Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Home-Canned Tomato Sauce


Today, an article I wrote on home canning appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper. It features a great basic recipe for tomato sauce, plus a lot of tips on canning.

However, there is a story behind the article. Last month, I took my tomatoes, jars, and recipe to the family farmhouse in Missouri. The farm has been in my family for more than 100 years.

Mom and I spent a little over half a day making tomato sauce. She sat at the kitchen table cutting tomatoes and I stood at the stove cooking those tomatoes for the sauce.

Mom said, with a warm, far-away look on her face, “I remember Granny sitting here doing this while Mom was at the stove.”

A feeling of pride washed over me as I realized the spirit and traditions of past generations continued on through this simple act of canning tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce
Adapted from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
Makes about 14 pints or 7 quarts

45 pounds of tomatoes
Bottled lemon juice

Wash the tomatoes and cut away the core and blossom ends, plus any bad spots. Cut each tomato in half and then gently squeeze to remove the seeds. Cut each half into quarters and place in a large pot. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium-low to low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 20 minutes.

Process the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skins and any remaining seeds. Pour the tomato pulp back into the large pot and simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Reduce until the sauce reaches the desired thickness. (This will take some time.)

To process, start by sterilizing the jars: Place clean jars without lids into the canner on a rack so they do not
touch the bottom. (If you don’t have a rack, place the rings on the bottom and set the jars on top.) Fill with water to 2 inches above the jars. Cover and heat to boiling, and then boil for 10 minutes. After that time, turn heat to low and keep the jars in the water until needed.

Place the flat canning lids in a sauce pan off the heat and pour some of the liquid from the boiling pot over the top to cover. This will soften the rubber to help the lids seal.

One at a time, remove a jar from the water. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to a pint jar, 2 tablespoons to a quart jar. Fill the jar with the hot tomato sauce, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at the top. (Using a funnel helps.) Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp towel to clean off any drips, and then take a flat lid from the warm water and place on top. Screw on a ring until just tight.
           
Once all the jars are filled, gently place them back into the canner. Make sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 to 2 inches and the jars do not touch each other or the sides of the canner. Cover, bring the canner back to a boil, and process for 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts.

Remove the jars from the canner and place on a dry towel to cool completely, leaving 1 to 2 inches of space between the jars. You will hear the lids start to pop as they seal, but it may take some time. Let the jars cool 12 to 24 hours before checking the seal. If the ring band has loosed during processing, do not tighten. This could interfere with the sealing process.

To check the seal on the cooled jars, press on the lid. If it springs back, the jar is not sealed. Also remove the ring and try to lift the lid with your fingertips. If it stays tight, the seal is good. If a jar doesn’t seal, just store the unsealed jar in the refrigerator and use it first. Also refrigerate any jar after it’s opened.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Living The Julia Life





Each year, on August 14, the calendar on my computer reminds me it's Julia Child’s birthday. Does that seem strange? For most foodies, probably not. We owe a lot to this culinary maverick, who brought one of the world’s most delicious and famous cuisines to the American kitchen. She also made it okay to fail, as long as you try again. As she reminded us, we are often alone in the kitchen, so who’s going to know.




I've watched Julia’s television shows all my life. However, she became my hero when I discovered she began her culinary journey at age 37, which was about the same age I was when I ventured out into my writing career. Her success allowed me to put aside my fears and believe it is never to late to follow your dreams and build the life you desire.



Now, years later, I have my Julia Life: I’m a full-time freelance writer. I’m married to my version of Paul Child, my husband Michael, who loves me and encourages me to follow my dreams. (It is such a gift to have a husband who says, “I’m so proud of you” on a regular basis.) I've created dishes that make me close my eyes in rapturous delight. 


Yes, I still have goals and dreams ahead (my first published book being at the top of my list), but I’m so happy and blessed to be living The Julia Life.



To celebrate Julia's birthday yesterday, I watched the movie Julie and Julia. I skipped through the Julie parts to focus on the Julia ones, which are based on my favorite book, My Life in France by Julia Child with her nephew Alex Prud’Homme. (The biography Dearie by Bob Spitz comes in a close second.)





This weekend I plan to open up Mastering the Art of French Cooking to try out a new recipe, though which one I’m not certain of yet. Until then, here are some of my favorite Julia recipes from past blogs:



























































“Good results require that one take time and care. If one doesn't use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture—a gummy beef Wellington, say. But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience.” –Julia Child, from My Life in France. 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tarragon Chicken Salad

  


Chicken salad is so simple to make, right? Then why don’t I make it more often, especially with a recipe this delicious?

I was reminded of this chicken salad recipe after seeing similar ones posted around the internet world this summer. It came from In a Pinch Café and Bakery in Concord, New Hampshire. The owner, Paula Stephen, shared it with me when I wrote a profile of her restaurant for the local newspaper. The salad was my favorite menu item when I lived there, and it's still a customer favorite.

What is best about this recipe is it can easily be adjusted to fit your tastes. I like to add a little diced purple onion if I have it on hand. To eat, I like the salad on a nice whole-grain roll with lettuce and, if I have them, bean sprouts. Feel free to use leftover chicken instead of the cooked chicken breasts in the recipe. The last time I made it, I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.


Of course, The Picky Eater wanted nothing to do with this recipe. His chicken salad must be made with sweet pickles and Miracle Whip.

So I made two salads instead of just one.

Sigh…

Tarragon Chicken Salad
Adapted from In a Pinch Café’s recipe

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 2 pounds)
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place chicken breasts in a pan of cold, salted water. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from the water and allow to cool.

Cut cooled chicken into bite-sized pieces and place into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate until chilled before serving.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Giardiniera

This summer I’m having a lot of fun learning the basics of food preservation. First I wrote about making jams and jellies, and this week I had article in the Topeka Capital-Journal about pickling. 

I do a little dance each time I hear a jar's lid pop as it seals. The Picky Eater just shakes his head at my excitement. 


In the article, I wrote about my first memories of homemade pickles being of my Mamaw making jars in her Missouri farmhouse kitchen. I have a card from her recipe file from 1971 that lists all the pickles she made that summer, including 40 pints of dill pickles and 12 of lime pickles (named not for the citrus fruit but because the cucumbers were soaked in lime and the pickles were a bright green color.)

In fact, I have a photo of Mamaw coming up from the cellar with a jar of pickles in her hand. I won’t post it here. Her hair is in curlers, and even though she’s no longer with us, I know she would be mortified if I put it out there for all to see.

The photo makes me smile every time I see it. She didn't know I was taking it. Bad granddaughter. 

While I like pickles made with cucumbers, giardiniera is my favorite. This Italian mix of pickled veggies typically calls for cauliflower, carrots, celery, and red pepper. Since I’m not a fan of red peppers, I added extra carrot instead.

I also made bread and butter pickles. While there are many recipes available, I decided to try the Ball Bread and Butter Pickle Mix found with the canning supplies. I just followed the recipe on the jar. Yum!

To read all of my pickling tips, just click here. The giardiniera recipe is also in the article, but I like it so much I had to share it here as well.


Giardiniera
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen D. I. Y. Cookbook by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen

Makes 4 1-pint jars
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch florets
4 carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick on an angle
3 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 serrano chilies, stemmed and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 3/4 cups distilled white vinegar
2 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt

Wash 4 1-pint jars in warm, soapy water or the dishwasher. Also wash the screw bands by hand. In a large pot or canner, place the jars without lids on a rack so they do not touch the bottom. If you don’t have a rack, place the rings on the bottom and set the jars on top. Fill with water to 2 inches above the jars. Cover and heat to boiling, and then boil for 10 minutes. After that time, turn heat to low and keep the jars in the water until needed.

Place the flat canning lids in a sauce pan off the heat and pour some of the liquid from the boiling pot over the top to cover. This will soften the rubber to help the lids seal.
In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower, carrots, celery, and chilies. Set aside.
           
In a large sauce pan, heat the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves, remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves and bring the mixture back to a boil.
           
Remove the jars from the hot water and turn up the heat to bring the canner water back to a boil. Working with one jar at a time, pack with the vegetable mixture to the neck of the jar. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the vegetables until completely covered, leaving 1/2-inch headspace from the top. Run a small rubber spatula, plastic knife, or bamboo skewer between the jar and the food, pressing towards the center, to release any air bubbles. Wipe the rim with a damp cloth. Remove a flat lid from the warm water and place on top of the jar. Screw on a ring. Continue until the remaining jars are filled.
           
When the water in the canner is boiling, gently place the jars inside, making sure they do not touch each other or the outside of the canner. Make sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 to 2 inches. Cover, bring the water back to a boil, and process for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Allow the jars to remain in the hot water for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove the jars from the canner and place on a dry towel to cool completely, leaving 1 to 2 inches of space between the jars. You will hear the lids start to pop as they seal, but it may take some time. Let the jars cool 12 to 24 hours before checking the seal. If the ring band has loosed during processing, do not tighten. This could interfere with the sealing process.

To check the seal on the cooled jars, press on the lid. If it springs back, the jar is not sealed. Also remove the ring and to lift the lid with your fingertips. If it stays tight, the seal is good. If after 24 hours a jar doesn’t seal, just store the unsealed jar in the refrigerator and enjoy it first. Also refrigerate any jar after it’s opened.
The vegetables with be tender and flavorful in a week, though you can eat them right away if you can’t wait. Store the sealed jar in the pantry for up to 1 year.