Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Ah Chow. When I was a kid, it was my favourite condiment; my Mom says I used to sit with a spoon and eat it straight from the jar. Even when my tastebuds turned and I decided I hated chow (and wtf, younger self) I still loved the smell of it cooking. The sweet, sharp tangy scent would fill the house; it's a scent that is indelibly imprinted with the best feelings of home: comfort, succor, warmth. That's probably the main reason I make chow now that I've moved away - to recreate that feeling in my own home.
But just what the hell IS chow, Melissa? I'm sure some of you are asking. Well hopefully some of you are asking, otherwise I'm just talking to myself. Legions of fans, the answer is thus: it's a sweet, tangy green tomato preserve. And fellow babies, it is GOOD. Especially tasty with fish and pork, you'll definitely want to serve this with some bread to soak up all the saucy goodness. And if you're watching your weight, use this instead of butter on your potatoes - I guarantee you won't miss the butter, and that's probably the only time I'll ever say that. Chow makes simple food into something stellar. It's just the shit, that's all that needs to be said.
And it's easy as all get out to make, and is very adaptable to the individual palate. For instance, my mom, who wouldn't thank you for an onion, makes hers with more onions than tomatoes (yeah, I don't know). Personally, I like it with a lot of red peppers. Everything is up to you - rock out with your chow out.
To start, slice some green tomatoes into medium thick slices. I got my tomatoes from Mom's garden, but they should be easy to find in a farmer's market or something similar this time of year. I make a batch that's big enough to fit my ginormous stock pot (yay Paderno blowout sales!), and I used about 2 dozen. Mom said to use a peck. I have no idea what a peck is.
Cover them with a couple of handfuls of COARSE salt, and let sit overnight. I didn't have any on hand, so I used kosher salt and that worked fine. Just don't use regular table salt; it's too fine. The salt will bring the water out of the tomatoes and help preserve them, so don't skip this step.
The next day, drain the water and rinse the buggers out a couple of times. Then, add vinegar until the tomatoes are just covered. Next, add your onions, peppers, Pickling Spices, and 4-5 cups of sugar (for a big batch). It sounds like a lot sugar, but this makes a serious amount of food. I like my chow on the tangy side, so I use 4 cups. Mmmmmm, PUCKER UP! Let it simmer 3-4 hours, or until the tomatoes are good and soft. I got a little more than 10 500ml jars out of this batch.
See? There she is, all done! Looks good, right? RIGHT? Right.
Freaked out by canning? Don't be. Here's something I find in today's world: people over-complicate things. If you read the net, you'll find all sorts of canning instructions telling you to buy a sterilizer, canning apparatus (apparatii?), tongs for sterilizing, water baths, blah blah blah. That's a foolproof way of having safe preserves, hands down. But I'm lazy, so here's how it's been done in my family for at least 100 years (seriously): Fill the mason jars when the chow is hot, screw the lid on tightly, and let 'er sit for a few hours. The heat of the chow will seal the jars shut, and in fact, you'll hear the lids start popping over the next few hours. Press down on the lid: if it pops back it's not sealed. If a lid doesn't pop, eat that one first. Simple. Easy. Miraculously, we're all still alive.
So don't freak out, make this chow, eat it with gusto, and welcome in the fall!
2 dozen green tomatoes (give or take)
3 lbs white onions
3 large red peppers
4-5 cups white sugar
3-4 tbsp pickling spices
1. Slice tomatoes in rounds, about medium thickness. Place them in a large stockpot and cover them with 2 handfuls of coarse salt, which will bring out the water in the tomatoes. Note: do NOT use regular table salt! Cover, and let sit overnight or until reduced by half. When the ratio of tomatoes to water is almost equal, they are ready.
2. Drain water from tomatoes. Rinse well a couple of times so they aren't too salty, but you definitely don't want to remove all the salt.
3. Add enough vinegar to just cover the tomatoes.
4. Slice onions into rounds and chop red peppers in a small dice. Add to pot. Tie up pickling spices in some cheesecloth, and add to pot. Add 4-5 cups sugar, and give the whole thing a quick stir.
5. Put pot on stove and cook at a very low simmer for 3-4 hours, or until tomatoes are good and soft. Immediately place the hot chow into glass jars and seal; you'll hear them self-sealing over the next bit. Refrigerate opened jars, and enjoy!
I like this picture. The chow looks like it's kinda hanging out there, doesn't it? Streetwalker chow!
Monday, August 24, 2009
It has been stupid humid here the last couple of weeks, and there was no worse day than when we were waiting for Hurricane Bill. We got slammed a few years ago by Hurricane Juan (which we all completely dismissed), so this year the provinces collectively decided we'd take this seriously.
And naturally, it didn't hit at all. We had about 60mm of rain, winds about 65 km/hr - no big deal for us, although that's more normal for Autumn than Summer. There was only one real way you knew a hurricane and blown by - the surf.
Oh the surf.
It was magnificent. I love living on the ocean; it gets into your blood in ways I can't describe. For me, there is no better feeling than watching the power of nature manifested through the water. Smelling the salt in the air, getting drenched by spray, skin sandblasted by the wind...that's my happy place right there.
I wanted (foolishly) to go to Peggy's Cove, but the road was blocked off by both police (I can get around them!) and rocks - granite rocks - washed up on the shore. It was the latter that deterred me; sometimes nature saves us from ourselves.
However, a couple of hours after the storm had passed, my uncle took me to a locals-only spot near Peggy's Cove that I didn't even know existed. And WOW....it was way better! Taller hills (the safer to watch from!), more shoals (bigger waves!), and beautiful green, moss covered hills. Blueberries everywhere, and bay plants all over the place. Gorgeous. A bit of a hike to get there, but I'll be back.
Speaking of back, tomorrow I am making my first batch of Chow for the season, with tomatoes fresh from Mom's garden. So tune in for that Maritime staple in the next couple of days. :)
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Hello my little strawwwberries! I know I haven't posted in a little bit, but fear not - I am not giving up. For the next couple of weeks it's going to be hard posting. For one, my dad stole my camera for his trip to NFLD because - get this - he didn't know the battery was rechargeable. WOW Dad...just. WOW. True story - I once had to drive all the way from Kingston, Ont., to PEI to fix the remote for him. And every time he visits me, he wrecks my remote. EVERY TIME.
Ahem. Anyway. The other main reason my posting is down is because of the weather - it is SO humid. I have such bad headaches from the humidity I can barely think of using heat to cook, let alone bake or anything. Summer is when I gain weight; turns out cold things and ready made things have more calories than real food. THE NERVE. And when it's not like living in a sauna, it's cloudy and raining, aka no good light. Not that it matters, since Dad has my camera for a couple of weeks, but STILL.
I will be back full force in a couple of weeks, though, with all sorts of goodies like Mustard Pickles, Chow, all the TWD stuff I AM still making, and more, lots more! Please check back; I seriously love having people read my blog. :)