Solo lunches can be such delicious affairs. You can eat leftovers. (One of my all-time favorite foods.) You can eat standing at the frig. (Not recommended.) Or you can build a gourmet sandwich from fixins’ and condiments you have on-hand, such as these pretty and pink pickled red onions.
The fact is, some of my favorite type of restaurant menus to peruse are from sandwich joints. It’s amazing the wild and wonderful things humble sandwich restaurants can come up with—usually for less than $10.
Years ago, one of my favorite lunchtime breaks from work was at a restaurant that packed a pita with cheddar cheese, black and green olives. That’s it. Four ingredients. But it was packed full and then fired in the wood oven and served with a simple vinaigrette. Thinking back on it, it’s a good thing my metabolism was firing high in those days because that sandwich probably had about 1,500 calories—before the french fries on the side!
These days I like to keep specialty condiments in the frig for days when I have homemade bread and can justify the calories. Favorite ingredients include pickles of all types, avocados, hummus or other bean dip, arugula and anything cheese.
In my opinion, a food gets extra points if it’s pretty, so I wanted pretty pickled onions for my condiment selection. These onions fit the bill and make a perfect addition to the toasted Swiss, avocado and arugula sandwich I’m craving a lot these days. Total time is about an hour once you have assembled all your supplies and ingredients. You’ll take away about seven or eight little half-pint jars. You can give some as gifts or just hoard them all for yourself and those sandwich days.
- Sterilize 7 to 8 half-pint canning jars and lids in a water bath canner. While jars process, slice onions.
- Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a dutch oven. Bring to a boil and summer until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add sliced onion to the vinegar mixture and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions get soft.
- Remove jars from water bath. Place 1/4 teaspoon allspice berries, 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds, one bay leaf and one sprig of thyme into each jar. Transfer onions to each jar and top with the hot vinegar liquid, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Finger tighten lids on the jars to seal and process jars in the water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and let stand, undisturbed, at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Check the jars. Properly sealed jars will make a POP sound as they cool and/or the metal lid will be slightly concave. If you can press the lid and make a popping sound, the jar is not sealed. Store unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use right away. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place and use within one year.
I put so much work into my garden and enjoy every little harvest of cucumbers, bush beans, tomatoes and other vegetables and herbs.
I decided that this year I would find ways to extend the harvest past the warm summer months to enjoy in the rest of the year.
Baby musk mellon
One way of extending harvest, of course, is to continue planting cool season vegetables in the fall. Lettuce and spinach are easy and can be sown from seed. Last year I had excellent success with collards, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. In fact, I harvested collards until I cleaned out the garden for April planting!
This year I plan to add a cold frame to extend the salad greens season even longer and to move more herbs indoors where a little snip here and there can liven up a dish.
Another way to extend the harvest is to preserve.
Frankly, my memories of preserved foods are not particularly positive–mushy strawberries and over-cooked green beans. But preserving foods doesn’t have to be uninspired. In fact, there are many new books that are valuable references and idea-starters.
Ridiculously easy wine jelly on homemade bread
I recently picked up a copy of Linda J. Amendt’s book Blue Ribbon Preserves. Amendt has an interesting hook. Beyond the expected canning basics, lists of equipment and ingredients, she addresses the competitive aspect of canning in her chapter “The World of Fair Competitions.”
Does it seem to you that people will compete over anything?
Anyway, it’s truly a fascinating book that gives some insight into what is expected if you plan to win the preserving competitions at your local or state fairs. She even explains the whole judging system.
Did you know there are two judging systems—the American and the Danish? In the American system, there is only one first place winner, one second place winner, etc. Everyone’s entry is judged against the other entries. In the Danish system, on the other hand, entries are judged on a point system that compares the entry against an “ideal.” (I’m not sure where the “ideal” is from.) In this way, there can be any number of first place, second place or third place entries, depending on the points. And the points look very much like my son’s high school grading system: 90 to 100 is first place, 80 – 89 is second place, etc.
I made my bread and butter pickles from my overabundance of cucumbers using her recipe. It was so good and the pickles so crisp and flavorful that I decided to try another of her innovative recipes using one of my favorite fruits—RED WINE!
Amendt said that this recipe had garnered her the first place Alltrista Premium Food Preservation Award for soft spreads. I share it here because it is so very ridiculously easy and the result amazingly good. I used a 2004 J. Lohr cabernet sauvignon (about $12.00/bottle at my local wine shop). She says you can use any full-bodied wine, red or white. You can even use a champagne or sparkling wine to make a champagne jelly.
Makes about 7 half-pint jars
4 cups wine (a little more than one bottle)
6 cups sugar
2 (3 ounce) pouches liquid pectin
1. In an 8-quart stainless steel pan, over medium heat, gently heat the wine until slightly warm. Stir in the sugar. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the wine comes to just below simmering. (Tiny bubbles will form on the bottom of the pan.) Do not allow the wine to boil or the jelly may develop an unpleasant, tannic flavor. Remove the pan from the heat.
2. Thoroughly stir in the entire contents of both pectin pouches until completely dissolved. Quickly skim off any foam.
3. Immediately ladle the hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 –inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings. Process half-pint jars at a 200 degree F water bath for 10 minutes, pint jars for 15 minutes.
Note: Please consult a basic canning book for instructions on proper cleaning and preparation of jars and lids.
Do you have clever ways you keep your garden and its rewards going into the cold weather months? If you do, I would love to hear about them!
P.S. Today was one of those days with little trials and tribulations. As I was walking outside and reflecting on why I had let the little things put me into such a funky bad mood, the phrase “Into every life a little rain must fall” came to mind. But then I remembered, OH, WE HAVE HAD NO RAIN FOR ABOUT A MONTH!