Sunday, August 25, 2013

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

Ratatouille is the sangria of summertime sauces - it's a great way to use whatever you have kicking about. I've written before about my miracle sangria - I use this recipe whenever I have some fruit that needs to get used up.  This year's gardening has been a little strange - it's been a cool summer, so everything has been thriving well, except my tomatoes, which need warmer nights to ripen.  Plus, I've got some kind of terrible fungus, and an invasion of tomato horn worms, which also like green peppers, evidently.   And who knew that the deer would eat serrano peppers - really?  I thought they'd be too spicy for them, but I was wrong.

This year, I've got a lot of eggplant and basil.  We don't really eat a lot of eggplant around here - of course, eggplant parmesan would go over well, as would anything that is fried.  But I am not sure I want to go through the effort.   I thought about ratatouille, which would be great to freeze for winter time (no safe way to can it because of the squash).  I borrowed a trick from Cook's Country magazine, that suggests roasting the vegetables first to keep it from getting too watery.   Feel free to adjust proportions of whatever you have too much of in your garden - for me, I didn't have any red peppers yet so I skipped it.    Since tomatoes weren't doing so well for me this year, I used my favorite brand of local canned tomato products - Red Gold.   they sent me a case of tomato products earlier this summer, and it came in handy for this recipe.  Also, they are having a contest this summer for a Big Green Egg Smoker on their Facebook page....meander over there and "like" them to get a chance to win.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 zucchini (about 8 oz each), quartered lengthwise and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix all ingredients together, and spread out on 1 or 2 baking sheets.  Heat the broiler, and broil each pan 10-15 minutes until slightly browned.    Mix the vegetables with:

1 (28 ounce) can Red Gold diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

and put in a slow cooker.  Cook on low at least 4 hours - I have let it cook for 8 hours and it is still great.  

Before serving, add:

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve with crusty Italian bread. or on pasta or chicken.  Makes about 8 cups.

So,  what are you making from your garden's bounty?  Leave a comment in the comment section, along with your email address (either in the comment or send it to me via email at momskitchen at comast dot net), and I will include you in a drawing for a tasty Red Gold product pack.   I will pick a winner on Labor Day, Sept. 2.  You must include your email address to win!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Canning Salsa

Today, I made 24 pints of Salsa #5 from 2 pecks of tomatoes.  This salsa recipe is the best home canned salsa recipe ever!  Everyone loves it - I tinkered with a Ball recipe after reading lots of online recipes that included canned tomato sauce and paste.  Unless you know really know what you are doing, it's not safe to tinker with canning recipes ever, especially salsa ones. I started with a canning safe recipe and tweaked the seasonings to get this one tuned in.   It really does make a great salsa This year, I used the food processor for the hot peppers and onions.   Also, I found out that I didn't need to cut an x in the bottom of each tomato before peeling them by dipping them in hot water.  I didn't can the peaches yet, I will do it tomorrow.  Peaches need to be perfectly ripe or it is hard to get their skins off, plus I am totally tired.   It took me 4.5 hours to can this salsa; I got the tomatoes this year from Goetz Farm at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market because my farmer friend Ann's tomato crop didn't do well this year.   My own tomatoes have a horrible fungus, too.  The pickles were some additional that I made with my friend Ellen earlier this week,  9 more half pints to add to my larder in addition to the ones I made a few weeks ago.  They are my version of a famous local pickle called McClures.   I have never been able to make enough salsa or pickles for my family - this year, we ran out of salsa in January.   

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My favorite canning books

Last week, I taught a canning class at Whole Foods Market, and I think it was the best group of students I have ever had - everyone had really thoughtful questions, everyone actively participated, no one stole anything* and they all laughed at my jokes.

*one time, someone stole another participant's jar of strawberry jam.  I've had people steal my cookbooks, too!    

I have a ton of canning books, both vintage and recently published,  I promised my students I'd publish my list of of my favorite canning books, so here it is....

Best All Around Canning Book: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

If I was lost on a deserted island with only one canning book (and all my canning supplies),  this is the one book I would want to have with me.   It's perfect for beginners, and it has plenty of interesting recipes for the more advanced home canner. 

Best book for a novice on a budget:  Blue Book Guide to Preserving

Published since 1909, this book is ideal for first time canners.   It is relatively inexpensive and features water bath, pressure canner, freezing and drying recipes.  

The Wonder Twins:  The Joy of Pickling and  The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves by Linda Ziedrich


These books, together, provide tons of creative water bath canning recipes.   I have learned so much from both of them.   

The 2 new books I acquired this year...I'm not sure if they are going to be my favorites, but  they are off to a good start.   First is Preserving Made Easy: Small Batches and Simple Techniques by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.   It features some new ideas for recipes and I like the small batch aspect of it.   The second one - Saving the Season: A Cook's Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving by Kevin West a book so beautifully written and photographed that I have been reading it all summer before bedtime.

Read this review:

 “Part cookbook, part manifesto, and part crypto-memoir . . . literate and lyrical and fanatically well researched. . . . The kind of cookbook you can read for pleasure. . . . It has more than 200 recipes but is shot through with little essays, too—about preserving, food gathering, gardening, family.”  —John Jeremiah Sullivan, Lucky Peach

Kevin West is my kind of canner - he loves Linda Ziedrich's books like I do, and also flames Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber, which is a canning book I would definitely put on my "do not recommend" list.   It's very difficult to follow - must be something was lost in translation from French.   When I was in France earlier this summer, I saw some of her preserves in gift shops.  

Kevin West's book is so lovely, it even has poetry in it.   I'll close with this one:

"Blackberry Picking" by Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Happy canning!