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.

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.

“I Can’t Wait Any Longer” Salsa Recipe

Around this time of year, my taste buds get a hankering for the fresh, piquant taste of homemade salsa.  While I do can tomato and tomatillo salsa for year-round use, there is nothing like walking into the garden to select a ripe red tomato, dicing it into chunks, adding some cilantro, salt, onion, and a jalapeno and devouring an entire bowl of salsa fresca in one sitting. It is something we do on a daily basis during peak tomato season.

The only problem is that I don’t have ripe red tomatoes (yet)!  But I do have beautiful cilantro from the garden I manage, sweet onions in my spring garden, garlic from last summer in Oregon, and just-ripening Gypsy sweet peppers.  In a moment of salsa desperation, I thought maybe, just maybe I could cheat a little bit and use canned tomatoes and achieve a similar taste sensation? Give it a try and see for yourself!

Salsa Recipe

1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organics Fire Roasted)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 small sweet onion, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small sweet or hot pepper of your choice

Salt to flavor

Lime Juice to flavor

Combine all ingredients, sample until you’re satisfied with the flavor, and enjoy!

 

Shared on Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, Homestead Bloggers Network, From the Farm Blog Hop, and The Backyard Farming Connection.

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Two – Tasting

CakeTasting1

Thursday night we prepared our first test cake, a Lemon Wedding Cake courtesy of Martha Stewart.  It baked up beautifully golden brown and slid right out of the 8″ round pan. Friday, I carefully sliced the cake horizontally in half, and then in a semi-circle so we could experiment with a four layer cake. On each cake layer, I edged the cake with a thin circle of swiss buttercream icing, and then filled with alternating layers of jam or lemon curd.

We asked our friends Mike and Julia to join us for a sunset cake tasting Friday night. Part of the goal of this tasting was to experiment with jam-curd flavor combinations. An informal Facebook poll hinted that lemon-blueberry might be the favored combination, but what about strawberry?  Or apricot-lavender?  So I decided to divide the cake into thirds, and spread each jam flavor on a section.  Here’s how it looked from the side:CakeTasting2

And believe me, it tasted as good as it looks.  Of course there were slight modifications necessary: for one, in our quest to accurately follow the recipe, we completely forgot the almond meal that we had decided to add for a more moist, dense cake.  I was also less than thrilled with the icing, so I’ve decided to try a different recipe.  But overall, the cake had a nice light lemony flavor that was accented by the sweet jam and the tart-sweet curd.  And as for the jam?  We’re going with a tier of each, so everyone wins!

Our plan is to bake the cake layers on Wednesday, cool, slice, and then wrap them in layers of Saran Wrap, and freeze them.  We’ll tackle an enormous batch of lemon curd on Thursday, and probably put the icing off until Friday.  Saturday, we’ll bring the cake and ingredients to the wedding, assemble on-site, and decorate with edible flowers from the bride’s garden. It will be so lovely.

Also in the works this week are the final touches on our summer accommodations.  Our tent is up and waiting for a bed, our outdoor kitchen has shelves and running water, and we are slowly moving our belongings out of this house and scrubbing it clean.  In a few short days, we’ll be living on the land, and the next stage of our adventure will begin.

I’ll leave you with a sunset view overlooking the garden.  Wishing you a wonderful week,Teri

Garden4

Making a Wedding Cake: Part One – Planning

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Three – Baking

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Four – The Big Day

My Yummiest Granola Recipe

Granola

For the past 15 years I have been on a quest to make the perfect granola.  Admittedly, some years that pursuit has looked more like roaming the shelves of the natural food store, searching for the perfect blend of nutty crunch – a granola that could stand up to milk without getting soggy.  A radical shift in my granola making occurred when I was introduced to the idea of using raw buckwheat groats in place of rolled oats. For those that have only experienced the very distinctive flavor of toasted buckwheat, raw buckwheat groats are totally different – subtle, yet hearty, substantial, but not overpowering.  Plus, buckwheat is gluten-free, low glycemic, and packed with essential amino acids and minerals.  What’s not to love about that?

This recipe has been my go-to for about two years now, and I never tire of it.  I am most definitely a protein-in-the-morning gal, so I like my granola packed with nuts and seeds.  If you prefer a less hearty granola, simply reduce the amounts of nuts and seeds.  In fact, change it up as much as you want – that’s what recipes are for!  Add dried fruit.  Replace part of the oil with some orange juice. Add different combinations of nuts or seeds.  Try it as a hot porridge. It’s all tasty.

RAW BUCKWHEAT GRANOLA  (makes approximately 4 quarts)
4 cups raw buckwheat groats

1/2 cup each:  cashews, almonds, and walnuts (or your nuts of choice), chopped
1 1/3 cup of a mix of your favorite seeds (try sesame, flax, pumpkin, sunflower)
1 cup coconut flakes
1 tbsp cinnamon

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 – 1 cup honey

1) Soak buckwheat groats in water overnight.  Rinse and drain well.

2) Place buckwheat in a large bowl. Add chopped nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, and cinnamon, and stir to combine.

3) On very low heat, melt coconut oil, almond butter, and honey, stirring until smooth, creamy and evenly mixed.  Add to the buckwheat mixture and stir well.

4) Spread granola evenly onto 2-3 cookie sheets.  Bake on the lowest possible temperature setting in your oven (mine is 170 degrees F) for a few hours, until lightly toasted. Some people prefer to use a food dehydrator to bake on an even lower temperature. Stir occasionally to ensure even baking, and remove from the oven BEFORE the buckwheat groats have hardened.  Cool completely before transferring to storage containers.

Enjoy this hearty morning treat!

*This recipe was shared on The Homestead Barn Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, Natural Living Monday, The Backyard Farming Connection, From the Farm Blog Hop, and The Homestead Resource Guide.

Sausage Making

I’m going to be honest here and let you know right up front that I am a meat lover.  Maybe it’s because I have been pregnant and/or nursing for the past 5 years and need extra protein. Maybe it’s cause I have a certain blood type.  Who knows?  Eating good quality meat makes me feel much more alive, healthy, and strong.  Our family has worked hard to find sources of meat that we can feel good about – pasture raised, organic feed, locally grown, etc.

For a few years, we raised our own pigs and had them custom butchered for ourselves and a few friends.  This was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to raise pigs again. But circumstances prevented this last summer, so we went in on a hog with some friends and have been happily enjoying delicious pork all year.

A large piece of leg in our freezer beckoned to be turned into sausage, so we spent an evening last week making Sweet Italian Sausage, and Mexican Chorizo (with recipes adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn).

Here are a few photos of the process:

First, the meat and fat are cut into pieces to be ground.  It is easier to grind them if they are still a little bit frozen.

Really sharp grinder. I then added a blend of herbs and spices to the ground meat.  We did 5 lb batches each of the Italian sausages and the chorizo.

The seasoned ground meat goes into the sausage stuffer.  Now, this sausage stuffer is an antique that Brian hunted for on eBay. I think the date on it is 1886.  It is sturdy and HEAVY and can also handle larger batches of sausage – maybe 10 or 15 lbs.

Next, you slip the casings onto the stuffer.  These are purchased casings.

As you slowly turn the stuffer crank, the meat fills the casings and you get a nice long, continuous roll of sausage.

And lastly, we twist the sausages into individual links.  This 5 lb batch of Italian sausage made about 2 dozen links.  The chorizo was left in the ground form, so we can scramble it with eggs or make breakfast patties.

So there you have it!  Sausage making 101.  It is so much fun, and ever so tasty!

Strawberry Days

Strawberry days have begun.  We hit the u-pick on Friday morning, the first day it was open.  We then spent the remainder of the day processing strawberries, and of course, enjoying strawberries!

Everett likes to pick his strawberries out of the bucket.  They’ve been pre-screened for quality, and that suits him just fine!

It’s always so hard to decide what to do with the strawberries.  I decided on freezing whole berries and freezer jam, while Brian went for a honey sweetened “sam” (not quite a jam, not quite a sauce).  We use Pomona’s Universal Pectin, so we can add any amount and kind of sweetener we wish.

Even better this time around.  Old fashioned strawberry shortcake recipe from In the Sweet Kitchen.

And my favorite yet: fresh strawberry ice cream made with goat milk.  I mashed up about 1/2 cup of fresh berries, added 3 1/2 cups of goat milk, 1 tsp of vanilla, and 3/4 cups of cane sugar.  SO GOOD.

What are you making with strawberries?