The Main Menu: September’s harvest is a spectacular time for cooks

Check out the recipe for green tomato relish in this edition of The Main Menu.


September is a spectacular time for cooks — especially this year! The ample rainfall and sunshine have produced fabulous crops: tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, new potatoes cauliflower, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, lettuces, herbs of all sorts.

And that is just the start. As the month progresses, there will be later varieties of apples, pears, turnips, squashes and parsnips.

With the rising costs of produce, it is an ideal time to stock up for the more expensive time ahead, whether it is cooking up batches of recipes, freezing or pickling.

Make the most of the harvest now, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Zucchini Loaf

My neighbour, Gisela Braune, makes this yummy loaf regularly to enjoy as a simple dessert with a cup of tea. It’s ideal to pack into a lunch bag too and a great way to use up an abundant supply of garden zucchini.

The recipe doubles easily for 2 loaves.

2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking powder
1 cup (250 mL) coarsely grated zucchini
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup (125 mL) dried cranberries (craisins- optional)

Line one 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla and vegetable oil until well combined.

In separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Grate zucchini on coarse side of box grater. Gisela uses a flat grater (purchased from the dollar store) a little smaller than the coarse side of the box grater. Press out any excess liquid from zucchini and discard. Stir zucchini into liquid ingredients.

Fold dry ingredients into liquid ingredients until well combined; stir in nuts and cranberries (craisins) if using.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean.

Cool on rack. Makes one loaf.

Green Tomato Relish

What to do with those green tomatoes on the vine? Make this delicious old-fashioned, simple relish. It is the perfect companion to a roast pork, ham, turkey or hamburgers.

4 cups (1 L) sliced green tomatoes about 6 large
1 1/2 tbsp (7 mL) pickling salt
1 cup (250 mL) cider vinegar
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup (375 mL) sliced onions (about 2)
1 1/2 tbsp (7 mL) mustard seeds
1/2 tsp (2 mL) turmeric
1/4 tsp (1 mL) celery seeds
1 large sweet red pepper, chopped

Wash in dishwasher and sterilize in a pot of boiling water 5 (1 cup/ 250 mL) preserving jars. In separate saucepan sterilize rubber rings and metal rims for jars.

In a mixing bowl, cover sliced tomatoes with picking salt and stir to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day drain tomatoes. Set aside.

In a large saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric and onions.

Bring to boil and simmer gently 5 minutes then add drained tomatoes and red pepper. Bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes.

Pack tomato mixture into hot sterilized jars and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Cool on rack.

Check for seal (lid should not bounce and should be inverted) then date and label. Store in cool dark place.

Allow flavours to mellow about 1 week before serving. Makes about 4-5 cups one cup jars.

Freezing Herbs

Whether you have a herb garden, a window box of herbs or simply a large bunch of fresh herbs from the market, it is handy to know how to freeze them. Although herbs can be dried in the oven and stored, freezing them retains their natural flavourful oils for a “just picked taste.”

It is extremely useful to have herbs at the ready for adding to recipes throughout the year. All herbs, including parsley, tarragon, thyme, oregano, basil, sage and dill, freeze well. Here’s how:

1. Wash and dry them thoroughly in a salad spinner or tea towel.
2. Remove the leaves from the stems and finely chop.
3. Wrap in plastic wrap in usable amounts (such as 2 – 4 tbsp) and pack in flat packages. Place each type in a small plastic bag, date and label. Use within one year.

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