Archive for the 'Food Preservation' Category

Recipe: Garlic – Fresh or Jarred?

|June 12, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Garlic – Fresh or Jarred?

Of course – I am back to talking about GARLIC. I received this email which I would like to share:

Date: Sun, 16 May 2010 04:58:02 -0500

Hi Mama!

Thanks for including me in your email list. Yesterday before I went to work, I was on your Old Fashioned Home Cooking blog. I tell you what, I wish I discovered your site a long time ago because if I did, I won't be doing some of the stuff I'm doing right now. For example, I used to use freshly crushed garlic every time I saute something, then I saw some videos of bloggers who uses the already minced garlic that they can get from grocery store. I started using that because I thought it was a good idea and it would save me some time. But after reading your articles about making everything homemade, I kind of realize that you were right, we don't know what's in that bottle of minced garlic. So yes Mama, I am learning from you already. And I am not back in school yet. This time, I want to learn as much as I can for free before I go back to school. And thanks to you. Please don't be surprised if I mention some of your tips in my blog. And thank you so much for the encouragement. I really appreciate it.



When it comes to using garlic – I think I am the biggest user of it in the world! There is nothing like fresh garlic or making your own homemade garlic salt and dried minced garlic! (recipes on this blog)

You all know that I am against purchasing jarred garlic in oil. It’s way too expensive, and it’s a total waste. I don’t care if it saves you time – eating out at McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. will also save you time. But is it really healthy for you?


Let me repeat myself – just in case you didn’t quite get it –


No – not what you purchase at the market – what you can make at home. For big batch cooking, or if I know I am using it two days in a row (which is just about all the time!) – I make my own. Make it the night before and store in a small covered glass jar in the refrigerator. It comes in handy for rubs, barbecuing, roasts, skillet frying – just about anything. Even use when making garlic bread.

I’m fussy about the quality of the ingredients I use. Unfortunately, I can’t say that about food manufacturing facilities. I don’t care who they are – I don’t trust any of them.

Seeing those really tall jars of garlic in oil in the stores just turns my stomach. I don’t give a hoot as to an expiration date on a product either. I don’t care if you just bought it and you are dumb enough to believe that just because it has an expiration date 2 years from now that you are going to be able to use that long! ONCE OPENED – THE EXPIRATION DATE MEANS NOTHING! I don’t care what the product is.

Now back to those poisonous tall jars of garlic in oil – if you are going to use the entire jar within 2 to 3 days – then buy it if you must. If not – it’s just a waste of money because it is not good after that.

It’s so easy to make your own – just mince your fresh garlic (using only good garlic and not half-rotted garlic that you are trying to save!) and add olive oil; mix well; place in small glass jar with a tight-fitting cover and use within 2 days – be sure to store in refrigerator. Pushing it to 3 is something I don’t agree with. Slather it on any foods you want – I am a garlic lover and I can’t get enough of it. But I sure as $%@# I won’t purchase it in a jar. Not when I can make my own in a minute or two. And I know what I am cooking with and feeding to others.

It’s so simple to make – why buy it? And making it yourself, you will know if it is fresh. For “marathon cooking” in my house – I make up a jar to save time. I use it in my sauces, for roasts, for all meats being, fried, roasted, baked, etc., when making garlic breads and rolls, macaroni in oil, dressings, anything I want.

Try it – I think you will agree with me!

And a note to Karen – I enjoy your blog and your recipes! Keep up the good work!

Recipe: Make your own garlic powder and minced garlic

|June 12, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Why not?


It's easier than pie and you will know just how fresh it is – instead of relying on your grocer who may not be rotating his stock or selling old product.

If it's stale – the flavor is just not there.  And you already know how I feel about spices and herbs – regardless of what anyone says – once opened they will not last.


Start by preheating your oven to 150* F. if you are not using a dehydrator.

Peel your garlic cloves and slice thin.  Believe it or not, if carefully handled, using a single-edged razor blade works great for this!

Just spread your slices on your tray and heat/dry until done.  (If you can easily crumble it in your hand – it's done.)

Remove to clean, dry paper towels to cool completely before grinding.  I use my coffee grinder (I have one that is designated for spices only), but you can use a mortar and pestle, food processor, or roll with your rolling pin to desired consistency.

Store in an airtight glass jar in your pantry.

I don't make enough for a year – but I am a garlic user and I do make it frequently.


 And if you are going to tell me you freeze it – that is something I won't do – I do not want the moisture in it.


And now a word on minced garlic – 

Did you know that minced garlic has chemicals in it to preserve it and that it may have been bleached to keep its color?

Do it yourself – just coarsely mince and dry as above except for minced garlic your oven temperature should be 130* F!  Check it every so often and if it begins to brown, lower your oven 10 degrees.  Stir every 3 hours. And leave the oven door cracked a bit for air circulation – you are drying – not baking.

Depending on the humidity and high altitude, drying times can be up to 12 hours or two days.  High altitude dries quicker!

Remember to use good heads of garlic – nice and firm – not dried out or mushy or shriveled.

Need to reconsitute it for a dish?  Just soak in water.




Recipe: Make your own Chipotle powder –

|June 11, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Wash and dry your peppers.


Slice and deseed.


Smoke for an hour or so with mesquite.


Finish in your dehydrator.


Grind to a powder.


Store airtight in a cool dry place.




it's that simple!

Recipe: Do you have an overabundance of peppers in your garden?

|June 11, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Why not preserve some of them?


Roast Peppers 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. Cool thoroughly in closed paper bag. Skin, core and seed. Cut flesh into suitable strips and place in sealable one-pint glass canning jars.

Prepare brine: To 1 cup (250 ml) water, add 1 level tablespoon kosher salt and 1/2 level teaspoon Citric acid monohydrate, food grade. Also known as sour salt. pH will be 3 – 4 using pH paper.

Add enough brine to fill jars. Process in boiling water bath 35 min at sea level to 450 feet above. Seal jar and allow to come to room temperature.

* JALAPENOS sliced thin (a food processor is almost indispensable here.)
* CARROTS, sliced
* ONIONS, sliced

You can use any proportion of vegetables in this recipe. We use 2 parts jalapenos to one part carrots and one part onions. Example: 4 cups sliced jalapenos, 2 cups sliced carrots, 2 cups sliced onions.

Mix sliced vegetables together. Fill pint sized canning jars and pack lightly. Pour VERY HOT, but not boiling, straight white vinegar over the jars. Stir contents to make sure the vinegar gets all throughout. Fill to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Top with sterile jar lid. process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. This product is actually better after sitting on your shelf for 6 months or so to blend the flavors and smooth out the heat!

Many of us will be planting our gardens soon – of course – unless you live in a warmer area of the country than we do – and tomatoes are always popular.  And many of us will be canning our tomato products as well.


I put this together hoping you would find this useful.


How about a little lesson on all these?

*Tomato paste: Is a deep red, richly flavored concentrate that’s made of tomatoes that have been cooked for several hours, strained and reduced. It’s available in cans or tubes. When I make it homemade I use a good quality Roma tomato, remove skins by blanching (place in a pot of boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds), core, remove seeds (which can be used for soups or salad dressings, etc.), dice and place in heavy saucepan, boil down into a thick, rich paste. You can add a bit of salt. Stir to prevent from sticking. After an hour, place tomatoes in large metal colander to strain. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, press the tomato flesh through. Scrape occasionally. Return flesh to pan and at this point you can add additional spices and herbs, if desired. You can add Italian seasoning, basil, marjoram, garlic, rosemary, onion powder, etc., whatever you want to use. Continue the cooking process for as long as it takes (in hours) and has turned into a thick paste that sticks to the spoon. The bigger the pan, the longer it takes. Homemade tomato paste will store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Either use it or lose it. After refrigerating for 24 hours (to be sure that it is the proper temperature, you can portion and freeze in freezer containers or freezer bags, label and date.

NOTE: When it comes to straining, some have used a food processor or blender to do this job and save time – I’ll still use the metal colander. I do not season my paste – this way I can use it in any recipe without having to worry about how much of what is in it.

NOTE: It’s the meaty tomatoes that give you the best final results.

* Tomato puree: A thick, rich mixture made of tomatoes that have been cooked briefly and strained. It’s available in cans. When I make this homemade I begin with the same procedures as above (for tomato paste) BUT once I remove the skins, I cut in half to remove the seeds and place cut side down on paper towels to remove excess juice. Transfer tomato halves to large bowl. Process tomatoes in food processor to a smooth, pourable puree, transfer to large pot and add salt. If too thick, add a small amount of water. Partially cover and allow to simmer for 45 to 60 minutes. It’s done when you have an even, thick consistency and no longer separates. I find that a wide pan does a good job (better than a tall pan) because the liquid evaporates quicker. If you are going to process in jars to preserve, or you are going to freeze for future use, bring puree to a boil before removing from heat. If canning, follow direction in your Ball blue Book; if you are freezing, place in the refrigerator for 24 hours to be sure it reaches the proper temperature. Portion into freezer containers or freezer bags, label and date.

NOTE: You can saute finely minced onions in a bit of olive oil before adding tomatoes and salt. That is not tomato puree to me – sorry. Left alone, I can use my puree for anything I want.

* Tomato sauce: This is a slightly thinner tomato puree. Some styles are seasoned so that the sauce is ready to add to soups, sauces and other preparations. My preference is plain – then I can do what I want with it. It’s going to take 35 to 45 pounds of tomatoes to give you approximately 7 quarts of tomato sauce. The thinner you want your sauce, the less tomatoes it will take. Score the bottoms of your tomatoes and place in boiling water for less than a minute; plunge into ice water and remove the skins. You don’t want the skins left on because they will become tough and chewy. Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds and excess juice. Just squeeze and use a spoon to dig out the insides. Place in your metal colander to drain. Place in large pot, bring to simmer until you receive desired consistency. Bring to boil, reducing by one-third will give you a thin sauce; reducing by one-half will give you a thicker sauce. At this point you can follow the Ball Blue Book directions for canning. If you are going to freeze, place in refrigerator for 24 hours to reach the proper temperature then portion into freezer containers or freezer bags, label and date.

* Tomato paste: 4 1/2-ounce tube = 5 tablespoons
* Tomato puree: 1 cup = 1/2 cup tomato paste plus water to equal 1 cup
* Tomato sauce: 1 cup = 3/8 cup tomato paste plus water to equal 1 cup

* When a recipe calls for tomato paste and all you have is tomato sauce, for each tablespoon of tomato paste, add 1/2 cup tomato sauce and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.

* The next time you need a small amount of tomato paste, buy it in a tube instead of a can. Because so little of the tubed paste is exposed to the air, it can be tightly sealed and refrigerated for up to 1 year. I also find that if I only need one to two tablespoons for a recipe, I can measure tablespoonfuls of paste onto waxed paper placed on a baking tin and place in the freezer to freeze. When frozen, transfer to Ziploc freezer bag and I have portions for the next recipe that calls for a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. You can even use an ice cube tray to portion your paste; once frozen, transfer to freezer bags. The tablespoons of frozen paste can be dropped right into hot mixtures like soups and sauces.

* Use a dab of tomato paste to enliven flat-flavored soups or sauces.

When it comes to choosing tomatoes to work with, Roma (plum) tomatoes are known as “paste” tomatoes because they thicker, meatier walls and much less water content than other tomatoes. The least amount of water/liquid will give you less cooking time. Beefsteak is another good tomato to use. And you can mix tomatoes if need be.

Sun-dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes can be quite pricey in the supermarkets and it is very easy to make them yourself! If you don’t live in a hot, sunny climate – you can use your oven and still have great results!

In Italy, ripe plum tomatoes are dried in the hot sun. When dried, they look like shriveled red chili peppers and are wonderfully flavored since the drying process intensifies their natural sweetness and flavor.

Sun dried tomatoes should be used to give an extra flavor punch to a recipe instead of as a main ingredient. For example, a tablespoon or two will flavor a pasta dish for four. They can be used without additional cooking in garlicky pasta sauces, pizza, pasta salads, and with strongly flavored vegetables like broccoli or chicory. They work well in stir fries with chicken, beef, and shrimp or in rice, pasta, and grain salads.

Sun dried tomatoes are sold either loose in packages or packed in oil and are quite expensive. You can make them yourself by drying the tomatoes and varying the flavorings to suit your taste, using any combination of herbs that pleases you.

To Dry Plum Tomatoes in the Oven

Select perfect, ripe fresh Italian plum tomatoes.

Cut each in half and open like a book. Cut out the seeds, trim the stems, and cut out any blemishes.

Preheat the oven to 220°F. Place the tomatoes on racks on baking sheets. Sprinkle tomatoes lightly with salt. Bake for 7 hours. Rotate baking sheets in the oven during cooking time and remove smaller tomatoes as they dry.

Cool tomatoes and fold them closed.

To Dry Cherry Tomatoes

These smaller tomatoes are for pastas, pizzas, sauces, or garnishes.

Preheat oven to 450°F for 20 minutes.

Cut fresh red or yellow cherry tomatoes in half. Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil and place the tomatoes on the sheet, cut-sides up. If desired, sprinkle with herbs.

Place tomatoes in oven. Turn oven down to 350°F leave for 2 hours or until dried to your taste.

Storing Dried Tomatoes

After tomatoes have been dried, you can store them in an herb-flavored oil. To do this, pack dried tomatoes tightly in 1/2 pint jars with a layer of fresh herbs in between two layers of tomatoes. Cover with olive oil. Run a knife around the tomatoes to help air escape. Seal jars and store at room temperature for several months for best flavor.

After you've finished the tomatoes, you can reuse the remaining tomato flavored oil in pasta salads and for sauteing fresh vegetables.

Buying and Storing Tomatoes

As long as they are kept at room temperature, tomatoes picked at the mature green stage will finish ripening in supermarkets and after you purchase them. Within a few days, they will soften slightly, turn red and-most important of all-develop their full flavor and aroma.

To avoid interrupting this process, place the tomatoes on a counter or in a shallow bowl at room temperature until they are ready to eat.
When tomatoes are chilled below 55° F, the ripening comes to a halt and the flavor never develops.

To speed up the process, keep tomatoes in a brown paper bag or closed container to trap the ethylene gas that helps them ripen. Adding an ethylene-emitting apple or pear to the container can also hasten ripening. Store the tomatoes in a single layer and with the stem ends up, to avoid bruising the delicate "shoulders."

Once they are fully ripened, tomatoes can be held at room temperature or refrigerated for several days. When you?re ready to use them, bring the tomatoes back to room temperature for fullest flavor.

Tomato Techniques

To peel: Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover tomatoes; bring to a boil. Immerse tomatoes about 30 seconds; drain and cool. Remove stem ends and slip off skins.

To seed: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half, using your fingers to remove seeds. To reserve the juice for use in dressings, sauces or soups, seed the tomato into a strainer held over a bowl.

Tomato Shells: Cut a 1/2 inch slice off the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp.

Roast: Preheat oven to 450° F. Halve tomatoes crosswise. Place halves, cut side down, on a shallow baking pan; brush with oil. Roast until lightly browned, about 20 minutes; cool. Remove skins and stem ends.

Slow-Cook: Preheat oven to 300° F. Remove stem ends; slice tomatoes. Place slices on a shallow baking pan; brush with oil. Cook until tomatoes soften and shrink, about 45 minutes.

Tomato Equivalents:

1 small tomato = 3 to 4 ounces
1 medium tomato = 5 to 6 ounces
1 large tomato = 7 or more ounces
1 pound of tomatoes = 2 1/2 cups chopped or 1 1/2 cups pulp

How to Choose a Tomato

Tomato season is June through August. The best tomatoes available for purchase are vine-ripened tomatoes. Unfortunately, these are the most perishable, which is a reason why most supermarkets purchase green tomatoes and allow them to ripen at the store. These, unfortunately, will NEVER have the flavor or texture of a vine-ripened tomato. Look for firm tomatoes, with no blemishes, a distinct tomato aroma, that gives slightly to pressure, and should be heavier than it appears.

Always store tomatoes at room temperature. They should NEVER be placed in a refrigerator or placed in direct sunlight.

You can ripen an unripe tomato by placing in a paper bag (pierced in several areas with a fork) with an apple. Keep at room temperature for a couple days (check occasionally).