Too busy to write

It’s been a busy week around here. Forthcoming posts include spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, chili, and all the things you wish you had an Italian grandmother to teach you about tomatoes (which is to say, stuff I’ve learned from talking to Italian grandmothers in local grocery stores, and mistakes I’ve made when I didn’t take their advice.) I’ve also taken pictures of every step of a pressure-canning project to show you how it’s done, or at least how I do it.

I’ve got two weeks left of my summer vacation and I need to make VERY good use of them.

Jams, Jellies, Veggies, and Broth

I’m on a quest to make better use of the harvest in my own part of the world, to reduce fast-food consumption and increase veggie consumption, and to mess up my kitchen to good purpose several times a week all summer long.

Most of my current jams and jellies are low sugar using Pomona’s pectin. This year I bought three boxes; next year I’m buying in bulk. The picture above is low-sugar watermelon jam and it’s my favourite.

“To me, it’s sort of funny that wasting food is not taboo. It’s one of the last environmental ills that you can just get away with.”

– Jonathan Bloom (@WastedFood)

 

My own version of Mirepoix

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Mirepoix is the French word for a simple veggie broth, but this is not that.

Last summer, I had a bunch of butternut squash from my garden and I wanted to make soup with it. Canned veggies are perfect for soup because most of the cooking is already done, so it’s basically heat, blend, and serve. But there was a problem: all the recipes called for some onion, carrots, celery, and chicken broth, and I didn’t have any of that in a jar.

So I made some. I used the longest processing time for the veggies I added and then added five minutes to be safe, because you really can’t overcook something that’s going in a blended soup and botulism is to be avoided at all costs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs each carrots, onions, and celery; some of the carrots I used were heritage colours
  • Water, about six litres
  • Around 1 tbsp salt per six litres of water
  • Herbs to taste: I used thyme and sage

Put it all in a stock pot. Boil until just soft. DO NOT STRAIN. Ladle into sterilized, hot jars, leaving 1 inch head space, and process for 45 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure. See here (link forthcoming) for more on pressure canning.

Option 2: Instead of boiling it all in water, boil it in freshly-made chicken broth.

My standard winter weekday Random Orange Vegetable Soup includes one jar of mirepoix, one jar of straight chicken or veggie broth, and one or two jars of orange vegetables. My preference is one jar butternut squash and one jar sweet potato. I strain the liquid from the orange vegetables before adding them. Stick-blend and heat through, set out sandwich fixings for your teens to make their own, and dinner’s ready in ten minutes flat. It works even on Girl Guides night!

Start with the Basics: Chicken Broth

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Hello and welcome to the first post in this blog!

This is my go-to chicken broth recipe. It’s more of a formula than a recipe, and it tastes slightly different every time I make it. I’ve made it with turkey carcasses, and I’ve made a veggie version with a whole lot of odds and ends from the CSA that I didn’t know what to do with. It’s a household staple.

I don’t just make this in the summer. During the winter, if I find myself grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store on the way home from work, I may drag out the pressure canner that weekend and turn its carcass into broth. We go through this stuff pretty fast so it’s worthwhile always having some on hand.

The basic recipe:

  • 1 or more chicken carcasses, most of the meat picked off already, but leave on some of the skin and fat if you can
  • 6 litres of water per carcass if it’s meaty/fatty, less if it’s not
  • 1/2 – 1 cup per carcass of each of the following:
    • Carrot ends
    • Celery ends
    • Onion skins and ends
  • About 1 tbsp of salt per 6 litres of water
  • Herbs to taste: I use some combination of thyme, rosemary, and sage

A little word about the veggies: don’t use the nice ones. When you’re making carrots for the family, take the ends you cut off and throw them in a baggie in the freezer. Do the same with onion skins and celery ends, especially the leaves. Got a slightly-squishy carrot forgotten at the bottom of the crisper? Cut out the black parts and throw it in the pot. Onions starting to sprout? In they go. Nobody ate the celery sticks that came with the wings last week? Save them for broth. Thrift is your friend, here. Don’t feel limited to these ones. Parsnips, carrot greens, leeks, wrinkly sweet potatoes or freezer-burned turnip – throw it all in there. I usually cut everything in half and then into the pot it goes.

The plan is to throw all this stuff into a big stock pot, cover with water, and boil the f*ck out of it. Keep it on a low simmer for at least four hours. Eight or twelve does not go amiss.

When it’s done cooking, you need to strain out the liquid and throw away the solids. I use a plastic colander placed in a big mixing bowl. If you want a clearer broth, use a wire-mesh strainer. You don’t have to do all the straining at once; you can fill the bowl, then fill some jars, then come back and strain more broth.

Now you’re ready to preserve or use your broth! For pressure canning basics, see here (link forthcoming.) This recipe isn’t safe for water-bath canning. To freeze, ladle it into clean containers and freeze with the lid off until it’s solid, then put a lid on; you may want to add a layer of plastic wrap to keep freezer burn at bay. If you just put it in the fridge, it should be good for a week or more.

Use this broth in pretty much anything where you might otherwise use water and would like a little bit of chicken flavour instead: rice, stir-fry, gravies, and as a base for soups.