Summer in a Jar

Winter’s coming, so now it’s time to gather in the bounty of the garden and store some summer in jars for those big batches of chili and the bone chilling days to come.   This process will be repeated for several weeks until the first frost ends the tomato harvest.  Then we’ll pick all the green ones and make tomato jam and green sauce.

Canning tomatoes or tomato sauce is not difficult, just time-consuming and a little messy.  The first batch consisted of somewhere around 3/4 of a bushel of tomatoes (I can’t find my scale so this is a guess based on the size of the basket.)  First of all gather your canning equipment.  You don’t need anything fancy to can tomato sauce, just an old-fashioned water bath canning pot

Water Bath Canner
Water Bath Canner

Sterilized mason jars and lids (you can do this in the dishwasher on the normal wash, sterilize and hot dry cycle) and a jar lifter.

Jars and Jar Lifter
Jars and Jar Lifter

and some ripe tomatoes (don’t have to be perfect because you’re going to peel them.)

Tomatoes
Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To begin, put a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a simmer.  Trim the stem end of each tomato and cut an X on the bottom.

X marks the spot
X marks the spot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drop the tomatoes into the simmering water for about 4 minutes.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl or sink of ice water for about another 4 minutes and place in a bowl.  The skins will slip off easily.  I remove the seeds at this point because they interrupt the flow of my tomato sauce.  Just use your fingers to open the side of the tomato and squeeze out the seeds.  Put the squeezed tomatoes into the food processor.

Into the boiling water
Into the boiling water

 

I never said it was pretty
I never said it was pretty
Kitchen helper squeezing tomatoes.
Kitchen helper squeezing tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in food processing
Adventures in food processing

 

 

 

Puree the tomatoes and pour into a large pot (not aluminum)  or dutch oven.  Bring up to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer.  Continue to simmer until the sauce reaches the consistency you want (about 1-2 hours).

Simmering sauce
Simmering sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill the water bath canning pot up to the fill line and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a strong simmer.

Salt the sauce to taste (I don’t recommend adding any spices.  Do that when you use the sauce).  Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each sterilized jar (I used bottled to ensure consistent acidity).  Ladle the sauce into the jar, leaving about 1/4 inch at the top below the screw top line.  Wipe the rim on the jar with a damp cloth, place the lid on the top of the jar and screw the band on hand firm but not too tight.  Place the jars into the water bath canner and process on a strong simmer for about 20 minutes for quart jars.

Remove the jars and place on a dry kitchen towel to cool.  Don’t mess with the jars.  As they cool, you should hear a “ping” which signifies that the jars have properly sealed.  Some jars will seal immediately, some may take a little while (do not mess with the jars).  After 24 hours when the jars have cooled completely you can re-tighten the bands slightly (or remove them completely).  The lids should be sealed at this point and the bands are not required for storage, but I leave them on anyway.  The lids should be slightly concave which shows that they are properly sealed.

Ready for winter.  Well talk about the pickled beans later.
Ready for winter. Well talk about the pickled beans later.

Summer in a jar and ready for those cold days ahead.   E Sign

Fresh Bread and First Fruits

Well, summer did finally arrive and in the garden the squash vines have stopped shivering and the eggplants are growing almost as fast as the weeds.  It’s been a while since I posted mostly because we’ve been trying to focus on the garden.

August

This week we harvested some of the first vegetables: turnips, zucchini, some beans, and one fat little cucumber.  The collards and chard are ready for the first picking and there are a few blushing little tomatoes.  It’s the first gathering, lughnasa (or lammas if you prefer).

Photo by E. Broughton
Photo by E. Broughton

In honor of that tradition I’m baking a special ancient grain bread using spelt and quinoa.  I’ve been experimenting with spelt because it’s higher in protein than modern wheat and lower in gluten, for those of you who have a problem with gluten sensitivity.  It’s also very tasty with a warm nuttiness but not too dense.  I used my basic recipe as follows:

Easiest Bread in the World

In a large bowl start your yeast.

  • 1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
  • ½ cup applesauce (you could use strained prunes in a pinch or honey)
  • 1 tablespoon yeast (or just throw in the whole package – I hate leftovers)

Mix and let stand for 10 minutes.  Then add:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2  cups spelt flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Stir together.  In the same bowl you mixed it in, knead well (8-10 minutes), add all purpose flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Put the dough in a greased loaf pan, cover with a sheet of oiled plastic wrap and let rise to double in size.  Brush with milk or half and half, sprinkle quinoa over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

 

Photo by E. Broughton
Photo by E. Broughton

No messy floured boards, no extra rising time, and I’ve never had it turn out less than perfect.  I know you’re going to hold me to that.

While the bread is baking, it’s time for first fruits.  The little zucchini is just perfectly creamy so I’m making a mixed salad with vinaigrette.

Zucchini, Apple and Green Pepper Salad

Photo by E. Broughton
Photo by E. Broughton

Chop about 4 small zucchini, add 1 chopped apples, a small green pepper, chopped, and a handful of diced red onion.  The secret with red onion is to drop the diced pieces into a bowl of ice water and let it soak for about 10 minutes before you add it to the salad.  The vinaigrette is very simple:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped basil (dried works too).
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine in a glass jar and shake well.  Pour over the salad, toss and refrigerate.

But, there more bounty to enjoy.  The turnips were great and came early even with the rain.  I planted a variety called White Lady and they are beautiful.

Creamed Turnips with Dill

Peel and cube the turnips and in a saucepan in just enough water to cover.  Simmer until the turnips are just fork tender (don’t overcook).   Drain.  Add enough vegetable stock to cover and add teaspoon chopped fresh dill and a tablespoon of butter.  Stir a tablespoon of flour into a cup of cold milk until smooth.  Add to the stock and turnips and simmer until well blended and creamy.   Yum.

Photo by E. Broughton
Photo by E. Broughton

 

 

Apple Crisp and Broken Cookies

Sometimes success is a matter of redeeming your mistakes with a good save.  I was trying to make refrigerator cookies and wound up with a log of great tasting dough that hardened into concrete and crumbled when I tried to slice off cookies to bake.  It was sad but the only thing you can do is throw the whole mess out or try to re-purpose the mistake, kind of like IBM and post-it notes.  Earlier in the week I had over-bought an enormous bag of huge Red Delicious apples and needed to find some way to use up all that bounty before it spoiled.   Photo by Elaine Broughton
I had already made apple sauce and still had apples left over.  Then it occurred to me that the crumbling cookie dough was about the texture of streusel topping.  Put those two thing together and you’ve got Apple Crisp.

I took the cookie dough, put it in a zip lock and smacked it with the rolling pin until I achieved streusel consistency.

Photo by Elaine Broughton
Photo by Elaine Broughton

In a big bowl I peeled and sliced about four big apples and tossed them with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Then I arranged them in a buttered baking dish. with some dollops of coconut oil (which makes everything taste better).

Photo by Elaine Broughton

Photo by Elaine Broughton

Now, for the “coup de cookie”.  I sprinkled the whole thing with the cookie dough streusel mixture and popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Photo by Elaine Broughton
Photo by Elaine Broughton

There is nothing fancy about this dessert which is part of its charm.  It’s homey and comforting on a cold, rainy day, and topped with a little ice cream or topping, you just feel warm and proud of yourself for snatching happiness from the jaws of a sad kitchen mess.  I’m going to have a big bowl of it right now.

 E

Bean Day

This is my first post in quite some time due to some medical issues, but I’m back and full of beans, so to speak.

One of the most nutritious and least exBlack and White Beanspensive ingredients, and something I always keep in my pantry, is dried beans.  Canned beans are convenient, but ounce for ounce, dried beans are less expensive and you don’t have to worry about what the can is lined with, or how much salt is in the beans.  So I make beans the old fashioned way, sort, soak and simmer.  It’s not as complicated as you probably think.  About once a month, usually on a weekend, I have Bean Day.   Red and White BeansThe night before I sort through the beans I have on hand:  red kidney, white beans, black beans, pintos or even black eye peas.  I measure out a couple of cups of each, sort and rinse and put into bowls.  Cover the beans with water (about 2 inches over the beans) and soak overnight.

The following morning I set up the slow cookers (I have two) and if needed, the cast iron Dutch oven and/or the stock pot.  I rinse and drain the beans and put them into the pots, separated by type, and throwSoak the Beans in a bay leaf.  NO SALT TIL THE END.           

The hard part is over.  Now you just turn on the cookers and the burners, let them come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and go do something else like work on that novel you’re writing (you could do laundry, but what fun would that be).

Check on the beans periodically to make sure they haven’t boiled dry.  Burnt beans cannot be saved, so pay attention.  It takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours to cook the beans to “just tender” depending on the pot (slow cookers take a lot longer than cast iron).  When the beans have reached the tender stage, add some salt, turn off the pot and let the beans rest for about 15 minutes.  I like to drain off the cooking liquid which I save for soup stock, that way the beans can be used for salads or other side dishes as well as soup.  Portion the cooled beans into labeled quart size freezer bags (for larger families you can use a larger bag).  Lay the bags flat on a baking sheet and put in the freezer for a couple of hours.  At that point you can more easily stack the frozen bags and save freezer space.  For a minimal amount of work you have beans ready to add to any dish, you’ve saved some money and you don’t have to worry about extra unwanted ingredients.

By now you’re starving so here is one of my favorite bean dishes:

Two Bean and Kale Soup

Two Bean and Kale Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (which you can also make and freeze in flat bags)
  • 7 cups stemmed, chopped kale (about 1 bunch from the super market or a frozen bag from last summer’s garden)
  • 2 cups white beans (great northern or cannellini)
  • 2 cups red kidney or black beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or savory

Preparation

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté until tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and garlic and cook for about a minute. Stir in 3 cups of the vegetable broth and kale. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer until kale is crisp-tender.

2. Place half of the white beans and remaining 1 cup vegetable broth in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Add pureed beans, the remaining white beans, kidney or black beans, and pepper to soup. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5-10 minutes. Add the remaining teaspoon salt, or to taste, vinegar, and herbs.