The Food Column: For some, preserving is year-round


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To most home cooks, "preserving" means canning or perhaps freezing food.

It also means late summer -- putting away the bounty of the harvest for the cold winter months.

But for some folks of Slow Food Pittsburgh, preserving can be a year-round way of life. They'll demonstrate some of their techniques and intriguing recipes at an event from 3 to 5:30 p.m. this Sunday, March 2, at Marty's Market in the Strip District.

Luke Wholey, a member of the Wholey fish family and owner of Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille in the Strip District, will enter new territory for Slow Food Pittsburgh's preserving events. The group has held periodic food-preservation classes for at least four years, but this is the first time they'll move beyond mainstream techniques such as canning. Mr. Wholey will demonstrate how to make gravlax (cold-cured salmon) and pickled sablefish.

Experienced canner Nancy Hanst will demonstrate kumquat marmalade with Earl Grey tea (see recipe), and Justine Cassell will teach the crowd to make limoncello and dehydrator-style beef jerky.

Both types of fish, Mr. Wholey said, are easy. The preserving agent in gravlax is rock salt, which you sprinkle over the fish; then you wrap the fish in plastic wrap and stick it under a brick to press the salt into the fish. And for pickled sablefish, the preservative is white-wine vinegar.

Pickled fish, he said, "is so tasty. It starts off really firm, but as you chew, it becomes really soft in your mouth and just bursting with flavor."

For more culinary classes in the area, see below.

Classes

Mardi Gras: Learn to make classic New Orleans cocktails and cuisine. 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Habitat in the Fairmont Pittsburgh, Downtown. $65 per person includes apron and lunch. Reservations: 412-773-8848.

Tea Tasting: Learn optimal steeping instructions and techniques for evaluating tea flavors, and taste four types (black, oolong, green and white). 2 p.m. Saturday at Marty's Market in the Strip District. $8. Registration required: martysmarket.com.

Easter Edibles: Learn to make the perfect Easter cupcake from scratch. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sweetwater Center for the Arts, Sewickley. $65 ($50 for members). 412-741-4406 or sweetwaterartcenter.org.

Special dinners

Spaghetti dinner: Spaghetti and meatballs, salad, bread, dessert, coffee, tea, lemonade and one glass of wine per adult, plus face painting, live music and basket raffles. 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Joy Parish in Plum. $8 for adults; $4 for children; proceeds benefit poor families in Peru. 412-795-3388.

E2/Terra Madre Social Night: Slow Food Pittsburgh hosts a family-style dinner, cookbook exchange and presentation about last fall's Terra Madre conference in Torino, Italy, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at E2 in Highland Park. $42 for Slow Food Pittsburgh members; $45 for nonmembers. BYOB. For an invitation, e-mail stbarclay13@verizon.net.

Havana Nights: Gala with Cuban jazz, dinner, drinks, art demos and silent/live auction items. 7 p.m. March 9 at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, North Side. $90 per person or $500 for a table of six; benefits the Avon Club Foundation. avonclub.benavon.org.

Empty Bowls Dinner: A simple meal of soup and bread that reminds those who partake that many neighbors struggle to feed their families. 2 to 6 p.m. March 10 at Rodef Shalom Congregation, Oakland. $20 includes dinner and a handmade bowl to take home; benefits the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and Just Harvest. Information or reservations: justharvest.org.

Festivals

Pancake Festival: You can have pancakes for breakfast, lunch or dinner -- or all three if you really want to. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair. $8 for adults; $5 for children; proceeds benefit South Hills Interfaith Ministries. Tickets: 412-854-9120. Information: shim-center.org/pancake-festival.

Taste of Trax: Day of sampling homemade nut breads, baked goods, fudge, mulled wines and more. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 9 at Trax Farms, Finleyville. Free admission. traxfarms.com.



Kumquat-Earl Grey Marmalade

Nancy Hanst made a batch of this interesting marmalade based on the food52.com recipe, but thought that the result was not sweet enough and that the tea flavor was a bit too strong. So below is how she's going to adjust it for making it at Sunday's event.

She ordered kumquats online from kumquat growers.com, but she noted kumquats can also be found locally at both Whole Foods stores.

-- Rebecca Sodergren

  • 1 3/4 pounds kumquats

  • 4 cups sugar

  • 1/4 cup loose-leaf Earl Grey tea

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Prepare the kumquats 8 to 12 hours before you wish to cook the marmalade. Wash them well. Slice the stem end of the kumquats off and discard. Then slice each kumquat in half lengthwise. (Use a sharp paring knife.) Remove the seeds and any thick white pith from the center, reserving both in a small bowl. Then, thinly slice each kumquat crosswise. Mix the kumquat halves with the sugar. Cover and let sit for 8 to 12 hours, stirring every so often if convenient.

When ready to make the marmalade, place the reserved pith and seeds in a square of cheesecloth and securely tie the bundle with kitchen twine. Do the same with the tea. Place the bundles in a saucepan with 3 cups cold water. Bring to a boil and let simmer 20 minutes. Then remove from the heat and let sit until cool enough to handle. Squeeze any liquid from the tea leaves back into the pot. Reserve tea leaves. Take the membrane bundle and squeeze all the pectin into the bowl with the kumquat slices.

Measure the reserved tea liquid and add enough water to bring back to 3 cups. Pour the tea into a large pot. Add the kumquats and the juice of 2 lemons. Bring to a boil and let simmer until desired consistency or until the marmalade reaches 221 degrees. (To test consistency, spoon a bit onto a chilled plate.)

Once the marmalade is thick enough (remember it will thicken slightly as it cools), pour into sterilized jelly jars. Process in a water bath if desired, or pour the hot jam into jars until just below the rim, screw the lids on tightly, and then turn the jars upside down until cool.

-- adapted from food52.com

recipes - foodcolumn

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


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