Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Lessons from my Summer of Pickles July 10, 2015

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I’ve always planted a few cucumber seeds, which have always produced a few cucumbers.  The last few years have been quite hot and dry.  This year, I planted a few cucumber seeds, but something was different than previous years.  We’ve had days of epic, drought busting rainfall.  I think it rained for 30 days straight, at least a little every day.

The cucumbers have flourished and produced more than I’ve ever seen.  The vines have jumped out of their beds and spread out in the yard, and I’m literally tripping over cucumbers.  So, with the first crop, I decided to make pickles.  Having had bad luck pickling cucumbers in the past, and lots of mushy cucumbers I searched for a recipe with little canning time, in hopes for the crunchiest pickles possible.



I settled on this recipe with only 5 minutes of processing time.

Garlic Dills

Garlic Dills

For the cucumbers that were too long for the jars, I cut them down to size, then sliced the ends into disks for sandwiches.  I think the spears make a neater looking jar and easier to pack.



In about half of the jars, I included a dried red chili to impart some heat.  I also varied the spices in each batch, some adding pickling spice, some coriander, some simply black peppercorns.

Garlic Dill Disks

Garlic Dill Disks

And the cucumbers kept coming.

They just kept coming

They just kept coming

So I kept pickling them.  I could have tried different pickling applications, but I really just like garlcky dill pickles, so I stuck to those.

I also acquired some Cornichons from a local farm and pickled those too, using a 4 day recipe given to me by my friend Stephanie.  I trust her with all food things.  Actually most of the interesting things I’ve ever done were inspired by her.



And then Boggy Creek Farm has these cute little Mexican Sour Gherkins, so I pickled them too using this recipe.

Mexican Sour Gherkins

Mexican Sour Gherkins

These were a little time consuming, having to scrape off the blossom end then puncture each little one.

Blossom End

Blossom End

I learned some lessons from my nearly non-stop pickling.  The short 5 minute processing time makes a big difference in keeping pickles crunchy.  However, the  most important thing I’ve found, is pickling them immediately after harvesting.  The pickles I made with cucumbers harvested that day are crunchier than those made after a couple days in the fridge.  After about 2 days in the fridge, the cucumbers turn to mush when pickled.  And finally, a big lesson.  When planting cucumbers, also plant dill.


Homemade Cornichons May 16, 2012

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Last Saturday at the Springdale Farm farm stand, I discovered that they had grown and harvested gherkins, and I bought them all.  These tiny cucumbers, aside from the cute factor, taste delicious, and when pickled, make a perfect complement to a charcuterie plate.  So, I bought all three baskets they had, and brought them home.

Once I had sterilized my pint jars, I estimated the pickling mixture needed, and mixed 2 cups white vinegar, 4 tablespoons pickling salt and 2/3 cups water.  I put a clove of garlic, a fresh bay leaf, and several whole peppercorns into each jar, as liquid heated on the stove.  Next, I packed the jars with the gherkins, as tightly as possible.

As soon as the salt dissolved and the pickling liquid came to a boil, I filled the jars and sealed.  I hadn’t pickled anything in a few months, and forgot how everything floats to the top, making it a tad harder to wipe the tops of the jars clean.  I got the jars sealed and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  I had forgotten how easy pickling is, relative to canning other things.



Eating My Way through The Canning Obsession January 11, 2012

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When I made the decision to eat only what I could buy locally, organically and in season (no grocery store), the idea of extending seasons, or preserving things to consume out of their season was something I really wanted to do, but had to learn how.  For the first year, I froze tomatoes and fruit.  My already taxed freezer space, became non-existent.  So I took classes to learn how to can.

I’m a compulsive girl, and I readily admit this.  I embraced my new found canning knowledge with verve and gusto, and canned everything in site, with little idea how much canned goodness I could  use and without plans for my well stocked larder.  (I’m obsessed with the word “larder”)

Just part of my stash

For some strange reason, I felt as if I had to wait until winter to start using some of the canned stuff, as if I’m a squirrel, or something.  Finally, with the colder weather, my inner hoarder has allowed me to start breaking out the canned foods, and I’m working my way through the pantry.

I’ ve been able to put a dent in that which I “put up.”  As I type this, there is a slow cooker filled with Rancho Gordo beans, seasoned with a pint of my Escabeche, or pickled serranos, onions, carrots, garlic and bay.  This will impart heat and flavor to the beans which will be paired with Dai Due Wild Boar sausages for dinner.


The pickled cucumbers have made a good side for BBQ, and also go very well chopped up in egg salad.  The pickled jalapeno and serrano peppers, certainly are a staple and get used in a wide variety of things.  Today, I made corn muffins with the cornmeal I got from Homestead Heritage, and added lots of chopped pickled peppers.

The Salsa Verde, which I canned obsessively with the tomatillos from Springdale Farm has formed the sauce for Chilaquiles, a Mexican dish using chicken, fried corn tortillas and cheese (sometimes with egg as well.)

Charred Salsa Verde

The Salsa Verde also made its way into chicken filling for tamales recently.  The other tamale filling, was Chipotles in Adobo, which I mixed into shredded pork.  The Chipotles have become my very favorite food to preserve and combined with Richardson Farms Pork roast, was perhaps one of the favorite things I’ve ever made.

Chipotles in Adobo

Many of the jams and marmalades I made this Fall were for Christmas gifts, and many of those have found their way into other pantries.  I have discovered that you can make a really delicious cocktail, from a spoonful of jam, a splash of Vodka and a bit of Topo Chico.   The sweet preserves are genius for topping a party brie, or hard cheese as well.

Pear Preserves

I have yet to make a dent in the tomatoes I canned from my garden and local farms, but I’m focusing my attention on those next.  I’d really like to eat what I’ve canned within a year or close to it, from its canning date, so I have another few months.  There is quite a lot.

Not even close to all of it

I shall continue to eat my way through what I’ve canned, pickled and preserved not only because it is delicious, but so that I can make room for more.


Still Pickling – Chiles en Escabeche July 12, 2011

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I seem to have developed an obsession with canning.  It is hard to explain, but there is something so gratifying about it, I find myself thinking about it all the time.  I do believe it is a manifestation of my food hoarding from the early months of the No Grocery Store Challenge.  I’m nearing my 19th month of no grocery store shopping, so I think its a way of life now.

I had been thinking about Chiles en Escabeche, with all the peppers, onions, carrots, and garlic in my garden and in the farmer’s markets now.  So, I set out to make some, armed with my friend Claudia Alarcon’s Mima’s recipe from her blog  Claudia’s family is from Mexico, and I was excited to try an authentic Mexican preparation.  I am fortunate to have several friends from Mexico, and I am fascinated by the cuisine.  Having grown up in Corpus Christi, I had an interesting perspective.

I have made this twice, the first time, using purple carrots from the farmer’s market, hoping to add some color.

Peppers, onions, garlic, herbs

Escabeche is basically pickled peppers, onions, carrots, garlic and aromatics.  I picked Bay Leaves and garden Oregano for my first batch with the purple carrots.  Each of the vegetables is chopped, then flash fried in good olive oil, briefly, for added color and flavor.

Frying the peppers

I used Serrano Peppers from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and cut them into strips lengthwise, mostly to differentiate them in my pantry from the pickled garden peppers that are sliced. This first batch, I didn’t follow the recipe with regard to ratio of peppers to onions and carrots, and used the purple carrots.

The end result was quite lovely, in any event.

Purple Escabeche

After my purple Escabeche experience, I longed to have have some more traditional looking Escabeche, with its trademark orange carrots, white onion, and green chile.  So, I made another round, paying more attention to the ration of pepper to onion and carrot, and adding some garden thyme, bay and peppercorns.  The process was the same, flash frying each vegetable element in Olive Oil briefly, then layering the elements for visual intrigue.

Traditional Escabeche

Each of these jars has a huge clove of garlic, or two smaller ones, a garden Bay leaf, some garden Thyme, and some black peppercorns.  I can’t wait to eat this delicious mix, or blend it up for an interesting salsa.