A documentation of my preservation and preparation of local foods as I work through the seasons. This will serve as a reference tool for me in the future and as a sharing guide for family and friends...and anyone else interested. Hopefully, I can offer some useful methods, tips and recipes to share with everyone--be they novice or pro--and encourage them to join me in the exciting world of preserving and cooking with local foods.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Canning Apples in Syrup

I have found that I'm never quite satisfied with my applesauce--too thick, too thin, too sweet--or not sweet enough...  We do like apples though, and I like baking with them in any form, so I decided to just can apple slices in a light syrup.  (I discovered when canning peaches that if I use a light syrup, I preserve more of the real fruit taste.)  I'll use these in pie, cakes, muffins, crisps, over ice cream or poundcake, or served in a small dish for a side or dessert.    Nice to have local fruit mid-Winter!

We enjoyed a small dish of these for breakfast--
warmed with a sprinkling of cinnamon--yum!

Here's how I make them (8 pints):  For 4 doz medium apples, I prepare the following syrup:  2 cups of sugar dissolved in 8 cups water. (or you may use 9 cups of just water instead.)  Set aside.  For the apples, I use a mix of both sweet and tart varieties.  Peel and core the apples, cut them into 1/2" slices.  (I don't fuss with anti-darkening solutions.)  In a pot on stove, combine apples and syrup.  Boil five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Put hot apples and syrup into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2" headspace.  (I use a slotted spoon and first fill the jars 3/4 full with apple slices, then add the syrup.)  Remove air bubbles and wipe jar rims.  Add lids and screw bands.  Process in a boiling water bath (pints or quarts) 20 minutes.
End NoteI had about two cups of apple syrup left over.  I'll either cook it down to thicken it for pancake syrup or freeze it for Norwegian fruit soup this Winter.

Apple Broth?

Yup, that's what I made.  Looking at the large bowl of apple peelings and cores after canning sliced apples, I started thinking how nice it might be to add unsweetened apple "broth" to the crockpot when cooking a ham or pork roast, or to use it instead of water for making wild rice.  Easy decision--into a pot they went, covered with 3-4 inches of water, then cooked down to about half.  I'll freeze it in one cup packages and try it out this Winter.  Sometimes it's the little differences that can change a familiar and ordinary dish into something new and mouthwatering!
Mmmm--nice and dark--I can't wait to use it!

Salsa Relish (and V-8 Juice as a bonus!)

After picking my garden clean this weekend, I realized I had an abundance of medium-small tomatoes, small bell peppers and jalepenos--more than I would use before they got soft on me.  I decided to make the recipe for fresh salsa (see 8-26 post) and can it.  I used the same canning process listed for canning salsa (same post).  After cooking it up, I ladled it into half-pint jars with a slotted spoon so I had very little juice--kind of like a salsa relish. 
Us salsa lovers will now have two varieties to choose from.

I had quite a bit of juice left as a result, so I canned it as well.  I used half-pint jars for the juice and processed it for the same time as the salsa (15 min.)  The jars of juice were barely out of the canner when I got an idea of how I could use it.  I put a quart jar of my regular tomato juice in a pitcher and then added the half-pint of salsa juice.  (tasting it)-----delicious!!  The best V-8 style of juice I've ever tasted.) 
If only I didn't have to make salsa to get this juice!

"I'll take tomato juice, please"!

The title of this post is how my Grandma Springer advised me to respond if I was ever offered an alcoholic beverage.  I admit I haven't often followed her advice; but hubby and I both LOVE tomato juice.  It seems like no matter how much juice I can, or how much we count and covet jars of it, tomato juice is always the first thing we run out of during Winter months.
Given that I try to make lots of it, I've found what I think is the easiest method for extracting the juice from the tomatoes.  When I'm processing tomatoes for canning, I remove half or more of the resulting juice.  That's it!--no Foley mill or Saucemaster necessary.  There's always plenty of juice left to surround the tomato pieces in the jar.
To be a little more specific; after coring and peeling the tomatoes, I put them in a big pan and break them up into inch-size pieces with my hands. (Thin rubber gloves work well for this.)  I then strain out the juice, adding enough back into the tomatoes for canning them--usually 1/3 to 1/2 of the juice.  I heat the juice and pour it into quart jars; then add lemon juice and salt and process them in a boiling water for 15 minutes.  From a 30# box of tomatoes, I usually get at least 4 quarts of juice.
 "Make mine tomato juice, please" (wink)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rosemary Green Beans

The main ingredient--fresh-picked green beans

While we can still get fresh-picked green beans and fresh rosemary at markets and in our gardens, I thought I'd better post my favorite way of preparing them.  This was also a favorite side dish at our restaurant.

Rosemary Green Beans   makes six 1-cup servings
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary (1-1/2 tsp dried)
1/4 teaspoon dill weed (dried)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chicken broth or prepared boullion
6 cups fresh green beans, tips trimmed (cut, if desired)
--Melt and heat butter and olive oil in pan on stove.  Add all but broth and beans and cook until mushrooms release their juices.  Add broth, or boullion, and beans.  Cook until beans are crisp-tender. 

Homemade Salsas--Fresh and Canned

When twin-sis, Deb McCaleb, called to tell me she was sampling the best-tasting salsa she's ever made; I requested the recipe.  She was right; this fresh salsa is delish!  For canning salsa, I like mine with a little more sauce to it so the juice doesn't separate and the salsa gets watery.  After some experimentation, I came up with the best canning salsa I've tried.  Here are both recipes:
Fresh Tomato Salsa
3 cups diced tomatoes
8 jalepeno peppers, diced small
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup cider vinegar
6 cloves garlic
2 TBlsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-1/2 TBlsp sugar
--Mix all and chill for a while to marinate

Canned Tomato Salsa
6 cups diced tomatoes
3 cups diced jalepeno pepper
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
4 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
2 small cans tomato paste
1 package Mrs. Wages Hot Salsa Mix
Add some chili peppers if you like it really hot
--Mix all in pot on stove.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 min (or more, until thickened); stirring frequently.  Ladle hot salsa into hot canning jars to within 1/2" from top.  Run knife around inside edge of jar to remove air bubbles.  Put lids and screw bands on jars and place on rack in canner with near-boiling water covering tops by at least 2 inches.  Bring water to boil and time as follows: half-pints-15 min; pints-20 min.  Turn stove off, remove canner lid and wait 5 min before removing jars to cool.   Makes 7 pints. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Homemade Tortillas

Making your own tortillas is sooo easy.  Fresh, homemade tortillas are far better tasting than store-bought varieties.  They aren't leathery and they don't get soggy when you fill them.  And you don't need oil to fry them.  Here's how to make them and a suggested filling (my favorite).
Tortillas and Adobo Chicken Stir Fry
Tortillas (makes 8-10)
4 cups flour (I substitute half cornmeal for the flour--a little drier but tastier.)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup water or warm milk (milk makes a fluffier tortilla)
1/2 cup shortening or lard
--Mix flour, baking powder and salt in bowl.  Cut in lard/shortening until large lumps disappear.  Make well in center.  Add water or milk, half at a time, working into flour mixture until a dough is formed.  Knead dough until smooth--a bit sticky, but not hard.  You may add more flour or liquid if needed.  Form dough into a ball, cover and let rest 10 min.  Cut off egg-size pieces from dough and roll into thin circles.  Heat skillet or large fry pan over medium heat (no grease).  Place dough circle and cook until you start to see small bubbles appearing--1-2 min.  Turn and cook 1-2 min more.  Done!
Adobo Chicken Stir Fry
4-6 cups cooked, cut up chicken
2 teaspoons Adobo seasoning (I get this from Penzy's, or you can use 2 tsp        dried oregano, 1 tsp cumin powder, pinch of cayenne pepper)
1/2 teaspoon salt, pinch of black pepper
1 large onion, cut in 1/4" thick slices and then quarter slices
1 medium green pepper, cut into thin strips
2 small Jimmy Nordello red peppers (see above post) 
   or substitute 1/4 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes of different varieties (ie yellow & red), cut in small wedges
Olive oil to coat bottom of pan
--Begin frying onion and peppers in olive oil over med-high heat.  When onion starts to turn translucent, add garlic and tomatoes.  Meanwhile, toss cooked chicken pieces with Adobo spice (or other herbs/spices listed).  When onions are barely done, but not too soft, add chicken pieces, salt and pepper.  Toss gently to mix.  Heat through.  You may re-heat the tortillas for 30-45 sec in microwave.  I serve the tortillas and filling separately to make up individually at the table.   Serve with sour cream or plain yogurt for topping.  Any leftover filling gets eaten as a lunch or snack with tortilla chips.

New Varieties of Naturally-Sweet Veggies

Easy Yoke Farm has new varieties of tomatoes and peppers to offer.  The tomatoes, Green Zebra, are my new, favorite snacking tomato.  Boy are they sweet!  The long, red peppers, Jimmy Nordello, are also a sweet variety--sweeter than bells or hot peppers.  They're awsome in stir fry dishes.
If you haven't tried them, these are both worth a taste.  I'm sold!

And speaking of sweet, Fairview Farm also has a fantastic cherry tomato to try.  They're light orange in color and called Sungold.  They are the sweetest and most flavorful of the cherry tomato varieties.   Also worth a try!
A small bowl like this disappears fast at our house!
Note:  Easy Yoke Farm and Fairview Farm have stands at both Plainview's and Rochester's farmers markets.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes are a tradition Minnesota side dish. 
Great for snacking too!
My sis, Deb McCaleb, tells me that when she was dating her now-husband, Chris, his mom would frequently fry these up when she was visiting.  (Must have worked!)  These can be as simple as dipping in flour with salt and pepper (can add dried herbs too) and frying in oil; or for a mouthwatering recipe, I offer the following:
Fried Green Tomatoes
4 medium green tomatoes
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 Tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp finely-chopped fresh thyme or basil (3/4 tsp dried)
2 TBlsp butter and 2 TBlsp olive oil for frying
--Wash tomatoes, pat dry, core and slice into 1/4" thick slices
Whisk together eggs, buttermilk and sugar.  Put in shallow pan and dredge tomato slices in it.
Sift together flour, cornmeal and cornstarch in shallow dish.  Add herbs, salt and pepper.  Toss to mix well.
Heat oil in large skilled on stove.
Using tongs, pull tomato slices from liquid mixture and toss in dry mix until coated.  Then place in skillet and fry until lightly browned on each side, turning once.  It should take 2-3 minutes per side.  Serve soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Since the best-tasting broccoli is harvested in cool weather; I wait until then to buy it at market.  To remove insects from fresh broccoli, break into a few sections and immerse in brine of 4 tsp salt to 1 gal water for 30 min.  Rinse and drain.  Wrap loosely in plastic bag (not airtight) and store in refrigerator.
It's great raw and here is good dip for it:
Dill Dip
One 8-oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup Miracle Whip
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons oil-free bottled Italian dressing
2 teaspoons dill weed
1 Tablespoon sugar
-Mix and chill.

And, my favorite broccoli dish:
Broccoli Salad
2 large heads broccoli, cut into pieces
1/4 cup loosely packed shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced red onion
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup bottled Italian dressing (oil-free is best)
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons pineapple juice
1 teaspoon dill weed
-Toss together all ingredients except dressing ingredients.  Combine all dressing ingredients and mix well.  Pour over salad & toss to coat.  Chill.

Broccoli is also very easy to freeze:  Wash and cut into pieces.  Immerse in boiling water for 3 minutes (approx. 1 pound of broccoli pieces to 1 gal of boiling water)  Immerse in ice water to cool.  Pat dry and package.

And it makes a wonderful soup:
Cream of Broccoli Soup
3 cups broccoli pieces
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 8-oz package cream cheese
4 cups cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pint Half and Half
--Saute onion and broccoli in butter until starting to soften.  Add flour and stir to smooth paste.  Add chicken broth, stirring until smooth.  Add cheese and stir until melted.  Stir in mustard, salt and sugar.  Slowly add Half and Half, stirring.  (Add more or less, if needed, until soup is desired consistency.)  Heat through, but do not boil.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grandma's Goulash--A Favorite Stovetop Casserole

Whenever visiting Grandma Springer and she asked us kids what we wanted for lunch or supper, the answer was always the same:  an enthusiastic "your goulash!!"  To which she would often sigh and reply:  "Is that all you ever eat?"  If she sent us home with leftovers, there would be a mad scramble for the fridge the next day.  I remember eating it cold for breakfast and still loving it.  After much experimenting, I finally reconstructed the goulash I remembered as a child (Grandma always claimed she didn't have a recipe--just "a little of this and that".) The meal is a family favorite today, and was a popular dish at our restaurant.  This is one of the few exceptions I make for using commercially-canned products, but this is how Grandma's goulash tasted (and I do remember the can of Campbells sitting on her counter alongside her canned tomatoes).
Grandma's Goulash
2 cups dry ready cut spaghetti or macaroni
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup diced onion
1 28oz can Hunts diced tomatoes
1 can Campbells tomato soup
2 Tablespoons sugar
salt and pepper to taste
--Brown ground beef with onion.  Drain and add tomatoes, tomato soup and sugar.  Heat through.  Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in salted water to el dente stage (just barely done--about 6-7 min).  Drain, but do not rinse.  Combine all and serve.

Grandma would be smiling to know that three generations later,
 children are still asking for "Grandma's Goulash".

Dessert of the Month--Creamy Caramel Apple Dip

When apples are in season, we allow ourselves this scrumptous snack.  It is far better tasting than commercial apple dips.  It also makes a delicious fruit dessert:  put in a parfait dish and top with whipped cream or put in a pie shell and top with a crumble topping or whipped cream.  Any peeled and chopped fruit, or mix of fruits, can be substituted for the apples.  If you are putting it in a pie shell, be sure to use lots of fruit so it holds together well.
One dip with an apple wedge and I always get a recipe request!

Caramel Dip
1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup cold milk
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (3.4 oz)
--Combine all in order, beating well after each addition.  Cover and chill for at least one hour.  Makes 3.5 cups.

Request For Cabbage Rolls

Hubby Dave has put in a request for cabbage rolls last night, so...
Meal in a roll!
  Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
8-10 large cabbage leaves
1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 tomatoes cut up and 1/4 cup water; or 1 can (7.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1/3 cup uncooked rice
1/3 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
1/2 cup shredded cheese (American or any other)
For baking in oven with tomato sauce (see Method 2 below) include:
One 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Italian Herb seasoning.

To prepare cabbage leaves:  Remove center veins from cabbage leaves, keeping each leaf in one piece.  Immerse leaves, a few at a time, into boiling water until limp (about 3-4 min).  Drain well and set aside.
Filling:  Cook ground beef with onion.  Drain fat and add all but cheese.  Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until rice is done.  Stir in cheese.
Assembly:  Place about 1/4-1/3 cup of filling in center of cabbage leaf.  Fold in sides and roll up.  Place back in pan with a little water or broth, cover and steam until meat mixture is heated through and cheese is melted OR (Method 2) Combine tomato sauce, sugar and Italian Herb seasoning.  Put half tomato sauce mixture in casserole dish, add cabbage rolls and put remaining sauce on top.  Bake, covered, at 350 for 25-30 min.  You may sprinkle more cheese on top if you'd like.
Note:  You may substitute chopped cabbage for the rice, add, omit or substitute any other diced veggies you'd like.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Best Recipe for Cole Slaw

With cabbage and carrots abundant at market, there's every reason to make that traditional summer salad: cole slaw.  After combining and doctoring many different recipes over the years, here is my favorite way to prepare it:
Cole Slaw
4-5 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 large head)
2 medium-size carrots, grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Miracle Whip
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 TBlsp celery seed
1/4 tsp dill weed
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
pinch pepper
--Combine all ingredients.  Let marinate in refrigerater 1-2+ hours before serving.
Creamy with a kick of vinegar--This recipe's a keeper!

Late Summer Table Decor

I love the late summer table when I can start using Fall colors and putting bowls of cherry tomatoes on the table for meals and snacking. 
This tablecloth is so similar to my mother's, it evokes fond memories of my large family gathered around a bountiful table of warm, homemade food.

My dishes are the perfect compliment to my table colors.  I purchased them from the Rochester Rebekah Lodge when they closed.
My mother-in-law, Gen Lutzke, surprised me with the matching bowl to this set.  It was her mother's--a nice family heirloom for our table.

Cream of Celery Soup

Before celery goes out of season, I grab some for this soup recipe.  It's a light, fresh summer soup.  If I have any left over, I freeze it for gravy.  Add a little poultry seasoning and mushrooms and you have a delicious chicken gravy.
Celery never tasted better than in this tart and creamy soup.

Cream of Celery Soup
3 cups chopped celery
2.5 cups cubed red potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cups prepared chicken boullion (or chix broth)
1 cup sour cream
1 Tblsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. sugar
1 rounded tsp fresh tarragon leaves (1/2 tsp dried tarragon leaves)
1/4 tsp white pepper
In pot on stove, bring boullion to boil.  Reduce to simmer and add celery, potatoes and onion.  Cook until veggies are soft, cool.  Put all in blender and puree.  If it is too thick, add a bit more boullion/broth.  Return all to pan and add remaining ingredients.  Heat through, stirring.  Do not boil.

Canning Green Beans

My twin sis, Deb, let me raid her green bean patch.  Lots of beans! and lots of thanks, Deb.  Since I had already frozen cut green and wax beans, I decided to can these whole, for variety.  Canning green beans is so easy: Wash beans, cut ends off, place in hot jars, pour boiling water over--up to within 1/2" from top, add salt (if desired), put on lids and screw bands and pressure can at 10 pounds of pressure--20 min for pints, 25 min for quarts.  And here's my new stash:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Don't Waste Those Cherry Tomatoes--Dry Them!

Seems like folks always have more cherry tomatoes than they can consume.  They show up in bowls at work and bags at church--free for the taking!  If you are lucky enough, grab them!  Dried cherry tomatoes are deliciously-sweet snacks.  They have an intense, real-tomato flavor.  These little tomato slices are also perfect for:  topping pizza, floating in soups, arranged atop a plate of dip, piled next to sliced cheese on a snack tray or stuck atop an appetiser.  (or just set out a small bowl of them--they go fast!)
To prepare them:  wash and slice large ones in thirds and small ones in half (approx 1/4" thick).  You may salt them lightly if you'd like, but I don't (alters the natural, sweet flavor).
For dehydrator: arrange in single layers on trays (I use small mesh screens.)
Dehydrate at 135 until dry, leathery (flexible) and deep red.  This will take 3-8 hours, depending on make of dehydrator.
For oven:  place on oven-proof cake racks and bake @ 150 degrees** until dry, leathery (flexible) and deep red.  (**or use 200 and watch closely).  This will take 10-20 hours. 

Tons of Tomatoes!

Think chili, soup, goulash, spaghetti, stew...
That's what I buy every year--tons of tomatoes!  I love canning them. Why?
FirstCanned tomatoes are healthier for you then fresh tomatoes.
Tomatoes contain the chemical lycopene--an antioxidant which protects you from cancer(s) and helps prevent appendicitis.  The heat process of canning breaks down the lycopene so it is more easily absorbed into your system.  
SecondThere are so many things to can with tomatoes; including whole tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, salsas, chili sauce, juice, catsup, sauce, paste, relish, pizza and spaghetti sauce, chutney, preserves...  I usually make all of the above; that is, until I run out of tomatoes (or money to buy them with).  I go through 300-500 pounds of tomatoes during canning season.  I buy 25 pound boxes of "canners" for $15-$20 from Fairview Farms.  This box makes about 12+ quarts of tomatoes.  That's cheaper than store bought and sooo much better tasting.

Following are instructions for canning whole tomatoes:
Getting Ready
1.  Wash jars and lids, check for chips or cracks
2.  Heat jars & lids in water on stove or roaster (see canning tips 8/11/11)
3.  Set up following equipment:

     a)  Put canner or deep pot with rack on bottom on stove; fill 2/3 with water and turn stove on to get water hot (near boiling)
     b)  Set out canning utensils:  slotted spoon, tomato corer (shark), jar funnel, magnetic lid lifter, metal spatula or table knife, jar lifter, canning salt** (optional), citric acid or lemon juice, gloves (see tips 8/11/11)
**Salt is used only as flavor enhancer, so you may omit it if you'd like.
     c)  clean sink, large pot or cooler filled with ice water;  I freeze plastic containers ahead of time to save adding ice to keep water cold.
     d)  large, non-aluminium bowl or pot to put peeled tomatoes in
Canning Process
1.  Wash tomatoes
2.  Put 6-8 in pot of boiling water for few minutes or until skins start to split
3.  Immerse tomatoes in cold water
4.  Slip off skins and core tomatoes
5.  Add citric acid or lemon juice and salt to jars. (salt: 1 tsp/quart, 1/2 tsp/pint;  citric acid: 1/2 tsp/quart, 1/4 tsp/pint;  lemon juice 2 TB/quart, 1 TB/quart).  I like citric acid--it doesn't alter the flavor like lemon juice does.
6.  Add tomatoes and press gently until spaces fill with juice.  Fill jars to within 1/2" from top.  Slip spatula or knife around inside edge to remove air bubbles.  Adjust liquid if necessary.
7.  Wipe jar rims and put on lids/bands.  (Screw bands on finger-tip tight.)
8.  Put jars in canner making sure water is 2+ inches above jars. Add hot tap water if necessary to fill.  Cover pot.
9.  Turn heat on high and bring water to boil.  When water boils, start timing:  45 minutes for quarts, 35 minutes for pints.
10. When time is up; turn off heat, remove lid and let jars sit in hot water for 5 minutes.
11.  Remove jars and set out to cool (wire rack or cutting board).  When cool, check to see that lid is sealed (does not flex when pressed in center)You may remove screw bands when cool, before storing.

The Famous Tomato Soup Recipe

I say "famous" tomato soup recipe because it was by far the most ordered lunch item on the menu at our cafe, Rebekahs.  The cafe closed in 2004, but to this day not a month goes by that I don't get a comment or recipe request for the tomato soup we served.  I couldn't do a post on tomatoes without offering the tomato soup recipe, so here it is:
Rebekah's Cream of Tomato Soup
1 quart jar of crushed or diced tomatoes, or one 28oz can diced tomatoes (with juice)
1/4 cup butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 cup chicken broth with 1 tsp. or cube of chicken base or bouillon added 
1/8 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream 
--Combine all but cream in pan on stove.  Bring to boil and simmer 15+ min.  Add heavy whipping cream and heat through.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mae's Strawberry Jam

I loved hearing that my niece's little girl Mae Schmit, age 7, is already learning to can.  She made strawberry jam and here are her instructions for it.
"Cut the strawberries into, like, little cutouts; and then put them in two batches of water.  Then dump the water out and keep the strawberries in there.  Then put two teaspoons of sugar in and then put it in the microwave.  Then put one more cup of sugar in.  Then you're all done and then you mix it and put it in the jar."
And here's the results:
Mae and her homemade jam

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hash from Leftovers

A tasty way to use up leftover potatoes, corn, carrots and other cooked veggies:  hash.  Whenever I make a one-pot meal (see previous post); I save a little of the meat and grab the leftover veggies for hash.  The basic hash can be made with cooked potatoes, cooked corn, cooked carrots and a little cooked meat.  Any other leftover cooked veggies adds to the flavor.  I use all the veggies from my one-pot meals and it's delicious!  Fork-mash the cooked veggies (not too mushed up), cut the corn off the cob and dice the meat and any other cooked veggies which do not mash (onions, celery, cabbage).  Melt a hunk of butter or bacon fat in a large fry pan, add all of the veggies/meat and heat through.  If it's a little on the dry side, I add some of my pan drippings saved from a previous roast (a little broth or boullion would work too).  Our favorite way(s) to have hash is with a poached egg on top for breakfast or sprinkled with cheese and put under the broiler until the cheese melts for lunch.
Mmmm--No wonder old-timers have fond memories of this dish.

Meal in a pot

For a hearty summer meal, with lots of leftovers, I get out my large pressure cooker and make a one-pot meal.  It's like preparing a pot roast with all the fixin's, but not heating up the kitchen to do so.  Here's how:
I start with a whole chicken or a beef or pork roast, approx. 6 pounds for each.  I surround the chicken or roast with lots of whole or quartered fresh veggies--usually as follows:  whole potatoes, whole ears of corn and whole carrots; quartered tomatoes, quartered peppers and quartered onions; hunks of celery and cabbage; some spinach greens; a few small cloves of garlic and a light sprinkling of fresh herbs.  Be sure pressure cooking pot is no more than 2/3 full.   Add two cups of broth or boullion of the same kind of meat you are cooking.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Put the lid on pressure cook as follows:
Chicken - 10 minutes @ 15 pounds of pressure
Beef - 35 minutes @ 15 pounds of pressure
Pork - 60 minutes @ 15 pounds of pressure
To serve it, I get a large serving dish, break the meat in pieces and arrange the veggies whole.
 We each take a large plate or platter and dig in!
The leftovers go to sandwiches and hash.  See next post for hash recipe.

Stuffed Green Peppers

Oh how we look forward to this mid-summer dish!
When tomatoes, onions, peppers and corn are all ripe at the same time, it's time for stuffed peppers.  We always make enough for lunches or a light snack.  They keep well in the fridge and are just as good reheated.
Stuffed Peppers  makes 8 halves
4 large green peppers
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced tomatoes
3/4 cup cooked corn
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup shredded cheese - any kind
salt for salting pepper cavity
--Halve peppers lengthwise, removing stems, seeds and membranes.  Immerse pepper halves in boiling water for 3 minutes.  Sprinkle insides with salt and invert on towel to drain.
Meanwhile, cook meat and onion until tender.  Drain fat.  Add all but cheese, cover and simmer 15-20 min (until rice is cooked).  Fill pepper halves with meat mixture, sprinkle generously with cheese.  Bake at 375 for 15 min--until heated through and cheese melted. 

Albertas are in!

"The Albertas are in" is the annual announcement made by our small, local grocer when their first cases of canning peaches start appearing in the produce section.  They go so fast that the grocer no longer takes reservations for them.  I was pacing the floor while waiting for Dave to get home from work and get to the store to be sure I'd get at least one case.  He finally got home, then hightailed it down to the store in time to get the last case they had.  I imagine many midwest folks, like myself, love the variety this sweet, juicy fruit adds to the mid-winter menu (stored apples and pears are otherwise the norm for Winter fruit).  Peaches can up pretty quick and easy (instructions below) and they add a beautiful golden orange color to the rainbow of jars in the pantry.
 Canning Peaches:
Set pan of water to boil for peeling peaches.  Get jars hot (see canning tips 8/11/11 post)  Start heating canning water.  When water in peeling pot boils, dip peaches in for few minutes; then place peaches in cold water and remove skin.  Cut peaches in half and remove the pits.
Prepare syrup in pan on stove as follows: 
Light syrup: 2-1/4 cups sugar, 5-1/4 cups water
Medium Syrup: 3-1/4 cups sugar, 5 cups water
Heavy Syrup: 4-1/4 cups sugar, 4-1/4 cups water
Bring syrup to boil; Reduce heat and keep hot
Pack peach halves into hot pint or quart jars with pit cavity down.  Fill with hot syrup to cover peaches and to within 1/2" from top.  Place lids and screw bands on.  Place jars on rack in hot canning water.  Add more hot tap water if necessary so jars have a couple of inches of water above them.  Bring water to boil and boil for 25 minutes (pints) or 30 minutes (quarts).  Turn off stove after boiling time, let jars sit in water for 5 min., remove to cool.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A few Canning Tips

Here's two canning tips that you won't find in the books:
Tip #1:  To heat my jars, I use my roaster.  I fill it with jars, either standing or laying down, then add water in and around the jars.  I turn the setting to 200 and forget about them until I'm ready to use them.  (Don't turn much past 200 or the water will boil and the jars may break when you take them out to fill them.)  I also toss in the lids and bands to heat.  As you take some out, add new ones.  For smaller or fewer jars, you could also use a large, deep electric fry pan.

This keeps the jars out of your way but always ready to use.

Tip #2:  Get a pair of gloves with rubber palms and finger tips.  These are so handy when: putting the lids and bands on hot jars, handling hot jars going into or coming out of the canner, keeping hands safe when using a food slicer or knife...  The pair I like most came from Menards.  They are pictured below, called "HyFlex Foam--Ansell".  I like them because the rubber extends over the fingertips, the material part is mesh so your hands won't sweat, they are washable.

More Green Beans

Cut and froze another pound of green beans today.  Note to myself:  1# green beans made four 2-serving bags.  I also made green bean broth by putting the cut-off tips into the blanching water and cooking it down.  I was disappointed when I saw that I only ended up with 2 cups of broth, wondering if it was worth it.  But then I thought about how I could use it in mushroom or wild-rice soup, or instead of water to make wild rice with mushrooms.  If only for a couple of recipes, the improved flavor would be worth it.

 Pairing green bean broth with mushrooms evokes the flavor of green bean & mushroom soup casserole--without the calories or processed food.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Annual Corn Raid

Every year I have the opportunity to go on a corn raid set up by my friend, Mark Larson.  Here's the deal:
Every year Mark uses his farmer connections for permission to "raid" a cornfield.  We pick and husk it; then deliver it to my kitchen where Dave and I process and package it for freezing.  I also make a big batch of corn relish.  We split the finished products.  In other words, we get all the free corn we want and Mark gets freezer-ready corn and corn relish (recipe below).  The annual corn raid is much more than that though--it's the peace and quiet of the countryside, a trip to a new farm, a walk through the cornfield, husking corn from the back of the pick-up and time shared with a friend.
 Mark Larson ready to help husk about 20 doz ears of corn.
Corn Relish--Mark says he can't get enough of this stuff!

Old-Fashioned Corn Relish    Makes approx. seven pint jars
9 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen-thawed)
3 cups finely chopped cabbage (or total of 12 cups corn kernels)
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups finely chopped red bell pepper (or 1 cup red, 1 cup green pepper)
2 cups white vinegar
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 TBLSP dry mustard
1/2 TBlsp celery seeds
1/2 TBlsp mustard seeds
1/2 TBlsp salt
1/2 TBlsp ground tumeric
--Combine all in large cooking pot and bring to boil over med.-high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, for 25-30 minutes (until liquid is reduced and veggies are tender-crisp).  Put hot relish in hot canning jars.  Run knife about inside jar edge to release air bubbles.  Add more relish is necessary to bring to within 1/2" of jar top.  Put on lids and rims and put in pot of hot water on stove (as per waterbath canning).  Bring to boil and boil 15 minutes.  Remove jars and set on rack or counter to cool.

Pickle Soup

This flavorful soup is not too pickley tasting.   It is creamy, rich and tastes delightfully different in a fresh sort of way.  The soup has a soft, creamy look with diced pickles mixed throughout.  I make it every year at pickling time to use up any jars of dill pickles and/or relish from last years' canning (I always seem to have a few.)  Then I can start with fresh, crisp pickles and relish for the new year.

Here's the recipe:  (serves 4)
Dill Pickle Soup
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cube chicken boullion dissolved in 3/4 cups hot water
3/4 cup (6 oz) dill pickles, shredded or finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine (not cooking wine)
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
2 TBlsp sugar
1 TBlsp cider vinegar
1/2 TBlsp Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 cup Half n' Half or whole milk
1 bay leaf (remove when soup finished)
--In large pan, melt butter.  Add flour, cooking and stirring until smooth and bubbly.  Slowly add chicken boullion, stirring until smooth.  Add all but milk, stirring until simmering.  Add H&H or milk and heat.  Remove bay leaves.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My own pickle factory!

Every year I make three kinds of pickles; refrigerator, sweet and dill.  The three recipes are all keepers and have encouraged many requests for the recipes.

Refrigerator Pickles - The recipe below the picture came from my sister Sally Jack.  Her recipe was a bit too sweet for me; so my recipe below uses a cup less sugar.  I prefer the sweet/sour taste of my recipe.  If you like them sweet, just add a cup more sugar to the recipe.  Both recipes have pickle-fan approval!

A small dish of these makes a satisfying low-fat snack.
8 cups sliced cucumbers
2-3 cups sliced onions
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar
2 cups water
1 TBlsp canning salt
1 TBlsp celery seed
--Put sliced cukes and onion in large jar. Mix rest and pour over. Keep stored in refrigerator. Should be ready in a week or so. (will freeze)
Bread and Butter Pickles (sweet):    Whenever I take them somewhere, I am always asked for the recipe--it's my most often-requested canning recipe. 
Many folks are pleasantly-surprised at how much they like these!
(even if they claim to not like sweet pickles)
**Note**Since the jars for the following pickle recipe will be in the boiling water bath for less than 10 minutes, they need to be sterilized first. Just put them in pot of water, bring to boil and boil 10 minutes. I turn off the heat (after boiling) and leave the jars in the hot water until I'm ready to fill them.
Note:  For extra crispy slices, combine cuke slices, onions and garlic in large pot.  Cover with cracked ice and a sprinkling of salt; mix well.  Let sit 3-5 hours.   Remove garlic, rinse and drain well.   OR
(easy-peasy)  add a small chunk of carrot to the canning jar.    
4 quarts sliced, unpeeled medium cucumbers
6 cups thinly-sliced onion
3 cloves garlic
cracked ice (optional for "crisping" cucumbers)
5 cups sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
2 TBlsp mustard seed
1-1/2 tsp tumeric
1-1/2 tsp celery seed
several small pieces of raw carrot (optional)
--In a large cooking pot, combine cuke slices, onions, garlic.  Mix rest of ingredients, except carrot pieces, and pour over cuke mixture.  Bring all to boiling.  Before packing jars, add a small carrot piece or grape leaf to the bottom of the jar.  (This keeps pickles crisp.)  Pack cucumber mix and liquid into hot jars to within 1/2 inch of top of jar.  Put on lids and bands.  Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes for pints or half-pints.

Dill Pickles:  My dill pickle recipe is an old standard.  I keep going back to it because I haven't found one I like better (and I've tried lots!) 
Perfect Combo: a picnic and a jar of dill pickles.
Ingredients:  This makes 5-6 quarts
8 pounds of 4" pickling cucumbers
12 heads fresh dill 
6 tsp mustard seed
2 quarts water
6 cups vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canning salt
6 large cloves garlic
small chunk of carrot (This will keep pickles crisp.)

Put the canning pot on the stove filled halfway with water.  Place the canning rack on the sides of the pot (not submerged in the water) with the canning jars upside down on the canning rack.  (If you are not using a canning rack, submerge the jars in the water.). Turn the stove on to boil the water.  Later, when the water comes to a boil, I turn off the heat and let the jars sit.  If the jars cool before being filled, turn the heat back on.  Meantime, make the brine in a sauce pan on stove using the water, vinegar and canning salt.  While brine is coming to a boil, prepare the cucumbers as follows:  Rinse cucumbers.  Leave 1/4" stem on and cut off 1/16" of blossom end.  In each hot jar, put a teaspoon of mustard seed, the garlic and 2 heads of dill.  Then fill with cucumbers and one small chuck of carrot, leaving 1/2" headspace (to top of jar).   Pour hot brine over cucumbers, leaving 1/2" headspace.  Submerge the jars in the hot water so that the water covers the jar by at least 1-2".  If necessary add hot tap water to achieve this.  Put the lid on the pot, turn on the heat and bring the water to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes, then turn off heat.  Take off lid and let sit for a few minutes, then remove jars to cool.  As they cool, you will hear the lids pop to form a seal.  After they are cool, remove the screw bands and wipe the jars down.  Store in cool, dark place (not meaning refrigerator).  Check jar lids before storing by depressing center of lid--it should not pop up and down.  If any are not sealed, store them in the refrigerator. Store at least one week before opening.

dilly beans, onion relish, pickled garlic, relish

Pickle Relish or Pickled Veggies:
9 cups chopped, diced or ground veggies--any ratio/combo of:  cukes, corn,  cabbage, carrots, onions, peppers, gr.beans, tomatoes, garlic, celery
4 cups vinegar, white or cider
3 cups water (1 less cup for vinegary to your liking)
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (taste after 1/4 cup, then add more to taste)
Optional seeds for added flavor:  mustard seed, dill seed, celery seed
  (approx. 1 TB of any or each)
Mix and heat to boiling.  Pack into hot jars (pack veggies down until liquid covers).
Run knife around edge to remove air bubbles.  Process in boiling water bath 10 min.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ready for a change at the table

Going into the last month of summer and I'm ready for a fresh look to the table--something colorful.
I love the colorful summer veggies spread on plates across the table:
yellow sweet corn, red tomatoes, green cucumbers, purple eggplant...mmm!
And the perfect time to use my blue, enameled-tin dishes

Blueberries are ready to pick!

We look so forward to the fruits of our labor following our annual trip to Wisconsin to pick blueberries.  The farm is called Rush River Produce, in Maiden Rock, WI (google it-- http://www.rushriverproduce.com).  It's about 1 to 1-1/2 hours from Rochester. 
Picking the berries is so easy:  They give you baskets to hold under the clumps of blueberries and you can gently hand-rake handfuls at a time into your basket.  (and they don't care how many you "sample")  You can also pick red & black currants and gooseberries.  I've not compared prices; but these are too big, juicy and flavorful for me to care whether they're more or less than shipped-in berries.

They're simple to freeze.  Don't wash before freezing--best to keep the "bloom" on. (white powdery coating)  Just bag or put in freezer containers and freeze.  I put them in inexpensive snack or sandwich bags, then put them in a gallon ziploc freezer bag to save on the cost of bags, and to double-bag.

My two favorite recipes for blueberries are both breakfast, brunch or snack items:  Blueberry Buttermilk Muffiins and Blueberry Protein Smoothie.  Just don't have them both for the same breakfast--they're both a bit rich.

A healthy, refreshing and filling drink!
Here's the recipe--This makes two servings.
2 cups frozen blueberries
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons Hemp Protein Powder
1 Banana
--Put all in blender on medium-high until smooth.  Thin with milk if desired.

Now, for the best blueberry muffin recipe I've ever tasted:

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins
Mix up the following in a medium-size bowl:
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoon soda
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch nutmeg
In a separate bowl, mix the following:
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine the two bowls (dry and liquid ingredients) and stir just to combine.
Fold in:  2 scant cups blueberries (not quite full cups)
Fill muffin tins two-thirds full and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.  Makes 1 dozen (plus) large muffins.

Dessert of the Month--Peach Sorbet

 A refreshing and light dessert on hot summer days.

With Alberta peaches ripe; I'm ready to make our favorite summer dessert--peach sorbet.    It also takes very little cooking time (and no baking).
This recipe makes 4 servings.  The ingredients are: 
 3/4 cup water
 6 tablespoons sugar
 1/4 tsp cinnamon
 medium pinch of ginger
 2 tablespoons lemon juice
 6 medium ripe peaches, peeled and sliced (Albertas work best)
--In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly; transfer to a blender.  Add the peaches; cover and process until smooth.  Beat sorbet well with a wire whip.  Transfer sorbet to a freezer container; cover and freeze.  After 20 minutes, take out and beat for a few minutes.  Do this twice more, 20 minutes apart.  Cover and freeze for 3-4 hours.