December 13, 2013

Roasted Tomato Sauce

You can't beat a fresh summer tomato.  To me, it is one of life's most perfect foods.  I was spoiled rotten this past summer by Michigan tomatoes.  I ate them every chance I got and they were delicious!  Wiley's Farm had the best tomatoes and they came in in bushels.  So I did something I've never done before:  I canned tomatoes.  Most of the tomatoes I canned, were plain and simple . . . just tomatoes.  (Sorry, no photos of that process, but wait til next year :)  

But I also decided to try my hand at canning a Roasted Tomato Sauce using Roma tomatoes.  Romas are meatier than slicing tomatoes and as such, they make a terrific sauce.  Here is my version of Roasted Tomato Sauce.  I made this sauce using 1/2 bushel of Roma tomatoes.  

- Slice off the tops of the tomatoes and cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise;

- Lay tomatoes on foil lined cookie sheets, cut side up and sprinkle each with a little dried thyme, thinly sliced garlic, balsamic vinegar and a little sugar.  Drizzle about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes on each tray.  Turn tomatoes around to coat all sides.  
Add caption

- Roast in a 350 oven for about 2-2 1/2 hours until deeply caramelized.  Remove the skins from each tomato half.  The skins will easily peel off.  

- Place peeled tomatoes in a large bowl.  Then transfer roasted tomatoes to a large Dutch oven.  Cook over medium heat until tomatoes are reduced to a nice thick sauce.  

- Ladle sauce into prepared, sterilized jars and seal.  I used pint jars here because the sauce is thick and concentrated.  Not like canned tomato paste, but thick just the same.  

Ok, now here is a new twist on canning for you.  I learned this method from Caroline Wiley and have used it to can 24 quarts of tomatoes, 13 quarts of tomato sauce  and 10 pints of roasted tomato sauce and it has worked every single time.  Try it.  You will never go back to the water bath method of canning tomatoes.   

Place filled, hot jars into a cold oven.  As many as will fit.  I get 13 quarts in my oven.  Close the door.  Turn oven temperature to 250.  When oven temperature reaches 250, time it for one hour.  After one hour, turn oven off and leave jars in the oven at least 8 hours or overnight.  Do not open oven!  In the morning, every jar will have sealed.  Remove from oven carefully as the jars will still be hot.  Place on counter top to cool completely and store as usual.  This method sounds unusual but it works like a charm!

And here is the bounty of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and roasted tomato sauce I made this past summer.  Think it will get me through the winter?  ;-) 

November 7, 2013

Zucchini- Pistachio Quick Bread

This bread is so good and yes, so quick.  It starts with one basic batter:  flour, sugar, baking power and salt...

...and milk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter

...and it works with any and all flavorings. 

I'll be working my way through a number of variations, but today I made the Zucchini-Pistachio with the last of my zucchini from Wiley's Farm.   

Zucchini-Pistachio Quick Bread

Butter and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour.  Melt 4 ounces unsalted butter and set aside to cool.  

9 oz (2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped pistachios

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Whisk until well blended.  Stir in pistachio nuts.

In medium bowl, combine
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-Whisk until blended.  
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, squeezed very dry
Stir until blended.  

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry.  Add the melted, cooled butter

Using a silicone spatula, gently fold in the wet ingredients until blended.  Don't beat the batter up.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  

Bake, rotating halfway through, until the top is golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.  Let cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes.  Invert the bread onto a rack, remove the pan, turn bread right side up and let cool completely.  Yummy!!  Store tightly wrapped on the counter for up to two days and in the refrigerator for up to a week...if it lasts that long ;)

The next one I'm going to try is Blueberry-Ginger, made with Pure Michigan blueberries of course :)  Stay tuned...

October 29, 2013

Saving the Season

The bounty of produce in rural Southwest Michigan is amazing!  I had never seen anything like it, so last summer I wasn't prepared to preserve it and "save the season."  But this year I was armed and ready.

The two books that were (are) my guides for preserving the season's bounty are:  Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber, a gift from my dear friend Linda; and Saving the Season by Kevin West.  Both books are solid in their approach to canning and preserving.  And Kevin West's book is a great read as well.  

Here is a small sampling of what I was able to preserve this season, and this picture does not include the dozen or so jars of jams that I gave away to my family and friends and the 10+ jars that are still in my refrigerator:  

I preserved:  24 quarts of tomatoes, 13 quarts of tomato sauce, 10 pints of tomato paste, and an array of artisans jams and jellies such as Zucchini with Peppers, Pine Nuts and Spices; Savory Peach Chutney; Spicy Dill Relish; Apple with Lemon and Cinnamon; Pumpkin with Vanilla; Pear Jam with Vanilla Bean and Honey; Apple with the Flavors of Alsace; Dill Zucchini Spears; Confetti Relish; Wild Blueberry Jam; Strawberry Preserves; Vineyard Peach and Pear with Grand Marnier; Strawberries with Pinot Noir and Spices; Spiced Brandied Cherries; Cherry Preserves; Cantalope with Citrus and  Candied Ginger; and a huge batch of pesto.

You get the picture :)  

Also in my freezer are 10 pounds of blueberries, the blanched kernels off two dozen ears of corn, raspberries and strawberries. 

I had so much fun this summer learning how to can and preserve this amazing produce at the peak of its freshness and flavor.  And I'm not done yet :)  I brought back to Texas with me a couple of pie pumpkins, a peck of Ida Red Apples and a peck of Honey Crisp Apples.  No...I am definitely not done ;)

Michigan tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste

October 25, 2013

Last Day

Today is our last day in Michigan.  Early tomorrow morning Harry and I begin the long, two day drive back to Texas.  I cannot believe our time here this year went by so quickly.

This morning I went for one last long walk with my pups.  It was a beautiful morning~~ cold, 37 degrees, but no wind, some clouds with the sun peaking through.  It is definitely late fall in MIchigan.  All the trees have turned colors and many, if not most, have lost their leaves.  

It was a great morning for reflection.  I realize how grateful I am for the life I have.  Yes, I am sad to leave Michigan.  I love it here~~the climate is perfect and the surroundings are, in my opinion, the best life has to offer.  But as a good friend pointed out to me recently, It's not the place, but "the people IN the place."  I've thought about that a lot.  And he's right.  I have many wonderful relationships with the people here in Michigan.  And this past season I have strengthened those relationships and deepened the bond with some of the most wonderful, loving people I have ever known (xo Ms D). I even made a couple of new friends.    And that is what I will miss most~~the people.

But on that same note, I have several close friends in Texas that I miss very much while I am in Michigan.  Some have been friends for more than 20 years.  I have one girlfriend that when we met, we were both single moms with 5-year we are both grandmothers (love you Ms G!).  And that's what draws me back to Texas~~my friends.  

So it is in this mindset that I leave Michigan tomorrow morning.  But you have to know that when I leave, a huge piece of my heart stays here.  I will reclaim it in the Spring. 

The Perfect Maple Tree

October 22, 2013

Wiley's Farm

The only way to begin my Pure Michigan blog is to tell you about Wiley's Farm.  Wiley's is a real family farm.  Caroline and Matt Wiley bought the farm in 1954; she was 19, he was 21; and they have been farming it ever since.  Matt died unexpectedly in November 2011 and Caroline and her son Kurt now run the farm.  

I love this place.  It's only three miles from my house and I was there every couple of days this past summer and the summer before as well, buying whatever seasonal crop they had in the shed.  I made some delicious meals with Wiley's produce this summer.  Unfortunately, I didn't document much of that.  But you can be certain, next summer I will!  

And the produce is amazing!  Their fresh asparagus is probably the best vegetable I've ever eaten in my life.  Since I don't have a garden anymore, this is where I shop for (and pick) my vegetables.  They grow asparagus, blueberries, peaches, pears, zucchini, spinach, kale, cucumbers, broccoli, many different varieties of peppers, tomatoes, corn, tomatillos, eggplant, new potatoes, green and yellow beans, cauliflower, apples, pumpkins, melons, many varieties of squash, cilantro, basil, parsley, dill, lettuces, cabbage, beets and gorgeous zinnias, And they have laying hens which produce the best eggs.  Caroline was kind enough to let me work in the shed and the gardens, helping out.  That was so much fun for me.  I got my gardening fix while being outside in the gorgeous Michigan summer.  

In addition to being a trusted, local source for food, Caroline has become a friend.  She is the first friend I've made in Michigan. She is a wonderful, kind woman and I will miss her when we leave.  

Here are a few photos of Wiley's Farm.  With this wonderful place nearly in my back yard, why would I want to have a garden? :)

Ginger - the Great Pyrenees 

See what I mean? :)

October 16, 2013

My New Life in Michigan

It's rather ironic that my first post on my Pure Michigan blog is a post about our looming departure from Michigan to return to Texas.  I guess my timing is way off on this one.  Maybe it's because I was having too much fun with family and on the lake this summer (and last summer too) to get my new blog off the ground.  But I guess I have to start somewhere and there is no better time than now.

Harry began bringing me to Michigan when we first got together in the mid 1990s.  And I loved it.  Not only because of his warm, wonderful family, but also because it reminded me so much of where I grew up in Massachusetts.  I then began to realize how much I missed the North and all it has to offer.  And yes, even the winters.  

During the past two summers that I've spent here, I feel like I've come home.  It's difficult to explain, so maybe I shouldn't try.  I just know that I have felt more at home here in Michigan these past two years than I have felt in the 32 years I lived in Texas.  That's not to dis the state of Texas.  Not at all.  Texas is a beautiful state with many blessings to offer. I have many wonderful friends in Texas that I miss when I am up North; But for me, I really feel at home here in Michigan.  

Harry and I have built a beautiful home and a wonderful life here in the Mitten.  But this coming Saturday, the 26th of October, we close up the house and return to Texas for the winter.  To say I'm sad is an understatement.  But knowing that we will be back in the spring somewhat eases the hurt.  

Going forward with this blog, I will attempt to document some of this past summer and all the wonderful adventures and experiences we've had.  It's all been so much fun.  

Additionally, anyone who knows me knows just how much I love to cook and how passionately I feel about good food and where it comes from (just note the books in my library).  Part of this blog will be about the food I prepare for my family and friends.  And since I don't have a garden here in Michigan, I can't write about that as I did in my Diane's Texas Garden blog. But I do have beautiful landscaping around my home and will share that and the beautiful wild Michigan flora and fauna as well.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you visit me often.  Here are a few photos of Harry's and my home, the surrounding property and our beautiful Howard Lake.

View of the lake from our porch

My view from my kitchen

View of the house from the lake (we just took the dock out---that is what's stacked on the back patio)

And the best view of all :)