World’s Easiest Poultry Stock

Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving! We are busy prepping for Thanksgiving Round Two, starting with stock. Every year I walk in ready to fight for the turkey carcass, and it always seems like no fighting is needed. Why doesn’t anyone want these brilliant leftovers? Maybe after I share this recipe, it wont be so easy to go home with the turkey trimmings.

Of course, I have come down with my first cold in a few years. Just in time to have a whole bunch of folks over. Fabulous. As I’ve slept about 30 of the last 48 hours, I am clearly not up for intensive cooking projects.

This method is super easy – no peeling or attention required – perfect when in a Dayquil-induced fog. The hardest thing about this recipe is straining at the end. As it uses a slow cooker, its great to cook overnight on the countertop. Of course, you could use a large stockpot on the stove, but I like that you can throw everything in an walk away. 12-24 hours later = glorious, rich stock. How rich?

The best part about this turkey stock? Just the thing to soothe your holiday head cold. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be without sniffles, its great to combat all of yesterday’s rich food. With that, I am off to make a bowl of soup and hopefully clear my sinuses a bit. Enjoy this recipe – don’t go out and buy things for it – use what you have.

World’s Easiest Poultry Stock
Turkey or chicken carcass, picked clean (but don’t kill yourself)
Veggie scraps: carrot peels, onion skins, garlic paper, asparagus ends, cleaned leek tops…
Fresh veg: A few cloves of garlic, sliced in half. One onion, sliced in quarters. A carrot, sliced in half, if you have it.
Filtered water

[Note: for an all-purpose stock, avoid strongly flavored things. Go with i.e. celery, avoid ginger.]

Easy, peasy: throw everything into the crockpot, top with water and turn on low for at least 12 but up to 18-24 hours. Speaking from experience, it helps to let the crock cool before straining. Strain through a large colander, and freeze in smaller portions (quart mason jars or freezer bags, ice cube trays, etc.) Once I get my pressure canner calibrated, this will be the first recipe I pressure can. I like to keep salt out of my stock, so I can salt the final dish instead. Up to you.

Use in: risotto, soup, stuffing, gravy, beans… anywhere you need liquid with flavor. Just the thing to cure what ails you me when that inevitable winter cold comes around.

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Asian Pear Cranberry Relish

We don’t have Thanksgiving. We have Thanksgivingses. On Thursday, its off to a familial location with a few side dishes in tow. I get to skip the stresses of hosting (though I suspect it will change in the future) and spend all day eating and Skyping with those who couldn’t join us. On Saturday, we have a bunch of friends over for a potluck Thanksgiving Redux. No leftovers allowed. This one we usually host, but it’s carefree and relaxed, with plenty of nostalgia and lots of… ahem… alcohol.

Where does that hosting Thanksgiving pressure come from anyway? I have no problem doing the turkey and gravy. I am one of those people who think knowing how to roast a whole chicken or turkey should be a kitchen requirement upon moving out. When friends bring side dishes, bread and pie – hosting a Thanksgiving is as stress-free as it gets. Our house is full and noisy and loud. And messy. But joyful. I fully admit to the fact that I will never be Martha Stewart. In fact, I particularly suck at table setting. We might even break out tablecloths this year (!) and I might decoratively pile some candles and butternut squash on the table, but that’s about it.

Truth is, I have different priorities. Like a lot of you, it’s all about the food. If the turkey is dried out – I’m going home. Well, not really. But the thought will cross my mind. That’s why its important to a) for the love of God – use a meat thermometer! and b) don’t take on too much. It’s very, very easy to go overboard.

As of Tuesday night, here is my Thanksgiving To Do List:
Family Thanksgiving: 
Cranberry Relish, Rosemary Squash Side Dish (Thanks Kaela!), Brandied Cherry Crostata
Thanksgiving Redux:
Appetizers – Hummus (Caramelized Onion? Preserved Lemon? Roasted Tomato?), White Bean Rip with Rosemary, Bacon & Apple Bruschetta, Assorted Pickles, Cheese, Mustard, Bread.
Dinner – Dry-brined Dry Rubbed Turkey, Polish Holiday Kielbasa, Mushroom & Thyme Gravy, Sausage Apple Cornbread Dressing, Cranberry Relish.

I’m hitting publish and starting on the crostata dough. Tomorrow I bake off the crostata as well as the rosemary squash side dish. Friday is shopping (anything needed is on sale!), brining, making the dressing and dips. Everything else is for the day of. And the cranberry relish? Made this past weekend.

We never really did the canned cranberry sauce growing up, so I don’t have those great memories (and great plates!) like Marisa. She makes excellent points about all the reasons to skip traditional jellied cranberry sauce – high fructose corn syrup and BPA, to name a few. She leaves out the nasty, nasty hidden pesticide use by the cranberry industry. The Pesticide Action Network reports that conventionally farmed cranberries have multiple carcinogens, hormone distruptors,  and neurotoxins. Moreover – the pesticides are toxic to honeybees, which is a whole other problem unto itself. Need any more reasons to make your own? No? Good.

This recipe really is spectacularly easy. Something to make on the back burner while cooking other things. Definitely my kind of project. The dried cranberries deepen and enrich the flavors and texture. I happened to have some of Easy Pickins Asian Pears in my kitchen, so in they went too. Apples would also be a lovely add in in a pinch.

Asian Pear Cranberry Relish
One pound ORGANICALLY FARMED cranberries
5 large/10 small asian pears, cored and diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup spiced rum (I like Kraken)
Juice & zest of an orange
1/4 cup candied ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Pinch of kosher salt

Rinse the cranberries well and pick out any bad ones. Add the water, cook over medium heat until the cranberries start to burst. At that point, add everything except the ginger and orange zest and cook until it reaches the consistency  you like – about 10 minutes. Stir in the ginger and the orange zest, and then spoon into your glass jar of choice. Serve at room temperature and never think of the industrial stuff again.

PS: As far as putting this in jars – I suspect it would transition well to a waterbath recipe with a splash of lemon juice as the pears are low acid. After the usual prep, process in pints or half pints for 10 minutes.

Pear Pepita Pomegranate Chutney

I went to my local food co-op last week to pick up a few ingredients for some green tomato chutney. Our co-op has a fantastic selection of dried fruit, and I might have gone a little crazy. Does that ever happen to you? You go to a place that’s a little out of the way and you end up treating it as a special trip and coming home with way more stuff than you intended? Yeah. Totally guilty.

So I came home with the dried raisins that I needed – the only ingredient I went in for, of course. And I came out with dried cherries, currants, apricots, mangoes, roasted & salted pepitas, cashews, coffee, organic lemons, oranges, red pears, kiwis and two pomegranates. A little crazy in the bulk foods and fresh produce sections. It happens.

Have you made a chutney yet? You really ought to. It’s pretty much perfect with cheese and equally great paired with your Thanksgiving turkey. And I love that it can be precisely planned out or made spur of the moment with whatever’s lying around. A preserver’s best friend, really. So make this, you wont regret it.

Pear Pepita Pomegranate Chutney
3 red pears, cored and cubed in small chunks
1 Granny Smith Apple, cubed
Aerils of half a pomegranate – about 1/2 cup
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1/2 cup roasted & salted pepitas
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, diced fine
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper

Combine all the ingredients together except for the pomegranate aerils. If life happens, like it tends to happen to me, you can throw everything together and toss it in the fridge for a day or two before processing. The dried fruit and spices rehydrate in the vinegar and honey – just make sure you stir it a couple of times to prevent browning. Don’t let it go more than a couple of days, though. If you have a day job – chopping up the fruit the night before and processing after work the next day works well. Cook on low for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour until it reaches the consistency you like. Add in the pomegranate aerils last – they will stand up better that way. The chutney will keep in the fridge for about a month. For a shelf-stable jar, pack hot chutney into hot jars to 1/2 inch headspace. Bubble jars, wipe rims, top with hot, wet lids and process for 15 minutes.

This recipe is squarely on the sweet side of chutneys. It’s definitely got a punch of yellow mustard and some subtle heat from the black mustard. If you want more heat, this could certainly benefit from a diced jalapeño or habanero if you’re more adventurous. I didn’t happen to have any chiles in the house so I left them out. Ginger could be a nice touch too. Just don’t overcomplicate it.

Reflections Take Two & Pears in Tea Syrup

This wasn’t the way this year was supposed to be.

2011 was going to be great. I was going to preserve a whole bunch of things I had yet to try. Pickled peaches? So there. Homemade maraschino cherries? You bet. I was even going to explore new worlds of foraging, fermentation, dehydration and pressure canning… except it didn’t really happen. More jam and cucumber pickles in the larder. Sigh.

I was going to go pick cherries and peaches and blueberries and apples and pears for days on end. I got in some picking, but Irene and Alfred (I guess that’s what we’re calling this recent mess) took much of the produce this year. Connecticut farmers are hurting – the final day of the biggest farmers market in the state was cancelled this weekend due to the unexpected snow. Buying local is more important than ever and financially its harder than ever.

I was supposed to get a decent paying job after graduation. Not a “good” paying job – just enough to pay my bills and start paying back my mountain of student loans. I paid my dues, I passed all the tests and I got three degrees. The job didn’t happen.

It’s not all as bleak as I am making it out to be. Good things have happened. For a start, we can call ourselves CSA-ers. Without a doubt, we are now committed to Community Supported Agriculture for life. Once finances change, we will move into meat, fruit and other CSAs. Pre-paid veggies really saved our asses this summer.

I tried this whole preserves business thing. The jury is still out over whether it will continue into next year, but for now I have no regrets. I suppose you cant ask for more in a startup business.

Oh – and lest I forget – I do have a roof over my head, a pantry full of mostly local food, and I am able to scrape by financially. And – somewhat of a rarity these days – I also have electricity, hot water and heat.

So, that’s life isn’t it? Playing the hand you’re dealt. Sticking with the things that work, and learning from your mistakes. This recipe I made for the first time last year, and its definitely a keeper for the long haul. So grab your ice cream out of the snowbank – these pears are great heated through on your Coleman stove and poured over some vanilla.

Bartlett Pears in Lady Grey Syrup
4ish pounds of Bartlett pears
3 cups of sugar
4 cups of water
3 Lady Grey tea bags
1 vanilla bean
1 whole cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves

Set the syrup to boil over medium high heat – keep an eye on it, burnt sugar is a giant pain to clean off of your stove. Once the syrup has come to a boil, add the tea bags, split and scraped vanilla bean, cinnamon and cloves. Let steep at least 3 hours – or even overnight.

Once you’ve tasted the syrup and you feel it’s up to your satisfaction, start on the pears. Peel, core and halve the pears. You can take the stems off, but I like to leave them on to grab the pears out of the jar. Cold pack the pears in jars – feel free to add new cloves and cinnamon to each jar if you like. Re-boil the syrup, and pour over your jars. This is a recipe that does require bubbling, though not as much as a fruit butter. Top with hot, wet lids and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield approximately 3 quarts.