Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

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8/22/2014

Fruit buttersI love fruit butters. They are easy to make, in fact – they are almost foolproof. They allow for a little more creativity than many soft spread recipes. There is no worry about reaching the gelling point. If half way through the cooking process I decide to run an errand, I can just turn off the burner, cover the cooking fruit and pick up where I left off in an hour or so with no ill effects.

That said, there are a few considerations when making fruit butters:

They can take a long time to cook, up to an hour or more.
They must be stirred often to prevent scorching.

    Some things are worth the time though. Fruit butter is one of those things.

    What Is Fruit Butter?

    At its most basic, fruit butter is a combination of fruit puree and sugar, cooked until thick. Fruit butters can be made from almost any fruit, although apple and pear are the most commonly used fruits. Fruit butters are particularly well suited to added spices and other flavorings like vanilla or extracts. I have made several different combinations in the past like rosehip-apple butter, cherry-almond butter, spiced apricot-plum butter, delicious peach butter, and my new favorite, port-wine plum butter.

    Fruit butter is also a good way to use up odds and ends of fruit by combining complimentary flavors. Plums can be pureed with nectarines, apples with cranberries, and rose hips with mango.

    Since fruit butters are “cooked-down” instead of “set-up,” they don’t require as much sugar as most soft spreads. There is no concern about adding pectin or making sure that some of the fruit is under-ripe to attain a perfect gel. This makes fruit butter a good choice when you have a box of over-ripe fruit that has to be dealt with NOW. Fruit butters can also be cooked in larger batches than jams, jellies, and preserves, limited only by pot size and how long we want to stir the puree-sugar combination.

    What Is The Difference Between Fruit Butter And Jam?

    Soft fruit spreads are like cousins; similar but different.

    Jam – combination of crushed or chopped fruit and sugar cooked until gelling point
    Jelly – combination of fruit juice and sugar cooked until gelling point
    Preserves – chopped fruit pieces preserved in sugar and cooked until gelling point
    Conserves – combination of fruit and nuts or raisins and sugar cooked until gelling point
    Marmalade – usually citrus fruit peel and pieces and sugar cooked until gelling point
    Butter – combination of fruit puree and sugar cooked until thickened

    Jams, jellies, preserves, conserves and marmalade must be made from fruits that are high in acid and pectin to reach the gelling point. Most fruits don’t have a suitable amount of both natural acid and pectin to set-up without a little help. That is why so many soft spread recipes include adding commercial pectin and/or lemon juice. Even long cooking jams without added pectin recommend using a combination of ripe and under-ripe fruit as under-ripe fruit is more acidic.

    Acid and pectin levels are not something we have to worry about when making fruit butters though. Since we don’t want fruit butters to gel, we just want to cook enough liquid out of them to thicken, pectin level is not a consideration.

    Acid level remains a consideration though if we are planning to can our fruit butter. Like any other canned soft spread, butters are processed with a water bath, which means the fruit must have a pH below 4.6. Don’t worry, most of our everyday fruits fall into this category. However, pumpkin or winter squash butter should be frozen or kept in the refrigerator. No safe processing time for pumpkin or squash butter has been determined.

    How To Make Fruit Butter

    As I mention above, making fruit butter is almost foolproof. I usually start with 3-4 lbs. of fruit.
    Wash and chop fruit, removing pits. Peel the fruit if you wish, but it is not necessary for most fruits – pumpkins would be an exception here.
    Add the chopped fruit to a large pot or Dutch oven. Add a little bit of water, just enough to keep the fruit from burning.
    Cook over medium heat until the fruit is soft. Remove from heat.
    Puree the cooked fruit using a blender or food processor. You can also push the fruit through a sieve or food mill if you wish, but I find this too much work.
    Measure the fruit puree and return it to the cooking pot.
    Add half as much sugar as puree. For example, if you have 8 cups of puree, add 4 cups of sugar.
    Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often until mixture starts to thicken.
    Add optional flavorings if desired. Flavorings can be adjusted to taste. Start with about 1 tsp of spices like cinnamon or ginger, or ½ tsp of extract like vanilla or almond, or 1 Tbsp of liqueur like brandy or Cognac, or ¼ cup of wine or cider.
    Continue cooking and stirring until butter is thick and rounds up on a spoon.
    Fill clean ½ pint canning jars, leaving ¼ inch headroom and using two-piece lids.
    Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Fruit butter also may be frozen instead of processed. Pumpkin, winter squash, or other vegetable butters MUST be frozen instead of processed.

    Fruit Butter Made In A Slow Cooker Or Oven

    Making fruit butter is a creative endeavor, but it isn’t a quick product. There are ways to reduce your stirring time though. Instead of returning the fruit puree to the cooking pot in step 5 above, add it to a slow cooker. Stir in the sugar and set the slow cooker on low for 10 – 12 hours. Add optional flavorings during the last hour or so of cooking. When the butter is thick, pick up and follow the above directions at step 10.

    Alternatively, the fruit puree can be cooked in the oven instead of the stovetop. At step 6 above, pour the puree-sugar mixture into a shallow baking dish. Place in the oven and set the temperature at 275 degrees. Stir the mixture occasionally, adding optional ingredients during the final ½ hour. Fruit butters cooked in the oven may take as little as one hour to thicken, or as long as 6 hours, depending upon the fruit used. Once thickened, pick up and follow the above directions at step 10.

    Safe Canning Practices

    Fruit butters allow for a bit more flexibility than many canning projects. Do remember to follow basic canning safety rules though. Creative butters like pumpkin, squash, carrot, or sweet potato are not acidic enough to meet water bath canning guidelines and should be frozen, not processed in either a water bath or pressure canner. Adding fruit to any of the above, e.g. carrot-apple butter or apricot-squash butter does not make it an acidic product. These combination butters must still be frozen, not processed, for long-term storage.

    Have you made any creative fruit butters? What is your favorite combination?

     



8/21/2014

Food heritage fans quickly are drawn to the category “drinkeries,” parallel with the category “eateries,” of course, and why not? Every colonial town in the US boasts it is the home of America’s “oldest tavern,” and some of these claims are dubious indeed, dare we say. But - we are not here to choose a winner. Rather, we want to underscore that places where people have long gathered to eat and drink are among the most pleasing, and most easily identified food heritage sites.

kellerOne of the oldest such places we know of is in Salzburg, Austria, built inside a monastery, and welcoming custom since 803, apparently. In its earliest days, this ancient beer cellar, St. Peter Stiftskeller, may have served up a brew or two to Charlemagne, king of the Franks, and later, Chris Columbus, the 1492 guy. Since then it has expanded well beyond the cave level and features a range of banquet rooms, as well as "lavish" public dining areas. It offers a Mozart lunch and dinner special menu with musical performers, though, curiously, does not assert in any write-ups that that most famous of Austrians supped or imbibed here. 

Another oldie but goodie is in Edinburgh, Scotland,  the Sheep Heid Inn, established in 1360. Its name derives from a snuffbox given by then James VI to the landlord, the box decorated with a sheep or ram’s head, known as heid, pronounced “heed” in Scotland. James and his mum, Mary Queen of Scots, both were said to be regulars here, but then, George Washington slept in far more beds during the Revolutionary War than were days in the calendar.  In fact, poor Mary had little chance to visit inns, as she was a prisoner more or less non stop from 1566, the year her son was born, until she lost her head in 1587. sheepheid

The Inn clearly operated under another name up to the time James made his gift, sometime in the late 1500s, or early 1600s, and once he became King of England in 1603 he doubtless did not frequent his old haunt.

bellinhandAnd so we come to Boston, Massachusetts, and the Bell-in-Hand Tavern, “since 1795.” Jimmy Wilson, the town crier for 50 years, finally retired and opened his tavern, which featured only frothy ale, no spirits. According to the record, the brew was served up in two mugs, one for the ale, and one for the froth. Ask Paul Revere, a big fan. 

For those unfamiliar with the Town Crier concept, he, and occasionally she, walked the streets in pre-electronic times, carrying a brass hand bell, ringing it to gain attention, prior to delivering announcements at the behest of the court. Proud to have been such a crier, Wilson included the image of a hand with a bell in his tavern’s sign.

For more about food history and heritage visit The Food Museum.

 

 

 

 



8/20/2014

ice creamI don’t know of too many people who don’t love ice cream. There are myriads of flavours, from the traditional chocolate and vanilla, to tiger stripe (or tail), to blue bubblegum. I’m more of a traditionalist myself, preferring chocolate, vanilla, but often branching out to maple walnut, cherry or Neapolitan.

Which brings up the subject of strawberry, or the attendant lack thereof, if the supermarket freezer section is any example. Strawberry is harder to find in these parts than any other flavor (but let me know if there are any other shortages out there). I know something called Bordeaux Cherry got tough to find for a while. Is strawberry out of fashion now? One in our family is a devoted fan, and when you have to travel to 3 stores looking for it, well, you get the idea.

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker

A couple of months ago, I was looking at my Air Miles account. What, pray tell, does this have to do with ice cream? Simple. I saw that I had enough points to maybe get something, so I started perusing the offerings. Voila! A Cuisinart ice cream maker. Cuisinart used to be my favourite manufacturer of kitchen goods, but the last several years have seen a serious drop in quality, to the point I usually avoid it at all costs. Gone are the days of food processors lasting years. Or bread machines for that matter. Think months. I reasoned however, it wasn’t costing me anything really, so what did I have to lose, other than the points? So I got online, quibbelled with the online form about my address (God forbid you should be rural), but finally said machine was ordered. It arrived a speedy 2 days later (I was impressed), and I tried it out. Strawberry was the order of the day.

ice cream freezerI was very pleasantly surprised. The machine is simple to use, and works very well. You do have to freeze your bucket for about a day first. If you’re in a hurry, you could probably get away with 8 hours. You put your ice cream mixture in the bucket, turn it on, and away you go. About ½ hour later, you have soft serve; freeze for a firm or hard ice cream. Since the initial outing, chocolate has been on the menu, and was even better (in my mind). This outing will be chocolate chip mint. If you choose to make this one, make sure you chop the chocolate mint candies fine. This all being said, this is not quite like hand cranked, virtually no work, and quick. So. You need the machine. What was also amazing was the number of friends I have that had the Cuisinart ice cream maker, and decided to give theirs a go again (some haven’t seen the light since last summer).

I can’t say I’m the first one to probably review this appliance, but at least I could spread the info. The recipes came strictly out of the owner’s manual, and who knows if they work for other machines. It also does frozen yogurt, gelato and sorbet. Ice cream makers have certainly come a long way since my first one, when you had to buy kosher salt and all.  



8/20/2014

sandwich

The tomatoes are aplenty in southeastern Oklahoma. We have had a record year for production—the plants are lush and gleaming with these bright red jewels of summer. Most days, I have been enjoying this simple, yet big on flavor tomato avocado sandwich for lunch. Thick slices of tomato paired with avocado are a winning combination for the palette. Avocados are in season and at the record-low price of fifty cents each in our area. Naturally, I’ve been stocking up. Fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, creamy avocado, and good toasted bread make an inexpensive, yet gourmet sandwich to be savored often.

Ingredients

½ a tomato, sliced
½ an avocado, sliced

mayonnaise (homemade or organic)
good bread, sandwich sliced
cracked pepper, to taste 

sandwich

Toast your bread in a toaster oven, toaster, or hot oven for about two-three minutes or until golden brown. Spread one slice with desired amount of mayonnaise. Add a liberal amount of cracked pepper. Place your sliced tomato on top of the mayonnaise. Using a knife, cut the avocado until you reach the pit. When your knife hits the pit, it can be removed with the knife and discarded. Using your knife, slice the avocado flesh vertically, creating slices. Remove and layer on top of the tomato. Add the final slice of bread and slice diagonally.

Try this simple summer sandwich.

It is so satisfying and good for you. In fact, writing this has made me so hungry, I think I’m off to go fix myself one right now. Enjoy.



8/19/2014

peach

There is nothing that tastes like summer to me like a slice of fresh, juicy, perfectly ripened peach.

peach2

Every summer, on our way from Nashville to North Florida, my family would stop at Peach Park in Clanton, AL to stretch our legs, grab a bite, and load up on fresh produce— especially peaches. By the time we could see the bay out the window, baskets of peaches would have perfumed our minivan with their heavenly fragrance, and my face, hands, and shirt would be sticky from peaches snuck along the way.

These days summer also means balmy Saturday mornings at the farmers market, where I buy the most amazing fresh, local goat cheese. So before peach season got swept away for another year, I couldn’t resist pairing the two in a delicious summer sandwich, accented with lacy-thin strips of Serrano ham and butter-crisped bread.

Salty Serrano ham is a wonderful foil for the sweet peaches, and the crunch of the seared bread contrasts delightfully with the creamy chevre. 

Peach and Goat Cheese Sandwich

1 tbsp salted butter, preferably Kerrygold or homemade
2 slices sandwich bread (my favorite is Alpine Valley Organic 12 Grain with Omega-3)
2 tbsp of the freshest goat cheese (chevre) you can get your hands on, room temperature (if you happen to live near Flower Mound, TX, you can't beat the chevre from Latte Da Dairy)
1-2 slices Serrano ham (prosciutto is a good substitute if needed)
1 ripe yellow peach, preferably organic, very thinly sliced

peach3

Melt butter in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place bread, one slice stacked on top of the other, in the pan, and coax it around just a bit with a spatula to make sure the bottom slice is evenly coated with melted butter (stacking the slices helps weigh down the bread just enough to get optimal contact with the hot pan). When the bottom slice is golden and crisped (about 2 minutes), flip the stack over and repeat for second slice.

Transfer bread to a plate and spread 1 T goat cheese on the un-crisped side of each slice. Top one slice with ham and a layer of peaches and gently press the remaining slice on top. Slice diagonally and serve with remaining peaches slices. 

Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, TX. More of her work can be found at BeingTheSecretIngredient.com, a blog about food, life, and love.



8/18/2014

ZucchiniHat

Are you overflowing with zucchini from the garden? It happens. In May, the seedlings come in four packs or the seeds come in a pouch of 20. You plant them all, with confidence but also enough doubt that it seems better to overdo it. Just in case. But now. Now it is August and you are swimming in zucchini. One plant would have been enough and you know that now, but it is too late. You are getting two zukes per plant every day and if you sleep late, they turn into baseball bats. Zucchini fill your refrigerator veggie bin. Your friends make sure they lock their car doors when they visit and check the trunk before they leave. Your neighbors don’t come to say hi anymore. Everyone is tired of your zucchini. How can you keep the bounty from being a burden? 

Shred It

Shred and freeze it! Freeze it in measured quantities for your recipes, so you use the right amount when you pull out a wad of frozen zucchini. Squeeze out the water and use it by its original measurement. My favorite recipes for this are zucchini bread and zucchini-crusted pizzas, both recipes are at the end of this post. There are many other recipe options for frozen zucchini. Plop the frozen wad in your favorite soup or chili recipe (my brother’s idea).

Bake zucchini breads and freeze them! If you have time and air conditioning and freezer space…you might consider loading the freezer with ready-to-go quick breads. Cook something new. Lasagna with zucchini layers? Ratatouille? You've grilled, but have you tried grilling extras for grilled veggie sandwiches with hummus for lunch? Research a recipe online and try a fresh take on zucchini.

Donate zukes to your local food bank or soup kitchen. Our food bank has a drop bin accessible at all hours. Call your local shelter or group home—if they have cooking facilities on site, they might accept vegetable donations.

What About the Green Baseball Bats?

Zucchini Battle

They are great for baking or shredding and freezing. Or make baked zucchini boats—scoop them out and stuff them with a chopped mixture of zucchini, meat, rice, tomatoes and spices. Have a zucchini toss! Have a zucchini battle (just pretend hit, as these buggers really would make effective weapons). Feed them to the chickens. Carve a sign. My zucchini sign lasted for over a week.  Use it as a greeting card. Write a note on it with a sharpie (the recipient can still peel it for cooking) or carve your greeting into the skin.

Two Gluten-Free Zucchini Recipes

Zucchini Sign

Both of these recipes are easily gluten-free. But don't let that scare away the wheat-eaters in the crowd; I happily serve all kinds of eaters these recipes. They are delicious and worthy.

Zucchini-crusted pizza – this link is the original, from Mollie Katzen’s book The Moosewood Cookbook. I substitute the flour with brown rice based all purpose gluten-free flour mix, but other gluten-free flours would work like gluten-free oat flour or almond flour. This one is hard to make dairy-free, as the cheese serves as a binder. There is barely any flour in it. 

I like the revision of the recipe in this blog, cooking it at high heat like a regular pizza crust. I don’t usually add toppings to the crust, because it stands alone so well and gets soggy with toppings. However, I will try toppings again with this blog’s revision of cooking the crusts at higher heat.

Gluten-Free (can be dairy-free) Zucchini Bread

Use your favorite recipe or search online for way too many options. This is my go-to gluten-free recipe. I have changed up the flours with success. I make it dairy-free, replacing the butter with coconut oil.

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. They will be making a presentation about weeds and bugs in your organic garden at Mother Earth News Fair Sunday September 12. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News and Blog.HouseInTheWoods.com, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to HouseInTheWoods.com.



8/15/2014

A few years ago, I made Peach Cobbler Jam using this recipe.  It was absolutely delicious, and since then I have made it numerous times, modifying it slightly because I prefer to make low-sugar jams using Pomona's Pectin.  This summer, I decided to branch out and try it using different fruit.  The Cherry Cobbler jam was amazing, and today's Blackberry Nectarine Cobbler Jam was so good I decided this was definitely a recipe worth sharing! 

Normally, I don't recommend changing canning recipes.  When it comes to acidity levels and all that jazz, I always err on the side of caution.  However, thanks to the handy-dandy guide that comes in every package of Pomona's Pectin, I know that the 1/4 cup of lemon juice is enough to do the trick!

Cobbler Jam

Fruit Cobbler Jam

4 cups of pitted, peeled, chopped, mashed fruit (peach, nectarine, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, or a mixture)
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 tsp calcium water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp Pomona's Pectin
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or almond, which is great with cherries!)

Combine fruit, lemon juice, calcium water, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large pot.  Measure sugar and Pomona's Pectin in a separate bowl, stirring well to combine.  Bring fruit to a boil, and add sugar slowly.  Mix well for 1-2 minutes to dissolve pectin.  Return to a boil and remove from heat.  Fill jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Boil in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (add 1 minute more for every 1,000 ft above sea level).  Let jars cool, and check seals.

 












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