Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Look Back on My First Year of Canning

It's the end of the year, and the end of the year brings lists.  If you know me in real life, you know I like lists.  So, here's a list of things I learned in my first year of canning (in no particular order).

1)  A jar will break into 2 pieces.  I only broke one jar in the waterbath canner, and the reason is still a mystery to me.  But, it broke into 2 clean pieces...the top and the bottom.

2)  I haven't found the right pickle recipe...yet.  Most of the pickles I made sucked.  Some were less sucky than others.  The hamburger slices are my personal favorites, but none of them were excellent or even great.  I tried so many tricks...grape leaves in the jars, soaking the freshly picked cucumbers in ice water, brining the cucumbers first, using Pickle Crisp.  No great successes to speak of.

3) I did not make enough salsa or applesauce to make it through the winter.  To be fair, I didn't know that my 2 year old liked applesauce this much or that my husband would eat salsa EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Apparently, when you make it yourself it really is that much better.

4)  There will never be such a thing as too many Leena's 5 Spice Pickled Cherries.  Ever.  I tried them as an experiment, not really expecting to like them.  Boy was I shocked when I fell in love with them.

5)  A bushel of peaches is probably too many peaches.  The problem with peaches is that they go from unripe to ripe to over ripe in 2 days.  Then you have to take off of work to process them.

6)  Speaking of peaches, Vanilla Bean Peach Jam seems to be everyones favorite.  I'll have to make a lot more next year.  Maybe a bushel of peaches isn't too many...

7)  We eat a lot more jam, jelly, butter when it's homemade.  Before I canned, we didn't buy much.  Now we go through about a jar a week (sometimes more, sometimes less).  It's amazing when a jam actually tastes like the fruit it is instead of sugar! 

8)  Even with the long list of things I canned, I didn't make a dent in the long list of things I still want to can, but haven't.  There are so many delicious recipes out there, but only so much time in the day.

And one more list...

Here's the list of what I 'put up' in 2010 (in reverse canning order)
  • Apple Pie in a Jar
  • Pickled Jalapeno & Fresno Peppers 7 pts
  • Cinnamon Applesauce 9 pts
  • Apple Butter 8.5 1/2 pts
  • Cinnamon Applesauce 5 pts
  • Tomato Jam 6.5 1/2 pts
  • Stolen Grape Jelly 5.5 1/2 pts
  • Apple Butter 6.5 1/2 pts
  • Zesty Habenero Salsa 14 pts
  • Grape Jelly 10 1/2 pts
  • Zesty Habenero Salsa 6 pts
  • Raspberry Preserves 19.5- 1/2 pts
  • Crushed Tomatoes 3 Qts, 1 pt
  • Charred Tomato and Chile Salsa 4 pts
  • Pickled Garlic 6- 1/2 pts
  • Thai Hot & Sweet Dipping Sauce 9- 1/2 pts
  • Pickled Green & Yellow Jalapeno Peppers 6 pts
  • Extra Garlic- Garlic Dill Pickles (I) 2 Qts
  • Kosher-Style Dill Pickles (H) 3 Qts
  • Garlic Dill Pickles (G) 3 pts
  • Pickled Hot Banana Peppers 3 pts
  • Pickled Mucho Nacho Jalapeno Peppers 1 pt
  • Favorite Dill Pickles 4 Qts
  • Fiery Dill Slices 5 pts
  • Peaches in light syrup 5 Qts & 8 pts
  • Leena's Chinese Five Spice Pickled Cherries 5- 1/2 pts
  • Ginger Peach Pineapple Butter 4.5- 1/2 pts
  • Summertime Vanilla Bean Peach Jam 8.5- 1/2 pts
  • Cherry Syrup 6- 1/2 pts
  • Honey-Spiced Peaches 3 Qts
  • Polish Dill Pickles 7 Qts
  • Dill Pickle Slices (E) 3 pts
  • Dill Pickle Slices (E) 6 pts
  • Cherry Relish 1 pt & 2- 1/2 pts
  • Cherries in Wine 5 pts
  • Hamburger Dills (D) 2 pts
  • Kosher Dill Pickle Spears (C) 4 Qts
  • Dill Pickle Spears (B) 3 Qts
  • Dill Pickle Spears (A) 7 pts
  • No Sugar Added Berry Cherry Jam- 4 1/2 pt & 4- 4 oz.
  • No Sugar Added Strawberry Jam

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Toys in My Kitchen

I've got some new toys in my kitchen, and I can't wait to use them!  First, my wonderful husband got me this Lodge Enameled Cast-Iron 6-Quart Dutch Oven, Cafe Brown.  I've never had a Dutch oven before, and I had no idea how heavy they were!  I love that I can start cooking something on the stove top (maybe sear some meat in it) then throw it in the oven (it's oven safe up to 400 degrees).  It will be perfect for making my jams in the summer!  Now I just have to figure out what to make in it first!
Lodge Enameled Cast-Iron 6-Quart Dutch Oven, Cafe Brown

Next, on sort of a whim, I ordered myself the KitchenAid FGA Food Grinder Attachment for Stand Mixers.  I couldn't resist when it went on sale for under $37!  After reading The Mixer Bible: Over 300 Recipes for Your Stand Mixer I was inspired to make my own sausage.  The food grinder attachment had great reviews on Amazon, and 2 of my coworkers have it, and also recommended it.  I also got the KitchenAid SSA Sausage Stuffer Kit Attachment for Food Grinder so that I can make actual sausages too. 
KitchenAid FGA Food Grinder Attachment for Stand Mixers
Then the hunt was on for some sausage casings.  That's where I ran into some trouble.  I didn't want to spend a ton of money on them.  I ended up back to Amazon, and ordered these Eastman Outdoors 38672 Natural Hog Casings, for 25-Pounds of Sausage
Eastman Outdoors 38672 Natural Hog Casings, for 25-Pounds of Sausage
I guess I've got my work cut out for me.  Lots of new projects to do!  But my wish list is still never-ending.  If anyone is feeling generous, I'd like:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Long Time No Post!

Well, it's been a long time since my last post.  I'm still alive and cooking!  I've been trying new things in the kitchen, and it's been fun, and overall, successful.

I took a very interesting class about fermentation for health by Linda Conroy from Moonwise Herbs.  I learned so much and got to try all different kinds of fermented food;  very dense (on purpose) sourdough bread, fermented fruit, fermented pickles and other various vegetables, homemade ginger ale, and Piima cream.  The fermented fruit was my was so delicious!  I didn't care for the vegetables, but Linda said that they could be an acquired taste.  Everyone in the class was able to take home sourdough starters and a Piima culture. 

My sourdough is growing strong in my kitchen.  Although, I have yet to cook or bake with it. 

It did take me 2 attempts to successfully make more Piima cream.  Because it's winter here in Wisconsin, my house isn't really warm enough for the culture to grow well enough, so it was too watery the first time (I don't call it a failure, though because I turned it into cultured butter).  Luckily, my mom also took the class and gave me her Piima culture.  I was successful at making more Piima cream by keeping it in the oven with the light on.

Wait.  What's Piima, you ask?  Well, according to Moonwise Herbs, it's a Scandinavian Culture-this culture originated when it was noticed that cows who had grazed upon a northern European wild herb called Butterwort at the peak of its growth, milk would clabber at room temperature. It was then carefully cultured from this starter and fresh starter taken from each batch. Piima is similar to buttermilk acidophilus and kefir.  You can make cultured cream, butter and buttermilk as well as a feta style cheese using this culture.  So far, I've made cultured cream (which tastes a lot like sour cream and is just slightly thicker), cultured butter, buttermilk (the by-product of butter), and cream cheese with my Piima.  And the great thing about Piima is that you can have a never ending supply.  You just take some cream from your previous batch (about a tablespoon) and add it to 2 pints of heavy cream (raw or pasteurized, NOT ultra pasteurized), and in a day at 72-75 degrees you'll have more Piima!  You can use the cream anywhere you would use sour cream...on baked potatoes, in dips, in cheesecake.  And it's got beneficial bacteria in it!  If you can't tell, I'm in love with my Piima right now!  You can purchase a Piima starter from Moonwise Herbs for $12 (plus shipping) here.  I can recomend this Piima because it is the one I have in my kitchen and I love.

There is also some great information on Piima at Cultures for Health here.  You can purchase the Piima starter from Cultures for Health for $11.99 (plus shipping).  I can't specifically recommend it because I haven't tried it, but I have heard great things in general about Cultures for Health.

One more great resource on Piima is Nourished Kitchen.  You can go here and here to read about it.
My faves!

There are 3 cookbooks that I've been loving lately:  The Mixer Bible: Over 300 Recipes for Your Stand Mixer

The Mixer Bible has a bunch of awesome recipes to help me use my stand mixer more.  I love that piece of equipment, but it is ignored too much (right now it's only used to make butter).  Nourishing Traditions is a wonderful resource that every kitchen should have if you care about real food.  I love that Sally Fallon not only gives wonderful recipes, but also describes why certain ingredients are used and how to find the right quality for your budget.  Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It is a fun book for making all sorts of things by scratch.  Mmm....homemade bacon.  I can't wait to try MY own bacon.

 And one more book recommendation:  the eBook from Michele at Frugal Granola, called Herbal Nurturing.  It's only $8.95 and worth every penny.  I made the earache oil for my son after he said his ear hurt (afraid he was getting an ear infection) and he was better by the next day (I put the oil in his ears for 3 days just to be safe).  I've also made the lip balm, scrape soother, and sinus rub and plan to try other remedies from her book.  I just love it.

Oh, and I just want to share the most recent 'new' recipe that I tried, and I LOVED!  It was Beef with Snow Peas from the Pioneer Woman.  It was simple and delicious, and even better as leftovers!  I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vanilla's New Home

I ventured to Ikea last recently.  I say 'ventured' because it was a nearly 2 hour drive.  I really wish there was one closer.  That was my first time to Ikea, and I loved it!   They had so many cool things for the kitchen.  Plus all of the organization items were interesting, and the textiles were affordable.  All of their 'fake' rooms that were set up were unbelievable.  I wish my house looked liked some of their sample rooms.

I got this awesome jar for my homemade vanilla.  I love it!

Someday I'd like to get this stove (I had no idea Ikea had their own appliances):

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pickled Jalapeno and Fresno Peppers

I thought I was all done pickling things.  But then I found out that my husband was eating all of the peppers that I pickled.  I know it's a good thing that he actually likes them, but I wanted them to last through part of the winter, and autumn just began. 

We made an impromptu trip to Whole Foods, and I picked up 3 pounds of organic jalapenos and fresno peppers.  Fresno peppers look a lot like red jalapenos.  But, their skin is thinner, they are more hollow, and they are hotter.  Jalapenos typically rate around 4500 Scovilles.  Fresnos are hotter (I kept finding conflicting Scoville ratings between 5000 and 10000).

I used a different recipe than the one mentioned in this post.  I again referred to my current favorite canning book, Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry.  This recipe included a little bit of honey in the pickling mixture.  It added just a little bit of a sweet taste to the heat of the peppers.

I ended up with what my husband nicknamed 'Christmas in a Jar.'

I increased the pickling liquid by 1.5 times (seeing as the recipe called for 2.5 lbs. of peppers).  The recipe yielded 7 pints of peppers.  Of course, I only had 5 jars sterilized, so a quart jar ended up in the fridge.  I've really got to work on more accurately guessing the right number of jars...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Roasted Turkey Breast

On Sundays we usually eat something that is more time consuming to cook.  I didn't know what we were going to eat this Sunday, then my husband mentioned that we haven't had a turkey breast in a long time.

I took a trip out to our favorite local butcher shop, and picked up their last turkey breast.  It was a good size for a full meal for us, plus leftovers (probably a whole 'nother meals worth)...just under 3 pounds.

I didn't have a recipe that I followed.  I just made it up as I went along.  Here's what I did.

I looked in the spice cabinet and chose Penzey's Bicentennial Rub (which includes coarse flake salt, Tellicherry black pepper, sugar, turmeric, minced orange peel and coriander).  I also love garlic, so I minced about 4 cloves.

 I poured some extra virgin olive oil in a shallow-sided pan.

I lifted the skin and made a pocket (careful not to remove the skin).  I put a splash of EVOO, the minced garlic, and about a teaspoon of the Bicentennial Rub in the pocket.

Then I tied up the breast with some kitchen twine.

I melted a tablespoon of my homemade butter in the microwave.

Then, I brushed the butter over the top of the breast.

Here's the beauty, ready to go into the oven.  I preheated the oven to 450 degrees.  When I put the turkey breast in, I turned the heat down to 400 degrees.

After 20 minutes, I basted the breast and brushed another tablespoon of melted butter on top.

I thought it would be done after 45 minutes of cooking, but I was wrong.  It ended up taking about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I knew it was done when the thermometer read 170 degrees.  I  let the turkey breast rest for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute.

The skin came out so crispy and delicious.

When I sliced into the turkey, it was so moist.  It was cooked to perfection.  The garlic flavor was noticeable without being overwhelming.   

I would have used butter in the pocket instead of EVOO, but my husband doesn't have the same opinions about "real" food as I do.  I was trying to keep the majority of the turkey breast healthy.  I figured he could pick off the skin if he was unhappy with the butter.  It turns out, he loved the skin, and didn't mind the butter.  Although, if I caught him on another day, the result may have been different.  He ate his turkey with couscous, and I had mine with corn and mashed potatoes.  I'm not anti-couscous, but it's new to me, so I'm slow to warm up to it.  Plus, I think that mashed potatoes pair perfectly with turkey.

This post is linked to:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Replacement Post

Sigh.  I was hoping to get up a post about making apple pie filling.  However, I failed.  I didn't even make any yet.  My plan for the weekend was to process the rest of the apples that I had picked the previous weekend. 

Here's the deal.  I needed ClearJel.  I thought I already had some ClearJel.  It turns out I didn't.  ClearJel is a form of corn starch.  It's a thickener needed for apple pie filling.  You may be wondering why I didn't just use corn starch.  Because it's not USDA approved.  I try my hardest to only post recipes that follow USDA recommendations. 

Now...I thought I had ClearJel.  It turns out I had Certo.  Certo is a liquid form of pectin.  I swear I'd seen ClearJel in the store before.  I ran to the local Pick 'n Save.  NOPE!  They had Sure Jell, which is a brand of pectin *insert eyeroll here*.  Grrr!

This meant no apple pie filling for me until I could get my hands on some ClearJel.  I ended up ordering some online.  I've got my fingers crossed that they ship quickly.  As a side note, if you ever want to give Pomona's Universal Pectin a try, and order from their website, they ship VERY quickly.  I ordered on a Friday, and received it on the following Monday.

Hopefully an apple pie filling post will be coming in the next week or so.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tomato Jam

Here's a food quirk about me that I'll let you in on (that is, if you don't know me in real life).  I don't like ketchup.  It feels so anti-American to say that, but it's true.  I really can't stand it.  There are a lot of foods that I don't like, but I can at least tolerate.  I might like the way they smell, but not care for the taste or the texture.  But when it comes to ketchup, I can't even stomach the smell.  Yuck.

My husband isn't a huge ketchup eater either.  He doesn't hate it like I do, but he doesn't need to have it in the house.  I checked the fridge, and we do have a bottle of ketchup in there, but I'm pretty sure it's from the last time we had people over for a party (maybe Father's Day???). 

Marisa at Food in Jars posted this Tomato Jam recipe on her blog recently.  I'm surprised to admit that it intrigued me (being that I'm so anti-ketchup).  I had slightly under 5 pounds of tomatoes in my freezer.  **As a side note, did you know that you can freeze your tomatoes whole?  Well, now you know.**  I decided to give the Tomato Jam a try.  Well...not 'a try' as in 'I'll actually taste it', because I don't intend to eat it.  I have no problem cooking foods that I don't like just to please others.  I do it all the time.  Probably half of the stuff I canned this year I won't eat.  It's no biggie.

I chopped up the frozen tomatoes as well as the last bit of cherry tomatoes I'll probably get this year (just so I'd make it to 5 pounds).  Well, maybe I should say slightly defrosted tomatoes.  I took them out of the freezer for about 2 hours and they were still pretty solid.  It actually made them really easy to cut up.  The only downside was that the peels were coming off.  Not too bad if you're using a recipe that calls for peeled tomatoes.  However, in this recipe, Marisa notes that the peels are neccessary.  I did my best to keep as many of the peels on the tomatoes as possible.

Then I added the freshly grated ginger and lime juice.

And finally, the salt, sugar and spices were added.

After mixing everything together, this is what it looked like.  I guess tomatoes can macerate just like other fruit.  I was surprised (but I guess I shouldn't have makes sense).

After simmering for about 1 1/2 hours, this is what it looked like.  It was relatively thick and jam-like.  It cooked down by about 1/2.

I ended up with 5 half pint jars and 3 quarter pint jars.  Less than what the original recipe lists.  I'm guessing I may have cooked it down too much, but I didn't think it was thick enough until the 1 1/2 hours were finished.

Now, you may be wondering, "Adrienne...what are you going to do with that Tomato Jam?"'s going to be gifted to family and friends.  I'm thinking of marketing it as Adult Ketchup, Ketchup for Grown Ups or Ketchup for the Finer Palate.  That's what it sounded like to me after reading Marisa's description.  She said it can be used in place of ketchup (such as on top of a burger) or paired with a soft, stinky cheese.

This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

Sunday was apple picking day.  It was a day that I was very much looking forward to.  It was my first time apple picking, so I didn't know exactly what to expect.  I went with my sister-in-law, Karey, who also is a canner.  We went to the Elegant Farmer, a cute farm in Mukwonago that is great for families (there are hay rides, pony rides, make-your-own caramel apples, corn maze, pumpkins, trolley/train rides).  It's a bit on the tourist-y side, but I still enjoyed it.  Of course, I don't have any pictures of us picking.  Every time I've gone picking this year (strawberries, raspberries, and now apples), I've failed to take pictures.  When we got there, we each picked up an empty bushel basket (which holds around 42 pounds of apples...I think I got about 46), and loaded them into a wagon (I'm so glad they had wagons...there would be no way I would have been able to carry my bushel full of apples).  The farm had about 10 varieties of apples, and the trees were color coded with ribbons.  We were on the lookout for the white ribbons, which were the Cortland apples.  They are great all-purpose apples.  Because we wanted to do many different things with them (applesauce, apple butter, apple jelly, apple pie filling), we chose the Cortland.

When we came across the first set of trees with white ribbons we just had to laugh.  We couldn't reach any of the apples.  Oh, and did I mention it was raining?  On and off, and not too heavy, but the rain was definitely there.  So, then we started jumping to try to reach some apples.  Everytime I tried to pull an apple off, I'd also get a face full of water.  We also tried climbing some of the trees.  I got a few apples that way, but either other people beat me to it, or not many apples grow near the middle of the tree.  I could have walked out on the limbs, but they were wet and I didn't want to break my neck.

We walked over a couple of rows and found some more trees with while ribbons.  Score!  These trees were full of apples.  Even apples that I could reach without jumping.  Even better?  There was a ladder nearby.  My sister-in-law climbed the ladder and handed the apples to me.  This made the job a lot simpler, plus saved us a lot of time.  We would have been there all day if we had to jump to reach the apples.

Check out our trunk full off Cortland apples!

The first thing I wanted to make was some applesauce.  I was dying to try out my new food mill.  I chopped up 6 pounds of apples.  It was awesome to not have to peel them or worry about the cores or seeds.  I added a cup and a half of water and boiled them, covered, for about 20 minutes.  [On my next batch I think I'm going to use apple cider instead of water. I think it will add a little more flavor to the applesauce.]

Hmmm....I seemed to have forgotten to take a picture of what they looked like after 20  minutes of cooking...

Anyways, I broke out the brand-spanking-new food mill.  I put the finest plate on the inside.  I didn't want any of the core or seeds slipping through.  I set about cranking it.

Then the applesauce started draining out of the bottom!  Holy cow!  It was so easy!  If it got a little clogged up, I just reversed it for a few turns.

All that would stay behind in the top were the seeds, core and skins.

The best part was that there was so little waste.  After preparing 6 pounds of apples, this was the total waste I had!  I'd estimate it at less than a 1/2 cup!

 After running the apples through the food mill, I cleaned out the pot, put the applesauce back in, and added about a cup of sugar and some cinnamon.  I didn't exactly measure, I just tasted it until it was perfect.  I processed the jars in the waterbath canner for 15 minutes.  I ended up with 5 pints worth of applesauce.  Cortland apples make the most beautiful pink applesauce (which I learned ahead of time from Under the High Chair). 

If you want to take your applesauce a step further and turn it into apple butter, check out this post.

And, these pictures are only semi-related.  I just couldn't resist posting them.  I tried to take some pictures of my son with the bushel of apples (minus 12 pounds that I had already processed while he was napping).  The first 2 were pretty cute.  He played along with me.

Then I think he was trying to tell me he had enough.  I have no idea why he decided to put his hand down his diaper.  He never does that!

This post is linked to:
This post is linked to Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday.
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