Food makes me happy. And cooking for friends, gardening (on a little piece of a Brooklyn deck right now), and sharing tasty ideas makes me even happier. So I figured what better way to spread some of this happiness than to start sharing my food, recipes and tips with friends -- some of whom I haven’t met yet. I hope you enjoy...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oh Yes, I Can Can

Suggested listening while reading this post (trust me):


I was at the greenmarket this weekend and picked up some kirby cucumbers and white cipollini onions.  I've been having fun canning lately, which is easier than most people might think once you get the basics down.  I started pickling yesterday morning, got a little carried away, and ended up canning a bit more along the way...

I started with the cipollinis -- they're on the smaller, flatter side.  I'd found some itsy-bitsy ones and thought that they'd be a nice take on the more typical pickled pearl onions.  Really the hardest part was peeling the little guys' thin skins.  I boiled them for about a minute, tossed them into ice water for another minute or two and pickled them in a simple mix of vinegar, water, sugar, salt and fennel seeds.  They should be fun on sandwiches, make for a nice pairing with cheese, and I wouldn't be surprised if they make their way into a cocktail or two. 

Then onto the kirbys.  The cucumbers I'd brought home were a little too big for the pint-size canning jars I was using, and so after I cut them into spears I chopped the ends up into smaller pieces and pickled those too -- kind of like making a large-cut relish.  I put the cucumbers in a salty ice bath for a while and then pickled everybody in some fresh garlic, dill and celery seeds and a blend of whole peppercorns. 

By this point, I was feeling really creative and thought about the fresh cauliflower we have in our fridge.  I'd taken a pickling class with Bob McClure ( whose pickles -- and brine which he sells on its own -- I'm a huge fan of at the Brooklyn Kitchen (, and remember making really tasty curried cauliflower.  I dug up the recipe and happened to have everything I needed... the standard salt and distilled vinegar, plus some cumin, dried red pepper, fresh ginger, and curry powder.  I made a few jars of curried cauliflower, looked at my counter and admired all the great stuff I'd whipped up, and decided it was finally time to take a break. 

Now, it'll take a little while for all of these flavors to start to develop -- seems like that might just happen in time to enjoy them at an Indian Summer barbecue...

When canning, it's key that your food is prepared in a very clean environment and you follow some simple but important guidelines around sterilizing your materials and ensuring you have a tight seal (there are lots of great resources to help you out there, including -- the National Center for Home Food Preservation); all of these recipes start with sterilized jars & lids

Pickled cipollinis with fennel seeds
I used very small onions and ended up with 4 full 4-ounce jars with brine to spare

- 1 pound of tiny (about 1" wide) cipollini onions, peeled
- 1/2 cup of filtered water
- 1 cup of distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of fennel seeds


1) Boil your peeled onions for just about one minute before you quickly transfer them to an ice bath, and then pat them dry

2) Combine the other ingredients and bring them to a boil in a small pot, then add in your onions and boil for one more minute; when you're pickling, there's no need for fancy vinegar or salt, we usually have Heinz distilled white vinegar (5% acidity) and Diamond kosher salt (in the red box with the pour spout) on hand

3) While a large pot of water boils in the background, ladle the onions into your clean jars until they're about an inch from the top, and then cover the onions with brine, leaving 1/2" of headspace (which is the distance between the brine and the top of the jar); make sure the rims of your jars are wiped clean and then seal them with lids and bands
4) Leave the jars submerged in rapidly boiling water for 20 minutes (this is called "processing"); then remove the jars and after 24 hours check to make sure that you have a good seal (the "button" on the top of your lid will be concave and won't pop down when you press on it)

5) Give your onions some time to mellow out and develop their flavor before trying them (I'd recommend at least 2 weeks), and then dig in!

Pickled kirbys
I easily made 4 pint jars, again with brine to spare

- 10 - 15 kirby cucumbers (choose your size based upon the jars you're using)
- 1/3 cup of kosher salt for covering spears
- Ice cubes for covering spears
- 2 cups of filtered water
- 4 cups of distilled white vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of dill seed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of celery seed
- 1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns


1) Rinse and quarter your cucumbers, removing the ends 
(you'll want your cucumbers to be just a little taller than your jars to compensate for getting their tips cut off; once trimmed they should be 1" shorter than the top of the jars); then place them in layers in a large bowl, covering each layer with salt and ice, and let them chill for 2 hours

2) Rinse the cold salty cucumbers, while bringing all of your other ingredients to a boil in a medium pot

3) Fit your cucumbers snugly into canning jars (fill the jars completely and snack on any cucumbers that don't fit tightly -- you don't want too much extra space in the jars), and then carefully ladle the boiling brine to cover the spears by 1/2", 
while leaving 1/2" of remaining headspace

4) Make sure the rims of your jars are wiped clean before you seal them with lids and bands, and then process your jars in boiling water for 10 minutes

5) Just as with the onions, in 24 hours check to make sure that you have a good seal; and then again, I'd suggest you
 give your pickles at least a week before enjoying

Curried Cauliflower
Here's a link to Bob McClure's recipe.  I simply added 1/2 a teaspoon of curry powder and  a pinch of dried red pepper to each jar:


  1. Nice work! Those cipollinis should make a great Martini

  2. When I had Vaqueros we pickled all sorts of stuff for the martinis. Beans and peppers, etc... We had a one called a pink fire martini or something that had a teaspoon of our bloody mary mix and a pickled habanero. Do I see eggs in there?