Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pear Mincemeat


I can't believe how many people have told me recently that they've never had mincemeat pie! Its name is an artifact of its origin in medieval times, when spiced meat and fruit pies were common. Modern versions usually just contain apples, raisins, and lots of warm spices. I made a lovely pear mincemeat using the tiny, hard pears from our backyard tree. The recipe is adapted from the excellent Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving; it makes enough for two pies, or two quarts for canning.

1 C. dried currants
1 C. golden raisins
1/2 C. chopped dried apricots
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C. lightly packed brown sugar
2 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground ginger
10 C. peeled, cored, chopped pears
1 C. slivered blanched almonds
1/4 C. brandy (optional)

Combine dried fruits, zest, juice, sugar, and spices in a large stainless steel pot. Mix thoroughly, then add the pears, folding them in carefully if they are soft. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 more minutes until thickened but not dry. Add almonds and brandy; simmer for 5 more minutes.

For canning: If you wish to can some or all of the recipe, heat canning jars in a boiling water bath. Remove the jars from the bath and fill, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove as many air bubbles as possible by running a knife down the sides. Dip the lids in boiling water bath using your tongs, or pour boiling water over them in a bowl to heat them. Wipe the jar rims, center the lid on each jar, and screw the band down fingertip-tight. Place the jars in the water bath and boil 20 minutes (30 minutes at 5000 feet, 35 minutes at 7000 feet). Remove jars and set them on a towel until completely cooled, preferably overnight.

For pies: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay bottom crust in pie plate and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon flour (this helps keep the bottom crust from getting soggy). Spread one quart of mincemeat evenly into the bottom crust, cover with the top crust, and crimp edges. Poke holes in the top to make a pretty pattern and allow steam to vent. Bake 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pork Roast Tacos with Pineapple Salsa


Mmm, tacos. The perfect food. Do I say that every time I write about tacos? Skarsgard Farms has been getting pineapples from Mexico, and  Majestic Valley Farm has grown such beautiful cabbage this year. This makes great use of both!  I've always wanted to try recreating the barbacoa with pineapple we used to get at taco places in L.A. - this isn't it, but it's pretty delicious.

Pork butt is one of my favorite cuts of meat, because it's cheap and flavorful. I wanted to smoke it, but that's a huge project that takes about 6 hours, and we were low on charcoal. So here's a cheaters' version - we just put what little charcoal we had left into the grill with one small hickory chunk on top, smoked the butt until the charcoal was gone, then finished it off in the crockpot. While waiting for the coals to go ashy, we grilled some pineapple slices, and while we were at it, we smoked a few poblano chiles too.

2 lbs. pork butt
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 cup water
1 pineapple, sliced 1/4" thick
1 poblano chile
2 T. cilantro
1 green onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 dozen corn tortillas
1/4 small head of cabbage, sliced

For the pork:  Rub pork butt with sugar and salt and let it stand for a while to come to about room temperature. Light one chimney-load of coals (we use a chimney that you light with newspaper). When they are hot, pile them on one side of the grill. Clean the grate and rub with oil. Grill pineapple slices right over the coals just until they get grill marks on each side. When coals are covered with gray ash, set a hickory chunk on top. Set the pork butt and the poblano on the grill, away from the coals. Cover the grill and cook until the coals are pretty much gone. Place butt in a crockpot or regular pot with just 1 cup of water, and cook until tender and falling apart.

For the salsa:  Chop several pineapple slices, the poblano, and the green onion into small bits. Add lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste.

Tacos: Chop some of the pork into bite size bits, mixing with the liquid in the pot. Heat tortillas directly over a stove burner; pile with pork and top with salsa and cabbage.