Green Tomato Relish – A Winning Recipe

Every year I find myself looking at piles and piles of produce and wondering what to do with it.  This year is no exception so I thought I’d share this recipe again.

By this time (approaching September), my pantry is already jammed full of tomato sauce and paste, barbecue sauce, salsa, green beans, cherry syrup (great on chocolate waffles), blueberry, blackberry and cherry jam and pie filling and a whole lot of applesauce.

I have the added problem of having a husband who is diabetic so my recipes have to be healthy and low sugar.

So, every year I look to the Internet for new and different ideas.  It’s how I found this year’s favorite recipe – Green Tomato Relish.  This no sugar recipe is a winner not only because of the fabulous flavor but also because it helps use up all those green tomatoes clinging to the vines that I can see every time I look out my back window.

I made some variations on this already fabulous recipe that made it perfect for our palates.  Here’s what I changed:

  1. Red onions instead of white or yellow – grown by me and so sweet you can almost eat them whole.
  2. Sweet Italian Peppers – again out of my garden and so sweet it’s sometimes hard to make it from the backyard to the kitchen without eating them.
  3. No cumin, no cilantro, not because I can’t raise them (I can’t) but because we don’t like cilantro and we only like cumin in chili and burritos.
  4. Only 2 teaspoons of salt for a triple batch (that’s right, I tripled the recipe).

These small changes and the use of Bragg’s Organic Cider Vinegar made this Green Tomato Relish sweeter, tangier and downright exotic.

I used a heavy duty stainless steel pot for cooking down the veggies, layering them as I cut them – tomatoes on the bottom, apples next, peppers, garlic then onions on top.  It looked like veggie confetti when I was done.

Once I poured the vinegar on, I brought the pot to a boil then turned it down and simmered it for about 3 hours, letting the flavors merge and the vinegar infuse the relish.

NOTE:  DON’T PUREE unless you want it less chunky.  Slow cooking blends the flavors and softens the veggies but keeps the integrity and taste of each.

Jar it (you know the drill, sterilized jars, lids soaked in hot water to soften the seal) then water bath quarts for 25 minutes for quarts and 15 minutes for pints.

This stuff is so good, I eat it with a spoon, serve it as a side dish and plan on giving it for Christmas gifts.

Low Sugar Sour Cherry Jam

It must be summer because I am buried in Montmorency sour cherries!

Okay, not quite buried.  I’ve already made 20 pints of jam and 4 gallons of cherry brandy.  And I gave 8 quarts of pitted cherries to my neighbor for pies and I helped a friend pick another 8 quarts so she cold make jam.

But there are still 20 more quarts of cherries on the trees.    So today, I’ll be making more jam for gifts and I might just make a Sour Cherry Chocolate tart!

Jam is easy to make and by using Pomona Pectin, I can cut the sugar down from 6 to 8 cups to just 1 and 1/2 cups.  Cutting the sugar means that my diabetic husband can enjoy this jam without worrying about a surge of sugar.

So, here’s the Pomona Pectin recipe for Sour Cherry Jam

INGREDIENTS
4 cups mashed berries
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tsp calcium water
2 tsp Pomona pectin

DIRECTIONS
Prep for canning by:
Filling your pint jars with hot water and letting them stand.  You’ll need 3 pint jars and one 1/2 pint jar for each batch.
Bringing lids and rings to a boil then removing them from heat and letting them stand.
Putting about 4 inches of water in your water bath canner and putting it on to heat up.

Jam making goes a lot smoother if you do what chefs call mise en place – get everything in place and ready before you start cooking.  So, here’s what you do:

  1. Put two pot holders on the counter; one is for the pot with the lids and one is for the pot holding the jam mixture.
  2. Get out your canning funnel and ladle and lay them to the side of the potholder that will hold the jam mixture.
  3. Measure the sugar into a separate bowl.  Add the Pomona Pectin to the sugar and mix, thoroughly.
  4. Put the fruit in a stainless steel pot.  Add the calcium water and stir.
  5. Bring the fruit to a boil then stir in the sugar and pectin mix.
  6. Stir for 2 minutes (I set a timer because I always get this wrong and cooking too long is as bad as not cooking enough.)
  7. Bring fruit mixture back to a boil.
  8. Remove from heat and fill the jars, leaving ½ an inch of space at the top of each jar.
  9. Put the jars in a water bath and boil for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from the water bath and set on a rack to cool.  DO NOT tighten the rings or touch the jars.
  11. When cooled, completely, remove the rings and wipe off the top of each jar to remove any syrup that might have escaped during the water bath process.
  12. Label and store.

The first 2 or 3 times you make jam, it will feel like controlled chaos but once you get the hang of it, you can make 2 or 3 batches one right after the other and not miss a beat.

By the way, this recipe works for raspberry and strawberry jam, too.  Hope you enjoy it!

How to Make Cherry Brandy

I’m lucky enough to have two very happy Montmorency Sour Cherry Trees in my backyard orchard.  And these two trees produce about 30 quarts of cherries every year.

We don’t eat pies (hubby’s a diabetic). So, you ask, what can I possibly do with all those cherries?

I make low sugar Sour Cherry jam with them but I also make lots of ruby red, sweet-tart, cherry brandy which we give away for holiday gifts.  I love making it because it’s so easy…and I don’t have to pit the cherries.

When the brandy is ready to be bottled, I also get a whole lot of brandied cherries that I can pit, freeze and use as cheesecake topping.

So, here’s my recipe.  Happy bottling!

Homemade Cherry Brandy

INGREDIENTS:
8 c cherries with pits
1 1/3 c brandy
1 liter vodka (4 cups)
4 c water (you can use cherry juice if you have it)
2 c sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Put the cherries, brandy and vodka into stainless steel pot and boil.  This step ensures that any native  bacteria on the cherries are killed.

Cool the cherry mix and pour into a gallon, glass jar.   Put the lid on and store for 5 days in a cool, dark place like a closet.

After 5 days:

Create simple syrup by combining sugar and water and bringing to a boil to make sure the sugar dissolves.  Set aside to cool.

Once it’s cooled down, add some of the simple syrup to the cherry mix, stir and taste.  If it’s too strong or sour, just add more simple syrup and taste again.   NOTE:  don’t operate heavy equipment after doing your taste test…

Once it’s sweet enough for you, put the lid back on and put the jars back in the closet for 4 weeks.

BOTTLING:

Before you can bottle, you need to strain out the cherries and any sediment in the bottom of the jar.

Use cheesecloth in a mesh strainer and strain the liquid into another gallon glass jar or container.  NOTE:  you will have to strain a couple of times to get clear liquid.  Just rinse the cheesecloth off and lay it back in the strainer.

For the final strain, I use a Brita 42629 Slim Pitcher .  The Brita is dirt cheap and gives me clear, ruby red brandy but you can use another system if you want.

Once the brandy is strained to your satisfaction, pour into bottles, cork and store upright.  I save old scotch bottles with corks and scour stores like T. J. Maxx for bottles that have stoppers on them and bottle my brandy in these.

By the way, I use the same recipe to make blueberry and blackberry brandy!

Aside

It’s Memorial Day weekend so I thought I would share one of my favorite diabetic dessert recipes.

I found this recipe in Better Homes & Gardens about 15 years ago and played with it to reduce the sugar and fat content and make it a summertime treat for my husband (and me).

It’s pretty.  It’s pretty healthy.  And it’s red, white and blue.  Oh, and it is very easy to make.  And you can make it in the morning and set it in the refrigerator.

Very Berry Trifle

Ingredients:
1 box instant, fat & sugar free vanilla pudding
2 c fat free milk
4 oz fat free cream cheese
6 oz fat free yogurt
1 sugar-free, angel food cake cut in cubes
1 quart strawberries
2 c blueberries

DIRECTIONS:
Take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator and let it soften while you prepare the berries and angel food cake.
Wash, hull and slice the strawberries.
Beat the cream cheese and yogurt in a bowl or mixer until smooth and creamy.  Prepare pudding mix according to directions using fat free milk and set aside.
Stir the pudding into the cream  cheese mixture.

Now start putting the trifle together.

You’ll need a 3 quart bowl.  I like to layer my trifle into a  glass bowl and stand strawberry slices up around the rim of the bowl to make it look pretty.  Then you just layer 1/3 of the berries, 1/3 of the angel food cake cubes and 1/3 of the pudding mixture.

Very Berry Trifle

This Very Berry Trifle recipe is easy to make and healthy for everyone including diabetics.

Repeat layers twice.  Cover and chill from 4 to 8 hours.

Hope you enjoy the trifle and hope your Memorial Day weekend is happy and safe.

How To – Growing a Better Tomato

Confession time!

My garden is in full swing…despite the fact that my shoulder is only 10 weeks post op.  I just couldn’t help myself.

But I did take a few shortcuts.  For one, I prepped everything last fall.  And I planted my garlic and onions in October so all I had to do was take off the 18 inches of straw as soon as the forsythia started blooming and there they were.

Finally, this year for the first time in 20 years, I’m buying my plants from the Amish nursery instead of starting from seed.

By the way, we are having a very, very early spring here in Pennsylvania.  I put in beet and lettuce seeds 6 weeks ago (come on, they don’t weigh a whole lot and watering them is easy with my soaker hoses).

And I started harvesting asparagus 2 weeks ago.  All of my fruit trees are setting fruit including the figs.  And my blueberries are an absolute riot of tiny, bell-shaped flowers.

And with all the time I have on my hands, I am happily reading how other people start and grow their crops.  In fact, Margaret Roach has a fabulous, one page, how to for growing tomatoes.

Even though I have good success with tomatoes, I still learn a bit more from her than I knew before.  Enjoy the tutorial and enjoy the season!

How To Grow Carrots

I love baby carrots but recently learned that all baby carrots in the store except those specifically marked organic, are pesticide-laden.

I thought I would grow my own but when I started researching how to grow them, carrots appeared to be veggie divas – tough to plant, hard to sprout and likely to be small, deformed or not so good in the taste department.

Then Margaret Roach (of A Way to Garden fame) invited John Navazio to guest blog on growing the little orange (red, purple) root vegetables and I am in heaven.

Everything you need to know and do for growing carrots is in this simple how to.  Hope you enjoy it!

how to grow carrots, with dr. john navazio — A Way to Garden.

Garden Projects for Early Spring: Start Gardening Early & Grow More | Eartheasy.com

I can’t garden this spring (the shoulder) but you can.  And EarthEasy put together a nice list of spring gardening activities that will get your 2012 garden off to a great start!  Check it out and enjoy the awakening spring.

Garden Projects for Early Spring: Start Gardening Early & Grow More | Eartheasy.com.

 

How To Grow Tomatoes – A Quick Tutorial

I won’t have a garden this year but that doesn’t mean I can’t dream!

So here’s a lovely article on how to raise one of my summertime favorites – tomatoes.  Enjoy!

Spring preparations for the perfect summer tomato harvest | The Foodie Bugle.

Quilters How To Sew Long Strips

I am just learning about quilting and this blogger clearly knows a lot and is willing to share.  Loved this tip and really loved how easy she made it to understand.

via everything you never imagined that you needed to know about sewing strips.

The Simple Act of Planting A Seed

I joined the WordPress Project 365 this month and am posting every day about people and ideas that are changing the world.  Today’s post is all about one of my favorite things in the world, to do.

It’s about gardening.

But it’s also about raising vegetables, and sharing the bounty with people who don’t have the dirt or the seeds, don’t have money to buy either but desperately need the nutrition, the health and the joy that fresh vegetables can bring.

Granted, I won’t be growing my usual crops this year (bought my seeds though) but I can still share ideas and spread hope with my gardening friends.

I hope you enjoy reading about a couple of ways you and I can help change the world just by digging in dirt.