Sunday, February 26, 2017

The "Food in Jars Mastery Challenge" - February: Salt Preserving

For the February challenge in the "Food in Jars Mastery Challenge," the category was salt preserving.  While I do quite a bit of canning (water bath and pressure), as well as freezer preserving, the salt preserving was a new one for me.  Smoked salmon is a favorite of mine, and I was familiar with the concept of salt preserving salmon (gravalax/lox) - but had never tried it.

As people started posting on the Facebook group for the challenge throughout February, I learned that you can salt preserve lemons and limes to be used in sauces, marinades etc.  And margaritas! I also learned that you can salt preserve egg yolks and my first thought was, "Why the heck would you preserve egg yolks, you can buy eggs anytime and they aren't expensive!" But, after some research, I learned that salt preserved egg yolks, once salt cured and dried, have the texture of aged cheese and can be grated on top of pastas and other dishes to add rich and unique flavor.

Anyway, in the beginning of February when the challenge was brand new, I was honestly considering skipping this month.  But, as the month went on and I learned more about these things, I ended up trying them all!  So, with this post, I bring you the results of my salt preserved Alaskan Keta Salmon, Lemon Ladies Orchard meyer lemons, key limes and farm-raised brown egg yolks.

I started everything on Monday night, and made myself notes of when each thing needed to be removed from salt, finished, etc. As I write this, it is the following Sunday night and everything is done except for my limes (which are doing well on the counter yet.)



Gravalax / Lox
For this challenge, I researched several recipes and ended up doing kind of a combination between this recipe from SeriousEats.com and this one from TheKitchn.com.  I didn't have any fresh dill and didn't really want it to be that dill-y anyway, so to the cure mixture of the sugar, salt etc. I added 1 Tbsp. or so of some salmon seasoning I had in the cupboard, which is basically a mix of dill, pepper, lemon and garlic I think.  For the smoked salt portion of the mixture, I used smoked alderwood salt.  I left the skin on both pieces of my salmon, I actually wanted to take it off but had trouble so just left it on.  

I coated both pieces of salmon top and bottom with the cure mixture, folded them together skin side out and wrapped in plastic wrap inside a glass bowl, with another glass bowl on top to weight it down a bit. 


I left it in the fridge for 5 days, though the recipe said it could come out after 2-3 days.  There was quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of the dish when I took it out after 5 days, so I think next time I would check it more often and drain that off - but it didn't seem to hurt it any the way it was.


It was saltier than we wanted it, so after we sliced it all up, we soaked it in a bowl of water for 20 minutes, and then drained it off and laid it out on paper towels to get rid of excess moisture.


Then, we put some of it on a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese, sliced red onions, and lettuce and ate it. Yum!


Meyer Lemons 
For the salt preserved lemons, I used this recipe from the Food in Jars website.  I ordered
some lemons from the Lemon Ladies Orchard, who not only sent me a personal message thanking me for my order, but wrapped the amazing lemons carefully and shipped them quickly.  The recipe said to quarter them but not slice all the way through, so basically you would still kind of have whole lemons to put in the jar - but that didn't work for me. These lemons were so soft, cutting them that way did not work - so I just quartered them.  They sat 6 days on counter, the recipe said 4 days but I kind of lost track of time. Anyway - every day, once a day I took my weights out of the top of the jar and shook it up to distribute the salt around, and then put the lid back on.  Somewhere I read they should be in a cool dark place, so I kept the lemons and limes in a square dish and covered with a towel.  The rest of the recipe says to keep them for 3 weeks in the refrigerator before using, and then they will keep at least 6 months  I am excited to try them out in some meals, sauces and marinades. They smell really good! 


The below picture is what they looked like when I took them off the counter and put them in the refrigerator.  I've been careful to keep the lemons down under the juice, I did have them weighted down to keep the lemons under the juice until I put them in the refrigerator.


Key Limes 
For the salt preserved key limes, I used this recipe from the Food in Jars websiteThese guys have been hanging out with the lemons on the counter until today, and I've also been shaking them each day to get the salt distributed.  The key limes didn't have a lot of extra juice in them, so I did add some regular lime juice into the jar in the beginning of the process. If I had key lime juice I would have used that instead.


The below picture is what my limes looked like after being on the counter for 6 days.  The recipe says they will sit on the counter for less than a month - so longer than the lemons that went into the refrigerator today.  I have a note that these need to go in the refrigerator with their lemon friends around March 10-15, and I will keep shaking them once a day until then.  I'm not sure what I will use the limes for, though I am envisioning guacamole and margaritas being awfully tasty with them!



Egg Yolks 
For the egg yolks, I used this recipe for duck eggs from the Food in Jars website, though I used farm-raised brown chicken eggs.  Instead of a muffin pan, I used these glass ramekins and put some of the cure on the bottom of each, one egg yolk in each and then covered with the cure mixture. I then covered the whole thing with plastic wrap, and the lid that goes on this pan.


After 6 days in the refrigerator, they looked like this:

I rinsed them all off gently, and put them in the dehydrator for 2-3 hours. From here, the recipe says they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.  We will be trying them soon grated over some pasta!


I had fun with the February challenge. Coming up in March is jelly and/or shrubs (which from the light research I've done so far, is fruit-infused vinegar.)  I'm thinking I will make low-sugar jalapeno jelly and maybe some raspberry vinegar?  Stay tuned...

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