• Pickle switchel

    From Joy Beeson@21:1/5 to All on Wed May 19 23:07:43 2021
    Tuesday, 11 May 2021

    I preserve my bread-and-butter pickles in a syrup made of equal parts
    by volume of 5% cider vinegar and white sugar. When I ate the
    pickles, I strained the syrup into a quart jar. With the minerals
    leached out of the vegetables, that would seem to make it a perfect
    switchel concentrate -- just add water.

    But during various processes, some of the acetic acid evaporated, and
    the syrup is too sweet.

    One morning I looked out the kitchen window, reflected that the
    rhubarb needed to be picked, and the dime dropped: I could boil some
    rhubarb in the syrup.

    But oxalic acid isn't a preservative, and the juice would dilute the
    sugar -- I couldn't expect the concentrate to keep until hot weather.

    Making ice cubes to drop into my water bottle sounds like a good idea,
    but I've learned by experience that the non-water components of a
    beverage get squeezed out by the forming ice and end up irretrievably
    stuck to the ice-cube trays.

    Hmm . . . there's that one-pint honey bottle I saved so I could carry
    switchel concentrate next to a bag of ice in my insulated pannier. If
    you add liquid to a bottle a little at a time, and turn the bottle to
    an angle that doesn't allow the expanding ice to get a square push,
    you can freeze a beverage without breaking the bottle.

    So I got up just now to check my supply of half-pint can-or-freeze
    jars, and discovered that I also have a twelve-ounce ketchup bottle
    that wouldn't take up much more room in a pannier than the
    sixteen-ounce honey bottle. And there are plenty of can-or-freeze
    jars. I'll have to check the Ball Blue book to see whether the taper
    is enough to stop the ice from pushing on the walls, or whether only
    food can be frozen without precautions.

    Meanwhile, I've been cogitating for days on how much starch to add.
    I put two tablespoons of whole-wheat flour into one cup of milk to
    make gravy; surely half as much flour in four times as much liquid
    wouldn't be too much. But the rec.food.cooking FAQ and conversion
    file doesn't comment on the thickening power of oat flour. Corn
    starch is twice as thick as wheat flour, and I think that there are
    some flours that don't thicken at all.

    I thought about adding one serving of rolled oats, then remembered
    that I have some real oatmeal, aka steel-cut oats. Perfect!

    But I once made barley water by the same method (boil the grain, drink
    the liquid) and when frozen, it curdled: the ice squished the barley
    into lumps that had to be chewed.

    On the other hand, I'm not trying to add calories here, just a touch
    of starch to get it across the intestinal wall faster. Perhaps traces
    of starch wouldn't curdle.

    Okay, one tablespoon of oatmeal to a quart of syrup and a random
    amount of rhubarb juice.

    Time to grab a knife and head for the garden.


    Turned out to be hedge clippers -- trimming the tall grass beside the
    railroad ties was more urgent. This exposed a rock that would wreck
    the lawn mower if hit, so it was even more urgent than I'd thought.

    We dug up some railroad ties -- literally; they had been the
    foundation for a pier before the lake filled in and buried them -- and
    used them to raise the garden above the spring floods. I've pried
    them up and put more sand under them more than once.

    Whenever I dig a hole, I scatter the excavated dirt around and haul
    dirt from under the compost heap to fill the hole. I also hill up the
    potatoes by hauling in dirt instead of hoeing dirt from between the
    rows. A few years back, my neighbor dumped a bucket of beach
    cleanings on the garden.

    Saturday, 15 May 2021

    On Wednesday I got my skin examined, on Friday I simmered beans in the
    pot I want to use for the switchel. I don't know what I did with

    Tuesday, 18 May 2021

    Busy Sunday and Monday. Washing clothes today. And the bean soup is
    still in my six-quart cooking pot. The rhubarb is overdue for

    A while back I had a ginger root that was starting to rot, so I sliced
    up the good parts and put them in vinegar brine off some pickles. I
    have decided to chop up the remaining slices and put them into the
    switchel concentrate. For a time I thought I'd buy a fresh ginger
    root, since the pickled ginger isn't near enough, but I forgot to stop
    at Carniceria San Jose last Saturday, and don't want to wait until
    next Saturday. I have plenty of gengibre molido, however.

    After deciding to throw the spoonful of vinegar brine in too, I
    realized that the dispenser bottle the pickled ginger is in is just
    right to hold switchel concentrate for one ride.

    We had bean soup for supper, and I put the remaining soup into the
    casserole that the seasoned buttermilk had been in before I made
    cornbread. (checks calendar) And I've got nothing on for tomorrow.

    Fat and Skinny is this coming weekend. I have no plans to
    participate. I usually attended both days of the September Century
    before the League Against Bike-riding scuttled it. I may read the Fat
    and Skinny schedule, if I can find it, before going to the Farmers'
    Markets. The countryside tours appear to be all that are mentioned on
    the Web site, but the historic tour has always been pretty much "You
    may go if you happen to pass by when it is starting up, or happen to
    see the only posted schedule in the county before the ride starts."

    Wednesday, 19 May 2021

    seven stalks of rhubarb, cut into quarter-inch slices.
    a bit more than two tablespoons of vinegar brine
    (includes some mustard seed)
    nine slices of pickled ginger, minced
    two slightly-rounded teaspoons of gengibre molido
    a quarter cup of rolled oats
    a few cranks of black pepper
    one quart of PBL syrup

    Covered tightly and set over very low heat. An hour or three later, I
    noticed that it was boiling, put the tight lid back on, turned the
    heat to high for a moment, turned the fire out, and left it to cool
    over the pilot light.

    I'll strain and bottle it after my nap.

    The rhubarb is definitely past its prime. I cut out another flowering
    stalk while picking the seven leaves.


    Should have picked a few more leaves: I put thirty-two ounces of
    syrup into the pot, and got twenty-eight out -- almost exactly; there
    are marks on the jar, and the syrup ends at the one cup from the top

    It isn't noticably thickened. Oat flakes are visible in the compote
    strained out of the syrup. The compote is tasty; I presume the
    diluted syrup will be too.

    Probably be another month before I know how it works. But it's
    predicted to be pretty warm this week, then June will bust out all

    PBL is the initials of the woman who gave me the recipe for
    bread-and-butter pickles.

    Joy Beeson
    joy beeson at centurylink dot net

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