Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation, Final Class Project: Balsamic Mulberry Jam

I've been picking boat loads (up to 16 cups) of mulberries off my tree every day.  They fall to the ground faster than I can pick them.  My refrigerator overflows with them.  I had to jam just to make room for more mulberries.  I jammed them a couple years ago, which went well but I made a few adjustments this time.

I really enjoyed using the pectin from the seeds & pith of citrus for marmalade, and I hope to get a hold of under ripe apples in the future to make my own pectin for jams (especially since I'm having a hard time finding organic pectin), but that didn't happen this year so I've bought the boxed stuff from OB People's Co-op. This is a citrus-derived pectin that uses calcium to jell the pectin; this allows me to use less sugar in the jam or to use honey, which I like.

I de-stemmed my mulberries by hand, which takes forever, because I wanted the fruit to stay as intact as possible, making more of a preserve texture (it also makes a dark purple mess but because the color is naturally sourced, the stains come out washing up with soap and water).  It still ends up pretty mashed (cuz the stem runs down through the middle of the fruit).

4 cups smashed mulberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I picked up a lovely one last time I was in the SF Ferry Building from Stonehouse)
1 tablespoon calcium water (add calcium packet to 1/2 cup filtered water in a small jar and shake)
1 tablespoon pectin powder
2 cups rapadura sugar (this will give it a deep molasses-y flavor and won't screw up the color cuz the berries are so dark)

I clean and sterlize jars and keep lids in hot water.  I follow the directions on the pectin box (and do all the stuff properly how I was taught in class and from reading the text, but here's the streamlined version):
Heat the fruit with the acid and calcium water to a boil; mix the sugar and pectin together and then add to the fruit, stirring to dissolve.  Return the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.  Fill jars leaving 1/4 inch head space, add lids and rings (not too tight).  Boil jars for 5 minutes on a canning rack.  Remove from water bath and let sit, undisturbed overnight.

I got 5 cups of jam from this recipe.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation, Part 4: Marmalade!

I've made jam a couple times before but because you've got to be exact, I've found the process intimidating to take on by myself.  But it's ever-so-fun in a group.  Get a good source for detailed instructions: our text is great (and cheap), Preserving Summer's Bounty, there's of course lots of info online, and it's a good idea to follow the directions on the box (if you get your pectin in a box).

There is a good deal of equipment needed for jamming:
  • large pot
  • canning rack that will fit into said pot
  • canning jars (can be reused)
  • new lids (these can't be heated twice)
  • rings (can be reused)
Not technically required but very useful:
  • magnetic lid wand (sounds dumb but keeps scorching hot lids sterile)
  • jar lifter (basically tongs with grip)
  • wide-mouthed funnel
  • thin spatula to scrape inside of filled jars to remove any air bubbles
Yes, it's a bit labor intenstive (cleaning and sterilizing all jars and such ahead of time...) but the results are pretty amazing and cheap (especially if you're growing it or foraging) and all your loved ones will feel so fortunate if they get some.

We burnt the marmarlade (ever so slightly) and it was good!  So let's just call it caramelized:

Orange Marmalade
3 pounds (about 12 small) oranges: ours were assorted varieties from Dennis, who can be found at the Little Italy and other SD farmers markets, including low acid vanilla pinks and blood oranges, which gave the marmalade a rich, dark color.
1 Eureka lemon
1 Meyer lemon
4 cups filtered water
4 cups sugar (we used evaporated cane)

Scrub the fruit clean. I do not use soap (yuck); just rubbing and water.

Cut in half and juice the oranges (you need 2 cups of juice), saving all the seeds & membranes in a muslin bag or cheesecloth (cuz we're making our own pectin!)  Scrape the white pith (and save in the bag) from the oranges.  Julienne the peels (for 4 cups).

Cut Eureka lemon in half and juice.  Add the juice to the orange juice. Add the seeds, membranes and peel to the bag.

Cut the Meyer in 8ths, lengthwise.  Remove seeds and membranes and add them to the bag.  Slice the Meyer sections into thin triangles.

Put the juice, peels, Meyer triangles, water & muslin bag (closed tight, let the string hang over the edge but don't let it catch on fire) in a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Bring to a boil and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring so the fruit and bag doesn't stick to the bottom and burn (like we did, but hey, it still tasted great).

Remove from heat.  Transfer bag to a bowl and allow to cool.  Measure the marmalade mixture and for every cup, add 7/8 cup of sugar.  When the bag is cool enough to handle, squeeze the pectin juices into the marmalade mix (and then compost the bag contents).

Heat the marmalade back up to a rapid boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently (which we did so we didn't burn it anymore).  Secure a candy thermometer in your mixture (did I mention how much equipment jamming requires?), making sure it does not touch the pot.  You want to get the temp up to 220-222 degrees so it will jell.  There are other ways to tell if it's jelled, but those are a bit too esoteric for me.

Fill sterilized jars (that you've been keeping in hot water), scrape down side to remove any air bubbles, clean head space & outer threads with a clean, damp cloth, add lids & rings (that you've been keeping in hot water), not super tight, and process in 180 degree water bath for 5 minutes.

Again, follow all instructions (from a resource other than this streamlined post).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My First - and Best - Hot Sauce: Chipotle

I've been wanting to make hot sauce for a while.  My spouse loves it but it's hard to find a really good one with wholesome & organic ingredients.  So when the deli put one out that I particularly enjoyed, I asked how they made it.

Based on Daniel's recipe at OB People's deli...

1/2 cup whole dried New Mexican chilis, stems removed
1/4 cup whole dried chipotle chilis, stems removed
4 fresh medium heirloom tomatoes
1 fresh anaheim chili
1 head garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Roast fresh chili, garlic and tomato at 400 degrees until soft and blistered; remove stems (and skin & seeds if desired). 

Heat vinegar with equal parts filtered water and simmer all ingredients together until dried chilis are soft (this could take a few hours).  Blend all ingredients until smooth. Add more vinegar and/or water for desired consistency.

My spouse was very excited when trying the sauce and immediately started listing the food he would eat it on (vegetarian tacos, vegetable hash, poached eggs, hash browns, nachos...)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation: Part 3

Lacto-Fermented Veggies
Last week's class returned to fermentation, using sauerkraut juice or whey (products of the previous 2 classes) to ferment non-Brassica veggies and pico de gallo.  I visited the SD Public Market just before class to pick up my veggies from Suzie's Farm.  I stuffed a small jar with small carrots scrubbed clean and cut in half, and another jar with small golden beets, peeled and quartered.  I forgot to put my herbs and spices in first, so I then add a few peppercorns, fresh cilantro, a bay leaf (to keep the veggies crisp) and a dried hot pepper to the carrots, and peppercorns, fresh dill and a bay leaf to the beets.  I used cup jars, so I added 1/2 tablespoon of sauerkraut juice to each jar.  I made a brine by dissolving 3 tablespoons of course sea salt to a quart of water, and covered the veggies with the brine.

My veggies were packed tight so I didn't think I needed to weigh them down to keep them submerged in the liquid; I just set the lid on loose and put the jars in a cool, dark space.  Well, a few days later when i came back to check for mold, all of the herbs and spices (that I forgot to put in first) had floated to the top are were moldy.  So I removed them and the mold and put the veggies in the fridge.

Fermented Pico de Gallo (Salsa Fresca)
8 Roma tomatoes (they will keep their firmness), diced
1/4 very large onion, diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 small hot peppers of unknown variety, minced (I wear gloves to do this as to avoid later touching my face with capsaicin hands)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 1/2 teaspoons whey or sauerkraut juice

After mixing all my ingredients and adding them to a quart jar, I wasn't sure if I had used sauerkraut or whey, so I added about 1/2 tablespoon of salt and added whey to cover the salsa in liquid, loosely covered with the lid, and stored in a cool, dark place. When I checked it a few days later, no mold, but it was bubbling over and making a mess, so it went into the fridge.  It tastes way too sour so I think I over did it on the whey.

Poor Man's Capers 
(I made this recipe times 4 in a quart jar for the whole class to split into small jars next week)
3/4 cup young nasturtium seed pods
1/2 head of garlic cloves
sea salt

Cover with salty brine and...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation Part 2

In our next class we made cheese and yogurt, as well as dehydrated mushrooms & kale chips.

For yogurt, we heated pasteurized milk up to 160 degrees with a couple vanilla beans (split & scraped), let it cool to 110 degrees, added "starter" (store-bought Strauss whole plain yogurt) and divided it up between us to take home and incubate. I tried to warm my little jar of yogurt is setting in the oven on the "warm" setting, which was too hot, killed the microbes, and my yogurt did not set.  But others in the class said their yogurt set just fine and was lovely, so I need to find a different warming method.  I'd like to get a hold of a dehydrator cuz that would be perfect.  I could also try a hot water bottle wrapped together in a blanket, or use my soup maker to hold warm water and the yogurt. They make special yogurt makers but I'm not into unitaskers. 

With a new focus on preservation, I'm looking for more ideas.  I traded some backyard chicken eggs for lavender and lemons and made preserved lemons, which was super fast and easy.  Now I need to wait a month and see how they turn out. They sure smell good!