Sunday, August 31, 2014

Classic Sweet Pickle Relish

CANNING FOR A NEW GENERATION, page 131.  I used 6, 12 inch slicing cucumbers and removed the seeds.  I also omit the green pepper and use two sweet red peppers.  Delish!

Friday, August 29, 2014

My Best Southern Greens on Ham with Balsamic Vinegar

Prepare these greens early in the day and let them simmer on the stove top for at least four hours.  Three bunches of greens will fill my largest dutch oven, to start, and wilt as they cook.  I use good quality bacon ends (or 2 -3 T of bacon grease) to sauté the garlic.  If more fat is needed, use olive oil.

My best green were cooked on an inch thick slice of Polumbo's peppered, garlic ham.  The better the ham, the tastier the cooked greens.

3 bunches of greens (its easiest to find curly kale)
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 inch thick slice of good quality smoked ham, cut in cubes
a small handful of bacon ends, or a few dollops of bacon grease
balsamic vinegar to taste (start with just a splash)
salt to taste
water (or chicken broth) as needed

Cut stem and rib from the center of each green leaf.  Roughly chop leaves into manageable pieces.  Saute garlic in bacon ends/grease.  Add the chopped greens by handfuls.  Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and toss.  Keep tossing the greens for the first five minutes or so minutes while cooking over medium high heat.  Add ham and toss again.

When you feel the greens starting to stick to the bottom of the pot, add about 1/2 cup liquid and toss.  When the greens begin to wilt and no longer stick, reduce heat and cover with lid.  Check every 10 to 15 minutes for first hour and add more liquid if need to keep the greens moist.

When greens are completely wilted (they'll still be chewy), add a splash of balsamic vinegar to taste, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cover.  You probably won't need much, if any more liquid.  Simmer for at least four hours or until the greens are tender (check and stir often).  There should still be a small amount of flavorful cooking liquid left in the pot.

Serve as a meal or side dish, or store in the frig (along with the cooking liquid) until needed.  For a heartier entre, add some cooked beans or black-eyed peas to the greens pot the last 10 minutes before serving.

Just Like Grandma's Tomato Jam

Serve with cream cheese for breakfast on a piece of toast or english muffin, or as an appetizer on your favorite cracker.  Looks pretty on a holiday table too!

My grandmother was an amazing cook.  Her dishes were simple yet always tasty.  My favorite season at grandma's was late summer, when the kitchen became a delightful assault to the senses.  It wasn't unusual to find a cheesecloth bag tied to a cabinet knob, dripping with gooseberry juice, or a pressure cooker whining steadily from the enameled cooktop.

Grandma was the only woman I knew (Mom was much too modern) that prepared her own jellies, jams and fruit butters.  The door of her frig was always lined with half-pint sized Ball canning jars full of sweet treats we'd slather on toast or soda crackers.

One of my all-time favorite offerings, was Grandma's tomato jam.  Yes, TOMATO jam!!

Its funny how the human mind works.  I hadn't thought of that jam in years, and then one day, I had the clearest memory of sitting at my grandparents table, enjoying a piece of toasted Italian bread, spread with a hearty heaping of homemade tomato jam.  The memory was so vivid, I could taste the sweet tomatoey goodness.

Not long after my mouth watering trip down memory lane, Rick and I were dining in a fabulous little eatery in Charleston, South Carolina where he ordered pimento cheese croquettes.  Low and behold, the crispy fried nuggets of gooey red pepper enhanced neufchâtel cheese, were served on a glistening dollop of tomato jam.  I had to make that jam!

I never did found a recipe in Grandma's hand, but located two that I combined to create a truly wonderful jam. The end product, is probably a bit more 'gourmet' than Grandma's, but I love it.   The jam is easy to make with simple ingredients, but patience is required to boil the tomatoes down to a thick, paste-like consistency. 

6 pounds red tomatoes (about 18 medium tomatoes)
5 tablespoons Ball Classic Pectin (powdered pectin)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon)
splash of balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar
3 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Note:  Allow several hours for tomatoes to cook down.
Wash, quarter and boil the tomatoes until soft.  Extract seeds and skin (I use a food mill).  Return tomato pulp to pot and simmer until reduced to 3 cups (very important for proper consistency).  Add the remaining ingredients, except the basil.  Bring back to a rolling boil.  Boil for just one minute.  Remove from cooktop and add basil.

Wipe rims of 1/2 pint jars clean and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  (A neat variation might be to use finely chopped jalapeño peppers instead of the basil).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sweet and Sour Mixed Horseradish Pickles

A year or two ago in San Diego, my daughter and I stumbled upon a company that produced horseradish pickles that were to die for.  Try as I might, I couldn't find a recipe that I thought close enough to the pickles I sampled.  This summer, I decided to experiment.

While not exactly the pickles I sampled, I think these are wonderful.  Pleasantly sweet and sour, they're tangy without being too hot and spicy.

5 cups vinegar
1 cup water
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon good quality, prepared horseradish

1 peck pickling cukes, cut into chunks and brined 1 to 24 hours, then drained
1 small head cauliflower
2 red peppers cut into chunks
five small onions, cut into chunks (or pearl onions)

pickle crisp

Combine first six ingredients in large dutch oven and stir until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes.  Add drained veggies and simmer 5 more minutes.  Pack into hot, clean pint jars (add 1/8 teaspoon pickle crisp), leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

Makes 12 pints

Monday, July 28, 2014

Greens Simmered in Chicken Broth With Bacon and Scapes

I fell in love with this variation of 'collard greens' while vacationing in Charleston and dining at the famous Magnolia restaurant.  Of course, you need not worry about finding 'collard greens' as any large leafy 'green' or kale variety will work nicely here.

I love to use the simmered greens as a bed for sautéed wild (chanterelle) mushrooms, a chicken breast or a fish fillet.  They're also wonderful tossed into a pot of pinto beans cooked on ham hocks. My favorite way to eat these simmered greens, however, is right out of skillet!

1 bunch kale, collard greens or other southern green, washed
10 -12 garlic tops (scapes) minced
1 -2 slices thick, good quality bacon or pancetta, cut into small pieces
1 small can chicken broth
kosher salt

In large skillet, saute bacon.  Trim the veins from the center of each kale leaf and roughly chop. When skillet is nicely coated with bacon grease, add the chopped greens and scapes.  Sautee, tossing for a few minutes so the bacon fat evenly coates the greens (they will begin to wilt).  Finally, add just enough chicken broth to simmer the wilted greens.  Cover with lid and reduce heat to simmer.

Simmer on very low heat, checking every 10 - 15 minutes to ensure the chicken broth doesn't fully evaporate.  If needed, add more broth (don't let them become too dry).  Stir frequently.  The longer the greens simmer, the more tender and flavorful they become.  After 45 - 60 minutes, remove from heat, drain excess broth (there shouldn't be very much left in skillet).


Sweet Pickle Chips (sweet and sweet/spicy)

I've tried to find a sweet pickle recipe that satisfied my family's sweet tooth, but failed.  So, I tweaked the recipe for the candied jalapeños, and applied it here.  The end result has been very satisfactory.  I usually make one recipe of regular sweet pickles, and one recipe of hot-sweets.

2 cups cider vinegar
6 cups white sugar
1/2 t tumeric
1/2 t celery seed
1 t  mustard seed
1 t ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 dry thai chili per jar (optional)
1 whole cinnamon stick
pickle crisp (use according to package directions)

small pickling cukes cut into bite size pieces, salted and brined in ice/ice water

For simply sweet pickles, combine the vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and cinnamon in a large dutch oven.  Bring to a rolling boil and cook until slightly thickened.

For a spicy version, add the cayenne pepper and the thai chili along with the other ingredients.

Pack the cucumber chips into jars, add pickle crisp and pour the hot syrup over them, allowing for a 1/2 inch headspace.  Process 10 minutes, in boiling water bath.

Classic Apple Pie with Crumb Topping

I love a good apple-crumb pie.  Like my mother and grandmother before me, I prefer using a softer apple, such as a MacIntosh that really cooks down.  I hate finding big, hard chunks of apple in my homemade pie, so I avoid using the firmer granny smith type apples usually recommended in apple pie recipes.

Variation:  Apple-Rhubarb Crumb Pie
For an added twist, substitute some cut rhubarb for an equal amount of apples, and increase the sugar by 1/4 cup to compensate for the tartness of the rhubarb.


6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (6 medium)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 T lemon juice


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup oatmeal
3 tablespoons butter, chilled in freezer and cut into small pieces.

Prepare a 9 inch pie crust (single layer).  Do not bake.  For pie crust recipe, click here.

Heat oven to 425.  Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Turn the mixture into the prepared pie shell.

In medium size bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Drop in the butter. Use a pastry cutter and your fingers to mix the crumb mixture.  When satisfied, spread the crumb topping over the apple mixture.

Bake at 425 for 40 - 45 minutes, on the middle rack of your oven.  I use a pie shield to protect the crust and usually end up having to place a piece of tin foil on top to prevent crumb topping from burning.  Also, be watchful that the pie doesn't bubble out of the shell and onto the oven floor.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!