Thursday, December 23, 2010

Triple Layer, Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark


Apparently some traditions do not take a long time to be established.  This is only the third year I have made peppermint bark for the holiday season and yet my boys have been talking expectantly about it for several months now.  I suspect that peppermint bark only took 2 years to become a tradition because of how good it is.  Something about the dark smooth chocolate peppermint ganache alongside the sweetness of the white chocolate and the crunch of the cool peppermint pieces is evocative of the season.

When I went to make this years batch I found I did not have enough white chocolate so I decided to punt.  Instead of going out for more white chocolate used milk chocolate as one of the layers.  There is happy agreement in the house that the new version is actually better then the original recipe.  So I guess now we have a new tradition.



Triple Layer, Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark
Adapted from Orangette

Use only the highest quality chocolate in the recipe.  With such a simple recipe the ingredients all have to bring everything they can to the final confection.  White chocolate should list "coco butter" as one of the ingredients.  Steer clear of hydrogenated oil and artificial flavors.

9 oz's milk chocolate
30 striped peppermint candies (this year I used red, white and green ones, they were out of red and white ones.  I have often subbed 6 oz's of candy canes, but the store only had weird flavored ones left)
7 oz's bittersweet chocolate
6 Tbsp heavy cream
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
9 oz's white chocolate

Coarsely crush the peppermint candies using a can, a meat pounder, hammer, rolling pin...  Cover the back of a large baking sheet with foil and mark off a 9 by 12 inch rectangle on the foil.  Place the milk chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a bowl on top of a pot of barely simmering water.  Make sure the bowl is absolutely dry before adding the chocolate or it will not melt correctly.  The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.

Gently heat the chocolate until smooth and completely melted, the temperature should be about 110° on a candy thermometer.  (I no longer bother to check the temperature, when it is completely melted it will be the correct temperature).  Remove the bowl from over the water and dry off the bottom before pouring the chocolate on marked rectangle on the foil.  Use an icing spatula to spread the chocolate out to evenly fill the rectangle.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of crushed peppermint candies over the chocolate and chill until set, about 15 minutes.

While the chocolate is setting wash and dry the bowl and spatula.  You won't use the bowl again until melting the top layer but even the tiniest amount of water will cause the chocolate to seize instead of melting.  Alternatively you can just use a different bowl for the top layer, preventing the white chocolate from seizing and having to explain to your children that they "only" have homemade cracked wheat bread and jam for their teachers.  In my experience children do not like being told they cannot share a favorite treat with their teachers.

Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool dark chocolate ganache 5 minutes before pouring the ganache slowly all over the milk chocolate and spreading in an even layer with the icing spatula.  Refrigerate 25 minutes until very firm and cold.

Place white chocolate in dry bowl over barely simmering water and melt until smooth, 110°.  Pour white chocolate all over dark chocolate ganache layer and spread into an even layer with the icing spatula.  Sprinkle with remaining peppermint candies before placing in the refrigerator to set.  Chill until set, about 20 minutes (alternatively you can chill it for longer, it will just need to warm up a little out of the fridge before you can cut it).

Carefully lift the foil and bark off the baking sheet and transfer to a large cutting board.  Begin by trimming the edges until they are straight.  Cut bark into 1 1/2 inch wide strips and slide strips off foil onto cutting board.   Cut strips into smaller pieces on a slight diagonal, forming diamond shaped pieces of bark.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  The bark is best when it is allowed to come to room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.  However nobody ever seems to complain when served a piece straight from the fridge either.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Soy Braised Cabbage




I made this dish for the first time ever as part of lunch for the preschoolers.  Turns out my terrible habit of preparing new dishes when making dinner for company extends to cooking food for a preschool.  In my defense what was the worst that would happen if the dish was not good?  Several preschoolers would say they hate cabbage, wait, they said that before I cooked it for them.  Hah, one of the rare instances of recipe roulette where a bad outcome would just maintain the status quo.  I had this beautiful, organic, local red cabbage that was donated and I needed a way to prepare it.  I could have made Creamy Red Cabbage with Fennel and Mustard Seed, but I thought it would really lose something without the wine.

I found a recipe for Red Cooked Cabbage in Andrea Chesman's The Garden Vegetable Cookbook and while it did call for sherry, I was not worried about leaving out a single tablespoon.  (If you want a copy of this cookbook I would recommend buying Serving up the Harvest instead.  It is the paperback version and is still in print, instead of the original title which is out of print, and expensive).  The combination of soy sauce and rice vinegar reminded me of some of my favorite tricks for vegetables so I put it on the next days menu.  At first I could not find the soy sauce at work so I used bragg's liquid amino acids with a touch of soy sauce added later when someone told me it was in the fridge (who stores soy sauce in the fridge?)  The final dish was even better then I was imagining, with a sweetness from the slow cooking, savory notes from the soy sauce and a complexity that seemed beyond the simple list of ingredients.  It was good enough that I decided to make it again that night for dinner at home.

When I made it for dinner I added the dry sherry originally called for in the recipe and I noticed five spice powder I should have used in the list of ingredients or at the very least I should have noticed I was omitting it.  When making it home I used star anise in place of the five spice powder I already knew would overpower the simple dish.  My conclusion is leave out the sherry and any spices beyond pepper.  The complexity of the dish comes from the subtle sweetness of the braised cabbage being complimented by the soys salty unami and the richness of the sesame oil.  The sherry and spices just detract from the dishes balance.  If I had served it with the sherry and spices at work not only would I have lost my job for serving alcohol in the preschool but it wouldn't have been worth it, because none of the children would have eaten it.



Soy Braised Cabbage (also called red cooked cabbage)

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small cabbage, red or green, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup water or broth
1/3 cup braggs liquid amino acids (or substitute soy sauce)
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dark Sesame Oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Saute the cabbage in the oil until it is wilted and everything is coated in oil.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.  Cover the pot and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When done the cabbage should be very tender and well flavored.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Potato Latkes


I prepared these potato latkes the night before Hanukah began because I wanted to have the time to post the recipe before Hanukkah was over.  When Sebastian asked what was for dinner he was overjoyed and curious.  "Why are you making latkes, Hanukkah doesn't start until tomorrow night."  When I told him I wanted to photograph the latkes for my blog he understood right away.  "Oh, that way your readers can make them for the holiday."  Maybe it is just me but I feel his logical thinking has recently improved.  For example the other night I was tucking him into bed while Lewis and Julian were at the ER.  Julian had swallowed a penny and then begun throwing up.  Sebastian looked at me, in that straight man way only a child can, and started to list off the reasons each of them have visited the ER.

"Julian ate a pebble when he was a baby, burnt himself on a pan of Brussels Sprouts and now he swallowed a penny.  Every time Julian has gone it has been for something he has done.  I went when I was dehydrated because I had gastroenteritis," (he really did say gastroenteritis, which just shows how often he has heard the story), and then there was the time I stepped on a piece of glass"  My favorite part is he was so matter of fact, and really it does tell you a lot about both of my children.

Like when they each decided they were walkers not crawlers.  They were both late walkers at right around 17 months.  However when Sebastian became a walker he had been practicing while holding our hands for so long that he could practically run.  I had read that new walkers can not turn corners or carry things while walking.  Sebastian could turn a corner while carrying anything he wanted.  Julian however just decided one day that he was done with crawling, even though he was completely unsteady and fell down as much as he walked.  But he had chosen and steadfastly walked (and fell) from then on without reverting to crawling.

For all their differences in how they approach the world they are also remarkably similar.  They may take a slightly different path to get there but they both think of inventive ways to possibly injure themselves.  Like the time I discovered them tying a rope around their waist so they could repel off the porch.  They also used to agree that latkes are yucky, until I started precooking the potatoes before shredding them.  Now they agree they are one of the best dinners.  Soft inside with a crispy outer crust.  As an added benefit for the cook there is no chance of the potatoes discoloring, so the batter can be made up in advance.  You also do not need to drain the shredded potatoes.



Potato Latkes
Before starting to cook these go and close any doors in your house.  Latkes are delicious but the lingering scent of latkes is best avoided.  After all the latkes are made you can help cleanse the air by boiling a large pot of water with fresh ginger or citrus slices in it.

2 1/4 lb. potatoes (I used Yukon Golds, you can substitute your favorite potato)
1 onion (mine was 6 oz.) grated on the second largest holes on a box grater
5 eggs
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp matzo meal or flour
Oil for frying, I used olive oil as the frying temperature should never be above olive oils smoke point


Scrub the potatoes and remove any eyes or blemishes.  Cut the potatoes to the size of the smallest potatoes and steam until not all the way tender but a knife can be inserted.  I steamed mine for about 13 minutes, the pieces were about 2 inches wide.  Remove from the heat, drain out the hot water and cover the potatoes with cold water.

Grate the potatoes on the second largest holes on a box grater.  Grate as much of the skin as you can by continually turning the potato to grate new skin.  Reserve any skin that does not grate and chop it all finely at the end.  Add the grated potatoes to the remaining ingredients except oil.

Preheat oven to 250° and place a rack on a sheet pan.  Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large saute or frying pan to about 350°.  Scoop the batter out by tablespoons into the hot oil and flatten down some.  Fry until crisp and brown before flipping over and cooking the second side.  Once both sides are cooked transfer the cooked latkes to the prepared rack and place in the oven.  The oven will keep them warm and also crisps up the outside.

Serve with applesauce and sour cream or full fat greek yogurt




Monday, November 22, 2010

Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce


I am afraid I need to make this a hit and run post.  I really want to make sure you have this in time to squeeze it into your Thanksgiving plans.  My original plan was to post the recipe last week.  I was out of town at a conference and was imaging plenty of free time in the evenings to write about it.  Unfortunately both the free time and the reliable internet connection were missing.  However, I came away with multiple new vocabulary words about poverty and, along with 159 other Americorps Vistas, learned approaches to eliminate poverty.

This recipe is a direct result of the case of 12 adorable bottles of Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice that I received as a gift from the company. I have to admit I told them yes, I would love their offer of juice because I was thinking, "You like me.  You really like me."  It was only after I received their box of generosity that I realized I needed to make something exciting with it and post about it.  I have made many things we enjoyed eating with the juice, but none of them worthy of a post.  I thought about posting brisket braised in pomegranate juice, however it felt like cheating.  It is truly wonderful, although I feel the onion confit did not add enough to the dish, and leave it out every time I make it.  But I should be posting a dish that is completely my own instead of one I adapted by leaving something out.



The pomegranate cranberry sauce is my own invention.  It may have the same main ingredient as the ridged condiment you tip from a can, however you would never know.  This one has a balanced tartness
that is a delicious counterpart to Thanksgiving dinner.  Although we loved it with braised lamb shanks as well.  This recipe is even easier to make than the pumpkin pie with a no roll crust my children are making for Thanksgiving dinner.  Adding it to your responsibilities for the week should not be a stretch.  It can even be made far in advance and wait for your celebration in the back of the fridge (in case you are thinking of making it for Thanksgiving 2011).

Before the recipe, just one quick totally unrelated Julian story.  I have always allowed my children to go by the five second rule for food dropped on the floor at home.  With young children it often feels like not allowing that would mean they would starve.  The other day, after picking something up off the floor to eat it Julian looked at me and said, "Did you know there is a zero second rule at school?"  Oy, so grateful I have no idea which adult had to tell that to him.  Lastly check out Thermapen's tips for cooking a turkey to a safe temperature.  Maybe the best piece of information is the required time a turkey has to be at 155° is one minute for food safety.  So cook your turkey until it is dry if you prefer it that way, not to make sure it is safe to eat.




Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce
Feel free to play with the amount of sugar in this recipe to suit your tastes.  I prefer my cranberry sauce on the tart side.  You could also add walnuts, crystalized ginger, cinnamon, red wine or port to the sauce.  While I did make this to highlight the pomegranate juice, you could also use concentrated apple juice.  If you use apple juice it will not have the same complex tart/sweet flavor.

2 cups Pom Wonderful Pomegranate juice
1 bag/3 cups/12 oz's fresh or frozen unsweetened cranberries
2 apple cored, peeled and chopped fine
juice of 3 clementines (1 rind reserved)
1 clementine rind, from juiced clementine, chopped fine
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup brown sugar (or more to taste)

Cook pomegranate juice in a small saucepan until reduced by half.  To measure the reduction I marked a chopstick with a sharpie pen to show the depth of the pomegranate juice before heating.  The juice was then reduced enough when it was halfway to the mark. Although eyeballing it is also completely legitimate, as it does not need to be exact, you want to reduce it some so the sauce is not too liquidy.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and cook until the cranberries have begun to burst and it is thick.  This should only take a brief amount of time boiling.  Cool to room temperature before serving.  This can be canned if you wish, following the guidelines for canning jam.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saffron Green Bean Hash


My childhood memories of Halloween are very simple.  My brother and I made our costumes ourselves and then we went trick or treating with my cousins.  We never had to worry about what the weather was like because we never left our apartment building.  Now it feels like Halloween is a week long event.  As a child we did not attend school Halloween parties and we certainly never went on costumed bike rides with 150 other people and a police escort.  My boys have been treating the start of the school year, and perhaps even the summert as the Halloween season.  They had endless conversations about what their costumes should be.  They even tried to convince me that we should make the front of our house scary.  Given that both of them still gave a wide berth to any house that is even marginally frightening I vetoed this idea.  As a mother who has comforted her terrified children as I carefully escorted them past Halloween decorations, I will never knowingly make my house scary.

All the boys planning and discussions about costumes came to the conclusion I was relying on.  They deferred to my over the top, I have to admit competitive, costume planning.  Sebastian went as himself, a bookworm.  He was a "Bookworm" inside a book.  I spent several hours carefully painting a poster sized cover of Diary of a Worm, although I changed the worm to match his costume.  While trick or treating Sebastian had to suffer for my art as he had to shuffle up and down stairs inside a giant book.


Julian's costume started when he suggested he could be a bunny.  I just elaborated on that idea a little by having him coming out of a magicians hat.  After all without a giant hat around his waist he would be able to walk around far to easily when trick or treating.  As it is each of my children came home with bags filled with candy, I shudder to think how much they could have gotten if they could have walked faster.  Although we have also found sometimes people give you extra candy when your costume is clever. 



For the past 2 years I dealt with the mounds of candy by declaring Halloween night a candy free for all.  Lewis and I would first edit the bags, removing any hard candy that would prolong their festival before letting them go at it.  The first year they both stopped long before I though they would, Julian even ate an apple when he had his fill of candy.  Last year the candy fest continued for longer, but it still wasn't as much as I might have feared.  This year Halloween was on a school night, so our little party has to wait.  However each one of them has been enjoying 2 items of their choice each night after dinner.  After they are asleep their parents eat whatever they want from the collection, childhood really is unfair.

One blogger posted on how to deal with the candy overload, mostly by making it disappear rather then letting your children eat it.  A commenter who spends hundreds of dollars every year on Halloween candy complained.  She felt like she was wasting her money if parents were only going to get rid of what she gave out.  I hope that our approach to the mounds of junk my children collect respects the joys of Halloween as well as the people who gave them their treats.  However I don't want them to be still choosing a dessert of candy over fruit in 3 months.

On Halloween night we planned on having hot dogs for dinner, something that was easy to make between activities with 2 over excited trick or treaters in the house.  I have to admit, hot dogs, even the pasture raised organic ones we now eat, are not much further up the food chain than candy.  At least it would prevent us from going trick or treating without eating first.  It is never a good idea to go out collecting candy when your children haven't eaten.  So I scrounged for something to serve with them, that my children would eat.  Unfortunately the string beans I knew were in the fridge must have shrunk in their container, because I clearly remembered a much larger amount.

Normally I do not serve potatoes as a vegetable, no matter what their role is in the federally funded school lunch program.   However I had a generous pile of potatoes in my fridge thanks to the "extras" at my CSA.  These potatoes were still perfect, if you don't mind peeling heavily and removing brown spots.  So I put together this Saffron Green Bean Hash.  It was a home run with the whole family, just what was needed.  For the record, Julian initially said he was only going to eat the string beans.  However once he tasted it he helped himself to 2 generous helpings.  Saffron is not used much in American cooking so the hash had an elusive flavor that was well balanced by the potatoes and string beans.



Saffron Green Bean Hash
The amounts in here are really just a guide, the amount of saffron was very well balanced but feel free to play with the types and quantities of vegetables

2 cups leftover green beans or blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes with a splash of olive oil
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (you may need more, depends on the pan you use)
1 onion chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
6 cups potatoes scrubbed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (I peeled mine because I had to, normally I leave the peel on)
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
3/8 tsp saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.  Most folks swear by a well seasoned cast iron pan for this, I use my scanpan non stick and see no reason to change.  Saute onions over medium heat in olive oil until translucent, approximately 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and leeks and cook over medium/high heat, stirring occasionally.  Add red peppers after about 3 minutes.  If the potatoes start to stick add more olive oil, be liberal when adding oil.  Near the end of cooking time, when potatoes are starting to brown are are tender when pierced with a fork add crumbled saffron (I crumbled it in the palm of my hand before adding it).  When the potatoes are done add the green beans and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir so everything is well blended and the green beans are heated through.



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Maple Glazed Root Vegetables with Thyme


This may not be a surprise to anyone else, but I am amazed at how much adjusting I am having to do to my work schedule.  I am lucky that I come home with my boys after picking them up from school.  However at that point all I want to do is touch base with my children about their day and then plop down on the couch checking e-mail, food blogs and facebook and this blog.  However while I do have time to check in with my children, and even the time to start Sebastian on his homework, (or as is sometimes the case argue with him about it), I need to start dinner almost right away.  It feels like our bedtime routine starts when we come home, if I don't start dinner soon enough our routine is off.

Mostly I am loving where we are right now as a family.  With both boys in school and my new job everyone has something to share at dinner.  Somehow it makes it more cohesive, or maybe that is the reduction in the whining recently over the food I'm offering, as the boys are learning to try more.  Julian's application of classroom rules and expectations at the dinner table is often hysterical.  One night he sat across from me as I told a story with his hand raised for his turn to speak.  However he did not sit there silently, "I'm being an active listener by raising my hand and waiting to speak... are you done yet?"

Happily I am still loving my job.  I am just having a hard time with fitting everything in.  It is a good thing I value cooking!  With a busy schedule it is even more important to have a game plan in the kitchen, especially when faced with a pile of vegetables to deal with.  However that sounds like planning and my cooking is more often based on whim then planning.  This is one of the successes I had recently when heading into the kitchen with the inkling of an idea but not much of a plan.

This dish is inspired by the carrots I had last week at an Americorps conference at the Stoweflake resort.  The food was surprisingly good, and most of us where getting seconds.  However that may also be because an Americorps position is supposed to pay a rate below the poverty level.  So folks may have been calorie loading.  The local food movement made its way to the labels at the buffet, however the meaning seemed to be a little lost.  So for breakfast, in October, in Vermont, the strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple and watermelon were labeled, "Seasonal Fruit."  Sure, somewhere, just not here.  However the maple glazed carrots are perfectly seasonal here right now, and will be all winter.  I added parsnips and turnips to mine as I got both this past week at my CSA.  I also added a fresh bay laurel leaf and some thyme to help balance the sweetness of the maple syrup and the vegetables.  Everyone enjoyed my rendition, although I will admit the boys did not eat the turnips.



Maple Glazed Root Vegetables with Thyme
Inspired by Maple Glazed Carrots at The Stoweflake, cooking technique adapted from Cooking with Shelburne Farms Honey Glazed Carrots

6 cups root vegetables peeled and sliced into similar sized pieces.  (I used carrots, parsnips and turnips.  Potatoes, kohlrabi and beets would all be good.  If using beets cook them separately to avoid making a pink mess of the other vegetables.)
2 Tbsp butter or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 - 5 Tbsp maple syrup, preferably Grade B (I used 2 Tbsp but I felt it could have used more)
3/4 cup water
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 fresh bay laurel leaf (optional)

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and add all the other ingredients.  Put the lid on and shake the pan to coat all the vegetables in the liquid.  Simmer over medium heat for 5 - 7 minutes, until the vegetables are just becoming tender.  Take the lid off the pan, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring, often until the vegetables are all coated in a glaze.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove the thyme stems and serve.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Apple Cheddar Spelt Scones




Earlier this week I made sour cream cheddar biscuits for dinner from Smitten Kitchen.  Sebastian requested biscuits for dinner the night before and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to play with a new recipe.  I left out the jalapenos (because leaving them in would have been mean), added 1/2 tsp of baking powder, made them 3/4 inches thick and of course played with the flour.  They were tasty and for once there was peace at the table as everyone happily ate.  But then, then Sebastian suddenly tasted his biscuit, after eating 2 1/2 of them and asked the dreaded question.  "Is this your usual recipe."  I am of the not lying to your children about food, so if asked a direct question I am honest.  So I told him they had cheddar in them.  He looked disgusted, placed the 1/2 eaten biscuit back on his plate and said.  "These are disgusting, I feel a little sick now."  ONLY TOOK HIM 2 1/2 BISCUITS TO NOTICE!

Any sane mother would learn from this not to add cheddar to her baked goods.  Obviously Sebastian may love cheddar on its own, in a grilled cheese sandwich or topping pizza, but baked goods are not the same.  But then I came across a recipe for apple cheddar scones, perfect for the obscene quantity of northern spy apples currently lying around in my kitchen.  I helped chaperone a field trip for the preschool at work to a small apple orchard.  We were welcome to pick as many as we wanted.  Turns out I wanted more then I needed, really a ridiculous quantity of them.  A quantity that became even more ridiculous when Sebastian and Julian tried them from the overflowing bags in my car and pronounced them too tart.

Northern Spy apples are crisp, tart, bright with a balanced sweetness and when picked fresh from the tree juicy.  I love them but not enough to eat my way through my own special brand of lunacy, you would think I was raised during a famine the way I am with free food.  So I decided to make a batch of scones, because that will use up a whole 2-3 apples.  Yeah, I know, that isn't going to do any good.  Lewis asked if Sebastian would like them and I replied, "he can eat toast".  Then I quietly planned not to lie to Sebastian, if he asked what exactly was in them I would tell him about the cheddar.  However I would also call them apple scones.

They were admittedly a little fussy to make for breakfast as you have to roast the peeled apple slices and allow them to cool before assembling the dough.  I woke up early this morning and when I served them at breakfast everyone loved them, for EVERY bite.  I loved them enough that I made 2 more batches this evening to go in the freezer.  I am sure the scones in the freezer will be delicious, even though just after placing the sheets of unbaked scones in the freezer I stumbled across the grated cheddar in the fridge.  I suppose the punishment fits the crime, because after calling them apple scones to my children now I have a batch of exactly those in the freezer.





Apple and Cheddar Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who barely tweaked them from The Perfect Finish

Makes 6 large or 12 small scones

2 - 3 firm tart apples, I used Northern Spy (1 pound or 254 grams)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams) unsalted butter, grated on the large holes of a box grater into the mixer bowl and put in the freezer while you grate the cheese and mix the dry ingredients or chill and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 65 grams) sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy cream
2 large eggs (divided use)
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 65 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 65 grams) white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 65 grams) spelt flour [Optional, use 1/2 white and half white whole wheat or all white if you want.  They were incredible this way though]
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (3 grams) plus additional for egg wash


Preheat oven to 325° with convection and 375 °F degrees without with a rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Peel and core the apples and slice into sixteen slices (I used slices not chunks like Deb as I thought they would get further broken up by the mixer for better apple distribution as well as dry out better in the oven.  As the scones were perfect I see no reason to change).  Place them on the prepared sheet in a single layer and bake for about 20 minutes, they should be dry to the touch.  Let them cool completely (you can do this step the day before and refrigerate them in an airtight container or place the tray in the fridge to cool if you are making the scones right away.

Add cooled apple slices, grated cheddar cheese, heavy cream and egg to the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Combine flours, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and whisk to combine.  Sprinkle over the top of the other ingredients and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment just until it comes together.  Be careful not to over mix, so you will have light, tender scones.

(If you don't have a stand mixer use a pastry blender to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles course corn meal.  Beat the egg lightly and mix it with the other ingredients with a silicone spatula or a dough whisk.  Be careful not to over mix, so you will have light, tender scones.

Generously flour a large cutting board or your counter top and place one half the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Pat the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 3 inch circle. Cut the dough into 6 wedges. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet or one that has been greased with butter.  Repeat with remaining dough. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone (mine all fit on 1 sheet so I am not sure if I really left 2 inches all the way around, they were fine).  If you want larger scones pat all the dough into a 6 inch circle and cut into 6 pieces.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with 1/8 tsp salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about  20 minutes for 12 small ones and 30 minutes for 6 larger ones. Transfer to a plate and serve.

Scones dough can be made ahead of time and frozen on parchment lined sheets before baking.  To bake place them on the baking sheets still frozen, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar and bake.  They will take a few extra minutes to bake.  Deb says the scones were edible the day after baking but after that they were terrible.  I have no way of knowing, we ate all of ours.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Annie's Salsa: One to judge all other salsas by


Everyone should have a great salsa canning recipe.  A great salsa recipe is the perfect answer to what can I snack on, but even more importantly can be brought to a potluck with a bag of tortilla chips and not be frowned upon, even by the guests who slaved over their stoves before attending the party.  I remember one time I brought this salsa, we decided to attend at the last minute as we were getting ready for vacation.  In a panic I grabbed a jar of salsa and tortilla chips as we wrangled the boys into the car.  My salsa was not the only one in attendance, although it was the only one that was home canned.  It sat on the table, mostly forgotten, the other salsa was in front of it on the table.  However 4 months later the hostess called, asking if I had any jars of salsa left and if I might sell her one.  Apparently a jar of my salsa was the only thing her husband asked for at Christmas time.

"My salsa" is really my friend Annie's salsa.  She spent years perfecting the recipe, once she could get everyone in her family to agree it was perfect, she somehow managed to get it tested to see if she could safely can it.  I know she had a friend who worked for her local extension service, however I suspect she also bribed them with salsa.  This salsa is safe to can as written.  There are a few things you can change while still maintaining the proper balance of acidity and texture so it is safe to can.  It is important not to alter the recipe in a way to lower the acidity or texture.  Salsa is consumed straight from the jar without any further cooking which means it has no safety back up.



ANNIE’S SALSA
Tomatoes are roughly chopped into about 1/2 inch or larger pieces and the other vegetables should be cut into 1/4 inch pieces.

8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper (substitute red or spicy peppers so long as total volume is the same or less)
3 – 5 chopped jalapenos
6 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp black pepper
1/8 cup canning salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or substitute bottled lemon juice)
16 oz. tomato sauce, this refers to cans of plain tomato sauce, not pasta sauce
16 oz tomato paste

Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil, boil 10 minutes. Pour into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space, process pints for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

(note: This recipe can be safely canned in pints, not larger.  If you wish to can it in smaller jars use the same processing time)

Approved Salsa Tweaks


Tomatoes: Green tomatoes or tomatillos can be substituted for some or all of the red tomatoes, do not reduce total volume.


Onions: total quantity may be lowered or eliminated to your taste.  Do not increase total volume

Peppers: The total volume of green peppers and  jalapenos is 1 3/4 cups, you may use any combination of spicy and sweet peppers including red peppers to make up the total volume of 1 3/4 cups. I usually use a mix of spicy peppers for a more complex flavor instead of all jalapenos.  Do not increase total volume.

Garlic: Do not increase the total volume of garlic

Cumin, Black Pepper, Canning Salt, Sugar: It is safe to vary the total of any of these dried spices and seasonings either up or down as you prefer

Cilantro: total quantity may be lowered or eliminated to your taste, you can also substitute fresh parsley if you prefer.  Do not increase total volume

Apple Cider Vinegar: You may use any vinegar that is 5% acidity or more in place of the apple cider vinegar.  You can also use bottled lemon juice in place of the vinegar.  Do not reduce total volume, may be increased

Tomato paste and sauce are both optional items, they are only there to improve the texture of the finished product.

Jar Size: You can process this salsa in smaller jars if you want, it would need the same processing time in the water bath canner.  It is not tested and approved for larger jars.


The boys after City Markets Harvest Celebration, they both requested a "Harvest themed face painting." Not that I have them brain washed or anything.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pumpkin Pie with a No Roll Crust



When I was twelve years old I made my first pie crust.  An ornate lattice crust for a blueberry pie made  in anticipation of my mother coming home from the hospital.  I removed the pie from the oven and happily cut myself a slice.  The filing was perfect, the crust however could barely be sawed with a knife and took considerable time and effort to chew and swallow.  I did not grow up in a household where pie crust was ever made so I did not have any idea what I did wrong.  I left my doorstop crust pie on the counter and went out to have lunch, my brother told me he would stay home and just have a slice of pie for lunch.

I had lunch with my mother's old physics professor and he explained the science of crust making.  As he told me pastry has to be handled as little as possible to keep it flaky and tender I thought of the hour I had spent watching "The Price is Right," as I rolled and rerolled my crust.  I left lunch knowing that my next crust would be better and at least my mother would enjoy the filling in her welcome home pie.

I still remember how my pie looked when I returned home, 2 slices neatly cut out and the insides scraped completely clean.  There was not even a trace of blueberry filling remaining.  I am sure that a screaming argument resulted, however I do not remember that part.  What I do remember is my mother, who told me she loved the pie crust I made for her.  Then every night after dinner she cut herself a slice of crust until she had eaten the whole tough monstrosity.  That memory is one of my definitions of love, as well as a reminder to have a light hand when making pie crust.

So you can imagine my thought process as I looked for a pie crust recipe to use in the preschool at work.  The crust I ruined that very first time became my favorite crust when handled carefully.  However I do not feel a group of overly enthusiastic three and four year olds would be best suited for preparing a delicate crust.  I do believe in process over product for many things in the preschool setting, but food prep is not one of them.  So I searched for a crust you can smush into the pan with no rolling.   The crust I found calls for oil and all you do is stir it before pressing it into the pie pan.  Skills that seemed perfectly suited to preschoolers, I figured the results would be better than a crust that might be rolled for 20 minutes.

I was very happy with the crust we made, it was better then any I have found in the freezer section, although I feel a need to point out every bite of crust was filled with pumpkin pie, so really my results are skewed.  However I am now thinking quiche could be a fast weeknight meal utilizing a crust that is stirred and smashed before filling.  I have already told my boys they can make the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving this year.  The filling was also just what I was looking for, although part of that is starting with pie pumpkins instead of a can.  One coworker remarked, as she took her fourth piece, "I don't even like pumpkin pie, but I love this."  I am guessing she never had a pumpkin pie made with fresh pumpkin before.  When I entered the classroom with the baked pies one little girl enthusiastically asked for a piece of pie.  As soon as she was done she was asking for more.  I asked her to please wait until everyone had a first piece.  She sat quietly down and slowly licked her plate clean, and to be honest I don't blame her.

Since then I have had the chance to cook one more time with the preschoolers.  I escorted a small group of them to a local farm where we picked kale.  Then we returned to the classroom and made my recipe for kale chips.  When we sat down to taste them most of the children excitedly gathered around ready for their turn to taste them.  One little boy made a face and looked at the bowl with disgust, although he did cautiously take one from the bowl.  He bit into it and then quickly ate the whole thing.  He said, with wonder "I didn't think they would taste yummy, but they taste really yummy."  Then all but 2 children proceeded to devour the whole bowl.  Personally I am still doing mental cartwheels of joy over the whole thing, 3 days later.



No Roll Preschool Friendly Pie Crust

I added sugar and cinnamon to the recipe so it would balance better with the filling.  If I was making a savory pie I would leave out the sugar and cinnamon and add a finely chopped herb such as sage, basil or thyme and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup oil (we used safflower oil, another good neutral oil would be grapeseed oil, for a quiche olive oil would be wonderful and if there are no allergy concerns try roasted hazelnut oil where the nutty sweetness would be appreciated)
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375°

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.  We chose to divide the dough into 2 balls before pressing them into pie pans.  We had just enough dough for a thin crust in each pie without an extra lip of unfilled crust.  Line the pie with foil and fill with about 1 cup of dried beans or pie weights.  Bake the unfilled pie crust in the center of the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Remove and fill with desired filling and bake according to filling recipe.



Pumpkin Puree

2 pie pumpkins (you can also use any winter squash)
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°

Split the pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds and strings.  If the pumpkins are very hard to cut through use a large chefs knife or cleaver and a mallet or hammer.  Just place the knife on the pumpkin as sharp side down and tap it with the mallet to slice the pumpkin in half.  Rub all the cut surfaces with olive oil and place cut side down on a cookie sheet.  Bake until tender when pierced with a knife through the skin.  You can scoop out the insides now or place in the fridge until needed.

Use a spoon or grapefruit spoon to scoop all of the pumpkin flesh into a bowl or pot.  Use an immersion blender to puree or place in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Any puree not used in the pie can be used in muffins, pumpkin waffles, soup or frozen for later use.



Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Gourmet November 1999
(We filled 2 pies with this even though the original recipe states it fills 1.  I tried it at home to fill 1 pie and had leftover batter)

2 cups pumpkin puree from pie pumpkins or 1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375°  Whisk all the ingredients together and pour into crust that has been blind baked for 20 minutes (baked without its filling).  Pour filling into single pie pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until filling is set but still jiggles when you shake the pan.  Allow to cool on a rack before serving to allow filling to set fully.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookie: or How to Fix Kindergarten Drop Off



For years whenever I pictured Julian starting kindergarten I imagined myself sitting outside the room sobbing.  However as the start of kindergarten drew closer I began to lose that vision.  He is just so capable and so ready to learn.  Plus, as much as I loved the adorable toddler he was I love the boy he now is and how our family spends its time as he grows up.  I realized soon after he was born that a family moves at the pace of the baby.  When he was done with napping, we could spend the whole day away from home, when he had the patience for a new activity our whole family could take part.  Plus, watching out for a toddler who is obsessed with electricity and wires was never a relaxing job.  Somehow when I thought of him starting kindergarten I never imagined Julian being anything but ready, even when I was staking out where I should collapse in tears.



On the first day of school when I picked him up another parent asked him how his first day was.  Julian stuck his hand in the air like he was in Saturday Night Fever and said, "Awesome!"  However 2 days later morning drop off was no longer awesome and then it got worse.  I began to joke about looking for someone, anyone, who was not me, to take him to school.

On Friday morning I stood outside the school holding Julian in my arms with his whole body collapsed against mine as he cried.  I was pretty easy to spot, I was the mother standing there crying with her child in her arms as he sobbed.  I have done the tough drop offs before with my children but somehow this felt different.  He was just so wretched, not yet ready to trust his teachers and start his day without me.  Holding him as we cried and then having to peel him of of me and unwind his hands from my purse straps (my children are strong willed and crafty).

Until Julian sobbed in my arms before his school day I never before understood the Elizabeth Stone quote, "Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."  Until I stood there crying with Julian I never fully felt I had to let my heart walk away from me.  I love my children and I think about them whenever they are not with me.  However as I stood there crying with him I understood more of what my children mean to me and how I share their emotions.

I didn't know what was wrong, or how to help him.  I suspected that he just needed to learn to love and trust the adults he is with every day and then he would be comfortable with this completely new situation.  Julian makes strong attachments, collecting people he loves and trusts and feels safe being his outgoing and strong willed self with.  All that would take time and more tears.  More tears that I suspect will finally give me all the grey hairs I really should have at forty.

On Friday, a school holiday, I spent much of the day e-mailing with his teacher how to make his transition better.  I wrote to her of Julian and his 3 years of expecting to have Sebastian's kindergarten teacher himself (a teacher who is currently teaching second grade), how he has never gone into a new situation without already knowing and being attached to the adults.  How he needs to remember all the adults and children in his school building that he loves and trusts.  His teacher had some suggestions of things we could do to make his transition better, although I think many of her suggestions were to make me comfortable walking away as he cries.  She had some folks she thought might be able to help brainstorm solutions, although confidentiality was an issue.  I wonder how this blog post affects all of that?



In the midst of this emotional e-mailing (because I spent the day crying as I read about his troubles and brainstormed what he needs) I began to think of baking something that would help.  Whether I was thinking of a baked good to drown my sorrows or one that I could pack in Julian's lunches like a piece of my heart I don't know.  I was looking for a cookie that had whole grains and chocolate and maybe some fruit.  I found these triple chocolate cranberry cookies, definitely something to savor.

This morning I was able to leave without any tears from either of us.  Maybe it was the cookies, that and the fact Julian now loves and trusts his teacher.  To help build on that love I brought in more cookies to pick up, one for Julian and one for him to give to his teacher and student teacher.  Julian really enjoyed giving a cookie to his teachers, a way to make him more connected to her (or maybe her to him, after all these are not your average cookie).  As we prepared dinner together Julian told me he loves me and I asked if he loves his teacher.  He said, "Yes, I just had to get to know her first."  At dinner when Lewis asked how drop off was Julian replied, "It was fine, I love my teacher now."


Tripel Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetite

10 Tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup barley flakes (or use all rolled oats, I was just playing with multi grains)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chunks (or use high quality semi sweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks (or use high quality white chocolate chips)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chunks (or use high quality milk chocolate chips)
1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen unsweetened cranberries

Place racks in the center of the oven and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.  If using convection preheat your oven to 300°, if not using convection preheat the oven to 350°

Beat the butter and 2 types of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer using the flat beater blade or in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.  Add both flours and the oats and barley flakes and stir until fully blended. Add the chocolate chips and cranberries and stir until they are equally distributed.

Scoop out the dough by rounded Tbsp, I use a dough scoop because I hate trying to wrestle dough out of the spoon, leaving 2 inches between cookies.  Bake the cookies in the preheated oven, if using convection you can bake multiple trays at once, otherwise bake one tray at a time, until the edges are golden brown (approximately 16 minutes).  Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling racks to finish cooling.  They become better after a few days.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Watermelon Creamsicle





On the morning of September first I climbed into bed with each of my children and hugged them.  "Good morning first day of third grade boy." I whispered to Sebastian.  Next I curled up with Julian and again, whispering, said, "Good morning first day of kindergarten boy." Julian happily answered back, "Good morning first day of work mama."  On the first day of school I became the "Healthy Food Coordinator" for the VNA Family Room, which means in one fell swoop everything is different.

Before I tell you about this job, let me say, I am not one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason.  In part this is because my brother liked to walk around New York City, in the eighties, talking to homeless people.  Hearing the stories of why people became homeless sort of kills the possibility that the world will work out for everyone.  There is also that small thing of my mother dying when I was 12 and becoming a type 1 diabetic when I was 13.  So with my lack of Pollyanna feelings about the world established, let me tell you about my new job and the organization I am working for.

The Family Room has been in our lives since Julian was an infant.  At that time I was struggling to figure out how to care for a newborn and keep an overactive, curious, outgoing preschooler occupied and happy.  I quickly learned that our days went better if I could just get us organized enough to get out of the house and to the Family Room, at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays when they have family play.  Family play is a drop in play program with staff and food.  However that does not really explain the role the VNA has had in the lives of my family for the last 5 years, or the feelings of grief I was having as I tried to figure out how I was going to graduate with my children from there.

However this last fall I had come to the realize I did not need to work just because Julian would be in school all day.  Taking care of my family and what we eat is still important work and finding some meaningless, low paying job was not going to make me happier (although it might have made us more financially stable).  If I was not going to work, I would have the time to volunteer at the Family Room, teaching cooking workshops to the participants and helping with food.  So comfortable with my choices I started to look forward to the free time I would have to cook more, blog etc.

Then in  May or June I heard that the Family Room's Americorps Vista position was going to be available and the position was, "Healthy Food Coordinator."  I am going to skip over the brief period when I thought the position was already filled and just say, "Wow!"  This position is even more, "meant to be," if you believe in that kind of thing, as now I am working 3 blocks from the boys current school.  This is only amazing when you realize we decided in April to move the children to a school that is 2 miles from our house, instead of the one Sebastian attended for the last 3 years, that is a mile away.

I have now been doing my job for one week and I feel very confident in saying, I can tell you at the end of the year exactly what I am doing.  One thing I have not had to do is spend time getting to know my coworkers or the programs they offer.  I know I will be teaching cooking workshops, helping to source more local foods for all the programs with a focus on the preschool and developing menus for the preschool ready for them (probably me to start with) making their own meals.  I will be using the skills and relationships I have been developing in the kitchen and with food here in Burlington.  Some of my children's pickiness will help inform what I do, but really much of Sebastian and Julian's opinions about food are uniquely their own.  Take last week and the watermelon popsicles I made when Sebastian declared he was tired of eating the melon from our CSA.

So I had this moment of inspiration to make watermelon cream popsicles, which would be a riff on a drink I used to get on vacation.  The drink was called a watermelon cream and is made by blending fresh watermelon juice with vanilla ice cream.  However rather then make vanilla ice cream I decided just to use milk, cream, sugar and vanilla extract and then freeze the mixture in popsicle molds.  Both Sebastian and Julian were so excited when I told them the idea and hounded me until I got popsicle sticks to make them.  Lewis, Julian and I all love them.  Sebastian, the child who was tired of watermelon, declared that they are not what he was expecting and he doesn't like them.  Apparently, he said, he was expecting them to taste like a wonderfully ripe slice of watermelon and they don't.  Perhaps because his mother intentionally made them a little different from the flavor of watermelon because he was tired of it!




Watermelon Cream Popsicles

2 1/2 cups watermelon puree (make watermelon puree by whizzing watermelon chunks in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. You can remove the seeds if you want but it is not essential)
3/4 cup heavy cream (you can substitute half and half, whole milk or any milk substitute such as soy milk)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, use whatever you keep in the house, even soy, rice, almond etc)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients and combine well using whatever machine you used to puree the watermelon chunks.  Pour into popsicle molds (or paper cups with a stick handle) and freeze until hard.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomato Orange Marmalade


My addiction to canning began 7 years ago with this recipe, all that I love about canning is present in tomato orange marmalade.  It is a product that is inaccessible if you do not make it yourself, one that looks beautiful cooling on your counters for weeks longer then necessary, an enjoyable almost meditative cooking process and of course a flavor that is well worth all the time you invest in it.  The flavor is one that provides a bright sweet flavor to a long winter of stored root vegetables.  I was recently asked what compelled me to make this recipe when I first saw, tomato is not well known as a sweet preserve and many would not even try it.  Honestly I do not remember, it may have been my love of tomatoes, or the way I was imagining it would taste in my head or just an adventurous streak.  Although we should remember that tomatoes are a fruit, so really it should be less of a mental leap then making a tasty dessert with rhubarb, which is a vegetable.

I ended up making Tomato Orange Marmalade in my No Added Pectin Jam Making Workshop last Saturday and I think it is safe to say it surprised all the participants.  Everyone immediately fell in love with it.  One attendee said, "This is my new favorite thing."  A sentiment I fully understand as it is a spread that is just the right side of sweet to be perfect spread on toast or filling a French crepe, but would also be happy paired with chevre.  The tomatoes serve to balance the citrus and temper the bitterness that is usually so prevalent in marmalade.  In the end I think everyone was happy that I called it in to pinch hit for the seedless raspberry jam I originally had planned.

Raspberry jam seemed perfect to teach now as the season was just beginning, giving the participants plenty of time to make it on their own before the season was over.  However I failed to think through the nature of farming and availability.  I was happily remembering picking fall raspberries in the height of the season, when you can take less then thirty minutes to fill a flat with berries.  However this is the start of the fall raspberry season and the picking is frustrating at best.  So in the end I had enough local raspberries to make a batch in my workshop but not enough to swap in and out various steps like a Food Network Star.

In case I have not sufficiently piqued your interest to try this marmalade recipe perhaps my eight year old's undying love for it can persuade you.  This has been Sebastian's favorite since he was 3, the year I ran out mid winter and unable to imagine his diet without it found out a quart jar of home canned crushed tomatoes would work in the recipe.  Every time Sebastian introduces someone to it and they fall in love it makes his day.  He loves knowing that other people have discovered one of his favorite culinary joys.  If you do try this please let me know in the comments, I know he will love to read them.



Tomato Orange Marmalade
Adapted from Gourmet 2003

It is important that you use the best quality tomatoes you can for this recipe.  You can use any color of tomato you want, a mix is especially striking.  Don't use paste tomatoes as they do not have enough liquid in them.  If need be in winter you can make a batch using 1 quart jar of home canned crushed tomatoes.  However supermarket tomato look alikes will not work.  A friend tried that once and when I asked how it was she replied, "Well... I ate it."  Which meant no one else would.



3 pounds peeled, cored and chopped ripe heirloom tomatoes, including juices (the weight is after peeling, coring and chopping, including the weight of any juices)
3 cups sugar
2 organic juice oranges, washed
1 organic lemon, washed
1/8 tsp salt

Place peeled, chopped tomatoes and their juices in a 5 to 6 qt or larger, wide pot, (the ingredients will all fit in a smaller pot but you need to leave space so they will not bubble over, ideally it should be at least 9 1/2 inches wide to encourage rapid evaporation).  Slice oranges and lemons as thinly as possible, including peel and pith.  I slice mine on my mandolin using the thinest insert and then remove all the seeds and slice the rounds into 4 pieces (and the pieces that are only peel I julienne, you can also quarter the fruit and then slice it as thinly as possible with a knife.

Place the lemon and orange slices in the pan with the tomatoes, checking again for any citrus pits you missed, in the pot with the tomato.  Add the sugar and salt and place over moderate heat while stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Turn the heat to high and continue to cook until the setting point is reached.*

Using a canning funnel ladle hot marmalade into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Run a bubble wand or small knife around the inside of the jar to remove air bubbles.  Use a damp paper towel to clean the surface of the rims, place a clean lid on top, add the rings and tighten as tightly as you can with your hands.  Place the filled jars in a water bath canner and process for 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes is up remove the lid, turn off the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes before removing the jars to cool on a towel or receiving blanket.



*How to test the setting point of jam:
This recipe is a great one to learn how to make preserves without added pectin as it gives you a visual cue when to begin testing.  At first the ingredients all look like separate items, tomatoes, juice and citrus slices.  I never begin to test this recipe until the ingredients take on a cohesive look, like they are all one product and most of the liquid is evaporated.  When making jam do not expect it to look like jam when it is still hot, hot jam is still a liquid unless you have moved beyond the gel stage and gotten to the cement stage.

Once it begins to look cohesive begin testing, for this recipe I rely almost exclusively on the cold plate test.  I place 2 saucers in the freezer and when I want to test the set I place a dollop on the plate, remove the marmalade from the heat, and place the plate in the fridge.  After a few minutes check the plate, the marmalade should remain in a mound that does not run if it is done, if you run your finger through it it should leave a line.  If you want a firmer set it should wrinkle before your finger if you push the mound, I personally prefer a softer set then that with this one.

If you do not trust your set testing abilities do the cold plate test and when you think it is set take the pot off the heat, place it in the fridge and test the set the next morning.  If it is set heat it back up to boiling before ladling into hot jars and canning (the product must be hot to safely can it).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Canning 101: An Article, Two Workshops and FAQ



I decided to post a canning FAQ based on the google searches I see people using that cause them to find my blog.  I keep seeing the same questions come up in my statistics so I wanted to answer the questions directly here. Often the questions are answered in the post they land on, but only if the reader has good reading comprehension skills.

Before I dive in let me tell you about the canning workshops I am teaching this summer.  They are being taught through Red Wagon Plants and will help participants feel more comfortable with the whole process.

The first workshop is Saturday, August 28th from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and the topic is No Added Pectin Jam Making.  Right now all signs point to a seedless raspberry jam, but please don't hold me to that.

The second workshop is Salsa Two Ways on Saturday, September 18th from 9:00 Am to 12:00 PM.  In this workshop we will make a green and red salsa.

To register for either or both workshops contact Red Wagon Plants.
Red Wagon - Phone: 802-482-4060
Greenhouse and workshop location: 2408 Shelburne Falls Rd. Hinesburg, VT 05461



If you don't want a full workshop but need a little more guidance, last summer I posted a step by step guide to canning crushed tomatoes that can help beginning canners to be more comfortable with the process.  My personal goal is 35 quarts, last year I did 28 and while I only recently used them up, I was being careful.

Lastly a link before I get to the questions, the Burlington Free Press published an article today on Canning's comeback.  I was interviewed (and photographed) for the piece on topics as wide ranging as the need for safe canning practices, why I do it and where to find more info (other then this blog of course).  Canning Makes a Comback Article


Reprinted with permission from Burlington Free Press staff photographer Glenn Russell


Canning FAQ


Can you make no sugar jam without added commercial pectin?
Sorry, no.  While pectin is naturally occurring in fruit, the amount is different depending on the type of fruit and how ripe it is.  The pectin that is naturally present in fruit requires sugar and acid in order to set or gel.  The only way to make no sugar jam is to use Pomona's Pectin.   If you decide to buy it and use this link I will get a tiny credit at Amazon, however I do not personally endorse the product.  I have friends who love it, but I find it has a chalky texture.  In addition no sugar or low sugar jams will go bad quickly after opening, even when refrigerated, as sugar acts as a preservative.  I do make jams that rely on the natural pectin in fruit. With this method I can use less sugar then required by most commercial pectins and I still have a product that lasts in my fridge after opening.

Do you need to use pectin or a special recipe to make freezer jam?
Any jam or jelly can be stored in the freezer if you do not want to use the boiling water bath.  Just leave 3/4 of an inch of headspace, making sure to use jars that are labeled as being safe for the freezer.  Any of the tapered jars that are wider at the top then the bottom, or the ones with straight sides will work.  In the picture at the top of this post the first 2 jars from left to right will work and the other 3 should not be used.  Because the top is smaller than the base in the 3 jars on the right. Jam expands as it freezes and could cause the jar to crack.

My jam did not set, how can I fix it? (How do I fix runny jam?)
The answer to this depends on whether you were making a recipe with added commercial pectin or not.  If you were using added pectin you need to follow the package directions for redoing the batch which involves adding more pectin and recooking.  I have never tried this as I don't use commercial pectin (except in my strawberry freezer jam), however I understand doing this can give you an overly stiff jam.  If you were making a jam without added pectin and it just had not set when you canned it you can put it all back in the pan and recook it until the setting point is reached.  Alternatively, you can just label the jars as syrup and use it on french toast, waffles, pancakes, ice cream, stirred into yogurt, as a dessert sauce, folded into whipped cream, drizzled over pound cake, as an ingredient in barbecue sauce...

How risky is botulism when making jam and other high acid products?
Botulism is not a concern when making fruit jam (unless you are using a low acid fruit such as bananas), as long as you are making jam or jelly without adding any low acid ingredients or fats (so no oil, nuts, dairy, chocolate, vegetables).  Jams and jellies are some of the safest products to can.  The steps to safely can fruits are to ensure the product does not mold or decay, not to protect you from botulism.  Botulism cannot live in a high acid environment so even if you mess up the canning process when making jam you are not going to have botulism growing in your jars.  Instead they may not seal properly so you may have a jar that goes moldy or bad.

If I mess up the steps for canning am I going to poison my family?
Depends on what you are preserving and how you mess up, and even then it is rare.  If you are canning tomatoes adding the correct amount of acid for proper acidification is very important, so make sure to add any acid called for and do not change or add any ingredients.   Proper acidification creates an environment where botulism spores cannot thrive.  However if the proper acidification level is reached any errors you may make in the process may cause mold or spoilage, not botulism.  If you are using a pressure canner to preserve low acid items strictly adhering to the process is more vital, the correct temperature and times for processing allow the heat penetration that kills the botulism spores that may be present.



I found this recipe for _____________ in one of my cookbooks.  It looks really tasty and I want to enjoy it in the winter.  How do I can it?
Sorry, the only way to enjoy whatever non canning recipe in the winter is to freeze it or safely can the main ingredient. Then make the recipe with your preserved items in the winter.  For canning it is really important to use tested safe recipes.  Canning requires set acidity as well as density to make a reliable and safe product. You can find plenty of safe, tested recipes designed for canning to keep you busy canning all year without searching for new recipes to can from non canning sources.

I want to change this salsa/tomato sauce/pickle recipe to suit our tastes, what can I safely change?
Without seeing the recipe and the changes you want to make it is hard to advise you, however some guidelines.  You cannot increase the amount of any low acid ingredients in these recipes or else you may change the acidity and making an environment where botulism could grow.  Low acid items include: garlic, onions, peppers, celery, and all other vegetables.  You can add wine, sugar, salt, pepper and other DRIED herbs and spices.  Do not add any fat (so no butter, oil, schmaltz).  You can switch the acid that is being added for another acid. 1 tsp citric acid is equivalent to 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice or 1/2 cup 5% acidity vinegar.

This canning recipe calls for bottled lemon juice, can I substitute fresh? It tastes so much better.
Sorry, no.  Fresh lemon juice can vary greatly in how much acid is present, you need to use bottled to make sure you are using the correct amount of acidity to properly acidify what you are making.

These are good pointers, but I am still scared.  Any other information that can help me get over my fear of canning?
Yes, remember, I am teaching two, yes two, workshops this summer on canning through Red Wagon Plants.  If you take these workshops you will get to take part in canning, this can help give you the confidence in how to follow the steps and get over your fear.  You will even get to take home a sample so you can brag to all your friends that you canned this tasty item.  Plus I will answer your questions about canning.

The first workshop is Saturday, August 28th from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and the topic is no added pectin jam.  Right now all signs point to a seedless raspberry jam, but please don't hold me to that.

The second workshop is Salsa two ways on Saturday, September 18th from 9:00 Am to 12:00 PM.  In this workshop we will make a green and red salsa.

Red Wagon Plants Workshop Series