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We Can Pickle That: Cucumbers!

Summer is on -- time to cue the cukes! Pickling is the way to go for most of us, but we have a few other tricks up our sleeves for cucumbers.

Sour Pickles
Sour Pickles
Our friend lactofermentation gives cucumbers their characteristic tang. This is the deli pickle of your dreams -- but there are a few tricks to perfecting crispy spears. (Image via Tim Vidra)
Half Sours
Half Sours
A slightly less salty brine produces a pickle with a slightly less sour tang. (Image via From Scratch Club)
East Coast New Pickles
East Coast New Pickles
A tradition in the Northeast, these pickles are brined but unfermented, making for a crisp, salty cuke. (Image via Linda Ziedrich)
Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles
Whether fermented or vinegar-brined, dill pickles are dill-icious, and endlessly variable. (Image via Talk of Tomatoes)

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Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti

Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti, found on PunkDomestics.com

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Anyone who's followed my personal blog from the early days knows I make no secret of my Italian heritage. My mother's grandparents came from various parts of the South--Abruzzo, Campania, and Calabria--and that is the culinary heritage to which I am most connected. 

Preserved foods are deeply integrated into Italian culture. Fruit preserves, pickles, and of course tomatoes in their many manifestations are the backbone of many dishes. Cheeses and cured meats of course are defining elements of Italian cuisine. It's because of these things that I decided to lead culinary tours in Italy -- to help people explore the intense, vibrant flavors of this culture firsthand. 

Come on, you want to go to Italy and make preserves, piadina, hand-rolled pasta and more, right? Join us in October

So when I heard of Domenica Marchetti's book, Preserving Italy, I squealed with glee. And also envy. In short, this is the book I wish I had written. 

Marchetti gets to the soul of Italian preserving, in fact boldly leading with an entire chapter on foods preserved in oil. In this method, referred to as sott'olio (under oil) in Italian, acidied food is kept submerged under a layer of oil. The oil keeps out oxygen, which can lead to spoilage. The acidification of the food staves off botulism. The oil does more than simply protect the food, however; it imparts its own flavor, and tends to give foods, especially dried vegetables, a chewier, firmer texture that's very pleasing. 

(There is no current USDA recommendation for storing foods in oil; however, the UC Davis Extension has provided a method for packing dried tomatoes in oil, using the same principles.)

Recipe: Grilled Mixed Mushrooms in Oil

With regards to fruit preserves, Marchetti showcases classic Italian flavors: Apricot jam inflected with anise, peach-almond conserve spiked with Marsala, fig with orange zest, by way of example. But fruit makes sometimes surprising appearances in other categories, such as in a sweet, sour, and spicy pickled melon recipe, or for the classic mostarda, a fruit-based condiment with bold spices (most notably, mustard), something akin to an Italian version of chutney.

Though a new-world food, tomatoes merit an entire chapter, with recipes for preserving tomatoes in various states: Canned whole, puréed (passata), dried, and as tomato pages (conserva). Avid pressure canners will also dive deep into the recipes for classic meat sauce and beans in tomato sauce to put up for quick meals by and by. 

Marchetti touches on a few simple cheeses, quickly made with ready ingredients. There's a ricotta, which you'd expect, but a couple variations intrigue, such as a Ligurian prescinseua, approaching a cottage cheese texture, or a proto-ricotta called primo latte, just barely set and meant to be eaten fresh as possible. 

She also glances off the topic of salumi, offering a few fresh sausages, and for cured product, simple salt-cured pancetta and guanciale, acknowledging that dry-cured salumi tends to require equipment somewhat beyond the scope of the typical home cook.

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Peachy Keen

It's no coincidence that the word "peach" is connoted with so many positive things in our language. These fuzzy fruit are the ultimate taste of summer. And when they're in, they're in but good, so you better get on them. Here's a few thoughts on handling the bounty.
 
jam, jam and more jam
Jam, Jam and More Jam
Got a bushel of peaches? Jam those mamma jammas. And get inspired: Kick it up with Earl Grey tea, or basil and habanero, or pineapple sage. Mix it up with other fruit like plums or raspberries. The choices are endless.
Peach Preserves
Peach Preserves
Keep it chunky to preserve the texture of those juicy drupes!

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Interview on Cilantro

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I'm happily interviewed over on the blog at kitchenware retail site Cilantro. Go check it out!Read More >

Food Swap by Emily Paster

Food Swap by Emily Paster, found on PunkDomestics.com

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Storey Press.

Raise your hand if you have a few extra jars of jams and pickles stowed in corners and in the backs of shelves in the pantry. Now keep those hands up if you have a lot of jars. Yeah, that's what I thought. 

For those of us who are into DIY projects, moderation is antithetical to our desire to can all the things. As we get into summer, that's only going to get worse. After all, who can resist those flats of luscious berries or lustrous cucumbers just begging to be pickled?

Odds are you personally are not going to consume all those jars of jams and pickles single-handedly, but what if you could turn them into a bounty of practical material? Enter the food swap. 

From its humble beginnings in Kate Payne's small Brooklyn apartment, the modern food swap movement became a huge phenomenon of the sharing economy. Emily Paster, blogger at West of the Loop (and longtime Punk Domestics contributor) co-founded the Chicago food swap, which became one of the exemplars of a successful food trading event. 

So you just get a few people together and hand each other jars of things, right? Well, it turns out there's more to it than that. 

In Food Swap, Paster outlines all the aspects of a successful food swap event, from scouting locations to getting the word out to the sometimes surprising problem of no-shows. Moreover, she helps you think about what makes your contribution a successful bargaining chip. Hint: Presentation counts. Channel your inner marketer. 

The latter half of the book is full of recipes specially designed for trading, from fresh items meant to be consumed quickly to baked goods to home-canned treats to save for later.

Click here for Paster's recipe for canned sour cherry pie filling.

Whether you're looking to do a simple old-fashioned soup swap or organize a bigger community function, Food Swap equips you with the information you need to execute a successful event that will bring people together while enriching their pantries.

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Stuff It! DIY Sausage

Summertime is upon us, and it's time to bust out the grill and sear up some sausage. Making your own is easier than you think, and the rewards are worth the effort.

Hot Dogs
Hot Dogs
Store-bought franks are snouts and ... other parts. Make your own with top-quality meat for the best flavor. (Image via Eat Live Travel Write)
Italian Sausages
Italian Sausages
Hot or sweet, Italian sausages bring big flavor to the party. (Image via NPR)
Chorizo
Chorizo
A pinch of pimientón makes these Mexican and Spanish sausages muy caliente(Image via The Cultivated Life)

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¡Salsa!

Cinco de mayo has nothing to do with Mexican independence, but you can liberate yourself from store-bought salsa. Whatever kind you like, whip up a batch today for chip-dipping good times.

Tomato Salsa, found on PunkDomestics.com
Tomato Salsa
It's the classic, and America's favorite condiment. Delicious on chips of course, but also a versatile side to fish and chicken. And if you use the right recipe, it can even be canned.
Fermented Salsa, found on PunkDomestics.com
Fermented Salsa
Lacto-fermented salsa is one of the simplest ways for beginners to play with cultured and fermented foods. Ferment tomatoes, chilies and more to tickle your belly and tongue in a good way!
Salsa verde, found on PunkDomestics.com
Salsa Verde
Whir up some tomatillos, chilies and herbs for a tangy salsa with a slightly fruity flavor.
Corn Salsa, found on PunkDomestics.com
Corn Salsa
Chunky, sweet and spicy, corn salsa is a summertime crowd-pleaser. Try it on dogs for your next barbecue!
Fruit Salsa, found on PunkDomestics.com
Fruit Salsa
Think beyond the love apple to create complex, flavorful salsas using all manner of fruit, like mangoes, peaches, pineapples.

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Naturally Sweet Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan, found on PunkDomestics.com

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Running Press.

Marisa McClellan, doyenne of all things food that go in jars, is back with the third in her series of books. This time, she's turned her eye to a particular niche in the preserving space, using natural sweeteners in the place of the more common granulated sugar. Marisa took some time out of her very busy schedule while on book tour to answer a few questions for us. 

PD: What inspired you to focus on using natural sweeteners in preserves?

MM: I started this journey of natural sweeteners like most people do, with honey. I started using it to sweeten various preserves first simply as a way of lending extra flavor to things like strawberry jam and quick pickles. When I would share those honey sweetened preserves on my blog, the response was always resounding and positive. People were looking for preserves that were sweetened naturally. Spurred on by such an encouraging response, I started developing more recipes that were sweetened naturally and eventually, that process of exploration turned into this book.

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Kumquats: Funny to Say, Delicious to Preserve

Funny to say, delicious to preserve. Kumquats pack a potent punch of citric tartness in a tiny package. Unlike their cousins, kumquats invert the paradigm, with mild rinds and sour-bitter pulp. They add a distinctive flavor to all kinds of preserves, like these.

Kumquat Marmalade
Kumquat Marmalade
Move over, oranges. Kumquats are marmalade's new best friend. Your scones won't see it coming. (Image via Alyssa and Carla)
Kumquat Preserves
Kumquat Preserves
Put 'em up in syrup, plain and simple or spiked with flavors of mint, rosewater or spices. Excellent in cocktails. (Image via Local Kitchen)
Kumquat Jam
Kumquat Jam
Kumquat pairs nicely with plenty of other flavors in homemade jams: Cranberries, blackberries, rhubarb and even tomatoes. (Image via The Tomato Tart)

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Stalking Rhubarb

Rhubarb is the darling of spring. These sour stalks are techincally a vegetable, but their tart taste lends them to applications more common with fruit. What can you do with it? What can't you do? Here's a whole bunch of ideas.

Canned Rhubarb
Canned Rhubarb
Can the stalks in syrup to have on hand for multiple purposes in the future, like pies, ice cream and cocktails. (Image via One Tomato Two Tomato)
Freezing Rhubarb
Freezing Rhubarb
Or, just freeze it off in chunks, and scoop out as much as you need. (Image via Delectable Musings)
Dried Rhubarb
Dried Rhubarb
Rhubarb can also be dehydrated, to make it shelf stable (and take up less space besides.) (Image via Little Miss Cruciferous)

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