I mentioned last week, that this weekend, I was going to tackle canning tomatoes and apples. Well, after six hours in a hot kitchen chopping, cooking and canning, you can sorta tell I made a dent in the box of each I bought on Sunday at the Capitol Market.
You can’t beat the farmers’ market this time of year. Summer produce is starting to wane and give way to Indian corn, pumpkins, and gourds. The farmers are trying to move the remaining produce, cause none of them want to pack that stuff back home. Today, I got the last box of canning tomatoes for $10. Ten dollars!
I also bought a box of Rome apples, which the guy at the Crihfied Farm booth told me were the best for making applesauce. This guy knows what’s up, too, I’ll tell ya. And, I bought a pint of honey from them and a butternut squash.
I started out making some tomato paste. I got the recipe from the USDA’s Home Canning and Preservation Guide. But I didn’t can it, I froze it. I actually froze the tomato paste in a mini muffin tin. I hate when you have a recipe that calls for 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. So, you buy a 4 oz. can and throw the rest away. Well, the mini muffin tin makes perfect 2-3 tablespoon individual “nuggets” that you can thaw out and use whenever you need. I do this all the time when I make stock. You just pop them out of the muffin tins and put them in a freezer bag. Well, stock “pops” out of the aluminum muffin tins WAY easier than tomato paste. I need to get one of those fancy silicone muffin tins if I’m gonna do this again. Okay, so that only used like 6 tomatoes. Forty more to go.
Next, I made tomato soup that will knock your socks off. I got the recipe here from the Closet Cooking blog. Damn. It was so easy. But it only made two servings. It also made a mess in my oven as the olive oil dripped down onto the heating element. Note to self: next time I make this (and I will be making it again in the very near future) use a pizza pan instead of a cookie sheet with no rim. As soon as I get some more onions, I’ll make a double of this and freeze it. Okay, so that took another 5 tomatoes.
I wanted to can tomatoes to last me for a while. I am always buying diced canned tomatoes at the grocery store. Usually like 1 or 2 cans a weeks. Seriously, I put them in everything. They’re not that expensive. Was it worth it to spend half a day canning them? Who knows. But I canned 10 pints today, and I have over half of a box left. Processing the tomatoes is quite a process, but after a while, I got a little assembly line going from blanching the tomaotes, peeling them, and packing them in the jars. Don’t just throw the skins away after you peel them, though. Extra credit for keeping the skins in your bag of veggie scraps in the freezer to make vegetable broth with later. Everyone does that, right? No, just me? Okay, I’m a geek. It’s a little trick I learned from my friend, Martha. Just keep all your veggie scraps in the freezer until you get a gallon bag full. Add some water and the scraps to a stew pot and simmer for 30 or 45 minutes. Strain out the scraps, and I put the broth in my muffin tin and ice cube trays. Just don’t use onion skins. They turn bitter.
Finally, I got around to tackling the apples. I borrowed my mom’s apple peeler, which made the process a little easier. I didn’t add anything to the apples, just a little lemon juice to keep them from turning brown and a little bit of water in the pot with the sliced apples. I also got the recipe from the USDA site. I cooked the apples for about 20 minutes and put them in the blender. Oh. My. God. Delicious. I’m not even a big fan of applesauce. So, I canned six pints of it yesterday, and froze some in the muffin tins. I measured out 1/4 cup servings to use for baking quick breads in place of oil. Yeah, these don’t “pop” out easy either, like the tomato paste. They sorta lost their shape when I ran hot water over the back of the tin to get them out. I have over half a box left, and I’m thinking I’ll make some apple pie filling and can it when (if) I ever get the time.
After all that canning, I was starving and I had a hungry hubby on my hands, too. I was on a roll, so I just kept on plugging away in the kitchen. I had some sweet gypsy peppers in the fridge that I’d bought for something else and hadn’t used yet. I also had some queso fresco in the fridge I needed to use ASAP before it went bad. Hmmm. Stuffed peppers?
South of the Border Stuffed Peppers
4 peppers (bell, sweet, hot, whatever, as long as they’re big enough to hold around 1/2 a cup of filling)
1/2 pound of deer burger (or lean beef or turkey burger)
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves (or 1 tsp. of minced garlic if you’re lazy like me)
1 1/3 c. queso fresco, shredded
1/2 tsp. corriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Cut the tops off the peppers and clean the seeds out. Put the peppers in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes to soften them up a bit. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in the skillet and add the diced onion and garlic. Cook on medium heat until onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the burger and brown it thoughly. Add the chopped tomato, corriander and cayenne and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove from the heat, and add 1 cup of the queso fresco and stir quckly to mix as it melts. Stuff each pepper with the meat filling and place in a casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining queso fresco over the peppers and broil on high until cheese gets browned and bubbly.
I served mine over some polenta. I added a tablespoon of the queso fresco to the polenta just to give it some richness. I think next time I’ll use Anaheim peppers for just a little more heat. It was amazing, and Jeremy even said I should blog about it. The problem was, it was so good, it was gone before I even thought to take any pictures.