Newsletters: 13 Oct, 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 13 Oct, 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
Last week I got a request for green tomato recipes, and especially fried green tomatoes. When I was growing up, green tomatoes always went into relish (I never heard of fried green tomatoes until the movie came out) so I’ve given you my mom’s green tomato relish for the second recipe. About this time of year she’d start watching the weather forecast for frost (this was in Spokane, you see), and when it was likely to freeze she’d go out and pick all the tomatoes, ripe or not. The red ones got eaten right away, the green ones got put aside for relish, and the in-between ones went on the kitchen windowsill to see if they’d ripen (the cats always managed to knock at least one off, but they were too green to squish so Mom put up with it). Then the food grinder would come out and the relish-making would begin. This was a rather messy undertaking, because no matter what we did the grinder dripped. There was a big yellow plastic bowl that went on the floor under the grinder (the rest of the year it was used for popcorn) but it didn’t catch all the splashes. Everybody in the house took turns turning the handle (funny how Dad always had errands to run…) and the kitchen filled with steam from the sterilizing jars while we cranked, it seemed, for hours. Enjoy!

Fried green tomatoes
1/4 lb thick-sliced bacon, finely diced
1.5 lb green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 c coarse yellow cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
Fry bacon until just beginning to crisp. Reserve bacon and fat separately. Press tomato slices into cornmeal until well coated on both sides. Cook tomatoes in some of the bacon fat 5-6 min. on each side, until golden; wipe out pan between batches to avoid burning loose cornmeal. Season to taste and sprinkle with bacon bits.
From: Vegetables / James Peterson. William Morrow and Co., c1998.

Green tomato relish
Put the following through a food grinder (you can use food processor but a grinder gives a more even result):
24 med. green tomatoes, cored but not peeled
2 red peppers
4 green peppers
8 small onions
Add:
4 Tbsp. salt
Mix well. Let stand 2 hours. Drain. Squeeze out as much water as you can.
Heat:
2 cups sugar (up to 4 cups if you like sweeter relish)
3 cups vinegar
4 Tbsp. mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. celery seeds
Add tomato mixture; boil 10 minutes. Pack boiling into hot (sterilized) jars, cap with hot (sterilized) lids, and hope they seal. Unsealed jar(s) will keep all winter if refrigerated. Makes about 10 1/2 pints.
From: Dorothy Huffman’s recipe collection

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Newsletters: 15 Sept, 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 15 Sept, 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
As our thoughts turn more and more to the cold weather to come, many start to think about saving the wonderful summer flavors. Poking around in my old canning and preserving books, I came across these interesting-sounding recipes (well, actually, I came across a lot of interesting-sounding recipes, so we may be seeing more from this little collection in the coming weeks).

Yellow Tomato Preserves
2 qt. yellow cherry tomatoes (about 3 lb)
3 c sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
1/4 c thinly sliced candied ginger
After washing and drying tomatoes, cut a thin slice from the blossom end and press out the seeds, keeping tomatoes otherwise whole. Combine tomatoes, sugar, and salt; simmer slowly until sugar dissolves. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring. Boil gently 40 min. until it thickens, then add lemon and ginger. Boil another 10 min, stirring often. Fill about 4 hot, sterilized jars (8 oz. each) and seal immediately.

October butter
8 med. cooking apples, chopped
2 large firm Anjou pears, chopped
3 c orange juice
2 sticks cinnamon
2 c mashed ripe banana (3-4 bananas)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
half as much sugar as fruit pulp (see below)
Chop apples and pears into small pieces without peeling or coring. Cook, covered, with orange juice and cinnamon over med. heat until very soft, 45 min.-1 hr. Put through a food mill, discarding skins and seeds. Combine with banana and lemon juice and boil gently, stirring frequently, until thick enough to mound slightly on a spoon. Measure and return to pan; add half as much sugar (e.g. 3 c sugar to 6 c fruit). Continue boiling and stirring another 20-25 min. until thickened. Fill about 5 hot, sterilized jars (8 oz. each) and seal immediately.

Both from: The how-to book : canning, freezing, drying / written and compiled by Anne Borella ; Barbara Bloch, ed. Benjamin Co., 1976.

Books!
One more book on preserving, and a fun one I came across while looking up something else entirely.

Canning & preserving your own harvest : an encyclopedia of country living / Carla Emery & Lorene Edwards Forkner. Sasquatch Books, c2009.

The hungry scientist handbook : electric birthday cakes, edible origami, and Other DIY projects for techies, tinkerers, and foodies / by Patrick Buckley and Lily Binns. Harper, 2008.

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Newsletters: 24 Aug 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 24 Aug 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Tomatoes are native to central America and were cultivated by the Aztecs. They belong to the nightshade family, which also includes chili peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. This may be why people in some places and times have been leery of eating them. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, manganese, and the anti-oxidant lycopene, which gives them their red color. Other flavinoid compounds in tomatoes are good for the eyes. Tomatoes are also helpful against urinary tract infections, skin ailments, diabetes, thrombosis (blood clots), inflammation, and hypertension. Cooking tomatoes actually makes the lycopene more accessible, especially when eaten with a little fat or oil — so it could be argued that spaghetti is a health food (I’ll take any excuse I can get).

In the kitchen
With much less fanfare than the carrots, apricots, and blueberries, the humble cabbage has arrived at the market. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing to do with cabbage is shred it and fry it up in bacon fat, but many people prefer to make it into cole slaw or sauerkraut.

Sweet and sour cole slaw
6 c (1 lb.) red or green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt or 1 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. celery seed
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 c rice wine vinegar (use cider vinegar if making ahead)
pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients but oil, vinegar, and pepper; let stand in a colander 1-4 hours, until cabbage wilts. Discard drained liquid and remove to bowl; add oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Season to taste. May be refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days.
Variation: add 1 tsp. curry powder, 1 peeled, chopped apple, and 1/4 c raisins with the oil and vinegar.
From: The best recipe / by the editors of Cook’s illustrated. Boston Common Press, c1999.

Mixed pickles (aka Compost)
2 lb. mixed parsley roots, carrots, radishes, turnips, peeled, thinly sliced
1 lb. white cabbage, cored and shredded
1 lb. hard eating pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
6 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. saffron strands
2 c white wine vinegar, divided
2 oz. currants
2.5 c fruity white wine
6 Tbsp. clear honey
1 tsp. French mustard
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. anise seed
1/4 tsp. fennel seed
2 oz. white sugar
Slowly bring root vegetables and cabbage to a boil in a large pan of water; add pears. Cook until pears start to soften; drain and spread in a 2-inch layer in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Sprinkle with salt, ginger, saffron, and 4 Tbsp. vinegar. Cover and let sit 12 hours. Rinse well and add currants. Pack into sterilized jars, leaving at least 1 inch headspace. Bring wine and honey to a simmer; skim. Add remaining ingredients, including the rest of the vinegar. Reduce heat and stir without boiling until sugar dissolves. Return to a boil and pour over vegetables, covering them by 1/2 inch. Cover with vinegar-proof seals.
From: The medieval cookbook / Maggie Black. British Museum Press, c1992.

Cabbage the Athenian way
1 small white cabbage, finely sliced, washed, drained
2 heaped tsp. chopped fresh green coriander in oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh or dried rue
3 Tbsp. honey vinegar
2 pinches asafoetida powder
salt
Toss cabbage with coriander, rue, and honey vinegar. Sprinkle with asafeotida powder and salt.

Honey vinegar
1/2 c honey
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Bring honey to a boil and skim. Add vinegar; continue boiling until it reduces a little.
From: The classical cookbook / Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. J. Paul Getty Museum, c1996.

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Tomatoes

native to: western South America and possibly the Galapagos Islands
in season here: late summer-fall
TomatoStrip
The specific nutrients in tomatoes vary by variety and also by season, but one of the big ones is lycopene, an antioxidant that has been linked to bone health. Surprisingly, it’s actually the orange tomatoes that are best in this case, because they proved to have a more readily absorbed kind of lycopene than red tomatoes, but they’re all good sources. Tomatoes, especially fresh ones, have also been linked to heart health, lower cholestrol levels, and decreased risk of various cancers and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. They’re excellent sources of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and manganese, as well as some important phytonutrients. As with cucumbers, the seeds of the tomato are particularly nutritious.

All this healthiness is rather ironic, because the tomato is a member of the solanaceae family and a close relative of the nightshade or belladonna, a popular source of the poison atropine. According to popular legend, the tomato was once shunned for this connection, although there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support the idea rather than, say, a general disinclination to grow and eat unfamiliar foods. Other members of this family are potatoes, eggplants, and chili peppers, so it’s not a generally dangerous group of plants. However, the leaves of the tomato contain high concentrations of dangerous alkaloids, so for once you really should stick to just the fruit (or, technically, berries). There is even some anecdotal evidence that avoiding tomatoes may lessen symptoms of arthritis, although this hasn’t been confirmed by any scientific studies.

Although tomatoes originated in South America, they were probably first cultivated in Mexico by the Aztecs, in the form of yellow cherry tomatoes (the name may come from the Aztec word tomatl, meaning “swelling fruit”). They hit Europe in the 1500s and spread pretty quickly for the time. Today China grows the most tomatoes. When you buy canned tomatoes, it’s a good idea to look for ones produced in the US, since the high acid content of tomatoes makes the metals in the cans more likely to be picked up by the contents (this is also why it is generally recommended to avoid cooking tomatoes in aluminum) and some countries aren’t as strict about the lead content of their containers. There has been some concern about BPA in the vinyl linings we often see in tomato cans, but recent studies have found that while there is some, the levels are very low, about 1/600 of the maximum safe level — so low, in fact, that organic tomatoes are allowed to keep that description even after being canned in a vinyl-lined container (you have to look for a “BPA-free” label to avoid it entirely).

When I was a child in Spokane, my mother always watched the fall weather forecasts closely and when the first killing frost was predicted she would strip all the tomato plants in the garden. The tomatoes that were nearly ripe would go on a sunny windowsill to ripen (more recent advice is to put them in a paper bag with a banana or apple to provide maturation-encouraging ethylene gas) and the not-a-chance green ones would be made into green tomato relish in a row of pint or jelly jars in the pantry (except for the couple of jars that didn’t seal, and there were always one or two, that had to go into the refrigerator until we used them up). She would make the relish after lunch and then we’d spend the rest of the afternoon and evening counting the pings and pops as the jars sealed, each one a tiny victory.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw tomatoes
Tomato Dirt has facts, recipes, and even costumes
a long and thorough article at whfoods
WebMD

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Green tomato relish

This is traditionally made in the fall when the first real frost is predicted and all the remaining tomatoes, ripe or not, are brought inside.

Put through a food grinder (you can use food processor but a grinder gives a more even result):
24 med. green tomatoes, cored but not peeled
2 red sweet peppers
4 green sweet peppers
8 small onions

Add:
4 Tbsp. salt

Mix well. Let stand 2 hours. Drain. Squeeze out as much water as you can.

Heat:
2 cups sugar (up to 4 cups if you like sweeter relish)
3 cups vinegar
4 Tbsp. mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. celery seeds

Add tomato mixture; boil 10 minutes. Pack boiling into hot (sterilized) jars, cap with hot (sterilized) lids, and hope they seal. Unsealed jar(s) will keep all winter if refrigerated.

Makes about 10 1/2 pints.

From: Isa Reim, as told to Dorothy Huffman in the 1970s.

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Tomato ketchup

4 gallons ripe tomatoes, washed and stemmed
2 onions, washed and papery outer layers removed
5 stalks celery, washed
2 green sweet peppers, washed and stemmed
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. ground gloves
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. salt

Cook tomatoes, onions, celery and peppers together until soft and mushy. Force through a food press or very fine strainer into a soup kettle and add the remaining ingredients. Boil 10 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes about 6 Pints.

Source unknown.

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.