Remains of the Day

131201 TurkeyThe Thanksgiving holiday ends when the soup is done.  That’s the way I look at it anyway.  Saturday afternoon, after guests had had their fill of all things turkey I removed the meat from the bones and made stock in a very large pot.  I strained the broth and put the pan in the shed to cool overnight. The temperature hadn’t been above 25 degrees so it’s as good as any refrigerator.

Sunday morning I skimmed the fat and heated the stock.  This is where we come to the rest of the ingredients.  Everything that was leftover from Thanksgiving went into the pot.  Mashed potatoes, squash, rutabaga, gravy, it all went in.  Using this as the base for your turkey soup gives it the most wonderful flavor and thickens it to the perfect consistency.  Last but not least comes the leftover bird – and this was one wonderful bird from Diemand Turkey Farm in Wendell, MA.  I didn’t add any starch because I wanted to keep my options open since it was such a huge amount.

The soup was simmered for about an hour and then the canner came out.  I had to can two rounds because the canner will only do 14 pints at a time.  All in all I canned 24 pints.  I do pints because many times it’s just one person (or two) opening a jar.  If there are more people open more jars.  It’s so satisfying to see the fruits of your labor sitting on the counter cooling.  Then dream about the soup’s possibilities – turkey barley, turkey rice and I’m thinking dumplings would be a great winter meal.

The biggest treat is tasting this when Thanksgiving Day is a distant memory because this is really Thanksgiving Dinner in a jar – yum!

 

Waste Not, Want Not

131102 StockI’ve been buying or roasting a chicken a week for the past 3 weeks.  What started out as an easy meal actually turned into 3 plus meals, each meal probably costing about $1.00 per person or less.

The first meal is roast chicken with sides, I usually eat squash, carrots or green beans with it.  Maybe a mashed potato as well.  The second meal might be black beans and rice with chicken added.  The third meal this week was a lunch of chicken salad.  The fourth iteration is my favorite- I make and can stock.  All of these meals are for two, not a family of 5 but the reality is if you know how to cook you can stretch your food dollar quite a ways.

At this point in time I throw very little food away and chicken stock has the potential to be any number of wonderful meals.  My Saturday morning routine of late has been to throw the bird carcass in a pot with an onion, a couple of carrots and a few stalks of celery.  I cover it with 3 to 4 quarts of water, add some salt, pepper and thyme (or poultry seasoning) and let is simmer for a few hours.  I strain the broth through a colander and can it in my pressure canner – 35 minutes at 10 lbs.  It amounts to 5 or 6 pint jars when all is said and done.

Have a friend or relative with a cold or flu?  Pull out a jar and make a little soup – a delicious soup.

With the weather getting downright frigid what could be more comforting?

Waste not Want not

 

Soft Molasses Cookies

130929 Sof Molasses (2)

Baking season has once again arrived and I am one happy woman.  A few years ago the girls gave me the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion for Mother’s Day.  This is one of the best cookbooks I have ever owned.  Not only does it have recipes but it explains why things work the way they do.  Much like the movie “Julie and Julia” I decided to bake my way through this book.  It has notes written on recipes and batter stuck between some pages.  It also has other recipes printed and folded in between the pages.  That to me says it’s a great book when the “other” good recipes can be found stashed in it.

These particular cookies I come back too again and again.  Soft Molasses Cookies are what I refer to as an “adult” cookie.  They are highly spiced and not overly sweet – perfect with that afternoon cup of tea or coffee.  They are good right out of the oven but they are better the next day when they’ve completely cooled and developed that chewy texture.  They are rolled in sugar before baking which results in a crunchy sugar crust on the outside with the soft, chewy center.  Mmmmmmm.

Now I have to tell you a little secret about these cookies (or any soft cookie you may bake).  When you remove the pan from the oven hold it about a foot off of the floor and drop it so it lands flat. Yeah I know, sounds crazy but what it does is immediately compress the soft center of the cookie.  By doing this they stay soft and chewy for days.  I have a rug by the oven so they just come out and onto the floor.  Yes, my family thought I was crazy the first time they saw me do it but the proof was in the eating.

These are the things you learn when you take the time to read your cookbook.  It actually tells you to do this when baking soft cookies.  Although I must confess the first time I did it I made sure no one was around to see me do it.

Caramel and Apple

130921 Caramel (1)Last week I was perusing the King Arthur Flour catalog (a guilty pleasure of mine) and they had a recipe for Apple Cider Caramels.  I thought, hmmmm, this might be a fun thing to try with the potential of being delicious, anything that contains heavy cream and butter has to be good. It also was something that I could make with ingredients I had on hand.  The recipe calls for boiled cider – a bottle of which is sitting in my refrigerator.  I’m always looking for ways of using it because the apple flavor is intense. The website Foodie with Family has a good description of boiled cider and the simple, albeit long process of making it.

The recipe for the caramels can be found at the King Arthur Flour website.  They are extraordinarily simple to make.  The biggest problem I had initially was the size of my pan.  I had to watch it for a bit to make sure it didn’t boil over (what a mess that would have been). Basically you put everything together and let it boil away for about a half hour until the mixture reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer.  The spices are mixed in and it is poured into a prepped 8×8 pan.  It then has to sit for 12 to 18 hours.

I was wondering about that a little – 12 to 18 hours?  When I took this off of the stove it looked like one foamy mess quite honestly.  I stirred and then poured it into the pan and let it sit the required time.  It was beautiful when I turned it out of the pan.

130921 Caramel (2)I learned a couple of things about making caramels – they don’t stick to anything.  When you are done cutting them your hands are sticky but they don’t stick to any surfaces.  They came right out of the pan and didn’t stick to the knife at all as I was cutting them.  They didn’t stick to each other.  I can only assume it has to do with the amount of fat that went into it in the beginning.

130921 Caramel (3)I cut them into 1 inch squares and wrapped them in parchment.  I also ate a couple during this process and fed them to people around me (even if it was 10:00 in the morning).  Apple pie is what you think of when you are eating this delightfully chewy confection.  The boiled cider shines in this recipe.

130921 Caramel (4)I made these to see how they would be for a Fall gathering we will be having at the house in a couple of weeks. I wanted to use as many of the fruits and veggies that are available for the food and the desserts are just begging to be apple and pumpkin – isn’t that what you think of when you are having a harvest party?  Meanwhile I will be passing these out to friends and family for the “taste test” but honestly, this is a winner.

 

 

 

 

I’m So Done with Peaches

550467_3424282251409_502533336_n

It’s been a busy few days.  Lots of canning this past weekend in spite of the hot, humid weather.  I always think if being way too hot when I’m canning, it’s the nature of the beast.

The canning marathon began Sunday morning with a large bowl of tomatoes.   The photo looks like it’s all yellow but it was half plum as well.

130901 Pizza (1)

These little tomatoes are bursting with flavor, one of my favorites and the plants are extraordinarily prolific.  There is always a bowl of these on the counter to munch on as you’re walking by.

I made the sauce highly spiced with homemade pesto and oregano (and lots of garlic of course).  It was cooked down to be rather thick and then I canned it in small jars (2/3 cup).  You never need much sauce when you make pizza and this just made more sense to me – that and the fact that I had two dozen of these cute little jars.

130901 Pizza (2)

Monday I wove and finished my scarf for the Big E.  That took a good part of the day.  It was hot, humid and rainy.  We invited friends over for dinner so the only thing I did outdoors was dig potatoes for dinner.  I also picked peppers and put them in to dehydrate. They were there overnight.  Before going to bed I went online and saw Apex Orchards had put out an APB about an overrun of peaches so I knew what I would be doing in the morning.

130903 Peaches (1)

Yes, peaches.  Lots of peaches.  I picked them up around 9:00 and started in as soon as I returned.  This wasn’t the best peach experience I have ever had.  They didn’t peel as well as I would have liked so it was slow going.  I managed to put up 15 pints and with half a box to go I decided to make a little jam.

130903 Peaches (2)I had picked up this new pectin at the orchard and was hot to try it out.  One of the reasons I don’t make much jam is the amount of sugar that has to go into it, this made more sense to me.  I made a jam with peaches, honey and ginger.  It smelled heavenly while it was cooking and what little was left in the pan tasted great.  The thing with jam is it sometimes takes a while to jell up.  By the time I left the house last night it wasn’t looking too thick. I figured I would give it a couple of days to see if it would be thick enough to spread on my toast.  If not it’ll just go into my oatmeal or yogurt.  Mmmmmm, Honey Ginger Peach yogurt, how good does THAT sound!

By the time the afternoon was over I was sooo over peaches.  Canning fruit also calls for serious cleaning – everything was sticky, including the floor.  This may be why peaches are one of the few fruits I put up.  The next will be pears but not until November.  I need a couple of months to recover.

130903 Peaches (3)I will be leaving for Fiber College in Searsport, ME this afternoon.  I’m not sure how much time will be devoted to blogging but I will make an attempt.  All I really want to do is smell and walk along the ocean and eat lobster but I may be coerced into doing a little crafting while I’m there.

Can All You Can

8460v

I posted a photo of my canyon of canned goods the other day and some comments surprised me.  I grew up canning.  My mother canned – a lot.  We had a large garden and what she didn’t can she froze.  Everything was done with a hot water bath so there were hours spent in front of that stove or in a hot kitchen, it takes a long time to process things with a hot water bath.  She used the WWII volume of the Ball Blue Book.  I still have it but these days almost everything I do is with a pressure canner.  It saves me time, water, energy and sweat.  I am also able to can pretty much anything safely.

This time of year the concentration is on fruit with tomatoes included.  Last week I canned tomatoes, peaches and made apricot butter as well as a few jars of dill pickles.  This week will be a repeat.  I really need about 50 pints of tomatoes to last me until next summer, I’d prefer to have more but tomatoes aren’t as easy to come by this summer due to a blight that seems to have effected everyone everywhere.

The peaches are beautiful this year and I had a really great canning experience this past weekend.  I love it when everything goes smoothly.  I don’t want to fight to peel those peaches.  I read somewhere to make sure the water was at a rolling boil and to dunk only a few peaches at a time for 30 seconds then into the ice bath.  Worked like a charm.  I also made sure my fruit was at room temperature before I started.  Canning fruit at home also allows you to control the amount of sugar that is used in processing.  That’s important to me, I don’t like things really sweet, I want to taste the fruit.

Our pear tree is loaded with fruit this year – I fear for its branches.  The apple trees are the same.  I will probably make a few pints of pie filling from the apples just to see if I can make it work to my satisfaction.  The pears won’t even ripen until after Thanksgiving and I will can those in chunks like I did the peaches.

There is nothing like the taste of home canned food, especially in winter.  I know exactly what is in every jar, there are no preservatives, no additives, no GMO’s.  It’s real food.  There is also the feeling of food security which is certainly what food preservation is all about.  Having enough to eat until the next harvest comes in.  Plant enough to eat now and put by enough to get you to next summer.  We live in a world where everything is immediate.  It takes very little time to empty out a grocery store, they are restocked every day.  I don’t ever want to worry about where my next meal is coming from or not having food to feed my family.  I’m sure that comes from growing up when food security may have been a concern.  I just remember this time of year the shelves were stocked and you had choices.

130824 Canning CanyonI know when I look at this my mind is set a little more at ease.  I have good food, I took the time to make it right and now all that is left is the eating.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

130616 Chives in bloomA couple of years ago I read about making chive blossom vinegar.  This has to be the easiest infused vinegar to make and one of the prettiest.

The chives are in full bloom right now.  When they are take a quart canning jar out to your garden and pick the blossoms until the jar is 1/3 to 1/2 filled.  Fill the jar to the top with white vinegar, cover and set on the counter for about 2 weeks.  Strain it through cheesecloth into a clean container.  There you have it!   No processing needed.

This is a beautiful, bright pink vinegar with a bright chive taste – perfect for salad dressings.  My favorite thing to do is make a refrigerator pickle with sliced fresh cucumber, topped with this vinegar, salt and pepper.  Let it sit for a couple of hours and you have a fresh, tasty pickle with a mild overtone of onion.  Wonderful.

 

Strawberry Simple Syrup and the Finished Ruby Rocket

130608 Strawberry Simple SyrupThe local strawberries are out so I picked some up to make the next vital ingredient in the Ruby Rocket – Strawberry Simple Syrup.  Since simple is the operative word here I will just give you a brief description of what goes into it.  I used 2 quarts of strawberries hulled and halved.  They were put into a saucepan with 4 cups of water and brought to a boil, then simmered for 10 minutes.  The strawberries will have lost most of their color and look light pink. I used a small colander to drain the liquid into another saucepan.  Do not squeeze the berries in the strainer or your syrup will be cloudy.  Return the liquid to the stove and add 2 cups of sugar.  Heat until the sugar is dissolved, skim off the foam.  I then put the syrup into a couple of canning bottles and screwed on the caps. Once it had cooled down I put it into the refrigerator.  The sugar content allows this to keep for quite a long time.

130609 Ruby Rocket (2)I pulled all of the ingredients together for the now famous drink.  The vodka had been infusing for 8 days.  In a martini shaker filled with ice I added the vodka, the simple syrup and a healthy squeeze of lime.  Shake, shake, shake, pour.   This can be made in proportions that combine the flavors in any way you want – tart or sweet.  You may need to make a few before you get exactly the taste you want.  Mine was maybe a little bit sweeter than I wanted but it tasted like the freshest strawberry rhubarb combo.

130609 Ruby Rocket (1)There you have it, the perfect Ruby Rocket.  Too much work?  Check out the Blue Rock Cafe if you are in Shelburne Falls, MA – they may have it.  If not they will certainly have some other fabulous infused vodka martini.

 

 

 

Ruby Rocket Continued

130601Rhubarb Infusion (1)Today I made the rhubarb infused vodka that is the base of this drink.  I cut up 8 stalks of rhubarb each about 2 feet long.  I put it into a lidded glass container.

130601Rhubarb Infusion (2)I then poured two 1.75 litres of vodka over the rhubarb.

130601Rhubarb Infusion (3)This will sit in a darker, cooler room for about a week, then be strained and returned to bottles.  Done.  That’s it.  The waiting is the hardest part.

 

Culinary Experiment Revisited

corned-beef-cabbage

 

St. Patty’s day is a memory and so is my corned beef and cabbage.  I finished corning that 6 pound brisket of Heath beef last Wednesday and wrapped it to wait until Sunday afternoon.  I’d heard that a home made corned beef tastes so much better than something you buy already processed but honestly I wasn’t prepared for how truly wonderful this was.  Maybe it was the beef we have been eating, you know grass and sunshine kind of beef.  Maybe it was that very slight hint of cinnamon that came through from the brine.  The texture was perfect, the taste divine.  Makes you think about eating a nice corned beef more than once a year.

Now there is that problem with only having 2 briskets per side of beef.  Hmmmm, I may have to trade some steaks with Russell for another brisket.  It was that good – ribeyes for brisket, yes.

I highly recommend anyone trying this.  It probably could be categorized as slow food.  You have to plan at least a week ahead but it is incredibly easy to do, in fact I will never buy a corned beef again.  I posted the recipe I used previously and will freely admit that instead of making my own concoction of pickling spice I used the jar I had in the cupboard I normally use for bread and butter pickles.  I can’t imagine that creating my own spice concoction would have made a huge difference but you never know.  Next time I will try that.

Now onto pastrami!