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pear jam with fresh sage & honey

oh my, i almost missed my own can jam selection month! it seems that fall is almost everyone’s favorite time of year by the response to the november selection of fall only type fruits like apple, pear, and quinces. it’s mine, too. this is a lovely, delicate and floral preserve that i hope you enjoy. equally nice with a nice triple cream brie, walnuts, and crusty french bread or your morning toast.

pear jam with fresh sage & honey (makes 10-11 eight ounce jars)

7 lbs ripe bartlett pears

juice of 2 lemons

4 c sugar (i use organic cane sugar)

3-4 tbsp local honey

2 -3 tsp aged white balsamic vinegar

1 small bunch fresh sage

peel and core pears. chop into small dice and place in large bowl with lemon juice, turning and covering pears with juice as you cut. add sugar and mix. cover and place in fridge overnight. place in large pot and simmer for about 20-25 until pears are almost translucent. puree with an immersion blender until a small amount of pear pieces remain. simmer for about 15 minutes until thickened. remove from heat. add honey, vinegar, and sage. taste after 2 minutes to test sage infusion – and every minute thereafter until desired level of flavor is reached. be careful, it can get strong quickly.

process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

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november can jam!

how honored i was to be asked by the tigress herself to choose the secret ingredient for the november can jam. what a great month/time of year for canning – such transition! here in texas, we can be slightly ahead of much of the country due to our, ahem, warmer weather. today a few jackets and sweaters have come out of summer’s hiding due to a ‘cold’ front that blew through last night: it is 78 degrees today and it’s got me dreaming of chili. go ahead and laugh – we’re used to it. just remember that when you take a trip to texas in august and it’s 95 degrees with 99 percent humidity, there may be a snicker or two if you complain about it.

but today it’s a chilly 78 degrees and i’ve got fall fruit on my mind. mostly fall pie-type fruit. namely………..

apples, pears, and quinces!

yes, ladies and gents, the november pick for the can jam includes these three beauties, anyway you like ’em! with herbs or warm fall spices, all jellied up, au natural or even pickled (gasp!). these three fruit are related, kinda like second cousins really, in that they all produce fruit called a pome. if you want to know more about the exocarp, mesocarp, and endocarp of this type of fruit, feel free to click here. it’s very interesting reading, but after awhile my eyes started glazing over. there has always been some confusion or another between whether the quince was an apple or vice versa. like the apple and pear, quince has been used for centuries in the making of wine and other liquors, for medicinal purposes, and for just plain ol’ eating out of hand.

remember the rules, folks and be sure to post your november can jam recipe between sunday november 14th and friday november 19th at midnight. i am so looking forward to each and every post to expand my canning repertoire.

good luck!

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apple hatch pepper chutney

i love, love, love the sweet and heat that happens when fruit and chiles meet. and since chiles are on the menu for this month’s tigress can jam, they simply had to go the way of sweet and heat as far as i’m concerned. we don’t grow hatch chiles in austin, or even texas for that matter. they can only be grown in a place called hatch, new mexico. think of it like true champagne which only comes from…well, the champagne region of france. otherwise it’s contraband champagne, otherwise known as, sparkling wine. but we have adopted the hatch chile as one of our own here in texas. we just love chiles!

but we do grow ourselves some apples here in texas, which may surprise you. this chutney is made from the cameo variety picked in medina, texas at love creek orchards. i came up with this recipe with influences from so many sources i couldn’t even begin to give credit where it’s due. i guess that means it’s mine now. and dude, you have to have this with a big chunk of excellent aged cheddar or a thick cut pork chop if you’re so inclined.

apple hatch pepper chutney (makes about 8 or 9-8 ounce jars)

6 c peeled, cored, chopped tart sweet local apple (i used cameos)

2 c roasted, peeled and diced hatch chile peppers

1 c chopped onion

1 cup peeled, diced tomatoes (no need to seed them)

1 1/2 c golden raisins

1 clove garlic, minced

2 1/2 c white distilled or cider vinegar (just make sure it’s at least 5% acidity)

2 c light brown sugar (sweeten to taste)

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

put all ingredients in a big ol’ pot and simmer, reducing liquid and softening fruits and veggies until desired consistency. there’s really no wrong way to this, folks. place in sterilized jars and water bath process for 15 minutes.

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agarita jelly

you know that saying ‘well, it’s five o’clock somewhere”? i am going to try to weave it into this post to convince you that i have made the deadline for this month’s can jam. but i really have. really. you see, i am sitting on an island in the middle of the pacific ocean, namely the big island of hawai’i and i am so many hours behind you it isn’t even funny. right now, where i sit,  it’s nine pm. and on the east coast, it’s three in the morning. the next day. wherever else you are in the states, i am sure you are sleeping. but wait, it’s friday night–some of you may be out for a drink. so, to put it all in a nutshell (or a seashell): i am in the states, it ain’t midnight yet, and it is the day before the deadline (no matter what anyone says) for posting this month’s entry of canned goods. and the ingredient for this month is berries.

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i had never heard of agarita berries until a few years back when i was reading an article on regional foods of texas. they are plentiful and native to the southwest: from the texas hill country (west of austin) all to way to parts of arizona. back in the day, folks used to make jelly out of anything they could squeeze a drop of juice outta. the berries preserve well in jellies, chutneys, you name it and were often served with meats. these here were gifted to me by my neighbor whose mother has a property full of them out in blanco, texas. lucky me. when i went to do a search on how to make jelly from them i found nothing. well, that’s not entirely true. the freesteader libratarian and texas bowhunter forums had both mentioned agarita jelly, but no recipe was found. so i made one up following the ratios from pomona’s pectin. you have to introduce some sort of pectin to this jelly; the berries themselves have virtually none. the flavor is difficult to describe. it is fairly tart, like rhubarb, but earthy and grassy all at the same time. i made a simple and straightforward batch of jelly for my neighbor and his mother: they both said it was exactly right. i’ll take their word for it.

agarita jelly (makes about 4-5 half pints)

note: this is a lower sugar version-sweeten to taste. the fact that you can control the sugar is the good word about using pomona pectin.

3 lbs agarita berries, picked through, sorted, and rinsed

enough water to cover the berries  (about 3 cups)

1/4 c lemon juice

4 tsp calcium water (if you don’t know what this is, look at the pomona pectin website)

4 tsp pomona pectin powder

1 c honey

1 c granulated sugar

put berries and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. lower heat and simmer, covered for about 10-15 minutes. stir and mash berries (i used a potato masher) and cook 5 minutes more. pour into a jelly bag or over some dampened cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl to catch the juice. allow to drain for at least 2 hours. you should have about 4 cups of juice. add a little water if you are short. it will be ok.

pour measured juice into a saucepan and add lemon juice and calcium water and slowly bring to a boil. meanwhile, in a small bowl, thoroughly mix pectin powder with your granulated sugar. add sugar/pectin mixture to boiling juice, stirring vigorously for 1-2 minutes. add your honey to taste. pour mixture into prepared jars and process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

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leek potato soup

there is nothing like a bowl of soup to bring a complicated life to a screeching halt. not sure about where you live, but ’round these parts, we have about 3 weeks in the spring to sit outside and enjoy tolerable weather without melting, so everything is crammed into that short period making for a truly frenzied pace. i had to have a very stern talk with myself so as to not overbook, what with all the can’t-miss events and going’s-on that whirled around me. i picked and i chose. i weeded through. and i selected wisely.

one of the best decisions i made was to gather the ingredients (although you will most likely have most of them on hand) and prepare this delicately seasoned soup. i was lucky enough to find some beautiful leeks at my farmer’s market. the nourishment of this preparation is more than just skin deep; it is made without the addition of cream or milk, although it could certainly be added at the end or as a garnish after it is served up.

potato-leek soup (serves 6-8)

adapted from david lebovitz

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp pure unsalted butter

4 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced

salt

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped from stalks

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional unless you are from texas)

6 cups water

1 1/4 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (red, white, russet all work)

2 bay leaves

freshly ground pepper

in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil and butter until fragrant. add sliced leeks and season with salt. saute over medium heat, stirring frequently until completely wilted. add thyme and cayenne pepper and cook about 1 minute longer. add water, potatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil. reduce to simmer and cover. cook until potatoes are very tender, about 15-20 minutes.

pull out the bay leaves and blend soup with an immersion blender or in a regular counter blender  or food mill. avoid using a food processor as this can render the mixture gummy. add freshly ground pepper and more salt to taste. thin with more water if desired.

and…voila! you can chill it and suddenly you have vichyssoise. how fancy are you?

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pomme d’amour chicken fricassee

ok folks, valentines day is almost at hand. we all know the ol’ this is a farce of a holiday made up by the folks at hallmark business. but i would wager to say that they were not the first, nor will they be the last to use sex and/or love as a marketing tool to make money. ya know why? because we buy it.  always have, always will. and i have no problem with that. why, even the conquistadors in marketing their newly-found love apples (tomatoes) from the aztecs used this ploy to sell them to the europeans. in italy, they renamed them poma amoris;  in france, pommes d’amour. suddenly, they were a hit. no one begrudges tomatoes for this, do they? nope, these aphrodisiacs became the most famous and widely-consumed fruit (yes, fruit) in the world.

the keys to this dish are good quality fresh or canned love apples (pommes d’amour, poma amoris,  or tomatoes,  if you will ) and olives. don’t even bother making it without these. this dish is rather a conundrum for me at times. it’s best made when tomatoes are at their peak, but here in austin that occurs in july and september and i just really don’t want something simmering away on the stove for an hour when it’s hot as blazes, ya know? so i choose to make it in winter and either purchase a nice tin of good quality tomatoes or, if i plan ahead, i can or freeze some beautiful garden tomatoes for just this purpose. i prefer a decent pitted greek kalamata for the olive, but a nice dark, oil-cured one woud also do the trick. they need to be dark, salty, with a nice bite on the finish. and don’t be skimpy with the olives.  the dish should offer them up freely with every bite.

chicken fricassee with pommes d’amour (serves 4)

adapted from cooking light

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

 1 whole cut-up chicken (chicken breasts cut in half so pieces are approximately the same size) or 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into large pieces

3 tbsp olive oil

12 garlic cloves, finely sliced or chopped (yes, 12 – don’t worry, they will poach in the liquid and everything will be ok)

1 1/2 cups dry white wine plus more for the cook

1 1/2 cups diced tomato (fresh or canned)

1/2 cup pitted olives, kalamata or oil-cured, coarsely chopped

3 tbsp chopped fresh or 1 tbsp dried basil

1 tbsp chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried oregano

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

cooked rice, polenta, or couscous for serving

place flour in shallow dish and dredge chicken pieces. heat olive oil in a large saute pan or dutch oven, and brown chicken on all sides, working in several batches if needed. remove chicken from pan. reduce heat and add garlic to pan and saute for 1 minutes, attempting not to brown. stir in the wine scraping all the good brown bits from the bottom as you go (guess what? you are deglazing!). add tomato through pepper and stir well. return chicken to pan and nestle pieces within sauce. cover, reduce to heat, and simmer 45-minutes to an hour. once the chicken is tender and starts falling off the bone, you know it’s done. serve over rice, polenta or couscous to catch all the love sauce!

check out these other aphrodisiacs to get you in the mood:

cowgirl chef’s guacamole

show food chef’s bedside cheese tray

a tiger in the kitchen’s oyster omelette

blog well done’s avocado & asparagus salad

serve it forth’s stuffed oysters

free range cookies’ pumpkin-chocolate scones

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brrrr…! hearty lentil stew with elgin hot smoked sausage

it seems that old man winter has stretched his long, cold and sinewy fingers out to touch just about every corner of the country right now. here in central texas, we are the first to tell you we are cold weather wimps. we was made for growing tomatoes, jumping in the lake, and dropping ice cubes in our wine. our thin skins are now finely tuned for 100 degree days, not this stuff. so we shut down schools and roads, kick back and enjoy the homefires once again. at least for a few days.

the winter makes us thank our lucky stars for bowls of texas red, cases of ruby red grapefruit, and elgin hot smoked sausage. but we’re (not so) secretly hoping the chill doesn’t last too long.

hearty lentil stew with elgin smoked sausage (4-6 generous servings)

2-3 slices bacon, chopped into a large dice

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 large carrots, roughly chopped

2 stalks celery (the center stalks with leaves are most flavorful), chopped

1 leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp dried mexican oregano

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

red pepper flakes to taste

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (i used 3 fresh romas because it was what i had on hand)

2 smoked sausages, fully cooked and sliced (i used elgin hot smoked, dang it’s good!)

1 cup lentils (i used french green but feel free to knock yourself out with whatever)

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, make your own!

a few tbsp of cilantro or parsley, chopped to finish/brighten up the stew

put your stock pot over a medium-low flame and add bacon. slowly render the fat from the bacon-this means melting the fat from the meat so you have a nice base in which to sweat your vegetables. when bacon is crisp, remove from pan and set aside. pour off all but 1 tbsp bacon grease from pot and turn the heat up to about medium. and add olive oil, and onion through leek. stir frequently and sweat vegetables, trying your best not to brown them, for about 4-5 minutes. add garlic, saute for about 1 minute more. toss in tomato paste, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes, gently stir spices into vegetable mixture for about a minute. then add tomatoes, sausage, lentils, and stock to pot and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer, stirring often for about an hour and fifteen minutes,  or until the lentils are softened. check frequently, don’t overcook them or the whole mess will become mushy. pour yourself a nice glass of super texan  or longhorn red and light the fireplace.

remove thyme stems, add chopped cilantro or parsley and reserved bacon and serve with freshly warmed, crusty french bread.

this is another in a series of let’s lunch posts. special shout-out to karen from geofooding. this stew’s for you–get well soon! check out what other have made for their ‘hearty stew’ lunches:

cowgirl chef

show food chef

a tiger in the kitchen

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