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Dills, pickled carrots and beets, chili sauce easy and great addition to meals

08/26/2013 12:24 EDT | Updated 10/26/2013 05:12 EDT
For those who fancy trying their hand at pickling, here are some recipes to get you started.

Janet's Fermented Kosher Dill Pickles

This recipe for fermented dill pickles can be personalized by adding bay leaves, more or less garlic or more spices, says food educator Janet Nezon. In her family, her brother is the dill king, making about 30 large jars every year.

4 l (16 cups) water (unchlorinated if possible)

90 ml (6 tbsp) pickling salt

2 kg (4 lb) Kirby pickling cucumbers (about 20, depending on size)

4 to 6 sprigs dillweed, preferably seeded, washed

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

30 ml (2 tbsp) pickling spice

Pinch hot chili flakes or a few pieces of hot pepper (optional)

Wash two 1.5-litre (6-cup) mason jars in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher.

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and stir in pickling salt until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

Scrub cucumbers and slice a very thin piece off the blossom end of each one. (If you aren't sure which end is which, slice a small bit off both ends.) This helps to keep the pickles crunchy.

Put 1 or 2 sprigs of dill, a few pieces of garlic and 15 ml (1 tbsp) pickling spice in the bottom of each jar.

Pack cucumbers vertically into jars, filling halfway. Add another dill sprig and more garlic. Pack remaining cucumbers to fill jars tightly, ensuring all cucumbers are below the "neck" of the jar. (You can put one small cucumber sideways at the top to hold the others in place.) Tuck in the last bit of dill and garlic between cucumbers.

If you like your pickles spicy, add a pinch of hot chili flakes or a few pieces of hot pepper.

Fill jars with brine, ensuring cucumbers are completely covered.

Cover jars loosely with cheesecloth and secure with an elastic band if necessary. Store jars in a cool dark place for about 1 week. Check jars every day to ensure cucumbers remain submerged and top with additional brine as necessary. If scum or foam develops on surface, simply skim it off and discard. That's a normal part of the process.

After 3 or 4 days, taste a pickle and decide if they're ready or if you want them fermented longer. "Half sours" usually take 3 to 4 days, while "full sours" take 5 to 7 days.

To stop pickling process, cover jars with a lid and place in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 large jars.

Source: Janet Nezon, owner of Rainbow Plate (rainbowplate.com), Thornhill, Ont.

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Pickled Carrots With Oregano and Peppers

These pickled carrots are a favourite of Janet Nezon's family. Because the carrots are raw, she advises letting the pickles sit for a week or so before trying them to let them absorb the flavour. She also says the finished jars are "gorgeous."

This recipe also works fine with baby peeled carrots.

45 ml (3 tbsp) finely chopped fresh oregano or 15 ml (1 tbsp) dried

30 ml (2 tbsp) each chopped sweet red and green pepper

1 ml (1/4 tsp) hot pepper flakes (or more if you like things with a kick)

2 small cloves garlic

500 g (1 lb) carrots, washed and peeled if necessary and cut into quarters or whatever shape you prefer (or use baby peeled carrots)

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) white vinegar

75 ml (1/3 cup) water

125 ml (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

5 ml (1 tsp) pickling salt

Place two 500-ml (2-cup) jars (minus lids) in hot water in canner and place lids in simmering water on the stove. (It's not necessary to sterilize the jars.)

In a bowl, combine oregano, sweet peppers and hot pepper flakes.

Remove hot jars from canner and divide pepper mixture between them.

Add 1 clove garlic to each jar and fill each with half the carrots, leaving a little more than 1 cm (1/2 inch) headspace. Be sure to pack carrots tightly.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil.

Pour hot liquid over carrots, making sure to cover them but leaving 1 cm (1/2 inch) of headspace between liquid and rim.

Process jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes for 500-ml (2-cup) jars.

Makes 2 jars, each 500 ml (2 cups).

Source: "The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round" by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard (Firefly Books, 2007).

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Gingery Pickled Beets

The addition of ginger gives a snap to classic pickled beets. Janet Nezon gets her recipes from many different sources but says it's important, especially for new picklers, to use only recipes that have been tried and tested.

1 kg (2 lb) red beets

500 ml (2 cups) apple cider vinegar

500 ml (2 cups) water, plus water to boil beets

30 ml (2 tbsp) pickling salt

250 ml (1 cup) sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 piece (5 cm/2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Scrub beets, removing greens and long roots (save the greens, they're edible); place beets in a pot and cover with water. Simmer over medium heat until beets are just tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

When beets are cool enough to handle, rub skins off with your fingers. (Wear plastic gloves or resealable plastic bags on your hands if you are averse to pink-stained skin.) Trim unwieldy ends, cut beets into wedges and set aside.

Prepare a boiling water bath and sterilize 3 regular-mouth 500-ml (2-cup) jars. Place lids in a small saucepan, cover with water and simmer over very low heat.

In a pot, combine vinegar, 500 ml (2 cups) water, salt, sugar, cinnamon and ginger and bring brine to a boil. Meanwhile, pack beet wedges into sterilized jars.

Slowly pour hot brine over beets in each jar (making sure to include 2 to 3 ginger slices in each jar), leaving 1 cm (1/2 inch) headspace.

Gently tap jars on a towel-lined countertop to help loosen any bubbles before using a wooden chopstick to dislodge any remaining bubbles. Check headspace again and add more brine if necessary. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Let pickles cure for at least 1 week before eating.

Makes 3 jars, each 500 ml (2 cups).

Source: "Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round" by Marisa McClellan (Running Press, 2012).

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Clarice's Famous Chili Sauce

Janet Nezon has many memories of making all kinds of pickles with her mother, Clarice Cooper of Toronto. But one of her mom's favourites is chili sauce, a multi-purpose condiment akin to salsa that can be served with many kinds of meat, on a sandwich or even for breakfast with eggs.

25 large ripe tomatoes

5 ripe peaches

5 apples

2 each red and green peppers

3 large onions

500 ml (2 cups) chopped celery

625 ml (2 1/2 cups) white vinegar

30 ml (2 tbsp) pickling salt

750 ml (3 cups) white sugar

30 ml (2 tbsp) pickling spice

2 cinnamon sticks

2 ml (1/2 tsp) whole cloves

Scald and peel tomatoes and peaches. Peel apples. Chop all fruit and vegetables into small dice. Place in a large pot and stir in vinegar, salt and sugar.

Tie spices into a cheesecloth bag and place in pot.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 to 2 hours until desired thickness is reached, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.

Remove spice bag and discard.

Ladle sauce into clean, heated 500-ml (2-cup) jars, leaving 1 cm (1/2 inch) of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Date jars and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Makes 6 to 8 jars, each 500 ml (2 cups).

Source: Janet Nezon, owner of Rainbow Plate.

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