The best guacamole

The best guacamole.

A bold statement, I know, but after years of experimentation, I have landed upon the perfect combination of buttery avocado, pungent garlic, tangy lime juice, sea salt, dried chipotle powder (available at the Bulk Barn) and mayonnaise to top my chicken fajitas, fish tacos and even carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes.
Some will decry the absence of cilantro or fresh peppers, others the addition of mayonnaise (for a creamier texture) or chipotle (for a smoky heat), but it truly is the best I’ve had.

Guacamole
Original recipe.

Ingredients
2 ripe avocadoes
7 mL (1-1/2 tsp) or so mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime (use a reamer and don’t be afraid to get a little rough)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced (a micro-plane works well)
sea salt to taste
dried chipotle powder to taste (start with 2 mL or 1/2 tsp)

Method
Mash the avocado with a fork. Stir in remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately.
Note: Avocado will start to brown quickly. If you are making this ahead, add the lime juice last and don’t stir in, cover and refrigerate. Before serving, stir, taste and adjust seasoning.

Tomato ginger chile jam

Yes, tomato jam. Tomato seeds are rich in pectin, which make it an ideal fruit (yes, fruit) for turning into a savory jam.
The recipe comes from my chef sister. She has made variations of it to serve with pork and chicken dishes at a few of the fine dining restaurants where she has worked.
My father-in-law is pretty much addicted to the stuff. The year after we’d moved into our second home and did not yet have a vegetable garden, I had to dole out the previous season’s leftovers in small quantities to keep him from going through complete withdrawal.
The prep for this recipe is incredibly easy. A bit of chopping and a lot of whirring in the food processor.
The cooking, however, can be delicate business. If you’re making a large batch, it can take a couple of hours for the mixture to reduce down to the point where it becomes jam. Once it starts to thicken, keep a close eye on it and stir often.
One year, I burned a double batch and was so angry I practically cried. Seven and a half pounds of homegrown tomatoes, plus several hours of my time, wasted.
Increase or decrease the chile peppers depending on your tastes. If you can’t find Thai chiles, look for a similarly hot pepper. I couldn’t resist the brightly coloured cherry reds at the market this year and added three to my double-plus batch.
Yes, double-plus. I had decided to double the recipe but started off by prepping 10 pounds of tomatoes, rather than 7-1/2. Once I realized my error, I did some quick math and upped the amounts of ginger, garlic, vinegar and sugar to compensate. I think the three peppers added just the right amount of heat, so my mistake turned out for the best. I did have to simmer it all in two pots until the mixture had reduced sufficiently to safely fit into one.

Tomato ginger chile jam

Tomato Ginger Chile Jam

Ingredients
1-3/4 kg (3-3/4 lb) plum tomatoes
10 cloves garlic
3 Thai chiles
250 mL (1 cup) white wine vinegar
900 grams (2 lb) brown sugar

Method
Dice 125 mL (1/2 cup) of tomatoes. Set aside.
Puree remaining tomatoes, peppers, garlic and ginger in batches in food processor until smooth.
Combine tomato puree, sugar and vinegar in large pot. Cook at medium-high until boiling. Lower heat and add diced tomatoes. Simmer until mixture thickens and is reduced by about half.
Ladle jam into hot, sterilized 250 mL jars, leaving 1-cm (1/2-inch) head space.
Process in hot water canner for 10 minutes.
Makes about seven 250 mL jars.

Piquante sauce

This is a must-make condiment at our house.
I found the recipe on the Bernardin website when I first began canning seven years ago and made it as a way to use up an abundance of tomatoes. (Oh, how I wish I had that problem this year.)
We were hooked. It’s great with eggs, meatloaf or chicken. We put it on fajitas or quesadillas instead of salsa and use it as a dip. We ate the few spoonfuls left after canning this year’s batch scooped up with some Parmesan and garlic flavoured Triscuit thin crisps.
It’s well worth the effort required to peel, seed and chop 2.25 kg of plum tomatoes.
The final flavour depends largely on the peppers. I usually add jalapenos from my garden, which can vary in heat from year to year. If I see appealing not-too-hot peppers in the market, I buy them. Depending on the heat of the hot peppers, I sometimes chop and add them to the mix rather than piercing, tasting and removing.
I always keep the total amount of fresh peppers the same. Tried and true canning recipes work because of the balance of acidic (tomatoes, vinegar) and non-acidic (peppers, onions) ingredients. Changing that balance could mean the end result is not safe for canning.
This year’s double batch featured the last half or so of a green pepper from another recipe, two poblanos (large, dark green peppers with a little heat), four jalapenos and enough chopped red shepherd peppers to make up the difference.
Note, the Bernardin website features a new recipe that includes red pepper flakes, coriander and cumin, omits the dried pepper and paprika and features malt vinegar instead of white I’m sticking with the original here.

Piquante sauce.

Piquante sauce
Recipe from Bernardin, bernardin.ca

Ingredients
2.25 kg (5 lb) peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped tomatoes
4 mild green chilies, finely chopped
2 to 6 hot chilies, fresh or dried
375 mL (1-1/2 cups) chopped onion
375 mL (1-1/2 cups) chopped green pepper
250 mL (1 cup) chopped red pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (5 -1/2 oz/156 mL) tomato paste
250 mL (1 cup) white vinegar
45 mL (3 tbsp) sugar
15 mL (1 tbsp) pickling salt
10 mL (2 tsp) paprika

Note 1: The easiest way to peel tomatoes is to score the bottoms with a sharp knife then drop a few at a time into a pot of boiling water. When the skin starts to peel back at the scoring, remove from pot and submerge in an ice water bath for a few seconds. The skin will peel off easily.
Note 2: Don’t put the discarded seeds in your compost or you will end up with hundreds of tiny tomato plants in your garden. (Trust me, I know this from experience.)

Method
Pierce hot chilies with a toothpick.
Place all ingredients into large saucepan, mix well. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer, uncovered, 1-1/2 hours or until desired consistency is reached. Taste occasionally and remove hot chilies when sauce reaches desired heat.
Remove hot, sterilized jars from canner and ladle sauce into jars to within 1 cm (1/2 inch) of rim (head space). Process for 20 minutes.
Makes about 7 250 mL jars.

Corn season

We’re in the throes of corn season here in Southern Ontario.
For the past five weekends, one or both of us has stopped either at the corn stand at the corner or the market down the road for a dozen local ears.
The best corn, as any farmer would tell you, is picked, cooked and eaten within hours (or minutes if you’re within running distance of the field).
We usually consume ours within a day of picking and hours of buying. We bring it home, remove the silk (a rather finicky process) and soak the cobs, husks and all, in a big pot of cold water.
We grill the whole lot (plus whatever else might be on the dinner menu) on our Weber Ranch Grill. The resulting flavour is smoky sweet. We (and any guests) can easily eat two or three cobs apiece for dinner.

The Weber Ranch Grill offers .71 square metres (1,104 square inches) of grilling space. Plenty of room for a dozen corn, marinated chicken thighs and zucchini fresh from the garden.

I cut the leftovers off the cobs, freeze in single layer on a baking sheet and pack into freezer bags. It’s perfect for my charred corn and sausage chowder, a favourite quick weekday supper during the winter.

The weekend before last, I decided to branch out and use half of our regular dozen to make some corn relish. My brother-in-law was raving about the store-bought variety at a recent barbecue and my first goal of preserving is to make a better, healthier version of the products my family loves and uses all the time.

I adapted the recipe only slightly from the original from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.
The original recipe calls for fresh cilantro to be added last minute. But since all mine has gone to seed and I prefer coriander (seeds of the cilantro plant) anyway, I substituted the dried for the fresh as indicated below. I also used shepherd rather than red bell pepper because I find the flavour more intense.
I ended up with six 250 mL (1 cup) jars, although the recipe says it makes 1,125 mL (4-1/2 cups). I may have been a little generous is my measurement of the corn.
First taste deems this a winner — although it is a little drier than I anticipated, more like a corn salsa than a corn relish. I expect, like most pickles, the flavour will improve over time.

Fresh ingredients. I love Joe’s Market in Bradford for fresh, local (and reasonably priced!) produce.

Fiesta Corn Relish
Ingredients
5-6 large ears fresh corn
1 hot yellow pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
375 mL (1-1/2) cups cider vinegar
80 mL (3/4) cup sugar
125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped red onion
125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped red shepherd pepper
80 mL (1/3 cup) chopped green onions
5 mL (1 tsp) ground cumin
5 mL (1 tsp) coriander
5 ml (1 tsp) pickling salt
2 mL (1/2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper

The final product.

Method
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add corn, cover and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and cool until easy to handle. With a sharp knife cut kernels from cob and measure 1 L (4 cups) into a large stainless steel or enamel pan.
2. Add hot pepper, garlic, vinegar, sugar, onion, red pepper, green onions, cumin, coriander, salt and black pepper to saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
3. Remove hot jars from canner and ladle relish into jars to within 1 cm (1/2 inch) of rim (head space). Process 15 minutes for 250 mL and 500 mL jars.