31 August 2009

Homemade Ketchup

Homemade ketchup is a tasty way to savour your tomatoes all year round. This recipe yields about 3 pints of ketchup. Feel free to multiply it for larger quantities. Other recipes use a food mill or food processor, but this blender ketchup recipe seems more accessible for the basic kitchen setup.

Step 1: Grow tomatoes.

8 lbs. of ripe tomatoes
(1 pound is 3-5 medium sized tomatoes)
1 yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
3 cups cider vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbl. sea salt

cheese cloth spice bag:
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. whole allspice
2 tsp. whole cloves
2 tsp. ground or 1 whole cinnamon stick
2 tsp. whole peppercorn

Step 2: Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds or until skins split.
Drop in ice water, slips skins, core, quarter and remove seeds. Remove seeds from peppers and slice into strips. Peel and quarter onions. (Reminder - all skins & seeds can go in your compost pile.) Blend tomatoes, peppers and onions at high speed until liquified. Pour puree into a large pot. Boil gently for 1 hr, stirring frequently. You may need to do multiple trips with the blender.

Step 3: Add vinegar, sugar, salt and spice bag into pot. Continue boiling and stirring until volume is reduced one-half with no separation of liquid and solids. This took me about 2-3 hours. If it does not quite resemble ketchup after a few hours you can put the mixture back in the blender and liquify more. This should bring you the consistency we're used to. Taste it - if too sweet, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Step 4: Remove spice bag and fill jars, leaving 1/8-inch headspace. Process jars for water bath or pressure canner. Process pint jars for 15 minutes at an elevation of sea level to 1,000 ft., 20 minutes from 1,000 to 6,000 feet and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet. So I've read it is recommended to use home canned products within one year.

23 August 2009

Make Your Own Sundried Tomatoes

No matter what size your home garden - from a few herbs to a dozen tomato plants - food preservation & storage is key to making use of your harvest. Donny and I have spent the last few weeks learning about canning, drying and freezing our delicious food. I look forward to sharing several recipes and ideas we've used.

First on the list is an easy and delicious one - homegrown homemade sundried tomatoes. The great thing about this treat is that you can use just about any size tomatoes. I chose to use our little cherry grande and sprites...I had found that we were not using/eating them fast enough. They also ripen quite quickly, so its best to use them while you've got 'em. This is a great recipe for a sick or rainy day since you will need to check on them for at least 4 hours and possibly 10 -20 hours, depending on the size of tomato you choose to use. The smaller the tomato the quicker it goes. However you should know that the final product will be about 1/4-1/2 the size of the fresh tomato.

The easiest way to make sundried tomatoes without a deyhydrator is in your oven. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees or its lowest setting.
My lowest oven temp was warm, just below 200 degrees. Cut all tomatoes lengthwise in half. If using larger tomatoes you can quarter them. I seasoned the tomatoes with a dash of sea salt & about half of them with homegrown dried basil (stay tuned for that recipe). On a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, lay out the tomatoes seed side up so that they are not touching. They will start to shrink quickly, so its ok to squeeze them in. My suggestion is if you have the tomatoes - use them. I ended up doing 2 batches back-to-back that I could have done simultaneously had I just used 2 cookie sheets. Over the next few hours, check the tomatoes constantly. You will need to turn them on to the skin side and also move the sheets to other racks so they get an even heat. With the little tomatoes I found it easiest to turn them with my fingers. I enjoyed checking them every half hour - hour. You will know they are done once they feel like a raisin, but not brittle. They should have a leathery feel, but you should not feel water under the skin. For the remaining pieces you can speed up the process by cranking the heat to no more than 200 degrees, but be sure to check on them more frequently.

As they are done, take them out of the oven and leave to cool for about 20-30 min. After you complete the batch, store them in an airtight container or plastic bag. A small pallet of mason jars (varying sizes) is a good investment so that you will be prepared to start preserving your harvest. You can pick them up at your local grocer or drugstore.

Be sure to check on the batch of tomatoes for the first few weeks to make sure no moisture has formed. If there is any moisture, throw them back in the oven to dry them out more or use them immediately.

Enjoy them as tomato candies or in a pasta or salad.

19 August 2009

I am an only child. A lot of people think that only children are spoiled or get what they want. That is a stereotype, but what is true is that parents do put a lot of energy into just the one kid.

One of my pepper plants has an only child. I use this term for a small vegetable plant that only produces one piece of fruit. If you notice that your plant is putting all of its effort into just the one "child" / fruit, then you might want to consider cutting it off even if it isn't ripe. This green pepper grew so much and so fast, but nothing else would grow on the plant. We allowed it to grow fairly large, but then cut it off. Since then the tree has flourished. We have now pretty much used this method for all of our plants: Cut off the first fruit, so the plant doesn't put all of its energy into just one early piece of fruit. Only children can be fun, but a large harvest is what you really should want out of your garden.

Sunday morning pepper harvest

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