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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Applesauce Time!

This box of apples showed up at my house a few days ago, thanks to some generous friends. That's about 20 pounds of apples. When you have a windfall like that, you need to do something on a large scale so I made a lot of applesauce. Homemade "canned" applesauce is easy and delicious. You can make it as sweet as you like - I don't like it very sweet. Canning requires some equipment and some labor but it isn't hard. If you have a decent sized garden, canning skills are almost part of being a gardener. That's why you plant a garden - so you can sock away all that bounty for those dreary days in winter. I'm sure this applesauce will be a ray of sunshine in my winter.

Twelve pints is a lot of apple sauce. My canner will only hold 7 pint jars. You may have to can this in two batches like I did.

Sharon's Applesauce
(makes 12 pints)

12 pounds apples, cored and cut into chunks*
citric acid to prevent browning (also called Fruit Fresh)
4 cups apple juice or apple cider
1 vanilla bean
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
1 4" stick of cinnamon
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

As you cut up the apples, place them in a large bowl with water and citric acid (check the Fruit Fresh label instructions on mixing this). Drain well and put the apples, apple juice, vanilla bean, ginger, and cinnamon in a large stockpot. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil. Stir, and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the apples are falling apart tender, stirring occasionally. How long that is depends on the type of apples you are using. My apples took about 30 minutes to fall apart. Remove from the heat. Remove the lump of ginger and cinnamon; discard. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Using an immersion (or wand) blender to break up the apples. I like my applesauce chunky. If you want a smoother applesauce, puree in a blender in batches - this will take a while!

Wash 12 wide-mouth pint jars. Fill your canner pot about half full with water. Place the jars in the canner on a rack; it's easier if you fill the jars partially with water before putting them in the canner, because they try to float. Add enough water to cover the jars by 1" of water and bring it to a boil. Wash 12 jar lids and 12 rings, and set aside while you get the water boiling.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, return the applesauce to the stockpot, add the lemon juice, and stir. Reheat over medium-low and maintain it at a simmer until the canner is ready.

Remove the jars and drain. Fill each jar within ½" of the rim. Remove any air bubbles. Put on a lid, screw on the ring, and place in the canner. As soon as the water in the canner returns to a boil, start your timer. At my elevation (nearly 5400 ft.), can for 30 minutes. At sea level, you only need 20 minutes.

Remove the jars to a rack covered with a towel and let cool. After 24 hours, check seals: the jars are sealed correctly if the lids don't flex up and down when pressed.

*You can peel the apples if you like but I don't. The skins on my apples are tender and I hardly notice that the apples weren't peeled, but your apples may have tougher skins.

Adapted from the Ball website, which is a great collection of preserving and canning know-how.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zucchini and Apple Soup

I used light green zucchini from my garden. If you use standard zucchini, the soup will be a deeper green

Really? Sounds sort of odd together, doesn't it? But, it tastes delicious. Zucchini is not all that exciting on its own. The apple adds just the right amount of sweetness and acidity. It's apple season, why not?

Zucchini and Apple Soup
(serves 4)

1 large apple, peeled, cored & diced
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 large onion, sliced
½ cup cider or apple juice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup light cream
4 Tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot. Add the apples, zucchini, and onion. Cook over medium heat until the onions have softened but do not brown.

Add the cider, nutmeg, and black pepper. You can add a bit of salt here if you are using unsalted stock. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Add the stock, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Puree everything in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add the cream and heat until hot. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.

Adapted from Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jamie Oliver's Blushing Spaghetti Vongole

Jamie Oliver has a fun new cookbook: Comfort Food. It features comforting recipes from around the world. Recipes include a rich Curried Fish Pie, Chicken Kiev, and a Chocolate Celebration Cake. These are not simple recipes (though the one below is). They are made for a day when you have time to cook, or you want to pull out the stops with something wow! Or, in this recipe, something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. I love spaghetti in clam sauce. It's always been one of my favorite comfort foods. Most are based on white wine and don't have tomatoes. This one cooks the clams in dry rosé wine and has a bit of tomatoes for more pink color and added flavor. Very comforting!

This is a recipe that depends on mise en place: having everything ready once you start cooking. It takes about 10 minutes and you do not have time to do any prep once you get going. Look over each raw clam. If it's open and won't shut when you tap it, toss it. It's dead. Any clams that don't open after steaming are dead and should be pitched. Clams open very wide when they are cooked so it's obvious which ones are duds.

Blushing Spaghetti Vongole
(serves 2 generously)

10 oz. dry linguine pasta
salt for pasta cooking water
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 small red ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
6 large sprigs of fresh parsley
1 large pinch of crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste (sold in a tube)
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds small clams in the shell, scrubbed clean
¾ cup dry rosé wine

Combine the garlic, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and tomato paste in a bowl. Set aside. Chop the parsley leaves and set aside. Thinly slice the smaller stems and add to the bowl with the other ingredients.

Get a large pot of water boiling and add a tablespoon of salt. Add the linguine and set the timer for 3 minutes. When it goes off, set a large covered skillet over high heat and reset the timer for 4 more minutes. When the pan is hot, 30 seconds, add 1 Tablespoon of oil, swirl it around, and add the ingredients in the bowl. Stir around for 30 seconds, then add the clams. Toss around, add the wine, and cover. After 2 minutes, remove the lid. The clams will be starting to pop open. Check the pasta. If done, drain. If not, cook for another minute. Once all the clams have opened, toss in the drained pasta and the chopped parsley leaves. To serve, mound into bowls with all the juices for bread dipping, and garnish with some more olive oil. Serve with a glass of dry rosé wine, of course!

Adapted for altitude from Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Night Dinner: Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Grapes

I picked a lot of grapes this year (OK, my husband picked them because I was out of town). We finally beat the raccoons with an electric fence and all the grapes hanging were quite a bit - 18 pounds! They are small pink seedless grapes, a variety called Canadice from central New York. They are spicy, tart-sweet, and very tasty. But, you can only eat so many grapes. The expiration date was coming up on them. I had already turned them into raisins and a wine jelly. Found this recipe to use up the rest. This is easy, really easy!

One inch thick pork chops are just big though I know plenty of people who will happily eat a whole one. I try not to, but that's a pretty typical serving. If you can resist devouring the whole thing, you can stretch this to serve more than 4; there is plenty of sauce. Of course, if you are part of my family, there will be war if you don't get a bone with your chop. :-)

Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Grapes
(serves 4-8)

4 bone-in 1" thick pork chops, about 2 pounds total
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon oil
2 pounds green or red seedless grapes
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 - 3 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into a few pieces

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Dry the chops and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold all the chops. Brown the chops on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chops to a plate and pour off the fat in the pan. Add the vinegar, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits in the skillet. Let the vinegar reduce slightly. Add the grapes and stir. Put the chops and any juices back in the skillet. Mound some of the grapes on top of each chop so they are basted by the grape juice. Place in the hot oven and roast for 10 minutes. Check the temperature. If they get to 130°F, they are done and you don't want to overcook them. If they aren't cooked enough, return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and remove the chops to a heated dish. Using a slotted spoon, remove all the grapes and mound on top of the chops. Cover the chops with foil to keep warm. Return the skillet to the stove and cook over medium heat. Stir in the butter chunks and reduce the sauce until thick and glossy. Check the seasoning; add more salt if needed. Pour the sauce over the chops. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

Adapted from Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routhier, Workman Publishing Company, 1996.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Shrimp a la Greque

A simple yet delicious recipe for shrimp. I've adapted this from Mark Bittman's Fish, a comprehensive book on all manner of finny or shelled critters. It's one of my go-to fish cookbooks because it covers the fast and simple right through to the fancy and complicated. Everything I've tried in here has been excellent. I have made the recipe for Crispy Skin Salmon with Gingery Greens and it's become a house favorite. Fish is still available and a good buy in paperback.

Shrimp a la Greque
(serves 4-5)

4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup dry white wine
4 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
½ teaspoon crushed dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 oz. feta cheese, cut into ½" cubes

Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, 2 Tablespoons parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Smush the tomatoes with a spoon. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the sauce thickens to the consistency of thick tomato sauce.

Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink all over, about 5 minutes. Add the feta cheese and stir gently to keep the feta cubes intact. Serve over pasta or rice. Garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve with bread to get every drop of the delicious sauce.

Adapted from Fish by Mark Bittman, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1994.