Maple Memories

Pioneer Maple

When I think about maple syrup, I always seem to flash back to when I was in grade school, and they would take us to the maple farms in the early spring. The sap would have just started to run, and there would be snow on the ground. To us simple kids, it would look like water dripping ever so slowly into metal buckets, drip… drip… drip… And there was always the patient guide, dressed up like the male or female version of a pioneer, explaining to us the importance of this “water”. We didn’t care. We were frozen. We just wanted the good stuff! The dark rich amber liquid that was boiling away in a kettle, reducing from what seemed like tap water, to sweet, delicious syrup. The best part would be when the guide, finally would give in and ladle some of the syrup onto the fresh clean snow and we’d break our teeth on maple taffy. Ahhhh a parent’s nightmare and a dentist’s dream. More than one kid always seemed to get lock-jaw when they couldn’t unhinge their teeth after taking too big a bite. But man, it was worth it!

I may have grown up a little since then, well, I’ve aged at least, and I no longer go on school trips, but I still have a warm place in my heart for maple syrup and syrup farms. As I mentioned earlier in the week, COR has a number of syrup companies that we certify, but I’ve been speaking to one in particular lately, which is Maple Orchard Farms. I was discussing with David Knappett, the president of the farm, about this blog and savoury recipes using syrup and he mentioned to me that he puts syrup on his chili! I thought, “why not?” Sweet and spicy? It could work! So today’s recipe is a chili that calls for syrup to be added into the recipe itself, not just drizzled on top like David does it. I hope David won’t mind that I’ve changed the way he makes it! I guess you could be a purist though and leave the syrup to the end and just drizzle a little over each serving like he does. To each his own… as long as there’s syrup!

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Kitchen Sink Vegetarian Chili

Chili

The great thing about this chili is that you don’t like one of the ingredients? Leave it out! Add something else! Play around with it! Want it spicier? Up the chili powder or hit it with some Tabasco sauce. This really acts as more of a guide to let your inner cook out to experiment and see what happens. You can always add meat if you wish. If you do, brown off the meat first, then follow the rest of the directions as listed below. Serve this chili up over rice or on top of baked potatoes for a great filling meal. This recipe makes 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup onions, diced small
¾ cup carrots, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
¾ cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 ½ cups chopped fresh mushrooms
1 (796 ml) can whole peeled tomatoes with liquid, chopped
1 (540 ml) can kidney beans, drained
1 (540 ml) can black beans, drained
1 (341 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions, carrots, and garlic until tender. Stir in green pepper, red pepper, celery, and chili powder. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, and cook 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and corn. Season with paprika, salt, cumin, oregano, and basil. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium. Cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once all the vegetables are tender and cooked through, and remove lid and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes to reduce the liquid in the chili as needed. Serve over rice or baked potato.

To make this into Cincinnati Chili, serve the chili on top of cooked spaghetti and top with shredded cheese and raw diced onions. To make this into a Frito Pie, line a pie or casserole dish with corn-chips, then top with the chili. Top the chili with shredded cheese, raw diced onions and a few slices of jalapeno and bake in the oven at 350 for 5-10 minutes, until the top is browned and melted.

Crisp n’ Crunchy Stir-Fry

Stir Fry

Serve this with short grain brown rice which has a really nice nutty flavour and pleasantly chewy texture. Add tofu or shredded chicken if you like, though it will no longer be vegetarian if you do. Some tips regarding the ingredients listed: If you do not have rice wine, you can always use Gin or Dry White Wine instead. If you do not have Coconut Oil, you can use Vegetable, Canola or Olive; just as long as it doesn’t have a strong flavour. With regards to the broccoli, I do not recommend using fresh, as it is close to impossible to check for insects. Instead, frozen florets are available with reliable hechshers at your local grocery store.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup stock or water
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon corn starch
2 tablespoon coconut oil
½ cup raw cashews
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
½ teaspoon chili flakes (more if you like it spicy)
1 cup finely sliced carrots (1-2 medium sized carrots)
2 cups broccoli small florets
1 stalk of celery, finely sliced
1½ cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
½ bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

Directions:

Remember the number one stir-fry rule: prepare everything before you start cooking. Wash, dry and trim all of the vegetables and then slice and chop them as described above, keeping them in neat separate piles, perhaps in small bowls. Portion out the cashews and chili flakes.

Make the sauce by combining all of the ingredients but the cornstarch. Mix a little liquid with the cornstarch to make a smooth paste before combining it with the rest of the ingredients. Set aside.

In a wide skillet or wok, heat a tablespoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cashews and toss and stir until browned; remove pan from heat and cashews to a kitchen towel. Return the pan to the heat add the other tablespoon of coconut oil, when hot, add the garlic, ginger and chili; cook quickly for not even a minute, briskly stirring. Add the carrots, broccoli and celery, stir several times. Add the mushrooms and pepper; stir fry for a minute or two and then pour in the sauce; bring to a bubble and cover. Cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, until the liquid has thickened and coated everything well. Add the cashews back in, stir to combine and serve on rice.

Curry Chicken

Curry Chicken

Add a little Indian flair to your dinner table with this easy curry chicken. This recipe serves 8.

Ingredients:

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into large chunks
2 medium onions – thinly sliced
1 15 oz. can chickpeas – drained and rinsed
2 medium sweet potatoes – peeled and diced
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large or 2 small zucchini, diced
2 cups coconut milk – light or regular
1 cup chicken stock – low sodium
1 5.5 oz. can tomato paste
4 tablespoons curry powder – salt-free
2 teaspoons salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cracked pepper
2 tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
1 fresh chili, sliced (optional)
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced (optional)
4 kaffir lime leaves, sliced (optional)
1 cup green peas – frozen
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
cilantro – optional garnish
Rice

Directions:

In the bottom of the slow cooker, whisk together coconut milk, chicken stock, tomato paste, garlic, ginger and all of your spices. If you are using the chili, lemongrass and kaffir leaves, add them now too. Add chicken breasts, onion, chickpeas, both kinds of potatoes and the zucchini. Using tongs, gently toss ingredients together to ensure everything is evenly coated. Cook on Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours. Stir in peas and lemon juice 5 minutes before serving. Serve over rice and with plenty of fresh cilantro.

In order to make this ahead of time, simply whisk together coconut milk, chicken stock, tomato paste, garlic, ginger and all of your spices in a small bowl. If you are using the chili, lemongrass and kaffir leaves, add them now too. In a large gallon sized freezer bag, place the chicken and vegetables, except the peas, and pour your liquid spice mixture over everything in the bag. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. Rub the chicken through the bag, rubbing the sauce over and into chicken. Store the bag flat in the freezer until frozen through, then you can stand it up until you’re ready to use it. When it comes to the day you decide to serve the chicken, cook on low for 8 hours, and then follow the rest of the steps for preparing the dish the same as above.

Mama Miriam! Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce

Original recipe makes 10 quarts

Ingredients:

25 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise
3 bay leaves
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 pound yellow onions, finely chopped
10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 1-quart canning jars with rings and lids
10 teaspoons salt, divided
1 ¾ cups bottled lemon juice, divided

To make 1 Quart:

Ingredients:

2 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise
¼ bay leaf
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
⅓ cup yellow onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1-quart canning jar with ring and lid
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons and 2 ½ teaspoons bottled lemon juice, divided

Directions:

I find this first step, while a little time consuming, really helps in the end, so trust me and go with it! Blanch your tomatoes and remove the skins! Bring a large pot of water to boil. Take each of your tomatoes and score an “X” at the top and bottom of it. Drop it in the boiling water and let it roll around for a minute or so, then fish it out and plunge it into an ice bath. This will shock the tomato, and let you slide the skin off relatively easily. if you’re having difficulty, use a paring knife to remove any stubborn pieces.

Due to the sheer amount of tomatoes used in this recipe, you make want to divide it up amongst several large pots on your stove top, rather than attempting to try and do everything in one large (enormous!) pot. Place tomatoes, bay leaves, honey, oregano, 1 tablespoon salt, and black pepper in a large stockpot and cover with water. Stir to combine, cover, and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Remove cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning. Depending on the acidity of your tomatoes you may want to add more salt or more honey.

In a large skillet, heat the EVOO over medium-high heat. Cook and stir onions and garlic in the hot oil until the onions are softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. Once the tomatoes are done, you can either transfer the mixture in batches to a food processor and puree it, or use an immersion or hand blender, and just blend it in the cooking pot itself. Return the pureed sauce to the stockpot, add the cooked onions and garlic, and cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat until sauce thickens and reduces by about half, about 2 to 3 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. During this reduction time, you can make your different varieties of sauce by divvying up the sauce into smaller pots and adding additional garlic to one for a garlicky sauce, fresh basil to another for a basil sauce, or chili peppers to make a spicy sauce. You are only limited by your imagination!

Prepare quart jars and lids by heating them in boiling water in a canning kettle for at least 5 minutes. When the sauce is ready, remove jars and lids and place on dry towel. To each jar, add 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice. Ladle the hot tomato sauce into jars, leaving 1/2-inch of space at the top of each jar. Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth, place lids onto jars, and screw on rings. Place filled jars in the canning kettle. Return water to a simmer, adding more water if needed to cover the jars by at least 1/2 inch. Cover kettle and bring water to a boil. Cook at a steady boil to process the jars until fully sealed, about 45 minutes (add more water if needed). Turn off heat and let jars rest 5 minutes before removing and cooling on a clean, dry towel placed on kitchen counter or table. Check that the lids have sealed, and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles

Ingredients:

1 six-quart basket of small cucumbers
6 tablespoons coarse/kosher salt
6 large garlic cloves (more if you like them extra garlicky)
2 bunches fresh dill
6 teaspoons mixed pickling spices
6-12 chili peppers (optional)

Directions:

Wash cucumbers thoroughly in cold water and pack firmly into sterilized jars. Want a quick and easy tip for washing all those cucumbers? Run them through your washing machine (without the Tide!), just on the gentle cold cycle. It will give them a quick scrub, and save you the time. Once the cucumbers are wash, by man or machine, place 1 clove of garlic, 2 sprigs of dill, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of mixed spices in each jar. For spicier pickles, add 1 – 2 chili peppers in each jar.

Fill jars with cold water, seal tight, and shake well. Store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks then put in refrigerator making sure the seals are tight. If new dills are desired, store in refrigerator immediately after preparing. Then watch out! You’ll never buy another pickle again!

Refrigerator Dilly Beans

Dill Beans

Ingredients:

2 cups of green beans
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
2 ½ tablespoons of sugar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt
½ of a medium onion, sliced thinly
2 sprigs of fresh dill
½ teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
¼ to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you want them) – you
can also add a whole dried chili if you have one.

Directions:

In a saucepan, add your water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic and bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn it off and set it aside to cool down to room temperature. Trim the beans. You want them all to fit in your jar with about an inch at the top so the brine covers them completely. You can trim both ends, or just the stem end. Next you need to blanch the beans. Bring a separate saucepan of water to a full boil, then dump the beans in and boil them for thirty seconds. Drain them, and quickly add them to a bowl of iced water to shock them and stop the cooking process. You want your beans to be brightly colored and still crisp. Drain the beans and set them aside. Add your onions, dill, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns to your jars. Now add your beans to the jars. They look prettiest standing upright, but don’t worry about being perfect. The easiest way is to lay the jar on its side, or hold it horizontally, and place the beans inside. Go ahead and pour your brine in once it has reached room temperature. Fill the jar to ½ inch below the top of the jar, and put the lid on. Place the jar of dilly beans in the fridge, and let them sit for at least two days before eating them. They’ll keep for up to six months in the fridge, if they last that long!

Easy Refridgerator Pickled Green Tomatoes

Dill Tomatoes

This recipe will make 1 quart jar of tomatoes, but you can always (and should) make more!

Ingredients:

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 ¼ cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt (If you use table salt you must to cut the quantity in half)
1 pound firm green tomatoes (about 5 plum tomatoes)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
4 tablespoons dill seeds
½ tablespoon whole black peppercorns

About the tomatoes. They can be any kind, but they must be all green, no orange allowed, and they must be cut in half or quarters. I have done this with cherry tomatoes, but for some reason they are not as good as Romas or other pear shaped tomatoes. They must be close to full size meaning those little green pellets that have not begun to form seeds will not work.

Directions:

Make sure you have a really clean bottle and lid. The lid must have a good rubber seal. The best thing to do is buy canning jars and lids, which are available in a lot of hardware and grocery stores. Sterilize them by submersing them in a boiling water bath. Add the garlic, dill seeds, and peppercorns to the jar. Thoroughly wash the tomatoes and slice them in halves or quarters. Cut out all bad spots and the stem ends. Cram them in the jar leaving about ½” – ¾” of space at the top. Make the brine by combining the vinegar, water, and salt in a non-reactive sauce pan or pot. Bring to a boil, and stir until all the salt is dissolved. Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes to within ¼” of the top. Wipe the jar top, put the lid on and tighten. Age for at least 1 week in the refrigerator. Beware. The brine will taste very salty at first, but don’t panic. The juices from the tomatoes will dilute the concentration of salt in a week or two.