Dry Puttana

Oh, YUM!

After all of my whining about slicing and juice everywhere, I’ve discovered that dehydrating vegetables is paying off in a serious fashion. I made the best pasta sauce I’ve ever made last
night, and I mostly wasn’t paying attention while I did it… So I’m going to root around in my brain to find the list of ingredients for my newly named Puttanesca Asciutto.

  • 1 c. dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1. 5 c. boiling hot water
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 cup chopped kalamata olives (mine were stuffed with jalapenos, which is why I didn’t use any pepper. You might add a 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper to your sauce.)
  • 1 whole chopped onion
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic, OR 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 basil leaves, julienned
  • some capers, if you like them. I don’t.

And from there, it was simply a matter of feeling my way into a recipe: I stuffed the tomatoes into a pot, poured on the water, and waited twenty minutes. Then I dumped them into the blender, and added the other ingredients. I whizzed them up, and cooked them down for ten minutes, until some of the water cooked out. It’s a chunky, fragrant, flavor-intense sauce that would work well on short pasta with a dry asiago cheese, or on a pizza; with some meat, probably, or as a breadstick dip — endless possibilities.

And, best of all, I will whine no more about the endless tomatoes in the garden.

Until next year.

In A Post-Produce Frame of Mind

Words cannot express just how much I HATE tomatoes right now. They smell funny. They leave a rash on my arms. Their …pollen-y leafy green junk gets everywhere. And they have slick little seeds. And I don’t want to eat them anymore. No. Not no mo!

Yes, okay, this is my annual plaint. Locked in winter, we all long for the freshness of tomatoes on our tongues. By March, I am planting tiny seeds thinking that there could be nothing finer than the rich flavor of a pear tomato, bursting sour-ripe on my tongue. And then the season turns, and I get my wish. And I get my wish. And I wish, wish, wish. And then I wish them gone.

The closer it gets to October, the more loosely does this land seem to be gripped in eternal summer, and the more foreign tomato production seems. I want to already have done with all of this fruiting and producing. I want to have put it all up and put it away, and for it to be all a misty, fond memory. I do not want rock-hard pears staring me in the face. I do not want overripened melons, disturbingly large zucchini, and out of control cucumbers inviting bizarre shape comparisons. And I want NO. MORE. TOMATOES. It’s not like all of my whinging is going to do me any good. I was told rather succinctly that if I could come up with something to take the place of the dreaded and derided fruits, I should speak right up and suggest it. But actually: you can’t grow bread. And really? That’s all I want.

Maybe next year we should grow wheat. Hmmmm.

A sad little PS to my story of the scary corn? Silly Sibling (this as opposed to Sullen Sibling and the Littles — does sound like a hair band, doesn’t it?) will now no longer take anything from the garden because she, too, found a worm in the corn. Our Earthmother has managed to produce two complete wusses. But the real irony is that I shucked the last corn, and it was flawless and perfect — no worms, no must, not even any undeveloped kernels. And I promptly chucked it into the freezer. Speaking of which, it’s time to price some of those things. Between the dried veggies and the abundance of salmon, we suddenly have four inches of freezer space. And if we keep making lovely loaves of cinnamon raisin bread… we’ll have none. I hate the idea of the American Obsession With Having Enough For the Apocalypse, but we do need a little more storage for the food we put up. This weekend, all the canning jars go into the garage, and do all the dried stuff, so we may as well shift the salmon into below-storage, too.

The aubergine onslaught has been slowing… finally… We’re to the point where we’re past the one MASSIVE fruit per plant, and have been getting quite a few medium sized bits. I hate eggplant, of course, but I found out my niece made and ate an entire pan of eggplant parmesan — made with Japanese eggplant, mind you, not Italian — and I decided I wanted to give it a shot. Eggplant parmesan sans eggs is very possible; frankly, the eggs never have added to the flavor, to my mind. The cheese issue has been solved nicely with a mozzarella substitute that everyone will eat, however, I haven’t found a parmesan substitute. So, as a recipe in progress, this is just

Aubergine d’Mozzarella:

  • 2 large aubergines
  • salt
  • 1-2 cups unflavored soymilk
  • 2-3 cups yellow cornmeal
  • Olive oil
  • 5 oz. mozzarella – real or imagined
  • 4 cups puttanesca sauce (you do realize puttanesca is a derivation of ‘puttana,’ which means ‘the way a whore would make it?’ my kind of Italian cooking!!)
  • 2 tsp. freshly crushed garlic – or more or less
  • sprig chopped rosemary, basil, to taste
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 400°

Slice eggplants crosswise into 1/4″ rounds. Salt both sides and set aside for 1-2 hours. This leaches away the bitterness. (Some people say this is unnecessary nowadays, as all eggplants are bioengineered to be less bitter. Try telling that to an organic, non-genetically-modified eggplant, okay?)

Rinse salted eggplant slices and set aside to dry on paper towels. They’ll have lost their firmness, and hopefully, their bitterness. Rinse them and wring them a bit, then lay them on a pan. Fill a shallow bowl with milk (or I’ve known people to use creamy salad dressing), and another with yellow cornmeal. Dip eggplant slices into milk and then cornmeal. (Do it again if you want your breading thicker.) Most recipes suggest you deepfry the breaded slices about 1-2 minutes on both sides and set aside on a nest of paper towels. You could do that, or you can bake them on a heavily oiled pan for ten minutes on each side.

Remove the crisped veg from the pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with sauce, and replace a layer of the breaded slices. Sprinkle lightly with chopped herbs, onion, garlic and olives, and cover with shredded cheese. Cover the mozzarella with sauce and repeat the layers ad infinitum, until you run out. At the last layer, anoint with the chopped herbs, sauce, mozzarella and place it in the oven for 30 minutes. *Note: Let it set for at least 5 minutes before serving. As with all aubergine dishes, the longer it sits, the more the flavors mingle. It’ll be even better the next day.

Be aware that with salting the eggplant, you will still have residual salt… so resist the urge to salt a bite before you’ve tasted it.

This re-orientation of one of my old recipes gave me a great urge to make this tonight, but as the mercury currently stands at 87° F… well, this is the weather when we set the slow-cooker outside, all I’m saying!

Think Before you Consume

So, this morning I was asked if I’m a vegan. The person doing the asking was our spin teacher – born in 1979, a dance major, adopts puppies on her vacation to save them from having to live in the wilds on whatever desert isle she’s visiting at the moment. You know her – somewhere in your life, she lurks, driving her jeep with all manner of “meat is murder” stickers plastered on every available surface.

And you also know that she’s about as thoughtful as a stoat, as she goes out and buys a Prius to replace that Jeep with, because she wants to do her part and all that. Never mind that replacing a 3-year-old jeep with a new vehicle means that she’s essentially contributing to the problem (hello, new aluminum needed for your hybrid), rather than helping to fix it.

Let me just say this now: if you’re not going to keep your car for a decade, it’s not going to save you any money to buy a hybrid. I’ve owned a cute little Honda Insight since December, 1999. I’ve spent around $1000 on gas for that car during that time, and figure I’ve saved around $2000 compared to what her Jeep would have needed. Now, the cost of buying a new vehicle? NOT going to be worth it, financially.

So, let’s recap: not financially beneficial to replace a perfectly good car with a new Hybrid; not environmentally beneficial to do so, either. If your car is totalled out and you have no choice but to buy a new vehicle? Hybrid all the way (well – one of the two fuel-efficient ones on the market, that is, ’cause they’re not all of them about saving fuel).

Am I a vegan? Mostly*. But do I advertise the fact? No. Why not? Well, if you have to ask, you just won’t get it.


*I eat honey (try making a nice oat-bread without it – I’ve been, and it’s no picnic) and drink milk (coffee). I also enjoy Salmon around a dozen times a year (sustainably fished, as all Pacific Salmon is, of course).

Leftovers: Odds & Ends

I think our neighbor thinks we’re freaks.

Okay, so she’s actually the one who should worry, because she talks over me like she’s practically deaf, so our circuitous conversations always seem to have the comedic element of “What?” and “Oh, I just said that” added to them. Too, she somehow always manages to talk and talk and TALK to one about banalities like the weather, the birds in her dryer vent (poor things) and what she’s having done to her house whilst one is digging for one’s keys and concurrently has to pee, but can’t find a way to politely hurry her along. AND, she is … erm… NOSY. Okay, she is awfully curious about some of the things that come into our house. A box from SFHerb.com. was left on the porch. Boxes of produce from our CSA, which prompts her to bring us baskets of strawberries and tell us that she bought them at a farm. We shared fresh-baked bread with her, and she utterly fails to be able to acknowledge that D. made it, not me. Lots of stuttering as she goes on, and on, and ON on the telephone. Poor thing. We totally rock her little world. A man that COOKS!? If only she knew. The knitting. The cans of jam. The (sob!) sewing on of one’s own buttons and ripped pillow case seams! This whole blog would blow her tiny, little mind…


Somewhere, Rick Bayless is screaming.

Lest I come off as too much of a foodie in this blog (friends express astonishment that we attempt tofu, grow a large garden and can our produce. They remark that they wish they had a.] time, b.] patience, c.] creativity to do what we do in the kitchen: mostly they’re thin, and don’t know what a mess our house is, please note), celebrating the joys of eating fungus in Quorn and going on and on about what is generally back-breaking and odd work like baking bread from scratch every week and experimenting with drying things, I wanted to tell you something: there is something I couldn’t bring myself to eat.

It was from the CSA. It was organic. It was fresh — so fresh, it still had a lively inhabitant. It was ethnic and valued by chefs of fresh flavors and new experiences. Even the handsome Ming Tsai has fixed it. It was …corn smut. Huitlacoche, Latin Americans call it, and praise it for its woodsy, earthy, delicate mushroomy flavor. The Beard Foundation, apparently in an effort to get Americans to pay more attention to it, renamed it the Mexican truffle. Nice try, people, but no dice this time. And it had nothing to do with the snob appeal of having something called a truffle, okay? I have to admit… it was mostly… well, the occupant which turned me off. I’m usually pretty game, but… I have a thing. With worms. And spiders. But today: the worms.

(No, I will never know the joy of tequila. So what? And yes, I, too, rescued drowning earthworms in the rain as a child. That was different, leagues different from enduring the blind, hornéd stares of the tomato worms that infested our yard one year. I have never recovered from being required to blend them with cayenne and garlic and spray them on the plants… thank-you, Mama, for your green-sense to save the earth, but GROSS!!! GROSS!! GROSS!! GROSS!!!!!!)

It was just… alive and all, it felt like a pulpy tumor when I touched the corn cob. I peeled back the husk with dread, and saw the familiar puff of blackness, the …worm… and then the spore-filled horror.

Oh, the horror!

Couldn’t it eat. Couldn’t look at it (notice the blurred photographs – shaking hands?) Couldn’t really even think about it.

And, glad I didn’t try. It’s only spore-filled when it’s too old to eat. And really, if you are allergy prone like I am, it’s probably not too great an idea to play with spores, and I don’t know, but I think I need a guide before picking mushrooms, so I’m not going to claim some kind of fungus hipness with stuff that grows on corn. But someday, I’d like to try this — properly prepared, (not sold in a can, like I’ve seen it!) and not by me — and see what it’s all about.

As long as there are no worms.

Sorry, Rick, sorry Ming. Dudes. I tried.


I have been whinging away about the amount of baking going on around me… and I’ve come to a conclusion: self-control is less expensive than diet foods. I don’t believe in de-greening the planet with packaging. I refuse to pay other people to make me do what I’m supposed to do anyway, which is to stop eating sometimes. (Okay, I’ll pay my gym dues, but that’s about it.) I am going to have to find a balance between the comfort of winter baking and the comfort of having a body that I don’t have to roll down inclines. I am going to have to make friends with my freaky neighbor, and keep giving her food. Really, it’s the only way…

When you bake without eggs, AND without oil, you need to take precautions to be sure that you’re not making a brick that is going to be perma-welded to your pan. Why, you ask yourself, did we make this brode without eggs or oil!? It was not in any attempt to be über health conscious in any way. We were weighing and measuring and tootling away on engineering this bread recipe, and we … erm… forgot.

We realized our error about the time we were going to pan the bread, and we thought… “Ah, what the heck,” and lined the pan with oiled parchment. It worked! It came out, it held up, it rose, thanks to the experimental flaxseed and water blend we used. It was quite exciting to look at something attractive, something that someone might actually want to buy one day, and think, “Hey! We did it!”

Okay, now, so much for being good, I need to go and get a piece.

Happy Baking!

It’s the Time of the Season for Acorn

Today, the fog lasted until almost eleven. For awhile, the wind was just whipping through my clothes, and I could briefly see the fog of my breath. I was cold enough to wear a sweater, and drank a gallon of hot tea in perfect, gray-fog bliss. Briefly this morning I could pretend that September in California means that there will be cold arriving shortly, a crisp rime of frost on the sidewalk, ruddy hued leaves and sharp winds under cerulean skies.

Unfortunately? September in California means maybe an extension on summer’s “short lease.” It gets hot. Hotter, sometimes, than it’s been in August. The leaves don’t start doing anything noteworthy until almost November, and by then, rain is threatening, and you’re feeling rushed. The fine weather lasts so long that the slow transition doesn’t seem to exist here. It’s funny… I’ve lived here my entire life, and I still somehow expect it — a gradual decline into a colder time. However, that’s not going to happen, because it’s just not time for all of that yet.

Still, I can feel it coming. It doesn’t help that the stores have squash out, there are gourds in my garden, Halloween sales start Labor Day Weekend, and the cornfield near the church has scarecrows. It’s a bit crazy-making, trying to resist the lure of cooler nights and dim, foggy mornings. So, I don’t. I am officially beginning autumn today. I’ve started with squash.

Wait. I hate squash.

However, I belive in the power of acorn, and roasted acorn is perfection in being. Next year, I am going to grow a large patch of acorn. Please note that I am now dismissing the word ‘squash’ from my vocabulary. Watery and tasteless, summer squashes don’t have the punch of flavor or …anything, really, to make me want to be bothered with them. I have to add so much to them — basil, shallots — breadcrumbs, perhaps? for them to have any taste. And after all that, they’re really not so much vegetables as they are… uh, I don’t know, the main course? Veggie latkes? At any rate, I have found a friend in acorn, and I so enjoyed it this weekend that I combed through my old recipes today to dredge out a likely spice rub with which to pair it. Now, there are charmoulas, and then there are charmoulas. The ingredients are wildly variant, as seems to be the case with all rubs, but there are some base ingredients that remain the same. One is garlic. The other is cumin. I’d never made a charmoula before, but I’ve tasted them, and figured that one rub was pretty much like another, in the world of rubs. I hoped this would be a winner, since it was veggie specific. This recipe found awhile (a year?) ago in the newspaper, in their Thanksgiving food section, and it meant to highlight vegetarian tastes especially. It includes:

  • Garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 1 tsp. Cayenne
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. Ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • Schmear of olive oil

Please note the lack of direction for the garlic and the oil — two things I think ought to be left to the tastes of the individual.

So, I used my handy marble mortar and pestle, and ground up my ingredients (because you never want to reuse a coffee grinder that has had cumin ground in it. Ptui!) and made my acorn rub. The verdict? Not so good. I used molasses instead of brown sugar, which may have made a difference in that there was too much liquid. The flavor was fine, but it was too spicy, and not rich enough, or something, to go with the acorn. But as a barbecue sauce? Amazing, and I must admit a deep hatred and distrust of all things barbecued. D. liked it, but I’m an acorn purist, I’m afraid. Just a little olive oil, salt, and pepper for me. Or, butter and maple syrup… but mostly, I like acorn best roasted dry and served up whipped like mashed potatoes with a teensy bit of garlic and basil. Tasty!

Meanwhile, I have found a scary sort of perfection elsewhere. Just in time for the season, a fulfilling use for your every seed need: pumpkin seed brittle!!! Ohhhh, you know you want to try this at least once. If you look at the picture, you’ll be hooked like I was … or a little alarmed at the state of anyone’s teeth in attempting to bite that hunk of sugary goodness. Pumpkin seeds support the function of the immune system, assist prostate health and help lower cholesterol levels. They are also a useful source of omega 3 fatty acids and zinc. Now that you’ve had your health minute? Add sugar and enjoy!

Dried Vegan

Just a quick note to say that our idea of drying zucchini (about twenty of the monstrous things shown to the left) for use later has paid off already. We’ve been wanting to engineer a vegan quick-bread, and have succeeded! We used the dried zucchini, cut up into strips using scissors, and it’s turned out to be a wonderfully coarse loaf. Alton was going to be in for a scolding with his measurements for getting a bread starter going (from I’m Just Here for More Food: Food X Mixing + Heat = Baking), as our whole wheat starter tried to climb out of the jar even in the fridge … but we just incorporated some starter into the loaf, and are quite pleased at the results.

We wrote down all of the measurements along the way, too, so that WHEN the bakery opens we’ll have this recipe as well as all the yeast breads.

Way Too Much Squash. Way.

This morning I looked up various pie recipes, because I hear that Okara, that wonderfully pulpy by-product of tofu production, can be used in a “dump” pie to make its own crust. This was just in the service of, oh, making use of something we already have. I wasn’t thinking that we should put into use some of the SQUASH that is piling up by the boxload around here… But then I found, serendipitously? — that zucchini can be used in place of …apples? From yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor comes a recipe for… wait for it… Zapple Pie.

Is this something from the Midwest?! Remember those awful recipes for Ritz Mock Apple Pie (and I shouldn’t even include the link to that abomination!) that people used to make? This by turns horrifies and fascinates… See, West Coast people make, oh, ratatouille, with excess squash. But if you’re from Boston, maybe this is the way to do it.

Zapple Pie

This mock apple pie is a delicious way to sneak vegetables into your kids’ meals.

Filling:

  • 6 cups peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced zucchini (about 2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 unbaked pie shell

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

To make the filling: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine zucchini, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Stir to mix and cook until tender, but not mushy, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, mix the flour with the remaining 1/2 cup lemon juice until smooth. Stir into the zucchini mixture. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

To make the topping: Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans or walnuts.

Spoon the filling into the pie shell. Top with half of the streusel topping. Place in the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling bubbles.

Sprinkle the remaining topping over the pie. Turn on the broiler. Place pie under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until topping is browned.

Set the pie on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or completely cooled. It is best served on the day it is made. Serves 6 to 8.

Source: From ‘The Classic Zucchini Cookbook’ by Nancy Ralston, Marynor Jordan, and Andrea Chesman

Oh, go ahead. Throw some okara in the crust. Why eat anything recognizable?

From The City Gardener’s Cookbook, which came out in 1997 comes a better idea for excess zucchini than even ratatouille.

FUDGY ORANGE-ZUCCHINI CAKE WITH ORANGE GLAZE

This dense orange cake, drizzled with orange glaze, is always a favorite at the annual harvest banquet.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. cardamom powder
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • calendula blossoms and petals, tuberous begonia blossoms, or orange mint sprigs, for garnish; some people add miniature chocolate chips.

    Orange Glaze

  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioner’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together and set aside. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and milk to the butter mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Fold in the zucchini, orange zest and nuts. Pour into a greased and floured bundt cake pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

To make the glaze, ina bowll mix together the sugar, orange juice and vanilla. While the cake is still warm, drizzle with the glaze. Garnish with flowers or mint spigs.

I hear you can add Grand Marnier to the glaze with some excellent results. I look forward to trying at least one of these… guess which one.

Canning … well, eating.

Cast your votes, ladies and gents: would you believe the amount of heat that onions can hold?

OK, so I went through the first quart of the spiced, pickled onions. That would’ve been the quart from the experiment, “let’s see how much pepper we need to put in our pickled onions, and we can do that by putting, oh, say, a tablespoon of chopped Chile de arbol in each of a quart jar, a pint jar, and a half-pint jar.” Next up this evening was the half-pint jar, with the assumption that it’d be nice and spicy and would match well with the following ingredients, sauteéd:

  • 5 oz firm tofu
  • 1 oz Gimme Lean, sausage style
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 small zucchini, chunked
  • 1 small crookneck squash, likewise
  • 2 Tbsp homemade Thai Lime-leaf sauce (lime leaves, chile paste, coconut milk)
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of said Pickled Onions of Doom

The result? Tears, coughing, the assertion that “nobody would believe….”

Too much hot. Which means that the single pint should be about right, and will be the recipe we use for putting up spiced onions. Standard pickling brine for onions, plus 1 Tbsp Peppers of Death per pint jar.

Gardening…

Just got back from the garden, and am disappointed in my little Kermit (yes, confirmed it by the label) eggplant: they don’t have enough size to harvest any more this week.

The zucchini and yellow squash are doing fabulously, however, so we’ve got another batch of chips in the drier. After last time, we determined that the yellow squash were best as chips, and the zucchini were probably best left to be rehydrated in the winter for soups. So, herbs and salt upon the yellow squash, and into the drier they went.

The tomatoes are not ripening very quickly, despite the heat, but we’re not worried: we figure that the plants will produce what they’ll produce, and we’ll end up with fresh and dried tomatoes, as well as lovely green tomato chutneys and mincemeats.

Speaking of which, thanks for the reassurance, Makiko, and the perspective upon canning and the liabilities involved in publishing a canning book. I’ve still left the onions in the fridge, and I doubt they’ll last long enough to have had to worry at all even if we’d left them out (our first quart jar was incorporated into a salad yesterday evening), but it’s good to remember that we live in a world which puts caution labels on soda bottles (“You’ll put your eye out, kid”).

Am now sitting with the laptop upon my lap, watching Alton Brown drive his little BMW motorcycle across the country, eating various road-foods, and wondering at the world. My knitting is beside me, and that seems a better option.

The thing is that I was knitting, but I went downstairs to make some coffee, got distracted by the fact that we have some dried figs in the cabinet which we won’t be eating in keeping with this low-carb thing, and thought that I might as well try to find a chutney recipe, so pulled up the computer & discovered this morning’s post which I hadn’t posted. It’s one of those days in which you say to yourself “coffee,” and then find yourself doing something else entirely and wonder why … and then determine that you need coffee.

One last thing: I happened upon this book at the bookstore (Museum of Kitschy Stitches), and must just say that it’s an absolute scream. I picked it up because I thought it’d have some stitches in it, and knew that I had to take it home about two pictures into the book. I laughed for literally an hour.

Canning?

So, I took a peruse through the Ball Blue Book last night in search of interesting recipes. I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t make Zucchini Relish, but that the Dried Apricot and Date Chutney would be an acceptable offering. I’m contemplating mincemeats (vegan, of course) as well, as we enjoyed them so much last year, and am wondering about adding pectin to them, as the ones we did last year (green tomato, mostly, and of course apple/raisin) didn’t gel on their own. Not that it matters when you simply slap in the cornstarch and throw into a pie shell, but there’s the niggling feeling that they should be … well, not so liquid in the jars.

The biggest takeaway from the Blue Book is paranoia, of course: they’re all about “you will die an ugly, horrible, botulism-paralized fungus/bacteria/spore death if you do not follow this… blah blah blah.” I know that you must cook for the right amount of time, and at the right level of acid, etc. That’s the paranoia that led me to pressure-can my high-acid jellies, and end up with lovely syrups instead of jams!

So. I was wanting to invest in some means of testing the pH, to ease my paranoia, but I find that’s a bad option too: that food can change pH once it’s canned. So. I guess I’m going to have a fridge-full of the things I canned last weekend (onions), as I skimped on the vinegar. Even though I added sugar – going for a sort of hot/sweet relish – the Ball Book has gotten me once again. Enough so that when I read posts like this one, I find myself wondering if it’s high enough in acid, has been tested by some food scientist, etc. It’s a shameful thing to worry so when all manner of peasants from all over the world have been preserving things forever by chucking them in salt water and letting them bubble and rot (saur-kraut? kimchee?).