Not your grandmother’s canning

New cookbook brings zest to bottling the season’s bounty in small-batch preserves

Photo courtesy of Savory Sweet: Simple Preserves from a Northern Kitchen by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). Copyright 2017 by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.

Eating local and by season may have become buzzwords among both home cooks and restaurateurs alike in recent years, but the idea is nothing new and is tied to some wonderful traditions, much like those enjoyed in Nordic countries. Think of the spring’s first stalks of rhubarb, followed soon after by juicy strawberries, picked at their sun-ripened peak. Thanks to preserving techniques, there’s no need to limit these flavors to spring and summer, and a new book celebrates the art of preserving for its ability to add variety to the pantry no matter what time of the year.

Savory Sweet: Simple Preserves from a Northern Kitchen by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen (published in April by University of Minnesota Press) offers readers a way to preserve food without the fear of mess or risk that often accompanies thoughts of canning. The authors provide recipes for small-batch chutneys, sauces, and jams that can be preserved—or “transformed,” as they write in the book—and stored in the fridge or freezer.

Dooley, author of several cookbooks, and Nielsen, a master gardener and photographer who grew up in Denmark, have created a book that’s a pleasure to peruse and sure to inspire readers.

In addition to the recipes reprinted here by permission, readers will find such gems as crunchy pickled red cabbage with jalapeño, applesauce with grapefruit and cardamom, black currant jam, and sweet and hot red currant relish. Bursting with flavors preserved at the peak of their season and interspersed with ingredients from the world over, the book offers a creative, versatile selection of recipes you’ll want to try. As promised in the book itself, “Savory Sweet is not your grandmother’s canning cookbook—but it is likely to be your grandchildren’s.”

Pickled Asparagus with Juniper & Fennel
Unlike most recipes for pickled asparagus, this one does not call for blanching the stalks before brining, so they retain their snap and fresh flavors. Note that the color will change from vibrant green to olive. The juniper adds a nuanced peppery-piney note, while a little fennel seed gives a licorice scent.

Seek out two tall 24-ounce jars to hold the stalks upright; otherwise, standard widemouth pint jars will work. You can eat the leftover trimmed stalks for your next meal.

Wait at least a week before enjoying this pickle to allow the flavors to marry. The jars will keep several months in the refrigerator.

QUICK IDEAS: These tall, delicious spears make an edible stir stick for classic cocktails like Bloody Marys and Gibsons. The pickle’s light juniper flavor pairs nicely with both vodka and gin. This pickle is also delicious layered into a grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwich. Substitute pickled asparagus for the green beans in a niçoise salad and whisk a little of the pickle brine into the vinaigrette.

Photo courtesy of Savory Sweet: Simple Preserves from a Northern Kitchen by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). Copyright 2017 by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.

vegetables:
1 to 1 ¼ pounds asparagus
4 large garlic cloves, quartered lengthwise
2 tsps. juniper berries
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

brine:
1 ¾ cups water
1 ¾ cups cider vinegar
2 tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Wash and trim the asparagus to fit in your jars, allowing for a half inch of headspace.

Wash the jars, lids, and bands in very hot soapy water, rinse them well, and place them upside down on a clean towel to drain.

Divide asparagus between the jars. (We like putting the tips up.) Distribute the garlic, juniper berries, fennel seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and crushed red pepper flakes among the jars.

Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the hot brine over the asparagus.

Cover each jar with a square of wax paper slightly larger than the jar opening, fold in the corners with a clean spoon, and push down lightly so some of the brine comes up over the wax paper. Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth or paper towel, add the lids and bands, and finger tighten the bands.

Label the jars. Cool completely and tighten the bands before storing in the refrigerator. Makes 3 pints.

Pickled Golden Beets with Chili and Grapefruit
Golden beets make a very pretty pickle. Be patient: it takes about a week for the spices to marry. The longer you wait, the better these beets will taste.

QUICK IDEAS: Serve the beets in a composed salad on arugula or spring greens with crumbled chèvre. Whisk together equal parts brine and walnut oil or olive oil to make a tangy vinaigrette to drizzle over the salad.

Photo courtesy of Savory Sweet: Simple Preserves from a Northern Kitchen by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). Copyright 2017 by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.

vegetables:
1 pound golden beets, scrubbed
2 tsps. salt
6 wide bands grapefruit zest
1 fresh red Fresno chili or other hot chili, seeded & cut into thin strips
3 bay leaves

spice mix:
1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cardamom seeds, slightly crushed
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. juniper berries

brine:
½ cup water
½ cup cider vinegar
1 ½ tbsps. sugar
2 tbsps. fresh grapefruit juice

Wash the jars, lids, and bands in very hot soapy water, rinse them well, and place them upside down on a clean towel to drain.

Place the beets in a medium saucepan with the salt and add enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Set the pan over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook the beets until a sharp knife slides easily into the center, about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on size. (Take care not to overcook the beets. Remove them from the pot as they are done.) Drain and refresh the cooked beets in cold water. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins using your fingers or a sharp knife. Cut the beets lengthwise into thin wedges. In a small bowl, stir together the mustard seeds, coriander, cardamom, fennel, and juniper berries.

Divide the beets, grapefruit zest, pepper strips, bay leaves, and spice mix among the jars.

In a saucepan, stir together the water, vinegar, sugar, and grapefruit juice, and set the pan over high heat. Bring the brine to a boil, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

Pour the brine over the beets. Cover each jar with a square of wax paper slightly larger than the jar opening, fold in the corners with a clean spoon, and push down gently so some of the brine comes up over the wax paper. Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth or paper towel, add the lids and bands, and finger tighten the bands.

Label the jars. Cool the jars completely and tighten the bands before storing in the refrigerator. Allow at least 3 days for the flavors to marry before eating. These beets get better with time.

Makes 3 half-pints.

Mint and Chili Sweet Pickled Rhubarb
The cookbook Smag, by Danish author Kille Enna, is innovative, contemporary, and totally Nordic. Its upbeat, boldly seasoned recipes are the inspiration for the cacophony of flavors—cool, hot, sweet, tangy—in Mette’s pickled rhubarb. It brightens appetizers, salads, meats, and sides. Make this early in the season when the rhubarb is young and delicate. Note that the rhubarb’s wide foot is the sweetest, juiciest, and most tender part of the stalk.

QUICK IDEAS: Finely dice the pickled rhubarb and toss it into salsa. Serve it over grilled pork or salmon. It pairs nicely with soft cheeses and cured meat.

Photo courtesy of Savory Sweet: Simple Preserves from a Northern Kitchen by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). Copyright 2017 by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.

¾ lb. rhubarb, cut diagonally
into ¾-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
3 sprigs mint
6 wide bands lime zest
1 cup cider vinegar
½ cup sugar
2 tsps. salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Wash the jars, lids, and bands in very hot soapy water, rinse them well, and place them upside down on a clean towel to drain.

Divide rhubarb among the jars. Place 1 sprig of mint and 2 bands of lime zest in each jar.

In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes to a simmer. Cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Divide the liquid among the jars. Cover each jar with a square of wax paper slightly larger than the jar opening, fold in the corners with a clean spoon, and push down gently so some of the brine comes up over the wax paper. Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth or paper towel, add the lids and bands, and finger tighten the bands.

Label the jars. Cool completely and tighten the bands before storing the jars in the refrigerator. Makes about 3 half-pints.

All photos and recipes on these pages are from Savory Sweet: Simple Preserves from a Northern Kitchen by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). Copyright 2017 by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.

This article originally appeared in the July 14, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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