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Homemade Ketchup

October 20th, 2009

In our efforts to eat healthier and more locally I’ve been learning to make more and more things here at home instead of buying them at the store. Usually they’re very easy to make and most of the time they taste better than their store-bought counterpart and they’re much cheaper as well. My latest make my own efforts involved ketchup.
Homemade_KetchupMaking ketchup is actually much easier than it sounds. I used the recipe from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects
Of course since I lack the ability to follow a recipe to a T, I changed the recipe a bit. I used roasted tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes and I used olive oil and ground cardamom since I didn’t have whole pods.

Regular ol’ Tomato Ketchup (but better)
from: Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects

1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
5 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods (crushed) I used 1/2 t. ground cardamom
1 star anise
10 black peppercorns
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes (I used roasted homegrown tomatoes)
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 Tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (I used olive)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used organic evaporated cane juice and organic molasses)
1/2 cup champagne vinegar (I used organic white balsamic)
1 teaspoon hungarian paprika (I used smoked paprika)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Using a piece of cheesecloth (or an empty tea bag), tie the cinnamon, bay, cloves, cardamom, anise, and peppercorns into a bundle. Set aside.

2. Pour tomatoes and their juice into a food processor or blender (or put roasted tomatoes through food mill). Puree until totally smooth, and set aside all but 1/4 cup. To the remainder, add the onion and puree.

3. In a large dutch oven (this will splatter so use a large tall pot), heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion puree and the 2 teaspoons of salt and stir well. Cook for 8-10 minutes, letting the puree reduce and lightly brown. Add the tomato, sugar and vinegar, turn heat to a low simmer, and reduce for about 15 minutes uncovered, with an occasional stir (cooking time is reduced if using roasted tomatoes since they’re already reduced). Add the spice bundle and reduce for 10 minutes more, with an occasional stir (I added the spice packet when I added the tomatoes). When it’s done reducing, it should be a little thinner than commercial ketchup. Stir in paprika, taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.

4. Let ketchup cool and remove the spice bundle. Pour into a jar and chill overnight, or at least for 6 hours.

Will store in fridge for up to 2 months.
To can: ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 headspace and process in a water-bath canner for 15 minutes (more at higher elevations).

I must admit, this is a great recipe. I’ve had homemade ketchup before and I’ve never really liked it; this is a different story. This ketchup has that perfect sweet tanginess that I love, it might even be better with some heat added (perhaps some of those cayennes I’ve dried). Of course if you’re expecting the texture of the stuff from the grocery you’ll be dissappointed, but in flavor this is by far better than store bought. I’ll still be keeping some regular ketchup in my cabinet, but this will become a regular at our table for sure. I used some of this ketchup to make sloppy joes and they were fantastic! I would highly recommend this recipe to anyone interested in making some homemade ketchup.

Have you ever tried making something at home that you usually buy at the store?

Harvesting Herbs for Tea

October 15th, 2009

This week I’ve been out harvesting a lot of my herbs for warming winter teas. I should harvest them all summer long, but I get busy and always forget to do it until winter threatens. I carry a big bowl around with me and snip the fresh herbs. I keep them all separate in small paper bags that I’ve saved.
I think I picked about 2 pounds of herbs for tea this winter as well as a few savory herbs for seasoning (I also like savory tea on occasion) and some medicinal herbs.

What herbs made it into my harvest bowl?
-Blue Stocking Bergamot
-Anise Hyssop
-Mountain Mint
-Lemon Balm
-Greek Oregano
-Fennel Seed
-Genovese Basil
-Broad Leafed Plantain

I was even able to harvest a small handful of chamomile. I had one volunteer plant that I harvested a good amount of blossoms from earlier in the summer. These few flowers are from a plant I started later in the summer. For some reason I didn’t have much luck with my chamomile this year, since I love chamomile tea I hope I have a better harvest next year!
I also have a few potted herbs that I bring in as houseplants, these include: rosemary, lemon thyme, lemon verbena and chives. All of these we will enjoy fresh all winter long.

Do you dry herbs for seasoning & tea?

My Favorite Pepper: Cayenne

September 26th, 2009

I picked this great cayenne pepper in the garden yesterday, I thought it looked like a big waxed mustache. I tried to get Lucy to oblige me for a photo, but she doesn’t like to have her photo taken, so this is the best I could get as she tried to bite the stem.
I grew cayenne peppers this year because I love love love hot food, and I find myself often adding cayenne powder or red pepper flakes to my food. I’m not a huge pepper fan, they give me terrible indigestion, but cayenne peppers are a different story.
I’ve been drying them whole and in slices dehydrator. I’m planning on crushing them all to make red pepper flakes.
I also dried some jalapeño slices. I’m still harvesting and drying, but I think I should have 3 cups of pepper flakes before the end of the season. That should last me till next year.

Have you ever grown one of your favorite spices/herbs?

Fire Roasted Red Peppers

September 19th, 2009

I’ve been reading all kinds of books about canning (as you can see by the “What I’m Reading” section to the right). While reading through, Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal FoodsI found a recipe for roasted red peppers. Instead of roasting the peppers in the oven, I decided to roast them over a fire out back.
There’s just something wonderful about roasting peppers and tomatoes over a fire. It gives them a wonderful smoky flavor that you just can’t beat.
I roasted some jalapeños and some red peppers, both regular red peppers and red pimento peppers. Last year I froze my fire-roasted poblano peppers and we enjoyed them chili and on pizza all winter long.
This year I decided to can them following the recipe from Well-Preserved. One piece of advice if you decide to do this, make sure you allow at least 1 inch of headspace, that she advised in the book isn’t enough. And make sure you only fill the jar 3/4 of the way with peppers, she says “the peppers expand a bit during processing”, but that’s a bit of an understatement, they expand quite a bit!

from Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods
4 pounds red peppers (8-10 medium peppers)
1 cup bottled lemon juice (I used organic)
2 cups white wine vinegar (I used organic)
1 cup olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced (I used small whole homegrown cloves)
1.5 teaspoons salt (I use Real Salt)

Roast peppers in oven or over fire (to roast in oven, place peppers on baking sheet on rack about 7 inches from broiler in oven). Broil peppers, turning them often with tongs so that they blister all over. Let peppers stand in bowl with cover until cool enough to handle. Remove the charred skin, cut in half and remove core, stem and seeds.

Combine lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and salt in saucepan and heat just to boiling over medium heat.

Have ready 3 scalded pint jars and their bands (to scald dip in boiling water). Simmer lids in small pan of hot water to soften rubber.

Pack peppers into the jars and pour the marinade over them (only fill jars 3/4 of the way full with peppers). Using a butter knife, pop any air bubbled in the jars. See that the garlic is evenly distributed. Be sure to leave 1/2 to 3/4 inch of headspace (I would recommend 3/4), or the seal might fail. Wipe the rims, put on lids, and screw on bands.

Process the peppers in a waterbath canner for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the water for 5 minutes, then remove to a towel lined counter or cooling rack. Allow to cool, check seals and store in a cool try place for up to 1 year.
I haven’t cracked open a jar of these yet, I’m letting them marinade for a few weeks before I do. I think they sound delicious for sure. I’m considering doing the same thing with eggplant as well.

Any delicious recommendations for how to use roasted red peppers?

One Year Ago

September 14th, 2009

One year ago today I was canning pears. Every time I crack open a batch of these pears we have a good laugh.
This wasn’t an ordinary pear canning experience. Not too long after starting my batch of pears a huge storm came through and the lights went out. Since this happens often here in rural Ohio, we expected them to be back on in a few minutes or perhaps an hour at most. Little did we know, it would take days! If you didn’t catch the story of romantic canning by candlelight photos, make sure you check them out!

Any fun memories from your homestead?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.