Do the Can-Can

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: Web Extras Issue: March 2016
Group Free

Read more from Phoenix food writer Autumn Giles in our exclusive Q&A. Giles also shares a recipe with our readers in this delicious web extra!

In our March issue, we reviewed Phoenix food writer and blogger Autum Giles' new book Beyond Canning: New Techniques, Ingredients, and Flavors to Preserve, Pickle, and Ferment like Never Before (Voyageur Press). For this web extra, Giles sat down and answered a few of our burning questions about the book, recipe development and ingredient pairings, and even shared a recipe from the book with us. Keep up with her at

Do you have a favorite recipe from the book? Or a favorite item to “put away,” in the parlance of preservation? Conversely, is there a food that was a challenge for you to pickle, preserve, etc. – a stubborn ingredient you had to win over?
I love the recipes in the book that ended up really surprising me. A good example of that is the radicchio and sunchoke kraut with thyme (pg. 179). I'm drawn to black sheep ingredients in my cooking, and I'd lovingly put both radicchio and sunchokes in that category. Radicchio is fairly bitter and, although I really enjoy bitter flavors, I had never quite been able to prepare radicchio in a way that I truly loved, until I made this kraut. The bitterness of the radicchio mellows and the flavor really deepens as it ferments, while the sunchokes stay sweet and crispy. During the testing process, the recipe felt like quite a gamble, but it turned out to be such a win! I also really like that it feels a bit fancy – nothing wrong with elevating your sauerkraut.

I loved seeing Southwest-inflected recipes in the book, like the green chile jam. How would you recommend people serve it?
That recipe is particularly nice with your favorite creamy, runny cheese, like brie, to cut both the heat and pickle-y sweetness of the jam. The best vehicle for that combo is your carb of choice.

Where do you draw inspirations for your spicing and flavoring? I love your combinations – celery and pepper, curry and orange – and think they're so fresh and innovative. Do you have tips for people on creating flavor combos that work well?
Thanks so much! I developed cocktail recipes on a freelance basis for a couple years and, not going to lie, the celery and black pepper combination in the shrub definitely comes from my love of gin. I once made a black pepper simple syrup for a drink recipe that I was working on, and it was so unexpectedly delicious and so much more than the sum of its parts. I also really adore the herb lovage and have used a lovage simple syrup in many a gin cocktail. So gin married the celery and black pepper for me. In general, I love taking familiar flavors and putting them in new contexts, and I think that's where I draw a lot of my inspiration.

photo by Grace StufkoskyCelery and Black Pepper Shrub
A savory take on shrub syrup, from Beyond Canning

I became a bit obsessed with the herb lovage when I first discovered it. It looks and tastes a lot like celery leaves but a bit more mild and without the bitterness. In my experiments with it, I made a simple syrup infused with lovage, drank celery-flavored sodas all summer, and never looked back. I don’t particularly like to eat celery, but I could drink it all day. It’s a super-refreshing flavor, but the first sip of celery soda definitely involves a little leap of faith. The problem with lovage, unless you grow it yourself, is it can be a bit hard to track down.

Celery, on the other hand, is everywhere. While not one of the usual suspects, celery makes so much sense for a cold-process shrub. Because of its high water content, it releases a ton of juice in the maceration process, just like berries, imparting a true celery flavor without the need for juicing or infusing. Another of my surprise favorite syrup ingredients, the humble black peppercorn, infuses the syrup with a mild spice that is a perfect companion to the cool celery. Serve with seltzer and, if you’re a gin lover like me, a splash of gin.

2 cups trimmed and sliced celery, ¼ inch thick
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ cup white wine vinegar

Quart Mason jar
Pint Mason jar
Fine mesh strainer
Medium nonreactive bowl

Yield: 1 scant pint

1. In a quart Mason jar, combine the celery, sugar, and pepper. Use a wooden spoon or its handle – whichever fits best – to bruise the celery slightly.

2. Cover the jar with a two-piece Mason jar lid and shake to evenly distribute the sugar.

3. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 1 hour then transfer to the refrigerator for 3 days.

4. After 3 days, pour the vinegar into the jar with the celery, sugar, and black pepper. Shake to dissolve any remaining sugar. Once all the sugar is dissolved, position a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl.

5. Strain the syrup, pressing the celery solids to extract as much liquid as possible without forcing solids through the sieve.

6. Cover, label, and refrigerate the strained syrup in a pint mason jar until ready to use.