DeLITcious: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1

Ever since my pre-order on February 21, I’ve been counting down the days to MaddAddam.

MaddAddam, coming on September 3, completes Margaret Atwood’s trilogy that started with Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Year of the Flood (2009). The series focuses on a handful of different characters and their experiences leading up to and after a global pandemic. Oryx and Crake follows the experiences of Snowman (aka Jimmy), a privileged young man who grew up on the HelthWyzer compound (a rich suburb that is walled off from the crime and poverty of the “pleeblands”). The Year of the Flood tells the stories of Toby and Ren, former members of a fringe religious group in the pleeblands called the God’s Gardeners who predicted the pandemic, calling it the “Waterless Flood.”

I’ve just reread both of them in preparation, obviously.

One of the things that I like so much about The Year of the Flood in particular, and much speculative and science fiction in general, is the food. Whether it’s a post-apocalyptic world where the ability to grow and safely preserve food is a necessity, or an alien world where a description of dinner helps paint the vivid picture of a world unknown, well-written food always tickles me in a story.

It’s because of this that I’ve decided to seek out and develop a series of recipes inspired by my favorite books. Which I am of course, calling DeLITcious, because I can’t resist a horrible pun. And what better book to start with than The Year of the Flood as I wait with bated breath for MaddAddam to arrive on my doorstep?

In The Year of the Flood, The God’s Gardeners are nothing if not self-sufficient. In many of the flashbacks to Ren’s and especially Toby’s time with them, the food that they grow and preserve plays a major role in their daily life. They have a rooftop garden for vegetables, a beehive to harvest honey, and a mushroom growing operation, nutritional and medicinal alike, in the bottom of an abandoned condominium building.

When Toby first joins the Gardeners, one of the first foods she eats (among many others) is a dish called Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #1

“The first evening, there was a modest celebration in honour of Toby’s advent. A great fuss was made over the opening of a jar of preserved purple items — those were her first elderberries — and a pot of honey was produced as if it was the Holy Grail.

Adam One made a little speech about providential rescues. The brand plucked from the burning was mentioned, and the one lost sheep — she’d hear of those before, at church — but other, unfamiliar examples of rescue were used as well: the relocated snail, the windfall pear. Then they’d eaten a sort of lentil pancake and a dish called Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley, followed by slices of soy bread topped with the purple berries and the honey.

After her initial elation, Toby was feeling stunned and uneasy. How had she got up here, to this unlikely and somehow disturbing location? What was she doing among these friendly though bizarre people, with their wacky religion and — right now — their purple teeth?”

Pilar and her place in the God’s Gardeners is not revealed until later. However, given the friendship that grows between them, I really like that part of Toby’s first Gardener meal was a result of Pilar’s labor.

All of this is to say, I wanted to make my own version of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley.

But then I ended up with two versions.

Here’s the deal: The God’s Gardeners most certainly would have canned their wares, both for selling at the Tree of Life market but also for packing into their Ararats (caches of food and supplies hidden all over the city in preparation for surviving the Waterless Flood). And Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley most certainly would have contained a wide variety of mushrooms plucked from the bed in the basement of the Buenavista Condos — puffballs, shaggy manes, morels, and anything else that was available when she went to fill the jars.

Therein lies the problem. There are no tested, approved water-bath canning recipes that I am aware of that utilize anything besides standard grocery store button and crimini mushrooms (which, by the way, are the same species). Other varieties of mushrooms would likely have a different density which could affect the safety of a finished canned product.

Because I’m not in the business of poisoning my loved ones, I decided that two versions would be appropriate. First, behold the Ararat-approved recipe utilizing a “medley” of crimini and white button mushrooms.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #1Coming soon, a more exciting and exotic medley that must be stored in the refrigerator. Stay tuned. (Update: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2 recipe here.)

Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1 – Shelf Stable
Slightly adapted from Marinated Whole Mushrooms by National Center for Home Food Preservation

Makes 9 to 12 half-pints

3 1/2 pounds small whole white button mushrooms
3 1/2 pounds small whole crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
2 cups olive oil
2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon pickling salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup diced pimento
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in quarters
27-36 black peppercorns

9-12 half-pint jars, rings, and unused canning lids
boiling water canner with rack
jar lifting tongs
jar funnel (optional, but recommended)
clean dish towels

Important Note: If you’ve never canned before, you will probably want to study up on some basics before you get started. And use common sense when eating home-canned goods — leaking, compromised seals, weird growths, bad smells? Play it safe and throw that shit out.

Select the freshest, smallest mushrooms you can find. Wash to remove dirt, then trim off the stems, leaving about 1/4-inch attached to the cap.

Dump all the mushrooms in the largest pot you can find (or split them evenly between two large pots), then pour lemon juice over. Fill with water until mushrooms are fully submerged. Bring to a boil (this will take a very long time), then simmer for 5 minutes.

Drain mushrooms. (Because the pot was so big and unwieldy, I had a much better time using a skimmer to transfer the mushrooms from the simmering liquid to a large bowl. In addition, I was able to save and freeze some of the mushroom liquid — the lemon juice prevents you from using it as straight broth, but I froze some into cubes which I plan on throwing into soups here and there that need a bit of a pick-me-up.)

At some point you should start your canner boiling, depending on how long it takes for it to get up to temperature. When it is, pop your jars, lids, rings, and tools in for 10 minutes to sterilize.

Mix olive oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, onion and pimento in a large nonreactive saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium heat.

Remove sterilized jars from canner and place on a clean dishtowel. Put a quarter piece of garlic and 3 black peppercorns in each jar. Using a funnel, fill each jar with mushrooms until there is about 1-inch of headspace. Then ladle in hot, well-mixed oil and vinegar mixture until there is 1/2-inch of headspace.

Use a chopstick, small spatula, or other non-metal utensil to stab and stir the jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim of each jar with a wet paper towel. Center a lid on top, then screw on a band until fingertip-tight (until you just meet resistance). Using jar tongs, place jars in the canner.

Bring water back to a full, rolling boil, then process for 20 minutes (or longer according to this chart if you are at a different altitude).

Using jar tongs, remove jars from canner upright, without tilting. Place on a clean, dry dishtowel without touching each other. Do not disturb for at least 12 hours.

Check each jar for a good seal (press on the middle or the lid — it shouldn’t move or make noise). Any that didn’t seal can be refrigerated immediately and still used. Remove rings to prevent rust, and clean the outsides of the jars and lids as needed before storage. Store in a cool, dark place for 6 to 9 months. Refrigerate after opening and use within 1 month.

Note on yield: While the original recipe states this recipe makes 9 half-pints, I ended up with 10 and a lot of mushrooms still left. If you don’t have enough jars or room in your canner to process them all, you can store them in non-canning jars (I used those tall salsa jars) and store them in the refrigerator.

Twelve days of food gifts: rosemary salt

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

So far we have a least two days of food gifts, as this is my second post in my twelve days of food gifts series for the winter holidays.

Basically, I post recipes, links to specialty supplies, and printable labels so you too can give awesome homemade comestibles to your friends and family.

On the savory end of the spectrum, today I’m making rosemary salt.

rosemary saltThis rosemary was, as is my habit, pinched from my friend’s yard. I’ll actually be sending a jar of this to the person who originally planted the bush. Full circle.

rosemary saltRosemary Salt

Makes 4 jars

1 2/3 cup fine sea salt
4 large (1′ long) fresh rosemary sprigs

Wash rosemary sprigs and pat dry. Make sure they’re fully dry before continuing.

Cut 3 springs of rosemary into thirds and crush the leaves gently with your fingers. Place in a medium pot. Cover with salt.

Heat over very low, stirring frequently, until whoever you live with walks into the room and says “why does the entire house smell like rosemary?” and rosemary is shriveled — about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Take the last fresh rosemary sprig and cut into thirds, then place in a clean glass jar. Pour cooled salt/rosemary mixture into jar. Shake well and seal tightly. Leave for 3 to 5 days, shaking at least twice a day.

Wash and dry your jars and lids at some point so they’re ready to pack.

When fully infused, sift salt and remove rosemary. Then pack into jars.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single label)
printable (3 labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

To protect the label from running if it is exposed to liquid, cover with clear contact paper before cutting out the labels. I was too lazy to do this, but maybe you aren’t!

More rosemary garlic madness in the form of a white bean dip

So, I still have rosemary and garlic on the brain. Remember? I made this soup, and it was awesome. But for some reason I still can’t get the combo out of my head.

Luckily, this past weekend I went to a pumpkin carving party, so I figured I’d use this as an excuse to make bring something to nosh on; something garlicky and …rosemary-y?

So I went over to my friend’s house and looked like a creep again, cutting a bunch of rosemary sprigs out of what was obviously not my yard. “It’s okay!” I wanted to yell to passers-by. “I know them. They said I could take it. Really!”

To dip with, I made these Homemade Wheat Thins from Smitten Kitchen. Honestly, I would have just bought some crackers and veggies and called it a day. But… Deb mentioned in the original recipe that these crackers barely spread at all when they bake. This piqued my interest. It sounded like an ideal candidate for my awesome wood grain textured rolling mat.* I bought it almost a year ago and have only used it twice; once to make a yule log which was very successful, and once to make some graham crackers which were less successful. I figured these wheat thins would be a good opportunity to prove to my mister that it was definitely a necessary purchase, seeing as how I’ve used it three whole times.

I didn’t alter the recipe at all, but I will second her advice to roll the dough very, very thinly. And, you know… come back here when you’re done with the crackers to make this dip.

This is a party size dip, so feel free to halve it for a more modest portion. Or make the whole thing and use the leftovers creatively — it makes a great sandwich spread.

* You’ll notice that the 12″ x 16″ rolling mats on that site are expressly stated as not food safe, while there is no specification for the 8″ x 12″ mats. Both when I purchased it, and again at the time of posting this, I received confirmation by email that the smaller ones are food safe. If there’s uncertainty, please email them yourself before you order.

rosemary garlic white bean dip

Rosemary Garlic White Bean Dip
Adapted from White Bean Dip by David Lebovitz

16 ounces dried white beans
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup reserved bean cooking liquid
1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil and rosemary to garnish

Rinse the beans and remove any debris. Put in a large pot and cover with cold water. Let soak overnight.

There are differing schools of though on whether you should discard soaking water or whether it’s okay to cook with, so. Either discard the water and cover with cold water again, making sure you have several inches of water on top of the beans. Or keep the soaking water and add more if needed. Whatever makes your heart sing.

Add the bay leaves, then bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, leaving a gap for steam to escape, and cook until soft and falling apart, 1-2 hours depending on the type of bean you have. Remove the bay leaves, reserve some of the cooking water, then drain.

While your beans are cooking, mince your garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat in a small skillet until shimmering. Add garlic and cook very briefly, until just softened — about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Put cooked beans, rosemary, garlic/oil mixture, additional oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in food processor. (Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to do it in two batches and then stir them together in a bowl.) Process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides down as needed. Add bean cooking liquid as desired to thin. Take a nibble, and add more salt and/or pepper if desired.

Put in a serving bowl and generously drizzle olive oil over the top. Toss on some more chopped rosemary, and serve with crackers and veggies.

Rosemary garlic potatoes soup, instead of binging on french fries

When I found this Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup, I initially set out to make a plain old vegetarian version of it. I figured I’d just omit the sausage and add some smoked paprika, throw in some hearty beans and call it a day. Sounds pretty good, right?

This is not what happened. As I was driving to the grocery store, for some reason I became fixated on the rosemary garlic fries I’ve eaten way too many times at a craft brewery/bar kind of near my ‘hood, the Brewer’s Art. There was nothing I wanted more at that moment than to stuff my face with those rosemary garlic fries.

I took a detour on my way to the grocery store to stop by this house a bunch of my friends live/have lived in. One friend planted a rosemary bush when she lived there; it’s now gigantic, and sadly I think only one current resident actually uses it, so I’ve been welcome to help myself as needed. So, I pilfered several woody, fragrant stalks. I may have received a few strange looks from passers-by for waltzing up to a house and rooting through the bushes, but oh well. It was necessary. For rosemary garlic fun times.

So, this soup isn’t exactly french fries. But that pungent, kick in the face rosemary-garlic combo that I was craving? Oh yeah. (“That’s more garlic than I would eat in a year,” my garlic-averse friend Emily said when I gushed to her about this recipe.)

Aside from the objectively awesome garlic overload (sorry Emily), the antioxidant/vitamin-rich sweet potatoes and spinach, and fiber/protein-filled white beans are an added bonus.

rosemary garlic potatoes soup

Rosemary Garlic Potatoes Soup
Adapted from Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup by Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4-6

4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 medium onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
6 cups water
2-3 tablespoons not-poultry seasoning
1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed (I used Great Northern, but Cannellini or Navy beans are fine too)
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Peel your sweet potatoes. Quarter lengthwise, then slice into 1/4-inch thick slices. Slice up the Yukon gold potatoes the same, but go ahead and leave the skins on.

Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add garlic and rosemary and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant. Remove from pot and set aside. Raise to medium heat, then add remaining oil and onions, then cook for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add sweet and white potatoes potatoes and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften — about 12 minutes.

Add water, not-poultry seasoning, and half of garlic/rosemary mixture to the pot. Bring to a boil and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft — about 20 minutes.

Using potato masher, mash up the potatoes to your preference. Add white beans to pot. Stir in spinach, drop the heat to super low, and cover. Remove from heat as soon as spinach turns a vivid dark green, just a minute or two. Stir in remaining rosemary/garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Not-chicken and dumplings made with Beyond Meat

So, have you heard of Beyond Meat? Despite having possibly the worst name for a faux meat product, it’s been generating a lot of foodie hype. It fooled Mark Bittman! It’s almost being seen less as a food for vegetarians and vegans, and more as a food for omnivores who want to eat less meat for health or environmental reasons but can’t kick the habit. Or even, potentially, added to commercial chicken to stretch it and reduce the environmental impact (think fast food, school lunches — food which is often already stretched with soy but maybe not quite as tasty as Beyond Meat).

With that said, it is indeed vegan — a gluten-free soy protein. And… it shreds. I was skeptical, but it truly does shred just like chicken (I think… it’s been twelve years so you can take that with a grain of salt.) But still, with that texture — so many possibilities! Chicken salad, barbecue chicken, chicken fajitas, the list goes on.

The only problem is, unless you live in the Pacific Northwest or the Rocky Mountain region, it’s not available yet. They’re doing a gradual roll out, and it will eventually be available nationwide. But I live in Baltimore — how did I get it? Well, it was invented in Maryland. So aside from the PNW and Rocky Mountain Whole Foods, it’s also available in a little health food store in Clarksville, Maryland called Roots Market.

My grandmother (not this one) made chicken and dumplings pretty frequently before she passed away. Hers may have been made out of chicken thighs, a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, and Jiffy mix dumplings, but regardless, I get a bit nostalgic for the dish sometimes. I’ve never even attempted a vegetarian version before, but I thought Beyond Meat would be a good one to try it out.

not-chicken and dumplings

Not-Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from Chicken and Dumplings by Smitten Kitchen

Serves 3-4

1 pound Beyond Meat™ Chicken-Free Strips
3 tablespoons butter *
1 medium leek , white and light green parts only
1 small onion, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dry sherry
3 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons not-poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup frozen green peas
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup whole milk *
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter *

Shred the Beyond Meat. I find it easiest to just get in there with your hands — using forks like you might with chicken is a bit difficult.

Cut your leeks in half lengthwise, then rinse very well under cold running water. They tend to be really sandy in between all those layers. Once clean, chop into one inch pieces. Finely mince your onion and shallot and set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter to a large pot over medium heat. Add Beyond Meat and toss until butter is absorbed, just a minute or two. Remove from pot and set aside.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, then add the leeks, onion, and shallot. Add a pinch of salt and toss to combine, then cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the flour, then the sherry. Whisk vigorously to scrape up any browned bits of veggies. Stir in the water, milk, and not-poultry seasoning. Crush the thyme and rosemary with your fingers and throw it in, along with the whole bay leaf.

Add the Beyond Meat, then cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick and fragrant — about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf.

If you want to start this ahead of time for a quick weeknight dinner, now would be the time to pop it in the fridge to continue tomorrow.

Dumpling time! Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and butter about 1 minute, until just warm. Stir the wet mix into the dry mix with a wooden spoon until just smooth — do not over mix!

Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low.

Drop batter in golf-ball-sized dumplings evenly over the top of the soup. The easiest way to do this is to scoop the batter with one spoon, then push it off into the soup — plop! — with another spoon. They should be about a quarter inch apart to allow for the dumplings to grow when they cook.

Once the dumplings are distributed, cover and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, about 18-20 minutes.

* Vegan substitutions: Your favorite plant based milk and butter substitutes. A soy creamer would be good to add depth to the soup, and olive oil instead of butter would work. For the dumplings, I think rice milk and vegan margarine would be the best bet.