Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Floyd County Harvest Festival, Sept. 10, 2011

This year's Floyd County Harvest Festival is September 10, 2011 at the Floyd County Cooperative Extension Office and Grounds on Fox St. in the Town of Floyd.

If you garden, farm, raise livestock, grow flowers, sew, craft, preserve, woodwork, paint, photograph, make jewelry, arrange flowers, holiday decorate, and a whole lot more, there's something for you here!  Come out and compete or enjoy the talents of your neighbors!  Details are here and competition details are in the green menu tab on the left side of the festival website.

In addition to the displays and exhibits there's live music, vendors, games for the kids, and lots of food!

See ya there!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Marinara and Ketchup

I previously talked about how most tomato recipes start with scalding or blanching, peeling, and coring.  When it comes to tomato sauces and condiments more of the actions starting out are the same. Which means you could prepare a huge batch of tomatoes up to the point where the flavorings diverge, divide the plain prepared tomatoes and make multiple sauces and condiments.  It's ambitious but can be done.

An example of this is marinara and chunky pasta sauces.  I start out my sauces by combining tomatoes, peppers (sweet and mildly hot), onion, garlic, basil, cutting celery, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper in my large roasting pan.  I pop it into a 350F oven and roast until the vegetables are tender.  If you prefer this can be done in a pot on the stove.  Just give the tomatoes a good mash to start the juices.

Preserving Floyd: Faux Peppadews

I came across Peppadews on the Mediterranean Bar at the local grocery store when I was living in Horseheads, NY and immediately became addicted.  Peppadews are a sweet, spicy, small red pepper that I've only seen in pickled form.  They were discovered in South Africa as a sport or naturally occurring hybrid.  Somebody realized the potential of these little beauties and patented the seeds and plants, making them unavailable for anyone who is "unauthorized" to grow them.  It's said that the fields where they are grown are heavily guarded, leaving one to wonder just what the big mystery of the Peppadew is.  That story can be read here.  I also had difficulty finding a photograph of a Peppadew plant or raw pepper.  There are lots of photos of the processed peppers.
Since moving back to Floyd I've been able to find Peppadews in very expensive jars so I started a quest to reproduce faux Peppadews.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Diced and Herbed Tomatoes

It occurred to me that many tomato recipes start out the same way: peel and core the tomatoes, crush, quarter or dice them.  Some variation occurs from this point.  The easiest way to peel massive amounts of tomatoes quickly is to blanch them and then shock them.  So bring a good sized pot half full of water to boil on the stove and fill your clean sink half full with cold tap water.  When the water in the pot is boiling, cut a small X just through the skin on the bottom of a tomato and drop it in the boiling water for about 30 seconds (blanching).  Remove it with a slotted spoon to the sink of cold water (shocking).
The blanched and shocked tomatoes almost peel themselves.
Allow the tomato to cool, then with a sharp paring knife remove the stem scar and core.  The skin should slip right off.  Place your peeled and cored tomato aside in a bowl.  You can drop several tomatoes into the boiling water at once and allow several batches of blanched tomatoes to cool in the sink together.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Canning Essentials - Canning Tomatoes and Acidity

Yesterday I got an inquiry about canning tomatoes and acidity.  This is a topic I hear a lot in conversations with home canners.  People tend to think of tomatoes as a highly acidic fruit/vegetable when in fact they most definitely are not.  Tomatoes ride the dividing line between high acid and low acid and there is no way for the home canner to know which side of the line the tomatoes they are working with that day fall on.  Some sources say the lower acid tomato is a result of breeding a tomato for sweetness and palatability.  But if sweetness indicates low acid then there are plenty of sweet heirlooms out there that must be low acid.  My personal theory is better testing methods show that tomatoes have been a fairly low acid fruit all along.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge August: Cumin

Michael has had a distaste for Mexican and Southwestern food ever since he roomed for a few years with a blonde haired, blue eyed, Hispaniophile.  Dan was a great guy and pretty much the perfect room mate except for his love of all things south of the border touristy kitsch.  Dan's idea of great Mexican/southwestern cuisine was pretty much on a taco hell level and so every time it was his turn to cook that's what he imitated.  It's close to twenty years since Michael roomed with Dan and only in the past year or so that he's actually started to enjoy food with a southwestern flair.  I'm a lot okay with that because the boys and I used to have to wait for Michael to go away on business to indulge our cravings and since they've grown up and moved out I haven't had a reason to cook it.  Now I can!

This is the first year I've canned salsa since I met Michael.  We like it straight with chips, stirred into our guacamole, and I like it on eggs.  It was a happy coincidence that the tomato lime salsa I decided to put up contained cumin and I happened to be ready to can it at the same time as the challenge!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Herb Stuffed Tomatoes

All things tomato are happening now.  I've made tomato lime salsa which yielded a bonus of some tasty tomato juice.  I did one batch of tomato paste and have another reducing as we speak.  I did 7 pints of diced Italian herbed tomatoes and along those lines we had Herb Stuffed Tomatoes on a bed of pasta for dinner last night.  I've been yearning for this since early last December because there's just no other way to make it than with fresh herbs, alliums, and warm tomatoes straight from the garden!

Even having had a good day at the market I brought herbs home.  These went into supper and the diced tomatoes I canned.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Preserving Floyd: More Than Just Tomato Paste

I made this stuff last year and didn't make near enough of it.
Rich, dark, and sweet from it's own sugar, this is what we use instead of tomato sauce on pizza.  This gets spread on crostini and paired with a host of other goodies.  This is a surprising condiment on sandwiches.  A spoonful of this on pasta is as redolent of summer as any pesto.  In addition to it's many other uses and applications, this is the best damn tomato paste you've ever tasted!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles is one of the easiest preserves ever to put up.

Cooking Floyd: Useful Gadgets 1...

...or How Did I Ever Get Along  Without This?

I've admitted to being a sucker for kitchen gadgets and actively reining in purchasing stuff when the "Oh! That's so cool!" urge strikes.  But sometimes I put off purchases of things I know will be extremely useful for reasons I don't understand.  I know, I'm sure I need counseling.

Here are two items I've purchased in the past few months that have proven so useful I don't know why I put them off for years!  Now I wonder how I got along without them!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Leek and Potato Soup

The leeks and potatoes are coming in now.  We grew leeks for the first time this year and I've been using them straight out of the garden for the last month but last weekend it was time to harvest the whole bed.  I don't know if it's possible to cure and cellar leeks like onions, garlic and shallots, but it became a moot point when I realized this year's potato harvest was also starting to come in.  Marco Pierre White says look around and see what else is mature and edible at the same time as what you're foraging or hunting for flavor pairings and that good advice holds true in the garden.  What's more classic than leek and potato soup?  And leek and potato soup can also be the base for more elaborate soups, stews and chowders with just a few easy additions.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Peach and Earl Grey Ice Cream

Spring rains and dry summers combine to turn out superior stone fruits and this year's peaches and nectarines are superb!  I'm done with squirreling away various peach preserves and we're concentrating on fresh eating while the peaches last.  Yesterday at the grocery store that carries local fruit I noticed they had nectarines as well as peaches and the nectarines were a good bit cheaper per pound and box then the peaches.  I bought a few and had one on the way home and they are wonderful.  Just so you know, you can swap out the peaches for nectarines in any of the peach recipes I've posted.

Last night's dinner was barbequed chicken and roasted ears of corn, with cucumbers in dilled sour cream followed by Michael's favorite flavor of ice cream, homemade peach.