Today I can call myself a bona fide, card-carrying, every-inch-a woman because yesterday I canned.
Being able to can just rounds me out as a person. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and independence -- I could conceivably go off the grid with my my little 4x6 raised garden bed and my 22 quart pressure canner.My mother was an inveterate canner. She canned tomatoes, peaches, apricots, nopales (cactus), fig jam,tomato jam, salsa verde and purslane (verdolagas). The original urban locavore, she always drove around 1950s Los Angeles, California with a kitchen knife and some newspaper in the trunk of her car, just in case she came upon a bunch of purslane or cactus. The cleaning of the cactus was ritualistic: clear the table off, spread out layers of the local Spanish language newspaper, "La Opinion", and very carefully take the spines off, stack them, rinse them, cut them into long four inch-long pieces, cook them and then can them. It was a lot of work, but it was free food.
I felt that same sense of ritual yesterday. Monday I bought the vegetables. Tuesday I prepped the vegetables and cleaned all the jars. Wednesday I sauteéd each vegetable in olive oil and salt separately and dumped them into a scrupulously clean bus tub. I added the hot vinegar-water and then started to jar the huge pile of vegetables.
This is the Escabeche (ess-cah-beh-cheh) we made and served at Villa Victoria Take-out.
6 lb.Cauliflower florets 5 lb.Carrots, peeled & sliced 3 lb.Red, Yellow & Green Bell Peppers, cut into broad pieces 3 lb.Onions, cut into broad slices 2 lb.Jalapeños, whole 8 oz.Garlic cloves .5 oz. Bay leaves .5 tsp. Black pepper .5 tsp. Whole cloves Salt 1 cup Olive oil 1.5 gal. Apple cider vinegar 1 gal. Water
Sauté each vegetable in a big wide flat-bottomed pan. Squirt a little olive oil, add the vegetable, a sprinkling of salt and brown. Proceed the same way through all the ingredients. Heat the vinegar and water together and pour over all of the browned vegetables. This will make about 20 quarts canned.
The White House committed a diplomatic blunder last week. Am I the only one who wondered why President Felipe Calderon and his wife were served Mexican food at the official White House state dinner? I have been secretly cringing all week. Please! Just 24 hours before, Mr. Calderon had flown in FROM the land of Mole. Is his palate so entrenched in Mexican food that he will not allow anyone to serve him anything else? No! The phrase, "...taking coals to Newcastle..." is appropriate here. In the midst of our countries' conversation about immigration, serving Mexican food at the state dinner amounts to unimaginative pandering.
We missed an opportunity to wow him with our North American bounty. If Mr. Calderon came to my casa this is what I would make:
When I was little our "Kool Aid" was an array of fruit drinks my mother made from scratch. We had Agua de Tamarindo, a refreshing sweet-tart drink made from tamarind pods. She made Limonada con Chía, lemonade with mint and chia seeds. One of my favorites was the jewel-toned Agua de Jamaica, a drink made from hibiscus FLOWERS!
Lately I have been on a Hibiscus Flower Sorbet jag. Almost everyone who comes over to our house for dinner gets this dessert:
I like to serve it with a Lemon Olive Oil Biscotti.
This recipe can be made in a gelato maker or you can put it in a shallow pan and make a granita. To make a granita, you break up the frozen block and process in a food processor, then you put it back in the shallow pan and freeze some more. You can repeat this process 2-3 more times. Each time you do it, it becomes more fluffy and sorbet-like.
3 quarts Water 5 oz.Jamaica (dried hibiscus flowers) .5 oz. Cinnamon sticks (preferably Mexican) 1/4 tsp. Whole cloves 1/4 tsp. Whole black pepper -- Yes! Pinch salt 2 cups Sugar
Bring the water to a boil in a stock pot. Add all of the ingredients and let cool in the pot. Strain and further cool down in the refrigerator. Following the manufacturer's instructions put one half of the mixture in a gelato/ice cream maker and run it until it gets fluffy and frozen. Repeat for the other half of the mixture. Makes 3 quarts.