Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spring preserves

The backyard homestead has become more lush in the past week. Every day, there is the possibility of one, or even two, homegrown ingredients on the dinner table. Last night, we had mizuna in our stir fry. Tonight, freshly picked radishes and rhubarb will grace our May Day table. The radishes will be served simply, with homemade bread, salt and butter. The rhubarb will become a small dish of cobbler -- oh, if only the strawberries were a little further along! After dicing up the rhubarb for dessert, I found I had some extra stalks. Thus, I launched into my first garden preserves of 2010: rhubarb pickles.

Now, at first I had planned to make rhubarb pickles with this recipe. Then I noticed that it called for sherry vinegar and grenadine. Now, I am not above purchasing specialty overflowing pantry attests to my habit of buying all too many one-use bottles for my various recipe experiments. I could probably use the sherry vinegar again for some Spanish tapas extravaganza, but the grenadine distressed me. I don't really use it in cocktails, and the most readily accessible brand seems to be little more than red-colored high fructose corn syrup.

Never one to abandon a recipe, I started researching various homemade substitutions, like reducing pomegranate juice with sugar. At this point, however, I was going to be spending more time making the grenadine than I would spend making the actual pickles. I also don't have pomegranate juice sitting around the house, so this would mean a car trip, more grocery money, etc. It all seemed too tiresome and expensive, not to mention against the pioneer ethos of making do with what ya' got. It was time for a new recipe.

Mother Earth news to the rescue! I found an interesting recipe, calling for ingredients I had lying about. This also gave me a use for the last of my homegrown dried chili peppers. Now my jars are cooling. I am tempted to dig right in, but I know they will taste better in a few days, so I will eat a radish and wait patiently. This is a refrigerator pickle recipe, as the hot-water canning process would soften the stalks to a mushy consistency. It makes sense to focus on quicker preservation processes in the spring and summer: the coming abundance means there is no need to stretch the vegetables into the dark of winter. Gather ye rhubarb while ye may, and leave the late-summer cucumbers to the more shelf-stable pickling methods.


  1. I can think of a lot of uses for grenadine!

  2. Very creative! I captured "wild yeast" from my grapes last August and haven't bought a loaf of bread since. I never thought of rhubarb pickles....Gloria