Gourmand pickles & preserves

By Sean Timberlake

Excellent producers of preserves and pickles may be a dime a dozen in the San Francisco Bay Area, but local darling Happy Girl Kitchen is still one in a million when it comes to flavor and quality. Using only organic produce at the peak of ripeness, producers Todd and Jordan Champagne apply a deft hand with sweetness and seasoning to coax out the best of all the fruits and vegetables. Cane sugar and lemon juice provide subtle, harmonic notes in their plum jam, elevating the natural sweet-tart flavor of the stone fruit. Bombay Beets have a wonderfully waxy texture and the haunting undercurrent of garam masala. Their zucchini bread and butter pickles offer a kicked-up version of a classic sandwich complement. As for the apricot-chili jam, it was among the winners at the Good Food Awards this year. Happy Girl means happy holiday gifts too, if you can bear to part with them.

Hey, don't look so sour

If Peter Piper can pick a peck of pickled peppers, you can preserve precious produce. The number one rule: Always follow the recipe exactly. The proportion of vinegar to vegetables to salt is essential in the pickling process and must be exact.

Next, make sure you have the right equipment: canning jars in good condition, a large canning pot (or tall stock pot with a towel set on the bottom, pinched up) a funnel, a jar lifter, and plenty of paper towels. A dishwasher helps, too.

Finally, do not use overripe fruit, do not add butter or fat, and do not put jars in an oven. And do enjoy yourself—and remember to put labels on everything.