Short days and cold nights mean it’s time to shut the orto down for the season.
No more happy wanderings over to the garden to see what I can scrounge up for dinner. No more sun warmed tomatoes; instead there are soggy plants with green tomatoes that need to be picked.
I could be sad, but I’m not; I love the changing of the seasons.
We picked a full basket of green tomatoes, some peppers, a surprisingly good batch of string beans and now the orto is ready for the winter. There’s chard, fennel, parsley and cardoons still to be eaten.
I decided to pickle the tomatoes because they were so, so good last year. Crisp, tangy tomatoes, spicy hot from our chili peppers, they gave a kick to everything. Only this year, we had a TON of those suckers!!
Once I got into the pickling mode, everything was fair game: green peppers, red hot chili peppers and the last of our onions. At one point, I realized that Raffaello had left the kitchen; he was probably worried that he was about to become a pickled cat.
My grandmother’s cellar was always lined with sparkling clear jars of pickles. She made outstanding cucumber pickles. I’d like to think she was in the kitchen along side me today.
The Basic Brine
10 parts water to 1 part salt
1 handful of peppercorns
2-3 stalks of wild fennel
3-4 bay leaves.
Heat until barely simmering, stir with the fennel stalks.
The Pickle Part
Clean all the vegetables that are to be pickled. Use whole, fresh, unblemished vegetables.
Sterilize your jars and lids in boiling water.
Pack the vegetables into jars and completely cover with the brine liquid.
If you like, add some crushed garlic cloves, more peppercorns, more chili peppers.
Cover the jars and return to the boiling water bath for another 10-15 minutes; total time. Don’t start counting from the time the water comes back to a boil.
The Waiting Part
Store the jars in a cool, dark place and wait at least 4-6 weeks before you start sampling.
Buon appetito and Happy Fall!