Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jersey City Farmers' Market Exploration #4. Journal Square

Jackie Robinson played ball here in 1946 at Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City.
It's August and the last month of summer is here. The farms are overflowing with corn, tomatoes, cukes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini - all the late summer crops - lettuces, beets and spinach, bokchoy, are still strong and the fruit crops have turned away from berries to stone fruits and melons. There is a farmers' market in Jersey City every day of the week, and the Friday market is held at Journal Square. In search of more delicious string beans and ripe tomatoes,
I ventured out to the PATH Plaza at the intersection of Kennedy Blvd and Bergen St. This location operates on Wednesdays and Fridays, and features the two big farmer's stands, Stony Hill Gardens, and Alstede's. They were rather evenly matched for produce, quantity, prices. 

The historic Loew's Theater stands proudly behind the canopied farmers.
I found an assortment of heirloom tomatoes and dill at Stony Hill; Alstede's offered purple podded string beans. Personal interaction and friendliness, evident here, are important qualities for sustaining the farmer-to-buyer relationship. Stony Hill customers are helped by cute twin girls from the JSQ neighborhood; international exchange students from Slovakia and Bulgaria are spending the summer working at Alstede's farms and market.

The fountain is dry.
I don't know yet, if it's typical of a Friday market there, but the only other vendors are Dr. Pickle (" he's got your cure") and the nut vendor. This urban location has a fountain, civic statues, a kiosk, some planters and shady trees and places to sit. It might be busier on Wednesdays, but the today, the combination of the traffic, empty lot, heavy 1970's-style architecture make it seem less vibrant than it should be. Strolling musicians would be nice.

The next day, my two friends and I set to work on a trio of recipes. We made a peach-cardamom jam, Moroccan-style preserved lemons, and dilly beans. The peach cardamom jam was almost preserves like in texture, and a bold spicy taste. The goal was to make a product that was lower in sugar and pectin, and this is what we did.
6 lbs of peaches
4 lbs sugar
3 tablespoons dry pectin ( 1 box)
1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh 
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Peel the peaches, and slice them into small pieces. We wanted a chunky texture. Put them into a very large preserving pan or dutch oven, and add the lemon juice. Cook over high heat until the fruit boils. Then add the pectin and the sugar. Bring to a boil again stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Add the cardamom and cook until the color darkens a little and the syrup thickens. Test for jell. Add a little more cardamom if you like. If the jam is too runny, cook at a steady boil for another four or five minutes, testing every 2 minutes. Yield: 8 half pints.

We love the widemouth short half pint Ball jar.
A jar packed with lemon rinds, waiting to be filled and capped

Cutting, rolling and juicing 2 dozen lemons.
The basic jar of string beans ready for different flavors.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dilly Beans

I have been wanting to make dilled string beans for a long time. Yesterday I shopped at the Hamilton Park Farmers' Market and bought 5 lbs of nice green and yellow snap beans from my friends at Stony Hill farm, and a bunch of organic dill leaves from the organic farm stand.
Why are most of the pickles sold in stores and at the farmers markets, made from cucumbers? Sure, pickled beets are popular, but dilly bean pickles are rarely seen on a grocery shelf. I asked google, are pickles a healthy food?
You might be interested in what "the nutrition diva" had to say about it. When a pickle counts as a serving of vegetables, that's tops with me! "The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving" by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard has a big chapter on a variety of pickled vegetables.
I researched my "library" of canning books and found each one had a recipe for  Dilled Green Beans. All of them called for white vinegar, salt, dill, garlic and hot pepper. Some pre-cooked the beans, other recipes said to pack raw beans into the jars. I tried a batch each way. In the Better Homes and Gardens, there was an eyecatching photo of Lemon-Bay pickled beans. I made those also, with the yellow beans (to match the lemon). Then I had four cups of leftover pickle solution, so I cut up a huge onion and put that into a pickle.
Dilly Beans, Lemon Bay Beans, raw pack Dilly Beans, Pickled Onion Rings
In all, I worked through the afternoon, washing, trimming, stirring and canning, and have 7 lovely pints of pickled beans and 2 pints pickled onion rings as my reward.
I learned a rule of thumb: one pound of green beans, trimmed into 4 inch pieces, will fill just 2 pints, packed tightly. 
Look for beans at the farm stand or pick-your-own farm, and buy an extra pound. Try this easy recipe, using a few common ingredients, and make two jars. It won't take much time, and you'll have a lovely product that you will not want to open because they look so nice! I mean - you will be so proud of them, you'll save them for a special occasion. Dilly Beans, from "Pickles and Relishes" by Andrea Chesman, page 90. I cut the recipe in half.
Ingredients: 1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed into 4 inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic
2 heads of dill (seed), or 4 stems of fresh dill leaves, or 2 tsp dill seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 1-2 small dried red chili peppers
1-1/4 cup  water
1-1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup pickling salt ( I don't want all that salt, I used one tablespoon)
1. Wash 2 wide mouth pint jars and heat them in a water bath canner put on medium heat. 
2. In a sauce pan, combine the water, vinegar and salt; stir to dissolve, then heat to boiling.
3. Remove the hot jars from the canner, and place them on their sides on a towel. 
Fill the jars laying on their sides, garlic, dill leaves, beans, then the vinegar. 
4. Into each jar, put a clove of garlic, a chili pepper and the dill. 
5. Pack the beans into the jars, so they are "standing up"in the jar. this is easier to do with the jar lying on its side, and using a little plastic fork to move the beans into place. 
6. Stand up the jars and pour the boiling vinegar into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace and covering the beans with the liquid.
7. Wipe the rims clean and top with the lid and then the ring. Tighten the ring firmly but not terribly tight.
8. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes for pints, timing when the water returns to a boil.
9. Remove jars and let them cool, undisturbed. The lids should snap down.
10. If you do not yet have a water bath canner, you can use a large deep stock pot, with a little rack made of extra canning rings or a towel, filled with enough water to cover the tops of the jars.