Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dairy is Taboo

Shrimp bisque. Sounds good, yes? Canning it seems almost impossible because, apparently, botulism spores can hide in dairy fats and not be destroyed in the pressure canner. I did find suggestions about how to can clam chowder - basically you make the whole recipe without the dairy and just remember to add the dairy when you heat it up. So I thought maybe I could modify the recipe for the shrimp bisque the same way.

Shrimp and Tilapia Bisque

1 1/2 c. onions, chopped
olive oil
2 lbs. cooked shrimp
3/4 lb. cooked tilapia filets (leftovers, really)
3 pts. fish stock
6 T. flour
6 T. tomato paste
4 tsp. curry powder*
1/2 tsp. paprika
kosher salt
1 1/2 c. chopped tomato

Fry the onions in the oil, add the shrimp and tilapia and cook until heated. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for a minute. Add the stock, tomato paste, and spices and boil for 1-2 minutes. Using a hand blender, puree. It doesn't have to be completely smooth. Add the tomatoes and salt (to taste), cook a few minutes.

At this point, I put up 4 pints and processed for 100 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure. To each pint, when opened, one would need to add 2-3 tablespoons of half and half and some cayenne pepper.

I added 1/2 c. of half and half and about 1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper to what was left in the pot, and that was dinner tonight.

*When it came time to add the curry powder, I couldn't find any. Kinda freaked out, actually. I ended up making my own by mixing 2 T. cardi, 1 T. turmeric, and 3/4 t. ginger. It wasn't until after I mixed all this up that I found my curry powder, right where it was supposed to be. Go figure.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Branching Out

Legumes. Haven't really used them much. Until recently, I only ever used canned beans in chili. But I've had a few requests for thicker soups so decided to try adding them in.

The story behind today's soup began 2 days ago. I was so excited to make a prime rib roast for Christmas eve dinner, and had checked with Mom for details on cooking it. It was less than 4 pounds and, according to her directions it should have taken about an hour. Keeping on the schedule was very important to me, as we had presents to open and bedtimes to enforce. Well, as you might imagine, the roast took longer than expected. An HOUR longer. I was frantic! And the peas...sigh....fresh peas. From Whole Foods, even. They tasted like dirt. How disappointing.

My wonderful husband insists the roast tasted fine, but I am not convinced. All I know is that I need a new oven. Maybe two. But I digress. We saved the rest of the roast, almost half, really, to make soup this weekend.

Today I used my soup cookbook, 1001 Delicious Soups & Stews, and made the Rich Beef and Lentil Soup. I ran to the store to get leeks, but amazingly I had all the other ingredients. For Christmas I got the New England Soup Factory Cookbook but didn't have all the ingredients for the beef soup in there. Will have to plan ahead for those! The only change to the recipe is that I added red wine instead of white. After having lunch (mmmm) I canned 3 quarts in the pressure canner (90 minutes, 10 lbs of pressure) and saved a little for maybe dinner, maybe tomorrow.

Hmmm. Double ovens. I could totally use 2 ovens....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

On a whim, I decided to make a pie for dessert tonight. Fresh blackberries were on special in the store, and I hit upon the idea of using a jar of raspberries in syrup for the base. So I made a pie crust. Normally I would have just bought a frozen pie crust, but I've been inspired by my own success with apple pies and with Chef Tess's pie crust recipe with the vinegar in it, so I figured I'd try it.

I don't know what went wrong, but the pie crust shrunk in the oven. I have never prebaked a pie crust for an unbaked pie before, so maybe I just did it wrong? But the pie crust ended up too thick on the bottom and about a half-inch below the edge of the pie plate; it was right at the edge when I put it into the oven. Anyone with an explanation/suggestions?

Regardless, full steam ahead! I mixed 3 T. cornstarch with 1/2 c. sugar and then added 1 c. of raspberries in syrup and 1/2 c. water and boiled this on the stove until thickened. I then added 2 drops of blue food coloring to get the dark purple color of the blackberries. Once the pie crust was cooled, I put the blackberries in the pie and poured the cooled thick filling over them. It's now in the fridge, cooling for dessert. Pictures and taste testing commentary later...

(Later) The crust is the flakiest I've ever made, and is really yummy! Even the gel held together really well. Thumbs up on the vinegar in the crust tip (thanks, Chef Tess!), but I guess I just have to work on the actual pie construction. Well, practicing is not a problem!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"I Like Your Hobby Because it's Useful."

So says my husband.

He's right, though. Of all the hobbies and crafts I've done over the years, this one is the most adapted for gift giving. And eating. Everyone likes to eat, right? There's always jam and soup and other yummy foods in the house. And they are in conveniently sized containers such that, when we have a need for a quick gift, voila, we have something at our fingertips.

On Christmas eve we will load the 17 jars for our neighbors into the wagon and go strolling about the neighborhood, spreading good cheer and citrus curd along our way. Happy holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

OK, I Guess I Wasn't Done Yet

You would think that 28 small jars of preserves of various kinds would be sufficient for holiday gifts. However, we kept coming up with more and more names! So I decided I needed to make more key lime curd. (The Whole Foods was out of Meyer lemons.) I am not sure if you'd call this cheating or not, but I bought the key lime juice in a bottle and then zested a regular lime. 1 bottle of juice was enough for 3 batches of curd, which I made in one fell swoop rather than 3 separate batches. For this, the usual 2-saucepans-together double boiler wasn't going to be big enough, so I used the largest saucepan in my frying pan instead. It worked OK, nothing burned or anything, but it was really HOT because the frying pan was so much wider and so I was stirring over a larger area of boiling water. (My whisk has a really short handle, and I have singed my hand on more than 1 occasion...) This time I did not add the green food coloring, making the curd a more natural yellow color. With these 3 batches I have now made a total of 8 batches of this stuff!

Later this afternoon, the kids amused themselves by stealing all the jars and hiding them, and then using them as pedestals for tennis balls and other toys. I did finally get them all back...I think....

Monday, December 7, 2009

Citrusy Holiday Gifts

A while ago I made the Apple Pie in a Jar for holiday gifts, but realized I'd need to make something else to finish my list. Well, I was at the Whole Foods the other day (that very dangerous place...) and found Meyer lemons and key limes and got the idea to make lemon and lime curds. But when?

Today I tried to get to work. I really, really tried. But there was a tanker truck that had turned over on the highway, so I went another way, and that was backed up, too. After being in the car for 45 minutes and getting only 1/4 of the way in (usually it takes me 35 minutes to get to work), it became clear that I was going to miss the only meeting on my calendar today, so I called in and declared that I was going home.

So I spent the day alternating between doing stuff for work and making Meyer Lemon Curd, lemon-lime curd, and key lime curd. YUM. But it's a LOT of work. Especially grating the zest off the tiny little key limes and then juicing them. For the key lime curd I added a couple of drops of green food coloring to make it more "lime-ish" (and so I could tell the difference between the 2 kinds when I brought them out of the canner). They're very cute, in their wee little jars! This added 17 jars to my holiday gift stash, and maybe I'm done?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Did I Mention We Had a Turkey?

Thirteen and a half pounds, to be exact. There is only so much turkey 2 adults and 1 child can eat (the other child says, "no."). You see where this is going, right? Yup, you guessed it: stock and soup!

The turkey bones were boiled in 8 pints of water with kosher salt and 2 bay leaves. 5 pints of stock were skimmed off and processed in the canner for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. The rest of the meat was put back in the pot with an additional 3 pints of water, more salt, some sage, and veggies. Today we had 2 onions, 1 bunch of celery, 3 small rutabagas and 2 tiny little carrots. This yielded 4 quarts which are being processed for 90 minutes at 10 pounds.

When that's done, I will collapse into a little heap, considering I've only had 3 hours of sleep since yesterday morning. Good night!

Much Delayed Thanksgiving Post

Normally, I don't mind working over Thanksgiving. We've always held our Thanksgiving get together on a different day: "It doesn't matter when, just as long as we get together." This year, through a series of progressively more complicated events, that didn't happen. And I just finished working every other night (3 12-hour shifts in 5 days) through the actual holiday. Despite all this chaos, we managed to have some fun. Such as:

My wonderful husband cooked the turkey while I slept on Thursday, and he did an awesome job. Chestnut stuffing and everything! Even though it was just the 4 of us (and the 4 year old ate 4 bites of pumpkin bread and declared the meal over) we had the fancy china, candles, tablecloth, and the good silver. So thoughtful! (Astute readers will note the canned cranberry and cranberry habanero sauces in the foreground and, fyi, the pumpkin bread is made with my canned sugar pumpkin from last fall.)

To escape the turkey leftovers we went out one night to have crazy huge burgers at one of the most famous burger places in Cambridge, Bartley's Burger Cottage. (I had the Keith Lockhart, in case anyone is wondering!)

Yesterday afternoon, before my shift, the weather was nice enough that we went on a 10 mile bike ride. Even our 8 year old managed it! We did have a good halfway point destination - dim sum. I love the little carts! It was nice to get out and enjoy the good weather and get some exercise, and we rarely have this kind of family adventure.

Speaking of the 8 year old, I was perusing the local paper and saw a drawing printed there from OUR 8 year old! It was Thanksgiving themed and summed up the weekend nicely: "I am thankful for love."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yet Another Soup Entry

A week ago I made a soup which I had expected to can: pork and vegetables. However, we had family visiting and so we put the soup in the fridge, thinking we'd eat it sooner. Of course, that didn't happen, so now I finally have a little time to reheat it and can it.

Here's the original recipe:
Pork (roast and a leftover chop)
8 c. water
bay, thyme, salt & pepper
4 potatoes
6 small carrots
2 turnips
1 celeriac root
2 small onions
kale (about 6 leaves)

Today I added 2 pints of turkey stock to stretch it enough to make 2.5 quarts plus some for lunch. All the veggies came from the farm share. I'm almost done with the farm share foods: I have mashed squash in the freezer waiting for Thanksgiving, and am left with a few carrots, some rutabagas, a red cabbage, one celeriac root, and some red onions and garlic. (Not really a lot to work with...) We ate the beets 2 nights ago using a gingered beets recipe from Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant and they were AWESOME. I don't think I've ever enjoyed beets that much.

The pressure canner is humming along, and I'm going to go eat.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Now it's Time to Eat

During the past few months I have gradually canned so much food that the pantry is FULL. So full that I have started to stack flats of jars in the space next to the fridge, displacing all the random stuff that was stored there and eliminating the kids' favorite hiding spot. Time to start using all this food...

Last night we had a friend over for dinner whom we rarely see, as he lives in Europe and, well, we don't. I pondered what I could prepare which would be different, and hit upon a Persian-themed dinner. Truly, I spent all day in the kitchen, but it was worth it! Khoresh bademjan, polo with potato tadiq, boorani (spinach and yogurt) and toorshi as side dishes, plus roasted pumpkin (which isn't really Persian, but I've had it in an Afghani restaurant and thought it might go with the rest of the dishes). The toorshi was much spicier this time, certainly not overpowering, but the extra peppers were noticeable. For the khoresh bademjan, which is beef stew with eggplant, I peeled and sliced an eggplant, salted the slices and set them aside for 30 minutes. Then they were rinsed, dried, and fried in olive oil until soft. The eggplant was set aside until 15 minutes before it was time to eat. The stew itself was 2.5 lbs of sirloin tips, cut up and browned with 3 onions, chopped. To this I added 1 pint of the tomato sauce with Persian spices, 1 c. of water, and a handful of dried parsley. This simmered for several hours, and then the eggplant got added at the last minute. All of this was served over rice (polo).

For dessert, I made an apple pie. Now that I actually know how to make them successfully, it's become really fun and no longer stressful to make them. And this was the best one yet - it got baked for almost 90 minutes, and the apples were super soft.

This dinner also showcased the farm share, as the potatoes in the tadiq, the apples in the pie, and the pumpkin were all from the share.

And the leftovers are just as good!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What's in the Canner Today?

4 pints of chicken broth and, later, there will be chicken and root vegetable soup.

Today's recipe for chicken soup was an effort to work through some of the farm share produce:

1/3 of a rotisserie chicken
8 pints of water
salt, peppercorns, thyme, and 2 bay leaves

Once the broth was made, I strained it, and skimmed off 4 pints to can (regular mouth jars, 10 lbs of pressure, 20 minutes). I removed the bones and set the meat aside.

2 leeks, sliced
5 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 turnips, diced
1 rutabaga, diced
2 celeriac bulbs, diced
2 large potatoes, diced

The leeks and garlic were browned in olive oil, then the rest of the vegetables except the potatoes were added and browned a little as well. I put the rest of the broth back, added 3 pints of water, the potatoes, and the chicken (with the peppercorns, thyme and bay). This is now simmering for lunch and later canning. If there's any left to can - I'm thinking there won't be a lot of leftovers!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Farewell to the Farm

Today was the last farm share pick up. As with last week, I got the full share because my sister-in-law is overwhelmed. The leaves have been falling and the entire walk to the shelter where the produce gets picked up was all crunchy and red, with no dirt path left, just leaves everywhere. It was so beautiful!

This is what is left in my house, not counting 1 peck of apples:
Beets, turnips, rutabagas, celeriac, carrots, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, 5 squash (all different), onions, garlic, leeks, brussel sprouts, kale, pumpkin, lettuce, arugula, tat soi, and the last of the escarole.

We're going to miss the farm.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lots and Lots of Apples

It's been an entire week since I have had time to do any canning, and the apples have been piling up! We still had half of what we picked during our apple picking outing, and then 3 half-peck bags from the farm share. Since my sister-in-law decided they were basically done with the share, I figured I would take their share of the apples and make applesauce for them, so it's all ready for them whenever they want it. That's today's task.

First I used up the apple picking apples making chunky applesauce. If you boil apples with just a little water, they break down. But, if you add the sugar when they're boiling, they stay chunky. 17 apples were peeled, chopped, and boiled with 2 c. of water and 1.5 c. of white sugar. After it was the right consistency, I added 2 t. of cinnamon and ended up with 3 quarts of not-too-sweet chunky applesauce.

The next batch was going to be another pink-smooth batch, so out came the food mill. I chopped up the apples and have boiled them with a little water, 9 apples at a time, for 3 batches, which get run through the food mill and then put into one large pot. I added just about 3 c. of sugar, and ended up with 5.5 quarts. I'll have to process in two batches since the canner can only hold 7 quarts!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I just tried those green tomato pickles from last week. Let's just say they are an acquired taste.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Going a Little Crazy with Soups

For some reason, I got it in my head that I should make borscht as a way to use up some of the cabbage in my fridge. I've never had borscht. I don't even know what it is supposed to taste like. But, as often happens, once these ideas get in my head, the only thing to do is to follow them through. So I perused 1001 Delicious Soups and Stews and found not 1, but 4 recipes for borscht. I had no idea.

This recipe, for Russian Borscht (as opposed to Ukranian or Eastern European) used up only 1/2 head of cabbage, leaving me with 1 1/2 heads of red cabbage left to consume somehow... It did call for turnip, beets, carrots, and onion, all shredded, which was a joy of a task. However, it was all worth it. At least the grown ups liked it. The 4 year old tried a teeny little taste and then spent 5 minutes licking a cloth to get rid of the taste.

Regardless, the leftovers ended up in 1 quart and 3 pints and were processed in the pressure canner for 90 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure. They lost all that lovely red color. Maybe they are not supposed to be canned this way? Anyone out there know?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Apple Pie in a Jar

Somehow I managed to set aside some time today to make the Apple Pie in a Jar which I plan to give as gifts this holiday season. (Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.) I like this recipe - not just because it tastes just like apple pie, but also because I get to use a lot of my kitchen gizmos which normally just sit in the cupboard. Things like - my hand held juicer:
and my little chopper:
I also decided to use the fancy little jars I'd purchased from Kitchen Arts after the canning demo - they are darling and will make very cute gifts. The one-piece lids are a little strange to me. The instructions state to keep the jars in the water after processing and let it cool, then remove the jars. 9 of the 11 jars sealed properly, but 2 did not. Referring again to the instructions, they were reprocessed and are currently cooling. Hopefully they worked. I suppose if I can't get it to work properly, I can always use paraffin and then just put the lids on without processing. But, aren't they cute?
The farm share is almost done; just 2 more weeks. We loved it so much we've already sent in our money for next year. I'll leave you today with a photo of most of this weeks's share (minus the apples, escarole, and onions):

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Garden Clean Out

I've been stalling for days, but it was time to dismantle the vegetable garden (such as it was). Since I have it on a roof deck, getting the soil, compost, and plants up there is a chore, but getting them down is easy! I dumped all the pots over the side (very satisfying) and got all the hoses coiled up, tomato cages tied down, and pots stacked for winter, then I went back down and got all the plants out of the soil and put them in the yard waste. The rest of the soil was raked into the side yard, which could probably use it.

I was left with 1 cup of green cherry and grape tomatoes, and a hankering not to waste them. Enter The Joy of Pickling! I made a half-batch of Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes (page 145), which are refrigerator pickles. As I didn't have dill sprigs I used dried dill, and I didn't have horseradish root so I made do with a small spoonful of prepared horseradish. So the liquid is cloudy because of the horseradish, but hopefully the taste will be the same. I put a little label on it: Eat After 10/21/09. Supposedly it lasts 2 months in the fridge. We'll see.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apple Picking

Today started out overcast and rainy but quickly cleared to one of the nicest fall days we've had so far. We had planned to go apple picking, isn't it nice when Mother Nature goes along with the plan? Fortunately we went early, so by the time we had all our apples, ran in the hay bale maze, fed the goats and bunnies, and ate cider doughnuts and drank cider, the place was mobbed and we were happy to leave. We picked 1/2 bushel of apples: Honey Crisp, Empire, Cortland, Jonagold, Fortune, and a couple of Macintosh and Red Delicious. We've been home 2 hours and so far we've made caramel apples (with one caramel pear for the family member who cannot eat raw apples) and I baked an apple pie.

I have not made a pie crust since college. I tried, and my crusts were always too dry and fell apart, or they would stick to the rolling pin. No matter how much flour I used, I could not get them to work properly. So I gave up long ago, until a nurse at work suggested saran wrap. He said it worked better than waxed paper (which I had also tried). Hooray! It worked! And it was so easy! (Can you tell I'm excited?)

When I was a kid, my mother made apple pies. AWESOME apple pies. And she would always take the leftover crust dough and make a little tart for us to eat for a snack - just some strawberry jam in the middle. It always made me feel special.

Thanks, Mom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Farm Share Apples

Each week for 8 weeks we get our "fruit share," in addition to the regular farm share. I have been tossing 1/2 peck of apples in the fridge every week, figuring that if we don't eat them, I can make applesauce. Well, today since I was staying around the house waiting for the annual boiler maintenance to happen, I finally got to them. I washed and cut up the apples, leaving the skins and cores, and boiled them with a little water, then ran them through the food mill. This batch is "pink-smooth-white sugar" and yielded 5 quarts, but it's not too sweet since I only added 3 1/2 cups of sugar to the potful of sauce. (I'm having an easier time washing the food mill, by the way - lots of practice lately!) And I got to eat the leftovers for lunch. Mmmmm.

(Regarding the photo, really, it's pink. I know it's hard to tell...)

Hopefully we'll be going apple picking this weekend, so I'll have even MORE apples. Maybe there will be "Apple Pie in a Jar" in our future!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Another Soup Experiment

There were 3 bulbs of celeriac in my fridge just waiting to be turned into soup. What better time to do that than when sleep deprived and hungry?

The problem was, I've never used celeriac before (hooray for the farm share, lots of new foods this year!) and I couldn't find a recipe which matched my ingredient list exactly. But I read a bunch of recipes and got the basic gist of what I was supposed to do here, so I improvised:

3 bulbs celeriac, trimmed, peeled, and chopped
handful of celeriac stems and leaves, chopped
2 turnips, peeled and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
1 pint chicken stock
1 pint water
salt and pepper

I sauteed the leeks and garlic in the olive oil, then added the rest of the vegetables and sauteed them for a few minutes. Then I added the liquids, salt and pepper, and got it boiling. This simmered for about 40 minutes until everything was soft. Then I took the hand-held blender and pureed everything. We had some for dinner - it's flavorful and very filling - and I canned the leftovers into 2 pint jars (10 lbs of pressure, 75 minutes) plus a little extra for the fridge. I think it worked out OK for a first attempt, anyway!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Soup Season Has Started

This morning we overslept. It's raining, and dark, so that is no surprise. The weather just cried out for a soup. So I pulled out the frozen leftover prime rib roast bones and bone-in steaks we just couldn't finish one night, and put them in the big pot with 7 pints of water. All the vegetables are from the farm share (yay!). Here's the full recipe:

5 beef bones with meat left on
7 pints water
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 T. soy sauce
1 package of frozen bok choi/joy choy
1 pound of small potatoes, cubed
1 onion, diced

This simmered on the stove for several hours and when the beef was no longer frozen I took it out, cubed it and put it back in the pot with the bones. I only took the bones out when I was ready to can the rest of the soup. My parents joined us for lunch. I made heart-shaped Bisquick biscuits and, in my opinion, the soup was yummy! (Those of you who were at lunch may comment if you wish...) The leftover soup fit into 3 quart jars and 1 pint and are in the pressure canner for 90 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure. I still have a to do list for canning, as I have 3 bags of apples in the fridge and also 3 celeriac roots, 2 turnips, and a bunch of carrots which I was hoping to turn into another soup. Anyone out there have an idea for how I can take those 3 ingredients and make something soup-ish?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Video is UP!

Please go to the Kitchen Arts webpage to see a short video synopsis of my canning demo. What fun, and thanks to Owen Mack for hosting and for his excellent editing skills! The video can also be found here! (The video will play if you get this post on its own screen by clicking on the title of the post.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Peck of Pickled Peppers

Well, sort of. The farm share has had all sorts of peppers lately, and I found a recipe I wanted to try for red and green pepper relish from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving. My challenge today was to figure out the volume that 4 red and 4 green peppers and 4 onions, when chopped, would have made and compare it to the volume of peppers I had (all sizes and shapes) and guess how much onion and liquid to add. I think I did OK. It's a multi-step thing where you have to boil the vegetables in water and vinegar, drain them, and then add boiling vinegar/water/sugar/salt solution. I ended up multiplying the first round of liquid by 6, and the second round of ingredients by 3. Probably that was too much, as my final product was only twice the expected yield of the original recipe. But I don't think it hurt anything to have extra liquid which just didn't get used in the end. Regardless, I now have 4 pints of red and green pepper relish. And, since I worked all weekend, I'm too tired to do anything more!

Friday, September 25, 2009

"OK, Now You've Gone Too Far"

This is what my husband said when confronted with my next canning project: potatoes.
Really! The farm share this week was full of tiny little potatoes, so I got it in my head that I could can them whole. I didn't want to peel them, and I hope that isn't a fatal flaw or anything. But I did scrub them, boil them, and the processed them a little longer than recommended just in case. This was the first time that I got the heat adjusted for the pressure canner right away and didn't have to fiddle with it for 10 minutes, which is good which means the pressure never dipped during the processing time.
I ended up with 5 pints of little red and gold potatoes. Perfect for a quick side dish!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thanks, Kitchen Arts!

We had a great time yesterday at the canning demonstration at Kitchen Arts. They have a really nice set up - great big table upon which to work, lots of light, and a steady stream of interested customers. I was really impressed that a lot of people stayed for the whole 3 hours! People asked excellent questions, tasted the jams and pickles I brought, and seemed really interested. My mom came with us and joined in the conversation, and my 7 year old helped by passing out the extra cucumbers for snacks and pouring the sugar for the jam.

Owen had purchased really cute little jars from Quattro Stagioni which I had not used previously. They have 1 piece lids, and so we decided to try some of them. For the most part they worked (one didn't pop, but the others did, and that was just for the jam), and I brought a few boxes home because they are adorable and I want to experiment with them a little more. We learned that the boiling water canner is just TOO BIG for hotplates. In 3.5 hours it never did come to a rolling boil, so we felt that the pickles, while they did pop, were best left in people's refrigerators until ready to eat.

I also have photographic evidence that I talk with my hands.
Thanks, Owen!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Today's The Day!

Kitchen Arts. 3:00!

I am bringing jars of sangria jam, strawberry jalapeno, mango-banana jam, and dill pickles to share with the guests who can nibble while I demo. This is going to be fun!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Pot Runneth Over

It seems to be a theme. Tonight's batch of grape jelly spilled over the sides during the all-important minute when the pectin boils. There was nothing I could do but let it boil over and burn. While I like the smell of burnt sugar, I'm not so fond of the cleaning up part. But let's back up..., wait, further back...

2 years ago, I found a notice on our town email list that someone was giving away grapes which grow in her backyard. I connected with her, got 3 pounds of concord grapes, made jelly and gave her a few jars in return. Last year, for whatever reason, we didn't connect, but I made another batch from *gasp* store-bought grapes.

Yesterday, I noticed that she was posting on the email list again with more grapes. I immediately called my friend, since I was stuck at work, and asked if she could pick some up for me. I came home to a bag full of grapes, just enough to make the 4 cups of juice required for the jelly. (Thank you!) I washed and boiled the grapes, let them drain through a cheesecloth, and put the juice in the fridge because I was too tired to make the jelly.

Tonight, after everyone was asleep, I made the jelly, and had the above-mentioned boiling over incident. I still got 7 half-pint jars plus a little more which is in tupperware. But I still had a little time on my hands, and had just picked up today's farm share, so I set about to find something else to do. Hmmm. Maybe the daikon radish?

Actually, I know people use daikon in cooking, but I was looking forward to making those little yellow radish pickles you get at Japanese restaurants. I found this recipe, and the only difference was that I processed the pickles in boiling water for 10 minutes and let them sit for 5 before I took them out. I'm so excited to try them!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Farm Share Canning

Just got back this morning from a visit with my in-laws, a whirlwind trip that was lots of fun. My house is still full of food from last week's farm share because, in my absence, my family ate out a lot. SO, guess what? Bring out the canner and...

...1/2 peck of apples, boiled and run through the food mill, makes not quite 2 quarts. In fact, enough "not quite" that I had to convert to 1 quart and 1 pint and just put the rest in the fridge. This batch was: food mill (and therefore smooth) with brown sugar. Mmm.

The beets I had been hoarding for 3 weeks, until I got enough to can, worked out to 3 quarts, but I had to double the liquid part of the recipe to fill the jars. There were 3 "mystery roots" in with the beets; I thought they might just be funny looking red beets, but it turned out they were golden beets. Those got eaten by me for lunch. They were not as yummy, not sure why.

Everything was processed together for 30 minutes and the jars are cooling on the counter. Boy, I'm tired! (Maybe it's because I got up at 5 am to make my flight?)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ground Cherry Pie

One of our farm share items has been husk cherries, aka ground cherries. My niece and my sister-in-law love them. We haven't been so enamored with them - tried them plain, in salads, just couldn't get used to the taste. Until I found this recipe for PIE. Everything is better when it's baked in a pie!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


When I was a kid, in the fall my father would make toorshi in great big jars. I don't remember much about how he made it, but I remember it smelled good and was too spicy for me to eat. A couple of years ago I asked him for the recipe; he laughed and asked, "Why do you want to make that?"

Well, just recently we all got together and I opened up the last jar from last year's batch. He seemed to really enjoy it. So, in answer to his question, "That's why. Because you like it."

Today's batch should be spicier, as I included a rainbow of farm share hot peppers: 1 small green scotch bonnet, 6 cherry red peppers, one really long and evil looking chili, and a couple of yellow hot peppers. Also in this year's batch: farm share carrots, garlic, and cabbage. I had to buy the cauliflower and celery at the store.

This is the only thing I make which does not get processed. I use the half-gallon jars, and they don't fit in the canner. But processing makes the veggies too soft anyway so, after cooking the veggies in the hot liquid for a few minutes, and packing the veggies in the jars, I boil the liquid again and pour it over the top. This extra heat makes it seal without processing. And it seems to be enough; last year's batch was fine on the shelf for a full year. As an added precaution, I washed the jars in the dishwasher and let them sit in there until I was ready so they would be hot and sterilized.

And, for the record, we love it, too.

Brazilian Treat

A dear friend returned from her annual trip to Brazil with a present for me: a jar of Jaboticaba jam made by her family. It tastes a lot like cranberry but with a little more bite. What a treat!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Last night I brought a jar of pickles, a jar of bean salad, and a jar of the Mangorine jam into work since we planned to have a sort of holiday party. After all, if you have to work the holiday, you might as well enjoy yourselves, right? Well, the Mangorine jam was really yummy, and I was really excited about it, and made sure everyone tried it.

When the doc replacing me came in, I dragged her into the break room, spooned some jam onto a graham cracker (the ubiquitous food fare of every self-respecting ER) and popped in into her mouth, saying, "Guess what's in this?" Well, she got the nectarine part, but couldn't name the other flavor. Very excited, I said, "Mango!"

Her smile faded.

"Oh. Mango. Hmm. I'm allergic to that."

As of this morning, she reported she only itched for an hour or so.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Edgy Tomatoes


I received a box from my mother (Thanks, Mom!) containing 24 pounds of B-grade tomatoes for canning. She bought it on the 27th. I received it on the 30th. I wasn't able to get to can them until yesterday so, yes. Edgy. A little squishy. But not impossible to work with or really gross or anything.

I worked on the sauce in 2 batches because my pots were not large enough to accommodate all 24 pounds of tomatoes while they cooked. Evidently I'm not very good at splitting things evenly because the second batch was heaped into the pot (see picture) and in danger of spilling over on multiple occasions. So, yes, in this regard as well. Edgy. But I got everything processed through the food mill and simmering on the stove. I let the sauce simmer for several hours to reduce in volume. More patience led to thicker sauce.

Edgy also means "having a bold, provocative or unconventional quality." I ended up with 8 pints of Persian-spiced tomato sauce: 5 teaspoons cardi and 1 tablespoon of ground dried lime per jar. (Cardi, for those of you who are wondering, is an equal mix of cumin and coriander. The dried lime is really lime or lemon, left whole and dried. I beat them with a mallet and run them through the blender to make a powder. That part is pretty fun.)


Friday, August 28, 2009

A Mess of Raspberries

Today was an eventful day. I got off shift at 8 am, got home around 12:15, and gathered up the troops to go raspberry picking. There is an organic raspberry farm near us and, in the 3 years I've been going there, I have never seen the raspberries so plump or plentiful. All the rain, I guess. Anyway. It took me less than an hour to fill a huge bucket, and the kids helped with little buckets. In total, we picked 7 pounds of raspberries, but that included 1.5 pounds for our friend's children who participated in the picking. So we brought home 5.5 pounds.

"Mom? I'm only going to help pick if you make me a pie. Please? I want a pie."

So I made a fresh raspberry pie. Baked a frozen pie shell for 12 minutes, filled it with fresh raspberries, and topped it with a thick sauce consisting of 1 c. sugar, 3 T. cornstarch, 1 c. crushed raspberries, and 1/2 c. water, boiled until thick. The pie then was refrigerated until after dinner. And it was GOOD. Mmmm.

On to the canning! After some soul searching and discussion with the family, we decided we had enough jam. *gasp!* However, I had just enough left to make raspberry syrup. Out came the food mill, which made a big mess, but got me exactly 6 cups of puree. And a lot of leftover seeds (more on that later). I decided I didn't have time tomorrow so I would tolerate some solids in my syrup, and started stirring. I looked away for 1 second (or so it seemed) and it boiled over! What a mess - much, much worse than the food mill! And, (this is the worst part, since I hate wasting things), I lost probably 3/4 c. of syrup. Drat!

The final yield was 3 pints, 2 12-ounce jars, and 1 half-pint. Plus a little extra which we will likely use for breakfast.

The leftover seeds were forced into a bottle and white vinegar was added, maybe we'll get some raspberry vinegar out of it. We also brought out a bottle of vodka and added some of the pulp to it as well. Another experiment. The rest was frozen in case any of these experiments are successful or there are others out there who know what to do with seedy raspberry pulp. Do you have any suggestions?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Raspberries and Chocolate

It was my birthday the other day. My husband made me a wonderful, chocolatey, rich cake with fudge icing. He used almost an entire half-pint of raspberry jam for the middle. It's AWESOME. It reminds me of our wedding cake except the frosting is better on this one. And the kids even let me eat the cherry. Now, that's love!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pears...In a Jar

"What are you making, mommy?"


"In a jar."

"Yup, in a jar."

Our friend (and blog member) Abigail has a pear tree and is up to her elbows in pears. She gave me 10 pounds (yup, I weighed them) of pears which I have converted into pears in syrup. Instead of halving them, since they were many sizes and shapes, it was easier to cut them up in a large dice. It made the final amount smaller but the quarts are more tightly packed. I also ended up with 1 1/2 cups of pear flavored light syrup to which we added water and a little ice and made a sweet pear flavored drink. The pears in syrup recipe was from the usual place, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It was actually pretty easy, and peeling 10 pounds of pears was not as bad as you might think. Better than peaches, that's for sure. The pears were also perfect for canning, since they were crisp and not overripe. I'll be bringing a quart back to Abigail in a little while. She was thinking about making wine from some of her harvest, but I'll let her comment on that if she likes.Oh, and Abigail? I have juicer envy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Exciting News!

When I started this blog, it was meant to be a way for me to remember things about canning - changes to recipes, things that worked or didn't, stuff like that. It's become more than that - another way to connect with members of my family, meet some interesting people out there in the world, and share my experiences on this particular subject. Now, thanks to this blog, I get to share in a different forum.

A live canning demo.

At a kitchen store in Boston. Check it out at

Isn't that cool?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mango Madness!

So, I was at Whole Foods yesterday, ("Uh, oh!" you say...) and they were selling crates of mangoes. A crate only holds 8, and it was not a huge savings but enough that I could finally put my plan of canning mangoes into action. The reason we were at the Whole Foods was we were looking for something for dinner. We ended up with chicken thighs, marinated and then grilled in the zesty peach BBQ sauce. Yum! A success!

Anyways, I had saved some halves of uneaten bananas in the freezer so I thawed them and used them for this: Exotic Mango Banana Jam Delite. When I added the lemon juice to the bananas, it actually perked up the color, as they were pretty brown after being frozen and thawed. However, since I only had 1 cup of mashed banana, I used a cup of chopped golden kiwis. I also used a whole vanilla bean rather than a half. This made 6 half-pints and a little extra. And it smells wonderful!

After that, I made a variation of mango jam using nectarines. "Mangorine Jam," I'm calling it.
3 c. chopped mango
1 1/2 c. chopped nectarines (skin on)
2 T. lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
5 1/2 c. sugar

This resulted in 7 half-pints. I'm done for the day, since I have to work overnight tonight. While I was working on these, the kids were entertained by those little peg board bead things. I would like to thank the inventor of those things - they kept the kids busy for hours!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Camping Connection

The folks at caught my entry about camping and have linked to it. They share some interesting stories about camping found on blogs all over. Mine is rather tame compared to some of the entries on there! Go check them out!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Camping Trip a Success

From the canned goods perspective.

I fed a lot of fish but none of them fed us. That's OK. This was the nicest campground we've ever been to. It was clean. And quiet. And teeming with kids. There are activities every weekends. Yesterday happened to be Smokey the Bear's birthday so the campground staff threw him a birthday party. With a park ranger, forest fire fighters showing off the big truck and the equipment they wear when they fight fires, face painting, crafts, and Smokey himself. And cake!
We ate a quart of the chili with shredded cheddar, some of us made sloppy joes and some just ate the chili in bowls. We had pickles but did not open the bean salad. The first night we ate the peach mint salsa (one of the jars hadn't sealed so I kept it cold and brought it). I ended up giving the small jar of strawberry-rhubarb jam to our camp neighbors across the way. These were people who we knew through our older child (classmate in preschool and pre-K) and hadn't seen in 2 years. And here they are, setting up camp right across from us. Small world.

Every morning a guy from a local farm drove through with a little truck and trailer, selling local produce, meat he aged himself, homemade sausages, honey, some canned goods, maple syrup. Basically everything you might need in a campground but might not have brought. BRILLIANT. The first morning we bought fall strawberries and fudge. This morning we bought raspberries and shitake mushrooms which his neighbor grows.

It was 48 degrees when we woke up this morning. In August. Wow.

Lots of good food, lots of fun - fishing, bikes, swimming (the water was COLD), s'mores and stargazing. And the best weather we've seen in a long time. How awesome is that?

Thursday, August 6, 2009


The last of the peaches were used tonight to make 4 half-pint jars of Peach Mint Salsa, from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving. I doubled the recipe to finish up all the peaches. Plus I got to use a green pepper, jalapeno, and honey from the farm share and mint from my garden. It smells more minty and citrusy than peachy in the kitchen tonight. Oh, and I have no idea how this is going to taste - I didn't try it before I canned it. Once I finish I can put the canner away until the next crazy purchase and work on freeing up some room in the pantry in the meantime.

For the camping trip tomorrow (for which I still need to buy bait), I will be bringing some chili, pickles, 3 bean salad, jam, and some of this salsa. Obviously we're not backpack-camping. But this way, I don't have to keep as much in the cooler. Which doesn't fit in the car unless I put it on its side. Oops.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Still Working On Those Peaches

Not too many left now. 1/2 a bushel is a LOT.

First thing I made today was the Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It smells divine. It tastes divine. It only makes 5 8-ounce jars, not 8. Just so you know.

Then after a bunch of errands and a trip to the dentist, I got to work on 2 more peachy things: Fruit Ketchup, from the same cookbook, and Peach Soup, from Preserving Summer's Bounty. The soup is for dinner tonight, but it had to be chilled, so I had to get it going early. As far as the ketchup goes, I only had enough tomatoes for 1/2 batch. For this, I brought out the food mill:
The ease of setting up the food mill is countered only by the difficulty of taking the $&%*&^#@ thing apart and cleaning it. But it really is easier than running stuff through a sieve. Especially during applesauce season. Note to self: move the coffeepot next time.

I hope to make some peach salsa with the last of the peaches. Maybe tomorrow night. I'm pretty tired.

I ended up with only 1 8-ounce jar of ketchup for all that work. Hardly seems worth it. Tastes pretty good, though for future reference if your kids do not like "spicy" foods, don't put the cayenne pepper in.

Oh, yeah, and I bought more jars. It's a sickness.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mr. Sipya, I'm thinking of you

You know how it is. You have a memory of something from your childhood and, no matter what, every new experience just doesn't stack up. You try, you keep an open mind but, nope, it's not IT.

I have this problem with bread and butter pickles.

When I was growing up, just down the road was a little farm stand. Mr. Sipya's farm stand. Probably his was one of many, but it was to his that we went. Mr. Sipya was a nice little elderly man who made the best bread and butter pickles EVER. Or so it seemed at the time. His little farm stand closed down long before I left home for college, but those pickles have become legendary in my mind, and nothing I have eaten since can match them.

I have tried to find his recipe. I googled for him, and the name of our town, and did not have any luck. I am now on my 3rd different recipe for these pickles, hoping that this batch might be THE ONE. (Granted, batch #2 wasn't really an effort to match his pickles considering I was using rice vinegar.) But I am holding out hope that today's batch is closer.

Wish me luck.

Busy Day Ahead

I have a 1/2 bushel of B-grade peaches and 1 peck of small pickling cukes in the fridge waiting for me to have some time. This afternoon.

Last night I whipped up a batch of cherry-peach-apricot jam after I got home from work. But I haven't had a whole lot of time since I worked back-to-back 12 hour days over the weekend. I'm psyched to make dill pickles with whole cukes rather than sliced and, when I found the tiny cukes at a farm stand, HAD to have them!

(Later today...) Grand total is 7 quarts of dill pickles, 7 quarts of peaches in syrup, and 3 quarts of bread and butter pickles. Still have a lot of peaches left but finished off all the cucumbers. I am officially out of jars. And space in my pantry.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dueling Canners

After making the chicken stock last night I basically crashed. I had worked the night before and had meetings all morning so I didn't get home until around noon, slept for a few hours and then got up to make dinner. So, as you can imagine, I just couldn't stay up any longer! This morning I awoke, had breakfast, and made chicken soup:

Chicken meat removed from bones
4 c. water
1-2 c. chicken stock (what was left in the pot from last night)
1 onion, originally roasted in the chicken then boiled in the stock, chopped
carrots and celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
kosher salt

While this was boiling, I started working on the beets. I had accumulated enough from the farm share to make 2 quarts of pickled beets - 1 jar for me and 1 for my mother-in-law who will be taking it home with her. By the time I got the beets in the jars, the soup was ready. This went into 2 quart jars and 1 pint jar and into the pressure canner. This is the first time I've had both canners going simultaneously. I am surprised I have enough room on my stove - these are both pretty big pots. The little pot is the rest of the chicken soup, waiting for lunchtime. There are a lot of thunderstorms passing through; it seems like a good soup day even though it's humid and hot out there. The beets are now done but the soup is still processing - 45 minutes to go.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Am I Doing Wrong?

I just pressure canned 4 pints of chicken stock. I turned it off, let the pressure return to zero, removed the weight, and checked that no more steam was being vented. Then I removed the lid, and waited. The stock in the jars was still boiling and the lids were popping up and down frequently as more air escaped. Then one of them spewed stock a couple of times. Why does it do that? Does anyone who pressure cans know what I'm doing wrong here?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fillet O'Fish

We're going camping. Soon. I am hoping we might catch a fish or two for dinner while we're there. I am realistic about this; I plan to bring enough food anyway. But, in preparation, I came across a skill I needed to learn -

How do I fillet a fish?

My dad used to fish, so I asked him. He loaned me his fillet knife and a scaler and told me how to use them. He also loaned me a couple of rods so I don't have to fish with the kids' child-sized fishing rods. Which are more my speed, anyway. (That's another thing I have to learn before we go, but I digress.) So I decided to buy a fish and fillet it myself for practice.

Today I stopped at Whole Foods and bought an entire red snapper. When the man at the counter asked me if he should scale and fillet it for me, I launched into a discussion of my plan. He very kindly walked me through scaling and filleting the fish, giving me some hope that I can actually do this.

I scaled the fish on the driveway. It probably will sparkle for a few days as I'm sure that there are still scales out there. But overall that part went fine. Then I brought it in and tried to fillet it. The knife needed a little sharpening but I followed his directions and ended up with 2 relatively equal sized fillets, with not that much meat left on the bones. Ultimately there were only a few bones and a few scales in the finished product. Which I baked with a mustard-dill-mayonnaise sauce and it was YUMMY.

As this is a blog about canning, perhaps you can guess what happened next? I took the bones, head and tail and made stock. After boiling in salted water for 90 minutes or so I strained the stock with a cheesecloth and ended up with 6 pints. Which are currently in the pressure canner. I really hope nothing breaks this time.
Now, what do I do with fish stock?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Break-Your-Heart Blues

Every year we look forward to the wild blueberries which abound at a local conservation land. We pick 4 quarts (yes, it takes a while), make jam out of 1/2 and freeze 1/2 for pancakes throughout the year. This year, with the kids away, I decided to drive up there and check out the berries. I figured that with all the rain they'd be late but that otherwise we could look forward to a family outing.

I was wrong.

The blueberry shrubs were bare. Not just "no berries" - NO LEAVES. Nothing. The area I usually go to was completely dead. No evidence of a fire either. I don't get it.

I managed to find some bushes by traveling around a lot more than I usually have to, and in 4 hours (yes, I'm persistent) I picked 3 pints. They didn't taste very sweet. I brought them home and we decided that I should make jam, and just buy frozen berries if I want them for pancakes. At least with the jam they'd have sugar in them.

Since I didn't have enough to make a standard CERTO batch, I brought out the Pomona's Universal Pectine and made a low sugar, slightly smaller batch. 1 pint and 2 half-pints, plus a little in the fridge. I have dubbed this jam, "Break-Your-Heart Blues."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dilly Beans

Someone, and I'm sorry to say I can't remember who, told me I should make Dilly Beans. (If you are that person, could you please identify yourself?) Yesterday's farm share included a quart of beans which I split, so I ended up with 1/2 quart of green beans and 1/2 quart of wax beans. There were also potatoes, onions (I now know the name! "Red Long of Tropea."), scallions, squash, carrots, beets, lettuce, greens, chard, garlic, 2 tomatoes per share, and flowers. So I grabbed more dill and got to work!

It's really simple: beans in the jars, boil salt, water and vinegar together, put the garlic, dill and cayenne pepper in the jar and fill with the liquid, boil. The recipe was from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. How cool is it that I was able to use fresh farm-share garlic? I ended up with 2 pints. Then I had breakfast.

How are we going to eat all the rest of the food? And what in the world are we going to do when the squash production picks up?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Serious Multitasking

The farm share pickup was today so I went after work (in my work clothes, which must have looked pretty odd to everyone there in shorts, tank tops, and sandals, as we were picking beans...) and got the goodies: 1 quart of beans, 1 pt. of fava beans, lettuce, salad greens, 1 pattipan squash, 2 kohlrabi, 8 tiny beets (oh no! not enough!), lots of carrots, small red potatoes, dill, collard greens and some onions (a variety of green onion but I don't recall the name, it was weird, though). My sister-in-law had given me her share since I was away last week and I think she's still working through last week's share. So I got it all, and it's WAY too much! Time to start canning...

I got home around 5, ran to the store for some protein for dinner, and got to work. Simultaneously, I was working on 3 bean salad (which is really 2 beans plus a couple of beets), pickled beets and cabbage (the cabbage was left over from 2 weeks ago), dinner (salad, potatoes with onions and dill), and dilled carrots. I don't have enough counter space or pots for all of this!

A few things to crow about: The bean salad includes 2 small peppers from my garden! The salad included tomatoes, red and yellow, from my garden! Whee!

The bean salad, pickled beets and dilled carrot recipies all came from 3 consecutive pages of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but I made a few alterations. The obvious one was that the 3 bean salad has beets, and different proportions of the rest of the veggies. Plus fava beans instead of lima beans, which I precooked this time since last time I used fava beans they were tough. I then took the leftover pickling solution, strained out the mustard and celery seeds, and used them with pickling spice to flavor the beets, and added more vinegar, water and sugar with the spices to make the beets (to which I added cabbage, another alteration). Since I didn't have garlic, I used some of the funny onions instead for the dilled carrots, and used the green parts of the dill since I didn't pick the flowers. I'm sure it will be fine.
Suffice to say I was cooking until 11 pm. I even managed to slip the carrots in for the last 10 minutes of the beet processing time, which allowed me a little rest. I still have a lot of greens left over for meals this week.