Monday, September 30, 2013

East Coast Pickled Chow

Pickled chow is one of those things I never liked as a kid, but enjoy as an adult.  I used to watch my grandmother make it at the end of the summer when I was little; to this day, the smell of pickling spice and sight of a bowl of veggies soaking in pickling salt brings me back to that memory EVERY single time.

Chow is a perfect match for fish cakes (especially if they're made with salt cod) and is very common on the East Coast.  You can also have it on burgers or as a side dish with a pot roast... but with fish cakes is the best way, in my opinion.  It is super easy to make and only really contains two items as the main ingredients- green tomatoes and onions.

This recipe was adapted from "You Can Too!" by Elizabeth Peirce.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Heart Apple Pie

I love this time of year. It seems like the air is a tiny bit cooler, the humid days of summer have passed, and the harvest is in full swing. Farmers markets are overflowing with beautiful products- it's hard to resist not buying one of everything! I always look forward to the apple harvest in Nova Scotia because there are so many varieties to choose from (see my previous post for more details.) Craving an apple dessert, I stumbled upon a recipe from Martha Stewart for a spiced apple pie and decided to make it my own.  Making it takes a little patience but the end result is so worth it!  I think this pie would be perfect for Thanksgiving or a Sunday family dinner.

For the pie crust:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 sticks (18 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
9 tablespoons ice water

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tangy Pickled Onions

I stumbled upon a recipe from Food in Jars about pickled red onions. I'm not a fan of onions unless they are slices super thin or diced fine- otherwise they're just big bites of pungent flavor that I don't enjoy.  I took a chance with this recipe and and am so happy I did. The result is a sour and sweet thin onion that is perfect on sandwiches or burgers. I highly recommend it, and it takes little or no time to make.

3 pounds of thinly sliced red onion (I used my food processor to slice them)
2 cups apple cider vinegar (I used a local vinegar- make sure it has at least 5% acidity)
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp pickling salt
2 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp red chili flakes

1) Combine water, vinegar, salt, sugar in a pot and bring to a boil.
2) Then, turn down stove to medium heat and add onions.  Stir onions and watch for them to soften, it took me about 5-6 minutes.
3) Sterilize jars and simmer lids.
4) In sterilized warm jars, add an even amount of spice in each jar.  Then, fill with onion and brine mixture, leaving 1/2" headspace.
5) Remove air bubbles from jars, wipe rims, then affix lids and screwbands.  Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
6) Test lids to make sure they've set after they've cooled. If they didn't set, you can store them in the fridge.

Pickling Jalapeños

One of my favourite canning discoveries was pickling jalapeños. So easy to do and a million times better than the store bought jars of sliced jalapeños. They are surprisingly simple to make and tend to disappear quickly among my friends and family.  Recipe is originally from Food in Jars.

To start, select firm, ripe peppers. Rinse them and then decide how you would like to can them- whole, sliced, or halved. I like sliced and whole the best. 

Once the peppers are prepared, sterilize your jars and simmer lids. Then prepare a brine of 2 cups white vinegar, 2 cups water and 2 tbsp pickling salt. Bring to a boil and dissolve salt. Fill jars with peppers, then pour brine over them. Leave 1/2" headspace. Remove air bubbles, affix lids then process in hot water bath for ten minutes. Voila! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ooey Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

We're having a few people over for dinner & I was trying to think of an easy dessert I could serve when I stumbled on the latest cooking club challenge from Chatelaine. This challenge is about cookies- they offered up 5 different recipes to try. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best thing to do and I happened to have the ingredients in my pantry and fridge for chocolate chip cookies, so away I went.

This recipe is so easy to follow, and the results are amazing. The cookies are ooey, gooey good. They're great on their own or would be great in an ice cream sandwich (just layer a scoop of vanilla ice cream between two cookies).

2 & 1/4 cups of all purpose flour (I used 2 cups of flour and for added texture, used 1/4 cup 7 grain cereal)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I used a fine sea salt)
1 cup softened unsalted butter
1 & 1/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar (I like dark brown sugar the best for baking)
1 egg
1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups of chocolate chips

Make Your Own Mustard

Mustard is by far my favorite condiment. It's the perfect combination of tangy and spicy, which I adore. I was reading through a few preserving cookbooks yesterday and stumbled on a recipe for a spicy honey mustard that looked surprisingly simple to make. I can't wait to have it on burgers, sandwiches, etc. It's another recipe courtesy of Food in Jars (seriously- the book is amazing!).

1 cup dry mustard
1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup honey (I used clover honey- it's a light honey)
1/2 tsp salt (I used a fine sea salt)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
 I used small jars (125 ml) and ended up with 7 of them.

1) Add everything to a medium-sized pot, and whisk everything together to blend it
2) Simmer over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, it should get thick.

3) Sterilize jars, simmer lids, and prepare hot water bath in your canning pot.
4) Ladle mustard mixture into jars leaving 1/2" of headroom. Wipe rims, clear out air bubbles, seal and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Edited to add: the mustard will take several days to develop its flavor and mellow out- be patient.  Also, if you don't feel like canning, you can put jars into the fridge instead.  It should last a few weeks.

Easy peasy! I highly recommend giving it a try.

Pickled Golden Beets

I have been looking for pickling recipes to preserve beets for a while now. I have pickled red beets before and grew up eating them, but wanted something different. I stumbled upon a recipe for pickled golden beets from Marisa at Food in Jars; it was on my radar for a few weeks so when I saw beets at the farmers market on Saturday, I went for it.  I plan on digging into these with pot roast, putting them on salads with goat cheese and walnuts, or having them with fish. Beets are easy to grow, easy to find at markets this time of year, and are full of nutrition.

2 lbs of golden beets- make sure they are firm to the touch when you buy them; if they feel soft, they're old and won't give you the best results
2 cups of apple cider vinegar; I used a local apple cider vinegar from the market. Make sure it has at least a 5% acidity
2 cups of water
2 tbsp of pickling salt
3 tbsp of pickling spice (it's a spice mixture sold at most supermarkets)
This recipe made 3 500ml jars of pickles

1) Boil the beets until they slide off of a fork or knife.  Run cold water over them once boiled, let them cool a bit, then peel their skins off. The skins should come off easily.

2) Cut beets; I prefer slices but you can cut them up into wedges if you prefer.

3) Prepare brine- bring cider vinegar, water, salt to a boil.
4) Sterilize jars and keep them warm while you wait for the brine solution to be ready. Make sure your canning lids are simmering in water, to soften the gel on the lid.
5) Remove jars from water (I sterilize mine by putting them in the canning pot with the hot water that I'm using for the hot water bath), fill with pickling spice (divide pickling spice among jars). 
6) Add beets to each jar and top with brine. Leave 1/2" headspace in the jar.

7) Tap jars to remove air bubbles (I also use a chopstick to circle around jar); wipe rims, apply lids, then put bands on jars (finger tight only- don't tighten them too much or you won't get a proper seal).
8) Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove, let cool then check lids to make sure they sealed.  Store in cool, dark space. They're good to eat within 48 hrs... if you can wait that long.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Spicy Barbecue Sauce, Made From Scratch

I participated in a tomato flash mob today and decided to use the opportunity to make a batch of spicy BBQ sauce. What is a tomato flash mob? Well, it was a call for help from a local farm, Taproots, to help use up tomatoes they had harvested. I picked up two cases at 25 pounds each, for 25$ a case. They were ripe, juicy and beautiful- I'm so happy I got to participate and learned about this event.  I added a few tomatoes from our garden that also needed to be used up and quickly got to work.
Putting tomatoes through our tomato press to extract the pulp and tomato juice.
The recipe I have for the sauce came from a canning magazine I picked up a couple of years ago. I only made two additions- I added tomato paste and two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. This recipe is delicious and well worth the time to make it!

12 lbs ripe tomatoes, which turns into 19 cups of puréed tomatoes
3 cups chopped onions
2&1/4 cups chopped celery
2&1/4 cups chopped bell peppers
1/2 cup finely diced hot pepper such as Serrano or jalapeño
3 cloves of garlic, diced fine
2 cups vinegar
1&1/2 packed brown sugar
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 small can, 6 oz, tomato paste
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 tsp fine sea salt
4 tsp smoked paprika
4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1) Purée/press tomatoes with a tomato press or use a blender. Add tomato mixture to a pot, then add onions, celery, peppers, and garlic. Cook for 45 minutes, gently simmering.
Beautiful tomato pulp!

2) Press mixture through a sieve, then put liquid back into a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, aim to have it reduced by close to half. Stir frequently.

3) Stir in vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, seasonings and continue to simmer. Monitor for thickness, once it has the consistency you want, you are done. Add the balsamic vinegar and give it a final stir.

4) Ladle hot BBQ sauce into warm, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom. It should yield 5 pint jars. Process jars for 35 minutes in hot water bath and then let cool.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Sure Sign of Fall: Apples!

We visited the Annapolis Valley yesterday and stopped by a few of our favourite farmer's markets.  Much to my delight, I saw that the apple harvest had started.  Nova Scotia produces some of the best apples! They're crisp, have just the right balance of sweetness to tartness, and there are many varieties to choose from (proof here).  Here's a brief history of apples in the Province from the Government of Nova Scotia.

I've always wanted to try making an apple butter and decided there is no time like the present! I worked with this recipe to get me started and followed canning procedures using a hot water bath to process the jars once it was ready (leaving 1/4" headspace, used 250ml jars, and processed for 10 minutes with a rolling boil).

• 6 lbs of apples, cut into quarters
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
• 2 cups water
• 3 cups sugar
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 & 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 3/4 tsp ground cloves
• ½ tsp allspice
• The juice and zest of 1 lemon

I put everything in a slow cooker and put it on the highest setting. I stirred everything together and then let it cook on high for 60 minutes. I then turned the temperature down to low and let it simmer for 5 hours. The smell in my kitchen was heavenly!  There is something so comforting about the smell of apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar cooking.

At the end of the 5 hours, I put everything through a strainer/sieve, and put the remaining mixture into a non-stick pot on the stove. I then cooked it on low for a little over an hour (it was about an hour & 15 mins).  At this stage while it was on the stove top, I stirred it frequently (about every 10 minutes) to make sure it didn't stick or start to burn. When I first put it in the pot it was a little bit thicker than an applesauce and just kept reducing from there.
It's just a bit thicker than applesauce at this point
What you're looking for is a spreadable texture. Keep a close eye on it and you'll be able to judge when the texture is where you want it. Once you've achieved the spreadable consistency, it's ready to be ladled into jars and processed. I ended up with 9 jars of it and can't wait to dig in!

Preserving the Tomato Harvest: Spicy Garlic Salsa

Tomato harvest is in full swing and as a result, I'm a happy camper! I'm processing tomatoes in a couple of different ways. The first is to make a spicy garlic salsa that we will get to enjoy all winter long. It is an easy recipe to follow and the results are fantastic.

This recipe is full of tomato goodness and I was able to incorporate some of our delicious garlic as well as hot peppers that we grew in our garden. I relied on this recipe to make it, although I didn't use cherry tomatoes.

Some of the salsa ingredients from our garden
Note: we made two separate batches which totalled 16 500ml jars when completed
18 cups of chopped tomatoes (it worked out to be about 25 tomatoes, but will depend on the size and variety of tomato you choose)
2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh jalapeno chile pepper (it was about 4-5 jalapenos)
2 cups chopped onions (1.5-2 large)
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 can tomato paste
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin (I used roasted cumin)
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 cup torn fresh cilantro

1) Chop tomatoes into small pieces and let them sit in a colander for about 30 minutes to drain some of the juices off. Discard juices or use in another recipe.

2) Add tomatoes to a non-stick large pot and bring to a boil. Then turn to medium-low heat and simmer; reduce the mixture until it reaches the consistency you'd like- I let mine reduce for about 45 minutes.  Skim off any foam that may rise from the mixture.

3) Prepare other ingredients, then add everything except the cilantro to tomato mixture. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes.  At the end of that period, add the cilantro and stir to make sure it's mixed in well.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Preserving the Harvest: Recipes on my Radar

Now that I'm back from vacation, I'm getting caught up on reading some of my fave blogs. I read the latest entry at Simple Bites and it lit a fire in me- I need to get organized to make sure I complete the preserving activities I had planned for this summer's supply.  There are still a few things on my radar that I want to squeeze in, I've listed them below in case others have an interest.

I came across the site Local Kitchen- there is a page dedicated to tomato recipes and I wanted to pass it on to the other tomato lovers out there. The descriptions all sound lovely and super tasty.  Can't wait to go through them in more detail!

My tomato basil jam

Pickled golden beets: recipe from Marisa at Food in Jars. I LOVE beets. They're earthy, full of nutrition, and I love their color. I grew up eating pickled beets with traditional red beets and am looking forward to trying a pickled golden beet.   I'm also going to make a yellow tomato and basil jam recipe that she has up on her site; I made it a couple of summers ago and it was delicious.

It's likely that I'll have some green tomatoes at the end of the season. I'm going to try this recipe from Ball for a salsa verde.
A couple of the green tomatoes in my garden
This recipe for apple butter from Canning Across America is on my list.  I love apples- they're the perfect symbol of autumn to me. (Apple butter is a reduced apple mixture that forms a spread similar to a butter- it doesn't actually include butter, in case you're wondering.)

I'm going to make salsa that I can process in jars; I did this a couple of years ago and although the results were a little runny, the flavour was great! This recipe includes tomato paste, which should help thicken up the mixture.
My canned salsa from a couple of summers ago

I recently bought a tomato press and a pressure canner- I'm looking forward to make tomato sauce and home-made stock.  I stick to a basic sauce like this one.  I add a few basic dried herbs (basil, oregano) to the sauce and that's it. The rest gets added when I use it in cooking.  Please be careful when selecting tomato sauce recipes for water bath canning- use those from trusted sources. Acidity levels vary among tomatoes and it's important to make sure you don't waste your time making sauce with a recipe that doesn't have sufficient acidity to help ward off bacteria and prevent spoilage.

Lastly, I'm looking forward to making BBQ sauce again. I have a recipe that came from a canning magazine a few years ago and it's so good. I can't find it online to post a link.  When I make it, I'll blog about it and show you the step-by-step process. It's a little labour intensive, but it's well worth it.
My home-made BBQ sauce from a couple of summers ago

What recipes are you looking forward to trying with the last of the summer harvest?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Vacation, Summer Harvest & A Tomato Sauce Recipe

We were on vacation for the past week in beautiful Cape Breton. We took our dogs, rented a cottage in Cheticamp and had a fantastic time: great views, ocean waves, access to the Highlands National Park, fresh air, beautiful sunsets, twinkling stars at night, and delicious seafood.  It was the perfect vacation; I hated to leave!  When I got home, I had a nice surprise that cheered me up quickly- I checked our garden beds and found a lot of tomatoes ready to be harvested. As a result, I picked an entire basket full and am simmering some of the tomatoes to make a sauce that I will freeze. The others will get used in salads and on sandwiches. 

I swear by organic gardening methods- my tomatoes always grow really well.
Lots of tomato goodness! 

We saw the most beautiful field of sunflowers! It was a nice discovery on a dreary, rainy day

Our dogs swam their little hearts out, loving the ocean waves and warm water

Beautiful waterfall in the Highlands National Park

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Autumn Gardening on the East Coast (updated)

How many of you are planting items to grow in the autumn/fall? It took me a few years before I finally took the plunge. Now that I have, I'm hooked!

Last year, I tried growing beets, carrots, arugula, spinach and snap peas.  The beets, arugula and spinach all did very well. I left the carrots over the winter months and by the time spring came around, they were a bit soggy so that didn't quite work out.  Snap peas were just okay- they ended up tasting a little tough, which made me think perhaps I didn't choose the right variety to plant.
Beets harvested in November last year. 
This year, I've planted carrots, spinach, arugula, and beets. I'm trying to stick to things that I know we'll eat and enjoy.

There are many cool season crops that grow well in the fall months, including:
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beets
  • Leeks
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Other greens like mache, tatsoi and mizuna
  • Mustard greens
  • Bok Choi
  • Broccoli
  • Rapini
  • Radishes
  • Swiss Chard
  • There is a great article in East Coast Living about fall garden crops that outlines some of the above; you can read it here.

I've found two things that help me to extend the season once frost develops: our covered raised beds and using straw to layer around the seedlings. I have two beds that have a cover- as an example, I have one on a smaller 3 x 3 bed using a lid like this one.  Regarding straw, I picked up a bail from a local farm supply store and have been using it for the past two years.  If you don't have access to straw, there are other alternatives for mulching outlined in this article.

The cover for one of our raised beds. 
If you need a little inspiration, browse through the photo gallery that Martha Stewart's blog just posted, it's gorgeous!


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