Preserve the Bounty

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
Lewis Grizzard
Tomatoes form an integral part of our everyday food, often like the butter on our daily bread. Whether it’s a simple tossed salad, soup, salsa, juice, pizza sauce, chicken curry or  ketchup … it seems to rule the palate. Think tomatoes, think typically red edible juicy fruit {has seeds, is technically fruit}, one that originated in South America, but can be found in every little corner of the world. This heat loving crop is in season in India the whole year round, but not so in many other places, where it is a ‘seasonal vegetable‘, thus the need to preserve it when the season is at it’s peak.

Preserve the Bounty: August 2010

A little bit about the Preserve the Bounty Challenge hosted at Nourished Kitchen. In the month of August we’re setting aside our pressure canners and we’ll be preserving the bounty of the summer season naturally while optimizing the nutrition of the foods we put up for winter.  Over the course of 5 weeks we’ll cover sun-drying, oil curing, freezing, fermentation and salt-curing – traditional techniques that optimize nutrition and don’t heat up the kitchen like canning.

Week # 1 was Fermentation where I posted Ottolenghi’s Preserved Limes. Further inspired, I decided to pickle some local peppers and made a jar of Pickled Jalapeños.

Week #2: Oil & Fat

Preservation by oil and fat is a traditional technique that has been practiced for a very, very long time. It’s an ancient technique, really and it’s most prevalent in the Mediterranean where olive oil is plentiful. Oils and fats are remarkable preservatives and can keep fresh foods and herbs in good condition for several months or even years, provided proper conditions are met for optimal storage. Certain foods are better suited to certain preservation methods than others. Among the foods most well suited to preservation by oil or fat including mushrooms, garlic, herbs, tomatoes (fresh and dried) and eggplant.  Nourished Kitchen

It’s important to note that, while quite rare, botulism spores can contaminate low-acid foods (like garlic) that are preserved in oil or fat when it is kept at room temperature. For this reason, it’s critical that you either keep your oil-preserved food in the refrigerator or freezer (unappealing, I know) or that you add a bit of acid to the oil which should keep the toxin at bay … Nourished Kitchen
To Preserve in Oil {Preferably Olive Oil} – Recipe from Nourished Kitchen

Clean your vegetables and pack them in a quart-sized mason jar.
Add spices and herbs that suit you.
Add about 1/4 cup cider or wine vinegar, preferably raw.
Cover with oil.
Allow to marinate at room temperature for at least a month, shaking periodically to distribute the the vinegar.
After a month, you can open the jar, scoop out what you need, place the lid back on the jar and continue storing in a cool, dark place.

I made just a small batch of preserved tomatoes since I have a tiny little oven. If you wish to do a larger batch it is worthwhile reading this post by Chez PaniseTomato Confit: oven-dried tomato in olive oil. Parboiling the oven dried tomatoes before canning them seems a more sure shot way, but for now I am content with doing small batches that I can use up sooner.
There are over 7000 listed varieties of tomatoes worldwide, and one of the most fascinating ones are heirloom tomatoes {which we don’t get to see in India}. Though it is botanically a berry, a subset of fruit, the tomato is a vegetable for culinary purposes, because of its savory flavor. Tomatoes are acidic, making them especially easy to preserve in home canning whole, in pieces, as tomato sauce or paste. The fruit is also preserved by drying, often in the sun, and sold either in bags or in jars with oil.
This recipe at Cook Sister posted by the wonderful & hilarious Jeanne has been in my bookmarked folder forever! Small wonder that I reached there pronto when I read this weeks challenge. Oooh delicious, tangy, dried tomato bits, some which fell into my greedy little mouth. For that Jeanne is to blame. She should have never mentioned the odd nibble!! I loved the vibrant end result – a heady mix of garlic, oregano and tangy tomato in a wonderful olive oil. Try the recipe, and you will know!!

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Adapted from Jeanne’s recipe @ Cook Sister
About a dozen large, ripe tomatoes
2 Tbsp good olive oil
2 Tbsp dried oregano
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp sea salt
Enough good quality extra virgin olive oil to cover cooked tomatoes when placed in a jar {I used Borges from here}


Wash the tomatoes and cut into halves or into quarters, and remove and discard seeds. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and leave cut side down for about an hour for extra water to drain.
Mix the oil, garlic and spices together in a large bowl and toss the tomatoes in the mixture until well coated.
Line a sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomatoes on it, cut side down.
Place the baking sheet in an oven that has been preheated to 100C. Sit back, relax and wait for the house to start smelling glorious.
You will begin to see a difference after 2-3 hours – a little shriveling. Check them after about 4-6 hours depending the size and quality of tomatoes, and on the temperature of your oven, they should be ready. The tomatoes should have shrunk to about half to a third of their original size, the skin should be puckered and should be able to be pinched off with relative ease.
Remove from the oven when done. Remove the skins while they are still warm if you like, but, like Jeanne, I like leaving the skin on. You can either use them immediately, freeze them in batches to use throughout winter, or put them in a glass jar, cover with olive oil and store them in the fridge and use within a week.

Note: I don’t recommend storing them for longer in view of botulism fears in the long run.

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“Life is the sum of all your choices”
Albert Camus

Given the choice, I would cook and bake all day with olive oil as my happy cooking medium … SIGH if only I didn’t find the price a little prohibitive. My dream came true when Sharon brought me a selection of the recently launched Borges Olive Oil product range {more here}. The bottles staring down from the shelf in the living room tempt me {yes, the kitchen is still ‘work in progress’}, and of particular interest is the Extra Light Virgin Olive Oil that Borges has developed specially for the Indian market. It’s a blend of refined and virgin olive oils, making it ideal for Indian cooking.

I was skeptical as to whether it would withstand the high heat for deep frying but decided to give it a shot since another product was awaiting review … a gulab jamun mix from GITS! The marriage of 2 reviews together inspired me, so I set off to ‘knead the dough’ to make Gulab Jamuns, also known as ‘waffle balls’!

There are many things I stay away from. Top of the list is deep frying, unless of course it is  Beignets & Donuts, or maybe Churros; ready to eat packaged foods is also not quite me. My mantra is very much ‘Do It From Scratch‘, and I rarely deviate from my path. Some time back I received an interesting foodie parcel from GITS, a company at the forefront of the instant foods revolution in India. It had a selection of ready to cook, as well as ready to eat foodstuff. A quick check of the fine print read no preservatives; I was happy to live with this for once. The gift bag had ready-to-eat Dal Makhani and Palak Paneer which were very impressive, and then yesterday I needed to make a quick dessert and the Gulab Jamun mix caught my glad eye! I wasn’t too convinced about how it would turn out but thought I would give it a shot, as it offered me a chance to deep fry in Extra Virgin Light Olive Oil!

Gulab jamun is one of Indias most popular desserts and is traditionally made out of evaporated milk blended with wheat flour, fried and soaked in sugar syrup. It jamun gets its brownish red color because of the sugar content in the milk powder or khoya. Gulab jamun originates from an Arabic dessert, Luqmat Al-Qadi {Arabic for “the judge’s bite”}, that became popular in the Indian Subcontinent during the Mughal era. Rosewater syrup is often used; however saffron syrup and honey are also common. The dessert also became popular in Turkish-speaking areas, spreading to the Ottoman Empire.

The result was most unexpected and made me eat humble pie. I have never eaten such delicious ‘dough balls deep fried and soaked in syrup, as Allesio said on twitter; we have discussed jalebis and ras malai in the sweet past! The gulab jamuns were outstanding, with a generous addition of finely chopped dry fruits. that formed a part of the mix. They were excellent served chilled too. The box had instructions to make 25 little balls, but I made 16 and they were just right when ready. This is one product that I will certainly use in the future. My SIL asked me if the olive oil imparted any unnecessary flavour etc to this dessert. Surprisingly not! It is a clean, light olive oil and seems quite ideal for Indian cooking.

Going backwards, for lunch I made these cottage cheese quesadillas, the cottage cheese marinated in an extra virgin olive oil marinade which I got from my sis. It’s a staple I use, and good quality EVOO really makes a difference. These quesadillas are a great hit with the kids, and can easily be made into non vegetarian ones too. They taste wonderful stuffed to the gills with pickled jalapeños. Were especially good crisp and warm as it was pouring cats and dogs. Recipe follows, as does the recipe for the pickled peppers, which are last, and certainly not the least!

Pickled jalapeños is something I have been making for the last 2-3 years, but couldn’t  recall  the name of the blog I found the recipe at. Then saw it at David Lebovitzs while googling, and decided it’s a great  recipe to share. Tangy and sharp, pickled peppers are part of our foodie existence and at any given time I have one jar ready in the fridge, and the next undergoing pickling. We can’t live without them. The kids love them to bits, especially the daughter, and the peppers are an inherent part of their every meal! In India, it is during the monsoons {or the rainy season} that these bright green peppers flood the market. Now is the best time to bottle them!


Cottage Cheese & Roasted Bell Pepper Quesadillas
Makes 12 wraps
500gms cottage cheese, cut into 2″ strips
5-6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil {I used Borges from here}
1 tbsp dried oregano
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp minced garlic
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
12 small whole wheat tortillas {I used 5″ chapatis/Indian flatbread/rotis}
1 each roasted red and yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 green capsicum, julienned
Pickled jalapeños {recipe follows}
Cheddar cheese, or cheese slices
In a large bowl whisk the olive oil with the minced garlic, oregano, lime juice, red chili flakes and salt. It should be slightly extra salty and very tangy as cottage cheese is very bland.
Leave it marinate for 30 minutes. {I often leave this in the fridge overnight, for both the cottage cheese and chicken variations. Cuts down the work the next day}

Turn into a large wok and stir fry gently on high heat until all the liquid evaporates. Let cool slightly.
Lay a flour tortilla flat. Grate some cheese over it, or place a cheese slice across. Scatter a few juliennes of green capsicum, followed by a scattering of pickled jalapeños. Top with a 2-3 tbsp of the cottage cheese filling, followed by the roasted bell peppers. Gently fold into half, and place on a hot griddle with a few drops of olive oil. Decrease heat to minimum, press the wraps down with a flat spoon for the cheese to seal the sides together. Turn and repeat for the other side, cooking each side for 2-3 minutes till slightly crisp.

Serve hot or warm.
Note: You can substitute the cottage cheese for boneless chicken strips for a non vegetarian version. This makes for nice lunch box fillers too.

Pickled Jalapeños
Adapted from David Lebovitz, who adapted it from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook by Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman
300gms jalapeño peppers, sliced {I snip them with kitchen scissors}
1 cup apple cider vinegar {I’ve used white vinegar in the past & it works well}
1 cup water
1 tbsp peppercorns
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds {I forgot to add these}
2 bay leaves
3 cloves of garlic, lightly bruised
2 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp sugar

Place the chopped jalapeños in a glass preserving jar.
In a non reactive saucepan, add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
Remove from heat and pour the brine over the peppers. Place the lid on the jar and let cool. Once cool, refrigerate for at least a week before using, if possible. {You can use them sooner, but Michael says they’re worth the wait... I agree totally}
Note: I store them in the fridge, but like anything preserved it’s always better to take your own precautions. Can according to jar manufacturers instructions.
Also, I like to add 2-3 whole slit sharp green chillies to the jar to increase the heat as the jalapeños we get here aren’t very hot.

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This August, I signed up for the Preserve the Bounty Challenge hosted at Nourished Kitchen which is an intensive 5-week challenge designed to teach you how to preserve the bounty of summer without pulling out the canner.  Participants receive an email and tutorial once a week covering a traditional, time-honored food preservation technique. In Jenny’s words, “There’s many, many methods for preserving food without canning; however, in this challenge we’re focused on only a simple handful: freezing, sun drying, salt-curing, oil-curing and fermentation.  Each one of these methods helps to maintain nutrient content better than the process of hot water or pressure canning.”

Preserve the Bounty: August 2010

It’s August and we’re preserving summer’s bounty WITHOUT heating up our kitchens! This month’s challenge is all about traditional methods of food preservation – those methods that maintain or increase the nutrient density of the foods we consume.Week #1: Fermentation
Fermentation was born of practicality – a way to preserve the harvest of summer well into the deepest and darkest days of winter which may be why fermented foods play such an enormously important role in the traditional culinary practices of cold-climate cultures. Germans revel in sauerkraut, Koreans in kimchi and Russians in sour beets and kvass.

I love making these preserved lemons from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, one of my favourite cookbooks to leaf through. These limes take a few weeks to make, and the original recipe uses lemons. I enjoy making these, a preservation very similar to the Indian pickle, but less spicy and more flavorful. Less oily too as Indian pickles are often preserved in oil. This is the second jar I have in progress, as the first is almost gone. I use preserved limes often …  in Chicken Paillard Fried in Cumin Butter, sometimes tossed into the food processor while making Turkish Adana Kebabs, or Indian Chicken Reshmi Kebabs. I love the burst of tangy flavour these limes offer. The red chili enticingly takes the tangy flavours  of the lime, and lends back just a slight hint of heat to the limes … well balanced and definitely addictive. I am guilty of often nibbling a bit of lime now and then!

Fermentation is almost a magical effort on behalf of beneficial microbes. With minimal effort, a teeny bit of luck and a lot of patience, these microscopic do-gooders will change sweet to sour and make fresh foods, in all their vitamin- and enzyme-rich glory, last for years.

Preserved Limes

10-12 limes, {You can add a few tangerines if you like; I did}
6 tbsp coarse sea salt
2 sprigs rosemary
1 large red chili
Juice of 8 limes
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil {I used Borges that I recently received from Borges India.}

Before you begin, get a large enough jar to accommodate the limes in. To sterilise it, fill it with boiling water, leave for a minute and then empty it. Allow to dry naturally without wiping it so it remains sterilised.

Wash the limes and tangerines if using, and cut a deep cross all the way from the top to about 1/2an inch to the bottom, so that you have 4 quarters that are still attached. Stuff each lime with 1/2 a spoon of salt and place in jar. Push the limes in tightly so they are all squeezed together well. Seal the jar and leave for a week.
After this, remove the lid and press the lemons as hard as you can to squeeze as much juice out of them as possible. Add the rosemary, chili and lime juice and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Seal the jar and place in a cool place for 4 weeks. {I kept it in the fridge as it’s very very warm here}. The longer you leave them, the better the flavour.

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