A quick jaunt through Headhouse Square
Monday, May 12, 2008
Over the weekend I accidentally ended up at the Headhouse Square farmer’s market with two friends. For a Spring market, the selection wasn’t bad at all! Some rhubarb, tons of salad greens of all varieties, bok choy, radishes, spinach…and herb and vegetable plants. Tons of them! So if you’re looking for herb plants, head over next weekend - I picked up some super healthy-looking parsley, dill, rosemary, and tarragon from one of the vendors. Yoder Heirlooms, in particular, had gorgeous looking produce.
Aside from produce, the market had at least two vendors of locally made bread, as well as cakes and quick breads, jam, honey, artisan sausage and pepperoni, and cheese. I saw a sign for boneless duck, and noticed two other meat vendors. There were lots of great eggs available, too.
The real star, though, was asparagus. Quite a few vendors had really gorgeous asparagus, and from what I’ve been hearing the asparagus crop is stellar this year and extra early. Last night I made asparagus risotto with the bunch I picked up yesterday at Headhouse Square market - it was delicious!
I really like asparagus, and am always disappointed by the crappy, tasteless commercially grown stuff available in the Winter, so my plan is to buy at least a dozen bunches or so while it’s in season and preserve it for later…in a few different ways.
My favorite method is freezing - it’s the preservation method that saves the most nutrients. Trim the asparagus ends, sort by thickness, and blanch them in boiling water - 2 minutes for thin spears, 3 minutes for medium, and 5 minutes for thick ones. And then give them an ice bath, let them dry, and freeze them. They can be frozen for eight or nine months.
Asparagus can also be canned in a pressure canner. The texture does suffer a bit, so I usually don’t can them. However, I do like the look of nice, canned asparagus spears. Blanch them for about three minutes after you’ve trimmed the ends, and pack them into canning jars while the asparagus is still hot. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of salt and boiling water, leaving about 1 inch of headspace. Close up your jars and process at 10 pounds of pressure for 25-30 minutes.
I also plan on making some asparagus ravioli for a rainy day.
Freshly made ravioli freezes nicely - just don’t make huge and overstuff ravioli. Arrange them on a layer of wax paper on a cookie sheet covered in corn meal, freeze them, and then pack them into freezer bags. They can go right from the freezer into some boiling water when you’re ready to cook them.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
The tomatoes are gone. The frozen peaches are long gone. Even the carnival acorn squash in this photo are gone- unceremoniously roasted in early March. I know I’m not the only hoarder in the Farm to Philly community, and could you blame us? Other Philadelphians are sipping margaritas on Sunday afternoons in July while we’re sweating over a canning bath. We soldier on like an army of urban, modern-day Laura Ingalls Wilders: oven drying tomatoes, freezing blueberries on sheet trays, and putting up preserves for what sometimes feels like the whole neighborhood. In the spirit of this kind of down and dirty local food heroism- especially since we’ve got so much interest in One Local Summer!- I’m confessing the local foods that have somehow managed to escape my snacking, baking, party-throwing maw.
1 quart bag grated zucchini, frozen
at least a gallon of sour cherries*
2 quarts black raspberries, frozen (a birthday present for my Mom that I’ve been sneaking into for smoothies)
1 pint concord grape puree, frozen
1 dozen jalapenos, frozen
6 pints blueberry jam
5 pints strawberry jam
*which I stupidly froze in one giant plastic container after I nearly had a nervous breakdown pitting them with a paperclip. I treated myself to an OXO cherry-pitter at Foster’s this very week.
Time to ‘fess up, people. What’s in your freezer?
Monday, March 31, 2008
Last winter and early spring, after my first year with a CSA, I determined that my goal for the upcoming growing season was to put a concentrated effort into food preservation. I felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of food we were given at each pickup, and having absolutely no previous knowledge of canning, freezing and drying food, each week was a kind of trial by fire with researching, buying freezer bags, trying to remember what needed to be blanched, what should be shredded, what couldn’t be jarred, etc. That, on top of my eyes being larger than my family’s collective bellies (sure, we can eat two pounds of greens, sixteen tomatoes a bunch of basil and a twelve summer squash in six days!), meant that a little bit too much of our bounty ended up as compost fodder.
I had tried my hand at canning a jar of tomatoes the previous summer, mostly as an experiment, but it was enough to instill confidence that I could do it on a larger scale. I also knew from previous experience, that during the height of growing season, when I’d be bringing home gobs and gobs of veggies from Blooming Glen on top of harvesting our own garden, I needed to leave my pickup day open. Taking a couple hours on that day to sort through the produce, make a decision as to what I’d be likely to use before the next week and immediately preserving the rest was something that I’d have to commit to, as well.
Overall, I’d say I did pretty well. I had several canning days at my dad’s, during which we canned straight-up-‘maters, spaghetti sauce, salsa and applesauce. I committed to memory what veggies didn’t need blanching and would therefore be the quickest to get into the freezer. I I learned how to dry herbs. I stocked up on freezer bags and even received a FoodSaver as an early birthday gift, making preservation that much easier.
Yes, last season, I was a produce-preserving queen. How I loved stacking jars of tomatoes and applesauce on the cellar shelves, lining them up like little soldiers, their brass rings gleaming like a sergeant’s stars. Putting onions and potatoes to bed, covered with cloth and tucked into a quiet corner. I’ll even admit to “checking in” on my preserved veggies and fruit, opening the freezer door simply to admire the piles of vacuum-packed bags, each filled with bright green broccoli, vibrant red peppers and glowing orange butternut squash. As one might imagine, this attachment to preserved food has a predictable downside: I don’t actually want to use anything.
I realize this is a problem, especially now, on the cusp of a new CSA and garden season. I’ve begun to force myself to plan meals around the food we have stocked. Most recently, I added some spicy vegan sausage to a sauce made with the tomatoes, thyme, basil, onions and peppers pictured above, and served it with rice. The meal was fresh and fabulous—a fact that I’m hoping to parlay into more using of the preserved food in my house. Fingers crossed!
Stock dividends by water bath
Monday, January 21, 2008
Like Kevin, I also routinely make my own stock. Anytime I have bones leftover from something, I automatically save them and cook up a pot. Right now in my freezer I’ve got a few quarts of rabbit stock, although I generally don’t freeze my stock - I prefer to can it.
I really don’t think the way stock is preserved impacts the flavor - at least as far as I can tell. However, there are two reasons I like to can stock instead of freeze it.
- Freezing stock takes up freezer space. I have a chest freezer that isn’t full, so it’s not the worst thing in the world - but I do like to clear up as much freezer space as possible in case I get a big haul of meat or vegetables that I plan to freeze. You could also make the case that you use electricity to keep stock frozen, although if your freezer is running anyway…well, what’s the difference?
- I’m sort of an immediate gratification kind of girl. When I want to make risotto or soup or something, I don’t want to take the time to defrost stock. It seems much easier to me to can it and have it ready to use.
And it really is easy to can stock, and doesn’t require a lot of equipment. Aside from the stock and the soup pot you made your stock in, you need canning jars that you can buy at nearly any grocery store. That’s it. Now granted, nearly all canning sites will say you should use a pressure canner to can stock - but I’ve been canning stock with the water bath method for a decade and nothing bad has ever happened to me.
Have I cheated death and sickness for a decade on sheer luck? Maybe. My grandmother canned her stock this way, and so did my mother. So even though I know I should use my pressure canner for stock, I continue to use a water bath. Perhaps one day my luck will run out. Just keep this in mind before attempting my method - my method is not recommended by food safety experts.
This is how I can chicken stock:
- Sterilize your canning jars. The easiest way to do this is to put the jars and the two piece lids (not screwed onto the jars) into a dishwasher and run them through a cycle. If you don’t have a dishwasher, place the jars and lids on a cookie sheet in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes or so. Honestly, though, you can skip this step - if you’re going to be processing jars for more than 10 minutes, which I do. Of course, I’d rather be safe than sorry (which is ironic, all things considered) so, unless I’m in a big hurry, I sterilize the jars first.
- Pour soup stock into canning jars, being sure you don’t fill the jar above the lid threads. If you’re concerned about fat, refrigerate the stock first and skim the fat off the top before pouring into jars. I also like to strain the stock through a fine sieve and then into the jars.
- Place the lid on the jar and then screw the rings on - make sure the rings are on very tightly.
- Bring a big soup pot full of water to a boil, and place jars into the pot. I generally use pint jars (four at a time) to make sure the jars can be completely submerged in the water bath.
- Boil jars for 20 minutes and remove from the water bath. Turn the jars upside down so that they are sitting on the lid.
- Let the jars cool and then press on the lid to check for a seal - if you press the lid down and it stays down, that’s OK…but if you press the lid down and it flexes back up, that’s not OK.
I do have some things that makes canning easier - tongs, a funnel, a silicon mitt. But you really don’t need any of that stuff to can.
Keep in mind that not all food can be canned in this manner. I can most foods in a pressure canner, as recommended, and I suggest you do the same to avoid botulism. As I said, perhaps I’ve just been lucky but nothing has ever gone awry for me when canning stock in a water bath.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
I suspect that cooking locally has made me thrifty. Or, quite possibly, thrift has made me cook locally. I can’t be sure which came first, to be honest. In fact, it’s most likely, a third explanation - that of a symbiotic relationship (to make myself sound ecologically-minded). When I first joined a CSA, I’m ashamed to admit that I was rather wasteful. Each week, there was something (or, sadly, things) in my box that I simply did not (or would not) use. This was particularly true in the early and late weeks of the season when I was inundated with greens in more variations than I knew possible.
Six CSA seasons later, though, I think I’ve got the hang of it. It’s more than stockpiling recipes for, and stamina for large amounts of, chard and kale. When I shopped at a supermarket, my consumer preferences were paramount. I bought what I wanted regardless of season - or possibly even quality. Wasting is less of an issue when you’ve purchased everything you want. As I moved to CSA’s and Farmers’ Markets, though, that changed. My consumer preferences took a back seat to seasonality and quality. Instead of just buying what I wanted, I bought what I wanted from the best of what was available according to the season. Gradually, I think, this made it’s way into my cooking. I stopped thinking of what I wanted to make and what I needed to get and started thinking of what I could make.
The best barometer of this change is in my approach to chicken stock. In the beginning, it was bouillon, and then it was canned stock. Eventually, I made my own, going to the Reading Terminal for Godshal’s turkey legs (a tip I got from Lynne Rossetto Kasper) and vegetables from Iovine’s. Now, the idea of actually buying ingredients specifically seems absurd. It’s liquid trash - and I mean that in the best sense.
First, I always purchase whole chickens from Meadow Run Farm and quarter them myself. This way, I have a steady supply of chicken backs in my freezer. Oh, I also save the any bones leftover from dinner (once I pick them clean for the cat, of course). As for vegetables, I now have a bin for the scraps - broccoli stems, carrot tops and tips, the bits of onion I cut off before dicing, celery bulbs, shavings from celeraic, etc. Not to mention cheese rinds, which I always keep a steady supply of in my freezer. Every couple chickens, which is how I measure it - like phases of the moon or something - I’ll make more stock.
I’ll even use old take-out containers to store it. That, however, I wouldn’t necessarily attribute to thrift or interest in conserving resources: it’s really so I don’t have to feel guilty about ordering so much takeout from Tiffin.
Did You Do It?
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Way back in September of last year(!), I wrote a post about drying your own sweet corn, an age-old method of preserving the summer’s harvest in a manner that didn’t take up nearly as much space (or require any fancy equipment) as canning or freezing. It was something my grandmother had told me about, a story you can read here if you’d like to learn more about food traditions in my Pennsylvania Dutch farming family.
Now the question is, did you do it? Did you dry your own corn? I hope the answer is “yes”, because I have a delightful dish to share that features that crunchy dried corn. The resulting chewy-but-not-soft texture is very unique and compliments the rather nutty flavor nicely.
OLD-FASHIONED CREAMY (dried) CORN
2 c. dried sweet corn
2 1/4 c. fat free milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
2 t. sugar
2 T. butter
dash of cayenne pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 strips of cooked (soy) bacon, crumbled
1/4 t. dried marjoram
Place corn in a large heavy saucepan and stir in milk and heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to use, stir in the sugar, butter, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Place in warmed serving dish and top with crumbled bacon and marjoram. Serve immediately.
Friday, January 04, 2008
I’ve been thinking a lot about my hobby lately. Food has really been my only consistent, center-of-my-life hobby for the past several years.
Vegetables are certainly not a recent love. Even when I was a single-digit youngster I ate my greens, my brussels sprouts, my artichokes, and almost everything else plant with glee. When I was 12 or 13, I signed up (with five dollars of my allowance) for a community garden allotment plot around the corner from my folks’ house in Germantown.
Both sets of my grandparents were avid gardeners: my grandfather in West Virginia going crazy in his kitchen creating Currazzy Jam with blends of his currents and raspberries; my grandparents in Welwyn Garden City, just north of London, with their paradise of a backyard – lawn for badminton and clothes drying, netted room for fruits, vegetables, flowers, apple tree, poplars. My British grandfather liked to experiment too, planting corn in honor of his daughter’s adopted home in America. When he planted asparagus, I remember running my hands along the tops of those beautiful ferny plants, soaking in the news that this is what asparagus looks like in the ground. I wanted to be a farmer for a really long time, and so did M. We’re now working on getting a bit of land in Germantown to build a house and grow almost everything we eat.
Sometimes I’ve been frustrated with how far I need to go in order to get where I want to be, and sometimes I’m amazed at far I’ve come. For instance, my record keeping on our preserved items goes back to 2003, when we first adopted Amy Dacyczyn’s method (as discussed in The Tightwad Gazette). In the left column we list the preserved items and put the non-summer months across the top. If we have 12 quarts of blueberries frozen, 12 xes get distributed across the months. Then each time we use a quart, we cross off an x. This keeps us from running out, but also from hoarding. It’s such a treat to say, “Three quarts of blueberries this month!”
What strikes me from the first list is the focus on fruit (although no blueberries), and the lack of canned tomatoes, which we were still buying. 2004 has barely any notes, but by 2005 we have picked 17 pounds of blueberries (at Emery’s in New Egypt, NJ), and 128 pounds of tomatoes (at Linvilla Orchards in Media). There are still only 13 items, but a column has been added to indicate if the food is organic. Also, I list Emery’s, Linvilla, Willow Creek Orchards (near Collegeville), and our CSA as our sources of food. In 2006, the variety of foods has expanded, but due to illness and vacations, the number of units of each food is minimal.
2007’s list is pictured above. There’s a lot of variety, from strawberries to tomatoes to corn to sorrel, and our methods of preservation have expanded to include dried food and juice. Also, there’s a nod to my American grandfather with “black and blue” jam (blackberries and blueberries) and, yes, grape crapple sauce (grape, cranberries, apples). I’ve stopped using the column for organic, because most of the places we get our food now are organic, and we’ve decided local is a higher priority for us.
Our goal of eating only locally has sometimes seemed far away, but it’s easy to forget that once upon a time I didn’t know what “eating in season” meant. I always understood that summer tomatoes were the best, but it didn’t occur to me not to eat the pink ones in the winter. M and I don’t have children, and my time is limited only by my energy level, so eating locally has been a perfect hobby for me. In the summer M and I go picking about three weekends out of four, and I usually go once or twice a month during the week. Most of our summer spare time is spent picking, canning, freezing, drying, juicing, and, of course, eating, usually to the sweet sounds of Phillies’ baseball on the radio. Every year I learn a little more, and every spring I hope to learn something new!
Spiced blueberry pancakes
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Over the holiday break, my son had a friend who, last time he was over, I promised blueberry pancakes for breakfast. The blueberries I had on hand were of the preserved Delaware Valley College grown organic sort. Lucky us!
During the spring and summer weeks, I usually make it to The Market at DelVal College once every week or two to stock up on locally-grown fruits and veggies. Although some of what I purchase on these trips supplements my CSA produce for meals, I mostly go with a mission to find foods that I will preserve. Berries and peppers are ridiculously easy to freeze, so often I’ll search for them first.
Choosing foods that are easy to put up makes the weekly chore of preservation simple and fast. Of course, simple and fast means that my chances of burning out halfway through the season are lessened. I like the efficiency of this system
The blueberries I used for the boys’ pancakes were purchased in June, on sale for $2.99 for two pints. Taking them out of the freezer, I remembered just what a fabulous idea it was to stock up on six pints of these organic, locally-grown dark blue lovelies. They were absolutely divine, literally bursting with flavor inside the piping-hot pancakes.
Spiced Blueberry Pancakes
Serves 4 (eight pancakes)
1 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil (plus some for pan)
1/3 cup water
1 cup plain rice or soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons real maple syrup (plus some for serving)
1/2 - 3/4 cup blueberries (plus some for serving)
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Reserving the berries, add all other remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to the wet mixture to the dry mixture, taking care to not overmix. Let batter sit for ten minutes. Stir in berries. Using a ladle, pour scoops of batter into a preheated, well oiled pan or skillet. When the pancakes start to bubble (about three or four minutes, depending on their size), flip and fry the other side for a minute or two. Stack pancakes and top with all natural maple syrup and whole blueberries.
In my kitchen, making pancakes is reserved for the less-scheduled and less-rushed weekend mornings. I usually double or triple the recipe however, so we can eat homemade pancakes during the next couple school/work days. You know, that way we at least have the illusion of calm and leisurely mornings. Enjoy!
Cranberries and Daikon: perfect together
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Earlier in the week I stopped by the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market and noticed in passing that they had Daikon radish in stock. Daikon is a Winter radish, so I wasn’t that surprised to see it there. But beyond making kimchi and that time I make Daikon noodles, I really don’t eat a lot of Daikon radish.
Well…I may need to reconsider. Thanks to the genius folks over at Ideas in Food, I am now salivating over the idea of cranberry-cured Daikon radish. Since both Daikon radish and cranberries are in season right now, this is of serious interest to me. Now, the people at Ideas in Food used a cranberry-miso condiment out of their pantry, but I can’t imagine it would be too difficult to approximate your own miso-cranberry paste, right? The process for making these delicious looking radishes involves packing daikon and the cranberry-miso mix in a vacuum sealed bag and letting it cure for a week. The result is this gorgeous radish.
All sorts of thoughts are racing through my head right now. What a neat idea for a Thanksgiving salad, no?
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
As I mentioned in my last market report, I bought twenty pounds of apples last month. I’m still working my way through them as fresh apples or baked in crisps, but part of the reason I got so many was to preserve some of them. On Sunday, I turned nine of them into apple-maple jam.
9 medium apples, chopped (3-4qts)
2.5 c turbinado sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t nutmeg
1 c maple syrup
This made 4 1/4 pints of very thick jam.
I cooked the apples, sugar, and spices until the apples were soft (adding them gradually, as they squished enough to fit more in the 3qt pot), then pureed them, added the maple syrup, and then canned the result in a boiling water bath. The sugar, I think, is only important if you want to have chunks of apple suspended in jelly—I didn’t peel the apples, and I wanted a spreadable jam, so I could probably have left it out. (If you do want apples in jelly, you may well want something closer to the 6 c of sugar called for in the original recipe.) Alas, the only local ingredients in my jam were the apples themselves, but you could easily use local syrup, skip the sugar, and get only your spices from far away.
October Tomato Sauce
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The recent weather has kept our garden overflowing with summer crops as well as the colder weather stuff. So this morning I got out in the garden at sunrise (literally…the Sprout woke up at 4:30 and I couldn’t go back to sleep) and picked as many tomatoes as I could, as well as loads of parsley and some green beans. I feel like I’m tempting fate by leaving this stuff in the ground so close to November, so I feel better having harvested a lot of these hot weather foods. With at least 30 pounds of tomatoes to work with, I set out to make a big batch of sauce to divide up for the freezer.
First, I blanch all of the tomatoes in boiling water for about three minutes to loosen the skin. As one batch is in the pot, another is draining over the sink and I’m working on coring and peeling the drained tomatoes. Then, I just throw the skinless, cored tomatoes into the food processor and puree them for a few minutes. This whole process can take quite some time if you have a lot of tomatoes and you’re working by yourself (or with a toddler “helping”). It’s also pretty messy, especially if, like me, you’re not the neatest cook in the world. Once all of the tomatoes are pureed, I saute some onions and garlic in olive oil, and add the tomatoes along with whatever fresh and dried herbs I feel like using. Today I harvested bunches of parsley to freeze in cubes for the winter, so I added a lot of that as well as basil leaves whose days were numbered. Of course, lots of salt and pepper go into the pot too.
Depending on the types of tomatoes, it may take a few hours before the water cooks off a bit and the sauce is a good consistency. The smell is divine and the taste of fresh tomato sauce in January is definitely worth it.
Preserving the harvest is such an important part of eating local. I’ve seen deals on tomatoes from local sources recently, so it’s a great time to stock up even if you don’t have a garden before these gems are gone for another year.
A peck of pickled… cucumbers!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
To supplement my garden and CSA tomatoes for canning, I bought a box of tomatoes from the Shoemaker’s road side stand.
A side note here, that the link will take you to the Shoemaker’s machine shop. The family has run their welding and machining business and lived on Leidy Road since the 1950’s. It’s been as long as I can remember that they’ve sold their garden crops out front. Out here in the ‘burbs, among all the McMansions and age-restricted townhome developments, there are occasional glimpses of realness that reflect the area’s agricultural, small town roots. The several front yard road side stands in town are probably my favorite of those reflections
While I was there, I couldn’t pass up a few delicious-looking cucumbers. I don’t usually see cukes so late in the season, and my mouth was watering at the thought of a crispy cucumber sandwich.
Shortly after, when my tomatoes and I headed over to my dad’s for canning, I was surprised with a bunch of local kirby cucumbers. Thanks pops, but yikes - what to do with them all? Naturally, pickles seemed out best option, though neither of us have preserved them before.
Thank goodness for the Pickle Preservation Society (seriously, who knew?!). They have several recipes on their site, and I copied the one we used below. We went with an easy, traditional kosher recipe that required no hot-packing, and also one that utilized local ingredients we had on hand. The recipe called for dill and garlic, which I received in my CSA share that week (though the dill was not flowering as the recipe recommends). Man, I just love it when things work out like that!
Kosher Pickles: The Right Way
From Mark Bittman, New York Times
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
2 pounds small Kirby cucumbers, washed, and cut into halves or quarters
5 cloves or more garlic, peeled and smashed
1 large bunch dill, if desired, fresh and with flowers OR 2 tablespoons dried dill and 1 teaspoon dill seeds, OR a tablesoon of coriander seeds
1. In a large bowl*, combine the salt and boiling water; stir to dissolve the salt. Add a handful of ice cubes to cool down the mixture, then add all remaining ingredients.
2. Add cold water to cover. Use a plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl and a small weight to hold the cucumbers under the water. Keep at room temperature.
3. Begin sampling the cucumbers after 2 hours if they are quartered, 4 hours if they are halved. In either case, it will probably take from 12 to 24 hours, or even 48 hours, for them to taste “pickly” enough to suit your taste. When they are, refrigerate them, still in the brine. The pickles will continue to forment as they sit, more quickly at room temperature, more slowly in the refrigerator.
Yield: About 30 pickle quarters.
*We went with pickling in one of those giant industrial-food-sized jars instead of bowls. We tried the bowls, the jar was just way easier to manage.
These turned out quite garlicky, so next time we’d probably use only three or four cloves. I can totally see how people get into making their own “special recipe” pickles. With slight adjustments to so many different and easy-to-find ingredients (garlic, hot pepper, peppercorns, mustard seed, onion, celery, sugar), there are endless taste possibilities. This is definitely a project we’ll be doing again next season!
Monday, October 08, 2007
You know that FedEx commercial?
“Worky work! Busy bee!”
God, that cracks me up
Are you a busy bee preserving some of this fantastic fall food? I’ve scheduled the last four weekends around dates with my Foodsaver and Ball jars. I’m sure there’s a joke somewhere in there. Maybe something about “cold” versus “hot” dates?
Anyway, so far I’ve preserved pumpkin, peppers, pears, peaches (what’s with the P theme?), butternut squash and tomatoes. Details to be forthcoming - as soon as I can slow down on all the worky work! This is the most food preservation I’ve done and I’m open to any tips, suggestions and/or recipes. Share ‘em, if you got ‘em!
You say ketchup, I saw catsup
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The table on my back patio was a sea of red as far as the eye could see. Or, at least as much as the table would allow. Tomatoes! Tomatoes from my garden, tomatoes from the CSA share. Too many tomatoes!
You know, maybe next year I’ll learn my lesson and plant a few less tomato plants.
I have made tomatoes in every conceivable way this year - sauce to salsa to dried tomatoes. But I have not made catsup. Until yesterday, that is. Now I can say that I’m a catsup-making fool.
Nearly 12 pounds of tomatoes gave me two pints of ketchup. It’s a good amount for our house - I barely eat catsup on anything, whereas my husband eats it pretty often. After our current bottle of store bought catsup runs out, I think two pints of catsup should last us awhile.
Here’s how to make it:
4 pounds tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 cup vinegar
Peel tomatoes, then drop 2 or 3 tomatoes at a time into boiling water. Leave them in the water for a minute, or until the skins begin to split. Remove them to a bowl until they are cool enough to handle. Peel and chop the tomatoes, making sure to catch all the juices. Simmer tomatoes and onion in a heavy saucepan until tender, about 10 minutes.
Puree the tomato-onion mixture in a food processor and return to saucepan [if you really want that uber-smooth consistency, run the puree through a food mill before returning to the saucepan]. Add spices and vinegar and simmer on low heat, uncovered, for 2 hours, stirring frequently.
Spoon into jars and process in a water bath for 35 minutes.
For Those Short on Space
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Let’s face it, a lot of us in the city are operating in small kitchens that have limited shelf space and even more limited freezer space. Canning and freezing fresh produce to use over the winter isn’t nearly as feasible under these conditions. Still, you don’t want to be left out of the “eat local” revolution for six whole months until Mother Nature decides to dust off her chilly shawl. Cooks in by-gone days solved a similar problem (their’s being more along the lines of “I have a fireplace and an ice box”) by drying much of their summer harvests. Once vegetables are dry, they’ll keep for several months and can be used much as you would the fresh version once they’re reconstituted after a soak in hot water. I’ll be trying my hand a various drying techniques over the next few weeks on www.straightfromthefarm.net. Let’s start here with some corn since its season is winding down fast.
Use fresh sweet corn, husked and silk removed with a brush. Six ears will fill up one standard baking sheet and yield about 2 cups of dried corn.
Cut corn off the cob using a sharp knife and a shallow bowl or cutting board. Be sure to cut as close the cob as you can to remove all the kernels and juice possible. Line a baking sheet with foil and give it just a very light coat of nonstick spray. Spread corn kernels out on the baking sheet into an even layer.
Turn oven onto 150 F and place tray on the middle rack. The drying process will take several hours (up to 12, depending on the freshness and juiciness of your corn) so be sure to check on it every 2 hours or so, turning it and shaking the tray gently to loosen any kernels that are sticking together or to the tray. You’ll begin to notice the kernels shrinking and eventually becoming much darker and hard. When all the moisture appears to be out of the corn, remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool off completely.
By the way, if you don’t really feel like monitoring the stove for 12 hours straight, you can turn off the oven, letting the tray sit inside, for several hours and come back to it later. Or, if you have an older gas stove with a large oven pilot light, you might not even have to turn the oven on - just leave the corn sit in there for a day or so to dry on its own.
When the dried corn is cool, place in a paper bag and hang in your kitchen to dry out any remaining moisture. After about a week or so, transfer dried corn to a ziplock bag and store in your cupboards for use later this winter.