Thursday, October 28, 2010

CSA Season Ends

So sad.  We picked up the last box for the CSA season on Tuesday.  The last few boxes were packed full of winter squash and potatoes that I am storing in the basement.  Properly stored the squash and potatoes should get us through the rest of the year pretty easily.  I loved being apart of the CSA.  We will definitely do it again next year.  It might not be for everyone, getting a huge box of random vegetables every week can be a bit overwhelming, but if you really like to cook and have the time to put into using all the veggies I highly recommend the CSA.  It was cheaper than shopping weekly at the farmers market and I like getting things I would not buy on my own.  Pushes you out of your regular food routine.  Till next June when the boxes start coming again, guess we are back to grocery store produce.

Lots of dirty root veggie. Perfect for basement storage

The last box did not disappoint.  They really saved the best and strangest for last - we got a Blue Hubbard Squash.  It is the ugliest thing you ever saw and all the preparation instructions suggest you smash it open in your driveway.  It will keep for a long time, so I am not cooking it yet, but will share with my blog world the process and out come when we finally do crack that baby open.

Just to reference the size, you can see it is about as big as the cat.

Goodbye CSA!  Till Next year :-(

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pickle Win - What Does a Vlasic Do For You?

Check out my little write up on the Vlasic website, BBQ Empanadas.  Kind of exciting!!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I can CAN!

Ok, not that Can Can.  But what fun!

This kind of can.  Why is canning if you use jars?

What an adventure!  I had big plans to take beautiful pictures of the whole process, but I literally ended up with with too many pots on the stove and the camera was lost in the mess for a good portion of the event.  Those food shows on TV are like Vickie Secret's models, they set unrealistic expectations for the average person.  My kitchen could not look anything less like a TV show kitchen during this process, it was mad chaos!  When the Food Network folks finally give me my own show they will have to hire twice as many production assistants than their other shows, I am messy in the kitchen.  Anyway, the canning was a success:  I can CAN!   Here is the story and some recipes.

There it is; everything I need to create and can four different condiments.  Wait... something is missing....

OK, now we are ready to can!

The challenge was to can condiments:  salsa, zucchini/pepper relish, pickled radish and sweet pepper relish.  I started with my tried and true salsa.  It really was the same old recipe, just added some vinegar and cooked it for 20 minutes.  Tastes great!  While the salsa was cooking I started the zucchini/pepper relish and sweet pepper relish.  I have to go an a small tangent here to share my new found love of the Cuisinart.  At the risk of sounding ignorant, I had no idea what all those crazy attachments were for and have only used my Cuisinart with the blade that chops. I only own it because it is somehow a required item on all wedding registries so I got it as a wedding gift years ago. The slicer and shredder are pure brilliance!  I had no idea the Cuisinart could do all this and since it has the safety locks I could let me 3 year old son help me by pushing the button.  Pure joy for a small boy to watch a whole zucchini shredded to bits in a matter of seconds (I sort of thought it was cool too).  

Sorry for the diversion, but I am really excited about the Cuisinart.

After shredding a lot of zucchini and a variety of peppers, I started slicing radishes.  I hand sliced way too many radish.  I never would have had enough jars for all the radish I sliced and was not sure how well the pickled radish will taste, so I only sealed about 6 jars of radish.  Once I made the pickling juice it only filled one jar, I hadn't planned for that, so I had to make a bigger batch to complete the task.  All in all, I was able to create all four condiments and they all came out pretty good. And most importantly all my little lids popped shut - no botulism here!

Source - my own version.  The quantities may vary.  I didn't really measure this, just kind of threw stuff in until it looked and tasted great. 

14 Large Ripe Tomatoes - skinned, de-seeded and chopped small
1 Large White Onion - chopped
5 Large Tomitillo - chopped 
6 Jalepenos - chopped small
1 Green Bell Pepper - chopped  
1 Cup Fresh Cilantro - chopped 
Juice from one Lime 
4 Cloves Crushed Garlic 
1 Tablespoon of Salt 
1/3 Cup Vinegar 

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Don't actually bring it to a boil.  Pour the hot salsa into warm jars and complete the canning process.

First I had to parboil the tomatoes then peel and de-seed them.  Such a simple process; drop whole tomatoes into boiling water for 2 minutes, remove and place tomatoes into a bowl of ice water for a few minutes.  Once you remove them from the ice water the skin just falls right off.  Cut and remove all the seeds and water so you only have tomato meat left.

Zucchini Pepper Relish 
Source:  What's Cooking Havre Boucher Cookbook.  A community cookbook put together by the Volunteer Fire Department in the small rural Nova Scotia town that my mother-in-law grew up in and still lives.  Small town full of truly amazing home cooks.

10 cups shredded zucchini
4 cups chopped onion
4 tablespoons salt
3 each red and green peppers seeded and finely chopped
2 yellow peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
3 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon each ground turmeric, celery seed, ground nutmeg, mustard powder
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Note:  I shredded everything, nothing was chopped, we were just having too much fun with the Cuisinart.  I also did not salt the zucchini first.  I can see how competing this process would make a less water relish than I got.

Combine zucchini, onion, salt and peppers.  Let stand for 1 1/2 hours.  Drain and rinse with cold water. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine all ingredients in a preserving kettle or Dutch oven; simmer, just below boiling point, for about 30-40 minutes.  Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

Shredding frenzy!

Shredded the peppers too!

Sweet Pepper Relish 
I used the same recipe as the zucchini relish, just added jalapeƱos and a bit less sugar.

Pickled Radish 
Source: Ugh!  I can't remember or find it again.  It was on another blog.  Radish recipes are generally not too common, so not sure why I can't find it again. Anyway, this recipe came from a great blog about canning.

13 Radish - very thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
1/4 whole peppercorn
1 bay leaf

Combine all ingredients except the radish in a small saucepan and bring to a boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Fill jars with sliced radish then top the radish with the pickling juice.  Complete canning.

Soooo many radish! 

They are really pretty though.


Here is the actual process and turns out it is very simple. Wash and sterilize all the cans and lids.  I used the dishwasher for this as it completes two tasks - sterilizes and keeps the jars warm till canning time.  When the contents are complete, simply fill the warm jars with the warm ingredients leaving an inch or so at the top.  Wipe the top clean.  Place the brand new can lid with seal on top, then screw on the ring, not really tight.  Submerge closed jars into a pot of rapidly boiling water.  Must have at least 2 inches of water over the top of the jar.  Boil jars for the amount of time directed on each recipe.  I boiled all 3 recipes for 20-30 minutes each.  Remove jars from boiling water, place on cooling rack or dish towels and wait to hear the "pop" of each jar sealing as it cools.  Screw the lids on tight now.  Let cool for 12 hours on the racks then store and use as you would grocery store purchased jars.  It was ridiculously easy!

Please don't take my word as the hard fast rules of canning.  Botulism scares me so I don't want to be responsible for any canning mishaps.  Check out the following link for a more detailed explanation of the canning process.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Canning is Cool!

At least that is what all the blogs are trying to convince me.  My CSA wraps up in a few weeks and the final boxes feel like an inventory reduction sale with loads of zucchini, peppers and radishes.  Currently there are 10 zucchini in my kitchen and I have already made 5 batches of zucchini bread.  I am not sure the exact measurement of a peck, but my crisper drawer is giving Peter Pipper a run for his money on peppers.  Here is the challenge I have given myself, for no other reason than to make my own life more difficult, make and can condiments.  My list of homemade condiments includes: salsa, pickled radish, zucchini relish and sweet pepper relish.  Should be interesting.  I have been studying recipes on-line and in books for the2 days, just have to make one last grocery run to get all the necessary items, then the canning marathon begins!  I will chronicle the chaos in a future blog post.  Yikes.

Please feel free to share any canning ideas or recipes that might help with my surplus.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another win and the OceanSpray Cranberry Festival


I won another contest!!!  Vlasic pickles, "What does Vlasic do for you?" contest.  A hundred bucks and free pickles!  Wow!  I placed in the top 10 for a great story about a great recipe using pickles.  I entered with our Texas brisket empanadas.  We made these in Houston this past May after a big BBQ.  Sounds strange, pickles and brisket empanadas, but they really were great.  I am so excited to finally see some success from my efforts.  My husband could not stop laughing that I won a pickle contest, but we'll see who is laughing when we have FREE pickles!!!  I can't believe I won two contest in a few weeks - I am on a roll!  It is time to get cracking on some new contests.  I finally signed up for  Looks like a very valuable site.  I hope to share more success soon!

Saturday we went to the OceanSpray Cranberry Festival at Patriot Place so I could be available as an alternate in the cook off.  Everyone showed up and participated so I really didn't have anything to do, but I found it a great experience to see the cook off get started and most importantly to meet the contestants.  All three were seasoned contesters.  It was amazing to finally meet and speak to a real contester in person and get some tips, ideas and just hear their amazing experiences.  I didn't stay to watch the whole thing, my mom was in town this weekend so we went off to another adventure, but not before we checked out all the cranberry festivities.  Did you know there are working cranberry bogs at Patriot Place behind the Bass Pro Shop?  So cool!  We toured the bogs and had a blast at the Bass Pro Shop, always fun.  The kids loved the whole event and it was a great family day.  I hope to be in the cook off next year!

The cranberry demonstrations were so fun for the kids.  A great day celebrating the little red berry!