Friday, December 31, 2004

Eat Your (Pickled) Vegetables

Guess What! I broke my stove yesterday. Actually, it was a double oven with integral range top. But, really--I did break it. I was in the process of making some pickled asparagus and green beans using the two “large” electric eyes of the range and the whole shebang just shut down. The work light quit working and the vent fan quit venting and both “eyes” I was using at the time just quit.

I checked the electrical circuit breaker in the fuse box and tried again and nothing worked. Now what could I do. I already had a number of pounds of fresh asparagus "par boiled" and cooling in an ice water bath, several pounds of fresh green beans ready to "par boil," and four Ball mason jars and lids boiled and sterilized. The problem was that my pickling vinegar mix was still at room temperature.

Our downstairs condo neighbor, Mr. Harlan “Bucky” Strader, was kind enough to allow me to use his range to par boil my green beans and heat up a couple of batches of vinegar in order to save the day.

As of 7:30 AM this morning, the range still isn’t working, but it is paying a heavy price as I have unscrewed the control panel and opened up its “guts” and found the wiring diagram on the internet and I am confident that I will force it to work again this weekend or it will be forced to leave the premises. Consider this a threat...

Now--as to the Pickled Vegetables. Just like cucumbers and olives, asparagus and green beans can be preserved in a pickling solution and used as a side dish or a snack or a garnish for “adult beverages” like Bloody Mary’s and martinis. If you buy them in a restaurant or grocery store, the price can range upwards of $6 or $8 per jar. I like to make my own version of these delicacies when the vegetables are cheep and in season for half the cost.

Here is what you will need to make your own:

8 Ball one quart mason jars with new lids

fresh asparagus and/or fresh green beans
white vinegar
apple cider vinegar
pickling spice(s)
colored bell peppers (your choice)
hot peppers (your choice)
fresh thyme
black peppercorns
kosher salt

Notice that I don’t give any quantities with the ingredients. This is because everyone's (and every batch) will be different based on what you can buy in the grocery store and what you have on hand when you are doing your “pickling.”

Redneck Tip: There are a number of web sites on the Internet that outline the wherefores and whenceshalls of canning and pickling. The only thing I can add here is be careful because everything you do will be hot as heck and be clean, clean, clean or you could be dead, dead, dead. Also, Ball Jar company makes a set of tongs, a funnel, and a magnetic wand for retrieving your jars and lids and filling same that is indispensable.

The process is basically as follows:

Sort and rinse your vegetables under cool water. Place batches of the vegetables into a large boiler of water and parboil for three minutes. Drain and place the vegetables in an ice water bath to stop them from cooking further and to retain the color.

Your pickling mixture composition can vary quite a bit based on your personal tastes. I use 3 parts white vinegar to 1 part apple cider vinegar. I also add salt, black peppercorns, cloves, and dill weed to my mix. Make about 2/3 as much as the quantity of jars you expect to fill i.e. 4 quarts for 6 jars of vegetables pickled. Heat your mixture to a low boil on the stove and then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, heat a large 12 or 16 quart boiler full of water to boiling. Place as many jars (and lids) as will fit in your boiler at one time into the water and boil for two or three minutes. Turn off the heat.

Empty the jars and remove them from the boiler, placing them on a clean dishtowel on the countertop adjacent to the stove.

Drain your vegetables and carefully load them into the hot jars. I take my time and make sure all of the asparagus and green beans are standing up vertical and parallel in the jars. When the jar is full, poke your peppers, fresh thyme sprig, and a few garlic cloves into the jar and pour enough of your pickling mixture into the jar to cover the vegetables. Put a lid ring and new disk and repeat until you run out of vegetables.

Redneck Tip: I make jars containing the same pickling liquid and different mixes of vegetables. Some are all asparagus, some all beans, then some are a mix of asparagus and beans. Also, I put more peppers and garlic in some jars so the old folks with no taste buds can have a good time and break a sweat too.

Sit your finished jars on the counter out of the way and wait for the lids to “pop” as the cooling liquid pulls a slight vacuum and seals everything nice and tight.

The finished product will keep on a shelf in a cool dark place in your kitchen for months. Please note that the “temperature” goes up the longer the veggies sit in the mixture, so watch your mouth when you take the first taste. I keep a jar in the refrigerator and pull a piece or two out as a snack every once in a while just for the heck of it...yum...

Regards Y’all

The Redneck Gourmet


Romeocat said...

Oooh, sounds really good - especially since (now that I'm in the country) I've been thinking about canning...

Thanks for stopping by, Virgil, it's always good to hear from you!

-- R'cat
CatHouse Chat

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Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.
asparagus growing tip

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