A trio of spring pickles: rhubarb, ramps & fiddleheads | Simple Bites

A trio of spring pickles: ramps, rhubarb and fiddleheads

My spontaneous pickling session last week began with a spotless kitchen. Few things are as inspiring as the blank canvas of pristine counters, an empty dishwasher, and every tool at your disposal.

I had just boiled the kettle and made a pot of tea. The afternoon stretched out open ahead of me, a rare block of time when I didn’t have something pressing to attend to.  My mind wandered to the ramps on the forest floor that were rapidly being taken over by dense foliage. Their season had nearly passed and I had only foraged for one handful. If I wanted pickles, today would have to be the day.

Come to think of it, my rhubarb was filling in nicely; I had also wanted to put up a few jars of pickled stalks. I may as well combine the projects. And if I was really going to do this, why leave out the fiddleheads in the refrigerator? Pickled fiddleheads are a must for future salads and cocktail garnishes.

Before I had time to question my ambitions, I filled my canning pot half full of water, lowered 6 jars onto the rack and set it on my gas range. I grabbed a notepad and jotted down a flavor profile for each batch. [Read more...]

two jars strawberry caramel 820

Strawberry Caramel Sauce

To my mind, caramel sauce is truly one of life’s greatest edible pleasures. As a canner, it’s long been a great disappointment to me that there’s no way to safely preserve homemade caramel sauce so that it can be shelf staple and given as gifts.

All that changed when I discovered fruit-based caramel sauces. I first learned of this magical concoction from a piece on Gilt Taste (sadly, the piece is no longer available).

pouring strawberry puree

In that story, the author wrote about how one could start a batch of caramel sauce but then, instead of using cream to finish the sauce, you poured in a fruit puree. Absolutely genius.

The first time I tried it, I was completely sold. The flavor is amazing, it’s easy to make, and the ingredients are nearly identical to jam, so it is perfectly safe for canning.

[Read more...]

denuded oranges 820

Honey Sweetened Cara Cara Orange Jam

Back in mid-February, my husband and I made our quarterly trek out to Costco. We got necessary items like toilet paper and dishwasher tablets, as well as a number of not-so-necessary things like 96 ounces of dried blueberries and ten pounds of Cara Cara oranges.

I adore Cara Caras for their pink flesh and sweet/tart flavor. But as the sole fruit eater in my household, ten pounds is a lot to move through in a timely fashion. A preserving project was in order.

[Read more...]

sunbutter header image 3

Homemade Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter

Over the years, I’ve spent a goodly amount of time dabbling in homemade nut butters (several of my favorites are in my first cookbook, Food in Jars).

I really enjoy taking a product that’s most often brought home from the store and translating it into something I can make at home. It’s an added bonus that the homemade version is almost always fresher, made with better ingredients, and contains less sugar.

roasted sunflower seeds

My most recent batch was inspired by a comment a friend made online recently. Her daughter’s favorite sandwich was Nutella on whole wheat bread but her new school had a strict nut-free policy (understandable with all the allergies kids have these days). They were looking for a lunchbox replacement but were coming up empty.

[Read more...]

spiced orange jam 820

Pomander Spiced Orange Jam

When I was growing up, one of my very favorite holiday-time projects was making pomander balls.

My mom would put out a bowl of oranges and give both my sister and me small dishes filled with cloves. We’d use toothpicks to pre-prick the oranges with patterns and then would poke cloves into those spots. When they were all done, we’d roll them in a mix of ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and then set them around the house in small saucers.

10 oranges in a bowl

They were time consuming, but I loved making them. Nothing smells quite so much like the Christmas season to me than the combination of orange and spice.

[Read more...]