Nourishing Traditions – Learning from our Children

Capturing Our Traditions

Capturing Our Traditions

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Nothing pleases me more than when my daughter introduces me to something new. On my last visit to her home, she showed me how to use YouTube. We found some entertaining videos on subjects close to both our hearts: the preparation of food. It gave me an idea, so today I purchased a tripod so I can set my video camera on the kitchen counter while I prepare food. The idea came to me as I watched a woman demonstrate the making and canning of marinara sauce. The recipe was fine, but the methods for sterilizing and preserving the sauce were not. In fact, she gave instructions that were unsafe.

We watched another woman demonstrate how to make sauerkraut.

“That’s a recipe right out of Nourishing Traditions,” my daughter said. She pulled the book from a shelve and showed me the book. “This is actually one of my favorite cookbooks.”

The subtitle of the book is “The cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.”

When I returned home, I ordered a copy immediately, and it arrived last week. Written by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., the book explores almost all areas of eating with exhaustive information on all food types. However, it’s so much more than that.

The book offers more information in its more than 600 pages – in a 10” x 7.5” package – than Betty Crocker could ever imagine. Acids, fats, vitamins, sugars, gluten, and dairy products receive a thorough examination.

It’s nice to have a reference book for information even though I might not reform my eating habits instantly. But I’m willing to give a few new ideas a try. For instance, this winter I developed a severe craving for sweets. I’ve kept sweets out of my life for many years, except on rare occasions. I know sugar is addictive, and I have a thing for chocolate and ice cream. I also have a slow metabolism so those additional “empty” calories go straight to my hips. I haven’t drunk pop since my teenage years, but suddenly I’m craving Vernors® ginger ale. Then I began eating frozen yogurt with strawberries on top every night. When I found myself sneaking a container of Cherry Garcia ice cream into the freezer two weeks ago, I knew I’d fallen prey to my addiction. I decided to see what my new cookbook might offer me as an alternative.

The “Desserts” chapter begins with an explanation of the sugars found in our diets. It offers tips for abating the craving, such as brushing your teeth right after your regular meal. The book suggests the sweetness of the toothpaste will keep the craving away. For me there’s something else. I don’t like to eat anything else after I’ve brushed my teeth. It’s a good helpful suggestion that benefits my health, waistline, and teeth. And so far it’s working. The book also gives some suggestions for natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup and rapadura or dehydrated cane sugar juice, which I’ll need to find someplace other than my local grocery store. I made zucchini bread this weekend using maple syrup for the sweetener as directed by their recipe. I used the lesser amount (a quarter cup), but next time I’ll increase it to ½ a cup. The bread is good, but it needs a little more sweetness. Next, I’m going to try their recipe for ginger ale using rapadura and real ginger. We shall see how that experiment works out.

I also made hummus this weekend using the recipe in Nourishing Traditions. I followed it exactly, except for the one tablespoon of “expeller-expressed flax oil.” Instead, I used olive oil expressed out of its bottle by me.

The cookbook offers recipe quizzes, “Know Your Ingredients,” on many pages. A list of ingredients is given and then the reader is asked to identify the food. The answers are given in the back of the book. Most of the recipes are common foods. It’s shocking to know what we’re eating when we buy prepared food from the store.

There are also anecdotes about food from different books and experts on some of the pages. Each time I read it, I’m amazed at the amount of information provided in such a friendly way.

When I cook, I usually look at several recipes before I start. With the hummus, I pulled out two other cookbooks, in addition to Nourishing Traditions, but I favored their recipe for its simplicity. I have a feeling I’ll be pulling this book out first when it’s time to mess up the kitchen.

Look for me on YouTube now that I have a tripod and a new inspiring cookbook. I’ll be the woman with sauce in her hair, flour on her shirt, raisins on the floor, and cookbooks scattered on the counter, all the while peering into the camera wondering how the darn thing works. And it’s all thanks to the daughter who is teaching me her own traditions.

Bon appétit!

tsWebEnter the Goodreads Giveaway from now until March 31 for a copy of my novel Tortoise Stew. Note I wrote “novel.” The book is fiction about Florida politics and developers gone wild; it’s not a cookbook!

To Everything There is a season

Resting in the winter garden

Resting in the winter garden

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

And so it is with gardening. The winter season of gardening is a time of planning, considering, and enjoying the bounty of the previous seasons.

Almost every night we’re eating something from the freezer or from a canning jar. But we also enjoy a few vegetables thriving in the cooler weather. Beets rest in the ground covered with leaves.

Beets in season

Beets in season

We may need to pull them all out before the first major cold snap, but we’re enjoying them several times a week now. They are still delicious, although they aren’t quite as sweet as the earlier warm weather harvest.

During the summer, a ground hog took a liking to the brussel sprouts. Finally in early October, my husband managed to capture the cabbage-loving rodent in a Havahart trap. Hopefully that ground hog is waiting to see his shadow on the banks of the Ohio River. With his departure, the brussel sprouts recovered and at least once a week they grace our plate, small, tender and full of flavor. We should be able to enjoy them with reasonable winter temperatures and some snow cover as insulation.

lovely brussel sprouts

lovely brussel sprouts

Stakes and strings are removed, and leaves cover the floor of our garden bed. Onion seeds are ordered. We discuss the poor showing of peppers and beans this past summer and consider the options for our location. We know the peas underperformed because of the addition of mushroom compost when they were just sprouting – too much, too soon. But we’re puzzled by the sweet peppers that never seem to get very big before rotting. Cayenne and jalapeno peppers thrive in our Pennsylvania garden for some reason. Our green, string, and lima beans also produced very little this year. Anyone else ever have these problems? How did you solve them?

Soon the process will begin all over again with modifications and adjustments learned from last year to fulfill “every purpose under the heaven.”

canned tomato sauce, frozen pesto, corn, and spinach, and fresh beets

canned tomato sauce, frozen pesto, corn, and spinach, and fresh beets

Recipes:

canning tomato sauce

freezing spinach

pesto

Fall Garden Update

Ghostly Garden

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The garden looks as if it’s been decorated for Halloween, but that’s not the case. We’re receiving some early frosts here in western Pennsylvania, and the last two nights, my husband has gone out and covered the tomato plants, which are still producing.

green tomatoes in October after a frost

red tomatoes ready for sauce after the frost

 

The tomatoes aren’t coming in as fast as they once were so the 2012 canning season is officially over. However, last week I made a fresh batch of sauce with them. Last night my husband picked another batch so I probably can make some more in a day or so. I read somewhere about slicing the green tomatoes and rolling them in cornmeal and then freezing them. They’re ready to make fried green tomatoes. I’ll let you know if I decide to try that.

We still have potatoes and beets in the ground ready to eat whenever we want them. Tonight I plan on making scalloped potatoes – one of my favorite comfort winter foods.

beets ready to pull

I’m still not sure where summer went but the pantry and freezer are full of the products from our garden. We’re hoping this early cold weather will be gone in a few days – just enough to zap the stink bugs crowding around our doors and windows. As I wandered around the yard this afternoon, I was heartened to see that my flowers stood up to the cold.

cosmos and dahlias after the frost

second year mum

Remnants of summer remain as the leaves turn gold and orange on the distant hills.

bees still buzzing

How’s your garden doing?

Salsa Heat

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Warning: This salsa is not for you mild salsa lovers. However, you can modify this recipe to fit your taste buds. This one won’t make you choke, but it might make your nose run and your eyes water – until you get used to the fiery heat.

I use salsa in the traditional way, but I also use it to make Spanish rice (I use brown rice) by cutting down on the water and adding a ½ cup to a cup of salsa. I also use it in soups. My husband loves it on his eggs, scrambled or over easy. It’s also good as a topping for baked potatoes or hash browns.

The amounts listed below made 12 pints (canned – that’s all the room I had in my two canners), 2 pints frozen, and 2 quarts which I put in the refrigerator for use first. I don’t recommend making a batch this large unless you find yourself as we did with an overabundance of ripened tomatoes. We grow our onions and garlic and use plenty of both. You can’t overdue either of these.

cilantro and garlic

Ingredients

40 tomatoes, approximately 10 lbs. (sizes ranged from small to huge – I counted them all)

5 medium onions, chopped

3 heads of garlic, minced (approximately 30 cloves)

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

8 sweet peppers, chopped (any and all varieties – we used red, yellow, orange, and green)

20 hot peppers, chopped (to taste – we used 20 jalapenos and cayenne peppers)

½ olive oil

1 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup cumin

1/8 cup chili powder

3 tsp salt

We prepare the onions, garlic, peppers, and cilantro first and begin sauteing them in the olive oil on low heat while we prepare the tomatoes.

peppers

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30-40 seconds and remove to ice water for same amount of time. Peel off skin and core. Chop and squeeze juice and seeds into bowl. Place in colander and press. Put in pot with other vegetables. We have a production line going in the kitchen. I’m blanching the tomatoes while my husband skins, cores, removes bad spots, saves seeds for next year and then cuts tomatoes in quarters. I squeeze those tomatoes with my hands and coarsely chop into a colander.

Add the rest of the ingredients and allow sauce to simmer while preparing the jars and canner.

simmer for a thicker salsa

Canning tip: Always have surplus containers ready. It’s difficult to figure out exact amounts. I had to scramble at last minute with this because I thought the batch would only make 10-12 pints.

Refer to a good reference book on canning for the process of preparing jars or check out Ball’s helpful website.

Process for 15 minutes in hot water boiling bath. I add five minutes to adjust to our 1,000 feet plus altitude.

heat for winter

This is our third year of making salsa together this way, and we finally have a good system in place and the test is always in the tasting. This year’s salsa is our best yet. It has a good consistency and excellent flavor without sending us to the volunteer fire department around the corner.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with making salsa. I’m always impressed with the variety of recipes to try.

Kitchen Love

Seven jars of love

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

This past weekend we put up seven quarts of Italian sauce from our tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic and basil. See my post “The Tomato – Luscious and Delicious for the process and recipe.

This is our third year for preserving the harvest from our garden. We’ve developed a rhythm for our time in the kitchen as we make sauce. My husband washes, peels and cuts up the tomatoes, peppers, and onions. I prepare the garlic and basil. I squeeze the juice and seeds out of the tomatoes after my husband does his thing with them. Sometimes the process gets slowed down because he pulls out seeds from the very best to use next year.

Preparation

The whole process – from washing the tomatoes to pulling the jars of sauce out of the canner – probably takes four hours. It’s not a cost effective process if only dollars and cents are factored. But there’s other considerations. Nutritionally, the minerals and vitamins from the vegetables are outstanding. The taste alone justifies the time.

And then there’s the other and perhaps the most important part. Robert and I love working together in our kitchen handling the vegetables we’ve nurtured. We handle the tomatoes and other vegetables with loving care. I am lost in the texture of the tomato as I squeeze each one. The smell of garlic and onion sauteing in olive oil beats eau de cologne any day. For mere hours, we are suspended and lost in the garden of our creation. The love we pour into our concoctions cannot be calculated on any cost analysis.

As the sauce simmers and boils down, we begin taking the pulp and straining it into juice. Then it’s time for our Bloody Mary or Maria (with tequila) with juice from our garden. Last night we savored our first taste of the sauce on pasta (I wanted the flavors to meld so I let a meal-sized portion rest in the fridge for two days). We both agreed this year’s batch is definitely the best – until next year rolls around.

Ready for winter

How about you? Do you think preparing your own food (even if it’s not from your garden) is worth the effort?

 

The Tomato – Luscious and Delicious

ripening on the vine

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

We’re eating tomatoes with every meal and still the windowsills in our home are filled with the beautiful red bounty of summer. The tomato is one of the most versatile of vegetables because it’s fantastic raw, but it’s also a wonder for turning into a myriad of sauces and dishes.

overflow from the garden

As the counters and windowsills filled with tomatoes, I knew it was time to pull out the canner and begin making sauce. I’m not going to sugarcoat this process – it’s time-consuming and requires two people if you’re doing any amount at all of sauce. My husband and I love growing the vegetables and as hard as it is to do, we love preserving it as well. When I served a sampling of the sauce we’d created the other night, we both sighed in contentment at the flavors all provided by food we grew right outside our den door. Besides, if we weren’t making our own food, we’d probably just be sitting in front of the television. There’s plenty of time for that when the weather turns cold.

preparing

Here’s my recipe for pasta sauce. We made 12 quarts with the ingredients below:

2 1/2 bulbs of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed

5 large onions, chopped

6-8 sweet peppers (I used yellow and red because that’s all we had for this batch), chopped

10 hot peppers (jalapenos/cayenne) – we like some heat so this is a personal choice

2 cups fresh basil leaves (add any other Italian herb you have), chopped

1 cup of dried Italian herbs

1 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

35-45 tomatoes (the photo shows all that I used), skinned, squeezed and chopped)

We prepared all the ingredients except the tomatoes first. I put them in the pot and sauteed to meld flavors while we prepared the tomatoes.

sealing the flavors

 

We like heat in our sauce so we put in approximately ten hot peppers, mostly seeded. We started doing this a few years back when we had too many jalapenos and found that we love it this way.

hot and spicy

Now the real work begins. To peel the skins easily, drop 4-5 tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 30-45 seconds; then remove to ice water for the same amount of time. My husband then starts peeling and cutting out any bad spots on the tomatoes. He cuts each tomato into quarters and puts in a big bowl. I then begin a process that will help take out some liquid from the tomatoes. I’ve learned this is just the best way to do it. I pick up a handful of the quarters and squeeze out juice and seeds. Then I cut into smaller pieces and put in a sieve and press down, getting out more liquid. Then I throw the meat left into the pot. The sauce then simmers (with frequent stirs) for several hours.

simmering

I put the hot sauce in sterilized, hot canning jars (9 quarts and 1 pint) with a tablespoon of lemon juice in the bottom of each quart (about a tsp. for a pint). I still had sauce left, so I froze a container and kept back enough for us to sample. I processed in the rolling water bath for 50 minutes.

Next batch will be salsa!

Writing & Gardening – No Time to Blog

By Patricia Zick @P.C. Zick

I’ve had to let my blog go the past week or so. I’ve reblogged some of my favorite blogs on topics near to my heart, but I haven’t been able to find the time or inspiration to concentrate long enough to put out a thoughtful post.

I’m juggling three projects right now so that’s my excuse. I keep thinking I’ll find a way to put one of them aside. I’m impressed with my colleagues who manage a daily blog and still manage to write books. I’m lucky if I can produce a blog two times a week.

When I published Live from the Road on Kindle, I didn’t realize the amount of promoting I’d need to do to sell the book. Nearly 20,000 folks have now downloaded it. Ninety-seven percent of those downloads were done on free promotional days, which are now over. Next week,  a media blitz will hopefully  draw more folks to actually download it on Kindle for $2.99 or buy the print edition at $7.90 on amazon. I’ve told myself that’s it. I’ve done all I can do at this point. Live from the Road has been sent out into the world. I must move onto my other projects.

I wrote the novel Tortoise Stew ten years ago. It was published with a publisher – whose name I refuse to promote – in 2006. I decided it was time to edit the book and put it out on Kindle as well. That’s occupied half of my time for the past ten days. I hope to have it up on amazon early next week, in time for Live‘s media blitz. All the experts keep hammering the point that indie authors, such as myself, need to have more than one book out. I’ve enjoyed reading Tortoise Stew once again and revisiting the chaos of Florida politics and development and land grab at any cost. The same artist (Travis Pennington) who designed Live‘s cover is currently redesigning the cover for Tortoise Stew – I should have it in a few days.

Finally, I’m working on the second draft of my new novel Trails in the Sand. It’s going well, but I’ve decided to change point of view from one person (first person) to three people plus short narrative chapters on the environmental issues at play in the background.

I find working on the two novels at the same time helpful, which surprises me. I’m pleased the messages in Tortoise Stew are the same ones I believe today and try to incorporate in everything I write. I love the love story in Tortoise Stew. I wrote it imagining the ideal love relationship I yearned for at the time. Guess what? A decade later I’ve found that with my new husband, Robert. It’s uncanny when I read scenes I wrote ten years ago and realize they are now reality.

When I’m not absorbed in my writing world, I tend the produce from our garden. Every night we’re eating mostly fresh vegetables. Last night we had cauliflower and beets. The tomatoes are piling up on the windowsill so next weekend I’m sure I’ll be canning sauce and dreaming  up scenes for Trails in the Sand, while Live from the Road and Tortoise Stew sell themselves on the Internet. Why not? I’ve turned my dreams into reality before.

The Gardener’s Aphrodisiac

By Patricia Zick @P.C. Zick

My husband Robert lives and breathes the garden almost the whole year. During the winter he’s planning and drying the seeds from the previous year’s bounty, such as he did this year with the potato-leaf tomato seeds. When the first of the beefsteak-size tomatoes began ripening this week, I’ve never seen him more excited. He agonized when to pick it. He wanted it as ripe as possible on the vine, but he didn’t want the pesky and abundant rabbits this year to start nibbling on it. In ancient times, the tomato was a delicacy viewed as the “love fruit” because of its supposed aphrodisiac-qualities. It never made much sense to me, until I saw the excitement in Robert for this one versatile fruit coming into its maturity. True love grows, blossoms, blooms and spreads here in the garden.

The iVillage Garden Web discusses the differences in the tomato leaf varieties – either regular or potato leaf, such as the one pictured here. They are very distinctive in the garden. The type of seed used for our plants is brandywine. The tomatoes are very “beefy” and wonderful to use in sauces. We have a variety of plants in the garden this year, and slowly they are coming into their own. We can’t wait to chomp into the three sitting in the windowsill right now. But we still have plenty more. Soon we’ll be covered in juice and seeds as we begin preserving all of this bounty. Now I understand why it’s an aphrodisiac – I’m in love with this vegetable and so is Robert.What’s your favorite way to enjoy a tomato?

 

Bread & Butter and Cheap Vinegar

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I’ve been canning off and on for the past thirty years, and it seems each time I put something up, I learn something new. The other night I canned seven jars of bread and butter pickles using a recipe in Ball’s Blue Book guide to preserving (page 49). They didn’t specify whether to use white or cider vinegar so I started perusing the beginning pages (for “beginners” I thought). I read that white vinegar needed to be five percent acidity and not diluted with water. Interesting, but I didn’t think relevant. I checked my Heinz cider vinegar’s label – five percent. Then I grabbed the gallon of cheap white vinegar I bought last week. I think I saved a dollar on the big container – why would I try to save on the cheapest yet most useful commodity in the kitchen? I have no idea except I probably thought there was no difference. This label said “four percent acidity, diluted with water.”

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to save a buck. It was my choice which vinegar I used. Cider vinegar can color white vegetables in the canning process, but a lower acidity in the vinegar can run the risk of not preserving as well. So I decided to use a combo of both vinegars in this recipe. I also added some of our dried cayenne peppers from last year to the mix so there’s a little heat with the sweetness of the bread and butter mix.

Also, I was worried that I might not have quite enough cucumbers to make the seven-pint recipe so I added a medium-sized zucchini to the 18-20 cucumbers. The picture below shows the approximate size of the cucumbers (they’re sitting next to a pint jar).I sliced the cucumbers along with five medium onions. I added two whole cloves of garlic and five dried cayenne peppers. I mixed this with 1/2 cup of canning salt and covered the whole thing with ice cubes for three hours. I drained, rinsed, drained and then prepared the liquid.

2 cups sugar

2 Tbsp. mustard seed

2 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. celery seed

1 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. peppercorns

3 cups vinegar (I used half white and half cider)

Bring liquid to boil and add vegetables and bring to a boil again. Pack in hot sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes.

 

Last year all my pickles were a little soft. So I added lime (bought at the store with canning supplies) – 1/8 tsp. to each pint jar before adding pickles and liquid. Also I read that soft pickles can be caused from under processing. I lived in Florida at sea level for 30 years so I never thought the higher altitude of western Pennsylvania would make much difference. We’re at about 1,100 feet here so all the canning books say to add 2-5 minutes to processing time. I’ve been adding five minutes (Ball’s recommendation) which I did for this recipe.

I had a little bit of the mixture leftover so I put it in the frig and sampled the pickles this morning.

The result? Perfection! Crisp and flavorful bread and butter chips, with a hint of heat. Next – dill pickles!

Zucchini Relish

By P.C. Zick @PCZick

Anyone who gardens even a little bit knows the truth about zucchini. Once it starts putting off those beautiful blossoms, you need to be ready to do something with the bounty. We grill it, saute it with onions, shred it for bread, and thanks to a recipe I found two years ago in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, I make relish with it.

We use the relish for more than putting in potato and tuna salads. It makes a wonderful marinade for seafood. The day after I put up the jars of relish this year, I put it on top of a tuna steak in aluminum foil and put on the grill for 20 minutes. Perfection. Here’s my recipe adapted from Ball. If you’re not familiar with canning, here’s a good source to begin on the Ball Canning site.

 

This recipe makes approximately 6 pint jars.

Zucchini Relish ala Zick

6 large zucchini (I mix it up with yellow squash if I have it)

3 medium onions

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

1 yellow pepper

4 cloves of garlic

3 crushed cayennes

4 TBSP salt

2 cups of cider vinegar

2 cups sugar

4 tsp celery salt

2 tsp mustard seed

Chop all the vegetables – I do it in my food processor. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle salt on top. Cover with water and let sit for two hours.

Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil at the end. Drain, rinse, drain vegetables and add to the boiling liquid. Simmer 10 minutes. Place in hot, sterilized canning jars.

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (I live at 1,000 ft. altitude so I always add another five minutes to processing time.)