A Citrusy Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is normally my excuse to make stuffing.  There’s just something about savory soggy bread that rocks my socks.  Peter doesn’t share my convictions, but I haven’t given up on him.  The first time I made stuffing, he almost wouldn’t try it.  This year, when I asked him in the morning where stuffing ranked from 1 to 10 he said 4.  By the end of our Thanksgiving meal?  Stuffing was a 6.  Lucky for Peter, my new favorite Thanksgiving-themed food is not nearly so soggy (or 100% soggy, depending on how you look at it): cranberry sauce.  There are several reasons to love this simple condiment:

1) It takes only about 30 minutes to make.

2) There are about a million slight variations to be perused online in case you ever get tired of the old standard: cranberries, sugar, and water.

3) In this case, sauce = jam, and you may have realized how much I like jam!

For an accurate depiction of what a cranberry sauce obsession looks like, consider the following.  The first batch of cranberry sauce was a quarter of the way gone by the time company arrived for Thanksgiving dinner.  Then we consumed the rest of the cranberry sauce between four of us, forcing me to make another batch of it yesterday.  You may not be too surprised when I tell you that the second batch is over half gone…

Citrusy Cranberry Sauce
(Makes about 2 cups)
1 12 ounce package of fresh cranberries
1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
Dash of salt
Zest of 1/2 lemon or orange

Pick through the cranberries, discarding the occasional stem or any that have large soft spots.  Put all the ingredients in a pot with 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.  Let the sauce cool for another 10 minutes in the pot before transferring to a glass storage container.  And that’s it!

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There’s Hummus Among Us

As long as we’re talking about pitta breads, how about things to put on/in them?  Since my pitta bread don’t always puff up when I tell them to (even when I shout at them very loudly), I may have to admit that I often come down on the side of “on”-them-things out of necessity.  And, if you go to the trouble of making your own pitta in the first place, wouldn’t it be nice to have an “on”-them-thing worth raving about?  For me, that’s hummus.  Or when I’m feeling a bit less lazy, roasted eggplant and tahini dip.  But most of the time just hummus.

Now you may be wondering why hummus is rave-worthy.  After all, it’s kind of a boring beige color most of the time, and the stuff from the store can be hit or miss.  This is why making hummus at home is so worth it.  You can add sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, or roasted garlic to jazz up the flavor.  And after the pulverizing is over, you have a blank beige canvas to decorate with everything from olive oil, to spices and herbs.

Unfortunately, as an avid practitioner of the non-recipe cooking approach, it’s a bit difficult for me to give you exact measurements for what you should put in your hummus, so please take the following recipe as a suggestion.  Google backs me up that there are a million different ingredient ratios for hummus, and that the following is a good middle-ground.  Perhaps more importantly, you should make a hummus that is delicious to you, so go wild!

Simple Hummus
2 cups cooked chickpeas (see below for cooking instructions)
1/2 cup chickpea water (from cooking)
1/4 cup tahini
2-3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
To garnish: olive oil, paprika, ground cumin, dried oregano, and diced fresh parsley.

First, in a mini food processor, pulverize the garlic, olive oil, and about 1/4 cup of chickpeas and 1/4 cup of chickpea water.  This should disperse the garlic better than just chopping and adding it in at the end.  Next I add the rest of the ingredients, except a bit less salt, and pulverize again.  At this point I taste the hummus.  It may need more salt, tahini, lime juice, or liquid.  I like my hummus to be smooth and not too dense, which means plenty of food processor action and sometimes extra liquid.  When you’re happy with your hummus, spoon it into a bowl and smooth out the top.  To garnish, drizzle some olive oil over the smooth top of the hummus; this helps keep the hummus from drying out.  Finally, sprinkle any or all of the spices on top.

Cooking Chickpeas
Chickpeas are some of the easiest beans to cook because it’s hard to overcook them.  The one thing you do have to remember to do (in addition to turning the stove off eventually) is soak them overnight first.  I recently started using just-cooked and still-warm chickpeas to make hummus, and I think the hummus was smoother than cold or canned chickpeas.  To soak the chickpeas, put them in a non-reactive bowl and cover them with at least twice their volume of water.  I usually cook 2-3 cups of dried chickpeas at a time and use them to make a few batches of hummus, chickpea patties (like non-deep fried felafel), or put them on salads.  To cook the chickpeas, drain the soaking water and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly.  Then in a medium or large pot, cover the chickpeas with two times their volume of water again and turn the heat on high until the water reaches a boil.  Then turn the heat down to maintain a simmer, and let the chickpeas cook until very soft.  This could take 1-2 hours depending on the freshness of your dried chickpeas and how long you’re willing to wait for softer chickpeas.  Save some of the cooking water for making hummus!

Hot Stuff! Sriracha and Hot Pepper Pickles

Over the last few weeks there have been an increasing number of hot pepper experiments.  After making a batch of salsa verde to can, I made another with extremely spicy jalapenos that turned out to be too intense for the intended purpose of making enchiladas verdes.  And then this weekend, I attempted to make Sriracha with a combination of mystery peppers and jalapenos/serranos.  Turned out some of the mystery peppers were habaneros, and the Sriracha sauce turned out more like a very delicious hot sauce that is only tolerable in extremely small doses.  Thank goodness I learned what a habanero looks like before making the pickled hot peppers or they might have been completely inedible to my weak taste buds.

Sriracha (hot pepper garlic sauce)
(Makes 2-5 half-pints)
I followed the directions for making Sriracha here pretty much to the letter, except I only ended up with 2.5 half-pints instead of the expected 5.  This may have been due to the fact that I had the heat up too high as I was cooking the sauce down, but this was absolutely necessary as I had a fan blowing air away from the pot and out of the kitchen so that we could breathe properly while preparing the ingredients for the hot pepper pickles.  So yes, a word of warning: the sauce will fill the air with awful pepper and vinegar fumes if you, like me, try using extremely hot peppers.  While I may be hot-peppered out for the moment, I do want to try making this recipe with only jalapenos, in which case the fumes may not be so bad.  As a hot sauce, this is one of the first I’ve really liked, so I foresee much tinkering with the recipe next summer.  Another thought on making sriracha: I’ve seen recipes that involve fermenting the peppers before the sauce is cooked and pureed, which may lead to a more authentic Rooster Sauce than the more simple recipe I tried.  And as always, an immersion blender makes it all so much easier, no matter what recipe you follow.

1 pound hot peppers
9 medium cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
3 tablespoons honey

To make the sauce:  Prepare the hot peppers by cutting off the stems and chopping them up into smallish pieces.  WEAR GLOVES to protect your hands from the hot pepper oils!  Leave in the seeds if you want to make the sauce spicier (perhaps if you only use jalapenos).  Prepare the garlic by peeling the cloves and crushing them with a flat knife.  In a medium pot, combine the chopped hot peppers, garlic, salt, and vinegars.  Bring the pot to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Take the pot off the heat and blend the mixture until smooth with an immersion blender (easily done right in the pot) or traditional blender/food processor (harder, and it may be easier when the sauce has cooled a little bit).   With the sauce in the pot (again), bring it to a boil.  You are now ready to can it!

To can the sauce:  Follow the more detailed directions in the recipe for dilly beans, with the following specifications.  Fill the half-pint jars with sauce leaving 1/4 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.  To process, boil the half-pint jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Pickled Hot Peppers (Adapted from Canning for a New Generation)
(Makes 4 half-pints of pickles)
Enough hot pepper rings to fill 4 half-pint jars
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
3/4 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled

To make the pickles:  Cut up the hot peppers into rings about 1/8 inch thick and discard the stems.  WEAR GLOVES when handling the hot peppers!  Rinse the pepper rings in cool water to get rid of some of the seeds and set aside for the canning stage.  Peel the garlic and set aside for the canning stage as well.  Bring the rest of the ingredients (vinegars, water, salt, and sugar) to a boil in a pot and then take off the heat and proceed to the canning stage.

To can the pickles: Follow the more detailed directions in the recipe for dilly beans, with the following specifications.  Fill each half-pint jar with a clove of garlic and one fourth of the hot pepper rings, leaving one inch of headspace at the top of the jar.  Pour the brine into the jar leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.  To process, boil the half-pint jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  The hot pepper rings will shrink as they cook in the hot water bath, leaving ample space in the half-pint jars that is only full of brine.  Cooking the hot pepper rings in the brine before packing the half-pint jars would help solve this problem, and for an example of this method see the recipe for banana pepper pickles.

Charred Tomato and Chile Salsa

To finish up the series of summer salsas, here is a tangy and slightly sweet tomato salsa that is just as easy to make as salsa verde: you roast everything and then blend it to death.  Peter wishes it had more smoky flavor, but I’m glad it didn’t.

Just when I thought I was cut-off from canning until holiday gift-giving, my grandma sent me 12 half-pint jars.  Thank you grandma!  Perusing Canning for a New Generation and Food in Jars, I’ve narrowed the future contents of these jars down to:

  1. Strawberry jam with Thai herbs
  2. Sweet red pepper relish
  3. Spiced apple butter
  4. Pear and ginger preserves
  5. Concord grape jam
  6. Peach-plum ginger jam
  7. Sweet-spicy cucumber pepper relish
  8. Pear ginger ginger jam
  9. Peppered balsamic fig jam
  10. Sriracha sauce

Clearly I have to decide between these 10(!) recipes eventually, but as the weekend is still a little ways away, I don’t have to commit just yet.  If you must know, my preference is slightly wavered towards Sriracha sauce (the amazing spicy chile condiment), pear and ginger preserves (I’ve promised myself that only one pear recipe this year is sufficient), and either sweet-spicy cucumber pepper relish (if I have enough cucumbers from the garden) or concord grape jam (if I happen upon concord grapes in a moment of weakness).

Charred Tomato and Chile Salsa (from Canning for a New Generation)
(Makes 5 pints of salsa)
5 pounds tomatoes
10 jalapeno peppers, preferably red (8 ounces)
12 cloves garlic (2 ounces)
3 small onions (1 pound 6 ounces)
1/2 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

To make the salsa:   Prepare the tomatoes by cutting out the stems and cutting the tomatoes in half.  Prepare the jalapenos by cutting off the stems and cutting the jalapenos in half length-wise.  Peel the garlic cloves and cut the onions into quarters.  Set the broiler to “high” and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the tomatoes cut side down on the baking tray and broil for about 10 minutes, until the skins are blackened in patches.  Move the tomatoes to a heat-proof bowl.  Then broil the other veggies (jalapenos, onions, garlic) until black in places.  When the other veggies are done, put them in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients.  Now comes the only annoying part: when the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, keeping only the blackened parts of the skins (this adds flavor).  Combine all the other ingredients in the pot (tomatoes, black bits of tomato skins, vinegar, salt, and sugar) and mix.  If you have an immersion blender, use it to blend the salsa in the pot.  Otherwise, use a conventional blender or food processor to blend the salsa.  Whatever the blending method, return the salsa to the pot and bring it to a boil for 5 minutes.  The salsa is now ready to be canned!

To can the salsa: Follow the detailed instructions for canning in the recipe for dilly beans, with the following specifications.  Fill the sterilized pint jars with salsa leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.  Process the jars in a hot water bath for 40 minutes.

Salsa Verde

Normally I’m not a huge fan of salsa verde.  I don’t know why, now that I think about it, so it was only a streak of crazy that led me to make salsa verde myself.  By streak of crazy, I mean: deciding to make every salsa recipe in Canning for a New Generation after trying the peach cilantro salsa from a few weeks ago and after reading the recipe for Roasted Tomato and Chile salsa (more about that later).  I love how no sooner have I uttered any plan of action aloud than I’m forced to eat my words or contend with the unknown.  As luck would have it, I chose the latter and decided to make salsa verde with absolutely no idea of what it should taste like (other than “good”).  Well, it was good.  It may even have been GOOD.  And easy!  I probably only mentally blackmailed myself into trying it because it involved no dicing of spicy peppers: the immersion blender does all the work!

Salsa Verde (from Canning for a New Generation)
(Makes 3-4 pint jars of salsa)
3 1/2 pounds tomatillos
1 medium onion (4 ounces)
5 large serrano chiles
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup of roughly chopped fresh cilantro
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon salt

To make the salsa:  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Prepare the tomatillos by taking off the outer husk, twisting the stem off, and washing them well.  Cut the onion into cubes about one inch thick.  Cut off just the stems of the serrano chiles and whatever you do, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES!  When the oven is preheated, place the tomatillos, onion cubes, serranos, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes.  While the veggies are baking, squeeze the lime juice and chop the cilantro.  The veggies are done when the tomatillos are soft and oozing juices, at which point you should move all the roasted veggies into a largish pot and add the cilantro.  Now blend the heck out of that salsa using either an immersion blender (easy!) or a regular blender or food processor (made difficult by the hot liquid, so be careful).  With the blended salsa in the pot, add the lime juice and salt and bring the mixture to a boil.

To can the salsa:  Follow the detailed instructions for hot water bath canning in the recipe for dilly beans, with the following specifications.  Fill the sterilized pint jars with salsa leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of each jar.  Process the pint jars in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

Red Ketchup

I had decided that I wasn’t going to try making ketchup this year, at least not in any reasonably large quantity.  You see, there are no more canning jars left.  I used them all up on more salsa (which I’ll tell you all about soon, I promise), and of course everything that came before that.  And between the grape jam, roasted fig preserves, and even more salsa that I made since running out of canning jars, there was no reason to even venture into what passes for a pantry in our miniscule kitchen: two shelves that are too narrow to hold anything more useful than a bunch of now-filled canning jars.  But then there were Roma tomatoes on sale for a dollar a pound last week at the farmer’s market.  SERIOUSLY?  And organic, to boot.  So that was the end of my resolve and the beginning of the game “what else can we put ketchup on?”

Luckily I have friends who point out extremely good (if not also extremely obvious… although clearly not obvious enough) ways to deal with too much ketchup.  Such as freezing it.  So now there is a pint plus two smaller (half-pint?) jars of ketchup in the freezer, and my only worry is remembering that they’re there.  As for the other pint of ketchup in the fridge, I have only two words: eggs and potatoes.  If you are not a fan of ketchup on eggs (with or without a stabilizing layer of toast underneath… cheese being optional) I can’t really help you, other than to suggest that you halve this recipe and freeze most of it.  Although to be honest, with only one egg in the fridge at present, other ketchup-consumption ideas would be more than welcome.

Important note:  this recipe has been altered from the original and is probably not safe to can in a hot water bath.

Red Ketchup (Adapted from Canning for a New Generation)
(Made 3 pints of fairly thick ketchup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 large cloves garlic, chopped
6 pounds of Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup mixed distilled white vinegar + apple cider vinegar (5% acidity) or more if desired
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic, cooking until the onion is soft and almost clear.  Add all the other ingredients and cook for about an hour.  If you have an immersion blender, get it out and blend that pot of rather runny ketchup-in-the-making into a perfectly smooth still rather runny sauce.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender or food processor, but be careful with the hot liquid.  Now comes the fun part: let the ketchup simmer on low for another 2-4 hours, until it reaches the thickness that you associate with any decent ketchup.  I surprised myself and managed to wait around 4 hours before declaring the ketchup done.  Keep a half-pint (or pint) of the ketchup in the fridge and freeze the rest in smallish glass jars (half-pint or pint) until the ketchup craving strikes!

Peach Cilantro Salsa

The closest I’d gotten to making salsa before this was chopping up tomatoes with lime juice, cilantro, and onion… and maybe an avocado or two in there for good measure.  But as I have always loved fruit salsas, I thought I would give this a try.  The final product is slightly sweet, salty, tangy, spicy, and colorful.  It may have taken a while to prep the ingredients and to peel the peaches, but it was so worth it.  When Peter finally tried the left-over salsa from canning, his only word was “WOW!”  He’s also made me promise not to give any of it away for any reason, which is probably the biggest compliment of all.

Peach Cilantro Salsa (adapted from Canning for a New Generation)
(Makes about 5 pints jars of salsa)
5 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced*
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons serrano chiles, minced
4-6 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

To make the salsa:  In a large pot, combine all ingredients except the cilantro.  Bring the ingredients to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, the peaches should be soft and easily squashed against the side of the pot.  Add the cilantro.

To can the salsa:  See the detailed instructions for canning dilly beans.  Make sure to use new flat lids and leave 1/4 inch of headspace at the top of each pint jar when filling it with salsa.  Since the salsa is sticky, make sure to wipe the top of the pint jars with a clean cloth so that the lids make good seals.  Process the filled pint jars of salsa for 10 minutes in a boiling hot water bath.

*To peel the peaches easily, drop them in boiling water for 30-60 seconds and then plunge them in an ice water bath and rub off the skin with your fingers.  If this doesn’t work (some peaches are just difficult), use a paring knife.  It is also infinitely easier if the peach pits are easily torn from the peach flesh, so buy freestone peaches.