Category Archives: Condiments

Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip (v, gf)



Vegan Herby Sour Cream Dip at (1 of 1)-8

Lactose intolerants and L.I sympathizers, gather round!  This is the holy grail of creaminess for all who can’t eat dairy yet still crave dip.  Sour cream, oh, how I’ve missed you these past few years!  I came across this recipe for the “best damn vegan sour cream” on Gluten-Free Vegan Pantry, and I thought to myself, we’ll see about that. I felt like I was anticipating a blind date (which is how the Mister and I met, by the way).  Don’t get your hopes up too high.  This could be really good, but it could also end up like all those other train wrecks.  I’ve been holding out hope for a sour cream substitute that a) doesn’t taste like cashews, b) doesn’t taste like plastic, c) has the texture of sour cream, and most importantly, d) Is made with real, whole ingredients, not chemicals.  Is that asking too much?  To say the least, I was very pleasantly surprised (both by the sour cream and the man)!  The Mister and I are celebrating our 9 year wedding anniversary on Thursday, and I’ve got my 9th batch of vegan sour cream in the fridge.  I’d say things are going quite well!  

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When cashews are soaked, something magical and ethereal happens.  See their halo?   Soaking the cashews softens their flavor, and most importantly, makes them blendable and transformable.  If you read my last post, you know the name of the game for me right now is to eat, eat, eat.   My strategy is to devour as many nutritious, calorie-dense whole foods as possible.  Whether you’re trying to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain, I am convinced that there is no fad diet or quick fix better than just eating real food.  Enter, delicious herby dip.  

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What is the history of dip?  Is it an american thing?  Or did we just create a blanket term for any kind of thick sauce scooped up by a vehicle such as a veggie or a cracker?  David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria  exhaustively researched the subject, and I can sum it up with the following: the 50’s, the invention of potato chips, the emerging American couch potato class, and the need to deliver food to one’s mouth while watching the glowing box…  Another proud example of American ingenuity.  Americans loved dipping so much that we changed the word from a verb to a noun.  The emergence of the first recipe for crudité also emerged in France around the same time.  Crudité sounds so much more sophisticated than dip, but it’s a means to the same end: Use something delicious and crispy to deliver something saucy and flavorful into your mouth. Repeat if needed. 

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Luckily, dip doesn’t have to be that packet of processed powder that we have probably all stirred into sour cream and devoured at some point or another.  Although admittedly addictive and tasty, the first three ingredients are maltodextrin, salt and monosodium glutamate.  That doesn’t sound like food to me! I like to whip up a batch of this real food dip to snack on throughout the week (or, let’s be honest–over the course of a few days).  It’s cool and herby with hints of garlic and onion, creamy, and smooth.  The hardest part is remembering to get those cashews soaking.  The rest comes together quite quickly!  I’m looking forward to the tenth year sharing life’s crazy adventures with the Mister, and I’m sure my 10th batch of vegan sour cream will be close to follow!  Enjoy your maiden vegan sour cream voyage!  

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Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip

This cashew sour cream has become a staple in my house.  One of my cookbooks has a rule:  Always be soaking.  I agree, it’s best to be ready to whip up this dip when the craving strikes!  I use my high-powered (Vitamix) blender to achieve an extra- smooth texture.  Any blender will do, but just make sure to scrape down the edges as you go, and add a little extra water if needed.   This dip can be made a day or two ahead of time, and the flavor improves when chilled overnight.  If you would like to make plain sour cream, which has an infinite number of uses, just omit the dip ingredients!  

For the sour cream:

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked 8 hours or overnight
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB fresh lemon juice (finely grate and reserve 1/2 tsp zest)
  • 1/4 cup water (plus additional if needed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the dip:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon minced dill leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
  • Salt to taste
  • Additional minced herbs to garnish

Make the cashew sour cream:

Drain the soaked cashews, and put them in a blender with the lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast and salt.  If it is too thick and won’t blend, add additional water, a tablespoon at a time.  Blend for about 3-5 minutes until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the edges if needed.  Chill for 2 hours or more (or, in a pinch, put in the freezer for 20 minutes until cold and slightly thickened.

In a medium bowl, mix the cashew sour cream with all of the dip ingredients.  Season with salt to taste and garnish with the herbs.




Filed under Appetizers, Condiments, Sauces, Snacks, vegetarian, Vegetarian and Vegan

Chive Blossom Vinegar and Inviting the Hamster off the Wheel


I’m fixated with the expressive community of purple puffs that reside outside my back door. My chives are the first to wake up from winter, and right now, their blossoms are at their peak.  I’m off work for the summer (one of the big perks of being a teacher), and need a little structure for my days.  If I boil it down, my needs are as follows: nature, time to think and create, time to be productive, a little social interaction, and time to just be.  Unchecked, I always have so many ideas about how to spend my energy, I become a neurotic hyper hamster trying to conquer the world by running in a circle.  I make to do lists and to don’t lists, and on the days that are the seemingly most free of duties, I fret over getting enough meaningful things done.  I have decided to structure my time in a purposely unstructured way.   


I’ve always fallen into the trap that nature, thinking, creating, feeling productive, being social, and even just being, have to be a big deal.  I have to pack up A, B, C and D, and drive to X location to be in awesomeness.  Only when I’m there, if I get there at all, after a lively internal debate about where to go, I think, am I sitting in the right spot?  Am I missing out on something else I could should would be doing?  Opera performances at the Met are a big deal.  Foreign policy negotiations are a big deal.  Brain surgery is a big, big deal.  This is not a big deal, but it’s hugely  important.  


Lately, I’ve been inviting the hamster off the wheel (you know, the one who spins and spins and says, “Do this, do that, think-think-think your way into trouble, out of trouble, if only you could just thiiiiiiink a little harder!”).  I’ve tried forcibly removing the little guy at times, but he is often like a 3 year old.  The more I try to force him off, the more he wants to run.  Coaxing is the key.  Hamster, you know I love you, right?  You are so motivated and you consider things from so many different angles!  Why don’t you take a break while I go out into my garden?  Let’s keep it simple.  I might pull a few weeds, or I might just sit and admire how nature takes its own path even if we try to tame it.  I might stay out for 2 minutes, or 2 minutes might turn into two hours.  Here’s a cool glass of whatever hamsters like to drink, wiith an umbrella on top.  Even hamsters need to breathe.



These beautiful little blossoms are part of my purposely unstructured-structured morning routine.  There they are, three steps from my back door, a representation of nature.  Spears of green, shades of purple, lavender, and pink.  Dried remnants of the wrappers they grew too big to fit into.  The damp coolness that hovers over the grass, and the sideways hazy morning light, beaming warmth onto my groggy face.  Noticing nature in its many forms has become step one of my morning routine.


Purple is the color I associate most with spring–crocuses, lilacs, and chive blossoms.  Purple reminds me to wake up, step outside, and be mindful.  The heat will ramp up soon, and bleach the color away from our crazy headed plant companions. Luckily, we’ll have beautifully fuscia-tinged jars of liquid spring to perk up our favorite dishes and to remind us to take a moment to invite the hamster off the wheel to breathe, see and notice.


Chive Blossom Infused Vinegar  

  • Chive blossoms, enough to fill your chosen jar
  • Vinegar (white wine or champagne), enough to fill  your jar(s)


Wash and dry the chive blossoms.  Stuff the chive blossoms, 2/3 full into clean and dry jars.  Heat the vinegar to an almost simmer, and then pour it over the chive blossoms.  Push the blossoms down gently to submerge them (they will still want to pop up, and that’s okay).  Put a lid on the jar and place in a dark cupboard to steep for about a week.  The liquid will be a bright fuchsia color, and taste lightly oniony.  Pour into another clean jar through a fine mesh strainer.


Filed under Canning and Preserving, Condiments, Edible Gifts

Lemony Steam-Roasted Artichokes with Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes



I first saw an artichoke plant while wandering through a botanical garden in Spain.  Have you ever seen one?  Quite a prickly beast, and I do mean beast!  Since then, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of growing my own, even though Colorado isn’t exactly known for artichokes.  I’m cornering off a little–okay–sizable corner of my garden for the beast to expand.  I dream of little shop of horrors style plants, arms reaching out, prickly mouths open wide.

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Eating an artichoke is a religious experience.  Don’t talk to me, and don’t give me a napkin.  Just let me pluck and dip and scrape and savor.  They make me so food-protective that I have to make more than anyone in my household could ever eat in a night.  Here’s your artichoke (if you don’t eat it all, I’ll finish it off), and here are my artichokes.  You may have all the aioli you would like (I made an inhuman amount so that you would not eat my share.

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Back in the day, I started making artichokes the way most do, by boiling them in salted water (play disappointing music here).  Why would I want to infuse my artichoke with nothing?  Then, I steamed them in water with lemons and garlic.  Meh.  The first time I roasted an artichoke, I thought, Now we’re talking!.  

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My newest method involves roasting the artichokes face down with a garlicky olive oil mixture, and then pouring enough white wine or vermouth into the bottom of the pan to steam the artichokes at the same time.  The artichokes become more tender, and in the end, that means more artichoke to eat!  I hope you enjoy luxuriously plucking, dipping, scraping, and savoring as much as I do.



 White Wine Steam-Roasted Artichokes With Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes

  • 2 large artichokes
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (about a cup), halved if large
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine (or dry vermouth, or broth)
  • 1/3 cup additional water or broth
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried italian herb mixture
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Prepare the artichokes:

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the juice of one of the lemons, about 2 tablespoons.  Cut off the top inch of one artichoke, and the bottom of the stem, leaving an inch or so of the stem intact.  Using kitchen scissors, cut off the tips of the leaves.  Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise.  Place one half in the acidulated water while you work with the remaining artichoke.

On a cutting board, smash the garlic and  one teaspoon of the salt into a paste using the side of a chefs knife.  Put the garlic paste into a small bowl.  Juice one of the remaining lemons into the bowl.  Cut off the peel of the remaining lemon (top and bottom first, then cut off the sides in sheets, making sure to remove the white pith).  Chop the peeled lemon, discarding the seeds, and add to the bowl.  Add the olive oil, dried herbs, crushed red pepper, and a few grindings of black pepper.  Whisk everything together.

Rub every surface of each artichoke half with the garlic oil mixture, making sure to push some of it in between the leaves.  Arrange the artichokes face down in a dutch oven (a roasting pan or casserole dish will work too).  Scatter the cherry tomatoes over top, and use your fingers to toss them around, trying to coat them with some of the oil mixture that has settled in the pan.  Pour the white wine or vermouth into the bottom of the pan along with the additional 1/3 cup broth or water.

Roast, covered, in the oven at 375˚F for 35-45 minutes, or until the outside leaves easily pull away from the artichoke.

Serve with lemon-garlic aioli or your other favorite dipping sauce.

Lemon-Garlic (Cheater’s) Aioli

Sometimes (okay, rarely), I go through the extra effort to make real aioli.  Most of the time, I start with a good quality mayo and go from there.  This is just one of my go-to combinations for artichokes.  If you like spicy aioli,  chile-garlic paste.   If you just want a little spice, garnish the top with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (use vegan mayo if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced and smashed into a paste (or finely grated, or pushed through a garlic press)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (chile garlic paste)*, or 1/8 tsp-1/2 tsp ground cayenne

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with cayenne if desired.

*Sambal Oelek can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores


Filed under Appetizers, Condiments, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan

Honey Habañero Refrigerator Pickles

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In my garden, for whatever reason, cucumbers seem to take “be fruitful and multiply” quite literally. This year, the little buggers even got shredded by hail.  I mourned their early death, only to be surprised by new vines dotted with yellow flowers with the promise of many more cucumbers to come.  To deal with the annual bumper crop, I’ve tried my hand at pickles of all kinds–fast dills, slow dills, dills with spices, dills with hot peppers, horseradish, etc, etc, etc…

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I have a love-hate relationship with my cucumbers.  There’s not much better, garden-wise, than crunching into a baby cucumber, still warm from the sun, or popping open a mason jar of homemade pickles for a barbeque.  On the flip side of that double-edged sword, cucumbers don’t pickle themselves!  They demand to be brined, fermented or pickled in vinegar, and canned in a water bath canner, which involves a considerable amount of time standing in a steamy kitchen in late summer days.

Spoonwithme-com|Honey Habañero Pickles

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There are tricks to making the pickles stay crisp (which never work as well as I want them to): cutting off the blossom end, using strange and unusual powdered preservatives (um, no.), canning the same day of harvest, etc, etc, etc.  Can I tell you a dirty little secret?  Although I continue to can pickles the time-intensive way, so that I can  eat them year round, I much prefer the taste, crispness, and minimal effort of refrigerator pickles.

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These pickles were born out of my sadistic need to create an even spicier pickle than ever before.  Dried habañeros give them a time-released heat.  The first couple weeks after they are ready to eat, they have a slight honey sweetness and a little bit of a spicy undertone.  By November, they are so spicy that you can’t help but give a little Woo! when you bite into one.  I gave a jar to a spice-loving friend at work, and she took them out for lunch every day, face flushed and eyes watering.  They’re so good!  I just can’t stop eating them!.    

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This recipe goes out to all my fellow spicy spooners.  You can forget about spending hours over the steaming canner for these ones.  May your cucumber harvest be plentiful and your spice tolerance be high!

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 Honey Habañero Refrigerator Pickles

Adapted from Canning for a New Generation by Lianna Krissoff

Makes about 3 quart jars

  • 3 pounds pickling cucumbers
  • 1 pound small onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 3 large cloves garlic, halved
  • 6 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 TB mild honey
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6-12 dried habañeros (more or less to taste, depending on level of heat desired)*
Cut the blossom end off of each cucumber and slice into 1/4 inch rounds.  Put the cucumber slices and onion slices into a large bowl.  Toss with the mustard seeds and celery seeds, and set aside.
In a non-reactive pot, combine the vinegar, honey, turmeric, mustard powder and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer.
Put a garlic clove into each of 3 clean, quart-size canning jars.  Begin to pack the cucumber-onion mixture into the jars snugly, but without forcing.  Layer the dried habañeros in the jar as you go.  Ladle the hot brine into the jars, and close with the lids.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for two days before eating.  Continue to store in the refrigerator.
*Dried habañeros can be ordered online, or found at specialty spice shops, such as Savory Spice.  Be careful when handling the chiles.  It’s best to wear gloves!


Filed under Canning and Preserving, Condiments

Moroccan Preserved Meyer Lemons

Every year around this time, I begin to hoard Meyer lemons.  Unless you’re lucky enough to have a backyard citrus tree, Meyer lemons start appearing in stores in January.  You’ll continue to see them in February, and maybe even early March, but one day, all of a sudden, they’ll be gone, and you’ll have to wait a whole year to see them again.  Hence, I’ve decided that the only sane thing to do is to buy them every time I see them, and preserve them in every which way I can think of.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  Well, every year around this time, winter starts to take it’s toll on me.  One of my saving graces is the fact that citrus fruits are in season, and perhaps most notably, Meyer lemons.  I don’t know how I’d make it through these colder months without something brighter and less wintery than, say, a parsnip.  Meyer lemons are sweeter and thinner-skinned than a normal lemon, and are scented with notes of orange blossom and tangerine.  The aroma alone is enough to shake me from my winter doldrums, moving me to a warmer place.

Ever since our visit to Morocco this past summer, I’ve wanted to make preserved lemons.  Our first night in Casablanca, when every smell and color seemed brand new, the mister and I, and two very good friends shared a meal in the middle of the garden-surrounded patio of a Moroccan restaurant.  Looking through the menu, I tried to decode the few French culinary words I knew from cooking shows and Julia Childs’ cookbooks.  With Karissa’s help (the only French speaker in the bunch), I finally decided on the chicken tagine, which arrived falling off the bone tender, perfectly seasoned, and braised with salty tart perserved lemons and green and black Moroccan olives.

In formulating an action plan on how to use as many Meyer lemons as possible before they disappeared, I thought back to that first night in Morocco, and that intensely flavored chicken tagine.  In my search for a recipe for preserved lemons, I came across Paula Wolfert’s method on Epicurious.  Wolfert is the go-to woman for authentic Moroccan cooking.  In her notes, she states that Meyer lemons are closer in taste to the lemons found in Morocco, and work the best for preserving.  Perfect.

My lemons are in process right now. So far, 2 jars for me and one for a Karissa sit on my counter top, adding a little sunshine to my dreary and sometimes whiny winter temperament.  I can’t vouch for their success yet, but wanted to share the recipe with you while Meyer lemon season is still in full swing.  In 30 days, we should be making tagines, tossing bright little slivers with vegetables, and making preserved lemon aioli, among other concoctions.  The moment is fleeting, and the time is now!  Hoard some Meyer lemons with me, before it’s too late!

Preserved Meyer Lemons

Adapted from Epicurious, originally from Paula Wolfert’s book Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco

Makes 1 pint

Regular lemons may be used if you can’t find Meyer lemons, but be sure to use organic, as you’ll be eating the rind.  Wolfert says that the Safi spice mixture will give the lemons a true Moroccan flavor.  When removing lemons from the jar, make sure to use a clean wooden utensil to avoid contaminating the jar.   

  • 5 organic meyer lemons, plus
  • freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice from about 3 lemons, as needed (do not use processed lemon juice here)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, more if desired
  • Safi spice mixture (optional)

Equipment needed:  a 1-pint mason jar and lid for each batch of lemons

Optional Safi mixture:

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 to 6 coriander seeds
  • 3 to 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
1. Sterilize the mason jar by placing it upside down in a steamer basket, and steam for 10 minutes.  Remove the jar from the steamer  with tongs, and set it sideways on a clean folded kitchen towel to dry.  Boil the lid for 5 minutes, and remove it to a towel to dry.
2.  Wash the lemons thoroughly and dry them.

3. Quarter the lemons from the top leaving 1/2 inch of the bottoms of the lemons intact. Sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.

4. Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding the remaining salt, and spices (if using) in between the layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons.  Add enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to cover the lemons (I juiced about 3 extra lemons). Leave some air space before closing the jar.  After 2 to 3 days, add extra lemon juice to cover the lemons if needed.

5.  Allow the jars to sit in a warm place for at least 30 days before using, shaking once a day to distribute the salt and juices.  At this point, refrigerate and use as needed–the lemons will keep for up to a year.

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Filed under Condiments

Slow Cooker Mulling Spiced Applesauce

Every Sunday, I get out of bed earlier than the mister (teacher schedules are hard to break, even on the weekend!) and pad across the hallway, in my slippers, into the kitchen.  I delight in these morning hours, using the time to read cookbooks, write, and experiment in the kitchen.  When I found a recipe for applesauce in one of the best slow cooker books I’ve come across thus far, I thought, now why didn’t I think of that?  Ever since then, like clockwork, I buy twelve apples on Saturday, and wake up Sunday to begin my new weekly ritual.

Step one:  I always daydream, if only briefly, about having an apple peeler–you know, one of those that winds the apple around a little metal loop, sending ribbons of peel into neat little piles on the cutting board.  I don’t have one, but the truth is, I like the process of peeling around the stem while turning each apple in my hand, and the satisfying chk chk of the peeler.  Being the band geek and music teacher that I am, I get a cheap thrill out of the rhythmic thwaps of multicolored apple pieces flying all over my butcher block all disorganized and random, some faced up, some down.

Now, if you’ve ever read a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, you know that they are obsessed with repetition and variation–trying every possibility, even the slightly ridiculous, to eventually arrive at “the” recipe.  For the past four weekends , I’ve been making like a CI test kitchen.  There have been Granny Smiths, Galas, Fujis and Honeycrisps, sprinkled with granulated sugar and raw sugar, cooked on high and on low, spiced with cinnamon only, and, most recently, (and deliciously might I add), mulling spices–both mixes of whole spices, and those in tea bags.

The process happens like this:  Peel, core, and cut your apples into big chunks.  Stick ‘em in the slow cooker.  Toss with sugar, turn on the slow cooker (seems obvious, one would think), and do something else for 6-8 hours. No use adding the spices until the apples collapse and give you some liquid to nestle them into.  Let the mulling spices steep for a while, then coax the apples into a sauce by smooshing and smoothing the apples against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon until you have your desired texture–I like mine with soft little chunks of apple remaining.  Add more sugar and ground cinnamon, and you’re good to go!  Ever so complicated, I know.

There are still infinite possibilities to be tried, but my favorite variation (so far) tastes just like the applesauce that grandma always used to bring to Thanksgiving in a big pot (hi grandma!), and tastes like a mug of mulled cider.  I like it warm, just out of the slow cooker, or when cold, atop my favorite potato-apple latkes.

I hereby pass my weekly ritual to you.  Happy fall, and happy Thanksgiving!

Mulling-Spiced Slow Cooker Applesauce

Makes 8 Servings (2 quarts)

Adapted from Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

4 Granny Smith apples

8 large tart-sweet apples, such as Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, or Honeycrisp

2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (I like to use raw sugar, but granulated works just as well)

1 tablespoon mulling spices, tied in cheesecloth or tea bag*

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste

Mix the vinegar and one gallon cold water in a large bowl. Peel the apples and place them in the vinegar water as soon as they are peeled.   Cut the apples in half lengthwise and scoop out the core with a melon baller.  Put the cut apples back into the vinegar water until needed.  When finished coring, remove the apples from the water (discarding the water), cut into 1-to 2- inch chunks.  Toss the apples in the slow cooker with 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Cover the cooker and cook the apples on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours, or until the apples are completely tender.  Stir the apples with a wooden spoon–they should immediately collapse and form a chunky sauce.  Nestle the mulling spice satchel in the applesauce, cover, and cook for an additional hour.  Remove the mulling spices, and smash and smoosh the apples against the inside of the pot until the sauce is your desired texture.  Add cinnamon and additional sugar to taste.


Filed under Condiments, Side Dishes

Roasted Tomatillo-Chile Negro Salsa for Canning

Every morning, I step into my flowered gardening boots, and take 23 steps to water 14 tomato plants growing along the back fence.  Luca follows me, alternately stretching and shaking out her bedraggled doggy bed-head, collar ringing and ears flapping.  She wanders around the yard, black nose deep in the grass, collecting dew.  She looks at me expectantly as I fill ditches around Brandywine, Celebrity, Cherokee Purple, Sungold, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes.  “Okay, Luca,” I say as I invite her to the hose.  She laps up the cool water happily in a rhythmic triplet pattern:  lap lap lap, lap lap lap.

I step over the mottled 8 ball zucchini leaves and butternut squash, as Luca zooms in erratic circles around the yard; a self-imposed morning exercise regimen involving sudden changes of direction, and athletic leaps over potted plants.  I breathe in the smells of late summer, tomato stems and fragrant herbs rubbed between my thumb and forefinger.  Luca slides onto the grass, collapsable legs spread frog-dog style while I pop a few cherry tomatoes, a purple green bean, and a baby dino kale leaf into my mouth–a pre-breakfast snack, my morning dose of vitamins.

The leaves on the tree in the front yard already know that it’s almost time.  The tomatoes feel it too–they’re slowing down, not ripening quite as quickly as they once did.  Fall wins me over with its charms year after year, but I always put up a fight. Luca is, as always, spunky and adaptable, happy just to be with her people, watching as I cook and preserve, waiting for tidbits of carrot or other wayward ingredients to fall her way.  Flopped on her belly, peering up through muppet fur, she’s kept me company through pickled cucumbers, peach barbeque sauce, spicy pickled carrots, crushed tomatoes, jam, and most recently, a batch of salsa to rival all my previous salsa-canning attempts.

This salsa bridges summer and early fall.  Tomatillos and tomatoes are at their best, plump and ready to be roasted with a variety of fresh hot chiles and onions.  When the tomatillos and tomatoes have shriveled and charred, filling the house with an irresistible aroma, it’s time to blend.  In go the lime juice, chopped cilantro, torn toasted chile negros, salt, and a couple “secret” ingredients.  My friend Karissa said, “There’s something special about this salsa, but I can’t tell what it is!”.  The clove and allspice aren’t immediately perceptible, but they round out the salsa.  The finished salsa boasts a mole-like complexity which can be eaten with tortilla chips, used as a base for Spanish rice broth, or warmed up over enchiladas or tamales.

Luca appears unamused, but only due to the fact that she doesn’t eat salsa.  She will however, keep following me from garden to kitchen 7 days a week, asking only for the occasional table scrap or belly rub in return for her faithful culinary companionship.

Roasted Tomatillo-Chile Negro Salsa

Makes about 7 pints

I adapted this recipe from my new favorite canning book, Canning for a New Generation, by Lianna Krissoff, and customized it using ***SAFE*** substitutions–that is, substitutions not affecting the acidity of the finished product.  If you’ve never canned before, take a look at a few of my favorite online canning resources here and here to learn how.  If you’d like to make the salsa without canning, or would like to can a smaller batch, the recipe can be halved.  To ensure safe canning, do not alter the proportions of ingredients.  


•5 pounds tomatillos, papery husks and stems removed, rinsed (halve the larger tomatillos)

•2 pounds tomatoes, cut in half

•1 large white onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

•4 ounces hot or mild fresh chiles, including 2 dried chiles negros

10 medium cloves garlic, peeled

•1 1/2 cups roughly chopped fresh cilantro

•1 1/3 cups bottled lime juice

•2 tablespoons pure kosher salt, or to taste

•8 allspice berries

•2 cloves

Preheat the oven to 500˚F.

1) Prepare for Canning:

Wash and dry the jars and lids. Put the lids and rings in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Put the jars in a canning pot filled with water and bring to a boil to sterilize while you prepare the salsa ingredients.  Once the water in the pot comes to a boil, allow the unfilled jars to boil for at least 20 minutes before filling.  Place a folded towel, a damp paper towel, a canning funnel, and a jar lifter next to the stove.

2) Put the tomatillos, tomatoes, onions, fresh chiles and garlic in a single layer on two large rimmed baking sheets and roast for 25-35 minutes, or until charred in spots.  The tomatillos and tomatoes will be soft, collapsed, and leaking juices.  Allow to cool slightly before blending.

3) Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, toast the dried chiles in the pan until fragrant and beginning to blister. Flip to toast the other sides.

4) Working in batches, pureé the vegetables and their juices in a blender along with the chopped cilantro, cloves, and allspice.  Hold down the top of the blender with a towel to prevent the hot mixture from spurting.

5) Pour the puree into a large, non-reactive saucepan.  Stir in the lime juice and salt.  Bring to a boil.

6) Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids and rings.  Using a jar lifter, carefully remove a jar from the canning pot, and pour out the water back into the pot.  Place the jar on the folded towel, and ladle the hot salsa into the jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (empty space at the top of the jar).  Wipe the rim of the jar with the damp paper towel, then put a flat lid and ring on the jar, tightening until just finger-tight.  Repeat with the remaining jars.

7) Return the jars back to the water, making sure that the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process (at sea level), and an additional minute per 1,000 ft above sea level (I live at 5280, so I boiled for a extra five minutes).  Remove the jars to a folded towel and leave undisturbed for 12 hours.  After an hour, check to see if the jars have sealed by pressing down on the middle of the jar lid.  If it can be pressed down, it hasn’t sealed and should be refrigerated immediately.  Store the jars in a dark area.


Filed under Appetizers, Condiments