Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bourbon Fig Preserves

I've been patiently waiting for the figs to ripen, stalking might be a more appropriate word. The first week was sheer delight, ate all of those raw.  Ate so many that my mouth was beginning to have blisters, but it was worth it.  I love figs as much as I love tomatoes, and that says a lot! Between yesterday and today I had harvested so many that it became the perfect time to start putting them up. Last year I made 24 quart jars, I ran out about a month ago and its been a long month.  I use these in so many different ways at the shop, from roast pork to sandwiches and of course cheese and pancakes and well, just right out of the jar with a spoon. I got to use my newly acquired antique copper kettle and that made the process all the better, all the pretty things. This particular tree is Texas overbearing, at the shop I have Celeste and LSU gold varieties. This year I might have enough of the LSU Gold to put up, those are milder in flavor but with more of a honey taste. Hopefully between the squirrels and the birds there will be enough for me.

I find that the ratio of 2 to 1, fruit to sugar works well in all my canning.  I seldom use pectin, but instead just cook the jam or preserves down until they thicken. It's a little hard to tell with these because the syrup stays pretty loose.  I find that watching the volume is the best way for me to tell when they're ready. I turn down the heat so the boiling will stop for a few seconds and when reduced by about half, it's ready to go.  As for the tools, the canning ladle, canning rack, canning funnel and tongs I find these items indispensable for canning.  These items make jam making so much easier and I while I usually dislike single purpose kitchen gadgets, I can't do whithout these.  They keep me from getting burned by the water and the scalding sugar syrup, which with my track record it a definite plus.

Bourbon Fig Preserves

6 lb.'s fresh figs
3 lb's superfine sugar
6 oz. lemon juice
1/2 cup bourbon

1. Wash the figs and place them in a large non-reactive pot or copper kettle. Add the sugar, bourbon and lemon juice stir until combined.  Cook over high heat until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.  Stir a few times with a wooden spoon or heat-proof rubber spatula.  At this point, I mash them a little with the spoon to break them up, but its optional. Continue to cook for 25-30 minutes until reduced by almost half.

2. While the preserves are cooking, sterilize your jars and lids in boiling water. (I also sterilize the paddle and funnel I will later use for filling the jars). I use a canning rack in the bottom of a pot tall enough to hold the jars completely submerged in water. Bring the water to a rolling boil, this usually takes at least 20 minutes which is about the time it takes for the figs to cook.

3. When the figs are ready fill the jars with a canning funnel and ladle up to 1/2" from the rim. Seal the jars and place carefully in the water bath with canning tongs.  Process for 8-10 minutes, remove from water bath and set aside to cool.

Makes 72 ounces of Preserves.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Lump Crabmeat

Before I even write another word, I'll confess- I am currently addicted to tomatoes. I just cannot seem to get enough, and right now they are everywhere.  I buy them even when I don't really need them,  solely because they're pretty sometimes, it's become a good problem to have.  A few weeks ago I went to a produce sale at the LSU Ag-Center- 15 minutes later I was loading my car with about thirty pounds of the most beautiful heirlooms. Yes, thirty! I know that is a LOT of tomatoes, but I had the best time choosing them and later making Gazpacho, beautiful salads, and the most wonderful preserves.  I made a tomato marmalade with saffron, which if I say so myself was out of this world- I'll be using it at work in my catering business, Gourmet Girls.  

At home for dinner, we had Jumbo lump Crabmeat Gazpacho.  This is my favorite type of dinner in the summer.  Cooking seasonally by utilizing foods which are in their prime makes eating and preparing meals a joyful experience for me.  I think most of us eat with our eyes first,  what I came across labeled as Paleo on Pinterest and other venues was sometimes not too appetizing to me. While the food might have tasted good, it certainly was not inspiring me to run and cook it for dinner.  I need pretty in my life, with food in particular.  I hope through this blog I can inspire others to prepare meals in a healthy manner; cooking seasonally from farm to table, using locally grown and organic ingredients.

While I am not a fan of storing tomatoes in the refrigerator, I was surprised to find that the leftover Gazpacho was actually really good a day later.  I would not recommend making it more than several hours early, just make sure to add the crabmeat right before serving.  I made this a few weeks ago, and after looking at the photos again, I cannot wait to make it again.  I hope you like it as much as I did!

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat

6 ripe heirloom tomatoes, diced (reserve all the seeds and juices)
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded and cut into 1/4" slices
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4" cubes
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4" cubes
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, veined, seeded, and finely minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste (I like spicy)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. fresh Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, lightly picked for shells.

1. In a large non-reactive bowl, combine the tomatoes and their juices, onion, cucumber, and peppers.  Add red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and tabasco.  

2. With a couple of forks squish the vegetables into a juicy soup, making sure to leave plenty of big pieces.  Add salt, cumin and black pepper tasting as you go.  Add cilantro then refrigerate the soup for at least an hour before serving.

3. Ladle the Gazpacho into soup bowls, add crabmeat and serve.

Makes 8 servings

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