In the Garden:
Make a persimmon pudding from fresh persimmons and freeze some pulp for later.
The Last Kitchen Hurrah
With one season in the rear-view mirror and another in fine fettle, our kitchens are filled with the bounty of both seasons. Depending on how your garden dealt with the prolonged heat, there may still be the tomatoes, okra, beets and beans of summer, while you're confronted at the same time with the turnips, kale, apples, and cabbages of fall. As frost approaches, its pedal-to-the-metal time in the kitchen to take advantage of this bounty, whether from your own garden or that of a farmer's market.
Besides the usual preserved fare, some delightful alternatives have come my way this year. If you'd like one last fling in the kitchen before the canning kettles and freezer bags are put away for the year, consider trying at least one of these.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Get tired of cooking tomato sauce for hours until it's thickened? Try this quick and simple sauce adapted from the July/August 2010 edition of Natural Home magazine.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cut 3 pounds of plum tomatoes in half, then seed and coarsely chop. In a small bowl, combine 4 tablespoons olive oil with 8 chopped garlic cloves, 1 1/2 cups chopped onion, and 3 tablespoons each of chopped fresh oregano and basil. Spread this mixture evenly over the tomatoes and gently stir. Bake for an hour. Let cool, then blend tomatoes in a food processor. Freeze sauce in your preferred size of container. Makes 4 cups.
Hot Pepper Jelly
This old-fashioned, sweet-hot treat, served with cream cheese, is a great way to use the prodigious harvest from your pepper plants. While still retaining much of the basic recipe, this version ups the ante with several different forms of hot peppers. Create your own version by experimenting with different kinds, such as chipotle powder or, for the adventurous, crushed habaneros. A version of this recipe was passed along from a friend of a friend, but the original was from The Courier-Journal, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Stem and seed 7 to 8 ounces of sweet red bell peppers and 4 to 5 ounces of sweet green bell peppers. Put into the bowl of a food processor. Add 11 to 12 ounces of stemmed and seeded red or green jalapeno peppers, 3 to 4 ounces of chopped onion, and 1 cup red wine, white wine, or cider vinegar. Run the processor until the mixture is a fine puree. Pour the puree into a 6- or 8-quart pan. Add an additional half cup of vinegar, one-half cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon chile powder, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, one-half teaspoon ground red pepper, and 5 cups granulated sugar. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in two 3-ounce pouches of liquid pectin. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds. Pour into prepared canning jars and process in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Makes about 8 half-pint jars.
The first two recipes focused on the last hurrah from the summer garden. This last one looks at what autumn has to offer. Here in the Upper South, there are persimmon pudding contests with dozens of variations on a theme. I prefer this version that focuses on the persimmons themselves. Although this recipe is based on the native American persimmon, you can use pulp made from the large Asian persimmons found at supermarkets. The simplest way to puree persimmons is with a food mill. Freeze persimmon pulp in 2-cup containers so that you can make this pudding all winter long.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, beat together 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 large eggs until smooth and creamy. Add 2 cups persimmon pulp and beat well. In another bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Alternately add the dry ingredients and 1 cup buttermilk to the persimmon mixture, beating well after each addition. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. To test for doneness, stick a toothpick in the middle. It will not come out dry when the pudding is done, but it will not be gooey either. Just a little bit of pudding will cling to it. Serve warm or chilled with whipped cream. Makes 18 servings.
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