Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Home Brined Olives

***I'm about to delve into territory that is controversial for some home cannners/fermenters, so as a disclaimer, do your research. Do not use only my info as a guide, and if it smells/ looks funny, don't eat it. ***

Home Brined Olives

     Olives are not in season right now. They usually become ripe enough to pick for brining in September through December, at least where I currently live in Italy. When they start to ripen, they turn from green, to purple, to a deep black. Blotched green to purple is the ripeness you want to use in this recipe, because it's not quite ready to become oil(deep black and smooshy), but its not so bitter as to be inedible (after being processed). This last season I must have picked 20 pounds. It was wayyyy more than I needed, but we will definitely be eating olives through the next season.
     I made these olives 7 months ago. So why did I wait this long to create this blog post? Because I wanted to be sure. I did a lot of reading, asked for a lot of advice, and did quite a bit of experimenting. This is the culmination of my knowledge, and I wanted to keep it somewhere that is more permanent than a notebook.
     It's really not hard to make olives, it just takes a lot of work. After this process, I can see why next to nobody in the United States knows how to do this, or bothers to take the time. Growing up in California, I remember huge olive trees lining residential streets, all of the black fruit discarded on the ground, and year after year, trees begging to be harvested. I love having olive trees in my yard, and I can't imagine moving to my next residence without a tree or two.
     This type of olive is VERY different than the kind you get in the store. Most canned olives are cured in Lye, or canned with Vinegar. These are purely done in Salt Water. it gives them a very unique taste and mouth feel. I did do an experiment with curing them in salt, or
adding vinegar to the water, but I'll describe that in the notes at the end of the post.
This batch was destined half for brined, and half for salt cured.

  • An amount of partially ripe olives (green and half green/purple is best)
  • 10 cups of water (try not to use tap)
  • 1/2 cup of Salt (use anything OTHER than table salt, I used Sea Salt)
  1. Clean and wash the olives. Now comes one of the hard parts- cut a slit lengthwise in each olive. Why? because this enables them to cure in months, not years.
  2. Combine the salt and the water on the stove, heat only until the water turns clear while stirring.
  3. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the olives, combine the cut olives and the brine. Make sure to pour in enough brine to cover the olives. Find a plate or lid that is smaller than the bowl, that will keep the olives under the brine, and put a weight on top of the lid/plate. You need to make sure that the olives remain submerged in the brine. Whatever brine you don't use, save. Trust me you'll be needing it.
  4. Leave the bowl somewhere that it won't be disturbed, I just left mine on the counter. But you want it still in eye sight, because .  . .
  5. Change out the brine daily, using the 10 cups to 1/2 cup of salt (or if your batch is smaller, 5 cups to 1/4 cup of salt). The brine will be incredibly bitter, as it works to remove the bitterness from the olives.
  6. Change out the brine for around 2 weeks, or until the brine is no longer bitter.
  7. At this point you're going to want to find jars and lids to store the olives in. This is up to you, I used a lot of recycled tomato sauce jars, the ones here in Italy have a great cone shaped top part to really stuff the olives into. Wash the jars and lids well.
  8. This time, make the brine stronger- 10 cups of water to 1 cup of Salt. I know, I went through A TON of salt.
  9. Stuff the olives into the jars, making sure that they won't float.
  10. Pour the Strong Brine into the jars, up to just about the top. shake the jars a bit to release the air bubbles.
  11. This is the controversial part to some fermenters. . . . Add olive oil to the very top of the jar. Fill it allll the way up, so that it almost wants to spill over. make sure no olives are poking up through this barrier. Screw on the lid. This will seal the jar of olives, and help keep them for the long months ahead. 7 months later, I'm still opening and enjoying jars that were put up this way.
  12. Wait at least 2 months to enjoy. Make sure you set them on a plate or something during the wait, as they might spill a little during that time.
  13. Enjoy! When I open a jar, I pour the contents into a different jar, and store it in the fridge. A great combo that I came up with for a party was- brined olives, a little bit of olive oil, lime zest, chopped sage, rosemary, and chives, a little bit of chili powder, and a little bit of garlic salt. Everyone loved it!
Waiting patiently for two weeks, rinsing every day.

Now here's the notes:
  • I experimented with adding flavorings after the initial rinsings, but with the 2 month sit. I wish I hadn't. Although the soy sauce flavored ones, the garlic flavored ones were ok, they have an under flavor that I don't like. Much better to do the 2 months plain, then add your flavorings.
  • I did a batch of Olives 'sotto sale' or under salt. This is what you do with olives that are very ripe. Not my favorite, but please message me if you would like to know my musings on it.
  • I also did a batch of lacto-fermented olives. I added a couple of tablespoons of homemade pickle juice to the initial stage, and only changed the brine every week or so. But I did this for a month instead of for only 2 weeks. These olives were ready a lot sooner, and also had an amazing flavor. I will definitely be recreating this experiment.
  • I also did a batch, the same way as above, except adding regular white vinegar to a small portion and rice wine vinegar to another. I didn't like the end taste compared to the straight brine, but if you like vinegary things you might like it. I also kept this batch mostly in the fridge.
  • I'm very interested in questions or criticism of my way, please give me a comment or send me a message!
I still have at least 5 more jars of Olives!

My Biggest Sources:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hungarian Sun Pickles (Kovászos uborka)

Hungarian Sun Pickles
Kovászos Uborka
first day outside!

Mmmm pickles. I love pickles, be they in vinegar, brined, cucumber, okra, etc. My all time favorite, though, would have to be the Hungarian Sun Pickles. I have fond memories of eating them as a child, and they have quite a unique flavor. Every summer now I buy (or grow) pickling cucumbers, and make at least one batch of this delicious pickle. The funny thing is, when I last went to make them, I searched my blog to find the recipe, and realized that I haven't added it yet! So here it is. 

Hungarian Sun Pickles
Yes, that is parsley, not dill. And a grape leaf. Please see notes. 


  • 8 cups filtered or bottled water
  • 1/2 cup of salt (kosher, sea, or canning is best)
  • Dill (Fresh, dried, or just the seeds)
  • 3 or more garlic cloves
  • Rye Bread (really any bread will work, but Rye is traditional)
  • Enough Pickle-sized cucumbers to fit your jars. 
  • optional- hot peppers
  1. Bring Water to a boil, remove from Heat and add salt.
  2. Prepare and Slice the cucumbers- chop off both ends, and then cut- traditional is quartered lengthwise without cutting all the way (so that they remain intact) but spears, chips, whatever works. 
  3. Pack the jars- Dill, peppers (if using), garlic, and cucumbers.  
  4. Pour the warm brine into the jar to cover the cucumbers.
  5. Tuck the bread into the jar and under the lid. The bread creates a barrier from the outside air, adds complex sugars for the ferment, and gives it a unique taste. Make sure to layer the bread to cover any opening. 
  6. Use plastic wrap, a plastic baggie, or cheesecloth to cover the top, and secure with a rubber band. Pierce a few holes if using plastic wrap or plastic baggies. This is to let air escape, but keep the pests out. 
  7. Set outside during the day for 1-4 days, depending on the heat, and let ferment. 
  8. When fermentation is done, scoop out the bread, and store in the fridge. If you want to make sure and get all of the bread, dump the contents into a bowl, repack everything except the brine, and then pour the brine back into the jar through a sieve. The milky yeast is normal at the bottom of the jar. 
  9. Enjoy! 

The finished product!

  • This pickle turns soft quick. Although I made 4 jars in my pictures, I regretted doing so because I ended up having to use the last pickles for dips and soups. Just make one jar at a time, and enjoy within a week. 
  • Because I live in Italy, I cannot find Dill anywhere. I'll have to grow it myself for next year. So in this batch (in the pictures) I used parsley instead. Although not bad, it's no substitute for Dill. 
  • This last batch I also tried to use a grape leaf in the jar to help keep the pickles from going soft (I had read about the technique on the internets), but it didn't seem to help. 
  • I also used whatever bread I had in the pantry this time- which turned out to be a wheat and a hard white bread. Still turns out a great pickle. :-)
  • For more information please visit: One of my Sources 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Limoncello & Rosemary Fig Jam

We have at least 6 (I'm too lazy to go out and actually check) Fig trees at our new house in Italy. Apparently that is quite a bit, because we are practically giving figs away. Unfortunately figs, although being absolutely sweet and delicious, don't last long. This is the reason I had never seen a fig in a grocery store until a visit to my sister-in-law in Northern California when I saw a basket of fresh figs and had to buy it. Fresh is absolutely amazing if you can get your hands on some. But hurry up and use them!
Because of our crazy surplus, the easiest thing to do with them is make jam. That way you can enjoy them all year long. I have also dehydrated and froze them, but I like canning them into jam the best, because its a finished product, and it makes a great gift!
My first batch of jam was just regular fig jam. But with this latest batch, I wanted to make something different. I looked around on Pintrest, and found that a lot of people were putting liqueur into the jam, like brandy and grand marnier. I thought, hey, I don't have any of those, but I do have Limoncello from a friend, and some rosemary outside, so why not combine these? If I may say so myself, it turned out fantastic!
So Many Figs!

Limoncello & Rosemary Fig Jam
adapted from the Ball Blue Book guide to preserving

Yield: about 5 Pints (I ended up having 4 pints and 4 half pints, but only because I added another 2 cups of figs)

  • 5 pounds of Figs
  • 6 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Limoncello
  • a few sprigs of Rosemary
  • 3/4 cup water if your figs aren't very juicy
The Rosemary on top of the jam. The plant was blooming with beautiful blue flowers. 
To prepare the figs: Completely cover figs with boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes. This allows the figs to become a nice gooey mess. Drain, stem, and chop figs. Measure out 2 quarts of chopped figs.

To Make the jam: combine figs, sugar, and water(optional) in a large saucepot. Bring slowly to a boil, stiring until the sugar dissolves. After rinsing the rosemary, add to the pot. keep the rosemary in the pot for as long as you want, just know the longer it stays the more rosemary flavor you'll get in the jam. I left mine in for about 10-15 minutes. Remove the rosemary, and make sure you remove any leaves that got left behind. Cook the jam rapidly to gelling point (Or however long before that, I like mine slightly less than Jelly). As the mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Add lemon juice and cook a few minutes longer. skim off foam if necessary. Add Limoncello and stir to combine. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Here you are! let me know what you think :-)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cristina's Fried Green Tomatoes

Its Mid- May here in Vegas, which means that one of our growing seasons is almost over before the harsh, sizzling clutches of summer starts. My garden is coming along nicely. I've already harvested a couple of Artichokes, some peppers, and a lot of radishes. Unfortunately the Brussels Sprouts were a bust, even though they grew to be quite large and aphid infested.
I noticed that a lot of tomato plants have been popping up in the garden. I bought one plant from the nursery, and purposely planted another from seed, but there's tomato plants all over the place. I think this has to do with the fact that last fall I just let the dead plants lay where they may, and the seeds have germinated. So I'm anticipating tomatoes coming out of my ears this year, which makes me reallllly happy.

I went out to the garden this afternoon to grab some herbs for dinner, and was struck with a thought- I have a few green tomatoes, why not make up some Fried Green Tomatoes? So I did, loved it, and decided to post the recipe here.

Cristina's Fried Green Tomatoes


  • A green tomato or two, depending on how many you're feeding. One tomato is enough for 2 people as a side dish. 
  • Egg whites (for one tomato I used 2). whip them up a little bit with a fork. 
  • Bread crumbs. I ended up having a lot left over, so I would suggest using approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup. 
  • Corn meal. I would use about a 1/4 cup. Adjust to how crunchy you want your breading. 
  • fresh or dried herbs. I didn't measure, and neither should you. At this moment I added chives, tarragon, oregano, and dill from the garden. Use whatever amount or types you want. 
  • Seasoning salt. I added a couple of shakes of Lawry's Seasoning Salt, and then twice that of Tony Chachere's original Creole seasoning (love this seasoning!). You can use any kind of seasoning you like.
  • Garlic Salt (or regular) Salt and Pepper. 
  • Frying oil. I used peanut because it's what I had on hand. Enough to line the pan and fill it about a 1/4 inch. 


  1. Before you get started, stick the tomato in the freezer. Leave it in there while you get the other ingredients ready, or about 15 minutes. 
  2. Chop up the herbs if you're using fresh. Then squeeze them in a paper towel to make sure they're dry.
  3. Combine the bread crumbs, corn meal, dried herbs, and seasoning into a bowl. 
  4. Set up a work station next to the stove- first a bowl with the egg whites, then the bowl of dry mixture closest to the pan. 
  5. Cut up the tomato (I went with 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick), and sprinkle garlic salt and pepper on both sides. 
  6. heat the pan on medium/ medium high heat, then add the oil. (might need to adjust the heat during the cooking process if the slices are turning too dark brown)
  7. When the oil sizzles when you throw in a couple of flakes of bread crumbs, its ready. 
  8. dunk a tomato in the egg white mix, let it drain a bit, then put it in the bread mix. Make sure it is well coated. 
  9. Carefully put the tomato in the hot oil. Repeat with other slices, until the pan is full but not crowded. 
  10. when the mixture is golden brown on the bottom, flip the slices over. 
  11. As soon as the slices are browned on both sides, take them out with a spatula and drain them on a paper towel. 
  12. Repeat until all slices are cooked. 
Eat them while they're nice and hot! I love that they were tangy and slightly crunchy. I had so much leftover mixture and egg whites, that I decided to cook a yellow squash the same way, which also turned out delicious!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Homemade Pepper Sauce

Last year I planted about 5 pepper plants. A couple of Pimento, a couple of hot ones I don't remember the name of, and I believe an Anaheim. They did so well, I had peppers coming out of my ears. I credit the hot Las Vegas sun, as well as the fact that I sprayed them once with an Epsom salt/water solution when they were young. I should have harvested them periodically through the summer, but I thought the pimentos would get bigger (they didn't). Which means I had A LOT of peppers at the end of the season. I did try a couple of peppers in recipes throughout the summer, which is how I realized that the pimentos were pretty darn spicy. Must have been cross pollination. . . .

I realized when I had all these peppers at harvest time that I wanted to make a hot sauce, like a Tabasco type. So I started researching pepper sauces on the Internet, and came up with a wide variety. I decided to try a couple of different ways, and see what I came up with as an end result. The reason why I'm posting this now and not when I had a new finished product is because I wanted to make sure it was good, and would last. (It did, I still have some in my fridge. Delicious!)

Homemade Pepper Sauce

Peppers. Any variety. Type depends on how hot you want your sauce. Amount is up to you.
garlic cloves, husk taken off but whole (amount depends on your taste)
Pickling salt

Type 1: Brine, Peppers, and Garlic
Into a pint sized jar, stuff as many whole peppers as you can (and by whole, I mean stem and all). Add a clove of garlic or two. add 2 1/2 tsp of Salt, and then fill to the top with water. Screw on lid, shake well to dilute the salt into the water, and leave on your pantry shelf for at least 2 weeks to ferment. At the end of fermentation, skim off any scum on the top, and dump everything in a blender and blend. Store in the fridge.

I started to do this, but then realized that the brine was escaping, and I didn't have the patience. So I let it sit for a couple of days in a bowl (to catch the escaping juices) then took off the lid, added a glass cup to weight down the peppers until fermented to my liking, then blended them up. turned out really well, had a good flavor.

Type 2: Peppers, Garlic, Water, and Vinegar
Well, right off the bat I didn't do exactly what the directions said. I only added vinegar to a quarter of the jar, then filled the rest of the jar with water. To start from the beginning: Cut stems off peppers. Stuff a quart jar with peppers, adding a clove or two of garlic. fill the jar with vinegar a quart of the way. Add water to the rest. Add a glass cup or weight to the top of the jar to weigh the peppers down and keep them immersed in the liquid. Ferment to your taste.

Type 3: Peppers, Garlic, and Brine, Fermented open air from the beginning
Her Sriracha
Now the author from this website didn't grind up her chilies, but by now I got the idea of what I needed to do. So I took out my trusty fermenting crock, threw in a bunch of different chilies and peppers (by now my Grandmother had given me some sweet Hungarian Paprika peppers, so I added some of those as well) and made a brine. The brine I used was 1 cup of water: 1 tbsp salt. I mixed up enough brine and chopped up the chilies (make sure you use gloves!!) trying to take out most of the seeds and discarding the stems (which took a lot of work!). I then threw the chilies into the crock, and filled it up above the chili line with the brine. I added my plate and weight, and waited. I checked it every day or so, making sure if there was any scum on the top of the brine that I skimmed it off and rinsed my plate and weight.

End Result

I let my different experiments ferment for about a week and a half, which is not very long. This year I'm going to shoot for at least 2 (preferably 3) weeks (Keep in mind the longer you ferment your chilies, the more sour they will taste). I then took out the standard blender (if you want finer blending, I would recommend a baby blender) and blended each different experiment and put them back into their jars. What I also did, within each experiment, was have jars that had more hot peppers or mild peppers, and kept them separate.

When I had finished blending everything and labeling, I got to tasting. My taste buds took a couple of hours to recover, so I would recommend having some milk or cheese on hand between tastings. Type 1 and 3 were similar, mostly because they ended up being made the same way. Type 3 was much more mild because I had the Hungarian Sweet Peppers in that one. Type 2 was HOT! I think the vinegar brought out the heat of the chilies.

So now I had a couple of different heat levels of hot pepper sauce. I decided to combine them in a way that would make them hot or mild. I combined them into small decorative jars that I gave out as Christmas gifts, and kept the rest in my fridge. I've been eating the pepper sauce as a sort of salsa with ruffles chips, pouring it on my eggs in the morning, or adding it to stir fries to add heat. You can pretty much add it to anything.

Please let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these recipes, and how they turned out. Thanks!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Smoked Salmon Snacks

Wow, it really has been quite a while since I've written in this blog. A couple of culprits are at work: 1. Getting an Ipad. The blogger app on it is not great, and I sort of stopped using regular laptops for a while there. 2. Pintrest. Why try my own recipes when I can drool at what other people have made instead? 3. (Mostly this one) Laziness.

Oh well its never too late to end a stretch of no-posts. So here goes; a snack that I made up a couple of weeks ago.

Smoked Salmon Snacks

I love lox and cream cheese. I grew up eating it as a special breakfast treat that I enjoyed with my dad. We would make it with onion bagels that were nice and toasty, a hearty helping of cream cheese, the smoked salmon, and some sliced onions. Delicious!
Every now and then I like to replicate this childhood treat; sometimes I add ingredients to the pile. I recently bought a huge package of Atlantic Smoked Salmon from Costco, and realized when I went to make lox that I did not have any bagels! So in a round about way I came up with this concoction, which can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer!

Salmon snacks, step 2

Crackers, your choice (I used a small multi-seed type)
smoked salmon
cream cheese
preserved lemon (or the pulp from a Meyer lemon, I haven't tried it with a regular lemon which might be a little more sour than you'd like)
French Fried Onions
(I'm not giving exact measurements, because you can make as big or as small a batch as you'd like)
Salmon Snacks, Step 4
1.line the crackers up all along a plate or serving dish.
2. Smear a dollop of cream cheese on each cracker.
3. Depending on your taste, put a couple of capers on each cracker (press them into the cream cheese so they won't roll around).
4. Chop up the lemon bits and add a little bit of lemon to each cracker (again based on your taste, I liked the taste of lemon to be barely there).
5. Tear off a piece of the smoked salmon and place it on top of the cracker.
6. add a piece or two of french fried onions to the top.

Voila! you have a delicious snack! Let me know in the comment section of you've added or subtracted anything.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Crockpot Oxtail Soup

Oxtail soup is delicious. End of story. If you've never had it, you're missing out. the meat is very tender and delicious, with broth that makes your lips sticky. In this recipe, the meat'll come right off the bones. But don't forget those bones- there's delicious marrow in there.
This is a basic recipe; all you need to add is the additions that you like- vegetables and some sort of grain or bean.  Enjoy!

Crockpot Oxtail Soup
Serves 2 (x2 for 4)

2 lbs cut oxtail (I had to go to a butcher shop to find this, sometimes if you're lucky you'll see it in a standard grocery store).
1 tbsp olive oil
garlic salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 cube of beef bouillon
1 packet of onion soup mix
1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves of garlic
vegetables of choice
bean or grain of choice

Rinse and pat the cuts of oxtail dry. Season all sides with the garlic salt and black pepper. Heat a medium to large pan with the olive oil until a sprinkle of water in the pan sizzles. Add the oxtail, and brown all sides of each piece. No need to cook through, just medium to high heat for a good caramelizing.
When they're browned on all sides, add them one by one to the crockpot. Depending on how cold your crockpot is, you can turn it to low or warm during this. Deglaze the pan and add the water and all the goodies to the crockpot. Add water to the crockpot, a little or a lot depending on how thick you want your soup. I like mine more soupy, and remember there will be loss of water throughout the day due to cooking. Add the beef cube, the onion soup mix, the Worcestershire sauce, and a pressed clove of garlic. At this time, add any grains or beans that'll take longer than 45 minutes regularly to cook. I've added barley in the past, and it was delicious. 
Set on low for 6-8 hours. 6 hours if you want to add anything, 8 hours if you're not going to add anything. Anything examples include: Lentils, presoaked kidney/lima/garbanzo/pinto beans, cracked wheat, quinoa, Cauliflower, carrots, parsley root, etc. I usually put whatever's in the fridge. Last time I made it there was cauliflower, carrots, and lentils added. When you put in your additions (including another pressed clove of garlic) let it cook for an hour or two, or until the veggies are cooked. (the oxtail will be fully cooked at 6 hours). Let me know what additions you came up with!
Also, if there is any broth left after dinner, save it! It makes great soup additions in the future. Freeze it into little ice cubes and add to soups and gravies, or anytime you want that rich beef flavor.