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, October 18, 2011

Halloween Table

It's that time!

Canning Beans

Every year, as fresh produce is disappearing from market stands and canning season is winding down, I stop at the "Good Food Store Co-op"  to stock up on beans for canning.  I always get at least three varieties: navy, black and kidney.  Sometimes I try a different variety and I experiment with new recipes, but these three are a must for baked beans, bean soups, chili and side dishes.  The navy beans are canned with an old family recipe, the black beans canned plain and the kidney beans are canned with added chili powder & seasonings.  My bean recipes follow, below the pic.  Baked beans can also be frozen successfully.  Note: Plan ahead because beans must first be soaked 12-18 hours ahead of time (see recipes).  Each recipe makes 6-7 pints.
Baked, Black and Kidney Beans
Baked Beans 
2# dried navy beans
2 tsp salt
1/2# salt pork, cut into pieces
3 small diced onions partially cooked in bacon fat (optional)
2/3 cup brown sugar (can use part white sugar)
2/3 cup molasses
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp dry mustard
--Rinse beans well.  Cover beans with 3 quarts of water in tall pot and let stand 12-18 hours in a cool place.  Add 1 tsp soda and 1 tsp salt to soaking water with beans and bring to boil.  Cover and simmer until skins split when you blow on them.  Drain, saving liquid.  Pour beans into a baking dish or roaster.  Add salt pork (and onions or pepper if desired).  Combine remaining ingredients along with 4 cups of the saved bean liquid (use water or broth to make 4 cups if necessary).  Pour all over beans.  Cover and bake at 350 just until beans are soft (1-1/2 to 2 hours).  Add liquid if necessary so that beans are soupy.  Pack into hot jars and pressure can at 10 pounds of pressure:  pints-75 min, quarts-90 min.

Kidney Beans
2 pounds dried kidney beans
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
chili powder
--Rinse beans well. Cover beans with 3 quarts of water in tall pot and let stand 12-18 hours in a cool place. Add 1 tsp soda and 1 tsp salt to soaking water with beans and bring to boil.  Boil for 30 minutes.  Pack beans into hot jars.  Add 1 TBlsp chili powder per pint.  Cover with cooking liquid to within 1/2 " from top of jar.  Pressure can at 10 pounds of pressure:  pints-75 min, quarts-90 min.

Black Beans
2 pounds dried black beans
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
canning salt
--Rinse beans well. Cover beans with 3 quarts of water in tall pot and let stand 12-18 hours in a cool place. Add 1 tsp soda and 1 tsp salt to soaking water with beans and bring to boil. Boil for 30 minutes. Pack beans into hot jars. Add 1/2 tsp canning salt per pint. Cover with cooking liquid to within 1/2 " from top of jar. Pressure can at 10 pounds of pressure: pints-75 min, quarts-90 min.

Homemade Granola

Several years ago, a friend (Judy Schultz) gave me a granola recipe saying I "must try it".  The recipe was definately a keeper and I've used it ever since to make double and triple batches of granola for breakfast cereal.  I usually make this in the Fall as the oven is going much of the day.  Knowing I will be making granola, I always dehydrate fruit during the summer and save them for this purpose (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches and grapes).  I substitute refined coconut oil for the granola oil (your choice); but I prefer coconut oil for it's nutty flavor and because it is the healthiest of all oils. (google it)  Granola keeps well in the freezer, packaged in gal. ziploc bags.  To serve it warm, boil twice the amount of milk as cereal, add the cereal, lower heat to simmer and continue cooking to desired consistency.
Breakfast in a dish--grains, nuts, fruit, bananas and dairy.
Homemade Granola
1 cup shredded coconut
8 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups chopped, slivered or sliced almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds
2/3 cup coconut oil or canola oil
1-1/2 cup honey
1-1/2 cup raisins (golden, dark or mix of the two) or 1-1/2 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup banana chips, broken into pieces (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)  I add this later, if desired.
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)  I add this later, if desired.
--Preheat oven to 350.  Spread coconut on pan and toast 5 min--until starting to brown on top--watch closely, it will burn easily.  Set coconut aside to cool.  Reduce oven to 300.  Line baking pans with parchment or foil.  Combine all but coconut and raisins.  Spread in single layer on pans.  Bake approx. 25 min until golden.  Remove from pans immediately if using foil.  Cool and break apart.  Add coconut, banana chips and raisins or fruit.  Store in airtight container for up to one month or freeze for up to six months.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Little More Salsa

Though I have already made plenty of salsa, I discovered an unopened package of Ball's salsa mix in the back of my canning drawer.  I've never used Ball's packaged mix for my salsas, but the package expires at the beginning of next year.  It only makes four half-pints and I do have enough ripe tomatoes ; so why not try it.  I'll either discover a new and delicious salsa recipe, or I'll remind myself never to use that mix again.  It turned out pretty good.  I prefer salsa with chunks of onion and peppers, but this will definately do in a pinch.  All you need to do is cut up 8-10 medium-size tomatoes, add a little vinegar and the mix.  Boil for 5 min and can or serve fresh. 
A package of this would nice to have on hand for a potluck appetiser.

Grandma's Fall Tablecloth and Leaf-Embroidered Napkins

I will soon be putting out my Halloween tablecloth/napkins; but I couldn't let this Fall slip by without using Grandma Springer's fall table linens, which were embroidered by her mother, even if only for a week.

Canned Potatoes

Canned potatoes are a favorite among my sisters and their families.  My niece, Sally Schmidt, shared with me the easiest way possible to can them successfully:
--Wash and scrub fresh potatoes.  Cut them into half-inch cubes and put in hot canning jars.  Pour boiling water over them to within 1/2" from top of jar.  Add salt--1 tsp per quart, 1/2 tsp per pint.  Process in pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure; 35 min for pints, 45 min for quarts.
 I'm anxious to taste and compare varieties.

I used four different varieties of potatoes thanks to a friend, Judy Schultz, who provided me with the seed potatoes for my garden last Spring.  Judy buys organic seeds from the best sources available.  The seed potatoes came from Colorado in small mesh bags with fancy names and unique colors of flesh (pink, purple, red, yellow, orange...).  I didn't mix the potatoes, but made four jars of each variety. 
Note:  Over time, the potato water will turn a bit cloudy due to the starch.  This is perfectly harmless and does not affect the quality of the potatoes.  To eliminate this though, can new potatoes (usually most available at the beginning of the summer) --the water will stay clear.


Vegetable Beef Soup

We enjoyed the canned chicken soup so well, I decided to also can beef
 vegetable soup. It turned out delicious!
Canned in pints--perfect for hubby's lunches

For the broth:  I started with some beef short ribs that I had in the freezer.  Short ribs have so much fat on them (and so little meat) that I usually reserve them for a rich broth. I always roast them first before making broth, as that gives the broth better flavor.  Any leftover bones & scraps from a beef roast will do as well.  Set any leftover meat scraps aside for the soup, as you don't want to boil the flavor out of them.  Put beef bones (or roasted shortribs) in a pot, cover with water--about four inches above the bones, and bring to a boil. Take the bones out to cool and then pick all the meat off. This method makes getting all the meat from the bones much easier. Chop the meat and put in refrigerator until ready to use. Put the beef bones (and fat) 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 Beef
Retrieve the broth from the fridge, take the fat off the top and measure the broth.  Add one beef boullion cube (or 1 tsp beef granules) for each cup of broth.  Put the broth and boullion in a pot with lots of cut-up raw or frozen veggies.  You will need one to one-and-one-half cups of veggies for each cup of broth you have.  Suggestions for veggies include green beans, onion, green pepper, corn, carrots, celery, potatoes, peas, a little garlic.  Cook the veggies in the broth just until they start to soften. Add the cut up beef and continue cooking until the meat is heated through.
--Fill hot jars half to three-fourths full with the meat and veggies. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve it from the broth.  Ladle broth to fill rest of jar to within 1/2" from top. If you need more broth, make beef boullion.  You can add whatever herbs and spice you'd like, up to a tablespoon total per quart, but here is my favorite for beef soup in quart jars:  1 tsp paprika,  1/2 tsp dill weed, pinch of nutmeg.  Don't add salt as you're boullion cubes are the salt. 
--Pressure can at 10 pounds of pressure: pints 60 min, quarts 75 min.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hot Peppers--dried, flakes and sauce

A stop at my sister Deb's netted me a wonderful surprise--a bag of hot peppers from her garden.  I love dried hot pepper flakes and/or hot pepper sauce.  I frequently add a "kick" to the food on my plate with a generous sprinkling of either.  I especially appreciate that these peppers came from a local garden so I have no concerns about what they were fertilized or treated with, how they were handled and processed or when they were picked.
If you hang them to dry, eventually they'll all turn red.
Drying Hot Peppers:  Thread a large needle with string, fishing line or a single thread of twine.  Thread peppers on string and hang. Attractive!!
Hot Pepper Sauce:  Pull stems from peppers.  Put in food processor and process into small pieces, scraping down sides.  Continue adding small amounts of vinegar to puree until sauce is consistency that you like for hot sauce.  Bottle and store in refrigerator.
Dehydrating Hot Peppers: (Be sure to use a well-ventilated room where you will not be.)  Put a small slit in each pepper, pull off the stems and arrange them on the mesh screen of the dehydrator.  Pull the stems after slitting them so you have something to hang on to.  Put a solid (fruit leather) dehydrator tray underneath the mesh tray to catch small bits of dried pepper and seeds. Dehydrate at 135 for 4-6 hours, until dry. Store in a jar with tight-fitting lid.
Note: Wear rubber gloves when handling hot peppers. If you do get pepper oil (caspium) on your skin, use yogurt or milk to soothe. Dairy products contain casein to reduce the caspium receptor. (water intensifies)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Winter Squash--cooking it, freezing it, storing it

My annual rutabaga "roast and freeze" consists of peeling and cubing one rutabaga, roasting it and freezing it in 1-cup portions.  Here is the roasted rutabaga:

And here is the story behind why there is one and why I disguise it:

Being of Norwegian heritage on my mother's side, rutabagas were always represented at traditional holiday meals.  I tried to continue the tradition, but the bowl of rutabagas on the holiday table would be returned to the kitchen with nary a spoonful gone.  Noses were turned-up at the suggestion that the kids at least give a little taste.  My conviction that all seasonal foods should make at least one appearance at the table, and be tried at least once, forced me to pull a fast one with the rutabagas.  I mixed a combo:  squash, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and a little rutabaga.  Add a hunk of butter, a heavy pinch of brown sugar and a light sprinkling of nutmeg.  Called it "Squash Bake" and a family favorite was born.   The actual recipe is as follows:
Disguised Rutabaga   aka  Squash Bake    Serves 12-20 
1 med-large butternut squash
1 med acorn squash
1 small pumpkin, preferrably small pie pumpkin
2 large potatoes (peel, cube and boil and mash)
2 sweet potatoes (peel, cube and boil and mash)
Cut squash and pumpkin in half, scoop seeds and lightly coat with cooking oil.  Place flat side down on baking sheet.  Bake at 350 until flesh feels soft when pushing finger against outside skin.  Remove each half as it is done.
When all squash and pumpkin are cooked, let cool slightly and pull off skin.  Mash all together, either with a potato masher and strong arm or a large bowl and mixer.  Place in large baking dish or roasting pan.  Bury small hunks of butter throughout, sprinkle some brown sugar on top and then a light dusting of nutmeg.  Add salt and pepper.  Return to oven at 350 and bake until heated, stirring halfway through.  Note:  This can be made ahead, put in the pan and refrigerated until baking.
1/2-1 cup cooked, mashed rutabaga

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

After snacking on roasted pumpkin seeds made by my niece, Sally Schmidt, I made a mental note to myself that I must make these for myself.    Her method is simple and the results are addicting!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Select a large pumpkin. Cut in half lengthwise (unless you are using it for a jack-o-lantern) and remove the seeds.
Rinse pumpkin seeds. Use your fingers to remove all the pulp. Drain pumpkin seeds and discard pulp. Spread out on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with garlic salt (or plain salt, or any seasoned salt).  Toss to coat.  Roast at 250 degrees for approx. 1 hour.  Stir every 20 min or so.
  Snack away!

The Seasons of Local Food

As I move through the year cooking with and preserving local food, I am boosted in spirit and health by the produce that Nature and my farmers provide.
-After endlessly long Winters, the bright greens of Spring announce the arrival of fresh, crisp salads again.  For your body, spring greens act like a tonic, cleansing your system of Winter fats and sluggishness.
-In Summer, my senses are dazzled by the bright colors of red tomatoes, green peppers, yellow sweet corn and purple eggplant.  On sweltering summer days, these can be picked and eaten with little or no heat processing.  Summer veggies are full of added water which aids your natural cooling system. 
-Now as Fall nights turn chilly, I embrace the warm hues of Autumn's harvest: golden squash, deep orange pumpkins, soft brown potatoes and burgandy cabbage.  My tastebuds naturally long for the earthy root vegetables and rich-bodied stews made from them.  Fall-harvested vegetables have added nutrients which boost your imune system to ward off winter viruses.  A grocery and pharmacy combined in the root cellar. 
-On cold but restful Winter days, I look forward to settling in with the wafting aroma of meals prepared from a well-stocked canning pantry:  simmering soups and stews, savory sausage with sauerkraut, rich sauces and gravies over braised roasts, baked beans and brown bread, bubbling fruit pies.....and more.
 A Sampling...

Riding Shotgun on the Combine

I've never climbed into anything higher than a Dodge Ram Pick-up!

Another day at my farm job and another new experience--I was offered to ride along in the combine for a few swipes around the soybean field.  Looking up at the massive piece of farm machinery, and my farmer, Mark Timm, dwarfed in the driver's seat, I was eager for this new "joy ride"!  I didn't hesitate to climb (way) up and hop in the passenger seat.  At first I was mesmerized as I watched several different machinery parts simultaneously "shake, rattle and roll" while we maneuvered across six rows of beans at a time.  After a bit I settled into the rhythm of the combining and was able to enjoy the way-far and way-wide views of color-turning foliage spread across bluffs, valleys and fields.  (I soon understood that Mark was too busy monitoring the machine and combining process for me to continually point out the spectacular views.)  This adventure took place late afternoon on a warm Fall day---ahhh, pure enjoyment!  Thanks Farmer Mark!

Pork Broth (and gravy recipe)

We had roast pork this week and I always save the bone, fat and any leftover meat scraps for making broth.  I put the bone(s) and scraps in a saucepan, add water 3-4 inches above the top of the bones and cook down on low simmer until bones are showing above the water (2-4 hours).   (I sometimes toss in celery, onion and carrot for more flavor.)  Strain broth, cool and refrigerate until fat can be lifted off top.  Then freeze or can it.  If I freeze it, I package it in one- or two-cup portions in ziploc freezer bags.  To can it; pressure can it at 10 pounds of pressure for 20 min.   I use broth for marinades, dressings, gravies, soups and stews.  I cook pasta and rice in it for great flavor.  .  If I am making broth from game meat or fowl, I toss 4-6 juniper berries in the broth as it's cooking to eliminate any gamey taste.
mmm--Hot Pork & Gravy Sandwiches Await!
Pork Gravy  (makes 3 cups gravy)
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1/8 tsp pepper
pinch nutmeg
3 cups pork broth
--In saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in flour, salt, thyme, sage, pepper and nutmeg.  Whisk in pork broth all at once.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sweet, Lucious Grape Juice

My annual preserving agenda would not be complete without a visit to pick grapes for grape juice at Firefly Berries (Dean and Tonya Sonner)--formerly Sterling Farm.  Their variety of grapes (and other berries) are so sweet that the juice needs no added sugar (and I have a sweet tooth, so that says a lot!)  We have been making this annual trip for several years, but always seem to underestimate how much we'll need to get through the Winter.  We end up coveting the last few jars.   This year we wanted to be sure we had enough--
All 74 pounds of them!

Why so much grape juice?  Aside from the taste, grape juice is better for the heart than orange or grapefruit juice.  An 8-10 oz glass of grape juice daily reduces the risk of platelets forming clots which can lead to heart attacks.  Since we have a glass of juice daily; we thought why not have the healthier of the three, and one which is derived from local produce.
Homemade grape juice is of better quality; but, surprisingly, cheaper!
(that is if you consider the home-processing time spent enriching--I do!)
Two quarts of homemade juice (including the canning lid) is cheaper and has a richer flavor than two quarts of W*****'s grape juice from concentrate.

The juicing process is very simple; basically, wash grapes and put in steamer pot and turn on the heat.  The juice will flow through plastic tubing to your waiting pot or jars.  Process pints & quarts for 15 min in a boiling water bath. For juice-extracting equipment, I recommend the Mehu-Liisa Steamer/Juicer.  It must be ordered online (google it).  It's expensive, but I settled on this brand after much research and blogging with cooks.
One of thirty-four quarts!

The title of this post gives me away--I love our homemade grapejuice.

Apple Cinnamon Leather

Found a stash of last year's applesauce in the back of my canning pantry (don't know who I was hiding it from).  Borrowing on my sister Deb's idea for making apple leather, I emptied them onto my dehydrating trays.  After spreading it even, I sprinkled cinnamon sugar across the top of each one (heavy on cinnamon, light on sugar).  Hopefully I discovered a new treat!
  Step aside Fruit Roll-ups, these are yummy!!

Raspberry Sauce

The raspberries from Firefly Berry Farm were so sweet and juicy (chemical-free too!) we ate most of them with few left over for the sauce I had planned on canning.  Plan B--After a raid on my sister Deb's raspberry patch, we had enough additional berries for eating and for making sauce.  Mixing three  different varieties, I made and canned sauce following this easy process:  Sauce the berries in a food strainer or Foley-type mill.  Heat the sauce to boiling.  Ladle into hot jelly jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
My sister Judy once treated me to a rich chocolate brownie with unsweetened raspberry sauce drizzled atop. The combination of the sweet chocolate and semi-tart sauce was heavenly!
Now, if I can just wrangle that brownie recipe outta my sister Judy.....

Hot Tomato Jelly

I love tomatoes (& sugar), so I'm sure I'll find many uses for this jelly.

"Love Apple jelly" is what this is referred to in my canning book.  No wonder I couldn't find a recipe for tomato jelly--I'm not old enough to remember that tomatoes used to be called "Love Apples".  Apparently tomatoes were once thought to have aphrodisiac powers. 
The recipe below is quick and easy.    One of the ways I plan to use it is to spread atop my homemade Mozarella or cream cheese as an appetiser. 
Hot Tomato Jelly (makes 8 half-pints)
10 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup water
4-6 small chili peppers, diced
1 packet pectin (liquid or powder)
--Put chopped tomatoes in saucepan with water and chili peppers.  Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer until tomatoes are soft (approx 20 min).  Remove from heat and place all in a jellybag or a strainer lined with cheesecloth and let drip into a pan for several hours.  You should have about 4 cups of juice.  Whisk one packet of pectin into the juice.  Return to heat and bring to boil.  Add sugar all at once.  Bring to boiling stirring frequently.  Boil and stir for 1-2 min.  Fill hot jelly jars to within 1/2 inch from top.  Add lids and screw bands.  Process in boiling water bath 15 min.