Zacusca! A tasty way to preserve eggplants

The first few times we went to a potluck dinner at the community down the road, we were served a savory treat called zacusca. It was brought out from the pantry in pint jars and reverently placed on the table, next to the precious homemade goat cheese. Clearly, this was something special.

We broke bread, spread goat cheese, and then topped it with zacusca.  Wow! I had never tasted anything quite like it. It’s not baba ganoush exactly, not a caponata sauce exactly, but somewhat similar.  Apparently it is Romanian in origin, and is a great way to preserve an abundant harvest of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and onion.

My friend Beth and I decided to tackle some zacusca this year.  We purchased two large banana boxes full of eggplant, peppers, and onion (which cost less than $13 for over 20 lbs of produce – unbelievable!) from our Amish neighbor, and got some huge paste tomatoes from another neighbor.  We followed this recipe on Food.com, but adjusted it according to the amounts of produce we had and changed around some of the directions. I figured it was hard to mess up such a dish.

Please do check out the recipe on Food.com for full instructions, but the basic gist of zacusca-making is as follows:

  • Blacken eggplant over a grill or fire
  • Dice, then saute peppers and onions
  • (I also made tomato paste, but you could easily purchase it in cans)
  • Food process EVERYTHING and then,
  • Mix thoroughly, adding salt and pepper and lots of olive oil to taste.
  • (We decided to saute the vegetables prior to food processing, so we did not cook it again)
  • Pressure can for 45 minutes in sterilized mason jars

Zacusca1 Zacusca2 Zacusca3

I have to admit: this was an enormous job. The steps for preparing each vegetable took time and effort and I was very happy to have two adults (sometimes three) on the job. But the flavor is rich, savory, and intense, perfect for use as a dip with pita, a spread for bread, or a topping for polenta or pasta. I imagine cracking open a precious jar in February and tasting the end-of-summer harvest.

Peach Peel Jelly

I am happy to welcome Heather, of The Homesteading Hippy.  Heather has such a great selection of blog posts about urban farming, canning, raising livestock, recipes.  She is also the author of two (!!) eBooks – The Urban Chicken, which I reviewed earlier this year, and a new (free) eBook called Cooking From Scratch.

Today, she shares with us her recipe for Peach Peel Jelly. Welcome, Heather!

With the “waste not, want not” mentality that I like to have and with peaches in full season, this recipe for peach peel jelly is one you’ll want to keep nearby!  First, start by getting some ripe, delicious peaches and rinsing them off.

As you are canning your peaches, and removing the skins and other parts you don’t want to can (brown spots or soft spots) save them into a large pot.  When you are done with the peaches, fill the pot with the scraps with water to cover.  Bring to a boil for 30 minutes, and then let sit covered, overnight.

The next day, strain the peachy water through a cheesecloth or jelly bag.  Don’t squeeze!  This could make your jelly cloudy.

This is what will come out…gorgeous color, right???

Take 3 cups of your peachy water and add 1 box of pectin.  Bring to a rolling boil, then add 3 cups of sugar.  Bring back to a boil and set the timer for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Spoon the foam off the top, and ladle the hot syrup into hot pint jars.  Water bath for 20 minutes, remove and let cool.  Store up to a year.

Enjoy that peachy goodness!!

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Heather of The Homesteading Hippy is living the rural life, in an urban setting.  She and her family live in a small town in Northern Indiana where they garden, keep assorted poultry and rabbits.  Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,and  Google+.

Eat, Cook, and Preserve Peaches: Ten Delicious Recipes

Peach TitlePeaches are one of my family’s favorite summer fruits, and we eat them by the dozens when they are in season. Last week, my husband Brian brought home 3/4 of a bushel of ripe Missouri peaches that are dripping with juice, and sweet with a bit of tart.  I was not quite sure what I’d do with so many peaches – somehow the idea of canning in the 90 degree heat just did not appeal to me.  So I asked some of my homestead blogging friends for their favorite recipes, and compiled this list of ten different ways to enjoy peaches, fresh, cooked, and preserved.

FRESH PEACH RECIPES
Peach Basil SalsaFirst, a Fresh Peach Basil Salsa that we’ve been making every day because I am so in love with the flavor.  Brian actually told me he thought it was the most delicious non-tomato salsa that he’d ever tasted. I created it with inspiration from a few similar recipes online, and it is perfect on grilled white fish, or as a dip for tortilla chips.

4 ripe Peaches, pitted and diced

3 tbsp fresh Basil, minced

1/4 Red Onion, minced

a splash of Balsamic Vinegar (around 1 tsp)

Salt to taste

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Dani of The Adventure Bite shared her recipe for a Sweet Marscarpone Peach Tart, one of the most popular on her blog.  It is truly beautiful in appearance, and would be perfect for a summer celebration.


COOKED PEACH RECIPES

What is summer without cobblers and crisps? Here are a few tasty looking recipes to try:

Angi at Schneiderpeeps.com shared a simple Peach Cobbler recipe.

Julie at Growing Days adapted her Peach Crisp recipe from one by Alice Waters; it’s simple, but decadent.

And this Roasted Apricot Tart from Jennifer at Black Fox Homestead could just as easily use peaches – oh my, does it look good!

PRESERVED PEACH RECIPES
I was amazed at some of the innovative recipes that were shared with me. I’m usually just a peach and honey or sugar kind of preserving gal, but these recipes are making me reconsider!

For instance, this Pickled Peach Recipe from Jenn at Frugal Upstate.  The pickling spices are cinnamon, clove, and ginger.  Yum!

Jennifer at Black Fox Homestead contributed this unique jam recipe – a Peach Rosemary Jam that she says would make a great poultry glaze, or topping for a croissant or scone.

Untrained Housewife‘s how-to post on Home Canned Peaches walks you through some of the basics of canning fresh peaches, with the skin on.

Peach-Refrigerator-Jam-Recipeimage courtesy of Erica Mueller

Erica from MomPrepares shared her very simple Refrigerator Peach Jam that only has four ingredients and can be made in under an hour. I love freezer and refrigerator jams because they capture the very essence of the fruit.

Peaches-to-Freeze

Finally, the method of preserving that I opt for most frequently – Frozen Sliced Peaches.  After quickly blanching peaches in boiling water, I peel, pit, and slices them.  They get a splash of lemon juice and some sweetener – either honey or sugar.  Then I place them in quart sized Ziploc bags until it’s smoothie making time!

Ten ways to eat and preserve peaches. Which shall I try next?

What is your favorite Peach Recipe? 

If you like, you can share in the comments below.

This post was shared on the Homeacre Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, From the Farm Blog Hop.

Blueberries

I do believe blueberries are my favorite frozen fruit.  Not necessarily my favorite fresh fruit (I think cherries get that award), but there is nothing like pulling out a bag of frozen blueberries in February to re-capture the essence of summer.  Plus, they are the fall-back food for my kids, particularly during teething bouts.

We found a new u-pick farm this summer.  It’s only a few miles away and the berries are inexpensive and plentiful.  Plus the bushes are small enough for our little pickers to help (or help themselves!).  So our job this week is to gather the amount of berries needed to sustain us for the entire year.

Gallons of berries have been frozen, a few pints made into jam, and countless berries ingested fresh off the bush.  (And tonight, I’m going to whip up some heavy whipping cream and just have me a bowl of berries.  Life is good!)

What is your favorite way to eat blueberries?