Sunday, May 20, 2012

Well sure it TASTES good...

It's a duck! Nah, it's just my camera being old and stupid.
I made a batch of improvised kumquat/whateverquat/meyer lemon vanilla bean marmalade last night. While it tastes spectacular, it was a pretty dumb move. 

2 pints of kumquats
2 pints whateverquats
4 Meyer lemons, 2 juiced
2 vanilla beans
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups sugar

I roasted the citrus like I did with the Fig/Lemon Marmalade, in my (covered) dutch oven at 275 degrees with just enough enough water to float the lemons for about an hour until the kumquats deflated like sad little balloons. 
Just before tucking into the oven
This was a silly step in the long run, while it does render the peels lovely and perfectly soft, it totally tanked the fun of using kumquats which it their cute shape! It would have behooved me for appearances sake to just roast the lemons and simply slice the Quats into thin little wheels. 


I squeezed all the guts into a thin tea towel and squeezed all the juice out of the guts into the remaining roasting water. I split the vanilla beans and added them, then, with the bag of guts in the pot (to get a pectin boost), boiled the liquid for a few minutes while I chopped the peels. Once the peels were chopped into as neat of strips as I could manage (they were swiftly falling apart), I removed the vanilla beans and the bag of guts, realizing I burnt the bottom of the towel.

I added the peels, sugar, and the lemon juice and brought it back up to a boil and the jelling stage. Took it off the heat and let it cool for three minutes then stirred in the vanilla extract. Spooned into 1/2 pints and processed for 10 minutes.
Made a little over 6 1/2 pint jars
Lovely little vanilla speckles
Really yummy,  but not particularly spectacular looking.
This was supposed to be posted shortly after the last one of course...sorry about that.
I've been quite busy with projects so throughout this week, I should have a few more posts up.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mandarins, Jams, and 'zines!

I'm starting to think my vague half hearted instructions on ingredients in my most recent canning projects aren't ok. I should be more specific and actually try to guide a little better than "add some sugar and then some more water if it tastes too sugary" I admit I've never typed out those words until now per se, but I should be a little clearer in my instructions.  So let's get to the project I did back in February!
Gingered mandarins
Now that I said I will be more specific...I wasn't with this. The only redeeming factor about that is people have different tastes when it comes to what they want out of their sugar syrup. I like mine to be a medium syrup, especially if I add another factor like I did with the ginger.
So I peeled ten pounds of mandarins.
There were about 3 lbs that wouldn't fit in the bowl.
Then I prepped the syrup. Now I normally use mexican cane sugar (for the life of me I can't think of the brand and I don't want to make a whole trip just to find out) that is fairly unrefined and I'm a little superstitious about ALWAYS using it, but this time I wanted to use up some turbinado sugar that's been sitting around looking forlorn. This was a pretty bad idea. Because it turned out looking like this:
Not pretty.
This syrup was probably 1 cup sugar to 3 cups water with a healthy knuckle of fresh ginger grated into the whole pot. I am interested in processing them one time using tangerine or orange juice, but that'll have to wait til next year.  I put up thirteen pints in total, the last four I plopped a cube of candied ginger on the bottom of the jar before packing in the mandarins.
I'm a little concerned what they'll look like in a few months...
Not much to them, they are one of the simplest things to can, and I love them cold over a blob of cottage cheese.

This is what happens when I try to write this post over a span of three days! No transitions!

Earlier this month I decided to participate in Minot's 4th annual 'zine marathon. Now I have tried to participate in this in the past, even pulling a couple pages together, but I inevitably failed to complete my 'zine. But this year I have a goal! I will make a quick intro to canning! I will hand write it (mostly due to the lack of a printer or a decent word processing program) and try to fit as much off the wall info I find interesting into it while still getting the basics down. I have pored over it for the last two weeks and have all my information ready to go, so I just have to write it all out nice and pretty with a few semi-pretty pictures to go with it. One of my cats is super helpful while I work.
Thanks Eva. Thanks.

Along with that, I wanted to include a couple easy to access recipes. By easy access I am referring to the fact that North Dakota (where this will be primarily circulated) is not known for it's variety in produce and I want someone reading the 'zine to be able to pop by the grocery store and easily find all the ingredients I list. Easy to find and still interesting I should add. So I tackled a recipe involving lemons, figs and lavender and while beautiful and yummy, it was not the kind of recipe to introduce to a newbie.
I used a recipe from the blog Laundry Etc.
The blog is a lovely one, from over in Britain.
Side note, Brits call canning "bottling." Funny how both are useless terms as we both use "jars" not "cans" or "bottles."
Anyway! The recipe involved soaking chopped dried figs and roasting lemons (I used Meyers)
Soaking figs
Roasting lemons

The recipe also calls for 1 oz. of lavender, but I find lavender to be pretty strong in jam recipes, so I cut that amount in half. It's flavorful and sticky, I was in a hurry so I didn't chop the peel as nicely as I would have liked, but that's small potatoes.
The second recipe worked out much better, but I'm going to hide that recipe until my 'zine's out. I will post it later though.

Arg! I will post again soon, once the 'zine is complete.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Let's Play Catch-Up!

It's been a trip and a fall since I was last blogging. I am happy to get back to it, and will attempt to update more often. However, life is moving a little slower and the manic weekends are far less frequent, which is actually a better thing as the other side of that swinging pendulum is far less pretty and productive.

Regardless, I didn't get around to my intended and anticipated blog of all the bounties of fall. I didn't even explain what I did with the quince! How dare I!

I did take pictures though...

So I don't remember the recipe but I chopped up the quince (they are really hard to peel, by the by), and added a package of cranberries and...added a fair amount of sugar? Wow I have the memory of tree bark. Whatever. It turned out tart and thick but not too thick, not quite the canned jelly that I'm used to, but of course that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Later that...month? I went up to Apple Hill with my cousins and hauled back over 400 lbs. of apples between us all, I brought home over 75 lbs myself.  I saved one box for juicing (which I meant to can, but really just ended up drinking most and freezing a little bit...I drank a LOT).  I made applesauce and apple pie filling with the rest. I used a mixture of Mutsu and...some other green kind...ARG! I can't remember anything! Anyway, the peeler I borrowed from my aunt made short work of the apples.
Look at all the pretty peels...

I didn't use any recipe for the applesauce, I just added a little brown sugar to each pot once the apples were softened in water and ground a ton of cinnamon and nutmeg and a little ginger and cloves into the mix. Like the year before, the sauce is very thick...pretty much the same density of the pumpkin I (shock!) canned last year...but I don't hear the same warnings about thick applesauce like I do with the pumpkin.
That is thick consistency.

Too dense to poke the air bubbles out.
I also made apple pie filling, using a cornstarch based recipe, which I will not do again. This was year two of cornstarch recipes, but I will be special ordering Clear Jel in advance for next season. Cornstarch melts well when heated, but looks disgusting and broken jelly-like in the jar.

Later that fall my aunt brought me a box of pears and I finally got to it while my folks were visiting. I made a lot of pear sauce by just slicing up the pears (no peeling) and doing basically the same thing as with the apples. It is gritty and fairly thin, but good.

My mom was a peach and peeled tons of pears so I could can slices in ginger syrup. I HATE peeling pears.
That was the last of 2011's canning!
This, plus about 40 more sauces around the corner.
My storage is not nearly as pretty as the year before.
2010 missing a lot of applesauce
But I only used the bookcase for that picture, and then shoved them into my bedroom closet which is where they live because it's dark and it doesn't change temperature as much as the rest of the house (which is good news for canning jars that like cellar-like conditions...which I don't have).

Reflections on the year, canning-wise, are that I honed my tastes...and missed several seasons. I experimented a lot in 2010 I, making lots of jams and jellies and shoving just about everything I came across into a jar. I ended up giving troves away, too much I'm afraid...I have found stores of old cans tucked away in people's cupboards that indicate I overshared. I also screwed up a lot. None of the pickles I made turned out, I didn't enjoy the apricots like I thought I would, the loquats didn't set, neither did the cherries, and the watermelon lemonade was the most disgusting thing I've ever made.
This year didn't yield free cherries, apricots, or loquats, and I allowed many seasons go by without taking advantage properly i.e. kiwis went bad, strawberry season slipped by with only a few things made.  Shining moments of the year? All the corn I put up, the concord grape jelly, the grapefruit syrup are all very good but I think the baked beans turned out to be the breakout hit of the year. They are a good texture,  have a great sauce, and may have just replaced Bush's Vegetarian Beans in my bean pot recipe.

I have a post coming up about the mandarins I canned just recently, but I wanted to get this one up to prove to myself I still have the capabilities to maintain this blog.

So here ya go!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Joys of Small Batch Jamming/Burning

Today I am forgetting that I have twenty plus pounds of tomatoes to process.
I have 6 large white nectarines chopped and tucked away in a pot with a cup of meyer lemon juice and about two cups of sugar. Bubbling away. It smells heavenly. It won't make very much, but that's not the point. I wanted something simple and lovely this week after last week's major haul. I also have 8 green pluots that will become...something.

And....I burnt it.
Well, I'm not going to process it, but it's still edible...just a bit more caramelly than I'd prefer. it's going to be shoved into to jars of yogurt and hidden under giant globs of peanut butter. Or thrown out in a couple weeks. Meh. That's what I get for a watching a Simon Pegg marathon instead of paying attention to my cooking.
The pluots will be different. But I think I'll add meyer lemon juice to them too, so something lemony turns out right.

Monday, September 12, 2011


This has been a long weekend for canning.
But first, the photos of the tart that I made for my tea party!

Oatmeal shortbread crust, ganache, mascarpone cream, and balsamic strawberries. 

Very very yummy
This will be mostly just a huge list of photos but I will try to explain.
Friday night I picked three pints of green figs from the orchard behind my house and half candied them. I mean half because real candied figs are shelf stable, but I canned mine in the leftover syrup because I did not want to wait three days to cook them again.
Figs, brown sugar, lemon juice

Finished figs ready for a snobby cheese night

The next morning I picked up the motherlode of all farmer's market's reapings.
Plums, apples, peppers, quince, onions, concord grapes, seckel pears, tomatoes
I picked up two "lugs" of San Marzano tomatoes, one for my cousin and one for me. I first put up 20 more ears of corn.
Then tried again with pickle spears
Using a recipe from Put Em UP!
Then on Sunday, pressure canned baked beans!
Soaked 3lbs pink and ying yang beans overnight then cooked them for 1 1/2 hours

made a sauce of the cooking liquid, 1 1/3 cup molasses, 1 1/2 large red onion, 1T  salt, 1T ground mustard, 1t black pepper

Then the tomatoes
Mmmm San Marzano tomatoes

cooking it down!

couldn't quite fit the whole "lug" of tomatoes into the pot

cooked down to four pints, unseasoned
Then today I just finished a batch of apple salsa
Then put up a quart of honeyed Seckel pears and two pints of honeyed prune plums.
Shoulda pricked the plums...they split their skins
 I still have the grapes and the quince to deal with, but for now...I'm exhausted.

I'll talk more about it next week, but my mother was wonderful to send me three new canning books which makes my cache of information quite large!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First Long Weekend!

Alright, I survived my first week of long shifts and made it to the best part of the week, my first long weekend!
I've decided that this weekend needs to be about rejuvenation and taking it of course I plan on canning corn and making a puppet and's just going to be like any other weekend just with an extra day to procrastinate.  

My farmer's trip this week was plentiful and I wanted to reflect that in my Sat. food choices so for lunch I whipped this up.

Corn/Tomato Saute

Two ears worth of cut corn
Two big sungold tomatoes
7 leaves of fresh basil, rolled and sliced i.e. chiffonade
One large clove of garlic, pressed or microplaned
 2 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute until most of the liquid is cooked out. Serve over pasta.
Good additions would be a red pepper or a pablano pepper, pattypan squash, maybe a protein like chunks of chicken or tofu...there's lots you can add to this dish.

I like it just as is, the sweetness of the corn with the sweetness of the sungold tomato, cut by the garlic and pepper really appeals to me.

I am revamping Helmsley. It seems like a huge waste to just toss that finished mouthplate, slightly crooked or no. I ripped all his features and his skin too (how sick does that sound?) and cut down his head and added fur instead of skin.

 I changed his eyeballs and attached his shirt. I used a hair tie to mark his iris and a nerf dart to mark his pupils. I may leave it that way or I may paint in some more, I kinda like the crazed look it gives him and once he has eyelids it may be better that way anyway.

Mary Beth, the before seen armless little girl puppet, has arms now and is performing hip hop numbers for her webcam. I still need to fortify her rods but for simple purposes, she's done too.

This afternoon I canned corn. Corn is a low acid food which means it has to be pressure canned to be safe to eat. That means I borrowed my cousin's pressure canner.
I bought twenty five ears of corn from the farmer's market and cut the kernels off using a nifty little tool my mom found at a garage sale.

I filled hot jars with the corn and 1/4 tsp. salt each and packed them down a bit and added boiling water, running a chopstick around the jar to release air bubbles leaving an 3/4ths of an inch headspace and screwed the lids on. Following the pressure canner's instructions I then added two quarts of water to the canner, and added the jars (this canner held 8 pints) and screwed the lid on and let it boil. Once the valve steams, time it for ten minutes then add the gauge (in my case a ten pound gauge) and wait for it to rock and his vigorously. This scared my poor cats senseless. Turn the heat down til it rocks and hisses gently...this has yet to work for me, it still hisses loudly and rocks around intermittently no matter what the heat. Pints are processed for 55 minutes then turn off the heat and let the canner cool on it's own time, don't try and speed the process along, as it could be holding a lot of pent up steam and blow the lid up on ya!

So there you have it, that's corn. It was my favorite canned item last year so I had to make sure I made more this year. the twenty five ears were more than enough for the eight pints so I froze the remainder, I may can another round next week.

To end my Saturday, I decided to dehydrate watermelon! Well, my cousin offered me one they had received and I have been wanting to try it out. I cut the watermelon to 1/4th inch (approximately, I was a little thick on a few) and skipped de-seeding the slices as that would take me all night and leave me with watermelon mush, laid them out on the dehydrator and I'll find out tomorrow how they turned out!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Shift And New Problems

So I work the night shift, right? Ten to six a.m. and I've been on that shift for two years straight. Starting tonight however, I work four shifts of midnight to ten a.m....I'm not very happy. Sure I get the days off I want, plus an extra day for working ten hour shifts, but is it going to be worth it? I'll most likely spend the first day off simply sleeping.

Enough whining.
This weekend has been another backbreaker. I have worked on so many projects I'm seeing fuzzy.
I am sending a friend who has just moved for grad school a care package, so I whipped up my favorite cookies, Chocolate Espresso Cookies.
They are officially my favorites 
I whipped up some bread.

I canned a dozen teeny jars of Concord Grape Jelly. Would've gone over the process, but I blanked on taking pictures! Next time time.

Worked on the quilt for my guest bed.
Would've finished the top but...
It's not wide enough...ARG!
Which means another forty bucks for more fabric...sigh. But it looks cool, huh?

I've also sewn up the curtains for the art room, and some decorative pillow cases but I didn't bother with the pictures until I have them put up.
I have also prepped my kitchen/dining room for a tea party I am having on Tuesday. I will be serving a strawberry tart with mascarpone cream, ganache and an oatmeal shortbread crust. Should be delicious.

This week I really have no idea what to do...I guess I could finish up the napkins (which I also worked on this week), and maybe work on building a skirt...but due to my new working arrangement, it's all going to be hit and miss.