Vacation time is over. If one can call all the doings in September a vacation, frankly I am glad it is over. Risking sharing too much with the wide wide internets – I am calling September a vacation because my husband wasn’t working. It wasn’t voluntary on his part, and I am ecstatic he is back to work. The less said about that the better.

But because of the vacation I found I needed to concentrate on things other than blogging. But now that I have some time to myself – the blog has returned! Just in time for October’s Can Jam.

Pepper jelly is nothing new, not even for this blog. And I really didn’t feel like making it yesterday. But you know what I did feel like? I felt like eating it for the coming months. There is no way I am actually going to go and buy pepper jelly – so a canning we will go.

Lucky for me I have a next door neighbor who is a true Southern Gentleman. An older Gentleman who has been planting “gardens” all his life. “Gardens” that run into the acre plus size range. Now that he is older he does not need the food he grows, nor does he have the desire to even harvest the food he grows. But he likes growing it, so I oblige him by harvesting some of that which would normally go to the critters.

See how I turned that around there? Like I was doing him a favor. In reality I am spoiled rotten by his generosity and try to get him to take as many jars as I can – but he lives alone and won’t take much. But I try. He also seems to like to keep my life interesting, because as I was harvesting the pepper plants he said – “Oh, be careful. There are some hot ones in there.”

For this year’s batch of pepper jelly I decided to try something different – Pomona’s Universal Pectin. Since I cannot bring myself to bust into a jar that I just canned – we don’t know how things worked out texture and flavor wise. But I can show you the most obvious difference right away.

Banana Pepper Jelly

The one in the middle is from last year.

The calcium makes the jelly “cloudy”. You cannot get the crystal clear set jelly like you can with regular pectin, or using apples. Oh well, guess I won’t be winning the State Fair. Please pardon the weirdness of the photograph. My computer is pushing up daisies and I am having to make do with unfamiliar editing software. Holy color burn batman.

Whatever Pepper You Have Jelly

The Hardware: See the Canning Thing, about 7 pint jars for a double recipe, or a combo of jars to hold 7 pints and fit in your canner in one go.

The Software: this is the basic recipe with regular commercial pectin

3 C Peppers – finely chopped
1 1/2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
6 1/2 C Sugar
1 Pouch Liquid Pectin
1 T Butter

Wash, stem and seed peppers – WEAR YOUR GLOVES REGARDLESS OF HOW MANLY YOU ARE – cut into largish chunks and then toss in food processor to make wee bits. Put peppers, sugar and vinegar into a big pot and bring to an aggressive simmer. Cook for 5 minutes then crank the heat up to get a full rolling boil. Add butter.

While you are waiting for this, take your pouch of pectin and cut the top off, place it in a small glass so that it can sit upright and not ooze all over every-which-way. You’ll need your mad lightening fast kitchen skillz soon.

After you have reached a full boil, grab that handily pre-opened pouch and squeeze the whole thing into your pot – stirring maniacally. Back off on the stirring a bit when you realize that you are overdoing it. Return to a rolling boil and time for 1 full minute then turn off the heat. Do the canning thing, 1/4 inch Head space and BWB process for 10 minutes if you live on the beach. And if you live on the beach I kinda hate you because I don’t. Add a 5 minute penalty for every 1,000 miles in altitude you live above the beach.

Cha, cha, cha, changes …..

The bonus of the universal pectin is that it does not require sugar to set. Regular commercial pectin sets by a reaction of the pectin, acid and sugar content of your mix. If you get any of this off then your set is in danger. There are low sugar setting pectins available, but there isn’t much wiggle room in them either. The universal pectin sets by the chemical reaction between the pectin and calcium. Your package comes with both and instructions on how to make the calcium water.

It also comes with the encouragement to “make your own recipe”. Holy CRAP when does a canning recipe ever say that? And I am sure they mean within safe acid guidelines.

So, here are all the changes I made to use the pectin and some bonehead issues that I faced. And I doubled the recipe. Heh.

Fancy Pectin Banana Pepper Jelly

6 C Banana Peppers, chopped small
4 C Apple Cider Vinegar
9 1/2 C Sugar
5 1/2 t Powdered Universal Pectin
2 T Calcium water
1 T Butter

There are a few changes to the process, you need to measure out a separate bowl with 1/2 C sugar in it and mix the pectin in with that. Put the peppers, vinegar and calcium water in at the start and cook as stated above. When you reach the boil, back off a wee bit and then add the sugar with pectin – stir well until everything is dissolved (at least a minute or 2) then when you are back at a boil, add the rest of the sugar (stirring maniacally) and bring back up to a boil. Add the butter after you get all of the sugar stirred in. Watch for big freaking lumps.

Process as usual.

The Results

No clue. It appears to have set up, but it is possible that it is rock hard. Last year’s batch I used a combination of Banana Peppers and Jalapenos, this year I had only the Bananas (with possible stealth spicy Bananas). We will see … we will see.

Do y’all want to know how I use pepper jelly in my cuisine? I have some secrets.

It has been well over a year since I started this blog and somehow I have managed to keep it completely … shall we say … mundane. I have managed to keep the subject focused on … umm … modern food. You who have been reading this (if this is the only venue by which you know me) have remained blissfully unaware of my … hobby.

Yes, a great deal of ellipses have gone into the crafting of that paragraph – for good reason. This is the equivalent of a foodie skeleton in the closet, or pantry if you will. While I love cooking for my family and finding new and interesting recipes to cook, my true source for passionate inspiration is a wee bit older.

Like 16th century or earlier older.

And those recipes require a great deal more creativity in cooking and interpreting. Which is what makes them so fun. But this weeks inaugural SummerFest subject has brought this dirty little secret out into the light. Because I have a recipe that I must share with you. And you must make it, if you like cucumbers.

Cucumber, Onion & Basil Salad –

An interpretation of a dish described in Salvatore Massonio’s Archidipno overo dell’insalata e dell’vso di essa, published in Venice in 1627. Translation courtesy of  Louise Smithson

In order that cucumbers more easily pass the stomach eat them with the peel rather than without.  Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and make of them pieces moderately thin and dress them with oil, vinegar and salt like other salads.  But the custom one has learned is to add several pieces of raw onion and the leaves or sprouts of green basil.  This is not without foundation in art, perhaps it counteracts the natural coldness of moisture of it and makes the juice less large and less slow.

The Hardware: a knife, but a mandolin is also useful, a bowl, a whisk.

The Software:
1 1/2 English Cucumber
1 of an Onion
6 T Olive Oil
2 T White Wine Vinegar
1 3/4 t Salt
16 Grinds Fresh Pepper (or to taste)
2 1/2 t Basil, finely chopped

Combine Olive Oil, Vinegar, Salt, Pepper and Basil and whisk together, set aside. (This also works really well in a glass jar, just dump it all in –  put a lid on it – and shake). Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and then slice in 1/8 in slices. Cut onion in half and slice on Mandolin very thin. At least an hour before you want to eat the salad (and up to 2 hours before) combine the dressing and veggies in a bowl – allow to sit somewhere cold. You know, like a ‘fridge.

Cucumber, Onion & Basil Salad

Blah, Blah, Blah:

This makes a gracious plenty – enough for 12 people. I know that is crazy, but when I cook this style of food I am usually cooking for a minimum of 100 people who are served family style 8 – 12 per table.  This also works beautifully for pot-luck or buffet style service. It can sit for several hours and just get better and better. Save any leftover dressing in your shaking jar in the ‘fridge and you can use it as a base for vinaigrette.

You will notice that there is no mention of olive oil, vinegar, salt or pepper in the original recipe – and that is where the fun of these period recipes come in. You have to read many, many recipes to get a feel for what would have been done. You see, these recipes were not written for the lay person, they were written with the assumption that you are a cook and you know what you are doing already.

With this recipe I had the foundation of having read many vegetable/salad recipes from Bartolomeo Scappi’s 16th century manuscript entitled Opera dell’arte del cucinare.  Based on his description in various recipes I was able to determine that it would have most likely been served in a dressing and how to put that dressing together.

So, do you still love me or do you think I am crazy now?

I asked for it.

In my last Can Jam post for tigress I added a post script, throwing it out there to the canning gods that I would (pretty please with sugar on it) really like for the next jam to include cucumbers. And lo, the canning gods (or at least the goddess over at Laundry Etc) heard my appeal and were generous.

You know what other things in my life were generous – my cucumber vines. They were so crazy that I had a hard time keeping up with their production. Did you know that if you leave a cucumber on the vine long enough it will get gigantic and eventually turn orange? Well, I do now.

Luckily the chickens like overgrown cucumbers – the seedier the better.

To deal with the deluge of cucumbers my mother came over last week and we had our own little pickle jam. It took most of the day but we put up a double batch of Bread & Butter pickles (totaling 12 pints) and a little experiment for me. I only got 6 jars of the B&B’s but all of the experiment, because mom just doesn’t roll that way.

If you want to make the B&B’s check out this previous can jam post on onions. Instead of 16 cups of onions, go with 15 cups of sliced cucumbers and 1 cup of sliced onions. Volia – two for one recipe.

But on to the experiment (I don’t have a picture yet – but tigress asked us to get things up early(er)than we usually do – photo to come done). From my trusty tome on canning The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving I busted out with something I have had bookmarked for quite some time. Actually, I should probably just do away with the bookmarks in this book and just start marking the recipes that I don’t want to do – it would make life easier.

Indian Style Pickle Relish

When you grow your own - they aren't as photogenic.

Indian Style Cucumber Relish (with slight modifications)

The Hardware: see the Canning Thing, slotted spoon, 6 half pint jars (or like I did – 5 half pints and 2 quarter pints).

The Software:
6 C Cucumber (diced, seeded & peeled)
2 C Onions, thinly sliced
1 T Salt, pickling
2 C White Vinegar
1/2 C Sugar
1 T Cumin Seeds
2 t each Brown & Yellow Mustard Seeds
Big pinch whole peppercorns

Put your chopped/sliced veggies in a big bowl and sprinkle with salt – allow to stand for 4 hours (the original recipe said stirring occasionally, I totally forgot this step because I was canning the B&B’s).  Drain, rinse and drain some more. Combine everything else in large, non-reactive, saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add veggies and return to a boil – hold at boil for 30 seconds.

Using a slotted spoon, pack veggie into jars and then ladle liquid over the relish to head-space of 1/2 inch. Boiling water bath for 10 minutes (half pints) 15 minutes (pints) adjust for altitude.

Conclusion:

The reason that I was so excited about this recipe is not exactly about it’s use as a relish – the book suggests it “peps up” meat dishes – but because of another suggestion the authors make. They say you can mix this stuff with yogurt and poof! instant raita. Instant anything from a canned item makes me oh, so happy. And this has given me another idea – can I make a cucumber relish that has all of the flavors of tzatziki so that I can have that creamy deliciousness on demand? Anyone got a recipe close enough so we can tweak it?

The big experiment in my garden last year was tomatillos. Initially I went around looking for tomatillo plants to put in my garden, but every time I asked about them at a garden center I was regarded as if I had two heads. What is this alien to-mah-taho that you are looking for. Eventually I found a package of seeds and decided to take a whirl at starting at square one.

It was quite a steep learning curve. For the non-gardeners out there I will pass over the gory details – but in the end everything came out all right. Better than all right in fact, because I ended up canning many, many jars of Salsa Verde. It was a fairly painful process finding the best recipe to yield the results I desired – but there were no, true, failures. And as per usual, I ended up modifying to get my own.

A baby Tomatillo in my Garden

One of the most disappointing recipes was the one from the University of New Mexico – I thought that if anyone would get it right it would be them, but it was a no go. The flavor was fine, but the end texture wasn’t particularly salsa like. Imagine taking a super chunky salsa, dumping it into a strainer over your sink and allowing it to drain for about 15 minutes – that is the textural quality of the UNM recipe. While it didn’t fly as a salsa – I did use it to great success as a green chili starter. Chuck a jar of it plus a jar of water or stock into a saucepan (or crockpot) along with a can of beans and meat of your choice and you have some delicious chili.

The UNM recipe was the second one I tried – and it turns out the first one was much more successful. From Married with Dinner this Salsa Verde was much closer to what I was looking for – although I can handle much less heat. So for my third try I went back to this recipe and tinkered with it until I produced something I wanted to eat directly from the jar with a spoon. With apologies to the lovely MWD couple – I like mine better.

All of this left me with jars and jars of Salsa Verde for the “off season” months – their consumption a chore to which I applied my most willing efforts. Hence the subject of this “Using It”.

Taco with Tomatillo Salsa

So very much better than Moe's.

Taco Verde

The husband was out of town, but I still felt like busting out the tortilla press and comal to make my own tortillas – because they are simply that much better than store bought. Starting with leftover, shredded chicken in a small saucepan I stirred in enough Salsa Verde to make it saucy and reheated. While that was coming to temp I made the tortillas and from there it was a simple matter of assembly. Tortilla + chicken verde + cojita cheese + Flashy Trout Back baby Romain from my mother’s garden. Wonderfully delicious with a balanced tangy, salty flavor on a corn tortilla that actually tastes like corn. I know my mother probably thought that the tortilla press I asked for for Christmas was going to go into the pile ‘o gadgets-that-looked-like-fun-but-are-actually-a-pain-in-the-butt-and-will-be-in-my-next-yard-sale, but it didn’t. I have been using and loving it since January.

Salsa Verde (You totally thought I was being a tease, didn’t you?)

The Hardware: see The Canning Thing, a food mill, food processor (or a knife you know), 3 to 4 pint jars, paper bag.

The Software:
3 – 3 1/2 lbs of Tomatillos
1 1/2 C Onions, chopped
1 Aneheim Chilie
1 Poblano Chilie
1 T Chopped Jalepeno
6 cloves Garlic, Minced
2 T Cilantro, finely chopped
1T + 1t Cumin
1t Salt
1/8 C Lime Juice
3/8 C Apple Cider Vinegar

Preheat your broiler to High. Peel the husks off of your tomatillos and wash off all of the icky sticky stuff – I use a vegetable brush. Also wash your peppers. Remove their stems and cut the tomatillos in half across the equator, place cut side down on a foil lined cookie sheet. Cut the peppers in half longitudinally and remove stems and seeds, place cut side down on the cookie sheet also – you will most likely need 2 cookie sheets, or do two batches. Whichever floats your boat.

Place under the broiler for about 7 minutes, until they start turning a little bit black/brown on the top. Remove from the roaster and place the chilies into a paper bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap. Drain the liquid from the cookie sheet into a saucepan and dump the tomatillos into a food processor and then chopity chop – don’t puree, but get down to smallish pieces. Dump tomatillios into saucepan. Remove the chilies from the steaming device and remove skin. Chop these puppies up also and put them in the saucepan.

Put everything else except the cilantro into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and then pass through a food mill with the big hole setting – do not discard the stuff that won’t go through the mill. Return everything (even the chunkies) to the pot and bring to a simmer, add cilantro and adjust seasonings to taste. The do the canning thing. Leave 1/2 inch headspace and boiling water bath for 15 minutes adjusted for your altitude (here in Atlanta I add another 5 min).

Conclusion:

When I adjusted the seasonings I added some garlic powder and additional lime juice – you can always add more acid to taste, but don’t reduce. Having this in my larder has been a menu changing event. We eat it as frequently as we can, but always keeping an eye on the remaining quantity because we don’t want to run out.

Other uses have included smearing it on the first tortilla into the pan when we make quesadillas, enchiladas and various salsa like applications such as tacos, taco salads and consumption with chips. If you have any other ideas what I can put this on, please let me know!

Either Doris or Jilly has a mean streak. I don’t know which one is responsible, but Carrots? Really? Yes indeed. The theme foodstuff for this month’s installment of the tigress can jam is carrots.

A vegetable.

A low acid vegetable.

This is haaaaaaard. OK, quitcha bitchin girl and get a grip. Truthfully I found myself not particularly inspired by this theme, but I guess that is why this is a challenge eh? I spent a goodly amount of time poking around books and the intarweb to try and figure out what to do. I explored carrot jams, carrot chutneys, carrot slaw like applications … and carrot pickles.

I procrastinated. I waited until the week of and went through the entire list of participants on tigress’s blog to see what the early birds were posting. Finally I girded my loins and did what I do best.

Deferred the decision. Since I would more than likely not be eating any carrot based item I canned – I asked my hubby what he would prefer. Would he like something sweet or savory? The decisive answer was savory. Would he want something slaw-like or a pickle? Again, a decisive decision in the pickle direction. So now I had somewhere to start! Yay!

I settled on a recipe in what is probably my favorite canning book: The Complete Book of Year-round Small Batch Preserving.

Floaters - how do you avoid floaters?

She has a recipe that uses those little lathed out mini-carrots that you can buy anywhere anytime. So I got to pickling.

Not one to leave well enough alone – I tinkered with the recipe. I didn’t want to mess with the acidity so I looked at the constituent parts. The original recipe called for fresh oregano, I figured I could substitute any fresh herb in similar quantities. The original called for chopped bell peppers in two colors, again, if I maintained ratios any pepper should do. And if I add more acid that can’t hurt right?

So here it is, it’ll take a month for my hubby to let me know if they are any good.

Spicy Thai Basil Carrot Pickles

The Hardware: standard canning stuff see The Canning Thing this will make 2 pint jars. Wide mouthed is best. A vegetable peeler and a pair of chopsticks will be handy also.

The Software:
4 medium leaves fresh Basil
2 Limes
1 lb peeled “Baby” carrots
6 Thai chili peppers
2 cloves Garlic
1 1/2 C White Vinegar
1/2 C Sugar
1 t Pickling Salt

Wash all of your produce and then nuke your limes for about 20 seconds on high. Using a vegetable peeler, remove two 1/2 inch wide strips of zest from tip to tail on your best looking lime. Cut limes in half and juice into a liquid measure (if you are like me – cuss because you didn’t realize you had several small cuts on the ends of your fingers), if necessary add water until the quantity reaches a total of 1/3 C.

Put lime juice, vinegar, sugar and salt into a small saucepan over medium heat and start on it’s way to a boil. Peel your garlic cloves and start two little piles. Add two clean basil leaves to each garlic clove and be happy that your piles are growing. Take the two strips of lime zest and cut them into thinner strips – divide between the piles.

Wearing at least one glove, use a sharp knife and cut the stem ends off of the peppers and then cut a small slit in the length of each chili – add three chilies to each pile. If you haven’t figured it out yet – each pile is going to go into one of the two pint jars that you have hanging out in your BWB.

Regard your carrots. If any of them seem to be a bit chunky for the “Baby” moniker – cut them in half lengthwise. It is a harsh diet – but it has to happen. Once your pickling liquid is almost to a boil, remove the jars from the hot water. Place the basil leaves neatly covering the bottom of each jar – I use chopsticks to futz with them because HEY THESE JARS ARE HOT.

Once you have the basil the way you want it, add the lime zest and garlic. Then start arranging “Baby” carrots. I found it easier to lay the jars on their side and stack the little impudent buggers in there. When I got to halfway full on the first layer I put two of the chilies in vertically on opposite sides from one another. Then I finished filling in carrots. I took the third chili and put it in the second layer of carrots.

Repeat process with second jar. Sit upright and fill with the boiling liquid – leave 1/2 inch head-space. Put on lids and rings and then lower into BWB. Begin timing after you have regained a full boil – process for 15 minutes (Sea Level) I did 20 minutes because I am over 1K feet. You can do your own math for wherever you live.

All that futzin with the chopsticks?

Not a good look for garlic.

Pointless. As usual with raw pack things – it all floated up to the top and shifted and stuff. My carefully arranged vegetable masterpieces look like a 5 year old did them. One of these days I will learn the secret of  packing jars so that they don’t end up floaters – but it wasn’t this day.

Also – did you know that garlic turns a fairly icky blue/green color when it is pickled? Not nice. Not nice at all. And basil? Not lovely. It looks kinda kelpy and possibly slimy. Did I mention that I will so not be eating these?

I am looking forward to next month – when my hubby will let me know if these are edible. Until then – I recommend that you bookmark this page and wait and see before you try this yourself.

It turns out that my bulk mashing post is one the more popular posts on this here blog. It kind of makes me feel better about myself knowing that there are others out there that cannot resist the bargain bag of ‘taters even when we know darn well that we cannot eat the whole thing before it goes over to the dark side.

But this time it wasn’t my fault – it was totally my Mom’s fault. You see, just after the holidays they pull up stakes and relocate to warmer climes which leaves me as the beneficiary of the “cleaning out of the perishables”. Not that I am complaining, free food – especially a staple – is always welcome in my home. And yet I found myself, once again, staring at the lumpy proliferation of tasty tubers in my pantry.

Which sat in my pantry.

And sat.

Until I said CRAP I gotta do something with those ‘taters. So I did, about a month ago (what you thought I had magic ‘taters that lasted from the end of December until February? – no chance, not with our humidity), but I waited to let y’all know until I had fully tested my plan. Because I don’t want to pass on any crappy advice, I have standards you know?

Like mashed potatoes - only you are supposed to eat a whole bowl.

The Initial Spud Soup Starter

The Hardware: A big honkin’ pot, immersion blender, ladle and quart freezer bags

The Software: A metric butt-tonne of russet potatoes and enough stock to cover, plus whatever spices you like.

Take your ‘taters, peel then chop them into chunks – toss them into your big honkin’ pot. Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the spuds. If you are a vegetarian type person, I am sure that a vegetable stock would work. Cook the ‘taters until they can be easily poked through with a skewer and turn off heat. Now here is where we get crazy.

Don’t drain them.

Take your handy-dandy immersion blender and puree the tar out of those ‘taters. What you will end up with is something much to runny to be mashed potatoes but much too thick to be actual soup. I call this “soup starter”. You can season at this point – until you like the taste, but be careful with the black pepper. Black pepper intensifies even in the freezer. You can always add more seasoning later – but it is tough to fish it out. I added salt, a little bit of pepper and some garlic powder. Hmmm, I wonder what would have happened if I had cooked some garlic cloves with the ‘taters? Next time maybe.

The important thing here – do not add any dairy. No milk, no butter, no cream cheese, no sour cream, no cheese. These things do not freeze terribly well in a team environment. They like to go their own way, to seperate themselves. Bust out your ladle and fill up as many quart freezer bags as you can manage. Try to get as much air out of them as possible and lay them flat on a tray. Make sure you label & date them and then chuck them into the freezer. Freezing flat makes it easier to store the bags after freezing and makes the food thinner and more widely distributed; therefore easier to thaw.

The Spud Soup

This is why it took a month for me to post this – I wanted to make sure it worked. I had significant concerns about the texture of the soup after the freezing. Luckily I was able to thaw and revive our patient with little quality loss. Score one for Cryogenics!

Pull out a freezer bag of your soup starter and microwave it on very low until you can mush it around enough to decant into a large saucepan. Once the soup is in the saucepan – heat on low, stirring and mushing frequently until everything is thawed (or almost thawed, if you are like me an have no patience it will still work). Thin the soup to slightly thicker than desired consistency with stock (of whichever persuasion floats your boat).

If you are a vegan and used vegetarian stock – well, I cannot help you much beyond this point – it is going to get ugly for you so you might want to stop. The next things you want to add to bring your soup to it’s final luscious consistency are those prima-donnas who eschewed the freezer, milk and butter – the dairy divas. Add as much as you want – I won’t tell.

Season to taste, I like salt and a good bit of pepper, plus some more garlic and a wee bit of nutmeg. You follow your bliss. In the above picture you might notice some lumps – I actually dumped in some frozen corn because really, can you ever have too much starch?

Toppings can be applied with wild abandon. Personally, I cannot conceive of potato soup without bacon and cheese. While we were eating I mentioned to the hubby that some caramelized onions would have been delicious piled on top. If I had had a can of French’s onions handy – I can guarantee you they would have made an appearance.

What do you think would go well on top?

I make no claims to authenticity for this dish. It was thrown together from things out of my pantry, and I must say it was very tasty. I had dinner early and when the hubby came home late to eat his I was sorely tempted to have a second bowl. Pantry meals are essential to anyone’s repertoire, and sometimes you rely on some pre-packaged items to cut down on time.

Of course you could use a can of diced tomatoes – or even chop up a tomato or two. Then you could add a can of diced chilies – or roast and dice your own fresh chilies. I am sure it would add significantly to the flavor. But I, being a good southern girl, always have a couple of cans of Rotel in the pantry and it gives me the tomatoes, chilies and some additional spices in one convenient package. Turn your nose up if you will – but it makes life easier for me.

I totally forgot to put the cheese on - you can imagine it yourself.

Easy Mexican Chicken Soup

The Hardware: large saucepan, spoon, can opener.

The Software:
1 Onion
2 t Chopped Garlic
1 can Rotel (I used mild because I am a wussy – use whatever you can handle)
2 T Lizano Sauce
2 C Shredded Chicken (had it in the ‘fridge, you could use rotisserie if that’s your thang)
2 pinches Oregano (dried)
2 pinches Cumin
1 T Lime Juice
1 Qt Chicken Stock (I used home-made, you do whatever you want)
1 C Frozen Corn
3 T Masa
pinches of Salt, Pepper and Granulated garlic to taste
2 C cooked rice or a couple of handfuls of  tortilla strips

Slice onions into half rounds and saute in a large saucepan in a couple of tablespoons of oil until the onions are soft. When they start getting brownish add the garlic and saute for about a minute – don’ t let the garlic burn. Add the Rotel, Lizano & chicken and stir around a bit, bring to a simmer. Add stock, lime juice, oregano & cumin and bring back up to almost a simmer. Then sprinkle in the Masa and curse when it forms dumpling-like globules.

Seek and destroy Masa globules by squashing them against the wall of the saucepan with the back of your spoon. Or you could be smart and measure out the Masa into a small bowl and add some of the not-yet-hot stock to it to form one of them there fancy pants “slurries”  before you add it to the pot.

Bring everything up to a simmer and then add the corn. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure nothing sticks and scorches. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper & granulated garlic until you are happy. If you are using rice, divide it between your bowls and then serve the soup over top. If you are using tortilla strips put the soup in first and then top with crunchies.

It doesn’t hurt to sprinkle some cheese on top. But really – can’t you say that about just about anything?

Potential Hacks:

This could easily go vegetarian. Replace the chicken stock with veg stock and replace the chicken with a can or two of beans, poofy violia – vegetarian. Actually, the beans would be good as an add on if you wanted to bulk it up more. Skip the cheese and dairy and I believe this would be vegan – but I have limited understanding of vegantology.

If you do not have Masa hanging around (and I am guessing that is a goodly number of people) then you can just crumble up some tortilla chips and let them simmer in the soup. They will disintegrate and serve the same thickening purpose. You know what tortilla chips are made out of? Masa.

This came out a bit spicier than I really cared for, cause I am a wuss, so I wanted to add some sour cream to dial back the heat. But I didn’t have any sour cream. Whipped cream cheese, however, was in my ‘fridge. So I made some little canels out of the cream cheese and, after being stirred in well, it worked fine. Sour cream would have been better.

And of course, there is the Lizano. You really should just keep it in your ‘fridge. It is a wonderful thing. It is delicious in eggs. It can turn regular rice into instant Mexican rice. Stir it into a drained can of beans and you suddenly have super tasty beans. Dribble it onto your tacos or burritos. It is a fantastic ingredient that really has no substitute. If I have not convinced you to seek it out – then you are just going to have to crank up all of the seasonings. Add more cumin, oregano and garlic. Add a little chili powder, but be careful you do not turn the soup into chili.

In the dead of winter there is something beckoning about the sunshine-y orbs of citrus at the market. Resistance is futile. Even though I have satisfied my can jam obligation, I have not satisfied my lust. One object of my attention was the Citron. In the aisles I hefted it into my hand, caressed it, sniffed it, threw longing looks in it’s direction after I had replaced it in its’ pile. Even I could not justify purchasing it, having NO CLUE what to do with the thing.

So I transferred my affection to the Meyer Lemon, bastard offspring of the Lemon and Mandarin Orange. I knew it would be kind to me as opposed to the fickle mistress the Citron. And I had a recipe! Many years ago, when I first tried my hand a canning, it was because I went out and picked several pounds of blackberries. Then I realized I had no idea what to do with them – backwards I know. At the time the canning section at my local book store was slim pickings so I ended up with one slim volume: The Joy of Cooking All About Canning & Preserving. It is not a book that I have seen much mention of on the Food-Blogosphere but I find myself liking it more and more.

Doubly so because it brought this into my life:

You had me with the freckles you saucy girl you.

You had me with the freckles you saucy girl you.

Meyer Lemon Kiwi Marmalade: from All About Canning & Preserving – Joy of Cooking Series

The Hardware: Canning stuff – I think I might need to make a seperate post just for this. OK, I did it see The Canning Thing. This makes 7 – 8 half pint jars.

The Software:
1 1/4 lbs Meyer Lemons
4 C Water
1 1/2 lbs Kiwi (firm/ripe)
5 C Sugar

Wash your lemons well and then slice them all in half along the equator. Using scissors, snip out the center star of white membrane and discard along with seeds.

The next step is to slice the lemons thinly and place in a big bowl with 4 cups of water. The thin skin of the lemons proved to be too challenging for my cheap a$$ “mandolin” and slicing them by hand was no pic-a-nic either. And I have sliced more things than the a-ve-rage bear. Let the whole mess sit overnight in the ‘fridge.

Whenever you get around to it the next day toss the whole shebang into a big pot and simmer for 15 minutes. While doing so, peel and slice the kiwi into 1/4 rounds.

Put a second pot on the range and measure 2 1/2 C sugar into it – add half the kiwi. When the lemons have had their jacuzzi, move half of them over to the other pot and add the remaining sugar and kiwi to the original pot. Now you have to work on your simultaneous stirring method. I get bored and see if I can stir them in opposing directions, or even better, opposing figure eights. I don’t know why the recipe says to do it in two batches – but that is what it says.

I managed that until both pots got up until 215 degrees and then I married them together to coax them up to the 218 – 220 range. This magic temperature is apparently the “jelling” point for my particular altitude  – yours might vary. I also used the whole “put a small dish in the freezer and plop some jelly on it” trick. Let that sit in the freezer for two minutes (while you have intelligently lowered the heat on your molten lemon napalm) and see if it has set up by trying to pull a Red Sea Split on it with your finger. What finger you use is discretionary.

Pack into jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Make with the de-bubbling and rim wiping and ring tightening as usual. Boiling Water Bath for 15 minutes if you live between 1K & 2K feet like me – adjust for your altitude.

Conclusion:

The hubby and I spent a little time scraping the jelly from the inside of the cooking pots and eating it while making happy noises. I cannot wait to try this for real. It was a fair pain in the butt process wise, but I have found myself contemplating buying more ingredients so that I might make this again soon – I want to have more. One note, I ended up short 1/4 lb of kiwi, so it might have actually made the full number of half pints the recipe called for.

I am feeling pretty good about making this without any added pectin. It is only my second time doing such a thing, the first was a Dried Fig Preserve with apples and oranges providing the pectin. Even though it wasn’t done for this can jam – would anyone be interested in that recipe?

Going to Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market is an exercise in restraint regardless of how frequently I go. This time the piles of succulent citrus called to me from their bins, and I wanted to take them all home. Every kind of Orange, Tangerine, Lemon, Lime you can imagine (no Buddha hands tho) ripe for the picking. To narrow things down I decided on oranges, and further tightening the net I restricted myself to fruits from Florida. Among all of the Navels and Minnelos there was one lonely bin of Hamlins – and I decided to take them home.

Not knowing ahead of time what I was going to make, I didn’t buy quite enough oranges so I had to flesh out the juice with some tangerines from my last YDFM foray. I really wanted to make an Orange Jelly, but all I kept finding was marmalade recipes. With some poking I was able to find a Spiced Orange Jelly recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation and I thought it would work as a base, even tho I really didn’t want to do the commercial pectin route – eh win some lose some.

Hardware: canning stuff, see the ridiculously long page I wrote about The Canning Thing.

Sunshine in a jar

Orange Thyme Coriander Jelly – makes 4 half pints
based on Spiced Orange Jelly from NCHFP

The Software:
2 C Orange Juice (4 Hamlins + 2 Tangerines)
1/3 C Lemon Juice
2/3 C Water
1 box Pwd Pectin
1 T Orange Zest, finely chopped
1 T Coriander seed, whole
3 1/2 C Sugar
1 T Thyme Leaves, fresh plus whole springs for jars

Peel one of the oranges to get the zest and juice all fruit – remove seeds. Combine juice, zest, water and pectin with coriander that has been tied into a little bag. Stir constantly on high heat until you reach a full rolling boil. Add sugar and continue to stir. When you get back up to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down begin timing for one minute and then turn off heat.

Continue to stir and remove spice bag, add in thyme leaves. Place one or two springs of thyme in each of your jars (that you have been keeping in your BWB) and fill to 1/4 head space. Do the whole jar wiping, lidding process as for any other canning.  Process for time appropriate to your altitude – for me that is 10 minutes.

Conclusions:

The original recipe called for spicing of cinnamon, cloves et all – you know, the usual suspects. And I just wasn’t feeling that combo. It seems to be the combo that gets thrown into everything and it gets a little old. For apple butter I can see it – but the flavors are just too wintry for citrus as far as I am concerned. Coriander is one of my favorite spices, and it never gets to take center stage. Always in the chorus but never the Diva, now is it’s time. Or thyme. hehehe

Now the question is, other than toast – what shall I eat my concoction upon?

A Confession:

I was weak and I didn’t just buy oranges, there were Meyer lemons and how does one say no to Meyer lemons? Those bad boys are currently soaking in the ‘fridge all sliced up and mangled, biding their time. So obviously there will be a Citrus can jam version 2.0 in the near future.

Desperation makes you do funny things. My particular issue right now is the E-man’s refusal to eat vegetables. If it isn’t in the shape of a fry then he doesn’t want it in his mouth. Actually, that is not true. He will squash mashed potatoes in sometimes, others it is a tool of the devil. There was a short period of time where he would eat mashed sweet potatoes. No longer. Potatoes are also acceptable in chip shape – but the sweet potato chips received the cold shoulder. But like a mule I keep on trying.

For inspiration I frequently look to the blog Chow Mama because it is awesome. For the first time in my life I brought home kale from the Farmer’s Market and I made the much raved about Kale Chips. When they were done I  handed himself one and said “Chip” he took it dubliously and regarded it as if I had just handed him a deep fried roach to partake of. He nibbled off a small piece and promptly handed it back to me, no amount of entreaty would entice him into taking another one from my hand.

The implements of destruction

The implements of destruction

I had great hopes for Beet Chips. I worked hard on them. Busted out the fancy pants mandolin and made the most god-awful mess of my kitchen. Really, I expected to see Grissom walking through my door with his little briefcase (of course I would prefer Warrick or Nick, or both. Did you see the one episode where the body was in a pool and they did “odds ‘n evens” to see who had to go into the pool. My thought was whomever goes into the pool in their t-shirt I WIN!!!)

I sliced them as thin as possible – but apparently not thin enough. I tossed them lightly in olive oil – but apparently not lightly enough. Sprinkled lovingly with Kosher salt – but not … well you get the picture. I cooked them at the lowest my oven would go for about, oh, three days. Sorry, I exaggerate, but I cooked them for a long da@n time. Eventually I declared them done and yanked them out of the oven. After a more thorough search of the intarweb I found one person who helpfully noted that they do not harden up until they cool. WELL that would have been USEFUL about 3 hours ago …

Not being a big beet fan, I was skeptical – but they were pretty darn tasty. The few slices that I managed to get paper thin were bordering on delicious. Did the E-man like them?

Not a chance in H-E double hockey-sticks!

As with the Kale chips he dutifully sampled a molecule of one, and returned them to my hand. I packed them in lunches to play dates and he refused to eat them. The other children at the play dates LOVED them. I think I am giving up on veggie chips for awhile.