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.