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Category Archives: Cooking

Canning Inferno

I’ve been paging through my canning cookbook in my spare time and selecting recipes that I want to try. I found two that I decided to attempt this weekend: Tomatillo Salsa and a concoction called Inferno Wine Jelly. I love hot pepper jelly and the latter was the closest thing that I found that didn’t call for food coloring.

I didn't have quite enough tomatillos for the double batch of salsa so I grabbed a couple of green tomatoes from my garden.

I didn’t have quite enough tomatillos for the double batch of salsa so I grabbed a couple of green tomatoes from my garden.

I ended up with more salsa than I thought and hadn't washed enough jars. I put the extra in a new jar (once I could wash it) and froze it instead.

I ended up with more salsa than I thought and hadn’t washed enough jars. I put the extra in a new jar (once I could wash it) and froze it instead.

In addition to the frozen jar, I ended up with eight processed jars. The salsa needs to sit for a few weeks so the flavors can meld.

In addition to the frozen jar, I ended up with eight processed jars. The salsa needs to sit for a few weeks so the flavors can meld.

I goofed on the recipe for the wine jelly, which contains flecks of pepper. I made a double batch of the jelly as well, but forgot to double the amount of pectin. Not wanting to waste the $45 worth of wine in the recipe, I decided to reboil it. Just as well as the peppers are better distributed in the redo batch.

I goofed on the recipe for the wine jelly, which contains flecks of pepper. I made a double batch of the jelly as well, but forgot to double the amount of pectin. Not wanting to waste the $45 worth of wine in the recipe, I decided to reboil it. Just as well, as the peppers are better distributed in the redo batch.

Ta-da! If it turns out the jelly still isn't as set as it should be, I'll call it glaze and that will be that.

Ta-da! If it turns out the jelly still isn’t as set as it should be, I’ll call it glaze and that will be that.

 

More Adventures in Canning

I spent most of today canning farmer’s market tomatoes and a crisper full of cucumbers from my garden. I ended up with 9 quarts of crushed tomatoes and 9 pints of bread and butter pickle chips.

Now, I’m very tired. I just tried to put my dirty laundry in the chest freezer. Note to self: Don’t can and do laundry on the same day.

I ran out of ice for cooling down the tomatoes after I scalded them.

I ran out of ice for cooling down the tomatoes after I scalded them.

Beauty shot of the peeled tomatoes. It took me two hours to peel them all.

Beauty shot of the peeled tomatoes. It took me two hours to peel them all.

All that work was worth it. Now I'm set for soups, chili and sauces.

All that work was worth it. Now I’m set for soups, chili and sauces.

I needed to use a garden pail to accommodate all of the cuke slices in their salt solution.

I needed to use a garden pail to accommodate all of the cuke slices in their salt solution.

I had to omit celery seed (due to allergies) from the recipe I followed for these pickles -- hopefully they still taste good. I'll find out in a couple of weeks!

I had to omit celery seed (due to allergies) from the recipe I followed for these pickles — hopefully they still taste good. I’ll find out in a couple of weeks!

A neighbor came over to check out my pressure canner while I was working on the tomatoes. We’re going to have a canning party and either collaborate on one big batch of something or work on complimentary items — possibly beer mustard and sauerkraut.

Fate and Brandied Peaches

Yesterday, I bought a huge box of Blades Orchard peach seconds for $18 at the farmer’s market, with the intention of making brandied peaches last night. But I ended up working all day and ran out of steam that evening while I unpacked jars, the pressure canner and other equipment I’d need for the project. I decided to wait until today.

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized what day it was. My Aunt Teri’s birthday. She was the inspiration for making the brandied peaches in the first place — she was famous for them. They were coveted gifts and a beloved side at family holiday meals. After eating the peaches, we often used the leftover juice for making bellinis. But the world has been without Teri’s brandied peaches since she died two years ago. I still miss her (and her brandied peaches) terribly.

I truly believe fate intervened so that I would be canning the peaches on her birthday.

I used one garden pail to ice down the scalded peaches and another full of lemon water to keep them from browning.

I used one garden pail to ice down the scalded peaches and another full of lemon water to keep them from browning.

This was my first foray into large-batch canning. I knew it would be a lot of work and I was right. It took no less than two hours to get just the peaches ready for adding to the simple syrup. I boiled them briefly in an enormous stock pot to loosen the skins and then dunked them in a  large garden pail full of ice water to cool them down. Meanwhile, I put the canning jars in the dishwasher to heat them up and started boiling the lids.

I had to peel and halve or quarter the fruit, depending on the size of the peach (and there were some huge ones). Then I could finally add them to the simple syrup boiling away on the stove. I had looked up several recipes for brandied peaches as I didn’t have Teri’s. I finally settled on the Spirited Peaches recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

The box of peach seconds had some interesting specimens.

The box of peach seconds had some interesting specimens.

I ended up with about 25 cups of peaches to process, which filled 7 quart jars for the pressure canner and two bonus jars that I processed for keeping in the fridge. Some of the peaches ended up not being fit for canning, which is just as well — I had more than enough to work with!

I felt like my Aunt Teri was watching over me through the entire process, but whether she was guiding me like a guardian angel or laughing her ass off as I created a huge mess, I don’t know (probably both).

By the end, there was peach juice everywhere and just the smell of brandy in my kitchen was making me tipsy. I think I probably made some rookie mistakes. From what I understand, the fruit shouldn’t be floating to the top of the jars like they are in the photo below — I probably didn’t pack enough into the jars. I’m not the only one to have that happen though. I am hopeful that they will be edible, if not close in taste to Aunt Teri’s peaches.

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Get Your Greens on Grilled Cheese

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I made another version of yesterday’s grilled cheese and added kale, sauteed onions and grated parm, inspired by a recipe in the September issue of Cooking Light magazine. I also added some mustard to the bread before adding the other fillings. Genius way to eat your greens!

Market-Inspired Lunch

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Gluten-free bread, heirloom tomato and Chesapeake Colby cheese, all from today’s farmers market, inspired me to make the first grilled cheese sandwich I’ve made in over a year. I added organic sliced avocado and bacon. Dee-lish!

BBQ Chicken Wings, Plus Haul-Type Stuff

I’ve been buying rotisserie chickens a lot lately, but have grown tired of them. With today’s nice weather, I decided to buy chicken to cook myself on the grill. I settled on this recipe for barbecue chicken. I made the sauce per the recipe, but did everything else differently. I bought a bone-in chicken breast at the Amish market, which I had them split for me. I also bought 1.5 pounds of wings.

Maggie was very attentive during the whole grilling process.

Maggie was very attentive during the whole grilling process.

I sprinkled the meat with a seasoning mix from Penzey’s and grilled them per this recipe instead of the indirect heat suggested in the recipe above. I brushed half of the sauce over the meat towards the end of cooking it. I was glad I had bought the wings because they cooked much faster. I was able to enjoy them while I waited for the breasts to finish cooking. Those I’m saving for meals later this week.

Here’s a photo of the wings before I demolished them. I removed the skins before eating them.

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Recent Hauls

Earlier in the day, I visited the farmer’s market with Maggie. We bought:

  • Strawberries
  • Carrots
  • Potted basil plant
  • Bulk bison burger (I’m thinking of making chili tomorrow)
  • Bison short ribs
  • A gluten-free cinnamon bun and gluten-free lemon pound cake

The cinnamon bun was okay — it wasn’t everything I’d built up in my head. Wishing I had those calories back. The pound cake I had after dinner with a sauce I made out of frozen raspberries and fresh strawberries simmered together. I drizzled some chocolate vincotto (I keep forgetting I have this) over the whole shebang. That was really good.

Thursday night, I picked up a small box from Eating Out of the Box. It contained lettuce, kale and two types of Chinese cabbage.

Garden Update

Today, I used up the rest of my landscape fabric to cover the ground around my raspberry and blackberry canes, and under my Vegtrug. Fingers crossed this makes weed control in those areas easier this season. I’m not planning to mulch the entire area, though I may eventually mulch around the base of the berry bushes. I’m also hoping the barrier fabric really does allow moisture through, as promised. Otherwise, watering those berry plants is going to be a pain.

I also planted some seeds I bought last summer at Monticello. The flowers are meant to attract butterflies. I sprinkled them in a bed by my garage where I threw down wildflower seed bombs last year. Some of those seeds and plants have returned this year. Hopefully the new seeds take too. Tomorrow, I’m hoping to plant some of my remaining vegetable seeds. I also need to devise a trellis system for the berry bushes and amend my compost mixture. Oh yeah. And mow the lawn.

Meaty Butternut Chili

DSCN4240After my trip to the bison farm yesterday, I thawed a pound of the ground bison for tonight’s dinner. But I’m still not in the mood to grill burgers (too cold out) or make tacos (not eating tortillas at the moment). Then I had a brain wave. I haven’t made chili yet this season! It was already 2 p.m. when I had this thought, so I raced to get out my crockpot and start thawing some of the frozen ingredients.

I’m not eating grains right now, so no rice or cornbread for this chili. To make the chili hearty enough to eat on its own, I decided to add butternut squash to the pot. But the huge squash I had dwarfed the quart of tomatoes and pound of bison I started out with. I ended up adding another quart of tomatoes and a pound of ground pork as well. The crockpot is filled to the brim as I type this!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1.5 onions, chopped
  • 2 quarts diced tomatoes and juice*
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 heaping tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 chopped unseeded jalapeno
  • several drops Tabasco
  • other seasoning, including salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
  • Lime wedges

*My tomatoes held enough juice to give this chili a nice broth, but you could add beer, stock or water if needed. You also could add any number of things to the ingredient list above, like beans, etc.

I tossed the frozen tomatoes into the crockpot unthawed and turned it up to high. While I had it working on the tomatoes, I browned the bison with half of the onion and then added that to the crockpot. Then I did the same with the remaining onion and ground pork. I added the squash to the pot and then the remaining ingredients (except the lime). I added a bit of Penzey’s 33rd & Galena spice mix to the pot as well as each meat mixture as it was browning.

After a few hours on high, the chili was ready to eat! I squeezed a bit of lime juice over my first bowlful and it was quite tasty. It would be really good with some sharp cheddar grated on top.

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I’m letting the chili simmer for another hour on low before I cool it down for the night. Looking forward to taking leftovers to work for lunch this week!