Art and some recipes from J. R. NELSON
JAE’S BRINE-CURED GARLIC DILL PICKLES
Adapted from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
5 pounds (approx.) small or medium cucumbers, all of a similar size
(Make sure your cucumbers are fresh. Kirbys are best.
Avoid English, Persian, or soft-skinned types.)
⅔ cup pickling salt (Choose one with no additives.)
3 heads garlic, peeled
2–3 dried árbol chiles (or to taste)
3–4 fresh flowering heads of dill (or dried dill seeds)
1 tablespoon peppercorns
Several fresh grape leaves
2-gallon glass cookie jar, ceramic crock, or food-grade plastic bucket, carefully washed
A plate that fits inside top of container
A clean, heavy rock or weight
A clean cloth to cover top
Gently scrub and rinse the cucumbers, taking off blossom ends. Stir salt into 1 gallon of water until dissolved. Place garlic, chiles, dill, and peppercorns on the bottom of the cleaned jar or crock. Add the cucumbers, wedging them in tightly. Cover completely with the brine solution. Place plate over cucumbers with the weight on top, making sure that the plate is covered by the brine by at least an inch. (Make more brine if needed.) It is important that all ingredients are completely submerged in the brine. The pickles will not spoil if covered.
Cover the crock with clean cloth and store in a cool place. Check the pickles every few days and taste them as they ferment. Once they are fermented to your taste (1 to 4 weeks depending on the seasonal temperature) store pickles in the refrigerator, making sure they remain completely submerged. If handled and stored properly, they will remain safe to eat for years.
NOTE: Late summer is harvest time for fresh flowering dill and fresh “pickling” cucumbers, so look for them at your local farmers’ market.
JAE’S ROASTED TOMATO “MASTER” SAUCE
This is how Jae likes to preserve a harvest bounty of tomatoes for use in different dishes throughout the year. She calls it a “master” recipe, since she makes it without herbs and then adds thyme, rosemary, sage, or cilantro later, depending on where she’s going with the final dish. Here’s how she describes the process:
I start by coating my Spanish cazuela—or any roasting pan—with olive oil and turning on the oven to 350°. Then I cut any amount and any variety or mix of unsprayed or organic tomatoes into 1-inch-thick pieces—cherry tomatoes are cut in halves—and add to the pan along with all juice, seeds, and skins. I then season with salt and pepper. Sometimes I add chopped fresh garlic. You can add your favorite herbs now, or later, as I do. If the tomatoes are not sweet enough, add a small amount of natural sugar to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for up to 2 hours, checking frequently to see when they appear condensed or blacked the way you like them. Use immediately over pasta or in any recipe where an intense tomato flavor is desired. I generally let the sauce cool and then pack it into quart-size freezer bags. With 2 cups per bag and the air expelled, the bags can be flattened to stack easily in the freezer.
JAE’S TOMATO CATSUP
Jae likes to take a portion of the Roasted Tomato Master Sauce, purée it with some brown sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, allspice, pinch of clove, and hot pepper, and then cook it gently on the stovetop for about 30 minutes to marry the flavors. She says that caution is required, since it bloops like red-hot lava and will really mess up your stove. Then she packs it into sterile canning jars and processes it following proper canning procedures. If she is going to use it up within a month or two, she might skip the canning procedure and just pack it into a clean jar that will be stored in the fridge.
Variation: For a kick-butt barbecue sauce made like the catsup, add slightly more vinegar, more hot pepper, and a little liquid hickory smoke to the master sauce. “If it gets too thick I sometimes add a cup of coffee,” she says.