Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sweet and Savory Tomato Jam

Homemade Tomato Jam
I’ll admit it. I grew up spoiled.

Whether it was grandma’s cookies, my mom’s jams, pickles, and canned goods – or relative’s homemade biscuits, breads and pies.  It seemed everyone knew how to make things delicious.

On August 8th, we had a fire on the farm, losing buildings, animals, and inventory. 

Amid all the sadness and kindness we’ve received, a lovely thing happened: the fruit trees came in with a bumper crop of apples, crabapples, and pears.

I began making jams like crazy, in spite of never having done so before.  It just seemed like the right timing, and the right thing to do.

This is the first recipe I made, just two small jars of “ideas” to build up my confidence (using tomatoes), and it didn’t take any specialized equipment.

My husband Dan was reluctant to sample the trial batch, with a who-are-you-and-what-did-you-do-with-my-wife look on his face.

“It’s not right, making jam from tomatoes.”

“Tomatoes are fruit!” I insisted.

After a few nibbles, he jokingly added “Okay, I’ll keep you if you can make more like this”.

I will and I have, because it’s family tradition.

Sweet and Savory Tomato Jam
 Sweet and Savory Tomato Jam
Makes about 1 Cup

1½ lbs. Roma Tomatoes
4 Cloves Garlic
Zest of 1 Large Lemon
1TB Olive Oil
1TB Lemon Juice
1TB Rice Wine Vinegar
½ tsp. Kosher Salt

1-4 TB Raw, Unfiltered Honey

Grill tomatoes over medium heat until they soften and the skin slips.

Remove cores. Transfer to a saucepan with all ingredients EXCEPT honey.

Cover, set heat on low.  Stew for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool.

Use a stand or immersion blender to create a chunky paste.

Return to pan and reduce over low heat until a spoon drawn across the bottom of the pan leaves a clean line (about 30 minutes).

Be mindful of scorching.

Stir in honey, one tablespoon at a time until sweetened to your liking.  (I used only one.)

Adjust for salt.

Transfer to a sterilized container. Keeps refrigerated for 2 weeks. (Recipe may also be canned.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Boucher Farm Fire, Sunday, August 2nd 2015

Boucher Family Farm
 That's our young stock barn.  It houses calves, pigs, turkeys, feed, seed, fertilizer, our sunflower processing room, and a walk-in freezer with all our frozen meat inventory.

Boucher Family Farm
 The fire is nearly out.
Boucher Family Farm
 Firefighters stayed throughout the night to put out the flare-ups.

Boucher Family Farm
Next morning: The sunflower room.

Boucher Family Farm
There's a $20,000 automatic calf feeder in there, and five calves that did not make it.

Boucher Family Farm
"Old Shop" collapsed on an orange pickup.  Not pictured, some burned out pickups on the other side.

Boucher Family Farm
 I think that's the walk-in, and there are eight burned up pigs in the pile.

Boucher Family Farm
Pushed and pulled the silo down, still scraping up the floor.  That's the sunflower bin on its side.

Firefighters got all the turkeys out.  The calves that survived are living in the alpacas winter enclosure.  I've ordered another freezer, and expect to be putting it in its own building this time.

I don't think we'll be rebuilding the sunflower processing part of the business, but I have found a home for all the seeds coming off the fields this year.

The dairy barn, parlor, dry-cow barn and cheese plant were untouched.

Sweet/Tart Raspberry Sauce

Grilled Sweet Corn with Raspberry Sauce
Here’s a simple recipe for a sweet/tart sauce featuring fresh raspberries that were picked in my Mom’s back yard.

The flavor is exceedingly vibrant with complexity provided by using raw, unfiltered honey – added at the very end, off the heat so those subtleties are preserved.

I’ve enjoyed it is a dressing for salads and cold veggies; it works well without any added oil or salt. 

It’s a bit thin.  If you prefer thicker, just add a ½ tablespoon or more of prepared mustard and adjust the sweetness if necessary.

This works with any fresh or frozen berry.

I made a second version of the recipe by adding a seeded habanero to the saucepan.

I loved the flavor of the hot sauce, but when steam started coming out of my ears I knew I’d made a mistake.

Next time, I’ll use a pepper not quite as intense.

Easy Raspberry Sauce

Sweet/Sour Raspberry Sauce
Makes 2 Cups

2 Cups Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
½ Cup Rice Vinegar
¼ Cup Lemon Juice
1-4 TB Honey

Place all ingredients except honey in a saucepan over low heat.

At the simmer, continue cooking for 12-15 minutes, until berries fall apart.

Cover pan and let cool 20-40 minutes.

While still warm, stir in honey one tablespoon at a time, tasting after each addition. (I used 4 TB)

When sweet and sour are in balance or to your taste, strain through a sieve to remove the seeds.
Cover and refrigerate

Use for basting grilled chicken and pork, to dress greens and cold vegetables, or as a base for pan sauces (just swirl in a few tablespoons and a bit of butter when deglazing the pan).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Uncle Clarence's Cukes

Chinese Cucumber Side
Back in the day, and I mean really way, way back - my Uncle Clarence would make Chinese food at Aunt Maddy’s camp when he was “up” in Vermont. It became tradition.

Other than that one time when my second cousin’s shellfish allergy made things ‘interesting’ (or dire, depending on perspective) – the occasion was looked forward to by all of us Vermonty Anglos.

My favorite dish was a simple one of vinegary cucumbers.

But, perhaps – I should back this story up.

My mom’s older brother, Clarence, was something else. And I mean that with a proud, familial fierceness – he was totally himself, instead of what others expected him to be.

He was (to my knowledge) the first in the family to go to college. And I might be just remembering it that way – but when you are 8 years old, and suddenly 50, things go fuzzy.

Who else hailing from a subsistence farm on Mill Pond Road in Colchester would become an interpreter for the US military? My Uncle!

Not for French or Spanish culture, but for the Chinese language! 

Later on, he was a museum curator on the West Coast and once retired, became a freelance authenticator of museum artifacts worldwide.

I remember his stories about driving through Burlington in a fancy convertible and getting “hit on” by young femmes; buying wines at vineyards that have only bin numbers, visiting a native American reservation and being recognized as “brother” - assembling an earthquake kit, a home break-in (they stole wine, the fiends!) and experiencing severe water rationing in San Francisco.

I spent some summers in Bakersfield with his children, Lin and Lea.  I could write volumes on those adventures…

This past weekend, when Lin and his wife Sarah visited, I made a Chinese-style menu to honor his dad’s memory.

Though, I don’t think I nailed the dumpling dipping sauce – because another family tradition is leaving ingredients out of shared recipes. (Which I personally don’t adhere to.)

While many celebrated the Fourth of July with chicken, burgers and dogs, we ate a variety of grilled meat on sticks, marinated shrimps, potsticker dumplings, and this cucumber dish.

All because of you, Clarence Shangraw. Thank you, sir.

Uncle Clarence’s Cucumbers
Serves 6-8

1 Cucumber, skin on, sliced thin
1/4 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1 TB Maple Syrup

Optional garnish: sesame seeds

Assemble all before service or a day ahead.

Taste and adjust the vinegar – it should be refreshingly tart.