Tag Archives: recipes

Pinned recipe: green tomato and apple chutney.

4 Oct
Pot of green tomatoes

The end of the tomato season.

The onset of cold weather brought the end of the tomatoes. Some had a blush of color—they’ll finish ripening off-vine—but most were decidedly hard and green. I was bummed. And I hated the idea of throwing them out. The only thing I knew to do with green tomatoes came from watching a movie, and breading and frying has never been my thing, so I went online to find a way to make use of the final harvest. Bingo: I found a recipe for green tomato and apple chutney on The Slow Cook and immediately pinned it. It was described as “powerfully good stuff,” how could I resist?

As recipes go, it’s pretty easy. Chop a few things, cook in a pot, add some flavorings, cook it some more, process in jars. And chopping green tomatoes is a breeze, they’re firm and don’t fall apart into wet mush. My favorites were the unripe black cherry tomatoes… they had beautiful emerald green insides, and only needed to be halved or quartered to get to the right size.

green cherry tomatoes

Unripe black cherry tomatoes taste like tiny tart apples with liquid centers.

I was a little nervous about knowing when it was done. I tend to want things to be precise: cook exactly X minutes, or let it reach a certain temp, that sort of thing. The directions here were to cook “until it holds a mounded shape when lifted in a spoon.” Errrrr… ok? I compulsively scooped it up every minute while internally debating what made a mound a mound. For posterity, and as a reference for others who want a visual, here is when I decided the chutney held a mounded shape:

spoonful of chutney

Is it mounded? I say yes.

And, that’s it. Process, and… PING!… you’re done. I halved the recipe and filled one pint jar (for eating now) and five half-pints (for storing/gifts). The chutney is supposed to get better over the next few weeks as the flavors incorporate, but what I sampled before canning was already pretty tasty. How perfect that the end of tomato season overlaps the beginning of apple season here in the Capital District. Don’t be sad when the end of summer leaves you with green tomatoes… make green tomato and apple chutney!

jars of chutney


Gramps & grapes.

22 Sep

'Red' looking dapper.

This is my grandfather, known to friends and family as Gramps, or ‘Red’. He was born in Italy in 1901. At age 8 he boarded a boat in Palermo and sailed to Ellis Island, on the way to his final destination of Albany, NY. In Albany he met my grandmother and they had 2 daughters (the youngest would one day become my mom.) He and my grandmother lived next door to his brother and sister-in-law. And in the yard between their two houses, Concord grapes were planted.

The family mythology is that these grapes are from a parent plant that was smuggled traveled over on that boat from Italy. Except, Concord grapes are native to Northeast America. But allegedly the variety was introduced to Italy before Gramps emigrated, so I suppose it is possible. I’m certainly not going to be the one who calls shenanigans on a great story. Regardless of where the plants originated, the arbor inspired memories of home. And over the years family members used its bounty to make jelly, juice, and (probably questionable) wine.

grape arbor

This year I decided to get in on the action. Concord grapes typically ripen near the end of September, so I stopped at the house (now owned by my Aunt) a couple of days ago. Unfortunately I arrived about a week too late. The smell of fermentation was heavy in the air and it was pretty slick and squishy as I walked along, searching in vain for decent bunches. I gamely filled up my spaghetti pot anyway, determined to make at least one jar of jam. When I got home I patiently washed and sorted the overripe bunches, picking off any good grapes, salvaging as much as I could. I ended up with a bit over 2 lbs of usable fruit.

So, what did I make? A recipe from the 1953 book Old Time Pickling and Spicing Recipes for Spiced Concord Grape Butter. The ever-encouraging Stephen came over to help me through my first time making something that needed to set/gel. Our friend Alex also joined in to lend an arm (stir! stir!) and learn more about canning. From my tiny harvest we managed to fill 5 jelly jars and a wee sidecar.

Oooooh, it was tasty. Deep purple grapey goodness, with a hint of tang and spice to add depth. We tried it plain. Then we tried it on bread with peanut butter. Stephen talked about filling cakes and Alex suggested it would be good as a cheesecake topping. Funky cheese was mentioned, so we pulled out crackers and the Dorset from the Cheese Tour and spread the last leftover drops over that. The only thing I’d change would be to pick the dang grapes on time so I could have 5 times as much haul. Lesson learned: next year I’ll start checking earlier.

Gramps passed away long ago, but I’m grateful we still have this family legacy.  His birthday would have been one week from today. I’ll enjoy some delicious grape butter in his memory.

spiced grape butter

Spiced Concord grape butter = happy tastebuds


Spiced Concord Grape Butter
Old Time Pickling and Spicing Recipes by Florence Brobeck 

3 lbs grapes
1/2 c cider vinegar
3 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Press grapes out of skin and save skins and pulp. Cook pulp, covered in agate or enamel kettle [note: I used a non-reactive pot] until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently with enamel or wooden spoon. Rub cooked pulp through sieve to remove seeds. Heat vinegar, sugar, spices, and salt together in kettle, add skins and sieved pulp. Cook over low heat, boiling gently for about 20 minutes, and stirring constantly though slowly. When juice thickens to jamlike consistency, pour into hot sterile glass jars, seal at once. [note: I processed for 10 minutes]

Makes 2 pints.

Pinned recipe: Pear slices preserved in a light syrup… and whiskey.

14 Sep

The original post I bookmarked from Well Preserved.

Followed the instructions, but added a couple cloves, a wee dash of vanilla, and 1/2 Tbsp Bärenjäger honey liqueur. I also added an ‘e’ to ‘whiskey’ in the recipe title because that’s what is on the Jameson’s bottle; don’t mistake me for an expert in whisk(e)y semantics.

jarred pears

Whiskey'd pears! In a jar!

Edit: So, the original recipe as made provides a very simple sweet pear flavor. My first batch additions (honey, vanilla, a couple cloves cooked in the syrup) added a little depth but still ended up staying pretty close to sweet pear. I made another 6 pints for a local swap  following the original recipe, but adding 1T of the honey liqueur, 2-3 cloves and 1 star anise per pint to attempt to really spice it up. Hoping it’s not overkill. We’ll see when I crack one of the extras open this winter!

National Soup Swap!

23 Jan
Peanut & Tomato soup

Yay, soup! 6 quarts, ready to swap.

Soup soup soup soup soup soup! Once the thermometer dips I pretty much live on soup and hot toddies. So, an event like the fifth annual National Soup Swap is right up my alley! The lovely lady behind almost foodies hosts a swap here in the 518. This was my first year joining in the fun, and I was really excited to participate.

I immediately knew I wanted to make a peanut soup. In December a group of friends and I were leaving our rented cabin in Merck Forest–a great winter adventure, by the way–and hiked 2.5 miles out on a rather exposed ridge, in bracing wind and a combination of hail and sleet. Once we got back to our cars we drove immediately to the Blue Benn diner to unthaw and fill our empty bellies. I got the soup of the day, African Peanut, and it was exactly what I wanted: savory, spicy, hearty. It was the first time I’d had a peanut soup, and I was hooked.

Google provided many many interpretations of peanut soups, but in the end I went with a variation of this Curried Peanut and Tomato recipe from the February 2006 issue of Gourmet. I liked its simplicity, low number of ingredients and the oddly tasty combo of peanuts and tomatoes. My tweaks:

  • Olive oil instead of vegetable oil.
  • Madras curry paste instead of curry powder.
  • Fire-roasted whole tomatoes–I prefer the sweeter flavor of roasted tomatoes–and if this were summer I’d suggest roasting fresh tomatoes and skipping the can.
  • Unsalted peanut butter from the Albany Co-op (sole ingredient: roasted peanuts).
  • Vegetable stock instead of chicken broth.
  • A last-minute light sprinkle of brown sugar (note: this is the only ingredient potentially keeping this soup from being vegan, another sweetener could be used for those avoiding refined sugars).
  • Immersion blender at the end to smooth things out.

A splash of coconut milk would be another nice tweak if you wanted to tone down the curry spices. Gourmet suggests topping this soup with fresh cilantro. I like it served with a dollop of plain yogurt.

souper delicious

So fragrant, I wish you could smell this!

I can’t wait to try all of the delicious-sounding soups I walked away with: Albany Jane’s Black Bean-Tomatillo, Spicy Curried Lentil with Roasted Eggplant (with a Parivar Spices business card attached), Black-Eyed Peas & Collard Greens (love love love collard greens), Tomato, Fig & Beefalo with Fig & Goat Milk Yogurt Quenelle, Silvia’s Sea Shanty Spicy Clam Chowder and Renée’s Cream of Tomato, which I’m breaking into today with some grilled cheese!

I’d recommend Soup Swap to everyone. And if you missed it this year, don’t wait until 2012; why not host your own swap sometime soon?

Consumable gifts.

6 Jan
skillet toffee

Toffee covered with chocolate & toasted almonds... not for the faint of heart.

I’m a big fan of giving gifts that are meant to be enjoyed gustatorily. Food and drink gifts tend to be indulgent, are often created as a labor of love and won’t sit around permanently cluttering up the giftee’s apartment. I’m lucky to have food-enthusiast friends who seem to feel the same way, which means Christmas–followed almost immediately by my birthday–is pretty much guaranteed to be delicious. I was delighted to receive all sorts of treats this year, including a bottle of Bärenjäger honey liqueur that is earmarked for my beloved wintertime hot toddies (and if there’s any left come spring, for a bastardized version of a Bees’ Knees cocktail), an order form for homemade ice cream customizable to my wildest culinary dreams, a stack of “happy” hamburger patties, homemade fromage blanc with wine jelly (already devoured alongside another gift of jalapeno pepper jelly), and a heavy, rich-smelling plum pudding with accompanying lump of butter that I’m dying to dig into.

On the giving side of things I chose skillet toffee after reading this recipe at thekitchn. The Nerd and I, both new to toffee-making, tackled it together. It turned out to be easier than I expected, but also harder; we had some laughable trial-and-error lessons. Like: his super-hot, slow-to-change electric burner was definitely set waaay too high the first batch. All that butter and sugar went from melting to smoking, burnt brown and separated in about 2 seconds flat! Tragedy! But the following batches came out better. You can see a sample of the good stuff pictured above. Obviously, I was compelled to keep tasting the finished product to make sure everything was ok… Merry Christmas to me!

Cookie swaps!

20 Dec
scenes from the cookie swap

Sugar! Sugar! Bubbly! More sugar!

It’s cookie swap season! Do you cookie swap? Rules follow: everyone participating makes a set amount of cookies (typically a dozen) for each participant, plus one extra for the ‘party pile.’ In the end everyone walks away with a wicked sugar rush and bags of delicious cookies. This year my roommate (pumpkin with brown butter frosting) and I (chewy chocolate drops with chocolate peppermint ganache) were in the same swap, and after some minor kitchen negotiation were both armed and ready to EAT SOME COOKIES.

We had pizza and salad beforehand, in an attempt to prove that as responsible adults, we would never simply eat baked goods for dinner. But the much-anticipated stars of the evening were the cookies, so after the slices were done we dove into the divvying. After making sure everyone had one of everything we opened up the party pile. We also took a moment to toast our pal Stephen in honor of his birthday. (Hope you liked the bubbly, Stephen! And thanks for making our lives a little more delicious.)

I rolled away at the end of the night with my bag and my belly full of the aforementioned pumpkin, as well as Charlotte’s glazed cranberry orange, Beth’s lemon thumbprint, Jody’s peanut butter, Stephen’s mincemeat, and Heather’s Mexican wedding cookies in addition to 7 layer bars courtesy of Nicole. Oof.

I found my cookie recipe on the back of a Baker’s Chocolate box, and it is incredibly quick and easy. You can see it online here. If you are wary of things like Cool Whip–understandable if you’ve read the ingredients list–just substitute 6 oz. of heavy cream. I also added a few shots of peppermint extract to the ganache for a little extra wintery flavor. Give it a try the next time you want a soft, brownie-like, chocolate drop cookie.