hurt. Yet slow progress is still progress, and will do for now.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lent Socks

Happy April Fool's Day! This is a post-factum post, a catch-all catch-up, and it would seem the joke's on me. In true Seussical fashion, after I made shrub (also known as drinking vinegar or switchel) for the March FIJ Challenge (jellies and shrubs), I started seeing it here and there, I started seeing it everywhere. I saw it at an Asian supermarket (the signs say it's a healthy drink)...

Japanese shrub

... in a deli refrigerator case...

Switchel in deli case

... and at the Tait Farm Foods booth at the Philadelphia Flower Show. They were giving away samples, which tasted predominantly of fruit, sweet and tart, with that sour-funky vinegar flavor only at the finish. Quite nice, very refreshing. I bought a few bottles for research purposes.

Tait Farm shrub

Alas, after much judicious sampling I have decided shrub just isn't my thing. I can see why some FIJ Challenge participants match a mix of 3 parts red wine vinegar and 1 part balsamic vinegar with strawberries or Braggs apple cider vinegar with citrus, pairings that would not have occurred to me before. So I'm happy to have expanded my palate and learned something new, even if I don't think I'll re-visit the topic. It does tug at my imagination, though, in ways that soup base does not.

Speaking of re-visiting topics, one February Sockdown category was repeats, so I knit another pair of lovely Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt, this one in Opal Uni-Solid, 2600 Purple. They're the liturgically correct color for Lent, and they're finished, although one day past the Sockdown deadline. Oh well. I tweaked the pattern a very little: substituted 2x2 ribbing, varied the pattern by a half-drop, fiddled with the star toe for fit. Otherwise, it's a beautiful and truly repeat-worthy pattern!

Embossed Leaves FO

For a second March FIJ Challenge project I made Wine and Herb Jelly by Cathy Barrow, using a Riesling Auslese instead of the Gewürtztraminer specified in the recipe. It was easy, pretty, and tasty, with a nice soft set and excellent yield; something to do at a time of year when there's not much fresh local fruit roundabout Exit 151. I put a sprig of thyme in the jars for decoration, but think the wine jelly would be equally good without it. The Auslese has such a luscious peach flavor, I suspect it might make an extra-luxurious and flavorful base for pepper jelly.

Wine and Herb Jelly

Obviously I'm having a lot of fun with the challenges. I'm particularly appreciative of the expertise and creativity of other participants, which leads to a phenomenon familiar from knitting: so many great recipes, too little time. It turns out almost anything can be made into jelly! Among the many recipes I'd like to try someday: Stout Beer Jelly, Grape Juice Jelly, Jalapeño-Confetti Jelly (in Preserving with Pomona's Pectin). As I don't much care for the massive quantities of sugar in so many traditional jelly recipes, I'd very much like to try Pomona's pectin, which would allow me to reduce the amount of sugar and let the fruit flavors shine.

Blood orange marmalade, March

I was down to one small jar of January's blood orange marmalade, so I made more. The January batch was rose-gold, but the March batch turned out ruby red. They taste about the same. Huh. I put up this batch in three 4-oz and three 8-oz jars to suit the excellent marmalade cake recipe – pity I don't have any 10-oz jars. Hm.