Green Tomato Pie

We’ve had lots of green tomatoes sitting in our garage for over a week, ever since we heard we were going to get a hard frost last week that would pretty much end the growing season for the year.

Well, the hard frost never came (although now it’s supposed to come tonight) but K had already picked most of the green tomatoes in the garden.  A few nights ago he made Green Tomato Pie.

Green tomato pie proves that green tomatoes aren’t only for frying.  Created as a way to use up end of the season tomatoes that don’t have time to ripen, this pie doesn’t taste much like tomato!

Green Tomato Pie by Paula Deen

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cups shortening
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Filling

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest (but we used lemon zest because we had it)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (we used ground nutmeg)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 5 green tomatoes, or enough to fill pie crust, thinly sliced

Glaze

  • 1 slightly beaten eggwhite
  • Sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

To make the crust:

Sift together flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.  Cut shortening into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir 1/4 cup of the cold water, then add remaining 1/4 cup and mix until combined.  Cover dough and rest in refrigerator for 30 min.

To make the filling:

Preheat over to 425F.  Mix sugar, tapioca, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and raisins in a large bowl.  Lay tomato slices in pie crust. Sprinkle mixture over tomatoes.  (Overlapping will occur but tomatoes will shrink in size when baked).  Gently lay top pie crust over filling, tucking in extra crust around the edges.  Pinch dough with fingers to seal edges.  Using a knife, make 4-6 slits in top of crust to allow steam to escape.  Brush top with egg white and sprinkle with a little sugar to give your crust a shine.

Bake for 25 min. at 350F, then reduce to 350F and bake for 20 more minutes.

Even though this is a sweet pie, it’s supposed to be a side to a meal and not dessert.  I guess that’s how southerners do it!

The Spice of Life

The hubby and I just got back from a weekend in NYC, our first in a year.  A year exactly actually, as we spent this weekend last year at J’s wedding!

We went back down to the village and hung around NYU for awhile, reminiscing about my college years, had DELICIOUS Dim Sum at Golden Unicorn, saw Wicked, and even found the spot again when K proposed to me, 4 1/2  years ago.  It took a little while to find it. It was winter then, near dark, and I was annoyed that we were traipsing around Central Park in the cold, while K was (according to him) nervous and just trying to find a quiet place.  So neither of us remembered how to get there very well in the heat of the summer.  But eventually we did.

Just perfect.

But anyway…this isn’t about that.

Despite the fact that I grew up in the shadow of NYC AND went to college there, my time upstate has made coming back to NYC more and more difficult each time I come. I get over it quickly, but each time, I feel more and more like I don’t belong, when at one time it was, well, home.

But this weekend, I found Penzeys.  Oh, I’ve heard about Penzeys before.  But when we arrived in Grand Central on Metro North and decided to walk through the Grand Central Market, all will power to not buy anything in NYC melted away when we saw the spice counter.

And I felt like SUCH a country bumpkin when I saw REAL almond extract. Not imitation.  Oh no, the real thing, nowhere to be found (that I know of) in my area.  Maybe HWFC has it, I’m not sure.  But definitely not Hannaford or Price Chopper.

Jar after jar of any kind of spice I knew existed, and some I didn’t, and I felt like one of those 1800’s country girls who goes to visit “town” to pick up those exotic supplies (you know, like white sugar or oranges) that you can only get in civilization.

And vanilla beans.

K had gone to pick up some for me a few weeks ago up here in the Albany area.  He returned home without them, because, he said, they were $13 for TWO beans.

Here at Penzeys, $7.50 for THREE.

There’s something inordinately wrong with the universe when NYC is cheaper than Albany.  Well, I guess it makes sense, but of course I had to buy them.

And then K had to buy two different types of cinnamon.  Just because. He’s always wanted the “true” cinnamon, aka “Ceylon Cinnamon” which isn’t much like the cinnamon we’re used to here, light and citrusy.  It’s supposedly great in baking, and as apple season has started, we’ll be making a lot of things with it!

So, three minutes into NY, and we’d spent $20 shopping.  On spices.  We are odd, odd people.

I was researching about vanilla beans tonight and found this. I MUST make it.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

What you need:

  • 1 quart canning jar
  • Lid and band
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 6 vanilla beans

How you make it:

Cut the beans in half, lengthwise and add them to the canning jar. Cover them with a plain vodka that is 75-80 proof. Any higher than that and it won’t soak in the vanilla bean flavoring as well.  Store in a cool, dark place and shake every few days for at least a month, but longer is better for more intense flavoring.  When it’s done to your liking, strain it through a cheesecloth into dark bottles and seal tightly.  You can use it in equal measurements to store bought vanilla extract without a problem.

I only bought 3 beans. I’m going to have to order more from Penzeys now.

Ground Cherries

Great article on ground cherries today, which you can find here.  We got our seeds for the ground cherries in our garden from Hudson Valley Seed Library as well.  It’s said they’re super easy to grow but we had a hard time just getting ours to germinate.

Ground cherries look like miniature tomatillos, with a similar papery husk and plants that grow quite bushy and wild if left unstaked.  However, unlike tomatillos, they are very sweet, hence their name.  I think they’d be great in a jam if you had enough of them.

Although ours took awhile to get started, they hung in there once we transplanted them into the garden.  We gave some to our garden neighbors Anne and Sebastian, and once in their plot, they took off and are HUGE now.  Ours are not so large, probably as a result of a failure to weed properly early on.  Still, we should definitely get enough to assuage our appetites for this delicious fruit.

Ground cherries are ripe when they fall to the ground (hence the name GROUND cherries).  You can allow the fruit to ripen in the husk after they’ve been harvested to make them sweeter. They’ll last up to 3 months if you store them in the husk.

Make sure you don’t eat unripe ground cherries! (I unfortunately am guilty of this.) That’s because they contain solanine, which is what makes potatoes toxic when they turn green.

And finally…what to do with all those ground cherries?  There are lots of recipes out there for jams and chutneys and even ground cherry pie, but we have enough already stocked for the coming year.  This recipe looks fantastic.

Fresh Ground Cherry Salsa
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (America’s Test Kitchen Magazine)

1 lbs of ripe ground cherries, halved (about 2 cups)
½ lb of ripe Roma or cherry tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
1 large jalapeno chili, seeded, with the flesh finely minced
½ cup minced red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
½ tsp salt
pinch ground pepper
2-6 tsp lime juice (1-2 limes)
Sugar to taste (up to 1 tsp)

Place tomatoes in colander and let drain 30 minutes. As they drain, layer ground cherries, jalapeno, onion, garlic and cilantro on top. Shake colander to drain off excess juice. Discard. Transfer to large bowl and add salt, pepper and 2 tsp lime juice. Toss to combine. Taste and add minced jalapeno seeds, sugar and lime juice to taste.

Note: This salsa can be made 2-3 hours in advance, but hold off adding the salt, lime juice and sugar until just before serving.

(makes 4 cups)

Apricot Sorbet

This week marked the last of the apricots at the Farmer’s Market for the season.  So sad!  This was the year that I learned how much I love apricots, as it was the first time I’d ever eaten them in fresh form (Everyone’s had dried apricots, right?).  Given that it was the end of the season, I knew they would most likely be past the height of sweetness and just getting to that overripe flavor.  What to do with delicious fruit like that? Make sorbet of course!

Like many people, my husband and I were gifted a Kitchen Aid mixer when we got married.  I bought the ice cream attachment as a gift for my hubby, some birthday/Christmas/something present ago.  While we use the KA mixer for everything (butter, hello!) the ice cream maker attachment isn’t used nearly enough. We’ve got to remedy that.

Making sorbet is so so easy.  Ingredients needed?

  • 2lbs apricots (10-15)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Full disclosure here, the day before I went to make this, I realized I only had about 1lb of apricots.  So K went to the supermarket and bought me a couple more apricots which I worked in with the farmer’s market ones.  Can you tell the difference?

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Honeycot is a brand of apricot (like Chiquita banana) that is incomparable to a true apricot.  The one from the farmer’s market is markedly smaller, but has a brighter orange color and tastes so much better. SO MUCH BETTER.  The Honeycot was bland, no doubt as a result of being picked unripe half a world a way and shipped to my supermarket.  Blecch!

Luckily, I only needed to use 2, as I decided to cut the recipe in half.

I split the apricots in half as well, taking out the pits, and cutting each half into thirds.  Dropping them into a saucepan, I added the water and left them to cook through on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Once they were cooked through, I turned off the heat, and added the sugar, stirring to dissolve and mix.  I left it to cool to almost room temperature.

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Once it cooled, I pureed the mixture in my blender until completely smooth, then added the vanilla extract and stirred it in.  Here, I made a mistake. I had cut the recipe in half, but put in the vanilla extract meant for the whole recipe! Luckily, it didn’t hurt the taste at all.

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I put the blender, covered, in the fridge overnight to chill.

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The next day, I poured the chilled mixture into the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker, and set it on to stir.

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In about 20 minutes, I had sorbet!

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Sorbet that was melting fast.  I transfered it quickly to an air tight container so we can enjoy it for the rest of the week.

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A small dish to enjoy tonight.

The full amount of this recipe makes a LOT of sorbet!  Even the half-recipe I made gave us almost 4 cups of sorbet.  Make at your own risk, but I’m sure you’ll find the ability to eat it all. 🙂

Peach Chutney

This weekend, hubby and I threw caution to the wind (ok, really just a very hot day weeding in the garden) and went picking blueberries and peaches instead.  What, you don’t think that sounds better?  I guess I can officially say being a migrant worker is better than weeding.

Actually, we didn’t pick the peaches.  Instead, we went looking for “seconds” at the farm stands down in Columbia County, inspired by the picture in this local blog post.  We found them at Golden Harvest Farm in Valatie, NY. For $9, we got a full peck of “utility” peaches! Utility peaches aren’t perfect but they are completely edible.  Some are just overripe, some are underripe and in some the skins aren’t perfect, but for our purposes, they were just what we needed. Considering that the “good” peaches were $17 a peck, we felt great about our purchase!

Especially for our purposes.  With that peck of peaches, we decided to make lots of peach chutney for this winter to eat with the samosas and Indian food we like on cold days with the overripe peaches.  With the rest, K wanted to can peach halves to have “fresh fruit” this winter to bring to work.

To make 7 pints peach chutney, you need:

  • 4 quarts finely chopped, peeled, pitted peaches
  • 2 – 3 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup mustard seed
  • 2 tbsp ginger (I used ground ginger)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 5 cups vinegar

To make a smaller amount, you can cut the recipe accordingly.  We sorted through the peaches and picked out the most overripe peaches we had, cutting out any rotten parts.  This came out to about 2 quarts, so I cut the recipe in half.

To make the chutney, combine all the ingredients in a large pot and simmer until thick.  Such a simple recipe!  Stir frequently to prevent sticking, but after it’s thickened to the consistency you like, ladle the hot chutney into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust the 2-piece caps, and process for 10 min. in a boiling-water canner.

Voila, chutney!

Violet Victuals

I wrote a post on violet vinegar a few weeks ago for Eat Local, but I’m stealing it for tonight since I had planned to write a blog post but ended up at the garden a lot longer than I had planned.  So, if you found me from Eat Local, I apologize for what basically amounts to a cross post.

Last year, I came across this blog post at Beekman1802.com.  I loved it; I thought it was gorgeous and I really wanted to make some for myself.  However, it was later in the summer and I couldn’t find violets anywhere.  K tells me violets grow all summer, but I’m not even seeing them anymore nowadays. They seem to get quickly overshadowed by the big summer flowers.

So this Spring, I was prepared. I wanted to make some violet vinegar.  I quickly sought out the only place where I new I could get chemical free violets – my community garden!  The only problem I realized later – half the violets there are white! I couldn’t find enough violet violets, so I ended up mixing those in there.

I rinsed the violets well and picked off any stems or loose debris I could find. Then I loosely packed a small canning jar (half-pint for me, 8oz) with all the violets I had.

Once that was done, I poured rice vinegar in the jar, over the violets, to the brim.  I read elsewhere you can use cider vinegar, but it changes the color slightly.  I sealed up the jar, placed it in a sunny window, and left to steep for a week, turning over daily to make sure the violets got mixed in there well.

Such a pretty color!  After a week, I filtered out the vinegar and threw the used violets into a salad for lunch! Yum, and a great source of vitamin C! Due to the mixture of purple and white violets I had, the color of mine didn’t come out very deep, and faded to a crystal pink – but it’s still very pretty!  I think this would make a great hostess gift or housewarming present.

There’s also so many other things you can do with violets, from making violet jelly to candied violets! Even a violet simple syrup to make a refreshing spring or summer beverage!  If I find them again this summer (or definitely next Spring) I will be trying my hand at another violet-inspired edible.

Farmer’s Market This Week

It’s been awhile since I tallied our farmer’s market shopping, so here’s this week’s:

  • 1 quart of reduced fat milk, and one pint of chocolate milk from Battenkill Creamery
  • 1 sticky bun, 1 blueberry crumb muffin, and 1 loaf of honey whole wheat bread from Our Daily Bread
  • 1 bunch of asparagus from Buhrmaster Farm
  • 3lbs of Adirondack Red potatoes from Maynard Farm
  • 1.18lbs of flatiron steak from Sweet Tree Farm
  • 8oz. mozzarella cheese from R&G cheese

Oh and of course, this!  4 Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato plants, which we put in the garden last night.

Sunday night, we had the most delicious dinner of the steak, asparagus and new spring potatoes while sitting out on our deck watching over the Great Flats.  Last night was whole wheat pizza with the mozzarella cheese, spinach from the garden, and canned (not ours) tomato sauce.  Tonight, omelets with Coopers Ark eggs, mushrooms, cheese, spinach, and tomatoes.  Almost everything local, and it’s just going to get better in the coming months!

Last Month of the Meat CSA

Our three month CSA from 8 O’clock Ranch is now complete, and that looks to be the end of our foray into a meat CSA.  At least for now.

This month, the meat was kept a bit more frozen, but I think it may have had more to do with the weather than anything else.  Given last month’s defrosting, we just don’t want to take the chance in June, July and August.

Another issue is that we’re seeing some items repeated already (in one three month cycle).  All three months we’ve had ground beef, pork shoulder steak, and two months we’ve had ground lamb and lambchops.  For the price ($210 for 10lbs/month for three months) we’d like a little more variety.

This month, the CSA included:

  • 1lb beef frankfurters
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 2.9lbs leg of lamb
  • 1.04lb beef rib steak
  • .96lb lambchops
  • 1lb pork stew meat
  • 1.16 pork shoulder steak

Once again, we’re stuck trying to have to figure out how we’re going to share the leg of lamb with our friends.  I don’t think it’s going to happen.  I suggested to K asking them if they wanted us to buy them out, but they’re looking forward to the franks and ground lamb.  Oh well.  We’ll definitely eat for a week with the leg o’ lamb!

No farmer’s market this week for us as we were downstate all weekend. I haven’t even seen the garden in over a week now!

Where the Wild Things Grow

Well, this is so late, but I’m posting it anyway.  Last weekend at the market we saw the first of the ramps! Ramps are wild leeks, so certain farmers will go out in the woods and find them to sell at the farmer’s market.

Ramps only last 4-6 weeks around here, a very short growing season that makes us look so forward to spring!  K and I had JUST been talking about how ramps would be ready soon when we got notice they’d actually be at the farmer’s market.  This spring has been so warm that everything has been growing much earlier.

Last week at the market, here’s what we bought:

  • 1/2 gallon of whole milk (to make more ricotta), 2 quarts of cream (to make butter), 1 pint of chocolate milk from Battenkill Creamery
  • 5lbs of Washburn potatoes from Barber’s Farm
  • 2 bunches of ramps, 6 oz. of goat cheese from Painted Goat Farm
  • 1 loaf of german rye bread, 1 loaf sunflower flax seed bread, 1 french baguette, 1 cheese danish, and 1 croissant from Our Daily Bread
  • A few apples from Maynard Farm

We bought 2 bunches of ramps and all that bread because this weekend we’re hosting our friends who shared the meat CSA to finally split that roast we got last month.  We’re having a German-themed dinner with sauerbraten, potato dumplings, red cabbage, and for dessert, Schwarzwalder Kirsch Torte, Black Forest cherry cake.  K has dumped a quart of our frozen cherries from last June’s picking into a bowl Kirschwasser (cherry schnapps) to soak it up for the cake.  Yum!

In addition, I’m using the ramps to make Morel and Ramp Crostini as a very non-German appetizer.  Doesn’t that look good?

So, after the market last Sunday, I dragged K on a walk to see if we could find our own ramps.  I mean, we live near some woods.  Why pay $4/bunch if we have them nearby?

Well, unfortunately we didn’t find any, but we did find huge stands of wild onions growing!

So, I decided to pick some, brought them home to wash.

And that night, we made a baked ham with ramps and mashed potatoes with wild onions in them.  So good!

All together, that made two things on our plates that night that had been growing wild just a day earlier.
I would love sometime to go on an edible hike, to learn about what other things we might find in forests that we could eat.

Making Ricotta

At long last, and after several batches, here is my post on making ricotta cheese.  It seriously could not be easier, as far as making cheese (and even cooking basic things) goes.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
  • 1 teaspoon cheese salt (I used kosher salt)

Equipment:

  • A pot that’s large enough to hold your milk
  • Candy thermometer
  • Ladle or slotted spoon
  • Butter muslin

I’ve only made it with a half-gallon of milk so far, so I’ve cut everything in half in the recipe.  Remember not to use ultra-pasteurized milk: the heat used kills the culture and bacteria needed in making cheese. Regular pasteurized milk (and raw milk, if you swing that way) can be used instead.

To start, pour your milk into a pot on the stove.  Then, add your citric acid mixture (the acid dissolved in 1/4 C water) and stir it well.  Follow with the salt.

Then, just slowly bring your milk to an “almost boil.” You want it to get between 185-195F degrees, but DON’T let it boil.  Keep stirring often so it doesn’t burn at the bottom.

Starting to separate

When it gets warm enough the curds and whey will separate.  It’s really kind of cool to watch.  Wait a moment to make sure you don’t have milky whey, but when it’s clear that the curds and whey have separated, turn off the stove and let it sit for 10 minutes.

When you come back, line a colander with your butter muslin (you can try to use cheesecloth, but sometimes cheesecloth is not as fine) .  Ladle all of the curds into the colander.  Then hang the butter muslin to drip dry, and voila! Ricotta cheese.

Really, how easy is that?

We have stuffed shells to make this week with my homemade ricotta, and I can’t wait to put it to some other use than just eating straight out of our pyrex storage containers.

Bon appetit!