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!