Category Archives: Fruits and Veggies

Homemade Honey Orange Marmalade

When we began harvesting navel oranges in earnest last month, I canned orange marmalade for the first time. The recipe is from our third edition copy of Stocking Up (1986), by Carol Hupping and the staff of the Rodale Food Center.

I was drawn to this recipe for its simplicity. Of the four ingredients, only the water wasn’t ‘local’ (i.e. from our own garden). The book calls it Bitter Orange Marmalade, and it is indeed quite bitter due to the inclusion of all of the fruit peel in the recipe. Maybe next year I’ll try a more traditional, sugary marmalade recipe, but overall I’m pleased with this one.

As I’ve mentioned before, I always hesitate somewhat to share recipes for canned goods. Please proceed at your own risk, and read up on canning safety at the website for the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The USDA offers a Complete Guide to Home Canning there. You can read about botulism on the CDC website. If you don’t feel comfortable canning, or have safety concerns, you can always make recipes to freeze or store short-term in the refrigerator.

Marmalade ingredients

  • 5 oranges
  • 2 lemons (I used Bearrs limes)
  • 3 cups honey
  • 12 cups water


  • Measure water into a large pot and add whole oranges and lemons or limes
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for two hours
  • Saving remaining water, remove fruit, quarter it, and remove seeds
  • Chop fruit and return it to water
  • Bring fruit mixtures to a boil and add honey
  • Return mixture to a rolling boil and stir constantly for 15-30 minutes, or until the mixture has the consistency of a thick syrup (I had to stir and boil for about 45 minutes)
  • Leaving ¼ inch head space, pour marmalade into scalded half-pint jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath
  • Let the marmalade ‘age’ for at least two weeks before digging in

Enjoy! After dutifully waiting the recommended two weeks, we popped a jar open and started snarfing. I’ve been eating orange lime marmalade by the spoonful!



February Garden Harvest

We kept up our garden record keeping, but slacked off somewhat on our harvesting in February. It was a month of  orange wedges, orange juice, and canning orange marmalade. We neglected our greens, and the garden is overrun with spinach, lettuce, broccoli, mustard, and kale. Peas, beets, carrots, fennel, and asparagus are on their way in for March!

February harvest totals

  • Asparagus ‘Farmer’s Favorite’: .25 lbs
  • Broccoli ‘Rudolph’: 1 lb
  • Broccoli ‘Umpqua’: .56 lbs
  • Cauliflower ‘Snow Crown’: 5.63 lbs
  • Chard ‘Fordham Hook’: 1.25 lbs
  • Chard ‘Rainbow’: .63 lbs
  • Cilantro: .72 lbs
  • Eggs: 27 (Barred Rock 14; Barred Leghorn 13)
  • Kale ‘Dinosaur’: .38 lbs
  • Kale ‘Wild Kale Blend’: 1.13 lbs
  • Leek ‘King Lear’: 1 lb.
  • Lettuce ‘Heirloom Blend’: 1 lb
  • Limes ‘Bearrs’: 5.5 lbs
  • Mustard ‘Ruby Streaks’: .25 lbs
  • Mustard ‘Tah Tsoi’: .125 lbs
  • Navel oranges: 45 lbs
  • Parsley: .19 lbs
  • Spinach ‘Donkey’: .63 lbs
  • Spring onion ‘Purplette’: .88 lbs

February harvest total: 66.13 lbs

2014 harvest total: 92.3 lbs

We've begun letting some of the brassicas go to flower, and the bees are loving it.

We’ve begun letting some of the brassicas go to flower, and the bees are loving it.

Lacto-Fermented Cauliflower Pickles

If you’re just after the pickle recipe, scroll on down…

We are crazy about pickles, and every summer I can quarts of fresh-pack cucumber dill pickles. The fun of fresh-pack pickles, is that there’s no waiting around while they brine and no worrying about weird bacteria cropping up during the brining process. You chop up your ingredients, boil the brine, and can the goods all in one exhausting evening.

Last week, though, I tried something new.

It started with scads of cauliflower in the garden. Then Kelly and I made a trip to a magical place called Mountain Feed and Farm Supply, in Ben Lomond. It left my head spinning with all its nifty gadgets, and I brought home my very own ‘Perfect Pickler’ and wild ideas about probiotic cauliflower pickles.

Lacto fermenting pickles is different from fresh packing, but as it turns out, it’s not really harder to do, and it yields much greater benefits nutritionally. The Perfect Pickler’s trick is the airlock that fits into the lid of the jar; while your vegetables froth away, growing what are apparently millions of good bacteria as they lacto ferment (i.e. pickle), no outside air or ‘bad’ bacteria can get into the jar to taint your recipe.

Cauliflower pickles in process.

Cauliflower pickles in process.

The big logistical downside to lacto-fermented pickles is that they can’t be canned. The canning process would kill all of those wonderful probiotic bacteria, and render your pickles lifeless. Therefore, you’re stuck with them in the fridge. Being a big batch girl, myself, this is a definite bummer.

In terms of equipment, I’m still a little hazy on how much help the airlock is, given that the lacto fermented pickle recipes I’ve read thus far suggest opening the jar periodically to taste the pickles. Doesn’t this (along with all the air/bad bacteria in there to start with) negate the protective effects of the airlock?

If the airlock is indeed optional, one could just as easily pickle in a simple canning jar and lid and save the cost of the pickler getup. My fabulous gardening friend Tanya makes the best sour kraut I’ve ever tasted with just a regular canning jar.

The recipe I (very loosely) used directed me to let my cauliflower and brine sit in the jar for four days before adding apple cider vinegar and retiring the whole kit and caboodle to the refrigerator.

On day four, I dutifully opened the jar and tasted the pickled cauliflower. Delicious! But so lightly flavored, that I doubted it had really done its thing yet. After all, our house is consistently five to ten degrees colder than the ambient temperature assumed by the recipe (it suggested a household that does not drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit).

I conferred with my better half, and we decided to let the pickles continue their science experiment for another day on the kitchen counter. I now think I should have checked the pickles again that evening, or at least by the following morning. Instead, I waited a good 30 hours. By this point, the fermentation had kicked into high gear, and the ‘Snow Crown’ cauliflower florets bobbed in a mysteriously purple bath of frothy brine.

I’m not sure how to describe the smell and taste, beyond ‘gassy.’ Kelly declared it still good, while I felt vaguely nauseous for the next half hour. It’s really not bad, I guess. For a first try. Maybe. There’s a gallon of it waiting for me in the fridge.

Kelly insists that the taste I found so off-putting is the result of a rather vigorous (but healthy!) fermentation/pickling. Maybe it will mellow with the addition of cider vinegar that the recipe called for? If not, there’s more cauliflower in the garden, as well as some monster cabbages on the way.

Ancestral pickles

By cookie-craving chance yesterday, I dug up a cookbook written in the 1970s by my grandmother’s younger sister Clara B. Clauson. And lo, tucked away in a chapter I’d never bothered to read, I found my great grandfather’s sour kraut recipe, and my great-great grandmother’s pickled green tomatoes recipe. Both call for crocks, with no mention of airlocks or looming threat of bad bacteria. People used to just deal, I guess.

While admittedly vague in spots (a ‘handful’ of salt for each head of cabbage), I’m excited to give these family recipes a spin as soon as I can get my hands on cabbages and green tomatoes.

In the tradition of my ancestors, here’s the approximate recipe for my pickled cauliflower (and really, it would have been undeniably delicious if I’d just stopped a day sooner!):

Cauliflower pickle ingredients (to be fudged and adjusted at your discretion!)

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 dried red pepper (sweet and spicy)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped small
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch mustard greens, chopped finely


Enough brine to cover the vegetables at a ratio of 2 cups water to 2 tablespoons sea salt

Additional ingredients

  •  ¼ cup cider vinegar (to be added after the main fermentation)


Pack the vegetables in a gallon jar, cover with brine, and screw on the lid. Especially if you’re trying a canning lid, don’t screw it on tight. If you do, the jar may explode. My Perfect Pickler also came with a small ceramic cup that is supposed to float just below the screw-on lid. Again, I’m not yet sure how critical its function actually is.

Leave the jar on your counter out of direct light and away from any heat sources for exactly four days. As long as your house is below 74 degrees Fahrenheit, this should be fine (higher temperatures can cause mold to form).

If the pickles don’t seem pickle-y enough, let them sit out longer on the counter, but proceed with extreme caution and frequent taste tests.

When you judge the pickles to be done, add the cider vinegar and transfer pickles to the fridge. They should last for months, though they will continue to ferment slowly in the refrigerator.

January Garden Harvest

January was by far our best garden record keeping month on record. Kelly was a terrific sport, and together we faithfully weighed and recorded every fruit, vegetable, and herb that came in from the winter garden (right on down to 1/32 lb. cilantro harvests, I might add). May we keep this level of disciplined record keeping through the next eleven months, and may we find less tedious and time-intensive ways to do it meaningfully.

Maybe in February I’ll come up with an aesthetically pleasing table to show off the totals and tally the monetary savings, but for now, without further ado…

January harvest totals

  • Eggs: 6 (a sore point, for sure. The Barred Rock is still molting, and the Barred Leghorn mysteriously quit after the first week of January)
  • Cilantro: .91 lbs
  • Kale ‘Winterbor’, ‘Nero di Toscano’, and ‘Wild Kale Blend’: 1.03 lbs
  • Parsley: .5 lbs
  • Mustard ‘Ruby Streaks’: 1.88 lbs
  • Broccoli ‘Umpqua’: 2.06 lbs
  • Lettuce ‘Heirloom Garden Blend’: 1.13 lbs
  • Mustard ‘Tah Tsoi’: .19 lbs
  • Spinach ‘Donkey’: .81 lbs
  • Spring onion ‘Purplette’: .41 lbs
  • Cabbage ‘Parel’: 7 lbs
  • Navel oranges: .5 lbs
  • Lime ‘Bearrs’: 2.75 lbs
  • Chard ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Fordham Hook’: .25 lbs
  • Leeks ‘King Lear’: 1.75 lbs
  • Cauliflower ‘Snow Crown’: 5 lbs

January total: 26.17 lbs

'Parel', our favorite small cabbage. With our switch next season to all open pollinated varieties, we will have to find a replacement for this great cabbage.

‘Parel’, our favorite small cabbage. With our switch next season to all open pollinated varieties, we will have to find a replacement for this great hybrid cabbage.

How to Make Loquat Liqueur

Honey bees love loquat blossom nectar as a winter food source.

Honey bees love loquat blossom nectar as a winter food source.

Our loquat harvest was incredibly small last summer, and something special seemed to be required. Rather than make loquat jam with so little fruit, I made liqueur this year, using the entire harvest – 4 1/3 pounds of fruit.

Liqueur making takes patience and it felt a long way from summer when I finally bottled the loquat liqueur this chilly morning. Small though my sips were, I can say it’s one of my favorite liqueurs that we’ve made so far. The flavor is subtle, but sweet and well-rounded.

I’ve started using shochu, or Japanese vodka, for most of my liqueurs. It doesn’t have the alcoholic punch of vodka (it’s 48 proof, compared to 80 proof vodka), and its very slight sweetness makes it compatible with most fruit. Read on for my original recipe and notes.

Loquat Liqueur ingredients

• 4 1/3 pounds loquats, washed, flower end removed, halved and pitted to yield 2 pounds of fruit

• 1 cup sugar

• 1 large handful of green coriander sprigs

• 1 750ml bottle shochu

Loquat Liqueur directions

1. Put fruit, sugar and coriander sprigs in jar and add shochu. Shake until sugar is dissolved.

2. Store in a cool, dark place, and continue to shake occasionally over 6 months. Discoloration of the fruit is normal, but watch for mold (I didn’t have any problem).

3. After 6 months, secure cheesecloth to a container, and strain liqueur through cheesecloth. Allow fruit solids to sit in cheesecloth overnight.

4. In morning, remove cheesecloth and gently squeeze into the container.

5. Bottle liqueur.

Additional tips for homemade liqueur

1. In my original recipe, I used a medium handful of green coriander sprigs (cilantro plants gone to seed, before seed dries). I’ve increased the measurement here because I can’t really taste the coriander in the liqueur, and I’d like to. Next year, I’ll increase the amount of coriander. You can leave out the coriander, or substitute a different spice or herb.

2. I actually used one bottle of shochu plus about 1/8 of another bottle, which was leftover from some other liqueur project. Obviously, you can adjust the quantity of shochu and sugar, depending on how much loquat fruit you have on hand. When I first started making liqueurs, I aimed for a 2:1 ratio of fruit to sugar (by weight). I’ve since been experimenting with less sugar, and with honey also. I then add alcohol to fill whatever jar I am using.

3. Be sure the lid to the jar has a good seal. If it doesn’t, add plastic wrap on the inside of the band before closing. This helps prevent mold, though it isn’t common for mold to form in the presence of alcohol.

4. You can use cheesecloth or any similar type of cloth or bag to strain the finished liqueur. The tighter the weave, the better: this helps strain out the sediment.

5. I let my liqueurs steep for six months. When I made my very first plum liqueur, the recipe called for six months. The results were awesome. I’ve followed this timeframe ever since. You might be able to subtract some of this time for other fruits, but I wouldn’t with loquats. They have a very subtle flavor, and the timing allows for maximum flavor extraction.

Just before straining.

Just before straining.


This is what loquats and coriander look like after six months in shochu.

Loquats and coriander after six months in shochu. We usually discard the fruit after straining.

 We make lots of other yummy home alcohols, and you can too! For instructions on how to make plum wine, check out our post, Homemade Plum Wine Results; for additional tips and tricks (this year’s batch is based on that first recipe, but is turning out much tastier!) check out Homemade Plum Wine, 2013; to learn about the hands-down yummiest plum liqueur on the face of the earth, take a look at Not-Traditional Umeshu.  

2014 Garden Resolution #1: Improved Garden Record Keeping

Happy New Year to gardeners and gardens everywhere! I have two gardening resolutions for 2014. First: improved record keeping.


Keeping garden records

This year, I aim to faithfully record all of our planting and harvesting, as well as calculate the approximate monetary value of the harvest. The idea of keeping gardening records delights me (no, really, I’m weird like that). Unfortunately, despite my best intentions over the years, our garden records remain mediocre at best.

As I explained in a garden record keeping post almost two years ago, we (usually) keep track of our planting and harvesting using a binder method I developed after interning on a small organic farm/CSA. In theory, these records are quite detailed, including date sown, vegetable variety, quantity sown (and age of seeds), number of plants to emerge, the bed in which they are planted, transplant date, units harvested/pounds harvested, date of harvest, and a section for additional notes. Ha!

Many other food gardeners and small-scale farmers make a point of keeping careful records and tallying money saved. Their blogs inspire me toward better self-discipline, and I am grateful to them for reminding me that really good record keeping is not only ideal, but also possible. Thomahaak Family Farm keeps fabulous records of produce harvested (right down to herbs weighing fractions of a pound).  I appreciate Dog Island Farm’s tally of both farm savings and expenditures. Starving off the Land has gone so far as calculating calories harvested, setting goals for the percentage of household caloric need met by first-hand food.

Recording small harvests

Aside from lack of consistency in actually writing things down, one of the most challenging aspects of garden record keeping for me is the fact that we often harvest very small quantities of veggies and herbs. If, as occurred yesterday morning, I wander outside in my pajamas to pick a few sprigs of parsley, a small bunch of cilantro, and about five leaves of kale to throw into a smoothie, how do I effectively and efficiently record this?

It was January 1st; my resolve was brand new, and I had nowhere to rush off to. Under Kelly’s skeptical eye, I got down the small kitchen scale and attempted to weigh the bounty. The parsley and cilantro each weighed in at approximately 1/32 lb. The kale was more like 1/16 lb. That’s if I trust my scale—an old, non-digital thrift store find.

Kelly pointed out that she doesn’t see how keeping these kinds of records actually benefit our gardening efforts. She also informed me that she was not prepared to follow my example. She suggested that employing a rougher estimate of our planting and consumption habits still allows us to adjust future planting accordingly, without going off our gourds trying to weigh every sprig of parsley.

I see her point.

Still, I am moved to redouble my record keeping efforts and to experiment with how to do this in a sustainable and useful manner.

Keeping records for smarter gardening

I would argue that good garden records make for smarter gardening. It’s easy to implement changes in the garden when you have the facts in front of you. We have adjusted the varieties of onions we grow based on our yearly yield. This is possible because we weigh the harvest every spring and compare varieties. If we tally money saved on produce grown at home, we can make smarter choices about how to prioritize space in our veggie gardening beds.

Record keeping can also serve as justification to ourselves for how we allocate our time and resources. I grow food for many reasons—not all of them rational. But record keeping can illustrate the good, solid, sensible reasons to grow food. It can provide us with data and supportive evidence for the difference our gardening efforts make in our diet and budget.

I can promise right now that this year’s records won’t be perfect, but I will experiment to improve our system and our consistency. In the first two days of the new year, I’ve started jotting records on our 2014 calendar. I think this method will be especially useful for tracking eggs—an almost daily harvest. I am also considering creating standardized measurements for certain common small harvests. For example, knowing the weight of the small bunches of cilantro, parsley, and kale I add to our smoothies, I may record these harvests as ‘small bunch cilantro,’ rather than weighing each bunch.

How do you keep your garden records? And why do you keep them (or not!)?

Sweet and Salty Dried Persimmons

DSCN5462Our favorite way to eat fuyu persimmons is dried. They have a sweeter, nuttier, all-around richer flavor than fresh persimmons. Starting in mid-October, we pick boxes of persimmons, and I fire up my crotchety dehydrator and start slicing fuyus. This year, we have branched out in two ways.

First, I had the questionable idea of salt curing persimmons in canning jars. This project is still in process, but I am happy to report that the contents of the jars has sunken, and there does not appear to be any strange fungal growth or other concerning developments. Stay tuned.

Second, astute reader, Carolyn, suggested sprinkling a little salt on the persimmons in the dehydrator. Voila—the salty persimmons I craved without the over-the-top excess of submerging fruit in a jar of salt. Brilliant!

We gave this a try last week, doing our best to peel the now very soft persimmons. After slicing the fruit and loading the dehydrator trays, I carefully sprinkled the tops of the persimmons with kosher pickling salt. The results are tremendous. The salt brings out the flavor and complicates things a little. The persimmons are sweet and salty, with a chewy candy-like texture. If we weren’t so greedy, we would be giving them all away for the holidays! Next year I plan to experiment more with spicing the persimmons before drying them.

First Frost of the Season

Finally, some seasonally appropriate weather! Early this morning, the brassicas were frosted white. I went out to remove the various traps (still baited and unsprung) from the mysteriously no longer rat-proof chicken run. I could hear the girls murmuring in their nest box, but they weren’t eager to come out into the icy chill.

If you garden in California, you can find average first and last frost dates for your area in this freeze/frost occurrence data from the National Climatic Data Center. For other states, go straight to NCDC’s home page and navigate to data for your area.

Brassicas covered in frost.

Frosty brassicas at dawn (tucked in under a cozy layer of leaf mulch).

Home-Cured Olives, Step by Step

I drove north in mid-October to visit dear friends and to harvest olives. I was actually a little late. Many of the olives in the surrounding towns had already turned black, but I was lucky to find a few pockets of green olives on my friends’ trees.

For lye curing, green olives work best. Those that have started to turn, with patches of grey or yellow-green, or those that are grey-green, work well also. The blacker the olive, the more ripe it is, and the more likely it is to fall apart during a lye treatment.

This is my third year curing olives, and my second using lye. The first year, I couldn’t find lye locally, so I tried the dry salt curing method. It took well over 3 months, many of the olives rotted, and the final results were quite intense. The flavor of the olives was extremely concentrated, and for me, unpalatable.

Last year, I wised up and bought lye in olive country, at the local hardware store, before heading home. The store had a huge end-cap display. As I approached, the friendly sales guy said, ‘Ah, curing olives?’

A note about lye: It is a caustic chemical, and can burn skin and eyes on contact. Follow directions about handling and disposing exactly. And while it’s the active ingredient in Drano, it’s not the only ingredient. If you can’t find lye, do not use Drano to cure olives.

I’ve been working with a very old Extension recipe for home-cured olives and decided to see if it had been updated. It had, and it had been greatly expanded, too (see new recipe here) (Note: This link appears to be unstable. Keep trying if you get gobblety-gook; it should work at some point!)

Here’s my 21-step process, recipe and tips included. Thanks to Sarah for her marvelous editing, breaking down the process to make the instructions very clear and easy to follow.

Sorting the olives

1. Cull any bruised, mushy or otherwise subpar olives. For home-curing, olives mildly affected by olive fruit fly are fine. According to UC Davis, a bad infestation will cause your fruit to rot, so curing right after harvest may impede rotting. I found about 1/5 of last year’s harvest affected, and I culled the most damaged olives. I discovered, however, that one or two holes left by larvae on less damaged olives allowed for quicker penetration of the lye, so this year, I left them. These olives turn out softer, which I like. You may also need to sort olives by size, since olives of differing sizes will absorb the lye at different rates. My olives were all the same variety and pretty much the same size.

Culled olives. One of the trees had a heavy scale infestation, which you can see, as little specks on the olives. Other olives were wrinkled, dark, or had sunken spots.

Culled olives. One of the trees had a heavy scale infestation, which you can see as little orange specks on the olives (click on picture to enlarge). Other olives were wrinkled, dark, or had sunken spots.

Olive lye soaks, step-by-step

2. Transfer to a container with a built-in spigot, like a cooler or a brewing bucket. The container should be food-grade plastic.

3. Use a quart jar or gallon jug to begin filling the bucket with enough water to cover the olives by an inch or so. Keep track of how much water you’ve used to fill. This amount determines how much lye you use (and later, how much salt).

Olives covered in water in brewing bucket. Ready for round one of lye.

Olives covered in water in brewing bucket, ready for round one of lye.

4. When you determine how much water will cover the olives by a few inches, reserve some of the water to make your lye solution. For example, I used 7 quarts of water, estimating that one more quart was needed to cover the olives. So, I reserved one quart to mix the lye. To mix the lye, I wore gloves, long sleeves, pants, and a bandana wrapped around my nose and mouth.

5. I used granular lye at the rate of 3 TBS per gallon. Since 8 quarts equal 2 gallons, I mixed 6 TBS of lye into the quart jar of water. Be sure to stir gently to dissolve the lye, and be careful of the fumes created by mixing.

6. Add the lye solution to the olives slowly. Then stir everything gently (to mix, and to avoid splashing) with a stainless steel or wooden spoon.

7. Let the olives sit for 12 hours, stirring every two hours or so.

8. At the end of 12 hours, drain off the lye. I do this in the sink, running cold water the whole time it drains. I also wear my protective gear, as described above.

9. Fish out a few large olives with your stainless steel or wooden spoon and rinse under cold water. Test for lye penetration by cutting a segment of the olive away with a knife. When lye has penetrated to the pit, the flesh should be yellowish green all the way through. In my test olives, the flesh around the pits was still whitish and milky. This meant the olives needed another round of lye.

10. Again, fill olive container with water, reserving some of the water to make the lye solution (see #4 and #5).

11. Prepare lye solution as above (see #5). (Note: UC Davis’ new curing recommendations differ from their old ones at this point. I largely followed the old ones because they had worked for me last year.)

12. Let stand for 12 hours, then drain and test several large olives. If the lye has penetrated, you’re ready to rinse (see #14). If not, a third round of lye is necessary. I felt unsure whether my olives were done, so I decided to do a third round of lye.

13. I prepared a weaker lye solution at this point, mixing 2 TBS granular lye per gallon wearing my protective gear. I let the olives stand for another 12 hours.

Leaching lye out of olives, step-by-step

14. After 12 hours, the lye test showed full penetration. I drained, then rinsed the olives twice by filling the bucket and draining it. Don’t forget to let cold water run in the sink while draining the lye.

15. After rinsing twice, I filled the bucket with cold water and let the olives stand for 12 hours. For the next 2-3 days, you drain and add cold water every 12 hours to leach out the lye. You do not have to measure the water for this step.

16. After 2-3 days, taste an olive to check for lye. Lye tastes soapy and feels soapy to the touch. When you can no longer taste the lye, you are ready for the next step. It may take up to 8 days to complete the leaching process.

17. I continued to drain and refill every 12 hours until day 6, when by taste and touch, I felt the lye had been thoroughly leached out.

18. The next steps depend on how long you wish to store your olives. We store ours in the fridge, so we follow the long-term storage recommendations, a two-step process. (You can also pressure-can them.)

Brining for long-term storage

Step 1: Medium brine

18. For long-term storage, the olives first undergo a weeklong soak in a medium brine. This prevents them from wrinkling during the strong brine. I gently pour my olives into the sink for a final rinse of water and cull any that have fallen apart, have sunken or discolored soft spots, or look otherwise ‘suspicious.’ I add warm water to my bucket (using the water measurement for the lye treatment; see #3) and make the brine by mixing 3/4 cup pickling salt per gallon of water. Then I add back the olives. They sit like this for 7 days.

Step 2: Strong brine

19. After 7 days, the medium brine solution is poured off and replaced by a stronger brine – 1 1/2 cups of pickling salt per gallon of water. The olives steep in this for 10-12 days, before the final brine.

Final brine for refrigerator storage

20. I poured off the strong brine and prepared a final brine for the olives, again at a rate of 1 1/2 cups of salt per gallon of water. I store olives in mason jars, so I pack the olives in the jars, then pour this brine over them, covering them completely. Then they go into the fridge. UC lists ‘long-term storage’ as ‘2 months or less.’ We have stored our olives in the fridge for up to a year without any problems.

Olives are stored in fridge in 2-quart/half-gallon and 1-quart jars. Ok, maybe next year I'll be pressure canning them.

Olives hogging the fridge, stored in 2-quart/half-gallon and 1-quart jars. Ok, maybe next year I’ll pressure can them.

Eating the olives (!) 

21. Before eating, soak the olives in plain water for about 24 hours to leach out the salt. Refreshing the water once or twice during this time helps, but isn’t necessary. You may leach for more time or less, depending on how salty you want your olives. Taste after about 12 hours and take it from there.


Salting Fruit

We can, and dry, and ferment it, but we have never preserved fruit with salt. Maybe it’s the copious boxes of persimmons in the kitchen, or the buckets of pineapple guavas, or maybe it’s simply the chilly weather making me crave salty foods, but it came to me yesterday: I want to salt-cure fruit. Really, why not?

I turned to the trusty labyrinth of Internet recipes and came up short. Sprinkling salt on fruit? Sure. But packing fresh fruit in salt? Must not be tasty, ‘cause no one seems to have done it. The only reference I found to salt-cured fruit is an article on fruit cocktails.

I decided to forge on. I used quart and pint canning jars, kosher salt left over from this summer’s fresh-pack dill pickles, and fresh fuyu persimmons and pineapple guavas.

I cut the persimmons into eighths and the pineapple guavas in half longwise. I poured a half-inch layer of salt into each jar before beginning to add fruit. I also made sure that all of the chunks of fruit were separated by salt. So far, so good. The jars are behaving themselves on the kitchen counter.

According to the cocktail article, it can take months for fruit to cure in salt. When the fruit is cured, the author describes steeping it in hot water and adding sugar. I am curious what other (palatable) uses salt-cured fruit may have beyond cocktails. I’ll keep you posted.