August 21, 2012

Oven Canning, Fall Sweetness

Fruit and Honey Jam

You will need:
     4 pounds or so fresh, ripe apricots, berries, apples, or a combination
     ½ teaspoon each: cinnamon and cardamom powder
     Pinch salt  
     6 Tablespoons local honey 

Start by blanching and de-stoning the fruit. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with cold water. Drop the fruit into boiling water and boil for 20 seconds. Transfer to the ice water with a slotted spoon, and cool briefly. Slip off the skins, cut in half and remove the stones.

Place the fruit and spices in a heavy saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes over medium heat. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the apricots have broken down into a Stir often until the apricots have reduced into a thick purée.

While jam is cooking, sterilize pint mason jars and lids by placing them in the sink, pouring boiling water over them, and draining them on a clean dish towel.

Separate oven racks so that a jar fits in between them and line the racks with cookie sheets.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Add honey and stir to incorporate. Taste for sweetness and add more honey if desired. Turn off heat and ladle hot jam into hot jars. Make sure you leave 5 cm of headspace from the top of the jar.

Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace as needed. Wipe any jam off of jar rims and put lids on jars.  Screw bands down until tight.

Turn off the oven. Place jars in oven and leave them in for 6 hours or so.

Test jars by pressing on the top to make sure that the lid is firm.

Repeat the oven canning process for any lids that are not firm. Label jars with name and date, place on pantry shelves.

August 10, 2012

Cooling Summer Soups

Save a quart of two of these soups in the freezer to enjoy this winter!

Zucchini Basil Soup

You will need:
2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and cut crosswise into thirds
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups water, divided
1/3 cup packed basil leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop zucchini into chunks.
Add chopped zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt and saute, stirring occasionally for 10 more minutes.

Add 3 cups water, bring to a boil, and simmer, partially covered, about 30 minutes.

Purée soup with basil in 2 batches in a blender or with an immersion blender.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves and black pepper if desired. Serve with sourdough bread and goat cheese or toasted almonds to make a meal!

Cucumber Soup with Avocado Nutmeg Garnish

For the soup:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
4 cups peeled, seeded and thinly sliced cucumbers, divided
1 cup water
1 cup almond or rice milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each: cumin and coriander
Pinch of cayenne pepper

For the garnish:
1 avocado, diced
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Add lemon juice, cucumber slices, water, milk, and spices.
Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer until the cucumbers are soft, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the garnish by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl.

Transfer the soup to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree it.

Serve the soup warm or refrigerate and serve it chilled. Just before serving, garnish with the avocado nutmeg delight! Enjoy with a fresh tomato and feta salad and corn tortillas or cornbread.

Baby Beet and Carrot Soup with Tahini Beet Green Garnish

For the soup:
4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 medium shallots, diced
4 medium-sized red beets, cut into 1 inch chunks
10 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
**If the new beets and carrots from your garden or market are smaller, just increase the quanties.
2 tbsp ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
6 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt

For the garnish:
1 cup baby beet greens, washed and minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch salt
1 Tablespoon tahini

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat.
Add shallots and sauté for several minutes until translucent.
Add the carrots to the pot and cook for about 10 minutes.
Stir in the beets, ginger, garlic, and cook for another few minutes.

Add the stock and salt. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low boil and cover partially, cooking for about 1 hour, or until the carrots and beets are fork tender.

Meanwhile, mince the beet greens. Place them in a sauce pot with ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 5 minutes with the pot lid askew.
Drain liquid and toss greens with salt, lemon juice, and tahini.
Set aside.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, purée the contents of the pot.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with beet green mixture. Enjoy with sourdough bread, cooked rice, and tempeh or chicken. Delicious!

August 1, 2012

Make your own sourdough

The August full moon is here, and traditional people celebrate this time as Lammas, the first harvest of grain. Take this opportunity to make your own sourdough starter! It is fun, economical, and satisfying to create unique loaves with very little work.

I use a rye starter because it is delicious, low in gluten, and rye berries can be sourced locally from Butterworks Farm. It takes about a week for the starter to ferment. Once it is ready, you can bake bread as often as you like and keep the starter in the fridge when you are not baking.

Rye is the member of the grass family that has the highest content of pentosans, polysaccharides found in plants. Pentosans absorb much moisture and compete with the glutenin and gliadin (the two compounds that form gluten) for moisture, thus inhibiting gluten development. Rye ferments more quickly than wheat, which is satisfying when making your own starter.

To make the starter, mix 1 cup rye flour with 3 cups water in a mason jar. Cover with a thin cloth so that natural bacteria from the air can enter and help the mixture to ferment. 

Stir the mixture at least twice each day - I try to do so in the morning and evening. After about a week, the mixture will start to smell like yeast. Now you know that it is ready for baking.

Before you go to bed, pour half of it into a large mixing bowl
Add 1/2 cup each: millet flour, rye flour, spelt flour. 
Add 2 cups water. 
Stir vigorously, cover with a cloth, and set aside until the next morning.

Take the rest of the starter, add 1/2 cup each rye flour and water, stir well, screw on a lid, and place in fridge until the next time you are ready to make bread.

The next morning, mix the batter, add more rice flour to create a dough-like consistency and enough salt to give it flavor (1-2 teaspoons). 

Knead for a few minutes inside the bowl with floured hands. Cover and let rise for 2 more hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Knead dough again, and either shape it into a round and place it on a greased glass baking dish OR place it in a greased loaf pan.

Coat the top with a mixture of water and olive or sunflower oil to prevent cracking.

Bake for 20 minutes, turn, then bake for 20 more minutes.
You will know the bread is done when you take it out of the oven, lift it off the baking dish, tap the bottom, and hear a hollow sound.

Let cool for 30 minutes, slice and enjoy!

I like to experiment with adding cornmeal, sunflower seeds, and the seeds of spices such as cumin, coriander, fennel, anise, and caraway.

When you are ready to make bread again, pull the starter out of the fridge one day in advance to re-invigorate it. Stir it well and cover it with a thin cloth. Let it come to room temperature for a day.

Separate half of it into a mixing bowl and repeat the bread-making process above.

Then, feed the starter again with 1/2 cup each water and flour. Stir it, screw on the lid, and place it in the fridge for next time.

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