Thursday, September 18, 2008

Saints Preserve Us!

Since I'm getting a breather from my social whirlwind this evening, I thought I'd better get into the kitchen and do something with at least some of my CSA produce (from last week and this).

The other day, I finally cut into my half a watermelon from last week's CSA, and I prepared the rind for making more watermelon pickles. Thank goodness, the recipe is one that can be made in stages, so I've tackled one stage at a time in the mornings before work.

When I came home from work today, I finished simmering the already-spiced rind with more sugar and vinegar, then ladled the rind and syrup into three half-pint jars and processed the batch. This batch came out lighter than the last, but it still had a very full fragrance.

After dinner, I seeded and julienned the large orange sweet pepper from yesterday's share and arranged the strips on a parchment-covered baking sheet to dry in the oven overnight. (I love how easy it is to dry vegetables!)

Finally, I chopped the cilantro from yesterday's basket and added it to a handful of chopped tomatoes from the pile on the counter, pureeing the mixture in My Wonderful Parents' little food processor (which I suppose I really ought to return to them one of these days).

I tried this last year for a new way to preserve tomatoes and late season cilantro, pouring the puree into ice cube trays as I do my pesto and freezing them for later use. It's so handy to pop a couple of these cubes into an Indian dish, adding the fresh bite of cilantro even in the heart of winter. (Besides, at this point, I'm running out of ideas for the tomatoes, too!)

I still have some eggplant in the refrigerator, and I hope I can get another batch of breaded eggplant made before I lose it, but we'll see. I've got cabbage and carrots to use up, too, so I'll probably be busy again this weekend, trying to clean up.

But a little divine intervention wouldn't be taken amiss!

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At 9/19/2008 6:17 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

Honest to pete, your preserving makes me feel so inadequate!

At 9/20/2008 1:10 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Oh, Janet, don't! Remember, I've got a couple years of practice ahead of you -- and you've made a great start this year!

At 9/21/2008 11:46 PM, Blogger Tara said...

Hi Jennifer,

This is Tara from the CSA! Do you have any old posts about drying vegetables or good links to explain how to do it. My freezer is bursting with CSA soups. I thought it might be nice to dry some veggies for soups and stews, but have no idea how to do it, or how dry is dry enough to store without the stuff molding.


At 9/22/2008 7:32 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Hey there, Tara! Welcome! I covered the basics of drying in an early Preserving post but in looking over it, I would add that if you're drying in the oven, set your oven temp as low as it will go (I set mine at 170 F and things are usually dry in about 12 hours). If you have a gas oven, I think you can get enough heat just from the pilot light.

Vegetables that do NOT need blanching before drying include: tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic. You'll want to dry vegetables until they are between leathery and crisp. I usually lean toward the crisp side just to be safe because I generally use the dried vegetables in a stew, so they have plenty of time to rehydrate.

One of these days I'm going to come up with some dried veg soup mixes, but if you have any you especially like, Tara, please feel free to share!

At 9/22/2008 4:12 PM, Blogger Tara said...

Thanks Jennifer. I'm not really sure where I am going with this but I'm running out of freezer space and don't want all my yummy CSA food going to waste. I was going to start by cooking up some basic veggie mixes and freezing them (onions, celery, carrots, squash, corn, spinach, tomato, bay leaf and herbs. Then all I would have to do is add the broth. Then I saw your mention of drying veggies in the oven. I always thought you had to have a dehydrator... If I come up with something good, I'll let you know!

At 9/23/2008 7:30 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

My freezer is full, too, Tara, so I've been drying a LOT more this year. I did borrow a dehydrator for part of the season, and that's really nice, too, but the oven does work well. Food comes out a little browner, but it still turns out well.

Have fun!

At 9/23/2008 3:10 PM, Blogger Kelly said...

oooh, I need to try that with the tomato/cilantro. I have cilantro in olive oil frozen, but have 3 bunches grabbed at this week's market, and just came in from harvesting another giant mixing bowl of tomatoes.

At 9/23/2008 3:32 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

And now that you mention an alternative, Kelly, I don't know why I never think to make cilantro pesto and freeze it for Thai dishes! Guess I don't cook Thai food often enough...


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