Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Capturing the Harvest: Sun-Cooked Strawberry Jam

Here in DC the farmer's markets are hopping and every week there are new crops to enjoy. We are moving on from asparagus and are now drowning in strawberries and cucumbers. Some people are busy making jams and preserves and pickles but me, well, I am still scared of those things. It is my dream to have a root cellar (and a kitchen large enough for a stand mixer, and solar panels; you can keep your stainless steel appliances and granite countertops), but canning, I don't know I worry about botulism and all those things that, you know, can kill you. Blame it on my mother (hi Mom!) who won't eat mayonnaise if it's been out of the fridge for three minutes, but I am a little more cautious than some people.

Enter: Putting Food By. This is the classic book on preserving food, through canning, freezing, drying, smoking, pickling, and root-cellaring. The copy I picked up at an American Association of University Women book sale is from 1974* which makes it as old as me. Hrmph. This is not a book you should use if you want to can because you generally should not use old canning information but the updated version would be a good one to have. A recent New York Times article and a bunch of buzz on the internet has apparently sealed (ha) canning as all the rage. See, for example, this Apartment Therapy post. For safe canning guidelines, visit the USDA National Center for Home Food Preservation.

So, heed my warning and be careful about food preservation. But if you are a little daring, you might want to try this recipe for Sun-Cooked Strawberry Jam.

Sun-Cooked Strawberry Jam
I am typing it verbatim because it is a sweet recipe. From Putting Food By, 1974.

You need a blistering hot, still day to do this. Have a table set up in the full sun, its legs set in cans or small pans of water to keep crawling insects from the jam. To protect it from flying insects, have handy a large sheet of clean window glass, the means to prop it at a slant over the platters, and cheesecloth or mosquito netting to tape like a curtain around the three sides left open to the air. And work in small batches.

Wash and hull berries, and measure them to determine how much sugar you need. Put a layer of berries in the bottom of a big kettle, cover with an equal number of cups of sugar; repeat a layer of berries and cover it with sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes to let the berries "weep" and the juice start drawing. Place over very low heat and bring slowly to simmering, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the sugar is dissolved.

Pour sirupy (sic) berries 1/2 inch deep into large plates or platters. Set platters on the table in strong sun. Prop the glass over them with one edge on the table, the opposite edge raised four to six inches high...Arrange netting around the open sides.

As the fruit cooks in the sun, turn it over with a spatula--2 or 3 times during the day. When it has obviously jelled enough, pour it into sterilized jars and seal.

If the sun is not strong enough or if the weather is windy, the jam can take 2 or 3 days to jell. In that case, bring the platters in each night.

*(Image coming soon, I'm having trouble uploading it).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Favorite: Sweet Potato Pecan Burgers

So, I'm back. I have a new baby and a new recipe. Life has been hectic, of course, but that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. Pre-baby I spent days in the kitchen making meals to store in the freezer and post-baby I spend less time in the kitchen, while still trying to make healthy meals. I rely a lot of our favorite "go-to" meals, and I'm going to try to post those here interspersed with recipes from classic cookbooks.

This recipe for Sweet Potato Pecan Burgers is from Cooking Light, though if you wander over to that sight you will find the reviewers mostly found it mushy and not tasty. I disagree. My husband and I both really like this and I have made it twice in the last month. I don't know that the caramelized onions are necessary but they are a nice addition to the burger. This is a new favorite in our house and will be added to the regular rotation. I hope you enjoy them!

Sweet Potato Pecan Burgers
This is from Cooking Light. I changed the recipe a bit, including microwaving the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them and greatly reducing the amount of onion from 2 1/2 cups to 1 cup.

1 tsp canola oil
3 cups sliced onion
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
dash salt

2 1/2 cups sweet potato
cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves
1 cup regular oats
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 Tbs canola oil, divided
lettuce leaves
6 whole grain buns
chili sauce

To prepare onions, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion to pan; sauté 12 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in vinegar, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook 30 seconds or until vinegar is absorbed. Remove onion mixture from pan; keep warm. Wipe pan dry with a paper towel.

To prepare burgers, microwave sweet potatoes until cooked through (about 8 minutes). Take the skin off and discard. Mash sweet potatoes. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chopped onion and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Place potato, chopped onion mixture, oats, cumin, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a food processor; process until smooth. Place potato mixture in a large bowl; stir in nuts. Divide potato mixture into 6 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add 3 patties to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned. Carefully turn patties over; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and 3 patties. Place lettuce leaves and patties on bottom halves of buns; top each patty with 1 tablespoon chili sauce, about 3 tablespoons onion, and top halves of buns.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Depression Cooking

Time is flying and Baby Classic Cook is due on Tuesday. I have been doing a lot of cooking some from new cookbooks, some from old, but I just haven't gotten around to posting anything for awhile.

If the baby isn't here in the next couple days I will probably post a new recipe. Until then, I am really digging this series of videos about depression era cooking. Check it out!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vintage Vegan Lunchbox: Back to School!

School starts today! The smell of pencils and protractors is in the air! Unlike most years, I did not buy new school supplies or new school clothes, unless my maternity wardrobe counts. Still, back to school is as exciting as ever. This year I have a dual role, as a student (though I'm not taking any classes, just a few very stressful days of exams and--fingers crossed--the beginning of the dissertation process) and as a teacher at a nearby university where I will be adjunct faculty.

Most days packing lunch means throwing together some fruit and granola bars, leftovers, or a peanut butter and pickle sandwich (by the way, I eat pb and pickle even when I'm not pregnant, I grew up eating it, and all you doubters should try it first...my husband was initially disgusted at the idea and not only does he eat them now, but has elevated the sandwich to a new level by grilling them). But today, a most stressful day when I should spend all my extra time studying for my exams and making final preparations for my class, I am cooking a vintage vegan lunch thanks to an inspiring contest on one of my favorite sites, Vegan Lunch Box.

For my entry, I have chosen a few recipes from different cookbooks including from my most used vintage book, my great-grandmother's Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and from a book never seen here before, The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook. The Vegetable book was published the year I was born, 1974, so it doesn't really qualify as classic, does it? But still, for the sake of this post we will pretend that 1974 was a long time ago.

SANDWICH: There sandwich is cucumber and margarine on wheat bread, picked from a list of suggested fillings from the Boston cookbook. I guess sandwiches are fun treats because the sandwich chapter of the book is towards the end smack dab between the chapter on cakes and the chapter on confections. The book has neat ideas for checkerboard sandwiches using different kinds of breads, but we are boring and only have wheat, and ideas about how to shape sandwiches including an elaborately rolled "calla lily" sandwich. Alas, I jammed mine into a container.

BEANS: The beans are Mexican Red Beans from the Vegetable cookbook. They aren't fancy, and could probably be spiced up a bit. Still, they are easy and that fit the bill for today. The original recipe calls for dried red or pink beans but for some reason I didn't have any in my dried bean drawer. Of my choices--garbanzo, black, mixed, and pigeon peas--I went with the pigeon peas. They cook faster and are bland enough to take on the seasoning.

CAKE: Isn't this what lunch is really about? The dessert? Back to the Boston cookbook for this recipe. This is essentially a vegan recipe with only minor adaptations, including margarine for butter, and soymilk for buttermilk.

FRUIT: No recipe for this, this is as classic as it comes.

THE LUNCHBOX: This is a vintage brunch bag that I have used a lot, torn zipper and all. It has a sweet little matching insulated container which is great for soup, but not so much for drinks; I usually just tote along my Sigg bottle pretty much wherever I go anyway. The containers are a bit of a hodge podge.

Mexican Red Beans
Adapted from The Vegetable Protein and Vegetarian Cookbook, 1974. As mentioned above, I subbed pigeon peas for the red or pink beans with nice results. You can definitely add more seasoning, I added cumin, but do not add salt until you are finished cooking the beans or they will stay firm. Since I started these early in the morning and I had to get out the door I did not try simmering them all day, but I think that would make them nice and mushy if that's what you are looking for. One more thing, you will not see a scanned cover of this book because this is what it looks like: green. No writing. No awesome 70's drawings. Just a plain green cover.

1 pound dried red or pink beans
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups canned tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs imitation bacon bits

Sort, wash and bring beans to boil in just enough water to cover. When they come to a boil, drain and cover again with cold water. Bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, cover kettle and simmer. The beans can simmer slowly all day, if enough water is added to prevent them from getting dry.

Eggless Chocolate Cake
Adapted from the Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, 1948. Because this recipe is already eggless, the only changes I made to the original recipe was to use margarine instead of butter and soymilk instead of buttermilk. Another change I made to the recipe was to add black cocoa for part of the cocoa. I bought this awhile ago to make Fauxstess Cupcakes from Vegan with a Vengeance and it has become my secret ingredient for any chocolate cake, cookie, or brownie I make. I bought mine from King Arthur Flour. This recipe comes together pretty easily, and I especially like that the margarine (or butter) is melted because that means I don't have to remember to get it out of the fridge to soften, or cream it, or any other special steps. Just mix everything together and bake!

1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup soymilk
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 9x9 pan. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir in soymilk, melted margarine, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Peach Muffins: A Snapshot of Excess

"Nature's candy in my hand or can or a pie
Millions of peaches, peaches for me
Millions of peaches, peaches for free"

Peaches, by The Presidents of the United States of America

Peaches slipped from our hands into an overflowing half bushel box at The Homestead Farm and it didn't really feel like millions of peaches. The air was surprisingly humidity free, the sky was clear, as we walked through yellow and white peach orchards with a couple friends of ours talking about local food and less noble things, and eating and picking peaches. But come this morning, when faced with dozens and dozens of peaches (not to mention the many pounds of blackberries we picked, and the 8 pounds of tomatoes, 5 pounds of zucchini, 4 pounds of cucumbers, and assorted other produce from our CSA) it sure felt like millions of peaches.

I wasn't quite sure of my plan of attack, having some vague idea that peaches could be frozen and I could bake with some and we would certainly just eat some of them. There are directions for freezing peaches online and it is surprisingly easy. Still, after hours of boiling, skinning, chopping, coating in lemon juice, and mixing with syrup it didn't feel so easy. And my kitchen was covered with peach bits and skins and juice, like a peach volcano had exploded from the sink.

After getting a few pounds of tomatoes, blackberries, and half a bushel of peaches in the freezer, I still had 20 or so peaches staring at me. And while it was satisfying to see the produce in the freezer and dream of the cold winter day when we will have a taste of summer on our plates, it was impossible for me to leave the kitchen without having made something to eat. Enter super simple peach muffins from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

Peach Muffins
These muffins are from the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and are a variation on the basic muffin recipe. The recipe calls for pastry flour, but I substituted whole wheat pastry flour (also called graham flour) since that is what I had on hand. Instead of melted butter, I used canola oil and used soymilk instead of milk. I am the substitution queen and while that may sound like cheating since I am not following the original recipe, I believe it is in the spirit of early cooks who were more likely to use what was on hand than chasing down ingredients. The range of recommended sugar depends on what you are adding to it; I used about 1/4 cup of sugar with good results.

2 cups pastry flour
3 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs to 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
4 Tbs melted butter
1 egg
1 cup peeled and chopped peaches

Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tin (12 regular or 24 small). Mix and sift dry ingredients together. Beat together milk, butter, and egg. Mix wet ingredients into dry until just moist. Gently mix in peaches. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.