Sunday, May 30, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and Jam

This is the last entry for this weekend...really! Today we had a couple of people over for a barbecue and I made a strawberry rhubarb pie. This is the first time I've used a pre-made crust that you unroll. Not bad, actually! I think maybe it could have baked a little longer but it tasted great!

Then I finished up my planned canning for the weekend by making strawberry rhubarb jam - I'd made some last year, and we finished it several months ago. Time for more! I made a double batch this time; 4 c. chopped rhubarb (including the anemic pitiful stalks from my own plant), 4 c. crushed strawberries, 4 T. lemon juice, 9 c. sugar, and 2 packages of Certo. This made 12 half-pint jars, which all fit in the canner at once, thanks to the new canning rack - no ridges to take up space.

When Will the House Stop Smelling Like Lobster?

So asks my family...every single member of my family...

This morning I pulled the lobster stock back out of the fridge and started heating it up again. I put some pint jars in the boiling water canner to warm them, and got the pressure canner set up. So far so good. But there was a LOT of stock. 14 pints worth, to be exact. So I had to do 2 batches of jar warming, but fortunately 14 pints is the maximum I can put in the pressure canner so that part is being done in one batch. The mystery of the day is, how long to process? Beef and chicken stocks are 20 minutes for pints. I read on line that fish stock is 30 minutes for pints. But nowhere can I find a time for lobster stock. I'm worried about not processing long enough. I guess I am thinking that 40 minutes is a good idea.

One little observation - my lobster pot always looked huge next to my regular pots. But it looks downright tiny next to the pressure canner.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rhubarb Chutney and Lobster

No, not together. But it is Memorial Day weekend, and I'm using this free time to put up a bunch of stuff. I finally found local rhubarb at a nearby "Farmstand." I put this in quotes because it's like a local Whole Foods, but somewhat smaller and attached to its own farm. There is livestock to visit, hay rides in the Fall, they sell plants and trees, AND it is an amazing grocery. Even more dangerous than Whole Foods. Which is why I rarely go there. Except that they had rhubarb.

So I made rhubarb chutney (recipe from The Joy of Pickling) while I prepared a lobster dinner for 3 of the 4 of us. See if you can guess who doesn't eat surprises here. Had to make a hot dog instead. Boiled lobster, grilled corn on the cob, garlic bread, fried fiddleheads...mmmm. Eaten outdoors, of course, since it's so messy. Fortunately it had stopped raining by dinnertime.

Now the chutney is out of the canner, and went, "Pop!...popopop!...pop!............pop!...popop!" In the big lobster pot I have the shells, tomato paste, carrots, celery, onions, spices and water, making a lobster stock. The recipe is from The New England Soup Factory Cookbook and maybe having the stock around will inspire more seafood soups. Likely I'll can the stock tomorrow; it's already pretty late!

Maraschino Cherries, Day 3

Today's step was to drain the cherries, boil the syrup again, add an entire bottle of almond extract, then do the actual canning. The hardest part was making sure the bright red syrup didn't get everywhere...sticky and staining, a great are the cherries draining. Now they're much smaller. I put a fresh cherry on top for comparison.

Once the almond extract was mixed in they truly smelled and tasted like maraschinos! We ended up with 3 pints and a single 12-ounce jar, and a lot of leftover syrup. I called my husband over: what to do with all this syrup? It's not thick enough for pancakes and it's way too sweet for that anyway. We decided it might go well on ice cream or diluted in a drink, so I canned 3 12-ounce jars of that as well. He tasted the syrup and said, "Wow. It tastes like a maraschino cherry but without the formaldehyde." I'll take that as a success!And just look at that canning rack! Isn't it beautiful?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Maraschino Cherries, Day 2

This morning I drained the cherries and rinsed them. Note they are less red than they were yesterday; that's not what I expected from the brine soak. I guess I expected they would be smaller.

At 6:30 this morning I was boiling the sugar, water, lemon juice and red food coloring and added the cherries for their 24 hour soak. I had to get to work by 8, after all.

In other news, I got a new canning rack, finally! It's stainless steel, so it shouldn't rust, and it fits great in my boiling water canner. Yay!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Maraschino Cherries, Day 1

My wonderful husband requested homemade maraschino cherries. He'd had them once, in a Brandy Manhattan, a long time ago. A few weeks ago he was traveling for business and rediscovered the bar and those homemade maraschinos. He even took a photo of his drink (left) and sent it to me, saying, "you really need to make these."

The one problem: the recipe calls for 4.5 pounds of cherries, and they were, until recently, $8 a pound. Today I found them with a much lower price so I bought enough and got to work.

Today the cherries were washed and pitted. It is necessary to have a cherry pitter. I'm not sure there is a way to do this without one. This particular gadget is also a source of amusement for the children; I think the only reason the 5 year old eats cherries is because of that thing. It's very easy, just watch your fingers.

The cherries are being soaked overnight in a brine solution, just 1 T. pickling salt with 2 quarts of water. Tomorrow they get rinsed and put into a sugar solution.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Every year I optimistically plant vegetables. I did this even when we lived in the city, on a roof deck that required hauling water daily up an iron spiral staircase which jutted out over the parking lot, 3 stories below. I had a love/hate relationship with that staircase... And every year I get a few vegetables which either end up on the table or incorporated into something canned. Not very much, mind you, but something.

I keep trying. This year I have big tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, and summer squashes. I haven't tried squashes in a container before, but I'm tired of the bunnies and chipmunks eating whatever I've got at ground level. So they're up there this year, too. Usually the way I get squash is that something grows out of the compost heap, does really well, and then when a squash is just about ready to eat, I'm beaten to it by some little critter. One year the chipmunks took the corn. Stalks and all. Pulled them right into their little burrows. One day the corn was almost ready, the next day the entire plants were missing. It was like an alien abduction - there wasn't even any evidence there had been a plant there.

So far the leeks haven't grown and the peas have proved irresistible to the bunnies. We have gotten a grand total of 5 strawberries. All attempts at sunflowers have been gnawed off. I'm hoping the rooftop one does better. And the new soaker hose is doing great.

The farm share starts next week (yay!). I'm betting we'll get bok choy and lettuce.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


My in-laws are heading home today. They've been staying with us for 3 weeks to help out during what is the busiest time of my year. I'm sad to see them go. When they arrived they brought me about a dozen jars from previous care packages and I'm sending them home with grape jelly, strawberry jam, beef and barley soup and pickled beets.

Thanks to you both for all your help, and enjoy the homemade goodies!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Kitchen Smells Really Good Right Now

Yesterday I made osso buco in the slow cooker, since I knew dinner time was going to be rushed (I had 20 minutes between getting home and needing to leave again) and the meat was so tender and yummy! Here's the recipe:

3 beef shin slices, bone in, dredged in flour with salt and pepper and browned
onion, celery, carrots, chopped and cooked in oil
1 large can crushed tomatoes with basil
1 bay leaf

All that went into the slow cooker and simmered all day. Mmm.

Today I'm using the leftover sauce, bones, and meat (not that there was much) to make soup. To what was left I added: another bay leaf, about 1 tsp. of worcestershire sauce, 1 c. red wine, 6 c. water, kosher salt and pepper to taste, pearled barley, garlic, and more onions, celery, and carrots fried in olive oil. After an hour I took out the bones and added another 2 cups of water (the limitation here is the pot is too small, so I had to wait until I made some room). It smells heavenly. But that's not all!

I also have enough time to make a double batch of baked beans, with the intention to can one batch and serve the other. This recipe comes from my classic Pilsbury cookbook. I've had this cookbook for about 20 years now. It's such a great, basic cookbook. This recipe is the kind with molasses, brown sugar, and mustard powder. It calls for a pork shoulder but I use salt pork instead, cut up into little cubes. That's baking in the oven right now for another hour and then I'll take out half and can it. I've done a little research and seen times ranging from 75 to 95 minutes, I think I'll just do 90 since that's the same as the soup. I managed to get all the jars in at once: 6 pints beans, 6 pints soup.

While I was picking up the 8 year old from the bus I found out one of my neighbors is sick, so I brought over 2 of the pints of soup. I'm told it's her favorite soup. Maybe it'll help her feel better.

My in-laws are taking the beef bones home to their dog, who will be a happy dog indeed with such savory bones! How nice that this soup has something for everyone. Except the 5 year old. Who just says, "no."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Love Mint Jelly

I planted the tiniest of mint plants in the yard a few years ago, and for at least a year it looked like it wasn't going to make it. Now it's just about overrunning the yard. We have so much mint my children eat it right off the plant. They make "mint tacos" - mint wrapped in mint - and gobble them up.

Fortunately, we like mint.

Every year or so I make a batch or two of mint jelly since we also like lamb. We've used the mint in the pineapple mint drink and jam, and in peach mint salsa, and in the pickled wild onions I made last year. But mint jelly is my favorite. I don't like the "mint flavored apple jelly" you get in the store, because why would you add apple juice? This mint jelly is just mint tea with sugar. I use the recipe straight from the Certo package insert:

1.75 c. of mint infusion (steep 2.25 c water with mint leaves for 10 minutes)
Food coloring (I'm out of green so used 4 drops blue and 2 drops yellow)
3.5 c. sugar
2 T. lemon juice
1 package Certo

It's that simple. Makes 4 cups, but I always prepare an extra 4 ounce jar just in case.

You could skip the food coloring but then it just is a strange greenish brown color.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Today we finally held the long awaited and several-times-delayed birthday party, just family, and combined it with a small Mother's Day celebration. I brought out lots of canned goods for this one! One quart of Strawberry Lemonade concentrate, which I mixed with water and ice because I forgot to buy seltzer water when I was at the store this morning. We also used up the last jar of 3-Bean salad, the last jar of the bread and butter pickles made with rice vinegar, and the last jar of peach-mint salsa. Plus I brought out some of the dill pickles we'd opened last night. I'm making lots of room in my pantry for this summer!
The cake was a hit, and I think the entire thing will be gone by the end of the day. The little ladybugs were essentially sugar bombs. Even though it was a LOT of work, I am very glad I made the fondant; it tastes so much better!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Birthday Cake

"Mommy? This year on my cake I want flowers, and butterflies, and ladybugs!"
How can I resist?
I have been planning this cake for weeks. WEEKS. This morning I made the fondant, based upon instructions from The Decorated Cookie. I don't really like the taste of store-bought fondant, so I tried to make my own from marshmallows like she did. Several things I found out from just this part of the process alone: I am not a professional baker and the hand mixer is insufficient for mixing this particular substance. We could smell the overheated motor for hours afterward. Regardless. I have my fondant:I have my colors:I decided to not use my bare hands. Here's where the "doctor" part comes into play - vinyl gloves! This works, but only if you grease them first, I used margarine. Hands were nice and clean, and I have 5 little piles of tinted fondant:Do you think I used too much, maybe?

Now we need our cake, made in the flower mold which has been useful for at least 3 previous birthday cakes:

While this is cooling I'm working on the butterflies. My fondant was really floppy, not stiff at all, and when I tried rolling it out between sheets of waxed paper it became glued to the paper and not useful at all. So I hand molded all the butterflies and the proto-ladybugs.

After this I rested and watched whatever bad movie they put on TV on a Saturday afternoon while the cake cooled. Then it was time to frost it. I think, all in all, it came out pretty OK!

But the butterflies do keep falling over...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fiddleheads Again

Springtime is so wonderful for many reasons - we're all tired of gray skies, itching to be outside, and missing fresh vegetables. Fiddleheads, to me, are the embodiment of Spring - something that is only edible when it's fresh and new. Last year I pickled a bunch trying to recreate a taste we'd experienced a few years prior in New Brunswick. It wasn't quite right, but it was close enough.

This year I decided, since I still had some of the pickles, to raw pack and pressure can a bunch of fiddleheads. The idea is that when I want to cook with them, they'd already be mostly cooked so I could just fry them with a little butter and spices (maple pepper works great, by the way) and serve them in a matter of minutes.

It's been a busy week so, even though I bought them 2 days ago, I finally got to them today. After planting about 30 plants in the garden, including starting up the rooftop garden for the year. Sadly, my soaker hose has a gaping hole in it, so I have to fix that before I can set up the "irrigation system," for now I'll just use the sprayer and try to remember to water them often.

So I washed and trimmed a couple of pounds of fiddleheads, and cold packed them into 5 pint jars. I poured boiling water over them* then sealed them up. They're in the pressure canner now at 10 pounds of pressure. I'm guessing here, since the book doesn't have a time for this particular vegetable, that they are more like leafy greens (70 minutes) than green beans (20 minutes). So we'll do 70 minutes and see what happens.

*we've gotten really used to boiling our water lately. Thankfully that's over with.