Thursday, November 22, 2012

So Very Full

This isn't even all the dishes we had, not to mention the 3 pies!
What a feast!

I hope that all of you had a very happy Thanksgiving!  


The turkey is stuffed and has been in the oven for 2 hours already.  Devil eggs made.  Potatoes peeled and ready to be boiled and mashed.  Apple and pumpkin pies are made.  Squash is in the fridge waiting to be reheated.  Pumpkin bread will be sliced.  The last jars of cranberry sauce and cranberry habanero jam were pulled out of the pantry.  The pickled beets and eggs are ready.  I have 3 or 4 other sides arriving with my guests.  We just need to set the table.  I am SO READY!

Can I go back to bed now?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Test Pie

Have you ever played around with a recipe for the first time and wondered if it would be good?  Especially if that recipe was for a special dinner like, oh, I don't know, Thanksgiving?

Fortunately, I had enough to make a second, smaller pie, and I can tell you that this recipe is terrific!

Pumpkin Pie
(makes 1 9-inch and 1 7-inch pie)

pie crust for two 1-crust pies (I used my standard crust)
1 sugar pumpkin, roasted, mashed and drained (3 cups)
3/4 c. sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c. egg nog
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ginger
3/8 tsp. allspice
3/8 tsp. nutmeg
4 eggs

Grease a 9 inch and a 7 inch pie plate.  Make the crust and place in the pie plates.  Mix the remaining ingredients until smooth and pour into the crusts.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then at 350 for 40-60 minutes until the pumpkin is set.  Cool briefly.

Devour half the smaller pie in one sitting.  (I had help with this part.)
Don't forget the strawberry tart with the leftover crust, for the 7 year old who won't eat pumpkin pie.  It will be appreciated!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Canning with Maple Syrup

In this house, only Vermont Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup will do.

It's expensive, though, so we plan ahead and make a day trip up to Vermont once every 1-2 years to buy it from the source.  Even in the stores up there it's pricey so we buy it straight from the farms.  Last time we found, for the first time, a reliable farm that had plenty in stock.  Dark is hard to come by most of the time, but not there.  We usually buy 2 gallons for ourselves, and then buy a few gallons for other people who wouldn't otherwise make the trip.  With one of those people, for one gallon I get smoked Alaskan salmon that her husband catches and smokes himself.  I think that is a very reasonable trade.

In case you're wondering, syrup does fine on the shelf in a cool place until you open it.  After that, it needs to be refrigerated or frozen.  If you have gallon jugs, like we do, freeze them.  It'll last up to a year that way.  Just thaw it and pour some into a smaller container so you have some ready.  Syrup shouldn't actually freeze, if the sugar content is high enough.  It just gets really thick.

This year we are planning to go in the days after Thanksgiving.  But I think that I may be buying 3 gallons for myself.  This is because I've decided that I should experiment more with cooking with syrup.  I started today by creating a jam recipe with maple syrup.

Maple Pear Jam

4.5 cups of minced pears (3-4 pears, roughly)
2 T. lemon juice
1 cup maple syrup
2 cups sugar
1 package low-sugar powdered pectin

Mix the pears with the lemon juice to prevent browning as you cut up all the pears.  Mix the pectin with 1/4 cup of sugar and then mix with the pears and lemon juice.  Cook until boiling.  Here's where I had a little trouble because there wasn't really any liquid in the pears so it didn't really boil.  Eventually I just added the syrup and sugar and brought all that to a boil.  (Warning!  It is super thick, and bubbles spatter quite high.  Stand back.)  Once it was at a rolling boil, keep that for 1 minute and then remove from heat.  This made 5 cups of jam, which I put into 10 half-cup jars.  I thought it might be a good addition to the gift stash.  

Things to consider:  adding star anise or cinnamon or almonds.  The maple flavor isn't too strong so I wouldn't want to overwhelm it; I think a vanilla bean might be too much.  Another idea is to simmer the pears in some water or pear juice and mash them before doing the rest.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Random Cooking Things

Haven't really done any canning lately, but I'm getting ready for Thanksgiving so I've been making pumpkin bread and thinking about when I'm going to make my pies.  Sadly, the squashes from the farm share didn't last - as in, we didn't eat them because they went bad - but the pumpkin did so I roasted it the other day and am saving that to make a pie.

Tonight for dinner we had crepes.  I wanted to make a link to this recipe because, so far, it's the best crepe recipe I've used.  We had goat cheese-apple(or pear)-salami and Nutella-banana and lemon curd with and without pear.  It was a light dinner because we had dim sum for lunch and practically rolled out of there, so we didn't really need anything heavy!

Last night we had mussels steamed in the last of my fish stock.  If there is one thing I won't be making and canning again, it's fish stock.  I really was hard-pressed to find a use for it.  So I sautéed onion and celery, added the 3 pints of fish stock and a bottle of beer, then steamed the mussels in that.  It only takes about 5-6 minutes to steam them.  They were good, but my favorite way to have mussels is steamed in tomato sauce with chorizo.  That's they way we always used to eat them when we went out to dinner where I grew up!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Soup in a Hurry

Well, the soup isn't really in a hurry, but I am.  I threw together a batch of beef and barley soup this afternoon, but I have to leave for work before the pressure canner will be done, so I will be instructing my husband in what to do before I leave.

When I make beef and barley soup, I generally start with a slow-cooker "osso buco" - beef shin slices browned and cooked in a slow-cooker with tomato sauce, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and sautéed carrots, celery and onion.  This one also had leeks.  Once we have dinner, the bones and whatever meat is left is saved with all the liquid and this serves as the base for the soup.  To that I add more sautéed onions, celery and carrots, along with garlic, 2 quarts of stock (chicken this time, since I had some in the freezer from the last time I made stock a week or so ago), a cup of red wine, about a cup of pearled barley, some worcestershire sauce, parsley, salt and pepper.  This simmers for about an hour and a half.

After taking some out so I have dinner at work for tonight, I put 5 pints in the pressure canner and the rest will get eaten by the family either tonight or tomorrow.  This one is popular, and it goes fast.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cranberries! Not.

It's really cold and it might snow a little today.  However, I'm still on the hunt for wintergreen berries so I went back to the same conservation area today but from the other entrance.  No wintergreen berries but I found another red berry that looked very much like an alpine cranberry, aka lingonberry.  But it was powdery inside, and I couldn't figure it out.  Was it just that there had been a frost?  Why was it so weird?

What did we ever do before we had smart phones?  I spent a little time right there in the woods looking it up and discovered that I did not have lingonberry but bearberry, aka Arctostaphylos uva-ursi.  Not inedible, but not tasty, and certainly not a lingonberry. Drat.

I came home and canned that chicken stock I made last week.  4 quart jars and 1 pint jar.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wintergreen Extract

Oh, yeah, I'm trying to see if the shoots will take root.
We only just discovered wintergreen, aka Eastern Teaberry, last spring while hiking in New Hampshire.  Apparently the berries are out now.  I was hoping to find some after reading Hank Shaw's blog entry about them.  He was even in Gloucester, which is not far.  But so far I've had no luck on finding berries.  I did, however, find a lot of leaves today.  So following the instructions on his blog, I am making wintergreen extract.  

I crammed a half-pint jar as full of leaves as I could and poured some vodka over it.  It will steep for at least a month and then I'll just leave it as is and use the extract in something.  That ice cream on his blog page looks rather tasty.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fried Chicken

On the long drive home from North Carolina my friend and I got talking about food.  Well, we talked about food a lot the whole week but specifically we discussed fried chicken.  She raved about her mother's fried chicken; it was simple and good and better than any commercially available fried chicken.  I decided to try it.  Emails were sent to her mother to make sure we had the correct instructions and last night, I made wonderful fried chicken.

Chicken, flour, salt and pepper.  Deep fried in oil and butter, 10 minutes a side.  That's it.

I have to admit, I have not really deep fried much.  It's just not something my mother did so I never really learned to do it or to incorporate it into my repertoire of go-to meals.  This wasn't hard, but it did take a while.  I'd have to time it better in the future, I think.  After the chicken was done I tossed potatoes and sweet potatoes in the oil and made french fries.  I also used this recipe to make cole slaw but I added half a teaspoon of celery seed which made it really nice.  Yum!  The cabbage and all the potatoes were from the farm share; I have 2 heads of cabbage left, plus turnips, leeks, and various squashes and pumpkins.

Since I cut the breast meat off the bones and had the back bone of the chicken still in the package, I tossed them in a pot with some water and vegetable scraps, salt, pepper, and bay.  This yielded 9 quarts of chicken stock which I will likely can in the next few days.  Just not today!