The Can Jam Challenge for April was herbs. I know, right? What the heck are you gonna make with herbs in April? I was hesitant in choosing a recipe these past few weeks because some of the most delicious herbs aren’t in season right now here in Seattle. I know that people kinda go bananas over lavender (especially lately) and rosemary for some reason, but I wasn’t going to base my recipe on these two herbs that are currently in my yard. But you know, I was looking for the stars like basil, mint, and dill, which are just waiting to pop up in my yard, so I was being wishy washy.
I had to make my recipe quick because this week is busy. Double S and I had a date night planned where we would watch Date Night (Recommended! Mainly for the sex robot scene. Hilarious!) and eat tater tots. Um, yeah…best date ever. We also have trivia planned and I’ve been studying up on current events so I gots to represent. Also, I have some QT with the in-laws this weekend, so I basically just had Monday to make my masterpiece. All of this to say, I had to get to work.
Thus, I decided to choose a base for my recipe that would be a tofu-like sponge to absorb the flavor of whatever herbs I might choose. I chose mushrooms for that reason, and I decided to make a pickled mixed herb and garlic mushroom mix.
First, I got my recipe book. The Complete Book of Pickling, by Jennifer McKenzie, which I find to be a completely comprehensive and awesome book of all the canning recipes you could pretty much imagine. Recommended!
Second, I hit the stores. If you’re gonna make mushrooms, you need a lot of them because of shrinkage. Insert a stupid joke about penises. Ha Ha Ha! Hilarious.
I actually think that Seinfeld episode arc was funnier for the “see the baby” joke. Because, yeah, how many times do you feel obligated to go see someone’s baby? Answer: Lots. It’s funny because it’s true.
Anyway, mushrooms can be quite expensive at the grocery store, so I went to a local produce stand and got them for $2.99 pound and they looked gorgeous. This was one dollar cheaper than at the grocery store, so I felt good. Thanks chatty fellow customer at Thriftway who happened to be a caterer who recommended this option! I decided to just make a half batch, so I got 4 lbs of white ‘shrooms and all my organic herbs there.
Herbs were the whole point of this challenge so I decided to get creative. I chose savory, thyme, tarragon, and rosemary, which I got from the homestead grounds. I have been wanting to experiment with tarragon because I want to use it this summer to make cornichons, and I’ve really been digging the taste of tarragon. I chose thyme because thyme was my tarragon of 2008 and 2009 and happy things resulted. I discovered that I really liked it so I just started playing with it in recipes. I chose savory because savory is an awesome name for an herb and I had no experience with it. I chose rosemary because it was growing in my yard and I felt bad that I wasn’t using anything really local or from the farmer’s market for this recipe. Have I mentioned that I can’t wait for summer!
Third, I chose the tunage. Yep, it was time for my .38 Special Pandora station. Caught up in you! This station plays a LOT of Eddie Money too. Sweet!
So, spotlight on the herbs I chose.
I bought savory without knowing what it was, cuz, like I said, cool name. According to my research, it’s related to rosemary and thyme, which I was already putting into the ‘shrooms, so maybe it was overkill. But I did it anyway, mainly because I didn’t know. There is summer savory and winter savory. I had winter. I also learned that savory is in the ingredient list for Za’atar, which if you haven’t tried, you should, because it’s delicious. It is a spice rub made with savory, oregano, basil, thyme and sesame seeds and salt and other spices, and it’s popular throughout the Middle East. Different countries add different herbs to their Za’atars, and savory is often one of them. I’ve read that it’s great in vinegars. I added some to a salad I just made and it was a success, and I also added some to some chicken I made for a grilled chicken Ceasar and it really upped the ante on that dish. Recommended!
One of the best things I’ve found about thyme is how well it blends with other spices. We grew some creeping thyme last summer, and enjoyed it in salads and rubbed under the skin of roasted chicken, with lemon. I never grew up eating thyme (we were strictly a basil and oregano, salt and pepper type of family. My mom balked at fennel forchrissakes, which made me not discover its greatness until my 30s. Denied!), so I’m making up for lost time. Ha!
OK, so the obligatory Simon & Garfunkel reference. Are you going to Scarborough Fair? There’s parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme there. And so on. I’ll link to one of my fave S&G songs, the list of which Scarborough Fair does not make.
I’m not a giant rosemary fan, but it sure grows easily doesn’t it? We had it in an inopportune spot in the yard, so Double S moved it and it still thrives. Hearty! It’s got an incredibly pungent smell, and one of the key places I like it is in olive bread or mixed into a salt blend. I thought I’d give it a shot here, well mainly because it’s in my yard.
The only herb I KNEW I wanted to use during this challenge was tarragon. Mainly because I wanted to experiment with it before I used it to make boat-tons of cornichons this summer. I didn’t want to make cornichons now because I just can’t be that unseasonal anymore. I also got a start of it at the farmer’s market. It’s a perennial. Who knew? Tarragon is one of the fines herbes…the herbs that are a mainstay of Mediterranean cooking, along with chervil, parsley, and chives. Those fancy French call it the king of all herbs. I’m tending to agree. I’m liking it in everything I’m using it in.
OK, so maybe I should actually give you the recipe I used.
Herb and Garlic Pickled Mushrooms
Adapted from The Complete Book of Pickling
Mushrooms: I just used the white button ‘shrooms because the herbs were gonna be the stars. 4 pounds.
Water: 5 cups
Lemon juice, fresh squeezed. ½ cup.
Garlic. I used a whole head. Chopped up slightly. But I tend to go overboard on garlic. Trust me, it makes it good.
Bay leaves: One per the number of jars. This recipe makes 5 jars, so I used 5.
Salt: 1 Tbsp.
White vinegar. 1.5 cups.
White wine vinegar: 1.5 cups.
Herbs: Sprigs of any mixture of herbs. As stated, I used thyme, tarragon, rosemary and savory. You need a sprig or three of each herb per jar.
Peppercorns. I used the multi-colored ones. One half teaspoon per jar made.
- Put your canning pot on the heat and get your jars and lids sterilized.
- Clean your mushrooms. I rinsed mine in a colander because they weren’t organic (Water gets off poison, right?), but I’ve also heard you can just wipe them off with a clean towel.
- Trim the stems off your mushrooms, leaving about ¼ of an inch of stem below the cap.
- In a large pot, add 4 cups of water and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil on high heat. Add ‘shrooms to water and boil gently on reduced heat for about 5 minutes or until they are soft. I found that my mushrooms weren’t submerged with this amount of liquid, so you might want to use about 4-6 cups of water here.
- In a pot, add garlic, bay leaves, salt, vinegars, and 1 cup water. Note: Again, I didn’t have enough liquid here. I would advise to add extras of both vinegars and water here. Bring this liquid to a boil and stir until salt is dissolved. Boil for one minute or so. Reduce heat but keep it hot.
- Meanwhile, in you hot, clean jars, artfully place your sprigs of herbs and ¼ tsp of peppercorns in each jar.
- Using a slotted spoon, add garlic and a bay leaf from your hot mixture into each jar.
- Using a slotted spoon, pack your mushrooms into each jar. Leaving 1 inch of headspace in each jar. Then ladle hot pickling liquid into each jar. Submerge the ‘shrooms.
- Wipe edges of jars and use a spatula to remove air bubbles from each jar. Wipe rim and place hot lid disc on each jar. Screw the ring band on each just until they are fingertip tight.
- Place jars in canner and process by boiling for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and pull the rack up to let your jars sit not quite submerged for 5 minutes,. Take jars out of pot and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. I had a fallen soldier this time, for the first time in the challenge, because I think I over-packed the jars.
This recipe made more that I thought. Five pint jars, but only four made it. The herb mix is really top notch in these mushrooms. You can also add just a spoonful or so of good olive oil and maybe some mustard and more fresh herbs right after you open them. These would also be good drained and cooked with olive oil and a dash of lemon, and put on top of steaks too, methinks. Enjoy!