Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

I went to the farm with a few friends three Sunday's ago for fall picking.  The farm had been hit by a frost and it wiped out most of the garden.  While root vegetables like beets, carrots and potatoes were fine, other veggies like okra, peppers and tomatoes were essentially wiped out.  The tomatillos were also hit by the frost, and the plants looked pretty sad, but I think the outer husk saved the fruit.  I was able to harvest almost six pounds.  I made this salsa and am happy to say I like the end result.  Do you know how nice it will be to have pork or chicken enchiladas in the middle of winter with this lovely sauce? Again, I don't have lots of pictures to share...forgot the camera when we were at the garden, thought I had pictures of the fresh tomatillos once I had returned home, was in too big of a hurry on canning day to take pictures as I went, so this picture of the end result is all there is...only if you could taste whats in the jar...

This recipe is loosely based from one in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen cookbook.  Water bath processing times based on our elevation of 5,500ft and the Ball Blue Book Canning Guide, 2003 edition.

Salsa Verde

makes approximately 6 pints

6 pounds tomatillos, papery husks and stems removed, rinsed
2 tbsp canola oil
3 medium onions, peeled, medium dice
15 jalapenos, stems removed, small dice (seeds and all for added heat)
15 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 bunches fresh cilantro, chopped
4 fresh limes
approx 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt, or to taste
fresh cracked black pepper
approx 2 tbsp agave or honey, or to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Place tomatillos on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 20-35 minutes, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and the tomatillos are soft, collapsed and leaking. Meanwhile, preheat a large stainless steel stockpot over medium high heat.  When hot, add canola oil and saute onions, jalapenos and garlic that have been lightly sprinkled with kosher salt and pepper. Cook until translucent.  Add roasted tomatillos and bring to a simmer. At this point I used an immersion blender and pureed the mixture to a consistency of my liking.  I wanted a bit of small chunks to remain. Feel free to puree to the consistency you desire.  If you do not have an immersion blender, you can puree batches of the this in the blender or food processor. Keep in mind the liquid is hot and you will need to have an opening for steam to escape so that you do not have a green volcanic eruption!  Once pureed, return mixture to a simmer, add and mix in half the kosher salt, cumin, chopped cilantro and the juice of four fresh limes.  At this point taste. Balance the flavors by adding more salt if needed.  Use agave  or honey to further balance the flavor should the salsa seem too acidic. When you are happy how the salsa tastes, ladle the hot salsa into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2" head space at the top. Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar. Screw bands on jars to finger tight. Place jars in a boiling water bath with water covering jars by at least one inch.  Bring to a boil, and process for 20 minutes.  Remove jars from bath and allow to cool on a towel. After one hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pickled Beets

There isn't alot of photography fluff here...just canning fall's bounty and moving on to the next project to wrap up this year's canning til next season.

I have several canning books and most of the recipes for pickled beets are the same.  I purchased yet more books this summer.  This one in particular caught my eye Canning For a New Generation.  The title piqued my interest.

The book is nice, but as this canning season comes to a close, I've decided what I really want to invest in is the tools to perform my own ph testing so that I can come up with my own recipes. So yep, ph testing equipment and a pressure canner is on the list for next year.

Last year my father made a comment that the beets I canned were just not sweet enough. So this year I perused different recipes.  I started with one from the above mentioned canning book and adjusted the sweetness to what I believe will be my father's liking.  I like this recipe in that it called for honey. Because I added more sweetener, I used agave and organic cane sugar. We'll see if Pops likes the beets more this year! :o)

Pickled Beets

makes approximately 4 pints

3 pounds beets, tops removed and scrubbed
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup agave
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole cloves

Cook the beets in boiling water until tender, 20-30 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool.  Rub off the skins, trim, quarter, and cut into 1/2" cubes. Set aside.

In a 6-8 qt stainless steel stock pot, combine the vinegar, water, honey, agave, sugar, salt and spices.  Bring to a boil over high heat, dissolving sugar. Add beets and bring just to a simmer.

Working quickly and using a slotted spoon, transfer hot beets into sterilized jars along with a few spices.  Ladle or pour in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2" head space at the top.  Remove air bubbles from each jar using butter knife.  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it's just finger-tight.  Place the jars in a water bath canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1".  Bring to a boil, and process for 30* minutes.  Remove the jars to a towel and do not disturb for 12 hrs.  After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each lid; if it can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Store for at least 90 days prior to eating.

*Add 5 minutes for El. 5,500ft

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

It's that time of year favorite season by far. There is a bite to the morning air, the leaves are a gorgeous mixed array of red, yellow and orange....and there are squash, apples and pumpkins.  With the harvest comes an assortment of seasonally appropriate comfort foods that can be made.  For me, apple pie, curried butternut squash soup and pumpkin chocolate chip muffins are what comes to mind...let's talk about the latter.

My first experience with this muffin was years ago (trust me, long enough that it makes me feel like an "old-timer" to mention) while living in Washington state. There was a bakery open for the early commuters and I would stop by most Fridays for an end-of-the-week treat. The bakery was very progressive for the area and era in that they focused on using whole grains, healthier fats and reduced sugars.  There were over a dozen different muffin selections on any given day along with cinnamon rolls, breads and soups.

For years I longed for the recipe on making these spice scented-chocolaty gems.  OK, again this was before the Internet and google searches. I eventually found it in an unsuspecting, cute little cookbook and I've been using it ever since.  I wouldn't declare this recipe as being particularly healthy, but they're good none the less.  I make these muffins only once or twice a year.  The recipe calls for the use of pumpkin pie spice. I never seem to have this spice blend in my repertoire.  And even though I've read many a substitution list providing the breakdown, did I ever write it down?? No, not until five years ago when I was tired of having to look it up each time. And yes, now I use google :o)  What I finally did was jot it down in the book on the page of the recipe!  Yeah, I know, crazy talk, right?? Seems pretty "normal" at this point in my life, but there was a day that even a butter smudge in my beautiful cookbooks were disappointing. Well, I'll have you know I'm way past that kinda "warms my heart" to stumble upon a recipe in a cookbook with splatters, stains and says...yep, it's a good one!!  So today is two-for one's a recipe for the spice blend and the delicious muffins I adore.

There are many recipes to be found online for this spice blend.  I use as a reference on a regular basis.  Other sites have mentioned cloves in place of allspice.  Make both versions to see what your preference is.


makes 1 tablespoon
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4    tsp ginger
3/8    tsp allspice
3/8    tsp nutmeg
Mix ingredients together.

If you want to make a larger batch, make sure to store in an airtight container.

This muffin recipe goes together within 10 minutes. Just think, in a little over 30 minutes you can have warm muffins with your Sunday morning latte! I provided the recipe just as it appears in the book. I seldom add the toasted almonds as they're perfect without the crunch. Most times I use Wheat Montana's Prairie Gold whole wheat pastry flour. And per the usual, I use organic cane sugar, organic unsalted butter and kosher or sea salt. High altitude adjustments can be found at the bottom of the post.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used Wheat Montana Prairie Gold)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin cups or use paper or foil liners.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, pumpkin puree and butter. Add chocolate chips.  Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.  Scoop batter evenly between muffin cups.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until puffed and springy to the touch in the center. Turn out onto a rack to cool.

High Altitude adjustments for 5,500 ft
  • Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees
  • Increase flour by 1/4 cup
  • Decrease baking soda by 1/2 tsp
  • Use half butter, half safflower oil