Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Tomato, With Love: Tigress' Can Jam August Pick

Dear Tomato,

You are the one. How can August be August without you? How could Tigress' Can Jam be complete without you? Isn't it amazing how far you've come—from a green or golden little-known fruit in South America to a many-colored phenomenon featured on people's plates the world over? People have called you some strange names, like "love apple" and "wolf peach," but you made it into your own genus, Lycopersicon esulentum, a while ago. It's amazing that people see you as a vegetable, but really you're a fruit, and if you want to get specific, you're classified as a berry! Quel scandale!

And speaking of scandal, I know there's been talk of your notoriety, being from the Nightshade Family and all. I didn't know that your leaves were slightly poisonous if eaten, and that you are toxic to dogs! But I won't hold that against you. I know you're not trying to be mean, you're just trying to protect yourself.

Thank goodness you can be canned! You know, in a hot water bath so we can enjoy you in the winter months when you are long gone? Like the fruit you really are, your acid levels are high enough to pass muster (I know you need a little bit of lemon juice to help you out, though). It makes me dreamy: tomato sauce, tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato salsa, hot sauce, ketchup, and just you—tomatoes—in a glass jar are a thing of beauty! And I won't forget when you get all fancy and jump into a jam or confit or something like that. You can really change gears from work horse to operatic diva.

This is why I am picking you to be the star of August's Can Jam. I know everybody loves you every which way. Plums, cherries, big beefsteaks, heirlooms, greens, reds, yellows, oranges, and for good measure, let's include your cousins, tomatillos and husk tomatoes! Summer just wouldn't be summer without you!


Husk Tomatoes

P.S. The Deets: Your recipe must be posted between Sunday, August 15 and Friday, August 20. The deadline is Friday at midnight. Tomatoes should be ready everywhere! If the major crop isn't in, think of this as a test run for when it does! Read up on your tomatoes and use approved recipes. There's a lot of great information out there!


Blueberry Jam with Pineapple Mint and Pineapple Sage

Blueberries are still happening! Is it me, or does this seem like a long season? I'm always amazed by fruit. Isn't it the most incredible thing to see rows and rows of bushes heavy with blueberries? I visited Greig Farms in Red Hook for their no-spray blues which go for $2.50 a pound. There is a lot to visit on their rural block, what with Alison Vineyards, Gigi Market, and Grandiflora.

Somebody had a lot of fun picking their favorite fruit. Add to that some tractors and goats down the block at Gigi's, and then the pond at Grandiflora with huge koi in it. Well, all that adds up to a good nap for a little two-year old boy on the ride home. And a good quiet ride home equals time to think of what to make with the huge bucket of blueberries sitting politely on the passenger seat. The following recipe is one of three blueberry jam recipes I've made to date.

Blueberry Jam with Pineapple Mint and Pineapple Sage

2 cups apple pectin stock*
2 T lemon juice
3 cups of sugar
4 cups of blueberries
Sprigs of mint and sage to taste

Add everything to your jamming pot, minus three cups of blueberries. At medium-high heat, dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil. When the mixture boils, add the three cups of blueberries, which you have lightly mashed. The temperature will lower, naturally. When it reaches a boil again, watch for the gel stage. My jam set very well at 216 degrees on a candy thermometer. Skim the beautiful magenta foam well! At the very end, before you turn off the heat, add the leaves of mint and sage in a cheesecloth and let them swim for a minute, depending on how herb-y you want your jam. Process for ten minutes in a boiling water bath.

*I used 4 lbs. of green, wild apples, quartered with blossom end and stems removed in a heavy pot, covered with water. Boil for 30 to 45 minutes, until fruit is soft. Strain twice for clarity. You will have a thick, viscous liquid that can be frozen for later use.

I didn't add much mint and sage, or let them steep too long, but they did impart a distinct flavor, that I think added a green aspect to the otherwise sweet berry taste that straight-up blueberry jam has. I did pick quite a few green berries, and I think that upped the pectin content, in addition to the pectin from the apples.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blossom End Rot

Is this a total bummer or what? This poor San Marzano tomato has blossom-end rot, which is caused by calcium deficiency that in my case was caused by drought stress. I was gone for a few days and stupidly believed the weather report which predicted a few days of showers. That was the beginning of our long dry spell and those few days of dry heat really messed with my tomatoes. I've pulled off numerous affected fruit, have been monitoring the moisture, and things seem to be looking good for the four afflicted tomato plants. My silver lining is that at least it's not late blight.

Here's a funny side note: the tomato plants that I cared least for and planted down by the barn where they get no extra water but what the skies drop on them are doing great. Huge, green, towering plants with massive fruit. They actually have the same exact soil as the other tomatoes, so I know it's not the soil that is deficient in calcium. You know why these tomatoes are doing so well? They get a constant supply of chicken manure. It's amazing. The tomato plant that is next to the manure compost pile? It is at least a foot taller than its neighboring plants. Just another reason why you should have chickens.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Carol Channing Jam

I don't post videos, but this is a major exception. A must see. Carol Channing is sheer genius. "Never ever jam today!"

Props to Eve for sending me this!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quick Dills

This month's Tigress' Can Jam focus was cucurbits or The Cucurbitaceae, picked by Laundry Etc. It's a family affair, you know? A big crazy family those cucurbits. And I totally did not rise to the challenge and make a cantaloupe jam like I wanted to. Or watermelon rind pickles. Nope. Not me. I couldn't find local melons, sadly. But I found local cucumbers and a few of them were even from the garden, so good on me. For this recipe, which is a solidly easy, crunchy pickle, I used some lovely lemon cucumbers and some mixed in double-yield picklers.

These are Quick Dill Pickles, and the recipe is from that trusty tome, The Joy of Cooking. You don't want to let these sit for too long in your pantry, as the brine is weaker and the curing quicker than for traditional pickles. This recipe is perfect for the first of the crop, so you can enjoy some pickles during the rest of the summer, while the crock brines the big haul.

Quick Dill Pickles
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

4 pounds of pickling cucumbers, sliced into 1/4 inch coins or in the case of lemon cucumbers, slice them in thick rounds, then quarter the slices. You want to go for some sort of shape uniformity.

Pack the cucumbers into hot pint jars along with a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of pickling spices, and a pinch of extra dill seed and peppercorns.

Combine in a non-reactive pot until just boiling:

3 cups cider vinegar
2 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup pickling salt

Add the hot vinegar solution to the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Process for 10 minutes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Apricot Puree

This photo just made me happy. It's nothing special, just frozen cubes of apricot puree. I popped them into a bag and they will rest in the freezer for whenever I need a dose. Needless to say, it's been hot as hell lately. We've been eating salads and icy things a lot. Watermelon aqua fresca to drink, and in ice pop form, too. I have begun to have fantasies of an autumn chill. It's a tad early, but these thoughts do come every summer...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Jam Cake

Now that the new canning has begun, there are a few old jars (by old, I mean from late last summer) that need to be used up. I canned a lot of plums last year, and I'm on my last four jars of jam. And of course, there are quite a few open jars in the fridge from all of this year's work. The other day, early in the morning I made this cake. It's very moist and dense, due to the jam and olive oil. Not a refined cake for company necessarily, but a perfect breakfast cake.

Mix in a large bowl:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk until light:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

Add in and beat well:
3 large eggs

Then add in:
1/4 cup or milk or yogurt

Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture.

Then beat in:
1 half-pint of jam

Bake at 350 degrees in a 9-inch plain tube cake pan for thirty minutes. Let cool at least ten minutes before unmolding.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Apricot Nectar

I recently bought a little over a 1/2 bushel of apricots. That's over 25 pounds. And you know what, that amount of fruit doesn't overwhelm me anymore. In fact, I wish I had another 25 pounds. Especially now that I am a proud owner of a chest freezer. I now say to the season: bring it!

The apricots I bought were a bit soft, and some were really soft. So, there was still a need to move quickly. First, I made five pints of apricot jam with the softest ones. A saucy jam with lemon, vanilla and almond brandy, it will do nicely on yogurt. I removed the stones from four quarts of apricots, and in the freezer they went. I planned on doing some apricot butter with some of the other really soft ones, but first I made apricot nectar. Apricot nectar can do lots of things, besides being simply delicious, and what is left over is half-way to butter!

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking (although The Joy of Jams, Jellies, etc. by Linda Ziedrich also has a good apricot nectar recipe)

3 quarts of apricots, pits removed
3 cups of water

Add all to heavy pot or dutch oven. Simmer gently until fruit is soft (or softer than it was to start). Strain, and instead of pushing the fruit, be patient and let it drain on it's own.

You can can this in pint jars, in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes. Or, you can freeze it. Or you can stash the almost two quart yield in the fridge to make sorbet, jelly, salad dressing, or just to drink. All of which are on my mind.

You will be left with a good amount of pulp. I had a quart, to which I added another quart of fresh fruit and started a slow cooker apricot butter, a la Food in Jars' blueberry butter recipe. Let the apricot games begin!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another Random Salad

I just thought this was the prettiest salad. First of the cucumbers with local crumbled feta, and local black raspberries macerated with some sugar and white balsamic vinegar.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fresh from the Garden Salad

I am in love with this photograph. It looks like a painting. It's slight blurriness and bright sun just feel so romantically hopeful, and the background tan of the lawn so bleak and washed out. There's a story in there. A story of a person in the midst of a drought who picked their first batch of chioggia beets, their hand clutching the bunch with pride. Somehow, in this moment, the beets were all she needed.

This salad makes me proud because it's almost all from my garden, and entirely local (excluding the dressing). The only thing I didn't grow was the corn, which is from Davenport's Farm in Stone Ridge. I grilled it and cut it off the ear to add to the salad. The rest is sugar snap peas, green beans (Hank's Xtra White) both blanched first, beets boiled off, and scallions. Tossed with a vinaigrette. That's it. There aren't many recipes flying around here lately because when you have stuff like this you just prepare it the way it needs to, and toss it in a bowl. That's how we eat summer. Yesterday I made kale salad and it was simply this: steam kale until tender, chop up coarsely, add a cup of pickled carrots and their brine, and voila, an insanely tasty and healthy salad that just gets better as it sits. No oil.

In the meantime, while you're making summer salads, check out Tigress' giveaway for The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala (he has a blog, Ken Albala's Food Rant) and Rosanna Nafziger (her blog is Paprika Head). This book came my way, too, and I'm pretty impressed with it. When I first began reading it, I thought, well, now here's a book that's pretty much all about what I like to do and then some! That's always a good thing to think when cracking a book. I'm planning on making beer following their recipe, and when I do, I'll have a giveaway as well. So if you don't win Tigress' giveaway, come back over here in a bit and try again!

Angel Food Cake and Mayonnaise

The way I get better at cooking is usually tied directly with having too much of something, or needing to get rid of something, or if something is on sale. I'm a frugal girl and don't like anything to go to waste. Now that I have a constant supply of huge, fresh, amazing eggs there are a lot of things I'm now tackling that I hadn't thought to before. There are always recipes out there that focus on a glut of something, as that's what people had to do. One year blight robbed you of red tomatoes, so you learn how to make green tomato chutney (last year). A glut of eggs allows me to be generous with them and still have enough left over to experiment. And what delicious experiments!

After I had made the pot de créme, I had some whites leftover. I added a few more whites to the batch in order to come up with the 1 1/2 cups of egg whites needed for angel cake. I used the recipe from Joy of Cooking and even though I didn't add the cream of tartar, I was still pretty happy with the outcome. And with some of that mulberry rhubarb lemon jam over it, I was even happier!

With the four little yolks leftover from that, I had to make mayonnaise. I can't throw anything out, and why should I when this is the result? The mayonnaise is so rich and gorgeous, if I didn't have to go in for a cholesterol check soon, I'd want to eat it with a spoon. We had it in salmon salad, and then with cold boiled potatoes for dinner on one of these hot and sultry days we've been having. Salads are the thing for this heat wave.

p.s. Do you call it Angel Food Cake or Angel Cake? The recipe calls it Angel Cake, but I always knew it as Angel Food Cake.
N.B. Popular consensus says Angel Food Cake. Herewith amended in the title.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Meeting the Canjammers

Here is a vanilla pot de créme that I made entirely with cream. The recipe calls for milk or half and half. It was a special occasion, and it deserved all cream. That and the fact that I had a half-gallon of cream in the fridge. Shae from Hitchhiking to Heaven was coming to visit, and I needed something special for dessert that was gluten-free. I needn't have worried, for we tasted five different jams, and had brandied apricots and special local chocolate as well. And I was worried about dessert??

You should read about Shae and I met and became friends, even though she lives in Northern California and I live in upstate New York. We bonded through a recipe for clementine marmalade. It's a wonderful story that Shae captures perfectly.

Here are two of her blackberry mojito jams. Did you know that she won nine awards in the Marin County Fair? I covet her beautiful fruit masterpieces.

We also tasted two jams from the same recipe. Isn't amazing how different they are? When Doris and Jilly came to visit, she brought with her a gift of this Fig Lemon Lavender jam, and as she did she said, "You didn't make this, did you? Because I know someone did." I said no, but remembered that someone indeed had made the same jam. The next day when I met Sarah Hood from Toronto Tasting Notes, she handed me the same jam! What's wonderful, aside from getting great goods from great peeps, is that no two jams are the same, even if you are making them yourself from the same fruit, in the same kitchen. They are always different. These two were both gorgeous beauties in their own right.

The next day was spent meeting more good canning folk over at Thompson-Finch farms where the strawberries are organic and lush. Or were. They are all gone now. This was a few weeks ago. Here's my haul, that I got thanks to Shae. I could never pick this much while chasing around the little toddler.

And afterwards, Kate (Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking), Tigress (Tigress in a Jam and Pickle) and Shae, busted out some serious picnic under the shade tree for post-berry picking talk.

It was a gorgeous spread and an inspiring day. Tigress talks about it here. And Kate describes her day here. And Shae does here. How can you go wrong with like-minded folks, good food, and strawberry picking? I'm so glad I got the chance to meet everybody. It makes this online world so much more special. And it happens a lot more than you think!

I went home and made some strawberry ice cream. Amazingly, I didn't make strawberry jam immediately! I had plenty of cream. And plenty of strawberries. And there was nothing better to do than to sit with a bowl of fresh ice cream, and savor the days.