Thursday, 1 December 2011

Christmas Baking...Hungarian Kifli


When I was growing up, December was the month for baking.   I was lucky to live on a hobby farm that was surrounded by immigrant farmers.  Since my own folks were of Hungarian origin I was exposed to their culture and foods.  My immediate neighbours were Ukrainian, Scottish, Russian, British and of German descent.  Up the road were Polish, Dutch and Portuguese nationalities to mention a few.  There was never any animosity towards one another as far as I could tell. Whatever their faith  we all came together at Christmas.


I swear that when you opened our kitchen door you could smell my mother’s kifli, the neighbour’s shortbread, cherry filled perogies, strudel and stollen all mingled together,  enticing one to visit another.  Mom kept the kettle on low heat just in case anyone stopped by for tea.  She always had a plate of homemade cookies and other delicacies she baked for the occasion.  In fact when my Mom was alive I cannot remember a time she didn’t have the kettle on and a baked good on hand.


One of my favourite memories from my childhood was where I attended my first year of school.  It was a one room schoolhouse called Cherry Valley on Cherry Valley Road.  It was built in approximately 1911. There was a small stream that ran through a wooded area surrounding the school.  There was lots of space for us to play at recess. We used sleds in those days, to go down the snow covered hills and skate on the stream.    


Our teacher, Mr. Danly, who was only a kid himself a nineteen year old, hosted a family night at the school.  I can remember how excited and nervous I was as we drove down the old gravel road that evening.  Mom had sewed me a burgundy coloured velvet dress for the occasion. All of us grade one kids had to stand up and in turn each recite a letter from the word CHRISTMAS.  I was the letter ‘M’ for myrrh. My parents proudly watched as I spoke.  I can remember looking around at all of the smiling faces, the glow of the fire coming from the old pot bellied stove as it worked its hardest to produce heat.  From the window panes a gentle snow was falling and you could see the flakes, they were that large.   We ate cookies that everyone brought and drank hot coco.  Each of us kids got a small bag of candy before we left.  Those truly were the good old days in so many ways.         


It is nice for every family or individual to celebrate traditions.  It provides a sense of security to know that one thing is constant every year.  In today’s society there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that. It is also good to shift things up a bit.  This year I am going to read a lovely and heartfelt story to everyone titled,      A Christmas Story, a true story’ written by Jay Frankston.  I ordered a hard copy of the book this past January.  It is a wonderful story and one where we can all learn something about giving.  You can order a hard copy of it through: 


 I recently delved through my vast cookbook collection and found the ‘kifli ‘recipe my Mother baked every Christmas season.  There are many versions of the recipe but this is the one she used.


Mom’s Hungarian Kifli
For the dough:
3 c. flour
¾ c. sugar
¾ c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. Salt
¾ c. lard
½ c. milk
Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for an hour.  Roll out the dough and cut it into 2 inch squares. You can fill it with a walnut mixture and roll each square up corner to corner making a crescent shape.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Nut Filling
1 lb. ground walnuts
½ c. of sugar
½ c. milk
1tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Heat milk.  Add sugar and walnuts; stir. Add butter and lemon juice.  Cool before spreading on dough.


Try a kifli with a shot of Hungarian Apricot brandy.  That will certainly put you into the holiday spirit! Enjoy.


It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.  ~Charles Dickens


 

Monday, 31 October 2011

Orchestrating the meal…

                                          
When I am preparing a meal for a holiday, I think of myself as the conductor of an orchestra.  It must go back to my university days when I studied Music Theory.  Music has many different fundamentals or elements. So does preparing a feast.   Every culture and religion celebrates some sort of Holiday.  Whether you prepare a turkey or any other meat or fish, for a main course, the timetable I use should work for you.  I like to break the tasks down.  I make sure that whenever I am prepping, that I gather all of the ingredients and tools I will need for that particular dish.  I put them on a cookie sheet and as I use each item I will put it way i.e. spices, sugar, baking soda etc. Use your list from my previous blog or if you threw it out then sit down and write a new one.     
So, let me walk you through this:
48 hours before the holiday dinner:
Based on a 10-12 pound frozen turkey you will need 48 hours for it to thaw. Refer to my previous blog to read all about safely handling the turkey.

Prepare your pies or any other dessert.  It doesn’t matter if you choose to bake your own or buy ready made, saving time is the key issue.   Baking two days before the meal will ensure that you do not need to use the oven on the day you roast the turkey.

Depending on my time I will cook the turnips since the large waxed ones we get in this area take a long time to cook.

I’ll also bake the squash.  Make sure that you have enough storage containers to put the cooked veg into the fridge for storage.

If you make your own cranberry sauce, this can also be prepared in advance. 

24 hours before …
Prepare the stuffing.  I no longer stuff the bird I cook it separately and serve it in a casserole dish.
Wash your other vegetables and where suitable peel them and put them in water into the fridge if there is room.
If you are serving a green salad from scratch make it and seal it in a zip lock in the fridge.   
Check on the turkey and if it isn’t thawing and is still quite frozen then you need to put it into cold water overnight.  Once again check the directions from my previous blog about handling poultry.
Go over your list and see what else there is that you can do on the day before.  This year I made biscuits and wrapped them in foil and warmed them on the day of the feast.
It is really important to keep an ongoing list so that you don’t go too crazy the day of and find out that that an ingredient is missing or that something you are making takes up too much oven time.  Most of us are everyday people who do not have a celebrity kitchen so we probably only have one oven.

The day of…
4 hours before prepare and bake/cook/steam/puree your vegetables/casseroles and have them all ready to reheat   right before the meal. This will take place once your turkey is finished and resting on your counter waiting to be carved.

3 hours before put the bird in the oven.

2 hours before serving make sure that all of your food is prepared and assembled and that if you have them in pots that serving bowls are on hand.  Set your table or prepare your buffet if that is the route you are taking. Make sure that your serving utensils are also available and hot mats or pot holders are also in place.

1 hour before use a meat thermometer and check that the turkey is cooked and up to temp.  If it is done then take it out of the oven and put it on a cutting board to rest.  Cover it with foil to keep it warm.  Turn your oven down to a low heat and reheat as many dishes that your racks can hold. Remember to turn your stove burners off and then you can also use the stovetop to warm some dishes if oven room is a problem. 

½ hour before make your gravy,   while it is bubbling away on low heat carve your bird and put it on a platter and cover it again in foil. 

¼ hour before pull everything out of the oven and put it on the table.  Make sure the food is covered until the last minute.  Turn off your oven and pop in the turkey to keep it warm.  Strain your gravy.  Make sure everything is ready and on the table i.e. a cork screw if you are serving white wine.  Keep in mind the dessert if it requires heating.

Let the music begin…
Pull the turkey out and put the meat and gravy on the table and then tell everyone that ‘dinner is served’.  If you have paced yourself and have organized your holiday meal then you too will relax and enjoy your creation.  Put on some festive music and celebrate!
                                     

 Pre-heat the oven?  Really?  If I was the sort of person who planned ahead, I wouldn't be eating this Totino's Party Pizza in the first place.  ~Adam Peterson
                  From http://www.quotegarden.com/



 

Friday, 21 October 2011

How to Organize a Holiday Dinner-Part 2 Planning!

                                                                       
Planning
I usually plan the meal two weeks in advance.  There are a couple of ways to organize the dinner.  First you will need to decide how many people you are inviting.  Over the years I have served from three people to twenty.  The same scheduling has gone into each event regardless of the numbers.  Once you determine who will be invited then you need to consider your finances.  Some years I have not been able to afford the entire meal so I have held what I call a ‘cooperative cooking’ dinner.  That means I will delagate different dishes to be made by my guests. I’ll get into that later.  For the time being I will describe how I make the dinner by myself.  If I can do it so can you.
Lists
I am a person who writes lists, so I take a piece of paper and write down what I will serve.  I leave a gap under each heading so that there is room to go back and then note what recipe I will use, ingredients, how much to buy, and what utensils I will need to prepare the dish.  Traditionally I have made turkey, ham, lamb, and roast of beef.  There is usually stuffing, gravy, biscuits or rolls, potatoes, turnip, squash, cranberry sauce, green beans, salad, a pickle tray, two dessert options, coffee, tea, and wine or punch.  If I have invited a vegetarian I will consider their needs and make a special dish for them.  In the early years of my hosting I made everything from scratch but things have come a long way since then and if there is a short cut in preparation I take it. I do not hesitate to buy   cubed turnip and squash, frozen pie crusts, gravy mixes, canned cranberry sauce etc.  I tend to lean towards organics but the decision is yours regarding that.

 The following is a brief example from my list based on serving ten people.  I used a traditional roast turkey recipe.
Turkey
8-10 pounds
Seasonings
Gravy mix
Roasting pan
Basting brush
Aluminum foil large size
Meat thermometer
Cutting board
Knife for carving
The type of turkey you buy is up to you.  I have used fresh, frozen, pre-stuffed, pre-cooked, organic, grain fed.  The main consideration is food safety and handling. A great resource for turkey advice can be found at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/turkey-dinde-eng.php .  I have also tried different methods of roasting. There are lots of recipe ideas online.  Last Christmas I brined the bird and it was so tender and succulent I’ll do that again this year.

If this is your first attempt at preparing a meal for a group then keep it simple.    I have learned many things through misjudgment and error and one of them was trying to figure things out on my own.  Cookbooks and online recipes can provide a wealth of information but so can the butcher at your local shop or grocery store.  Preparing a holiday meal is not the time to try a new recipe or casserole unless you are a seasoned cook.  Fresh vegetables are flavourful on their own and taste just fine if prepared as simply as possible.
Grocery Shopping
Over the years I have learned a few tricks along the way in how to grocery shop for a large gathering.    I buy everything at one major grocery store that I am the most familiar with. For me it saves time and added stress.  However, my husband likes to go to our Farmers Market to buy local vegetables.  If that is the case I make sure he has a list of what I need.

I write out a grocery list based on the aisles of the store.  I have often asked the service desk for a floor plan in order to familiarize myself with where things are.  It saves time and energy to decide in advance what I need and where to find it. Grocery stores at holiday time are a nightmare.  Most stores have the following aisles: produce/ vegetables, produce/ fruit, baker’s oven, deli & seafood, a bulk section, meat counter fresh and frozen, various aisles that are product specific i.e. cereals etc. If you have a list and stick to it you will stay within your budget.   I also use the list in the same manner if I buy my groceries online.  Something else to keep in mind when shopping is  how much space you have at home to put things away i.e. your freezer size, storage space in the fridge, cupboards etc.  This plan works for me and I hope it works for you.
To be continued  

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How to Organize a Holiday Dinner –Part 1 Get Organized!


                                                                                  
I just added up all of the holiday dinners that I have made in the past twenty plus years and the ballpark estimate is ninety.   After the most recent Thanksgiving meal I had three different individuals ask me ‘how to’ do it.  My best piece of advice to a novice is to be extremely organized.     I hope that the following info I share can and will encourage you to try making your first holiday dinner.  Believe me I have made every mistake in the book.  I can guarantee you won’t make the same mistake twice. Good luck!   
Organizing Your Kitchen
It does not matter what the size of your kitchen is or how many appliances you have, you too can pull off a delicious meal.  You might have a custom made gourmet kitchen but if it is not organized and functional in a useful manner then you will add years of stress to your life when trying to prepare a big dinner.    I cannot stress enough how well things with go for you if it is well organized beforehand. I just served eight people a delicious meal prepared in an apartment galley kitchen.   Due to the limited space things need to be accessible and located in a certain place especially when planning a holiday event:
Your fridge size, including the freezer
Before you do anything else have a look at your fridge.  I always clean mine out before a holiday dinner.  It is a good time to throw out expired jars of condiments or those leftovers in the back that have gone moldy. Consider the space in your vegetable crispers.  Wipe down the surfaces.  You also need to have a look at the freezer and defrost it if necessary and make as much room as possible.   Consider the space before you buy your groceries.  Take it from me if you are planning on serving  turkey if is too big it won’t fit in either the freezer or the fridge.
Your stove
Make sure that your stove is in good working order.  Clean your oven and racks and check that the burners are also working and clean.  In this apartment I have an electric stove with only one large burner and that makes cooking a challenge at the best of times but it can be done.  Determine how big your oven is. I made the mistake of buying a turkey too big for an oven size I had not considered and that was a huge mistake.  You can read my previous blog entry ‘A Not So Happy Thanksgiving’   about that fiasco.   I have never made that mistake again.
Cupboards or shelves
Clean and well organized cupboards or storage shelves will make your preparations flow easier.  I keep canned goods in one place, baking supplies all together in another, dry goods in plastic containers, spices in baskets, pots, pans, lids all in one spot and small appliances in another.  Root vegetables, potatoes, and onions do not need refrigeration and can be stored in a box.   
Utensils
I must admit I had a thing for kitchen gadgets.    I had an entire drawer of them that were never used.  I gave them to a charity.  Now it is amazing how well I manage without the clutter.  The following are a list of what I consider to be the basic kitchen utensils   needed to make a holiday meal:
6-8 quart pot with a lid * in a pinch you can use the pot for double duty as a dishpan.  I often soak cutlery in this type of a pot after a meal
9 inch fry pan preferably non stick with a lid
Graduated saucepans with lids *at least 3 different sizes
Deep roasting pan with a rack and cover or just a roasting pan where you use tin foil as a cover
Colander or large strainer
Wooden cutting board * it can also be used as a serving platter for meats
Plastic cutting board used just for veggies and fruits
4 sided grater
Potato peeler
Butcher knife and paring knife
Garlic press
Basting brush
Measuring spoons and 2 cup measuring cup
3 different sized mixing bowls *can be also used as serving bowls
Different sized wooden spoons
Rubber spatula
Flipper
Tongs * essential in my books
Pot holders and oven mitts *buy good quality the cheap ones absorb the heat and are a risk for burns
Large serving fork and spoon
Salt and pepper shakers
Good cork screw, bottle opener, can opener
Dish drainer and mat
Plastic dishpan or a pail
Dish soap with scrubbers and a scrubbing brush
Garbage pail and trash bags
Aluminum foil, parchment paper, plastic wrap, zip lock bags in various sizes
Paper towel
Coffee pot and filters if required and a tea pot
Plastic juice container
Mixer
Potato masher
Hand whisk
The other useful item you might consider buying is a camping cooler.  It is a great way to store your vegetables before the meal if space is an issue.  If you live in a colder climate, like I do, it is great to store leftovers in outdoors.
Today’s culinary challenges for a home cook may seem daunting.  In many condos, apartments, lofts, to mention a few living spaces, the kitchens have become smaller or almost non existent. I consider cooking an art form that requires a combination of flair, common sense and technique.  No one starts off as an expert.  If you are a novice cook, then approach the task of making a holiday dinner without fear and enjoy what you are doing.
To be continued… 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Canada's Own Thanksgiving!

Canadian Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the second Monday of October.  But, that was not always the case.  A few years ago when I was a contributing writer to an educational textbook, I discovered that our holiday had an interesting beginning.

The very first Canadian Thanksgiving commemoration took place in 1578 in what is now called the province of Newfoundland.  According to historical records, Martin Frobisher, a British explorer and navigator, arrived in Newfoundland.  There, he and his crew held a ceremony.  It was to give thanks for surviving the long journey across the Atlantic.

Other settlers who later arrived continued holding the same thankful observance.  These were thought to have influenced the Canadian Thanksgiving tradition.  Now what followed is the confusing part so I will break it down: 

  • For a few hundred years Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. 
  • The first Thanksgiving Day in Canada after confederation was observed on April 15, 1872. It had nothing to do with any harvest festival but rather it celebrated the recovery, from a serious illness, of the Prince of Wales. He later became King Edward the seventh. 
  • There is no record of a Thanksgiving Day between 1873 and 1879.  
  • In 1880-1898 Thanksgiving was celebrated on a Thursday in November. 
  • By 1908 the holiday was predetermined on a Monday in October. 
  • In 1921, Parliament passed the Armistice Day Act, which stated that “Thanksgiving would be observed on Armistice Day”, which was November 11. 
  • Ten years later Parliament adopted an amendment to the Act that stated that “November 11 would be known as Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving".
  • Thanksgiving became an official holiday in 1957 when Parliament announced that there would be a day of general Thanksgiving to celebrate ‘the almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada had been blessed’.  
  • Until Thanksgiving became an official holiday in 1957, Parliament announced the date of the holiday every year. Ever since then we celebrate it on the second Monday of October.

I make the traditional turkey dinner with all of the fixings.  Usually there are plenty of leftovers.  I like to make my version of a recipe that was served to me in England many years ago.  The dish was called Bubble and Squeak.  It is usually made from the cold leftover vegetables of a roast beef dinner.  I use the leftovers from a turkey dinner.  If you are a vegetarian there are ample   versions of this recipe available online.  Here is my adaptation:

Gloria’s Bubble and Squeak

It really depends on how many leftovers you have and how many people are going to eat.  I base my recipe on four.  My measurements are very approximate. 

Ingredients:

Cube two or three cups of leftover turkey into bite size pieces combining dark and white meat. 
About three cups  of a mixed assortment of veggies like brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, squash, peas.
1 chopped onion
¼ cup of vegetable oil for frying
Season with salt, pepper, sprinkle of dry sage

Pour enough oil to cover the bottom of a heated heavy duty frying pan. 
Once it sizzles add the chopped onion and lightly fry.
Add the vegetables and the leftover turkey mixing them together in the pan.
Add a bit more oil and press the bubble down into the pan
Fry over a moderate heat until it is browned underneath, about 15 minutes.
Turn the bubble over and add the rest of the oil and fry until the other side is browned.

You can then serve this as a light meal or as part of a brunch with fried eggs, sausages, bacon and sliced tomatoes.   Bubble and Squeak is a great way to use up leftovers from Thanksgiving Dinner.

In the childhood memories of every good cook, there's a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom.  ~ Barbara Costikyan




Thursday, 15 September 2011

What Is Ratatouille?


 
    Goodbye summer. You will be missed.  Dylan Troyer
After I graduated from University I applied for a job at my local public library.  It was my first ‘professional’ job interview.  I was called into the Chief Librarian’s office.     Instead of asking the usual questions regarding education, experience etc. he asked me, “What is ratatouille?”  He looked at me condescendingly, I suspect, thinking I wouldn’t have a clue about what he had just asked me. 
                                                                   

I looked straight into his eyes and answered, “Well Sir it is a dish that originated in southern France and cooks all day.  It can be served as a vegetarian dish or if you prefer you can add some meat.  The one I ate in France had eggplant, zucchini also called courgette, tomatoes, green pepper, onions and garlic in it.  A splash of good olive oil was added and a generous grind of fresh pepper.”  He arrogantly looked at me in complete surprise.  By that time I knew I could not work with this man.  I stood up and told him that, “I was no longer interested in the job” and I walked out shutting the door behind me.  I never looked back but I did look forward to going home that day to make a pan of Ratatouille. 

Ratatouille is an easy and inexpensive vegetarian dish to make.  It is a healthy choice.   It is straightforward to put together and this is the perfect time of the year to make it.  September is a bountiful month in southern Ontario.  Here is my Mom’s version Canadian style.

 Bea’s Fresh Vegetable Stew

Ingredients:
4 average size zucchini, sliced
3 medium tomatoes sliced
Assortment of peppers sliced (yellow, red, hot, green)
Cube an eggplant if you have it
3 medium onions, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Black pepper
  
In a large frying pan, at a medium temperature heat the oil then add the vegetables.  Stir and cook them until the tomato softens and the juice runs.  Lower the heat and cover the pan.  Cook for thirty minutes.  If it gets a bit dry add either a splash of water or tomato juice and let it simmer a further 30 minutes until everything has cooked. * It could take a bit longer if you have added eggplant.  Serve it with a nice loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of wine. Enjoy!
                                                            
A lot of people enjoy the zucchini flowers made into fritters.  Natalie Campagnolo, Owner/Instructor of ‘La Cucina di Natalina, Italian Cooking School’ has generously provided me with her recipe for the fritters as well as the pictures of zucchini from her garden.  Check out her website:  http://www.italiancookingschoolguelph.com/

Zucchini Blossom Fritters

Ingredients:
2 cups zucchini blossoms, washed, blanched, *see instructions below
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. Baking Powder
2 ¾ cups water + extra if needed
Method:

Pick flowers when they are open, watch for bees and other insects. (2 large steel bowls equal roughly 2 cups cooked)  I gather my blossoms daily, in the am over 4-5 mornings until I have enough.  You could also blanch them, cool them off and freeze until you have enough.  They are very perishable and don’t last long in the fridge. Remove the stem and other green pieces on the “cap” .Tear gently in 2 pieces and wash. Bring water to a boil and add blossoms.  Boil for approx. 5 minutes until limp and cooked. Let them cool off. Season blossoms with a little salt

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients, add water and whisk until no lumps remain
Add blossoms to the batter and using your hand mix until all is incorporated and the batter is a light yellow colour.  It should be the consistency of pancake batter.
Heat vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan.  When it is hot enough fry about 1/3 cup of batter at a time, spreading it out so it is not too thick (add a little more water if necessary to thin out).  Cook and turn while frying until golden on both sides (you may have to turn them over a few times).  Drain on paper towels, serve hot.
Sprinkle with sea salt if you wish & Enjoy!

If you want to read about the zucchini’s nutritional benefits check out this link: http://lifestyle.iloveindia.com/lounge/benefits-of-zucchini-1313.html .

                                                                        
                                                   
                                                                                                        
                                                                      

Monday, 29 August 2011

Let’s Get Pickled!

One of my all-time favorite things to do is to make pickles.  I have pickled cucumbers, pumpkin, beans, fennel, beets, peaches, pears and the list goes on and on.  I especially like to try new recipes.  In today’s environment a lot of us do not have the time to make pickles the old fashioned way.  There are also so many varieties available in the grocery stores that the need to make home made is almost an extinct part of our culture.  However for me pickling is like an art form.  I like nothing better than to look at the finished product and to serve them as part of a Thanksgiving and Christmas day condiment tray.   I like to make quick pickles.  The following recipe is for one jar of a quick pickle recipe.

Tarragon pickles

Ingredients:
6 mini English cucumbers * any small cucumbers will do
3 sprigs of tarragon
2 cups of vinegar
1/3 cup of sugar
A small dried red chili pepper or red chili flakes  
2 teaspoons of course salt

Quarter the cucumbers and place them with the tarragon into the jar.  It is easier to place the jar on its side as you slide in the cucumbers. Heat the vinegar, sugar, pepper, and salt in a saucepan stirring it over medium heat until it is dissolved. Pour it over the pickles and then seal the jar.  Once it has cooled down put it into the refrigerator and leave them for at least one month or longer before you eat them.

The following recipe is for a quick pickle salad made by my Aunt Sophia a lovely woman, to serve as part of a summer meal.  My Grandmother Vegso would put the same   salad into jars, refrigerate and eat up until Christmas.  What a special treat and as fresh as the day she first bottled them.

Aunt Sophia’s Style Uborka Salata

My Great Aunt Sophia was an amazing cook.   She was married to my Great Uncle Gabriel Vegso who was my Granddad Vegso’s brother.  Prior to their marriage, she was a cook in Budapest at the Great Palace, before it was destroyed by fire in 1945.   She would make a delicious version of cucumber salad that we always ate when we visited their home. 

Ingredients
2 medium or large cucumbers
1 teaspoon of  salt
¼ teaspoon of white sugar
1/4 cup of white vinegar
¼ teaspoon of  garlic powder
1/2 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of sweet paprika
½ teaspoon of black pepper
¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Peel the cucumbers and slice them very thinly into a large bowl. Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt and then place a plate over them and put a five pound weight on top of the plate to weigh it down.  I use a couple of cans of tomatoes as the weights.   Let the salted cucumbers sit for 60 minutes.   Then remove the weights and the plate and then squeeze out the water from the cucumbers and put them onto a paper towel.
Combine the sugar, vinegar, garlic powder, and the water into a bowl. Add the cucumbers and marinate them for a few hours. To serve, sprinkle the paprika, black pepper and cayenne over the top of the cucumber salad and mix it in.

Note: Instead of garlic powder, a thinly sliced onion may be used.   My Grandmother would also thinly slice a hot banana pepper and add that to the cucumber salad.


"On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally's cellar."Thomas  Jefferson

Sunday, 7 August 2011

It's Kettle Time...

 
Every August when my mom pulled out the big heavy duty canning kettle, glass jars with their matching lids, and metal screw tops, I knew then, that the lazy days of summer were definitely coming to an end.   Yet, as I grew older and was able to help out more with the process, it became an enjoyable experience for me.  I loved to watch and see how my mother packed the fruit into the jars, not wasting any space.  I treasured those moments when I got to add cloves to the fruit or lemon peel for added flavour. I got to help put the dill, garlic and pickling spices into the jars before she turned them on their sides to pack in as many cucumbers as possible.  I learned little tricks along the way like not using bruised fruit, making sure that the pickles were fresh and crisp and cold before packing.

 In Grade 9 I entered three jars of canning into the Norfolk County Fair competition for High School Students.  I won two first prizes and one second.  The award was $4.00. Wow! In those days, it seemed like big money to me.
   
Now that my mom has passed away, I believe that one of the greatest gifts she shared with me was teaching me how to ‘can’ and ‘preserve’.  I still make jams and jellies even pickles and chutneys. I miss those telephone calls where we asked each other what "we had put up that year." She always took me down into her basement to show me her canning shelves. I can still see those jars of delicious peaches waiting to be opened on a cold winter day.

So, today as I pulled out my kettle I thought of mom, my grandmothers, my aunts, great aunts and neighbors who all in their lifetime ‘put up’ at this time of the year.  Except for myself, the only other person I know who ‘cans’ is my mother’s sister, my aunt Ilene. She is 80 years old and while I am chopping away to make home-made salsa today,  she is doing peaches.  Last year she sent me a great recipe she has given me permission to share.
   
Aunt Ilene’s Fruit Tomali   
2 quarts tomato peeled and cut
1 cup diced onions
2 cups celery chopped
2 peaches peeled and chopped
2 pears peeled and chopped
2 cups chopped sweet red peppers
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 cups white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup mixed whole spice tied in a cloth
2 cups of sugar

Combine all of the ingredients except for the sugar.  Simmer it for 2 hours. Add the sugar and boil for 30 minutes.  Seal in sterilized jars.
Enjoy!

This recipe *picture on the right, is particularly good with chicken and beef.  It’s so good I even eat it on toast. Yum!   The salsa on the left is good with the usual but it is great on a baked potato. The best part of canning for me is after I take the jars out of the kettle and they pop.  You know then that they are sealed and safe until you are ready to open them.

Check out this article that I wrote:
http://www.fiery-foods.com/pepper-profiles/151-capsicum-annuum-speciesmost-common-varieties/2554-pepper-profile-wax-peppers  this one includes my Grandmother Choros’ Hot Pickled Banana Pepper Recipe.

If you like nostalgia and memoir check out my friend Ernie’s new blog.   http://uncaernysstories.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Gloria’s Home-made BBQ Sauce

 The great thing about blogging is that we can share what we have written for someone else copyright permiting.  However, I do like to get something online at least once a week.  I wrote this article for my friend Teri’s site.  She has generously let me recycle the entry here. Check out her links:  http://www.yeastynow.blogspot.com/ http://www.boomthis.com/

Now that my husband and I are empty nesters, we live in an apartment building where we are not allowed to use a gas BBQ.  It is considered a fire hazard if it is stored on a balcony.  However that does not stop me from making my own sauce to BBQ ribs in the oven.   

I usually make a small batch of barbecue sauce and will give it away as a hostess gift. I don’t always use a recipe.  Sometimes I will get a basic sauce cooking and add whatever is on hand.  I might use a fresh hot pepper like a jalapeno finally diced, commercial mustard, ketchup, maple syrup as a sweetener, or add beer to the recipe as part of the liquid. It is fun to experiment and see what works for you.   The following recipe will make two pints and is the perfect sauce to complement all types of ribs.

1 medium onion chopped
4 cups of apple cider
½ cup of cider vinegar
½ cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp of whole mustard seed
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
 2 12 ounce bottles of chili sauce * I use my own home-made
Hot pepper sauce to taste

Bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan.  Reduce your heat and let it simmer until it has thickened and that the volume looks to be half of what you started with.  Pour the hot sauce into two pints jars, seal with two sterilized lids.  I put the jars into a   water- bath and process it for 10 minutes.  Remove with tongs and cool.

It is a good idea to put a label onto the jar and write what is inside and also put the date.  It looks great like this as a gift.  However, I like to decorate my jars.  If I am in a fabric store I always keep an eye open for decorative fabrics whose theme fits in with what I have made.  I use cotton, a fruit theme for jam, Christmas patterns for the Holidays, and for BBQ sauce I have fabrics with vegetables and hot peppers etc.

To decorate specifically one jar of sauce:

Using pinking shears cut 1 six-inch square of fabric.  Center the fabric on the jar lid.  Slip an elastic band over the fabric, gathering in around the rim. Take a 12 inch piece of ribbon that is ¼ inch wide and tie it around each jar lid.    I like to add a basting brush as part of the gift.  Take the ribbon streamers and tie the basting brush tightly to the jar and finish it off by tying the remaining ribbon into a bow.

Tip:  Re-cycle your Xmas candy canes and add those to the sauce instead of any other sweetener.