Preservation is a way of capturing the tastes of the seasons at a time when food is at its peak and in abundance. That’s how Colleen Froehlich, owner of Froehlich’s in downtown Three Oaks created her Martini Pickles which have been recognized in regional magazines and other media.
“One year I had all these little pear tomatoes come in at about the same time and I thought what am I going to do with all of these?” says Froehlich describing how she came up with the idea. “So I decided to pickle them.”
Depending upon season and availability, Froehlich, whose business was featured on the Food Network who shot one of their Food Find shows here, sells her goods at the Chesterton European Market and Skip's Open-Air European Farmers Market in New Buffalo, Michigan, makes a full line of pickles, relishes, sauces, and condiments such as Due Colore Pomodore—a mix of red, yellow and sometimes orange tomatoes, Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with roasted garlic and home grown organic basil, salsas, a mustard made with apple butter and coarse grained mustard, barbecue sauces and rubs. There are also a long list of jellies and jams including black raspberry, peach and tart jerry as well as more unique jam concoctions such as Dutch Apple Pie, Dark Cherry with Ginger, Habanero Apricot and Spiced Pumpkin Butter. All are made in the large kitchen in the back of the Victorian era building Froehlich renovated over two decades ago.
For caterer and personal chef Bridgett Blough, a Certified Natural Chef and owner of the Organic Gypsy, a brightly colored food truck, spring and early summer are the time to use the bountiful fruits and vegetables of Southwest Michigan to make such products as her rhubarb beer jam.
“It might sound like an odd combination, but people love it,” says Blough whose food truck can be found at such venues as the Community Concert Series in Benton Harbor and the South Haven Farmers Market as well as local festivals. “Out of the truck I toast bread with oil and spices, rub it with fresh garlic, then spread chèvre which I get from Mattawan Artisan Creamery near Kalamazoo, spread my Rhubarb Beer Jam and then top with chiffonade basil. For the beer I use Oberon because I'm a huge Bells fan which is in Kalamazoo.”
Another of Blough’s popular preservation products which she sells from her food truck and through mail order and meal and food drop-offs, includes Rosemary Roasted Cashews—raw cashews roasted with fresh rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar and butter, Blueberry Lime Jam, Habanero Gold Jelly made with hot peppers mellowed with mangoes and Michigan honey and kombucha.
“It’s a fermented tea product that is loaded with pre and probiotics and live cultures,” says Blough about the kombucha she makes. “We are working out a system to sell it on tap out of our truck. Our two main flavors are strawberry and blueberry-ginger. It has a flavor like the fermented foods do- that slightly sour flavor, fermented sort of like vinegar. It is naturally effervescent and refreshing though. Most people are pretty skeptical, and they try it and love it. If I crave something other than water that is hydrating and refreshing, kombucha is perfect, especially with the warmer weather.”
The Organic Gypsy also recently took a KitchenAid sponsored mobile food truck tour across Southwest Michigan and Northwest Indiana to raise awareness for its presenting sponsorship of the 75th Senior PGA Championship.
When Joe Dickman was growing up in Northwestern Ohio back in the 1960s, he and his family would make apple butter using a large copper kettle set over an open fire. A few years back, Dickman, along and his wife Paula, having moved to Galien, Michigan and surrounded by fruit orchards, decided to once again start making fruit butters. Now the Dickmans make a variety of butters including, of course, apple, as well as peach, plum, rhubarb and blueberry. Southwestern Michigan Fruit Butters are available online as well as at stores and farm markets such as Groceries By Joe in New Carlisle and Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, Gene's Sausage Shop & Delicatessen in Chicago and in Michigan Piggott's Farm Market & Bakery, Benton Harbor, Hickory Creek Winery, Buchanan and at events and festivals. Earlier this year they were at the Lake County Master Gardener's Association Plant Sale
Katharine Fioretti, food blogger, personal cook, caterer and owner of Katie’s Passionate Kitchen (KPK), who in previously years has sold both freshly made and preserved foods at the Frankfort Farmers Market, says that her pickled Cabernet Roasted Beets are easy to make, nutritious and delicious.
“The Cabernet adds a little gourmet elegance to the standard flavors with no fuss at all,” says Fioretti, describing herself as highly focused on fresh, seasonal, from scratch specialties and Cucina di Povera or Cuisine of the poor. “A chunk of ginger, a few cloves and some allspice give the recipe just enough hmmmm, what’s that spice? They are not messy to prepare because they’re individually roasted and not boiled so there’s less hands-on time. The bonus is that you get all of the nutrients by roasting them whole.”
Colleen Froehlich’s Pickled Asparagus
1 pound asparagus
1 teaspoon mustard seed
3/4 teaspoon dill seed
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 garlic clove
1 2/3 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
Trim the cut end of the asparagus spears, and cut them into 4-5 inch lengths. Place them in a large bowl with 1/3 cup salt, cover with water. Let stand for 2 hours. Drain and rinse under cool water, and pat dry.
Sterilize jars in simmering water for 5 minutes.
Pack a sprig of dill into each jar, of red pepper flakes, kosher salt, mustard seed, dill seed and garlic clove and then asparagus spears, tips up, in the hot jars leaving 1/2 of space from the rim. Pour hot pickling liquid into the jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the rim. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth, and seal with lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, and sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute.
Cool to room temperature. Check seals when cool by pressing the center of the lid. It should not move. Label and date; store in a cool dark place. If any jars have not sealed properly, refrigerate and eat within two weeks.
Bridgett Blough’s Rhubarb Beer Jam
Yield: Makes seven ½-pints
3 pounds rhubarb, diced
3 cups wheat beer
1½ cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
In a wide, heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days.
Strain the mixture through a sieve and into a wide, heavy-bottomed pot (save the rhubarb for other uses). Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reaches 215°, about 12 minutes. Return the rhubarb to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the jam lightly coats the back of a spoon and its temperature has returned to 215°, 10 to 15 minutes.
In a large pot of simmering water, sterilize seven ½-pint jars. Once the jam is finished, use tongs to remove the jars from the pot and set upside down on a kitchen towel to drain. Turn off the heat and soak the lids and bands in the hot water. Turn the jars upright and pour the jam through a funnel to fill each jar with jam up to ½ inch from the rim. Wipe the rims clean with a kitchen towel and seal with the lids. Screw on the bands until snug.
Place a canning rack into the pot of hot water and return to a boil. Use tongs to lower the jam-filled jars into the pot, making sure there is enough water to cover the jars by 1 inch. Boil the jars for 10 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave the jars in the hot water for 5 minutes, then use tongs to remove them. Cool completely before storing in a cool, dark, dry place.
Katharine Fioretti’s Cabernet Roasted Beets
4 large or 5 medium unpeeled beets, scrubbed and trimmed, about 2 pounds
1 cup of Cabernet Sauvignon red wine
3/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 one-inch piece of ginger (you can leave the skin on)
4 all-spice berries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Individually wrap each whole beet in foil. Place wrapped beets on a foil lined sheet pan for easy cleanup. Place in oven on middle rack and roast for about one hour for medium beets and up to an additional half hour for large beets. They will be ﬁrm-tender. Remove from oven and let cool for a while.
While the beets are cooling, combine all remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring just to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted. Keep warm on low heat while prepping the beets.
Unwrap each beet and remove their skins. This is a snap if you use a paper towel to easily wipe the skin off in an easy swoop. Cut each now-naked roasted beet in half. Then, slice halves about 1/4” thick. Dump all of the sliced beets into the warm wine mixture right in the pot and remove from the heat.
Let sit out until room temperature. Serve right away or store in the fridge in airtight, non-reactive containers for up to 6 weeks.