Tomatillo Overload!

tumblr_mrsalwwBTk1qmywbko1_500The canning begins…

Just as I’m preparing to go back to school for another semester we are reaching a critical point in the season in which Lauren buys a ridiculous amount of produce in an effort to overstock her pantry with Ball jars full of food for the winter.

It’s about to get crazy in that little kitchen in the city.

On a whim, I bought six quarts of tomatillos at the Andersonville Farmers Market from my friends at Midnight Sun and decided it would be a good idea to have enough salsa verde around to withstand the apocalypse…. this is how I did it:

Tomatillo Salsa

(recipe courtesy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

Ingredients:

  • 5-1/2 cups chopped, cored, husked tomatillos
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped seeded green peppers (your choice of heat… I used a bunch of banana peppers and one jalapeno with a few of the seeds for the whole batch, because I’m not a “burn your face off salsa” kind of  girl.
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 TB finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes

tumblr_mrsg0rifqb1qmywbko1_500Prepare your canner, jars and lids.*

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until semi-smooth.

Ladle or pour hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace in the jars. Gently remove air bubbles by poking into the jar with a knife and adding salsa as needed. Wipe rim, center seal on jar, and screw band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid, wait 5 min, then remove jars, cool, and store.

*You’ll need a big soup pot that’s deep enough to submerge your jars in water. Place empty jars in pot and fill with water until jars are covered. Heat over med-high heat while you prepare salsa. This will sterilize the jars and heat them (hot salsa into hot jars to process).  Bands and seals should be gently heated in a small saucepan until ready to use.

Makes about two pint jars.  I, of course, quadrupled the recipe to get the haul you see here…

Low Country Boil on the High Plains

Of the many good moments I’ve had here in Wyoming, perhaps one of the best was this meal.  In honor of Father’s Day and Julie’s birthday, our excellent home stay family (and, coincidently, very good friends) created a full-on New England boil.  The last time I had a boil was circa 1989 when a bunch of relatives shipped live Maine lobsters for a family reunion to California.  In Wyoming a boil is less seafood-y for obvious reasons – quality seafood is not easily found smack dab in the middle of the country.  Confidentially this was better (sorry, Grammy).

Low Country Boiltumblr_moil3eGmrF1qmywbko1_500

(recipe courtesy of Mandy Love)

  • 3 halved lemons
  • 1/2 tin Old Bay
  • 3 bottles of dark beer
  • Small potatoes
  • Kielbasa
  • pearl onions
  • Corn cobs, halved
  • Crab legs
  • Artichokes
  • Shrimp (deveined, uncooked)
  • Mussels

Instructions:

In a massive stock pot, fill about 1/2 or 2/3 with water and add lemons, Old Bay, and Beer to the pot.  Bring to a boil.

The aftermath...
The aftermath…

The quantities of each of the ingredients is somewhat up to you, and how much room you have in the pot.

Cooking times are as follows:

  • Potatoes, Kielbasa and onions: 10 minutes
  • Corn, Crab, Artichokes: 5 minutes
  • Shrimp and mussels: 4-5 minutes

Drain, dump, and dig in.  The only thing that makes this more delicious is a dipping bowl of melted butter

Creamed Corn is Actually Delicious!

This post comes from my Mom, Cheryl, who I’ve finally coerced into giving up her recipe for creamed corn.  I know what you’re thinking… Creamed corn? But there’s nothing quite like this.  It’s a staple at my family’s holiday table, and perhaps you’ll add it to yours this year too…

A little history on this recipe:

When I was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area my Dad had a favorite restaurant called Gullivers.  He would love to gather the whole family there as often as budget and time allowed. It was a meat and potatoes place and designed along the lines of King Arthur’s court.  It was a huge beamed room with wooden tables and benches and everything was served on pewter dishes.  They served the best prime rib around.  All the servers were dressed in period costumes and the food was awesome, the atmosphere loud and bawdy and it was a great fun place to go.  As we got older and our family grew, we went to Gullivers less and less simply because it was too hard to get everyone there at the same time and no one had the money. We were all starting our families, buying houses etc.  So my dad got the idea to create Gullivers at home!

IMG_4970
He could do the prime rib and the Yorkshire pudding and the garlic mashed potatoes,  and serve the wine, but he simply could not recreate the best side dish ever.  Gullivers made a creamed corn that was to die for.  My dad tried and tried and it just wasn’t the same.  So he went back to Gullivers and simply asked for the recipe.  The manager claimed that they could not give it out.  My dad did not give up easily once he got something in his head.  So, my dad being my dad, simply charmed one of the female servers and she gave him the recipe!
It became a Clements family tradition that every Christmas my dad served prime rib, garlic mashed potatoes, and Gullivers corn.  When I moved to Colorado and wasn’t near my family for the holidays, I asked my dad for the recipe so that I could continue the tradition for my own family.  All these years later,  it is still a staple at our Christmas table and is so popular that it even shows up at Thanksgiving alongside the turkey. I have now passed the recipe along to my children so that they can continue to carry on the tradition.  Literally, every time I make it, I think very tenderly of my dad!  I hope you will enjoy it as well!

Gullivers’ CornCorn 1

Ingredients:
  • 20 oz frozen corn
  • 8 oz whipping cream
  • 8 oz milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 tsp sugar
  • pinch of white pepper
ROUX:
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  1. Mix corn, cream, milk, salt, sugar, pepper in a sauce pan.  Cook on LOW heat until bubbly.
  2. Watch carefully so it does not boil.  Cook about six minutes. Longer is ok as long as you keep the heat on LOW.
  3. Make the roux and add in small batches.
  4. Continue to stir to mix in roux and keep the heat low until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.
Makes about six good size servings.  I don’t know if it freezes well because I have never had any leftovers!

Late Night Catechism… and by catechism, I mean pork roast

Old Faithful strikes again….

Working in the arts often means keeping strange hours.  Lately I’ve been getting home from work between 10:30 and 11:30pm.  The typical nightly ritual of nine-to-fivers who come home, eat dinner, watch some TV, and go to bed is pretty much out the window in my house since by the time I get home I’ve already eaten dinner.  If I’m lucky, I have enough energy to drink a beer and fall asleep on the couch to the first 15 minutes of Project Runway on the DVR… Anyway, my co-worker Tony was gloating on Friday about his ingenuity in reshaping the theater schedule to include more home-cooked meals.

Enter, once again, the magical slow cooker

I’m all about multi-tasking, and what better way to multi-task than to cook dinner for tomorrow while you’re sleeping!  So, instead of the aforementioned 15 minutes of Project Runway I threw the typical meat-veg-liquid combination in the slow cooker and this morning I’m greeted by this:

Friday nights just got a little crazier in my house.  I might be doing this often…

Overnight Pork Roast

Ingredients:

  • Pork Shoulder (with or without bone)
  • Vegetable of choice (something sturdy like carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery), cut into big chunks
  • Liquid (water or broth)
  • S & P, or, a seasoning mix like Adobo

Loosely place the veggies on the bottom of your slow cooker and rest the meat on top. Rub salt and pepper or spice mix onto the pork shoulder and cover with liquid.  Set cooker on low to cook overnight and grab a beer.

The Crock Pot (a.k.a. “Old Faithful”) makes tomato sauce

“Old Faithful”

I pseudo inherited my crock pot from my mother while foraging her basement on a Sunday trip to the suburbs.  This 1975 Sears “Crock Watcher” is older than me, but undoubtedly in better condition.

If the 70’s got anything right, it’s the slow cooker.  The idea that I can stick something in there at 6am before I leave for work, cover it  with liquid, and come home to a good smelling house AND dinner still boggles my mind, and I do it about every other week…. sometimes more, sometimes less.

Lately Old Faithful has been working overtime cranking out tomato sauce to stock up for the winter.  I bought 30 pounds of tomatoes from Midnight Sun Farm over the course of three weeks and have made tomato processing an obsession.

After an epic fail on the stove of sauce that was way more juicy than saucy, I revamped my approach.  Ok, it wasn’t entirely a fail, just a misunderstanding between me and the tomatoes, really.  After consulting mom (my go-to for kitchen mishaps) and my friend and fellow canning-enthusiast Toni Camphouse, I opted to try the slow cooker approach, and I’m never turning back.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes (duh)
  • Salt
  • Lemon Juice
  • Canning jars and lids

Core and quarter tomatoes and fill your slow cooker.  Prop the lid open with a spoon and cook all day on low.

The great tomato stock-up begins…

Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the tomatoes until smooth.  Pre-fill canning jars with salt and lemon juice.  For quart jars, use 2TB lemon juice and 1 tsp. salt*.  Half those if using pint jars.  Add sauce to jars and fill to 1/2″ from the top.  Cover with lid and band, twisting until hand tight.

Add jars to water bath (making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch). Once water is boiling, reduce heat to a rolling boil and set time for 30-40 minutes (30 for pint jars, 40 for quart).  Remove from water bath and set on a level surface to cool (don’t shake the jars).  Store for as long as you like, or about a year, whichever comes first.

* You can add seasoning to your sauce before you jar it, but I prefer to do it once I open the jar so the herbs and spices are fresher.

Summer draws to a close

Fall 2011 at Portage Park Farmer’s Market | Photo by Kelly Rose

We’re on the heels of my favorite season.  The mornings now have a bite in the air, fashion scarves and sweaters are becoming imperative, and everything around me is turning into orange-y and amber hues.  Though I’m a California girl at heart, I’ve lived in the Midwest for almost 25 years.  The one thing about living here that has kept me from continually accosting my parents for moving us across the country is the leaves.  Well, they have leaves in California, but they don’t turn orange and gold and burgundy.

Some people live life with rose-colored glasses; my glasses are burgundy.

Plus, the idea of not sweating profusely every time I go somewhere is highly appealing to me.

The farmer’s market is becoming particularly bountiful, and though it’s sad to see summer squash and tomatoes go out of my life, the beginning of fall means it’s “squirrel time”.  What I mean is, I’m trying to make time to take everything that still just barely at it’s peak of freshness and dry it, freeze it or can it for the winter.

I’ve always wanted to make an attempt to preserve enough produce to make it through the winter without buying a shriveled up zucchini that was grown in the middle of Mexico and shipped to my local store on a refrigerator truck.

Wishful thinking…

I know that this isn’t the year for me to make this happen full stop, but nonetheless I’ve managed to buy and can or freeze 25 pounds of  tomatoes, pickle a bunch of beets, blanch and freeze broccoli, eggplant, and green beans, and there is a batch of crispy squash chips in the oven as I type.  I got a really big squash in my CSA box last week, was told it would be the last one, and, having eaten one squash too many, this is what I chose to do with it:

Squash Chips

Ingredients:

  • Zucchini or summer squash, thinly sliced and dried on a paper towel
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (spraying it with cooking spray works fine too).  Arrange the squash slices in a single layer and coat with olive oil using a pastry brush.  Sprinkle with a modest amount of salt and bake at 275-F for a LONG time (several hours).  When they are firm and crispy, they’re done.

A great substitute for potato chips, use these chips up in about three days, stored in a plastic bag or wrapped in a tea towel

Football food: Pulled Pork and Coleslaw

In my household, football is a big deal.  My coping mechanism has been to come up with meal ideas that celebrate what I consider to be the best part of football season: food, beer, and the occasional social gathering.  I first got the idea of pulled pork in the slow cooker from our friend Mandy Love in Gillette, WY (who’s kids made it for dinner, I might add (that’s how easy this is)).  I paired the sandwiches with a delicious slaw of my own invention.  I’ve tried out this cabbage slaw on three people who “don’t like coleslaw”… and it’s worked every time.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Pork Roast (approximately 3 lb.)
  • 1-2 C. Chicken Stock (homemade, of course)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Mandy’s Special Sauce*
    • Ketchup
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Onion powder
    • Ketchup
    • Honey
  • *OR* pre-made BBQ sauce

Put the sliced onion on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Rest the pork roast on top and pour chicken stock over it.  Season with salt and pepper and cook on low for 5-7 hours.

Remove the roast from the cooker and dispose of the liquid and onions.  When cool enough to handle, tear into shreds and return to the cooker.  Add sauce and heat on low or warm setting until ready to serve. Mandy didn’t give me specific quantities for her ingredients, and I have to imagine that this sauce can be made a thousand different ways and still be good.  So play around with it until you find the combination you like.

Not-from-the-Grocery-Store Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cabbage (red, green, napa, no matter), cut in small strips (chiffonade)
  • Big glob of mayo, light mayo, or Miracle Whip
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add-ins: my favorites include shredded carrots, diced tart apple (like granny smith or macintosh), walnuts, dried cranberries, and grapes (sliced in half).  Pickled beets are also a great treat in this recipe.

Fluff cabbage in a bowl and mix in mayo and salt and pepper.  The amounts of these ingredients is kind of up to you, but I suggest not going too heavy on the mayo… that’s what makes it taste like it’s from the grocery store.  Just enough that the cabbage isn’t dry.  Fold in the other ingredients and enjoy, or chill and eat later once the flavors have combined.  Eat as a side, or mix in some protein like leftover chicken or pork and take it for lunch in place of a sandwich!