Homegrown Chili

Homegrown Everblossom chili ingredients

Homegrown Everblossom chili ingredients

This is the most locally produced chili I could possibly imagine – thanks to my family. My Dad raised the beef, my sister the beans, garlic, tomatoes, chili pepper, onion and kale. My husband’s grandpa’s farm grows the corn and roasts the corn meal for the sweet corn muffins I serve with it. Put together with a half-decent recipe, it makes for a chili better than good. If I think too much about it, the effort put forth to make that meal is astounding, and I’ll get sappy and perhaps attach more meaning to hamburger and beans than is deserved. On the other hand, I can’t help but believe that when so many people work so hard to perfect their product, you can’t help but taste that difference.

I used a mix of Elaine’s dried black beans and cranberry beans. Please note that the cranberry beans take extra time to soften and you may want to cook those separately ahead of time. Cooking them ahead would greatly reduce the time it would take to simmer the combined chili. In a slow cooker, I cooked the beans all together in the chili and it just took a bit longer for it all to be ready — after I soak the beans and brown the beef, I allow everything to simmer in a slow cooker, 4 hours on high and 2 on low.

1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pound ground beef
1 quart whole tomatoes and their juice, chopped roughly or squished with your hands
2 cups beans, black and cranberry beans, pre-soaked
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 dried chili, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1 bunch kale, chopped small

Saute the onion, garlic and beef until browned. Don’t drain it and transfer all of it to the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes and their juice.

squishing the tomatoes

squishing the tomatoes

 

Add the beans and all the spices – below, Ava presents a mix of pre-soaked cranberry beans and black beans.

Ava and the beans

Ava and the beans

 

Chop the kale very small if you want to hide it from others who do not understand. I used the curly kale. When cooked, it becomes impossible to detect and gives a huge vitamin boost to your chili!

the incredibly vanishing kale

the incredible vanishing kale

Cook together in the slow cooker until the beans are tender to chew, approximately 4 hours on high and 2 hours on low. As I mentioned, the cranberry beans will take longer because they are bigger and firmer.

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Sweet Corn Salsa

Evrblossom Sweet Corn Salsa

Evrblossom Sweet Corn Salsa

Who doesn’t love a gift with purchase? This week our members get a little jar of sunshine with their share – a quart of canned Everblossom tomatoes.

There’s nothing like heat in your food to help warm up on the 20 degree days of December. So, let’s try a salsa recipe; it uses those tomatoes, plus the garlic, cayenne peppers, and onion you have been getting. The garden-fresh taste of these tomatoes will wake you up from your winter hibernation, but the magic ingredient in this recipe is the sweet-as-honey corn we froze this summer (or a nice organic choice form the supermarket).

1 medium onion, diced small

1 smaller-size clove of the giant Everblossom garlic, minced

1 cayenne pepper (little dried red), seeds removed and minced

5 or 6 medium heirloom tomatoes, or the equivalent, diced – about the contents of your quart jar, drained and chopped

1/2 cup frozen sweet corn – thawed

1 large handful cilantro leaves, stems removed and chopped

Salt to taste – I like almost a 1/4 teaspoon

Squeeze of lime juice from the quarter of a lime

Add all ingredients to a large serving bowl and mix well. Serve with tortilla chips.

Kitchen Notes:  Try making your own tortilla chips! Brush flour tortillas with olive oil; salt lightly; cut into triangles and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Audrey likes sweet corn salsa

Audrey likes sweet corn salsa

A Better BLT

a better BLT

It’s hard to improve on a classic, but we certainly can take the standard Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato sandwich and maximize those few ingredients.

Tonight’s dinner conversation with our dear little girl started with, “What’s a BLT?” Seems like a great place to start here too:

  • B is for Bacon from Nell’s Butcher Shop in East Berlin, PA. Oh, it’s pretty prefect. Just look at it.
  • B.2 is for Bread, really good “artisan” bread from Lark Rise Bakery’s CSA based out of Loysville, PA. Toast your bread and spread on your favorite mayo.
  • L is for Lettuce – in this version it’s Everblossom’s organic peppery arugula and salad mix. Its texture and spice makes the sandwich pop.
  • T is for a sweet, ripe, organic heirloom Tomato from Everblossom Farm.

Earlier in summer when basil is also brightening our table, it is also my secret  ingredient to brighten my BLT. Use it in place of lettuce or alongside Elaine’s butter crunch variety. Yuh uh um.

 

Buttermilk Dressing served over a salad of boiled potatoes, tomatoes and peas

A simple salad of boiled potatoes, tomatoes and peas drizzled with buttermilk dressing

A simple salad of boiled potatoes, tomatoes and peas drizzled with buttermilk dressing

STILL have buttermilk left over? What do you like to make with it? And, why do they sell it in such big containers? We originally bought buttermilk to make some good old fashioned Pennsylvania Dutch sugar cakes and then went searching for inspiration on what to do with the rest. Cinnamon Bread and Eggplant Gratin (see previous post) did not use it all. So, we moved on to salad dressing…try it over this week’s peppery salad mix!

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup buttermilk

3 teaspoons champagne vinegar

1/4 cup chives, finely chopped

Pinch of salt

Liberal amount of freshly ground pepper

Chunky Heirloom Tomato Sauce

The big pink Belgian Beauty with a salty Green Zebra and the abundant plum tomato.

The big pink Belgian Beauty with a salty Green Zebra and the abundant plum tomato.

Always wish you had a sweet Italian grandma and your very own family tomato sauce recipe? Well, here’s a way to fake it. The Amish Paste tomatoes that Elaine has been growing for us are great for sauce, but using an assortment of the heirloom tomatoes is just oh so old world. This is a very quick sauce compared to one you must leave on the stove all day – thinner but bright and flavorful. It uses your Everblossom onion, garlic, pepper and tomatoes. It is enough for 2 servings of pasta at least.

8 good pours of extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 of a small chili pepper, seeded and minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 ½ quarts assorted heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped – I recommend using at least some “Amish Paste”

A pinch of sea salt and fresh-ground pepper

A pinch of sugar

Leaves from a handful of oregano sprigs (about ½ cup of loose leaves), chopped

Splash of your favorite wine

Shaved parmesan cheese for serving

Elaine's heirlooms. Including Amish Paste, top left and Striped German top right.

Elaine’s heirlooms. Including Amish Paste, top left and my favorite Striped German top right.

  • In a large sauté pan, add oil, onion, and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic toward the end so it doesn’t burn.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and cook until they are very soft and watery, about 15 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar and reduce heat to medium.
  • Stir in oregano and a splash of wine and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Keep sauce on low heat until your pasta is ready. Serve with big shavings of parmesan cheese

You can substitute basil for the oregano, or add basil in addition. Add more chili pepper if you like more heat.

Canning Heirloom Tomatoes in Tomato Juice

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Our Aunt Jeanne has been preserving her garden through canning for over 40 years. So, when she offered to teach my sister, Elaine, how to do it, I jumped at the chance…to butt in and take over…No, I mean of course to take advantage of her generous offer. This is Aunt Jeanne’s method. You can find the main parts in a basic book on canning, but there are some small steps that are all her. Those are my favorite parts. The mistakes, on the other hand, are all mine.

The best laid plans

In mid-August we started by tackling tomatoes in my kitchen surrounded by friends.  Still, I felt so intimidated. I had anxiously prepared the night before. I had three gallon bags of whole tomatoes blanched and peeled waiting in the fridge.  I had a hot dishwasher full of sterilized jars, lids (flats) and rings…oops. Lesson #1: Do not put the flat lid parts in the dishwasher or any hot water before it’s time.

My Aunt Jeanne is not a fussy lady. So, when she was adamant that the flat lids of the canning process must be treated very carefully and is the one part of the system you should never wash in advance, nor heat to any degree before you’re ready and certainly never re-use, I had to throw them away and get new.  Actually my husband ran to the hardware store to buy us more. So much for planning ahead! Honestly, I was surprised at the lack of comments or warnings anywhere on my jar equipment about this.

Finally, we got started. Canning requires your full attention and each step is important. Over the years Aunt Jeanne says she has made every mistake possible. Little did she know I had a new one in store for her. Because I had peeled my tomatoes the night before, they had spent all night draining their juices. So, days later after they were canned and cozy on my cellar shelf, I noticed they were low on juice. The jars looked half empty! Tomatoes were exposed to the air in the jar at the top. We had no idea how this could happen. I had temporarily stumped my guru. Then Jeanne called – she had remembered my attempt to work ahead. Tomatoes are spongey and my previously drained ones dried out enough that when we submerged them back in the juice in the jar, they soaked it up!

Over time it was likely that those tomatoes exposed to air would get rubbery or worse. So, I had to re-can our seven lovely jars of tomatoes. And lesson #2  was learned: Do not work ahead when it comes to canning.

Re-canning

They say it’s important to make your mistakes early. This holds true in canning. You certainly want to know right away if something’s gone wrong. You do not want to realize this months later when you go to retrieve your little jar full of high hopes and big plans.

I made a few mistakes in my first attempts, but nothing spectacular. The worst was during the re-processing of my jars now filled to the jar lip with hot tomato juice. The first jar I lowered into the boiling water popped. Oops, and then there were six.  I was disappointed, but quickly felt relieved that it happened early and my other six jars were safe on dry land.  My mistake, and Lesson #3, was that the canner water was too hot – the jars from my cool cellar were too cool. I picked out the big glass jar pieces as my tomatoes oozed out into the water. After cleaning it all out, I started again, but this time, I brought my jars and the surrounding water slowly up to boiling together.

Don’t be intimidated, but do be ready to focus

I only share my experience and mistakes in the hope it will demystify the process and that you will try canning and have a quicker path to success. It is so rewarding to hear your jars seal with a satisfying kiss of the cooling tomatoes sucking the lid tight to the jar. The sound of success! I don’t want you to miss out on that.

Canning tomatoes in tomato juice

The Equipment:

  • Have clean jars and rings ready.  Have new flats (or “lids”) waiting in their pristine untouched condition.
  • We used a canner to process the tomatoes – a large kettle with a lid and a metal insert that holds 7 or 9 jars.
  • For juice making use a chinoispronounced shin’-wah, a conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh, its stand for over a pot, a wooden pestle, and two large pots.
  • A ladle
  • A funnel that fits your jars.
  • Tongs made for lifting jars.

The Ingredients:

  • Assorted whole peeled tomatoes – 3 1-gallon bags of tomatoes will fill 7 quart jars, leaving room for juice.
  • Assorted varieties of tomatoes for juice – Smaller varieties and “seconds” are great for this.  You’ll need about 10 quarts of tomatoes to make enough juice to cover your whole tomatoes. Or, use at least twice that amount to also make jars of just juice — enough to fill a 16 to 18 quart pot
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • Coarse salt

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Peeling and preparing tomatoes:

  • Heat a large pot of water until simmering.
  • Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato. Working in batches, blanch tomatoes for 3 minutes or until peels start to crack and peel away. Transfer to a bowl of ice cubes and after cool enough to handle, easily pull off the skins and cut away the tough or bad parts.
  • Place peeled tomatoes into jars, filling each up until just beneath the lip of the jar.
  • Add a pinch of salt in each.

Making the Juice and assembling the jars:

  • Use an assortment of tomatoes for the best flavor – enough to fill a 16 to 18 quart pot.  Cut them in half and remove any bad spots. No need to peel them.
  • Add 2 stalks of celery roughly chopped and one onion cut into eighths.
  • Cook in a large, 16 to 18 quart pot on medium heat with 2 teaspoons of salt.
the makings of tomato juice

the makings of tomato juice

  • Stir with a long spoon, moving tomatoes from the bottom until soft and dissolving, about 30 minutes.
  • Strain tomato mixture through the chinois sieve, using the pestle to strain juice into another large pot.
a chinois training tomato juice

a chinois straining tomato juice

  • Put juice back on stove to heat over medium/high.
  • Heat the water in the canner until water is boiling.  Cover until you’re ready.
  • Put only the number of flats you will use at this time (7) in a small saucepan of water on the low heat.
  • Ladle the juice into the first jar, covering the tomatoes so that the liquid reaches the bottom of the lip of the jar where the threads start. Wipe the rim with a clean damp cloth. Carefully lift out one flat from the warm water with a fork and your fingertips – but with minimal touching. Place it on the jar. Screw on the ring snugly, or finger-tight. Repeat for all seven jars.
  • Carefully place all jars in the boiling water of the canner at the same time. Cover and process for 45 minutes.
jars in the canner

jars in the canner

  • Remove processed jars to a kitchen towel and cover with another one. Covering the jars is one of those Aunt Jeanne steps that keeps the jars warm and cozy, but is optional when it gets right down to it. I, however, will always cover mine for good luck.
  • Check the lids in 4 to 5 hours  by pressing on the centers of each lid. If a lid gives, refrigerate it. If there is no movement, success!
heaven-sent jars of heirloom tomatoes

heaven-sent jars of heirloom tomatoes

If you have extra tomato juice, while it’s hot, pour into jars 1/2 inch from the top; wipe the rim; add a warm flat; screw on the ring until tight and let rest under a towel. There is no need to process jars of juice in the canner. Make sure they seal after 4 or 5 hours just as you did the others.

Keema: An Indian Curry

Keema in process

Keema in process

Serves 4

A wonderful friend made Keema for my daughter, Audrey, and me one weekend our families were away together. She is an experienced cook and knows the luxury of a dinner you can hold in the oven at 200 degrees until everybody’s ready. She serves it with shredded coconut, perfectly tender roasted carrots, and only with basmati rice. I, however, am a little less strict about ingredients and have found that jasmine rice is also quite nice.

Use your Everblossom chard, onion, garlic, basil and tomatoes.

This has become such a family favorite, I triple this recipe and put the other two batches in the freezer.

3 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons sesame oil, or peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of Swiss chard, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (cilantro or parsley is good here too)
1 pound ground beef
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
6 to 8 ripe plum-sized tomatoes or equivalent
10 ounces frozen peas

  • Prepare rice according to package instructions. Hold separately.
  • Sauté curry powder in oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions and brown. Add garlic, chard and basil and stir. Add meat and brown.
  • Blanch tomatoes in hot water until you can remove peels easily; finely chop.
  • Add salt and peeled, chopped tomatoes; cover. Cook over low heat for about 20 to 25 minutes. Add peas, mix in, cover again, and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Serve over rice

Important: Do not use a black cast iron skillet or wooden spoons; the curry powder will get in the pores. A silicon scraper may also be dyed yellow.

Quick Panzanella with Cucumber

Cucumber Panzanella

Bread Salad!

Panzanella is a Florentine salad of bread and tomatoes. That’s right; it is a salad with bread as a main ingredient! It includes chunks of stale bread soaked in oil and vinegar dressing and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil. My quick version has just three main ingredients: chewy bread, juicy tomatoes and sweet cucumber, so they need to be the best quality.

This year I am part of the Lark Rise Bakery bread share and it is some of the best bread I have ever had.  I used cubes of their ciabatta this time. I also love to toss this all in store-bought Gazebo Room Greek salad dressing. As promised, my version is very quick.

Lark Rise Bakery Ciabatta

Lark Rise Bakery Ciabatta

  • 1 chopped cucumber, about 2 cups
  • 1 big handful of tomatoes, chopped, about 2 cups
  • 2 cups of cubed high-quality bread,  stale or toasted slightly
  • 1/2 cup of a favorite Greek, Italian, or oil and vinegar dressing, more if needed.

Combine all the lovely chopped ingredients and toss them in the dressing. It will be best if the flavors can marinate by sitting at room temperature for 20 minutes or so before serving.

Cooking in Foil Packets

Elaine likes to whip up foil packet feasts in the summer. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. This method makes cooking large amounts really easy – and no pots to clean. Cook these packets in the oven, on the grill, or on campfire cinders. Either way you’ll find that it seems to heighten the flavor as all the ingredients steam together.

the root foil packet

“root” foil packet with thyme

Make a foil packet: take a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, generously sized, but appropriate to the amount you plan to cook. Drizzle with olive oil; add prepared veg; fold together opposite sides of the foil, rolling down a few times, but leave a little space for the steam to circulate. Then, fold up each end to seal.

Cook in a pre-heated oven at about 375oF or grill at medium heat until contents are fork tender.

  • Root Packet: Cut into even pieces your choice of potatoes, onions, beets, and carrots. Drizzle with olive oil; add sprigs of thyme, parsley or your favorite herb, salt, and pepper. Cook approximately 15 minutes.
  • Rustic Ratatouille: Evenly chop summer squash, tomatoes, garlic, and peppers. Drizzle with olive oil; add choice of herbs like oregano, thyme, parsley. Cook approximately 15 minutes. Serve over pasta or rice.
  • Chard: Rinse and chop or rip the leaves and stems of a large bunch of Swiss chard. Add to packet with some olive oil. Add juice of half lemon and then toss in the lemon too. You can also add a slice of tomato to help the steaming process. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Roasted Garlic: There is no easier way to enjoy the sweet nutty goodness of roasted garlic for making garlic mashed potatoes, garlic bread, or bruschetta. Use cloves or bulbs of garlic (peeling optional), drizzle in olive oil, and wrap in foil. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until tender. The soft sweet garlic will squeeze right out of the peel.
  • Roasted Onion: Leave the peel on an onion to prevent it from burning. Cross-cut ¾ of the way down the top of an onion and stuff it with rosemary, thyme, and a hunk of butter.  Add salt and pepper; wrap in foil. Cook for about 10 minutes or until softened through.