I also got out a bunch of cookbooks from the local libraries, and they are also making me wish for spring and summer and bountiful amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Last summer I made pickles for the first time, and that was pretty much my gateway drug to canning. The quick pickles were delicious, but the canned ones I did and let sit in the cabinet for a few months were nothing short of mouthwatering. Needless to say, I made sure to buy seeds for pickling cucumbers. I want to make buckets of pickles this summer!
The three books I got are (from left to right) Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop by Stephen Cresswell, The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich and Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.
Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop by Stephen Cresswell
Jeff and I have made ginger ale and root beer, and I really wanted to try out new recipes, so I found this book and decided to give it a try. Last night I made the cream soda (of course, I changed around the ingredients a bit) and it was delicious even before fermentation. We bottled them into glass bottles for the first time, having just purchased a capper from our local homebrew store. I like glass bottles way better than plastic, the only disappointing thing is that the metal caps still have a small piece of plastic on top. It's still a lot less plastic than comes in new plastic caps, though.
I was shocked at how quickly they fermented, this morning the one plastic bottle we filled as a fermentation tester was already rock hard. I don't know if the ale yeast we purchased is just quicker than bread yeast or what, but I was surprised that it was such a fast process. We put all 9 bottles in the fridge and Jeff and I had a taste this afternoon after they were nice and cool. It's definitely unlike any factory made cream soda that you've ever had, and I think brewed soda can be an acquired taste if you're used to Coke, but I thought it was pretty darn good. I like our root beer better, and I'm already thinking of doing some sort of fruit flavored cream soda for better taste.
I'm definitely going to try more of the recipes in this book, and I think, more importantly, that it's a good book to use as a springboard for trying out our own recipes in the future. More than just recipes, the book also includes a history of sodas, the brewing process, and other interesting tidbits.
The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
Jeff and I have been getting copious amounts of turnips from our produce shipment, and we haven't been particularly good about eating them. In leafing through this book I found a recipe for Korean Pickled Turnips and decided to give it a try. What better way to enjoy anything than to ferment it?! The list of ingredients was short (and all basic stuff we already had) and the process was very simple. I was pleased to see a good amount of brine after rubbing the sliced turnips with salt, and after a few hours put the turnips and other ingredients into a quart sized jar to sit out for awhile. I'll report back in a week or so and comment on whether or not they're any good. For now, they smell fantastic and I can't wait to try it out.
The book has many recipes for pickling pretty much everything, not just the standard cucumber. (But it has many recipes for cucumbers in case your old standard just isn't doing it for you any more.) While I will skip the last chapter on pickling meat, fish and eggs (yuck), I look forward to trying out kimchi and maybe see if we can't pickle some of our other stubborn root vegetables.
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
This book is the one that is really making me pine for summer. The first few chapters are all about jams, preserves and fruit spreads. I love nothing more than a good jam on my morning biscuits (especially these decadent Side Hill Farm jams made in Vermont). Hopefully I will have plenty of opportunity to try them out come summer. The only thing is that the recipes mostly all call for pectin, and I would like to try the slow boil method to get more flavor from the fruit. At the very least I think the recipes make for good guidelines, how much sugar to add to how much fruit, etc.
But that's not all that's included in this massive tome. This book also covers pickling, condiments, salsas, pie fillings, sauces, vinegars, and pretty much anything you can put in a can and preserve.
I decided to try the jalapeño salsa because I rarely ever make salsa with our Mexican themed dinners. Why? Because I never want to go out and buy a tomato, but we always have beans, rice, peppers, onions and fixings for tortillas. I finally realized that instead of making fresh salsa before every meal, I can can it and eat it as I need it. What a novel idea! The salsa, miraculously, fit into exactly 6 half-pint jars so I was unable to taste any. Given how much Jeff and I love eating burritos, I'm sure I'll be trying it out real soon.