Archive of ‘Pickling & Preserving’ category

How To Freeze Kale

Kale is an awesome superfood that freezes really well for use all year-round. Kale has been dubbed the world’s healthiest food because it is super high in vitamins, K, A, and C and easy to eat in smoothies or soup. Below, I’ve included the steps I go through when freezing my annual kale crop.

How to Freeze Kale | Cucina Kristina |

I’ve been in seasonal denial for the past 2 weeks, but there is no mistaking it, Fall has made an appearance in Chicago. The end of summer is always a bittersweet time of year because, as the gardening season comes to an end, I begin to can, pickle, dehydrate, and freeze everything I can get my hands on in preparation for the colder months ahead. 

This summer, I may have gone a little overboard by planting three kale plants instead of one because at the moment we’re swimming in kale! I don’t mind though because kale freezes really well and I love to add it to smoothies and winter soups. I was so sad when I used the last of our garden fresh kale last year that I was determined to plant enough to sustain us well into the winter. Hopefully, I have succeeded.

Every year, we plant Lacinato kale (also known as Dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale), but this method will work with any kale variety you have producing in your garden. I do not blanch my kale before freezing, but there are many tutorials out there that claim you should. Last year, I was using unblanched, frozen kale until March and didn’t notice a significant drop in flavor, texture, or color.


Dehydrated Beet Greens

Dehydrated beet greens can be added to smoothies, soups, pasta sauces, or casseroles for an added punch of nutrition. This method of preserving can be used for any green including collard greens, kale, chard, and radish greens. 

Dehydrated beet greens can be added to smoothies, soups, pasta sauces, or casseroles for an added punch of nutrition. | Cucina Kristina |

I LOVE beets. Love them. Seriously, I can’t resist a beet. I like ’em roasted, raw, pickled, in salads, as a side dish, and mixed with ginger in smoothies (try it!). In fact, when I was working in IT several years ago, I used to keep a can of beets in my desk for a midday snack. True story.

Naturally, when we built our raised garden beds, one of the first seed packets I ordered were Chiggoia beets. Beets grow very well in early spring and fall weather conditions making them ideal for growing in an area like Chicago. 

Dehydrated beet greens can be added to smoothies, soups, pasta sauces, or casseroles for an added punch of nutrition. | Cucina Kristina |

As much as I love beets, I am not too fond of beet greens. I’ve tried sautéing them in absurd amounts of garlic, adding them to soup, and baking them into casseroles, but there is an underlying aftertaste that I just do not care for.


3 Ways to Freeze (and Use!) Strawberries

Strawberries are one of my favorite summer fruits. This year, I am freezing fresh strawberries to use throughout the year. Frozen strawberries are not limited to smoothies, although that is a delicious way to use frozen fruit. Below are 3 ways to freeze and use frozen strawberries.

3 Ways to Freeze and Use Strawberries | Cucina Kristina |

Since strawberries are no longer in season (tear!), this will most likely be the last fresh strawberry post you see until next summer. Every so often I get a hankering for strawberries mid-winter and drop $5 for a pint only to be disappointed. No matter how red and juicy they look, the taste of a winter strawberry cannot compete with a summer strawberry. Unless you live in a warm-weather climate like southern California where you can get strawberries year-round, strawberries are a staple of summer. I am so jealous of all of my warm-weather readers!

3 Ways to Freeze and Use Strawberries | Cucina Kristina |

Two weeks ago, strawberries went on sale at my local grocery store for .99 cents a pound. I bought four pounds and frozen them 3 different ways because I intend to use them in a variety of ways throughout the year. Freezing strawberries is quick and easy so get your berries while they’re here and freeze ’em up! You can freeze strawberries whole, in ice cube trays, or as a purée.

Below are the steps for each method along with some recipe ideas for each.


Pickled Sugar Snap Peas

Capture the essence of spring with these quick pickled sugar snap peas. Unlike some pickled products, these pickle in as little as 4 hours. Serve them for lunch in place of traditional Kosher pickles or add them to a meat and cheese platter at your next party and watch them disappear so quickly you’ll wish you doubled the recipe!

Capture the essence of spring with these quick pickled sugar snap peas. Unlike some pickled products, these pickle in as little as 4 hours. |

We have an abundance of peas on our hands! Pea season is typically long gone by this time in July, but the weather this summer has been on the cool side and it seems to be extending the life of our spring produce. We’re swimming in peas and lettuce and yearning for tomatoes and peppers

I’ve been trying to freeze our produce in small batches as it ripens so that I am not overwhelmed come September and have to spend my entire weekend blanching, freezing, canning, and pickling.  (more…)

Strawberry Habanero Jam

Capture the taste of summer with this Strawberry Habanero Jam. You could eat this right away, but I would advise you to save it for a rainy day when you need a gentle reminder that warmer weather is around the corner. The heat is subtle which makes it a perfect topping for vanilla ice cream.

Strawberry Habanero Jam

I grew up in Orange County, California which is located about 40 miles south of Los Angeles. Orange County was named for the extensive orange groves that used to line the hillsides. In my hometown, there was a stretch of land leading to the freeway that was thickly lined with orange trees and, as kids, we would often play in the groves, climb the trees, and pick oranges, which I don’t think you were supposed to do, but it was the 80’s and things were much less regulated than they are now. Sadly, those trees have since been removed, but I think there may be a few left on the perimeter of the community college at the intersection where this photo was taken.

Orange Groves in Orange County, California

At the end of that stretch leading to the freeway was a produce stand that used to sell the biggest, most luscious strawberries. They would set them out in these huge boxes and since the weather in California is always warm, you could pretty much buy strawberries from that stand year-round. There are only a few occasions that I can remember driving by and seeing the stand closed. 


Quick Pickled Radishes

Quick Pickled Radishes |

This recipe for pickled radishes is great because they pickle in as little as 4 hours. Pickled radishes can be enjoyed straight from the jar, as an addition to salads, or as a topping for fish tacos. They could also replace traditional pickles on a burger or a Charcuterie plate.

Radishes pickled in red wine vinegar

We harvested the first haul from our garden last weekend! Our garden got a bit of a late start this season due to Chicago’s unseasonably cold winter and spring (do you remember when it SNOWED in May? I do, it was terrible), but we still pulled 3 pounds of radishes from one of our raised garden beds

Radishes are a great vegetable to grow for the first time gardener because they grow quickly and do not require a ton of space. From seed, they are ready to harvest in about 20-30 days. They are also virtually disease-free, which is good for both new and experienced gardeners because there is nothing worse than losing a plant to disease or pests. If you do not have backyard space, it is possible to grow radishes in pots or buckets. The Geek Gardner has a great post on growing radishes in containers


Easy Pickled Banana Peppers for Salads or Sandwiches

Enjoy deli-style sandwiches at home by adding a few of these easy pickled banana peppers. They are also a great way to add some crunch and flavor to an ordinary salad. The recipe below is for refrigerator banana peppers, but if you find yourself with a crazy producing banana pepper plant, I’ve included the instructions for canning them.

Easy Pickled Banana Peppers for Salads or Sandwiches |

By popular demand, I’ve updated the recipe below so that it can be used for refrigerator banana peppers AND canned banana peppers. My original recipe was only good for refrigerator pickled banana peppers, but I had so many people asking about canning them that I decided to do some research and refresh this post. 

Before I go on, I want to say how jealous I am of all of my readers with crazy producing banana pepper plants! I had intended to grow banana peppers last year, but the greenhouse where I get my seedlings didn’t have any baby banana peppers. They usually stock them so I thought it was just a fluke, but when I went to get my seedlings this year – gah! – no banana peppers. I won’t make that mistake next year. I am ordering some banana pepper seeds today!


Zucchini Pickles: Recipe from the Zuni Café

About a month ago, I posted this photo on my Facebook page.

Cucina Kristina: Zucchini Blossom

Our first zucchini blossom!

About two weeks later, our baby zucchini sprouts turned into these huge plants.

Cucina Kristina: Zucchini

Holy Zucchini!

What you can’t see in this photo are the two equally large plants in the box next to this one. I began scouring Pinterest for zucchini recipes, convinced that I was going to have zucchini coming out of my ears. I even started planning a zucchini themed dinner party. I was going to use zucchini in each dish and was going to pass out the recipes and let my guests take home zucchini as a party gift. However, shortly after taking the photo above, I noticed this little guy.

Cucina Kristina: Cucumber Beetle


For those of you that do not know what that is, it is a squash vine borer moth. Ugh! From this point on, I became a vigilante. I checked the leaves of my zucchini (I had 6 plants in total) every morning and every evening. After the initial sighting, I never saw another moth. I thought I was in the clear.

Then, earlier this week as I was watering the plants, I reached in to harvest a zucchini and saw this:

Cucina Kristina: Vine Borers

The vine borers have attacked!

They got me for the second year in a row! I checked out the plant next to it. Infected. I went to the third plant. Infected! As were the fourth, fifth, and sixth. Those borers got every single one of my zucchini plants. Ugh!

I did manage to salvage a few zucchini before having to rip all of the plants out of the ground. The upside.

There are tons of ways to enjoy zucchini, but my favorite over the years has been to pickle it. If you have never made homemade pickles, you should definitely give it a try. Anyone can pickle because it really is as easy as 1, 2, 3. How easy?

  1. Can you boil water?
  2. Can you measure spices?
  3. Can you slice vegetables?

Yes, yes, and yes? Congratulations, you can pickle!

The recipe below was published in the LA Times in 2008 and is courtesy of the Zuni Café in San Francisco, California. San Francisco is such an amazing town for food. You literally cannot get a bad meal in San Francisco. It’s impossible.

Cucina Kristina: Market Street SF

I left my heart in San Francisco

If I can ever convince my husband to move back to California, we’re headed for the Bay Area.

Cucina Kristina: Golden Gate Bridge SF

November in California

Zucchini Pickles
Recipe from the July 23, 2008 LA Times

Cucina Kristina: Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Pickles. So Sweet. So Tangy


  • 1 pound zucchini
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed yellow and/or brown mustard seeds
  • Scant 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • NOTE: I added 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon ground ginger. 
  • NOTE 2: You do not need a mandolin. I have made these as rounds and as spears. This is just how the recipe was printed. Don’t let the mandolin deter you from making these amazing zucchini pickles!


  1. Wash and trim the zucchini, then slice them one-sixteenth-inch thick; a mandolin works best. Slice the onion very thin as well. Combine the zucchini and onions in a large but shallow nonreactive bowl (this just means not metal – something like glass, ceramic, or plastic), add the salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt.
  2. After about 1 hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini — it should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.
  3. Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric in a small saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. (If the brine is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp.)
  4. Return the zucchini to a dry bowl and pour over the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices. Transfer the pickle to jars, seal tightly, and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini, turning them a brilliant chartreuse color.
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