Saturday, August 28, 2010

Preserving Food Best of....

• Best place to buy canning supplies locally: Meijer, Downtown Home and Garden, garage and estate sales!
• Best place to buy pickling crocks locally: Barnes Hardware, Downtown Home and Garden
• Best price on canning lids: Buschs
• Best website to learn about canning: National Center for Home Food Preservation at University of Georgia
• Best place to get a pressure canner checked yearly: Washtenaw County MSU extension. It's free!
• Best canning book: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
• Best way to test a jar seal: Store without the band and tap the lid with a spoon
• Best way to keep canning cost down: grow your own fruits and vegetables or visit U-Pick farms directory:
• Best local contests for canning: Downtown Home and Garden Jam and Pickle contests, Chelsea Fair
• Best item to try for first time canners: pickled green beans
• Best kitchen gadget for a home canner: food processor
• Best way to keep jar bands in good shape: don't store jars with bands on them and use plastic caps on opened jars
• Best way to chat with other local home canners: A2 Home Canning yahoo group
• Best foraged item to can at home: crab apple butter
• Best stove for home canning: Gas, but you can do it on an electric or a glass cooktop too. It's easier, faster and more energy efficient to can on a gas stove.

Canning peaches

Today at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, I will be demonstrating how to can peaches.   Here's how I am going to do it:

Makes about 8 pints

8-12 lbs peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, treated with Fruit Fresh to prevent browing, and drained.
1 batch hot honey syrup

To make hot syrup:
1 c. honey
1 c. white sugar
4 c water

Bring to a boil over medium high heat just until sugar is dissolved, keep warm until needed.

To hot pack peaches, warm peach halves one layer at a time in hot syrup for 1 minute.  Using a slotted spoon, pack cavity side down in jars leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.  Ladle hot syrup in jar to cover peaches.  Remove any air bubbles with a shop stick or cocktail stirrer, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Add a couple mint leaves, if desired.  Place lids on jar, adjusting until bands are finger tight.  Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No factory farmed eggs = no worries

Don't you just love this poster?  I found it online at a collection called "Beans and Bullets/Of Course I Can: A Collection of War Era Food Posters" from the National Agricultural Library. A few years ago, I decided to buy only locally produced eggs.   They really do taste better.  I'm really glad right now that I know my farmer  given the recent outbreak of salmonella at factory farms.   My only gripe is that fresh eggs are really hard to peel.   I found this technique online to make peeling easier:

  • Make a pinhole in the large end of the egg, place the eggs in a single layer in a saucepan, and cover with cold water to an inch above the layer of eggs.
  • Place a lid on the pan and bring eggs to a boil.
  • Remove the pan of eggs from the burner, leaving the cover in place, and allow to sit for 15-18 minutes, adjusting time up or down 3 minutes for larger or smaller eggs.
  • Immediately remove eggs from the pan of hot water with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water for one minute.
  • In the meantime, bring hot water to simmering. After one minute in ice water remove eggs back to the simmering water for ten seconds. The ten second interval is important because this allows the shell to expand without expanding the rest of the egg.
  • Peel immediately by cracking the shells of the egg all over. Roll each egg gently between hands to loosen the shell. Peel, starting at the large end of the egg.
  • The peeling may take place under cold running water to help wash the shell off the egg and to minimize the shell breaking into the white.

Hope this helps you to enjoy eggs straight from the farm more often! What to do with all those hard boiled eggs?  How about spicy pickled eggs, which are an Upper Peninsula bar snack, or deviled eggs, a surefire potluck pleaser?  I just whipped up some deviled eggs for a happy hour get together tomorrow night.  Everyone loves them!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kale Quinoa Salad

The other night at my book group, our hostess Lisa fed us the most delightful salad made of raw kale.   She picked it up from the Wednesday Ann Arbor Farmer's Market where it is sold by Living Zen Organics, a cafe operated by Buddists in my home town of Hamtramck.   It was wonderful!  I was intrigued that raw kale could taste so good.   The other day, I was talking to a local farmer who shares a stall next to the Buddhists at the Wednesday market, and she said that they were devoted into a raw food diet.   I can't say that I have ever considered embarking on a raw food diet.  In fact, the one woman I have ever met that is a raw food devotee struck me as someone using it as a disguise for her eating disorder.  However, this salad is delicious! 

I jotted down the ingredients off the container and developed my own version of this great salad.  It enabled me to try out cooking with some new foods - quinoa and shoyu.   Quinoa is a grain that tastes literally like nothing.   It's the tofu of the grain world - I'd suggest using it where you'd like to add some fiber to a dish without affecting the flavor.   I am not sure how to describe shoyu.   Shoyu actually means "soy sauce" in Japan, but evidently there are several different kinds of shoyu that can be found there.   I bought one I found at Hillers.   I think you could get by with using regular old soy sauce and calling it a day.  Note that some kinds of kale taste more "kale-y" than others.   Go for the mildest kind you can find!

Kale Quinoa Salad
1 lg. bunch leafy green kale
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
handful of raw almonds (optional - they don't add much to the salad and tend to fall to the bottom of the bowl)

3 T sesame oil
1 T olive oil
1 T shoyu or soy sauce
2 t. agave nectar (if you are not eating a raw diet, a teaspoon of sugar would be fine)
juice of one lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Cut the kale into bite size pieces, stir in quinoa and and almonds.   Dress liberally with dressing - this will lbe more than needed for one batch of salad.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can Jam August: Salsa #5

This month's Can Jam challenge was the obvious choice for August....tomatoes.  For many people, canning tomatoes is what canning is all about. Folks will wax poetic about putting tomatoes up in jars just like Grandma used to do, etc. Maybe it is because I am Polish, not Italian, but I really don't see the point to it.  Canning tomatoes are a lot of work - all that peeling, seeding and chopping.  There are so many commercially available brands out there that taste great and are a good value.  I never can anything that I can't make cheaper and better myself.  It's not worth my time.    
That being said, canning tomato based condiments is something I often do....the price of really wonderful artisinal condiments is out of this world.   Condiments make great gifts! Right now, it is hard to imagine that the holidays are just around the corner.  This summer in Michigan has been the hottest one I can remember.  The mosquitoes are vicious!   Every day it feels like I am living in the tropics....temps over 90 most days, humidity in the 90% range.   It's too hot to even think about Christmas presents.   Besides the usual overload of zucchini, it seems we have a bumper crop of the best sweet corn I have ever tasted.  And everywhere you look, tomatoes are overflowing.   It's hard to know what to do with them - the best answer for me is to make condiments.    After all, December is just 4 short months away.  Can it be?

Sadly, summer really is on it's way out already.  The other day I was walking down the street and I got a distinct whiff of fall, even though everything around me was a lush green. My black walnut tree is already starting to shed its leaves.   My daughter has started marching band practice because it is almost football season.  It's hard to believe that soon I will be freezing my butt off in the bleachers at the high school watching this halftime show based on Michael Jackson's Thriller.    For now though, I bought a half bushel of paste tomatoes and I have to figure out what to do with them.    Note to self: a half bushel is too many, even though they were only $12 from Ruhligs.   I still have a ton left.  I will probably make them into bruschetta in a jar...this recipe I've made a ton of times before and it is a great one.   I also made some slow roasted tomatoes a la Orangette.    Of course, the BBQ sauce I made for the alliums Can Jam back in March is an excellent choice, too, but I still have lots left over.    This year, I decided, is the year I find a canning recipe for salsa that I really like.   

For years, I have canned salsa, which is one of the most difficult and time consuming things to preserve.   In fact, after canning salsa in 2006, I reckoned that canning salsa is a lot like going through the stages of grief, i.e. shock, denial, anger...etc.  Check out this blog post I wrote about it.  Like grieving, salsa making is best to do with friends.  This year, all my canning buddies were busy on the day that I decided to foolishly buy the half bushel of tomatoes, so I was on my own.   

Truth be told, I have never been thrilled with any of the canning recipes I have for tomato based salsa.  It always comes out too watery.   This year, I wanted to find a recipe that wasn't watery.  I noticed there were lots of postings about "Annie's Salsa" on the interweb, which is a salsa recipe that has tomato sauce and tomato paste in it.   Also, at the National Center for Home food Preservation site, there is a tomato/tomato paste salsa recipe that looks quite similar.   Somehow, the addition of canned tomato paste or sauce to a canning recipe seems a little like cheating.   But I was determined to develop a recipe that was less watery than the others I tried.  I was picking apples yesterday to make pectin stock with my friend Vivienne, and we were lamenting about it.   I suggested that if we wanted to, we could prepare the salsa in two days, spending the first day making the tomato sauce and paste from scratch.   However, since salsa is labor intensive, I give you special dispensation to just use the store bought canned stuff.   After all, as I said before, there's lots of excellent and inexpensive commercially available product on the market.   

The results of my labor is Salsa #5, which is the very best home canned salsa I have ever tasted.  In the picture is also Salsa #6, a much easier salsa to make, but it isn't as good.   Stay tuned for a future post about it.   I originally called it Salsa #5 simply because it is 5th tomato salsa recipe I tried, but I think I am going to keep the name because it reminds me of this Lou Bega song.  Ladies and gentlemen, Salsa #5.....

7 lb. paste tomatoes, peeled, chopped, seeded and drained
1 lb onions, peeled and chopped
1 lb peppers (mild or hot or a mix) stemmed and chopped but include the seeds and membranes for max flavor).  I used a mixture of Hungarian Hot Wax, Serrano, Jalapeno)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 t ground cumin
2 t ground pepper
2 T canning salt
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 c sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce - low salt variety or make your own from scratch
2 8 ox. cans tomato paste - or make your own from scratch

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil for 10 minutes.   Pour into hot jars and process in a boiling water bath  for 10 minutes.   Makes about 8 pints, give or take.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cherry Basil Vinaigrette

This year, I missed preserving any of Michigan's sour cherries. The season is always so swift, and it is right around the 4th of July holiday, so usually work is really busy as we are preparing for the weeklong automotive shutdown we Detroit Three employees all traditionally take the first week of July. Then, we are usually packing and camping for the week. It leaves little time to make jam! This year, the good people of Smucker's sent me a sample of a new line of jams they are sugar sweetened (no HFCS) and made with local fruits. So, I tried out their Orchard's Finest Michigan Sour Cherry Preserves. I really enjoyed them on toast, and I thought I'd try them in a salad dressing. We had it for dinner tonight - I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

Cherry goes so well with basil. Last summer, I was sous chef to Tammy Coxen at one of her Tammy's Tastings events to raise funds for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen's Earthworks urban farm that feeds the hungry in Detroit. I baked a sour cherry pie, and Tammy made a tasy Thai Basil ice cream and they tasted wonderful together. So, I tried out a vinaigrette made with the sour cherry preserves and some of the tons of basil I currently have in my herb garden. I mixed it all up in the cute jar Smuckers is using for their preserves. The kids have only left me a little bit to experiment with! The jam takes the edge of the vinegar, and the licorice-y basil pairs so well with cherry. It's a great combination!

Cherry Basil Vinaigrette

3 T cherry jam
1/4 c red wine vinegar
10 basil leaves, rolled into a cylinder vertically and sliced thinly horizontally
2 T olive oil
1/2 T kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake until well mixed.