CSA Week 14: Habanero Gold

September 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

The haul:
Squash – oops, that was a watermelon!

Just a quick recipe-less post because you can find this recipe all over the web and the Ball books and I made no changes. But it turns out five habanero peppers is exactly the right amount for Habanero Gold pepper jelly!


Hi, pretties.


CSA Week 13: Peach Sage Jam and Peachy Simple Syrup

September 19, 2012 § 3 Comments


Where did the summer go? Somehow it’s week 13 of the CSA, and everyone is going back to school, and this afternoon I actually put on a sweater and made a mug of tea. I don’t like it. (Well, I love tea, but it’s the principle of the thing.) So I am holding on to summer as long as I can, and I hereby declare it is not fall… it’s harvest season.

the haul:
hot peppers
bell peppers

Peach Sage Jam

scaled-down (three half-pint yield) and adapted from the Peach Rosemary Jam recipe from Mes Confitures, courtesy of the Star Tribune

3 pounds peaches = 2.25 pounds peeled and pitted –> 2 pounds total, 1.5 pounds peeled and pitted
4 cups sugar –> 2 2/3 cups
2 T lemon juice –> 1 T plus 1 t
a large sprig of sage

  1. Wash and peel the peaches… Supposedly you can score the peels, dip them in boiling water for a minute, then in cold water, and then they “slide right off.” I wimped out and used my vegetable peeler, which was just fine for this few peaches.
  2. Chop the peaches into 1/4 inch cubes.
  3. Bring the peaches, lemon juice, and sugar just to a simmer over medium heat.
  4. Pour into a ceramic or glass bowl, and add the sage sprig.
  5. Macerate for four hours at room temperature or till tomorrow in the fridge.
  6. 20120910-212402.jpg

  7. Drain and reserve the liquid from the solids. Bring the liquid to a boil then continue boiling until a candy thermometer registers 221 degrees. It will thicken and the color will deepen. Skim intermittently.
  8. Add back the solids (I took out the sage at this point, but keep it in longer for even stronger flavor.) Bring back to a boil for about five minutes, and then start testing the set using the chilled plate test (a channel dragged through a cooled drop of jam should not run back together).
  9. Ladle into jars with 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes.


Peachy Simple Syrup
And because I can’t let a good thing go to waste, I used the leftover peach peels and pits to make a peachy simple syrup – apparently industrious canners used them for peach peel and pit jelly back in the day. I did it pretty much the same way I made my sage flower simple syrup (which is half way to sage flower jelly).

  1. Take all those beautiful peels (and less-beautiful pits) and add water to cover.
  2. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
  3. Add a splash of lemon juice – maybe about half a teaspoon of lemon juice per cup of water (this is very approximate).
  4. Let steep for about half an hour.
  5. Strain through a strainer, cheesecloth, teabag, or whatever you’ve got. Squeeze to get all the juices out.
  6. Measure out your volume of water, and add an equal volume of sugar. Heat until the sugar dissolves.
  7. Keep in the fridge, or water bath process for 10 minutes. It’s that simple!

Hmm… peachy simple syrup, Amaretto, and vanilla seltzer, anyone? That is officially called “The Science Nerd” because I came up with it when I remembered that they actually use compounds derived from peach or cherry pits to make natural almond flavoring… This one is just a Peachy Martini:

(Sorry about the blurry picture – and that was pre-martini! – but I had to show off my “new” cocktail set: set of probably-’70s cocktail glasses I adopted from my parents’ basement, and an early 1950s shaker I was obsessing about on eBay)

Anybody out there made peach peel and pit jelly? Anybody not even bother to peel their peaches and live to tell the tale? Anybody with more jamming experience than me know how to keep the fruit from floating to the top?

Peach Sage Jam, Peachy Simple Syrup on Punk Domestics

CSA Week 12: Madame’s Tomato Chutney

September 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

So I’ve totally fallen off the posting wagon, thanks in part to a lovely vacation plus two weddings, day trips with friends, beer brewing as you already know, oh and also work. I certainly can’t complain (and the two CSA boxes I missed went to good homes). But I have a backlog of partially documented projects, so time to get back on track!

the haul: I can’t remember the specifics for the last couple of weeks, but we’ve been seeing


One of my favorite people in the world is my high school adviser, who was the French teacher so everyone knew her just as “Madame” and I can never call her anything else. She is vivacious, opinionated, and is the sort of person who will back you up 100% in whatever you do while she worries about you behind your back, for your own sake. Within five minutes of meeting Lester, she told me to marry him. So I did, and she officiated.

She sent me this recipe “from a real farm wife” when I told her I had started canning. Disclaimer: it is an older recipe, so I cannot say that this is a USDA-approved canning project. I have been trying and trying to find a similar one that is updated but no luck, so please let me know if you have seen something similar in a newer reference. I don’t have any reason to have specific concerns about it and I had to try it anyway, and if you are worried about the shelf stability you could always keep it in the fridge.
[Update: see the discussion about this at Harvest Forum. It looks like this is most likely a safe recipe, woohoo!]

Madame’s Tomato Chutney
scaled down as shown (made about two half-pints) but otherwise unchanged

6 lbs tomatoes –> 18 oz
3 lbs tart apples –> 9 oz
2 lbs yellow onions –> 6 oz
2 lbs sugar –> 6 oz
1 qt cider vinegar –> 3/4 cup or 6 fluid oz
1/2 c salt –> 1.5 tbsp
1 Tablespoon black pepper –> pinch
1 tsp cinnamon (or adjust to your taste) –> pinch

  1. Core but do not peel the tomatoes and apples. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, apples, and onions. The original says “grind everything using the coarse blade on the grinder.” I used my mandoline on the large julienne setting with an extra chop at the end.
  2. Mix all ingredients and cook until soft, blended, and thick. The original recipe says to cook for ninety minutes. To speed up the process, I started out cooking them in my pressure cooker on the high setting for fifteen minutes, then simmering uncovered for another thirty minutes, but this is definitely optional.
  3. Hot water bath process for fifteen minutes. (The original recipe didn’t say how to process the jars, but this seemed ballpark for other chutneys and jams.)

This was killer on a cheese plate with gouda, or on toast with cream cheese (one of my favorite ways to highlight jams) as shown below. Also pictured: Cambozola, a creamy blue, with sage jelly (like this but with leaves instead of blossoms). Highly recommended.


Anyone seen this recipe before? Try it and tell me what you think!

Madame's Tomato Chutney on Punk Domestics

CSA Week Five: Roasted Corn Salsa and Chowder

August 5, 2012 § 8 Comments

The haul:
yellow squash
leaf lettuce
the first eggplants – ratatouille time!

It was one of those weeks work-wise, and we had some fun too that took us out of the house at mealtime. There is not much I like better than fresh summer corn on the cob, yet somehow we managed to still have neglected ears all boiled and foil-wrapped in the fridge waiting for some love at the end of the week.

Thank goodness for this recipe (see also this recipe) and a cast iron skillet. I adapted things a little bit to avoid turning on the broiler and to fit what I had pepper-wise. This recipe also didn’t call for fresh cilantro, which is good because my first sowing of seedlings totally evaporated into thin air and my second sowing of seedlings is still cilantro-babies.

(Pan) Roasted Corn Salsa
adapted from Marisa McClellan’s
3 half-pints plus a little extra

  • four ears of corn, or about 1.5 cups of kernels
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes – I halved or quartered all my ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes from the garden and a couple miscellaneous Tumbling Tigers and New Yorkers
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 diced jalapeño*
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground or crushed
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or less, to taste*)

I had already boiled my corn, but you could start from raw. Stand the cobs up on a cutting board or in a shallow pan, with a corn cob holder on the top end if you have it. Cut the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife – serrated worked well for me. Roast them in a dry skillet for a few minutes, stirring only every couple of minutes, until the kernels are browned on a few sides. Then you just mix in all the rest of the ingredients (in another pan, not your cast iron skillet), bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, and water bath process for 15 minutes with 1/2 inch headspace.

The salsa turned out beautiful and tangy. *It was too sweet for my taste so I would reduce the sugar next time, and it wasn’t super spicy but my little pepper plant had only put out the one jalapeño so far. Huevos rancheros!

And then our next box came and we got more corn. And I was too tired after a long day at work to fire up the grill. And then my work schedule got even worse, so those new ears sat on the counter… and sat… and sat… until they were looking a little dry and shrively. Oh, the shame. I figured I could at least try to plump up those kernels again, even if they would never be as good as they once were. Maybe I’ll boil them…

Roasted Corn and Shrimp Chowder
adapted from Mark Bittman
six to eight servings

  • six ears of corn, plus I pulled out the four leftover cobs I had in the freezer from the salsa
  • 4 T butter, oil, or a mix
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 4 T flour
  • 1 pint cream
  • about 2 tsp Cajun spice mix – purchased, or make your own with help from everyone’s favorite New-Englander-turned-Southerner – bam!
  • 1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled – optional

Cut the kernels off and roast them as above. Meanwhile, cover the cobs with water in a large stockpot and bring it to a boil. Boil for about thirty minutes, then let it sit until you are ready to make the rest of the soup. Sweat the onions in the butter in a large pot until they are soft. Add the flour and stir constantly for a few minutes to take the raw edge off, then add the cream and the corncob stock minus the cobs (I had about six cups but use however much you have, you can always adjust later). Add the Cajun spice mix – I used about 2 tsp of mine, but taste as you go to get the right spiciness and saltiness. Bring the soup to a boil, and add the roasted corn kernels, stirring to make sure the flour is fully dissolved. The soup will thicken a bit, and it will boil up easily because of the cream. Bring it back down to a simmer and let it simmer for as little as 10 minutes or as long as you want to get it to the thickness you like – this is where you can let some of the water boil off if your stock was thin, but mine worked just fine as is. Add the shrimp just before serving and cook just until pink.

This New Orleans variation on a classic corn chowder was right up our alleys (Lester is a Southern gentleman, after all, but New England is home now) and made up for neglected corn. I am sure it would be extra amazing with fresh ears, or even frozen. And yes you can make it healthier and even vegetarian or vegan by nixing the shrimp and the cream but sometimes when it’s summer produce season you have to celebrate.

What do you do with past-its-prime corn?

Roasted Corn Salsa on Punk Domestics

A Little Bit of Rhubarb-Plum-Vanilla Jam

July 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

I just planted my rhubarb this year (in the strawberry patch I planted last year after my landlords let me tear out a patch of grass – thanks landlords!), and you apparently aren’t supposed to pick it the first year to let it get established. But for some reason mine’s leaves are all floppy – maybe because it’s planted on a hill? any rhubarb experts out there want to weigh in? – and one of the stalks basically broke off by itself. I wasn’t about to waste it, but it seemed silly to go to the store for more when I have so much goodness from my own garden and the CSA. So, what to do with exactly one rhubarb stalk? Let it make friends with the four almost-overripe plums on the counter, and make the teeniest batch of…

Rhubarb-Plum-Vanilla Jam
Makes three 4oz jars

  • 1 oz rhubarb*, cut in 1/2 inch slices
  • 7.5 oz plums, not peeled, cut in 1/2 to 1 inch pieces
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
  • candy thermometer and/or small plate stuck in the freezer

Mix the plums, rhubarb, and sugar and let it plump for a while on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator. If you don’t have time to do this I am pretty sure the world will not end. We’re working with what we’ve got here, and that includes time.


Bring the fruit and jam mixture to a boil in a fairly wide based pot or even a skillet, adding the vanilla towards the end of cooking. Bring it to 220 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, and/or test for jelling by dropping a little onto the chilled plate and letting it cool then dragging a finger through it. It is done when the edges don’t run back together, or when it runs off your stirring spoon in a sheet rather than individual drops. I admit to not being super precise about this part but I am pretty accepting when it comes to jam consistencies. Pour into sterilized jars with 1/2 inch headspace and process for 10 minutes.


I am kind of obsessed with these little 4oz jelly jars, because you can make such small batches and you can water bath them in pretty much any pot (for me the pot height is the limiting factor when I don’t want to pull out my giant canner, since the bottom of the pressure cooker will just barely fit half-pints without boiling over…too much). I really liked the deep plummy and vanilla notes, and I love how vanilla bean paste (I get mine at W&S) gives you the speckles as well as the flavor. The brighter rhubarb flavor wasn’t super apparent. *Maybe I’ll “accidentally” break off one more stalk next time. Still, a fun little (really little) project and pretty tasty. Experimental jam-making does not have to be a big commitment so throw stuff together and see what happens!

What is your teeniest canning project?

A Little Bit of Rhubarb-Plum-Vanilla Jam on Punk Domestics

CSA Week One: Borscht-y Pickled Beets

June 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

I picked up my first share from my first ever CSA! I actually picked it up more than a week ago now, but I wanted to make sure I liked how the recipe turned out first 🙂 A CSA (community sponsored agriculture – like buying a fraction of a farm) share was my birthday present from Lester this year. I may have hinted strongly that that’s what I wanted, because I’m sure most guys don’t buy most girls vegetables for their birthday. But then again, Lester is not most guys and I am not most girls, so I don’t think he was a bit surprised.

The haul:
Red beets (and I bought extra goldens)
Swiss chard

First off, I made strawberry jam using Pomona’s Universal Pectin, my new best friend, and only a cup of sugar to four cups of mashed strawberries. I mashed them with my hands, which was highly therapeutic and also looked like a scene from a strawberry axe murderer movie. I won’t even post the recipe because I just followed the directions in the Pomona box, and it was that simple. One of the jars unsealed (my first one so far in my whole year of canning) so we ate that one the next day. It tasted like strawberries. Just strawberries. Did I mention I love Pomona pectin?

Then I made a crustless quiche with the beet greens and chard, some cheese, Cajun spice, and some Andouille. The deliciousness of this is self-explanatory.

More watermelon-feta-arugula salad. Somehow there is still more watermelon.

Finally, pickled beets. I love beets in almost any form, but I really love borscht. Yes, my Eastern European Jewish roots are showing. I wanted to try to capture the flavors of borscht but in a form I could put in a jar without a pressure canner. So, I used Joy of Cooking’s basic pickled beet recipe and added what I considered to be borscht-y flavorings. I’m sure there are as many versions of borscht as there are Eastern European grandmothers, but I am a big fan of dill in mine, and some tang from the vinegar. Here goes!

Borscht-y Pickled Beets
Makes 3 pints

8 oz golden beets plus 16 oz red beets, or any combo making up 1.5 pounds
6 oz onions (I had sweet)
2 1/4 cups cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup white sugar
1 T dried dill weed
1 t whole black peppercorns
1 t caraway
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t kosher salt

  • Boil the beets until they are fork-tender, 15-45 minutes depending on the size.
  • Cool in an ice water bath to stop cooking, then slip off the skins.
  • Quarter the beets then slice them about 1/4 inch thick. Do the same with the onions.
  • Bring to a boil the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices (I put them straight in the pot with the vinegar).
  • Pack beets and onions into prepared jars then ladle over them the hot vinegar mix, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
  • Process 30 minutes. Yes, that is a long time. Make sure your water level stays high enough!

I plan to eat these cold, mixed with a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream, for a summery side. You could also heat them with some chicken or beef broth and even add potatoes and carrots for a heartier soup in the winter.

How does your (actual or inner) grandmother make borscht, or pickle beets?

Borscht-y Pickled Beets on Punk Domestics

Watermelon Pickle, And A Surprise Cocktail

June 18, 2012 § 5 Comments

Our favorite restaurant in Lester’s hometown of New Orleans is Boucherie. They do amazing new takes on Southern classics and everything is just really, really good. Case in point: smoked pork ribs with watermelon pickle. It was the first time I had ever had watermelon pickle, but since it was Boucherie one taste was enough. I had to try pickling my own, and I wanted to put my own spin on this Southern classic too. This recipe is based on the Gingery Watermelon Pickle from The Joy of Pickling, which has not one but three watermelon pickle recipes. I stuck close to her technique but made up my own spice mixes: one more Southern, and one more Asian-influenced. Unfortunately a number of my spices were ground, not whole, and weren’t super fresh (my mother would not approve), so keep that in mind as you make up your own syrups and consider changing the measurements accordingly.

Now you know why I had so much watermelon.

rind of one 12-15″ spherical watermelon: about 12 cups of rind (3 quarts)
8 cups of water (2 quarts)
6 oz kosher salt by weight – the original called for half a cup of pickling salt (8 tablespoons) so I used 1 tablespoon pickling salt by volumes = 3/4 oz by weight

Asian Syrup:
7 whole star anise
1.5 inch piece ginger thinly sliced
1 tsp whole cardamom
1 tsp whole coriander
1 cup white vinegar plus 1.5 T (because this one didn’t have lemon)
1 cup water
2 cups white sugar

Southern Syrup:
1T ground cinnamon
1/2 lemon thin sliced
1 tsp whole mustard
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 cups white sugar

1. Prepare the rind. The easiest way for me was to quarter the whole melon, peel the green part off with a vegetable peeler, and then slice the quarter into smaller slivers and cut out the pink flesh for another use. Cut the rind (the white part) into about one-inch squares.
2. Soak rind in salt water for eight hours with a plate on top to keep it submerged.
3. Rinse and drain twice.
4. Make syrup, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. I put the spices in tea filter bags, which completely fell apart. You should use cheesecloth.
5. Remove from heat, add rind, soak in syrup for 24 hours with a plate on top. I had only about 8 cups of rind at this point.
6. Bring to a boil then simmer until the rind is translucent – this took about two hours!
7. Fill jars with rind then add syrup to cover with 1/2″ headspace. Process for ten minutes.

In the end this only made 2 pint jars (4 cups) plus another cup or so for the fridge. Any other watermelon picklers out there who can comment on this low yield? Did I cook it too long? Do you fill your jars with rind and then add syrup or do you just pour it all in?

At this point I was pretty disappointed that I had gone to all that trouble of peeling and slicing and soaking and boiling and only had these two pints. I was also worried about how cloudy my brine was, because of having ground spices and having the spice bags explode. I doubted myself: I had only tasted watermelon pickle once, and here I was making it myself, and I didn’t know if it looked right, and what if it turned out mushy and awful? I fretted as the jars rested on the counter and I listened for that “ping ping” of the lids.

But then things started to look up. I actually tasted my second-ever and third-ever watermelon pickles. And they were delicious! Somehow they stayed just a bit crisp despite all that boiling. And I had worried they would be too bland and syrupy-sweet but the flavor of each of the two batches was actually very complex. I think the Asian one would be really interesting with a plainly grilled fish, rice, and bok choy. And the Southern one is going with some kind of smoky fatty pork, of course. Conclusion: do not doubt your pickling abilities until you open a jar and taste. But still use whole spices.

Then things started looking up even further. I realized that the sweet, spicy brine is basically a simple syrup, but with vinegar instead of water. It turns out this is actually a legit cocktail ingredient (more often made with fruit) called a shrub syrup, also known as a drinking vinegar, and that shrub cocktails with homemade or artisanal syrups are making a big comeback on the cocktail scene. Not that I would know, because I don’t know anything about cocktails. Anyway, I mixed the leftover Southern Syrup including the almost-candied lemon slices with cognac (because I had some on hand for Julia’s French onion soup) and a squeeze of lemon juice for a nice Southern cocktail with layers of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. I’m going to try the Asian syrup with sake. Shrubs are also great for mixing with soda water as a soda or cocktail alternative. I think I just found my new go-to summer drink. And something else to put up!

Watermelon Pickle, And a Surprise Cocktail on Punk Domestics

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