Monday, September 10, 2012

Always a Right Time

Once we can begin to cook using only seasonal produce, then not only will these be less expensive than at other times of the year, but also have a better flavour. At least that is how it seems to me for whether we purchase our 'fresh' through farmers' markets, farm shops or veggies boxes, we have a better chance of preserving or 'processing' some of the tastier 'goodies' for later use. Here is a 'for instance' that can make use of those last ripe tomatoes that we might have grown or can purchase from a smaller outlet than a supermarket...

D.I.Y. semi-dried Tomatoes: makes 1 large jar
a good 2 lbs (1kg) small ripe tomatoes
salt and pepper
half tsp dried oregano
olive oil
Halve the tomatoes and lay them on a shallow baking tray, cut side up. Season with the salt, pepper and dried oregano. Drizzle a little olive oil over each tomato and then place in the oven and cook for 4 - 5 hours at 140C, 275F, gas 1 until they are semi-dried and 'chewy'.
Pack into a jar, topping up with olive oil (tap the jar so no air-bubbles get trapped), and keep n the fridge. Eat within two weeks.
If wishing to keep longer, then pack the cooked tomatoes between layers of baking parchment, omitting the oil, and freeze/seal.

When we lived in Leeds we had a small Japonica (aka Japanese Quince) bush growing under our front window and each year was able to gather a crop of small fairly hard orange 'fruit' that normally I stored in the freezer to make up into a beautiful jelly that would be served with savoury foods (as we do redcurrant jelly with lamb etc). So if you have this bush, don't just leave the fruits to drop off and rot, USE them.

Japanese Quince Jelly: makes about 3 lb
2 lb (900g) japonica fruits, cut in half
4 tblsp (60ml) lemon juice
Put the fruit into a preserving pan and cover with cold water. Heat until boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for about half an hour or until the fruit has softened. Add the lemon juice, then remove from heat and strain through a jelly bag for several hours, preferably overnight.
When as much liquid has been extracted (and don't squeeze the bag or the jelly will end up cloudy), measure the juice and to every pint/600ml add 12 oz (350g) of sugar. Put juice and sugar into the preserving pan over low-medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat, bring to a fast-boil and let it bubble away until setting point is reached.
Cool slightly before potting up into warm sterilised jars, seal when cold and store.

For those who have managed to purchase a good supply of carrots - Jane comes to mind - here is a really delicious jam made using this vegetable.

Carrot Conserve: makes 2.5 lb (just over 1kg)
1 lemon
1 lb (450g) carrots, peeled
1 lb (450g) granulated sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) water
Cut the peel from the lemon, then slice it into fine shreds. Squeeze the juice from the fruit and set aside.
Cut the carrot into very thin 'julienne' strips (or coarsely grate) and put into a preserving pan with the lemon peel, lemon juice, the sugar and water. Heat until the sugar has dissolved then boil until setting point is reached.
Pot up in hot, sterilized jars and cover with waxed discs. Seal when cold, label, and store as you would any other jam.

Those who grow their own tomatoes always end up with a goodly amount of unripened green tomatoes. These should ripen when kept with already ripe tomatoes, but takes time and they are not always as sweet as they could be. So here is a great recipe for a lovely crisp pickle made with the green 'toms', and this eats extremely well with a selection of cheeses.

Pickled Green Tomatoes: makes 3 lb
2 oz (50g) fresh root ginger
1 pint (600ml) white wine vinegar
4 oz (100g) sugar
4 - 6 cloves garlic, skinned and sliced
2 lb (900g) green tomatoes sliced into segments
Bash the ginger with a rolling pin or meat hammer to flatten/bruise it, then put this into a preserving pan with the vinegar, sugar, and garlic. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Pack the prepared tomatoes into warm, sterilised jars, and pour the hot vinegar mixture over to cover them completely (tap jars to prevent air bubbles getting trapped). Seal , label, and store in a cool dark place.

Final recipe today makes the most of the seasonal produce we have during the autumn months. It doesn't really matter what variety of plums are used (could be damsons), same with apples although the 'sharper' ones (Granny Smiths) are the ones I'd choose when making chutney. But as ever, when we grow our own fruit, then we use what we've got.

Autumn Chutney: makes 7 lb
1 lb (450g) plums, halved and stoned
1 lb (450g) apples,peeled, cored and chopped
1 lb (450g) tomatoes, chopped
1 lb (450g) onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb (450g) sultanas
1 pint (600ml) vinegar
good pinch ground mace (or nutmeg)
good pinch ground mixed spice
2 tblsp ground ginger
1 lb (450g) demerara sugar
Put all the ingredients - except the sugar - into a preserving pan and simmer for half an hour until tender. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved, then simmer gently - stirring frequently - until the mixture is thick. When ready a wooden spoon dragged across the bottom of the pan should leave a visible 'path'. Cool slightly, then pack into warm, sterilized jars. Cover with vinegar-proof lids, label and store.

Am a bit back to front this morning as earlier went to the surgery to book my 6 month appointments with the practice nurse, then shortly after with the diabetic nurse. The surgery phone lines were 'down', so just as well I went in person. Then, just as about to start today's blog our daughter arrived 'to have a coffee', so am feeling a bit topsy turvy today.

You are not the only one believing that 'pony carrots' were sold to feed ponies/horses Jane. I too thought that, but now understand they are just the smaller 'mis-shapes' that nowadays people don't wish to buy (as we are now so used to veggies looking perfect, expect that those that don't aren't fit to eat).
Not sure how big a 'sack' of carrots or onions will be, but it does sound a good size, and onions for £1 a sack a very worthwhile purchase indeed.

Thanks for giving us the Canadian Living website Margie. Took a look at it before I began writing, and a bit confused as to what the Butter Tart ends up like, there were several recipes and many appear to have a sort of custard filling. Will check it again later to see if I can find a definitive recipe rather than the numerous variations.

Don't know why I keep watching the Food Network as I'm starting to want to throw ping-pong balls at most of the cooks that take part in the weekend 'wedding cake/cup cake' series. Just about everything seen seems to be so contrived as if it is very necessary to have cakes burnt, cakes not cooked through, large cakes toppling over when being delivered (or collapsing overnight when left in the kitchen). We do see some cakes being made, but most of the 'story-line' is about getting the order and then doing the decorating of said cakes, and what a mess they make of that too.

When it comes to cookery programmes, what I want to see is how everything is made from scratch, and have to say that The Barefoot Contessa is about the only US cook who seems to work like that, although if she continues to say 'perfect' at the end of everything she does/makes, then feel that our Nigella comes almost as a relief, at least she does her cooking in the way I can relate to (ignoring the cost of course).

Yet US cooks do have a lot more 'character' than many of our lesser known cooks/chefs this side of the pond. I've seen on Food Network an Englishman presenting 'Street Food', but he hasn't yet inspired me. Not that the US cooks give me inspiration, but their way of demonstrating is 'different' than ours so am always hoping that I'll learn something new.
Problem with me I'm becoming far too critical in my old age and should learn the best of both worlds and ignore the rest.

Had a good day in the kitchen yesterday re-arranging things again, to my advantage. Did make a bowl of vegetable soup for B's supper (as not sure what time he would be home, it was after 7 pm when he turned up). The soup was almost a disaster, just about everything went wrong.
Started by putting a knob of butter into a saucepan to melt whilst I chopped up some celery and onion only set the heat too high and the butter was on the verge of burning when I added the veg, but after turning down the heat and letting them 'saute' in their own juices, continued dicing carrot, parsnip and potatoes. Added these to the pan and after a few minutes more gentle frying, added some cold water and a tub of frozen chicken stock.
After an hours cooking - by which time the veggies were very tender - switched off the heat and left the soup to cool, then about half an hour later went back into the kitchen to discover I hadn't turned out the heat, just turned the knob to 'low' (our hob works the opposite way to the one we had in Leeds, here we have to turn the heat to high and beyond to turn it off). Discovered had just caught it in time as practically all the liquid had boiled away. So then had to add water. Tasted the soup and it was very bland. Decided to add a teaspoon of 'Swiss Marigold Vegetable Bouillon' crystals. Then discovered this made the soup taste too salty.

In desperation decided to add a sachet of chicken 'cuppa soup' to give the soup more body and more flavour, discovered I had none, so ended up adding a sachet of oxtail 'cuppa soup' (yes, I know it should have been chicken based, but any port in a storm). This certainly made it taste much better, and so when brought to the boil, turned it out for B to reheat when he came home. He said it tasted really lovely. So got there in the end. And there was me thinking making a pan of vegetable soup in chicken stock was a doddle to make. Well, it usually is. But not yesterday.

Today B (who is working again) will be having lamb shank with new potatoes (those he brought the other day - only need microwaving) and peas with redcurrant jelly and mint sauce. Must make him a dessert but not sure what.
Also want to thaw out some chicken winglets and thighs so I can slow-cook these overnight to make more chicken stock (as have now run out - yesterday using the last from the freezer, and absolutely MUST have some always to hand as I use it often). Then get on with some more 'autumn cleaning'. Certainly seem to have ancient 'instincts' flowing through my veins at the moment as have constant urges to prepare my 'nest' for the colder months and lay up a goodly amount of stores (as many home-made as possible) in my larder. This gives me a real 'happy bunny' feeling.
Is it just me or do other readers get the same 'seasonal' urges?

Apparently it's been one of the worst summers on record here in the UK. Must be even worse in the North West where we live for while the rest of the country has had quite a lot of sun these past few days, here we have had rain, and more rain (with a bit of sun late afternoons but a lot more cloud than elsewhere). We've gone through a whole summer without actually having any (at least not where we live). Today is now beginning to brighten up, but it is certainly cooler. The best week of weather, and it was really hot, came at the end of last March!

Watching a programme about the melting ice in the north, each summer there is less ice at the North pole, and sooner rather than later there may be no ice at all in the summer (but will still be some in the winter) if this is due to 'global warming' then apparently we should not expect warmer sunnier weather, just more rain. There are times I'm quite glad that I won't live long enough to see this happen. Unfortunately I believe in a sort of 'reincarnation' so what the future holds for me (and everyone else) I dread to think. But meanwhile will get on living with the one I've already got.

Anyone interested in Polish food will find a very good selection (on offer) at Lidl from this Thursday until the following Wednesday. We had several of their 'flyers' through the door and have to say I was very tempted with many of their offers (Polish and others), but have thrown the flyers away for - as I said to B -"if I hadn't seen them advertised then wouldn't have realised I wanted them". Sometimes I can be so weak when it comes to shopping for food, and am sure by Thursday will have forgotten what it was I thought I wanted. Anyway have the 'veggie box' to look forward to (delivered tomorrow morning), no doubt will be letting you know the contents in my Wednesday blog.

Must finish now as it will soon be noon, and think there is a new Gordon Ramsay cookery prog on Channel 4 around lunch-time, will take a look-see to see if he shows anything interesting.
Enjoy your day and keep those comments coming. TTFN.