Monday, September 29, 2008

Green Tomato Relish

It is the end of tomato season in our garden. As we pulled up the vines, we collected all the green tomatoes. This recipe is a great way to use those tomatoes. Serve as a condiment with peas, butter beans and greens.

Green Tomato Relish
5 pounds green tomatoes
1 pound red bell peppers
1 pound onions
2 jalopeno peppers, seeded
4 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon celery seeds
1/4 cup Kosher salt

Coarsely chop the vegetables in a food processor. Combine all the ingredients in a dutch oven and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars. Wipe jar rims with a damp towel. Adjust prepared lids and rings. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Scuppernong Jelly

About 8 years ago, we planted our first scuppernong vines and this was the first year we have had a real harvest. This past year, the vines have been given the TLC they deserved and we were rewarded with a good crop that we could enjoy along with the deer that share our garden.The scuppernong is a greenish, or bronze, variety of the muscadine, native to the southeastern United States. The fruit is very sweet when ripe and is perfect for jelly making. The process for making jelly is very simple, but somewhat time consuming. Since the scuppernongs have a tough outer shell, you must extract the juice and then strain it several times to remove all the particles for a pretty jelly. Scuppernong Jelly
3 pounds scuppernongs, washed
1 cup water
7 cups sugar

1 pouch Certo

Simmer the scuppernongs in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes. Crush the fruit to release the juice and strain in a colander. Using 8 layers of cheesecloth, strain the juice. Do not press the fruit through the cheesecloth.

Once the juice is extracted, measure the juice. You will need 4 cups of juice, adding water if needed, no more than 1/2 cup of water should be added for the best flavor. Put the juice and sugar in a large dutch oven and heat to a rolling boil. Add the Certo, bring back to a rolling boil on high heat and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and skim off foam. Pour into hot sterilized jars to 1/8 inch from top of jar. Wipe rims to clean and put on prepared jar lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes After the jars have cooled, check each one by pressing tbe middle with your finger. If the center springs back, refrigerate. Allow the sealed jars to stand 24 hours. Remove the rings and clean the jars. Store in a cool, dark place. Open jars should be refrigerated and used within 3 weeks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Granny's Layer Cake with Chocolate Icing

When it comes to cake, there is nothing better than a Chocolate Layer Cake. I like the old fashioned kind with chocolate icing that is cooked. Mama Geiger, my mom and Granny, Kenny's mom, were experts when it came to this cake. I remember being in the kitchen with Mama, baking the layers and frosting the cake with this delicious chocolate icing that becomes hard when cooled. This week as we were going through Granny's house, Peggy found Granny's recipe for Chocolate Icing. On top of the refrigerator was Granny's cake plate and cover. This cake plate has been on the road many times, to Church dinners and reunions, often with the Chocolate Cake inside. I copied the recipe and headed home with the cake plate to see if I could bake this special cake.

I am no baker. I can count on my fingers the number of times I have baked a layer cake. My first attempt was pretty good. There is an art to the icing - it must be warm enough to spread, but it cools quickly so you must work fast. I realized that as the icing cooled! There is enough icing for 3 layers, but since I only had 2 pans, the chocolate was very thick on the top.

Granny's Layer Cake with Chocolate Icing

Yellow Cake Layers
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2/3 cups butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of 2 9-inch cake pans, line with waxed paper and flour. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add flour mixture and milk, alternating and beating after each addition. Continuing beating one minute after all ingredients are added. Pour evenly into the prepared pans and bake 30 -35 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool layers on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

Chocolate Icing
3/4 cup cocoa
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cups evaporated milk

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan. Stirring frequently bring to a boil and cook 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool until hand temp on the bottom of the pan. Beat to spreading consistency. Ice layers immediately.

So what will I do next time?
  • Buy new cake pans, 3 of them, and a cake spreader.
  • Make sure all ingredients are room temperature.
  • Watch the icing closely for the right temperature for spreading.

Who knows, I may one day be a baker!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The County Fair

The fair is in town!

The county fair brings back a lot of fond memories. My first fair experiences were at the Coosa Valley Fair in Rome, Georgia. With our free ticket in hand, we headed to the fair to enjoy the rides, games and exhibits. My mom was a local garden club member and she worked hard on the floral arrangements she exhibited. I spent my time on the midway, riding the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Scrambler and the Mad Mouse.

Years later as an Extension Agent in Newnan, I was in charge of the women's exhibits. We worked hard to promote the fair and encourage participation in the crafts and food sections. For several days, a group of dedicated ladies assisted as proud women, men and children completed the registration process and anxiously awaited the judging.

When the fair opened, I spent many long hours in the 4-H Food Booth while my coworkers were in the barn with the 4-Hers getting ready to show their animals. It was a family affair and everyone had a great time.

My experiences with the Coweta County Fair landed me a position on the planning board of the Georgia National Fair. In the late 1980s, Georgia state representatives Larry Walker and Henry Reaves started a plan for a state fair to promote Georgia agribusiness. The result was the Georgia National Fair held annually in Perry, Georgia. I loved the trips to Perry through the backroads of middle Georgia to assist with the Exhibit Hall.

As things happen, my role with fairs has changed. Now we are the grandparents, taking two of our grandchildren to the fair. It is an annual event. Kenny and I watch as Callie and Reeves enjoy the rides. After the rides, we feast on the fair food and stroll through the barn looking at the animals and watching the 4-Hers as they show their animals.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Green Tomato Pickles

You know how it goes, you have your day planned when you receive that unexpected phone call. My task for the day was to clean out the laundry room and pack up the unused items for Wesley Woods yard sale. I was working diligently to make a dent in the mess when Kenny called. His friend Henry was cleaning out his garden and had harvested a bunch of green tomatoes. Did I want them? Of course I can't say no to fresh veggies, especially tomatoes, and I wasn't thrilled with my task for the day, so I said "Yes" without hesitation. Today's cleaning day quickly turned into a day of preserving nature's bounty for those cold winter days when we will enjoy the harvest of the summer.

So what do you do with a bucket of green tomatoes? Many years ago as an Extension Home Economist, I tried my hand at pickling and preserving just about everything. One of our favorites was Pickled Green Tomatoes. They are a wonderful accompaniment to the crowder peas and butter beans in the freezer and very easy to make. The hard part is waiting a couple of weeks for the tomatoes to pickle. Try these for a real treat when the weather is cold and you are looking for the warm thoughts of a summer garden!

Green Tomato Pickles
Green tomatoes
Apple cider vinegar
Hot peppers

Wash the tomatoes, core and slice into wedges. Sterilize your canning jars in boiling water. Put one clove of garlic and a hot pepper into each jar. Pack the tomatoes tightly into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Pour boiling apple cider vinegar over the tomatoes. Wipe jar rims and adjust lid and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
Jennifer, I have a jar for you! I'll bring it to Charlotte next week.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Hot Pepper Jelly

I seem to have an addiction to making Hot Pepper Jelly! I think I have perfected this recipe after 11 batches. This is a simple, but time consuming and messy, process. Preparing the peppers is a pain, but the rewards are worth it. I like to prep the peppers (remove the stems, cut in half and remove seeds) ahead of time and store in the frig for a day. The most important thing to remember is to wear gloves when working with hot peppers and make sure there are no holes in the fingertips.

If you are new to jelly making, make sure you have the right equipment for the job. You will need:
  • Large canner or stockpot - deep enough to cover the jars with 1 inch of water. You can also use this pot for sterilizing your jars

  • Large saucepan for making the jelly

  • Food processor or blender for chopping the peppers in vinegar

  • Canning jars, lids, and rims

  • Large saucepan for preparing the lids and rings - see the box for directions on preparing the lids

  • Timer

  • A jar lifter or tongs

  • Gloves

The recipe in the August post is the same as below. The only change I made was to shorten the cooking time to 5 minutes which resulted in a hotter jelly. If you are growing your own peppers, allow some of them to stay on the vines until they turn red. The red peppers add a beautiful color to the jelly. Some recipes call for red or green food coloring, but I like the natural colors of the peppers.

Hot Pepper Jelly
12 ounces hot peppers, quartered, cored and seeded
1 cup white vinegar
5 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin (Certo)

Process the peppers and the vinegar in a food processor or blender until the peppers are liquefied. Combine the peppers and sugar in a heavy pan and boil slowly for 5 minutes. Add liquid pectin and boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim. Pour jelly into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove from canner and let sit for 12 to 24 hours. Test to make sure the jars are sealed. Remove the screw bands and clean the jars of any jelly residue. Store in a cool, dark place. Yield: 5 half-pint jars. Serve as a condiment with vegetables or pour over cream cheese for a delicious appetizer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fall Garden 2008

The weather has a definite chill in the air and it is time to plant our fall garden. In the past, our fall garden has been very sparse. This year is definitely different. On my visit to Whitley's Feed and Seed and Arnall Grocery, I realized that I wasn't limited to the usual greens and collards. So far we have planted Georgia collards, broccoli, and brussel sprout plants and sown seeds for purple top turnip greens, mixed greens, beets and sugar snap peas. Now we need some rain to get these plants going!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bolognese Sauce

It's early afternoon and time to answer the question that never goes away, "What's for dinner?" I check the frig and find ground beef and pancetta, just what I need to make my rendition of a classic Bolognese Sauce. This is a simple recipe with one surprise ingredient, milk. The milk adds a creamy texture to the meats. Herbs and garlic are not used in the classic recipes, but I love the flavor these ingredients add to the sauce. Serve over fresh pasta with lots of Parmesan cheese. Add a green salad and Italian bread for a great meal. Make a double batch and freeze for a quick dinner on those hectic days.

Bolognese Sauce
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound ground beef
1 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine
1-28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced
2 teaspoons fresh basil, minced
Cooked pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, cook pancetta for 5 minutes or until most fo the fat has rendered. Add celery, carrots, onions and garlic and saute 4 minutes. Add the beef and cook until done. Add milk and simmer gently until the milk is absorbed. Add wine and cook until it is evaporated. Squeeze the tomatoes with your hands to break them into small pieces. Add to the saucepan along with the fresh herbs and simmer slowly for 2 hours. Serve with pasta and top with grated Parmesan. Yield: 4 generous servings.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pappa al Pomodoro aka Tomato Bread Soup

Several weeks after our Tomato Festival, I was tuned into the Food Channel and Michael Chiarello was making Pappa al Pomodoro. It reminded me of a recipe I had seen earlier in Bon Appetit. I immediately put it on my "must try" list. It is very simple to make and is quite tasty.

Pappa al Pomodoro
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
8 ounces day-old Italian bread, sliced
1/2 cups water
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch heavy saucepan. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices and cook for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender.
Place the bread in a bowl and cover with water. Using your hands, break up the bread into small pieces. Add the bread to the saucepan and simmer until the bread absorbs the liquid. The mixture is very thick. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes and serve hot, topped with the Parmesan and fresh basil. Serves 4.
You can add extra olive oil or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Making Fresh Pasta - Part 2

I love my pasta maker! Follow along and I'll give step-by-step directions on the process. Begin with 2 cups of all purpose flour on a large wooden cutting board. Create a well in the middle of the flour and add 2 eggs. Using a fork, break the eggs and begin working the flour into the eggs.

Continue to add the flour until the dough comes together and you can knead it.

Begin kneading the dough, adding flour as needed. You want a soft dough that is not sticky. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. This is a very important step! Once the dough has rested, cut it into 4 sections. Shape the dough into a rectangle. Using the largest setting on the pasta maker, roll the dough through the maker 3 times. Reduce the setting one notch at a time and roll the dough. Since I wanted thin fettucine, I used the smallest setting before cutting the fettucine. Half of the dough is enough for 2 servings. I like to lightly dust the cut pasta with flour to keep it from sticking together. Cook in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. It is that easy! I saved the remaining dough in an airtight container for tomorrow. I'm planning to add chopped fresh basil to the dough and use with a tomato sauce. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Making Fresh Pasta

My latest kitchen tool is a pasta maker. One of my goals for retirement was to make fresh pasta. I have watched many a chef make pasta and it seemed so easy. And it is! I followed the recipe that came with the pasta maker - 2 cups flour and 2 eggs. After letting the dough rest, I divided it into 4 pieces. The hardest part was finding a place to mount the pasta maker. Running the dough through the machine was quite simple. The first batch was for experimenting with the machine. It took a few tries before I realized that the larger number, 6, on the pasta maker was the narrowest setting. So for the second batch, I used the largest setting, 1, and worked down to 6. With the fettucine cutting attachment, I made some wonderful strands of pasta. I lightly floured the dough to keep it from sticking together while I started the water boiling and made the sauce.
With no plan for the sauce, I looked to the garden for inspiration and found 2 of my favorite ingredients, fresh tomatoes and basil.

Garden Fresh Tomatoes and Pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup white wine
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
Fresh pasta

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add garlic and onions and cook until onions are tender. Add wine and tomatoes and cook on medium high for 5 minutes. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 3 minutes or until al dente. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, and stir in basil and mozzarella. Simmer until the mozzarella begins to melt.

Pour into a serving bowl and top with grated Parmesan and garnish with basil. Serves 2.