Ellie Topp's Caponata, quick advice needed!

michelelcOctober 24, 2010

I just made a batch of Caponata from "Small Batch Preserving". This is my first year canning and I'm confused. The directions say to spoon the Caponata into jars but since it's a relish type of consistency without a lot of liquid, there are a lot of air pockets. From everything I've read on canning, I thought there weren't supposed to be air pockets and no where does it say to remove air pockets. Even if I was to smoosh down the caponata, I don't think I could remove all air pockets. Is this OK?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I have never made it but based on some earlier discussions about it here I don't think it is supposed to be so dry/thick that you can't remove all the air bubbles. Perhaps your tomatoes were a bit drier than most. Sounds like you need to increase the wine vinegar liquid a bit.

since it's a relish type of consistency without a lot of liquid, there are a lot of air pockets.

Most approved relishes are not so thick that air pockets remain. Relish-type foods need to be just a bit soupy to safely process. You can if you wish then drain off some of the excess liquid after opening the jar.

Air bubbles/pockets in most foods is a valid indication that it is too thick and needs to be thinned down a bit.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 1:48PM
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michelelc

Thanks Dave! All great information. I think this batch will be frozen, or refrigerated and eaten soon. The recipe said it yields about 5 cups and I got 2 after smooshing down as much as I could. My tomatoes where quite dry and I also seeded them (San marzanos). I was very nervous about this recipe, b/c I had read here on an old discussion that you needed to make sure eggplant had no liquid left in it. Hmmmm....I'm not sure what I did wrong. I followed the recipe to the tee. Perhaps my tomatoes and eggplant weren't big enough. Recipe says 2 large tomatoes and 1 small eggplant. I wish all recipes gave a weight, it makes it so much easier! But, no sense taking any changes for 2 half pints of Caponata!
Has anyone else successfully made this recipe? I'd really appreciate some tips!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 2:17PM
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skeip

To quote Dave, "this is a cooking recipe, not a canning recipe". I've made it many times, and it always seems too dense to can. I freeze it and it is wonderful.

Steve

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 2:27PM
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kayskats

skeip ...this IS a canning recipe ... page 178
Small Batch Preserving, Ellie Topp ...

I'm wondering if your oven may be a bit too hot ... mine is and unless I put a thermometer right beside what I'm cooking, things cook too fast.

Also after looking at the amounts of ingredients, I'm not sure how they could possibly yield 5 cups. Could be a typo.

I think your ideas for fridge/freezer are on the money.

kay

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 2:40PM
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cindy_7

Page 184 in my book.

Cindy

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 3:51PM
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aunt-tootie

Michele,

I made one batch of Ellie Topp's Caponata and followed the recipe word for word. Like you, I was very disappointed. It only made 1 pint and was very dry with air pockets. Also, I didn't particularly care for the flavor. I used another caponata recipe that I like better and froze it.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 4:12PM
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michelelc

Thanks everyone! Aunt Tootie, would you share the source of your caponata recipe if you remember? Also, did it freeze well?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 4:52PM
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kayskats

Cindy, which edition do you have? Mine is 2nd...
copyright 2007

kay

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 4:53PM
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skeip

Mea culpa. I have the book also, but this particular recipe has been discussed in a number of forums, and it was pretty clearly stated that it is too dense to can, that it was better frozen. Since making Topp's recipe, I have found this one that I like even better. It freezes beautifully.

CAPONATA

1 Medium Eggplant, cut into ýâ cubes
1 ý Tablespoon Pickling Salt
2 Large Tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Medium Sweet Red Pepper, diced
1 Cup diced Zucchini
ý Cup Chopped Onion
3 large Garlic Cloves, Minced
ü Cup chopped stuffed Green Olives
1 Tablespoon Capers
1 Bay Leaf
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme
Salt and freshly ground Pepper
1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

Place Eggplant in a nonreactive bowl and sprinkle with the Pickling Salt and stir well. Let stand for 2 hours. Drain in a sieve and rinse well. Drain thoroughly and press out excess moisture.

Place Eggplant, Tomatoes, Red Pepper, Zucchini, Onion, Garlic, Olives, Capers Bay leaf, Thyme Salt and Pepper in a large roasting pan. Heat Vinegar, Sugar and Oil in microwave until hot stir into Vegetables. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 1 ý hours until Vegetables are softened and liquid has evaporated, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven discard Bay Leaf and stir in Tomato Paste.

This is excellent as a topping for Bruscetta, or with the addition of some Marinara, as a topping for Pasta. A squeeze of Lemon Juice and some of the Zest really helps to brighten up the flavors.

Steve

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 5:37PM
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aunt-tootie

Michele,
The recipe I use is from Southern Living: 1987 Annual Recipes (Pg. 166) contributed by Anne Trapp. I recently ate some from the freezer and it was delicious!

Caponata

1 eggplant, unpeeled and diced ( I use about 4 Ichabon eggplant that I grow. If you use store bought eggplant, I recommend peeling it.)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium-size green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
3/4 cup sliced ripe olives (I like Kalamata olives)
1/2 cup sliced green olives
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed (not part of the original recipe, but I like capers)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons vinegar (I use red wine vinegar)
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano (I use 1/4-1/2 teaspoon)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute eggplant, onion, green pepper, celery and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet (about 5 minutes). Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, ripe olives, green olives, capers, sugar, vinegar and oregano. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.

You should be able to substitute fresh peeled tomatoes (perhaps 2 cups) for the tomato sauce and paste. However, I would probably add a little water to keep the caponata from sticking while it simmers.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 6:30PM
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michelelc

thanks for the recipes Aunt Tootie and Steve! Steve the recipe you posted is the exact recipe from my Small Batch Preserving book and the one I used. I hadn't seen any posts on the harvest forum about the recipe being too dense, but I'm sure I missed it. I'm not too savvy with the search function. I do like the taste of the recipe although it is quite salty, but I will freeze it and not attempt to can it. If I do make the recipe again, I will also use less salt and make sure I thoroughly rinse the eggplant although I thought I did a good job.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 7:08PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I haven't made the Caponata myself, but I do know there have been previous discussions about recipe yields lower than suggested. I haven't had that problem but some have.

I remember one previous discussion about the Caponata being too thick and dry, though I'm assuming either that Topp didn't cook down as far as that home canner or that cooking the mixture in red wine vinegar sufficiently acidified the ingredients that testing showed it wasn't an issue.

I am cutting-and-pasting a previous comment I made in an old thread. Perhaps someone will find it useful:

A medium eggplant is 1 pound or about 4 cups diced, so I'm guessing a small one would be 3/4 pound or less.
A large tomato is 9-12 oz. or roughly 1 1/4 cups chopped.

I don't have a weight for a large bell pepper but the USDA says it's approximately 3" in diameter and 3 3/4" long (measuring tape anyone?). About 1 cup chopped.

If your yield is much smaller you certainly don't have to worry. If it's frozen it doesn't matter what you do. Go by taste and tweak freely. I'm of the opinion there's a fair latitude built in to Topp and Howard's recipes but if your yield is way off (say 7 or 8 cups rather than 5) then I'd be concerned. At that point I'd probably dump the mixture back in the pan before capping and add say half again of the wine vinegar, bring up to heat and bottle.

I like Ellie Topp a lot because she offers something "different" in the world of canning and has the credentials I look for in a reliable source. But not every recipe of hers has appealed. Different tastes . . . Her red onion relish has alot of fans, but I'm not one of them. On the other hand, her pear and sour cherry mincemeat is fabulous.

You might try emailing her. Hopefully the email at the link is current. If not, I think she can be reached via the Ontario Home Economics Association.

Carol

Here is a link that might be useful: Health Canada Email Ellie Topp

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 10:46PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I thought I might add a clarification, since the subject has come up many times.

We often recommend making sure a mixture is not too dense either because it isn't meant to be dense (i.e. applesauce shouldn't be overly thick) or perhaps because someone is asking about an old family relish or pickle where making sure there's adequate vinegar syrup is a fail-safe.

But density per se does not necessarily preclude canning a product. After all, if you think about it, jam is "dense" as is tomato paste.

Density is but one factor in determining such issues as size of container and processing time. Other factors are pH and available water. A tested recipe can allow for density/dryness and be perfectly safe. An example would a mincemeat or fruit mince. Those can be very dense mixtures, as are some chutneys.

I'm assuming in the case of the caoponata that baking the mixture 1 1/2 hours in a vinegar marinade is one factor in its "cannability." In that case long roasting not only acidifies the product but also drives off water.

However, I'm not the person with the degree in food science and microbiology. Topp is.

Freezing is still a viable and may be the preferred option. I'd much rather freeze or refrigerate a very small batch than have to dig out the canner.

Carol

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 12:28PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

But density per se does not necessarily preclude canning a product. After all, if you think about it, jam is "dense" as is tomato paste.

Density is but one factor in determining such issues as size of container and processing time. Other factors are pH and available water. A tested recipe can allow for density/dryness and be perfectly safe. An example would a mincemeat or fruit mince. Those can be very dense mixtures, as are some chutneys.

Good points Carol. However I do want to add that density plays a bigger safety role when dealing with low acid foods/recipes such as this one than it does with high acid ones like fruits, jams, chutneys, etc.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 12:46PM
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michelelc

Thanks for all the insights! I will try to email Ellie Topp and if I receive a response, I will share it. Carol, I also agree, in the end, when the caponata only amounted to 2 cups, freezing sounded even more appealing :)

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 2:09PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Yes, but while the ingredients began as low-acid, after long cooking in red wine vinegar, that may no longer be the case. (IIRC, Ellie Topp said in an interview that the line is 4.5 pH, so she's a bit more conservative than the usual limit of 4.6 pH.)

However, you are correct that low-acid ingredients do present particular challenges.

Carol

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 6:20PM
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