Posts Tagged ginger

Thought provoking yellow tomato jam

Jam2The first version of this entry described my yellow tomato ginger jam as “the strangest thing I’ve ever made”, and while that remains true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. This jam is actually rather nice. It makes me think.

The venture came in an effort to do something those with the carpet  green-to-yellow tomatoes that ended up indoors to escape the first Canadian frost. I made one small (but amazing) batch of yellow tomato sauce, but that barely made a dent in the collection. It was time for something different.

Green tomatoes

Yellow tomatoes

That led me to tomato jam, and while I’ve made sweet/tangy jammy concoctions with tomatoes before, including a tomato basil jam that won an instant 5-star rating, they weren’t real jams, to serve on toast for breakfast.

And this one is interesting. The first thing you taste is ginger, followed by a sweet citrus tang, and then a gentle tomato aftertaste, which I described in a text message to a friend as “thought-provoking.” I tried it in a sandwich with a rich, double-cream soft cheese and it was lovely, and I can also see as a glaze for salmon or chicken. An interesting, interesting jam.

My recipe came from the Joy of Cooking‘s web site, although I cut the sugar a bit and tweaked it to add orange zest as well as lemon zest. Simple enough to make, easy enough to set, and I got 3-1/2 jars, plus a little bit extra that I can eat right now.

Yellow tomato and ginger jam (makes 3-1/2 jars)

1kg yellow tomatoes, quartered, with the woody stem removed
2 cups sugar
juice of 3 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
120g fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips

Macerate the sugar and tomatoes for a few hours until the sugar has dissolved and the mix is pretty liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a rolling boil. Boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and seems about to set. Bottle in sterilized jars.

I don’t always waterbath my jams, but tomatoes are funny, so I gave them 15 minutes bubbling away in the water I used to sterilize the jars.

Yellow tomatoes2Rating: 4 (out of 5)

I’m giving this four stars because it just made me think about what I was eating, and I like that one. I like the sweetness, and I like that tanginess of the citrus. And it’s a beautiful jam, with strips of ginger that make it look almost like a marmalade. It’s golden, like the autumn leaves. It’s fun.

Next up: Yellow tomato chutney, which will also use up the last of the tomatillos. We had a tomatillo glut as well this year, and I’ve been banned from growing them next year. Turns out the spouse doesn’t like them much, and I struggle to find things to make with them as well.

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Magic with mangoes

mango2I’m so easily led. A friend asks if I have any good recipes for mango chutney (which I don’t), and I go haring off to Chinatown East to see what they’re charging for mangoes. And with a box of ripe, yellow mangoes going for a mere $6.99, I end up plotting my own mango chutney too. Friend plans to try the Major Grey style chutney from the Bernadin book, but I wanted something different.

Cue a blog called the daring gourmet (with a name like that how can you go wrong?), which added black nigella seeds to its jumble of spices, giving me the excuse to walk down to Little India as well. But following recipes has never been my strong point. With vague memories that adding oil can reduce the shelf life of a chutney, I decided not to fry the spices to start the process, and I also cut the sugar (those Chinatown mangoes were ripened to perfection), added an onion and sliced up lemon and more than doubled the ginger. I also forgot to add turmeric, which was a shame. But it was fun experimenting. Here’s the final recipe, with thanks to daring gourmet for the inspiration.

Mango chutney (makes 5-1/2 jars)
2 2-inch pieces of fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced (it was a very, very large clove)
2 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp crushed dried chiles
1/2 tsp salt (add more next time)
6 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely chopped (could double)
1 organic lemon, quartered, seeded and thinly sliced (including the peel) (could double)
1-3/4 cups sugar (use 1 or 1-1/2 next time)
1 cup cider vinegar

mango1Put all the ingredients in a preserving pan and simmer gently until it’s nice and thick and chutney like, which took best part of an hour. Crush gently with a potato masher to remove some of the biggest chunks. Bottle in sterilized jars. Waterbath, if you are a fan of waterbathing.

Chutneys mellow over time, so today’s taste may not reflect the finished product. But I admit I’m impressed so far. The texture is good, the nigella adds crunch and taste and the lemon peel adds a nice sour tang to what is otherwise a pretty sweet chutney. It’s spicy, with a definite chile/ginger bite. Something to eat with homemade bread and a sharp, strong cheese.

Rating: 4-1/2 (out of 5)

Just a few days out of the jar, this one is rather spectacular, with the nigella seeds offering an onion zip, and the ginger/chile giving it a pleasant heat. The lemon was an inspired addition, and yet you can still taste the mango, which often isn’t the case when you combine delicate fruit with vinegar and lots of spices. A very, very pleasant chutney indeed.

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Relishing radishes

I think the veggies I picked at the community garden were radishes rather than turnips — they had that radish bite. But they prove that you can ferment just about anything, and that it has to be my favorite foolproof preservation method of the moment. It was one of those serendipity moments. I thought I was picking greens for soup and salads. But I tugged a whole plant up by mistake, and there was this fat pink-white bulb at the end of it. Two meals from one plant! Awesome.

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But I digress. How was I going to handle a basket of radishes (or possibly turnips), in the knowledge that only one of the two of us is eating proper food right now (the spouse is relegated to munching mush after a long-awaited hospital adventure)?

Continuing the fermentation theme of the last couple of weeks, I tried two experiments — grated and chunked — with beets for color and ginger for an extra bite. The recipe? Well, there isn’t one really. Weigh the grated veggies and add about salt to make up 1.5 percent of their weight, and make up a 3 percent salt brine to pour over the chunks. Squish the veggies well down into the jar, adding brine to the jar with the chunks, weight the vegetables beneath the liquid with a smaller jar filled with water (or brine), cover with cheesecloth and wait. I threw a few slices of ginger in with the chunked veggies, and grated a very large chunk of ginger with the grated ones. The recipes say use filtered/bottled water, but I used regular Toronto tap water. It seemed to work last time.

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The two jars bubbled away happily on the countertop for about five warmish days, and the brine spilled over into the pie plate several times, forcing me to remove bulk or pour off brine. The taste? It’s a vinegary pickle with a radish/ginger bite, especially for the grated veggies. It’s almost Middle Eastern, and I’m rather proud of how well it worked. And both pickles are a beautiful, beautiful dark beet red.

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The bonus: the greens are delicious, like Asian salad greens with a spicy crunch. I ate them in salads, steamed with butter or olive oil, with omelet or scrambled eggs for an instant low-cal supper, and then in a spinach soup without the spinach.

This community garden stuff really is quite fun.

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Saving the sunchoke

choke2Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, are my latest offering from the Community Garden, partly because my fellow gardeners complain they give them gas. I’m welcome to as many as I can dig, although they are seriously fiddly to scrub and clean. I roasted the first batch with olive oil and lemons, which was yummy, and I can’t say I noticed any major stomach issues. But I feel I’ve been neglecting the pickle world in the last few months, so I took to the internets for thoughts on how to preserve these (very) little babies.

There were a number of regular pickles and then there were recipes for lacto-fermenting, both with grated sunchokes (sauerkraut without the kraut) and with ‘chokes that were diced or sliced. Fermenting is a new part of my preserving repertoire, and I’ve done small batches only so far. Perfect chance to branch out into something new.

choke3As I scrolled through the recipes, I rejected anything that told me to peel the veggies, as well as things that called for ingredients I didn’t have in the kitchen. Then I found perfection, with including turmeric (for color and taste), plus ginger, garlic and cumin (three things I really like). I chopped my ‘chokes into chunky rings rather than dice because they were so small, added brine and spices and waited for the fermenting magic to do its stuff.

Fermented Jerusalem artichokes (adapted slightly from Linda Ziedrich’s Mellow Yellow Jerusalem Artichoke Pickle)

750 g Jerusalem artichokes, washed, then scrubbed and trimmed and sliced fairly thickly
1 tsp turmeric
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 oz fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1-1/2 cups water

Make a brine with the salt, sugar and water and set aside. Mix the ‘chokes with the spices (and wonder how the hell you’ll ever get the yellow off your fingers) and then pack the veggies tightly into a clean jar. Pour the brine over the top, and weight the veggies down (I used a smaller jar filled with water, but you can also use a ziploc full of water or brine). Leave your cheesecloth-covered jar on the countertop for a few days to let the fermentation alchemy to do its stuff — it took five days before mine tasted “right” — a sort of tanginess that will go well with cheese or hummus — so I put the lid on and moved it to the fridge.


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Tip: I’ve learned from bitter experience to always put my jar of fermenting veggies on top of a deep saucer or a pie plate because the liquid tends to bubble out of the jar. You really don’t want yellow turmeric brine staining everything in the kitchen.

Maybe next time I’ll make the slices thinner so I can use my veggies in a sandwich rather than as on-the-side chunks.

A bonus: Linda says her Internet research shows that pickling/fermenting the ‘chokes removes whatever it is that causes large amounts of gas in the first place. I can’t confirm this one, but it does mean I’ll offer a taste to my gardening partners without worrying that their spouses won’t talk to them for days.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

I liked this one so much that I made it again a week later, omitting the sugar, which was perhaps a mistake because it tasted better the first time. It loses a point because you really have to be careful to keep your veggies under the liquid even after you finish fermenting them. I put the newer batch in the back of the fridge and forgot about it, and the top layer of ‘chokes went blue-brown distressingly fast. I ate them anyway, but the first batch was definitely the winner.

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Creative with carrots

I’ve been on a fermentation kick for the last few months, focusing on small batch stuff, so I can ring the changes with spices and seasonings and never get fed up of what I’ve made.

It’s easy. I grate vegetables in the food processor (mostly carrots, but I’m open to other suggestions), squeeze them together with salt and spice, squish down in a jar and wait.  I liked carrots with cumin and fennel, but fermented carrot with dill seed was sort of blah.

After a few versions where the brine bubbled out  the jar, I have concluded that 400-450 grams of veggies just pack down into a 500g Mason jar.

Fermented carrots

450 grams carrots
7 grams of salt
1/2 tsp of spice

Grate the carrots finely and use your hands to mix them with the salt and spice, squishing the veggies together until brine starts to come out. Push down into a wide-mouthed jar, trying to get rid of any air spaces, and then push a clean, narrow jar down on top of it. I sometimes fill that jar with water to weight it down, or I get lazy and I use an unopened jar of jam or chutney.

Cover with a cloth to stop dust getting in, and leave on the countertop until it bubbles its way to your preferred degree of tanginess. I start tasting my carrots after 2-3 days, and they are usually done after 4-5 days. But some recipes say it takes a week or even two. It depends on how warm your kitchen is, and on the mood of the carrots.

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A few tips:

  • You want 1-2 percent salt to vegetables by weight, so it’s easier using a digital scale (set to metric) than using measuring cups and spoons. But there are recipes that use cup measurements if that’s your thing.
  • Don’t overdo the spices.
  • The amount of liquid you end up with is totally unpredictable. After about two days, the brine rises to the top of the jar, and sometimes bubbles over (store your jar on a plate or a bowl). But after 4-5 days that liquid seems to soak back into the carrots.
  • If you have leftovers that won’t squish into your jar, just eat it as a (slightly salty) salad.
  • You can add extra brine if the carrots dry up, but they are usually tangy enough for my taste by the time that happens, so I move them to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process.
  • The books say the fermented veggies will keep for weeks or even months. My small batches never last that long — I add a forkful to my lunchtime sandwiches (they taste awesome with home-made hummus), or throw them into a salad for extra taste and crunch.
  • This is probably total coincidence, but I’ve lost a little weight since I started eating my fermented veggies on a regular basis. All those good fermenting bugs seem to do very nice things to my digestive system.

Next up: Friends over at http://www.wellpreserved.ca point me to this recipe, which I am going to do as soon as I’ve started eating the carrot batch that’s bubbling away right now. I mean how can you go wrong with carrots and ginger?

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The writing’s on the quince

I admit it seemed a shame to cut this baby up and transform it into something — the scratches looked like Lord of the Ring style  runes, and I did admit to questions about what this particular quince was trying to tell me. But I was in New Zealand for a reason (biking, and visiting friends), and what better way to pass the non-biking time than taking advantage of harvest season. Friend was working for the morning — she’s learning Maori and it was homework time — so I delved into her big collection of recipes and picked an easy looking quince chutney, which I proceeded to change beyond recognition.

To backtrack, I have a very soft spot for quinces, even though you can’t eat them raw. It’s an acquired, slightly musty taste that reminds me of my childhood, where we had a prolific quince tree in a corner of the warm, walled-in back garden, and they are rare enough in Canada that they feel sort of exotic. Quinces price out at up to $3 each in Toronto, if you can get them at all. New Zealand friend, a childhood friend for that matter, has two trees groaning down with them. I didn’t think Canadian customs would like it if I tried to take the quinces back, but maybe I could manage a jar of chutney.

For the first time, on friend’s advice, I didn’t actually peel the quince. You rub off the fuzz, and chop and core the fruit. I upped the ginger and added vast quantities of both vinegar and water (the original recipe seemed to have almost none of either) and then threw in a chopped-up onion because the original recipe seemed too quince focused.

And the finished product?

Ginger quince chutney (adapted from a random newspaper cutting and cooked in New Zealand)

4 cups chopped, cored quince
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup currants
1/3 cup grated ginger
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup chopped onion

Wipe the fuzz off the quince before chopping and coring it. Put all the ingredients into a large pan, heat gently until the sugar dissolves, and then simmer for about 30 minutes until it’s golden yellow and chutney-thick.

Bottle in sterilized jars.

It’s really rather nice.

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If ginger is the spice of life…*

The Brits invented ginger cake, it seems to me, so when a buddy told me about a ginger cake cook-off in The Guardian, we had no option but to test things out. We’re both rabid ginger fans, so the concept of adding large amounts of fresh, crystallized and powdered ginger to a common-or-garden cake seemed like a recipe for perfection.

It was, producing a fiery golden cake with a lingering hint of Tate and Lyle golden syrup that left me swimming in nostalgia. (To digress, I remember drizzling golden syrup over oatmeal (porridge), and watching it melt into the warmth for the ultimate winter breakfast.) I didn’t like ginger back then, though. I’m so glad tastes change.

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The Guardian’s “Perfect Ginger Cake”

100g butter
100g dark muscovado sugar (we used the darkest brown sugar we could find)
175g self-raising flour (That’s another Brit-thingy. You can buy it in Canukistan, or you can mix your own.)
4 tsp ground ginger (don’t skimp on this)
175g golden syrup
1 tbsp ginger wine (this is something else I remember seeing in my Brit days. I suspect you could substitute rum, or even orange juice)
2 eggs
Walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (Our walnuts were more the size of ping-pong balls. We chopped them finely in the food processor.)
150g candied ginger, finely chopped (we chopped to chunks, for extra oomph)

  • Cream the butter and sugar with a pinch of salt until fluffy.
  • Add the golden syrup and ginger wine, and then the eggs, one at a time. 
  • Sift together the flour and ground ginger, and then add them to the cake. 
  • Stir in the fresh and candied ginger and spoon into a greased 9 inch (23 cm) loaf tin.
  • Bake at 160C/325F for about 50–60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (Ours took something over an hour, but the skewer went from soggy to clean very quickly indeed.)

The recipe recommends a glaze of glazing powdered sugar and another 2 tbsp of ginger wine, and then more crystallized ginger. Neither of us are great glaze fans, so we gave that one a miss.

From there we moved on to my third (and definitely final) experiment with the November Cook the Books challenge from online friends over in Seattle. My first experiment here was underwhelming at best (the olive oil cake was too sweet, and still gelatinous in the center). But the ginger molasses cookies seemed worth a try.

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We increased the ginger a little, with heaping teaspoons of chopped, fresh ginger rather than regular ones, and we added a half teaspoon of dried ginger.

The results? They are vaguely chewy, which is good, and decently molassessy, which is also good. But where’s the ginger?

Blogger Wannacomewithme posted the recipe, so I don’t need to bother. But then I might not bother with the recipe again either. If you do, may I recommend adding large quantities of ground ginger, and probably a cup or so of chopped-up crystallized ginger too.

Sorry, Cook the Books challenge. I’ll give this book a miss.

But the ginger cake? Twelve out of 10 at least. Maybe more.

*Apologies to William Shakespeare for the misquote

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