Preserved Esrog

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People of the world, I am still alive! Let’s make preserved esrogim!

So, what’s a preserved esrog? Well, it’s like a preserved lemon, only with another citrus, namely – an esrog, aka – a citron. What’s preserved lemon you ask?? Well, the general gist of a preserved lemon is: you take a bunch of lemons, cut them up (whether in pieces, or only partially seems to be up for debate), bury it in salt, watch as the lemon juices and salt form a sort of brine, and voila, you have “preserved lemons,” this tart (possibly sweet, if sugar is added also), salty, briny thingy, that can be used in many sort of savory applications. And me thinks – hey why not preserve some esrog, so that’s what I did….The end…Good night everyone!

Ha! Sorry to say, but 2015 is not the year I work on my verbal diarrhea…moving-right-along.

First off, you might be asking yourself, nossi does realize that sukkos was like 5 months ago right? Surely even he realizes that even if I did decide to save my esrog, that by this time it would be, how you say, unusable? 

Well Mr Italics-pants, I do know all that, but you see I suffer from this thing called procrastination. It’s crippling; plus work, and stuff, so like whatever man. Just bookmark this post, and let’s get back to it sukkos time, ok?? Geez, do I have to do everything around here?? I would even say that I’ll remind you come next sukkos, so you save your esrog…but you and I know both know by now, that’s not gonna happen, because, well, see above…

Ok, so moving along, here’s an amazing fun fact for you brave souls still reading – the esrog/citron is one of the 3 original citrus fruits (the other 2 being mandarins, and the pomello…all other citrus fruits are some sort of hybridized/cultivated mutant).

So preserved esrog (or lemons, if you for some odd reason don’t have esrogim sitting around) as I said earlier is this sort of condiment/spice that is used to add a tart, saline, citrusy flavor to a dish, most notably it goes well with chicken.

As I mentioned above, the traditional way to preserve lemons is to bury cut up lemons in salt, which draws the moisture out of the lemon, and then salt and moisture mix, forming this brine solution.

Now this process is similar to any preservation technique, be it pickles (such as spicy pickled okra), or corned beef, the idea behind it all is to kill off bad bacteria, so good bacteria can take over and do it’s thing (enhance flavor/texture/shelf life…). We talked about the difference between “fermenting” and “pickling” back in the post on okra, so if you want we’ll all wait for you to catch up…go on…

The traditional approach to preserving lemons is more of a fermentation process, where just salt is added, which takes longer, and relies a little more on proper proportions (ratio of salt:water), but will have a more fermented taste (this process is sometimes referred to as “lacto-fermented”), but I decided to try and do a quick “refrigerator pickle” for the esrogim to preserve them. This process (which again is in the okra post) basically relies on vinegar to do the majority of the leg work in reducing bad bacteria, and kinda allows the good bacteria to flourish.

I cut up the esrogim, and discarded the interior (the pulp), and was left with the peel and rind. Now in most citrus fruits, the rind is too bitter, and we generally don’t want it, but in esrogim, it’s really the only useful part, but obviously can’t be eaten raw.

To add flavor I decided to take my dried up hadassim leaves (myrtle branch, also used on sukkos), along with salt and suger (about 1 tablespoon each), and added hot water to dissolve salt/suger, and to re-hydrate the hadassim. Then I added the vinegar, and submerged it all, and placed it in the fridge. The final proportion of vinegar:water should be about 50:50 or even 60:40.

Now I’ve never actually tried this with lemons, and never really made preserved lemons, I don’t see why wouldn’t work…but I ain’t no rocket surgeon, so let me know how it goes!

So now that you read all through that, you probably want to know what I did with it, right?

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I decided since preserved lemon apparently goes well with chicken, me thinks why not try this with chicken, I’m sort of a genius like that. Anyway, I threw some of the preserved esrog, along with shallots, onions, garlic, and home made chili paste (ie – s’chug), which shocker of all shockers, I made way back in the summer (with a litany of beautiful hot peppers from this CSA I was a part of) that I never posted…it’s kinda my MO, so deal with it!

I blended it all together

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and slathered it all over a chicken that I had spatch-cocked (best food word ever…it basically means to butterfly a chicken, by removing the backbone, and opening it up like a book..).

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Then I roasted the whole shebangbang, and to prevent the breast from overcooking, which it is wont to do, I covered the breast part with silver foil for the first hour or so

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then I uncovered the breast, and cranked the oven up to about 450-500 for another 25-30 minutes to crisp the skin

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That’s it boychick’ll…see you in 2016!

Spicy Pickled Okra

Well howdy pardner…now that you’ve ventured over these here Mason Dixon lines, you my friend are in the south, and down here in the south we like our okra, and by the south I mean good ole Mrrrrland, the entryway to the south, where we’re just slow enough to considered “southy” but still too brash and rude to know we really belong in the north. Anyway, okra, I hardly knew ya! See what happens when I don’t blog for months?? I just have a stockpile of jokes, and I’m just going to use them all up now…So yeah, Hi, didja miss me?? Good.

The first time I ever had okra was actually pickled okra, from a company called Wickles, and they make these awesome pickled okra, which are just the right amount of spicy and sweet, that it made me want to make them. Luckily I wasn’t inundated with okra beforehand, because if you ask most people they’ll tell you they hate okra because it’s too slimy, which they disgustingly are, but as we’ll soon see, they don’t have to be.

Okra for the uninitiated is this star looking pod, that when cut produces the infamous mucilage that is actually something valuable as a thickener when making gumbo, but otherwise it’s pretty gross. Now there are ways around it. First off, the mucilage only happens when you cut into it, and release some enzymes. So you can either keep them whole, or you can heat them over really really high heat, to denature the enzymes (like if you were to use them in a stir fry…). Here’s an interesting tidbit that I’m pretty sure I didn’t make up, the candy we know of today as marshmallow, was called the “marsh mallow” because when those kooky Frenchies developed it in the early 17th century, they used the mucilage from a specific mallow from a marsh, not very unlike what’s found in okra (in fact I think it was a relative of okra…). Chew on that disgusting fact the next time you eat marshmallows!

Anyway, let’s talk about pickling. When we speak of “pickling” something, we’re usually referring to preservation of said food, without any heat. The idea behind it is: there are some friendly bacteria present on said food that will, in the right conditions, produce anti-microbial stuff (ex – lactic acid, carbon dioxide..), and also metabolize the sugars in the food, so said food will now not only taste differently, but also not spoil. We can either accomplish this by traditional means, which is adding a lot of salt, which will then draw stuff (water, sugars…) out of the food you’re pickling to create an environment that is friendly for the good bacteria to flourish and do their things (ie – no oxygen). Or we can do the non traditional approach, and give those little stupid bacteria some help. The way we do this, is by adding vinegar that kills the bacteria that causes spoilage, and allows the good bacteria to do its thing of metabolizing sugars, yada yada yada….I lost you didn’t I?

Long story short (tl/dr) – pickles can either “ferment” by just adding salt, which will then kill off bad bacteria, or you can quickly “pickle” it by adding vinegar to kill the bad bacteria…..make sense??

For our little application we decided to go the quick route, because contrary to what my verbal diarrhea might imply, I like shortcuts.

Generally you want at least half of the brine to be vinegar, so equal parts water:vinegar works, but I find that upping the ratio of vinegar helps. So I like to go with about 60% vinegar. You can use any type of vinegar you want, and I’ll usually use half regular vinegar and half apple cider (I’ve never tried any of the heavier types of vinegar like balsamic or even red wine, but I’m intrigued…if anyone’s every tried that, I’m curious how it’s come out).

The next step is deciding what other components/flavors you want.

For this spicy pickle, I added about 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar, a bunch of dried thai chili peppers, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and some dried rosemary.

I poured a ½ cup of hot water over top to dissolve the salt and sugar, and re-hydrate the peppers. Added my vinegar mixture (I think it was apple cider and regular vinegar), covered the okra with the liquid, and placed it in the fridge for a day.

So yeah, that’s it for today…It kind of sucks that I’m not the blogger I claim I am. I mean just this summer alone, I’ve already made 4 batches of okra pickles, 1 batch of classically lacto-fermented cucumber pickles. Pickled beets. Pickled red onions…and none of it presented itself on these here interwebs. And I blame you! I still haven’t worked out why or how I blame you, but suffice it to say that I do.

I kid!! I miss you…this was fun, and not at all weird right?? Let’s try to do this more often, ok?