2 stoves, 2 bushels, 2 days, 52 jars of sauce

Last year, at the height of the holiday baking season, my oven stopped working. We bought a new stove and moved the old one to the garage.

This summer, my clever husband (with a little advice from his just-as-clever younger brother) modified an electrical outlet in the garage so I could plug in the old stove—which still has working burners.

Labour Day weekend, I bought two bushels of Roma tomatoes and spent two long days running up and down stairs from the kitchen, where I had as many as three large pots of tomato sauce cooking at any one time, to the garage, where I had two canners set up on my old stove.

I made two types of sauce: one with chopped onions, minced garlic, dried oregano, red chili flakes, black pepper, salt and sugar (inspired by this one from Bernardin); and a second with salt, sugar, minced garlic and a few fresh basil leaves.

The method was the same for both:
• Wash and chop tomatoes.
• Combine tomatoes and other ingredients in a large pot.
• Boil until thick. (At least a couple hours, depending on the tomatoes and the size of your pot.)
• Press sauce through a food mill to remove skins and seeds.
• Return sauce to pot, simmer until it reaches desired consistency.
• Ladle into hot, sterilized jars. Add lemon juice. (15 mL per 500 mL jar.)
• Process in water canner for 35 minutes.

At the end of two days, I had tomato splashes on every surface of my kitchen, sore calves and 52 jars of sauce lined up on a folding table in the garage. Beautiful.

I wish I had the photographic proof of this feat. But, as it was my first time canning tomato sauce, I felt I had to focus on the task at hand. And I had to move the sauce out of the garage, so David could set up his tablesaw to get started on the new hardwood floors. (Do we know how to spend week off or what?)

The top photograph shows a few jars I’ve used as decoration in my red-accented kitchen. (Storing all that sauce, along with dozens of jars of pickles, salsa, piquante sauce, relish, ketchup, plum sauce, apple butter, tomato jam, etc., requires a little creativity.)

The bottom photo was dinner on Wednesday: homemade sauce, along with some red peppers and hot Italian sausage meat, on spaghetti squash from the CSA.


From the kitchen

A jar or two of pickles, jam, sauce and relish is always a welcome gift among our families and friends.
But, for the holidays, we like to take it up a notch. This year, we created two entirely different themed gifts, both containing preserves — one for David’s parents and one for David’s brother and sister-in-law.

Caesar kit.

Caesar kit
This gift started with my spicy pickled beans — a great Caesar garnish — and evolved almost serendipitously from there.
During a trip to New York State this summer, we discovered the Fee Brothers celery bitters (and fortuitously, a local kitchen store began stocking them this fall). A dash or two will add a distinct celery flavour to your drink without the saltiness of, well, celery salt.
David’s mom has developed a taste for expensive vodka. We thought it time to introduce her to Russian Standard, a premium wheat vodka sold at a very reasonable price.
Horseradish is must in a Caesar in my opinion. Holbros Extra Hot is our favourite brand.
David thought we needed a rimmer; I refused to go with celery salt. I searched the web and found a recipe for tomato basil dust on Cottage Life, which I adapted for this purpose.

Tomato Basil Dust
Adapted from Cottage Life.

115 g (4 oz) sun-dried tomatoes
15 mL (1 tbsp) dried basil
15 mL (1 tbsp) of Murray River pink flake salt
5 mL (1 tsp) fresh ground black pepper

Finely chop sun-dried tomatoes. Dry on parchment-lined baking sheet in 175 Fahrenheit oven for 1-1⁄2 to 2 hours. Turn off heat, open oven door, and allow to cool.
In electric grinder, grind small amounts of dried tomato to a fine powder.
Sift tomato powder into bowl, regrinding any large granules.
Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Store in tightly sealed jar away from light, heat and moisture.

Barbecue gift pack.

Barbecue gift pack
The idea for this gift came from the recipient. David’s brother enjoys barbecuing but expressed an interest in expanding his repertoire.
So, I printed out three of our favourite recipes, Maple Dijon Cedar-Planked Salmon, Spatchcock Mustard Herb Chicken and Bourbon Glazed Striploin Roast, and assembled the ingredients (minus the protein and a few basics like oil, salt and pepper) to make all three.
David cut a cedar plank from his stash for the salmon, we added a silicone glove for safety and tucked it all into a grilling basket (good for sides of potatoes or vegetables).
The basket also includes three on-theme preserves: corn relish, dill pickle relish and barbecue sauce.
Here are the recipes we included. The spatchcock chicken recipe comes from Canadian Living. The origins of the others are a mystery.

Maple Dijon Cedar-Planked Salmon

salmon fillet (or steelhead trout or rainbow trout)
maple syrup
Dijon mustard
cedar plank

Soak cedar plank it water for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Mix together equal parts maple syrup and Dijon.
Put fish on plank. Brush with half of glaze.
Place plank on hot grill. Cook for 15-20 minutes, brushing with remaining glaze halfway through.
Time will depend on size and thickness of fillet. Fish will be firm and opaque when ready.

Spatchcock Mustard Herb Chicken
Spatchcock, which means removing the backbone of a chicken and flattening it out, is an old Irish term, abbreviated from dispatch cock, an order barked at cooks to get the chicken off the spit and out to the customer. Flattening a whole chicken means that you can grill it over direct heat in less than an hour.

1-1/2-2 kg (3-4 lb) whole chicken
60 mL (1/4 cup) Dijon mustard
30 mL (2 tbsp) chopped fresh herbs or 15 mL (1 tbsp) dry (tarragon, rosemary or thyme)
30 mL (2 tbsp) wine vinegar
30 mL (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
2 mL (1/2 tsp) each salt and pepper

In small bowl, stir mustard, herbs, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Using kitchen shears, cut chicken down each side of backbone. (Remove backbone and save for stock.)
Turn chicken breast side up; press firmly on breastbone to flatten. Tuck wings behind back.
Place in shallow glass dish; brush with mustard mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.
Place chicken, bone side down, on greased grill over medium heat. Close lid and grill, turning once, until juices run clear when thigh is pierced, 50 minutes.
Transfer to cutting board. Tent with foil; let stand for 10 minutes.

Bourbon Glazed Striploin Roast

1-1/2-2 kg (3-4 lb) well-marbled striploin
80 mL (1/3 cup) bourbon
80 ml (1/3 cup) soy sauce
30 mL (2 tbsp) brown sugar
30 mL (2 tbsp) wine vinegar
30 mL (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
2 mL (1/2 tsp) fresh ground pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients except striploin
Place marinade and roast in plastic container and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight, turning roast occasionally to ensure even marinating.
Place drip pan under grill. Heat barbecue to approximately 400 Fahrenheit.
Place roast on grill and cover. Cooking time will depend on size of roast and desired doneness. Check temperature after 25 minutes.
Transfer roast to cutting board. Rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

One last kick at the canning

There is really no other way to can than with the seasons. You make strawberry jam in late June, pickled beans through July and August, salsa in early September. To make strawberry jam now with those near tasteless California berries or salsa mid-winter with hothouse tomatoes and peppers is just begging to be disappointed.
If you live in Ontario and are canning local, apples mark the end of the season.
And in our house, apples mean apple butter — a thick spread of spiced apple puree that tastes as good on hot tea biscuits as it does with roast pork.
Years ago, when I was a reporter with the local community newspaper, David and I were introduced to apple butter at the Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival. As is typical at such a community fair, there was a variety of food for sale and sample. We bought grilled sausage on a bun and, as seemed fit for the occasion, topped them with apple butter.
We were hooked.

Honey apple butter.

Honey apple butter
This recipe comes from Bernardin. For the best flavour, use a combination of apple varieties. I used a blend of McIntosh, Cortland and Empire this year. Probably the best batch I ever made — I think it was 2004 — featured the heirloom yellow apples a coworker picked off the tree in his yard. He shared the fruit; I shared the butter.
This recipe makes 6 250-mL jars or 12 125-mL jars.

2.3 kg (5 lb) apples (McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Empire)
500 mL (2 cups) pure apple cider
15 mL (1 tbsp) ground cinnamon
2 mL (1/2 tsp) allspice
250 mL (1 cup) pasteurized honey

Wash apples, remove cores and coarsely chop.
Place apples and cider in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer covered until apples are soft, about 20 minutes
Press through a sieve or food mill and measure 1875 mL (7-1/2 cups) puree.
Combine apple puree an spices in a clean saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add honey and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until apple spread mounds on a spoon or desired thickness is reached.
Ladle into hot, sterilized 125 mL or 250 mL jars. Process in hot water canner for 10 minutes.

Never bean better

Harvest dried beans. Ready to plant next spring.

I always plant too many beans. Probably because they are easy and reliable.
I bought a package of green bush beans, the variety of which I can no longer remember, when I started my first garden seven years ago. Every year since, I have let several pods dry on the plants and harvested the dried beans in the fall. In the spring, I poke a bunch into prepared soil, water and watch ’em grow.
The crops seem to come in waves. If I miss a few days of picking, I am suddenly overwhelmed by hundreds of beans close to that too-big-to-eat stage.
I’ve employed a few different techniques for using the bounty: daily portions of steamed beans, roasted beans, stir-fried beans, bean salad; sharing with family, neighbours and co-workers (produce revenge is what my husband used to call the nearly forced exchange of vegetables at my former office); blanching and freezing.
My favourite, by far, though, is pickling. I first made pickled beans last year and was hooked.
The recipe is simple. Just cook the brine, pack fresh beans, garlic, dill, peppercorns and red pepper flakes if you like into jars, cover with the brine and process. It works well with those large, sometimes tougher, beans. The taste is addictive. An opened jar rarely lasts longer than a couple days in our house.
This summer, I had more than one person talk to me about pickled beans — for snacking or as a garnish for a bloody Caesar. Appears I may be ahead of the food curve this time.

You can never have too many pickled beans.

Pickled beans
The basis of this recipe comes from Bernardin. I’ve used both dried dill seed (harvested from my herb garden the previous summer) and fresh heads, also from my garden, which look so pretty in a jar. Add as much or as little garlic, peppercorns (black or green) and red pepper flakes as you like. You can also add sweet red pepper slices for colour.

2 kg (4-1/2 lb) green beans, trimmed and washed
garlic, 1-2 cloves per jar
dill, 5 mL (1 tsp) dried or 1 large head fresh per jar
peppercorns, 3-plus per jar
red pepper flakes, 5 mL (1 tsp) per jar or to taste
750 mL (3 cups) water
750 mL (3 cups) white vinegar
45 mL (3 tbsp) pickling salt

In a large saucepan, combine water, white vinegar and pickling salt. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
Pack beans, garlic, dill, peppercorns and pepper flakes into hot, sterilized 500 mL jars. Fill jars with brine, leaving 1-cm head space.
Process in hot water canner for 10 minutes.
Makes about six 500 mL jars.

One last corn recipe

When I happened upon this blog post on Chickens in the Road, it made my frugal domestic heart beat a little faster. I love finding new ways to use those bits and bobs that normally end up in the green bin.
It’s hard to describe the subtle flavour of this jelly. Some compare it to honey.

Corn cob jelly
I followed this recipe pretty much to the letter. Although I must have boiled it harder or longer, because I ended up with about 1,750 mL of jelly rather than the 2,500 mL Chickens did.

Step 1: boil cobs in water.

12 large ears of corn
2 L (2 quarts) water
30 mL (2 tbsp) lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin

The final result: corn cob jelly.

Cook corn; cut kernels from cobs and store for another use.
Add water and cobs to large pot. Bring to a boil; boil hard, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Remove cobs. Strain liquid through cheesecloth or fine wire sieve.
Measure liquid. Return to pot.
Stir in lemon juice and pectin. Bring to boil. Add amount of sugar equal to liquid. Stir to dissolve sugar.
Bring to boil. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Ladle jelly into hot, sterilized jars. Process in water canner for 10 minutes.

Pesto perpetuo basil

The variegated leaves of the pesto perpetuo basil.

I’ve long been searching for basil that could match the enormous, fragrant and flavourful plants I found several years ago at Dufferin County grower. (I’m not going to name names since he confessed to smuggling seeds from Israel to nurture in his greenhouse.)
This season, I finally found success with some pesto perpetuo plants purchased from Richters Herbs in Goodwood.
The description on Richters website sounded promising: dense columnar growth and variegated leaves gives this basil a majesty and appeal like on other … the scent is a compelling floral blend of spice and lemon … because it never flowers, it never slows down, as basils usually do when they flower and set seed.
The plants have delivered. They stand about 80 centimetres now. I’ve used the leaves for salads, salsas, pestos, pizzas, marinades and more over the summer and the taste is both sweet and spicy — just like basil should be.
Before the first frost, I will pick the remaining leaves and blend with fresh garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil in the food processor.
I freeze this mixture in a thin layer in freezer bags, breaking off a chunk any time I want “fresh” pesto taste during the winter.
For some recipes, such as frittata or soups, I use it as is. For a traditional pasta sauce, I add grated Parmesan cheese and very finely chopped pinoli (pine nuts) or walnuts.

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

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

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.