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!