Monday, September 3, 2012

Turn My Head Around

“That is so cool! Show me again, Ben!” I hollered.

The man in the white Open Arms of Minnesota chef’s jacket smiled and took another head of cauliflower. He placed it, stem down, on the cutting board and sliced it in half. He turned one of the sections to face him, then made two cuts across the core. He picked up the cauliflower half and, in the same motion, broke the top and bottom sections apart. The leaves and core came off cleanly in one whole piece, leaving the florets.

“Well that’s sure got my attention,” I remarked admiringly. “I’ve always just cut stuff off the core by attacking the cauliflower stem side up and wedging my knife in. I never thought to turn it over.”

Every so often, even after years of cutting up vegetables, there’s something new to learn as a volunteer at Open Arms. And because we’re always cooking for a crowd—hundreds of meals a day—I had half a case of cauliflower in front of me for practice.

My newfound skill reminded me of a mixed pickle recipe I haven’t made in awhile. All the critical ingredients are crossing paths in the farmers’ markets, so now is a great time to make them.

Mixed Cauliflower Pickles
Makes 4 pt
The great thing about hot-pack pickles—that is, the kind you simmer before packing into jars—is that you don’t have to seal them if you don’t want to (or don’t know how). You can put them in any nonreactive container and pop them in the fridge.

A 2-lb head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 big green peppers or 3-4 banana peppers, cored and cut into 1" squares
5 big carrots, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
5 stalks of celery, sliced ½" thick
1 large onion, sliced ⅛" thick
3 T canning salt
2 qt cider vinegar
2 c sugar
1 T yellow mustard seeds
1 t powdered turmeric

Toss the vegetables with the salt in a glass, ceramic, or stoneware container and let them sit out overnight.

The next day, drain the vegetables, cover them with water, and drain them again. Put them in a pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer ten minutes. Seal in pint jars with two-piece caps in a boiling-water canner; about ten minutes ought to do the trick.

Or, if you don’t want to do that, just take them off the heat, pack the solids into nonreactive containers, and ladle juice over to cover.

Easy, fun, and attention-grabbing!

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