Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Preserving the Harvest -- In a Pickle

I selected pickling as one of my demonstrations/experiments, though it will be hard to top last year's pickle-o-rama brought to us by Niels & Carmen, which included everything from cucumbers to samphire.
Last year's picklefest!

On a smaller scale, I tackled pickled mushrooms, beets, turnips and carrots.  What was pretty interesting about the period receipts, was the wide use of mace, peppercorns, nutmeg, and allspice.  Very different from the typical herbs and spices we generally think of when we think of pickles.  Here is the receipt I used.  Since I was not planning on storing the pickles I made, I put them in sterile modern canning jars and passed on using a bladder to seal them.

From "The Compleat Housewife"

I also picked beets, turnips and carrots from a receipt in "The Pennsylvania Housewife" written by Past Masters in Early American Domestic Arts.  What was intriguing, was that the receipt called for cochineal (which are dried beetles used to dye things a wonderful scarlet color -- think British officer's coats).  Why would you need to add an expensive dye for something that had beet juice in it? I will make these pickles again without the cochineal to see if it really made a difference, but I'm guessing that the turnips wouldn't have turned out a deep pink and the carrots wouldn't have taken on the wonderful red color that they did just from the beet juice alone.  Funny, you could always expect a reaction every time you showed the tourist kids the vile of cochineal beetles and explained that they are still used today for natural red food coloring -- "EEEEWWW, I've eaten bugs!"

Pickled beets, turnips & carrots

While searching the period cookbooks, my husband Ken got a kick out of one receipt in particular -- Pickling Sparrows.  Seems as if larks or squabs could be used as well.  The pickling process took several months and -- "when the bones are dissolved, they are fit to eat".  Not sure I'll be trying that receipt next year.  Anyone else want to give that one a try?

Coming tomorrow -- our herbalist.......

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