Sunday, July 31, 2016

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup for Canning

If you've been following me on Instagram (and please do, because I update that FAR more frequently than this old blog), you know that I have been can jamming like it's my part time J.O.B. My husband has been blessed to have a summer job at our local CSA, and one of those perks is getting to bring home a ton of vegetables. I've wanted to make the most of all of the amazing bounty, so I've been trying to preserve and can things at least every other day so nothing goes to waste. What he brings home, plus our own garden has given us an incredible amount of food, which will be incredible to have on hand for the rest of the year. Between canning, dehydrating, and freezing, we've been quite busy stocking up our pantry. (and I just took a count - so far, I've canned about 200 pints of things)

Although we've gotten some tomatoes from his job, and we have a few plants in our garden, I knew I needed more to be able to preserve all the tomato based things I had on my wish list (more spicy Bloody Mary Mix, salsa, tomato vodka sauce, and then some plain tomato things). While driving through the country side yesterday, I found a little Amish place selling 25 pounds of tomatoes for $6 a box. So I did what any good canner does and picked up 4 boxes. Yeah, I'm aware that's 100 pounds of tomatoes...

We added a pressure canner this year, and I couldn't be more happy. Although it's still a little scary to use, it's no different than a pressure canner. And as long as you follow the directions, you should be good to go.

This recipe is pressure canned, although I don't see why you couldn't freeze this if you wanted to. There is probably a way to water bath can it too, but if you aren't a canning expert, I probably wouldn't try monkeying around with it as apparently, botulism is no joke.

This recipe is from the new Big Ball Book of Canning, although I tripled the recipe and then added some spices to it, so here is my version. This yielded 14 quarts, and you could easily do this in pints if you liked a smaller serving size.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
24 pounds tomatoes, quartered, cored, and seeded
12 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. olive oil
6 cups minced onion
3 cups dry white wine
12 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 tbsp salt, or to taste
2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 (18 oz) can tomato paste (optional - I used it because my soup was a little thin)
3 cups packed basil leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 375. Quarter, core, and seed tomatoes, and place cut side up on large rimmed baking sheets. Add cloves of garlic and tuck down in between tomatoes. Place in oven and bake 45 minutes to an hour, until garlic and tomatoes are nice and soft.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large stock pot. Add onion and saute, 8-10 minutes, until soft and tender. Add wine, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, stock, seasonings, and tomato paste, if using. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes, or until heated through. Using a stick blender (or do in batches in a traditional blender), process soup until nice and smooth. Return to pot and add basil. Stir well.

Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving a 1" headspace. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar rim and apply lids, fingertip tight. Place jar on rack in pressure canner, containing recommended amount of simmering water. Place lid on canner and turn to locked position. Adjust heat to medium high. Vent steam for 10 minutes. Place the counter weight on vent; bring pressure to 10 pounds. Process pint jars for 50 minutes and quart jars for 60 minutes. Turn off heat; cool canner to zero pressure. Let stand 5 more minutes before removing lid. Cool jars in canner 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sweet Onion Jam and Diet Changes

Well hello there!

Spring weather is almost upon us and I can hardly stand it. This is my favorite time of year - when the sun is out more often, the days get longer, and the weather starts to get warmer. It's also when we finalize our garden plan, which I love to do. I could spend hours pouring over seed catalogs and refiguring our garden layout and planting plans. I guess that makes me a bit of a nerd, but it's all worth it late summer when we're overloaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Saint Patrick's Day just passed us, and since I am now Irish by marriage, I like to try and make something special each year for my husband. Usually it's shepherd's pie (his favorite), but this year I decided to switch it up. I've never actually had corned beef or pastrami, but I thought this seemed like the year to try. Wait, whaaatt?!? 28 Cooks, the vegaquarian blogger is talking about eating meat?

I guess I should back up just a bit. Most of my friends and family know this by now, but yes, it's true. I've introduced some meat back into my diet. See, I had been a vegetarian for about 12 years. I started when I was 25 after realizing how horrible my diet was and figuring that if I spent 30 days eating just vegetables, I'd eat better. 30 days turned into 12 years and I really enjoyed it. That being said, I can't deny I had some issues with it as far as getting enough protein and iron. Since I became a vegetarian, I've been anemic and had very low iron. My doctor would admonish me every year to try and supplement with more iron, but no matter how much iron rich vegetables I ate or iron supplement I tried, it just stayed low. And it wasn't really a big deal overall and I just dealt with it. Sure, I was cold often and my fingers and feet were always freezing, but I wasn't ready to give up being a vegetarian.

And then I got pregnant with my son. And somewhere within my 3rd trimester, my iron became dangerously low. Because of it, I had some cardiac issues and ended up seeing a hematologist. We started some serious iron supplementation for a few weeks to see if I could get back to a better level. But several weeks of taking pills multiple times a day had little effect. He made it very clear to me that I was looking at blood transfusions, unless I did something else. And although I wasn't crazy about it, I decided that a steak sounded like a much less invasive option than all that comes with transfusions. I cried a bit over the decision, but then promptly called my dad (aka. The Grillmaster) and asked him to make me my first steak.

Now this is where I should say as a former vegetarian that it was horrible and I choked it down. But I didn't. It was actually on the tasty side. And after a few weeks of adding grassfed meat into my diet, I felt better and my lab levels were much better. I was able to stop my cardiac monitoring and the huge doses of iron I was on. It definitely wasn't an easy decision to make, but honestly my body felt so much better. And quite frankly, I would have eaten anything if it was better for my growing baby.

And so now, we still eat meat occasionally. I still miss being a vegetarian and we mostly eat vegetarian at home, except for adding in meat a few times a week. And we do our best to only eat local, organic, and grass fed meat as much as possible.

Now back to our Saint Patrick's day feast - I decided this year to try something different, and decided to make pastrami. We don't have a smoker, but I found this awesome recipe. It turned out incredibly amazing. I also made a loaf of Jewish Onion Rye (recipe to come later this week) but it needed something else to spice it up. Enter the onion jam.

I know it sounds weird, but the flavors of this jam are absolutely incredible. It's slightly sweet, yet has a lovely savory flavor from the onions and red wine. It goes great with the pastrami, but is tasty enough to use in other dishes. I used it in the middle of a grilled cheese for my almost 2-year old (which he loved) and also with a chicken salad sandwich. I'm sure there are a hundred other uses and I can't wait to make another batch.

It's very easy to make and most of the cooking time is just making sure to stir it every once in a while. So go ahead and give it a try - make sure you let me know how it turned out!

Sweet Onion Jam
Makes 2 cups

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups diced onions
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup grenadine
1/4 tsp cracked mustard seed
1/4 tsp celery seed
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook over medium high heat until soft and just translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and lower heat. Leave uncovered and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the liquid has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. Transfer to a bowl and let cool before using.