Operation Pickle All The Things: Pickled Seckel Pears

I am on a mission friends.

I am going to pickle all the things.

I’ve mastered marmalade.  I’ve mastered jam.  I can can tomatoes drunk and barely awake, or hungover and almost asleep.  There remains but one canned mountain I have yet to climb (pressure canning doesn’t count).

Pickles.

Marisa McClellan, author of the incredibly useful Food in Jars, has started a new column at Serious Eats – “In a Pickle.”  And let me tell you, it is CALLING to me.  It’s a good match, you see.  I come home from the market with mounds of produce.  Some I freeze, most I eat.  The gobs of arugula I turn into pesto (more on that later).  The tomatoes I can, the plums become jam.  It’s still not enough.

Upon reading McClellan’s column a few weeks ago, she ended with the following:

“Try them on your Thanksgiving cheeseboard

SOLD.

salt, apple cider vinegar, pears, sugar

It took some doing though.  After checking Target, Whole Foods, Yes! Market, Giant, and calling the Spice and Tea Exchange, Safeway, and Harris Teeter, and Hill’s Kitchen, I could not find pickling salt ANYWHERE.  This is when it’s good to have a food scientist in your rolodex.  A quick consult to the Twitters, and Brock informed me that my kosher salt was just fine. (aside: pickling salt is pure salt, and doesn’t contain iodine, anti-caking agents, or other impurities, which can give you a cloudy brine.  Brock said that the anti-caking agent in kosher salt- I used Morton’s- is fine, and wouldn’t cloud the brine.  I should probably also mention that Brock is directly responsible for my canning prowess.  Thanks Brock!)

Fully stocked, I soldiered on.  Lacking whole cloves, I used star anise.  I’ve left out detailed instructions for canning, but I’m happy to answer questions.  I’ll cover canning in a later post.

Pickled Seckel Pears
Adapted from Marisa McClellan, Serious Eats

    • 3 pounds Seckel pears
    • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
    • 2 cups water
    • 2/3 cup granulated white sugar
    • 2 teaspoon pickling salt (I ground kosher salt with a mortar and pestle and measured 2 teaspoons)
    • 2-3 cinnamon sticks, broken
    • 5 star anise pods
    • 15 peppercorns
    • Other things: 5 pint jars with tops, basic canning setup: stockpot, tongs, funnel, jar lifters, dishtowels

1) Take the tops of the jars and rings off, place them in a heatproof bowl with the tongs and funnel.  Place the jars upside down in a 225-250 degree oven to sterilize.

2) While the jars sterilize, wash, halve, and core your pears (I used a melon baller, at McClellan’s recommendation).  Sterilize the jar tops, funnel and tongs in boiling water

3) Once the jars are cool, divide the cinnamon stick bits, peppercorns, and star anise among the jars.  Pack the pears, cut side down, in the jars, leaving about an inch of space at the top.

4) In a medium pot, mix the vinegar, water, sugar and salt, and bring to a boil.  Once it begins to boil, use the funnel (or pour into a pyrex cup) to pour the brine into the jars, leaving a half inch of head space.  Tap and use a spatula to get any air bubbles out.

5) Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, no more, no less.  When done, remove the jars and let them cool on the counter.

I should note, when I did this, I could only fit 3 jars at a time in my pot.  The first batch, with two jars, fell over, and I wasn’t so sure about the seal.  The beauty of pickles is that if you don’t want to go through the canning process, or something goes wrong, just stick them in the fridge.  Instant refrigerator pickles!  I actually used them for a party this past weekend, but we’ll get to that later.  At some point, I’d like to try these with cardamom pods, because really, who doesn’t love cardamom?

pickled pears in jars

Now, does anyone know where I can get some mustard seeds?

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sunday funday

Despite my best efforts in college, I am still something of an overachiever.  I have a problem saying no to people I love, and a dreadful tendency to burn the candle at both ends, and maybe in the middle a little as well.  A spate of weddings, a visit from my mom, and a heavy workload at my 9-5 (or 7-7 as the case may be) left me exhausted, definitely unwilling, and possibly unable to do anything this weekend.

Wait, I don’t mean that.  I mean…I didn’t want to have any obligatons.  No parties to attend, no dates for drinks (but not with you.  I always want to hang out with you), no family members needing help tiling, no nothing.  I am too much of a busybody to ACTUALLY do nothing.

So I got a pedicure.  I watched crappy TV.  I bought muffin rings and work clothes.  I spent Saturday evening with a horrible headache (bad) on the couch, watching Law and Order: SVU (not bad, also, you’ll notice I did not lump SVU in with “crappy tv” because it is the.best.show.ever.)  I woke up blessedly hangover-free and shockingly cheery at 6:45 Sunday morning.  I read Martha Stewart Living and called my mom lazed in bed until almost 8, and then commenced a bout of errand running that puts every last one of you to shame.  I visited Whole Foods (twice), the hardware store, my favorite coffee shop, the farmers market, Target, Giant, Yes! and Home Rule and spent a lot of time trying to find pickling salt.  And I still arrived home in just enough time to see Cam Newton throw his first interception…in the first 15 seconds of the Panthers game.

All of this is to say that I had grand plans for Sunday afternoon.  Soups to make and pears to pickle and tomatoes to can.  And I did none of it.  Not a single thing.  I sat on the couch with some of my favorite women in the world and yelled at the football and drank a lot of mimosas and ate too many nachos.  And you know what?  I don’t regret it at all.

Of course, this meant I had to rectify the situation on Monday.  Stay tuned.

wedding wear, chicago edition

Seeing as I am currently booted, I was a little worried about what to wear to a wedding I had to attend in Chicago this weekend.  My worries were further compounded by the small problem of not having any time to shop before I left DC.  Or get a manicure.  Or deal with my eyebrows.  It proved to be a fitting start to the weekend, as my flight to Chicago was cancelled (cue scrambling to get on another), and my boss’ flight to Chicago the day of the wedding was an hour late, throwing my entire schedule for the day off, and resulting in my arriving at the church for a 3:00pm wedding at approxomately 2:59:45.  At least I beat the bride in (barely), right?  All and all, it was a glorious weekend, if a little too short.

I did manage to do some shopping in Chicago, including a stop at the flagship Marshall Field’s Macy’s, and my favorite store on earth, the Nordstrom Rack.  I managed to put together a lovely outfit, after discarding this as too bridal (my size was only in the ivory) and this (in hot pink) as too sack-like poorly tailored.

On to the wedding wear:

Chicago Wedding in August

I think I did a decent job, yes? That’s not the exact necklace I wore, I can’t find it online, but it’s close enough.  Sadly, I only got to wear one of those sparkly shoes for the night. After trying to walk in both of them during cocktail hour, it was back into the boot for me.

on tartines

arugula, mozz and turkey "tartine"

tartine with turkey, arugula, and mozzarella

Oh, the tartine.

What’s that?  You don’t know what a tartine is?  Well!

A tartine is french for I can’t be bothered to write an actual blog post, so I’m going to toss some stuff on bread and come up with a fancy name for it an open faced sandwich.

The internet abounds with recipes for tartines.  Let me make it simple for you.  Step 1: Get good bread.  Step 2: Slice in half. Step 3: Put (a) good thing(s) on bread.  Step 4: Eat.    Tartines, my darlings, are not complicated things.  Traditionally, they are quite literally bread and something on it.

Which brings us to the present.  We don’t need recipes for tartines.  I promise we don’t.  So please internet, stop.  I get it.  You can talk all about the pleasure of superlative ingredients, simply combined.  I can get behind that.  But let’s not pretend, mkay?

As for me, I put a lid on my tartine and ate a sandwich for dinner, like a good American.

Market Update- June 17, 2011

This week it’s all about the glory that is the tart cherry.  My little sister used to climb the cherry tree in my grandparent’s back yard and fight the birds just to have a few.  Things aren’t quite that bad for me.

Summer squash is still at the market, and our very first raspberries have started (the farm I work for is in Pennsylvania, so we’re a few weeks behind the places in Maryland and Virginia.

I am not a fan of vegan food, for the simple reason that an existence without cheese is not something I am willing to contemplate.  At all.  For even a nanosecond.  Color me pleasantly surprised by the brown basmati rice lemon zucchini salad from V Picnic Club.  This ALMOST makes up for Juan Carlos not opening his taco stand at Mt. Pleasant this year.  Almost.

cherry pork loin roast and pea cake

I did it.  I found my new. favorite. cherry. recipe.  I love this so much I’m not even sad about pitting a pound and a half of cherries by hand.  I’m not mad that Jamelle got a better picture of it than I did.  I’m not sad about the accidentally leaving the charcoal out in the rain because we had so much fun I forgot about it.  Or that I had planned to make another side.  Or that my kohlrabi went all squidgy and refused to become slaw.  I’m not mad about any of it.  Because this was delicious.  Made even tastier by the bevy of lovely people who descended upon my house to try it.

And dessert!  You might know I have a thing for peas.  So when Google Reader presented me with a pea cake, I pretty much have to attempt it.  It’s kind of a given.

I’m not sure I’ll recreate.  But it was tasty enough.  And the most magnificent shade of green.

Market update- June 11, 2011

Garlic scapes!  AND CHERRIES!  And the end of the noble asparagus.  This is on my list for things to do with cherries immediately.