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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Canned Chicken Soup

Leftover roast chicken and an assortment of fresh veggies in the fridge--good time for canning chicken soup. It's best to plan for equal amounts of broth and solids (mix of chicken meat and veggies). 
For the Broth
I put the chicken in a pot, cover it with water--a few inches above the chicken, and bring it to almost boiling.  Take the chicken out to cool and then pick all the meat off.  This method makes getting all the meat from the bones much easier.  Chop the chicken meat and put in refrigerator until ready to use.  Put the chicken carcass back into the water and simmer for a few hours.  Remove from heat, strain broth, cool a bit, then refrigerate until ready to use--preferrably several hours or overnight so fat turns solid. 
The Veggies and Chicken
Retrieve the broth from the fridge, take the fat off the top and use the broth to partially cook lots of cut-up fresh or frozen veggies (green beans, onion, green pepper, corn, carrots, celery, potatoes, peas, a little garlic and some herbs) just until the veggies start to soften.  Add the cut up chicken and continue cooking until chicken is heated through.
--Fill hot jars half full with solids (chicken meat and veggies). Ladle broth to fill rest of jar to within 1/2" from top. (leave a little room for herbs)  Add a Tablespoon total of dried herbs to each jar.  Best herbs include parsley, oregano, Italian seasoning, dill weed, thyme, tarragon.  I use 2 tsp of Italian Herbs and one tsp dill weed.  Do not use sage or poultry seasoning as the sage will turn bitter and overwhelm the flavor.   Instead of salt, I also add a Tablespoon of chicken boullion granules (or 3 cubes) for a richer chicken flavor.   Process in pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure: pints 60 min, quarts 75 min.
 Just what the (country) doctor ordered!

Canned Pears

After tasting how sweet and juicy the pears from Fairview Farm were, we decided to forego the pear sauces and jams and can these for eating right out of the jar.  It took a long time to peel them, but we knew what we were looking forward to, so we didn't mind having so many to do.  After peeling and coring them, I brought halved pears to a boil in a pan of light syrup (5-1/4 cups water & 2-1/4 cups sugar); then ladled it into jars and processed them in a boiling water bath (20 min for pints, 25 min for quarts).
Glad we have plenty--these will start to disappear fast!

Wing Sauce and Cocktail Sauce

What to do with still more tomatoes?  I've already canned my tomato basics, so now I can experiment with them.  I decided on wing sauce for chicken wing appetisers and cocktail sauce for shrimp and other seafood.  Both recipes were a successful first try.  The recipes follow the pics.
After a taste-testing, Dave and I gave both sauces a thumbs-up.

Chicken Wing Sauce (makes 8 half-pint jars)
10 cups cored peeled tomatoes
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups white vinegar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
l--Put tomatoes, onions, brown sugar and cayenne in saucepan.  Bring to boil, then simmer 30 min.  Cool slightly, then puree in blender or food processor until smooth.  Return to saucepan and add remaining ingredients.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is thickened to a sauce--approx. 1 hour.  Put sauce into hot 8 oz jars and process in boiling water bath 15 min.

Cocktail Sauce  (makes 12 half-pint jars)
9 pounds plum tomatoes
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic or 1 tsp dried minced garlic
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups finely grated peeled horseradish OR
  6 Tablespoons dried horseradish powder (Penzys spices online to order)
--Quarter plum tomatoes and process in food mill or saucemaker.  Place half of puree in saucepan and bring to boil.  Continue to boil while adding remaining puree one cup at a time.  Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients except for horseradish.  Bring to boil.  Remove from heat and add horseradish.  Put sauce into hot 8 oz jars.  Process in boiling water bath 15 min.

V8 Juice and Tomato Chili Mix

Glad I still have plenty of tomatoes.  There are a few tomato recipes I usually make for my Winter pantry--V8 juice and chili mix (not to be confused with chili sauce)  I make V8 juice by juicing tomatoes; then simmering it with lots of chopped veggies added.  Strain the juice and can it.  Chili mix is a combination of tomatoes, onions and peppers that I use whenever I make chili.  I just combine it with beef and beans--easy peasy!
Note:  Both mixtures are canned the same way.  Bring mixture to boil, pour into hot jars & pressure can at 10 pounds pressure: pints 15 min, qts 20 min.
   Daydreaming:  a warm bowl of chili on a cold Winter day--mmmm!

A Peck of Pickled Peppers

I have plenty of hot peppers in the freezer, and after cleaning the garden, I still have quite a few that I don't want to go to waste.  Looking for an easy and different way to preserve them, I decided to pickle them in the same manner as refrigerator pickles.  I combined 2 cups of vinegar, 2 cups of sugar, 1 TB salt for the brine.  I washed and cut slits in the peppers, put them in quart jars and added the brine.  I added one tablespoon of mustard seeds to two of the jars.
 Now I wait and see!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Canned Carrots

Discovered a stash of mixed-colored carrots in the back of my crisper drawer this morning and, surprise!, they were still crisp. (Usually forgotten veggies are limp or spoiled by the time I discover them.)  Since I don't remember my intent for them, and I have several small bags of frozen carrot slices, I decided to can them.  They're easy to can:  put raw carrot slices or sticks in hot jars, add boiling water and pressure can at 10 pounds of pressure for 25 min.
They'll make a bright & colorful side dish mid-Winter!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Bushel and a Peck of Pears

After we had picked all the low-hanging fruit off a pear tree, my farmer was hoisted high in the bucket of a tractor to pick at the very top of the tree.  I had this opportunity--once!  (What was I thinking; I'm afraid of heights!)  While I watched and waited, I yelled up "Should I pick any of these pears up off the ground?"  He hollared back "We don't sell ground-falls, you can have all you want."  "Say no more!" I shouted as I grabbed a bucket and started scooping.  Here's my reward!
For reference, this bowl is a foot high by two feet wide!
If I don't get pear burn-out, I'll have pears in syrup, pear sauce, pear butter, pear jam and jelly, pear conserve...

Apple Jelly

Spotted a bushel basket of Dolgo crab apples while at the farm last week.  They are what my grandmother referred to as her "jelly apples".  My memory was immediately transported back to my grandpa's apple orchard and grandma's beautiful jelly-apple tree--a small tree with branches drooping to the ground and laden with hundreds of tiny bright red fruit.  I also recalled the small canning jars of bright red jelly and the sweet apple flavor inside them.  The first thing I did after work was to check my canning book to see how many pounds I would need for a batch of jelly.  This is the easiest jelly I've ever made.  The fruit it so small, it doesn't need to be cut up and this variety has so much natural pectin, it doesn't need added pectin.  The recipe follows below the picture.
The fruit and the "fruit of my labor"!
Note:  When you put the jelly juice on the stove to cook, you may want to begin sterilizing the jars by putting 6 half-pint jars in a pan of water.  Bring to boil and boil for 10 min.  You can use the canning rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot.
Apple Jelly (makes 6 half-pints)
4.5 pounds of Dolgo crab apples
4 cups sugar (approx)
--Wash and pull stems from apples. 
Following are both the steamer/juicer method (if you have one) or, if you don't have one, the pot-on-the-stove method.
Steamer-Juicer Method:  This is the easiest if you have a steamer/juicer.  Just put in the pot, turn on the heat and collect the juice from the apples.  You may refrigerate it at this point if you do not want to make jelly right away.  Otherwise, put it in a pot on the stove, add the sugar and bring to boil.  Continue boiling, stirring constantly, until jelly "sheets" off of spoon when you tip it sideways with a spoonful of jelly on it.  Fill hot, sterilized jars; add lids and bands.  Process in boiling water bath for 5 min.
Pot Method:  Put in pot with water to cover (about 5 cups).  Cook on high heat to boiling, then turn down to simmer.  When apples start to crack or burst, mash a bit with potato masher.  Continue cooking until apples are soft (20-25 min).  Strain apples and juice into another pot by using a dampened jelly bag, or line a strainer with 3-4 layers of dampened cheesecloth.  Let drip several hours to extract juice.  Do not squeeze or mash apples as that will make the jelly cloudy.  After extracting juice, measure it (you should have approx. 4 cups).  Add juice and equal amount of sugar in deep cooking pot.  Boil mixture, stirring often, until jelly "sheets" off spoon.  (Instead of drips, jelly falls from spoon in sheets.)  Skim foam from top of jelly.  Pour into hot, sterilized jars.  Put lids and screw bands on.  Process in boiling water bath 5 min. 

The Most Beautiful Beets

While harvesting beets at my farm job this week, my farmer cut one in half to show me what we were harvesting--di Chioggia beets!
What a beautiful presentation they make!
Well.... I thought I was done canning beets; but I couldn't resist--canned 10 pints.  Their color does fade with pressure canning, but they still have pretty circles of color.  Freezing would be a better way to go with these; that is, to preserve the color--live and learn!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Green Tomato Salsa

I usually make tomatillo salsa every year.  This year I've been fretting about whether my farmer would have any after an early freeze we had last week.  Then my flat of green tomatoes caught my eye--I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, but now I had an idea....  I substituted my green tomatoes for the tomatillos with delicious results. 
Two problems solved and a new salsa discovered!
Here is the canning recipe:
2 pounds of green tomatoes
1 pound of onion
3/4 pound of red bell pepper
1/2 pound of tart apples
6 cloves of garlic
4 jalepeno peppers
Grind all of the above in a food processor, put in a pot & add the following:
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons dried cilantro
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Bring to boil, then simmer 15-20 minutes.  Put into hot jars, add lids and screw bands.  Process in boiling water bath 15 min.

Freezing Jalepeno Peppers

Whenever I have a garden with a couple of jalepeno plants, I get a ton more than I can use in making salsas (or I get them donated to me from other gardeners who have a couple of jalepeno plants themselves).  Nothing could be more simple than freezing jalepeno peppers!! Just wash and dry the peppers, put them in a freezer bag and toss in the freezer. Some years I hardly use a one, and other years the bag gets used up on appetiser trays in a variety of ways: stuffed with cream cheese, breaded and fried, pickled, diced in a cheese ball...
No need to wear gloves when processing them this way.

Stewed Tomatoes

This is one of my favorite side dishes to complement a Winter supper. 
I serve it with homemade croutons to soak up the juice--mmmm!

I love my canning recipe; here it is for making 18 pints, (but it can easily be halved for 9 pints):
50 medium tomatoes
1/2 cup diced celery
2/3 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced bell pepper
2 cups diced onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup sugar
**Optional:  I add 2 cups of broth (any kind) so I have extra juice for the croutons to soak up.  This year I used one cup each of corn broth and  mushroom broth with delicious results.
Can in pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes.

What a deal!

Got a deal from my farmer that I couldn't refuse:  free onions and peppers because they had minor imperfections or small soft spots and couldn't be sold at market.  I came home from the farm with about 50-60 onions and as many large (huge) peppers.  Did lots of chopping, freezing, and dehydrating this past weekend (crying my way through the onions).  I can cross onions and peppers off my list of foods I need stored for the Winter.
Having already-chopped onions (& peppers) is a wonderful timesaver!

Easy Applesauce

I had delicious applesauce at the farm today.  My farmer told me it was the easiest-ever applesauce to make, and she was right.  She says the secret is using a variety of apples, both sweet and tart.  Here's how to make 4-6 pints:
Peel and core a dozen apples, of 3-4 different varieties.  Quarter or chop them (I used my apple wedger and cut them in 8ths or a biscuit cutter for smaller chunks).  Put them in the crock pot, add one cup water or fruit juice (for full pot).  Sprinkle generously with any of the following or any combination of:  white sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and then spice with any of the following: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice or Penzey's Apple Pie Spice.  Turn the crock pot on low and cook until they are soft to your liking.  If you want to can it, put into hot jars, add lids and screw bands.  Put them in boiling water bath for 15 mins.  That's it!
 If doubling the recipe (2 doz apples),  use an
electric roaster (low setting) to cook them down.
Notes from 2012:   Twin-sis Deb brought me 2-1/2 dozen apples.  I peeled, cored and chopped them up a bit, put them in my roaster with 1 cup of my homemade apple syrup and 4 cups of my homemade pear syrup.  I then generously sprinkled the top with dark brown sugar (1/2-3/4 cup), added 1-2 small drops of vanilla, a light sprinkling of nutmeg and a more generous sprinkling of cinnamon.  Then a tiny sprinkling of salt.  Set it to cook on low until soft, then mashed any big chunks with the potato masher and canned it in half-pints, boiling water bath for 15 min.  It made 13 half pints of DELICIOUS applesauce.

Notes from 2013:  I used a mixed variety of Fairview Farms apples.  Peeled and cored them and then used my biscuit cutter to chop into pieces(a 4" wide open-top cookie cutter with fixed bucket-style handle).  I put them in my crockpot, added one cup rhubarb broth*, and sprinkled honey and a little less maple syrup.  Then generously sprinkled Penzey's Apple Pie Spice on top.  Mixed up and let cook on low until the apples were soft but not mushy.  Again DELICIOUS and I think this is my favorite recipe. 
*rhubarb cut up, covered with water and cooked down to half, then strained.  (a good way to use extra rhubarb)  

Pickled Tomatoes

Last year I found a way to deal with those bigger-than-cherry tomatoes (but too small to peel and can).  I started pickling them using a mild and sweet pickling solution--equal parts vinegar and water, half vinegar amount of sugar (i.e. 4 cups vinegar, 4 cups water, 2 cups sugar).  These tomatoes are great for stir fries and stews--whenever I want tomatoes with a little "zing"!
 Great for snacking too!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Onions, Peppers and Cherry Tomatoes--diced and dehydrated

Before we get our first frost, I rushed to get my jars of dehydrated veggies filled again.  I love having jars of dehydrated veggies to throw in and on soups, stews, casseroles, stir fries, appetisers, cheese...you name it!  I used the sweetest and most flavorful varieties of veggies for this--sungold cherry tomatoes, Cipellini onions and Marconi peppers.  They all get a toasty-sweet and concentrated flavor from dehydrating and are even delicious just to snack on. 
 Jars are full--I'm ready for that frost.

And a bonus--enough left over for some freezer bags. 
 Saves me lots of chopping when I need diced peppers/onions for a recipe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tomato Basil Sauce

I once had a delicious red sauce that was made with nothing but tomatoes and fresh basil, cooked down to a sauce.  After raiding our garden, I had plenty of tomatoes and fresh basil to try this sauce.  After piecing the tomatoes, I pulled out some of the juice, added plenty of finely-diced basil and put it in my large roaster on the lowest setting to cook down.  It took about 3-1/2 hours.  Can't wait to use this over pasta or in seafood dishes.

Ketchup, BBQ Sauce and Steak Sauce

Armed with 30 pounds of paste tomatoes (plum and romas), I was ready to do some saucing.  I made 6 pints of ketchup, 12 half-pints each of steak sauce and BBQ sauce.  And I still had plenty of tomatoes left to freeze.
For all three recipes, I started with Mrs. Wages powdered Ketchup mix.  Using her mix is the closest I've come to Heinz's Ketchup.  For the Ketchup, I followed the recipe on the back of the package.  For the BBQ sauce, I started with the Ketchup as a base; then added some garlic, onion, molasses, brown sugar, cider vinegar, cayenne and liquid smoke.  For the steak sauce I added worcestershire sauce, and a little dijon mustard.  Didn't have any specific recipes, just tried and tasted. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Will Work For Food

At market last week, I mentioned to my farmer that I wished I could afford more of his produce during this canning season.  Enough said--a deal was made:  I would work at Fairview Family Farm in exchange for produce.  Whew!!--what an experience for me this has been!  To explain the huge change in this "City Girl's" usual daily lifestyle, I offer the following differences:

Instead of waking to match an outfit, don make-up and meticulously style my hair, I throw on the most comfortable (rag-tag) clothes I can find, wash up and run a comb through my hair.

The daily weather prediction is no longer provided to me via the internet; It's listening to farmers predict weather by nature's signs--fog rising from the valley foretells rain.

Instead of running errands in an air-conditioned SUV along a smooth highway; I bounce through field roads, in trucks and on tractors,with wind on my face and a dog running alongside.

Instead of the family dispersing to different jobs in the morning, the farm family gathers to work together in multi-generations; father in the tractor seat with sons on the potato picker, grandson riding to the raspberry patch in grandma's lap on the fourwheeler.

Instead of going room-to-room cleaning, cooking, canning, blogging..., I go from field-to-field: picking, pulling, digging and weeding; or from barn to shed: sorting, washing, trimming and packing.

I won't be high on a ladder dusting fan blades, I'll be hoisted high in a tractor bucket to pick apples.

I'm not hunkered down inside while listening to rain run off the roof; I am out picking corn while listening to rain patter among the cornstalks (and drip off the end of my nose).

Instead of a simple and quiet lunch alone at my kitchen table; I sit with a crew gathered as family around a table heaped with plates of savory roast, steaming vegetables and crisp salads--all fresh picked that morning.  First, Father Mark Timm says grace; then we eat.

I no longer glance out the window late afternoon to see 5 pm traffic streaming by; I gaze out of the barn to see dragonflies flit and dance across the farm yard.

When I pause and look up from my work, I am not looking at familiar walls inside my home; rather I am awed by an endless horizen of bluffs and valleys, forest and meadow, hillside and cornfields--all under strata of cloud formations and sky color.

A clean house, canned produce, a posted blog and supper on the table are no longer my pride after a day's work.  Muddy shoes, dirt under my fingernails, a sunburned face and tired muscles are my new badges of honor.

The local radio station no longer provides my background music.  Now it's a collection of rock-and-roll era songs blaring from Ben Timm's Ipod--seemingly out in the middle of nowhere.  (Bet you thought I was going to say it's listening to birdsong and chirping crickets--teehee.)

My working peers are not the usual "coffee-klatch" I'm accustomed to; they're a dedicated crew of kind and considerate young farmers, far beyond their years in maturity and ambition.  I am the student here. 

"The boss" is not some far-removed CEO at a mahogany desk in corporate headquarters; It's an unassuming and gentle-natured farm wife and mother with much wit and humor.  She organizes and manages the whole operation behind the scene, yet works aside the rest of the crew in the fields.

Did I mention "hard-working folk"!!!  Whoo-boy; they are still out in the fields long after I've crawled into our car, bedraggled and spent, for the ride home.

The roles in our household have reversed:  My feet are up while hubby cooks supper.

My sleep is (much!) more sound. 

Truly, the activities of my new job challenge my strength and stamina; yet I have a constant companion:  contentment!

I often round a corner to come upon scenes like this
 -- simple beauty!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dear Children: Not all food comes from the grocery stores.

I think it's wonderful when kids learn where real food comes from; that is, when they engage in projects of picking and home-processing produce.  I therefore enjoyed seeing the facebook blog from my niece, Michelle Chung, where her children visited an orchard, picked apples and made applesauce at home.  And when I read the following excerpt from Michelle's post, I know the lessons learned here will be life-long and invaluable to this child:
Today, Morgan was my helper and did everything from washing apples, pressing them in the Sauce Master and ladling the hot jars.
The Chung Children, and a friend, ready to pick apples.
Annika Chung saucing apples.

Dehydrating Cherry Tomatoes and Peppers

After picking the garden clean, I had a ton of cherry tomatoes and a few varieties of peppers.  Both peppers and cherry tomatoes need no blanching before dehydrating--just cut them up and arrange on the racks.
Great for snacking and endless possibilities in cooking--
I dehydrate all I can get.
I have many uses for a jar of dehydrated mixed peppers: mild, semi-hot and in-between. 
 I just keep adding any variety I happen to have to the jar.

Spaghetti Sauce

With tomatoes of all varieties in abundance, I need to get busy.  Tomatoes provide my family with: catsup, chili sauce, salsas, spaghetti sauce, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato juice, dried tomatoes, frozen tomatoes...  With tomatoes, tomato juice, salsa and chili sauce canned, I decided to tackle spaghetti sauce this weekend.  Dave picked our garden clean which yielded the tomatoes, peppers and onions (shallots).  He stopped at the store for mushrooms and I had all I needed for the sauce.  The recipe I use is straight out of the canning books (seems they all have the same one).  Though they all propose "saucing" the tomatoes after cooking them, I dice them instead because I like the tomato chunks in my sauce.  I also remove much of the thin juice (and can it) instead of cooking it down because I think the veggies and mushrooms are more flavorful that way.
Check spaghetti sauce off the list.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Grandma Deb's Applesauce Leather

I love it when someone provides me with a practical and creative way to use up food from the previous year of canning.  I hate to see go to waste or sit in the pantry taking up space and getting old.  I happen to have many jars of apple and pear sauce that just never seem to make it into the dessert menu or baking plans.  Today I opened an email from sis, Deb McCaleb, showing me what she did with her canned applesauce (problem of too much apple and pear sauce solved!)   She simply poured the applesauce on the fruit leather trays of her dehydrator.  Great idea; couldn't be easier!  Off to my canning pantry to rummage for jars of fruit sauce.
Deb's healthy snack for her (many) grandchildren!