Preserved ~CSCA~Memories and Canning the Seasons Best

Today I attended a pickling and preserving class on campus at the California School of Culinary Arts (my Alma Mater) sponsored by the Women Chef and Restaurateurs Association (WCR). My interest in pickling and canning was aroused having spent the summer at the OC Fair tasting preserved foods   I also have seen my fair amount of canned foods around the blogosphere, most recently Nicole at Pinch My Salt did Pickled Garlic that made me think twice about giving it a try.  So, since my new friend Debbie Dubbs was hosting and my old friend Chef Renee was attending, I didn’t really need a whole lot of arm twisting to sign up. ~Secretly, just between you and I- the thing that got me out of bed early this morning was thinking about …going “back to school”. 
Some things never change and that’s good.  Pasadena is one of those timeless beauties that only becomes more glamorous with age. Hundred year old Craftsman style houses sit on tree lined streets with old fashioned light posts. Just blocks away from quiet serene neighborhoods is bustling downtown, Colorado Boulevard – with all its bars, bistros and restaurants.  The city is like a movie set from the past that never goes out of style. If you have ever seen Father of the Bride,  Mr. Banks’ beautiful home is here on it’s very own tree lined street.  I believe in my heart I was meant to live in Pasadena and if I believed in reincarnation I would definitely say I lived here before in a former life. And I think it was a good life-  filled with trips to the Farmer’s market, coffee on Sunday morning at a French cafe where they serve great croissants, lunch at a bistro and dinner and a show in the Playhouse District.  It just feels like home to me in every way.  Even now I’m sitting in Starbucks in South Pasadena avoiding going back to Orange County anytime soon.  I lived here during culinary school, on a tree lined street in a 100 year old Craftsman style house, it was one of the most memorable seasons of my life.   Walking back onto campus today brought back a flood of memories that just made me smile from ear to ear.  Although many little things have changed for the most part it was exactly how I remember it.  The smell of stock lingers in the hallways, walls lined with pots and pans, and giant bins of flour sugar and salt fill the cooking labs. Don’t forget endless rolls of masking tape to mark your pots with your name. Today’s class was actually being held in my former Hot Foods Lab and I couldn’t help but remember my spot at the stove tops. It was there that I made “barnyard risotto” (not a good thing according to my instructor)  and stressed myself out over a simple reduction sauce.  It was just like being back in school but without having to wear that ridiculous hat and neckerchief, or those horrible black and white checked pants . 
Today’s class was an introduction to pickling and preserving. Chef Maureen Lisi-MacReady and Chef Debbi gave us a short lecture and then allowed us to go for it.  We started by packing our Ball jars with beautiful produce that was donated by Melissa’s Produce, baby cauliflower, peppers, onions and green beans.  That was the easy part, then it was onto making our pickling solution.

The lab quickly filled with the bubbling aroma of vinegar, sugar and pickling spices, overwhelming and incredible all at the same time. We started out with 2 parts salt, 1 part sweetener, 3 parts acid and 1/4 cup of pickling seasoning… or was it 2 parts sugar and 1 part salt?  Let’s just say there is a lot more to learn that what can be done in one afternoon. The more Chef Renee and I tasted,  the more puckered our faces became, we both agreed we loved vinegar and thought of turning our flavorful pickling liquid into some kind of hot dressing for Spinach Salad.

While we packed our jars Chef worked on an a extra large batch of fig conserve with Frangelico and whole hazelnuts.  All I could think about was slathering it on some crusty bread with goat cheese and pouring a glass of wine.  
Once our jars were packed and our pickling liquid was complete, we carefully poured it into the jars and set them in a water bath. 

In the end I think we came up with a good balance of flavors, but both you and I will have to wait for a month to taste what we canned. Until then, I’ll just believe we did a great job- worthy of a “Blue Ribbon” at the OC Fair, no less.  It was a wonderful day with new and old friends, in a “happy place” where my memories will forever stay “preserved” in my heart.  

8 comments… add one
  • Renee Fontes September 19, 2010, 7:11 am

    Great sharing a brine together! Looking forward to breaking out the pickles and jam with a good baguette and a bottle of wine!

  • Faith September 19, 2010, 8:50 pm

    This sounds like it was so much fun and very informative too! That fig conserve really caught my attention…delicious!

  • High Plains Drifters September 20, 2010, 11:57 am

    Hmmm … maybe canning and pickling parties could be the next Pampered Chef thingy?

  • Indie.Tea September 21, 2010, 9:28 pm

    What delicious canned good. Especially those carrots and the figs…yum.

  • Lemons and Lavender September 21, 2010, 10:00 pm

    I love Pasadena too. I have moved from the area but return at least a few times each year. Seeing the fig conserve makes me so happy. I just learned about making jam in the microwave and whipped out a small batch of Fig, Orange and Rosemary Jam yesterday. I put it on my blog

  • Lana September 22, 2010, 1:33 am

    Do you know Violet's Cupcakes in old town Pasadena? My husband's friend's wife is the owner (she used to be married to Zach Snyder of 300)?

  • Florentina September 23, 2010, 10:08 pm

    This sounds like such a great time. Wish I knew about it, I would have loved to come, backpack and all 🙂

  • dana September 29, 2010, 3:02 am

    i very much enjoyed this post. part is i miss school, and the group i spent so much time with. the other part is i've been making lots of jam, and veggie spreads, and that fig conserve is not helping my compulsion! whole hazelnuts! frangelico! i think i found a new project…
    i also have lots of green tomatoes that need pickling. i have never done anything like that, i would greatly appreciate a pointer on what seasonings go well with them! i think my mom did a simple brine, then stuck in a horseradish stick, a few garlic cloves, a bay leaf and that was it. i would love to try something new.
    you take very nice pictures, it's so hard to elude the glare when shooting glass items. that last jar is gorgeous, so colorful!

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