Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ketchup at the Barn-B-Q

Yesterday we had a little end-of-summer cookout. The sky spit and threatened all day, but evening blew in cool and pleasant, good for horseshoes and grilling.

I made my first ever batch of homemade ketchup! It was a great success, easy, and quicker to cook down than I thought.

Ketchup for Everybody

12 large tomatoes
1.5 C brown sugar (I used sucanat)
1/3 C molasses
1/3 C cider vinegar
2 allspice berries
dash of cinnamon
salt and pepper

Core and seed the tomatoes, and chop roughly. Put in a large saucepan with about an inch of water and set to boil. Add other ingredients and boil, stirring often, until reduced by 75%, dark red, and thick. This took me about an hour and a half. You could double/triple/quadruple the recipe and can some, as I'm planning to do this weekend.

Black Bean Burgers

2 C black beans, cooked
reserved bean liquid
cumin, nutritional yeast, berbere, mustard powder
1 small red onion, minced

I always cook beans with bay leaves, garlic and hot peppers, so the beans were spiced from the get-go.

Remove bay leaves and mash beans. Add onion and spices. Add bean liquid to thin, or flour to thicken. Form into patties and refrigerate for one hour. Grill till light brown grill marks appear.

I also marinated some asian eggplant in a hot and sweet marinade (pineapple salsa from my housemate's job, with oil and rice wine) and grilled that. Delicious.

Other highlights included delicious corn from my friends' garden and boxed wine brought back on a plane from Provence.

The Worst Summer Ever is almost officially over!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pickles, Pies and Blue-Ribbon Biscotti

Yesterday, I went to the State Fairgrounds in St Paul to drop off my canning entries. Security guards checked my ID and issued me a permit to drive around. It was empty, but bustling. The crowds of Minnesota humanity that will pack the place in a few weeks were noticeably absent. I've been at the fairgrounds for the Craftstravaganza and other events, the off-season fairgrounds, but this was different. The concession booths were setting up, pulling up the awnings. The carnival rides had started arriving. Folks were building frames and temporary structures for the fair. (I saw a platform being built for a car exhibit.) Groups of teenagers walked about deliberately (to help out at the 4H building?). And a steady trickle of women approached the Creative Activities building, boxes and bags in hand.

The Annex of Creative Activities is entered from behind, near the bathrooms. Five white-haired ladies sat at a long table in the flourescent-lit room, and checked in my jars, one by one. The final entry tally was: Beans, Beets, Bread and Butter, Sweet, and Not Otherwise Specified (Okra). The tables stacked with jars in the Annex were remarkably empty, and the ladies mentioned they hadn't seen many beans or beets this year. The judging is this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Right on time, here's a NYT article about the longevity of cooking contests at state fairs, concluding that baking and grilling are replacing canning as the most popular categories.