Monday, July 29, 2013

Rosemary Port Fig Preserves

A little while ago, I made a batch of Rosemary Port Fig Jam that has now become an annual favorite. I didn't have a photo to post when I last made it, but it's gorgeous and sophisticated and so incredibly delicious. I've decided to call this a preserve versus a jam as the end result is more chunky than crushed.

I went to a picnic this past weekend and brought a jar of this preserve with some goat cheese and toasted bruschetta. The jar was almost gone at the end of the day!

Figs are starting to come into season, so be sure to grab a couple of pints to make this amazing preserve. If you don't have time, simply freeze the figs whole and save them for when you feel up to it. I do this almost every year without any problems or compromise in flavor.

Kathy's Rosemary and Port Fig Preserves
- recipe adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
- Method adapted from Christine Ferber
- Makes 6, 1/2 pints

4 pounds green or purple figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup white port wine (or any really sweet, white wine)
1 4-inch sprig of rosemary

Place chopped figs, sugar, lemon juice, port, and rosemary in a nonreactive jam pot and let ingredients marinate for 30 min (till sugar is mostly dissolved and figs are juicy). Bring ingredients to a simmer over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, and then set aside off heat. Cool and cover jam pot; place in the refrigerator over night to macerate.

The next day, simmer the fig preserves over moderate/high heat, stirring occasionally, until reaching gel stage. Remove rosemary and discard.

Spoon the preserves into 6, 1/2-pint prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How To Quickly Peel Tomatoes

After 10 years of canning, it never fails to amaze me when I learn or stumble on something new. Last week, I went to the farmer’s market and picked up a ½ bushel of Roma tomatoes for $10. This is my favorite (and most exhausting) time of year; all the produce is coming in like gangbusters and it’s all I can do to keep up till October.

Tomatoes are starting to come in, and despite all the wet weather we’ve had, the prices at the farmer’s market haven’t budged. I promptly snatched that ½ bushel right up and had intentions to try Local Kitchen's Fire Roasted Tomatoes and a batch or two of my favorite Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce. So, as I was prepping the tomatoes for peeling, it dawned on me to use the same roasting method called for in Local Kitchen’s recipe to remove the skins for all my tomatoes.

Now in the past, I’ve always used the boil/blanch method for peeling my tomatoes. I hate it…standing there over a boiling caldron of water, fishing out steaming hot tomatoes, and then dunking them in ice water to stop the cooking process. In the end, it takes forever, the kitchen gets heated and messed up, and there’s water spills everywhere.

I was able to roast and peel that whole ½ bushel of tomatoes in UNDER AN HOUR! While one batch was roasting, I was prepping another sheet. No mess, no babysitting bobbing tomatoes, no steamy sauna…AND my tomatoes had the extra flavor bonus of being roasted.

Why did it take me so long to figure this out???

How to Quickly Peel Tomatoes

1. Preheat oven broiler to high; set oven rack 6 inches away from broiler. Prepare rinsed/clean tomatoes by cutting out the woody core and slicing in half. Place sliced tomatoes skin side up on a large cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in the oven under the broiler and broil until skins are dark and charred (rotate cookie sheet halfway through).

2. Remove cookie sheet from oven and lay a dish towel over the roasted tomatoes on the cookie sheet. This lets the tomatoes cool and steam for easy peeling. After about 10 minutes, while the tomatoes are still warm, remove the dish towel and simply pull the skins right off with your fingers or a pair of tongs. Throw away skins (or if you’re my husband…EAT THEM….BLECH!!!).

3. While one batch of tomatoes are cooling, slide another cookie sheet full into the oven and cut up more tomatoes for the next batch.

Do a happy dance around the kitchen.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Why Do I Can and Preserve?

Why do I can and preserve?

I often get asked if it’s really worth the time and money savings to can and preserve your own food. In fact, this discussion is often passionately discussed on my beloved Harvest Forum.

The answer is: It depends.

Initially, it’s expensive. You have to buy all the equipment and jars, and if you don’t grow your own food, you have to buy some, if not all of that as well. It takes a lot of time to pick, peel, pit, cut, cook, and eventually process home-canned food, so there’s that. Eventually, you build up a stash of jars and lids and all you really need to do is buy or grow the food, but even then it’s questionable if there truly is savings. Sure, there can be a small amount of savings if you regularly buy the high-quality, organic canned items in the store, but not much when you factor in the time and effort. Time = money and all that.

So, why do I do it?

In truth, there really isn’t that much savings in canning and preserving my own food on an average to small scale. I can and preserve for my husband and myself, plus a few family members and friends as gifts. We have a very small, soon to be prosperous garden, but definitely not enough to feed us completely. We both work full time 40-plus hours a week, so neither one of us have the time to devote to full-time, self-sufficient food preservation.

The answer is: Quality.

I can and preserve because I know EXACTLY what is going in my food and can truly guarantee its ingredients and preparation. I can and preserve because it’s healthy. I can and preserve because I know that what I make tastes a gazillion times better than what I can buy in the store. I can and preserve because I know that the food I’m using didn’t travel 1,200 miles to get to me. I can and preserve because nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction I get from looking at all those pretty jars of yumminess lined up on my shelf…yumminess that I made for my family and the people I love and care about.

That pretty much sums it up for me.

What about you?

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