Many of you will remember Bev Alfeld from her first volume, “The Jamlady Cookbook,” in 2005. This month Pelican Publishing is releasing her second one, “Pickles to Relish,” chock-full of good recipes and her usual tips, tricks, charts and other helpful information. Bev often visits her mother in Chokoloskee during season, and has included many recipes which will delight Florida cooks.
In older times, farm families and thrifty housewives “put up” canned goods and sweet treats to save money and enrich the family diet, especially in winter.
I can hear you saying, “well, my grandmother did that, but I don’t know... I’ve never...”
Believe me, you can do it even better with today’s methods, and Bev will show you how. Whether you’re experienced or simply wish to start learning about modern-day canning, this volume is for you. It puts a dazzling array of foods often considered mere condiments, front and center. Bev makes it all sound so easy, and her enthusiasm is catching. She deals with much more than just canning — she takes up nutrition, horticulture, plant nomenclature, food history and even psychology and sociology.
Her background helps her books. Her family was in the commercial nursery and horticulture business. She has several degrees in fine arts and education and spent 20 years teaching several subjects in kindergarten through college.
After retiring from the classroom, she managed a 13-acre organic farm and market in Illinois, and also completed an FDA course in food processing.
It was her jams and jellies which brought her a whole new career — she developed a line of Jamlady products which began appearing on the tables of fine restaurants in the area, and the business exploded. In addition to her two books, she writes a regular column in the “Fruit Gardener Magazine.”
“Pickles to Relish” is not a coffee table book, even though the photographs are beautiful — it’s better than that and you will find yourself using it frequently. Bev points out that you need not make an enormous batch of anything — think of a half, a fourth, even a 12th of a recipe. A thrifty idea for using up small amounts of today’s expensive produce.
She divides her time between northern areas and Florida, so she’s familiar with our wonderful fresh markets. Our produce is delightful, and the index lists various tempting ideas for utilizing it.
You will want to start with the ideas in the foreword and introduction, where the author explains a lot about the process and what she calls “pickle power” for beginners and experts. Her humor shines through often and you’ll master her techniques quickly. The first chapter deals with important aspects of processing methods.
Note: In a section entitled Alfeld Nomenclature at the beginning of the book, the author explains all the abbreviations she uses and discusses the standard safety precautions of canning by the boiling water bath method, which are summarized as follows:
1. Start with clean canning jars and sterilize them in boiling water for 10 minutes — usually this is done with jars upside down with a clean towel or trivet in the bottom of the pot.
2. Sterilize rings, rubberized lids, funnels, tongs, ladles, etc. for 10 minutes in boiling water.
3. Spread a very clean towel on the work surface next to the canning pot and place jars upside down on it, ready for filling.
4. Fill jars to within ½-inch to ¼-inch of the top by using a funnel, wipe rim with clean paper towel and place rubberized lid on top. Tighten metal ring and place jar in sterilizing pot. Cover with very hot water and proceed as directed in each recipe.
5. Allow jars to cool enough to handle, then tighten rings again. Label and date when cold.
Now let’s turn to some of the marvelous-sounding recipes. Read this book when you’re hungry, and I guarantee you’ll want to head for the kitchen to start one.
3 pounds green cabbage*
12 sweet red/green peppers
6 medium onions
5/8 cup salt
4 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
4 tablespoons mustard seed
3 tablespoons celery seed
1 quart red or white wine vinegar**
3 cups sugar
*Do not use savoy cabbage
**You may substitute cider or white vinegar
Chop and mix all vegetables with the salt and wait 4 hours. Drain them and set aside. In a large pan, place vinegar, sugar and a cheesecloth bag containing the spices,. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then add drained vegetables and cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Spoon into sterilized jars leaving about ¼ inch headspace at top and seal. Place jars in a large pot, cover with very hot water, then bring to the boil. Time pint jars for 15 minutes.
Bread and butter pickles
I still recall the excitement I felt the first time I made these as a bride. Bev’s recipe is a bit more up-to-date than my old one.
4 quarts thinly sliced cucumbers
1/3 cup salt
3-4 cups thinly sliced onions
4 trays ice cubes
4 cups sugar
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons mustard seed
2 ¾ cups vinegar
Wash and scrub 5-inch to 6-inch pickling cucumbers, then slice them. Salt the cucumbers, sliced onions and ice cubes in a large crock or bowl. Cover and add a cover such as a plate with weight on top. Leave for 3 to 6 hours. Drain and squeeze vegetables well. Mix sugar, spices and vinegar and boil for 30 seconds. Add vegetables and cook for 30 seconds. Pack into sterilized pint jars and seal, then place jars in large pot and subject to boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
My mother always placed a small piece of red bell pepper on top for her trade mark—not required, but very pretty when you open the jar.
Making the recipes in this book will take you back in time and also impress your friends. Need I add that these things make wonderful gifts?
You may purchase Bev’s new book locally or order it from Pelican Publishing at 1-800-843-1724, Ext. -325. Their price is only $24.95 for hard-cover copies.
For a free newsletter, drop Bev an e-mail at Jamlady@jamlady.com.