Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fairfax Pickles, Spiced Blueberry Relish and Cornichons

Last weekend was a marathon canning session yielding about 140 half pint jars - 107 of Fairfax pickles, 20 of spiced blueberry relish and 12 of cornichons.

I spent the better part of both Saturday and Sunday with Michael Madigan working in his commercial kitchen space called KitchenCru - this is where Mark's business Tails & Trotters creates a lot of their products like bacon, pate and marinades.

Fairfax Pickles
These pickles have been in my mom's family for three generations and according to family lore my grandmother's neighbor received the recipe directly from Lord Fairfax. I remember enjoying them as a child and first made them with my grandmother while visiting her in Maryland.

Each year, while everyone else complains at the sight of green tomatoes at the close of summer I look at them with excitement - it will be a Fairfax pickle year!

Day 1
Michael and I chopped and salted 40 pounds of green tomatoes, about 10 pounds of yellow onions and around 24 red peppers.

The purpose of the salt is to pull juices from the veggies - you do this by drizzling it on each layer of vegetables and then leave it overnight covered at room temperature.

Day 2

Michael creating the brine.
On Sunday we drained the liquid from the vegetables and set them aside while we made the brine.

We made the brine in two VERY large pots. Once it came to a boil we added the vegetables and let the whole mixture come almost to a boil.

Then we poured the whole concoction into the largest pot I have ever seen (see first photo above). The purpose of this was to make sure that the pickles and brine were consistent throughout the batch.

Next came the jarring of the pickles.

While the prep time on Saturday was the same as it would be in a residential kitchen, the actual canning process was amazingly quick thanks to the the gear in the commercial kitchen - all 107 half pint jars into the bath at the same time!

Spiced Blueberry Relish

The thing that I like best about this recipe is its versatility -  it goes great with vanilla ice cream and with roasted meat. Most notably, it is fabulous with ham as we discovered on Easter. We got this recipe from Linda Ziedrich's The Joy of Pickling book (she also has an interesting blog - A Gardener's Table.


These are our experiment of the weekend since we have not yet tried this recipe. The brine consisted mostly of vinegar, so I presume that the flavors of the bay leaf, peppercorns, shallot and tarragon sprig will imbue the pickles with their flavors over time.
The cucumbers took forever to wash - about an hour for three pounds. I think that the next time we make them we will get a less spiny variety of pickling cucumbers

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