Concord Grapes

grapes & scaleMy neighbor does not yet have time to use the grapes growing on the vines in her yard. She has little boys to chase and enjoy, and at nap time, she is still napping to recover from all the chasing and enjoyment. We aren’t sure how old the vines are. I know that they have been there for at least three owners of the house, and the owner before the present one was there for 17 years. What I do know is that they put out a lot of grapes!

In about a half an hour, I picked 14 lbs. of Concord grapes. Some of this will turn into jelly, the rest into grape juice concentrate. I like to use liquid pectin for jelly because I don’t have to worry about it clumping or clouding the final product.

 

Grape Jelly

  • 3 lbs. of grapes, washed and stemmed
  • ½ C water
  • 7 C sugar
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin
  1. Place grapes in a large pot with the water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.
  2. Crush the grapes with a potato masher, or long handled meat tenderizer (I use the plunger from my grinder), and simmer another 5 – 10 minutes.
  3. Strain juice through a jelly bag (See Note below). Do not squeeze the bag!
  4. In a clean pot, measure 4 cups of the prepared juice.
  5. Stir in the sugar. Do not reduce the sugar if you are using standard pectin. If you want to reduce the sugar, use pectin made especially for low-sugar recipes!
  6. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil – a boil that cannot be stirred down.
  7. Quickly stir in the pectin, and return to a full rolling boil.
  8. Boil for exactly 1 minute.
  9. Turn off hear and let stand for 1 minute. Skim any foam from the top.
  10. Ladle into prepared jars and process.

Note: I used an old sheet and made jelly bags that fit inside my chinois. When I am done, I can throw the jelly bag in the washer and it gets completely clean – no pulp hanging on anywhere.

You can do a “second pressing” to make another batch of jelly: Return the pulp to the pot, and add ½ C of water. Bring up to a simmer and return it to the jelly bag. This time you can squeeze the bag to get all of the juice out of it. The result will taste great, but will be a little cloudy.

Grape Juice Concentrate

  • 10 lbs. Concord grapes, washed and stemmed
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 3 ½ C sugar
  1. Combine water and grapes in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes.
  2. Pour contents into a juice bag (I use one of my homemade jelly bags), and squeeze it until you get all of the juice out of it.
  3. Return the juice to the pot and add the sugar. Bring this to a full boil and boil for 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Ladle into prepared jars and process.

To serve, dilute 1:1. My daughter likes to make grape soda by diluting the concentrate with seltzer.

Eggplant Pickle: Preserved Eggplant at its Best

I was at Fernbrook Farm’s CSA this morning, and much to my delight, there was a bounty of eggplant!  I love eggplant.  I love eggplant parm and this roasted eggplant dip my husband makes that has taken the place of baba ganoush on our table. I like eggplant that has been thick sliced, salted, and then cooked on the grill, dressed with a little olive oil.  But what to do when there is more eggplant than can be eaten fresh?  As far as I am concerned there is only one way to preserve eggplant and that is to pickle it.  Pickled eggplant is wonderful.  I have tried drying it, and while it did keep very well, I was never happy with the results I got using the rehydrated eggplant in recipes.

Here are my two favorite eggplant pickles.  One is a hot-water-bath processed pickle that can be kept in the pantry.  The other is a “raw pickle” and MUST BE REFRIGERATED!

Eggplant Pickles 1

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″x 1/2″x3″ sticks
  • 2 T sea salt
  • 3 C white vinegar
  • 1 C balsamic vinegar
  • Basil leaves
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 t whole peppercorns
  1. Salt the eggplant sticks, and toss them gently to distribute the salt.  Lay the sticks in one layer between on a cookie sheet covered with towels.  Cover with more towels and another cookie sheet, and put something heavy on top of the cookie sheet to press the excess water form the eggplant.  Let it rest for one hour.
  2. In a pan, heat both vinegars.
  3. Prepare jars.  In the bottom of the jar, add basil and garlic and peppercorns.  Add the eggplant sticks, being sure that the sticks are not taller than the 1/2 inch of head space needed.
  4. Cover the eggplant with the hot vinegar.
  5. Cover with lids and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes.
  6. Wait about three weeks before eating these!

Eggplant Pickles 2 (The Family Favorite)

  • About 2 lbs. eggplant, peeled and cut into 1″x1/2″x1/2″ pieces
  • 2t salt
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic thinly slices
  • 1/2 t hot pepper flakes
  • 12 basil leaves, torn
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  1. Toss the eggplant with the salt and let drain in a colander for 12 hours (or overnight).
  2. Gently press the pieces to remove anymore water.
  3. Toss the eggplant with the vinegar and let stand 1 hour.
  4. In a jar, layer the eggplant with the garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes, pressing down to fit as much as you can in the jar.  Cover the top with olive oil.
  5. Refrigerate overnight, and then check the oil level.  Add more oil if needed.
  6. Wait four to five days before eating, but 6 weeks is better.

Serve at room temperature.  These will keep in the refrigerator for a year.

Happy eggplant!!

Jelly Didn’t Set? Don’t fret!

jarsOr jam didn’t set.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not exactly a jamming expert.  That doesn’t stop me from making jelly and jam, though.  But what does one do when the jelly doesn’t set?  How much grape syrup can a person actually use?  Quite a bit less than the amount of grape jelly a mom with two children who eat PBJ’s at least four days a week uses.

So rather than having 4 pint jars of grape syrup that just sit on the shelf with my other canned goods and never get used, I re-cook the jelly.  Once again, props to my mother-in-law who, when I called her, distraught about the wasted fruit, sugar, and time, calmly replied, “Oh, well, you just have to re-cook that” [please read that with a Minnesotan dialect]. The best part?  It is easy and you end up with jam or jelly, not another jar of fruit syrup or ice-cream topping.

Here’s the method:

  1. Empty your jars of jelly into a large bowl.
  2. Clean your jars and re-prep them for processing (I leave mine in the simmering water in the canner and pull them out right after I take the jelly off the heat).
  3. Prep NEW lids (do not re-use the lids from the batch).
  4. For every cup of jelly or jam, measure one tablespoon of water and one teaspoon of pectin into a non-reactive pot large enough to hold your batch of jam (If you made 8 1/2 pint jars of jam, that would be 8 cups).
  5. Mix this over a medium heat until the pectin dissolves, then bring it up to a boil.
  6. Slowly add the unset jelly, stirring constantly, until the pectin mixture is fully incorporated into the jelly.
  7. Bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, and boil hard for 1 minute.
  8. Ladle into jars, and process according to the original recipe instructions.

Yes, it takes a little time, but the other morning I re-cooked two batches of jelly (one grape and one crab apple) in under an hour, and now I have 10 jars of jelly that will get used as opposed to 10 jars of syrup that probably wouldn’t.

Still more tomatoes coming??

DSC_0115            Sometimes I forget what a pantry staple salsa has become.  Whether it is a lunch fix (Nacho Sandwiches) or a fast dinner (“Spanish” Rice), we use salsa as more than something to scoop up with chips.  Although we like that, as well.

            I have issues with salsa.  Most homemade salsa that I have had is too runny and/or too watery.  Salsa from the store has that plastic taste (I’m not sure how else to describe it: that non-descript, doesn’t really taste like anything flavor, probably manufactured in North Jersey), but usually has a nice thick consistency.

            So here is your middle ground:  The best salsa ever, inspired by my mother-in-law’s recipe:

Rosemary’s Salsa

  • 10 quarts of tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  •   ½ C salt

Mix these together in a colander, and let drain for 3 hours.  Transfer to a non-reactive pot. Then add:

  •  1-2 stalks celery, sliced
  •  2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 jalepenos, sliced (de-seed for less heat)
  • 2 green chilies (de-seed for less heat)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C vinegar
  • 12 oz. tomato paste

Simmer for 20 minutes.  Pack in hot pint jars and process 20 minutes.

Nacho Sandwiches

  • 2 tortillas
  • ½ C salsa
  • ½ C grated cheese

Place one tortilla on an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with ½ the cheese.  Top with the salsa and then the rest of the cheese.  Put under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.  Top with the other tortilla.  When we don’t have tortillas, we use toast.  The toast gets soggy, but it still tastes good!

“Spanish” Rice (I’m not sure if that is somehow un PC…)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 4 C cooked rice
  • 1 pt. jar salsa

1.     In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, and strain off about half of the fat.

2.     Add the rice and stir until coated.

3.     Add the salsa and stir until everything is heated through.  Sometimes we top this with grated cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole.