Friday, December 28, 2012

Pickled Cipollini Onions

Onions, to be peeled
Canned and sealed

Having made mustard and lime jelly during the past two weeks, it was time for more pickles, as I was running low. In addition to carrots, we decided to pickle cipollini onions again. I have friends who like the onions in cocktails or with a ploughman's lunch, but I seem to use most of mine on burgers. However you choose to use them, they improve greatly after a few weeks of storage time.

Pickled Cipollini Onions
Based on a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation 

We ended up making two batches, some packed in standard wide-mouth pint jars and others layered, as above, in taller, thinner jars.

8 cups peeled cipollini onions (approximately 3 pounds purchased onions)
5½ cups white distilled vinegar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons canning salt
2 cups sugar
4 scant teaspoons mustard seed
2 scant teaspoons celery seed
Thyme (optional)

Yield: 3 pint and one 1/2 pint jars

Peel onions. I find that cipollini onions hold their shape well when peeled (see the photo above.)
Combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a stockpot. Bring to a boil and continue to boil gently for 3 minutes. Add the peeled onions and bring the pot back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the onions are half-cooked (about 5 minutes).  
Meanwhile, place 1 scant teaspoon mustard seed and 1/2 scant teaspoon celery seed in the bottom of each clean, hot pint jar. I always add an optional thyme sprig, both because it looks nice and because I like the taste. If you are not a thyme fan you can omit it and/or experiment with a different flavor.
Ladle the hot onions into your jars, leaving 1-inch head space. Cover the onions with the hot pickling liquid, (a funnel helps with this) leaving ½-inch head space. Finger seal your jars and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. 
If you have any brine leftover, as we did, I recommend using it for other pickles. We used our leftover brine for pickled carrots. For our usual pickled carrot recipe, see here. You could also use it for a refrigerator pickle of your choice, keeping in mind that the brine will have an onion flavor.

Carrots were part two of our project.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Albino Redwoods: A Few Pictures from a Guided Walk in Muir Woods

Our ranger guide, Tim.

You won't see the albino trees up above

But you should still look up.

And up!

Can you spot one?

Here maybe?

Closer and clearer.

They even feel different than the green.

It really does look painted.

Barely visible: a spawning salmon

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rye & Brown Sugar Mustard

An easy to make mustard, perfect for holiday gifts. It is fairly strongly flavored, but I am imagining it as the perfect addition to a ham sandwich. We started with a recipe posted on the always wonderful Food in Jars, which turned out be a guest post from Kaela Porter of Local Kitchen.The recipe there, for Bourbon Brown Sugar Mustard, was adapted from Oktoberfest Beer Mustard in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. As I have said before, if you don't have the Ball Book, buy it.

Rye & Brown Sugar Mustard

• 2 cups rye
• 1 cup water
• 2 cups brown mustard seeds
• 1 cup cider vinegar
• 12 tbsp dry mustard powder

 • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
• 2 tsp salt

Combine rye, water and mustard seed in a bowl. Mix well and steep until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed, about 4 hours, or overnight.
Using an immersion blender, blend to desired consistency.  Add vinegar, mustard powder, sugar, and salt and continue to blend well until combined. Transfer to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil mustard until it reduces to your desired thickness, remembering that it will thicken further upon cooling.
Fill jars leaving a generous1/4-inch headspace. Pass the handle of a wooden spoon along the edges and middle of the jar to eliminate bubbles. Wipe rims, finger tighten your lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Yields about 6 cups. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pays d’Oc IGP: Candidates for Wines of the Tour 2013?

Located along the shores of the Mediterranean, the Pays d’Oc stretches across four departments of the Languedoc-Roussillon: the Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault and Gard, as well as 6 communities in the Lozère
With 740,300 acres of vineyards — the region is three times the size of Bordeaux and the world’s largest vineyard area.
There are 56 authorised grape varieties. Approximately 60 % of the production is red with the additional 40% split between white and rosé.
IGP is a Protected Geo­graphic Indication that consists in producing grapes on a delimited appellation area, according to precise specifications and with total traceability and control over the geography and quality of the product. 

In 2013, the Tour will have three stages in the area:
Thursday, July 4th - Stage 6: 176km from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier
Friday, July 5th - Stage 7: 205km from Montpellier to Albi 
Saturday, July 6th - Stage 8: 194km from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines

What will I be drinking for those stages? I admit that I do not yet know. But I recently had the chance to try a few samples, provided by
Inter Oc, the Pays d’Oc IGP wine trade association making a push in the US market. I invited two friends over to taste with me, as it is fun to see how we both agree and disagree on the wines. In general we thought the wines provided good value with "good for the price" appearing more than once in tasting notes.

The first empty bottle of the night and the wine that everyone chose as their favorite was the Domaine Gayda, Figure Libre Cabernet Franc, 2010 (SRP $25). The press release tells me that South African Anthony Record and Englishman Tim Ford joined forces with French winemaker Vincent Chansault to form Domaine Gayda in 2003. After building a brand new state-of-the-art winery, Gayda produced its first vintage in 2004. Inky dark in color, it is lively and fresh. 

We also tasted:
Domaine de l'Engarran La Lionne, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache, 2010 (SRP $18-24) The press info stated that this family vineyard owned by the Grill / Bertrand family since 1923, has been run by three women for three generations. Green bell pepper and slightly jammy.

Laurent Miquel, Nord sud, Viognier, 2011 (SRP $12.49) Laurent produces his signature aromatic Viognier from selected blocks of mature, naturally low yielding vines at his family estate. All of us felt that this was a very good wine for the price with much more balance than one often finds in less expensive viogniers.

Anne de Joyeuse, Gargantuavis, Pinot Noir, 2010 (SRP $16.5) The press info on this one told us that Anne de Joyeuse is a high quality cooperative winery in Limoux, which was founded in 1929 and which currently boasts 650 members. Anne de Joyeuse is one of only ten wine cooperatives in France to carry the highest level of quality accreditation. We all loved the label in this one and thought that the wine was lighter than expected.