Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tomatillo sauce and marinated red peppers

I'm feverishly preparing jars of preserved fruits and vegetables to bring to the October 15 Berkshire Grown preserve swap at the GB Farmers Market from 11-1.  And am hoping everyone who comes across this post is doing likewise. 

Today, even though it's frightfully hot and muggy, I've made tomatillo sauce and marinated red peppers--most of the ingredients, I hasten to note, come from my own garden.  Which is quite the thrill.

The book Well-Preserved by Eugenia Bone was my inspiration for these recipes.  Her instructions are clearly written and her pix are delicious.

One interesting note.  She calls for bottled lemon juice, which I was taught to disdain when I attended the Peter Kump cooking school.  The instructors forbade us to use bottled salad dressing and bottled lemon juice.  The onus on using these things was so strong that I've avoided them completely ever since.  Yet Bone asserts that bottled lemon juice is better for preserving because its acidity is more consistent than that of fresh lemon juice. Who knew?

Tomatillo Sauce

2 1/2 lb tomatillos, husked and washed
2 medium mild fresh chiles (e.g., poblano)
1 small jalapeno pepper (optional, which I didn't use cuz I don't like the heat)
2 c chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 c bottle lemon juice
2 t salt

Preheat broiler.  Bring medium pot of water to boil.

Blanch tomatillos in boiling water, but don't overdo it.  Place blanched tomatillos in food processor and pulse to grind.

Place chiles on baking sheet and broil for about 5 minutes, turning as they blister.  Remove chiles and when they're cool enough to handle, remove skins, seed pods, and veins.  Chop chiles.  There should be about 3/4 cup.

Combine tomatillos, chiles, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and salt in medium pot and boil gently for 20 minutes over medium heat.

Have ready 2 scalded pint jars and their lids.  Ladle sauce into pint jars, leaving 1//2- 3/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rims, and set on lids.  Screw on bands fingertip tight.  Add enough water to cover jars by 3".  Process jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow jars to rest in water for a few minutes and then remove.  Allow to cool untouched for 6-8 hours.  Chek seals and store in cool, dark place for up to a year. 

Refrigerate after opening.

Marinated red peppers

4 lbs red bell peppers
1 c bottled lemon juice
2 cups white wine vinegar with 5% acidity
1 c evo
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 t salt

Place oven rack 7" from broiler and preheat broiler.  Place peppers on baking sheet and char them under broiler, turning often with tongs, so that they blister all over, about 20 minutes.  Let peppers stand until cool enough to handle.  Remove charred skin, cut peppers in half and remove seed pods.

Combine lemon juice, vinegar, evo, garlic, and salt in saucepan and heat just until boiling over medium heat.

Have ready 3 scalded pint jars ad their bands.  Pack peppers into jars and pour marinade all over them.  Using a butter knife (or chopstick), pop any air bubbles in the jars.  See that garlic slices are distributed evenl.  Leave 1/2 - 3/4" headspace in jars.  Wipe rims, place on the lids, screw on bands fingertip tight.

Process peppers in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow jars to sit in water for 5 minutes.  Then remove jars and let rest for 4-6 hours.  Check seals and store in cool, dry place for up to 1 year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Canning with pictures

Jonathan Hankin, one of the Berkshires' best photographers, came over yesterday to shoot some pix of Julia Erickson, Annette Grant and me doing some canning.  Some of them are so splendid I need to share them.  I hope you enjoy them.

Fruit butters

When hours and hours of canning seem too much for you, try fruit butters, that make up quickly.  Last weekend I made apple butter, banana butter (no kidding), and pear butter.  All easy.  And relatively quick.  At least in canning terms.

All three of these recipes are from "Tart and Sweet" by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler.  I was a bit leery about this book after making their recipe for tomato paste that called for 6 lb of tomatoes to make 1 gallon of tomato paste (3 cups doesn't equal 1 gallon in my household).  But the proportions for their fruit butters turned out accurately.

My favorite is the banana butter, but all three win the taste test.  Have fun.

Banana butter

3 1/2 lb bananas, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1/8 t ground caradmom
1/8 t ground cinnamon
Pinch salt

Place ingredients in medium pot and cook over med-high heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching, until bananas resemble a thick butter.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Check for air bubbles, wipe rims, and seal.  Process for 10 minutes.  Yields 3 pints.

Apple butter

4 lb apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2" wedges
1 c maple sugar
1 c sugar
1-2 ground cinnamon
1 t grated nutmeg
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t ground cloves
2 star anise pods (I didn't use them)
Juice of 1 lemon

Place all ingreds in a large heavy-bottomed pot and bring to simmer over med-high heat, stirring frequently.  Lower heat a bit and continue to stir.  The apples will begin to break down after 20 minutes, but mashing them with a potato masher speeds that up.

After about 1 1/4 hours, take pot off heat and blend mixture in pot w/immersion blender or food processor.  Blend until mixture gets to your preferred consistency (whatever that means -- ed note). 

Return mixture to pot, if necessary, and cook over med-low heat for another 20 minutes, or until butter mounds on chilled spoon and is thicker than applesauce.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Check for air bubbles, wipe rims, and seal.  Process for 15 minutes.  Yields 4-5 pints.

Pear butter

6 lb pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 c sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon

Place pears and sugar in large heavy pot and bring to simmer over med-high heat, stirring frequently.  Lower heat and continue to stir.  Pears will begin to break down after 10 minutes, but using potato masher speeds things up. 

After about an hour, remove pot from heat and blend in pot with immersion blender or in food processor.  Blend until smooth.

Return mixture to pot, if necessary, and cook over low heat until it reaches a thick consistency.  When butter is nice and thick, test for doneness using a chilled spoon.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Check for air bubbles, wipe rims, and seal.  Process for 10 minutes.  Yields about 7 pints.

I halved both the apple and pear butters, but made all of the banana butter, mostly because it was so intriguing.  I've now become a daily devotee.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Peaches peaches everywhere

Last summer I made perhaps 24 quart jars of honeyed peaches, using them as "hostess" gifts when invited to a friend's for dinner, and plying my own guests with them as part of dessert.  Peaches were so deliciously plentiful last summer that I also made canned peach salsa.  And then turned to canning honeyed pears when the peaches ran out.

So this year I was wildly anticipating a stellar honeyed peach canning season, wanting to make even more than last year to bring to the Berkshire Grown preserve swap on Saturday Oct 15 at the GB farmers market (please mark your calendar now!).  And just recently I came across a killer recipe for peach-ginger jam that is most delicious, so I had need of lots of peaches.

Thus, imagine my consternation at not being able to find good peaches after the end of August.  Not at Guido's.  Not at Taft Farm, not at the farmers market.  I've spent a fortune on hard peaches that promised to ripen well, but instead ripened badly.  Kind of like sponges.  So my cache of honeyed peaches is much smaller than anticipated, but I've got a dozen half-pint jars of utterly divine jam.  This has been an expensive lesson in making sure that next year I do the peach canning in mid-late August.

My friend Jane Kasten, probably the most intuitive cook I know, taught me how to can fruits and vegetables with the recipe below for honeyed peaches.  I'd always been leery of canning, feeling I'd do it wrong and end up poisoning either myself or guests.  Jane persuaded me that canning is basically simple, which it is.  Time-consuming, yes, but that's a different issue. 

The peach ginger jam comes from  I made a small batch in early August, and made a lot of friends happy when I gave them a jar.  Because you're cooking the peaches down, they don't have to be as perfect as the ones bathed in honey water.

Jane Kasten's honeyed peaches

10 lbs peaches
1 ½ qt water (6 c)
1 ¾ c honey

With a sharp knife, make an “X” at the bottom of the peaches. Blanch in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, then put in colander and run cold water over them.

Peel and pit. Cut into halves or quarters and put into sterilized* jars 1” from top.

Meanwhile, while water is boiling in hot water bath pot, boil the water and honey until latter is dissolved. Pour over peaches to same level.

Put lids on and then rim, but leave rim loose-ish. Place in hot water bath and make sure bottles are covered by about 1” with boiling water. Boil for 30 minutes. The 30 minutes is from the time the water reboils after the bottles have been put in.

When finished, remove from water bath and place on counter. Wait to hear the lids pop. If they do, screw rims on tighter and then store jars for up to one year. If they lid don’t pop, just place in refrigerator and eat within a reasonable time.

*To sterilize jars before filling, wash with soap and water, and dry with towel. Then put in 250 oven for about ½ hour. Or, run through dishwasher.

P.S. Try to make sure that you buy “freestone” peaches. “Cling” peaches do just that to the pits, rendering them quite difficult for canning.

Ginger peach jam from

Serves 12 half pint jars plus some for the fridge
Sterilize your jars and put two spoons in the freezer. Bring the peaches and riesling to a boil in a big heavy pot. Add both gingers - I microplane the fresh ginger straight in there. Add the cinnamon. Simmer and stir for about 10 minutes until the peaches are soft. You may want to mash them a bit with a potato masher to break up the chunks.

Whisk the pectin into 1 c sugar. Add the sugar / pectin and bring the jam back to a boil. Taste it for sweeteness and add more sugar if you need / want. Add in the butter and simmer / stir for another minute or so, then drizzle a bit of jam onto your frozen spoon. Run your finger through it, if the path stays clear your jam is done!

Fill each jar to the first thread - this leaves 1/4 - 1/2 inch head room. Clean and dry the rim, place a dried top on (those were in hot water, right?) and secure them with a ring. Process / boil the jars for 10 minutes then remove them and let them sit undisturbed until completely cool - 12 hours minimum. That's it!