Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Canning Project #2: Italian Stewed Tomatoes plus Chicken Stock, Banana Spice Cookies and Dinner

Here we are after canning 13 quarts of peaches and 10 quarts of Italian Stewed Tomatoes. The day has been crazy. Bananas are getting a little too ripe, dinner side dish requires chicken stock for the couscous - which I ran out of (the chicken stock that is) - and I think I want to grill a pork tenderloin. The Italian Stewed Tomatoes recipe is a combination of my own family recipe and the Ball food preserving recipe for tomatoes. The year before last, I made this recipe and we loved it so much that all the quarts were gone within 3 months. Last summer was too hectic to can and I refused to go another year without making these stewed tomatoes again. Next year, making several trips to get different fruits and veggies from Eastern WA will be the way to go. Less stress and maybe I can take my time enough to enjoy what I am doing instead of frantically canning to keep from losing 150 pounds of fruit. Standing hours on end canning is not fun.

Well, the day pretty much went like this: went to work, came home a little early, stopped at the store for a chicken because, yes, I am going to make homemade chicken stock and use some for dinner, start on a 25 pound box of beefsteak tomatoes for the Italian Stewed Tomatoes, also start on making chicken stock, look at the bananas to see if they will make it another day? Nope, need to be used today, look at my recipe for banana spice cookies, and make dinner menu for tonight.

Everything was going swimmingly until my charcoal grill, the tenderloin and myself duked it out and I half lost and half won. Lost in that I was already tired and when something goes wrong, I immediately feel exhausted, and won because the tenderloin did get done for dinner - whether the stupid loin wanted to or not. Okay, I am still feeling tired =).

Lets start with the Italian Stewed Tomatoes. I ended up having enough to make 2 separate batches, which I did both batches before canning. Here is the process:

Italian Stewed Tomatoes:
5 quarts (20 cups) tomatoes, peeled, cored (the stem at the top) and quartered
4 c. chopped onions
4 c. chopped bell peppers (I use green and red)
1/4 c. minced garlic
1/4 c. chopped fresh oregano
2 T. olive oil
1 T. sugar
1 teaspoon salt for each quart jar, sprinkled on after filling with tomatoes

*Blanch, peel, core and quarter tomatoes. To blanch a tomato, you drop tomato into boiling water for 15 seconds then drop tomato into ice water or just peel. The skin will peel off easily. Remember, core is just taking the stem part out of the top of the tomato and the bottom part. I am only saying this because I have made some strange errors because I was afraid to ask.
*Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or stainless steel pan.
*Add garlic and oregano, cook till garlic is tender and oregano is fragrant (about 2 minutes).
*Add chopped onion and peppers and cook until tender (about 5 minutes).
*Add tomatoes and sugar, simmer uncovered about 45 minutes or until desired consistency (you will need to cook longer if tomatoes are watery).

*Place in hot sterilized quart jars, add 1 teaspoon of salt to the top of each quart jar, place lids on and place in hot water bath, bring water back to boil then start timing for 40 minutes longer, remove and let cool. For jars that do not seal, remove lids and clean top of jar, replace with new lid and re-bath jars.

The picture above may look like you are seeing double but 2 batches were made before canning everything. I was getting tired and wanted to complete the canning process all at once. I canned 11 quarts but only 10 sealed. I am hoping to use the unsealed jar of stewed tomatoes in dinner tomorrow night.

While the tomato peeling process was started, so was the chicken stock process. Chicken stock takes 6 to 8 hours of simmering BUT makes about 5 quarts for your freezer. I have tried many chicken stock recipes and find Alton Brown's, found on the food network site, to be the best so far.

Another huge find is called a soup sock:
The soup sock is great because all the ingredients are put into a mesh sock, meaning no more herbs or carrots and celery floating to the top while trying to skim off the foam. Even the foam is not as big of an issue as before without the mesh sock. I found this package of 3 at a restaurant supply store open to the public. A package of 3 cost all of 2.97. Worth every penny if you are like me and try to always make your own.

Is this sock not the best invention everrrrr? Okay, the microwave was pretty cool too.

Chicken Stock Recipe as per Alton Brown on the Foodnetwork site:
4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs
1 large onion, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2
1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
10 sprigs fresh thyme
10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
2 bay leaves
8 to 10 peppercorns
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 gallons cold water

Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Set opened steamer basket directly on ingredients in pot and pour over water. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. Skim the scum from the stock with a spoon or fine mesh strainer every 10 to 15 minutes for the first hour of cooking and twice each hour for the next 2 hours. Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.
Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Use as a base for soups and sauces.

Pictures for the filled freezer bags with the stock will be later, after the stock is completely chilled.

Now, the stock is cooking, the stewed tomatoes are simmering and the banana spice cookies need to be made. By the way, for all that do not know, my oven is digital and shorting out, meaning the oven just shuts off when it wants too. I try not to bake anymore then needed until I find out whether 2 wall convection ovens will be the replacement or a new stove with 1 large and 1 small convection oven. The frustration should be speeding up the process.

The oven actually worked through the whole cookie baking, I can't believe it! Sweet!
Banana Spice Cookies
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large cookie sheet. Cream together eggs, bananas, sugar and shortening in a large bowl. Blend in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pecans. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until cookies are lightly brown. This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies and helps use up several over ripe bananas.

The second batch of Italian stewed tomatoes are still simmering and dinner needs to be started.

Dinner is:

Pork Tenderloin with Tequila-Hot Pepper Glaze and Grilled Peaches

Couscous Salad

Corn on the Cob

The grilled Peaches ended up being dessert

Okay, Dinner was the let-down that just about made the whole evening go toes UP! I was already tired, needed to grill the pork tenderloin, and after looking out the window, realized the sun had gone down. Torches are the only light source right now for the deck. Great...

The start of the crash was grilling the pork tenderloin. The tenderloin weighed more then the recipe called for by 1 pound. The second problem was the evening was getting chilly and the temperature was not staying as hot as necessary to get the meat cooked for the time allotted. Another words, I was ticked that the tenderloin was taking an extra 35 minutes to get done and the rest of the dinner was ready and waiting. The corn was covered in foil, the couscous salad was suppose to be cold but the idea was to get dinner done so I could can the tomatoes.

The answer ended up being feed everyone corn on the cob and the rest of dinner will happen when it happens!

The chantrelle mushrooms, red bell pepper, zucchini, and scallions are all chopped and ready to be sauteed and added to the cooked couscous. The corn was bought while we were in Wenatchee. I totally forgot about it and now the corn is a couple days old. Nothing like starchy corn. Actually the corn ended up still tasting sweet. Usually if corn sits to long before eating, the natural sweetness is replaced with a starchy flavor.

The couscous salad looked rough but tasted good. The picture of dinner is slightly embarrassing because by the time the dinner was ready, I just wanted to get the food plated so I could go back to canning the tomatoes.

Couscous Salad

1 T. olive oil

1 small red bell pepper, diced

2 medium zucchini, diced

3 scallions, chopped (white and light green parts only)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

any other veggies you would like to add, just add in. I added chantrelle mushrooms, chopped

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup couscous

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 T. balsamic vinegar (darkens the couscous so the salad is not picture pretty)

1 T. honey

2 T. finely chopped parsley


Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.

Add red bell pepper, and cook stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes.

Add zucchini and scallions, salt and pepper (and any other veggies you would like to add). Saute another 2 - 3 minutes.

Pour chicken stock into a 2-quart saucepan, and bring to boil.

Stir in couscous, cover, and immediately remove from heat. Let couscous sit for 5 minutes.

For the dressing, whisk together remaining ingredients.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the vegetables. Pour the dressing over, and toss to coat well.

The pork tenderloin recipe came from the Fine Cooking Big Buy Food Lover's Guide.
You can also find the recipe here.

Pork Tenderloin with Tequila-Hot Pepper Glaze & Grilled Peaches
3 Tbs. hot pepper jelly
2 Tbs. silver or gold tequila
2 Tbs. orange or pineapple juice
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
2 pork tenderloins (1 to 1-1/4 lb. each), trimmed of excess fat and patted dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 medium-size firm-ripe peaches or nectarines, sliced in half, pits removed
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare a medium-hot grill fire. In a small bowl, whisk the jelly, tequila, orange or pineapple juice, and orange zest. Generously season the pork with salt and pepper. Coat the pork and the peaches with a thin film of the olive oil.

If using charcoal, bank the coals so that one side of the grill is cooler. Grill the pork over the hotter side of the grill, turning it until all sides develop grill marks, about 2-1/2 min. per side. Move the pork to the cooler side of the grill (on a gas grill, lower the heat to medium or medium low) and brush the pork all over with the glaze. Cover the grill or set a disposable aluminum pan over the pork. Grill for 5 min. and then turn once and brush again with the glaze. Cover and continue grilling until the pork's internal temperature reaches 145­­°F, about another 5 min. Brush the pork with the glaze again, transfer it to a clean cutting board, and cover it loosely with foil to rest for about 5 min.

Meanwhile, grill the peaches, cut side down, over the hotter part of the grill (on a gas grill, raise the heat to medium high) until grill marks appear, 3 to 4 min. Turn the peaches over and brush with the glaze. Continue grilling until warmed through, about another 3 to 4 min.

Carve the pork into 1- to 2-inch slices and arrange on a platter with the peaches. Sprinkle lightly with salt, drizzle with any leftover glaze and juices from the pork, and serve.
I told you the pictures were not picture friendly...

The night ended around midnight BUT I did finish canning all the Italian Stewed Tomatoes! High Five ME!

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