Saturday, January 21, 2012

Heigh Ho, Condiments!

I recently came into a quantity of fresh liver (thanks, Trevor the pig!) and started searching for appropriately yummy liver recipes to try out.

I am going to bet that for many of you, combining the words "yummy" and "liver" was something you have never before contemplated. You have to trust me on this, it is possible.

So anyway, one of the best looking recipes I came across called for chili sauce. This is otherwise known as the tomato-based half of shrimp cocktail sauce, which reaches its' full potential when combined with creamy horseradish sauce....mmmmmm. Unfortunately, chili sauce is not something I routinely stock in my cupboards. I thought to myself, oh well. Better put that on the list for next time I head to the grocery store.

Hold the phone. Buy chili sauce? Huh. Try make that chili sauce, girlfriend.

For Christmas, I got myself a great book on small-batch preserving. In it, you can find everything from jams and jellies to relishes to sauces. And of course, condiments. Instead of heading to the store, I raided my freezer and root cellar closets for the ingredients to make a fabulous batch of homemade chili sauce. Wahoo! I cheated a little, and cooked it in my slow cooker on high all afternoon instead of on the stovetop. This is a great trick for making fruit butters, and works for things like tomato paste as well. A few hours on high, a whirl of my stick blender, and we were in condiment heaven.

In case you wanted to try your hand at making chili sauce, or just were curious as to what the heck is in chili sauce, anyway?, here's the recipe. I modified it a little, based on what I had in the pantry.

Mid-Winter Chili Sauce

4 cups diced, peeled tomatoes (mine were diced and frozen in July)
5 stalks celery, finely diced
2 apples, peeled cored and diced
2 small sweet bell peppers (I had about half a yellow and a whole red one)
1 Tablespoon dried jalepeno slices (okay, these I made myself...)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pickling or canning salt (same thing, different name)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 1-inch piece of crystalized ginger
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries

Toss the tomatoes, celery, apples, peppers, dried jalepenos, onion, vinegar, sugar and salt into a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then transfer to a crockpot that has been preheating on high. Place cinnamon sticks, ginger and allspice berries into a tea ball or tie in a piece of cheesecloth. Toss your spice "package" into the mix in the crockpot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours until everything is cooked into a very mushy state. Crank up your stick blender and whirl everything smooth (or, transfer into a blender or food processor and whirl until smooth). Keep sauce hot in the crockpot, while you sterilize your jars and crank up the water bath canner. Ladle sauce into hot jars, top with a hot lid, and tighten the band. Process for 15 minutes for half-pints or 20 minutes for whole pints, then remove jars from canner and allow to cool. Check the lids for sealing success in 24 hours and then store in a cool dark place. Should be good for at least a year, but toss if it changes color or grows something funky. I got four half-pints and one full pint out of this recipe, although I did have to add about 1/4 cup of hot water to the pint to fill it out a bit.

I think it's going to be awesome. Next, I'm going to try making ketchup! Pass the fries, please.

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