STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

  This quick-and-easy Strawberry Chia Jam intensifies the strawberry flavor while being healthier than most of the jams on the market.  It’s one of those gorgeously-simple foods.  The texture (as written) is a cross between a jam and a sauce, making it super versatile, but it’s easily made firmer by the addition of another Tablespoon of chia seeds.  I chose to make this jam with strawberries because strawberries already have tiny seeds, but you can choose any fruit you like.  The way I made it, it can be spread on toast, spooned over vegan yogurt or cheesecake, drizzled on oatmeal, stirred into lemonade, dolloped on strawberry shortcake, etc.  I froze some  so I could preserve the flavor of Spring.

STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

Makes enough to fill two 8-ounce jars and then some

INGREDIENTS
3 Cups chopped fruit
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice  (yes, fresh tastes better)
1/3 Cup organic sugar
1 Tablespoon chia seeds  (or 2 if you want it thicker)

DIRECTIONS
Wash and prepare fruit, cutting away any bad parts, leaves and stems.  Leave berries otherwise whole and add them to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, until fruit breaks down and gives off syrupy liquid.  Mash the fruit with a potato masher, or if you don’t have one, the bottom of a canning jar or heavy glass tumbler.  Leave lumps, so it’s rustic and beautiful.  Stir in lemon juice and sugar.  Taste it to make sure it’s to your liking.  Stir in chia seeds.  Let it sit and cool, and try to not to eat it out of the pot.  Use within a week, or freeze.

NOTES:  This recipe is flexible, but these measurements above really hit the spot for us.  If using larger fruit, pit and chop it.  Next time, I’ll add the zest of the lemon.  The health benefits of chia are many–fully digestible and energy-boosting, they were an important food for the Incas centuries ago.  Chia adds antioxidants, fiber, protein, omega-3s and calcium to foods, while not interfering with the flavor of the main ingredient.  While this jam is not sugar-free, the chia seeds make you feel more satiated.  For another chia recipe, try my Chia Fresca.  And if you’re a real health nut, there’s also Chia Breakfast Porridge.  There is also a great Quick Freezer Jam on this site, that uses agar agar as a thickening agent.  Other related recipes include Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.

Easy Blueberry Sauce

IMG_2946     If you have a bumper crop or windfall of extra blueberries, you could freeze them for smoothies or pies, or you can make this fabulous easy blueberry sauce.  It can be used on pancakes, or vegan ice cream, stirred into vegan cream cheese for bagels, swirled into vegan cheesecake batter, etc.

EASY BLUEBERRY SAUCE

Makes about one pint

INGREDIENTS
2-1/2 Cups fresh blueberries, washed
1/3 Cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
lemon zest from one lemon  (optional)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Set aside 1/2 Cup of the blueberries, and the vanilla.  In a blender, add all other ingredients and blend until fairly smooth.  In a small saucepan, stirring often over medium heat, bring blueberry mixture to a boil.  Immediately turn heat down a click or two, and add reserved blueberries.  Cook at a low boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in vanilla, let cool, and chill.  Use or freeze.

Notes:  If you let the raw blended mixture sit around without cooking it, it could clump, maybe from the pectin.  If that happens, you can re-blend or use a potato masher.
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Beet and Lemon Shrub using canned beets

IMG_2079     Cheers and Happy New Year  to you!  This recipe was inspired by a mocktail I had at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.  On the menu, it was called Pickpocket Soda, and it was described as a Beet Sage Shrub with Lemon.  My recipe here is adapted from the Beet and Lemon Shrub Cocktail from Russ and Daughters delicatessen in New York City, and (after three tries) it tastes remarkably like the drink I liked so much at Vedge.  I found the Russ and Daughters recipe a bit too watery, so I’ve reduced the water by 20%.  I increased the vinegar to be closer to the normal shrub ratio, and I also switched to a white balsamic vinegar (rather than plain white vinegar) which gives a smoother flavor.  My big trick here is that I used canned beets, which might seem like blaspheme to some, but it came out delicious, and it makes this so quick and easy to throw together.  This is a cold-process sweet shrub, to give a bright and fresh flavor.  One reason for using canned or cooked fresh beets is that many people cannot eat raw beets or drink raw beet juice because it can cause an allergic reaction or a sore, swollen throat, which can be dangerous.  Of course, many people can enjoy raw beets, so you could try to eat a tiny sliver of raw beet and see if your throat reacts.  I tried eating a sliver of raw beet and had a sore throat all day.  Please see my post on growing beets for more of an explanation.  Back to the recipe–you can use this shrub in a variety of beverages, from sodas to cocktails.  I don’t drink alcohol, but Lars made a cocktail with about 4 oz. of shrub, a couple splashes of seltzer and a shot of fancy gin, and he says it’s really good.  The cookbook Shrubs by Michael Dietsch is a great little guide to this ancient and historic libation.  If you really want to go crazy, you can try this drink called The Hot Pink, but it only makes enough for one drink, unlike my base  which makes plenty!

BEET AND LEMON SHRUB

Makes somewhat less than two quarts, I think.

Special Equipment:  a juicer

INGREDIENTS
2 15 oz. cans whole or sliced beets, drained  (or equivalent amt. of fresh cooked beets)
1 Cup fresh lemon juice  (from about 5 large lemons,  or 6 medium lemons)
1/2 Cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 Cup vegan cane sugar
4 Cups filtered water
chilled seltzer water to add some fizz to individual drinks, if desired

DIRECTIONS
Squeeze lemons and set the fresh lemon juice aside.  Drain the beets and discard any liquid from the cans.  Juice the beets (you will end up with approximately 1/2 Cup of pure beet juice).  In a large glass (non-reactive) container, whisk together all ingredients until sugar is fully dissolved.  Refrigerate 48 hours before using.  Some people prefer to leave shrubs at room temperature for a day or two before refrigerating, to let more fermentation occur.  Some online sources say a shrub should last several months to a year in the refrigerator.

Notes:   I tried using Lakewood bottled lemon juice and the flavor was significantly better with the fresh lemon juice.  I also tried using the beet liquid from the cans, but it muddied up the flavor–don’t do it.  Chlorine and Chloramines interfere with fermentation, and a shrub is a fermented beverage.  If you cannot get filtered water, leave tap water out for a couple of days–long enough for any chlorine to evaporate.  You can check with your water supplier to find out if your tap water has chloramines in it, which do not evaporate and cannot be boiled off.  Filtered water is best.  Other beet posts on this site include Growing BeetsCinnamon Stick Quick Pickled BeetsRoasted Beet Salad, and Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.

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IMG_2177  One of my essential old kitchen tools that really came in handy for this recipe.  Lemon squeezer by IMUSA.  Tip: cut the ends off the lemons to get the best squeeze.

Quick and Easy Homemade Gochujang Paste

 

IMG_0270    I found this quick and easy recipe for Gochujang paste here, and simply reduced the amounts, and converted them into Tablespoon and Cup measurements too.  I don’t use a lot of Gochuchang, and this will supposedly last for 6 months in the refrigerator, as long as all your ingredients have that long of a shelf life.  Most authentic recipes call for letting the Kochujang ferment at room temperature for 30 days, or covering and uncovering the paste outdoors on a daily basis, which involves a lot of salt to prevent spoilage, etc.  I looked at buying some Gochujang paste, but was put off by added ingredients like corn syrup, calcium phosphate, etc.  Some store-bought pastes also contain wheat starch in the form of  isomaltooligosaccharide, which may not be good for those who are gluten free (not sure).  By making it at home, we can also use organic miso, and organic sugar.  Use Gochujang in stir-fries, sauces, dressings and marinades–anywhere you want a little spice!  On to the brilliant little 5-minute recipe.

QUICK AND EASY GOCHUJANG PASTE

INGREDIENTS
4 oz. mild white miso  (1/2 Cup)
1.75 oz. sugar  (3 Tablespoons)
2 oz. Tamari  (2 Tablespoons)
.88 oz. Korean red pepper powder  (1/4 Cup)
2 to 3 Tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS
Dry whisk the sugar into the pepper powder.  Add miso and stir until moist and blended.  Add Tamari and stir again.  In smallest saucepan, heat mixture over medium-low to melt the sugar a bit.  Add water by the Tablespoon, and stir with a wooden spoon to blend.  Cool and put in clean glass container with lid.  Supposedly will keep in fridge for up to 6 months.  This makes enough Gochujang paste for one or two recipes, but you can double or triple the first 4 ingredients and then add a little water as needed.
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A nice big bag of Korean red pepper powder was $4.99.

Cinnamon Stick Beets or Quick Pickled Beets

IMG_2556      These Quick Pickled Beets are an easy and delicious way to preserve fresh beets for weeks in the fridge.  They bring a rare and beautiful color to salads, but my favorite way to eat them is in hummus wraps with pan-toasted almonds.  Many recipes for pickled beets call for cloves, but I found that flavor too medicinal.  After making these three times, I settled on a three-inch stick of cinnamon in each jar, for a complex hint of spice that tempers the earthiness of the beets.   For other preserving recipes, check out the Pickles category.

CINNAMON STICK BEETS  or  QUICK PICKLED BEETS

Makes about 3 pints.

INGREDIENTS
6 fresh beets of medium, uniform size  (better for slicing and fitting into jars)
1 Cup white vinegar
2 Cups water
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt  (not kosher salt)
small cinnamon sticks  (one 3-inch stick per jar)
whole peppercorns      (about 8 per jar)  (totally optional)
brown mustard seeds  (a pinch per jar)  (totally optional)

DIRECTIONS
Do not preheat oven.  Trim greens off beets, leaving about one inch of stems.  Wash beets very well, and wrap in tin foil.  Place foil packet in a pan and place in cold oven.  Set oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 90 minutes.  Let beets cool a bit, and then peel, and slice however you like.  Consider thick batons, or circular slices or half circles.  If you want to make a stacked salad, whole circles are best.

In a small stock pot, heat vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a simmer, and stir to dissolve any visible salt or sugar.  Remove pot from heat and let liquid brine cool a bit, maybe 10 to 15 minutes at most.  Into each clean jar place one small cinnamon stick, and, if using, any peppercorns or mustard seeds.  Pack sliced beets into each jar.  Pour brine slowly into packed jars and let cool on counter for about 30 minutes.  Store in fridge.  Use diced into salads, drained and sliced in sandwiches, etc.

Notes.  Make sure jars and everything are very clean.  I prefer plastic jar lids because they’re non-reactive to the vinegar, and I like them to be BPA-free, but any lid is fine!   I keep my beets about a month in the fridge.  A good tip is that Vegenaise lids will often fit on small-mouth canning jars.  Using medium-size beets of uniform shape will make it easier to get them into jars, and you’ll have more whole, round slices.

You can see my post Growing Beets.  Other recipes on this site that use beets include Roasted Beet Salad and Salad in A Jar.
IMG_2487  Scrubbed beets ready to roast.
IMG_2509   The jar on the right is a recycled Vegenaise jar.

Cranberry Sauce with Kirschwasser and Cherry

IMG_1145    This might be the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever made.  To temper the astringency of the cranberries, I’ve paired them with cherry brandy and 100% real cherry juice.  I used a potato masher on the cooked sauce to give it a smoother texture while leaving a bit of Early American rusticity.  Kirschwasser is a clear brandy distilled from a fermented mash of cherries.  I’ll use the leftover cherry juice in the juicer, but you could make cocktails with it, or drink it straight in the morning, because it’s great for inflammation.  I don’t drink, but with the leftover Kirschwasser, you could make festive cherry Sidecars for the Thanksgiving bar too.  If you don’t want any alcohol in the house, just substitute more cherry juice for the Kirschwasser.   p.s.  There are three other cranberry sauces on this site:  Classic Cranberry SauceHoliday Cranberry Sauce,  and Cranberry Sauce with Amontillado Sherry.

CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH KIRSCHWASSER AND CHERRY

Makes about 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup Kirschwasser  (I used Dekuyper brand)
1/2 Cup 100% cherry juice  (I used R.W. Knudsen Just Tart Cherry Juice)

DIRECTIONS
Bring cranberries, sugar and Kirschwasser to simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium or medium-low heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved, a minute or two.  Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cherry juice.  Mash gently with a potato masher until it’s the consistency you want.  Cool completely.  Freeze or keep in refrigerator up to one week, in an airtight container.

Note:  If you don’t want to use the alcohol, just use more cherry juice instead of the Kirschwasser.

Freezing Herbs – Frozen Herb Cubes

IMG_0607    Vegan Mofo 2013.  I saw this excellent idea for freezing herbs on Pinterest, so looked around at various methods.  I chose this simple recipe for frozen herb cubes because the herbs are slightly blanched in the process, which keeps their colors bright, and kills any little bugs or germs.  Now, when I buy a bunch of parsley or cilantro for a recipe, none of it will go to waste!

FROZEN HERB CUBES

INGREDIENTS
old-fashioned ice cube tray
herbs of choice  (basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, lovage, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme)

DIRECTIONS
Rinse herbs.
Strip leaves away from stems, and discard stems.
Mince herbs finely.
Pack minced herbs into an ice cube tray, each 3/4 full.
Slowly pour boiling water into each cube compartment, just until water comes to the surface of the herbs.
Freeze.
Once the herb cubes are frozen, pop them out of their compartments and quickly into a freezer container, and put back in the freezer.
Use as needed.

Notes:  Here’s a two-minute YouTube video on how to remove leaves from herb stems and how to mince herbs.  Packing the fresh herbs firmly into the ice cube tray will help reduce the amount of water you add to each cube compartment.  When thawing, be mindful of any additional water in the herb cubes.  You may wish to let the cubes thaw and drain off any excess water.  For most dishes, though, this small amount of water won’t matter.
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Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Here’s one of the best Dill Pickles I’ve ever eaten.  I used organic, pristinely-fresh, full-size cucumbers, and store-bought dill seed, to make this a year-round quick pickle.  By partially peeling and then slicing the cucumbers into spears, we now have a pickle that you can begin eating the next day.  The result is a crunchy, fresh, semi-raw-tasting pickle that’s addictive.  The original recipe appeared in the Dayton Daily News on August 14, 2006, but I cannot find the link and adapted my version from an old photocopy.   It’s one of those popular refrigerator-pickle recipes that’s probably not approved by the FDA.  However, my friend Gail has been making the original recipe for three years and nobody’s gotten sick yet, despite the fact that she refrigerates them for three to six months at a time.  When you consider, for example, the crocks of sauerkraut made around the world and stored in grubby basements, I think we’ll live.  You can find many recipes for refrigerator pickles online, on sites like cooks.com and people are letting them sit in the fridge for months on end and even adding fresh veg into the jars of original brine.  Pickling is the oldest form of food preservation, but there’s a real rebirth of fermented foods going on here in the United States, as evidenced by the plethora of books published on the subject recently (just go on amazon.com and type in “fermented foods“).  The original recipe is called “Cold Pack Dill Pickles” which is a bit of a misnomer, because supposedly, Cold Pack means using a water-bath canner instead of a pressure canner, but this simple recipe uses neither.  I’ve also reduced the salt a bit, added some mustard seeds and brought the yield down from 16 pints, to two quarts, which saves a lot of time and is fine for our home consumption.  Like my Pickled Red Onions, I’ll just make another quick batch when we’re out.  Thank you, Gail, for the original recipe, and all the fabulous garden produce you folks shared with us last summer.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
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Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Makes 2 quarts.

INGREDIENTS
3 large, full-size, firm, fresh, organic cucumbers
(or four medium cukes)
3.5 Cups filtered water
1 Cup distilled white vinegar
3 Tablespoons fine sea salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Dill seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds (optional)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

DIRECTIONS
To make brine:
In a large saucepan or small stock pot, add water, vinegar, salt, and sugar.
Heat until good and hot, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
——–
Have 2 clean quart jars at the ready (or 4 pint jars).
Wash cucumbers carefully and partially peel them, leaving some green strips along the sides.  If the cucumbers are from a safe, organic garden (un-waxed cucumbers), peel them only lightly for visual appeal.
Cut the ends off each cucumber.
Cut each cucumber in half the short way, and then quarter each half into long spears.
Slice away at least half of the seeds from the length of each cucumber spear.
Rinse peeled garlic halves in hot water to make sure they’re clean, and divide the garlic between the two jars.
Add 1 teaspoon of Dill seeds to each jar.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds to each jar.
Place prepared cucumber spears vertically into jars, packing them in tightly.
Fill jars with the hot brine and then tighten the lids by hand.
Wipe jars dry and place them immediately into the fridge.
Supposedly, these keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 months.

Notes:  I always run my canning jars through the dishwasher with the other dishes to make sure they’re sterilized.  Make sure cutting board and knives are impeccably clean, etc.  The original recipe calls for chopping the garlic and adding 2 fresh dill sprigs to each jar.  It did not call for heating the brine, or peeling the cukes, and it recommended letting the completed pickles/jars sit out at room temperature for 24 hours, but I was too scared to do that, especially with the garlic in there.

Vegan Jam – Quick Freezer Jam

This is my first attempt at jam, so I decided to make a quick, freezer jam.  Like my rhubarb strawberry compote, this is the kind anyone can make and enjoy (or freeze) without the fear of botulism.  This recipe takes three pints of berries, but it makes a lot.   I got five 8-ounce jars out of this simple recipe, with a little left over.  It takes about an hour to make, including washing and slicing the berries, and you do need to be near the stove for about half an hour of that time.  A small price to pay for the sublime experience of this homemade jam.  It looks like rubies and has the saturated taste of sweet strawberries right from the garden.  Make sure to use organic strawberries, because the non-organic strawberries are seriously toxic, high on the Dirty-Dozen list, no joke.  I developed this recipe myself and this is only my second or third time using the agar agar.  Veganomicon has a good cranberry sauce that uses agar agar and making that gave me the inspiration to use it here.  Agar agar comes in various forms and is odorless, colorless and tasteless, and doesn’t harm anyone the way gelatin does.  One tip is that you can often find it WAY cheaper in Asian grocery stores (I have bought packets for around a dollar).  I’ve been told it has an indefinite shelf life, so it’s great to have on hand.

VEGAN FREEZER JAM – Quick Strawberry Jam

INGREDIENTS
3 pints organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 Cup organic sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon agar agar flakes or kanten

DIRECTIONS
Place a small plate and some metal teaspoons in the freezer (you will use these to test your jam).    In a small cup, combine agar agar flakes with lemon juice.
In a large pot, combine all ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Bring heat up to a low boil and cook, stirring often, until jam has thickened, about another 20-30 minutes.    Stir in a figure-eight pattern about every minute.
The berries will get glossier looking and feel a bit thicker, you will see the change if you pay attention.    Once you feel it’s ready, put a little on one of your frozen spoons and place that spoon back in the freezer for two minutes.  Go back and tilt the frozen spoon of jam and if the jam on the spoon is thickened and not running thinly, your jam is done.  It will continue to thicken as it cools.    Cover and refrigerate.    Put your jam into individual canning jars (I like 8 ounce jars).    Refrigerate up to three weeks, or freeze up to one year.  There is also a great Strawberry Chia Jam on this site, that is even quicker to make.

Preserved Lemons

     Preserved Lemons have been used in the Middle East  and North Africa since forever. Think of Moroccan tagines, the warmth of a relentless sun and olive groves.  I use this recipe from epicurious.com and I keep them in my fridge for about a year.  I did not soak the lemons to soften the peel, figuring they’ll soften in the jar anyway.  I did sterilize the jar by dipping it into boiling water, and I did dip the lemons for a minute or less in the same water.  I even put a little boiling water in a ramekin and dipped the whole spices in that.  I use two 3-inch cinnamon sticks, and sometimes one bay leaf.  I prefer not to use cloves or cardamom because I don’t want any medicinal flavor with the bright lemon.  The spices call to mind the souks of the middle east and I’ve always liked cinnamon in savory dishes anyway.  I don’t know if the lemons I used were Meyers, but they were organic, which was most important to me, since we’re going to consume the skins.  Making the lemons is easy.  Now to decide upon a myriad of dishes to make with them. I see Israeli couscous with roasted butternut squash and preserved lemons in my future, and lemon risotto.  And in the Spring, a compound lemon butter with Earth Balance for the new potatoes and asparagus and artichokes.  Lemon vinaigrettes and lemon tea cookies, etc.  It’s important to scrape the flesh from the underside of the already-preserved lemon and rinse the bit of peel you are using under cold running water, before chopping and mincing very finely for your dish.  And, a little goes a long way.  It will add some salt to your dish (despite rinsing) so adjust your recipe’s salt accordingly.
  I like these tongs, and wrap some rubber bands around the ends, which helps grip the jar.