Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pie Day

As opposed to "Pi Day."

While all of the eastern US is socked in with varying amounts of rain, snow and wind, I'm still prepping for Thanksgiving.  Today I did the pies.  I've already made the stuffing, the pumpkin bread, the cranberry sauce, and the turkey is thawing.

First I made 2 pumpkin pies, just like last year except that since I didn't have any condensed milk I used extra egg nog instead (total of 1.5 cups) and I used less sugar.  The smaller pie is in the freezer for another day.  While that was baking, I made the apple pie.  For both of them, the crust was made with half butter and half leaf lard.  I think that makes the best crust so far.

I forgot to put foil under the apple pie while it baked so the juices ran all over the bottom of the oven and started to burn.  I had to open up a window and a door to create a cross breeze so the fan could get the smoke out.  I do hate that!  Not to mention that before tomorrow I'm going to have to get the rest of the burned apple syrup off the oven so I can roast the turkey in there.

Regardless, I think both pies came out looking terrific!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday to cook for, whether we have 4 or 14 at the table.  I generally start preparing things a week in advance.  First off, the dishes get divided up.  My mother always makes the sweet potatoes.  My sister in law makes the green dish and, for the second year in a row, a chess pie.  I make the turkey and the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, gravy, and squash, a pumpkin pie and an apple pie, and pumpkin bread.  Most of that can be made in advance which is good because I only have one oven.  Today I made the cranberry sauce and canned it.

It's super easy - 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 2 bags cranberries.  Boil for 10 minutes or so.  Can for 15 minutes in the canner and let it rest for 5 before taking it out.  This made 3 pints of sauce.  I'm not a fan of orange zest or any other flavors in my cranberry sauce so I don't get all fancy with it.

Over the weekend I'll start getting everything else all set.  I'm working long days in the early part of next week so the baking will have to be after dinner!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thinking Ahead

I love it when I find that my past self thought ahead.  Even if I forgot I did something clever.  Even if it takes months to finish whatever I was thinking of.  It's always such a pleasant surprise, a little gift I sent myself from the past.

Today it took the form of frozen chicken.  Don't laugh.  It doesn't take much to make me happy.

I decided it was a good day to make chicken soup so I pulled out 2 bags of frozen chicken bones and a bag of frozen vegetable scraps.  Then I found a bag of what looked like cubed chicken meat.  I looked all over the bag for bones and didn't see any.  Could it be, I thought, that I actually managed to be prepared?  That I knew that sometime in the future I was going to make chicken soup and would want to have a whole lot of meat all ready to go in?  Apparently, I did.  And it made my afternoon so much easier!

For the stock, I tied all the vegetable scraps into a cheesecloth so I could just fish it out and throw it away.  I put a bay leaf and a few peppercorns in that as well.  I tossed all the chicken bones in and then added enough water to cover it all, probably several gallons, as this was the lobster pot.  This simmered for a few hours.  Then I took out the veggies, strained the stock, and made soup.

The soup started with onion, parsnips, celery and carrots, sautéed, and then I added the chicken cubes and about 4 quarts of stock.  Plus salt, pepper, thyme and parsley.  Mmm.  I just now added egg noodles and that's going to be dinner.

While that is cooking, I'm canning the rest of the stock:  5+1/2 quarts.  4 quart jars and 3 pint jars.  Which are blue.  Has anyone else seen these?  They're a really pretty light blue glass that I think aren't really meant for anything to go into them.  After all, once you put anything yellow, or green, or red into them, it's no longer such a pretty blue color, is it?

Oh, and self, here's another little gift for next time.  Don't try to muscle the pressure canner closed.  You know why.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tomato Sauce, Plain and Not

Over the summer and early fall I accumulated 5 gallons of tomatoes which I stored in the freezer, waiting to be sauce.  I needed a whole day, or at least about 6 hours of uninterrupted time, when I could process them.  Today I had that time.  I brought out all 5 gallons and boiled them until they were soft.  Then I ran everything through the food mill.  And clogged the food mill, more than once.  Very messy, but not as bad as the year when the entire thing deconstructed and landed on the dining room floor.  I work in the kitchen now because the dining room has a rug.  It was a good plan.  Tomato juice actually squirted up to a foot from the mill through the little holes in the screen!

Once the food mill step was completed, I left the juice on the stove and let it boil down until slightly less than half its volume.  That's a LONG time.  But I've found that if I'm not patient, my tomato sauce is watery and then it isn't as good for stews and things.  Ultimately I had 8 pints of sauce.  They were canned in the water bath, so each pint had a tablespoon of lemon juice added.  Four of the pints are plain and four have Persian spices:  lime powder, cumin and coriander.  I got a fair amount of work done while this was happening.  Hooray for multitasking!

These were processed for 35 minutes and then they sat in the hot water for another 5.  Now they're out and cooling.  I haven't had tomato sauce for a few years, and it's nice to have a little in my pantry again.

In other news, I started making yogurt again.  I had a few failures over the summer most likely due to the milk not cooling down enough before I added my starter.  This time it's perfect.  At some point I might try skyr but for now this will do!