29 May 2013 7:43 AM
Arugula & Garlic Scape Pesto

 

Arugula & Garlic Scape Pesto on Sourdough Wheat Bread

Ah, spring.  That time when all the edible greens make an appearance.  Unlike spinach, which doesn’t seem to grow around here, we have an abundance of two things:  Mustard greens and arugula.  D and I just can’t seem to figure out why arugula is so expensive.  It grows like a weed and is really bitter.  Each spring, and fall for that matter, I can be heard lamenting, “What am I supposed to do with all this arugula?”  Currently there are a couple of pounds of the stuff in our spare refrigerator.

Last year I discovered arugula pesto which is better than it sounds.  Or maybe, just as good as it sounds depending on your tolerance for a peppery bite.  Yesterday D picked the garlic scapes.  You can usually find garlic scapes at the farmers markets in the spring.  They are what will turn into the flower of a garlic plant.  You pick them so that the plant puts all its energy into growing the garlic instead of making a beautiful flower.

Garlic Flower
[Garlic Flower - not ours.  We never let our garlic get to this stage.]

With fresh scapes in the house, I decided to incorporate them into some arugula pesto instead of using the more typical garlic.  At first, I thought it might not the best idea since scapes are a delicate garlic flavor and arugula packs the punch of a lifetime.  But I think raw garlic would have added to the pungency and the scapes may have mellowed it.

Garlic Scapes, Parmesan Cheese, Arugula & Walnuts
[Left to Right:  Garlic Scapes, Parmesan, Arugula & Walnuts]

I made 4+ cups and froze most of it.  Sometime in December our lament will change to, “Arugula pesto, again?”

Note:  I never measure pesto anymore.  Just dump and taste.  Pesto is ultimately forgiving and any variation is delicious.

 

Arugula & Garlic Scape Pesto with Lemon Zest

Arugula & Garlic Scape Pesto

Arugula, as much as you need to use
Salt, a generous pinch or two
Walnuts, a couple handfuls toasted in a dry pan over med-low heat
Garlic scapes, as much as you need to use
Olive oil, enough until you like the texture
Parmesan cheese, grated
Lemon, juiced & zested

If you want to rid yourself of some of the “bitter”, de-stem the arugula.  I stuff it in the food processor as is, stems and all.  Add a pinch of salt, some walnuts and the garlic scapes.  Pulse or run on low, or high.  Push down the sides with a scraper.  If the food processor just starts spinning and doesn’t continue to chop leaves, start adding oil though the tube.  Let it go for a bit – keep adding oil until you like the consistency, and add a little more oil for safe measure.

Put the mixture into a bowl and make some more if you have more arugula to use up.  For the large bowl I made, I ran the processor twice; adding extra arugula after each batch was chopped.

Add the parmesan and mix.  Add some lemon juice and zest.  Keep adding lemon/zest until it takes a bit of the bite out of the arugula.  Trust me, lemon juice is arugula’s best friend.

The pesto can be eaten tossed with noodles, as a spread on a nice sourdough loaf (thanks D!), or a topping for any meats – strong enough for steak – go light on fish or chicken.  It can also be frozen to use during the winter.

O

 


The Worleys

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22 August 2012 4:38 PM
Fruits of August

I think I might be ending the great Tomato August of 2012 and I’m feeling a little displaced.   D started teaching this week and T started high school and my own work is in a bit of a lull and the tomatoes have slowed down and I’ve processed every one that was ripe and in the house, so now what do I do.

Over the last three years I’ve learned a thing or two about what we want in our larder over the winter.  This post is on the “canned pantry”.  Posting it will help me remember next year, at least I hope it will.

Yearly:  We like whole tomatoes (50 + quarts), and 25-ish quarts of flat Italian style green beans.  Here are my shelves of those.

 

Tomatoes & Green Beans

There are some more jars of tomatoes & green beans in the cabinets below.

But here is my shelf of “fun foods” where I was just trying anything/everything that either looked interesting or used cucumbers (we had tons of those in 2010 and more in 2011 because in my folly, I told D I needed as many cucumbers as possible for pickles).

Fun Foods
(Click on the picture for a close-up)

Most of these are old.  New things tried this year include Grape Juice, Tomato/Basil Jam, Eight-Veg Juice, Rotel Style Tomatoes, Tomato Soup, Blender AVM Sauce & Tomato/Basil Sauce (A Tale of Two Sauces), Sauerkraut & Indian Spiced Cabbage.

Almost everything else is either from last year or the year before.  I did make more Ground Cherry Jam, Strawberry Jam (although that might not have been necessary) and Roasted Tomato Salsa.  Two quarts of the AVM Tomato Sauce are from last year when I tried to make the with CostCo tomatoes so that I would have something ready for lasagna, but I did something wrong and maybe got the teaspoon/tablespoon confused when reading about the amount of cinnamon.  At any rate, it tastes like highly-spiced dessert tomato sauce and is only used for “special” lasagnas, you know, the emergency kind.

Things I will make again when I run out –

Bottom Shelf:  Green Tomato, Cucumber Dill & Sweet Relish.  (Not pictured because I’m out: Green Tomato Chutney but I have to wait until the end of tomato season to make that).  More pickles, probably in 2016 when and if we run out.  Chunky Jalapeno Salsa, Green Tomato Salsa (it’s like a Salsa Verde) and a cross between the Jalapeno & the Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Middle Shelf:  Red Hot Chili Sauce since we found it is fantastic in place of ketchup on meatloaf.  Sweet & Sour Sauce because it makes an easy stir fry.  I’m not sure about the rest of the tomato items yet since most of them are new this year.  I have to see how much play they get.

Top Shelf:  I hope my Mother-in-Law M keeps me stocked with Fig Jam since it’s fabulous on cheese.  Roasted Red Peppers are a total pain, but completely necessary.  Hot Pepper Jelly – I use a jar a year for entertaining.  There is nothing better on cream cheese.  Mint jelly is the same since I’m the only one who will eat it and only with lamb.  I keep the Peach Chutney stocked for the same Mother-in-Law.  And of course, need some jams to put on toast or, more importantly, mix with D’s fantastic yogurt, which I could totally go for right now.

Next up, the chill chest.


The Worleys

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13 August 2012 3:44 PM
Why I Love My Dehydrator

Or why my Mother didn’t trust me to return her conical colander.

This is my dehydrator.

Vintage Food Dehydrator
(Vintage 1970's Food Dehydrator)

Actually, this is my mother’s dehydrator.  She got it sometime in the 1970’s, I think, and it doesn’t have a temperature regulator or anything.  It just has an on/off switch on the cord to the plug.   A couple summers ago I asked Mom if I could borrow her dehydrator when we were overrun with summer squash of all varieties; unlike this summer when the stem borers figured out where we live and D’s delicate eco balance of predator bugs didn’t do a darn bit of good because the wasps eat the surface bugs and the stem borers eat… well… the stems, from the inside out.

Stem Borer
(Stem Borer.  I know, gross, right?)

At any rate, I love my, ahem Mom’s, dehydrator.   Put some vegetable in it for 8-16 hours and you have a shelf stable vegetable that takes up no room and lasts for years.  Since I don’t have summer squash to dehydrate this year, I’m experimenting a little bit.  First, I got this great idea from the Google to save the tomato skins when canning whole tomatoes and dehydrate them.

When dry, whir them up in the bullet until they are powder, and put them in a jar.

Dried Tomato Skins
(Tomato skins in bullet container)

When we need tomato paste in the winter, all we have to do is mix equal parts powder and water.  I love this idea because tomato paste is one of those things that ALWAYS goes bad in the refrigerator because even if packaged in 8oz jars, we never need it all.

Another thing we’ve dehydrated this year is celery leaves.  Once dry and brittle, grind them up and add a spoonful to anything you want to have "real" celery flavor.  The flavor is really intense.  I use the dried leaves instead of celery salt in a Bloody Mary.  It’s also really great in tomato sauce.

We still have plenty of frozen pesto from last year, plus some arugula pesto I made this year, so we decided to do a tray of basil any time I had to dehydrate anything.  I didn’t really want it ground to a powder, so I used the mortar & pestle for the dried basil leaves.  It was perfect.

Basil leaves in the mortar.
(Dried basil leaves)

(Note:  Even if your basil & oregano containers look the same and have approximately the same amount of herb inside, they are NOT the same thing.  Make sure and smell them, or at least read the label, before you dump your freshly dehydrated, mortared basil into the jar.)

I wish I could tell you how long I dehydrate these things, but I have no idea.  I just let it go and after 4 – 6 hours, check it every hour or so.  My theory is, better too dry than too wet.  I’ve never had a problem with it.


Various dried things.
(My dehydrated vegetable and bulk spice storage containers)

Other things we’ve dehydrated in the past include:

--  Onion rings: Make little piles of the rings so that they don’t fall through and are easy to get off the trays.
-- Green/red pepper rings:  Whenever I make beans, I throw the beans in the mini-crock-pot with some green/red pepper rings and onions along with a pork neck bone D has smoked on the grill.
-- Summer Squash rings: (Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Pattypan) Add to any stew or soup.
-- Green beans: Soups and stews.
-- Cucumber rings: Great for snacking.
-- Leeks (see onions).
-- Cherry tomatoes:  This is one of my favorites, D adds them to beans, and has also reconstituted them with white wine and blended for a pasta sauce.  I make sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil by combining a bunch of recipes I’ve found.  Here is my version.
-- Chipotle (which is really just jalapenos smoked until dry on the grill): Here is the recipe we use for Chipotles en Adobo – note, this lasts forever in the refrigerator.

Thanks Mom!  If you need the dehydrator back, I'll wrestle you for it.

O


The Worleys

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10 August 2012 12:41 PM
A Tale of Two Sauces

To say D is growing a variety of sizes of tomato does not do them justice. While the canning tomatoes keep multiplying exponentially, so too, do the cherry tomatoes. D is growing some darn (mild cuss word deleted to make Mom happy) fine cherry tomatoes which is to say, some are bigger than cherry sized but too small to peel for canning whole in jars, so what to do with these odd sized, but infinitely tasty Money Makers, Glaciers & Gardener’s Delights. I’m not sure which gardener is delighted over these, but our yard is full of them.

Many Tomaotes

(Don't ask me which is which.  I use the back row right
and all the front row for a pot of sauce.)

The answer is to make sauce of course. My favorite pasta dish in the winter is lasagna because: a) I can make two – one to freeze for a night I don’t feel like cooking and one to eat all week for lunches and 2) Lasagna pushes all of my favorite buttons – it’s filling, cheesy, and delicious.

I discovered over the past couple of years that I need to have sauce ready. Lasagna is already a pretty arduous task and if I have to make the sauce before I make and assemble the lasagna, it takes all day and I’m a grump monster by the time it comes out of the oven at 9pm since I forgot it takes two hours to make the sauce from canned whole tomatoes and I can’t use the no-bake noodlies if I’m freezing it.

So this year, I decided to pre-make and can my pasta sauce for this one project. Note: D would never use it as a spaghetti sauce because he prefers to improvise his sauces with the whole tomatoes and I would prefer him to make it that way since his pasta is always a magical experience.

I started with the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Family Secret Tomato Sauce from Barbara Kingsolver’s book.  If you haven't read this book, get it.  Now.  And read it.  Now.  It's one of the best books I've ever read.

The recipe makes more than I can actually make since I don’t have a non-reactive pot big enough, so I made a slightly amended smaller version (PDF of my Recipe is here).

Sauce AVM

- 6 quarts tomato puree (whip up in blender – with or without going through china cap)
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2 T honey
- ½ cup dried basil
- 2 T dried oregano
- 1 ½ T salt
- 1 T ground lemon peel
- 1 T thyme
- 1 ½ T garlic powder
- 1 T dried parsley
- 1 t pepper
- 1 t cinnamon
- ¼ t nutmeg

This is easy-peasy. Since we don’t mind seeds and pulp and stuff, I put all the tomatoes in the blender and puree. Sweat the onions in your big non-reactive pot; I really need to come up with a shorter way to say that, BNR sounds good. Add a little red wine to the BNR if the onions start sticking. Add the tomato puree and the spices. Cook it down until the consistency is right. Process my way in the pressure canner at 10 lbs for 15 mins (not officially safe) and Bob’s your Uncle, it’s done. It takes a couple of hours, but it’s not very hands on so it doesn’t feel like it. The sauce made 4 quarts so if you start the sauce and while it’s simmering, work up a batch of three jars of whole tomatoes – you can fill your canner and process them all at the same time.

This is a really delicious, highly flavorful tomato sauce and will make a wonderful lasagna. But then I thought, “What if I want lighter lasagna? “ You know, a spring time lasagna with fresher flavors, and flowers, so I started going through cookbooks, canning books, and the Google, and came up with this recipe –yup, my very own recipe collage.

Sauce O

- 8-ish pounds fresh tomatoes (I used small cherry, large cherry and a couple normal)
- 1 T brown sugar
- ½ T Balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ T salt
- ½ t pepper
- ½ c packed basil leaves
- ¼ c packed fresh oregano, thyme (because that is what I had – use whatever you have)

It starts like the Eight-Veg juice by dicing the tomatoes.

 

Diced tomatoes & knife.

(I know that is just a cutting board with chopped tomatoes and a knife,
but I'm showing off the best tomato knife ever!)

As you dice the tomatoes, throw them into the BNR and mashing with a potato masher until juicy. Simmer for 30 minutes, let cool a bit, and process in the blender.

Full pot of tomatoes.

(3/4 full pot of chopped, mashed tomatoes.)

Since the goal was a lighter sauce, use your borrowed chinoise (look here if you can’t remember what that was) and get out all the seeds and skin, but make sure and scrape the back of the chinoise to get all the good pulp. I have yet to figure out an easy way to clean this thing. Seeds get stuck in it and I’ve used brushes and sponges. But even if it takes fifteen minutes to clean, it’s still better than the fine mesh sieve and spatula method.

Half pot of chinoied tomatoes.

(1/2 pot post chinoise.)

Okay, back to the BNR. It now has tomato juice/pulp in it. Add the non-fresh ingredients (sugar, salt & pepper and stuff). Simmer for 2 - 3 hours until it reaches sauce consistency. The biggest bummer about taking out the chunky stuff is that Sauce AVM (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) made 4 quarts and Sauce O (the lighter version) only makes 2 quarts. But that is the sacrifice for light.

Once you have the right consistency, add the fresh herbs and process away.

Fresh Herbs.

If you are doing the boiling water bath thing, don’t forget to add citric acid or lemon juice to the jars before processing – that goes for either of these recipes.  Here is the PDF to Sauce O. Note:  Light isn't grocery store buzz word "light", it just tastes brighter, if that makes sense.

Ta dah, sauce two ways.  I love the Sauce AVM becuase it is bursting at the seams with flavor, but I have to admit, I'm surprised and excited by how seriously amazing the Sauce O turned out to be.  Simple, fresh, and currently jiggling away in the pressure cooker.


The Worleys

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08 August 2012 1:26 PM
Tomato Day Part 2

I have to come up with a new title for August since every day is tomato day.  I'm referring to last Sunday and the first Tomato Day blog post which was actually written yesterday, which was yet another Tomato Day as tomorrow will be -- you get the picture.

So on with the kitchen chores.  Seven quarts whole/half/quarter tomatoes canned.  Check.  Next for more Eight-Veg juice which was so freakin' fantastic that I just had to make more and also try out the borrowed chinoise.  The question on everyone's mind is:  Is it really that awesome?  And what really is the difference between a chinoise & a china cap?

Large & Small China Caps

Honestly, I don't have any idea if these are chinoise or china caps -- I think the latter.  The monster on the bottom is Mom's -- perfect if you want to make 80 quarts of tomato juice.  The baby on the top (yes, still giant) is my cousin Amy's and is perfect for 7 pints of Eight-Veg juice.

I knew I wanted to make some type of vegetable juice and cobbled together various on-line recipes to come up with this.

Eight-Veg Juice, ala O

 

  • (1) 7.5 pounds fresh tomatoes (I used small cherry, large cherry and a couple normal)
  • (2) 1 cups chopped celery & celery tops
  • (3) 1.5 large onions, peeled and cut into chunks
  • (4) 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • (5) 1 small beet
  • (6) 2 carrots
  • (7) 1 large clove garlic, peeled & chopped
  • (8) 6 jalapenos, roughly seeded & chopped, optional
  • 1/2 T sugar
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 t prepared horseradish
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 T Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
  • 1/2 t salt per pint jar - approximately 3 1/2 t

Wash all the tomatoes and put a large, non-reactive pot over medium-low heat.  I use my pasta pot.

Eight-Veg on left, pressure canner on right.

(The Eight-Veg is boiling away on the left, pressure canner on right.)

Start coreing the big tomatoes and chop in 8 or so pieces. quarter or half the smaller ones (no need to core if they are cherry) and start adding them to the pot.  Add them as you get a big handful and mash with a potato masher.  Keep adding tomatoes and mashing until they are all in the pot.

Wash whatever vegetables need to be washed, and start chopping and adding to the tomatoes.  Size doesn't really matter as it's going in the blender.  Also, you don't need to peel the beet or carrots.  Lots of flavor in them there peels. I like my veg juice spicy so I leave most of the seeds in my jalapenos.

Side note:  All of the vegetables actually came from our back yard garden.  As I was starting this project, I thought I might double the recipe so I asked D if he could bring me another beet and he said no.  I asked if that was because they were too small.  He said no, he just wanted the greens and if he brought me a beet, we wouldn't have the beet greens.  For the uninitiated, beet greens are basically chard with beets attached.  After I sulked a bit, I made the regular portion which was good as doubling it wouldn't have fit in my non-reactive pot.

Once everything is in the pot, raise heat to medium high & bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for about 35 minutes.  Make sure the carrots & celery are soft-ish.

Puree the whole lot in a blender and then... use your borrowed chinoise!!!

Chinoise over a pot.

Pour the puree from the blender into the cone, and stir with the wooden mallet.  That's it.  Really.  And yes, it is truly awesome.  After you have finished blending, pouring, and stirring (which all took five minutes with the awesome cone), you will have a second pot full of totally yummy vegetable juice/puree stuff without any seeds or skin because it is all stuck to the mallet.

Tomato covered mallet.

So yes, it's worth the investment.

Next you take pot number two, and add the rest of the ingredients except the salt (unless you can't stand it and want to know what it will taste like with salt, but then add only 1/2 teaspoon at a time while you continue tasting so that you don't over salt).  You add the salt to the jar if you trust me that it IS the perfect amount, right before you add the juice to can it.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Add all the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt, and reheat the juice.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to pint jars, or 1 teaspoon to quart jars (if you elected to not salt in the pot), and ladle in your lovely juice.  To process in the pressure canner which, as already mentioned, is my tomato canner of choice, and process like tomatoes.  In my case, that's the newly increased 15lbs for 10 minutes.  I'm sure that to be really safe, it should be longer.  If you want to process in a boiling water bath, you will have to add the necessary acid (lemon juice or citric acid -- I wonder if a chewable Vitamin C would do the trick?) and process like tomatoes -- I think that is somewhere in the 35 - 45 minute time frame.

As seen yesterday, here is the picture of the Eight-Veg juice on the left, plain ol' 'maters on the right.

 

Eight-Veg on the left, Tomatoes on the right.

And in case you thought this was over -- yesterday I did 10 quarts of tomatoes and learned something about leaching liquid, and 4 quarts of tomato sauce.  Just wanted to keep all 18 of you coming back for more.

-- O

P.S.  Here is a downloadable PDF of the recipe since I don't have one of those totally fantastic plug-ins that allows you to just print the recipe and I'm too busy canning tomatoes to write one.  Just think of me as old school and thank me for the condensed version in whatever form it comes in.

P.P.S.  Please don't leave comments -- Posting comments seems to make my posts disappear and I'm too busy canning tomatoes to just delete the comments section, or fix the problem.  Thanks!


The Worleys

The Worleys | permalink
07 August 2012 4:29 PM
Tomato Day

Sunday was tomato canning day.  I kept thinking in the midst of tomato guts that I would be able to put up this fantabulous blog post on what I go through on tomato canning day during my down time.  It's now Tuesday.  So much for down time.

This is what D presented me with.

Tomatoes

I know it doesn't look like many, but it's hard to get perspective.  See the two small tomatoes at the top of the picture on the lefterly side?  Those are normal buy them at Kroger or your local fruit & vegetable stand tomatoes.  The giant thing just up right of middle almost filled a quart jar -- so you get the picture.

First I get a pot of boiling water on the stove.  I put in five tomatoes at a time and boil them for 1 minute, or until the skins crack which is anywhere from 30 seconds to never and all that is left is mush inside pleather skin.  (The small red ones on the left underneath the normal sized are kind of like that).

Out of the boiling water they go, into a bowl of cold water until I can pick them up and skin them.

 

I keep the lid on the boiling water (left) so that it stays boiling and ready for my next batch of five.  Every ten tomatoes I have to reset the cold water bath from the sink, I don't bother with ice cubes 'cause it's not that crucial.  Next to skin & gut them.

I don't know if you can see my knife, but I call this the magic tomato knife.  No one is allowed to mess with this knife.  It can't be used to spread butter or cut meat or pry off lids or as a screwdriver.  This knife (which I think K bought at Kroger years ago when we thought we were going to be successful Internet company people instead of dot-busters) probably didn't cost more than $3.00 -- but it's perfect.  A little larger than a paring knife with a serrated blade that never needs to be sharpened.  Let me repeat that, NEVER NEEDS TO BE SHARPENED.  The person who breaks the tip off this knife will be deader than dead.  (I hope it's not me.)

 

Skinning & Gutting the Maters

After they have been skinned and gutted, they go in the jars.  See the wide green funnel at the middle top-rightish of the picture -- that is in the jar.  The tomatoes are so big I have to halve them and they slither through the funnel into the jar.  Keep filling the jar, and pressing on tomatoes, until tomato juice comes up and around the tomatoes and there is liquid all the way up to 1" below the top rim of the jar.  Voila.

 

Filled jars & tomato skins

On the left you have my seven filled jars and on the right, tomato skins in the dehydrator trays.  I read online -- yes really, online -- that you can dehydrate the skins, crush them to powder, and then they become the base for tomato paste.  Equal parts skin powder and water makes a lovely tomato paste which would be totally awesome since cooking tomatoes down enough to can paste takes 15 lbs of tomatoes 24 hours in the crock-pot to make 4 8oz jars.  Here's to skin powder.

Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart of tomatoes (1/2 t to a pint) and process -- that includes heating up the lids, putting on the rings just finger tight and putting them in your processor of choice.  If you are doing a boiling water bath, there are a bunch of instructions, including adding lemon juice or citric acid and if you are going to process that way, let the Google do the searching, however...

I process my tomatoes in a weighted (see little round thing on the island below, thanks Angie!) pressure canner.  Now for the disclaimer and all that.  Processing times are set in stone, unless you were raised in my house and then they are the laws of MB.  I process my tomatoes the way my Mama did and I would say her Mama before her except that I don't know if my grandmother ever canned tomatoes.  Instructions from my Mom say, I hear the collective canning community gasp behind me, 5lbs for 10 mins or bring it up to 15lbs for a jiggle and just turn off the stove and let it come back to normal pressure in it's own sweet time.

I have been reading up enough to know that acidity is important in a boiling water bath so I prefer the pressure canner for comfort.  However, I also know my processing times are outrageously short based on common wisdom.  So just this year, I've split the difference.  10lbs for 15 mins.  We've been eating the 5lbs for 10 mins for years, but this year I suddenly got nervous about the variety of heirlooms.  I'm not sure about the acidity of all the tomatoes D grows so just in case, I've bumped it all up a bit.  Mom always canned Rutgers -- and I've got Cherokee Purple & Brandywine & Hillbilly & the pink thing I can't remember the name of.  I'm not saying do it my way by any stretch.  Follow your canner instructions to be absolutely safe.

Vegetable Juice & Whole/Half Tomatoes

So there you have it.  If I have a chance tomorrow, I'll finish up with the other half of my Sunday:  Making Eight Vegetable Juice.  The Eight-Veg are in the pint jars on the left.  (I have pictures of the chinoise at work -- thanks Mom & Amy!)  Whole tomatoes, or should I say half & quarters, in the jars on the right.  A full and fulfilling day!

 


The Worleys

The Worleys | permalink
04 August 2012 2:25 PM
What is a chinoise or a china cap?

I usually take August off for canning, but have too much work to do that right now so I'm trying to cram all the canning in on the weekends. It's Saturday, and I was out looking for a chinoise or china cap this morning -- Mom doesn't want to lend me hers.  She's afraid she won't get it back.

I started off at Target -- there were literally 5 stock boys at in kitchen wares today and I asked them.  First I described it, "It's like a large metal cone with holes in it and you use a wooden bat like thing to push the tomatoes through the holes and the seeds stay inside."  They looked at me blankly.  One says sarcastically, "Well, that's helpful."  Then I said, "it's called a chinoise," and another answers, "Figures, it's foreign."

Then I asked for canning supplies, more blank faces.  The pointed me towards an 18 year old girl with multiple facial piercings -- I knew she was exactly the person to point me in the direction of kitchen items used to preserve food.  I asked where the canning supplies were hoping that if they had one, it would be near canning.  There were literally 5 jars and two lids plus some kind of hot plate thing and I still have no idea what that has to do with canning.

I felt like the brother from another planet.  On top of everything, I was also wearing my canning clothes -- old t-shirt and shorts with holes in them.  I really didn't look like someone searching for a fancy french strainer...

I just want to make some vegetable juice and pushing pulp through a fine mesh strainer with a spatula is a total pain.  After more strike outs at Bed, Bath & Beyond and the Walmart Phone & Website (from the car -- I was sick of driving around), I found a chinoise on the William-Sonoma website for $100.  It was mail order only.

So I called and begged my Mom, who agreed to bring it to me tomorrow, and told my husband that all I want for my next birthday is a chinoise.  Forget jewelry, I want a fine mesh conical strainer.  Maybe I am from another planet.

A fancy french conical strainer.  What is a Chinoise or China Cap.


The Worleys

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29 June 2011 1:35 PM
Greens Out My Ears

For over a month now we have been inundated with greens. Mustard greens, kale, collard greens, chard, spinach, red leaf lettuce, curly green lettuce, red romaine lettuce plus broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower (yes, we did manage to grow the most gorgeous purple cauliflower – roasted, it was to die for) and peas. It's really taxed my slim culinary yet vast Googling ability to come up with new, yet interesting ways to eat greens. Slow braised southern, D’s specialty, was great for about three weeks and then I quickly decided there had to be something else to do with all these greens, so…

I started blanching and freezing everything I could. This takes forever! Here are my trusted (I’ve never done this before) methods.

For the greens (I did mustard, kale & spinach)…

Soak in one sink. Move to the next sink and soak some more. Have to get all that dirt off and in spite of being refrigerated and soaked, there are some inch worms that really can’t die. T almost ate one in a salad. Virtual disaster except I think she’s forgotten! Usually T east more salad than the rest of us put together. She was back to normal the next day.

Okay -- to the puttin’ up. After two soaks, strip the center stem out, which also gives you another chance to find those pesky bugs. Grasp the bottom of the stem firmly in one hand. With the other, pinch your thumb and forefinger around the stem next to your other hand and pull firmly. Wherever it breaks is good. Toss the stem.

Steam your greens for three minutes and drain. Once cool enough to handle, start packing into freezer containers (I like the short square ones for this – about the size around as a package of spinach). Keep packing until you think you have about a frozen spinach sized block. Keep dumping any water out that comes to the surface while you press.

Freeze your greens blocks! In a day or two, you can pop the pressed greens block out of the freezer container and into a freezer bag (it will take up less room). Maybe even a paper bag for all I know since that is how the frozen spinach seems to come. I didn’t chop it since I figured I could do that when defrosted if I wanted it chopped. I’m going to try mustard greens this winter in a hot spinach artichoke dip – will either completely overpower the artichoke, or be yummy!

Note: I tried doing some of the greens loose on a tray so it would be easier to throw in stuff, but it takes up a LOT of room in the freezer so I went back to the greens blocks.

Peas are easy peasy!

Blanch green peas for 2.5 minutes or steam for 3 (I steam). Drain for a bit. Freeze on a tray in a single layer for a day or two. Move to a freezer storage bag. Do NOT use wax paper under your layer of peas – it sticks.

Broccoli (yum)

We have decided that we like the stems and leaves of the broccoli just as much as the heads so I’m freezing the whole kit & caboodle together. Wash (of course) and look for cabbage worms. Hate those things! Chop your broccoli stems smallish. I cut pieces diagonally to try and get greater surface area. The very large leaves I cut in half. Most of the broccoli I froze had small heads so I only had to cut in half or not at all to get a good freezing size. Steam for 6 minutes and drain. Place on a tray, more or less in a single layer, and freeze for a day or two. Package into your freezer bags. I can’t wait to try my Mother-in-law’s broccoli casserole with all the broccoli pieces. Not quite sure how to do it without pasteurized processed cheese product which is the secret ingredient, but we’ll figure it out. If it works, I’ll let you know.

 

 


The Worleys

The Worleys | permalink
22 March 2011 11:54 AM
Year Two Has Begun

The second year of our great food radicalization has begun.  We ate mostly what we had caned, frozen & dried over the winter.  Here is what we learned about what we will eat.

Fun foods from the Ball Canning Bible are great, but go a really long way and don’t need to be made every year.  Chutneys, relishes, and some jellies don’t seem to move from the shelf and as much as I like pickled jalapeños, they really do last forever.  Jalapeno salsa is by far the best, sweet & sour sauce is fantastic for a quick dinner, and a single family really can’t have too many pickles.

I always hated pickles.  They were too salty and I just couldn’t see what people liked about them.  When I was in High School, I went to the State Fair with my Mother.  While walking across one of the open spaces in front of the horse show building, Mom stopped me and pointed to a stage.  “What do you think they are doing over there,” she said.  My Mom loves everything about everything.  If you don’t know my Mother, you have really missed out on a very special eccentric.  She always looks perfect – hair, makeup & clothes.  She would never go to the grocery in jeans unless they looked more like Vogue then Urban Outfitters.  And she is constantly delighted by just about everything.  She also has a small sadistic streak that emerges at the most inopportune moments.

So off we head to the stage and, as you probably suspect by now, they are having a contest.  A pickle eating contest.

Mom:  You should enter.  It would be fun.
Me:  But Mom (I protest) I hate pickles.
Mom:  No you don’t
Me:  Okay.  Fine.

Why didn’t I protest more, you might ask if you haven’t met my mother?  It would have been pointless.  So off we go and I sign up.  When they handed me the giant dilly dill, I thought I was going to throw up.  I ate that thing so fast I almost swallowed it whole, just to get the sour salty taste out of my mouth.  To my surprise, I won.  My prize:  A two gallon bottle of Pepsi that I instantly drained, and a giant jar of dilly dills.  Yuch.

I’m not sure what possessed me last summer to put up 12.5 quarts of pickles, but the cucumbers just kept coming and I didn’t know what to do with them all.  I never realized a “real” pickle could be so darn good.  Nobody else in the family knew it either.  We fight over pickles now (the best had a cayenne pepper added to the jar giving them a nice kick).  Pickles are the snack of choice.

Moving on… K was right and we needed more blanched and frozen green beans (I hate making those!).  Not enough jars of whole tomatoes, but getting by with the sauce we made from tomatoes starting to go bad.  Don’t need nearly as many dried cherry tomatoes as we have and the dried jalapenos aren’t being used much either.  Dried squash makes a great addition to stews.  The beans we so deliberately shelled and dried are still in their jars waiting to be eaten.  We’re just not good about cooking beans yet.

To follow is my spreadsheet on what we put up.  More on the new growing season soon.

Canned Gal 1/2 Gal Qt Pt 12oz 8oz 4oz
Tomatoes

38




Green Beans

50 17












Dill Cucumber Pickles

5 15



Sweet " Pickles


4



Dill Pickle Relish


6
1

Sweet Pickle Relish


1
5

Achar (S Asian Pickle)


5



Roasted Red Peppers





9
Pickled Jalapenos


6 5 1

BBQ Relish


6












Tomato Sauce


1 15 5

Herbed Tomato Sauce


5



Italian Tomato Sauce


5



Pasta Sauce


5












Spicy Tomato Salsa


7



Jalapeno Salsa


7
1

Peach Salsa


1
4










Sweet & Sour Sauce


7












Strawberry Jam



5 14

Blackberry Jam



4 9

Apple Butter




4

Hot Pepper Jelly




6

Peach Pie Filling



4


Mystery Marmalade



2
3









Peach Chutney




7










Canned Totals 0 0 93 98 35 57 12
(Divided by) 1 1 1 2 3 4 8
Total Quarts 0 0 93 49 11.7 14.3 1.5 169









Dried Gal 1/2 Gal Qt




Cherry Tomatoes 2.5






Zucchini
1





Yellow Squash
1





Patty pan 1






Green Beans
0.5





Green Pepper

0.2




Smoked Jalapeno
1





Cucumber 0.5






Pinto Beans
1





Black Beans







Lg. Lima Beans







Sm. Lima Beans
















Potatoes






1/2 lg box
Butternut Squash






12
Pie Pumpkin






9
Fordhook Acorn






2









Dried Totals 4 4.5 0.2 0 0 0 0
(Divided by) 0.3 0.5 1 2 3 4 8
Total Quarts 16 9 0.2 0 0 0 0 25









Frozen Gal 1/2 Gal Qt Pt 12oz 8oz 4oz
Shredded Squash




31.5

Green Beans 1.5






Cherry Tomatoes 2






Strawberries 2






Blackberries 1






Corn 2






Mashed Blackberries


3



Mashed Strawberries


3



Cabbage Rolls 2






Basil Pesto




6

Cilantro Pesto




1










Frozen Totals
11 0 0 6 0 38.5 0
(Divided by) 0.3 0.5 1 2 3 4 8
Total Quarts 42 0 0 3 0 9.63 0 55









Grand Total Quarts 249

-O


The Worleys

The Worleys | permalink
26 July 2010 8:34 AM
Why I can't post.

So it's been almost a month (I think -- I can't keep track of time anymore) since our last post.  We've been spreading the word about slow food to anyone who will listen.  All visitors (3 from MI) have been subjected to our personal rant on food and good food and the importance of food.  You would think we didn't think about anything else -- we don't actually.  I have already spent an hour this morning planning dinner (homemade salsa, tequila & tomatoes in the crock pot with Mexican spiced stew beef, dried pintos in the mini-crock, kale and cheese enchiladas, Mexican mixed summer squash casserole).  We're living on tomatoes and summer squash and meat from the freezer.  Often, as we devour dinner after the most heartfelt prayer we have ever uttered, even D will say -- I didn't need the meat with that.  We've amassed a collection of great recipes for squash, tomatoes, greens.   And we're FINALLY on the tail end of salad.  And yes, I did get my BLT -- a couple actually.

I now have to spend a couple of hours, daily, canning, drying and freezing.  More things I've learned.  It's really very impractical to make and freeze the zucchini bread.  2 cups of quickly blanched & shredded zucchini don't take up much room in the freezer.  The bread, on the other hand, is huge.  As we eat the meat out, vegetables & stock go in.  If anyone wants to donate a large chest freezer to our cause, we'd be very grateful.

I've canned over 50 quarts of green beans (with much help from K).  This is actually a more daunting task than you would think because that means we have also de-strung and snapped over 50 quarts of green beans.  This was the haul on ONE day.

The green beans are not slowing down.  I was up at 5:30 this morning and canned another 7 quarts and when the pressure canner finally releases it's hold on the jars, I have another 7 quarts to do.  I also wiped down the 9 jars of pickles from yesterday and the 6 quarts of tomatoes.  The 10 racks of cherry tomatoes are still in the dehydrator, but I had to move things around for the zucchini/cheese tortilla chips.

Did I mention, the tomatoes are finally here.  D planted 10 different normal sized heirloom tomatoes and 7 different cherry tomatoes (also heirloom).  They are all planted next to each other and we think there might be some crazy cross pollination going on.

 

K is working 3 jobs now.  One where she gets a paycheck, 2-3 days a week at the farm, and then after hours canning/preserving class.  I'd be amazed if she doesn't wind up with multiple-personality disorder by the end of the summer.

T is having her own issues with the hill.  She has been going with D a couple days a week as well.  One night she got home famished.  I asked her, with all that food around, how could she possibly be hungry?  She said she hadn't eaten anything.  I told her she could eat anything she wanted out of the garden.  T was so excited, she thought she had to bring it all home.  So now lunch consists of about 5 cucumbers that she wipes off and eats while she's picking green beans.  And of course, another couple dozen handfuls of green beans.  For dessert, there is a weird lemon tasting weed that she almost inhales.  This is the most strange since she doesn't really like citrus.  How many 12 year olds do you know who would think that a cucumber with dirt on it is the best lunch ever?

T comes home so happy every time she goes to the hill.  She doesn't like getting up early, but she loves it out there.  D calls her his radio.  She sings and picks and weeds (sometimes and not well -- picking is more fun) for 4 - 6 hours and doesn't complain.  A couple weeks ago we were driving home and I asked her about the farm.  She's very conflicted.  She doesn't think she should like it so if you ask her, she says she doesn't.  But she knows she really loves it.  As long as she can sing, T is a total farmer at heart.

I spent a couple weeks, slowly, putting the books away from our built-in book case so I'd have room for the jars of vegetables.  I couldn't put everything away, of course, but I managed to clear off 5 shelves that are slowing filling up with food.

 

(Top Shelf - Green Beans, the rest are in the basement or my car on their way to S -- my Sister-in-Law of "don't be a baby" fame. Second Shelf - Tomatoes.  Third shelf - Dried tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, patty-pan, cucumber, green beans & green pepper.)

(Top shelf from left to right -- Pickled jalapeno, Green tomato pickles, green tomato chutney, green tomato relish, jalapeno jelly, mint jelly, apple butter, strawberry jam, blackberry jam.  The rest of the jam is in the basement.  Green tomato stuff is from the end of the season last year.  Second shelf - failed dill pickle batches 1 - 3 including al dente sandwich slices, sweet dill -- what's with that -- and slightly sweet dill.  Successful, I hope since I got 11 jars, pickle batch 4.  Tomato sauce & salsa.)

As we say every night at dinner -- and understand the truth of the prayer for probably the first time in our lives.

"For these gifts which we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful."

O


The Worleys

The Worleys | permalink
01 June 2010 3:47 PM
Great Strawberry Massacre of 2010

Saturday morning I took my friend Amy to a local Farmer’s Market.  Amy had never been to a Farmer’s Market before and so it was even more of a treat for me to be there with her.  She looked at everything with wide eyes.  I warned her to not let them get too big or she’d wind up with more vegetables than she could eat.  I, of course, didn’t take my own advice.  At the very first stall I bought a flat of strawberries, immediately changing my afternoon cleaning plans to make Strawberry Jam.

I’ve made green tomato chutney & relish, mint jelly, and blueberry compote, but in all my years of dabbling with canning, I’d never made strawberry jam.  It seems funny now – it’s the very first recipe in the Ball canning bible because when most people start canning, they start with this universal favorite.  I started with cranberry chutney.

K and I sat on the back porch hulling strawberries.  It brought back memories of summers in my childhood when I sat with my Mom shelling peas.  It was a more familiar memory for K.  When the strawberries appeared in Michigan, she and her Dad would go to U-Pick and get strawberries.  For hours they would hull the berries and then freeze them for the winter to use over ice cream.  K insisted we could freeze them without doing anything to them first except hulling them.  I had to look it up because this is all so new to me.  K was right.  (Lay the hulled berries whole out on a baking sheet and freeze for 2-3 hours.  Transfer to a freezer bag and get as much air out as possible.  A straw works well.)

Years ago when D and I went to buy our first TV, I measured the stand and we went to the mega-electronic-mart and I started measuring TV’s.  There was one about 1/3rd the size of the largest that would fit on our stand.  I thought it looked small.  D kept telling me it was really big.  I said, “No, it’s not, and it will fit.”  D, of course, let me win.  We got the thing home, and as I’m sure you’ve guessed, it was HUGE.  It dominated our little apartment living room.  I couldn’t believe I could have been that wrong about the size and you would have thought I’d learned my lesson, but I suffer from repeating past mistakes.

A flat of strawberries is a LOT of strawberries.  This flat was 8 quarts and it only took 2½ quarts to make 8 pts of jam.  So we made 16 pts of jam, froze 2½ quarts, and put the rest in some vanilla ice cream we made for Memorial Day.  We also learned about low-sugar pectin.

Here’s the run down.

**************************************

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

5 c crushed strawberries
3 T Balsamic Vinegar
1 T Lemon Juice
1 pkg powdered pectin
7 c raw sugar (measured into a bowl)

Get out your hot water canner (i.e. Large stock pot, pressure canner, pasta pot).  Put 8 or 9 8-oz canning jars in the pot.  Fill with water to cover the jars.  Heat on medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.

Place the little metal lids in a small pan with water to cover and heat on low heat.  Don’t let this come to a boil because of the rubber.

Mix strawberries, vinegar & lemon juice.  Whisk in pectin.  Heat on high heat until it comes to a full rolling boil (obviously, that takes forever when you’re waiting) stirring frequently.

Now stirring constantly, add the sugar all at once.  Continue stirring until it comes to a full rolling boil again.  When you can’t stir the boil down (it looks like it’s going to overflow your pot) boil for 1 minute and then take it off the heat.

Hopefully your jars have boiled by now and you splurged on a jar lifter.  If not, and you just got to this point reading, you may be out of luck ‘cause I don’t know how to get those extremely hot jars out of the boiling water without one.

Empty the water out of a jar back into the pot.  Fill the jar with jam leaving approximately ½ inch at the top.  Hopefully when you splurged on that jar lifter, you also thought that the wide mouth funnel might be a good idea.  If not, you’ll know to go get one before you do this again.

Fill all the jars (we needed 9).  Wipe the rim with a very hot wet washcloth to make sure you get all the jam off, and cover with the little metal lids that are also in hot water.  A bonus utensil is a long magnet.  T had one from some school project or another that I use, it’s not completely necessary, but makes it easier.

Screw on the screw part of the lid finger tight.  Put all the jars back in the pot, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat a little if it’s boiling over, but keep it at a boil and let it go for 10 minutes.  Take all your jars out and you should start hearing the “ping”.  We counted every pop that meant the jars have sealed.  They say it can take up to 24 hours, but mine are usually all sealed within 5 minutes.

**********************

Strawberry Daiquiris


Fill your blender with frozen strawberries.  Add vanilla vodka (‘cause that’s what we had in the house) and Agave syrup (better for you, right?).  Start blending.

Make sure there is enough liquid to not melt the spinny thing on the bottom of your blender that is now plastic but used to be metal which was much more intelligent or you will have to get out the blender attachment to your magic bullet to continue, and buy a new blender.

Keep tasting to make sure there is enough vodka & agave.  Add some milk like substance (heavy cream, half & half, whole milk, other milk products – in that order) so that it gets just a little creamy.

Repeat until all the frozen strawberries that were supposed to last through the summer are gone.

***************************************

Strawberry Vanilla Jam

6 c crushed strawberries (1 c more than the high sugar pectin called for)
½ vanilla bean split lengthwise
1 pkg Low-Sugar powdered pectin (because the Strawberry Balsamic was just too sweet)
4 c raw sugar (measured into a bowl)

Follow the directions for the Strawberry Balsamic, but make sure not to accidentally knock over one of the VERY HOT jars completely filled with absolutely yummy strawberry jam before it has the lid and ring on it.  If you do make this error, remember that it is VERY HOT and there is really nothing you can do except jump back quickly.  And if you don’t jump back quickly enough, soak your feet in ice water until the stinging goes down, but not until all of the jars you have left are in the canner and boiling away.  What’s a little blister when it comes to strawberry jam, after all?  Oh yeah, and K says you really can squeegee some of the jam off the cutting board, but the dog hair on the floor means that the rest is really just for the dog.

O


The Worleys

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