23 August 2011

Tart And Sweet

We love confiture.

The last couple of years has seen a boom for canning cookbooks. It seems everyone with some Ball jars and deep pot is out there canning. Well good for them. What is really great about these newer canning book is their detail to size. Many older canning books go for that big batch, supporting the family for the entire year approach. Newer canning books tell you how to grab up a few pints of berries and turn it into jam without commandeering the entire neighborhood or kitchen for that matter.

So here's the deal with many of these cookbooks: they tend to be overwrought with info, making you believe you need to be a rocket scientist to make a simple jam... Houston we have blueberries! Then there is the other extreme, add fruit, sugar, cook, and can. Tart and Sweet has a nice medium. There are photos of things you need to know, like how much head space does one really need in one's pickles, or jam for that matter.

Kelly Geary runs Sweet Deliverance NYC in New York City or Brooklyn, you know somewhere "up there." Jessie Knadler used to be a big old New Yorker until love intervened and now she live in Virginia and can be found at Rurally Screwed. Their recipes are easy, the pictures are lovely, and they give you options for what exactly to do with all this stuff once you get it canned. I love using my jams and conserves as cocktail ingredients and so do they.

If I do have a big old criticism it is using Pomona's Universal Pectin. I have used it before, but being one of those people who is "rurally screwed", it is a tough product to find in West Virginia. But then, I try to stay away from pectin all together. But seriously, what do I do.

That being said, this is a good book for someone who is starting out and needs to know the basics. This book includes one of my favorite pickles, pickled fiddleheads. Now if you think Pomona's Universal Pectin is tough to find, try finding fiddleheads at your local grocery.

I first tried these great pickles in Vermont. I swore my friend Barbara said her mother-in-law made them, but both Barbara and her husband, Steve, swear I made that up. Several years later I found a forager and pickle maker in the backwoods of Vermont. The guy had no e-mail, nothing but a PO Box. I would request two jars of pickled fiddleheads and send cash. Several months later I would eventually receive a box packed with two pints of pickled fiddleheads. I would admire them for several weeks before breaking into them. I lost track of my forager, but if you find the fiddlehead guy, tell him to call. In the meantime if you've got the fiddleheads....

Pickled Fiddleheads

3 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
2 1/2 cups water

2 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 3/4 lbs. fiddleheads (see note)

Per jar:

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp. brown mustard seed

2 tsp. coriander seed

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

1/2 tsp. dill seed

1/4 tsp. celery seed

Note: Fiddleheads can taste bitter if not cleaned properly. To prepare, trim the “tail” of the shoot just to where it starts to coil. Soak the heads in cold water and swirl them around, picking and rubbing away any brown flaky bits. Repeat as necessary until all the brown bits have been removed.

1. Bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil in a medium nonreactive pot. Stir to dissolve the salt.

2. Pack the fiddleheads, bay leaf, garlic and spices into hot jars. Pour boiling brine over the fiddleheads, making sure they are covered and leaving 1/2 inch head space.

3. Check for air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal. Process for 10 minutes , adjusting for elevation.

Or you could just grab a pint or two of berries.

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