Big Batch Granola


It’s been a cold week all around the country. I have a bit of problem that no matter how cold it is, I won’t turn the heater on in our house until at least 5pm. But I don’t have an issue heating the house in other ways. I do wish we had fireplace or even a wood burning stove/heater, but alas, we have a tiny house and no space for either. What I do have, however, is a big hunk of steel in the kitchen in the form of my Wedgewood stove. Unlike other stoves I’ve had, the whole unit gets hot Hot HOT when it’s on and it can warm our entire small house. Don’t worry, though. I’m not about to just turn it on for no reason.

Having a 16 year old boy in the house means that we go through food faster than I ever thought possible. Food that you would think would last at least a week are lucky to make it 2 days around here. So if I want to make a batch of granola it is in my best interest to make a very large batch. This batch will probably last the average household a month. Here we’ll get maybe 2 weeks out of it. Since I don’t have a whole lot of spare time to make granola every few days I have to make these large batches. It takes a lot less time to make a big batch compared to multiple regular sized batches but if you want to cut this recipe down it’s easy to do.

One of the ingredients you will see might make you scratch your head. I learned to add this from a recipe I once made for cinnamon rolls. It helps create a more complex flavor profile, so don’t worry and trust me, you’ll love it.

  • 16 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
  • 3 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
  • 2 cups honey
  1. Preheat your oven to 275*F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a very large bowl mix oats, pecans, coconut, cinnamon, salt and pepper together.
  3. Add oil and honey to the dry mix. It works best if you measure out the oil first and then use the same measuring cup to measure out the honey. That way the honey just pours out without sticking to the measuring cup.
  4. Mix all the ingredients well until the honey and oil is well incorporated and all the dry mix is evenly coated.
  5. Pour the mix onto the baking sheets and press it down in an even layer.
  6. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Mix up granola, bringing the outside edges in and pack it back down into an even layer again. Switch sheet locations and bake another 30 minutes. Repeat this one more time baking for a total of 90 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely and then break up into chunks and store in an airtight container.

Stretching Your Food Dollars – Virtually Free Stock

stockGood food is expensive. If you grow it and/or raise it yourself you know how much hard work it takes to put food on your table. A little part of me dies inside when I toss out the bits and pieces of unusable food – even if it is going into the compost or out to the chickens. But I’ve learned that I no longer have to waste anything. I can make stock from all the leftovers. I love homemade stock, but again, I’m not a fan of using perfectly good food – and a lot of it – to make a big batch of it. This is the perfect meeting of the two – no waste of food leftovers and no need to use the good parts.

The parts that you wouldn’t eat anyways get used to make more food which makes this virtually free to make. Onion and garlic skins and trimmings, the outer leaves of cabbage and the cores, carrot ends, leafy ends of celery, winter squash skin, corn cobs, pepper tops and cores, the tough, woody stems from herbs like rosemary and thyme  are just some of the vegetative parts you can add. We also like to throw in carcasses and bones from roasted chickens, turkeys, and rabbits and old stewing hens can go in whole (pull the meat off  after cooking and use it for later meals). You can just do vegetables if you want, or you can add other types of meat and bone, such as beef or pork. You can even mix the types of animals you use if you want.

There are some things you don’t want to add, however, to your stock. Avoid really starchy foods like potatoes and sweet potatoes. Don’t use toxic or fatty vegetable parts either – like avocado skins and pits or tomato tops (but feel free to add tomato skins or cores).

As you cook normally you will collect all the trimmings and put them in a bag and freeze them. This allows you to collect a large amount of scraps to make a big batch of stock. You can also do smaller amounts and make just enough stock for a pot of soup but since time is at a premium for some us it works better to do big batches and then pressure can the stock for later use. You can also freeze the stock if you have plenty of freezer space, which unfortunately is also at a premium for us. 1 gallon freezer bags work great for this. You can also use some types of mason jars to freeze the stock in but it takes longer to defrost them. With gallon freezer bags all you need to do is heat the outside enough so that it slips out of the bag into a large pot. The other benefit of freezing the stock rather than pressure canning it is that you can skip the step of refrigerating it so you can skim the fat off. Just cool it down first before putting it into containers (don’t want to melt the bag or stress the glass more than necessary).


Once you have enough scraps put them in a large stock pot and add just enough water that the scraps are nearly covered. We use a big 7 gallon stock pot so we wait until we have a LOT of scraps. You can choose to add salt now, later, or not at all. I like to wait until it’s almost done so I can taste it. The amount of salt will depend on your personal preference and how much stock you make at once. It isn’t necessary though if you are concerned about your salt intake.

A good stock is going to take several hours to make. Turn the heat on high and get it up to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer on the stove for several hours – usually about 8 hours. Occasionally add more water as needed. You will know it’s done when the carcasses completely fall apart and the stock has a good flavor. Taste it occasionally and when you like the flavor it’s done. Allow it to cool and then with some large tongs start pulling out the larger pieces of scraps to discard. If you use whole animals you can start putting the meat from them in another bowl. Once all the large scraps are out, line a colander with cheese cloth and strain the remaining broth to get out all the small bits and pieces you couldn’t remove with the tongs.

Once strained you can freeze or pressure can it. If you pressure can, put the stock in the fridge for at least 24 hours. You want the fats in it to solidify so you can skim them off. You can skip this step if you are only doing vegetable stock.

Since I’ve started making my own stock I’ve found that I no longer have to buy it because the scraps we produce are enough to make stock regularly. Bonus is that it’s healthier because there isn’t any MSG (or MSG by another name) and you can control the sodium.

My Great-Grandmother’s Onion Celery Dressing

DressingIt is time to share one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes – the Stuffing, or in this case, the Dressing. This is a recipe my mom has made for as long as I can remember, which she got from her grandmother – my great grandmother. My great-grandmother called it her Celery Onion Dressing, but this is so much more than just onions and celery.

We don’t stuff the turkey with it, which is why we call it dressing since we serve it on the side. You could stuff a turkey with it, but just remember that it will substantially lengthen the time you have to cook the bird to ensure that it’s all safely cooked through.

When I asked my mom for the recipe she told me she didn’t actually have it written down and just made it from memory. In my opinion, these always seem to be the best recipes, especially when my mom is involved because she is seriously one of the best cooks ever. I’m not joking either. She’s never made a bad meal and she can pull out all the leftovers in the fridge and make the best meal you’ve ever eaten in your life. Of course she’ll never be able to repeat it again, but you know the next meal will be just as delicious. Even though she always did this recipe by memory she humored me and wrote it down.

  • 1 large round loaf of sourdough or French bread
  • 2 yellow onions chopped
  • 3/4C chopped mushrooms, chopped. Button, crimini, assorted is best add some shitakes if you have them.
  • 1 lb of spicy (HOT) sausage, Italian is great
  • About 5 stalks of celery chopped
  • 4 – 6 large cloves of garlic minced
  •  6 – 8 eggs whisked
  • 1/2 –  2/3 C melted butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbs chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 c chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp curry
  • chicken broth
  • nuts, cranberries or apples (optional)

1. Cut the loaf of bread into 1/2″-1″ cubes the night before and put in a warm oven (a pilot light is sufficient) until cubes are hard.

2. Don’t chop vegetables too fine or the dressing lacks texture.

3. Saute the sausage first then add the onions, mushrooms, celery and garlic until the onions are translucent and the sausage is cooked.

4. Mix bread cubes with the sautéed sausage and veggies then add melted butter, eggs, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, curry powder, Thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley, and whatever other spices you might like and fruit and/or nuts if you want. Then add enough chicken broth until the mixture is quite moist but not mushy.

5. Put the stuffing in a casserole covered and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.

The Best Freaking Turkey you will EVER taste!

It’s November and we know what that means! Thanksgiving will be here any day now so I’m reposting this recipe because it IS that good. The last few years we’ve been making this with our homegrown turkeys and it’s even more amazing! Super moist and flavorful, this turkey is sure to please your guests.



I have finally perfected our Turkey Recipe! It takes some preparation, but in the end it was more than worth the effort!

This recipe will work for a 16-25lb turkey. Make sure the bird is completely thawed the day before you plan to cook it because brining it requires at least 12 hours.


For Brine:
1 gallon unsweetened apple juice
3/4 cup salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6-8 slices of ginger
2 Tbs peppercorns
2 Tbs allspice berries
2 Tbs whole cloves
2 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Stir in salt and sugar. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes and then allow to cool completely.

We use a large orange “water cooler” that we have designated just for brining similar to this one:
Unwrap the thawed turkey, remove the giblets and place neck end down into clean cooler. Pour cooled brine over the bird. Add water until the bird is completely submerged. Add a bunch of ice on top to keep cool. Put lid on cooler and leave undisturbed for at least 12 hours (do 24 hours for heritage birds).

For Roasting:

1/4 lb butter (1 stick) cut into pats
2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbs chopped fresh Thyme
2 Tbs chopped fresh Oregano
2 cups chicken broth
Olive Oil

1. Remove bird from brine and let brine drain out of cavity. Don’t rinse bird.
2. Coat roasting pan with olive oil and place bird breast side up in it.
3. Using your hands separate skin from breast and legs. Rub the chopped herbs onto the meat.
4. Place the cut pats of butter under the skin in various locations, including the legs. Pour chicken broth over bird.
5. Truss bird and then cover it with lid of pan or foil and place in a preheated oven at 350 deg.
6. Roast for two hours. Remove foil and allow bird to brown.
7. Continue to roast bird until interior temp reaches 165 deg. Can range from 1-2 additional hours depending on whether the bird is stuffed. Make sure when taking the temp that the thermometer is through the thickest part of the breast and is not touching bone.

This recipe will give you an incredibly moist flavorful bird that is amazingly tender.

Canning Season is Almost Here – Stay Safe Out There

packed in jars

Raw packed pickles

We just planted our tomatoes, eggplants and tomatillos this weekend. In a couple of more weeks we’ll be planting peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, beans and corn. In just a few months we’ll be busy harvesting and preserving our bounty through drying, freezing and canning.

Preserving has been gaining in popularity and I see some really great recipes out there on the interwebs. I also see some dangerous ones that kind of scare me. I’ve seen so many bad ones, in fact,  that I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to judge canned goods at events anymore unless the recipe and canning process is included with the sample. You can’t simply shoot from the hip and make up recipes that “sound about right” and expect for them to store at room temperature for extended lengths of time.  There’s a science behind canning to ensure safety that I can’t stress enough. So I figured that with canning season fast approaching we should discuss some guidelines to canning to help everyone stay safe.

The Rules

1. Just because it’s on the internet does not automatically make it a safe recipe. 

Be critical of every recipe you see on the internet.  Check to make sure it has enough acid and is processed long enough if it’s not pressure canned and uses low acid ingredients (especially if it is raw packed). If it’s high acid make sure it is water bath canned long enough. The USDA has safe canning guidelines through their National Center for Home Food Preservation site that you can cross reference from. Also avoid recipes that have dairy, eggs, and pureed low acid food (such as lemon curd, pumpkin butter and pureed bananas) and don’t also say that it is to only be kept in the refrigerator for a limited amount of time (usually for a month) or to freeze the finished product.

2. Books are *usually* a safe bet. 

I only say “usually” because I’ve seen some questionable and downright dangerous recipes even in published books. Check the book to make sure it says the recipes have been tested for safety. The most reliably safe books (though I can’t testify to the flavor of all the recipes in these books) are:


These are refrigerator-style pickles that have a finite shelf life.

3.  If you find a safe recipe do not alter it, but if you do, know the guidelines. 

Even adding a bit more onion to a recipe can alter the pH enough to make it unsafe. For water bath canned products you want the pH to be 4.6 or lower. However, unless you have a super deluxe Vitamix blender, chances are just blending and using a litmus strip isn’t going to give you an accurate reading of the acidity. The safest way to test is to send it to a food lab, but that can get expensive so just stick with a tested recipe. Always follow the basic safe guidelines if you do change the recipe. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and don’t alter it. The canning recipes I have on this blog always follow the safe guidelines and I almost always increase the acid when I don’t need to just to be on the safe side. I will not post low-acid recipes that require pressure canning. And recipes that don’t follow the safe guidelines, like our oven-baked heirloom tomato sauce, will always be for eating immediately of freezing (which is why we don’t include canning instructions with it).

4. Not all fruit is created equal. 

While many fruits are high acid and relatively easy to can, some are either borderline or low acid and must have acid added. Figs, bananas, white peaches, Asian pears, watermelon, mangoes and tomatoes all fall into this category of not acidic enough to can on their own without added acid. Be sure to follow the USDA guidelines if canning these items. I have posted tomato canning guidelines that are based on USDA guidelines and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

 5. If it’s a low acid food and you don’t add acid don’t even think of water bath canning it (same goes for recipes with meat in them even if you do add acid).

I’m serious here. Botulism will fucking kill you. Adding loads of salt or sugar won’t save you here.

6. If a recipe says to pack pint jars don’t pack quart jars and increase the time to what you think it should be. 

Sometimes you’ll come across recipes that only give you the processing time for a specific jar size. Don’t pack into larger jars because you don’t know what the processing time is for them to be safe. Tomato paste is a good example of this. Due to it’s consistency it’s best to only can it in 8 oz jars. And never can using jars larger than a quart unless the recipe calls for them (tomato juice can be canned in 1.5L jars per the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving).

7. Don’t create shortcuts.

  • Cut fruits or vegetables into the indicated size as this ensures that the center reaches the correct temperature and acidity if using low acid foods.
  • Don’t “eyeball” the amounts of your ingredients – think of this as a science experiment rather than an art project.
  • Start your processing time after the water has come back up to boiling if using a water bath canner or after you reach pressure when pressure canning.
  • Pack hot food into hot jars that were slowly brought up to temperature, not cold jars (the sudden heat from the food will stress the glass causing breakage).
  • Don’t reuse lids (Tattler lids are the exception). You can reuse rings though.
  • Follow head space rules for a recipe – don’t over or under fill jars.
  • Always make sure there is at least 1″ of water covering the jars when in the canner.
  • Do not skip the water bath for acidic foods. The water bath heats up the food in the jar to kill microorganisms. The heated food increases in volume (why you need to follow rules for head space) pushing out air. The water covering the jars doesn’t allow air to reenter the jars. The air also is heated making it expand and escape the jar. Less oxygen means less oxidation and less spoilage (except for anaerobic microorganisms like Clostridium botulinum, many other microorganisms require oxygen). You’re much more likely to get mold if you don’t properly do a water bath. Mold changes the pH of the product making an acidic food more basic which opens it up to C. botulinum, which causes botulism.
  • Remove air bubbles after packing hot jars. Sometimes the food can contain enough air in it to alter the head space. Plus extra air means extra oxygen and more chances for spoilage.
  • Always wipe the rim with a clean cloth before putting the lid on. This will help ensure a good seal while also removing a vehicle for contamination to get inside the jar.

8. Take the rings off your jars after they seal. 

The rings are really just designed to keep the lid on while canning and should be removed after they seal. This will help reduce corrosion and rust on your jars but more importantly removing the rings help you avoid a false seal. A failed seal would indicate spoilage but if the ring keeps the lid down you wouldn’t necessarily know the food has spoiled – smell, taste and looks can be deceiving for some types of spoilage. However, you can put the rings back on once you break the seal to avoid creating a mess.

9. Remember to adjust for altitude. 

Find out your altitude and then adjust your canning time. Please note that the time difference may vary depending on the product you’re canning.

10. Use the right equipment. 

Steam canners and oven canning are not recommended and cannot remove the risk of all types of spoilage. A stock pot that is deep enough for your jars plus 1″ of cover is fine for water bath canning. Make sure to use a rack on the bottom of your pot though. The rack helps keep water moving all the way around the jar and helps prevent the jars from breaking. Use a pressure canner, not a pressure cooker, when canning low acid foods and meat. Pressure cookers don’t have as reliable gauges if they have one at all. Also make sure that your pressure canner is in good condition. Old or poorly taken care of pressure cookers are dangerous and can explode. Your county extension can test your pressure canner for you or direct you to somewhere that can.

Canning isn’t something that should intimidate you by any means, you just have to follow some rules to make sure your finished product is safe. Properly canned foods are delicious and most times are much healthier than what you can purchase at the store. So get out there and start canning!

Homemade Deodorant that Works

Commercial deodorants, along with shampoos, conditioners and body soaps have all sorts of toxic chemicals in them. Want to freak yourself out? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database to see exactly what those ingredients can do to you. Thanks to the database I have decided to age gracefully and no longer dye my hair or use “age-defying” treatments for my skin. I’ve switched from using commercial shampoo to using either a homemade shampoo bar or baking soda and apple cider vinegar (depending on my mood for the day). Same goes for body soap – we now use only homemade soap. I no longer wash my face with soap then slather it with some toxin-containing lotion. Instead I now use coconut oil. I slather it on heavily than wipe it off with a cloth which removes dirt, excess oil, even makeup. It leaves my skin feeling supple and smooth and it’s never dried out. Amazingly it’s also never oily either. Goodbye T-zone. And let me tell you, my skin has NEVER looked this good. Gone are the fine lines and most important of all, the mid-life acne is gone. Completely. I don’t even get hormonal acne anymore. It’s a thing of beauty (pun intended).

The deodorant switch was our latest experiment. Tom was skeptical about it and rightly so. Tom is a man’s man and is the muscle around here. He’s big, he’s strong, and he works hard and gets (really) sweaty, which can often times lead to the unpleasant odor of man-sweat. So I had a challenge ahead of me. I found some recipes online but none seemed that appealing. I wanted something easy to make from ingredients that we almost always have on hand, or at least could easily keep on hand and were readily available at local stores. So here is what I finally came up with:

  • 2 oz Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 oz beeswax
  • 1/4 C baking soda
  • 1/4 C cornstarch (non-GMO of course)
  • 20 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 20 drops any other essential oil for scent (optional)

Melt the coconut oil and beeswax together in a sauce pan on low heat. Once melted take off of heat and mix in remaining ingredients. Pour into cleaned out deodorant containers. This is enough to fill 2 medium sized deodorant containers.

So how does it work? I’ll get to that in a minute but first I want to explain why I chose the ingredients that I did.

The coconut oil is very moisturizing, it’s lightweight and goes on really smoothly. The problem though is that it melts at a low temperature so on a warm day you might end up with a puddle of oil rather than a solid deodorant. That’s where the beeswax comes in. Just a small amount is all you need to harden it up. Too much beeswax though and you end up with a gummy product that doesn’t go on smooth.

The baking soda helps eliminate odors and the cornstarch absorbs excess moisture. Tea tree oil is antibacterial so it helps eliminate the bacteria that cause bad B.O. and then the additional essential oil is optional if you don’t care for the smell of the tea tree oil (I personally don’t like it).

After several months of using this deodorant I have to say I am surprisingly thrilled about it. Tom really likes it too. Neither of us suffer from any type of B.O. which is actually more than I can say about every other commercial deodorant that I’ve ever tried. After several hours they just lose their effectiveness but this homemade stuff lasts all day with no problem. It goes on smooth and a little goes a long way. In addition, for us ladies, it doesn’t making your armpits sting or itch after shaving.

Canning Tomatoes 101

We do a lot of canning here, especially with tomatoes. We harvest several hundred pounds every year with most of it being preserved. This year I’ve been getting a lot of questions about canning and tomatoes seem to the most popular.

Tomatoes are the gray area of canning. They’re not quite acidic enough to just straight can like fruit but the right amount of added acid can keep you from having to pressure can them.  Here are the basics on canning them (and much of this can actually be used for water bath canning other things like fruit and pickles. This will mostly be for making sauces, paste and juice. Crushed, diced and whole tomatoes can be done in a similar manner but you need to skin and core them first and the process is slightly different. The amount of acid is the same though. Even with pressure canning tomatoes you will need to add acid. If you’re adding other vegetables to your recipe you will need to pressure can because you’ve dropped the acidity too far. But don’t be mistaken, if you skip the acid or add other low acid ingredients tomatoes can effing kill you. Botulism is no joke.


Start with your water bath canner and canning rack at the bottom. If you don’t have a canner and rack use a large pot and put a towel on the bottom or use lid rings on the bottom. The rack/towel/rings serve to protect the jars from breaking. Put jars in your canner and fill with water. I usually will fill until the water is just above the rims to ensure that the water is at least an inch above the top of the jars when they are filled. Heat up on the stove.


In the meantime take the lids (without the rims) and put them in a pan with some more water and heat them up as well. Do not boil, just get them to a simmer. If you don’t have a lid magnet or rack put them in the water alternating direction (bottom up then bottom down) to make them easier to get out.


You can skin and seed the tomatoes before hand but if you have a sieve or food mill don’t bother with the extra step. Cut up the tomatoes and put in a large pot and heat them up. Bring to a boil and then simmer down until the fruit breaks down.


Run through your food mill with the finest mesh. This will remove the seeds and skins while breaking down the flesh. If you’ve already skinned and seeded them you’ll need to run the fruit through a sieve or food mill to make smooth.


Return juice and flesh to the stove and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook down as far as you need it depending on what you’re producing. This is also when you want to add any herbs or spices.


Once it’s boiled down it’s time to can it. Make sure that the water bath canner is boiling. You will be working with one jar at a time to make sure they stay hot while filling them. You don’t want to add a hot liquid to a cool jar because you risk breaking the glass. In addition put a towel down to put the hot jars on so they don’t break when touching a cold surface.  Pull out a jar and empty the water out.


To the jar you’ll need to add lemon juice or citric acid. It’s best to use commercial lemon juice which has a known pH level. Never use Meyer lemons because they don’t have a low enough pH to properly acidify the tomatoes. The guidelines are:

  • 1/2 pint (8 oz): 1.5 teaspoon lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid
  • pint: 1 Tbs lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid
  • quart: 2 Tbs lemon juice or 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • 1.5 L: 3 Tbs lemon juice or 3/4 tsp citric acid

If you want to use salt (it’s not required) the following guidelines are:

  • 1/2 pint (8oz): 1/4 tsp
  • pint: 1/2 tsp
  • quart: 1 tsp
  • 1.5 L: 1.5 tsp


Using a canning funnel fill your jars with the hot sauce/paste/juice leaving a 1/2″ of headspace. Remove any air bubbles and adjust headspace as needed. Wipe rim so that it’s clean for a proper seal. Take a lid from the hot water and place it on the jar. Take a band (which should be cool) and screw down the lid to finger-tight. Place the jar back in the canner and pull out another jar and repeat the process until all of the jars are filled. Once the last jar goes in start the timer. The water bath will increase pressure within the jars forcing air out to create a seal. Processing times* are:

Tomato Juice:

8 oz and pint: 35 minutes

quart: 40 minutes

1.5 L: 50 minutes

Tomato Sauce:

8 oz and pint: 35 minutes

quart: 40 minutes

1.5 L: 50 minutes

Tomato Paste:

8 oz: 45 minutes


Turn off canner, remove lid and let sit for 5 minutes and then remove jars. Place on a towel to allow to cool. The lids should start to pop immediately which means they are sealing. Any that don’t seal put in the fridge and use them soon. Once the lids seal remove the rings. This will help prevent rusting and also if a seal breaks it won’t keep the jar artificially sealed, hiding a spoiled product.

As long as proper procedures are followed home canning tomatoes can be done safely. Always err on the side of caution and you won’t have anything to worry about.

*Times will be different at higher elevations.


Fire Roasted Chilies

Every year my mom would order 25-50lbs of green chilies from Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch Green Chilies are some of the best you can find and trust me, they earn their reputation. We couldn’t go through the large produce boxes of chilies without them going bad before we even made a dent so we would spend a weekend roasting them on the grill and then freezing them. Freezing really is the best way because they defrost fast under some running water and the skins help protect them a bit from freezer burn.

This year we are growing the standard Anaheim pepper. It’s not a particular spicy pepper (some of the Hatch varieties were incredibly hot) but they are perfect for my green chili stew. I harvested about 3lbs and since we were already going to have the grill going it was a perfect time to roast them.

When I was younger we would just roast them on a gas grill, but our gas grill here no longer is used with gas so we’re going to actually hardwood fire roast them. It leaves a bit more of a smokey flavor to the peppers, which is nice. The trick with fire roasting peppers is that you want to cook them slow and you do not want to place the peppers directly over the flame or else they will burn, which isn’t exactly what you want.

What you are looking for is blistering of the skin. You can get it a little charred but you don’t want to cook it so fast that the skin and pulp burn together and render the pepper useless for cooking. Don’t leave your peppers either because you’ll want to be constantly rotating them to keep them from burning while also evenly blistering.

When they are completely roasted the skins will separate all the way around the pepper. The green won’t be as bright and the skin will feel and look like paper. Sometimes they puff up but will deflate quickly when you take them off the heat. I have a cookie sheet ready that I will then place the peppers on to cool off before bagging them up and freezing them.

Fire roasting helps separate the the thick skin from the pulp which can then easily be peeled off. This actually depends greatly on the type of pepper you roast. Anaheim-type peppers are the best because the skins are thick while other peppers, like Anchos/Poblanos have thinner skin. Those are much harder to peel after roasting but they are really tasty to roast and can be a bit spicier.

Oven-Baked Heirloom Tomato Sauce

*This is a repost from several years ago when the lovely Jessa wrote our recipes.

I’ll start this off with an excuse and an apology – I’ve pinched a nerve in my neck and am stuck in bed with a ridiculous contraption of pillows, blankets, rolled-up towels, hot water bottles, ice packs, and painkillers trying to keep me motionless and (somewhat) pain-free. But it’s not working.

Typing is about the worst thing for me to be doing now (small arm/neck/shoulder muscles and all that), so with very little back-story or fanfare, I present to you one of my new favorite recipes, adapted from a method I saw on a TV show a while back (Good Eats, recipe by Alton Brown): an oven-baked tomato sauce perfect for pasta, pizza, eggplant parmesan…the possibilities are endless.

And right now, so are the tomatoes. I got these for $1.00/lb at the Alemany Farmer’s Market here in town, and have been waiting for this moment to start making (and putting up) tomatoes for the loooong dry spell of $7.99 heirlooms (or worse, NO heirlooms!) that is likely just around the corner.
Stupid fog. I can’t wait until my garden is putting out more than the occasional Sungold.

All the herbs are from the back yard – my favorite secret weapon? FRESH (not dried) fennel/anise seed straight off the plant. It grows wild everywhere around here, and these little seeds are full of delicious, deep flavor and a lovely crunchy green texture (I find the dry ones a bit chewy if not ground up).
I promise to make up for this terse post once I’m back on my feet; by then I’ll have gone so stir-crazy I’ll probably cook for several days straight just to feel sane again!

Oven-Baked Tomato Sauce (makes about 3 c.)

10-12 good-sized ripe tomatoes (San Marzanos and Romas are best, called “paste tomatoes”, but any thick-walled heirloom will do OK too. You just want to find the highest meat-to-seed/water ratio you can get)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp olive or sunflower oil
a few sprigs each of your favorite herbs (I like oregano or marjoram to be the main flavor, with backups of lemon thyme, basil, and a hefty teaspoon full of fresh fennel seed)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c sherry or white wine
1 bay leaf
Wash and half the tomatoes, scooping out a majority of the seeds and gelatinous goop, but leaving any meaty inner-walls intact. Place them face-up in glass or pyrex casserole dishes. Sprinkle with the herbs, alliums (onions and garlic), and salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil, and put them in a 325 degree oven for around an hour and a half.

Once that time has elapsed, there may be quite a bit of juice in the bottom of the pan. Turn your oven to broil, and leave the oven door ajar for a good 20 minutes to boil away and condense the moisture.

Once the tomatoes are in less than a half-centimeter of juice (or you’re bored and don’t want to wait any more), transfer everything into a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender to process everything into a smooth-ish paste. If you are averse to skins, you can run it through a food mill to remove any seeds/skins/lumps instead of blending. Me? I like the skins and am not fond of food mills.

Once fully blended, pour the mixture into a pot and add some sherry, wine (red or white), or vodka to open up the sauce and give it a little oomph. Also add a bay leaf, and any additional spices (hot pepper flakes, more fennel seed, more salt?), and simmer to cook off the alcohol.
Serve this sauce hot over pasta or in a lasagna, simmer fried spicy mini-meatballs in it for an amazing party snack, or spread it over your (homemade, of course) sourdough pizza dough and top with ridiculous amounts of mozzerella cheese.

Spicy Refrigerator Pickled Fennel

I didn’t think I over planted fennel. I only planted 10 plants but time got away from us and I only had used a couple of them. They were starting to bolt and I didn’t want to waste them so I decided on the hottest day of the year so far that I needed to pickle them as soon as possible.

Because it was so hot I decided that your standard pickles with the hot water bath just wasn’t going to happen. Our Wedgewood throws off some serious heat and we were out of propane for the outdoor burner. Refrigerator pickles, however, have minimal heat use so it really was going to be the best option. As long as we ate them up withing 3 months we wouldn’t have to worry about them spoiling.

Most people are turned off by the smell of fennel with is similar to black licorice. However I find when I cook it that taste and smell go away rather rapidly. The brine I made from this is very spicy so feel free to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes. It’s also a bit sweet but not as sweet as bread and butter pickles.

  • 16 cups trimmed and sliced fennel bulbs (a mandolin works best for this)
  • 4 cups apple cider vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs pickling spice
  • 2 Tbs red pepper flakes

Pack the sliced fennel into sterile quart jars (makes about 3 quarts). Combine the rest of the ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Ladle hot brine over the fennel in the jars and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for 24 hours but best after 2 weeks. Enjoy!