The culinary benefits of being part French

I love that I have some French ancestry – mostly.  It’s not all champagne and macaroons, I have to say. But there is the social wonderfulness of having such an exotic & obviously French name (great conversation starter). The gifts from the culture that I have unconsciously inherited via my French DNA can be double-edged knives.  Hilary Spurman’s bio about Matisse says his focus upon “clarity & order” epitomizes French culture. Honestly, clarity & order, or, more succinctly, the details, are so important to the French sensibility. Chateau Sonoma, the fantastic French-inspired interior design store in Sonoma, California, recently posted on Facebook: “The details are not the details, they make the design”.

Or the dish, in French culture, mes Amies.

My Parisian grandfather Leon, great-aunt Germaine, and my father Leon Jr. were all extremely detail-oriented perfectionists & GREAT COOKS. Leon times two & Germaine cooked a lot with fresh herbs, garlic, onions, seasonal vegetables, vanilla, and butter.   Leon made exceptional dill pickles & chili sauce, both which he canned. Us kids would bug him for a jar of pickles from the basement after we arrived to his house. We would then scarf the pickles down, smacking each other for the tiny ones – the salty, herby, & wonderfully crunchy petite gems. At the family dinners, spooning too much aromatic sweet & sour tomato chili sauce over our pot-au-feu (pot roast with vegetables) would result in being sternly told to stop so there would be enough for others. My stomach is literally growling as I write this.   After some experimentation, I recreated Pop Rondy’s (Leon) recipe for chili sauce.  It makes a great gift and easy-peasy to make.   So good on hamburgers, eggs, rice, meat dishes and grilled cheese sandwiches.   The following makes one quart.

Pop Rondy’s Chili Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onions


Freshly ground pepper

5 cups diced vine-ripened tomatoes

1/2 small jalapeno diced

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of allspice

1/8 teaspoon of cloves, mustard & coriander

3/4 cup of brown or organic raw sugar

1 to 3 minced garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon

First, peel the tomatoes by dropping them into boiling hot water for one minute.  I use a quart measuring cup with boiled water from the microwave which you can reheat as the water cools.   You can fit two tomatoes in the measuring cup, depending on their size.   Then chop the tomatoes into small pieces and put these and the juices in a large bowl.  (This is the hardest & messiest part).

In a heavy large non-reactive pot with a lid, heat up the oil.  Add the onions and sauté on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.   Judge this by going to the next step when the onions are fairly transparent.  Add the garlic and sauté for less than a minute.  Do not burn the garlic as it will sour the chili.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then add the tomatoes all at once.  Add another sprinkling of salt and pepper, then all the spices and jalapeno.  Bring to a boil, then immediately turn the chili down to low medium or just so it simmers gently.  Cook for two hours with the lid on.  Stir every once in a while.  Taste it and add more salt and pepper as desired.   Have ready at the end, 4 pint canning jars or 1 quart canning jar with the lids that have all been boiled for 5 minutes, & then drained on a clean soft towel.   Put the chili in the sterilized jars and process as needed according to basic canning procedures.   Can be used the next day or, unprocessed, the chili will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.

Categories: Cooking, French recipes, French-inspired lifestyle, Green living.

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