Friday, August 27, 2010

Pickled Garlic

I really like garlic.  A lot.  It's great in Italian dishes.  It's great in Asian dishes.  It's great in Mexican dishes.  Basically, garlic goes with just about everything.  I thought I'd try canning some!  I found a recipe, and got my Farmer's Market garlic.  Where's my recipe from, you ask?  *Sigh*  I wish I could tell you.  I went nuts for a few weeks and got a bunch of books from the library.  I copied about 100 recipes, and put them in a binder.  Unfortunately, I don't know where the recipes are from when I decide to use them.  I think this recipe is from Williams-Sonoma The Art of Preserving.  I checked my reading history from my library card, and that is the book I narrowed it down to, although I'm not positive.

Here's the lesson in today's post.  Read the WHOLE recipe before you decide to follow it.  I'll tell you why at the end.

First I started with 20 heads of garlic.  Do you know how long it takes to peel 20 heads of garlic?  A very, very, long time.  I peeled garlic in front of the TV.  I peeled garlic while hanging out with the neighbors.  I peeled garlic while my son napped.  I peeled garlic for a weekend.
I then took the zest of 4 meyer lemons.
After preparing the picking liquid (which had some vinegar, salt and lemon juice), I put the garlic, lemon zest and hot red pepper flakes in sterilized jars.
I think they look so pretty!
I filled the jars with the pickling liquid and left a 1/2 inch of head space.
Put the lids on.
And processed them in a waterbath for 3 minutes.
It turned out great!
What's the problem, you ask?  Well, the last line of the recipe states that I should let the garlic cool for 24 hours, the place in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.  Seriously?!  2 weeks?!  Why would I go through so much work and have to use it all right away?  I can't even describe how livid I was.  I know it was my fault for not reading the whole recipe, but I was still angry.  I have since discovered another pickled garlic recipe with an easier way to peel the garlic that is shelf-stable for 1 year that I will use next time.

Make Your Own Butter

When I decided to try to eat more 'real' food, I thought I'd give butter making a try.  I have a couple of e-friends that I asked for advice (shout out to JuLinda and T.R.).  It's a pretty easy process.  I figured I could try it once, and if it was too difficult, I didn't have to do it again.  It turns out it's simple.  There's the old school method that takes a little more elbow grease, but is fun for kids.  I'm not very athletic, so I chose the new school method. 

What ingredients do you need to make your own butter?  Just heavy whipping cream.  You'll end up with the solid: butter and the liquid: buttermilk. 

Old School Method:  Put heavy whipping cream into a jar and shake until the butter separates from the butter cream.

New School Method:  Use a handy dandy (and seldom used in this house) stand mixer!
I used 2 pints of organic heavy whipping cream.  Pour it into the stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
I really didn't know how high to turn the mixer on.  So, I started it at 4 for about 10 minutes.  It did thicken up a bit and looked like a thick cream.
EDIT:  I now drape a kitchen towel over the mixer so that there is no mess when the butter separates.
Then I decided to turn it up to full speed.
After a couple of minutes it got pretty fluffy.  I think it would be considered 'whipped butter' at this point.
I briefly got distracted.  All of a sudden, I saw my dog licking the floor.  The butter had separated, and was splashing buttermilk all over the place!  I was surprised to see how solid the butter was all of a sudden.
See the nice mess of buttermilk underneath the bowl?  Note to self:  pay better attention next time.
You can put the separated buttermilk aside and use for something else (I have no idea what I'm going to use mine for...I'm taking suggestions...and I'm not big on pancakes).

Then I took the solid butter and put it in a bowl.  I added cold water and kneaded the butter.  I dumped the water out (don't save this water) and repeated until the water came out clear instead of cloudy.
And here's the lovely result!  My beautiful butter!  You can add salt at this point if you want (I chose to make salt-free butter).  You could also get very creative with your butter.  You could add garlic or honey or something spicy.  The sky's the limit.
You can put your butter in any type of container you wish.  I decided to put this butter in a canning jar because I love how they look.  You could wrap it in parchment paper and shape it into rectangles just like the butter you buy at the store.
I don't know why I was surprised to get 1 pint of butter and 1 pint of buttermilk out of the 2 pints of heavy whipping cream...but I was.

After cleaning up, it was time to test it out.  It was getting late, so I just made some toast.  It was the BEST toast I ever had.  I can't even describe the awesome-ness of homemade butter.  I don't think I've ever had a butter taste anywhere close to as good as this butter tasted.
This butter will only keep for about 2 weeks, although you probably won't have a problem finishing it before then!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Charred Tomato and Chile Salsa

I had a bit of a harvest from my garden the other evening.  I picked the first roma and globe tomatoes, as well as some jalapenos and the first 3 cayenne peppers that finally turned red.  I only had about 3 pounds of tomatoes, but I wanted to make some salsa. 
harvested tomatoes
harvested peppers + onions & garlic from farmer's market and CSA box
I recently checked out an awesome book from the local library.  I think it's going to be my new favorite.  I'm going to order it from Amazon soon.  It's called Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry.  It's an amazing book with great recipes and even better pictures.
There is a recipe on page 169 for Charred Tomato and Chile Salsa that I wanted to try.  It called for 3 pounds of tomatoes, 8 ounces of jalapenos (it said red, but I used green).  Those were the exact amounts I had just picked.  It also called for garlic, onions, cider vinegar, salt and a little sugar.  I had everything on hand, so it was time to start!

First I halved and cored the tomatoes.  I then placed them on a foil-lined baking sheet.

I broiled them about 4 inches from the broiler for about 10 minutes until they were charred looking. 
 
Then they went into a bowl to cool until I could handle them.  This allowed the juices to go to the bottom of the bowl so I could dump them out.  You could use them if you like a runnier salsa.  I wanted to try to make a thicker salsa.
Then I halved and cored the peppers, peeled and quartered the onions, and peeled the garlic.  They all went on a foil-lined baking sheet and under the broiler for less than 10 minutes (I think they made it about 6 minutes).
When I pulled them out they were pretty charred looking, but ready to go!

I don't have any pictures of the following steps (sorry!).  I took the skins off of the tomatoes and discarded them.  They slid right off!  The tomatoes went into the blender to be chopped up.  I have to practice with my blender a bit.  I think I may have chopped them up too much.  I put them on a big pot on the stove.  Then the onions, peppers, and garlic went into the blender to be chopped.  I added those to the pot.  The the rest of the ingredients were added and it was boiled for 5 minutes.

Then I filled 4 sterilized pint jars.  The recipe said I should get 5, but I had 4 plus a little bit extra that went into the fridge (less than a quarter of a pint).  I'm guessing this is because I discarded the water from the tomatoes.  I think if I had used all roma tomatoes (and no globe tomatoes) that I would have gotten 5 pints.
They were processed in the waterbath canner for 40 minutes.  I had one jar with a bit of seepage.  I'm not sure what happened, but after doing a some of research, I think I may not have put the lid on tight enough.  All of the jars sealed, and are ready to be enjoyed all winter long (if they last that long).
This post is featured on Simple Lives Thursday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thai Hot & Sweet Dipping Sauce

My plans for Saturday morning didn't turn out as expected.  I was supposed to go raspberry picking at Witte's Vegetable Farm with my mom and sister-in-law.  However, we got some thunderstorms on Friday night, and the fields were closed on Saturday morning.  *cry*  I had a back up plan, though (and my sister-in-law asked me the last time I did something spontaneous- point taken!).  I ended up getting 40 heads of garlic for a decent price.  Bargaining is not one of my strengths.  I feel like someone will think I'm cheap if I ask for a discount.  But, what's the worst that will happen?  They'll say no.  What do I care if a stranger thinks I'm cheap?  After watching a friend bargain for a few items at the Wisconsin State Fair, I was inspired.  I walked up to the vendor that had the best price and the largest heads of garlic.  I told him I needed 40 heads and asked if he could give me a deal.  He was selling them for $0.75 a piece, and gave them to me for $0.50 each.  I thought 33% off sounded good.  I saved $10.  Score.

Here's the first thing I made with them.  Thai Hot & Sweet Dipping Sauce from Ball's Fresh Preserving website.  I love the combination of sweet and spicy, and I enjoy Asian food, so I thought I'd give this one a shot.

First I peeled the 36 cloves of garlic. 

36 cloves of peeled garlic
I have an awesome garlic press, but I thought I'd save time by pulsing it in my food processor. It was quick and easy. I've got a feeling I'm going to be using this processor more and more.


garlic after being 'pulsed'
Then I mixed the garlic with salt in a bowl and set it aside. 
garlic & salt mixture
Because this recipe is processed for more than 15 minutes, I kept the clean jars hot in the oven until it was time to fill them.
jars keeping warm
Then I prepared the vinegar and sugar mixture.
vinegar and sugar boiling
sugar and peppers
I removed the pot from the stove and added in the peppers and the garlic & salt mixture.
Then I ladled the sauce into the jars, checked the head space, and wiped the rims with a damp paper towel.
I love my Rachel Ray flat-edged ladle!
Next the lids were placed.
And the bands were added to finger-tip tight.
The jars were placed in the waterbath canner, covered with the lid, and processed for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, the cover was removed, and the jars rested in the canner for 5 minutes.  As I removed them, I heard the lovely 'pinging'!  I counted 9 pings!  However, 1 jar failed to seal (my 1st jar ever).  I have no idea what happened.  I placed it in the fridge to be used soon.

The pepper floats to the top and the garlic sinks, but a good shake up, and you're ready to use it!
This recipe yielded 9 half-pint jars plus probably about another half pint that I didn't have a jar ready for.  So, I just put it into a Tupperware container and refrigerated it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Never Canned? Here are the Basics

So.  You're curious about canning, hey?  You're wondering how it's done?  Well, I'm going to give you a basic overview.  This is not meant to be any official guideline.  If you decide you want to try canning, I suggest getting the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (which you can probably find at your local grocery store for around $6...it's a great resource to give you all of the details you need to can food safely).

What tools are you going to need?  Well, a big pot (like the Granite Ware 11-1/2 Quart Covered Preserving Canner with Rack).  Make sure you have a canning rack.  You can't have the jars touching the bottom of the pot.  You'll also need jars.  You can generally find them at grocery stores (I've bought them from Woodman's Pick 'n Save, Menards, and Farm & Fleet).  They run from about $6 to $9 per case, depending on the size (4 oz, 8 oz, pint, quart...they even sell 1/2 gallon and gallon jars).  When purchasing jars, you have the option of regular mouth and wide mouth when it comes to the popular pint and quart sizes.  I personally prefer the wide mouth because I find them easier to fill.  When you buy the jars, they come with lids and bands.  The bands are reusable (as long as they aren't misshapen or rusty).  The lids are NOT reusable.  Don't even think about it.  They are only made to seal once.  I've seen the lids go for about $2 per pack.

There are also tools that make the job a lot easier.  You can usually find them in a kit for about $10.  The kit includes a jar lifter, a lid lifter (this nifty contraption is just a stick with a magnet on the end...it's awesome for taking the lids out of a pot of hot water and positioning them on the jars), a funnel, and a head space measurer/air bubble remover (this is basically a stick you use to get air bubbles out of the jars and to quickly measure the amount of space at the top of a filled jar).

Now that you've got your canning essentials, here's the basic run-down on the process:

1)  Wash the jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water.  If you will be using a recipe that requires a processing time (which is the amount of time the jars spend in the waterbath canner) greater than 10 minutes, then you can place the jars in a cool oven.  I put them on a cookie sheet, then turn the oven on to a smidge over 200 degrees.  The thing about glass jars is that they don't like big changes in temperature.  They don't like to go from room temperature to really hot or vice versa.  So, you'll want to keep them hot for when you fill them.  If you are going to be processing your jars for 10 minutes or less, then you'll want to sterilize them.  I just place them in the waterbath canner, then turn the burner up to high until the water starts to boil.  I make sure they are in there for at least 10 minutes until I'm ready to fill them.  NOTE:  It takes a giant pot of water a very long time to boil.  Do this step first!  Place the clean lids into a small sauce pot and let the simmer (or just under a simmer...DO NOT BOIL) for at least 10 minutes.  This softens the rubber ring so that it will create a proper seal later on.

2)  Prepare your recipe.  In this post I'll be making pickled green and yellow jalapenos.  First I washed them.  Next, they were chopped up (while wearing gloves, of course...I don't want to burn my eyeballs out when I take my contacts out later!).

chopped up jalapenos
Then I peeled the garlic that would go into the jars, and ran outside to pick some oregano (and washed it).
fresh oregano from my garden & peeled garlic
3)  Pull your jars out of the oven.  I place mine on a towel so I don't wreck my very ugly counter tops (they came with the house and I think they may be from the early 1950's) and so that the jars aren't shocked by the cooler temperature of the counter top.

4)  Fill your jars (the funnel makes this step neat and clean).  Make sure to leave the appropriate head space that the recipe recommends.  Use the stick tool mentioned above...just poke it around in the jar a few times to release the air bubbles.  Remeasure the head space and add more liquid if necessary.

5)  Take a dampened paper towel, and wipe the tops of the jars.  You don't want to leave anything behind on the top where the seal is going to be made.  It must be clean or you jars may not seal, or you could have a faulty seal that could cause spoilage later on (eeewww!).

6)  Use your handy dandy lid lifter to take the lids out of the hot water and center on the jars.

filled jars, lids, and lid lifter
7)  Put the bands onto the jars.  Adjust them to 'fingertip tight' which means don't tighten them as much as Superman can.  Just tight enough with your fingertips.  It needs to be just loose enough to be able to create a nice vacuum seal.  Too tight, and this cannot happen.  Too loose, and the contents could leak.

8)  Place the jars into the canning rack that is positioned in the waterbath canner.  When they are all in, lower the rack (the water must cover the jars by at least 1 inch of water).  Place the lid on the canner.  When the water returns to boiling, start your timer for the time specified in your recipe.

jars in the canning rack before it is lowered
9)  When the time is up, turn off the heat, remove the lid, but leave the jars in for another 5 minutes.  This allows them to cool a bit, and also helps to reduce leakage when you remove the jars from the canner.

10)  After the 5 minutes are up, remove the jars from the canner and place on a towel, hot pads or trivets.  You may hear the lids 'ping'.  This is a good thing!  It means the jars are sealing.

11)  The jars need to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.  After they cool off a bit, I like to check the seals.  This means I push down on the center of the lid.  If it doesn't bend up and down, it usually means there's a good seal.  I then take the bands off so they don't rust.  It gives them a chance to dry out.  Some jars take a bit longer to seal.  Don't take the bands off the jars that don't have a good seal yet.  If they haven't sealed after 24 hours, put the jars in the fridge and use those first.  With all of the canning I've done, I've only had 1 jar not seal...and I'm not sure why it happened.

admire the finished product
12)  After 24 hours, you can store the jars with or without the bands in a dark, cool or room temperature place (sunlight and heat can alter your products).  Or, you can leave them on the counter or table to admire for a few days.  I usually do this (even though my husband isn't a fan of this step).  It's also a good idea to label all jars with the name of the contents and the date when it was prepared.  Most items are officially good for 1 year (although some swear that they are still good past 1 year).

A note on food poisoning:  cleanliness is very important when it comes to canning.  You do not want to poison anyone.  However, if done correctly, canning is very safe.  For the specifics on food safety, please refer to the Ball Blue Book or USDA Guide to Home Canning.
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