Preserved and Pickled Presents

pickles (5)

beet, cauliflower, and cucumber pickles photo by vsimon

We are making a list and checking it twice. Sorting through our colorful pickle and jam selection, choosing just the right kind for each recipient. Wouldn’t you like to get some summer in a jar?

These gifts took some forethought. We pickled and preserved this summer. But the time spent then is paying BIG dividends now.

We had an overabundance of produce in our garden. We ate it, gave to the local food pantry, froze, dried, and canned some. This was the first time Vince made pickles and jams using a water bath canner. He became a canning maniac. 🙂

Many nights after dinner, 6-12 jars of new pickles would appear. All of the pickle recipes were from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich.

These are mighty tasty pickles that brighten up winter meals with loads of flavor and color.

Beets were wonderfully flavored with cinnamon, allspice berries, whole cloves, brown sugar and cider vinegar.

Turmeric makes the Indian style cauliflower and cucumber spears sunny yellow. They are also highly spiced with garlic, cumin seeds, fresh ginger, a bit of very hot carrot pepper, distilled vinegar, and salt. These are my favorite.

Whole red cherry peppers were pickled with a garlic clove, bay leaf, several whole peppercorns, distilled vinegar, and salt. They are so pretty with the green stems intact.

Dills, dills, dills. We have many.

These are pretty too. One recipe of sliced cucumbers has a sliver of hot carrot pepper, a chunk of red cherry pepper, whole dill seed heads, and yellow mustard seeds.

Another recipe of chunked cucumbers has dill heads, grape leaves, garlic, another sliver of carrot pepper, black peppercorns, distilled vinegar, and salt.

Jams

plum-jam (3)

plum jam photo by vsimon

Vince made plum, ground cherry with orange, tomato, tomatillo, and arctic kiwi jams. Our homemade jams are made with love and sugar. We left the high fructose corn syrup out, unlike most store bought kinds.

The plum and ground cherry jams are winners!! These are perfect slathered on wonder buns. We need to make more next year.

grnd-cherry-jam (6)

ground cherry jam with orange photo by vsimon

One orange tomato jam used pineapple tomatoes flavored with ginger. Another jam used yellow peach tomatoes flavored with lemon.

Both of these jams are good on toast. And also make excellent pan sauces for pork or chicken. Just cook the meat, then melt a bit of jam in the pan. Scrape up the browned bits and you have an instant sweet and tangy sauce.

Great gifts, don’t you think? Plan ahead and next year you may be able to share your riches too.

Note to self, buy more jars.

Ground Cherry Salsa

groundcherry (5)

ground cherries in husks photo by vsimon

Salsa is perfect in the heat of the summer. Super fresh produce, raw, ready in a few minutes. No need to heat up the kitchen. And in this case, no need to venture to the store. We use what is ripe in the garden.

Have you ever heard of ground cherries?

We grow the usual- beans, tomatoes, cucumbers. And the unusual.

We ran across a ground cherry plant at the nursery this spring and  said, “there must be room for that.” And we are delighted with our ground cherries. These are new to us, the old timers are more likely to know about ground cherries than we are. They probably would not think of salsa though.

Ground cherries grow in their own package. A papery husk protects them. It might be edible (I do not know), but I doubt it is palatable. Pop the golden colored fruit out of the husk before eating. Green fruits are not ripe yet.

What do they taste like?

We have been trying to describe the flavor to each other.

Sweet? Yes, moderately, not a sweet as a grape.
Vanilla? Maybe.
Pineapple-ish? Maybe.
Cream? She says yes, he says no.
Tomato-ish? He says yes, she says, “now that you mention it”.
Musky? Slightly.

You can see it is a bit difficult to nail down this complex flavor. It could pair well with sweet or savory dishes.

What could you do with ground cherries?

Jam for sure. A sauce for pork tenderloin could work. Of course, pie or tarts. Mixed into coffee cakes. Covered with dark chocolate. How do you use them?

 

ground cherry plant 

ground cherry plant photo by vsimon

How to grow ground cherries.

They are easy, easy, easy. Plant a small plant in a sunny spot. Give it plenty of room. In Wisconsin, fruits start to ripen in late July, and continue until frost. We started with one plant. I suspect ground cherries will be like dill. You only need to plant it once. Next year volunteers will sprout all over the garden. Right now that sounds appealing to me. I will let you know if I change my mind next year.

How to harvest.

Ripe ground cherries fall off the plant and land on the ground. Hence the name. The papery husk keeps it clean. Simply pick up the yellow ripe fruit. In theory, these “cherries” are easy to reach, so this could be a good job for short people.

But it feels like I am doing yoga in the garden while harvesting ground cherries. There is a lot of twisting and reaching to get to all of them out from under the sprawling plant. At first, we did this about every three days. Now we harvest every day.

We have been harvesting ground cherries for about two weeks now. First we made a simple, right from the garden salsa, see recipe below. Then we added them to mixed fruit salad, and liked it. Now we keep them in a bowl on the counter and eat them out of hand. We hope to harvest enough for jam or chutney soon.

About the other salsa ingredients

We also are trying carrot peppers. This is a hot pepper that looks like a small carrot. What you think is carrot in the photo is really the pepper. I like sweet and heat, so added it to the ground cherries. It was really hot. Not as hot as a habanero, but plenty hot. So I added diced cucumber to cool it down. And cilantro because I love it. Hot, cold, sweet, heat, herbal. It’s all good. This is a perfect fresh side dish for a Mexican menu.

ground cherry salsa

ground cherry and cucumber salsa photo by vsimon

Ground Cherry and Cucumber Salsa

ingredients metric measures
1/2 cup husked and diced ground cherries 70 gm
1 cup peeled, seeded, diced cucumbers 180 gm
1 carrot pepper, a few slices for garnish,
the rest diced fine
20 gm
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 15 gm

Mix it up. Any leftovers keep for a day or two in the fridge.

You may not have access to ground cherries this year. I am not likely to find them at my supermarket, but they might be available at a farmers market. They are fun to play with and are worth planting in your garden next year. Stay tuned for a few more ground cherry recipes.

*This post will be submitted to Grow Your Own #33, a twice a month recipe roundup, hosted this time by MomGateway.  Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes started Grow Your Own nearly two years ago. Grow Your Own celebrates foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products. Reason enough for a celebration!