February 2010


Either Doris or Jilly has a mean streak. I don’t know which one is responsible, but Carrots? Really? Yes indeed. The theme foodstuff for this month’s installment of the tigress can jam is carrots.

A vegetable.

A low acid vegetable.

This is haaaaaaard. OK, quitcha bitchin girl and get a grip. Truthfully I found myself not particularly inspired by this theme, but I guess that is why this is a challenge eh? I spent a goodly amount of time poking around books and the intarweb to try and figure out what to do. I explored carrot jams, carrot chutneys, carrot slaw like applications … and carrot pickles.

I procrastinated. I waited until the week of and went through the entire list of participants on tigress’s blog to see what the early birds were posting. Finally I girded my loins and did what I do best.

Deferred the decision. Since I would more than likely not be eating any carrot based item I canned – I asked my hubby what he would prefer. Would he like something sweet or savory? The decisive answer was savory. Would he want something slaw-like or a pickle? Again, a decisive decision in the pickle direction. So now I had somewhere to start! Yay!

I settled on a recipe in what is probably my favorite canning book: The Complete Book of Year-round Small Batch Preserving.

Floaters - how do you avoid floaters?

She has a recipe that uses those little lathed out mini-carrots that you can buy anywhere anytime. So I got to pickling.

Not one to leave well enough alone – I tinkered with the recipe. I didn’t want to mess with the acidity so I looked at the constituent parts. The original recipe called for fresh oregano, I figured I could substitute any fresh herb in similar quantities. The original called for chopped bell peppers in two colors, again, if I maintained ratios any pepper should do. And if I add more acid that can’t hurt right?

So here it is, it’ll take a month for my hubby to let me know if they are any good.

Spicy Thai Basil Carrot Pickles

The Hardware: standard canning stuff see The Canning Thing this will make 2 pint jars. Wide mouthed is best. A vegetable peeler and a pair of chopsticks will be handy also.

The Software:
4 medium leaves fresh Basil
2 Limes
1 lb peeled “Baby” carrots
6 Thai chili peppers
2 cloves Garlic
1 1/2 C White Vinegar
1/2 C Sugar
1 t Pickling Salt

Wash all of your produce and then nuke your limes for about 20 seconds on high. Using a vegetable peeler, remove two 1/2 inch wide strips of zest from tip to tail on your best looking lime. Cut limes in half and juice into a liquid measure (if you are like me – cuss because you didn’t realize you had several small cuts on the ends of your fingers), if necessary add water until the quantity reaches a total of 1/3 C.

Put lime juice, vinegar, sugar and salt into a small saucepan over medium heat and start on it’s way to a boil. Peel your garlic cloves and start two little piles. Add two clean basil leaves to each garlic clove and be happy that your piles are growing. Take the two strips of lime zest and cut them into thinner strips – divide between the piles.

Wearing at least one glove, use a sharp knife and cut the stem ends off of the peppers and then cut a small slit in the length of each chili – add three chilies to each pile. If you haven’t figured it out yet – each pile is going to go into one of the two pint jars that you have hanging out in your BWB.

Regard your carrots. If any of them seem to be a bit chunky for the “Baby” moniker – cut them in half lengthwise. It is a harsh diet – but it has to happen. Once your pickling liquid is almost to a boil, remove the jars from the hot water. Place the basil leaves neatly covering the bottom of each jar – I use chopsticks to futz with them because HEY THESE JARS ARE HOT.

Once you have the basil the way you want it, add the lime zest and garlic. Then start arranging “Baby” carrots. I found it easier to lay the jars on their side and stack the little impudent buggers in there. When I got to halfway full on the first layer I put two of the chilies in vertically on opposite sides from one another. Then I finished filling in carrots. I took the third chili and put it in the second layer of carrots.

Repeat process with second jar. Sit upright and fill with the boiling liquid – leave 1/2 inch head-space. Put on lids and rings and then lower into BWB. Begin timing after you have regained a full boil – process for 15 minutes (Sea Level) I did 20 minutes because I am over 1K feet. You can do your own math for wherever you live.

All that futzin with the chopsticks?

Not a good look for garlic.

Pointless. As usual with raw pack things – it all floated up to the top and shifted and stuff. My carefully arranged vegetable masterpieces look like a 5 year old did them. One of these days I will learn the secret of  packing jars so that they don’t end up floaters – but it wasn’t this day.

Also – did you know that garlic turns a fairly icky blue/green color when it is pickled? Not nice. Not nice at all. And basil? Not lovely. It looks kinda kelpy and possibly slimy. Did I mention that I will so not be eating these?

I am looking forward to next month – when my hubby will let me know if these are edible. Until then – I recommend that you bookmark this page and wait and see before you try this yourself.

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It turns out that my bulk mashing post is one the more popular posts on this here blog. It kind of makes me feel better about myself knowing that there are others out there that cannot resist the bargain bag of ‘taters even when we know darn well that we cannot eat the whole thing before it goes over to the dark side.

But this time it wasn’t my fault – it was totally my Mom’s fault. You see, just after the holidays they pull up stakes and relocate to warmer climes which leaves me as the beneficiary of the “cleaning out of the perishables”. Not that I am complaining, free food – especially a staple – is always welcome in my home. And yet I found myself, once again, staring at the lumpy proliferation of tasty tubers in my pantry.

Which sat in my pantry.

And sat.

Until I said CRAP I gotta do something with those ‘taters. So I did, about a month ago (what you thought I had magic ‘taters that lasted from the end of December until February? – no chance, not with our humidity), but I waited to let y’all know until I had fully tested my plan. Because I don’t want to pass on any crappy advice, I have standards you know?

Like mashed potatoes - only you are supposed to eat a whole bowl.

The Initial Spud Soup Starter

The Hardware: A big honkin’ pot, immersion blender, ladle and quart freezer bags

The Software: A metric butt-tonne of russet potatoes and enough stock to cover, plus whatever spices you like.

Take your ‘taters, peel then chop them into chunks – toss them into your big honkin’ pot. Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the spuds. If you are a vegetarian type person, I am sure that a vegetable stock would work. Cook the ‘taters until they can be easily poked through with a skewer and turn off heat. Now here is where we get crazy.

Don’t drain them.

Take your handy-dandy immersion blender and puree the tar out of those ‘taters. What you will end up with is something much to runny to be mashed potatoes but much too thick to be actual soup. I call this “soup starter”. You can season at this point – until you like the taste, but be careful with the black pepper. Black pepper intensifies even in the freezer. You can always add more seasoning later – but it is tough to fish it out. I added salt, a little bit of pepper and some garlic powder. Hmmm, I wonder what would have happened if I had cooked some garlic cloves with the ‘taters? Next time maybe.

The important thing here – do not add any dairy. No milk, no butter, no cream cheese, no sour cream, no cheese. These things do not freeze terribly well in a team environment. They like to go their own way, to seperate themselves. Bust out your ladle and fill up as many quart freezer bags as you can manage. Try to get as much air out of them as possible and lay them flat on a tray. Make sure you label & date them and then chuck them into the freezer. Freezing flat makes it easier to store the bags after freezing and makes the food thinner and more widely distributed; therefore easier to thaw.

The Spud Soup

This is why it took a month for me to post this – I wanted to make sure it worked. I had significant concerns about the texture of the soup after the freezing. Luckily I was able to thaw and revive our patient with little quality loss. Score one for Cryogenics!

Pull out a freezer bag of your soup starter and microwave it on very low until you can mush it around enough to decant into a large saucepan. Once the soup is in the saucepan – heat on low, stirring and mushing frequently until everything is thawed (or almost thawed, if you are like me an have no patience it will still work). Thin the soup to slightly thicker than desired consistency with stock (of whichever persuasion floats your boat).

If you are a vegan and used vegetarian stock – well, I cannot help you much beyond this point – it is going to get ugly for you so you might want to stop. The next things you want to add to bring your soup to it’s final luscious consistency are those prima-donnas who eschewed the freezer, milk and butter – the dairy divas. Add as much as you want – I won’t tell.

Season to taste, I like salt and a good bit of pepper, plus some more garlic and a wee bit of nutmeg. You follow your bliss. In the above picture you might notice some lumps – I actually dumped in some frozen corn because really, can you ever have too much starch?

Toppings can be applied with wild abandon. Personally, I cannot conceive of potato soup without bacon and cheese. While we were eating I mentioned to the hubby that some caramelized onions would have been delicious piled on top. If I had had a can of French’s onions handy – I can guarantee you they would have made an appearance.

What do you think would go well on top?