Sunday, August 7, 2011

Crunchy pickled goodness

I had never had these before trying my hand at making them out of sheer curiosity, so started out with one jar and waited impatiently for the recommend 3-week-period to pass before cracking them open.  Instantly in love, I whipped up 4 more jars yesterday.  They take so little time, and are a great way to take advantage of summer's green bean bounty.  I wish I could say I used beans from our own garden, but alas our gardening efforts seem to result in either charitable contributions to the local wildlife or flat-out failure.  Maybe next year...

One note about the recipe: I like to trim all the beans to about the same size so they stand up neatly in the jars, which means I end up with a lot of smaller pieces which I then cook up for dinner, etc.   If you were to cut them all up into smaller pieces, you'd have less "waste" so wouldn't need to buy as much.  I've put two pounds as the amount in the recipe but there could be some pretty significant variance depending on your preferences.

Pickled green beans (makes 4 pints)
2 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 cup kosher salt
Spices - I use mustard seed, dill seed, peppercorns, and sometimes a garlic clove in each jar
4 wide-mouth pint-sized jars with 2-piece lids

Make sure your jars are clean and sanitized, and lids are in very hot water to soften.  Pour spices into the bottoms.  In a saucepan, combine vinegar, water and salt and bring to a boil.  In the meantime, trim the green beans to fit the jars, or just cut them into desired lengths and pack into the jars.  Personally I'm a little OCD and like them all the exact same length, standing up like little soldiers.

When the brine is boiling, pour over the green beans to within 1/4 inch of the jar tops.  Release any air bubbles and add more brine as needed to maintain a 1/4 inch headspace.  Screw on the lids and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Then try your best not to dig into them for at least three weeks!

Daily bread

I first started baking bread on a regular basis after Monkey was born. I guess I really sort of painted myself into a corner because after having homemade bread for a few weeks, I found it truly impossible to go back to store-bought "bread" -- and didn't want to pay for so-called artisan bread that I could make at home.  So, I'm now on the hook to produce two loaves every other weekend to supply us with bread for toast and the occasional sandwich.

This is my standard recipe, to which I might make small tweaks but never truly deviate. When Rachel will eat nothing but bread for a whole day, the fact that I know what exactly goes into that bread (and that it's relatively wholesome) makes me feel better.

I make this in my trusty Kitchenaid, but the recipe can be made completely by hand if you're so inclined (it's a great upper body workout).

Everyday Bread (makes 2 loaves)
2 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 cups bread flour
1 cup flaxseed, ground
1 cup quick-cooking oats
2 cups boiling water
1 cup whole milk (sour if you like)
2 packets instant dry yeast (approx. 4 1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten (optional - but it helps with the bread texture and rise)
1/3 cup honey
1 tbs butter
3 tsp kosher salt
1 tbs vegetable oil
Optional add-ins: 1 cup raw sunflower seeds,  ground sprouted wheat berries, or other nuts/seeds

Put honey, oats, and butter into the Kitchenaid mixing bowl. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over, and allow to sit for 10 minutes until oats are soft, butter is melted and honey is dissolved.  Add milk, whole wheat flour and yeast (make sure not to add yeast until you've added in the milk and flour); stir until dissolved and allow to sit for an additional 10 minutes until bubbly and foamy.  Add vital wheat gluten and 2 cups of bread flour with dough hook on lowest speed; add salt, ground flaxseed and the rest of the bread flour 1/4 cup at a time until a nice dough pulls together.  This stage should not take longer than 10 minutes or you risk overkneading your dough.  If you're using additional mix-ins, add them in last, just as the dough starts to come together.

Once the dough is smooth, elastic, and cohesive but not overly sticky, it's all standard process -- add the oil and roll the dough in it (I do this in the same bowl - one less thing to wash!); allow to rise until doubled; punch down, shape into loaves, allow to rise again; and bake at 350 for approx. 50 minutes (time will vary slightly depending on your loaf pans).  Once the bread is out of the oven and cooling, you can brush the top with some melted butter if you like.

Then let the warm-and-fuzzies wash over you as your finicky three year old demands a "BIG PIECE OF BREAD" and practically inhales it on a day she has turned her nose up at everything else you've offered.