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

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Peek in my Kitchen

While I am on vacation in Cape Cod cooking in this kitchen

please come and tour you the inside of my kitchen in Burlington and hear more about my family and I over at The Stir on Cafemom.com.  I have to admit I struggled with this opportunity and how real I wanted your peek at my kitchen to be.  I did clean it, but hopefully I managed to leave it looking real.  Just like the small well used kitchen it is.  I asked a friend once if my house was like a real home or one where the owners just set down in the middle without making it a home.  She told me it looked like we had moved in and started playing and cooking immediately.  She did a great job of telling me the truth and making it sound good.

Thanks to Kim Conte for being so patient with my response to this opportunity.  She asked me back in April, it took me until a week ago to submit my answers.  It is not because I spent that time cleaning my kitchen, instead I was deciding how clean to make it.

After all that, here is the Hippo Flambe feature at the Stir on CafeMom.com

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blue Fish with Saffron Caper Aioli

Lewis and I have been vacationing in Cape Cod for over 10 years.  B.C. (Before Children) we used to car camp, first in Wellfleet and then in Truro.  However after Sebastian was born I could not face the idea of camping, not even the luxury tent car camping we always did.  My children are the kind who are into everything.  I often joked that I could hire them out as a baby proofing service, set them down on the floor and within 5 minutes they could find the most dangerous item in any room.  Camping was out because I could not figure out how to baby proof the world, really the whole idea did not sound relaxing to me.  Now we stay in a cottage with a tiny kitchen that I can only assume is well stocked for hot dogs and boxed mac and cheese.

Every year I bring a kitchen box with my most needed kitchen tools.  With the addition of my non stick saute pan, silicone spatulas, oven mitts, tongs, favorite knives, spices, pepper mill and anything else I remember to toss in the box, I can cook happily in even the tiniest of kitchens with the most motley assortment of pans.  However 3 years ago I had a new food quandry for vacation.  The previous summer, while on vacation, I read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and decided I was done with supporting the meat found in most supermarkets.  I would no longer buy meat from CAFO (contained animal feeding operations).  At home this was a simple decision to follow through on.  My favorite local store carries several options and I could always find something local in the reduced price section.  In addition I could easily buy a share in an animal directly from the farmer, further reducing my cost.

However the supermarket franchises in Cape Cod are not like City Market, so I was left arguing with myself over how to approach meat while on vacation.  I was not up for the task of bringing it with me, however I also knew I would not enjoy a week of CAFO meat.  The guilt alone would ruin the taste.  In the end I did not think of a solution until we went to the beach.  Somehow as a landlocked Vermonter I totally forgot seafood is local and wild in Cape Cod.

The other night I bought bluefish and was plotting in my head how to prepare it, trying to remember a tasty onion and lemon sauce I made last year.  I realized it was time to give up on that dish and move on.  Last year I added herbs in 4 inch pots to my "kithchen box," although technically they travel stuffed in a corner of the car, not in the box.  I always bring saffron as it goes so well with seafood.  Still plotting and thinking (and reading many bluefish recipes that called for spreading mayonnaise or mayonnaise and sour cream on the fish before baking).  I began by soaking some of my capers in water to temper their saltiness and to saute some onions.

Thinking of the mayonnaise preparations I suddenly remembered the saffron aioli my friend Cheryl went on about trying at The Bouillabaisse Bash I was not invited to.  I decided I could make a version that would be just right to spread on the fish before baking.  The end result was delicious, it had to have been as Julian asked me today if I would make it again, tonight.  Sebastian, on the other hand, tried a bite, tasted it slowly and after careful consideration decided he did not want any.  (Trust me, it tasted far better then it looks in this photo.  I decided this dish was too good not to post, even though none of the photos are good.  If nothing else I need to record the recipe for myself).

Blue Fish with Saffron Caper Aioli

1 Tbsp capers (preferably preserved in salt not brine)
scant 1/2 cup mini onions or shallots, sliced thin
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup white wine (I used riesling)
1/4 tsp saffron
1 Tbsp Champagne vinegar
3 sprigs lemon thyme (or use regular thyme)
1/4 cup sour cream (I did not have sour cream so I used half and half with 3/4 tsp Champagne vinegar mixed in and then allowed to stand for 10 minutes to thicken)
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 lb fresh bluefish

Preheat oven to 350°

If using salt preserved capers, soak capers in a small bowl of warm water to leach out some of the salt while prepping the other ingredients.  In a large saute pan melt butter and add EVOO, saute mini onions or shallots until tender and translucent.  Add wine, capers, saffron, vinegar and thyme to onions and reduce until it is a syrupy glaze, about a few Tbsp, basically until reducing any further means you will not be able to remove it from the pan.  (This took me a little less then 10 minutes, perfect for letting the half and half mixture become sour cream).

Mix sour cream, mayonnaise and reduced saffron glaze in a small bowl. Season aioli with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Line a baking dish with foil and place the fish on it skin side down, season the fish with salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour the aioli over the fish, spreading it all over the top.  Bake uncovered until cooked through and tender.  I baked mine for approximately 20 minutes.   Plate and serve.