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.

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