Ground Cherry Jam

Ground Cherries

This is the recipe I referenced when I shared the recipe for  Ground Cherry Salsa … AKA Cape Gooseberry Salsa … AKA Husk Cherry Salsa … AKA Peruvian Cherry Salsa … AKA Salsa di Alkekengi … AKA Those-Little-Orange-Thingies-in-the-Paper-Lanterns Salsa. Whatever you call them, the fruit have a unique blend of pineapple and tomato flavors and makes a tasty jam that couldn’t be easier to prepare.

The cherries are husked, rinsed, and placed in a pot with sugar, along with whatever pectin you prefer. I added a little lemon and rosemary just to see how it would taste. In the end, 3 quarts of ground cherries produced 6 small jelly jars (3 half-pints). At $5.00 a quart, this isn’t the cheapest jam to make. Remember, too, that husked ground cherries are considerably less in volume than those still wearing husks. I wish these were the only problems.

I chose to use pectin because it yields more jam than if I relied on the fruit’s natural gelling properties. It can also be made in 1 day whereas jamming without pectin is a 2 day affair. Using pectin, however, resulted in a jam that was a bit too thick for my tastes. This is why I hate discovering a new item at the end of our growing season. I’ll have to wait until next year before I can make more of this jam. Whether I use pectin, I’ll use at least 4 quarts of ground cherries. Either way, I’ll have a tasty jam that’s hopefully easier to spread. While I’m at it, I’d also like to bake a pie with this fruit. (Thanks, Gretchen. Do take a few minutes to check out her fantastic blog, where every recipe is critiqued by 3 very discerning foodies.)

Hmm … Maybe I can get some sort of discount if I buy ground cherries by the crate.

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Ground Cherry Jam 3

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Ground Cherry Jam Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups ground cherries, husked & rinsed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 box pectin
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 cups sugar
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Place the ground cherries, lemon juice, water, pectin, and rosemary into a heavy bottomed pot over med-high heat. (See Notes)
  2. After they’ve softened a bit, use a potato masher or wooden spoon to mash the cherries to the consistency you prefer.
  3. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil (see Notes).  Add salt and sugar. Stir well.
  4. When the jam returns to a rolling boil, continue heating for 1 minute and then take off the heat. Remove the rosemary sprigs.
  5. Place hot jam immediately into clean, sterile jars, cap, and place in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from bath, set on a clean kitchen towel away from drafts, and do not disturb for 24 hours to allow the tops to properly seal.
  7. Once sealed, store in a cool, dark place. (See Notes)

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Ground Cherry Jam 2

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Notes

Directions may vary slightly depending upon the pectin being used. Be sure to follow the directions on your pectin’s packaging,

A rolling boil is one which continues even while the pot’s contents are stirred.

In the event that a jar does not seal properly, the jam is still good but must be refrigerated and used within a couple of weeks, You can also place the jar in the freezer. I’ve enjoyed jam that has been frozen for several months.

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A scheduling change

It’s no secret that we’re coming to the end of the Bartolini recipe file. I do have a few more recipes, along with a few from Dad’s family, to share but certainly not enough to continue publishing a weekly recipe. So, although I’ll continue to post on Wednesdays, it just won’t be every Wednesday.

Did you hear that? It was a sigh of relief from Zia who just now learned that, after 5 years, I won’t be asking if she has another recipe for me or if she remembers the time when …

(Psst. I’ll still post, just not as often.)

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Figs 1

Since today’s post featured a rather unusual jam, I thought we’d continue down that road and take you back to my Fig Jam with Balsamic and Black Pepper recipe. This is a delicious jam and it pairs very well with pork roasts.  You can read all about it HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Grilled clams 2

Grilled Clams

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A Quick Pickle

Pickle 1

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Several weeks ago, while walking around the farmers market, a bin of pickling cucumbers caught my eye. I bought some and on the way back to my car bought the rest of this recipe’s ingredients — well, almost. The three cherry bomb peppers came from my garden. They turned out to be the only cherry peppers that I’d harvest until well into autumn. My tomato plants, taking full advantage of their new flower bed and soil, grew to monstrous proportions, overcrowding everything else in the process.

I have served this pickle atop every kind of sandwich imaginable, not to mention burgers, dogs, and wursts, too. I’ve also served it alongside a variety of grilled meats. For my tastes, a little something acidic on the plate is often a welcome accompaniment.

If you prepare this recipe, the ingredients aren’t nearly as important as the pickling liquid. You can change the spices to suit your own tastes but If you’re going to make a smaller batch, just keep the amounts of vinegar, sugar, and water proportional to what I’ve listed. It couldn’t be easier and, since this isn’t being canned, you needn’t worry about whether the solution is acidic enough. So long as you use sterile jars & lids and clean utensils, it should last several weeks in your fridge.

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pickle with BLTC

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A Fresh Pickle Recipe

Ingredients

Pickling liquid

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup pickling salt – If substituting kosher salt, add an additional tbsp
  • ½ tbsp coriander seed
  • ½ tbsp yellow mustard seed
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp celery seed

Vegetables

  • pickling cucumbers – about 3 lbs
  • 1 small red onion
  • 4 hot green peppers
  • 4 sweet Melrose peppers
  • 3 cherry bomb peppers
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • garlic

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Pickle Ingredients

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Directions

  1. Place all of the pickling ingredients into a sauce pan and heat over a medium heat.
  2. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes after the salt and sugar have dissolved.
  3. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the remaining ingredients.
  5. Once cooled, combine the pickling liquid with the sliced vegetables, stir, fill jars, and cover.
  6. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving.
  7. Will keep in your fridge for several weeks, at least. Just be sure to use fresh, clean utensils when serving.

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Notes

For my tastes, this recipe is a little heavy on the cucumber. Next time I’ll cut the amount of cucumber and increase the other ingredients, especially the radishes. I’ll probably cut the turmeric, as well. As the pickle sat in the fridge, the turmeric gave everything the same hue, eliminating any color variation among all the ingredients save the cherry bomb peppers. The first photo was taken a few hours after I made the pickle. The second was taken one week later.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Mt. Burger

I know, I know, Every year I bring you back to this recipe for giardiniera — and with good reason. Next to the blueberry cheesecake ice cream recipe, this condiment is the most requested and savored by my taste testers. It really is that good. Best of all, it can made anytime because its ingredients are readily available year-round. You can learn all about it by clicking here HERE.  

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Ground Cherry Jam Preview

Ground Cherry Jam

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Ground Cherry Salsa

If you’re fortunate enough to have a rather large farmers market nearby, you’re likely to come across some relatively rare fruits and vegetables not found in your corner grocery. For me, ground cherries would fall into that category. Also called husk tomatoes, these little fruit will remind you of small sungold cherry tomatoes, except that they wear a thin paper husk, much like their distant cousins, tomatillos. It is their flavor, however, that sets them apart. Oddly enough, they taste like a combination of pineapple and tomato. It is an even mix with neither flavor so strong as to be dominant.

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Ground Cherries 1

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I had seen these beauties for years at my farmers market and even asked the vendors about them. Why it took me so long to purchase them is anyone’s guess. I’m just glad that I finally did.

Once husked and rinsed, they can be used to make a salsa, like today’s recipe, or cooked to make jam (that recipe is forthcoming). They can also be placed in a single layer on baking sheets and placed in a freezer. Once frozen, they can be packed and kept in the freezer until ready for use. (See Notes) I’ve seen recipes for pies but most combine the fruit with berries and I fear that the additions would overpower these cherries. The fact is that I’m fascinated by the mix of pineapple and tomato flavors and don’t care to do anything to them that might eliminate that contrast.

Like any salsa, the ingredients can vary depending upon your personal preference. For today’s recipe, the cherry tomatoes came from my garden and I shopped for the rest of the ingredients in my fridge’s vegetable crisper. I had planned to use a bit of cucumber but, failing to find one, I used celery instead. Where most would use cilantro, I used parsley. I “borrowed” one of Lucy’s green jalapeños and used red onion simply for its color. As you can see, this salsa is a very colorful one.

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Ground Cherry Salsa

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Ground Cherry Salsa Recipe

Ingredients

  • about 2 doz ground cherries, hulled & rinsed with some halved
  • about 1 doz cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 jalapeños, diced
  • 2 tbs red onion, diced
  • 2 tbs celery, diced
  • 2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped — cilantro may be substituted
  • juice of 1/2 fresh lime, more to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place the ground cherries, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño, onion, and parsley into a bowl. Gently stir to combine.
  2. Add the lime juice and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Taste to see if additional lime juice, salt, or pepper are needed.
  4. Serve.

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Salsa Served

Served with grilled monkfish

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Notes

Hulk cherries are an American fruit that are available from mid-July to the first frost. When fully ripe, they range in color from yellow to orange. Green husk cherries should be avoided because they may cause stomach upset.

From experience, I’ve noticed that ground cherries, once frozen and thawed, are more soft than when fresh. They are fine when used to make jam but you may not want to use them in today’s salsa recipe. I think they would be fine, however, in a salsa used for dipping chips.

The ingredient amounts can be adjusted depending upon how the salsa is served. Since I used this to accompany a fish entrée, I made a relatively small amount.

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A scheduling change …

I will be leaving early next week to ferry a very important visitor from her manse in Michigan to my humble Chicago home. As a result, the kitchens will be closed for the next 2 weeks so that I may tend to her every whim whilst she’s here.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Borlotti/Cranberry Beans

With temperatures falling, it’s time to start cooking comfort foods. One of our favorites and one that I make for Zia every year is Pasta and Beans Soup, Pasta e Fagioli. Easy to make, this soup is the very definition of comfort. Best of all, if you’re as lucky as I was just last weekend, you can still find fresh Borlotti/cranberry beans at your local farmers market. The recipe for this traditional Italian dish can be found by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pickle Preview

A Summer Pickle (Served with Grilled Pork Chops)

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Honey? Mustard!

The year’s last visit with Zia went very well, though I doubt I’ll ever drive North again when there’s a Polar Vortex rolling South. Once there, we cooked up a storm and 4 of those dishes will make their way on to this blog over the next few weeks. My Cousin, also, came up for a few days and he and Max were off roaming the countryside. With deer season just starting, however, the sound of distant rifle fire kept them both closer to home than normal. I do think he minded more than the dog. Max just wants to be at my Cousin’s side, no matter where that happens to be. Me jealous? Nah! It’s good to “pass the baton” every now and again, giving Zia and me time to make our pasta in peace.

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Honey Mustard 3

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With November now behind us, Christmas will be here before we know it. Today’s recipe is a perennial favorite of my Christmas gift baskets. (They’re bags actually because I can never find gift baskets.) But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Some 3 years ago, I began making ketchup following a recipe on Tanya’s fantastic blog, Chica Andaluza. About the same time, I made Guinness-based whole grain mustard from a recipe I found on Mandy’s wonderful blog, The Complete Cookbook. I honestly cannot recall which came first, the Chica or the keg, but that Christmas my friends and family got a jar of each in their “baskets” — well, almost.

I’ve friends and family members who follow gluten and alcohol-free diets. A mustard made with Guinness just wouldn’t do and so began my experiments with making honey mustard. Today’s recipe is the latest incarnation and is easy to prepare. It’s easily modified if you’d prefer it more or less spicy (see Notes), or, if there’s a particular flavoring you’d wish to include. Before we get to the recipe, however, there are a few things you need to know.

Though there are over 3 dozen types of mustard seeds, yellow and black/brown seeds are most readily available in these parts. Of the 2, yellow mustard seeds have the more mild flavoring. Keep this in mind when you prepare mustard at home. The hotter the mustard, the more brown/black seeds you’ll need to add to the mix. No matter which type of mustard seed you use, though, all will become milder if exposed to heat. That’s why today’s recipe is not processed in a boiling water bath for canning purposes. Just remember to keep it cold if you want it hot. Be advised, too, that this recipe also relies on oil as an ingredient. Canning when oil is being used is, at best, a risky endeavor. Be sure to check with a far more authoritative source than this blog before attempting to preserve this recipe’s mustard.

Because this mustard is not processed, it must be kept refrigerated at all times. Be sure, also, to use jars, lids, and utensils that have been cleaned and, when possible, sterilized before use. The object is to reduce as much as possible the risk of contamination. Do so and your mustard will last for 6 months in your fridge. In fact, I just finished the last of a batch I made for Christmas last year.

Mustard seeds are surprisingly tough little devils. Soaking them before use softens their husks, making them easier to grind. A couple of years ago, in my rush to get the gift baskets made, I ruined my food processor and then broke a part on my blender when I tried to grind mustard seeds that weren’t fully soaked. A word to the wise …

Though I prefer my mustard to be on the grainy side, you can make your mustard as smooth as you like. Be sure to keep an eye on your blender or food processor, however, if you’re making super-smooth mustard. Some models may overheat (see above) and you should give it a rest if the machine’s body feels too warm to the touch.

Lastly, once prepared, stick your mustard in the fridge and forget about it for at least 2 weeks before using, though I wait a full month. This is to allow the flavors to blend and the mustard to mellow. Taste it beforehand and you’re sure to be surprised by its bitterness.

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Honey Mustard 2*     *     *

Honey Mustard Recipe

yield: approx 7¾ cups (1830 ml)

Ingredients

  • 200 g black mustard seeds
  • 250 g yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup tarragon vinegar — leaves, if any, removed (See Notes)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup honey
  • 6 cloves garlic – roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup grated ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 15 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Place mustard seeds and vinegar into a large container, cover, and set aside at least 8 hours or overnight — the longer the better. If need be, add more vinegar or water by the quarter cupful, to make sure none of the seeds remain dry.
  2. Place the now-soaked seeds, along with all the remaining ingredients, into the bowl of a food processor or blender.
  3. Process/grind the ingredients until fully combined and the mustard is the consistency you prefer. Remember to check the machine’s housing for signs of over-heating.
  4. When ground to your liking, place the mustard in clean, sterilized jars and refrigerate at least 2 weeks before using.

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Honey Mustard 1*     *     *

Notes

This recipe will yield a relatively mild mustard. For a spicier condiment, go to a well-stocked Asian market and look for Chinese mustard seeds. These are a little bit darker and smaller than our “normal” yellow seeds but do they ever pack a punch and will definitely add some heat to your condiment.

If it’s too late to add more brown/black or Chinese mustard seeds, you can make your mustard spicier by adding red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper powder, or your preferred hot sauce.

Avoid using fresh herbs and/or fresh chilies when making this mustard. They could be a source for contamination and the mustard’s shelf-life could be affected.

If you cannot find tarragon vinegar, feel free to substitute whatever type of vinegar you prefer, flavored or not.

You can use this mustard to easily make a mustard dipping sauce. Just add a few tbsp of mustard to about twice as much mayo — more or less to taste — and stir well. Season with salt, add as much honey as you prefer, and, if you like your dipping sauce spicy, add a touch of cayenne pepper or hot sauce. Refrigerate until ready for use.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Baccalà PreviewThose who have followed this blog for some time know that many Italians follow the custom of serving seafood for their primary meal on Christmas Eve. To that end. I’ve shared a number of seafood recipes that family members have served for that special meal. Today’s look back features a recipe that was prepared every year “Upstairs”, in Zia’s home. Stewed in a rich tomato sauce, the aroma of salted cod, baccalà, being served was sure to draw me to their table like a moth to a flame. You can learn all about the preparation of baccalà simply by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Agnolotti del Plin Preview Agnolotti del Plin 

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Oatmeal Cookies with Two Chocolates, Dried Cherries, and Almonds

Cherry Choc Chip 1

Despite today’s post and a few more on the schedule, I am no baker. I do not bake. It is a classic catch-22. I don’t bake because I make mistakes and I make mistakes because I don’t bake. My experience with today’s recipe is a perfect example.

Although I’ve prepared these cookies a number of times, I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. Some weren’t so bad, like grabbing dark brown sugar instead of light or forgetting to add the salt. I wasn’t always so lucky, however, like the time I forgot the baking soda. Those little nuggets were tasty but hardly the cookies I had envisioned. Perhaps the worst, though, was the time I forgot to add the flour. Who forgets flour? You wouldn’t but I sure did. You can rest assured, knowing that I’ll never do that again. Even so, there has to be a better way to learn something without nearly ruining 2 baking sheets.

My lack of baking prowess — a.k.a common sense — aside, these are great cookies that freeze well. That’s important for me because if I don’t stash cookies in my basement freezer as soon as they’ve cooled, they’ll be gone within a day. I’ve absolutely no will power when it comes to freshly baked anything. (Yet another reason I so rarely bake.)

This recipe can easily be modified to suit your own kitchen and preferences. I’ve made these cookies using my food processor, as the original recipe directs, but I’ve also prepared them with my stand mixer. I’ve used dried cranberries instead of the cherries, and omitted the white chocolate altogether, doubling the amount of dark chocolate in its place. And if you like almond flavoring, try using almond extract instead of vanilla. In short, feel free to make whatever substitutions you like, just don’t forget the flour!

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Announcing …

It’s time once again for the Honey Man to open shop in Michigan’s Thumb. This means I’ll be closing the Kitchens so that I can make the yearly honey run. Normally, I’d reopen the Kitchens in 2 weeks but not this year. You see, honey won’t be the only precious cargo that I’ll be bringing back to Chicago. I’m very happy to say that I’ll be playing host to a most special Guest and the Kitchens will be closed for the entire visit, known affectionately in these parts as “The Visitation.” Rest assured, the Kitchens will reopen once I’ve returned my Guest to her Michigan home.

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Cherry Choc Chip 3*     *     *

Oatmeal Cookies with Two Chocolates and Dried Cherries Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C). Place 2 oven racks on the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
  2. Cream together the butter, 2 sugars, and vanilla in a food processor
  3. To the processor bowl, add the egg, baking soda, and salt. Process until combined.
  4. Add the flour and again process till combined.
  5. Add the oats and pulse a few times. The object is to mix without pulverizing the oats. Empty the contents of the processor bowl into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Add the almonds, cherries, and both chocolates to the mixing bowl and use a spoon to mix the contents.
  7. Use a large ice cream scoop or tablespoon to create evenly sized cookies. Place scoops of dough on 2 large, parchment-covered baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for 6 minutes before turning and switching racks. Bake for another 6 or 7 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned.
  9. Remove from oven and place cookies on a rack to cool.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious

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Cherry Choc Chip 2*     *     *

Notes

Like the fried chicken of 2 weeks ago, these cookies are good for long car rides. Very good.

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The Colosseum and Forum of Rome

Just down the street from our flat was the Colosseum, one of the World’s few arena’s older than Wrigley Field. It is usually one of the first and last sights I see when I’m in Rome. As I’ve told my friends — ad nauseam, I’m sure — I’m a tactile person and only when I touch the Colosseum do I truly feel that I am in Rome.

(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

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Right outside of the stadium lie the ruins of Ludus Magnus, the best of the gladiator schools. Tunnels once connected it to the “basement” of the Colosseum, which housed everything from wild animals and gladiators to their unfortunate victims. The amphitheater itself is huge with seating estimates that surpass 45,000 people. Yet, it could be vacated in as few as 5 minutes in an emergency. Located around the arena are thick cement posts, of a sort. These were used to support a retractable roof that provided shade from the hot Roman sun, while the arena floor could be flooded to permit mock naval battles to be performed. When not flooded, the stadium floor featured numerous trap doors, allowing for the “introduction” of fierce animals into the arena. Like so much of Rome, history comes alive as you walk around the Colosseum.

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Inside the Colosseum    *     *     *

The heart of the ancient city, the Forum, was where Romans came to conduct business, shop, talk politics, and worship. On one side lay the Colosseum, easily the largest amphitheater of its time. On another, atop Palatine Hill, is where the emperors lived, as well as the Republic’s wealthiest citizens. Being slightly elevated, it was believed to be a bit cooler than the surrounding area and it gave the inhabitants the opportunity to literally look down upon the masses milling about the Forum. Following the main path through the Forum, the Via Sacra, you’ll pass the ruins of numerous temples, basilicas, and the Curia, where the Roman Senate met and where Julius Cæsar was assassinated. Speaking of which, you’ll also come across the altar used for Cæsar’s cremation. (The first time I visited the Forum was on March 17th quite a few years ago and red roses were strewn about the altar.)

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If you are at all interested in the Roman Empire and find yourself in Rome, you really must see the Colosseum and Forum. Words and photos cannot describe the sensation of walking along the Via Sacra, tracing the steps of people like Julius Cæsar, Tiberius, Augustus, and every Emperor that was to follow them, not to mention countless notables of the ancient civilization. It was, for me, the perfect way to end my holiday and this series.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Aglio e OlioToday’s blast form the past isn’t at all a seasonal dish, at its core, but you could make it one, if you wanted.  Aglio e Olio is so simple to prepare that it is a “late home from work” dish; a “we spent the night out with friends and need something quick to eat” dish; and/or a “my cupboard is bare and I’m hungry” dish. Aglio e Oilo can be all these things and so much more. You can learn all about it by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Roast Duck Ravioli PreviewRoast Duck Ravioli

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Maltagliati Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

Maltagliati con Pesto al Pistacchio

Maltagliati

Today’s post is one of odds and ends, literally. Sure, there are two “recipes” to be shared but neither is deserving of its own post, both being incredibly easy to prepare. One, in fact, is traditionally nothing more than scraps, giving more proof to the adage that nothing is wasted in an Italian kitchen.

Maltagliati is a pasta of irregular shapes, the name of which is derived from the Italian words for badly cut, male taglio. (Thanks, Francesca, of Almost Italian). It is the end pieces and leftover bits of pasta that result from a day of pasta making. Like snowflakes, no two pieces are alike, each being randomly cut. The fact that there would be enough scraps to prepare a dinner is an indication of the difference between our two countries’ eating habits.

By one estimate, the average per capita consumption of pasta in Italy is 59 pounds per year, while in the US it’s only 19 pounds apiece annually. Yet we have an obesity epidemic. The reality is that a one pound package of pasta will yield 8 servings in most Italian kitchens. They will serve one such serving with most evening meals, the primo piatto. Here, we’ll get 5, 4, or even 3 mega-servings from a single pound. That serving is often the main course, with the addition of a salad, bread, and possibly a dessert.

Most of our pasta is manufactured and store-bought. Up until recent times, the vast majority of pasta served in Italian homes was made by hand. If you make enough pasta so that everyone in your household is going to eat 59 pounds of pasta per year, you are bound to have a lot of scraps to deal with. Those scraps can become maltagliati and will be served in any number of ways, usually determined by the amount at hand.

Very often, they’re served with beans, taking the place of the ditalini used in last week’s Pasta e Fagioli recipe. If you’ve plenty, they can be served with a hearty meat sauce, as was served to Zia and me one evening in Rome, where I first heard of this pasta. Here, I’ve chosen to serve them with a new version of pesto, simply because I needed a pasta narrative to accompany the recipe for today’s pesto. It would have been an incredibly short post, otherwise.

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Yes, that’s the first, lonely crocus to bloom in my front garden. Spring is finally taking hold and 1st Bloomwith the new season comes an offer from my blogging friend, Mary, of Love – The Secret Ingredient. She is creating surprise boxes that will contain various gourmet items, small kitchen products, and recipes which will use the enclosed items. A box will be delivered every season and you can purchase them separately or all four at once. The part that caught my attention is that Mary will donate 10% of the annual profits to Feed The Children, an organization dedicated to providing hope and eliminating hunger. You can learn all about Mary’s Secret Ingredients by clicking HERE.

Note: Although I’ve ordered and paid for a surprise box, I have not received any form of compensation for mentioning Mary’s offer. I saw this as an opportunity to help a fellow blogger and worthwhile charity at the same time.

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Freshly Made Maltagliati*     *     *

How to Make Maltagliati Pasta

  • If you make a full recipe of Mom’s Pasta Dough, you will have about 1.5 pound (680 g) of pasta dough. That will make quite a bit of pasta, so, you may wish to halve the recipe or cut it into 3rds or 4ths. For this post, I cut the pasta recipe in half.
  • Take a portion of the dough and run it through the pasta machine rollers until it is as thin as you like. My rollers start at 1, the thickest setting, and I continue to roll the dough, up to and including the 6 setting. You may like your pasta thinner. If so, continue to advance the setting as you roll the dough.
  • Lay the dough strip out flat on your work surface, dust lightly with flour, and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  • Pastry WheelsUse a straight-edged pastry cutter to divide the strip into 3 equal strips. No need to worry about it being a perfect straight line. Just do the best you can. Do not separate them but leave them as-is.
  • Now, take your pastry cutter and beginning in the upper left corner, make a series of diagonal cuts, approximately parallel to each other. Once done, starting in the upper right corner, make diagonal cuts going the other way, repeatedly,  You will end up with a collection of triangles and trapezoids, no two exactly alike — not to mention a better appreciation of your Geometry teacher who predicted that “one day this ‘stuff’ will be useful.”
  • Place them in a single layer on a wax paper covered baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with flour or corn meal.
  • Repeat until all the dough strips have been cut. If you like, use a fluted-edged pastry wheel to cut the pasta, as well as the straight-edged. This will further the illusion of this being a pasta dinner made from scraps. (see Notes)
  • To cook, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil, add the maltagliati, stir, and allow to cook for a few minutes. Being freshly made, they should be fully cooked within minutes. Taste one when all have risen to the top of the pot of boiling water.
  • Drain and dress with pesto, recipe to follow. (See Notes)

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Maltagliati 2*     *     *

Notes

Not everyone has time to make pasta, even when the process is as easy as this. Should that be the case, take some store-bought lasagna noodles and snap them. Just don’t get carried away, for it is easier to dine on larger pieces than tiny ones.

Being flat, maltagliati have a tendency to stick together once drained, so, you must work fast. Once the pasta has been drained, quickly give it a light coating of olive oil before dressing it with the pesto. If using a red sauce, there’s no need for the olive oil but you still must quickly add it to the drained noodles.

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So, now that you’ve got a scrappy little pasta at your disposal, it’s time to dress it.

I certainly won’t pretend to speak for everyone but I will say that by this time of year, I’m desperate for any kind of Summer dish. Pesto for me is one such dish. In Summer, I can get a wedding-sized bouquet of basil for a couple of dollars at the farmers market. This time of year, I’m lucky to get a few stems for the same price. Today’s pesto recipe gives me my Summer fix without breaking the bank, for not only does it use half the basil, it substitutes pistachio nuts for the über expensive pine nuts, pignoli. (Just last month, I saw a 4 oz package (113 g) of imported organic Italian pine nuts with a price of $12.99. That’s $52.00 a pound!!!)

Whether you’ve made pesto before, you shouldn’t have any problems preparing this recipe.

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Pistachio Pesto*     *     *

Pistachio Pesto Recipe

Ingredients

yield: 1 cup pesto

  • 1.4 oz (40 g) fresh basil leaves (See Notes)
  • 1.1 oz (30 g) fresh, flat leaf parsley leaves
  • .5 oz (15 g) roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted
  • 3 oz (79 ml) extra virgin olive oil – more or less to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place everything but the olive oil, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Let it process until a thick paste is formed.
  3. While the processor is still running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the pesto reaches the consistency you prefer.
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as required. Pulse the processor to blend the seasonings with the pesto.
  5. Your pesto is ready for use.

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Notes

The reason for the odd amounts of basil and parsley is because of how both were purchased. I bought a 2 oz package of basil that, once the stems were removed, actually weighed 1.4 oz. Similarly, I bought a bunch of parsley that, once cleaned, weighed 1.1 oz.

Traditionally, pesto is made using a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor. I do not own a mortar large enough to do this, so, I use a food processor. The fact that it is so much easier this way has nothing to do with it.

I used my pesto recipe as the basis for today’s version. You can use your own pesto recipe, just be sure to replace 25 to 50% of the basil with parsley and, of course, use pistachio nuts instead of pine nuts.

Refrigerate unused pesto in an airtight container, after topping with a thin coat of olive oil. Use it or freeze it within a few days.

If I’m going to freeze this or any pesto, I do not add cheese to it while it’s being made. I’ve found that the cheese doesn’t thaw well and the pesto’s consistency suffers. Instead, I’ll add the cheese to the pasta when the pesto is added.

If you have frozen pesto containing cheese, mix it with a bit of hot pasta water before using it to dress the pasta. The hot water will help make the pesto more smooth and easier to evenly coat the pasta.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Insalata With lawns going green and last Fall’s bulbs breaking the ground’s surface, it can only mean one thing. It’s dandelion picking season! What you may consider a blight on your lawn, a Bartolini sees as a crisp salad. Click HERE to see the lengths traveled by my Dad to enlist our help picking the greens for our Sunday night dinner.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Lamb Shank PreviewLamb Shanks

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See Quince? Make Jam First Then Jelly

OK. I’ll admit it. I didn’t know a thing about quince. I certainly didn’t hear about them while growing up, let alone see any of them. When I finally did see one, not all that long ago, I thought it to be a very odd-looking apple — and expensive, at that.

Things began to change, however, once I started blogging. Every Fall, quince jelly recipes began to circulate. Then, last August, my friend Celia posted her recipe for making quince jelly on her wonderful blog Fig Jam And Lime Cordial. (If you’re not familiar with her posts, this is your chance. Celia’s blog is one that has a little something for everyone and all of it good.) At the time, I told her that I wanted to make some and would let her know when I did. So, “Hey, Celia! I made quince jam & jelly!”

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Quince 1

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Once I purchased the quince, I searched for a recipe. Since quince has a high level of pectin within it, I decided to go without adding any more. This, unfortunately, ruled out Celia’s recipe. (Sorry, Celia.) I soon learned that the web is full of quince recipes, all pretty much the same. Quince, sugar, lemon juice, and water combine to eventually produce jelly. Well, I like jelly but I prefer jam. Looking a little further, I came upon a recipe that suited my needs. I settled on a Greek recipe for quince jam called Marmalatha Kythoni. Unlike all others, this one had 2 things going for it.

In the first place, the recipe gave a ratio of quince to sugar (2:1). This is so much more convenient than stating that 1 quart of quince is required. Just how many quince does it take to make a quart? With this ratio, you just buy the quince, peel, core, chop, and then weigh them. Whatever the weight, you’ll need half that amount in sugar. (You’ll note that in the recipe, I stated the quince amount in ounces (grams) to make the math easier.)

Secondly, water used to boil the quince in this recipe may be used to make quince jelly. Granted, you won’t be making a lot but you will get a little over a cup for your efforts. The same ratio (2:1) applies when making jelly, too. The difference being in this case, you use measures and not weight. So, I had 4 cups of quince liquid and used 2 cups of sugar to make a pint of jelly. It could not be easier.

The amount of lemon juice to be used is up to you. I like things a little tart, so, I added both lemon juice and zest when making the jam. For the jelly, I used lemon juice only. It’s my “control” and I’ll taste the jelly to determine whether I overdid the lemon when making the jam.

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Quince Jam 3

*     *     *

Quince Jam Recipe

Ingredients

  • 52 oz (1474 g) quince, peeled, cored, and chopped (see Notes)
  • 26 oz (737 g) sugar
  • 1.25 cups (300 ml) water, divided
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

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Quince Jam 2

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Directions

  1. Place chopped quince in a large pot with a lid and add enough water to cover (see Notes). Place the lid on the pot and bring to a hard boil over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Keep covered, shut off the heat, and let sit for another 30 minutes.
  2. Strain, reserving the liquid for the Quince Jelly Recipe, and place the chunks in a food processor, along with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water.  Process until the quince is the consistency you prefer.
  3. Place the now-processed quince in a thick bottomed sauce pan along with the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over med-high heat before reducing to medium and simmer, stirring almost constantly to prevent scorching.
  4. Continue to simmer and stir until the jam is the consistency you prefer, from 30 to 60 minutes, maybe longer.
  5. Place jam in still hot, sterilized jars, place lids and seal — though not quite as tight as you can.
  6. Place jars on a rack in a boiling water bath deep enough so that there’s at least 1 inch of water over the top of the tallest jar. When the boil returns, process for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove jars from the pot and place on a baking sheet or counter, out of drafts. Be sure to cover the surface with a cloth to prevent the hot jars from shattering when they touch a cold surface. Do not move for at least 12 hours, though 24 is best, to give the jars a chance to seal and the jam to fully set.
  8. Preserved quince jam will keep for one year, though some degradation of taste and color may begin to occur after 6 months.  Best to enjoy your jam before that. (Source: Pick Your Own)

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Quince Jelly 3

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Quince Jelly Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1000 ml) quince water reserved when making quince jam, recipe above.
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

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Quince Jelly 1

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Directions

  1. Place the reserved liquid, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over high heat.
  2. Stir constantly until the liquid reduces by about 2/3, developing a syrupy consistency. (it took mine about 40 minutes.)
  3. Use a large spoon to quickly remove any foam before filling the still-hot, sterile jars to 1/4 inch from the top. Follow canning instructions listed in the Quince Jam Recipe above, processing this jelly for 5 minutes in the hot water bath.
  4. Store jelly on a cool, dark shelf.

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Quince & Queso Manchego

Crostini with Quince Jam & Queso Manchego

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Notes

It took 8 quince that, after peeling, coring, and chopping, rendered the 26 oz used in the Jam recipe.

It is best to use ripe quince for this recipe. To check for ripeness, sniff either end of the fruit. Ripe quince will have a floral scent.

When cut, quince will brown. To prevent this, place the pieces in a large bowl of water. When ready to start cooking the quince, I used this water to cover the pieces in the pot, as indicated in step 1 of the Jam recipe.

If you plan to make jelly using the cooking liquid, you will need to strain it through a few layers of cheesecloth or, if none is available, muslin or coffee filters will work, too.

As you can see in the pictures, my jam is lighter than most. Granted, it darkened a bit as it cooked but never reached the deep color that I associate with quince jam. I was a bit concerned until I compared mine to the photos accompanying the original recipe. In that light, mine is quite similar to the original. Whew! My guess is that this jam recipe doesn’t cook the quince as long as the others, and that deep pink color needs a long cooking time to develop. As it was, my jam was thick enough that I had no choice but to pull it off the heat.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Baccalà

With Christmas approaching fast, for the next few weeks I’ll devote this section to some of our favorite holiday recipes. To kick things off, I thought we’d take a look back to our traditional Christmas Eve dish, Baccalà alla Marchigianna. In this preparation baccalà, once rinsed and rehydrated, is cooked in a tomato sauce with potatoes. Serve it with a chunk of bread and you’ll forget all about Santa’s coming in a few hours — well, at least until you’ve cleaned your plate. You can learn how to make this flavorful dish just by clicking  HERE

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Uova da Raviolo - Preview

Uova da Raviolo

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Green Tomato Relish

Thanks to all who sent their condolences during the past week. My family reads this blog and I know that they were as touched by your thoughtfulness as was I.

*     *     *Green Tomato Relish 2

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This has been quite a month and I hope you’ll understand if I’ve not been as frequent a visitor or commenter on your blogs as I have been in the past.

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This was the first year that I tried my hand at making green tomato relish. The sad fact is that, for the last few years, my tomato harvest has been anything but bountiful. From blight, to cracked containers, to damaging winds, it seemed The Fates had conspired against me. Add the daily, early morning raid by my nemesis, Squirrel, and I was lucky to get one pot of sauce in all of August, though I did manage to prepare a few BLTs. Things got so bad last year that I tossed both plants and containers into the trash in mid-August. (Take that, Squirrel!)

Determined to return to the good old days, when I was rewarded with quarts of tomato sauce, last Winter I bought new planters. When, in the Spring, my seedlings looked pathetic, I bought heirloom plants from the farmers market, some of which were the same as my under-achieving seedlings. And then I waited patiently. Lo and behold, I was richly rewarded. My Brandywine supplied me the “T” for all Summer’s BLTs. My cherry tomato, Mexican Midget, insured my salads never went tomato-less and still yielded enough for me to make tomato jam. Finally, my plum tomatoes, San Marzano, kept me awash in tomato sauce. Grandpa would have been proud.

As October drew to a close, I went out and picked the San Marzano plants clean of green tomatoes. The other vines had all but given out at that point. Setting aside some to ripen on a window sill, I chopped the rest, rendering about 1 of the 2 quarts needed for the relish. I then bought 4 large green tomatoes at the farmers market. 3 were needed for the relish and the 4th, destined for BLTs, joined the others on the window sill.

Searching the web for a recipe wasn’t as easy as I had thought. Most that I ran across required a number of large tomatoes without giving an associated weight or volume. As you can see in the photo, my tomatoes were varied in size and I had no idea how many would equal, say, “24 large green tomatoes”.  The recipe I finally chose gave the ingredients in quarts required —  equivalent metric units were, also, provided — and could be adjusted to suit the volume of tomatoes on-hand. It wasn’t long before my relish was underway.

Not having much experience with green tomato relish, I cannot say how this compares with other recipes. I do know that the night following “relish day”, my kitchen smelled like a condiment station at Wrigley Field. Needless to say, this relish is the perfect accompaniment for a hot dog or even the “best of your wurst.”  

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Today, Wednesday, the Jewish Faith celebrates the start of Hanukkah, while tomorrow we in the States celebrate Thanksgiving. Whether you celebrate the holidays, I hope your day is a good one. Have a Wonderful Hanukkah & Happy Thanksgiving!

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Green Tomatoes 1

Relish, we are your father.

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Green Tomato Relish Recipe

yield: 5 to 6 pints

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts chopped green tomatoes (see Notes)
  • 2 large onions, chopped (next time I’ll use one)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped (I used red for color; green may be substituted)
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 4 tbsp canning/pickling salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp prepared mustard (yellow mustard seed may be substituted)
  • 2 tsp celery seed (if celery salt is used, do not add additional kosher salt)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 whole cloves wrapped in cheesecloth
  • 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)

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Green Tomato Relish 1

NOOOOOOOOO!

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Directions

  1. Place tomatoes, onions, peppers, and jalapeños a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Stir to mix and set aside for 1 hour. After the hour has passed, drain the liquid before placing the mixture into a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  2. Add the sugar, mustard, celery seed, cloves, and vinegar to the pot and stir to combine. Heat the mixture over med-high heat until it boils. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Place relish into sterile jars and fill to 1/4 inch of top and cover. Once cool, store in the fridge where it will keep for 2 weeks.
  4. For canning instructions, see Notes.

Inspired by a recipe on Food.com

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Relish & Dog

A destiny fulfilled.

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Notes

It took about 6 large tomatoes to make 2 quarts chopped. Sizes vary and you may need more or less tomato to fill 2 quarts.

Even though you can store this relish in the fridge, 5 or 6 pints is an awful lot of relish to use within 2 weeks. I prefer to can the relish, giving me a supply that will keep for up to one year. To can:

  1. This should be done while relish and jars are still hot.
  2. Bring a large kettle of water to the boil over high heat. Place a rack or towel in the bottom of the pot so that no jar will come in contact with the bottom of the pot.
  3. Seal each jar a little less than fully tightened.
  4. Place jars in the boiling water. Do not allow them to touch each other and the water should cover the tallest jar by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm).
  5. When the water returns to the boil, process the jars for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the jars to a cloth-covered counter or baking sheet, away from any drafts. (The cloth will prevent the jars from shattering should they come in contact with a cold surface.) Do not move for at least 12 hours, though 24 hours is best.
  7. Relish stored in a cool, dark place should keep for about a year.

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Forget Moose. Must get Squirrel!

One day last Summer, after listening to me yet again bemoan Squirrel’s daily raids on my tomato plants, my friend Cynthia mentioned that she’d heard that squirrels steal tomatoes for the moisture they provide. The squirrels will take a bite and a drink from each one that they pilfer. If you want to reduce the thievery, the theory goes, leave a dish of water for them to drink. I didn’t experiment with this because I had stumbled upon my own way of dealing with Squirrel — and a shot-gun wasn’t even involved. Every day or so, I walk around my plants’ containers, picking up tomatoes that have fallen due to the wind, Squirrel, or a passing Max. (He has a yard to patrol yet insists on circling each container.) One afternoon, while on my way out, I gathered up the tomatoes on the ground, placing them on a table on the deck — and promptly forgot all about them. The next morning, much to my surprise, a couple of the tabled tomatoes were stolen by Squirrel but those on the vine were left alone. From that day on, like my Roman ancestors of long ago, I paid a tribute of fallen tomatoes to my enemy, a four-legged barbarian, and my wealth, my tomato harvest, was spared. Only time will tell whether this arrangement will work next season.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Fall is typically when a Bartolini’s thoughts turn to sausage making. The cooler temperatures make it far less likely to run into the spoilage problems that you might Bartolini Sausageencounter in Summer’s heat. Not only that but years ago my family hung the freshly made sausage in their screened, back porches to dry/cure in the chilled air. Once cured, the sausages were sliced and eaten like salami. Well, despite all that — and the photo, for that matter — I no longer make sausages, preferring to make patties instead. No matter your preference, you can learn how to make sausage like a Bartolini by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Quince Preview 2

Quince: The end of the year’s canning

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Today’s Jam is a Real Plum, Damson Plum with Cardamom

My poor Damson plums. Way back in September, I bought 2 overflowing quarts of the diminutive beauties, planning to make and freeze cobblers. Yum, right? Well, this was the Saturday before I was to leave for Michigan and, as luck would have it, there was no time for making cobbler before I left. No problem. I’d bring them to Michigan with me and make cobblers for Zia. The night before I was to leave, I placed the bag of plums on my dining table, along with some of the parts to my ice cream machine. A few hours later, I finished loading the car and left for Michigan. Once there, I realized I had left everything on the table. Poor Zia. She got neither cobbler nor ice cream during my last visit.

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Damson Plum Jam 2

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Upon my return home, as I unpacked the car I passed by that bag of plums a few times. I really wasn’t in any hurry to look inside, figuring it would be an unsightly mess, at best. So, once everything was unpacked, and with my laundry going, I decided to brave the bag and have a peek. Unbelievably, they were pretty much as I had left them. I dumped them into a colander and, though a few were smashed, none were spoilt. I discarded those that were smashed and rinsed the rest. Now, what to do with them?

Sadly, the cobbler idea had lost its appeal. Having brought home plenty of apples, there were pies and apple cake (recipe forthcoming) in my future and I just wasn’t interested in making cobbler anymore. (A decision I’m sure to regret this Winter.) That meant my long-neglected plums would be used to make jam.

Damson plums are smaller than others and their peel ranges from dark blue to black, some with a hint of deep purple. (Sorry, I forgot to photograph them fresh. See? Neglected.) The flesh is greenish-yellow and the pits adhere to that flesh, something you’ll need to consider when using them in a recipe. When it comes to taste, the flesh is somewhat sweet while the skin is a bit tart. For me, this makes Damson plums perfect for jam. Use a little sugar for a tart jam, more for a sweeter taste.

Today’s recipe is a basic jam and no pectin is required. The only questionable part is the addition of the cardamom pods. If you want, you can just toss them into the pot and fish them out of the plums when you remove the pits. Personally, I don’t like that method. It’s far too likely for one to slip past me and, guaranteed, it will be in a jar that I give to a friend or family member. I much prefer to tie the pods in cheesecloth before placing them in the pot. Depending upon how much cardamom flavor you like, the pod package can be put back into the pot after the plum pits have been removed, an option not available if your use the pods alone. Other than the use of the cardamom pods, you’ll find the recipe to be straight-forward.

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Damson Plum Jam - 1

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Damson Plum with Cardamom Jam Recipe

Ingredients

  • 36 oz. (1 kg) damson plums
  • 3 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 5 cardamom pods (refer to above commentary and Notes)
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Rinse the plums, removing any stems in the process.
  2. Place the plums, cardamom pods, and water in a thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour. Remove from heat and allow to cool to touch.
  3. Using your hands, squeeze each plum to remove the pit. Discard the pits as well as all the cardamom pods. Reserve everything else.
    1. Alternately, a food mill may be used to remove the pits and pods.
  4. Place the broken down plums back into the thick-bottomed pot. Add sugar, salt, and cook over medium to med-high heat until a temperature of 320˚ F (160˚ C) is reached.
  5. Test to see if jam is ready (See Notes).
  6. If your plums are jamming, place in sterile jars and seal.
    1. They may be refrigerated and will keep for about a month.
    2. They may be frozen and will keep up to a year. Once thawed, use within 3 weeks.
    3. If preserved/canned (see Notes), jam will keep up to a year if stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened, use within a month.
    4. Source: Home Center For Home Food Preservation
  7. Serve as you would your favorite jam and may be used to flavor roasts, particularly pork.

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Damson Plum Jam 4

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Notes

According to a number of sites, 5 cardamom pods would equal about 3/4 tsp of ground cardamom. I have not prepared this jam using ground cardamom, so, I’ve no idea whether it will have a stronger taste.

Though there are a few methods of testing to see if your fruit is jammin’, I prefer to use the plate test. While the fruit/berries are boiling on the stove top, place a dish in your freezer. When you think the jam is ready, take about a half-teaspoon of jam and place it on the now chilled plate. Allow the jam to rest a few minutes before using another spoon or your fingertip to see if the jam has set or is still too runny. If the latter, continue to simmer the jam while returning the plate to the freezer to await the next test.

Canning this jam is simple and not unlike other jams & jellies. Once the jam is ready, fill the sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Place lids on top of each jar, tightening until not quite as tight as possible. (I tighten mine fully and then unscrew the lid slightly.) Place each jar on a rack in a large pot of boiling water. Jars must not sit directly on the kettle bottom. Once the pot returns to the boil, begin timing. This jam will need to be processed (boiled) for 10 minutes, if using half-pint or smaller jars (235 ml or smaller). After 10 minutes, remove jars to a cloth-covered counter or baking sheet, away from any drafts. Do not move for at least 12 hours — 24 hours is best — so that the jars fully seal and the jam sets.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Roast Loin of Pork

Roast Loin of Pork

When our temperatures start to drop, I begin to think of preparing roasts for dinner. The oven brings welcome warmth to the kitchen and my house soon fills with the heavenly aroma of a roast in that oven. About a year ago, I posted a recipe for roast loin of pork that was butterflied, slathered with fig preserves and wrapped in pancetta before roasting. The result was a dinner fit for a holiday. You can see the recipe, along with step-by-step instructions, by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Roasted Arctic Char 3

 Roasted Arctic Char

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My Tomatoes Are In A Jam

With today’s post another short one, I thought I’d share a bit more about my Grandpa. When we last left him, he had just finished painting the trim on the two-flat’s peak and had invited the neighbors to come into the backyard to “see my tomatoes” …

(Those interested can read the painting story by clicking HERE.)

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Tomato Jam 2

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Grandpa was well-known throughout our neighborhood and he could often be seen strolling about, his hands behind his back, with his right hand holding the index and middle fingers of his left hand. The little boy across the street took note and would often mimic Grandpa as they walked together or on opposite sides of the street. For Grandpa, this was the highest form of flattery.

He did more than just stroll about, however. If he heard the rumble of heavy equipment or the whir of power tools, he would be at the job site or backyard within minutes. Having once owned a contracting company, Grandpa knew and understood quite a bit about building and repair work. It wouldn’t be long before he’d be advising the worker(s) and oftentimes he’d pitch in, showing them how whatever it was should be done. His opinion was respected and very often sought out by our neighbors and the parish.

For example, the front of our church was a massive, floor-to-ceiling mosaic depicting a number of Grandpa & Cookiesaints and religious symbols. As the church settled, a large crack began to appear in the center of the mosaic at its base, stretching upward like some leafless tree. Grandpa was called in to repair the crack and to replace the tiny colored tiles. Not long after that, following a lightning strike, Grandpa’s knowledge of masonry was required to help with the repairs to the school. As I said, Grandpa was well-known and respected.

Well, once the heavier garden work — the tilling, fertilizing, and planting — was done for the season and with no repair projects to tackle, Grandpa had time to relax. You could often find him sipping a beer while resting in his hammock under the grape arbor, listening to George Kell announce the play-by-play for the games of his beloved baseball team, the Detroit Tigers. Sometimes he watered the garden from the hammock, using a sprinkler to get those places beyond his reach. Eventually the game would end and that was cause for concern for some of the wives in the neighborhood, for Grandpa would go for a walk.

It didn’t matter who you were — neighbor, passer-by, parish priest, mail carrier, etc. — if Grandpa saw you, he would strike up a conversation and, at just the right moment, invite you to “see my tomatoes.” Within minutes, there you were, looking at his 2 dozen tomato plants, tied to their hockey sticks in neat little rows. He’d show you the brick barbecue, his very much prized Chinese pheasants, the lettuce patch, the grape vines, the potted lemon tree, and his latest attempt at growing a fig tree. Within minutes you’d be invited into the patio and he’d have a cold one in front of you before your rear end settled into your chair. What’s this? You don’t like beer? Not to worry. There was a jug of red wine under the table. Oh? You prefer white wine? There just so happened to be a jug of white wine next to the red. Well, that first beer or glass of wine led to another and another and then another. Somewhere along the line, shot glasses would appear and whiskey was introduced into the conversation. Although the length of these backyard tours varied, they usually ended in the same way, with his guest leaving the yard, though quite a bit more wobbly than when the tour first began. In fact, there were a few times when one of us kids was asked to walk his guest home.

These visits did not go unnoticed by the wives in the neighborhood and a few men refused Grandpa’s subsequent invitations. Others would accept but leave abruptly after Come Into My Parlor ...the first beer. Of course, there were a couple who, for whatever reason, accepted the invitation with no apparent qualms at all. It was after one such visit that a neighbor approached Mom, angry because her husband had ignored her wishes and had returned home moments before, more wobbly than usual. I don’t recall whether she wanted Mom to control Grandpa, her husband, or both but Mom, recognizing a no win situation, did nothing of the kind, The husband, perhaps wisely, kept his distance and I don’t recall ever seeing him in the backyard again.

That’s too bad because he missed one of the greatest parties held in our yard. It was Grandpa’s birthday, though neither Zia nor I can remember the exact one. As was the case for each of his birthdays, all 13 of us ate dinner together in the patio, with a couple of family friends seated at the table as well.  Once the dinner was finished, neighbors and friends joined the party just in time for cake and liquid refreshments. As I said, Grandpa was well-known and you never really knew who’d show up. This year, even the parish Pastor stopped by. The poor man didn’t stand a chance, for the wine, beer, and whiskey flowed freely. I’ve no idea how much time had transpired but I do know that my Dad was seated on our front porch as Grandpa walked the priest back to the rectory. (You may recall the rectory was located at the opposite end of our block.) Dad was still on the porch when the two returned a while later. Apparently, when they finally reached the rectory, the priest kindly offered to walk Grandpa home, he accepted, and so they returned. Realizing that this could go on for hours, Dad offered to walk the good priest home and sent Grandpa to bed. Oddly enough, although he was invited, our Pastor was a no-show at Grandpa’s next birthday party. That was OK, however, for another priest, a recent transfer from Wisconsin, unknowingly took his place …

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I first became aware of tomato jam last year through my blogging friend, Marie, when she posted a link to a recipe for tomato jam that used Sungold cherry tomatoes. When I mentioned it to Zia, she remembered that Grandma had made tomato jam when both she and Mom were little girls. The way I saw it, I had little choice but to make a batch, which I enjoyed very much.

This year, my tomato plants did much better than they have in recent years but the weather was far from cooperative. Though Summer started quite warmly, the sun and high temperatures soon departed, not to return until late August. Up until that time, my tomatoes grew but never got the sun and heat needed to ripen. Then, as September started, so did the ripening and soon I had more tomatoes than I could handle. That’s when I decided to revisit tomato jam, making two batches within days of each other.

Unlike last year, however, my tomatoes weren’t Sungolds. In the first batch, I used only heirloom plum tomatoes. In the second, I used an even mix of tiny cherry tomatoes and more heirloom plum tomatoes. Since my tomatoes weren’t as sweet as Sungolds, I referenced Mark Bittman’s recipe for tomato jam, as well as the one suggested by Marie.

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Tomato Jam Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3.5 lbs (1590 g) tomatoes, cored, and roughly chopped (peeling optional)
  • 2 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 green Thai chiles chopped, seeds and veins removed (see Notes)
  • juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp cloves, ground
  • 2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Place sugar, chiles, and tomatoes in a thick bottomed, non-reactive pot. Stir and allow to sit for 1/2 hour.
  2. Using medium heat, add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, before reducing to a simmer. Stir often to prevent scorching.
  3. Continue to simmer until the mixture resembles jam. This could take as little as 90 minutes or as long as 3 hours, maybe longer. If unsure whether your jam is ready, perform a plate test. (See Notes.)
  4. Once your tomatoes are jammin’, fill sterilized jars to 1/4 inch of the rim. Place the lid on each jar and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from the boiling water, place on a towel lined baking sheet, and place them all in a draft-free area where they will remain undisturbed for at least 12 to 24 hours.
  5. Check to make sure each jar is properly sealed and store them in a cool, dark place. Those not sealed should be refrigerated and eaten within two weeks.

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Notes

When researching the amount of time required to process these jars in a hot water bath, I came across 3 different time requirements; 5, 10, and 15 minutes. Preferring to err on the side of caution, I processed my jam for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Although I peeled the tomatoes in the first batch, it was virtually impossible to peel the dozens of cherry tomatoes, so, I didn’t. I was surprised to find there was no detectable difference in texture between the two batches and I won’t be peeling tomatoes for jam in the future.

After cooking for an hour or so, I used a potato masher to crush any of the cherry tomatoes that remained whole. This released their liquid into the pot and, I believe, shortened the cooking process.

In the first batch, I used 3 green Thai chiles, removing both seeds and veins, thinking they would be too hot if used whole. Well, I could not detect them at all. In the second batch, I used one green Thai chile, leaving seeds and veins intact as I chopped it. It’s heat was barely detectable. I’ve yet to figure out what I’ll do next time but I’ve a feeling there’s one batch of very spicy tomato jam in my future.

There are a few ways to test whether your jam will set. I use the plate test. While your jam is boiling on your stove top, place a dish in your freezer. When you think your jam is ready, take about a half-teaspoon of jam and place it on the now chilled plate. Allow the jam to rest a few minutes before using another spoon or your fingertip to see if the jam has set or is still too runny. If the latter, continue to simmer the jam while returning the plate to the freezer to await the next test.

The cherry tomatoes that I used are an heirloom variety called “Mexican Midget”. One plant will produce a great deal of fruit, though smaller than “normal” cherry or grape tomatoes. The largest of these tomatoes are no bigger than my thumbnail, with many as small as the nail of my little finger. Up until I used them to make jam, I tossed a handful of them into each of my dinner salads — and still dozens remained on the plant.

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Tomato Jam 3

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Black FigsSince this is a jammin’ post, we might as well be consistent. Today’s blast from the past is a recipe that I shared last year, Fig Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper. Not only is this jam great when served with toast and, say, goat cheese, but it works beautifully when used to stuff a pork roast. WIth figs now filling our markets, this is one jam you won’t want to miss. Just click HERE for the details.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Braised Goat over RIce

Goat in the Moorish Style

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