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Volume 41 Issue 17 • Sept. 1-7, 2011
now in our 41th season

Saving Harvest

by Jenn Farmer - Chef and Food Fancier

Harvest season is my favorite time of year.  I find it so satisfying to eat a plump juicy tomato that still has the scent of earth and salt air to it.  I love it best when it so fresh that it is still warm from the sun. I always eat the first one I pick from the garden as it is. Then I begin plotting what I will make first from this harvest.   Nobody wants to forget that moment. There is something about the fresh taste and sunshine especially on a cool autumn day… I cannot describe how intoxicating that can be.

One way I try to savor some of that sunshine on a cold winter day is by preserving some of my harvest.  I love to try new recipes and preserving techniques. I really have grown to love fermented foods (sounds gross, but so good!).  Kim Chee, is one of my favorites.  It has many admirable attributes.  It’s healthy, because it contains probiotics, which are good for us. It also contains spice and salt which is good in hot weather, since it helps us drink more fluids.  Also the spice is good for helping warm one up in the winter.  Who knew that my favorite spicy side dish was good for me to eat?  In Korean cuisine in particular, they really are masters at the art of making fermented foods.  As part of a meal they routinely have several pickled vegetables for sides and as condiments. I like the ritual of it, and the diversity of it, and the layers of flavors you can create.

I also love canning different styles of sauces and vegetables and fruit.  One of my favorite things to do in the winter has always been opening that first jar of homemade marinara.  We made it very simply, and it seemed to retain the taste of summer with the rich flavor of tomatoes, and basil.  We would slowly simmer the onions and the thin garlic in good olive oil.   Then add the tomatoes and let it cook down.  The last addition to the pot was always fresh herbs salt and pepper.  The oregano, marjoram, and basil were all finely minced to release as much flavor as possible.  Sometimes even a little fine rosemary, red wine, and capers were added for a robust sauce.  Another great recipe for tomatoes is salsa.  I had a friend in Iowa (of all places) that made the best salsa ever.  It was very hot but had a sweet undertone.  Everyone brought corn chips to his parties in hopes he would break out the salsa. 

I had one friend who was very creative with a food dehydrator.  He was a little obsessed by it, in fact; he had ones for drying food in the sun or by plugging them in or even by using the heat of his oven.  My favorite thing he would make was a very spicy sliced tomato in the dehydrator.  They were an interesting chewy texture and a little addicting to snack on.  The tomato flavor was intensified by the drying process.  They were much like sundried tomatoes, but thinner.  Great in salad or on a pizza. 

Then there is the good old freezer.  I actually like freezing baked goods, like zucchini bread. I think they taste good, and hold up well.  Sometimes I just freeze the pre-portioned ingredients for breads too.  For example, I make banana bread often, so when the bananas are super ripe, I will mash and measure them into freezer bags, then I just get one out when I want to bake.  Same with zucchini, I will grate it up and freeze it in portions for my favorite recipes (I do label and date them).  It is a great way to preserve the flavors of summer to enjoy all year.

Chocolate and Cherry Zucchini Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • One quarter cup cocoa powder
  • One teaspoon baking soda
  • One half teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • One and one half cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • One half cup vegetable oil
  • One half cup plain yogurt
  • One teaspoon vanilla
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini, (after squeezing dry)
  • One half cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chips
  • One half cup dark cherries, pitted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two loaf pans.  They should be 9x5 inches in size.  In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl beat eggs, and sugar, until it well combined and light yellow in color.  Add the oil, yogurt, and vanilla and beat it well.  Add the zucchini.  Combine the wet ingredients with the flour mixture.  Stir until just moistened well.  Add the nuts, chips, and cherries and mix lightly into batter. 

Divide the dough evenly into the two pans, bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 8-10 minutes in the pans, and then turn out onto racks to continue cooling.  The bread is so good when warm, since the chips are warm and melted.  Makes 2 loaves.

Mixed Pickle Relish

  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed
  • 1 cup yellow wax beans, trimmed
  • 1 cup green lima beans
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 2 cups cauliflower fleurettes
  •  2 cups sweet corn, cut off cob
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced
  • 2 green peppers large diced
  • 1 red pepper, large diced
  • One and one half teaspoon canning or pickling salt
  • 4 cups small pickling cucumbers
  • 2 cups pearl onions, peeled
  • 2 and one half cup sugar
  • One quarter cup yellow mustard seeds
  • One and One half teaspoon canning, or pickling salt
  • One half teaspoon ground turmeric
  • One tablespoon celery seeds
  • 8 cups apple cider vinegar (at least a 5 % acidity)

In a large kettle place the carrots, beans, peas, cauliflower, corn and celery.  Cover with water, and add one and one half teaspoons of pickling salt.  Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  Drain the vegetables then add the cucumbers, onions, sugar, mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, celery seeds, and vinegar.  Bring to boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile sterilize 10 pint jars.  Fill the hot jars carefully with the mixture.  The jar should be filled within one quarter inch of jar top.    Wipe the jar ring and adjust lid.  Process in boiling water bath for five minutes, or according to your jar manufacturer.  Makes 10 pints.

Fig Jam

  • 2 dozen large fresh figs
  • One quarter cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • one quarter cup water
  • 1 packet of pectin plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 and a half cups sugar
  • One quarter cup port

Wash and trim figs.  Coarsely chop them.  Mix together the pectin and the sugar, and then mix all ingredients together in a pan.  Bring to boil and boil for one minute.  Skim any foam and reserve it.  Test the thickness of the jam by putting a small spoonful into cold water for a minute, to see the texture when it is cooled off.  If you need to, add a little more pectin, and boil for another minute. Carefully portion the jam into sterilized hot, jars. Seal the jars according to manufactures directions.

 

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