Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge September: Mustard Seed

Porch Swing in September
by Ted Kooser
The porch swing hangs fixed in a morning sun
that bleaches its gray slats, its flowered cushion
whose flowers have faded, like those of summer,
and a small brown spider has hung out her web
on a line between porch post and chain
so that no one may swing without breaking it.
She is saying it's time that the swinging were done with,
time that the creaking and pinging and popping
that sang through the ceiling were past,
time now for the soft vibrations of moths,
the wasp tapping each board for an entrance,
the cool dewdrops to brush from her work
every morning, one world at a time.

As much as I hate to say it, summmer is winding down now.  In the morning, there is a coolness in the air.  I haven't done half the things I said I'd do this summer.   School is starting in a week - pretty soon it will be football games and marching bands and leaves burning and trick or treats.   Maybe we need a little heat?

This month's challenge is mustard seed.   What can you make to help us remember summer for a month longer.   Please post your recipes Sept. 21 - 27 to be included in this month's roundup - and help me out by putting "Spice Rack Challenge: Mustard" in your subject line.  Happy cooking!

The best way to boil eggs

At our house, we eat a lot of hard boiled eggs.  I put them in tuna salad chopped up, the kids sometimes like to eat them for breakfast while they are still hot with some salt on them.   My "go to" potluck appetizer is deviled eggs served with capers for garnish.   We often make big batches of pickled eggs to snack on.      I usually get my eggs from the farmer up the road. The problem is that really fresh eggs are often hard to peel.  I used to buy old eggs at party stores because old eggs are much easier to peel.  However, after watching Food, Inc., I gave up eating store bought eggs.

I've found a better way to do it - steam the eggs instead of boiling them.   Simply place the eggs in a vegetable steamer and heat the water until it's boiling and steam them for 15 minutes with the lid on for hard boiled eggs.  Then just peel them by cracking the shells gently under cold running water.  While old eggs still peel the easiest, using this technique makes peeling even the freshest eggs much easier.  Sometimes, the white might still stick to the shell, but maybe only one egg out of a dozen.

All this talk of eggs is making me hungry for breakfast!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge Round Up August: Cumin

dog hill kitchen

Maggie serves us up some Fragrant Beef Salad.   I adore Middle Eastern food and I can’t wait to try this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers.

eating Floyd

Rebecca gets her man to eat southwestern food again with her tomato lime salsa.  If you are into canning, Rebecca (aka Morwen on chowhound) is a wonderful inspiration.

Fruitcake or nuts

Shayne gives us Warda’s muhammara.  It’s a winner!  I think I have known Shayne and Warda forever in the blog world.  They were there at the first get together of what is now known as  the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers,   of course we didn’t know then what we know now is that we’d still be getting together.

Good food Michigan

Bee brings us cumin rub steak which would be great on the grill right now!

Jonski blonski

Curtido is going to be a great new way for me to serve cabbage.  Thank you, Tricia.  You rock!

A million grandmas

Mary’s Moroccan spice mix would be great on just about anything!  Hope you are feeling better soon, girlfriend!

Mothers kitchen

Hands down the best canned salsa recipe around….ladies and gentlemen, Salsa #5.

Prospect: the pantry

Tomato scented chickpea soup with socca is a cumin double header

Chez hates

I know that this British Columnbia inspired cumin spiked salsa is just what I need this time of year.   Thank you and here’s to your man’s new beginnings….

Snowflake kitchen

Spiced and roasted chickpeas are going to be just what we all need come fall.  Thank you!  P.S.  Sign me up as another Penzey’s fan!

Thinking out loud

Surely your spice organization has certainly paid off in the resulting creole seasoning?   Fall is for organizing as well as fried green tomatoes, and the creole seasoning is the offspring of both, don’t you think?  What a great pre-fall recipe to share….

Tracy’s living cookbook

Are you looking for a new way to serve soy?  Edamame Hummus with Spiced Pita Chips is a great way to make it happen.

 Una buona forchetta

Soon, it will be football weather, and I can’t wait to try this favorite chili recipe for slow cooker on football Fridays.  Actually,  in my house, it is football Thursdays (underclassmen) and Fridays (varsity football games = marching band!)

Stay tuned in the next few days for the September challenge!

A bit delayed

Look for the spice rack challenge round up sometime this weekend.....I'm pretty swamped this week.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Canning Demo at Ann Arbor Farmer's Market:Salsa #5

Here's what I will be canning tomorrow at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market.  Want to learn how to can?  Stop by and check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation before you get started.  I first published this recipe last year at this time....check out the blog post for some more details.

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. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chiltomate: What to do with all those tomatoes

Have I mentioned that I am volunteering with our high school garden project?   One of the challenges of the garden is to keep things going until school starts.  In Michigan, it is mandated that school starts after Labor Day - one of our previous governors did a really smart thing and signed a bill into law that prevented school from starting until after Labor Day to save our tourist industry here in Michigan.  The teachers unions really like starting school in mid August so more days could be taken off during the school year, but as a parent, I really like starting after Labor Day so much better!  Summer always seems like it doesn't last long as it is - I'm glad to wait until September to say goodbye to summertime and start anew. 

However, the first year of our school garden has lots of tomatoes ready right now, and so I brought home a bag of them, along with various and sundry peppers so they wouldn't go to waste.   We are having the most ferocious mosquito infestation I have every experienced here in the Mitten (they do get pretty bad in the Upper Peninsula, though) and my trip today to the garden resulted in me running back to the car covered in bugs.   I had some habaneros in the bag, and some yellow Hungarian peppers.  At home, I had some other mildly hot peppers ready to go, too.   But I have no cilantro - I can never get cilantro and tomatoes at the same time here in Michigan, so I went on the search for a salsa that didn't require it.

Last month's Saveur featured some salsa recipes - I am always inspired by Saveur, but sometimes their recipes don't work out well.   They featured a salsa recipe called chiltomate, which is from southeast Mexico.  It didn't include cilantro, which was a bonus to me!  I gave it a try and I am a convert.   It is super easy - all you have to do is roast the vegetables in the onion and throw them in the blender.  No chopping required!  Here's my take on it this evening - I like to eat it served warm on chips, but it would be great on chicken or eggs, too.  Also, it's tasty cold, too.

Mom's Kitchen Chiltomate

15 small tomatoes, cored
5 mild to medium peppers
2 (or more) really hot peppers, like habaneros
6 cloves garlic
1 large onion
olive oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 500 F.  Line a cookie sheet with foil, and place cored tomatoes and peppers on the sheet.   Bake 10 - 20 minutes until peppers are blackened.  Remove peppers and place in blender with the raw garlic   After another 20 or so minutes, when the tomatoes are darkened and cooked through, remove the pan from the oven and add the tomatoes to the blender with the peppers and puree until smooth.

Dice the onion small and saute in the oil until soft, about 10 minutes.  And the puree and heat for another 10 minutes.   Add kosher salt, small amounts at a time, until the salsa tastes perfect.  You will know when you've added enough salt - the flavor just will pop out at you. 

Your questions answered about pickles

Hi Mom (hope I can call you that) -
I just came across your blog on canning & McClure's pickles - yum!!

My mother-in-law used to can the BEST pickles but never wrote down the recipe and she passed in 2006.  Needless to say, it's been a LONG time since I've had a decent pickle.  I have been toying with the idea of trying to make some so your blog has intrigued me.

While I can follow most of what you are saying, some of it is very foreign to me - like "place in a non reactive vessel - a pickling crock or large ceramic bowl works great.  Mix 1/2 cup pickling lime mixes with 1 gallon water.  Be careful not to inhale pickling lime dust. "  The bowl - Can I just use a large dark Teflon pot like I make pasta in? Not sure what NON REACTIVE means?  Also I looked up Mrs. Wages pickling lime - comes in a packet.  So I just add 1/2 cup of the packet mix to water?

I'm sure these sound like simple or even stupid questions to you but hey, I need to ask someone.  I want good pickles, don’t I?  Knew you would understand!

Thanks for helping me out!!!


Hi Fran....don't worry about asking questions - ask away!  What kind of pickles did your mother-in-law make?  There's basically 2 different kinds of cucumber pickles....fresh pickles and fermented pickles.  Fresh pickles are made in a vinegar and salt brine, and they are preserved "fresh" by canning them in a boiling water bath or even kept in your fridge in a jar.   McClure's pickles are a great example of a fresh pickle.  Fresh pickles can be sweet, like bread and butter pickles, or sour.   Fermented pickles are a different species - check this recipe for kosher dills, which are made in a pickling crock and ferment for a long while before they are ready to eat.  When the fermentation stage is done, they can be preserved by processing them in a boiling water bath, or just keeping them in a jar in your fridge.   Preserving them in the fridge slows down the fermentation, but allows you  to reap the naturally occurring probiotics of fermentation.  The bottom line is, you don't buy products like Activia, you can grow your own.   That's what I do - every fall - in a pickling crock in my laundry room.   Examples of fermented pickles are sour kosher dills like you might get in a deli, they are olive colored and generally less crisp, or sauerkraut or kimchi.

To learn how to can food properly, there's no better place than the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  It will take the mystery out of the lingo like "headspace", "process", "adjust the bands", "boiling water bath canner" etc.   

For your first time making pickles, I'd recommend making a fresh pickle, because it's easier.   My favorite recommendation for a first time preserver is to make pickled green beans, because they are simple and beans are easier to pack in a jar than cucumbers.     I don't recommend using pickling lime for a beginning canner, either.   Pickling lime, or calcium oxide, is absorbed into a vegetable or fruit where it combines with it's natural pectin to form calcium pectate and thus a crispier pickle.  However, it requires lots of prep and careful rinsing and using a non-reactive (i.e. non metal) container.   There's a new product out there called "Pickle Crisp" made by Ball that is lots easier to use.   Here's how I'd use it to make a McClure's style pickle:

McClure's Style Fresh Dill Pickles

8 lbs small pickling cucumbers, sliced in half or quarters longwise
28 grape leaves
28 cloves of garlic (about 2 heads) peeled
16 dill heads, with sprigs (or 14 t. dill seeds)
Pickle Crisp
Optional 12 small dried hot chili peppers
5 cups vinegar (white or cider)
6 c. water
1/2 c. pickling salt

Place 2 cloves garlic. 2 grape leaves, 2 dill heads and 2 hot peppers and 1/8 t. Pickle Crisp in the bottom of wide mouth pint jars.   Pack with as many pickle halves and spears as possible tightly in each jar.  Prepare a brine with vinegar, water and salt by placing in all ingredients and stirring and heating until brine boils.  Fill jars to 1/2 inch headspace, place lids and bands and hand tighten. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Happy canning!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Your questions answered about pectin

Educate me, please .. .. .. .. what is the function of pectin in jam and jelly recipes? Is it for flavor, texture, thickness, preserving? Thanks ~ Chris

Pectin is what makes jams and jellies gel or "set up".  It's soluble fiber.  Fruits high in pectin are citrus rinds and apples.  I save all my used citrus rinds in the freezer to use again later for jam and jelly making.  I have a zip lock bag in the door, and after I juice a lemon for something, or have a wedge in a beverage, I just throw the rind in that bag.  Also, be sure to save apple cores and peels, which could also be used to make pectin.

Here's how...

Pectin Stock from Citrus

One-half pound peel
1 pint water
4 tablespoons lemon juice.

Cut or grate the yellow from peel for a less pronounced lemon flavor. Pass the peel through a food chopper. Weigh, add lemon juice, mix, allow to stand 1 hour. Add 1 pints water. Let stand 1 hour. Boil gently 10 minutes. Cover, let cool, place in flannel jelly bag and allow to drain. Press to remove juice. Drain juice through a clean bag.

To give the pectin test, pour 1 teaspoonful of jelly stock into a clean cup. Pour into cup a teaspoon of isopropyl alcohol. Gently shake. Pour into a spoon. If the pectin shows a solid clot, your pectin is rich enough for jam and jelly making. (don't drink this - it's poison)  If this mass can be pulled out with a fork and it forms a heaping gob on the tines, it is concentrated enough to jell perfectly. If it can be picked up by the fork, but mostly hangs from it, then it will jell loosely. If it cannot be picked up by the fork in mostly one mass, then the concentration is too weak for it to jell. In this latter case, you just have to boil it down to increase the concentration of the pectin. Note: the alcohol test doesn't work right if the pectin is hot. 
To use in a recipe - use one measure of sugar to one measure of pectin stock. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 cup sugar, you'd use 1 cup of this pectin stock.  This can be stored in the freezer or canned.

Here's a great blog post I found on the subject from a foraging website. 

Happy canning!