I always brag on my grandma’s cooking, but I owe my grandpa a little more credit. It was thanks to his green thumb that we had such nice produce on the dinner table each night. Grandpa had a fabulous garden that he tended to with such love and care. In the spring, he would plant lettuce and peas and sow seeds for summer, and at the end of the summer he would start to work on his fall crops like carrots, greens, and beets.
With every turn in season came a new bounty of fruits and vegetables to preserve. I have many memories of staying up late while Grandma canned tomatoes and sitting at the table stringing green beans with my mom and aunt. The pantry at my grandparents had an entire wall filled with Mason jars that provided us with homegrown summer vegetables all winter long.
I especially loved when Grandma would make homemade pickled vegetables. I’m a vinegar fanatic and the combination of it with the savory and the sweet makes for quite a treat. I carry on our family tradition by making pickled vegetables with just about anything my garden grows. Whenever guests drop in, I open a jar and serve with some cocktails and I’ll grab a jar when headed to a friend’s house for dinner as a hostess gift.
While I do preserve plenty, I find my garden often yields more than I can use. In this time of economic distress, more and more people are in danger of facing hunger. Our nation’s food banks are seeing an increase in attendance and a downturn in revenue. I recently learned of a program that allows individuals to donate the abundance from their garden to a local food bank. Just one tomato plant can yield 12 pounds of produce! I like to think my garden is growing for the greater good. Check out www.GroGood.com and www.FeedingAmerica.org for more information.
I am a vinegar lover, so anything pickled is a favorite of mine. I make pickled vegetables throughout the year. This recipe calls for carrots, cauliflower, red peppers, and jalapeños, but try substituting other vegetables you enjoy in different seasons.
2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
2 ½ cups water
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 cups baby carrots
1 head cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
2 jalapenos, cut lengthwise into quarters and seeded (or leave seeds for spicier pickles)
In a stockpot over medium-high heat, bring vinegar, water, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Add vegetables and reduce heat to a simmer.
Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 to12 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until serving (keeps about 2 weeks).
Drain before serving.
YIELD: 6 SERVINGS (6 CUPS)
PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES
INACTIVE PREP TIME: 2 HOURS TO COOL
COOK TIME: 12 TO 15 MINUTES
Katie Lee began cooking at the age of four in her grandmother’s kitchen. Her broad culinary experience ranges from regular appearances as a Correspondent for The Early Show to the Judges panel on Iron Chef America. Her second book, The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions will feature menus for various celebrations at home offering full menus, and simple suggestions for décor and ipod playlists to complement the theme of the meal. Visit Katie Lee at www.katieleehome.com.
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