regional food

Chili Sauce from the Garden

Sauce with tomato peppers onions and spices 

  The weather in West Virginia this fall and early winter has been a soggy mess.  So to keep the family warm and fed until the cold of  winter freezes up the mud and turns the world to a lovely white. I have been cooking comfort food in the rain. Home made Chili is a easy quick dinner when you make and can the sauce at the peak of tomato season. 

 Chili sauce from the garden is a family favorite. We have been making this sauce for generations and it can be made fresh from the garden or canned and stored for the long winter. We usually use ground venison as the meat adding a mixture of kidney beans to the sauce when ready to serve.

 If you raise tomatoes and sweet bell peppers you can make home made chili sauce with just a little effort. This recipe usually makes 7 to 8 quarts of sauce but you can easily cut the recipe down or double it for a larger family. Each quart of sauce added to one pound of ground meat and two cans of beans makes around 6 to 7 servings of Chili. 

For this recipe you need 25 pounds of ripe tomatoes. I usually have about half that ripe at one time in the garden and end up adding some to mine from the farmers market. You can also buy a half bushel of tomatoes at once and make one turn of sauce. 

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cored tomatoes ready for boiling water bath.

The first step is to wash, core and scald all 25 pounds of tomatoes. I do the best I can coring the tomatoes and leave them whole to scald to remove their skin. The more ripe the tomato the faster and easier it is to remove the skin. I boil about a gallon of water in a large stock pot adding tomatoes until they reach the top of the pot. Boil the tomatoes 3 minutes until skins come lose. Dump hot tomatoes into a cold water bath in a sink and allow to cool. I add a couple of trays of ice to the bath. Refill the cold water bath as it gets warm after adding 5 or 6 pounds of tomatoes at a time.  The skins will pull lose easily leaving a nice pealed tomato for chopping.  

Next dice up tomatoes with a ruff chop and place in large stock pot to begin to cook down. At this point you will have enough juice to cook the tomatoes with out scorching if you use a Med/High heat.

 Next add onion, peppers, garlic, sugar, spices and allowed to cook until everything is soft. Simmering the sauce for about 30 minutes. At this point add tomato paste, 2 cans will help to reduced the amount of water in the sauce. The sauce could be canned at this point if you like a chunky sauce or  I put ours through a food mill to remove any seeds, skins and lumps.

(I make small packets of spices to drop in the simmering sauce to make it easier to remove the large seeds and leaves.)

 After pressing the sauce through a food mill,  heat sauce to boiling and ladle into clean prepared quart jars. I always wash and sterilized at least 9 jars just in case I end up with more then 7 quarts of sauce. Add clean sterilized lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath 20 minutes. No pressure needed with high acid foods like tomato sauce( 20 minutes for quarts and 15 minutes for pints). Each jar will last at least one year after being canned. I rarely make less than 14 quarts at a time.

 

Garden Chili Sauce 

1/2 bushel ripe tomatoes or 25 pounds

1 cup chopped fine hot peppers we use a med hot pepper. 

1 cup chopped sweet peppers

1 cup red onion

2 heads of garlic chopped fine this equals about 10 cloves

1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt 

1 teaspoon black pepper

1  2.0 oz  can ground chili powder, more or less to taste

2 small cans tomato paste

1 tablespoon pickling spices, placed in a cheese cloth,

We use Mrs Woods Mixed Pickling Spices but if you do not have Pickling spice, mustard seed, Bay leaves, whole allspice, cinnamon and coriander seeds can be used.  

When ready to use add one pound cooked ground meat and two cans of kidney beans simmer and serve. 

for more information on canning in a boiling water bath please refer to the Ball Jar Website. 

 

Categories: canning, country cooking, gardening, peppers, Preserving, regional food, Venison | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Foraging spring greens and weeds

A friend sent this to me on Face Book just a few days ago. It makes me wonder how many of us really understand how foraging can help control evasive plants. It also made me want to share this with any one who likes foraging for greens. Wild Garlic Mustard is found growing almost everywhere in the Eastern US and can be cooked and eaten like any other bitter green. Another green that is problematic in our area and across the south is Stinging Nettle.  Hardy and fast spreading by seed if given the right  growing conditions these plants crowed out natural flowers and plants . Animals do not like the smell or taste of the Garlic Mustard or Stinging Nettle so they are not controlled by the environmental conditions .

Garlic Mustard Pull flyer

Forest Service Garlic Mustard flyer

 

 

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Wild Mustard in Bloom

If you are in the West Virginia area and have time to help with this problem and enjoy the outdoors and cooking free wild food we could use your help. My family hopes to attend one of these pulling dates and make a nice side dish of Garlic Mustard Cakes when we get home.A dish made from boiled greens drained to remove bitterness, eggs for a binder and Italian bread crumbs fried in brown butter.

April and May is prime pulling time before the plants start to seed and West Virginia could use all the pickers we can find. We are allowed to take home as much of the Garlic Mustard as we wish but they would love for us to remove some of the plants also. For ideas on how to cook the wild greens  follow this link Cooking Mustard Garlic. Hope to see you in the woods picking this spring.

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, community service, country cooking, Foraging, Monongahela National Forest, organic food, regional food, Uncategorized, West Virginia, wild greens | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sweet Potato Garden FAIL that Tastes so Good!

So it did finally frost about a week ago and we did finally get a chance before my two-week recovery to get out and dig my beautiful, bountiful, overflowing sweet potatoes. This was the first time either my husband or I  attempted to grow them in our family garden. The slips were a gift from a friend and we started off with about 10 plants and hoped to get 2 to 3 roots per plant. Well as things always go in a garden this one was about the funniest fails I have ever had.

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

The plants started off well and we did nothing to stop their spread or growth. Eventually they over ran the row they were growing in and just took over. My pumpkin hills became a sea of sweet potato vines and we lost pumpkins and cucumbers to the tangle of root shoots. Cody my oldest son played hide and seek with pumpkins and cucumbers in between their glossy leaves.

Cody picking Pumpkins in the sweet potato patch

Cody picking Pumpkins in the sweet potato patch

So the excitement was so high when my husband said it was time to trim the plants down and dig, dig, dig. It took us a couple of hours to dig the patch of 10 plants. Slowly and careful to not damage to roots we found that almost the enter garden damaged by VOLES. Check out this link for images and information on the difference between Moles and Voles.

I wanted to laugh and cry all at once, the largest and most beautiful potatoes were the most damaged.The beautiful pink skin left with huge holes and pits. We carried two five gallon buckets up on the porch and I  just walked away…… for several days! It was so discouraging I almost tossed all of them out.

Mole damaged sweet potatoes 2014

Mole damaged sweet potatoes 2014

As I walked past the buckets twice a day for a week my heart just did not have strength to dump the darn things out. “What should I do with them” was my thought every time I looked down at the muddy pink flesh. Finally on a spur of the moment idea I just started cleaning, sorting and tossing out my harvest. Finally it came to me… “What would your grandma do? She would use them any way.” The roots were mostly corked over where the damage had happened, so no rot was found. I was left with 8 to 10 pounds of sweet potatoes that needed saved in some way. So I cleaned, paired and salvaged what I could from the buckets.

trimmed,washed and sorted sweet potatoes ready to parboil

trimmed,washed and sorted sweet potatoes ready to parboil

I boiled the potatoes for twenty minutes, drained them and cooled them for several hours. Still sad, I removed the skins by hand under warm running water. Finally, they started to look like the yams that we normally see brightly colored, clean and blemish free. I cut them into large chunks and measured their amount. Discovering that I really did not have enough to make a full canner full of candied sweet potatoes I froze the remaining pieces.

4 Cups frozen Sweet potato chunks

4 Cups frozen Sweet potato chunks

Then as I reached the end of my pile of chucks I finally realized that I had plenty of time to make a Sweet Potato Pie ( canning sweet potatoes is at least a 90 minute process that I did not want to do). So just on chance I took the remaining pile of potatoes and cooked them for another 20 minutes until fork tender and braved the internet for a pie recipe. So to make this story shorter I made 2 wonderful sweet potato pies that I shared with my friends and family.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie.

At the end of the day I felt satisfied, I had learned a lot about Voles/Moles, Sweet Potatoes and Pie. This gardening FAIL ended up tasting great!  Lucky for me every one seemed to like a pie made from what retail stores call trash. I think my Grandmother who raised 6 living kids and farmed for a living would have been proud that I didn’t give up on those chewed up roots.

Categories: cakes and family deserts, canning, gardening, mole/ vole damage, Pie, Preserving, regional food, Sweet Potato | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Americans are wasteful even at the Farmers Market

Today was another eye-opening experience at the farmers market. I am lucky to live in a community where we have at least 4 farmers markets within about a 12 mile area. I live in a small town of a zip code population of about 4,000 people and the neighboring town may have a zip code population that is double that. So together we may have about 12,000 with 4 farmers markets. We live in an agriculturally diverse area and many families also grow large gardens to can or freeze their own healthy foods. So farm fresh food is not hard to find here but today I learned that we as Americans are still looking at food in a non-realistic, non-healthy way.

Cody, Christopher and Paige Powers picking tomatoes and peppers in the garden

Cody, Christopher and Paige Powers picking tomatoes and peppers in the garden

I am getting ready to put up about 7 quarts of home-made spaghetti sauce and spent the morning talking to an older woman who worked the farm market stand. We of course talked about what I was making and what was real fresh and what they were short on. So after several minutes she headed out to the cooler to box up my order, as I bagged up the rest of my items. When she returned and I payed for 23 pounds of tomatoes and 5 pounds of peppers. She asked me if I might be  interested in the of tomatoes sitting on the counter. The box was about 5 pounds of over ripe, soft or damaged tomatoes. She said “no one wants these, they are not perfect. If you take them they are free.” Well of course I wanted them, why wouldn’t I, an over ripe tomato is the best tomato of all. I went on to explain that they looked pretty good to me and that I would just juice them when I got home. She felt better and I was over joyed to have another 5 pounds of tomatoes to take home.

Harvest Basket in the garden 2014

Harvest Basket in the garden 2014

Then on my way home it hit me. Why in the world would she say that unless she had thrown out many items from their stand. Tossed away food that was totally edible but not PERFECT. Why in this day and age would some one throw away food that could feed a needy family or a homeless person? Why are Americans so trained to think that a blemish is not normal or common? I felt offended at the thought that we are so wasteful. That we are not able to think about real food in an honest way. Fresh from the garden food is not perfect if you are realistic. It is only a farmer who sprays his crops with pesticides that never gets bug damage. It is only the tomato that is half-ripe and processed with chlorine that looks red but is hard and perfect looking at the Big  Box Store. It is only on a store shelf where food color is added  to tomato juice to make it red. Why are we eating like this?

As I drove, I got madder and madder. I thought about the millions of children who only see their food on the shelf at Fred Myers, King Supers or the Piggly Wiggly.  They will never see  green beans and peas growing on a vine or carrots are dug up from underground. Some will never know that their french fries are under that bushy plant and are dug up before being fried to a crispy treat. We are raising food ignorant children. We are raising people who have no real idea what fresh from the garden food looks like or tastes like. What a shame that our country has the most money and is the most disconnected from our food.

So when I got home I washed the box full of  blemished tomatoes. I cut away a few spots and pulled out a stem or two and did this.

free tomatoes ready to be made into juice

free tomatoes ready for juicing

I juiced the tomatoes and made about 1 gallon of fresh juice that my family can make into chili, a soup stock, a V-8 drink  or a marinade for a tough deer stake. I am sure I will freeze some as soon as I get a couple of freezer containers. I will use most of it fresh with in a couple of days. I am thinking that a deer roast with peppers, onions, tomatoes in the slow cooker sounds good. I am proud that I have used what others would have thrown out. I have saved my family money with free food and I have saved my child from eating processed food once again.

1 gallon fresh tomato juice  for free.

1 gallon fresh tomato juice for free.

When will American’s learn to look at food and its usefulness in less wasteful way? Was my grandmother crazy when she said,” Waste Not, Want Not.” I hope that slowly I am teaching my children that food does not need to look perfect to taste wonderful. That we can still use a deformed carrot in stew and make jam out of over ripe fruit. That we are able to live closer to the land because we understand that nothing in this life is perfect, but what God provides for us is perfectly made for our use. Amen!

Categories: Chili, cooking, country cooking, family health, gardening, health, Homestead, organic foods, regional food, soup, steak with peppers, Tomatoes, Uncategorized, venison | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

West Virginia regional food favorite “Oliverio Italian Style Peppers”.

I love eating fresh home cooked food and I love even more being able to cook with things that are products of West Virginia. I am sure that all of you have the same feeling about food items from your home towns or places that you have traveled to over the years. Some times you just can not find a good replacement for a locally grown and packaged regional food and that is how most north Central West Virginia feels about these peppers. The peppers are one of my families favorite cooking staples. They are a wonderful mixture of traditional green and red bell peppers cooked in a wonderful tomato and olive oil sauce. The peppers come in several verities from the Sweet Peppers to Red Hot.

Oliverio Peppers

Oliverio Peppers

Oliverio peppers are manufactured only few minutes from my town in Clarksburg, West Virginia. They can be bought at major chain grocery stores all around the mid-Atlantic area including Washington DC and areas like Cincinnati Ohio. They were the creation of Antoinette Oliverio in 1930 and the family did not release these fine peppers to the public until 1972. Then only on a small-scale to local shops. When the pepper took off the family expanded their business to include pizza and pasta sauces, and peppers in vinegar sauces. You can take a look at the their website here at Oliverio Italian Peppers

So with summer heat beating down on us( today is 92 and 80%) it is my favorite time of year to cook with the peppers. Almost any one you talk to in my home town has a favorite way to use the peppers. Today I am going to share just a couple of ideas with all of you and them let your taste buds do the rest.

First is my personal favorite and  my oldest sons also… Venison Steak with Oliverio Peppers.

I wish I had thought to photograph the last time I made this very easy and rather inexpensive way to  make deer steak that  falls off the fork tender.  Really I am not sure this even counts for cooking but it is so good.

Place 4  med thick deer steaks into a slow cooker with one jar of sweet or med hot Oliverio Peppers with 1/3 cup water. Cook sauce and steaks on med setting of slow cooker for 6 hours. Then steaks are moist tender from all the tomato sauce that is bubbling up around them. I serve the steak with a side of pasta or rice and end up eating it all mixed together on my plate. We make this often when I know I will be getting home late in the evening.

The other a Giovanni sandwich. A staple sandwich at almost any Mom and Pop restaurant in my area. This sandwich is really simple to make and we have made it may times at home. You need a loaf of  Texas toast, a hamburger or sausage patty, a slice of american cheese and a jar of Oliverio’s peppers. The resulting sandwich is  a little like a pizza burger but with a little more spicy bite if you use the hotter of the peppers.

 

The

Giovanni sandwich with out peppers, bread, hamburger patty, american cheese.

Giovanni sandwich with out peppers, bread, hamburger patty, american cheese.

Then what a great sandwich looks like with the red and green peppers.. A little on the hot side but so wonderful.

Giovanni Sandwich with med hot peppers

The uses are endless and I just wanted to share an idea with you. If you are not from my area but like the ideas above and you do home canning why not try to make a something like this from your home garden. If you are looking for a way to use up extra tomatoes or peppers this is one that is worth trying for.

Categories: cooking, gardening, Oliverio Peppers, regional food, steak with peppers, Uncategorized, Venison, venison, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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