Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.


Refrigerator Pickle Recipes

assorted pickled vegetables

Pickling is an easy way to preserve fresh vegetables. Just cover them with a seasoned pickling liquid and refrigerate. Making pickled vegetables is a great technique to know, especially if you have more than you can use before they spoil. Pickled vegetables can last several days or longer in the refrigerator.

Use the following refrigerator pickle recipe as a guide. But don’t stop there. Listed below the recipe find more pickle recipes and flavor combinations from around the world.

Refrigerator Pickle Recipe

Makes one-pint pickles

Ingredients

  • A sanitized jar (see tips below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Optional flavorings (see suggestions below)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups uniform vegetable pieces (chunks or slices)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice (see suggestions below), or as needed
  • 1/2 cup water, or as needed

Directions

  1. Measure salt and optional seasonings into the jar.
  2. Pack jar with prepared vegetables, leaving 1 to 2 inches headspace.
  3. Stir together vinegar or lemon juice and water. Pour pickling liquid over vegetables to cover completely by at least one inch. If necessary, prepare and add more pickling liquid.
  4. Cover and refrigerate pickles. Usually best after three days. Consume within one week.

Suggested Optional Flavorings

The following list includes basic spices, herbs, and other flavoring ingredients. Find more global pickle recipes and interesting flavor combinations below.

  • 1/4 to 1 teaspoon dried herbs (bay leaf, thyme, oregano, dill weed, herb blend, etc.)
  • 1/4 to 1 teaspoon dried whole or ground spices (cumin, coriander, dill seed, pepper, etc.)
  • Fresh herb sprigs (dill head, fennel leaves, mint leaves, thyme sprigs, etc.)
  • Other flavorings, including whole or sliced peeled fresh garlic, peeled and sliced ginger root, dry or prepared mustard, nuts or seeds such as peanut or sesame

Suggested Pickling Liquids

Any acidic liquid can make a good pickling solution. The following list includes popular pickling liquids used around the world.

  • Any type of vinegar: white, cider, malt, red or white wine, rice, coconut, or pineapple
  • Fresh fruit juice: citrus (lemon, lime, orange), pineapple, or pomegranate
  • Whey, the clear yellow liquid drain from plain organic yogurt
  • Soy sauce
  • Any type of miso (white, yellow, or red)

pickled green beans and corn
Almost any type of vegetable can be pickled.

Global Pickle Recipes

Use the above Refrigerator Pickle Recipe as a jumping off point. Add any of the optional flavor combinations below, suggested by food cultures around the world.

Classic garlic “Kosher” dill pickles (use for asparagus, cucumbers, green beans, carrots): 2-4 black peppercorns, 1 small clove garlic, 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds or 1 fresh dill head.

Classic sweet pickles (use for cucumbers, zucchini, beets, corn, peppers, onions): 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon mustard or celery seeds, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional).

Whey pickles (use for carrots, radish): undiluted whey, up to 1/4 cup honey, 2-4 black peppercorns or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Italian style pickles or “giardiniera” (use for carrots, celery, cauliflower, peppers, onions, grilled eggplant): 1 small clove garlic, 1 bay leaf or 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Japanese style pickles or “zuke” (use for asparagus, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, corn, onions, daikon or radish, eggplant, turnips): rice vinegar and/or soy sauce (shoyuzuke) or miso (misozuke), 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar.

Thai style pickles (use for carrots, radish or daikon, turnips, eggplant): rice or coconut vinegar, up to 1/4 cup palm or brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Indian style pickles or “achar” (use for cauliflower, grilled eggplant): malt or cider vinegar, 2-4 black peppercorns, 1-2 slices of ginger root, up to 1 tablespoon jaggery or brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric. Chopped peanuts are a nice addition.

Persian style pickles (use for eggplant, cherry tomatoes, onions): pomegranate or lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or several fresh basil leaves, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Russian style “pkhali” pickles (for green beans, beets, carrots, onions): white or cider vinegar, up to 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, coriander, and thyme. Fresh cilantro and chopped walnuts may also be added.

Latino style pickles (use for cabbage, carrots, onions, peppers): white or malt vinegar or citrus juice (lime, orange, or a combination), 2-4 jalapeno slices, 1-2 cloves garlic, 1/4 teaspoon each dried oregano and ground cumin.

Tips for Making Refrigerator Pickles

  • Thoroughly clean the work area, including cutting boards and utensils, and the pickling container. Use hot soapy water, rinse well with plain water and let air dry.
  • Use a glass jar or covered bowl as a pickle storage container. Stainless steel is also acceptable. Do not use other metals such as aluminum or plastic containers, which can transfer flavors or are hard to clean thoroughly.
  • Choose fresh vegetables that are in good condition, not wilted or bruised, moldy or spoiled. If wilted you can use them to make soup. If damaged or spoiled, they should be discarded or composted.
  • Wash vegetables thoroughly and then peel or cut as desired into uniform pieces (chunks, sliced, etc.). Smaller pieces will pickle and soften more quickly. Larger pieces will stay firm and crisp longer.
  • Extend the shelf life of refrigerator pickles up to 30 days by using any of the following techniques to reduce spoilage organisms:
  • Blanch prepared vegetables for 1-3 minutes (thin to thick pieces, 1/4 inch to 1 inch) before placing in pickling jar.
  • Cook vegetables until tender, followed by rapid cooling in ice water before placing in pickling jar. You can also pickle leftover grilled vegetables.
  • Boil the pickling solution and pour the hot pickling liquid over raw, blanched, or cooked vegetables in the pickling jar.

fresh green beans
Pickles can be made from fresh vegetables, and blanched, boiled, and grilled vegetables.

Carole Cancler is the author of The Home Preserving Bible. She has traveled to more than 20 countries on four continents to attend cooking schools and explore food markets. She studies the anthropology of food with a focus on how indigenous foods have traveled and been integrated into world cuisine. Read all of Carole's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Whipped Lardo with Garlic and Rosemary Recipe

Whipped Lardo with Herbs

Every time we take a pig to the butcher I always request that they save the fat for me. Not everyone likes to keep the fat, but if you do and render it yourself for lard, you’ll never have flakier pie crusts or a higher quality cooking fat. In recent years lard {make sure you’re using lard from healthy, pasture raised pigs!} has come back into many kitchens as a healthy fat for both cooking and baking. To learn more about the benefits of high quality lard and how to render it yourself, see one of my previous articles here.

Another way to use this Vitamin D packed goodness? Whipped with seasonings such as garlic and rosemary and spread on steaks, veggies, bread or anywhere else you may use butter. YUM!

We first experienced whipped lardo in a Las Vegas restaurant, served alongside the bread basket. It was rich and savory, and once we had much of our own lard, it was time to recreate that whipped lardo recipe. After rendering your lard and while it is still soft but no longer a liquid, it can be whipped into a fluffy, silky spread.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 cups of rendered lard, solid but soft in texture
  • 2 whole heads of garlic, minced
  • 4 rosemary sprigs, needles minced
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Sauté minced garlic in a bit of lard until soft and fragrant, but not browned.
  2. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the softened lard on high until stiff peaks form, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Fold in the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Whipped lard with stiff peaks

Spread on bread, vegetables, steaks or wherever you would use butter. Whipped Lardo makes a quick and easy farm-to-table appetizer served with bread or crackers. Your guests will be impressed! Don’t stop at just rosemary and garlic. Mix in any of your favorite seasonings to taste: chives, thyme, onion, roasted garlic, lemon zest or whatever speaks to your taste buds.

Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then she has run California based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs, dairy goats, pasture based poultry and sells goats milk soap and lotion on Etsy. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Preserve the Harvest: Freezing Asparagus

 

Blanching asparagus before freezing to preserve the harvest.

After a few weeks of harvesting, my daughter, Emery, and I are getting a little bit tired of asparagus. We’ve eaten it several times a week, and have definitely enjoyed this perennial vegetable in a variety of preparations.

A few years ago, I planted 25 Jersey Knight crowns I purchased online for $25, which is plenty for my family of four. Since then, Emery and I have enjoyed many meals accompanied with our garden-grown asparagus. And thank goodness she likes it because my husband and son are barely willing to eat any vegetable other than potatoes and sweet corn (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but slight nonetheless).

However, we’ve got a few more weeks of asparagus availability, and rather than let it go to waste, it’s time to turn our efforts toward preserving the harvest. Now, I know there are recipes for canning asparagus out there in internetland, but excuse me while I dry heave. Canned asparagus is about as appealing as canned … well … I don’t know what. That’s just how appealing canned asparagus is to me.

So, once we’ve had our fill of fresh-eating asparagus, it’s time to preserve the rest to eat later in the season and well into the fall. My preferred method for asparagus is to freeze it. It’s really a simple process, taking little time and equipment, and maintains a better texture as opposed to canning.

What You’ll Need To Do

Basically, you need a dutch oven or stock pot, a bowl, a slotted spoon, a freezer bag, water, and a couple pounds of asparagus to make it worth your time. That’s it. I don’t even use a knife. Heck, I barely rinse the asparagus after it’s picked from the patch.

Over high heat, cover your pot and bring the water to a boil. I’ve never measured how much water I use, but it’s usually filled halfway, give or take. While the water is coming to boil, rinse the spears. Now is the time to snap off the tough bottom of your asparagus. If you haven’t done this before, it’s all done by feel. Slightly bend the spear from top to bottom with your thumb and index finger (the pointer, as Emery calls it), and when you feel it get a little harder than the top, that’s the spot where you break off the bottom to discard. You keep the tender tops and middles. Then, I snap the spears just like I do for green beans, giving me two-inch pieces.

Once my water is boiling, I carefully toss the asparagus pieces into the water, returning the cover to the pot. This is called blanching. You may want to stir the asparagus around a bit, but that’s your call. The purpose of blanching is to help the vegetable to retain its color and texture. It’s a quick cooking process, oftentimes leaving the asparagus (green beans or whatever) slightly undercooked. You want a crispish texture, not mush. While the asparagus is blanching for three to four minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears, I fill my bowl with cold water. Now, some fancy-pantsy chefs on television put ice in the bowls, but I don’t. So, again, that’s your call.

After three or four minutes of blanching, it’s time to use a slotted spoon to remove the asparagus from the pot and drop it into the bowl of cold water. Give the asparagus a quick stir. Then, remove the asparagus from the bowl (again with the slotted spoon) and drain the water from the spoon and arrange the spears on a cookie sheet. I line my cookie sheet with waxed paper, but this isn’t necessary, and I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t have any in the cupboard.

Once I have a single layer of asparagus on the cookie sheet, I place it in the freezer. I haven’t timed it, but an hour or two is probably enough. If you forget about it, don’t freak out. I’m sure it’s fine. It is important to do this step (rather than just tossing them in a bag before freezing) because it prevents clumping, which is a pain in the you-know-what if you’re cooking only a partial bag of asparagus and have to thaw the entire thing. Once the spears are frozen, pull the cookie sheet out of the freezer (you’ll probably want to use an oven mitt or kitchen towel to handle the ice-cold metal pan because that could be unpleasant).

Finally, I pull the spears off the wax paper and toss them into a quart freezer bag. I usually double bag by placing all my quart bags of the same vegetable in a gallon bag, which I have clearly labeled. Then I return the bag to the freezer to keep until I need it for a recipe later in the year. The frozen asparagus should be good for a few months, perhaps until Thanksgiving, if it lasts that long. Frequently, I’ll use frozen asparagus as I would frozen peas, tossing some in a pasta dish, like ham and cheese tetrazzini or tuna noodle casserole. It’s also good in a mushroom frittata or a homemade pizza with crispy bacon and a drizzle of balsamic.

Now, I feel that it’s important to mention that it is not worth freezing fresh asparagus if you have to buy it. I noticed the other day that my local grocery store is selling asparagus for $4.99/pound, but a bag of frozen asparagus is only $2.99. And you can usually find asparagus at a farmers’ market for $4 or $5 per pound, which is perfectly fine for fresh eating, but not economical for preserving. It might be worth investing $25 or so in a bundle of asparagus crowns to start your own patch, which will give you many returns over many years.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.


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Tomatoes Galore in Your Garden? Dehydrate ‘Em!

tomatoes on vine and dehydrated
 Image from Easy Food Dehydrating

Tomatoes Galore in Your Garden? Dehydrate ‘Em!

If you love fresh tomatoes and you’re going out daily to pick ‘em before they rot, then ease the situation by dehydrating the tomatoes before they get a chance to spoil. After you’ve dehydrated your tomatoes, consider grinding them into a powder. You can then use this rich, (and strong) tomato powder to make your own spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce.

Let’s not forget tomato soup. One of my fondest memories as a kid was popping down the street for lunch and enjoying a bowl of tomato soup with my friend, Gillian. The best memories are most often the simplest, right?

Let’s Get Busy Dehydrating Tomatoes

Wash and slice your tomatoes evenly. Aim for 3/8-inch slices. If you wish to skin your tomatoes first, dip them in boiling water — it makes skin removal much easier! If you’re going to dehydrate cherry tomatoes, all you have to do is cut them in half after washing them.

1. Arrange your tomato slices on your dehydrator trays (or halves, cut side facing up so they won’t “leak” down onto the trays below). Try not to have overlap the tomatoes.

2. Set the dehydrator between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit (or per your food dehydrator's instructions).

3. Look for leathery and/or brittle tomatoes when they’re fully dried. This can take between five to 12 hours, depending on the sizes of your tomatoes.

One of our Easy Food Dehydrating friends, Mj, wrote in to the site to say that she puts her dehydrated tomatoes through her grinder. She goes on to say, “I found it is a cheater’s way of thickening tomato juice for soup and sauces, and I find that not cooking my juice down to a sauce and just adding a little tomato powder has ten-fold the flavor.”

Mj went on to make jars of “All Michigan Vegetable Soup” as holiday gifts for her friends. They loved it and they all wanted to know, “Where did the awesome tomato flavor come from?” Mj told them it was her little secret. Now the cat is out the bag. Enjoy!

If you’re hunting for a great tomato sauce recipe, try this tomato sauce by Chef John. His recipe is featured over at Allrecipes.com

Read Susan's posts on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.


Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies, too, for long-term food storage. Keep your pantry full — whatever the reason or season!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Foraging In Urban Areas

 

One of the things I loved most about living in a rural area was the foraging - there were practically endless possibilities to pick up something edible, in just about any season. Now that we have moved to the outskirts of a small town, it seems we are more limited in that sense.

Never fear, however. Even if you live in an urban area, you still have many chances to pick up edible goodies, especially during the lush spring season. Greens, fruits, berries, and mushrooms (exercise extreme caution with those last ones) await you. 

Apart from the obvious notion of making sure that whatever you are picking up isn't actually toxic in itself, one big issue about foraging in urban areas is the pollution. Car exhaust fumes, sewage, industrial toxins, and dog poo all present much more frequent health hazards than out there in the boonies. 

When spring rolls around and you see everything covered with tender young greens, make sure you don't pick your dandelions and wild mustard close to the roadside. Take a few steps away from the road to pick comparatively cleaner plants. 

Don't be tempted to pick plants that grow next to water ditches, no matter how lush and green they seem to be, unless you are absolutely sure the ditch directs nothing but clean rainwater. Similarly, stay away from industrial zones. 

City parks may be good places to find free edibles. Many town administrations plant fruit-bearing trees for decorative purposes but never bother to pick the fruit. In our warmer region, these are usually olives and citrus fruit trees, pomegranates, grape vines, and even passionfruit. In addition, we often stumble upon old trees such as figs and carobs, which the city landscapers were wise enough to leave untouched. 

Another place to "forage" may be in your neighbors' yards (only with permission, of course!). Many of our neighbors have lived in the area for decades, and their fruit trees have grown huge and produce far more than they can consume. We got sackfuls of grapefruits, lemons, and oranges, which we were very grateful for. 

Wherever you live, you can almost always vary your diet by healthy and delicious food that does not come from the supermarket. 

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna, her husband, and their four children live on the outskirts of a small town in northern Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author PageConnect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blogRead all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

What’s Cooking with Dehydrated Food?

vegetable soup using dehydrated vegetables

After we’ve spent time dehydrating our garden’s goodies and socked them away in airtight vacuum-sealed bags, it’s time to start using our dehydrated food, right? Right!

Consider using Mason jars for every-day use rather than using vacuum sealer bags IF you like to cook! Don’t forget to add an oxygen absorber into the Mason jar. The oxygen absorbers work as their name implies – keeping your dehydrated foods dry by absorbing any ‘stray’ oxygen. Remember, there’s water in oxygen.

Try your hand at making tasty vegetable soup by vacuum sealing dehydrated onions, diced potatoes, carrots, green beans in ONE pouch. All you have to do is add stock. In fact, here’s a veggie soup recipe to try out! My favorite stock to use is Better Than Bouillon. No more aching fingers trying to crumble up those hard cubes. Better Than Bouillon is in liquid form. Easy peasy.

Add Chicken, Beef, or Ham

If you’re a meat eater, then add chicken, or beef – whatever you have on hand – and you end up with a satisfying bowl of soup. Follow the recipe’s instructions as to how to cook up a bowl.

Use GOOD Water

Remember to use good drinking water when making your soups AND when re-hydrating your foods. No one wants to taste chlorine, or rusty water in your recipes! Read more about re-hydrating your dehydrated food here or our MOTHER EARTH NEWS post here.

Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats, since December 2010. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies too - for long-term food storage. Keep your pantry full — whatever the reason or season! To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Herbal Tea from the Garden: Fresh and Dried

Greens for Tea

Since I’m a geezer now, I don’t pop out of my winter mode of chair-sittting artfulness into long hours in the garden of back-straining work with pedal to the metal like I used to. Instead, I take advantage of easing into longer hours of physical labor by combining indoor and outdoor chores. I survey my garden and mesh what I observe with the already-in-my-head plans while I delight in a pot of freshly infused, hand-picked tea.

A few years ago I attended a class about foraging fresh herbal teas from the land. I’ve incorporated this practice into my yearly routine ever since as a celebration of the return of Spring. There are so many plants, often considered weeds by others, that can find their way onto your dinner plate, into your cup, and into the medicine cabinet. Infuse them for teas or create tinctures, balms, and other things for use around the house. If you haven’t fully utilized the treasures in your garden, relax with a freshly brewed cup and relax into this world of research.

Garden Tea Possibilities

From the blossoms of fresh violets and dandelions to the greens of nettles and plantain, there are delights aplenty waiting amongst the other plant members of your family. As long as you don’t spray or use any of the ‘cides (pesticides, herbicides, et al) in your yard, you should be good to go. With that freedom, the main pointer I will share with you is a suggestion to do a little research first. Check out the benefits and side effects possibly connected to the plants you’re considering for your morning infusion.

Many of our outdoor brewing possibilities contain things that can act as diuretics or can otherwise affect our bodies in ways that vary from bothersome to downright dangerous. This is not to say that you shouldn’t experiment. My belief is that we should be our own best expert on our bodies and that with a bit of research coupled with that knowledge we should be able to safely explore the world of plants as ingestible foods.

Brewed Teas

Gather your gorgeous green goodies

Wash under cool running water

Place in your French press (I now use this stainless steel version since I have broken too many glass ones)

Pour boiling water over the treasures

Let steep for 10-20 minutes—shorter for the more delicate combinations containing flowers and more tender leaves, longer for the sturdier inclusions.

The photo above shows fresh greens on the top and a brew that I dried last year for use through the winter below. You’ll notice a difference in color. Don’t expect a fresh infusion to be as dark and hearty as its dried cousins. For those interested, the green version includes the dandelion, dead and stinging nettles, and the mint in the first photo. The dried tea blend was chamomile, red clover blossoms, chocolate and peppermints, and a pinch of pau d’arco.

I urge you to look beyond the plants you have added purposely to your garden to those that others may see as weeds. Get to know them. Chances are they may be beneficial to the critters in your garden as well as to your huming family. You may also discover that others have been using them as tonics and medicinal helps for thousands of years.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.







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