Tag Archives: CSA

Canning salsa

We’ve had a bountiful summer, between the farmers’ markets, friends and family, and our CSA.

A week ago, we received 10 bonus pounds of tomatoes, an unexpected windfall from the CSA to which we belonged last year.

We’ve been doing a LOT better about not wasting food this year. But this was a true test.

The tomatoes were heirlooms – lots of Green Zebras, and some that might be German Red Strawberries, along with some possible Brandywine Yellows. (Thanks, Google, for helping me ID these.)

They were gorgeous. They weren’t perfect. (Neither am I.)

Gorgeous, right?

Gorgeous, right?

So we decided to try our luck canning salsa. Reasons why I’d never canned anything before:

  • It seemed like a lot of work
  • I was worried about killing someone because I didn’t know what I was doing (hello, botulism)
  • I didn’t have the proper equipment (or didn’t think that I did)

This year, I’d inherited my grandmother’s trusty canner, which kept our family in green beans and pickles for years. I picked up a jar lifter a few years ago during an well-meaning attempt to can a single jar of pickled okra… and I knew exactly where it was. (After moving twice in 2013, this might have been the greatest miracle of all.)

The real tool that I had was enough time to figure out the process. This proved to be crucial to the endeavor. (Also, I remembered the advice I had been given about canning: keep everything hot, and keep everything clean.) Note to my future self: this is not a project to start at 8 p.m. the night before you need it.

Chris and I agreed to devote the better part of our Saturday to this project. We hit the farmers’ markets in Wichita for the remaining ingredients. I invested in a wide-mouth funnel, and a Ball Blue Book for good measure.

We set to our task with good music, a fresh six-pack of beer, and a recipe from the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. We blistered and peeled peppers (we went with a “garden salsa” variety); we peeled, cored and chopped tomatoes, and made sure our jars were properly sanitized in the dishwasher.

A few hours later, we had 11 tiny jars of salsa to show for our work.

We did some things right. We did some things not-so-right. We had a good time. We’ll try it again.

The finished product.

You can put sauerkraut on that.

A few months ago, I decided to make sauerkraut.

This wasn’t exactly a spur of the moment decision. Part of it was a desire to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps, and of all the others in my family who made their own kraut throughout the years. Part of it was a plan to become my dad’s favorite child, since it’s one of his favorite things to eat.

And part of it was because I wanted to ferment SOMETHING.

My brother started brewing beer in our basement. His special ladyfriend makes her own kombucha. We’ve dabbled in kimchi and okra pickles the past few summers when our CSA provided us with a glut of fresh veggies. (And if you’ve seen “Portlandia,” you’ll think this is kind of funny. I just pickled this blog!)

Last October, I tasted some smoked jalapeno sauerkraut at a farmer’s market in San Francisco. The heavens opened, the angels sang, and I thought, “I want to do this.”

So the stars aligned in March, when I put a whole bunch of stuff in my Amazon shopping cart because I figured I needed it to be successful.

And then I put it all back when I found this recipe for small-batch kraut. We’re talking VERY small batch: one head of green cabbage, one quart-sized Mason jar.

The first batch was all right. It’s a bit dry, which I think I can remedy with a little practice. I gave half to my dad, who noted the dryness, and mentioned that his grandma never put so much caraway seed in her kraut. (But, he said, keep trying.)

The finished product, divided in two. I was mostly just excited that it looked like sauerkraut at this point.

The finished product, divided in two. I was mostly just excited that it looked like sauerkraut at this point.

Now I have a pint jar of kraut in my fridge, and not a lot of ideas for it.

We eat brats every now and again; obviously it’s an excellent accompaniment to a good smoked sausage of some sort.

Lately, I’ve been eating it for lunch as a quesadilla.

Laugh if you must, but sometimes it’s the true highlight of my day. It’s kind of tangy, and the texture of the chewy kraut and slightly crispy tortilla is at least complex enough to keep me interested. I usually put a little bit of cheese on it to glue the whole thing together, but not always.

One of these days I’ll try it with a little turkey or corned beef, and some nice mustard, and call it a reuben (or a rachel) quesadilla. I’m all about the fusion food.

In the meantime, send me your thoughts on what I can do with the remaining half-pint of sauerkraut. I’m starting to get worried that the novelty of the quesadilla will wear off.

On cooking with a CSA

I love spring. I partially credit my April birthday; but it’s also a season that keeps you on your toes. Rain, thunderstorms, HUGE thunderstorms, and this year, snow, all came with my favorite season.

My birthday dinner growing up almost always included asparagus (topped with Cheez Whiz!) and strawberries. The beginning of my new year means there’s a reliable source of fresh fruit and vegetables in Kansas, and I couldn’t be happier.

For the last six years we belonged to a CSA in the Kaw and Wakarusa river valleys in northeast Kansas. Much like spring weather, a CSA brings its own surprises. Each week we would receive a bag full of whatever fresh vegetables were in season. In April, that meant mostly lettuce and other tender greens, the much-coveted asparagus, and green onions. Later in the summer, we’d progress into tomato and pepper season. And in the fall, butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

But there was always the thing we’d never seen or eaten. Kohlrabi looks more like Sputnik than something you slice up and eat with peanut dip. There were the fresh edamame, which of course are soybeans, but when they come on a long stalk and are covered in a bit of fuzz… we initially wondered if our farmers pulled them from a ditch on the way to the drop-off.

The unusual veggies, along with those we thought we didn’t like — oh, if I could get back all those lovely pink breakfast radishes! — often ended up, shamefully, to molder in the back of the fridge.

Over time, we learned the proper way to fix what we got. The biggest challenge to overcome wasn’t a fear of trying new things, but rather trying new things AGAIN if a recipe didn’t work out the first time. The radishes from our former “don’t like” list are now dipped in butter and salt, a French tradition that agrees with us. Even the leafy beet tops that used to go straight to the trash are now sautéed or otherwise fixed along with other greens.

We got our first share of our new CSA here in Wichita last week, which means that spring is really here. Included in the offering: two kinds of lovely lettuce, thick green onions, tiny red beets, kale, a turnip, arugula, and some herbs.

We ate salads topped with balsamic-marinated flat iron steak and spicy chicken wings (separate occasions, and the second was, well, it was a Friday); coarsely chopped the kale and threw it in to a pot with some browned andouille sausage and cooked lentils, all topped with a decent amount of smoked paprika; and braised the greens in white wine and garlicky oil to go with broiled salmon and couscous.

Beet greens, turnip greens, baby tatsoi and who knows what else, with a little garlic, next to the salmon and couscous.

Beet greens, turnip greens, baby tatsoi and who knows what else, with a little garlic, next to the salmon and couscous.

At this point, the only thing left are the tiniest little radishes you ever did see. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the fridge…