Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sansho Miso

Sansho is harvested (see previous post) - now, what to do with it?  Make sansho-miso, of course! I absolutely LOVE this as a dip for raw veggies in the summer.  It is especially wonderful with cucumbers fresh from the garden.  It can be thinned with warm water if you find it too thick.  Or sometimes I had some sesame oil and use it as a salad dressing.  Smear it on some chicken - or put it on eggplant and broil it.  Good stuff!

Now, here's the tough part - six months ago I found out that I am severely allergic to soybeans in every form and even in minute amounts.  Soy is in everything...literally everything. It is hidden in foods you would never imagine and is known by many names. But that's a post for a different time.

Enter my new hero - chickpea miso!  I've tried two different brands and this one is by far the best.  I can't even remember what "real" miso tastes like. And it even fools my Japanese husband, Takashi.

Sansho Miso
1/4 cup sansho berries, crushed or coarsely chopped
3/4 cup miso
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
dash of sesame oil optional

Mix miso, mirin, and sake in a small saucepan and place over low heat.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Add sansho.  Increase heat to medium and boil gently for about 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and add a splash of sesame oil if desired.  As noted above, this can be thinned with warm water to desired consistency.  Enjoy!
Miso eggplant

Miso pickles

Sansho miso dip with fresh vegetables
Blackberry-banana-beet green smoothie on the side

Sansho harvest

It's sansho harvest time!  And every year we can't remember the process so its time to do a blog post that we can refer back to.

Sansho  ('Zanthoxylum piperitum') or Japanese pepper is a deciduous aromatic spiny tree belonging to the citrus family.  The "berries" can be harvested when green and the taste is unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's like a party in your mouth as the flavor travels and changes...it's not hot and spicy but more tingly and citrusy.  And if you take a drink of cold water after eating some, it awakens all your taste buds all over again.  Amazing!  We primarily use it in miso dip served with fresh veggies. Recipe will follow in a separate post.

early flowering stage before fruit forms
Harvesting sansho

 So here is the process...
1. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a slow boil.  Use approximately 1 T. kosher salt per liter of water used. Add approximately 2 cups of sansho berries.  Simmer for 4 minutes.
We do the whole batch at once and adjust quantities accordingly.

2. Drain and then soak in cold water for one hour.  This removes any potential bitterness. Drain.

3. Remove large stems - small individual stems are okay to leave. This step takes forever - really, it seems endless!  It takes two of us well over an hour to remove the stems.

4. Dry well on paper towels.

 5. Freeze in individual packets.

Sansho Miso

Sansho miso made with chickpea miso

Friday, September 16, 2016

Apple Pie Filling

Apples are plentiful and beautiful this year.  Our primary apples are Silver Mutsu and Honeycrisp.  We did a quick harvest the other day in order to try canning apple pie filling (the freezer is full, so we're looking for new methods). 

The apples are huge and beautiful. 15 apples filled a 2 gallon bucket:

After much research online, I came up with a basic recipe and process that felt do-able. The recipe is at the end of the post. Here is the process we followed:
1. Wash, peel, core, and slice apples.  With these large apples, two apples = one quart.
2. As the apples were sliced/chopped, we put them in another bucket with cold water and lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

3. Blanch apples to stop the enzymes that can cause the flavor to degrade during storage. Place about six cups of apples at a time in a big pot of boiling water.  Return to boil, boil 1 minute, and remove.  We simply returned them to another clean bucket and put a lid on them to keep them warm.

4. Make the sauce: Combine sugar, Clear Jel (this is a whole new product for me - look it up online. I bought it from amazon.com - make sure you get the "cook type"), and cinnamon in large pot with water and apple juice. Stir and cook on medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.


5. Fold in drained apples. Fill jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Process 25 minutes. 

Apple Pie Filling - makes 6 quarts
6 1/2 quarts (approximately 25 cups) We only used 13 huge apples
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup Clear Jel
1 T. cinnamon
2 1/2 cups cold water
5 cups apple juice
3/4 cup bottled lemon juice - bottled lemon juice ensures consistency acidity needed

Now...to try an apple pie!

9-19-16: Note from second batch: It really helps to mix the sugar, Clear-Jel, and cinnamon together before adding the liquid - no lumps!

Dutch Apple Pie was wonderful!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Making Umeboshi

This is the beautiful Ume Plum blossom.  Ume really isn't a plum at all. It is actually a Japanese sour apricot that is used to make plum wine and umeboshi -a sour pickled plum that is delicious.
The tree usually blooms sometime in January. 
This year was a banner year for ume - we harvested 32.74 pounds!  Last year's harvest was .... well...about 4 ume. In 2014, the harvest was 9 pounds and 2013 was 3 pounds.

Harvest took place on June 19, 2016, Father's Day. First, the fruit is fully inspected by K-9 certified inspectors. Then they were sorted by quality and size.

The selected ume are placed in a large glass container...

For 2 kilogram ume (about 90), 360 grams of salt (20% of weight of ume) and 1/4 cup vodka are added. Then a weight is placed on top - we use a container of coins! As you can see, this is June 27 and there are 90 ume plums in this jar.

In just 24 hours, this much juice has been extracted from the ume:

June 28

And one more day - June 29:

July 1 looks like this:

And here we are on July 4:

The next step is to add shiso.  Shiso gives it the characteristic red-purple color.  Some shiso plants are green and some are red.  Others are green on the topside of the leaf and red on the bottom.  This is what we had most of.  Unfortunately our seeds did not germinate well this year but there were lots of little "volunteers" in the area where we grew it last year.  We nurtured the shiso and were able to make two harvests, resulting in approximately 300 grams.

The shiso is salted and massaged...this was happening on July 8:

You can see the beautiful color that starts to emerge:

The shiso is added to the jar with the ume plum on July 8:

And here we are on July 30...

The next step is to remove the ume from the salty vinegar it has produced and dry them in the sun.  They are placed on trays and sit outside all day, brought in at night and return to the jar, and then this process is repeated for three days.

On the third day, August 1, they stay out overnight.