Tomato-Apple Chutney

In which I make confessions about preserving.

I struggle with preserving.  I am a process person and need to be completely organized when I begin.  This was a struggle.  I often psych myself out of beginning because the workflow seems intimidating.  Canning is really not that hard.  It helps to have everything in place and set up before you begin, but the process is not overly complicated.  This is a place, however, where my training in project management and creating work flows helps.  I am able to visualize everything that needs to happen including timelines so that I don’t get in over my head.DSCN2741However, problems come in when in the middle of chopping everything, I realized I only had half the amount of celery that I needed.  And then comes the struggle.  I want to be true to the recipes, but there have to be some cases where substitutions are allowed.  I split the difference on this one. I went to the store and got the celery, but I did not go to Penzey’s to get cayenne pepper and used Berbere seasoning instead.  Berbere is an Ethiopian spice blend, the main ingredient of which is cayenne pepper.  When I consulted mom, she reassured me that great-grandma probably left it out all together.  Whatever.  We are talking about 1/4 tsp in a vat of tomatoes, apples, celery, and onions.

And since we are doing true confessions here, I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned.  I put a garden where the dog kennel used to be.  I grew a lot of weeds where I didn’t put down landscaping fabric, but I also managed to get some usable veggies out the situation including tomatoes.DSCN2747This recipe seems exotic for 1950’s Iowa, but I can see where it would be a good use for those vegetables that are still hanging on when the apples are starting to ripen.  Chutney, though, is one of those things that I sometimes have a hard time using up.  It’s a relish and goes with roasted meats.  It can be mixed into mayo and put on sandwiches.  Mix some into some veggies to make them more exciting.  I have no better ideas to use it and jars of it to use.  Please help.  dscn2751.jpgThis is a good basic chutney.  Not something you’d find in an Indian restaurant.  It might have a little too much celery for my taste, but it’s good.  It’s that nice mix of sweet and tart and spicy that chutney should be.

Tomato Apple Chutney

 

 

Apple Marmalade

In which I refrain from making the obvious comparison between apples and oranges.

The air is getting cooler, the nights are getting longer, I don’t automatically reach for shorts to put on when I wake up.  Occasionally in the evening I will put on a sweatshirt.  The air conditioning is off, the windows are open.  Labor Day is rapidly approaching and with it the new school year.  Pumpkin spice is appearing in stores and in coffee shops, but I prefer the smell of apples to pumpkins, which is good because I have apples like you wouldn’t believe.

I spent time today raking up some of the apples from under the trees.  I have the blisters to prove it.  Before the weather cleared enough to do that, I roped John into helping me process some of the bounty from the day before.

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I am obsessing over Great-grandma’s apple recipes right now, so you get to be along for the ride.

First up is Apple Marmalade.  I know there are some anglophiles out there that will scold me for calling something that isn’t just peel “marmalade”, but it does have peel in it. I think in the overall categorization of fruit spreads, this is probably really a jam.  The way I have been taught is just juice=jelly, fruit chunks or puree=jam, whole fruit=preserves, peel=marmalade, and nuts and dried fruit with fresh fruit=conserves.  Feel free to correct me.

I have no idea what kind of apples are on my trees.  The “good” has apples that are slightly rosy and have a soft glow.  They remind me of a MacIntosh, but aren’t that red and aren’t that flat.  They are crisp and slightly sweet.  The “bad” tree has apples that are streaky and red-green.  The apples are crisp and tart.  They make your salivary glands clench in a good way.

 

And “good” is good because it has more fruit on it than the “bad” tree.  You should understand that when I say that the bad tree has less fruit, it still has more apples on it than I have ever possessed at one time in my entire life.  In less than an hour using only the stepladder, I was able to fill a laundry basket and a bin full of apples mostly off the “bad” tree.

 

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Back to marmalade.  This marmalade smells like Christmas and tastes like sunshine.  I sent some home with a friend and she reported it gone almost immediately.  I spread some on zucchini bread.  It was delicious.

I chose to use blood oranges when I made mine since the type of orange was not specified.  It might have been a slightly defiant choice.  I do that.  I just thought that the red pulp would be pretty.  It is.  The red flecks in the orange spread make it look spicy.

It also occurred to me when I was reading the recipe that it said to seed the oranges.  I don’t remember the last time I’ve eaten an orange I had to seed.  This led to a conversation with my mom about the advent of navel oranges.  And how our grocery stores rarely carry any type of orange or orange-like fruit that have seeds.  I’m sure this has greater significance and says many more things than I’m willing to go into here, but food for thought…(see that pun?)

 

 

DSCN2740And just because it’s probably in everyone’s best interest, please adhere to the proper guidelines when preserving your food.  If you go to open a jar of this and it seems off, throw it out.  From what I’ve heard, botulism isn’t that much fun.

 

 

 

 

Apple Marmalade

 

Found on the Back

In which I reveal the back of a recipe.

As I paged through the recipe books and the loose recipes, I realized that me scouring over the recipes had the potential to damage them.  In order to preserve the books in their current states, I started to scan every single recipe into my computer.  Besides being better for the books, it also allows me to sort recipes by category and keep better track of which recipes I’ve used and which ones I haven’t.

And right now, I have the time.

For the first time in my life, I am a stay-at-home parent.  I have been a parent for over 12 years and this is the first time that I have actually been at home all day, every day with my kids.  I’ve gotten to get a lot of organization done around the house, really had a chance to assess the needs and figure out some systems, get the gardens figured out a little bit, you know, just stuff.  I can see the need for a routine.  I can see where I could’ve done better in the past.  It’s a very different sort of challenge for me.

When I hang out with adults, I find myself downloading information onto them.  I crave conversations where I’m not breaking up stupid fights, or teaching someone manners.  I need to talk to people that have fully developed frontal lobes and have had a little life experience.  I need to feel like I went to college for a reason and that my brain is being used.  When I have a chance, I need to do something for me (like make old recipes and write about them)  Which brings me to this.

As I scan recipes into the computer, I often read the backs of the newspapers and magazines and try to place the recipes in their proper place in history.  Often it’s just snippets of things.  I found a recipe with the showtimes at a theater for Aristocats.  Quick check on IMDB told me that the movie came out in 1970.  Suddenly the recipe meant a lot more.  I have one recipe whose back discusses the funeral for an astronaut, another that mentions the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  These recipes all have roots.

Anyway, back to the original point of this whole thing.  I found this on the back of one of the recipes.  Right now it speaks to me.  No idea when this was published or which newspaper.  I could hazard a guess, but that’s not the point.  Just take a second and read what is written, even in its incompleteness.

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It would be easy to talk about sexism here.  It would be easy to talk about wasted potential.  I don’t have to do that because you already know.  Being an actual housewife where you raise the children, where you clean the house and have supper on the table is a hard job.  And this applies to men that do the job also.

Not to be ignored, however is the little blub in the second column.  Were you aware that over half of vacuum cleaner attachments are not being used?  I’m guessing that’s true even today.  Maybe this is the sort of experiment the first column suggests we do?

Sweet and Sour Bean Combo vs 4 Bean Salad

In which I make 2 bean dishes.

It’s time for the ultimate showdown.  The world holds its collective breath and waits while the final verdict is determined.  In the battle of the beans, who will come out on top?  A bean dish served warm with a cooked sweet and sour sauce, or is it a dish served cold (like revenge) with a simple shaken dressing?

It may be surprising to learn that I don’t actually remember eating bean salad until last summer.  I’ve seen it on potluck tables my entire life.  Who in the Midwest hasn’t?  Usually nestled in there between some cheesy potato casserole and a layered Jell-O salad.  The thing is, bean salad of any variety does not look that interesting.  The colors are kind of clashy.  It kind of has that look of a 70’s kitchen.  It just doesn’t look like it would actually taste good.  And everyone knows that we eat with our eyes first.

Ok, so these two recipes have a lot of similar ingredients.  Both use kidney, wax, and green beans.  The Sweet and Sour Bean combo allows for fresh.  The 4 bean salad calls for cans.  This is not major.  Either could be switched out for the other (except good luck finding fresh kidney beans).

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The cooked dressing in the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo calls for using the liquid from the beans.  Do NOT use the liquid from the can of kidney beans.  It does nothing for the texture of the sauce.

 

The 4 Bean Salad, as you will notice when you look at the recipe calls for 1 can of kidney beans, 1 can of green beans, and 1 can of wax beans.  There is no fourth bean unless you are counting that it’s being served to a human bean…We discussed options for 4th bean. You could use both dark and light kidney beans or throw some edamame in there.  Garbanzo might be ok.  I think I’d veer away from canned lima, but frozen/thawed might be ok.  And realistically, it was probably supposed to be called 3 Bean Salad, but people get moving too fast and write things down without thinking and then never bothered to change it.

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The overall flavor of the cold 4 Bean Salad was much better than the hot Sweet and Sour Bean Combo.  The only thing we liked about the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo was the kidney beans.  This is not good.  You should not make food where you only appreciate one ingredient of the finished dish.  We tried it again the next day to see if the flavor was improved.  It wasn’t.

Make the 4 Bean Salad.  Add another bean if you like.  I might think about reducing the sugar and using fresh beans.  This salad is light and refreshing.  It’s a compliment to whatever meat you are serving, but can also be used as an ingredient in a larger salad.

 

Make sure the onion is sliced thinly and you may even consider cutting it into half moons instead of rings.  It all depends on how much you like large pieces of onion.  If you are using olive oil instead of another type, you may end up with chunks of cold oil in your salad.  This is perfectly normal. As the temperature rises, the chunks will melt back into oil.  If you prefer, you can pretend it’s oil “caviar” and you have performed some feat of molecular gastronomy.

4 Bean SaladSweet and Sour Green Bean Combo

Cooked Cranberry Salad

In which I make a gelatin salad.

I am not a Jell-O girl.  I don’t care for it and have probably eaten more of it while making recipes for this blog than I have my entire life.  I’ve certainly made more of it.  And there are so many recipes left to go.  I am debating investing some serious money in ring molds and individual molds at the thrift shops nearby.  You know, all of $10 maybe.

When I was a young girl, I read a book by Lois Lenski called Berries in the Scoop.  I was intrigued by the notion of cranberry bogs and how cranberries were harvested.  In the story a little girl loses her grandmother’s pin in the cranberry bogs and ***Spoiler alert*** after she falls on the ice and injures herself while ice skating on the bogs she finds it and they all live happily ever after.  Or maybe they do.  I mean, once you injure your ankle it never goes back to exactly how it used to be.

Anyway, everyone eats cranberries during the holidays and I am no exception.  We are a real cranberry family and don’t eat the canned stuff.  My sister loves cranberries when they are fresh and raw and mixed with orange and just enough sugar to take a little of the tart out. I prefer mine slightly sweeter and a little more cooked.  Occasionally when it’s not the holidays I’ll have a glass of cranberry juice with or without vodka, but I ignore cranberries in their hydrated form for most of the year.  I think most of us do.  Dried cranberries are a different story all together.  This might change that.DSCN2368

First of all, this recipe calls for unflavored gelatin.  This means no artificial colors or flavors if you care about that stuff.  It means that the only flavors you are going to get out of it are the ones that you put into it.  Because it was July when I made this recipe I wasn’t going to get fresh cranberries, but I had some left in the freezer that someone brought me back from one of the Cranberry Festivals and that I was going to take to my sister’s for Thanksgiving and forgot. I think I had also offered them to my mom, but forgot to put them in her cooler also.  I guess maybe I was fated to use them for this recipe.

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This recipe is beautiful.  There is something about that deep red color.  John says this recipe reminds him of really good fruit cocktail.  It’s somehow light and refreshing despite having that tartness of cranberries.  The pineapple adds sweetness, the nuts add crunch and depth. The grapes just lighten everything up.  Serve this up with some whipped cream.  Or be like Caroline and dip your pork chops in it.  It’s a good side for roasted meats. Cooked Cranberry Salad

 

Food Memory (and a little ask)

Having grown up in a family of cooks, most of my memories are tied up in what we were eating at the time.  I have a distinct memory of driving up to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in my first car.  I was on my way home from college, it was a hot, hot day, I didn’t have A/C and was pretty gross feeling by the time I finished the 2 hour trip.  I got to grandma’s and was welcomed with a hug.  She called Grandpa up from the basement and we sat down for lunch.  A nice steaming bowl of bean soup.  It’s one of those things that would’ve been unremarkable except for that simple thing.  A bowl of bean soup on a hot day.

I have memories of bowls of sweet pickles, and pickled watermelon rind (those posts will be coming later).  Memories of candy sticks in jars waiting for grandkids to dig in and suck those things down to sharp points, cuts on the tongue as the candy split where the stripes used to be.  Bowls of nuts and nutcrackers set out for snacks while watching TV.  Kringla, of course.  Chocolate chip cookies.

From my mom, I remember family dinners.  Bowls of salad while we waited for the main course to finish cooking.  Fantastic meals.  Grilled steak, omelets made to order, pancakes, sweet potato rolls, crock pots full of the best mashed potatoes.  I remember a single meal of lasagna that probably would’ve been forgotten if it hadn’t been for a little incident involving a fork and my elbow.

Then there are the not so good food memories. The terrible hot dish eaten for dinner in southern Minnesota at a boyfriend’s dad’s house before seeing his dad in his underwear.  I just didn’t know anyone could ruin a simple macaroni, ground beef, and tomato casserole.  The time I took a big portion of what I thought was chocolate pudding off a salad bar, only to discover that it was liver pate.  So many more.

Ok, so here’s the ask.  Knowing that I have some of great-grandma’s recipes, is there a recipe in particular that I should be sure to make sooner instead of later?  Do you have a specific food memory that I need to revisit for you?  Please comment and let me know.  I may not have the recipe you are thinking of, but I want to try.