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One trip to the Farmers’ Market is enough to know that spring is truly here.  Mounds of fava beans, pea shoots, and strawberries compete for space with kale, beets, and last season’s  potatoes.  My kids and I headed over last weekend to pick up some fresh foods and the obligatory honey sticks.  When we returned home, our house was unpleasantly warm thanks to unseasonably sultry weather.  It may have been too hot to cook, but it was the perfect temperature to put together some quick refrigerator pickles.

Pickled Spring Vegetables are an Asian-inspired quick pickle.   Quick pickles are a fantastic use for all sorts of vegetables and do not require time or canning equipment.   I used Easter egg radishes, fresh nantes carrots, and leeks from our trip to the market, though you could also use cucumbers, onions, daikon radishes, or just about any other vegetable you want to pickle.  The brine is based on rice wine vinegar and lime juice that tempers the sweetness.  These pickles have hints of flavor from slices of ginger, garlic and cilantro.  Slice up the veggies and pour over the brine.  The pickles will be ready to eat in under an hour.  Letting them sit overnight will intensify the flavor, if they last that long.

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Pickled Beets with Cumin

March 22, 2012

Pickled Beets with Cumin.  Who would have thought that such a short list of ingredients could produce a condiment with so much flavor, texture, and interest?  After making these for the first time, I have been determined to keep the refrigerator stocked with them ever since.  A huge thanks to Linda Ziedrich to introducing me to this recipe via The Joy of Pickling.

To prepare, roast the beets until just tender.  Peel and dice them into small chunks, then drown them in red wine vinegar infused with peppercorns, salt, and of course cumin.  Cap them off and keep them in the refrigerator.  Letting them sit at least a few days will allow the flavors to meld.  They will keep up to 3 weeks.

These tasty chunks of beet are fantastic on their own, but pair them with feta and you have a very tasty snack.  Toss a few in the salad along with the vinegar and finish up with a drizzle of olive oil for an easy salad dressing.  There are probably a million more ways to eat these, but the beets never stick around long enough for me to dream up new ideas.  How will you eat them?

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My mom taught me how to can.  In fact, she was full of useful instruction when I was a kid including: how to make my bed (hospital corners), the art of the thank you letter, and the ever-so-wise tip: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” (I seem to have forgotten this last one recently and so I am resurrecting it as my new mantra- I think it will serve me well.)  Though I do still try to do my best with thank you letters, I admit to having given up on the tightly made bed (duvees are the way to go!)  The canning skills I learned from her though,  are still extremely relevant and useful.  I took it for granted growing up that the pantry was always full of a variety of delicious jams.  It was not until I was older that I realized how few people my age knew about this practical art.  Gratefully, the art of preservation is experiencing a resurgence.  Just look at the popularity of sites such as Punk Domestics and Food in Jars.

My first canning projects were jams: apricot , raspberry, blueberry.  My mom showed me how to carefully sort the fruit, meticulously wash the jars, fill them leaving just the right amount of head-space, and secure them with clean lids and bands.  It was a fun activity to share and I of course loved to taste the fruits of our labors.  Over the years, I branched out in quantity (such as the 200 jars I made for our wedding favors out of our 20 square foot college kitchen) and variety by adding in pickles and relish, as well as applesauce and curds.This recipe is not one of my childhood.  It has become a family favorite none-the-less, born out of necessity as my parents’ garden expanded and they learned that three of four zucchini plants really are extreme plenty for a two-person household.

Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Pickles is the recipe that makes me yearn for our zucchini plants to over-produce.  No matter how many jars I make each year, it is never enough.  By February or March, I find myself rationing them so that we have enough to last until the next harvest.  Sweet, tangy, and crunchy with just a little bit of spice.  These are a staple on our weekend lunch table.  They are great on sandwiches or on their own.

What tips did your mother teach you that you still put to use?

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