Archive for ‘Canning’

September 21, 2011

Home Canning is Industrial Food

This past weekend, I turned my kitchen into a home factory and preserved 26 pounds of tomatoes.  Why do I say factory?  Well, beyond the fact that I developed a home-scale version of a factory production line (blanch, peel, chop, drain, measure, can, cool, repeat for next batch), canning is a form of preservation that has its roots largely in what we now call the military industrial complex.

June 6, 2007

Apple-Rhubarb Compote

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most since becoming more and more aware of foods, and especially the local food movement, is incredibly tasty seasonal foods. There’s nothing like biting into a ripe apple just picked off a tree, perfect plums from the local farmers market, fresh white asparagus, or sweet, bright-red strawberries. Right now we are in the middle of the strawberry season.

I was the kid who always loved strawberries – in any form. There’s an infamous story of me as a two-year-old conspiring with a buddy and eating all of the strawberries, with powdered sugar, that my parents had saved for dessert for their dinner guests. You can imagine the sticky, sugary mess!

However, this post is not dedicated to my favorite red fruit but in fact to one I’ve had a less-loving relationship with: rhubarb. These sweet-tart stalks, which are now in season, have fascinated me, both positively and negatively. I have in the past liked them – especially, and unsurprisingly, in strawberry-rhubarb pie. However, their tartness overpowers their sweetness too much for me in the traditional German Rhabarberkuchen, even with a generous helping of streusel on top. Since my mother liked to make this Kuchen, and it was more often than not the only way I had rhubarb, I didn’t really develop a taste for it.

Until this year. Perhaps it was the stalks that lay around the kitchen in Lafigère while I was there. Untouched but mysteriously beautiful and enticing with their green and red hues, their image in my memory lured me into buying some at the store yesterday when I was shopping for dinner. I double-checked the Herkunftsland (transl. country of origin), the closest I can get to knowing in the store that my veggies are coming from a German farm, and bought two stalks. I didn’t know what I’d do with them – I thought I’d try cooking them into a compote, but was nervous it would be too tart. It wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized I could throw in one of the Austrian Jonagold apples I’d just bought to alleviate some of the tartness and enhance the sweet flavors of the rhubarb. Stirring it into my cream of wheat this morning I marveled at how simple, and at the same time perfect, this compote is.

Of course, Luisa Weiss, the Wednesday Chef, concludes that after trying Rose Gray’s and Ruth Roger’s recipe for rhubarb: “I don’t know that I’ll ever cook rhubarb any other way again.” Perhaps I’ll have to try that recipe next!

Apple-Rhubarb Compote

2 stalks Rhubarb (ca. 2 ½ cups or 270g)
1 chopped Jonagold Apple (ca. 1 cup or 190g)
¼ cup (60g) Sugar
½ cup water (or as needed)

Peel the rhubarb well with a small paring knife (start at one end and peel the top layer down on all sides, repeat on other end if needed). Peel and core the apple. Chop the fruits into equal sizes and place in a saucepan with sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook (about 10 minutes) until soft. If you like, you can puree the compote with a whoosh-whoosh-thingy until desired consistency is achieved. Store in the refrigerator or increase the recipe and can in jars for wintertime. Makes about 2 cups.

April 27, 2007

Louisiana Hot Sauce Update

You may or may not remember my episode a few months ago when I attempted to make Louisana Hot Sauce. Four months have passed since I canned it, even though it only needed three to release all its flavors. I had been waiting for the right moment to open the jar for the big test, and yesterday the time came.

I had several of my fellow language assistant friends over for an American Mexican food dinner. When my friend Briana came to visit she brought along tasty seasoning packets for enchiladas, burritos, and fajitas. Yesterday we decided on chicken fajitas. My friends brought Newman’s Own Salsa, guacamole, Mexican rice, and many other tasty foods. I tried my hand at tortillas and failed miserably, but luckily my friend Pat brought along some store-bought tortillas (until recently unavailable in Germany).

Of course during the cooking process we ate our way through all the guacamole and most of the salsa with our chips, and so the question was: what to eat with the fajitas? That’s when I remembered my Un-Louisiana (Un)Hot Sauce. I took it out of the cupboard, and nervous because of the Liverwurst canning fiasco when none of the jars sealed, Icalled for silence and opened the jar. A satisfying pop of the seal ensued and we excitedly dug into the sauce. It definitely wasn’t Louisiana Hot Sauce (we all agreed on that immediately) but it was a nice, slightly sweet and yet still a little spicy sauce to put on our fajitas or dip the leftover chips into. The fajita filling itself, seen above, was made using an Ortega seasoning packet. Yes, I might pride myself on doing many things from scratch, but that doesn’t mean I don’t accept some short-cuts. And let me tell you, it was very tasty. Must have been all that MSG!

Nevertheless, I can’t wait to try this sauce again with hot chili peppers. It will have to wait though until the fall, because I only have two months left here in my apartment. I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly! In the meantime, if you want to try the recipe yourselves, feel free. One of my friends said that it could use more vinegar, and I agree – a tablespoon or so more wouldn’t hurt it.

Un-Louisiana (Un)-Hot Sauce

1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 clove garlic
2 cups chopped chilies (preferably spicy variety!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup sugar (granulated is fine, brown or raw sugar would provide a more complex sweet flavor)
3 Tbsp white (wine) vinegar
2 cloves

Sauté onions until clear, add garlic and chilies. Sauté another two minutes, then add vinegar and seasoning. Let the sauce simmer for a couple minutes, then add the sugar. Blend with a whoosh-whoosh thingy and continue simmering for another few minutes. I added the cloves at this point; however, to release their flavors more you can add the cloves earlier when you add the chilies and seasoning. Fill sauce into a canning jar and seal. Let mature for three months in a cool, dry place.

February 6, 2007

Homemade Apple Leberwurst

Last Thursday, Heather came over to Dresden and all of us Dresden FSA’s* went to see Juli in concert. It was an awesome concert, if a little short. Germany tends to have very punctual concerts that don’t last longer than an hour and a half or so. But you can always count on two if not three encores!

The next day, Friday, was a bit rough for me as I had to rise at six AM to get to school and teach a lesson on MLK Jr. It was a great lesson, and I realized while watching his speech with my class what an amazing orator King was. It’s sad that so many of us haven’t even seen the whole speech. Take the time during this month to watch it and remember what happened, and how much more there is to be done.

When I got home, Heather was just waking up and we decided that today would be the day: we wanted to make Leberwurst. Both of us are big fans, but wanted to know what actually goes into it. So we took it upon ourselves: she’d seen a recipe on television, and with some googling we pieced together a recipe, wrote up a shopping list, and went for it. At the butcher’s we were advised not to put in pork chops, since it would have made the Leberwurst much too expensive, and it would be “a waste of pork chops” according to the butcher. Instead he gave us some pork belly, which had beautiful layers of fat and fatty meat (perfect for Leberwurst). The butcher wished us good luck on our way out, and we went back to my apartment and cooked. Then we realized we forgot canning jars, so Heather went out to buy some. In line at the cash register an old lady noticed Heather’s jars and asked if she was making jam. “No, Leberwurst,” she replied. The old lady’s face lit up, “Really? But, you’re young! And you’re an Ausländer!” When Heather returned, we started canning. Then we realized we forgot to buy labels for the jars, so off I went to find some. I asked at the stationary store downstairs, and she asked me what I was doing with them. “I’m making Leberwurst” I said shyly. Her reaction at first was non-chalant. Then she looked at me: “You mean, from scratch??” I smiled, and affirmed. She was impressed. And all of Radeberg knew that the two Amis were making Leberwurst. If you don’t believe us, here’s proof:

*FSA’s stands for “Fremdsprachenassistenten,” which in English means “Foreign Language Assistants”

December 6, 2006

Louisiana Hot Sauce


One of the things I have wanted to do ever since I moved into my very own apartment is can vegetables. For some inexplicable reason, I think that the ability to can one’s own food is a symbol of independence and adulthood. My parents only ever can homemade jam (with the exception of one summer when my father canned rhubarb and tomatoes) so I can’t say I have this opinion due to parental example. Therefore, the only logical explanation I can find is that canning is something complicated, that involves not only a well-equipped kitchen but also the knowledge that one will remain in one place for long enough to enjoy the food several months down the road (hence only for adults…?).

So, when I received my latest care package from my boyfriend’s father and it included fresh red chilies along with my American brown sugar, I thought: Here is my chance to join the grown-up world. I decided to try my hand at Louisiana Hot Sauce. Now, according to a Google search, real Louisiana Hot Sauce uses jalapeño or cayenne peppers, vinegar, and salt. Since I wasn’t sure what my peppers were, but I knew they weren’t jalapeño, I decided I couldn’t really make an authentic recipe. Upon further research, I pieced together a recipe I thought might pass as an Un-Louisana Hot Sauce.

As I began chopping, I followed all the warnings: when dealing with incredibly spicy peppers wear gloves, or if none at hand, wash hands frequently to avoid burning skin. So I was washing my hands and not touching my face and eyes at all (of course, inevitably, my eyes were itching terribly during this process!). I frequently walked back and forth between my living room, where my computer and recipes were, and the kitchen during this process. Each time I walked into the kitchen I got a whiff of the peppers and their spicy scent (yes, I consider spiciness to have a certain scent) and thought “Wow, these are potent peppers!”

Finally, while I was chopping up my last pepper, I couldn’t contain myself. I had to experience how spicy these were. So I took a teeny piece and popped it into my mouth. I waited. I chewed. I waited. Nothing. “Hm…I must not have taken a big enough chunk.” So, I took a slightly larger piece and chewed it. Nothing. Getting suspicious, I sampled an even larger piece. Sweet, crunchy, and very flavorful, but definitely not spicy.

Oh no!

What to do? My Un-Louisiana Hot Sauce was now an Un-Louisiana Un-Hot Sauce! No fear: my liberal arts degree has taught me to be a creative problem-solver and think quickly on my feet: add dried hot chili peppers! So, in went a couple dried, chopped peppers and all was well.

To can my sauce I placed it in a washed glass jar left over from jam I bought earlier this fall. In Germany, most people can vegetables and jams using left-over jars from the grocery store. As long as the rubber band on the lid is still in tact one can clean out the jar, then boil it (and the lid) to sanitize, fill the jar and close the lid tightly. While it cools it is placed upside down on its top and thus becomes sealed. Raffiniert!

So now, I get to wait three months and see how my sauce has matured. I will have to throw a party for the grand opening.

[I have recently found out that the peppers I used were "Sweet Banana Peppers." Jesse Sharrard of Corduroy Orange just posted about the varying degree of hotness of chilies and peppers which I highly recommend to keep in mind when making sauces and salsas. Jan. 12, 2007 ~KM]

Un-Louisiana (Un)-Hot Sauce

1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 clove garlic
2 cups chopped chilies (preferably spicy variety!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup sugar (granulated is fine, brown or raw sugar would provide a more complex sweet flavor)
3 Tbsp white (wine) vinegar
2 cloves

Sauté onions until clear, add garlic and chilies. Sauté another two minutes, then add vinegar and seasoning. Let the sauce simmer for a couple minutes, then add the sugar. Blend with a whoosh-whoosh thingy and continue simmering for another few minutes. I added the cloves at this point; however, to release their flavors more you can add the cloves earlier when you add the chilies and seasoning. Fill sauce into a canning jar and seal. Let mature for three months in a cool, dry place.