The first weekend of January I joined a very pregnant K and four other lovely ladies in Half Moon Bay for a mini-retreat before baby arrived. We stayed overnight in a beautiful converted railway stop home, full of light and interesting knick knacks, painted with bright colors and just a brief walk to the ocean. We each brought food to contribute to a delicious feast, drank wine and home brewed beer (well, some of us drank), enjoyed the sunset over the water and the huge moon rise on our walk home, and chatted, laughed and cried until we fell asleep (at a very late hour of 11:30PM).
The next morning the ocean greeted me out the window next to my bed. We walked on the beach again, enjoyed warm banana bread and eggs, and then... made pickles (of course!). It was a great way to spend time together. Canning used to be something that whole communities got together to do. That's what it felt like as we prepared the beautiful purple cauliflower, carrot sticks and water bath, sterilized the jars and equipment, and shared the jewel-colored rewards at the end.
Leading up to the weekend, I thought about what canning project would be good for this time of year. Canning is often associated with the summer's bounty of tomatoes and strawberries, peaches and plums. Well, there are actually a ton of great winter canning projects. I made a list and sent it to everyone:
There were a couple options for pickle flavors. We opted for a jardinière, which is a French word for garden and also an Italian cauliflower and vegetable pickled salad. Often this has red peppers in it, but not in our winter batch. You could choose to do a curry flavoring, or add some hot pepper flakes and jalepeno to this recipe for a kick. The recipe here is an adaptation from Put 'em Up: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, by Sherri Brooks Vinton, which is chock full of wonderful recipes for all kinds of fruits & vegetables, and includes directions for canning as well as drying, freezing and pickling.
Purple Cauliflower & Carrot Jardinière
(for about 4 pints)
4 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
4 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks an inch shorter than your jars
1 head cauliflower, cut into small to medium florets
1. To prepare for canning, sterilize your jars, lids and other equipment. I usually start by washing the jars and placing them in a 250 degree F oven while I move on to preparing the ingredients. You can simmer the jar lids and rings in a small saucepan.
2. Now is also a good time to get your boiling water bath going, if you use this canning method. I start the water boiling at the beginning so it has time to get to a boil while I prepare the ingredients.
3. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and mustard seeds in a large, nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil.
4. Add carrots and cauliflower, return to boil.
5. Reduce heat. Simmer vegetables about 2 minutes, just to make them more tender.
6.Pack into jars: liquid should cover vegetables by 1/4 inch, with another 1/4 inch between liquid and top of jar.
Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Let the jars sit in the hot water another 5 minutes with the canner lid off. Remove the hot jars carefully, using canning tongs. Check that all the jars sealed (this could take up to 12 hours), then store sealed jars in a cool, dark cabinet for up to a year. Unsealed jars can be put in the fridge to eat within a month or two (although ours rarely last an evening). Wait at least a week before eating to allow the flavors to develop.
Just three weeks after the great gathering and pickle making, we welcomed K's sweet baby, the little one who brought us all together in Half Moon Bay in the first place: