Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy 150th Anniversary to the Faribault County Fair

I am spending the day at the Faribault County Fair. I will be cooking three dishes including this special sauce.

This tomato chili sauce seasoned with aromatic spices such as cinnamon and cloves, instead of today's chili powder and hot peppers, is a classic from the 1860s -- the first years of Minnesota statehood and the Faribault County Fair. It is easy to make and keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or in the freezer for months if you don't want to "put it up" in canning jars and process according to USDA directions.

1860s Tomato Chili Sauce

2 quarts ripe tomatoes
1 large onion
6 small green peppers
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon each ground allspice, cloves,
cinnamon, ginger, mace, and nutmeg

Peel and seed the tomatoes, peel and chop the onion, seed the peppers. Use a food processor, blender, or food grinder to chop the vegetables into very small pieces, about 1/4 of an inch. Do not over-process. You want recognizable pieces, not mush. Combine the vegetables with the remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and continue simmering until the onions look transparent and the mixture has thickened. Stir frequently as it cooks. Put into sterilized jars and store in the refrigerator, or process following USDA guidelines.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Two Ingredient Strawberry Preserves

You can't go wrong with these easy-to-make fresh strawberry preserves. Two ingredients. . .two hours waiting time. . . then cook . . . dissolving remaining sugar for about 10 minutes and then slow-boiling down into preserves for another 10. If preserves don't quite thicken . . . you have ice cream sauce. Too thick . . . and you can thin with a bit of water, wine, brandy, or juice.

Perfect for making the most of "U-picked" summer bounty, just as good for turning less-than-perfect fruit (strawberries, peaches, plums, or other juicy soft fruits) into a delicious spread. Simple to make a pint or two as a surprise holiday gift in the dead of winter from store-bought berries.

Two Ingredient Strawberry Preserves

2 cups strawberries, washed, stems removed and cut into quarters (unless very small)

2 cups sugar

Sprinkle the sugar over the berries and let stand for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature (or up to 8 in the refrigerator). Stir from time to time as the strawberries yield juice. When ready to cook, put the mixture in a large pot and slowly bring to a boil, stirring as sugar dissolves. This should take about 10 minutes. Reduce heat, but keep mixture at a slow boil, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off any white foam. Pour preserves into sterilized jars and process according to USDA guidelines. Or keep preserves in the refrigerator for up to a month

IMPORTANT NOTE: select a pot that allows mixture to boil up four or five times the original volume as it cooks.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Classic Potato Salad-- Healthy Twist

Midwestern cooks in the 1950s served up a tasty and healthful twist on the classic potato salad. The centerpiece of many a family potluck, most recipes use white potatoes, hard-cooked eggs and mayonnaise, mustard and sometimes pickles to give the basics interesting flavor.

In this version from Potluck Paradise rich, tasty sweet potatoes are combined with healthy, crisp apples and crunchy walnuts for a refreshing salad that complements any and all summer barbeque and picnic fare.

Waldorf Sweet Potato Salad

2 cups sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup cored and chopped apple
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup, or more, mayonnaise

Gently mix sweet potatoes, celery, apple, and walnuts in a large bowl. Squeeze lemon juice over the ingredients. Sprinkle with salt and sugar. Stir in mayonnaise. Chill for at least a half hour before serving.

As with all dishes to be served at a summer potluck, take care to keep the dish chilled. Serve it in an insulated bowl, put frozen, lunch box cold packs on the bottom or around the sides, and don't leave it out for more than an hour.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.
Image credit:National Cancer Institutes - Five a Day Resources and Tools.

Ice Box Cookies for Young and Old

While I was baking ice box cookies to take along on next week's Great Potluck Paradise Book Tour of Southwest Minnesota, it occurred to me that this was the perfect recipe to touch the hearts and fill the appetites of both young and old. It certainly was the single most recipe that our taste-testers reacted to with exclamations of: "Oh! I remember these. They were really good!" They still are. What really struck me when I was making them Thursday morning, is what a perfect recipe this is to introduce youngsters to the fun of baking.

I've baked with grandsons Justin and Jack. As anyone who bakes with kids under 10 knows, they can start the project with great interest and enthusiasm, but somehow after 10 or 15 minutes their interest can wander. Kids are kids -- full of energy and needing to go a zillion different places. The two-step process necessary for Ice Box Cookies fits perfectly with their attention span, can easily involve the child in the whole cooking process (including cleaning up!), and teaches a bit of patience, too.

The dough stirs up easily with just a spoon and a little hands-on kneading. Forming the dough into rolls for chilling is right up any kid's level of expertise. The next steps -- a break to wash up the mixing bowl and then wait while the dough chills. Later, maybe even the next day, slice off the cookies and bake. No need to make the whole batch. Bake up one or two sheets (perfect for portion control) and you can put the rest of the dough in the freezer, ready and waiting for the next time you are together. Or you could send the remaining dough logs home for child and parent to make.

As to the eating. They are lovely just as they are, but some experienced (dare I say "older") taste-testers suggest these are prefect "dipped in a container of ready-made frosting or ice cream."


Classic 1950s Ice Box Cookies
(makes 8 dozen cookies -- but not all at the same time!)

2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Stir the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla together until completely blended. Add the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly then stir in the nuts. Knead the dough with hands if necessary to get a smooth dough. Divide the dough into quarters. Form each roll into a log about one inch high and one inch wide. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours in refrigerator. (You can firm dough more quickly in the freezer for about 20 minutes.)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease baking sheets. Slice dough about one-eighth inch thick with a sharp knife. Place sliced on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved