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9/19/2014

Chef ElizabethCapture summer in a jar to have in your pantry all year round – that is if it lasts that long. This jam is delicious – family and friends adore it. It has become a staple new condiment on Chef Elizabeth’s table. We especially love it with eggs or in any way:

Ways to Use Spicy Tomato Jam:

  • Use it wherever you would use ketchup, on grilled and barbecued meats and fish.

  • Use on hamburgers, hot dogs or vegan burgers.

  • Add to soups to give a punch of heat.

  • Add to sandwich fillings like tuna or chicken.

  • Add to grilled sandwiches or paninis, or top fajitas, baguette or pita toasts.

  • Serve on your cheese board or with charcuterie.

  • Serve with your favourite egg dishes.

harvesting cherry tomatoes

tomatoes in a basket

I love this jam because it does not call for peeling or seeding the tomatoes – you can use any variety you choose – just alter the cooking time for watery tomatoes. I keep a canning journal to keep track of additions or alterations to the recipe and to record yield. The real secret to fabulous preserves is to taste as you go and to season to your taste.

cherry tomatoes on the porch

Yield: Roughly one 8-ounce jar per pound of tomatoes used.

The yield varies depending on the kind of tomato used. If the tomatoes seem very watery, after dicing, place in a colander and let drain for 30 minutes. Reserve the juice for your Bloody Marys. Make sure to use a thick, non-reactive heavy bottomed pan. Also remember that the width of the can impacts the cooking time and finished thickness, due to evaporation. You can make this in a slow cooker – but please remember to stir as you go. Things can burn, even in a slow cooker. I use a heat diffuser on my gas stove as I find it hard to get a consistent low flame.

tomato jam ingredients

Elizabeth’s Spicy Tomato Jam

Cherry Tomato Jam5 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped or processed
3  1/2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 cup lemon or lime juice
Grated zest of 2 washed lemons or limes (optional)
6 to 8 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon|
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt  
1 tablespoon red chilli flakes or cayenne pepper
1 to 2 hot chillies – cayenne, jalapeño or red (optional)

Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems. Process or dice the tomatoes and, if they are watery, place in a colander and let drain. Reserve the juice for another use. If you decide to add the lemon zest, wash the lemons and zest them using a micro plane zester – an indispensable kitchen tool. After zesting, use the lemons for the juice.

Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Stirring regularly, check the seasoning.

Simmer the mixture until it reduces to a jam-like consistency. This will take between 1 and 1  1/2 hours, depending on how high you keep your heat. This also depends on how watery the tomatoes were and how much acid you decide to use. I prefer a tart jam so I add the maximum suggested amount of lemon juice and vinegar. This gives it a longer cooking time.

When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. Use a kitchen timer – it is a canner’s best friend. I carry mine around if I need to leave the kitchen. If you omit this step, make sure to keep the jam refrigerated.

Remove the jars from the water bath and allow them to cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, test the seals. Those that do not seal need to be refrigerated.

Spicy Tomato Jam in jars

Label the jars immediately – we all forget what is in that jar. I find that too often the labels do no stick so I make sure to write with a permanent marker on the lid. That way I am sure to know what is in that jar.  Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Enjoy !

Santé,

Chef Elizabeth

preparing tomatoes



9/18/2014

Chef ElizabethFall has arrived very quickly and put an abrupt end to a rather short summer. Where did it go? It seems as if I just put all those plants in the ground. It is the summer that never was. Harvest time has arrived and, as I pick the last of the tomatoes, I have mixed feelings. One of the wonderful things about farming is the lessons you learn along the way. I have discovered that you need to be flexible and roll with the punches.

I started the season determined to grow heirloom baby tomatoes - the yellow pear and black cherry varieties. I thought they would sell very well – people are looking for new varieties that are difficult to find in the markets. I had a vision of people coming to my farm stand to buy my produce. Problem was, my business plan was blown because I could not find the tomatoes seedlings anywhere. One nursery promised me for three weeks to bring them in for me, and they never did. Next year I will source them out by catalogue, and I have saved seeds from this year’s crop. I had to settle for regular cherry tomatoes. I chose two varieties - 100 Million and large cherry tomatoes.

tomatoes 

One suggestion is that if you do plan to grow cherry tomatoes plant the BIG ones. Why? Cherry tomatoes are time consuming and backbreaking work. You smarten up quickly when you are in the hot sun harvesting your crops. You stop and ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”

Cherry tomatoes are best eaten as they ripen, and, although I made tomato jam with them, it took me hours to cook the water out of them. I finally just started placing them in colanders and pressed them. The juice was delicious as a vegetable drink and great in Bloody Marys as well. I also used some of the juice in my pasta dishes. Waste not, want not!

jam pot 

After having half my crop devoured by a variety of critters last year, this year we settled on a few electric fences. I had my doubts about any fence that could protect against deer and chipmunks at the same time. It is a bit of a pain stepping over it every time you need to access your vegetables, however, it sure did work. I tripped on it last week as I was harvesting the tomatoes. It was a hard fall.

Fact of the matter is that this year we had TOO much rain. Too much early in the summer so that the bees could not pollinate my zucchini plants, and it continued to pour all summer long. Around here all the farmers were complaining about the rain and how the tomatoes just did not get that sun-ripe taste. It is small comfort to hear that others shared my woes. I have learned that I am dependent on what the skies give me or don't give me. I had known that all along but living it is very different. As a chef farmer, I never stop learning. Just when I think I have conquered a problem, it shifts on you and you are back to ground zero.

Mid-summer I made the sign, put a country tablecloth over a table, decorated it with garden flowers and made a price list and placed a scale with stamped brown paper bags on the table. With a sign by the road side I thought I was in business. No one came; I left the sign out for a few weeks and felt sad. Now I know why the large farm at the end of the road had taken its wooden booth down – no business. These are tough lessons, and I have to rethink what I am going to do. The farmers' market that I asked to join never got back to me after weeks of trying to reach them. It is a tough go – so I had to switch gears and can my crop in the hopes of selling the jams, jellies and chili sauces. I had to convert cherry tomatoes and beefsteak into chili sauce – my San Marzano were a disaster this year. That is the chef and farmer in me … no waste, and work with what you have. In fact, the results are delicious.

As I pulled up the rest of the plants, I looked at the dying leaves of my potatoes and the prolific fruits of my chili plants. I was wistful that another season was over as I tossed hundreds of tomato cages over the asparagus ferns. I had promised to make trellises for the tomatoes this year and never had time to get to it as all the other farm businesses needed to be handled – the plants had to get into the ground and that was that.

This year I had decided to make a reality of my lifelong dream to build a cooking studio in my outbuilding. This spring, all the snow over the winter – more than 16 feet – had caused the roof to buckle. Insurance had agreed to fix it, and I made up my mind to renovate it into a kitchen. I decided to give a friend’s recommended local contractor the business. He never turned up and stole my $25,000. I was heartbroken, and being robbed truly hurts. I was trying to give him some work to pay his bills and hoping to be able to supplement my income doing the work I love. What he did really set me back. This was a bitter way to learn a lesson. No good deed goes unpunished, I tekk myself. In the country you tend to take a person's word because you are surely going to see them in town. That did not stop this fellow. I worry about running in to him as I do my chores.

It is the time of year when you face and tally up all of your efforts. Your successes and failures are right in front of you. There is no running and hiding from the facts. I have lots to be thankful for. As we begin the potato harvest, another truth comes out – they are all different sizes and, of course, they need sorting. One more task I had not considered. I love the whimsy of the random sunflowers that pop up in my garden among the vegetables. I wonder who brought them.

It has been a short summer filled with all sorts of unusual happenings with wildlife. We had a just-born fawn on our lawn in the middle of a storm; we rescued seven newborn skunks; a fish turned up in our pond when there was none; we spotted an albino raccoon; and flying squirrels fed at night on our side porch. We had scores of mewling baby raccoons in daylight, and we had Powder Squeak, a half albino premature red squirrel that we nursed back to health with a steady dose of peanuts. That little squirrel taught me what it means to be determined and to never give up. At one point I thought he was near death, and it would be best to put him out of his misery. He rallied and continues to be the first and last at the feeder.

skunks in a box 

apples 

grapes on the vineThere is much to be done before putting the garden to bed. I still have my grapes to pick – they are late this year – and then to make grape jelly. I have yet to harvest the basil to make pesto, and I need to dry my herbs. I have peppers, potatoes and a few zucchini to pick. There is always something calling me. I was thrilled this year to see apples on my tree and, as luck would have it, deer ate them just as they were ready to be picked. No apple crisp pie this year. But I do plan to harvest wild ones from the backfield. That is if there are any – you never know.

This summer I had the delight of my children sharing the work and the bounty of the farm. We had wonderful meals out on the porch – both breakfasts and dinners. We went blueberry picking and kayaking and camping. Tornado warnings came on a regular basis. We had mosquitoes in September. I also was delighted to find damson plums at the farm stand and was able to make the plum jam that took me back to my childhood. I was taught the rules of canning as a young girl from my godmother Clara. She made the best jams and jellies and would always use paraffin to seal them. She even used the old-fashioned jelly jars. We shared memories, made memories and had some great nights playing cards. This is why I wanted to live on a farm, to share work, tears, love and laughter.

brunch on the porch 

apricot jam 

Fall is a time to give thanks and I do. I hope all of you visit a farm stand to enjoy the bounty and to support farmers like me. They really do appreciate it. I know.

products 

I made salsa, tomato sauce for pasta and stews, bruschetta, tomato sandwiches, gazpacho, caprese salad with basil from the garden, fried green tomatoes, and I also canned tomato jam and chili sauce. Next is preserved salsa. The list is endless. I practically put peppers in every dish I made. I just toured the garden and ironically now the zucchinis are filling in, just after the first frost warning.

canning 



8/29/2014

Chef ElizabethI know that most serious farmers would never think about leaving the farm during growing season. I admit it – I do love to travel. I planned the two-week trip after all the produce was planted and long before the harvest. The hardest part of leaving the farm is finding someone you trust; someone who will take care of it as well as you would yourself. In the past I thought I had found the perfect match- half an hour before leaving on our cross-country trip he backed out. While in France last summer I returned to find my beloved garden eaten by voracious weeds and all of my herbs mowed down. There are down sides to leaving. One bit of advice is to do everything you can to find a reliable helper. It is sort of along the same idea as finding a good babysitter you trust so you can get out of the house. Yes, it is true all farmers need and deserve a vacation!

group boarding 

As a chef and farmer, I believe the best way to get ideas is to travel. I read a lot but seeing things for myself always breathes new thoughts into me. Traveling gives me the chance to see how other farmers work and sell their goods. I love to check out the pick-your-own and local farmers' markets along the way.

I am blessed enough to have a son to take care of the property when I am gone. His girlfriend is happy to help around the farm and is very competent. My list of chores is enormous. Setting up the watering system requires a mechanical engineering degree. There are so many gardens to water, a pond to maintain, feeding the fish and the birds, electrical fencing to turn on and off, weeding, watering, harvesting when needed; the list goes on and on.

I am writing this while in Colorado. It has been a busy 10 days so far with a trip to Glenwood Springs, white water rafting, Durango, Four Corners and Mesa Verde. This is interesting country.

down we go

White water rafting on the Colorado River

“Absolutely fantastic – perfect day on the Colorado River”

This has been on my bucket list for decades and what better place than Colorado to try this out. Colorado is a state for outdoor recreation – it seems as if the entire state is dedicated to sports of one type or another – hiking, skiing, cycling, zipping, horseback riding.

If you are in the Glenwood Springs area, please go and check out Blue Sky Adventure Tours.

This is a trip of a lifetime – I promise you it will be an adventure to remember. The excursion is well planned and the guides are experienced, friendly and informative. We decided to do the large boat and then break off and kayak in a boat for two. There was a perfect balance between the rapids and the still water – it gave you time to look up at the splendor of the canyon – what a great way to experience the Colorado River. I had one of the best kayaking adventures in my life – I am going back as soon as possible. Will, our guide, was top notch and made the experience the best.

kayaking

Hints: What you should bring – a hat for sure, sunscreen, shoes with a heel, water and a waterproof camera – you are guaranteed to get wet. If you have one of those plastic bags that are designed for boating, bring it to store your things. A towel may be helpful. Bring a change of clothes so that you don't have to take the trip back to the headquarters soaking wet – on a cold day it can get very chilly! Have a thermos of hot coffee in your car waiting for you – you will be glad you did.

canyon

I always try and pack a whole lot of living in the time I'm away. Once back on the farm, it is pure farm focus. It is just the same as when you take a vacation from work. We all know about how much planning you have to do before you go away. Then when you get back there is three times the amount of work waiting for you. That is what happens when you leave the farm so I make sure that I have lots of great memories to remind me of why all the extra work is worth it.

Mesa Verde National Park

cliff dwellings

We still wanted to explore so we decided to go to Mesa Verde National Park, known for its cliff dwellings.

Let me start with the temperature – 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). Then comes the altitude, 8,000 feet and counting. We arrived from a visit from Four Corners – the only place in the United States where four states come together, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Now this spot is a true desert, and I could barely believe that the wild horses we saw could survive.

We paid $15 dollars to enter Mesa Verde National Park and the pass is good for one week.

on top

We decided to stay at the Farview Lodge to really enjoy the views of the mass expanse of buttes, chimneys, finger mountains and wild life. I am going to review the hotel and dining experience in a separate review. Just a hint – absolutely stunning.

The park is enormous, victim of a large fire in 2002, and there are many spots to check out. This is a brief description from Wikipedia: “Mesa Verde National Park is a U.S. National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. It is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.” It is a very large park that you can drive through and stop at scenic spots to view the dwellings. However, to see the real sites it is best to go on a guided tour.

view

The lodge was spectacular, and you could dine on top at the restaurant or just have cocktails and appetizers along with an incredible view. One criticism is that they have no umbrellas on the outside patios – it is far too hot to eat with that sun beating down on you.

In the morning, we hiked to Spruce Tree House – no fee. I was rather alarmed by the red faces and panting of the tourists as we passed them on our descent into the cave dwelling. This is not an easy hike for those who are not fit – let me put that to you plainly. Many people had to stop to catch their breath. Wear appropriate shoes and bring water. All that physical labour on the farm made me prepared for this hike. This is one of the benefits of hard work. I walk miles and miles each day around the farm just to get to the spot where I need to work.

It is a really fascinating place and a trip back into the life of man. The study of archeology has always fascinated me, and I love to wonder how past peoples eked out a living in such harsh terrain. To me it made me think of the earliest farmers – just how difficult a time they must have had. The cliff dwellings seem inconceivable and they let your imagination flow. You can follow the trail to get to petroglyphs. I passed knowing I had a four-hour tour in the afternoon. I needed to save my resources. Needless to say it was a wise move.

kiva

We arranged for the tour with Aramak – this company runs the parks’ concessions. They do not offer any tour information. When we stopped and asked a ranger about the tours, he told me the bus tour was run separately from the ranger guided tours. The cost was $41 per person. We did not receive a map to tell us where we were going. We were picked up by a bus and we drove around the park, with lots of water offered to us at no price. It was HOT. We stopped at a variety of sights including early underground living spaces and kivas – places of worship. Our guide Holly was informative, friendly and knowledgeable. This really added to the experience. The tour was worth every penny.

Now here comes the part that I did not enjoy at all. While I had anticipated some climbing – I had packed my hiking boots – I had no idea that this leg of the journey was going to involve scaling cliff walls, climbing ladders and being forced through tiny spaces between enormous cliffs.

As we lined up to start the descent it sort of felt like the lineup for Mount Everest.

We were set to take a tour of Cliff Palace. I will admit that the ranger who took over this part of the park tour made it fairly clear that there were going to be a few challenges along the way. As someone who is admittedly petrified of heights, I had second thoughts about participating. I looked around me in the sweltering heat and I spotted little children, some as young as 2, many of the children were around 7 and many grandparents. While we collected at the top of the cliff and we were given our safety lecture, I really wondered about how safe this was going to be for the little children. I seemed more frightened than they were.

In any event, we started the trek down, which seemed not too frightening. However at this point the ranger decided to stop and to have 30 or 40 tourists sit underneath a cliff hanging – we could barely all fit. All I could think about was that I was going to fall off into oblivion. We sat there for what seemed like an eternity. At this point, terror set in and I really thought that I was going to go back on my own. My partner talked to the ranger, and she confirmed heading back the way we came was even worse. One woman was feeling dizzy and the ranger addressed her issues with a wet cloth around her neck. Fear is not so easily addressed – no wet bandana was going to cure my ill. I decided to keep going with the rest of the group, and we ended up in Cliff Palace. You're really not allowed to enter most of the area but you can walk around and view it from the outside. While some people looked around, all I could think about was how was I going to finish the hike as I stared up at this little wee ladder. I did manage to finish the trip with a very narrow pass between two enormous mountain boulders.

It was an accomplishment, and yet I worried about the fact that I never signed a waiver. Looking back, I understand how really dangerous this hike could be. I did feel a sense of pride for completing the hike, however my fear still lingered. When our guide described another tour where you scale 30 feet of ladder and burrow through a tunnel, I shuddered. Never.

Mesa Verde National Park is worth visiting. You need to be fit enough to hike and scale – and if you have a fear of heights, the hiking part of the tour may be uncomfortable. I would suggest you plan for at least one or two days to really explore all that the park has to offer. I would also suggest  you try and plan your trip when the temperatures are a bit cooler and not in the heat of summer as we did.

I also suggest you plan to stay at the Fairview Lodge. A drink or meal on top of the scenic restaurant with a spectacular view is another wonderful way to enjoy this great world heritage site. It leaves you with a sense of wonder and expands your horizons. I highly recommend a visit. While many families were there, I do not think it is the best park for young children – they need to be watched very closely. I am sure teens would love the challenge. Make sure to fill up on gas before entering the park.

My sabbatical from the farm is not quite over. My adventure continues until I am back on my farm. I make sure to find something new to do and learn each day. Thank God for technology. I have kept in touch through photographs and am pleased to see that all is doing well and some of the tomatoes and peppers are beginning to ripen. I hope to have organic potatoes and tomatoes when I get back.

'Til next time!

Chef Elizabeth



8/21/2014

Chef ElizabethAs a chef and farmer, my days are full of work, and yet I always stop and make time to enjoy seasonal produce as it comes to market. I have such a fondness for anything raspberry – my love for this fruit goes a long way back. This week, I could not resist raspberries at $2/pint so I bought four from the local farm in Perkinsfield, Ontario. I had eaten at least one pint as I was driving back to the farm. One of the great joys of being a chef is trying to decide what to make with the produce. Sometimes I experiment and sometimes I rely on my time-tested recipes. Raspberry Riches is one of those recipes that I have been baking for years.

raspberries 

more raspberries

I have gone to pick your own raspberry farms on many occasions – but they are hit and miss with respect to availability and the season is so short you have to time it perfectly. Here on Wynyates Farm, we have them growing – once again the challenge is to get to the raspberries before the birds and other creatures do. Animals know when the fruit is just ripe for the picking. My strategy is to watch for lots of activity and check out the canes for fruit. I also find it challenging to harvest a large amount at one time.

On Wynyates Farm, the raspberries are harvested in small portions and find their way into bowls of cereal, compotes or as a side to cake. Raspberries can get very expensive – even in season here in Ontario. So when I can get them cheaply, I buy lots and bake with them and freeze the rest. They do freeze well – wash them gently just before freezing. I simply lay them on a sheet and place on a level surface in the freezer so the berries are not clumped together. In the restaurant world, this process is called IQF – individually quick frozen. You see its use in the grocery stores with chicken breasts, shrimps, scallops and, yes, berries, too! They are easier to use if they are single morsels of fruit. I just bought a Cusinart ice cream maker, and I am looking forward to making frozen raspberry yoghurt.

Here is a detailed link that will help.

I am recalling my childhood fruit favorites – it would have to be raspberries and the “bumble”berries I used to pick near our family cottage in Jackson's Point on Lake Simcoe, Ontario. There was an empty field down and across the lane where I built a fort in the tall grass. In that field I became a hunter-gatherer. I would find the berries and use them to make lipstick. I would squash them all with a spoon into a tea cup that I had stolen from the kitchen and devour them like candy. Found food is a gift from heaven that I still find the same joy and delight in as I did in my childhood days.

Later in the summer, the wild apple trees filled with green and oh so tart apples – which I knew even then were not ripe. Greed overcame me – I had to eat them. I felt like an adventurer that had found heaven, and I was determined to keep this spot a secret garden - hidden from my seven siblings. By this time, my parents knew about me disappearing and trusted that I would always return.

Later, we moved our cottage life to Rousseau – Morgan Bay to be exact. There the fields on our 40 acres were filled with black raspberries. Even my utter fear of bears combined with my knowledge of their eating habits – FYI, berries are a bear’s favorite snack – I would still go and harvest the berries to make jam. I can still taste it!

I had the joyful culinary experience of tasting golden or yellow raspberries when I visited the Kemtpville Farmers' Market. Try to find a farmer who sells these most delicious berries in the universe.

Today I am sharing a special recipe that I first came across at least a decade ago in a cooking magazine. Years later I saw it published in Saveur, a magazine with wonderful recipes and interesting features of international cuisines – it is in their cookbook, Saveur Cooks Authentic American.

I have made a few changes to the recipe over the years. This is a very simple cake and is low in fat – the star is the fruit – I omit the suggested grated chocolate from the original recipe. Secondly I use almond extract and vanilla extract or paste. Some people find almond extract very powerful, so if you want to reduce the amount by half or omit it from the recipe feel free to do so. My topping has oats and almonds in it. I just happen to adore almonds and especially with fruit.

You can use any fruit you like with this basic cake batter – blueberries, apricot, plum, rhubarb, peaches or apples and pears in the fall.

Chef Elizabeth’s Raspberry Riches

raspberryriches

Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cups fresh red raspberries

Rolled Oat Topping:
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 cup butter, melted

rasp 

Directions:

Combine all of the dry ingredients and then add melted butter. Blend until it clumps together – if the mixture is too dry, add some more melted butter, a few tablespoons at a time.

raspberryriches2 

Cake Directions:

Melt and cool unsalted butter. Heat oven to 375 F. Butter an 8- or 9-inch round or square baking pan.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl.

In another bowl, beat together egg, buttermilk and vanilla and almond extract or paste until smooth. Stir in cooled melted butter. Add dry ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until nearly smooth. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. The batter will be very thick.

Sprinkle with raspberries. Top with Rolled Oat Topping. Bake until nicely browned, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on rack until warm. Serve warm. It is delicious the next day.

I hope you enjoy this cake and use the base year round with seasonal fruit.

Until next time, Santé,

bucky

Chef Elizabeth



7/23/2014

Chef ElizabethSummer is here, and we all want quick and easy delicious recipes for entertaining. On the farm I always have this treat tucked away in the fridge for emergencies. Everyone knows that when living on a farm there is an open invitation to drop by. Or so people think! That is something that really surprised me when I moved to a rural location on a farm – the folks who just assume you want them to visit. I have had people pop by without notice while I was canning – making strawberry jam with mint from my garden. Everyone who cans knows that there can be no distractions and once you start the process it cannot be interrupted.

When I am counting out cups and cups of fruit and sugar and timing my water bath – no one dares speak to me. It is one of the few times when I am cooking that I feel a bit like a mad scientist – formulas, timing and numbers are all coming at me. I rely on a portable timer to help, and I write the weight of the fruit or vegetable in a book for each batch. I write the time when I put the Mason jars in the bath. Last of all, I take stock of the yield and label the jars as soon as I can. I promise myself that I will remember what jam or jelly it is – but purple looks purple – blueberry, plum and grape all look very similar!

Last summer, someone came to buy wood, and his wife got out of the car and asked me for zucchini flowers. Curious strangers and neighbors are always driving in. Family and friends decide to go for a drive and they just “happen” to arrive at your gate. So why not be prepared? That was my Girl Guide Motto and I still live by it when it comes to the Farm Kitchen.

While I always have baked goods on hand – or tucked away in the freezer – I also like to have a savory snack available. My fridge is full of my pickled vegetables including pickled green tomatoes and dilly beans that are perfect to serve along side this Pimento Dip. It is fabulous served warm with pita or nacho chips – or even slices of baguette.

It is really quick and easy to make. What makes this cheese dip different is the addition of “pimientos,” which are a variety of large, red, heart-shaped chile pepper. The flesh is considered to be more flavorful and sweet than the red pepper that we see all over North American markets. Most often, canned roasted red peppers, not the Spanish pimientos, are used in this dish.

By the way, the pepper is spelled differently than the dip. 

Pimento Dip is a Southern classic – the “caviar” of the South, they say, and there is a good reason why. It is very regional and most Southerners are disappointed not to find it all over the United States. The capital of Pimento Dip is considered to be Charlotte, North Carolina. When this dish first appeared, it was made with expensive red peppers from Spain and as a result was for the rich. I believe it was first served as a spread for tea sandwiches. When ingredients became cheaper, it became a popular dish for the masses. Hence the use of Velveeta processed cheese. Today, Velveeta is not that cheap, so why not use the real cheese?

To learn more about the history of Pimento Dip, here is an interesting piece. 

Pimento SandwichPimento cheese sandwiches are a signature item at the Masters Gold Tournament.

A minor controversy ensued in 2013 when the Augusta National Golf Club switched food suppliers for the Masters, but were unable to duplicate the sandwich, resulting in one with a different flavor.

Click here to read the full story.

One of the interesting things about this Southern Classic is that like many regional recipes, there are as many versions as there are cooks. Some cooks use cream cheese, dill pickle, jalapenos, Miracle Whip, horseradish, siracha – the list is endless.

My recipe has been altered to suit my taste, feel free to add, combine or omit any of the ingredients listed below. Consider the plain 4-ingredient dip – cheese, mayonnaise, pimientos, salt and pepper – as a canvas for you to paint. Considering the variety of peppers that are now available in the food markets, you may even choose to change the type of pepper you use.

Hints:

– Use the sharpest cheese of the best quality that you can find - it makes all the difference.

– Also make sure to drain the peppers very well and pat them dry to prevent the excess moisture from watering down the dip.

Chef Elizabeth’s Pimento Cheese Spread

Serves 12 as a dip.

2 cups coarsely grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp white cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (about 8 ounces)
1 cup finely chopped well-drained pimientos or roasted peppers from your grill (If you are using the food processor, you can quickly process them first.)
1/2 cup best quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon grated onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste, or 1 teaspoon Siracha sauce
1/2 cup chopped green olives (optional)
1 large dill pickle (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

pimento dip

Directions:
Mix first 5 ingredients in large bowl or in a food processor. Be careful not to over process if you like your dip to be a bit chunky.

Season the dip with salt and pepper to taste.

Do Ahead: This dip can be made 4 days in advanced and kept in the fridge.

Transfer dip to serving bowl or container to store in fridge. It is best served at room temperature or heated in an oven-proof bowl.

Hint: If you decide to serve this dip warm, heat it slowly so that the proteins of the cheese don’t separate as that will make your dip oily.

Serving suggestions: Traditionally this dip is served on plain white bread - but there are lots of other ways to use this versatile dip. You will understand how handy this dip is to have in your fridge.

– Bring to room temperature and serve with baguette slices, bread sticks or rice crackers.

– Serve with crudités – assorted raw vegetables such as carrot and celery sticks, cucumbers, peppers, endive, blanched green beans or asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower

– This dip can be heated and served warm with tortilla chips – delicious

– Chill and then roll in chopped toasted pecans or almonds – a cheese ball

– Use as a spread on sandwiches or wraps

– Use as a spread for French baguette, just add herbs and grill

– Make a grilled pimento spread and bacon sandwich

– Use as a sauce with pasta - add to your macaroni and cheese recipe

– Use on baked potatoes or on top of a potato casserole

– Spread it on your scones or biscuits

– Use as a spread on hamburgers or hot dogs

– Use as part of your deviled egg stuffing

– Spread over baked or grilled chicken

– Serve over your fried green tomatoes! How Southern can you get?

Don’t forget to follow me on my blogs, Bucky's View and EP Culinary.

Santé,

Chef Elizabeth



7/7/2014

“The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you're afraid of it.” James Beard

Chef ElizabethToday it is raining and thundering on the farm and it’s a huge bonus for me because it cuts my work and worry load – not in half, but enough to give me time to head into my farmhouse kitchen and cook to my heart's content. Rain is a Chef-farmer’s best friend.

I bought an excess of organic eggs at the market and was wondering what to do with all of them. While I spend most of my time on the farm, I do love to travel. I will admit that I have a soft spot for France, and it is the one country that I have visited often. In my heart there is France. There are lots of farmhouses in Southern France, and it is a gorgeous drive through Provence. If you ever get the chance to go, make sure to visit the many marché or markets in the small towns. Make sure to check in advance the days the markets are open because they vary.

When I look at eggs – the chef in me believes that no one does them quite like the French,  they have so many dishes based on this gift from nature. I felt like indulging myself this morning, hence a soufflé came to mind. Soufflés originated in France as a way to use up leftovers and pantry items … sounds like farmhouse cuisine to me.

I know it may sound pretentious or too difficult to tackle a soufflé … trust me it isn’t. Many farms have chickens and an abundance of eggs. So why not try out a new egg dish? Once in your repertoire you will be glad you did. Soufflés are very versatile, and you can combine all sorts of ingredients.

Lucy lying down

Lucy

The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler, which means, "to blow up" or more loosely "puff up" – an apt description of what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites. The trapped air in the egg whites causes the mixture to rise.

This is one of the most delicious transformations of eggs that I know. Most cooks are terrified at the thought of making this dish. How many people can recall the last time that they ate a soufflé? Sweet or savory? You can’t find them on restaurant menus so let’s make them at home.

Souffle

I used to make soufflés for my parents each time I visited – which was often. As they aged, I needed to find ways to make them want to eat … to tempt their taste buds. Soufflés were a hit every time. For them I used blue cheese crumbled. If you like blue cheese, I highly recommend Maytag Blue made in Newton, Iowa.

Growing up, our family of 10 always ate deeply flavored cheeses from all over the world. My mother introduced us to a wide variety, some of them like Esrom and Tilsit just plain stunk – but I grew to love Oka made by Quebecois monks and the deeply flavored Roquefort, with jam. Sounds like an odd combination, but it works – fruit and cheese, a classic combination. So with thrift-store soufflé dish in hand – I found my old Cordon Bleu recipe and grabbed the goat’s cheese cheddar and grana padano and my leeks that I harvested last year.

The Soufflé process begins:

This is a basic technique that once you are comfortable with it, you can make any flavor you would like. Another great thing about soufflés is that all the ingredients are in your pantry. Who does not have eggs, cheese, milk or flour?

I must admit it does take some experience to execute this perfectly, but the real trick is to leave fear behind and just go for it. If you check out on-line recipes, they are far more complicated than they need to be. If you break the process into individual components, it is not nearly as challenging. You are making a white sauce or béchamel base and then adding flavor through cheese and seasonings (hence a Mornay sauce) just like Mac and Cheese – then adding separated eggs – you whip the eggs just as if you are making a meringue – like the topping of pies, and the method is much like making of the cakes. Now doesn’t that seem easier?

Some Chef Secrets

It helps if you have the right dish – 6-cup capacity with straight sides so the mixture can rise evenly.

Use the best cheese – the more intense the flavor will be – so choose cheese with flavor.

If you coarsely grate the cheese it will ooze and taste delicious.

Add Dijon – you will be glad you did!

Always use one additional egg white than yolk for light texture.

Add leeks or some type of onion to heighten flavor.

I use panko to coat the soufflé dish; it adds texture.

Do not over whip your whites.

Blend the final mixture softly but thoroughly.

Use a large stainless spoon to blend – it makes the job easier.

Have your table set, your guests with forks in hand – a soufflé waits for no one.

Souffle Classic Cheese Soufflé

This serves 2 generously for a main meal or 4 as an appetizer

Prepare the dish – Butter 6-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. Add grated Parmesan cheese or panko and tilt dish, coating bottom and sides. Place on a baking sheet.

Ingredients

1 cup whole milk – it should be whole milk or even half and half

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon finely sliced leeks or onions

3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper – white pepper if you have it on hand

1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère or Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)

4 large egg yolks, room temperature is best

5 large egg whites

Preparation

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400 F.

Melt butter in heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté gently. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam, about 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown). Pour in milk, whisking until smooth. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat; whisk in paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Let cool for a few minutes, then add the egg yolks 1 at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Add the Dijon mustard and the grated cheese and blend well.

Scrape the soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm.

Notes

At this stage you can leave the base to use a few hours later, if desired. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm or room temperature soufflé base to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whites until thoroughly mixed and transfer batter to prepared dish.

Use a small sharp knife and run a ring around the center – this encourages the classic “hat” to form.

Place soufflé dish on a baking tray in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately.

The center should be slightly runny, or as the French say “baveuse,” which means drooling – it makes the sauce. Cook it a few minutes longer if you prefer a firmer texture, but be careful not to overcook it. 

Souffle portion 

Serving Suggestions

The rich intense cheese flavor contrasts well with something bright and acidic.

I like to serve it with tomatoes and leeks, or scallions served in classic French vinaigrette.

Chardonnay or Chablis are a perfect match. 

Santé

Chef Elizabeth

For more recipes and reviews of my travels and a chef’s life on the farm, visit my blog, Bucky's View.

Bucky and baguette 



6/19/2014

Chef ElizabethOne of the great benefits of living on a farm is the availability of produce from other farmers. For me it’s a big part of why I chose this lifestyle. Every chef dreams of being able to prepare just picked produce. All the years in the kitchens I longed to be able to grow my own. Now I can.

This will be my third summer on the farm – Wynyates Farm. After fighting marauding pests that consumed half my crop for the last two summers, I have learned a few lessons. It is not just pests, it is also the malevolent weeds that threatened my harvest. I learned very quickly and in real terms why organic produce is so expensive. The labor that is required is very intensive. No rest for an organic farmer. For fun I like to visit local farms and pick what I do not grow myself.

Helping Me Pick
This is a great group activity … you can pick a lot of blueberries in a short time.

Oceans Blueberries
You can gather a lot in a short time.

I just got back from picking organic blueberries from a local farm on Georgian Bay, Ontario. I took a crew with me, and we ended up with almost 40 pounds of berries for $62! I encourage everyone to locate an organic pick-your-own. These are the very best berries to freeze to use later. They bake up perfectly in muffins, scones and quick breads and crisps. Blueberries are fabulous in smoothies, in yoghurt and in your morning cereal. We all know about their health benefits, and freezing does not destroy their anthocyanin antioxidants. Read this report on The World's Healthiest Foods. My Son Picking Berries
Everyone pitches in and gets to eat the “fruits” of their labors.

Holding Spoils Of the Day
Holding the spoils of the day.

Blueberry Bush
Fresh blueberries on the bush.

I made blueberry-champagne preserves – they are delicious with blue cheese and on croissants and hearty multigrain bread. I also use preserves in my berry crisps and in my pies; they add a depth of flavor.

Basket of Berries
An enormous basket of berries.

Homemade Blueberry Preserves
Homemade Blueberry Preserves

Here is my blueberry loaf recipe – enjoy! The best part is that it is so low-fat and packed full of berries. This is delicious on its own, but you can slice and serve it with frozen vanilla yoghurt or ice cream.

Go out and pick some blueberries or buy local organic – you will be very happy you did. I see it as a great way to spend a few hours getting to know how berries are picked, to release your inner harvester, and it's fun to witness your own ability to decide on berry ripeness and to snack along the way – your blue lips are a dead giveaway.

Just Washed Blueberries
Be sure to rinse the berries before freezing, eating or processing.

Lemon Blueberry Loaf

Lemon Glazed Blueberry Loaf

Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Yields 1 large loaf.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 55 minutes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh blueberries; frozen will work just as well.
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil – sunflower, peanut or canola; melted butter can be substituted.
2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste; lime is great, too 

Glaze:
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest 

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.

In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Stir in lemon zest and blueberries.

In another bowl, beat eggs; add milk, oil and lemon juice. Stir into dry ingredients, just until moistened.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until toothpick tests clean.

To make glaze: Combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil on stove over medium heat; cook until thick, about 5 minutes. If glaze gets too thick as it cools, place over gentle heat.

After removing loaf from oven, while still warm, brush or drizzle glaze over bread while still in pan. Let cool for 10 minutes, remove loaf to wire rack to cool completely.

Cut and enjoy! This is a great food gift or bake-sale item.

Blueberry Loaf
Blueberry loaf on my kitchen table

Blueberry Hand Pies
Blueberry Hand Pies on my front porch.





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