Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seasonal Endings, My Favorite Piccalilli

Every Fall about this time I scramble about trying to clear out the veggie garden and put it to bed. Shorter days and cool nights here tell me my gardening season is coming to an end. This can be a good thing, a quieter time.. but before I pull up all
the tomato plants, and head for the composter, I'll pick every last green tomato I can lay my hands on, knowing full well there isn't a chance left that they will turn luscious red. And that's okay. this season has been a plentiful one. So plentiful in fact, I needed to head over to our local farm and pick 25 extra pounds!

You might ask, what will she do with all these green tomatoes? Well, an annual event around our house is to make my summer's ending piccalilli. I can't take credit for this recipe. It is my grandmothers, dating back to the late 1800's. You know what they say? If it works, don't fix it! It's probably the only family recipe I haven't adapted adding a bit of this or that of my own. It's absolutely perfect, just as it is! Serve it in the cooler months with pork, poultry, tomato sausage or fish dishes. Me, I could eat it right out of the jar! :)

Grandma’s Green Tomato Piccalilli

Be very accurate in weighing tomatoes and onions.. making sure the measurement you use is AFTER slicing. The recipe will yield quite a few jars of piccalilli, but can easily halved or quartered. I put mine up in many sized canning jars, but for practical purpose, jelly jars are a good portioned size to use. Make extra jars, as it makes a great xmas gift!

Vegetables Prepared

8 lbs green tomatoes-sliced
3 lbs onions-sliced
4 cups cider vinegar
5 cups white sugar
16 whole cloves
½ cup salt
2 cinnamon sticks – broken up into very tiny pieces

· Use a large kettle and alternately layer the tomatoes and onions and sprinkle
with salt between each layer. Cover the pot and let stand overnight.

Layered tomatoes & onions.. salted

· Next morning, drain the vegetables—DO NOT WASH them. Put the cider vinegar in
your kettle, add sugar, spices and heat until the sugar has dissolved well. Add
tomatoes and onions into this pot now. Cook slowly until the vegetables are just
tender. Cover and set overnight.

· This next morning bring the piccalilli to a rapid boil, stirring well, and then
bottle at once. Do not cook anymore. Your kitchen will smell divine!
No need to water bath or process this recipe. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

First Coarse.. Applesauce

Well I guess it's official.. it's Apple Harvest time here in New England. Does anything taste better than a crisp snappy apple when you've been out hiking in the cool autumn air? This was a perfect weekend to go apple picking and so we did! Still balmy temps here, so you didn't need to worry about crowds.. a great selection to choose from, and a lovely spot high in the hills with a wonderful view made this picking weekend a very special one for us.

I've been craving roast pork, with roast potatoes and homemade applesauce. I can always tell when the long hot sizzling days of August have just about come to an end.. and this urge just comes over me to make a nice autumn dinner. Pie & turnover recipes just hankering to be made, and the thought of apple butter, just warms me.

We had the orchards nearly to ourselves, and as we went about the task I couldn't help but think of what has happened over the years. The US agritourism seems surreal to me: around the country, migrant workers pick our food for low wages under bad conditions, but the well-to-do suburban families pile into minivans and RV's, drive long distances, and pay money to have their kids pick produce.

Picking apples or any fresh produce at 'Pick Your Own' farms, stands for me at least, a longing for a simpler time, when you could walk into an apple orchard and pick.. simply because they were there. Looking around at row after row of apple trees in the orchard, I had to wonder to myself what Johnny Appleseed would make of all this when he planted these first seeds with wide sprung hands so very long ago, but continued on with my picking, dreaming of what I would prepare with all these tasty jewels.

I knew the first thing I wanted to make was applesauce. I'm a little fussy when it comes to applesauce. I don't care for smooth texture and do enjoy the addition of cinnamon, so after trial and error came up with an applesauce I'm really pleased with. Flavored just right for us, with a consistency that's neither chunky nor smooth. More like coarse... first coarse, if you've never tried your hand at making applesauce before. So head to your local orchard, and start picking or Farmer's Market and then try this easy to prepare recipe. Enjoy!

50 apples - I used 30 Paula reds & 20 McIntosh
Water - enough to almost cover the apples
2 TBLS lemon juice
1/2 - 1 cup sugar (white or light brown)
3 TBLS cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
12 jelly jars- kept warmed

Wash, peel, core and slice apples. Put the apples into a large pan and almost cover with water and lemon juice. Cover. Bring to a light boil, but WATCH the pan, as apples swell, allowing your cover to fly off! Cook covered until apples become tender & start to fall apart with occasional stirring.. about 25 minutes.
When the apples are tender, transfer to collander and drain off excess water. Put all apple pulp back into your pan & mash with a slotted spoon. Add sugar(s) slowly, 1/2 cup at a time until dissolved, cinnamon and nutmeg, and continue to cook until sugar is dissolved and flavored to your taste. I used 2/3 cup light brown sugar with 1/3 cup white sugar.
Have your warmed jelly jars ready and spoon hot applesauce mixture into the jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Clean rims of jars, and apply seals and lids. Process jars in water bath canner 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before storing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Potato Croquettes

I was feeling very lazy today and not really wanting a big dinner, but did want to clear out the frig of leftovers. Checking all the Tupperware containers, I spot some leftover mashed potatoes and half a roast chicken.. hmmm?? What can I toss together with little effort?? Why not potato croquettes? I hadn't made them in eons.. and this is a good excuse to cheat on my diet :)

Actually, croquettes are exceedingly easy to prepare and even more delightful to consume. My Mom use to make these often, and no matter how many she had cooling on the counter, some always managed to disappear off the platter before we sat down for dinner. I can't imagine where they went to?! She always made just plain potato croquettes, but I like to add ground chicken to mine, along with some grated carrots, maybe a bit of prosciutto and herbs.
Whichever way you choose to make them, they usually are a big hit, great served warm or at room temperature, and make a nice lunch bite for those always on the run! So don't forget to make a few extras.

1 lb potatoes -washed, peeled and boiled til tender
1 TBL butter
4 TBL milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups of pre-cooked or leftover chicken pieces, ground in food processor
2 TBL fresh parsley, rosemary & thyme diced fine
sea salt & ground pepper to taste
2 grated carrots
1/2 cup fontina cheese(or mozzarella cheese)
4 slices prosciutto, chopped (opt)
3 eggs
1 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1 cup flour
Vegetable oil for frying

After your potatoes have cooked, and have drained and cooled, toss them into a mixing bowl. Add the butter, milk and mash them well. Add the cheeses, ground chicken, parsley, rosemary & thyme. Break 1 egg and mix thoroughly into the potato mixture. Add salt & pepper.

In a separate bowl break the remaining two eggs and beat lightly. Place seasoned bread crumbs in another dish, and the flour in yet another dish.

Form each croquette with 2 heaping spoonfuls of the potato mixture: with your hands, roll a croquette.. about 1 1/2 inch in diameter and 2-3 inches long. Roll croquettes in the flour, then into the beaten egg, and finally roll in bread crumbs. Place finished croquettes on a plate, cover with waxed paper and refrigerate 1 hour. When you are ready to fry, heat oil in skillet and fry croquettes until browned on all sides, aproximately 3-4 minutes.
Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve warm or cooled and enjoy!