14 August 2008

Tomatillos

Tomatillos are a mainstay of Mexican cuisine and they are quickly making their way into American home gardens. The tomatillo looks similar to a tomato, but smaller...each fruit weighing about 2 - 3 oz. The plants grow to about 4 feet, and the fruits develop inside a papery husk which is shed when the fruit is ready to harvest. They are green to yellow in color, and I've seen one variety that was actually purple in color. They are most widely known as being one of the main ingredients in Green Salsa, for which the recipe follows. Tomatillo Salsa...this is a large batch recipe for canning... 5 1/2 Cups Tomatillos, husked, chopped and cored (about 2 pounds) 1 Cup chopped onion 1 Cup chopped Green Chili Peppers (Serrano Chiles provide much more heat than Jalapenos) 4 Cloves Garlic 2 TBSP minced Cilantro 2 tsp ground Cumin 1/2 tsp Salt 1/2 tsp Red Pepper 1 Cup Vinegar 1/4 Cup Lime Juice Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust 2 piece caps. Process fifteen minutes in a boiling water canner. Yields about 2 pints. Here's a quick note for you: When working with hot peppers, it will help to wear rubber gloves to prevent your hands from burning. Also, the heat does not readily wash away from your hands, so without gloves, you will most assuredly forget about the hot peppers later on and quite possibly burn other areas of your body, such as eyes and mouth. Source: Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration

13 August 2008

Blanching Vegetables

One of our customers had asked how to blanch Swiss Chard for a special diet she is on. Blanching is a critical step for all vegetables being stored for more than one month, with one exception: those vegetables being used solely for their flavor, such as green onions, herbs and hot peppers, do not need to be blanched. Blanching is necessary in order to cleanse the produce of any remaining dirt and to kill any microorganisms. It also brightens the color, helps retain vitamins and reduces the action of enzymes that can destroy the fresh flavor of the produce when frozen for longer than the first month. As you can see, blanching is a most important step in freezing vegetables and must be done very carefully, but that does not mean it is difficult to do. On the contrary, it is actually very simple. First, wash, drain and prepare vegetables as you would normally for cooking, such as trimming ends and chopping into the size you would use in your recipes. I would recommend using 1 gallon of water per pound of vegetables, except in the case of leafy greens, where I would double the amount of water to 2 gallons. If you are blanching a larger amount of vegetables, determine how much you can blanch in a fifteen minute interval, prepare only this amount and leave the rest of the vegetables in the refrigerator until you are ready for them. Different vegetables have different blanching requirements as far as the length of time to be blanched, so follow the instructions. To use our example that was requested for Swiss Chard, Swiss Chard should be blanched for 2 minutes before freezing. Also, with Swiss Chard, to prepare, remove and discard the heavy stems; thin, young stems are fine to blanch. Bring the pot of water you are using to a rolling boil and place the vegetables into a wire basket, strainer or mesh bag. In the case of Swiss Chard, I think the mesh bag is easier. Begin timing as soon as the vegetable is placed into the boiling water. Use a stop watch or clock, and keep the container covered during blanching and the heat on high. As soon as blanching is complete, remove the vegetables from the boiling water and immerse into ice water immediately to stop the cooking process. Drain the vegetables and pack into meal-size can or freeze jars or plastic freezer containers. Seal, label and freeze in single layers in the coldest portion of the freezer. Foods should be frozen in no more than 12-24 hours at ZERO degrees. After the food is completely frozen, the packages may be stacked for storage in the freezer. Keep the freezer at zero degrees or colder at all times. Do not blanch for longer than the required time for each type of vegetable as this will destroy the vitamins, flavor and color of the vegetables. Also, it should be noted that if you are purchasing your vegetables, try to purchase them from a local farmer's market or CSA as they will be considerably fresher (usually being harvested within a day of sale at the farmer's market) than what you can find in the supermarket. When you purchase from the supermarket, you don't know how long the vegetables have been stored before they have actually gotten onto the shelf for purchase. For more information on freezing on canning, look for the following book: Ball Blue Book">Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration

03 August 2008

More Recipes

Great news! The webmasters/legal department over at The Food Network said I can post some links for recipes....and boy have I found some good ones. You'll find the name of the recipes and the shopping list. Just click on the recipe title and you'll be taken over to that recipe at The Food Network. I'll start with Swiss Chard, since we sell so much of it at the Farmer's Market.
Swiss Chard Tart: Pasticcio di Bietole al Forno
Recipe courtesy Mario Batali
Show: Molto Mario
Episode: Trastevere On a Sunday
2 pounds Swiss chard, washed and spun dry (2 bunches..about 15 stems ea. bunch) 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped to yield 1/8 cup 3 large eggs Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 1 cup bread crumbs
Here's another recipe, but with a little more difficulty. Some preparation a day ahead is necessary, but oh so worth it! Buy as many fresh items as possible from your local farmer's market (you won't get them any fresher unless you pick it yourself) and prepare some of the items that day, for a terrific get together with family and friends the day after.
Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout with Pecans and Brown Butter and Swiss Chard with Serrano Chile Vinegar
Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay
Show: Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay
Episode: Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout
2 cups rice flour Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 3 large eggs 3 tablespoons milk (try our milk from the farmer's market..hormone and antibiotic free in glass bottles) 2 cups white cornmeal 4 (8 to 10 ounces each) whole rainbow trout, scaled and gutted 6 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil 2 lemons 2 sticks unsalted butter 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley Sauteed Swiss Chard with Red Onion and Serrano Chile Vinegar, recipe follows
Sauteed Swiss Chard with Red Onion and Serrano Chile Vinegar: 2 1/2 pounds Swiss chard (about 2-3 bunches) 1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into small dice 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced Salt and freshly ground pepper 1/4 cup Serrano Chile Vinegar, recipe follows Serrano Chile Vinegar: 4 serrano chiles, coarsely chopped 2 cups white wine vinegar Kosher salt Note: Serrano Chiles are like Jalapenos, only a bit longer and thinner. Superb for making vinegars, such as in this recipe, or for making salsa! Serrano Chiles will be available at our booth at the Capital District Farmer's Market this coming Saturday, the 9th of August. We will also have Tomatillos, for those interested in making green salsas!