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Waste Not, Want Not

Preserving and savoring seasonal stars to take your eating experience to the next level

Ajvar recipe below

Ajvar recipe below

Photography by Donovan Roberts Witmer

Food preservation isn’t all about canning and pickling, explains Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld, owner of Essen, a Lancaster cooking school. It’s about extending the life of the foods you love. Maybe it’s just an eggplant that’s a day past its prime that you turn into a preserved spread with a few extra peppers you have on hand. Or pickling the other half of a red onion you used for something else by putting it in a jar with some vinegar. Your style of food preservation doesn’t have to be the way you remember your grandma doing it.

Most home cooks don’t have the time for those by-gone days of canning bushels and bushels of this or that, and if you’re eating seasonally, you probably aren’t going to be craving green beans and corn in the middle of winter anyway. But if you love to eat certain fruits year-round, by all means, take the steps to ensure you’re eating the best local gems of the season, whether it’s as simple as freezing, or as complicated as you care to get with jams, jellies, preserves and all the possible flavor infusions that will take your next salad, appetizer, entrée or dessert from traditional to sensational.

Roasted Chicken with Apple Fennel Chutney

Recipes by: Keely Childers Heany

1 (5-6 lb) farm fresh chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ Tbs fresh or dried thyme, plus extra sprigs for stuffing and garnishing
1 ½ Tbs fresh or dried rosemary, plus extra sprigs for stuffing and garnishing
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic

Preheat oven to 425 degrees while bringing the chicken to room temperature. Rinse and remove giblets and neck. Rub chicken with salt, pepper and herbs. Place whole heads of garlic and onion, halved, and extra herbs, dried or fresh sprigs, inside the cavity. Roast for 1 hour, then turn oven down to 325 to cook 30 minutes more, or until juices run clear when cut between the leg and thigh. Remember the chicken will continue cooking even as it rests, about 10 minutes before serving.

Suggested side: Roasted fingerling potatoes finished with fresh rosemary and parsley

Apple Fennel Chutney

Makes about 1 pint

3 crisp apples such as Pink Lady or Jonagold, cored and sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
¹/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup packed organic brown sugar

In a medium saucepan sauté fennel over medium high heat for about 2 minutes before adding onions. Cook for about 8 minutes more until onions are soft and translucent. Add apples and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar and vinegar, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until liquid becomes a thick reduction, about 20 minutes. Follow water bath canning methods or simply store in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Fig Nut Tart

Recipe courtesy: Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld of Essen

1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup light brown or white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups all-purpose or whole-wheat pastry flour (like local Daisy Flour)
2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
½ - ¾ cup fig preserves (recipe follows)
¾ cup walnuts, chopped
Crème fraiche or mascarpone cheese (optional as a garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine baking powder, cinnamon, flour, thyme and salt.  Set aside. Cream butter with sugars until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and egg, beat until smooth, then add dry ingredient mixture.  Set aside ¾ cup of the dough. Lightly season fig preserves with freshly ground black pepper. Press remaining dough evenly into a 9-inch tart pan or pie plate.  Spread preserves on top.  Mix reserved dough with nuts and crumble over top.  Bake until lightly browned on top, about 40 minutes. Let cool, then cut into thin wedges.  Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or mascarpone cheese, if desired.

Fig Butter

1 ¹/3 pounds ripe figs, stemmed and quartered
¾ cup sugar
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup water

Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes, until the figs are soft and translucent. Pass mixture through a food mill. Return to saucepan. Cook over low heat until mixture is a thick paste, about 15 minutes. Store in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

  • Figs are thought to be the first cultivated fruit and come from the Middle East. (Watch for them at area markets in September and October). Their shelf life is delicate, so preserving figs is a great way to extend the enjoyment they bring to sweet and savory dishes such as pizza toppings, appetizers wrapped in proscuitto, alongside cheese plates and, of course, desserts.

Pickled Onions

Recipe courtesy: Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld of Essen

1 red or white onion, sliced into thin rounds
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
Apple cider or red wine vinegar

Separate the onion rounds and place in a bowl. Toss onions with salt and sugar.  Pour vinegar over mixture to nearly cover.  Add water, until ¹/5 total amount of liquid, to cover.  Mix until sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside for 15 minutes. (Make ahead note: May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

Tomato Jam

Recipe Courtesy: Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld of Essen
Makes about 1 pint

1 ½ lbs ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¹/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp coarse salt
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning. In each of 2 ½-pint canning jars, ladle the hot jam, leaving ½-inch of headspace.   Remove air bubbles.  Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth.  Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.  Cool completely. Label jars.  Store in cool, dark, non-humid place up to 1 year. If not processing, place jam in jars to cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Jam will keep at least one week in refrigerator.


Recipe by: Keely Childers Heany
Makes about 1 pint

1 ½ lbs eggplant, cut in half lengthwise
2 ½ lbs peppers, red or mixed
Hot peppers or dried red chili flakes (optional)
4 cloves garlic, chopped (or more depending on preference)
Olive oil, for roasting
1 Tbs Kosher salt
2 Tbs sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place eggplant and sliced seeded peppers on a baking sheet, toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 45 minutes or until skin is blistered and charred. Cool and peel skin from peppers and eggplant, scooping flesh into food processor. Add garlic, sugar and vinegar and pulse 5 to 10 times until blended but still chunky.

Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks. Freeze extra in containers or Ziploc bags for later use by thawing.

  • Perfect for preserving the abundance of peppers and eggplant at the end of summer/early fall.
  • This Mediterranean spread, sometimes referred to as “Serbian salsa,” can be adjusted to your preference after you get the technique down. Some recipes altogether omit the eggplant; others are heavy on garlic. For a more luscious experience, blend in a few tablespoons of crème fraiche before serving.
  • Serve as a meze platter of appetizers with your choice of cheese like feta or chevre, baba ghanoush, tabouleh and hummus. This condiment is also a complement to pasta, meats and sandwiches.
  • Create our featured sandwich at home. Toast whole grain bread, spread a generous amount of ajvar or your own version of preserved eggplant and peppers, top with sliced hard boiled egg, a handful of arugula and Essen’s pickled onions (see recipe page 114). Betsey also enhances her sandwich with a swipe of “sriracha mayonnaise” simply made by adding a little of the hot chili sauce to store bought mayo. She came up with the combination for a “mommy brown bag lunch” during a kids’ field trip since she doesn’t eat processed deli meats and wanted something more sophisticated than a PB&J; this sandwich is loaded with flavors and textures, plus protein to keep a busy working mom going strong.

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