Freezing Vegetables (peppers, tomatoes and onions)

When buying large quantities of vegetables in the fall, here’s some great strategies for freezing sweet peppers, hot peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

Mandolin3I love to use my German-made mandolin – what a great implement for processing large amounts of vegetables (particularly during end-of-season harvest time, when vegetables are available in large quantities at bargain prices). If you’ve never seen these devices, check them out. I find it fantastic since it’s easy to use and simple to clean up (not much more work than a cutting board and knife).

Sweet Peppers

  1. Select crisp, tender peppers.
  2. Wash.
  3. Cut out stems and cut peppers in half.
  4. Remove seeds and membrane — save time by using a melon baller or the tip of a spoon to scrape out seeds and membrane.
  5. Cut peppers into strips, dice or slice, depending on how you plan to use them.
  6. peppers2Freeze peppers in a single layer on a cookie sheet with sides, about an hour or longer until frozen. This method is often referred to as “tray freezing.”
  7. Transfer to a “freezer” bag when frozen, excluding as much air as possible from the bag. The peppers will remain separated for ease of use in measuring out for recipes.
  8. Pour out the amount of frozen peppers needed, reseal the bag and return to the freezer.

Hot Peppers

hot peppersWash and stem hot peppers. Package, leaving no headspace. Seal and freeze. It is not necessary to cut or chop hot peppers before freezing.

Caution: The National Center for Home Food Preservation warns, “Wear plastic or rubber gloves and do not touch your face while handling or cutting hot peppers. If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.”

HOT TIP: If your mouth is burning from eating hot peppers, help put out the fire with milk and other dairy products.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes may be frozen whole, sliced, chopped, or puréed. Additionally, you can freeze them raw or cooked, as juice or sauce, or prepared in the recipe of your choice. Thawed raw tomatoes may be used in any cooked-tomato recipe. Do not try to substitute them for fresh tomatoes, however, since freezing causes their texture to become mushy.

Tomatoes should be seasoned just before serving rather than before freezing; freezing may either strengthen or weaken seasonings such as garlic, onion, and herbs.

Step 1. Preparation and Selection

Select firm, ripe tomatoes for freezing. Sort the tomatoes, discarding any that are spoiled.

Step 2. Wash Tomatoes

Tomatoes should be washed before cutting. To wash, wet each tomato with water, rub its surface, rinse it with running water, and dry it with a paper towel. After washing, cut away the stem scar and surrounding area and discard it before slicing or chopping the tomato.

Washing tomatoes in a sink filled with water is not recommended since contaminated water can be absorbed through the fruit’s stem scar. The use of soap or detergent is neither recommended nor approved for washing fruits and vegetables because they can absorb detergent residues.

Dry them by blotting with a clean cloth or paper towels.

Step 3.

Freezing whole tomatoes with peels: Prepare tomatoes as described above. Cut away the stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes do not need to be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time or all at once. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.

Freezing peeled tomatoes: If you prefer to freeze peeled tomatoes, you can wash the tomatoes and then dip them in boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skins split. Peel and then freeze as noted above.

Onions

The following method works for fully mature onions:

  1. Wash, peel and chop raw, fully mature onions into about 1/2″ pieces. There is no need to blanch onions.
  2. Bag and freeze in freezer bags for best quality and odor protection. Package — flat — in freezer bags to hasten freezing and make it easier to break off sections as needed. Express out the air and place bags on cookie sheets or metal pans until onions are frozen. Then, restack bags to take up less room.
  3. Use in cooked products, such as soups and stews, ground meat mixtures, casseroles, etc. For most dishes, frozen onions may be used with little or no thawing. (Will keep 3-6 months.)

 

References:

University of Nebraska – freezing raw tomatoes

University of Nebraska – freezing raw peppers

University of Nebraska – freezing onions

 

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Spaghetti Sauce (from scratch)

wpid-20151031_181036.jpgThis is a great recipe for basic marinara-style sauce. I’ve adapted it from a few sources and added a few special ingredients of my own.
I love to make several batches, and this recipe will make approximately 30 servings (I like to freeze it in 3-cup portions which is about the same as a 650ml store-bought jar of sauce).

Mandolin2My first full batch of this recipe was my first use of my German-made mandolin – what a great implement for processing large amounts of vegetables (particularly during end-of-season harvest time, when vegetables are available in large quantities at bargain prices). If you’ve never seen these devices, check them out. I find it fantastic since it’s easy to use and simple to clean up (not much more work than a cutting board and knife).

 

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium onions finely chopped
2 or 3 sweet peppers finely chopped (1 love adding 1 Pablano pepper!)
1 hot pepper finely chopped (optional)
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
12 cups of tomatoes chopped (best to use a couple of varieties of tomatoes, perhaps even a couple cans of diced tomatoes)
3 (12 oz) cans of tomato paste
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
2 teaspoons of dried basil (or 1/8 – 1/4 cup of freshly chopped basil)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Directions

  1. 20151101_134134In a large pot, add the oil and heat
  2. Saute onions, garlic, and peppers until tender
  3. Add remaining ingredients
  4. Bring to a boil
  5. Reduce to simmer for 2 hours, partially covering the pot, and stirring occasionally
  6. Store in freezer bags (3 cup servings)
  7. When thawing for use later, simply add in meat/mushrooms/sausage etc. To make your favourite sauce

Chicken Wings Grill Supreme!

If you love chicken wings and love the BBQ – I believe I have the recipe for you!

I first tried this out mid-summer and perfected it a bit more, just this past weekend. We like a bit of heat, but not the standard chicken wing buffalo sauce type – more of a sweet heat…  If you do like the “breaded” style wings, have a look at My Best Chicken Wings (Chaps-Like) here.

I’m sure this recipe will be fine for broiling the wings, but there’s nothing like wings off the grill, with a bit of smoke (applewood is one of my favourites.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken wings - grill20-30 chicken wings (separated)
  • Base Sauce:  All Purpose Sweet Sauce
  • Sauce Adders:
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon smoked spice (President’s Choice – Smokin’ Stampede)
    • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
    • 2 diced fresh chili peppers (or similar)

Directions:

  1. Make the base sauce 30 minutes in advance of grilling the wings –  All Purpose Sweet Sauce
  2. Place the “Sauce Adders” (you can more here, if you want to dial-up the heat more) in small dish, so you can add these to the sauce when you are at the grill.
  3. Grill the chicken wings, ensuring they are fully cooked (I like to add smoking wood too, to add more flavour to the grilling), this will usually take about 16-18 minutes (keep turning the wings every couple of minutes).
  4. Once the wings are grilled, take a large foil dish, place it on the grill and add a good portion of the Base Sauce to it, and stir in the Sauce Adders thoroughly.
  5. Add the grilled wings into the dish with the sauce and stir thoroughly to coat the wings.
  6. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, letting the sauce caramelize a bit to the wings (the sauce should bubble on the grill, but keep stirring every few minutes).
  7. Enjoy!

Chili – scratch recipe

I have flirted with making chili for many years. Often I find the recipe being so close to a spaghetti sauce, which has been fine (canned tomato sauce, ground beef, onions, green pepper…). After searching for alternatives, I came up with a recipe that takes some inspiration from a number of sources that I found online. We tried this yesterday, and the results were fantastic!

My personal favourite way with chili, is to make a sloppy joe sandwich—toast up your bun, add down a 1/2″ layer of coleslaw, add your chili, and enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp butterchili with coleslaw 2
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1.5-2lbs of lean ground beef
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes (can add more if you like)
  • 1 can of dark beer
  • 1 cup of strong coffee
  • 2 (6oz) cans of tomatoe paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp salt

Options:

  • 2 chopped chili peppers (for extra heat)
  • 4 tbsp hot sauce (alternative for the chili peppers

Directions:

  1. In a separate fry pan, cook the ground beef (put aside until needed later).
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter and then cook the onions and celery until soft.
  3. Add garlic and stir in for 2 min.
  4. Add tomatoes, beer, coffee, tomato paste and beef broth.
  5. Add in remaining spices/ingredients.
  6. Reduce heat to min and simmer for 2 hours.

BBQ Sauces – it’s a regional thing…

BBQ types 3I absolutely love BBQ, it doesn’t matter if it’s ribs, chicken, burgers or an awesome cut of beef. There’s something about the art of preparing everything yourself – gone are the days of store-bought sauces and flavours.

My go-to dish is my fall-off-the-bone ribs (you can find all the details for the preparation and sauces here).

I recently had the opportunity to visit some business associates in North Carolina and had the blessing of experiencing North Carolina BBQ for the first time—what a treat!

If you like BBQ, and enjoy variety in your tastes, here’s a collection of BBQ Sauces to add some flair to your artistry of BBQ!

North Carolina-Style Vinegar BBQ Sauce

Combine the bacon, beef stock, cider vinegar, white vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, red pepper flakes, chile powder and 1 tablespoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the bacon renders its fat, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside to let the flavors develop, 20 minutes. Remove the bacon. Reheat the sauce before serving.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces applewood-smoked bacon (in one piece), cut into large chunks
  • 3/4 cup beef stock or broth
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Combine the bacon, beef stock, cider vinegar, white vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, red pepper flakes, chile powder and 1 tablespoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the bacon renders its fat, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside to let the flavors develop, 20 minutes. Remove the bacon. Reheat the sauce before serving.

North Carolina Vinegar Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Texas Pete’s
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a small, non-reactive sauce pan and bring to a boil. Whisk until the sugar and salt is completely dissolved, remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Pour the sauce into a jar or squeeze bottle and let rest in the refrigerator one day before using.

Kansas City Rib Sauce

BBQ types 2This is a rich, thick, tomato based barbecue sauce recipe often associated these days as Kansas City Style. You get that traditional combination of sweet with a touch of heat in a dark and thick tomato sauce. Adjust the heat by changing the amount of cayenne.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup/240 mL ketchup
  • 1/4 cup/60 mL water
  • 1/4 cup/60 mL cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup/60 mL brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons/45 mL olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons/30 mL paprika
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL chili powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon/5 mL cayenne

Directions

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and sauté until brown. Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes until thickened. Adjust the heat by changing the amount of cayenne.

General Kansas BBQ Sauce

In my humble Kansas City opinion, this really is the best homemade BBQ sauce recipe! It’s sweet, it’s tangy, it’s smoky, and it’s perfect on just about everything. It is also naturally vegan and gluten-free

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 Tbsp. worcestershire*
  • 2 tsp. liquid smoke**
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • (optional: a few pinches of cayenne powder for extra heat, which I recommend)

Directions

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer (uncovered) for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly thickened.

Use the sauce immediately, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Carolina Style BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup/240 mL prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup/120 mL sugar
  • 1/4 cup/60 mL light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup/180 mL cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup/60 mL water
  • 2 tablespoons/30 mL chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon/5 mL black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon/5 mL white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon/2.5 mL cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon/2.5 mL soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons/30 mL butter
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL liquid smoke (hickory flavoring)

Directions

Mix all ingredients except soy, butter and smoke. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 more minutes.

St.Louis BBQ Sauce

St. Louis Barbecue Sauce is thinner and has more of a tangy flavor than its Kansas City cousin. Being at the crossroads St. Louis style barbecue has many influences, so there are a number of ways of making this style sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups/475 mL ketchup
  • 1/2 cup/120 mL water
  • 1/3 cup/80 mL apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup/80 mL brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons/30 mL yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon/2.5 mL cayenne

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat. Stirring occasionally and simmer for 20 minutes. Sauce should be thin, but not watery. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate. Sauce is better if allow to sit for a day.

Classic Rib Sauce

There is a flavor that is great BBQ Ribs. This sauce helps you get there, whether you smoked your ribs low and slow for hours, or baked them in the oven. This BBQ Rib Sauce has a touch of heat, a touch of smoke, and a lot of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups/475 ketchup
  • 1/3 cup/80 mL brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup/60 mL minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons/30 mL olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons/30 mL water
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon/5 mL liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon/5 mL dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon/2.5 mL cayenne
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

Blend onion and water into a puree. Heat a medium sauce pan over a medium heat. Add olive oil. When oil is warm, pour in onion puree. Simmer until slightly browned. Add remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Killer Baked Potatoes

If you are looking for a quick potato change-up, here’s a simple recipe to bring new life to that staple we call the “potato.”

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium to large potatos
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 tblspn butter
  • 1/3 cup of shredded cheese
  • 2-3 tblspn milk

Options:

  • 2 diced up green onions
  • creamcheese
  • garlic
  • bacon (bits)

Baked potatoe 2Directions:

  1. Bake the potatoes (microwave till soft, or oven at 425F for 50-60 min).
  2. Cut length-wise, while still hot, and scoop out potato into a bowl.
  3. Mash the potato, add the salt, butter, cheese and any optional ingredients (you can sprinkle some extra cheese, usually a different type than the one used above, over the tops, if you like).
  4. Refill the potatoes and put under the broiler until browned.

BBQ Sauce – Memphis style…

You watch a great cooking show, they gear-up your appetite by showing you fabulous creations – then you get inspired…

Yup, the result is this bbq sauce, which I’ve modified a bit, creating a great sauce for ribs (we loved it on my fall-off-the-bone bbq ribs).

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of ketchup
  • 1-1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tspn fresh black pepper
  • 2 tspn minced onion (from the bottle)
  • 2 tspn mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tspn red pepper flakes (or to taste/desired heat)
  • 1 tspn red pepper (or to taste/desired heat)

Directions:

  • In a sauce pan, combine all ingredients except the Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for 90 minutes – stirring regularly.
  • Add Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice, then simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • You can store for use in an air-tight container (should be good for 3 weeks or so).

BBQ Sauce – all purpose sweet sauce

Here’s a fabulous bbq sauce that is perfect for adding as a topping for rice, chicken, beef – you name it!

It’s all-purpose!

Ingredients:

(double-up the recipe for extra to have on-hand)

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1-1/2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tspn of liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tspn garlic powder
  • OPTIONAL:  add some red pepper flakes or red pepper to heat it up a bit…

Directions:

  • In a sauce pan, add the ketchup, brown sugar, onion, liquid smoke and garlic powder.
  • Cook for 5 minutes – or until heated through, then simmer for 20-30 min.
  • Enjoy!