I do a lot of preserving onboard. A couple times a year I break out the big pots and the mason jars and water bath can a batch of Pawpaw Mustard Pickles, Mango Chutney, Kumquat Marmalade or Charred Tomato Salsa. If I am really lucky I can find “exotic fruits” and make something like Cardamom Scented Apple Sauce.
But I also do a lot of quick preserving that isn’t “properly canned.” These preserves are usually stored in the fridge and are made as a mean of extending the life of weekly provisions, or a way to deal with the seasonal glut of veggies at the market. One type of these preserves that have been on heavy rotation lately is Pickled Beans.
In the Solomon Islands they grow a type of long bean that is similar to an Asian Yard Bean. They look green and tasty but they have a tough outer skin. They are ok finely diced in a stir fry or drizzled with a little olive oil and sugar and charred on the BBQ. However unless they are really young they are too woody to be eaten raw as a snack, which is how I most enjoy green beans. Thankfully, I discovered that their hearty texture makes them prefect candidates for pickling. And one neatly wrapped bunch usually fills a pint jar perfectly.
The classic flavourings for beans are dill, garlic and perhaps some chilies, if you like a bit of spice. Recently I have making Chili Soy Ginger Beans inspired by the recipe by Liana Krissoff in Canning for a New Generation. It doesn’t hurt that ginger also grows in abundance in the Solomon’s.
Pickled Beans are pretty easy; wash & cut beans, pack into a jar, add desired herbs and spices, heat a simple vinegar brine, or in this case a vinegar and soya sauce brine, and pour over beans. When the jar is cool put a lid on it and pop it in the fridge. After a week or so in the fridge the beans will be ready to eat but they will continue to get better and keep for several weeks; that is if you can stop eating them.
Of course, you can put down pickled beans for long term storage using the same recipe, just sterilized your jars and process in a water bath after filling. But, when I have too many beans and there is space in the fridge I like to whip up a jar or two to save my precious greens. They make a great snack, a bright addition to a crudité plate and, if I ever find Clamato juice they will be my garnish of choice for a Ceaser.
Pickled Eggs are another regular method I use to extend the life of provisions. There is almost always a big jar of pickled eggs in our fridge, especially if we are doing passages. They make a healthy, filling, easy-to-eat snack, even when you need one hand to hold on underway. I recently wrote about finding fresh eggs in the islands and how I store and usually preserve them on foodinjars.com.
Last week I was due for a new batch and with the pickled beans combo of soy/ginger chili fresh in my mind I gave it a try. After hard boiling and peeling the eggs I packed them into a large jar with garlic and thinly sliced onions. I also added slices of fresh ginger and a handful of bird’s eye chilies. Instead of adding salt to the vinegar to make a brine I splashed in some good quality soya sauce, bough the mixture just to the boiling point then poured it into the jar, making sure that everything was covered.
Pickled eggs are really best after 2-3 weeks of hanging out in the pickling juices but I couldn’t resist trying one today. Not only are the eggs developing a rich, dark brown colour they are DELISH! After only a week the flavour is heavy on the soya sauce but there are hints of ginger and chili that will no doubt intensify in the coming weeks. Chili Soy Ginger Pickled Eggs will definitely be a regular in our fridge.
As I mentioned ginger grows like wildfire in the Solomon’s and every canoe that comes out to sell us fruit and veggies has a bundle of fresh ginger to offload. We do tend to eat a lot of Asian inspired meals but even so this season I constantly have had a pile of ginger in my galley. Every few days I grate a knob and make a sort of ginger tea which I cool, strain and add to bottles of coconut water. I have also experimented with making a ginger bug and fermenting ginger beer.
In January I bought a heap of young ginger, all green shoots and pink roots. With guests coming for dinner the next day and bringing some yellow fin tuna with them I decided to try my hand at pickling ginger. To my surprise the process was simple, so much so that I wondered why I had never pickled ginger before!
There was barely a skin on the young ginger so I gently scrubbed it with a toothbrush to get rid of any dirty then thinly slice it with a very sharp knife. The ginger was so tender and sweet that I had trouble not nibbling as I worked; totally different than the fibrous, mature version I usually get. The pickling brine was a mix of vinegar, water and sugar that I heated on the stove, stirring to dissolve the sugar. I packed the ginger into a small jar and covered it with brine.
After only a day in the pickle the ginger had relaxed slightly, losing some of its astringent bite and picking up the sweetness of the sugar. I served it with the delicious yellow fin sashimi and it was a hit. After a few weeks in the fridge it was even better; soft, sweet and sour and with just the right amount zing. We ate it with some Spanish mackerel that we caught it was hard to tell that it was homemade.
Another favourite sweet/sour dish that I often turn to is an easy Cucumber Salad with Dill. Cucumbers are not all that common in the South Pacific, I suspect most of the year is too hot and dry for them. But when they are around I snatch them up at the market and stash them in the fridge for a cool, crisp snack, perfectly refreshing on a hot, tropical afternoon.
The only problem with cucumbers is they have a high in water content, so if they touch the cold plate on the inside of the refrigerator they quickly freeze and are ruined. So, when cukes are bountiful and the fridge is full I make a big batch of this salad. The vinegar will preserve the cucumber for a week or so (although to be honest I recently unearthed a Tupperware box from the bottom of the fridge after three weeks and the salad was still crisp and delicious), which means we can enjoy a couple cukes fresh and still have a bit of crunch for meals in the coming week.
Peel cucumbers and slice them thin, layer them in an air tight plastic container with slices of onion and splashes of dill, fresh if I can get it but usually just the dried variety. In a small sauce pan heat a mixture of ¾ vinegar to ¼ water and a few tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. The amount of sugar you add is personal taste but you still want to taste the sharpness of the vinegar. Stir until sugar is dissolved then pour mixture over cukes/onions. When salad is cool cover and place in fridge. This can be eaten as soon as it chills but is better after a day and even better after two.
These four quick preserving methods not only give me my canning fix they extend the life of our weekly provisions. Do you have any quick preserving tricks? I’d love to hear them.