Now that milking has begun, and therefore cheese making has begun, I’m starting to think about what sorts of things I can add to chevre for flavor. My all time favorite is still fresh dill, garlic, salt and a pinch of sugar but I’ve been experimenting with other flavors as well. Most of the time I use at least a few dried ingredients, especially garlic and onion. Yes, you can use fresh raw onion and garlic but in my opinion the flavor is too strong and harsh. I much prefer the flavor of dried garlic and onion which is much more like to roasted or cooked garlic and onion than raw. So yesterday I chopped up an onion and some garlic that I had previously roasted, covered in olive oil and then froze and put them in my dehydrator.
I didn’t take any pictures of them before dehydrating, but you can probably use your imagination. I dried them on a low heat setting for a long time (overnight). If you don’t dry them long enough they will create a mushy paste when you try to grind them rather than a powder.
I use an old coffee grinder for grinding my dried herbs/spices/etc. It works really well but one my complaint is that its difficult to clean. When grinding garlic and onion its really important that I get it VERY clean before using the grinder for something milder like herbs or something that would taste horrible with garlic like citrus rind.
Powdered dehydrated lime zest and lime simple syrup
Since I had the dehydrator running anyway, I decided to throw a few other things on to dry (and cleaned out the fridge and fruit basket as well). We had a bag of limes that were starting to get some age on them so I cut off the outer rind and dried it, and then used the juice to make syrup. I also found a bunch of carrots in the fridge that needed to be used up so I sliced them up really thinly with a vegetable peeler and dried them up. They made a really pretty orange powder. This may seem like a weird thing to make, but carrot powder actually adds a nice bit of depth to herb and spice mixes. When a little is used in a mix you don’t really taste “carrot”, it just makes the mix taste kind of “gardeny”. It’ll be interesting to see how the bright orange color affects the color of the cheese!
Lime zest, orange zest, carrot powder, garlic powder, onion powder
Finally, I chopped up some left over fish that had been in the fridge just a little bit too long and dehydrated it. Anytime we have left over cooked meat I toss the scraps in the dehydrator and it makes the best dog treats. Both dogs have been very attentive and well behaved today — all I have to do is shake my little mason jar of treats and they come running! Oh and I almost forgot. I found a jar of bread and butter pickles in the fridge that was nearly empty and taking up valuable shelf space so I decided to experiment a bit and see what would happen if I dried them. They have the consistency of gummy bears but taste like pickles and I can’t decide if they are delicious or disgusting.
This is a simple recipe but its great for when your husband buys a giant container of grapes from Sam’s but forgets that you only eat green grapes, not purple, and then he only eats a few handfuls before they start getting wrinkles. When I lived in NC my father in law had wild grape bushes near his house and he would bring me big bags full of grapes and they made the most wonderful jelly. The Sam’s grape jelly isn’t as good, but its a lot like grape jelly off the shelf and prevents the sad waste of dead grapes in the back of the fridge.
- 4 cups of whole grapes
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2.5 cups sugar
- 1/2 packet pectin (2.5T)
Fills 3 jam (1/2 pint) jars
In a pot on the stove cook your grapes in the water. You can toss them in whole or, if you want them to cook faster, chop them in half first. Use a large spoon to smoosh the grapes as they cook until you have grape mush. Run this through a food mill to remove the seeds (if there are any) and skins.
I like to get as much grape juice out as possible so I will run the mash through the food mill, return it to the pot to cook some more and then put it through the food mill again to make sure I get as much good stuff out of the skins as possible. What you’ll have left is grape juice. I’ve heard of people making grape jelly by buying grape juice and starting with that, but it seems a little silly to me to buy grape juice for jelly making. Why not just buy grape jelly?
From my 4 cups of grapes + 1/2 cup of water I ended up with 2 cups of grape juice. If your grapes are more or less juicy your amount may vary. If so, adjust the amount of sugar and pectin in proportion to the amount of juice you are using.
Into your pot of juice add your sugar and cook, stirring, until it is fully dissolved. Now bring your jelly up to a rolling boil, add pectin and continue to boil and stir for a full minute.
Pour hot jelly into jars and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.
Remember that I am not an expert at food preservation, so while you are welcome to be inspired by my experiments please do you research on safe food preservation techniques first!
Every year I put away extra tomatoes by blanching them, peeling off the skins and then canning them whole or in large chunks. This is convenient because then you can use them for nearly anything- cook them down to make stewed tomatoes, add them whole to stews or chop them up for sauces. We often find ourselves needing to add a bit of tomato paste to dishes though in order to give a richer tomato flavor without adding extra liquid. We’ve always used store bought but I feel kind of silly adding store bought tomato paste to a sauce that is otherwise entirely out of our garden. So when Chris brought in an armload of tomatoes from the garden this afternoon I decided to see if I could make a paste.
After washing the tomatoes and removing their stems I cut them into chunks and put them into a large saute pan so they they more or less covered the bottom in a single layer. It takes a LOT of cooking to remove all the liquid so you want as many of your tomatoes in direct contact with the pan as possible.
Next I let it simmer for several hours. I think my total cooking time was about 4 hours. Once the tomatoes had mostly all lost their shape I put the mush through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins and then put it back in the pan to cook some more. While you can remove the skins and seeds before you start cooking, leaving them on should give the finished paste more flavor and to get a nice smooth consistency you’d probably still have to run it through a food mill or blender.
After the food mill I let it keep cooking until, after several hours of simmering, it finally thickened up and turned into a deep rich red paste. It tastes very strongly of tomatoes and is definitely more paste than sauce– when you remove a spoonful it doesn’t fill back in.
Since I expect we will be using small amounts of this at a time and I don’t have any tiny canning jars (though wouldn’t that be cute if I did?) I am freezing the paste in an ice cube tray and tomorrow I’ll put the frozen cubes into a ziploc freezer bag.
- It tastes really good
- The process is very simple and easy and not as messy or actively time consuming as blanching and peeling tomatoes
- If I had LOTS of tomatoes and not much pantry space this would be a great way to condense my harvest into a very small space
- I’ll finally be able to make sauces 100% from the garden!
- It takes a long time. If I’m going to be near the kitchen anyway this is no big deal. You don’t have to keep an eye on it constantly or stir continually but you do need to check on it occasionally to make sure that it isn’t burning or sticking on the bottom and your stove is on so it would be unsafe to leave the house, just in case. This could be very inconvenient if I ever decided to leave the house. Thankfully I rarely do.
- I felt like I lost a lot of paste where it got dried up and stuck to the edges of the pan. If I do this again I’ll do a better job of using a spatula to scrape down the edges as it cooks down and thickens.
- I’m a little disappointed that my big bucket full of tomatoes and 4+ hours of cooking resulted in 6 little cubes of paste. I know that its super concentrated and still has all the flavor of that bucket of tomatoes but still, the results don’t LOOK very impressive.
Of course I won’t really know how to evaluate this experiment until I actually eat something made with it. I can’t wait to try our Pizza Goat Cheese Dip with our homemade tomato paste!
P.S. For a much more authentic take on homemade tomato paste, check out this lovely article.