Monday, October 22, 2012

Processing the late-harvest bounty...

So...I went to the Harvest Bounty Food Swap last weekend, and I still had all the produce that I had traded canned goods for hanging around. It was high time I figured something to do with all that bounty!

I began with the beautiful green and tomatillos. I tried not to be greedy and only took thirty of them at first, but no one else took any, so at the end of the swap, they gave them all to me. SCORE! So I had enough to make four pints of this scrumptious, oven-roasted salsa verde that I found on a blog called The Yummy Life. As written, the recipe will probably yield two pints--I doubled it.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde
(Source: The Yummy Life)

2 lbs. tomatillos, husks and stems removed (approx. 25-30 medium size)
4 garlic cloves
1 medium onion
1/2 lb. Anaheim green chile peppers; may substitute other large green chiles such as New Mexico or poblano or use 2 4-oz cans chopped green chiles from the Mexican aisle of the grocery store (I used a poblano)
2 small or 1 large jalapeno (I used a serrano)
1/2 cup cilantro, loosely packed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar (may reduce to 2 tablespoons if not canning salsa)
1/4 cup bottled lime juice (okay to use fresh if not canning salsa)

ROAST THE VEGGIES: Roast tomatillos, chile peppers, onions and garlic using one of two methods:
--OVEN ROASTING: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place veggies in single layer on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until tomatillos and peppers are charred, softened, and oozing juices.
--STOVE-TOP GRILLING. Heat stove-top grill/griddle on medium high heat. Arrange veggies in single layer, rotating with tongs until charred bits are present on all sides, and tomatillos are soft and oozing juices; move to bowl to collect juices.

PEEL, STEM AND SEED the green chiles. Stem and seed the jalepenos (skin can be left on); or leave seeds if hotter salsa is desired. Leave skin on tomatillos.

BLEND INGREDIENTS: Add roasted veggies (including juices that collected after roasting) and remaining ingredients to a blender or food processor; blend until desired consistency--anywhere from slightly chunky to pureed.

To eat salsa without canning, wait at least 4 hours to eat to allow the flavors to blend and vinegar to mellow. Best if eaten the next day. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

TO FREEZE, transfer salsa to freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 6 months. Allow at least 1/2" headspace for expansion when frozen.

TO CAN: add blended salsa mixture to pot on stove top, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Pour salsa into hot, sterilized pint or half pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 15 minutes in boiling water canner. Turn off heat and remove cover; leaving jars in hot water for 5 minutes. Remove jars carefully and rest on towel undisturbed for 12-24 hours. If any jars don't seal, store in fridge to use within 2 weeks; or freeze. Canned salsa tastes better if it's stored unopened for at least one month to allow flavors to blend and vinegar to mellow. Recipe may be doubled or tripled.

When I completed my afternoon canning project, I begin putting together a crock pot of soup for the next night's dinner. I used a recipe that I had made before for Zarco bean, fennel, and chicken sausage soup, and swapped out Bolito beans (also from Rancho Gordo) that are bit like pintos, but smaller and meatier, and instead of using celery in the soup, I chopped up the stems from a small bunch of Swiss chard, and then added the slivered leaves at the end. And in a stroke of near genius, instead of plain water, I used whey left over from a recent cheesemaking endeavor as the cooking liquid. It gave the soup a slight creaminess and a bit of tang, not unlike buttermilk. In fact, you can use whey wherever buttermilk is called for, especially for baking.

Bolito Bean and Chicken Sausage Soup with Fennel and Swiss Chard

1 lb. bolito (or pinto) beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large bulb fennel, diced (fronds, too)
6 or 8 large leaves Swiss chard (stalks, too)

4 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 whole head of garlic, peeled and chopped
8 cups water (or better yet, whey left over from cheesemaking)
1 15 oz. can diced Italian-style tomatoes (the juice, too)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground celery
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable soup base (I like Better Than Bouillon)
1 lb. chicken sausage, thickly-sliced (or remove the casing and form little meatballs)

Pick over the beans and remove any debris. Rinse thoroughly, then cover the beans with several inches of water. Let soak for 6-8 hours or overnight. Drain.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil and saute the onions, fennel, the stalks of the chard (diced), carrots, and garlic until softened. Add to the crock pot. Pour in the drained beans, plus the water or whey, and the can of tomatoes with juice.. Add the bay leaves, cumin, ground celery, pepper, and soup base, and stir. Cook on high for four hours or low for eight (or until the beans are tender).

In the last hour of cooking, add the leaves of the Swiss chard (very thinly sliced=chiffonade) and the pieces of chicken sausage. When the chicken is cooked through, remove the bay leaves, taste to correct seasonings, and serve.

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