Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Canning Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce

Death lies on her like an untimely frost, Upon the sweetest flower of all the field. – William Shakespeare

2L of delicious, garden-y goodness. At my beck and call for winter!

There’s no denying it now. Autumn has arrived on the calendar. I can’t say I’m pleased, but I guess one has to go with the flow.

One of those “flow” things is the lowering temperatures – especially overnight. If you have a garden, either plot or container, it becomes a major concern. You have to watch overnight temperatures and pick your remaining produce before it gets hit by frost.

We seemed to have had one of the untimely frosts of which Shakespeare wrote last week. (Illustration directly below...)

This is what our tomatoes looked like after last week's early "killing" frost.

I came back after a couple days away on business to blackened leaves on almost all our tomato plants. They were dead. I was left with no choice but to pick everything – red and green. 

So after my untimely harvest I had a large dilemma. One plastic grocery bag of ripe tomatoes and – harder to deal with – two bags of green.

Some of the green tomatoes will ripen indoors on the counter. You don’t have to do anything special to them. If they have reached the “breaking point” they will ripen quite nicely. That point is when tomatoes start turning from hard green to yellowish/pinkish. 

Make sure the cut faces of the tomatoes are facing up.
Unfortunately the taste isn’t quite as good as vine-ripened, but any tomato you grow at home will taste better than one shipped from who knows where that you purchase in a store.

There’s two of us in our family. We could never go through 30+ ripe tomatoes before they go bad. The thing to do was to preserve them for use through the cold months. So I made sauce. Roasted tomato sauce.

This roasted sauce is really tasty, if I do say so myself. It’s actually not any more involved than cooking tomatoes down on the stove. The difference is that the roasting of the vegetables removes some of the moisture, concentrating the flavour and adding a bit of charred, smoky depth.

If you find yourself in the same position as I was, try this recipe. It will soon turn into a seasonal fall back (pardon the pun) every time you have too many tomatoes. If you’re looking for a sauce recipe that doesn’t have a lot of “hands on” time, this is the one.

Don’t be afraid of canning your own tomato sauce. It’s actually very easy. This recipe made four full 500 ml jars, plus about 3/4 cup. That was just enough for me to “test” the sauce on some pasta. The trials I go through for you...

Now I have to turn my attention to the 50-60 green tomatoes on my counter. Hmmm.

Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce
Prep: 10 min  |  Time: about 3 hours  |  Yield 2 L
30 plum tomatoes, halved
2 medium yellow onions, cut into eighths
3 heads garlic, peeled but left whole
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp each, salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 tsp citric acid, or juice of 1 large lemon

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Halve the tomatoes along their long dimension. Quarter the onions and then halve so they are in eighths. Peel the garlic.

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and toss well with your hands to coat. Divide the vegetables between two rimmed cookie sheets. Make sure the cut faces of the tomatoes are facing up.

Place the tomatoes in the oven and roast for 1 hour 15 minutes, switching the sheets on the racks in the oven halfway through (top sheet on bottom, bottom on top). Let cool slightly, then put all the vegetables in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid.

You could easily make a cream sauce by adding heavy cream
to the sauce when using it. Don't try to can the sauce with cream
already added. Do it as you use it. Vodka would also be good.
Add the wine and herbs to the pot and then crush the vegetables slightly. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and cover. Let the mixture simmer for an hour.

Once the sauce has simmered, let cool slightly and then purée either with a stick emulsion blender or a regular blender. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust. If the sauce is too thin, you can continue to cook.

Now add the citric acid or lemon juice. The acid is important because tomatoes are borderline acidic (4.5 pH) for preserving. The acid lowers the pH of the sauce, making it safer during canning.

Bring the sauce back to a boil and then promptly remove from the heat. While the sauce heats, sterilize four 500 ml jars. Fill the jars, leaving 1/2” air space at the top of each jar. Make sure not to get sauce on the rim. Place the tops on the jars “finger tight.”

Process the jars in a hot water bath that covers the tops of the jars by about 1”. Let them boil in the water for 12-14 minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool on the counter. In a short time you will hear the seals “pop” on top of the jars. Tighten the rings on the jars, let cool completely and then store. They will keep for a year in a cool place.

If a top doesn’t pop down, that jar is not sealed. Either try to process again, or keep refrigerated and use within one week.


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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cinnamon Sugar Sponge Cake with Milk Sauce

Written by a sponge dipped in warm milk and sprinkled with sugar. – John Ciardi

John Chairdi was a professor, critic and poet known for his sharp wit as well as a internationally respected translation of Danté’s “Inferno.” He was extremely critical of much poetry aimed children, which he defined as ''written by a sponge dipped in warm milk and sprinkled with sugar.''

Those are interesting words, because this recipe is exactly that: a wonderful sponge cake, dusted with sugar and drizzled with milk sauce. So sometimes that’s a good thing. Perhaps not so much in literature, in Mr. Chairdi’s opinion.

I remember milk sauce on cake from when I was very young. Mom used to serve it with blueberry cake. It was a treat and delight.

The origin of this cake started, as most things do, in front of my computer because I didn’t have an ingredient. I had no butter, and was looking for a cake recipe that didn’t use it. You can substitute shortening, but when I searched I stumbled across the unexpected. 

A recipe I found contained no butter, or shortening and no milk in the batter. I did have milk. That wasn’t the issue. But I was intrigued. So intrigued I made it, or at least a version of it.

I won’t get into exactly what I changed It still bears a passing resemblance to the original, but that’s probably about it.

Left to right: the eggs and sugar; with the flour incorporated; ready for the oven.

I have made a fair number of cakes and have never made one that defined the word “sponge” so clearly. This was the lightest cake I had ever made. Think of angel food cake light. But the thing is there’s no separating and beating the eggs.

This came together, and went down, very quickly.

If you’re not that much into milk sauce try it with ice cream. Or anything else you may think will work!

Cinnamon Sugar Sponge Cake with Milk Sauce
Prep: 10 min  |  Bake 25 min  | Yield 8x8 square cake
4 eggs 
This is about 2 minutes after I removed the cake from the oven.
It had barely started to pull away from the sides in the oven.
I also used a toothpick to test. Better safe than sorry.
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
8” square cake pan
Milk sauce:
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup whole milk, or better, coffee cream
2 tbsp white sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease the pan with shortening (or butter) and dust liberally with white sugar. Set aside.

Place the eggs in a mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, salt and baking powder to the eggs and beat for 30 seconds. Then add the remaining sugar in two batches. Continue to beat until very light and foamy. 

This is the cake just sprinkled with icing sugar – no milk sauce.
When beaten enough, the beaters will leave slight trails behind in the batter (much like when halfway through whipping cream). They will disappear immediately.

Using a spatula, fold in 1/4 cup of the flour. Repeat with the remaining flour, in two equal batches. Deflate the batter as little as possible when adding the flour.

Pour into the prepared pan.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the sides start shrinking from the edge of the pan. You can also test the centre with a cake tester or toothpick. When it comes out clean the cake is done.

Let cool in the pan. Once cool you can turn out onto a plate and sprinkle the top with confectioners sugar (optional), or use the sauce for an amazing old-fashioned style dessert.


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