Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's Summertime

     I don't know what it is, but I can't seem to shake this summer-time laziness that has settled inside me.  Even though I'm taking classes this semester, I'm not motivated for much of anything lately.  I think it's the heat.  At any rate, I've been treating my poor blog as the red-haired step-child again, which I'm trying to amend.  So here I go with a couple of recipes I've been wanting to share.

    A couple of weeks ago, J, Monkey, and I went inland a ways to a farm near Lucedale where you can get a 5 gallon bucket of pick-your-own veggies for $10.  We had so much fun collecting our produce, and we came back with quite the haul.  I was a little overwhelmed when I realized exactly how much chopping, freezing, canning and pickling was in my future, but I enjoyed it so much I'm getting ready to do it again this weekend.

   The first thing I tried was pickled okra.  This is a recipe a friend of mine sent me.  I was super excited to give it a whirl because pickled okra is one of my vices.  It was hard waiting the two weeks after canning to let them have time to cure, but it was well worth it. So here is the recipe from my friend, Theresa:

Pickled Okra:

1 1/2 pounds of fresh okra (3 1/2 to 4 inches long)
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups water
3 Tbsp kosher salt (Make sure to use canning salt)
1 Tbsp sugar
Pickling spices:
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Place vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar, reduce heat and keep warm
While the water is heating in step one, prepare the okra and the spices. Rinse the okra and trim the stem ends to 1/4-inch.
Place all pickling spices in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Lay out a clean towel on your counter. Use canning tongs to remove the jars from the boiling water, emptying the water from the jars. Place the hot, sterilized jars on the towel on your counter. Placing the hot jars on a towel will help prevent them from getting shocked by a cold counter surface and potentially cracking. Place a lemon slice at the bottom of each jar. Add a tablespoon of the mixed pickling spices to each jar. Place a peeled garlic clove in each jar.
Pack the okra in the jars, alternating stem-side-up and stem-side-down to allow you to pack the okra well into the jars. The top of the okra should come between an inch to 1/2 an inch from the rim of the jar   This was the first time I've tried my hand at canning anything, and I was please with the results.  
Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the jars, up to 1/4-inch from the rim of the jars. Run a thin knife between the okra and the jars to dislodge any obvious air bubbles. Okra is filled with air, so while you run the knife between the okra and the jars, air bubbles will be released from within the okra as well. If the top level of the pickling liquid lowers while you do this, just top off with more of the pickling liquid. If for any reason you don't have enough pickling liquid for all the jars, just add equal amounts of cider vinegar and water. No need to heat first, the liquid will get boiled in the hot water bath.
Place packed jars back in the pot with water you used to sterilize the jars. The water should still be hot. Because you are putting back in full jars, rather than empty jars, some water will be displaced. Allow for 1 to 2 inches of water to cover the jars. Beyond that you may want to remove excess water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove to towel lined counter or to a rack.  Let cure for a week before opening and eating.
     I had so much fun with the first attempt I quickly began working on pickling the enormous banana peppers Monkey had picked with such gusto.  
Where's the banana in this pepper?
 Pickled Banana Peppers from The Canning Granny

5 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
4 tsp Canning and Pickling salt
4 TBS sugar
2-4 cloves garlic 
2-3 lbs peppers (I used banana with a couple of cayenne for extra spice)

Cut the stems off the peppers, remove seeds (without cutting into the pepper so you can still have pretty rings).  Slice peppers into rings.  

Prepare brine by mixing vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and garlic.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer 10-15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, boil 3-4 pint jars in large canning pot.  Boil lids and rings in a separate, smaller pot.    When ready to use remove the jars from the water, and place on a counter lined with a clean dish towel.  

Pack jars with sliced peppers.  Remove garlic cloves from brine, and pour brine into packed jars.  Slide a thin knife around the edge of jar to remove excess air bubbles.  Make sure you have about 1/2" space between top of jar and liquid level.  Wipe rims.  Screw lids on jars, and place back in large pot you boiled them in.  Return to boil.  Boil 10 minutes.  

After processing, carefully remove from pot and set on towel.  Listen for the "ping" to signal they've sealed.  Check all seals before storing. If any didn't seal, reprocess in boiling water bath.  

Let sit 2 weeks before eating.  


Tonight I also made Pickled JalapeƱos, using the same recipe, and they are excellent!

     After seeing all the work I was putting into preseving all our extra produce, J has decided that I'd earn my keep in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  Because, you know, I hadn't proved that with my ability to cook things from scratch and run three miles in under 30 minutes.  Good to know he'll keep me around....

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fried Green Tomatoes

     This weekend my baby girl had her first ever dance recital!  I was so excited to see her up there, having a great time with all the little friends she made this year.  She loved it, and she's asked me if she can do dance again next year, and I'm more than happy to oblige her.

My little diva!
      She's so funny.  She goes from ^ (diva, prissy, sassy, and little Miss Thing) to down-in-the-dirt tomboy who can hold her own against any little boy out there.  I love her versatility.  It must be her southern raisin'.

     Speaking of Southern raisin', any true Southerner should be familiar with the recipe I'm about to share.  A few weeks ago when we went up to the Pick-Your-Own farm up in Lucedale, we came back with a basket full of yummy tomatoes, both red and green, and I knew just what I wanted to do with the green ones.

Make Fried Green Tomatoes, of course!  The recipe I'm about to share is from All Recipes, and it's a pretty good one, but depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may need to double the amount of batter required.

4 green tomatoes
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
oil for frying

Slice tomatoes 1/2" thick; discard the ends.  Whisk the eggs and milk together in a medium sized bowl. Pour flour into a shallow dish.  Mix corn meal, bread crumbs, salt and pepper in another shallow dish.  Dip the tomatoes in the flour, then in the egg mixture, then in the corn meal mix.  Meanwhile, pour about 1/2" oil into a large pan, and heat.    Fry tomatoes in batches of 4-5 (depending on size) about 4 minutes per side, or until browned on each side.  Enjoy!

     This next recipe I had never heard of, but I'm glad I gave it a try.  It's for Green Tomato Bread, which, according to the original poster, tastes like Zucchini Bread.  Having never tried Zucchini Bread, I'll just take her word for it.  I do know that it's really yummy, and you don't even taste the actual tomato in it.  It just tastes like cinnamon.  So here's the recipe:

Green Tomato Bread
from All-Recipes

2 cups finely diced green tomatoes
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBS ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 2- 9x5" loaf pans.  Mix tomatoes, sugar, walnuts, oil, eggs, vanilla, and salt together in a large bowl.  Mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder together in a separate bowl.  Combine flour mixture with tomato mixture.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.  Bake about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes away clean.  Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes.  Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.  Enjoy!