What's In Season at the Farmers Markets: Pickling Cukes, Corn, Concords, and How to Keep Them
The kitchen has become a preservation station these past few weeks, requiring a little bit of especially selective shopping at the farmers market. The first rule of preserving is to use unblemished, unspoiled, and practically perfect produce. Any suggestion of spoilage or bruising could mean a lot of wasted effort when whatever imperfections you overlooked or dismissed suddenly bloom into full-scale botulism. Yum! Thankfully, there's a whole lot of excellence out there this week, plus a few of the specialty goods you need for proper pickling.
Felicia Friesema Homemade pickles swimming in brine
Crowned dill, or dill that's gone to flower, is slightly hard to come by (we usually have to specially request it from Lili at ABC Rhubarb Farms) but it's a required ingredient for proper dill pickles. Both crowned dill and pickling cucumbers conveniently come available around the same time, making August the prime pickling time.
Felicia Friesema not-quite-crowned dill - make a special request
Dust off the crock, mix up your brine (use proper pickling salt), wash and prep your cukes, and wait for the telltale sourness to bloom. Homemade pickles run rings around whatever you can buy at the grocery store, but if pickling isn't your bag, we highly recommend the garlic dills from A-1 Eastern-Homemade Pickle Company in East L.A. Little Flower Candy Company serves them up with their sandwiches, too.
Felicia Friesema Corn mountain at Pasadena Farmers Market
Hulking piles of corn are about to disappear. But getting that summer flavor to stick around is a bit tricky. Straight freezing turns their summery sugars into pasty starches and because of their low acidity, you really should can kernels in a pressure cooker for safety reasons. We've been opting to cheat the system a bit and make a sweet corn relish for canning purposes (higher acidity plus the addition of garlic as a natural preservative). But whatever you do, it's always recommended that you blanch your corn for three to four minutes and then dunk it in an ice bath prior to any preserving. This keeps the corn from evolving into a bland, starchy mess before putting it up for later. Is it worth the effort? Summer corn is always best fresh and the preserved options are equivalent to trying to capture lightening in a jar. They're good. Just not as good. Get while the getting is good.
Plain concord grape jelly is probably our favorite simple summer preserve. Aside from adding a jelly bag to our preserving routine, it's delightfully simple to make, and the ratio of results to effort make us feel like we're getting away with something. It's also the chef's privilege to pop a few in your mouth while whipping up a batch. Concords have a lush and vivid brightness to their flavor that has yet to be matched (Kyohos come awfully close though).
Pasadena Farmers Market, Victory Park, North Sierra Madre Boulevard and Paloma Street, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Torrance Farmers Market, Wilson Park, 2200 Crenshaw Blvd., 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Old Town Calabasas Farmers Market, 23504 Calabasas Rd., 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Long Beach Saturday Market (East Village), 400 East 1st Street, on 1st Between Elm and Linden, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Felicia Friesema also writes target="_blank">More, please.