Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

There’s a lot of recipes out there for pickled cherry tomatoes, although most are the quick variety adding vinegar, rather than fermented. And I definitely am shooting for fermented! Of all the recipes I saw, I saw various spices or additions. I also saw different salt to water ratios. So I can’t really say I am following any specific recipe, more just following some general principles.

One of the flavoring systems was a Thai spice mixture, and while intrigued, I am passing on that for now. I am looking more for just the savory sensations of peppercorn, basil and rosemary – so that is what I am going with. And, except for the peppercorns, those are herbs in my garden. That is all the better, in my mind.

My Recipe - Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My Recipe – Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My Recipe

I actually have both cherry tomatoes and some Yellow Pear Standard tomatoes, both up to now doing quite well in the garden. I had enough for a quart of each (or just shy, I suppose). We get more daily, though I think the vine for the Yellow Pear Standard is not doing as well. In any case, it only took a couple of days to build up enough for these quarts.

I made up a brine of 1 quart of purified water and about 2.5 Tbsp. of pickling salt. That ratio is a little bit more than my most recent pickles, but not as much as I saw in many other recipes for cherry tomato pickling. After mixing thoroughly, I then set it aside.

I added 6 peppercorns in each of two quart jars. I then filled each jar a third full with its respective tomatoes. Then I added two basil leaves to each, then another third of the jar I filled with tomatoes. Then, I added a short sprig of rosemary to each, followed by the remainder of the tomatoes.

Then, it was time to add the brine, which was easy enough. I then used half-pint jars to weigh down the fruit. There was just a little bit of the brine left, and this I placed in the half-pint jars as extra weight. Then, I rubber banded a wash-rag over each jar combo to keep critters off.

General consensus seems to be around 5 days of fermentation, then cool storage, just as with the pickled squash.

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Oops

What I forgot, until just a bit ago, was to use a toothpick to poke a hole in the tomatoes. This was suggested by almost all recipes I saw, to allow the fermentation to penetrate into the tomatoes better. So I washed up as much as possible, and one at a time emptied each jar into a large measuring  bowl, then skewered each tomato, trying to duplicate the placement of the herbs. What I could not do was get the peppercorns back at bottom.

Otherwise, everything ended back in the jars successfully, with a little bit of mess in the transfer of liquids.

As always, now we wait.

Mid-Summer Fermentation

And other things, too! But more on that, later.

Pickles

The dill pickles turned out wonderfully. They are crisp outside, but a little softer inside. I could stand for more crunch, but am happy with what I have. Sean is not as thrilled with the flavor, exactly, as there is a quite sharp spice note; I think it is more the garlic than the black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, but could be wrong.

He still eats them, just making some funny faces as he does it. I think they are excellent, though eating a half of one on an empty stomach did make me wonder if that was the best idea. The unease passed quickly, though.

I think, but haven’t decided, that I may attempt to test out canning this batch, to see how it goes. While I like having fresh dill pickles on hand, that big of a container takes up a large space in our limited refrigerator. I get that that sort of kills all the “good” microbes that can help with digestion and such. But it also means I can store more of them, and for longer, potentially, with minimal effort into the future. Still thinking. May change my mind.

More Pickled Things

We came back from vacation to a garden gone wild. Kim made quick work of one (plus some) of the oversized zucchini, creating multiple loaves of zucchini bread. A perfect application of these hardened, oversized veggies. Equally hard, but with much less precedent, were the many crookneck squash sitting on our table. With the pickles a fair success, and some internet searching for examples, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to test out some pickled squash. Thus, I set about making four quarts of s lightly varying pickles.

For the most part things are similar among the jars. Each received a 1/4 of a small onion, thinly sliced, in the bottom. All received a pinch of black peppercorns, as well. I mentally numbered the jars 1 through 4, which aided in my decisions of how to distribute the rest of the flavoring and such.:

Ingredient Jar 1 Jar 2 Jar 3 Jar 4
Onion (sliced thin) 1/4 of a small onion 1/4 of a small onion 1/4 of a small onion 1/4 of a small onion
Garlic (cloves, crushed) 2 1 1 2
Coriander Seed a pinch a pinch
Cumin Seed a pinch a pinch
Black Peppercorns a pinch a pinch a pinch a pinch
Crookneck Squash (seeded, mostly) 3 large squash were divided between the 4 containers, with just a little bit of the last squash left over.
Mesilla(??) Pepper (seeded, chopped) 1/2 1/2
Rosemary (sprig) 1 sprig 1 sprig
Black Tea Leaves a small pinch in each
Brine a quart of water to 2 tbsp. of salt (more on that briefly) In total, it was 3 quarts of water and 6 tbsp. of pickling salt, with just a little leftover after topping the jars to 1.5 inches from the top

The Mesilla pepper and rosemary (and the squash, of course) were from our garden. Kim recorded that pepper plant being Mesilla, but looking Mesilla pepper up online gives something more like a thin and spicy pepper – almost like a cayenne. So not sure what it really is. We tasted it, and it was more sweet, not spicy.

The brine was a bit of a mess, as I misread, then had to go back and correct proportions. Originally I brined at a 1 Qt. to 2 tsp. ratio. Big mistake. Looks like all is fine now. The ferment is going strong and quite visibly active.

The black tea leaves seems to be a common addition to add tannins to the ferment, which should help keep things crisp. Didn’t sound like it should cause anything bad, no off tastes.

And Even More Pickles

With the squash taken care of, I then started working on some more of the cucumber. I placed 2 sprigs of fresh dill, 1/3 tsp. of fennel seed, 1/3 tsp. of peppercorn seed mélange, 3 crushed garlic cloves and 2 chopped up medusa peppers (ornamentals, pictured above) in the bottom of a quart mason jar. To that I added 2 decent sized, rather dense cucumbers as I thinly chopped them. I then topped with a brine at the proportions I was properly shooting for with the squash, 1 Qt. to 2 tbsp. pickling salt.

The end result looks beautiful, and is also fermenting visibly, though maybe not as powerfully as with the squash.

With all these pickled vegetables, I used sealed mason jars. So I do have to burp them occasionally, unlike the last pickle batch with the plastic water bag for a top. I’d rather not see any salty explosions above the refrigerator where they sit!

Plans For The Future

I’ve already culled the tomatoes we picked, and selected the cherry tomatoes and the small, yellow, pear-shaped tomatoes (forget the name) to make pickled tomatoes with. I don’t quite have enough set aside, to begin, but it won’t be long. Every day I collect more from the garden. Now, that just leaves the larger tomatoes needing a role assigned.

“Pickled tomatoes?” you say. Yeah, we’ll see. I hear they make a nice match to a martini, or in a salad. I’m withholding judgment for now.

Too Soon For Vacation’s End

So, tomorrow it is back to work. I suppose it’s always too soon.

Pain

I dislike yellow-jackets. It’s simple, really. After over 5 hours, by thumb on my right hand is still throbbing. After getting home from a lunch meeting, I proceeded to do some yard-work. I mowed the front yard, and then started trimming some weeds in the thick grassy stuff (I have no idea what it’s called) lining the driveway. Halfway up one side, I felt a brief sting on one of my left fingers, watched something shoot across my field of vision, and then felt a longer lasting (maybe multiple?) sting on my right thumb.

I rushed inside, where my wife suggested an ice pack, followed by the application of some essential oils. After the pain subsided from cut-my-thumb-off-now! to a more manageable level, I decided to go back out, this time with gloves. I returned to the same spot, cut a few more of the misplaced weeds in the grassy, shrubby stuff, then switched to the other side. With an armload of debris, I carried all to the roadside. Then I noticed a yellow-jacket on my left glove. I still don’t know if it was just sitting there, or actively stinging but just not getting through the gloves.

It was a sign that it was time to quit working in the front yard.

The Garden

A Summer Harvest

A Summer Harvest

Thus I entered the back yard to harvest what had gone unwatched in our vacation absence. I found many, many immense squash, and some more reasonably sized ones. I found two immense zucchini and one teeny one. And I found buckets and buckets of cucumbers. There was also a smattering of tomatoes, one pepper and a tiger melon, as you can see.

Ow, ow, ow. My thumb still hurts!

Julianne, my middle daughter, quickly took one of the cucumbers and ate it whole, as if it were an apple. Well, she ate it with ranch dressing, which she wouldn’t do with an apple, but you get the idea, I hope.

I believe the zucchini will end up as zucchini bread, so says Kim.

This complete, I ran to the front bed and got a bunch of mint, and made up a drink of rum, lemoncello (Lemon Drop), lemon juice and the mint muddled. It was good, quite good in fact, but it did nothing for the throbbing thumb.

Pickles

A run on the garden reminded me of the pickles I had moved to the refrigerator the night before. I cut one, and then ate the first half. Wonderful taste, not commercial dill pickle, rather a sharp, dill-backed spice. The meat of the pickle was softer than I was expecting, but it still had a nice bite to it. Overall, I’m happy.

First Taste

First Taste

Not so my daughter, who asked to sample the second half. She was not impressed, mostly I think by the spice. Kim thought it was merely “okay”, and I finished up the last half of the pickle. Still soft for my liking, but the flavor great.

I notice that the seeds are quite big, though they are not hard or problematic in any way.

Also, they are too big on one end to easily move to smaller storage. Bit of a pain, as the current vessel takes up quite a large space in the refrigerator. I’m not sure about cutting them and then re-storing. Sounds like lots of opportunity for spoilage.

Irish Red Ale

Checking up on the beer, I find that the foam has subsided. But I can tell fermentation is still active by the regular bubble pops visible on the surface. It’ll be a little longer before bottling occurs. But a good decision to start it, then leave it to ferment while I wasn’t there! No time wasted fretting over it.

That ends the day, short of some ice cream and White Collar on Netflix, and of course writing this post. Not much more and it is off to bed, to prepare for work once again.

Irish Red Ale, Continued

The Irish Red Ale I started last week was slow to get going, but is doing quite well now.

After pitching the yeast, it took about 2 days for any noticeable foam. The foam started as a thin layer of dense tan. This steadily morphed into a more recognizable, whiteish-tan foam, tall, but thinly bubbled. And this then turned into a almost filmy, slick, not-so-thick-but-not-so-thin layer of tan, milky foam.

The beer itself is dark in volume, but looks like it will be good when the time comes. I’m interested to see what the color is like when not at volume.

Irish Red Ale

All that remains is to add the yeast. Everything went pretty smooth. No boil overs, a quick cool down, simple treatment of the grains. Almost too easy!

I started by sanitizing everything, and throwing some water in the freezer. Then I got busy with the boil. To that end, I put 2.5 gallons of water in the pan, and started bringing it to a boil. To this, I added a grain bag filled with 1.5 pounds of 120 crystal malt, 0.25 pounds of chocolate malt, and 0.25 pounds of victory malt. Rather than really sparging, or a separate heating episode, I just brought the liquid to a boil with grains in the water, as suggested by the book the recipe proportions were in. And it seemed to work just fine.

Once it was to a boil, I added two tubs (each 3.3 pounds) of CWB Sparkling Amber liquid mal extract. This is a little more than the recipe called for, but I think it’ll be fine. This then required bringing it back up to temp, which didn’t take long. Once back up to temp, I added an ounce of Challenger hops, the bittering hops for this beer. I then proceeded with the hour boil.

While the recipe only called for a half ounce of my flavoring hop, Santiam, they sell it in 1 ounce packages. So I decided to use half of it at the mid-point of the boil, and the other half, as recipe suggested, in the last minute of the boil. Once again, smooth sailing.

At this point I filled my tub with ice water and brought the pan into the tub. A little bit later, I could see the temp had not gone down quite enough, so I added a quick gallon of chilled water from the freezer. That brought it down to the near-room-temp I was looking for. I had set up a grain bag in a fermentation tub, and poured the wort into it, using the bag as a filter for the hops. It wasn’t a catch-all, but it did help a lot. Using the tub also gave me a good way to measure the volume. After water, boil, extract addition and removal of grains and hops, the volume was at 2.5 gallons.

So I added 2.5 gallons more of water to the tub, stirred and then checked specific gravity – right at 1.050. Then, using a funnel, I transferred the strained liquid to a 6.5 gallon carboy standing ready. Of course, this is a five gallon batch, but that gives head room. Grains and spent hops went to the compost pile, after cleaning up the kitchen, then it was dinner (leftover beef burgundy and smashed red potatoes) while watching an episode of MASH.

And as I said at the beginning, now I’ve just been waiting to add the slap pack of yeast. I had intended on Irish Ale Yeast, but my supply shop did not have any on hand, so I have 1335 British Ale II from Wyeast. Right after this post is done, I’ll be heading to pitch the yeast.

To all a good night, and hope you have a great week.

Oh, and the pickles see not much activity yet. It’ll take a couple days.

A Wonderful Time Of Year

It’s summer! Wow, I’ve not posted on here in a while. Lots has been going on, but things have been slow on the fermentation front. Not a standstill, but not overly active either. Things progressing, a couple beer attempts, and at least one mead started.

In any case, it was nice to head to The Happy Berry today and take home 33 pounds of fruit (18 pounds of blackberries and the rest blueberries). Some of that will end up as jam, and some as wine/mead. I wonder what a “cider” of blackberry would be like…

Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles

I also started my first vegetable fermentation with some of the cucumbers (munchers) from the garden. Dill pickles are a nice treat, so I set about starting my first batch using the recipe from Alton Brown as a guide. Looks like things should turn out okay, but it’s a little early to be certain. I don’t exactly have a good 1 gallon vessel for that type of fermentation, but I had one big enough for the amount of cucumbers suggested, and hopefully a smaller bag of the salt-water solution can seal the cucumbers under the brine well enough.

We have a ton of things in the garden. We’ve already made quite good use of the zucchini and squash, though if the caterpillars have anything to say about it, that may end. The peppers are slowly getting going. And the corn is growing slowly, as well. We should have a ton of tomatoes, if all goes well, though they are green at the moment.

Also, with some hints from a friend, I have a plan for testing out lemoncello, limecello and orangecello. So I picked up the fruit and the base for it this afternoon. Maybe there will be some time tomorrow to start on that. But tomorrow, there is a bigger goal, and that is getting the Irish Red Ale started.

I picked up the ingredients as a Father’s Day gift, and I suppose it’s high time I get the ingredients into a fermenter! I plan on using a little more malt extract than the recipe actually calls for, and a little more hops, as well; both modifications are really dictated by packaging sizes. But hopefully the color and body will be right, and the flavor good. I do like a Killian’s – not that I expect it will come off exactly like that. Just saying that I do like that style of beer, and wouldn’t mind having some on hand, and the knowledge to reproduce in the future!

Pickles, beer, fruit, jam, garden, cellos…bed.

Mmmmmm.

Pear Mead/Apple Wine from 2012

Pear Mead/Apple Wine from 2012

Ah, finally a restful moment to think back on the day. I decided to open a bottle from some of the first batches of wine and mead I ever made, a mix of pear mead and apple wine. It was slightly carbonated, not enough to pop the cork (thankfully), with a crystal-clear golden hue (though there is sediment in the bottle kicked up by the carbonation). The flavor is rather light, but a recognizable apple-pear. And though my hope was the glass would focus the smell, it was so light at first that there was not much to detect. Re-sniffing as I write this I am pleasantly surprise to have a much richer smell to sample.

Earlier today the family drank the first batch of Pasteur Champagne ginger beer (from ginger bug trial 3). It was delightful. Not as spicy as I might have desired, but still enjoyable. My friend, likewise, enjoyed the ginger beer based on the bread yeast ginger bug (trial 2). The other ginger bug continues to be inert, to the eye at least.

And the bière de garde is bubbling its airlock quite well.

 Ah. Good night!