Monday, July 7, 2008

Frozen Basil and Summer Pickles

Wow you have to love summer when you have a veggie garden at least here in the north. The garden is just bursting at the seams now. I went out to pick the morning harvest and it was pretty big. Part of that is the weather. We are about to get a three day heat wave so I picked all the lettuce that was big enough. Hopefully the rest will survive as it is still young.

My raspberries have just started to produce. I picked a total of three berries. I see evidence that the birds got one before me. Usually they don't give me too much trouble. I'm willing to share if they don't eat too much. The chipmunks can be annoying with the low lying berries. They will strip those branches but they can't climb the plants well, so the higher ones are all for me. I plan to have raspberries on my cereal every morning.

My Sungold tomatoes have just started to turn color. They aren't ready to pick yet, but I'm anticipating. My eggplants have put out a total of one bud today. This is the first bud I've seen, so maybe I'll get an eggplant after all. Just maybe. I'm still not getting my hopes up on that one. My first little beans are starting to form. They are about 1/4" long, but I expect them to grow fast. Especially with the 90 degree temps we are supposed to have for the next couple of days.

Some of the basil trying to share a bed with my pumpkins was getting a bit crowded, so I picked two whole plants. I have lots more. I washed and dried the leaves, then froze them on a cookie sheet. Now they are all in a baggie in the freezer. I've never stored basil this way before, but it seemed like the easiest way. Some people say to blanch it so it won't turn black, but I didn't bother. The frozen basil is beautifully green. However I know as soon as it defrosts, it will immediately turn black and lose it structure. So this is only for sauces and soups. It is supposed to still taste like summer basil even if it will look bad defrosted, which is what I'm going for. That and ease. No pureeing, no blanching, no adding oil. Just wash and freeze. My kind of preserving.

The direct seeded cucumbers had their first full size cukes ready (pickling cukes, technically gherkins, I pick at about 3 1/2 " or so). I picked four today and I suspect I'll pick more and more as they ramp up. They have already started sending out long side shoots. The transplanted ones haven't yet. I'm hoping they aren't permanently stunted. And since I picked enough to start pickling, I had to pick some seasonings. I picked two super chilis to make the pickles spicy. I usually let them get red and dry them. They are similar to cayennes, though pretty ornamentals since they hold their peppers upright. The other addition is of course dill. I didn't touch my flowering dill. I ended up picking enough dill for two batches of pickling juice so I made two. I'll eventually use the other one.

Refrigerator pickles

  • 4 cucumbers or however many fit in the jar
  • onion (not a full one just some slices)
  • orange pepper, couple of slices (ok use red if you like, but I had orange)
  • 2 hot peppers (used Super Chili)
  • 1 clove garlic sliced
  • 1 slice fresh ginger
  • 1c vinegar
  • 3/4c water
  • 3T sugar
  • T salt
  • dill sprigs, lots, however much you want, I'm guessing I used hmm 1/3c?
  • t dill seed (mine is from last year's crop)

Just a few of each of the following or pickling spice, but I just make my own since I have most of the things in it anyway.

  • whole mustard seed (though I seem to be out so just added a little powdered mustard)
  • whole cloves
  • whole allspice
  • small bit of cinnamon bark
  • bay leaf crumbled
  • peppercorns
  • coriander (yup from last year's crop)
  • mace not ground (optional, but I have some from when I traveled a while back, everyone wanted to give me fresh nutmeg since it was in season and the trees were everywhere)

Actually a lot of the spices are optional. I add it if I have it. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar. If you want it saltier, add more salt. It always turns out differently. But to finish off. Put it all in a clean glass jar and shake until all the salt and sugar is dissolved. Yup I don't cook it at all if I'm doing refrigerator pickles. They turn out very crispy this way. They are ready in about a little over a week if the cukes are whole, or three days if you slice them in some way. I'll keep adding to the jar until it is full with pickles (make sure the pickles are always covered), then let them sit while I start another jar. Yummy. I love summer pickles.

4 comments:

  1. Your pickles sound so good! Makes me wish I was growing cucumbers again this year. I have never made refrigerator pickles before. Your way sounds nice and easy! :-)

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  2. Raspberries look delicious. I didn't have luck with berries this year. The birds ate them all, and I didn't get a chance to eat any. Sadly. my eggplants are starting to grow more buds and flowers. And one baby eggplant. it's an exciting time!

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  3. They are easy, that is why I like refrigerator pickles. You don't actually have to sterilize them. And when the weather is hot, who wants to can?

    Ohhh baby eggplant. I'm hoping I get at least one eggplant out of mine. I have trouble expecting much from them since they seem in such sad shape.

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