If anyone reading this blog was in April McGregor’s A Jar of Summer: Preserving the Bounty of the Harvest class at A Southern Season yesterday, I was the lady in the front row trying to figure out a way to properly identify botulism toxins in jars of canned tomatoes.
Ms. McGregor, the proprietress of The Farmer’s Daughter in Carrboro, led us through the proper way to can fresh tomatoes; roasted tomato sauces; and candied figs using a dose of extra acid and the standard water bath method. I prefer to can using the water bath method because it doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment that I do not have and I don’t have to worry about exploding pots in a rental unit. However, most of my experience using this method has been with the “safe” foods like jams and jellies.
I have been doing a lot of research on canning tomatoes and apples, but have thus far been stymied by the danger of improperly processing relatively low-acid fruits in such a way as to sicken either myself or those I love dearly. My family doesn’t take well to being poisoned, an example of which can be found rooted deeply in my childhood where an improperly cooked turkey gave us all a nasty round of food poisoning. This event, in turn, lead to ten subsequent Thanksgiving turkeys where my father fondly recalled the day that all of us got “botched” by my mother. Living in a household where botulism has acquired verb tense status can cause a great amount of trepidation when engaging in new, potentially bacterial, pursuits.
But, Ms. McGregor has assuaged my original concerns and, with the proper dose of acid and a much longer processing time than I had originally assumed, I can have tomatoes (and figs!) at the ready any time during the year.
Locavore Shopping for last week: Goat cheese, poblano peppers, anaheim peppers, sweet peppers, crunchy red peppers, green peppers that turned red in my bag, eggplant, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, Gughlhupf bread of all sorts, yogurt, bison.
Percentage of Total Grocery Expenditure (Goal 85%): 90%
Locavore Dish (One dish composed of 100% locally-sourced ingredients): Bison and Goat Cheese Chile Rellenos with fresh tomato salsa
I visited the Durham Farmer’s Market last weekend and found a place that sells bison. Then I walked a little way down the square and found some beautiful poblanos (I bought them all). That gave me an excuse to buy some more goat cheese and go home and make a healthy version of one of my favorite Mexican foods.
Bison and Goat Cheese “Chile Rellenos”
9 small/medium poblanos or 4 large ones
1 lb. ground bison
½ cup “sofrito” (see recipe below)
2 fresh tomatoes
1 handful of fresh cilantro (do not use if you don’t like cilantro)
1 Tbls. fresh oregano
Salt/pepper to taste
1 log goat cheese (or a mix of goat cheese and other pungent cheeses)
Turn oven onto broil. Place all of the poblanos on the top baking rack and broil the peppers until they are black and blistery on the outside. Turn the pepper over and continue roasting until the entire pepper is burnt and blistered on the outside. Using tongs (or some other device other than your fingers), place the peppers into a bowl and cover with foil. Let them steam for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, brown the bison in a skillet (you will need a little oil to do so). Move the bison to the side of the pan. Add the sofrito to the other side and let cook for 30 seconds. Then add the fresh tomatoes and mix everything together. Cook the mixture until the bison is done and the mixture looks like taco meat. Add in the fresh cilantro and oregano and set aside to cool.
Next take your bowl of pepper to the sink and skin the pepper by peeling the tough, blackened outside skin off with your fingers. Cut a slit in the side of the pepper and clean the seeds out (I do this while holding the pepper under running water to make sure that all the seeds are gone). What you should have after you are done is a whole pepper with a little pocket in which to store the bison filling. Dry off the peppers.
Turn oven to 350 degrees. Using your clean hands or a spoon, stuff the peppers with the bison mixture and place open-side up in an oiled or foil-lined casserole dish. Open the pepper opening up a little more and stuff and cover the top with a hearty pile of goat cheese. When all of the peppers have been stuffed and cheesed, place in the oven to bake for half an hour. The peppers will be hot and gooey when done.
Put on a plate and serve with a side of fresh tomato salsa, sour cream or Mexican crèma, or rice and beans.
When I lived in Florida, I ate at so many different Latin American restaurants I could hardly keep track. There is a whole lot to love about Latin-inspired dishes, but my absolute favorite were the Puerto Rican places that served rice dishes containing a little or a lot of sofrito – a spicy pungent garlic and pepper seasoning that is extremely easy to make and store. Just make a bunch of it ahead of time and freeze it in little freezer bags or in “ice cube form.”
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 onions, cut into large chunks
3 medium heads garlic, peeled
20 cilantro leaves with stems
20 culantro leaves (use more cilantro, if you can’t find)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
Place everything in a food processor and process until the consistency of a somewhat smooth salsa. Use immediately, or freeze for later.