Archive of ‘preserving’ category

Grapefruit, Pomegranate & Bathtub Gin Marmalade, or Why I Haven’t Snorted Coke with a Young Drew Barrymore

marmalade

I would have made the perfect Annie.

If I had to name my top ten favorite movies, I’d spend at least a couple of hours finalizing my list, picking through the films I love and figuring out which ones were worthy of being included (Showgirls!). One movie that would make it without a second thought would be Annie. I love that freaking movie.

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I used to park myself in front of the stereo on Sunday afternoons when my parents were “taking a nap”. I was 25 years old before I realized what they were really doing. I’m grateful I never figured that out in my teens. Sitting there with my ginormous headphones on, I’d tune the strange knobs on my Dad’s equalizers, enjoying how I could manipulate the sounds and colors on the stereo. The records that I wore grooves in were by bands like The Moody Blues, Abba, Chicago and an album known as “Annie – the Soundtrack”.

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I love my mom, but I’m still bitter about missing my chance to be a star in that movie. They held auditions in our city, and I desperately wanted to go and try out. My mom nixed the idea, wisely deciding that if I ever were to become a child star, I’d end up at Studio 54, snorting lines of coke with Drew Barrymore.

I would have made a spectacular Annie. I would have made an amazing Molly. In retrospect, I probably would have made a better Pepper, but please don’t tell my 7-yr-old self that. And getting the part of Annie would have proven that I could have red hair every bit as cute as my stupid little brother’s curly, red hair.

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Feel free to blame my parents now for not being organized and not knowing where the pictures of me dressed as Annie for Halloween are. Those pics are gold. Instead, enjoy this picture of me in an Elmo hat. It’s the closest thing I’ve got.

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Be afraid, little children. Be afraid

I still know every line in in every song from that movie. Give me the name of a song and let me loose. I’ll do the best rendition of ‘Dumb Dog’ that you ever heard. Some people brag about knowing every song that the Grateful Dead ever sang or being able to sing all the words in “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”. I mean – I can do that too, but belting out “Tomorrow” is so much cooler.

I’m pretty much past my Annie prime. I still could be a spunky ragamuffin that could charm a lonely, gruff mega millionaire’s heart. But that would be kind of creepy. Not the charming a mega millionaire’s heart. The part about having to dress and look like a 12 year old.

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But one part I know I could still play to perfection? Miss. Hannigan. Miss Hannigan is the shit. The main reason? Two words – Carol Burnett.

Other reasons include her fabulous taste in fashion. Feather boas, slinky negligees, tasteful multiple strands of cheap necklaces – Miss Hannigan put the sass and ass in class. She danced like a goddess and knew the best way to clean house was not to get your fingers dirty. She was also a good person! She didn’t let her brother kill Annie!

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The most kickass thing about Miss Hannigan? She wasn’t going to let a little thing like Prohibition get in the way of an after dinner drink. Or a before breakfast, after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, midnight snack drink. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and if a bathtub had to be sacrificed to the gin gods, so be it.

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My uncle lives in Texas and sent my family these gorgeous grapefruit. Since I’m such a generous soul, I took most of them and have been eating them and turning them into cocktails. They were so amazing that I wanted to do something special with them. I made marmalade. You know how people stick a bird on it? I stick gin on it.

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Marmalade is a strange thing. No matter how many steps or voodoo magic you try to work, it will always have a bitter component to it. I like it; it keeps the sugary fruit from being too cloying. My husband hates grapefruit almost as much as he hates coconut. That’s a lot of hate. He shivers when I eat one. He likes this marmalade. Screw the Oscars. I’ve got enough validation right here in my own home.

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Enjoy! If you don’t have a bathtub, feel free to use gin out of a bottle.

General Canning Notes: If I can avoid it, I don’t use any kind of commercial pectin in my canning unless it’s Pomona pectin. When I use regular pectin, 95% of the time it gets rubbery enough that it can be used in regulation racquetball competition.

Recipe Notes: This is not an exact recipe. You’ll need to at least use the amount of sugar I listed in the recipe, but if it doesn’t taste sweet enough, add more. I cooked this marmalade at a simmer until close to the end. You can keep yours at medium if you’re watching closely and stirring frequently. Back the heat off if it starts to foam up and boil over.

Scary “Oh my God, is it going to gel” Notes: Answer? Yes. I used to rely on the saucer in the freezer tip, and it made me feel like a moron. A candy thermometer is my best friend. 220 degrees is the holy number.

Kristina Writes the Longest, Damn Recipes in the World Notes: Yes. Yes, I do. The majority of the recipe instructions below have nothing to do with the recipe. I’m still wiped out from cancer last year, so I’ll admit I took a nap afterwards, but y’all will have no trouble making this. It’s not a complicated recipe. You will feel like you’ve properly stocked your family for the end of the world. You’ll feel like a badass and a little bit like Glenn Beck. Sorry about the last part. Buy gold.

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GRAPEFRUIT POMEGRANATE & BATHTUB GIN MARMALADE
Makes: 2-3 pints and a little extra that will get stuck in your hair (I canned the marmalade in a combination of 1/4 & 1/2 pint jars)

3 large grapefruit (mine were gorgeous, beautiful monsters. All together, they weighed 3 pounds) plus 1 more grapefruit (last grapefruit is optional).
Rinds from 2-3 of these grapefruit.
1 lemon, medium size (snag a lime while you’re at it, but it’s optional)
1 cup pomegranate juice (I used POM brand)
3.5 or more cups of sugar
1/2 cup gin

1) Juice the first grapefruit. Juice a lime. Make a simple syrup (I use 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Simmer to combine). Pour 2 ounces gin in a cocktail shaker (mainly because this makes me feel like Tom Cruise in Cocktail) and add grapefruit juice, lime juice and simple syrup to taste. Make this mixture a little bit strong. Shake and pour over ice in a highball glass. Or ladle some gin out of your bathtub into a flask and tell your liver that you’re very sorry.

2) Remove the rind from two or three of the grapefruit. I used a vegetable peeler. Do not include the white pith. Remove the rind of one grapefruit this way. Think to yourself that this is fucking ridiculous and be a lot less careful removing the rind from another one. Some pith here and there will not kill you.

3) Put your grapefruit on a cutting board in a shallow pan with edges. This makes your kitchen the slightest bit less sticky when you’re done. Understand that you will still get marmalade in your hair at some point, and if you have kids, they’ll end up sticking to the fridge like they’ve just used superglue. Laugh at them and continue on with the recipe. Cut the grapefruit in half and cut out the sections (the little areas between the wagon spoke shaped membrane) as best as you can with a knife. If you’re a badass and have a grapefruit spoon, use that and feel superior to the rest of us.

3) After realizing that you now know where every single cut on your hand is located, dump all of these grapefruit sections as you cut them into a large saucepan. Squeeze the pitiful looking grapefruit remains over the saucepan to extract the most juice that you can. I ended up with almost 4 cups of fruit and juice.

4) Put the pieces of rind in a small saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Dump the rind into a strainer and let all the water drain out. Add those to pan with the grapefruits and their juice. Add the pomegranate juice. Stir.

5) Add the 3.5 cups of sugar to the pan. Mix in well. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and reduce to a vigorous simmer. I cooked mine a little higher than the low setting on my stove. Skim up any foam that collects. Do not drive yourself crazy trying to remove every bubble of foam. If you feel the need to do that, make another drink.

6) Put your candy thermometer in the pan. Do not let the thermometer part touch the bottom of the pan. Mine is encased in metal, so it can’t touch. This is very handy, especially after you’ve had the two drinks.

6) Time to start tasting to see if you used the right amount of sugar for your taste. A warning – jam, jellies & marmalade turn into plasma. Countries use it as a chemical weapon. Let that spoon cool down. Taste. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar.

7) Once the thermometer gets up to 210 degrees, add the gin. You will be very heartbroken to see the thermometer plummet. Have faith, young grasshopper.

8) You are watching a boiling pot. Time will bend, so a chair and another drink is really helpful right now.

9) The temperature will hit 220 degrees. Wait a few minutes to make sure you’re not imagining it. Do a little dance, makes a little love, and pour into containers. Store in the fridge or freezer. I got hardcore and canned it. Marisa has an amazing set of instructions for boiling water canning. She is the Yoda of all things preserved & pickled. This marmalade needs to process for 10 minutes. Marmalade will continue to set up over the course of a week.

10) Wait to hear the plinking sound the jars make when they seal and yell “Fuck yeah! I’m Laura Ingalls, bitches”. Revel in your awesomeness. Make another drink if that helps. The next morning, put any unsealed jars in the fridge.

11) Go take a shower. You’re sticky, and your hairstyle is approaching Something about Mary grossness. You’re disgusting.

12) Understand that you’re perfectly justified in feeling annoyed that I tried to be clever in the instructions of this recipe and leave a comment on this post telling me to STFU and just post the damn recipe next time.

Happy canning and boozing!!!!

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Other great canning links:
Hedonia (He can also make a mean cocktail)
Local Kitchen
Food In Jars

Anniversary Apple Butter & Loving the Wrong Person

 I’m on a brief blog hiatus for the next little bit, so I thought posting some of my favorite posts from the past would be a good way to fill in until I got a new blog post up.  This post is from November 17, 2010

 

Loving the wrong person

We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us, but if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you truly who you are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person – someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.” – Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions.

You know, I had this lovely post all worked out for our anniversary.  I was going to post our recipe for apple butter because when my husband and I got married, we made apple butter for our guests.  I figured they all probably didn’t need another engraved-with-a-random-wedding-date-cheap champagne flute so we went for something practical. And our guests seemed to be happy with it – I actually saw several guests drinking it like a shot.  Either we made a damn good apple butter or those guests were drunk.  Probably both.

My husband and I have turned making apple butter into an anniversary tradition and I had this wonderful blog post idea about how marriage was like a jar of apple butter.  And it was so cute without being retch-inducing and I’m sure it would have totally gone viral in a major way and at this point in time, I’m sure one of Ellen’s producers would have been calling me, asking me to make apple butter and be witty on her show.

Life has this funny way of getting in the way.  Instead of writing that post, we painted our bedroom blue.  And worked on code.

Why did we do this?  Because it had to be done.  My husband and I run an online shopping board and we’re heading into what we refer to as crazytime.  We’re getting over 200 non-spam emails a day and the posts on our site and traffic to it are going up.  We’re also getting ready to make a MAJOR update in our board software and that’s been causing us to tear our hair out,  especially since it has to be done before the week of Black Friday.

Add to this stress the fact that we’re also in the middle of some pretty big home renovations.  We have this beautiful, big house and we’ve spent the last two years crammed into three rooms.  We made some progress a couple of weeks ago and got our office opened up but I’m jonesing to have our bedroom back.  Especially since I’m sick of our clothes being scattered to the four winds throughout our house.  And especially since we’re working on a deadline and have to have a certain amount of our house finished by the time we re-finance.

So instead of some swooningly beautiful prose about my husband, I’m going to say this.  I love him.  And the man drives me crazy. And I drive him crazy. And sometimes that crazy is even in a good way.  I would have rather been on a tropical beach, sipping on a frosty tropical drink while we lounged in the sun together.  Hell – I would have rather been hiking in the rain.  Instead, we painted our bedroom blue.  And I threw a hissy fit about not being where I wanted to be and being where I was.  And my husband waited for me to finish and then said he was going to finish painting the trim now.  And I sighed.  And realized that where I was, was where I was.  And I was lucky to be there with the man that I was with.

So we ate cupcakes & drank red wine from our anniversary champagne flutes.  And painted.  But I still made apple butter.  And I had the problem I wanted to have.

The key to really good apple butter is really good apples.  Stayman Winesaps are my preferred apples for this.   If you’re not sure what kind of apples to use, buy lots of different kinds and mix them.  Please understand that the measurements below are flexible on purpose.  There is no way for me to give you an absolute recipe for this – every batch of apples are different so you’ll need to season this as you go.

If I can get my hands on organic Stayman Winesaps, I simply quarter them and cook them with skins and cores.  This takes a lot longer to cook down and you can’t do chunky-style applesauce this way but as long as you put everything through a food mill, this is my favorite way to make apple butter.  It’s next to impossible to find organic Stayman Winesaps locally though so the method I have detailed below is the one I regularly turn to.

I don’t like to keep a slow cooker going all night (and it’s really not smart to do this while the apple butter is cooking down) so I start this on the stove, stick it in the fridge overnight and heat it back up again on the stove.  And then I pour the applesauce into the slow cooker to cook down.  Again – this is not something you can really leave because you need to leave the lid askew in order for it to cook down.  You’re also going to need to scrape down the sides of the slow cooker every hour or so.

Anniversary Apple Butter
8 lbs apples
2 cups apple cider
1 – 2 cups packed dark brown sugar (my batch I used 1 1/2 cups)
Juice from 1/2 to 2 lemons (I used one lemon which was about 4 tablespoons of juice)
2-4 teaspoons cinnamon

Making Applesauce:
Core & slice apples.  Place in large saucepan with apple cider, one cup brown sugar and two tablespoons lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer over low heat and simmer for 2 hours or until apples are tender and falling apart.  Season to taste with cinnamon.  Correct the seasonings again – if the flavor seems a little flat, add more lemon juice.  Now you can eat this as applesauce or you take the next step and make into apple butter.

Making Apple Butter:
Put apple butter through a food mill.  You can also puree it in a food processor but I think the food mill gives it a really silky consistency you can’t get anywhere else.  If this is cold, I usually heat it back up on the stove and then pour it into a slow cooker on low.  Make sure that the lid to your cooker is askew and cook for about 12 hours.  Make sure to scrape down the sides as it cooks.  Let most of the liquid cook out.  It will get very dark.  About 6 hours through cooking, taste and add any additional sugar or cinnamon that you think it may need.

Allow it to cool completely.  You can refrigerate this for up to three weeks or you can can it.  To can, ladle hot apple butter into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.

Please click here for a printable recipe!


Anniversary Apple Butter & Loving the Wrong Person

Loving the wrong person

We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us, but if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you truly who you are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person – someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.” – Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions.

You know, I had this lovely post all worked out for our anniversary.  I was going to post our recipe for apple butter because when my husband and I got married, we made apple butter for our guests.  I figured they all probably didn’t need another engraved-with-a-random-wedding-date-cheap champagne flute so we went for something practical. And our guests seemed to be happy with it – I actually saw several guests drinking it like a shot.  Either we made a damn good apple butter or those guests were drunk.  Probably both.

My husband and I have turned making apple butter into an anniversary tradition and I had this wonderful blog post idea about how marriage was like a jar of apple butter.  And it was so cute without being retch-inducing and I’m sure it would have totally gone viral in a major way and at this point in time, I’m sure one of Ellen’s producers would have been calling me, asking me to make apple butter and be witty on her show.

Life has this funny way of getting in the way.  Instead of writing that post, we painted our bedroom blue.  And worked on code.

Why did we do this?  Because it had to be done.  My husband and I run an online shopping board and we’re heading into what we refer to as crazytime.  We’re getting over 200 non-spam emails a day and the posts on our site and traffic to it are going up.  We’re also getting ready to make a MAJOR update in our board software and that’s been causing us to tear our hair out,  especially since it has to be done before the week of Black Friday.

Add to this stress the fact that we’re also in the middle of some pretty big home renovations.  We have this beautiful, big house and we’ve spent the last two years crammed into three rooms.  We made some progress a couple of weeks ago and got our office opened up but I’m jonesing to have our bedroom back.  Especially since I’m sick of our clothes being scattered to the four winds throughout our house.  And especially since we’re working on a deadline and have to have a certain amount of our house finished by the time we re-finance.

So instead of some swooningly beautiful prose about my husband, I’m going to say this.  I love him.  And the man drives me crazy. And I drive him crazy. And sometimes that crazy is even in a good way.  I would have rather been on a tropical beach, sipping on a frosty tropical drink while we lounged in the sun together.  Hell – I would have rather been hiking in the rain.  Instead, we painted our bedroom blue.  And I threw a hissy fit about not being where I wanted to be and being where I was.  And my husband waited for me to finish and then said he was going to finish painting the trim now.  And I sighed.  And realized that where I was, was where I was.  And I was lucky to be there with the man that I was with.

So we ate cupcakes & drank red wine from our anniversary champagne flutes.  And painted.  But I still made apple butter.  And I had the problem I wanted to have.

The key to really good apple butter is really good apples.  Stayman Winesaps are my preferred apples for this.   If you’re not sure what kind of apples to use, buy lots of different kinds and mix them.  Please understand that the measurements below are flexible on purpose.  There is no way for me to give you an absolute recipe for this – every batch of apples are different so you’ll need to season this as you go.

If I can get my hands on organic Stayman Winesaps, I simply quarter them and cook them with skins and cores.  This takes a lot longer to cook down and you can’t do chunky-style applesauce this way but as long as you put everything through a food mill, this is my favorite way to make apple butter.  It’s next to impossible to find organic Stayman Winesaps locally though so the method I have detailed below is the one I regularly turn to.

I don’t like to keep a slow cooker going all night (and it’s really not smart to do this while the apple butter is cooking down) so I start this on the stove, stick it in the fridge overnight and heat it back up again on the stove.  And then I pour the applesauce into the slow cooker to cook down.  Again – this is not something you can really leave because you need to leave the lid askew in order for it to cook down.  You’re also going to need to scrape down the sides of the slow cooker every hour or so.

Anniversary Apple Butter
8 lbs apples
2 cups apple cider
1 – 2 cups packed dark brown sugar (my batch I used 1 1/2 cups)
Juice from 1/2 to 2 lemons (I used one lemon which was about 4 tablespoons of juice)
2-4 teaspoons cinnamon

Making Applesauce:
Core & slice apples.  Place in large saucepan with apple cider, one cup brown sugar and two tablespoons lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer over low heat and simmer for 2 hours or until apples are tender and falling apart.  Season to taste with cinnamon.  Correct the seasonings again – if the flavor seems a little flat, add more lemon juice.  Now you can eat this as applesauce or you take the next step and make into apple butter.

Making Apple Butter:
Put apple butter through a food mill.  You can also puree it in a food processor but I think the food mill gives it a really silky consistency you can’t get anywhere else.  If this is cold, I usually heat it back up on the stove and then pour it into a slow cooker on low.  Make sure that the lid to your cooker is askew and cook for about 12 hours.  Make sure to scrape down the sides as it cooks.  Let most of the liquid cook out.  It will get very dark.  About 6 hours through cooking, taste and add any additional sugar or cinnamon that you think it may need.

Allow it to cool completely.  You can refrigerate this for up to three weeks or you can can it.  To can, ladle hot apple butter into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.

Please click here for a printable recipe!


Saving Summer for Later with Marinated Sun-dried Tomatoes

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I've spoken before at great lengths about my tomato sickness.  Simply put, tomatoes are my crack.  So much so that I grow a ridiculous amount of them in my small garden and when my quest to grow as many heirloom tomato varieties as possible got out of control, I started selling my extra seedlings at the Market Square Farmers Market.  Last year, we ended up selling over 1500 heirloom tomato, pepper & eggplant seedlings.  That's some hardcore tomato love right there.  In fact, I was delighted to find out this spring from a couple of people that they had been told to look for the crazy tomato lady at the market.  If George Clooney himself had stopped by to tell me how beautiful he thought I was, it would have been a bit anti-climactic after the high praise of being called the crazy tomato lady.

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Needless to say, I've had to come up with quick ways to preserve my harvest.  The simplest way I've found is to simply toss whole tomatoes into the freezer and deal with them when the temperatures get a little cooler.  I have two chest freezers so I'm lucky enough to have room to do that.  Another way of dealing with them is to make Roasted Tomato Sauce.  And still another is to dry them in my dehydrator.  I dry plenty of them plain but I also love to marinate them and dry them.  

I've marinated all kinds of tomatoes and dried them.  My favorites tend to be the meatier tomatoes, even the meatier cherries like Black Cherry tomatoes.  However, I've tried them all because I'm not going to waste a tomato just because it's not "perfect" for this recipe.  The only ones I haven't had success with is currant tomatoes and the really juicy cherry tomatoes – there's just too much skin to meat for my taste.  This is also a great way to use up those tomatoes that have split but are just shy of being completely ripe.  This has been a huge problem for us this year and I'm grateful to have a way to use these tomatoes.  Some people remove the skins and seeds from tomatoes before drying them.  I've never bothered to worry about it but you can do that if you like.

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I use an Excalibur Dehydrator to dry my tomatoes.  We used an inexpensive dehydrator that we found at a garage sale for years but a couple of years ago, we had a very exciting evening when it caught fire.  Since we put up so much of our food, we went ahead and waited until Excalibur had a sale and bought a new dehydrator.  We've been VERY happy with it and it was worth every penny.   If you live in a drier climate than I do, you may be able to dry these in the sun (but you'll need to shield them from birds and insects).  Or you can also dry these in an oven.  I'll put directions for doing so at the end of the recipe.

What can you do with these morsels when they're finished?  To be honest, a lot of them disappear just as is. I end up popping a large amount of them in my mouth like potato chips.  We also rehydrate them and add them to pasta sauces and salad dressings all winter long.  You can make a wonderful cream sauce by re-hydrating them in heavy cream – this is great served over pasta and chicken.  You can rehydrate them and buzz them with scallions and sour cream or cream cheese for a great dip or spread.  I also use them to make a quick side dish with frozen broccoli or green beans by mincing them and adding them right before I heat the vegetables in the microwave.

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Marinated Sun-dried Tomatoes
Source: Unknown(I got this from the internet at least five years ago and have made changes since then)
Servings: Never enough

1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar 
1 teaspoon Lemon juice 
1/4 cup fresh chopped Parsley 
1 tablespoon chopped Rosemary 
Dried Pepper flacks to taste (I use Aleppo pepper flakes)
Salt & Pepper to taste
3-5 cloves of garlic ( I love garlic so I use 5)
Tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces(I usually do five pounds at a time)

Mix everything together except the tomatoes in a large bowl.  Add tomatoes and marinate for at least several hours in the fridge(I usually marinate overnight). Remove tomatoes from marinade and spread out on dehydrator trays and dry until desired doneness.  I usually remove half while they're still fairly pliable and let the rest dry until they're completely dry.  These can take anywhere from 12-24 hours to dry.  This last batch took 21 hours.  Since there's so much oil in the marinade, store the dried tomatoes in the freezer to keep all winter long.  

Note: Save the marinade and use it to marinate vegetables or chicken before grilling or use as a salad dressing.

Directions for oven drying (I have not tested these so please keep an eye on them): Set your oven at the lowest temperature (200 degrees is the absolute maximum temperature you can use).  Spread out tomatoes on cookie sheets and dry them for 12-16 hours.

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Please click here for a printable recipe!

Other recipes using tomatoes:

Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce
Tomato Toast, Panzanella & Basil-Feta Tomato Sandwich
Roasted Tomato Sauce
The Perfect Pizza
Eggs In Hell
Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Mozzarella, Corn & Tomatoes

  

Please join us by participating in SummerFest 2010!  Post on your blog or in the comments or join us on Twitter by using #summerfood.

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Your Mother Was a Hamster!

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My husband and I share a love built on mutual understanding, respect and a deep and abiding love for Monty Python. 

He came late to this love.  On October 19, 1991, Marcus was on a University of Tennessee band bus headed home from Birmingham, Alabama.  A cloud of gloom had settled over everyone – if there's one thing that native Knoxvillians loathed in the 1990s more than anything else, it was being a Volunteer fan who's team has just lost to the Crimson Tide.  Into the depths of despair came a bright light emanating from the TVs on the bus.  Marcus was lying there, half asleep in his chair and he looks up to a movie where a one armed Black Knight is yelling "I've been hurt worse". It was so bizarre, yet so giddily funny that he couldn't turn away.

My love for Monty Python came from my father.  My Dad is a dork but I mean that in the best, most lovable kind of way.  At the age of 16 though, he was just annoying – mainly because he existed and he was my dad.  A sixteen year old's scorn has no bounds.  He watched the weirdest movies and thought the most inane things were funny.  But one day I came into the room when he was watching a movie and heard this "I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper.
I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father
smelt of elderberries." I mean, how could you not love a movie like that?

Since then, I've had a strange fascination with Monty Python and elderberries in particular.  I've been thinking about planting them in my yard just so I could taste them.  If we traveled to any out of town farmers markets, I looked for them.  I bought a blouse once because the catalog color was elderberry.  If my husband and I are fighting, all one of us to say to diffuse it is to insult the other by telling them that their mother was a hamster and that their father smelt of elderberries.

We were at the Market Square farmers' market a few weeks ago and one of my favorite farmers had a basket full of the most vivid, yet delicate looking berries I had very seen.  If lace was turned into berries, those berries were what it would look like.  I'm a sucker for anything novel at the market so I asked him what they were.  When he told me "Elderberries" I swooned.  And promptly bought four pounds.

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I got home, spread a sheet on the couch, popped in Monty Python's Holy Grail and proceeded to strip berries off the stems.  FOR THREE HOURS!!! 

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They're such gorgeous berries though and I wish I could make a lipstick out of them.

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Four pounds of berries gave me roughly 2 cups of juice.  Be careful with this stuff.  When I got done, it looked like I had massacred an alien with deep fuchsia blood in parts of my kitchen.  To extract the juice, I put the berries in medium saucepan with a quarter cup of sugar and a half cup of water.  I turned the heat on medium and brought everything to a boil and let it simmer for five minutes.  Then I used a sieve to drain the juice.  If you want perfectly clear jelly, don't do what I did which was to push the berries to extract every last bit of juice.  I was more concerned with having enough juice to make the jelly.

I tasted the juice after it was extracted and immediately got very nervous because there was a strong, bitter component to it.  I almost cried at the thought of all that work being for naught.  My husband suggested that I had nothing left to lose but a bit of sugar so why not see if it that made it taste alright.  I've never had this happen before but as soon as I added enough sugar, the bitterness went almost completely away and I can't taste it in the finished product at all. 

I love this jelly.  It's the most vibrant, glistening shade of purple I think I've ever seen.  It's delicious on scones and right at home in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I'm going to be on the lookout for an easier way to extract the juice but as long as I can find elderberries, I'll be making this jelly every year.

In fact, I think it's time to finally order those bushes and plant them in the yard!

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Monty Python Jelly
Adapted from the Pomona Pectin blackberry jelly instructions

Note – I made this jelly using Pomona Pectin.  It's become my go-to pectin to use in most of my canning and I love the fact that low sugar jams are cinch with it!

2 cups elderberry juice
2.5 tablespoons lemon juice
2.5 cups sugar (use more or less depending on how sweet you like your jelly-this includes the 1/4 cup of sugar used earlier)
2 teaspoons pectin powder
2 teaspoons calcium water

Measure the juice into a pan with lemon juice. Add calcium water into mixture and stir well.  Measure sugar into a bowl and mix pectin powder into it.  Bring juice to a boil, add the pectin sugar mixture and stir vigorously one to two minutes to dissolve the pectin.  Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if needed.  Return to boil.  Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat.  Fill jars.  If canning, please follow rules for canning jellies & jams from Ball Blue Book or Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

For printable recipe, click here!

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