Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wood Chick BBQ Sauce for Canning

On this blog, I have written several times about my favorite recipe for barbecue sauce - it's one I tried from a Food Network recipe from an old episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay.   It used to be that I watched FN every night when I couldn't fall asleep, but I never watch it anymore.   It's turned into a network devoted to "reality" (I put the term in quotes because anyone that thinks that these shows aren't scripted is fooling themselves) chef competitions like "Chopped".   I hate these shows - I love the old kind of shows that they used to have on Food Network, like Paula Deen without the studio audience, or the Barefoot Contessa or Alton Brown.   They showed people cooking recipes that I might actually try - now I have to go to PBS to get my fix, or the Hallmark network, although I don't watch that much now that they canceled Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry.  

A couple years ago, I developed a version of the Wood Chick BBQ sauce for canning as part of a blog contest I was in called Tigress Can Jam, but I developed that recipe in the dead of winter and I used canned tomato puree.   This year, I finally got around to trying it out with actual tomatoes. The 2nd week of October, we had a good frost and I called my friend Ann Ruhlig to see if she had any tomatoes left and she said she had, and that they were "good for canning", which is a great euphemism to describe a tomato that isn't picture perfect...i.e. they might have a few bad spots.   I picked up a box of tomatoes the size of a ream of paper for $10, which is a great deal!  I got them home and cored them and cut off the bad spots, and followed a great technique I learned from Linda Ziedrich for making tomato puree for canning.  Core each tomato, give it a gentle squeeze one at a time as you put them into a stock pot   Cook the tomatoes until they are soft, then drain them in a colander.    Then process them through a food mill - I like to use the fruit and vegetable strainer attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer,but a Foley style food mill will work, too.    Tomato puree made this way will not be too watery, and the tomatoes don't have to be peeled first, which is a giant pain to do.  I am not one to can tomatoes straight up for this reason - it's too labor intensive to peel tomatoes.  I'll peel them for salsa and that's it!

The beauty of this recipe is that it can be doubled or halved or whatever, depending on how much tomato puree you might end up with.   Note that you must keep the ratio of the ingredients the same, or you may end up with a recipe that isn't safe for canning i.e. 10 cups tomato puree means you'd add only 2 3/4 c chopped onions, etc. 

Wood Chick Style Barbecue Sauce for Canning

20 c tomato puree
5.5 c. finely chopped onions
6 c. white vinegar
3.5 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. dry mustard
1 T. black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic
1 T. paprika
1/2 c. maple syrup
3/4 c. honey
1 T. ground cloves
2 T. canning salt
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. hot chili powder
2 T. allspice

In a large stock pot, combine tomatoes puree and onions and bring to a boil, boil gently for 30 minutes until onions soften, about 30 minutes. At this point add the remaining ingredients and boil gently stirring often until the sauce reaches the consistency of thin commercial barbecue sauce, about an hour. Prepare the canner and lids, and then ladle hot sauce into jars, removing bubbles and leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Process for 35 minutes.  Makes about 5 pints. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

PGT: Pickled Green Tomatoes

PGT with my dead tomato plants
Last Tuesday, October 9, we had a killing frost.   I ran outside in the waning light at dusk to get whatever tomatoes and peppers I could grab off the vines, and I was shocked at the quantity.  I had a very prolific cherry tomato plant that produced hundreds of tiny Roma shaped tomatoes this summer, and when I went outside to make a mad grab for the remainder which was about 5 pounds.   I wasn't convinced that cherry tomatoes would do well ripening in a dark box in the pantry.   These tomatoes were very firm, even when ripe, so I thought they'd make a good candidate for a pickled green tomato. 

I read in a recipe book that pickled green tomatoes are excellent on salads, and I am thinking ahead to January when good tasting tomatoes will be hard to come by.    So, I pickled my stash and the results came out excellent.   I started out by using a recipe from one of my favorite canning books - the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but I took some liberties by replacing the dill with some premium pickling spice I had from Penzeys, and I added some Ball Pickle Crisp to insure that these tomatoes don't get mushy in the jar.  The results came out better than I expected - tangy, spicy and firm.   I think they will be great on a salad this winter. 

PGT (Pickled Green Tomatoes)
makes 7 pints

3 1/2 c cider vinegar
3 1/2 c water
1/4 c pickling salt
5 lb green cherry tomatoes or quartered small firm larger tomatoes
14 cloves garlic
1/4 cup mixed pickling spices
Ball Pickle Crisp
In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt.  Pack tomatoes into hot jars and leave a generous 1.2 inch headspace.  Add 2 cloves garlic, 2 t pickling spice and a pinch or so of Pickle Crisp to each jar.   Ladle brine over tomatoes, wipe rim and place lids on jars and adjust bands.   Process in a boiling water bath for15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kraut 2.0

I put some kraut in the crock around Labor Day. and I had been concerned about it.  The cabbage had never generated enough of its own brine, so I had to add some.  This hasn't happened to me in all my years of kraut making; usually the cabbage is so juicy it will make its own with just the added salt.  Maybe it is because of the drought this year....I wasn't sure.   Then, it never really grew the grayish scum so common in wild fermentation; instead the brine took on a brownish hue.   So I gave it up for dead, and I bought a giant head of cabbage last weekend at the Dexter Farmer's Market for $2.  

My "root cellar" is actually the laundry room on the lower level of my Brady Bunch style split level....

The house used as the Brady house in L.A.

I never got around to starting my kraut over the weekend, and the giant head of cabbage was laying in the downstairs hallway.   Even though I was dead tired, I decided something needed to be done, so I started shredding.  When I went to dump the old kraut out, I decided to sample it and it was the BEST KRAUT EVER MADE!  NECTAR OF THE GODS! ! I am so glad I didn't throw it out I packed it into a couple half gallon jars and put it in the fridge and I put the new kraut down for the ferment.  Like the earlier batch, it seemed dry but I won't worry this time and I'll add some brine tomorrow if it hasn't made it's own.   (1  teaspoon canning salt per 1 cup water) Curious about how to make your own kraut?  It's the easiest pickle a novice can make....check out my blog post about how to do it.  

Vintage Art: Halloween Car

I got a copy of this postcard at Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village, which is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday. 
From  the Henry Ford Arte House collection: A jack-o-lantern character drives a fanciful watermelon automobile with a witch and black cat as his passengers. A bat flies alongside and a crescent moon is in the sky. Postcard made by Raphael Tuck & Sons Post Cards, about 1907-1908. Postmarked Oct. 31, 1908, Nebraska. A book, print and holiday card publisher in London, England, Raphael Tuck & Sons printed as well as imported colorful chromolithographed postcards. In the 1890s they opened a New York City office and their postcards proved immensely popular with the American public through the 1910s.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Beans and Politics

I get tons of political phone calls these days - most of them robocalls, some of them fake polls, some on behalf of a political party wanting my vote.  Ironically, I am rarely called on behalf of the candidate I am planning on voting for - it's the other guy who is wasting his money on me.   Based on the calls I receive and what I have heard about this presidential campaign, I am in a key market demographic..the white suburban mom "swing voter".   On paper, I look like I should definitely be voting for this guy.    I live in the right neighborhood, I make the right salary, my education and career indicate all bets should be "on" for this guy.  It's nice to be coveted, but it's come to the breaking point when I was awakened from a rare Saturday afternoon nap by a robocall.    For the record, a phone call (especially one made by a recording) will not change my vote.    I like to get a live person on the phone whenever I can.   I can usually stop them cold, midscript, by saying "I don't vote by political party, I vote by my morals.  Over the years, I have found that it would be rare for me to vote for a candidate from your political party.  On occasion, it has happened, but my conscience is my guide."  I've used this line in heated political conversations, too.  It always makes the other person stop and think....I can see the gears turning in their head (and sometimes a look of shame passes across their face) as they think "Am I voting with my conscience?"   Then I turn and walk away.  I am not sure if I changed their mind, but I get the satisfaction in knowing I made them think about their reasons for why they are voting for the other guy. 

In the days before robocalling, cookbooks were often used to reach out for the woman's vote.   In Ann Arbor, we are fortunate to have culinary historian Jan Longone and her culinary archive at the Clements Library.  I've never met Jan, but I have learned from reading about her that cookbooks were often used to gain favor among women voters.   I think it's time that these candidates quit the junk mail and phone calls and start sending this voter some cookbooks!   The other day, while indulging in one of my favorite Saturday morning pastimes, rummaging through the cookbook section of the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Sale, I found a Michigan Bean Commission cookbook.   Michigan is a top producer of dried beans.   There's no date on the booklet, so I am not sure when it was published, but my guess it must have been the early 60s.   My friend Ellen flipped open the booklet, and the first recipe we spied was this one:

Not to be partisan, on another page, I found this recipe:

Wouldn't it be great if all the politicians gave us their favorite recipes?   I wondered if our current governor had a favorite bean recipe?   I tottered over to the Michigan Bean Commission's website to see if Governor Snyder had one, but alas, there isn't one.   I always stock Michigan beans in my larder, so I decided to give some of these recipes a shot.  Our former governor George Romney inspired me to make bean soup a couple weeks ago, but I took a lot of liberties with his recipe...I added pork sausage instead of salt pork and threw in some baby kale.   It was great!  This weekend, I dabbled in baked beans.  I was surprised that John F. Kennedy, a Massachusetts native, would dare put anything "tomato-like" such as ketchup in his baked beans, that being frowned upon by East Coast folk, but I let his recipe be my guide.   I doctored it up a little bit....and they were the best baked beans I have ever made.   They were great to make on a cold fall Saturday....we will eat them tonight with sausage for dinner.  I think baked beans are always better then next day, and my husband likes to eat his cold (yuck).  I will heat mine up. 

Baked Beans

4 cups dry Michigan Navy Beans
1 smoked ham hock
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1 cup ketchup
2 T dry mustard
1 T salt
2 T Worchesterschire sauce
2 c water

Rinse and sort beans, cover with water and bring to a boil in a large pot for 5 minutes.  Shut off heat and let beans soak for an hour, drain.   Add hock and cook beans until soft over low heat, this takes about an hour or two.  Remove hock and drain again.  Dice up hock meat, add to beans.  Add remaining ingredients, cover and bake in a 250 F oven for 6 hours.  Add water if beans start to look dry.  Remove cover and bake for another hour. 

I am looking forward to trying this recipe on a scout campout as a "bean hole" recipe, as described by my vintage bean cookbook...

"Whether it's in the sand at the shore or in the woods while you are hunting, here's a great dish most outdoorsmen and all Boy Scouts know!  Use your favorite recipe with tender boiled beans ready for baking.  Dig a hole next to your campfire and put the Dutch oven down in it.  Before you retire for the night, put some hot coals and hot rocks on top and throw on a little wood.  Serve the beans for breakfast."