preserves and pickles

Preserving summer's bounty - for diabetics

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Some tips for keeping the bounty of summer for later use, especially if you are a diabetic or have other health restrictions. continue reading...

Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 4, Part 1 : Awase-zu (Vinegar Sauces) For Sunomono

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This is Lesson 4 of Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku. In this lesson we’ll learn how to make the little refreshing side dishes called sunomono (酢の物), which often accompany a Japanese meal. Part 1 is about the various vinegary sauce combinations, called awase-zu. continue reading...

Umeboshi (pickled 'plum') article in The Japan Times

Different kinds of umeboshi

This month’s Japan Times article is about umeboshi, the sour-salty pickled fruit (usually called a pickled plum, though it’s actually more related to an apricot) that’s practically a national symbol.

I’ve written quite a lot about umeboshi on these pages before of course, including how to make your own if you can get a hold of the fresh ume fruit, following my mother’s instructions. continue reading...

Shio-kōji (salt kōji) article in The Japan Times

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It may look just like rice porridge, but this flavor packed, allergen-free flavoring ingredient is much more than that. I think it deserves a worldwide audience. continue reading...

Homemade Umeboshi (Japanese salty pickled plums) - now with troubleshooting notes

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Update: I’ve revised this, possibly the most popular umeboshi recipe in English online, to include some key troubleshooting notes. Originally published June 18, 2009. My mom has been making a batch of umeboshi every year since, and I’ve also added some more notes from her.

My mother came for a visit this week, bringing along a pot of her homemade umeboshi. I asked her to tell me how she makes them; not only did she write it down for me, she even had pictures she’d taken of her attempts in the past couple of years! So, here is my mom’s version of how to make homemade umeboshi. I’ve freely translated her Japanese explanation to English.

My mother [my grandmother - maki] used to make umeboshi every year. When I lived in New York, I was too busy working to do much cooking, let alone umeboshi! But now that I am retired, I’m trying to remember how to do things the old way. Homemade umeboshi is so much more delicious than store bought, so they are worth the effort. continue reading...

Single variety tomato sauce

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Minimalist tomato sauce, made from a single variety of heirloom tomatoes. continue reading...

Strawberry Jam in copious detail

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I’ve left it until rather late in the season, but here is a recipe for a a very straightforward strawberry jam. continue reading...

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Homemade Umeshu (plum wine) and Ume Hachimitsu Sour (ume honey-vinegar drink)

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Since so many people liked my mom’s umeboshi recipe, here are two more recipes using ume plums from her. She doesn’t have photos for these, so I’ve taken a picture of her notes, with a little illustration she did of how to layer the ume and sugar for the umeshu (plum wine). continue reading...

Roasted spicy-sweet red pepper jam

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Being a sucker for anything On Sale, a couple of weeks ago I was lured by a big AKTION sign at the supermarket into buying a 3 kilo (about 6.6 lb) bag of sweet red peppers. As much as I love peppers, it was going to be impossible to consume all of it in regular ways. Making a jam or jelly out of them was an obvious answer.

I wanted a jam that could be used as condiment or sauce as well as in regular jam-like ways, e.g. spread on bread. I set about trying to find a good, easy to make and not too sugary red pepper jelly or jam recipe on the internets, but nothing I read really stood out on its own to me. So I set about taking this from that and that from the other recipe, and after ruining about a kilo of the peppers in the first attempt, came up with something that is not bad at all. continue reading...

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Preserving shiso, basil, lemon verbena, and other herbs

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Around here it’s already cool enough to declare that summer is over and fall is here. (Actually we had a very cold, wet summer anyway, but nevertheless.) So the summer vegetable plants in my garden are dying off, and I’m in the process of salvaging the remaining tomatoes and eggplants, picking the last zucchini, and eyeing the winter squash to see when they will be ready.

Tender herbs like basil are on their last legs, so I’m picking and preserving those flavors of summer so that they can brighten the dark winter months. Last year I took the lazy option and froze everything, packing the picked leaves in plastic bags and throwing them in our big locker-type freezer. Freezing is okay if you’re too busy to do anything else with your herbs, but not really the optimal way all the time to keep tender herbs in the long run. So this year I’m thinking things through a bit more and considering how I want to use each herb, and preserving them accordingly. Each method is quite easy and really doesn’t take that much time. continue reading...

Introduction to quick Japanese tsukemono (pickles)

In Japan, tsukemono or pickles are used as hashi-yasume, literally “chopstick resters”, side dishes that have a totally different texture and flavor. So for instance if you had some grilled meat with a sweet-savory sauce as the main course, you might have some simple, crunchy pickled cucumber slices to go with it.

This week I’ll be posting some quick Japanese vegetable pickle recipes. Japanese pickles can be very loosely divided into three kinds: the kind that take some time to ‘ripen’, but then last indefinitely, rather like Western style pickles; the kind that is ready in a few days, but which require a pickling bed that takes time to make and to maintain; and finally, the quick and easy kind that can be made and eaten within a day. The last two kinds do not keep well - just like fresh vegetables, they must be eaten within a short time.

Quick pickles, called sokusekizuke (instant pickles) or ichiya-zuke (overnight pickles) depending on how long they take to come to full flavor, are very easy to make as their names suggest. They are a great way to prepare vegetables without having to add any additional fat, though a few recipes do call for some oil. continue reading...

Coming up next week: a week of sokuseki zuke (quick Japanese pickles)

I am going to take the weekend off from the computer because I have a Mountain Of Things to Do away from it. Next week, I’ll have a series of posts about quick Japanese pickles, or sokuseki zuke. Sokuseki zuke pickles are the busy cook’s alternative to ‘real’ pickles like nukazuke (rice brain pickles), of the kind that require nursing a pickling bed, long resting periods, and such complicated procedures. The word sokuseki means instant, and these pickles are usually ready to eat in a short period, anywhere from overnight to about an hour. continue reading...

Produce: Plums, plus plum jam

To me, plums are like the last gasp of summer before fall settles in. They are related to other summer stone fruit, like peaches and apricots, but they have a much more elusive flavor.

Plums continue reading...

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Summer berry and lemon verbena jelly

The tall, willowy plant with the long, narrow leaves waved around in the breeze, behind the rows of neat balls of mini-basil. Wondering what it was, I stretched out a hand and rubbed a leaf.

Immediately, my senses were filled with a lemony, refined aroma. It was like a lemon scented geranium, but not quite. It was like lemon balm, but not as minty. The sunburned, kindly faced owner of the market stall said that it was verveine. He went into a long explanation, of which I understood perhaps half, about how to care for the plant. I nodded ernestly and took notes. continue reading...

Weekend Project: Garlic, garlic, garlic!

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Weekend Project is an ongoing series of slightly more involved recipes or food projects that are best tackled on the weekends.

I love garlic. It's hard for me to even conceive of the notion that someone can actually not like garlic. But indeed, there are a few lost souls who don't like garlic that much. continue reading...

Chutney, and old-fashioned flavors

Palm Digital Media has been giving away a free ebook a day for the "12 days of Christmas". One of the free books was Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. I hadn't read it in quite a long time, and it was like visiting an old friend from my childhood to do so now. Its slightly preachy, rather sappy and quite Victorian tone is really perfect for the Christmas season. continue reading...

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