KitK Cooking Extravaganza

 

This post is sadly delayed.  Rachel and I spent a glorious couple of days together early in August.  We went to see my friend Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen perform at Columbus’ Pecha Kucha.  We explored the Columbus Zoo with the Philosopher’s family.  We ate fabulous breakfasts at Skillet and Northstar.  All in all, I would say it was another Karma in the Kitchen reunion success.  And like last time, Rachel and I cooked.  A lot.  I roped Rachel into joining me in the sweaty world of canning.  I ordered extra tomatoes from The Sippel Family Farm to make tomato chutney.  I scoured the local peach and blueberry options to make jam.  And I purchased tons of Snowville milk and cream to make homemade ricotta.  Oh yes.  We stayed busy in the kitchen!

First, we prepped tomatoes for tomato chutney.  We used this recipe as a base, but we significantly reduced the amount of sugar (by half).  Here’s what we ended up doing:

8lbs of tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (the easiest way to do this is score an X on the bottom of a tomato, drop it in boiling water for a few minutes and then put in cold water.  The skins should pop of easily.  Then remove the core and chop.)  , 2 heads of minced garlic, 2 chopped onions, 1c brown sugar, 1/2c white sugar, 3c apple cider vinegar, 3 limes, zested and juiced, 2T fresh minced ginger, 4t dried hot pepper flakes, 2t cumin, 1c golden raisins chopped roughly by hand, and salt and pepper to taste.  We combined the ingredients in a stockpot and simmered all day.  I think it took about 5 hours for the chutney to finally thicken.  Stir it often, as the sugar will make it scorch easily.  We ladled the chutney into 1/2 pint jelly jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace.  They were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars of chutney.

 

Next, Rachel and I prepped peaches and blueberries for jam.  We peeled, cored, and roughly sliced 10 pounds of peaches (save the peels!).  We added 2 quarts of blueberries, washed well.  3 lemons were zested and juiced and added to the fruit.  We added sugar to taste, I prefer a slightly tart and less sweet jam.  So for our fruit, we added about 5 cups of granulated white sugar.  The fruit simmered happily on the stove until thickened.  I used a bit of Pomona’s Universal Pectin near the end to finish firming it up well.  Test for firmness by putting a bit of jam on a spoon and popping in the freezer for a few minutes.  When you have reached your desired firmness, you are ready to can.  We used 1/2 pint jars, placed 1t of bottled lemon juice on top of the jam after leaving 1/4″ of headroom, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars and a good sized bowl to go with our dessert that night!

I know you are trying to figure out why you should save your peels.  Well, here goes.  We simmered the peach peels with sugar and water making a simple syrup.  We then combined the strained syrup, fresh mint, sparkling water, a dash of fresh lime, and Middle West Spirits vodka together for a fabulous after dinner cocktail.  You should definitely save the peach peels!

Lastly, we made a batch of homemade ricotta using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.   Her instructions are so clear and easy to follow, I am not going to retype them for you.  But I am going to insist that you drop what you are doing, grab some local milk, and MAKE RICOTTA CHEESE.  Immediately.  Rachel and I were sneaking bites while the ricotta was still straining.  We just couldn’t help ourselves.  We decided that a piece of bread, topped with a smear of ricotta and some tomato chutney was a fabulous way to begin our dinner.  The play of the sweet and spicy chutney against the creamy goodness of the ricotta kept us reaching for more.  And more.  Happy faces all around that evening.  And into the next days lunch.  And breakfast.  And snack.  And dinner.  Oh ricotta.  You made us so happy!

 

 

 

 

 

A quick glance at the table reveals that I also made my infamous tomato tart.  Now, I bet you wish an invitation to our dinner party had graced your door, huh?

But I haven’t even covered dessert yet!  You should know that a meal like this requires a beautiful, tasty, butterfat-laden dessert.  Unfortunately you will have to go without a picture, but trust me, this recipe for a ricotta cheesecake should not be ignored.  The only changes to the directions were made because the recipe made more filling than my pie pan allowed, so we filled two small oven-safe glass bowls also.  We also popped an oven safe bowl filled with water in the oven to produce a nice, steamy environment for our baking dessert.  You should immediately forget everything you ever thought you knew about cheesecake.  Cream cheese has nothing on this heavenly light, slightly lemony dessert.    Perfect for leftovers!  We dolloped some peach and blueberry jam and ate to our hearts content under the stars of an August night.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

Ah Rachel.  Never is my kitchen karma so great as when I have the perfect cooking partner.  It’s comforting to know she’s willing to experiment with me.  Tasting something again and again.  Tossing in a little of this and a little of that until we both find our own recipe nirvana.  We work well together also, Rachel and I.  While I chopped onions and minced garlic for the chutney, she was peeling and coring tomatoes.  While she peeled peaches and washed blueberries, I was at the store for a few forgotten items (ok, ok.  I ran to the store twice in 20 minutes for twice forgotten items!)  What’s great is that cooking is the perfect way to catch up on the last few months.  A phone call here or a gchat there is great, but nothing beats a sweaty, sticky day in the kitchen to learn about new friends, new apartments, new jobs, and old stories.

This is going to be my last post for awhile.  The Philosopher was offered a job at UNC Chapel Hill and I am currently packing up our belongings, getting estimates from moving companies, and selling our collected stuff!  I hope to be back to blogging and cooking by the beginning of October.  Our new city has a year-round farmer’s market that is apparently in the top ten nationwide.  I would certainly say that the south sounds welcoming to me!

Unfortunately, we are also having to say goodbye to our dear friends and neighbors.  While Columbus is a great town for many reasons, the people whose lives have intersected ours have truly made this city our home.  From old colleagues, to new classmates, neighbors, children, doggies, and coworkers, we have been fortunate to have our lives filled with amazing people that have loved us and supported us.  We have many warm memories and many homes that we plan to visit again soon.  A piece of our hearts and our lives will be left in this town and we truly have you all to thank for it.  While we welcome the challenge of forming a new community in NC, we will continue to stay connected to those people who made the Bus our home for 2 years.  Thank you all!  We love you dearly!

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Sweet Potato and Apple Butter

Last weekend the Philosopher, my brother and I joined our neighbors for apple-picking.  I wish I had taken my camera, but I will have to try to describe the joyful, sunny morning spent in the orchard.  Our neighbors have two young children and we met some of their friends and children at the orchard.  First, I quickly realized that picking your own apples is cheaper.  It was all-you-can-eat while picking, $10 for a 10-pound bag, and $16 for a 20-lb bag.  We certainly got our fill of apples that morning.  It was great way to figure out how many of what kind we wanted.  The children were delightful to watch as they strained to reach an apple, took a bite and quickly smiled.  The Philosopher piled children on his shoulders so they could reach the larger apples at the top of the trees.   It makes me happy to think of children being so involved in the process that brings food to their tables.  The games of who could pick the most or the biggest or the highest apples were friendly.  There was no shortage of laughter or smiles that morning.  Full bellies, bright sunshine, and great community bring people together again 🙂

Last week, the orchard had Melrose, Rome, Suncrisp, and Winesap apples available.  The winesaps were absolutely the whole group’s favorite.  The skin was tight, giving way to a crisp and slightly tart, yet pleasantly sweet inside.  The other important thing to note is that they did not charge you by the weight of the bag, only the size.  Therefore, I made sure my loot was bulging the bags at their seams.  When I got home, I realized I may have been a little ambitious.  Three of my largest mixing bowls did not hold the entirety of our collection.  After a week of apples for snacks, apple pie, apples and tofu, cooked apples with ice cream…there were still a ton of apples on my table.  Obviously this called for another adventure into canning.  Thankfully, Edible Columbus offered me the simple and satisfying answer.  I had been thinking about making apple butter, but this recipe combines apples and sweet potatoes for a sweet punch of fall.  Thankfully, my dear friend Jack and the Beanstock was visiting and didn’t mind helping to peel, slice, and consume bits and pieces of apples.  Since I had far more apples, I took some generous liberties with the recipe.  First, I decided that I would match the amount of apples and sweet potatoes (4 cups of each).  I also decided to use the apple cider we purchased at the orchard instead of the water the recipe calls for.  Then, I doubled the entire recipe.  Finally, when I realized I still had apples for days, I began adding more apples until I ran out of room in my biggest soup pot.  I opted to use my stove, since my slow cooker is far too small for this job.  I kept the burner set to medium-low and stirred every 5-10 minutes to make sure I didn’t scorch the pan.  Soon, what began as apple soup, turned into a hot, viscous apple lava.  I think it took about 6 hours total (I am not completely sure, since I had to stop after about 4 hours, refrigerate the pot and start again the next day).  I skipped their step of blending the butter, I found the consistency to be perfect.  Canning was easy using the directions from Edible.  I currently have canned one dozen jelly jars, but have about half the pot left and no more jars so I think I am going to have move onto pints.  No matter what, there is an upcoming biscuit-making party in my kitchen because I can’t wait to smother them with this sweet potato apple butter the minute I pull them out of the oven.

Original Recipe for Sweet Potato Butter, by Edible Columbus:

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into slices about ¼ inch thick
2 cups apples, cored, chopped and peeled
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir. Cook on high until sweet potatoes and apples are soft (about 4–6 hours). Put in a blender or food processor and mix until well blended. The mixture will be a little thicker than apple butter. This recipe cans well; see page 49 [or click here] for hot-water bath canning method. Put sweet potato butter in hot jars, seal with fresh lids and process for 10 minutes in boiling water. You can keep canned sweet potato butter in your pantry, or if not canned it will hold in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Marinated Roasted Red Peppers

I love roasted red peppers.  You know the ones.  They come in little jars?  They always look so pretty and taste so sweet and tangy?  The ones that cost a fortune and are gone in an instant? Right, those!  I love them on sandwiches and blended into hummus.  I also like to eat them straight out of the jars!  I wanted to make them.  I began saving the red peppers from my CSA (this was the hard work; not eating them raw while at the farmer’s market!).  My mother brought me two huge yellow-orange peppers she had grown and I knew it was time.  I found a few recipes online and improvised a little.  Here’s what I did:

10 peppers (red, orange and yellow) of assorted sizes (some were huge)

I roasted the peppers on the grill until they had a slight char on their entire skin.  When I roast peppers I usually put them in a container to steam off the skins, but in my research I found out this could affect the texture of the peppers.  I spread them out to cool instead.   While the peppers were cooling, I made the brine:

1 c of bottled lemon juice (do not use fresh lemons, the acidity is too variable)

1 1/2  c of white wine vinegar (5% acidity)

1/2 c white vinegar (5% acidity)

1 c olive oil

1/4 c white sugar

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 t salt

I added these to a pot and heated to a low boil on medium high heat.  The recipes all called for 2 c of white wine vinegar, but I didn’t have enough (oops, poor planning on my part!) so I used the 1/2 c of plain white vinegar and 1 1/2 c white wine vinegar.  Also, I doubled this, because I was worried I wouldn’t have enough brine.  I ended up having way too much.  If you have 10 peppers, this should be an appropriate amount of brine.

When the peppers were cool enough to touch, I removed the skins and seeds and sliced them into long, 1-2 inch wide slivers.

I prepared two types of  jelly jars (1/2 pint), lids, and a boiling water bath.  When the brine was boiling, I packed the peppers into the jars.  I minced up about 5 additional cloves of garlic and added a small handful to each jar.  I then covered the peppers with the brine.  Before putting the lids on the jars, use a knife to remove any air bubbles and fill with more brine as needed.  Leave 1/2 inch of headroom in the jar and put on lids and rings.  I boiled the jars in a water bath for 15 minutes.  I removed them and cooled for a few hours on my table.  All the jars sealed nicely and I now have 10 half-pint jars of peppers.  Oh the possibilities!  I will open them in a few weeks and let you all know how the turned out.

Don’t they look pretty?

Peach Jam

I know that this post has been delayed, but with my summer break coinciding with the height of the harvest, I have been busy!

As mentioned here, I have thoroughly enjoyed the peach harvest this past year.  My mother used to can apple and peach jelly and would freeze strawberry preserves.  When I asked my mom recently, she mentioned that she had a hard time ensuring that the peach jelly fully set up (I remember this, it would like peach-flavored syrup).  I did some research and found Pomona’s Universal Pectin which is made from citrus peels.  Pomona’s uses both pectin and calcium water (included in the kit) to help firm up your jam or jelly.  Pomona’s allows users to make jams with little or no sugar (i.e. a variety of alternative sweeteners such as Splenda, fructose, sucanat, xylitol and stevia can be used).

I purchased local honey at the farmer’s market for my peaches.  A recipe guide was provided with the pectin.  Since this was my first venture into the world of jam-making I followed it pretty closely.

Peel, pit, chop and mash the peaches.  (I only mashed some of the peaches.  I wanted some larger pieces of fruit.)  I doubled the recipe, so I had 8 cups of peaches.  In a pan I added 1/2 c of lime juice to the peaches and 8 t of prepared calcium water from the packet.  This mixture was stirred well and brought to a boil.  Meanwhile, 1 1/2 c of honey was mixed in a separate bowl with 6 t of the pectin powder.  Once the fruit was boiling, I added the honey mixture and stirred vigorously for at least 2 minutes.  I returned the fruit to a boil, added a sprinkling of cinnamon, and removed the fruit from the heat.

I prepared jelly jars by washing them and keeping them warm while making the jam.  I also warmed up the lids in hot water.  When the jam was ready, I filled the jars to ~1/4 of an inch from the top.  I ensured that the rims were clean before attaching the lids and rings.  All the recipes provided by Pomona’s boil in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Remember to always allow the jars to fully cool and ensure that they are all sealed.  Any jars that are not sealed offer an excuse to eat immediately!

All of my jars sealed completely, so I was forced to clean out the pot for my snack.  Sometimes cooking is such hard work!  I ended up with ten jars when I was done.  At first, I thought the jam was a little runny still, but I think I was too impatient.  I have now opened the first jar and I appear to have a completely thickened jam that goes really well with whole wheat flax bread in the morning.  As Rachel mentioned on the phone the other day, it would also be fantastic on pancakes.

On to the next adventure.  Tomorrow I will tell you about my marinated roasted red peppers that were canned this past weekend.  My next project is still not clear.  I am debating between making a trip to an apple orchard to then create apple butter or using my plentiful butternut squash to try my hand at squash butter.  Thoughts and opinions?

Basic Marinara Sauce

Here is a basic tomato sauce, from Simply In Season.  It’s a good start.  I have found that marinara sauce is something that can be highly individual (as written about by Malcolm Gladwell).  This time, I had a five-gallon bucket of my mother’s tomatoes (primarily romas) and a few pounds of CSA tomatoes.  My sauce did not include the additional vegetables they recommend, although I did this last year and found it to be perfect!  This year, my pot was completely filled with tomatoes and I had no room for additional greenery!

Basic Tomato Sauce

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

Saute until softened in 2T olive oil

2 carrots (shredded)

1/2 green pepper (chopped)

2 bay leaves

1/4c fresh parsley (chopped)

2T fresh basil (chopped, or 2t dried)

1T fresh oregano (chopped, or 1 t dried)

1T fresh tyme (chopped, or 1 t dried)

Add and stir well.

6c plum tomatoes (peeled and chopped)

6oz tomato paste

1T honey (I used a mixture of honey and brown sugar)

salt and pepper to taste.

Add and season to personal taste.  Simmer 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and serve, freeze or can.

To make mine, I peeled and seeded the tomatoes.  You can blanch tomatoes to remove the peels, but I prefer to run the back of a knife over a tomato to loosen and remove the peel.  This is by far the longest part of the process for fresh tomatoes.  If you don’t mind peels and seeds, this will be a huge time saver!  Since I often give sauce away, I try to remove all these for my sauce.  This is a picture of the tomato guts from the second batch of sauce I made.

I simmered the tomatoes with seasonings to taste literally all day while painting at my mom’s house.  I kept layering in flavors after stirring.  Since I had a lot more tomatoes, I did not measure according to this recipe, but instead kept tasting and adding.  I also included red pepper flakes and a bunch of fresh basil from my garden in my final pot of sauce.  There are plenty of other vegetable additions that would be great, use your bounty to increase the nutrient density of the final product as you see fit.  If you prefer a sauce that has chunks, you may want to simmer for less time.  If you prefer a smooth consistency, you may want to blend your final product (see, Gladwell was right about sauce, everyone has a different idea of what’s good!) When you have a kitchen filled with glorious smells and sauce at a consistency and flavor you want-it’s time to freeze, eat or can.

To can:  ladle into hot, sterilized pint jars to the first ridge.  Add one T of lemon juice or vinegar to each jar to ensure acidity.  Seal with sterilized lids and process in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes.

Cool on a flat surface.  Ensure that the cans are sealed.  If any are not, put in the refrigerator (or freeze) and use immediately.

*Other hints, you can freeze the sauce at any point of the process.  Think, peel and seed the tomatoes, freeze and make the sauce later.  Peel and seed some of the tomatoes and freeze…you get the idea.  Like I said, this is highly forgiving and very individual.

Note: I have made two batches of sauce now (and that’s it for this year!).  I have 28 pints of sauce.  Last year, I canned 24 pints, gave quite a few away and recently finished the final jar in the batch.  I have not purchased spaghetti sauce for over a year and it looks like it will be at least 2 before I buy another jar!

Mustard Pickled Yellow Squash

I adapted a recipe for mustard pickled yellow squash from this Columbus blogger.

My mother has an aversion to onions and only had apple cider vinegar,  so I made some changes to the posted recipe.  Here’s my final recipe:

1/2 c salt

4 1/2 lb young squash cut into rounds (make sure they will fit in the opening of your jars)

For brine:

4 c white sugar

3 1/2 c apple cider vinegar

1/2 c water

4 t mustard seed

2t ground turmeric

2t celery seed

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

In a large colander, combine the squash and salt.  Mix well and let stand for 2 hours to release liquids.  (I put the colander in a basin, but leaving it in the sink will work too).

When time is almost up, combine sugar, vinegar, water, mustard seed, turmeric, garlic and celery seed in a saucepan over medium/high heat. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Add the squash to the brine and stand for 2 more hours.

Bring to a boil once again.  Ladle mixture into 1 pint sterile jars, filling with the liquid to within 1/4 inch of the top (I filled to the first ridge of the jar) .  Clean the rim.  Seal with lids and rings. Process for 10 minutes in a simmering water bath at least one inch above the height of the jars.  Place jars on a surface to cool completely.  Check to ensure they have all sealed.  Any unsealed cans should go into the refrigerator to be consumed immediately.

I plan to open a jar in about two weeks.  I will let you know how they turned out.

*Update* I opened these 3 weeks later and they are awesome!  They are reminiscent of bread and butter pickles, but with a mustard-y twist!  They maintained their crispness.  I was worried since they were cooked in the brine then in a water bath.  I suggest making sure your slices are around 1/2 inch thick.  Enjoy!

You CAN do it!

I have been absent from the blogging world, but far from absent from my kitchen!  Here’s a few projects that have kept me busy the last few days:

Left-mustard pickled yellow squash

Right-marinara sauce

Center-peach jam

I have heard the rumor that lots of people are scared of canning.  I used to be one of those people.  I grew up with a pantry full of canned garden items, yet never took the time to learn the art.  My parent’s garden produced well each year; neighbors and friends received plentiful vegetables at their doorsteps and I never wanted for fresh produce during the spring, summer or fall.  I remember my mother canning applesauce, beets, tomatoes, pickles, relish, salsa, green beans, and assorted jams and jellies.  I assume she did much of this while I was at school, because I only have vague memories of seeing steaming pots on the stove.  Last year I decided that I would can my own marinara sauce, with absolute success.  This year, I wanted to expand!

I spent a few days working on my mother’s house and brought various supplies to her home for some canning.  She had given me a small pressure cooker that had been my grandmother’s but without an instruction manual, I was scared of the thing.  She (and my brother) showed me the art of the pressure cooker and now you can expect future posts involving this kitchen tool.

The canning I did while at her home, requires no more fancy equipment than the canning jars, lids and a pot of boiling water.  When I returned home, I bought fruit pectin, and made peach jelly-with only my pot of boiling water.

Some benefits of canning should be pretty apparent.  First, the health factor.  Since you are in charge of the ingredients, you can ensure that they are organic, all-natural and have names you can pronounce.  Further, commercial canned products often include high levels of sugar and salt that can be limited with home canning.  I understand that families and individuals have schedules that are highly limited; however, I made the jelly today in about an hour, from start to finish.  Marinara sauce takes longer, but can be spaced out to limit the obligation of time.  Pickling can be spread out over a weekend day and is fairly forgiving.  If you are growing your own produce this summer (or have a CSA), you probably found that the number of squash or tomatoes from a single plant (or week’s allotment) can become overwhelming pretty fast.  Canning allows you to spread the eating season out and keeps produce from going to waste.  All in all, summer is the time of abundance.  Historically, cooks used the summer as a time to prepare their family for the winter season.  We have the luxury of choosing a variety of methods.  Freezing can be a fantastic option (pesto, whole vegetables for stock-making, hot peppers and okra for soups and sauces, etc).  Dehydration (think homemade sun-dried tomatoes!) can save a lot of money.  I encourage you to try canning.  Less scary and time-consuming than you imagine.  I promise!  Follow me, I shall try to lead you!

Planned upcoming canning projects include roasted red peppers and apple butter.  Stay tuned!