Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Canning Zesty Tomato Salsa

Zesty Salsa
~from the Presto Pressure Canner instruction booklet~

10 cups, chopped, seeded, peeled, cored tomatoes (about 6 pounds)
5 cups chopped and seeded long green peppers (about 2 pounds)
5 cups chopped onions (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/2 cups chopped and seeded hot peppers (about 1 pound)
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot, adding hot pepper sauce, if desired.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Ladle hot salsa into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Adjust two piece caps.  Process 15 minutes using the boiling water canning method.

Yield: 6 pints

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Homemade Plum Juice

The plums are ripe on the trees now and there is no way we can eat them all fresh before they go bad.  I don't want to see them go to waste so I have been making plum juice every evening this week.  I did the same with apples last year and we had delicious fresh tasting apple juice all winter.  It saves a considerable amount of money, we still buy orange juice once in a while during the colder months, but with our homemade juice in the pantry we don't buy nearly as much.  Plus I just don't like to see food go to waste.  Just like the abundant produce I gather from the garden, often it is more than we can eat so I save it for later using the method that produces the best results, whether that be canning, drying, freezing or fermenting.  These plums are best for juicing or making jelly.  I tried cutting them in half to dry some, but they are mostly juice inside with a tough, sour skin and they just turned to mush in my hand.  We have enough homemade plum, cherry and apple jelly to last us through the year, so juice it is.  

Making juice with a steam juicer, is a simple process, first the fruit is washed.

Then water is poured into the basin at the bottom of the juice steamer and the fruit is placed in the colander at the top of the steamer with a little sugar.  As the steam rises the fruit heats up and juice runs out of the colander into the pan below.

Steaming juice then flows out the attached hose and into a steralized jar, a prepared lid and band are placed on top and as the juice cools the lids seal and the juice is canned and ready to be stored for winter.

The fruit in the colander is reduced to a small pile at the bottom of the colander,  I place this in the compost bin.

I am able to get between 3 and 4 quarts of juice from each batch of plums, apples don't provide quite as much juice, usually 2 to 3 quarts per batch.  I find it interesting how the color of the juice changes after it cools.  Above is the batch I did Tuesday evening just before I took the picture.  Below are the jars of juice I processed on Monday evening, going from red to pink as it cools.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Strawberry Walnut Bread

Strawberry Walnut Bread
Makes 1 9x5 loaf

2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
1 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 x 5 bread loaf pan.

Cream together the eggs, oil, honey, sour cream or yogurt and vanilla.  Stir in the flours, soda, and salt.  Fold in strawberries and walnuts.

Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The "Root Cellar"

The potatoes have been dug and my garden is starting to look bare with the new large empty patch.  We have Yukon Gold and Dakota Jewel Red in every size, from very large one potato for two people to pearl onion size.  This should be enough potatoes to take us well into the winter, perhaps clear through to spring.

Homegrown potatoes need to be cured before they are stored so that their skins can be toughened up.  Spread them out in a protected area that is 60 to 70 degrees for one to two weeks.  Leave a layer of dirt on the potatoes, this extends their live, and never wash them before storing.  Place in a bin or burlap, but never plastic, then store them in a cold, damp, dark spot.  A root cellar is ideal.  High humidity and a temperature of 38 to 40 degrees is ideal, the temperatures in my cold storage are around 50 degrees, but they still keep fairly well.

This is our "root cellar", a small space in the basement that the prior owner built as a cold-storage room.  It is nothing special to look at, but it does the trick; there are no windows, it is insulated, has shelves and a door.  We store our squash, potatoes, onions, and apples in here.  Potatoes will keep in these conditions for 4 to 6 months.  Last year our garden potatoes kept well into January when we used the last of them up, they were not even soft or sprouting.  Keep an eye on them though, if one potato goes bad, perhaps from a bruised spot, pull it out or the rest will start to go.  Also, be sure not to store potatoes and apples close together or they won't keep well.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Salmon with Fennel and Pernod

I love the smell of the toasting fennel seeds, in fact this whole recipe makes the house smell terrific, which is always a good start to any dinner.  I served it with a bottle of Marsanne Roussanne, from Cline and a little music by Taken By Trees.  Dinner can't get any better than this.

Salmon with Fennel and Pernod
2 servings

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
1 large fennel bulb with fronds; bulb quartered, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices; 2 tablespoons fronds chopped, divided

2 salmon fillets, 6- to 7-ounces each
2 tablespoons Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur

Stir fennel seeds in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Transfer seeds to small bowl; cool.  Mix in butter, shallots, and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds; season butter mixture with salt and pepper.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter mixture in same large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add sliced fennel bulb and 1/4 cup water to skillet; cover and cook until fennel is crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.  Uncover skillet and saute' until fennel begins to brown, about 2 minutes.  Transfer fennel to plate.

Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper.  Add 1 tablespoon butter mixture to same skillet and melt over medium heat.  Add salmon; cover and cook 5 minutes.  Turn salmon over; add 1/4 cup water to skillet.  Cover and continue cooking until salmon is just opaque in center, about 5 minutes longer.  Slide salmon to 1 side of skillet; return fennel to skillet.  Add Pernod, 2 teaspoons butter mixture, and remaining 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds; stir to heat through.

Divide fennel mixture between 2 plates.  Top with salmon; spoon remaining butter mixture over salmon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back Home

We're back home after logging 1900 miles on the motorcycle.  We travelled through Minnesota and Wisconsin viewing beautiful scenery along the way.  Then we loaded the bikes on a ferry for a four hour ride across lake Michigan, which is large enough to make you feel like you are in the middle of the ocean.  After a good night's sleep we travelled up Michigan to Sleeping Bear Dunes, winery tours, and the tunnel of trees.  We spent a day on Mackinac Island and then continued our journey back home through Michigan's upper penisula, stopping in Duluth, MN to view the Tall Ships.  It was an enjoyable trip with excellent weather.  My favorite part of riding on the motorcycle is the opportunity it gives me to notice the aroma of the various plants we ride past.  The scents change based on the trees, bushes, wild flowers or other folage surrounding us.  There is a black pepper aroma that I would catch occasionally in northern Minnesota, I have yet to identify the plant responsible for that scent.  As we pull into North Dakota the aromas change to grasses and grains.  I never tire of this aromatherapy session, something that would not be possible sealed in an air conditioned car.

{These photos are a little out of order and various sizes, blogger is being very difficult with photos, I can't resize, move them around or even delete to start over.  Hope that is changed soon!}

Heading Down the Road

Botanical Gardens, Saint Paul, MN

Al's Breakfast in Dinky Town, Minneapolis, MN.  Seats 12 on stools up to the bar with the griddle just on the other side.  The line is down the block and the next 12 stand right behind you while waiting their turn.  As people leave everyone is expected to get up and move to the left so those coming in together can eat together.

On the Ferry

Sand Dunes

Mackinac Island

Tall Ships, Duluth MN

Tying down the  bike on the ferry.

Ready To Ride Home, Duluth, MN