Jar Fulls of Goodness

tomatoes

Tomatoes ready for the pot.

It is that time of year again. Labour Day weekend has come and gone, the kids are back at school, and the farmers’ markets are full of bounty. Right now, you can find everything from cucumbers to tomatoes, beets to beans and many fruits like apples and pears. Now, I know, even as a chef, all this goodness can be a little overwhelming. How can anyone possibly be able to use all these ingredients, let alone find space for them in their pantry? Well, what I am about to divulge to you is by no means a secret; it’s pickling and preserving. That’s right! It’s the time of year to grab all those goodies and start experimenting. Go grab yourself some jars, hit up a market, grab your grandmother by the hand and get yourself involved in a pickling party.

I know that there are many preserving experts out there; everyone has a momma, grandmomma or friend who partakes in this every year. Why my own mother-in-law, a Miss Kathy, took it upon herself a few years ago to pair up with a friend of hers who was a pickling master and made her first batch of Mustard Pickle (and what a batch it was!). If you think preserving might be too daunting a task, there are several companies in the Halifax area who sell amazing prepared pickles at the Seaport Farmer’s Market. A few of my favorites are Pat’s Preserves and Tangled Garden. I am also pretty sure that there are many of you out there, who are fortunate enough to have a seasoned “pickler” in your family. If so, take advantage of this and spend a weekend with them learning the ropes!

A good example of a restaurant that takes all of this goodness in is Les Fougères in Chelsea, Quebec. The owners, Charlie and Jennifer Part, are known for their pickling and jam making prowess. If you have ever worked there (as I did many moons ago), you become privy to their “secret” recipes and their way of doing things. Many a night I was bound to the stoves at Les Fougères, blanching and peeling tomatoes, chopping and salting cucumbers, and mixing large batches of spice mix. Their pickles and preserves are so popular, that they now produce them in larger quantities for people to purchase from their onsite shop to take home and enjoy.

Whether you are a seasoned pro at the pickling game, or are giving it a go for the first time, enjoy this time of year and hit up your local market. This time, be prepared to grab that ten pound bag of beets and turn them into the sweet and sour pickled variety, or take the bumper crop of beans and make a spicy pickled version. Anyway you jar it, you know it’s gonna be good!

Here are a few simple and easy recipes that work for the first timer or the expert! Happy pickling.

Bread And Butter Pickles

  • 4 quarts small to medium cucumbers; washed
  • 3 medium onions; thinly sliced
  • 1 red & 1 green pepper; chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarse pickling salt
  • Ice cubes

Syrup:

  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed

Combine cucumbers, onions, peppers and salt. Cover with ice cubes and let stand for 3 hours. Drain well. Rinse with cold water & drain again. Combine all syrup ingredients in a large pot. Add pickle mixture and bring to a boil. Place in sterilized  jars and seal.

This recipe comes from the book “Eleanor’s Recipe Collection No. 2″ and is written by my old Home Economics teacher, Eleanor Never Hayes, from Shawville, Quebec.

East Indian Tomato Relish

  • 20 ripe tomatoes
  • 4 large onions; chopped
  • 4 large red & 2 large green peppers; chopped
  • 4 tbsp salt
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 4 cups sugar

Blanch and peel the tomatoes; coarsely chop. Combine tomatoes, onion, peppers & salt in large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 1/2 hour. Add vinegar & sugar and continue to cook for 2 hours; stirring occasionally and cook until desired thickness. Put into sterilized jars and seal.

This recipe comes from the “A Year At Les Fougères” cookbook (many a night I made this recipe!)

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Sunday Night Dinner #5: Fried Green Tomatoes
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