Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What to do with an excess of CSA Vegetables? Pickles!

I hate to complain at all about the abundance of beautiful fresh vegetables we get in our CSA every week, but sometimes it's all you can do to keep up. Right when you think you're doing a great job of eating everything up, another box comes along and throws another 57 zucchinis into the mix. I was in DIRE straights a few weeks ago - 2 weeks worth of beets, green beans and yellow squash. I knew there was no way for me to eat all of those veggies before a) they went bad and b) I got a new stash of vegetables. What to do in this conundrum? Pickles!

I knew before the summer even started that at some point I wanted to pickle beets and green beans. I never thought of pickling squash, but a quick Internet search showed me that it's been done before! I thought the squash would turn out spongy or mushy, but it is quite crisp and delicious. The great thing about pickles is that you can use any flavors you like and adjust your recipe to suit your taste whether it is for sweeter or more sour pickles, to add spice or interesting flavors like curry or lavender.

*One note - I made these as refrigerator pickles although you could easily go through the canning process to make them shelf stable. If you are going to can them, it's important to remember to use really only the freshest fruits or vegetables - any blemishes or rotting on the food can spoil your whole batch once it's canned.

Pickled Green Beans

2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut to fit your jars
1 white onion, peeled and cut into thin slices
Lemon zest, 4 inch piece of peel for each jar
1 Tbs sugar
1/4 cup salt (kosher is fine)
2 cups boiling water
2 cups white vinegar
4 garlic cloves (or more!)
2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix the green beans and onions together. Bring water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil, making sure the sugar and salt dissolve. In the meantime, assemble your jars - place a piece of lemon peel and a garlic clove in each jar and distribute the mustard seeds and red pepper flakes among the jars. You may want to use more than what is listed above - I did!

Pack the jars tightly with the green beans and onions and then carefully pour the hot water/vinegar mixture into each jar. If you are canning them, you will want to leave about an inch of head room. If you're just putting them in the refrigerator you can fill to the top. This recipe filled 6 8oz jars.

Pickled Beets
*I left my beets raw, although all recipes I saw called for cooking them first. I wanted them to have a crunch, but you do what you think you'd like best.

5 lb beets, cut into quarters or eighths, depending on the size of your beets.
7 peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
3 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, peppercorns and cinnamon sticks in a pot and bring to a boil; stir occasionally to ensure the sugar is dissolved. Pour this mixture over your beets in a large bowl and let sit until they cool. I didn't put these in jars right away, instead once they cooled I just put them in a large plastic container and refrigerated for a week. Once they were pickled, I distributed into smaller containers, but again, unless you're going for shelf stable, any air tight container will do in the fridge.

Sweet and Hot Curried Squash Pickles
*From The Splendid Table

3 lbs. yellow squash or zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
2 onions, thinly sliced (recipe called for red, I had white)
3 to 4 hot chiles, whatever you have, thinly sliced into rounds
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 3/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup sherry
1 1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups sugar
2 Tbs curry powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground allspice (recipe called for whole)
1 tsp ground cloves (recipe called for whole)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

In a large bowl, combine squash, onions, chiles and salt. Let them stand for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse to remove the salt.

In a medium saucepan, bring all the remaining ingredients to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for 3 minutes - stir to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Pour the hot liquid over the squash and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once these were cool, I transferred to plastic containers to refrigerate. They are good within a few hours but develop a more intense flavor if you can leave them longer. I was highly skeptical that these would be good - but they are! Nice and crisp with a great flavor.

So now instead of drowning in fresh vegetables, I'm drowning in pickles! But I've been able to give a lot away as gifts and the stress of wasting my beautiful veggies was definitely minimized! (Thanks to Lainie for these muy romantica pickle pictures.)

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