Green Tomato Chow

The gardening season is pretty well finished for the year in the Maritimes.  By now, most gardeners have had their fill of tomatoes and probably still have some green ones left over.

Do you have an abundance of green tomatoes you’re wondering what to do with or know where you can get some?  Today, I am sharing my recipe for green tomato chow (recipe follows at end of posting).

Green Tomato Chow
Green Tomato Chow

I grew up with chow being made every fall.  In fact, it along with mustard pickles and pickled beets, were generally on the table for most meals.  It’s a great condiment to serve with cold meats, baked beans, stews, casseroles and, of course, if you are a Maritimer, with fish cakes.

Green Tomato Chow with Fish Cakes, Baked Beans, and a Homemade Biscuit
Green Tomato Chow with Fish Cakes, Baked Beans, and a Homemade Biscuit

Chow is not difficult to make but, like any pickling and preserving, it can be a bit time-consuming since the vegetables have to be cut up and soaked for several hours (either all day or all night), then slowly simmered until cooked.  Making chow is not something that can be rushed.

Green Tomato Chow
Green Tomato Chow

The first thing you need to do is gather up all the ingredients you will need. Chow is basically nothing more than green tomatoes, onions, celery, red pepper, vinegar, sugar, and spices along with some pickling salt.  No out of the ordinary ingredients.

You can use regular white vinegar for this recipe but I prefer to use the pickling vinegar which is stronger.

Any kind of green tomatoes will make good chow. The ones I’ve used are just the basic garden variety of tomatoes.  We didn’t grow tomatoes in our garden this year so these came from Kool Breeze Farms in Wilmot Valley on the outskirts of Summerside.

Some cooks cut the tomatoes crosswise into slices.  I cut mine into chunks. Either works.  You don’t, however, want to chop the vegetables up too finely as it will start to resemble more of a relish than a chow.

Cut up the onions, celery, and red pepper.

Place all the vegetables into a large bowl.

The vegetables need to be soaked for 7-8 hours in a salt brine.  Be sure to use pickling salt, not regular table salt (see my posting on mustard pickles for explanation).  It’s important to ensure that the salt is completely dissolved in water before pouring it over the vegetables.  You will need enough salted cold water to completely cover the vegetables to soak.  I use a ratio of 1/2 cup pickling salt to 4 cups of water.

Pour the salt brine over the vegetables and set the mixture aside to soak for 7 – 8 hours.

Drain the vegetables into a large colander.

Under cold running water, rinse the vegetables to remove any salt residue.  Swish the vegetables around to ensure that all are rinsed off.

You’ll want to get as much water drained out of the vegetables as possible so let them sit in the colander for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the spice sachet.  I make a small cheesecloth sachet but I have also seen closed tea strainers used to hold the spices.  I generally use a double thickness of cheesecloth because it has quite an open weave from which the spices can escape into the chow – you don’t want to be biting down on a whole clove so it’s important that they not find their way into the chow bottles.  I buy a pickling spice mix at my local Bulk Foods store.  If you can’t find pickling spice mix, you can always make your own.  I give an explanation of how to do that in my mustard pickle posting.

Into a large stockpot, place the sugars, spices, and vinegar.  Stir well.

Drop in the spice sachet and bring mixture to a boil.

Add the drained vegetables and return mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to medium-low.

Cook until vegetables are cooked, somewhat transparent, and the mixture is slightly thickened. Stir mixture occasionally to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.

While the chow is cooking, start the bottle sterilization process.  Again, refer to my mustard pickle posting for details on this.

Once the chow is cooked and thickened, remove it from the heat and discard the pickling spice sachet.  Bottle the chow while it is hot into the hot, sterilized bottles.  With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude. Cool and store in cool, dark place. Let chow age for at least 2 weeks before serving.

Green Tomato Chow

3 lbs green tomatoes, chopped into chunks
3¼ cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
½ cup sweet red pepper, diced
Pickling salt

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl. Using the ratio of ½ cup pickling salt to 4 cups cold water, cover ingredients completely with salted water. Add as much salted water as necessary to cover the vegetables. For this amount of vegetables, you will likely need at least 1 cup pickling salt dissolved in 8 cups water. Make sure the pickling salt is thoroughly dissolved in the water before pouring over vegetables. Let vegetables soak at room temperature for 7-8 hours. Drain vegetables in large colander. Rinse vegetables with cold water to remove any traces of salted water residue on vegetables. Let vegetables drip in colander for 1 to 1½ hours.

4 cups vinegar
3 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1½ – 2 tbsp pickling spice tied into a small pickling spice sachet made with cheesecloth
¼ tsp tumeric
¼ tsp dry mustard

Combine vinegar, sugars, and spices into a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the drained vegetables and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 to 1½ hours over medium-low heat, until vegetables are cooked, somewhat transparent, and mixture is slightly thickened.

While chow mixture is cooking, start the bottle sterilization process.

Remove chow from heat and discard picking spice sachet. Bottle chow while hot into hot sterilized bottles. With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude. Cool completely. Store in cool, dark place.  Let chow age for at least 2 weeks before serving.

Yield:  Apx. 6 – 7 half-pint jars.

Green Tomato Chow
Green Tomato Chow

 

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Rossignol Winery — PEI’s First Winery Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

There are three wineries on Prince Edward Island and the oldest of them, Rossignol Winery, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. To find out more about Rossignol wines and products, I visited the winery and vineyards in Little Sands where I met owner and vintner, John Rossignol.

John Rossignol, owner, Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
John Rossignol, owner, Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

In the early 1990s, John was looking for a new career and one which he could pursue while living in a rural environment. He had developed an interest in wine making and in a special place called Prince Edward Island (PEI) where there were no established wineries. Hence, he saw a potential niche market. However, his dream was not without some challenges, chief amongst them being that there were no existing laws in PEI governing and regulating commercial wine making. Working with the provincial government for over two years, John pursued his dream and, in 1995, the Liquor Control Act and Regulations were enacted which allowed for commercial wine production in PEI.

Grapevines at Rossingol Winery
Grapevines at Rossingol Winery

In the meantime, while the process to develop and enact legislation was underway, John was optimistic so he planted grapevines to get a vineyard established so he’d have grapes available should the Province give permission for commercial wine making. The winery was built in 1994 and the first wine produced in 1995, upon enactment of the enabling legislation.

Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

Currently, there are about ten acres of grapevines grown onsite at the winery. The remainder of the grapes needed for production are sourced from other Island vineyards.

John grows four varieties of grapes. Two of the most common are Marechal Foch, a French hybrid grape that is successfully proven to grow well in the Maritime climates and l’acadie blanc that was developed in Nova Scotia.

John Rossignol checks the status of the grapes on the grapevines at his winery in Little Sands, PEI
John Rossignol checks the status of the grapes on the grapevines in his vineyard at the winery in Little Sands, PEI

The grapes below were photographed in mid-August.  They will be ready for harvesting in October.

The winery also has an onsite apple orchard to produce apples for its iced apple cider, “Liberty Blossom”.

Apple Orchard at Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Apple Orchard at Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

The wonderful sand sculptures at the winery are the artistic work of sand sculpter, Abe Waterman.

Sand Sculpture by Abe Waterman - at the Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Sand Sculpture by Abe Waterman – at the Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

The detail in these works of art at the edge of the vineyard at the winery is incredible.

Since its beginnings, the winery has made a number of fruit wines (e.g., strawberry, wild blueberry, rhubarb). In the winery’s early years, John says this was a necessity as there weren’t enough grapes available to make the traditional wines as we think of them. Supportive of local products, John sources raw products such as Island strawberries, raspberries, and black currants from local farmers.

Fruit Wines Produced by Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Fruit Wines Produced by Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

The fruit wines are especially popular in summer and are generally consumed as an aperitif. John likes the Strawberry Wine paired with cheese and says the blueberry wine can also be a table wine. This medium-sweet red wine is especially good paired with spicy, curried food. In total, the winery now produces 16 varieties of products under the Rossignol label.

When asked what the winery’s most popular wines are, John says the Little Sands White and the High Bank Red top the list. The winery also produces some specialty liqueurs, including their iced apple cider, maple liqueur, and cassis which they bottle in special Italian bottles. The cassis is a relatively new product for the winery which began the process four years ago to get this product ready for market. The cassis has been on the market for two years now and is particularly popular with chefs.

The winery also makes a wild rose liqueur from the hips of locally grown roses. These products are suitable as after-dinner drinks.

John indicates he experiences no great challenge to running a winery in rural PEI. He says PEI has good growing conditions for quality fruit which, in turn, means good quality wine.

“PEI has good growing conditions for quality fruit which, in turn, means good quality wine.” – John Rossignol

I asked John what his greatest satisfaction is from producing wine. He says, when he started in the business 20 years ago, it was always intended to be a lifestyle business which it remains today. He tells me he enjoys getting to work from his nearby home without going through city rush hour traffic. He also derives satisfaction from looking for new markets that keep the business interesting and different. But, perhaps most of all, John says he enjoys a business that actually allows him to be involved in all stages of the production of the finished product. That means he farms the grapes, makes the wine, and bottles, markets, and sells it so he gets to see the entire process of production from start to finish.

After our chat about the Rossignol products, John toured me through the winery.

The wine is sterilized by filtration and passes through three large tanks.

Tanks Containing Wine in Progress
Tanks Containing Wine in Progress

Some products, such as the maple liqueur, are aged in traditional oak barrels.

Traditional Oak Barrels for Aging Wine
Traditional Oak Barrels for Aging Wine

The barrels in the photo below contain red wine which has been aging for two years.

Oak Barrels of Red Wine Aging for Two Years
Oak Barrels of Red Wine Aging for Two Years

During my visit, the winery staff was busy bottling wine.

Bottling Wine
Bottling Wine
Corking and Labeling the Bottles
Corking and Labeling the Bottles

 

Freshly Bottled Wine
Freshly Bottled Wine
Boxes of Wine Ready for Shipment
Boxes of Wine Ready for Shipment

Rossignol wines are presented in uniquely-labelled bottles. Labels feature the work of local painters, including John’s wife Dagny, as well as some of John’s own artwork.

Wine Bottle Label Designed by Dagny Rossignol
Wine Bottle Label Designed by Dagny Rossignol

 

Wine Bottle Label Designed by John Rossignol
Wine Bottle Label Designed by John Rossignol

One of the earliest artists involved with producing artwork for Rossignol bottles is Nancy Perkins who happened to drop by the winery during my visit.

Nancy Perkins, Designer of Wine Bottle Labels at Rossignol Winery
Nancy Perkins, One of the Designers of Wine Bottle Labels at Rossignol Winery

Rossignol wines and liqueurs are available at the winery located at 11147 Shore Road, in Little Sands, PEI, as well as at Island liquor stores. The winery has at times shipped their products to Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Alberta Liquor Commissions. Recently, the winery has sent four shipments of wines to China which has shown a special interest in PEI wines.

The winery regularly sends samples of their wines to wine competitions and, as you can see from the photo below, they have garnered many medals attesting to the fine quality of wine being produced at Rossignol Winery.

Rossignol was recently awarded the gold medal for the best fruit wine in Canada at the All Canadian Wine Championships in Ontario. That’s great recognition and validation for a winery that was the pioneer in wine making in PEI and is still going strong, producing on average about 40,000 bottles of wine annually.

For more information on Rossignol Winery, visit their website at http://www.rossignolwinery.com/Rossignol-Winery.html

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Crabapple Jelly

It’s apple season on Prince Edward Island and orchards are filled with trees bearing wonderful apples of so many varieties.  There’s nothing like heading to a U-pick orchard to pick your own apples.  I always pick several pecks each fall — in fact, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and pick too many!  However, they do get processed into pies, crisps, sauces, and jellies.  Apples are very versatile!

Crab Apple Jelly
Crabapple Jelly

For apple jelly lovers, now is the time to make that rich  red crabapple jelly that is so flavorful.  The apples I used in the recipe I am sharing today came from Arlington Orchards in Arlington, west of Summerside, PEI.  I knew by the color of them that they would make a good jelly.  They are the Dolgo Crabapple variety.

Crab Apples
Crabapples

Now, apple jelly is not particularly difficult to make but it is a lengthy process and does take a bit of skill and know-how to get it cooked to the correct jelly state.

First, you have to wash and cut off the stem and blossom ends of the tiny apples.  Then, they have to be cooked to the “mushy” stage.   I take a potato masher and mash down any remaining chunks of apple after cooking as I find this helps the mixture to drip better once it is in the jelly bag.  The “mush” (pulp) gets bundled into a cheesecloth bag, tied, and hung over a bowl or pot to catch the juice dripping from the cooked apples.    I use a double weight of cheesecloth because I don’t want any apple seeds or pieces of apple peel coming through.  The objective is to have the juice as clear as possible so it does not make a cloudy jelly.  The aim is to have a transparent jelly.

Clear, transparent jelly
Clear, transparent jelly

The time-consuming process is waiting for the juice to slowly drip from the pulp in the jelly bag– it takes several hours and I usually leave it overnight.  The bag has to get suspended to allow the juice to slowly drip out.  I concoct a really “sophisticated” outfit for this — I simply hang the jelly bag on to a broom handle and suspend the broom between two chairs with a bowl or pot placed under the bag to catch the juice.  Really high tech, don’t you think!  Nevertheless, it works and gets the job done.

Once it’s apparent that there is no more juice dripping, discard the contents of the jelly bag. Measure and pour the extracted juice into a stock pot.  Add the sugar and lemon juice and start the cooking process.  I add sugar at the ratio of 3/4 cup sugar to 1 cup extracted apple juice.  Place 2-3 saucers in the freezer — these will be used to test the jelly’s state of “jellying”.  Once a small sample of the jelly is put on a cold saucer, placed in the freezer for a minute, removed, and starts to “wrinkle” when pushed gently with a finger, it has reached the jelly stage and is ready for bottling.

I don’t process my jelly in a hot water bath because I have a cold room in which to store the jelly over the time I plan to keep it on hand.  However, if you don’t have a cold room or space in the refrigerator in which to store the jelly, I recommend processing it in a hot water bath following the directions provided from the manufacturer for your canner.

Crabapple Jelly

Ingredients:

4 lbs crabapples
7 cups water

Granulated sugar (see Method below for amount)
3-4 tbsp strained fresh lemon juice
1 tsp butter

Method:

Wash apples.

Remove stem and blossom ends from apples.

Leave apples whole. Place in large stock pot.

Add the water.

Cook for approximately 40-45 minutes or until apples have softened and begun to break down into mush.

Gently mash any large chunks of apple with a potato masher.

Place a double weight of cheesecloth in a large colander.

Place the colander over a large pot.  Pour the apple pulp into the cheesecloth-lined colander.

Let mixture drip for about 20 minutes or so to get some of the initial juice out of the pulp.

Gather up the ends of cheesecloth and tie tightly with an all-purpose twine or heavy string, making a loop by which to hang the jelly bag to allow the juice to drip out.

Hang the jelly bag on a broom handle and support the broom between two chairs. Place a large pot or bowl under the jelly bag to catch the juice as it drips.

Allow this to drip on its own for several hours (i.e., at least 3-4) or overnight, until no more juice is seen dripping through. Resist the urge to squeeze the jelly bag to hasten the juice flow as this could cause some of the apple pulp to escape the bag resulting in a cloudy juice and jelly.

Place 2-3 saucers in the freezer. You will need these to test the jelly for “jellying” status.

Place six clean one-cup mason jars upright in a large pot. Cover jars with water and heat to 180°F to sterilize the jars. Keep jars hot until ready to use.

When jelly bag is done dripping, discard bag and apple pulp. To determine the amount of sugar needed, measure out the extracted juice and add ¾ cup of sugar for each cup of juice.

Pour juice into pot.

Add the lemon juice and sugar to the extracted apple juice.

Stir to dissolve sugar.

Add 1 tsp butter to reduce foaming.

Bring mixture to a rolling boil.

Continue to boil over medium high heat for about 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, then test for status of jellying.

To test for jellying, remove one of the saucers from the freezer and place a couple of teaspoons of the jelly on it. Place the jelly in the freezer for one minute. Remove it from the freezer and push the jelly gently with a finger. If it wrinkles, it is done.

If it doesn’t wrinkle, keep cooking the jelly, testing every 5-6 minutes until it is done. Do not overcook.

Skim off any foam that may still remain on top of the jelly.  Bottle hot jelly into sterilized jars, using a funnel, leaving between ¼” – ½” headroom . Wipe rims with clean damp cloth.

Heat jar lids and immediately place over hot filled jars. Finger tighten a rim band onto each jar.  Process in hot water bath following canner manufacturer’s directions. Allow jelly jars to sit at room temperature for several hours to set then store in cold room out of light.

Yield: 5½ – 6 cups

Crab Apple Jelly on Fresh Biscuits
Crabapple Jelly on Fresh Biscuits

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