Posts Tagged corn

Bits for burgers

I have almost all the trimmings to turn a burger into something well beyond the store bought stuff, thanks to bitingly spicy mustard greens in the garden, our first home-grown tomatos, and the latest of the bread and butter pickles as a substitute for the sliver of sourness that a commercial burger offers.

And now, thanks to the canning buddy’s niece’s insistence that we repeat a recipe I didn’t even like that much last year, we have the corn relish to slather on the top.

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We made that relish before the apricot jam last week, zipping the kernels off a dozen ears of corn and boiling them up with sugar, vinegar and spice, as well as some chopped up red peppers that we burned black on the stove, then peeled and chopped. I didn’t much like the taste that the basil offered last year, so we substituted dill, and we also cut the sugar and amped up the onion and the spice.

The recipe goes something like this.

Corn pepper relish (adapted, yet again) from The Complete Book of Pickling)
4 chopped, roasted red peppers, skin removed
1-1-2 cups sugar
2 tbsp salt (it was supposed to be kosher salt, but wasn’t)
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
3 cups cider vinegar
8 cups cooked corn kernels
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped dill

Roast the peppers by putting them directly on a gas burner and turning them round as they sizzle and char. Dunk in cold water, peel off most of the skin, and then chop them and set aside.

Put all the ingredients except the red pepper and dill in a pan, heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then simmer for 30 minutes or so until it thickens. Add the peppers and simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir in dill and ladle into clean, hot jars. Water bath for 15 minutes.

And to my surprise, it’s actually rather good. Last year I rated this a mere 2-1/2 out of five, because it was too sweet and because the basil went sort of brown and yucky on us. The dill adds a nice pickle tang, and the fact that it has less sugar makes it far more palatable to me. If there’s a next time I will add more turmeric, to add to the yellow hue.

Rating: 3-1/2 (out of 5). It’s far better than the gelatinous stuff you buy in the store, but I can’t see myself using it in the way I use pickles or chutneys. 

As for the mustard greens, I reckon this is the perfect thing to grow in a tiny square foot garden like ours. It grows fast, produces over several weeks, adds a serious bite to lunchtime sandwiches and you can’t buy it in the stores. We had five different types this year, one of which bolted already, and one of which didn’t seem to like its container in front of the sunroom door. But these frilly numbers, the most biting of the lot, are doing fine.

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Kicking it up a notch

A while back I made a peach white peppercorn preserve that wowed me with its gentle hint of subtle fire. I tried it again a year later with nectarines and black pepper, and it didn’t quite cut it. But then the peach season rolled around again, and it was time to expermiment.

The main event between times was a short trip to Santa Fe, and its absolutely amazing farmers’ market. The stalls there offered so many different sorts of hot pepper, that my peaches and peppercorns venture seemed sort of tame. So while we redid the white pepper jam because it was so damn good, I voted for something with jalapenos too this time, and because it’s my kitchen when the vote is one-to-one, I win. (Well, if truth be told, canning buddy didn’t actually complain)

I did a bit of internet searching, and rejected everything that used pectin, as well as one recipe that told me to puree the peaches in a food processor before getting the jam under way. (I like chunks in my jam.) But then I blundered into Homesicktexan, who seemed to meet all my peach jalapeno jam criteria, including not proposing an indecently large volume of jam, in case we ended up not liking it.

Here’s what we did, which is close to the recipe in the link, but not quite there because we ran out of peaches, and I wimped out on the jalapeno.

Peach jalapeno jam (based on Homesick Texan’s recipe)
Just over 2 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
Just under 2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Add sugar to peaches and let it sit around for a bit until the sugar is mostly dissolved. (It was a hot day, it took about an hour). Add lemon juice and chopped up jalapeno and boil until it sets. Lisa suggests simmering for 40 minutes; ours was ready in about 20. Bottle in hot jars, water bath, if you are waterbathing sort of person.

It’s a little lemony (that was the only bit of the recipe we didn’t change), and it has a very gentle, very subtle bite.

We’re kicking up the jamming, just one notch.

From there we went to the hugely successful apricot lemon chutney from previous years and to a corn red pepper relish, because the corn has just come into season and I wanted to roast peppers on the new gas stove and try out my  new corn zipper.

First off, let me say the corn zipper works like a charm, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.

The relish seems a little sweet right now, but it might mature.

Corn, pepper, basil relish (adapted, to add fire and remove celery, from The Complete Book of Pickling)
4 chopped, roasted red peppers, skin removed
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp dill seeds
3 cups cider vinegar
8 cups corn kernels
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely chopped basil (we used a mix of Thai, lemon and regular)

Roast the peppers by putting them directly on the gas burner and turning them round as they sizzle and char. Dunk in cold water, and peel off most of the skin, and then chop them and set aside.

Put all the ingredients except the red pepper and basil in a preserving kettle or heavy saucepan, heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then simmer for 30 minutes or so until it thickens. Add the peppers and simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir in basil and ladle into hot jars. Water bath for 15 minutes.

Aug 3 edit: It might have been a mistake to crack these open while fresh corn is still in season, but I admit I’m underwhelmed. There’s a nice spice undertone, but the overwhelming taste is sugar and bought canned peppers. No indication of the tender loving care that went into the preparation, and far too much sweetness for me.

Rating: 2 (out of 5)
Not one I’m going to bother to make again unless I tweak the recipe very violently.

And finally, I introduced canning buddy to the keep-in-the-fridge bread-and-butter pickles, making my third venture for this one in just three weeks. I’ve been taking slices into the office with me to kick up my lunch, and I even had a very small pickle sandwich (pickles and a single slice of bread) before today’s horribly hot and humid 64km bike ride. It helped keep me going for 47 of those kilometers and then I heat-stroked/bonked.

Here were the pickles, after their first introduction to the spice/vinegar/dill/garlic mix.

And this was the overall fruits of a morning of pretty intensive labor. Canning buddy is away for a month now, so I need to work out what I want to do solo before she returns.

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Is there such a thing as too many tomatoes?

This year, rather distressingly, I ran out of canned tomatoes in April, which led to a long and rather anxious wait until the tomato season rolled around again.

Yes, you can buy canned tomatoes, and no, I probably can’t tell the difference, once they are all mushed up in sauce or stew or soup. But I still prefer my own. I know the ingredients (tomatoes, lemon juice, perhaps some salt), I like knowing where they came from, and I like the taste.

So while last year we made up half a bushel of the stuff, this year we upped that to 1.5 bushels and I still fret it won’t be enough, especially as the spoils get split three ways this year compared to two in 2010.

But three people definitely make life easier when you’re talking bulk like this, and we got quite a production line going for peeling, crushing, chopping and juicing.

We started with simple crushed tomatoes, because they are so easy and they taste so good, although all the books warn you to be careful with the quantities to avoid botulusm contamination. It’s really simple. Peel and crush tomatoes, cook them down a little, perhaps with salt and slosh them into jars which each have a spoonful of bottled lemon juice at the bottom.

Then boil the living daylights out of the sealed up jars — 35 minutes for the 500 ml jars — and save for the days when tomatoes in the store taste of nothing and you want to remember what they really should be like.

After that we switched to Italian tomato sauce, which tastes wonderful, but takes forever because there’s so much deseeding, chopping, boiling and simmering. It had onion, garlic, carrots and peppers, as well as salt and pepper. The recipe said celery, but I vetoed that. Celery, someone once told me, is the only thing that actually takes more calories to digest than you get from eating it, and I can’t stand the stuff.

A couple of tips for next time, which is actually tomorrow because we couldn’t face finishing off that final box and need to try again.

  • Give yourself a couple of days between buying tomatoes and canning them to give them a chance to ripen a little more. They will taste better and they might even be easier to peel.
  • And nick each tomato after you toss it in boiling water for its deskinning bath. I started doing that midway through and was amazed how much easier it was they were to peel. We could have saved a lot of time and energy.
  • Save the seeds/liquid that comes when you poke the seeds out to make the sauce. It makes a wonderful home made tomato juice, but it’s not just that. I used it instead of stock or water for an amazing tomato shrimp risotto today, with fresh corn and zucchini and jumbo shrimp added right at the end.

In fact, because I’m going to forget what I did if I don’t write it down, here’s the recipe for that risotto. All measurements  are approximate.

Shrimp tomato risotto

olive oil
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
spices to taste (I used cumin, black pepper and a little cinnamon)
2 handfuls of arborio rice
2 cups of the liquid that comes from seeding half a bushel of tomatoes
a squirt of sriracha (or something else to give it a kick)
fresh vegetables (I used 1 orange pepper, 1 zucchini and kernels cut from one ear of corn)
6-12 raw shrimp (I used thawed frozen)
chopped cilantro (I could have used parsley)

Fry onion gently in olive oil until soft, then add garlic. Add whatever spice you are using (saffron would have been good too, but I didn’t have saffron), then add rice and fry until coated. Add tomato liquid, bit by bit, and when that runs out keep going with stock or water. Toward the end of the cooking, when the rice is tasting almost cooked, add sriracha, then vegetables. Just before it’s done, bury the shrimp in the hot rice, cover the dish and leave on a very, very low heat for another 10 minutes or so. Stir in cilantro right at the end and eat.

Sorry. No picture. You’ll have to make do with lots and lots of jars instead.

Total haul:

  • 30 jars crushed tomatoes
  • 11 jars tomato sauce
  • 3 tupperware boxes of tomato seeds/juice
  • another half box of tomatoes waiting to be attacked

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