Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creaming the Corn While Cutting It Off the Cob

Sense of Home Kitchen

By "creaming the corn" I don't mean that awful stuff you buy in a can.  No, I mean the natural cream that comes from fresh corn.  This simple process makes the corn taste so incredibly sweet and creamy, plus it involves no cooking before freezing so it is quick and super simple.  Start with fresh, ripe corn on the cob.

Slice down the cob about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through each kernel, leaving some behind to go back to scrap off.

Then draw your knife up the cob scrapping out all the creamy goodness.

The end result will be some kernels that are nearly whole and some creamy bits of corn that are wonderfully sweet.

Package your "creamed corn", as my mother used to call it, in freezer containers.  I put in approximately 2 cups of corn in each container, that is the right amount for a meal for my husband and I, with maybe a little left over for another day.  If I have company I just grab two or three containers to defrost.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad

Sense of Home Kitchen

Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad
~From the Sense of Home Kitchen~
This salad was born out of an excess of cucumbers and tomatoes coming out of our garden last year.  It is the salad we have been eating nearly every evening for the last two weeks and we are still not tired of it.  I prefer the cucumber peel be left on, for some reason these had been peeled, I can't remember why.  No specific measurements are needed, the ratio of tomatoes and cucumbers are up to you or your supply.  I use red onion, green onion, chives, or herbs, whatever I have available in my garden, for added flavor.

Cucumber, washed and diced
Tomato, washed and diced
Red onion, slivered or green onion, chives or herbs, minced
Oil and vinegar for a dressing (or Italian Dressing)
Feta, crumbled over the salad

Mix and serve.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Salads

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Butchering Chickens

Sense of Home Kitchen

We spent our afternoon butchering chickens with friends.  Early this summer friends of ours said they were planning to buy some chicks to raise for food and asked if we would like them to raise some for us as well, of course we said yes.  Part of the deal was our willingness to help them butcher.  My husband grew up butchering chickens in the fall with his family.  I had no chicken experience, but I did help butcher turkeys on two occasions.  I have no objection to eating meat, but I do have an objection to the way much of the meat available for purchase is raised.  Feedlots and the close quarters chickens are raised in turns my stomach, so we buy our beef from my husbands family, chickens from friends or local family farms, and pork from a local family farm.  I feel fine about eating meat when I know the animals have been treated well, I have seen how they were raised, and I know they are healthy, quality meat.

These chickens were fed grains and seeds, and allowed to roam freely eating all the bugs they wished.  I would have liked to have borrowed them to eat the slugs in my garden, but that is a post for another day.  The killing was swift, one quick motion, and we then moved on to gutting and pulling feathers.  These birds are an excellent size, they said they watched closely so that the chickens were not over fed, causing their legs to give out under their weight, this happens on large chicken farms where they are over fed and do not get exercise.

Not all the chickens were butchered today.  Our friends let their children each chose a chicken to keep, so three birds were spared.  They said they are not sure how these birds will fare over the winter, but they will keep them around as pets and perhaps they will even begin to lay eggs, time will tell.  The children helped some with the butchering, played with the live chickens and also played with the discarded chicken feet, they are rural children.

This is Princess, one of the chickens whose life was spared.

These are some of the family's laying hens.  We went home with a dozen of their eggs today.  I am looking forward to the many meals all the chickens have provided us, both the laying hens and the meat birds.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pressure Canning Tomatoes

Sense of Home Kitchen

I always pressure can my tomatoes, I realize not everyone does and it may not always be necessary. Heirloom tomatoes have more acidity and if you're not sure how much acid your tomatoes have, two tablespoons of lemon juice in the quart will supply the acid needed.  However, I choose to pressure can for a couple of reasons.  First, I use a variety of tomatoes, some heirloom, some not, all have varying degrees of acidity.  Second, pressure canning is so much quicker and puts far less steam into the air.  According to the instructions that came with my pressure canner, if you want to use the water bath method you have to boil the jars of tomatoes for 85 minutes.  We are trying to save electricity by not using our air conditioning accept on the unbearably hot and humid days, adding that much moisture and heat to our house would likely cause us to turn on the air conditioner.  When pressure canning there is only a little moisture added to the air at the beginning and they only need to be kept under pressure for 25 minutes.

I used to think pressure canning was a scary process, it's not.  Just follow the manufacture's instructions carefully and the process goes very smoothly.  You start by placing the freshly washed ripe tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, then plunging them in icy water to cool them so they do not continue to cook.  Take the tomatoes out of the cool water, peel off their skins, core them and place them into prepared jars.  "Prepared jars" means they have been washed in hot soapy water, filled with boiling water and let sit full of the hot water until just before tomatoes are placed in them.

Fill the jar with whole or cut tomatoes and press down to fill all the space with tomatoes and the juice that squeezes out of the tomatoes.  The directions that came with my pressure canner said to add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to a quart or 1 tablespoon to a pint of tomatoes, whether you are pressure canning or processing in a water bath, not sure why it would be necessary if you are pressure canning, but there you are.  Fill the jars with tomatoes and the directed lemon juice, leaving 1/2-inch headspace, work out the air bubbles with a nonmetallic spatula.  Then wipe the sealing edge clean with a damp cloth and place a new lid (that has been prepared by placing it in simmering water for approximately one minute) on top and screw on a clean band.  Let the jars sit until you have enough jars to fill the canner or until you have used all your tomatoes, such as was the case above with my measly four quarts.

Once all the jars are ready, place them in the pressure canner, pour the amount of boiling water into the canner that the manufacture instructs (for my maximum 7 quart canner, 3 quarts of boiling water is required), add two tablespoons of white vinegar to keep the jars from getting a white film on them, hold the lid toward the light and look through the vent pipe to make sure it is open, and then secure the lid to the pot.  At this point you raise the temperature quite high until a free flow of steam comes out.  After 10 minutes with a steady flow of steam, place the pressure regulator on the vent pipe and watch the pressure gauge.  These are the instructions for my pressure canner, be sure to follow the specific instructions for your canner.

Once the pressure gauge reaches the number of pounds your manufacturer indicates (mine calls for 11 pounds for whole tomatoes) set your timer for the required amount of time (my manufacturer calls for 25 minutes), back off on the heat a little.  Then just watch the pressure gauge closely and increase or decrease your heat as needed to keep the gauge at the required number of pounds.  Don't panic if you see it rise above the number, just turn the heat down slightly and you will see the gauge stop rising and slowly fall.  You don't need to sit and stare at the the gauge, just keep looking back at it while you go about your work.  I use this time to clean up the kitchen and 25 minutes is about the right amount of time to wash the dishes and wipe down the counters, while still keeping a close eye on the gauge.  After the required amount of time under pressure turn off the heat and allow the pressure to drop on its own accord, do not try to cool it down quickly.  The pressure is completely reduced when the air vent / cover lock and overpressure plug have dropped and no steam escapes when the pressure regulator is tilted.  Attempting to speed the cooling of the canner may cause jar breakage or it may force liquid out of the jars.  Again, follow strictly the directions that come with your pressure canner, the directions I mention are just to give you a general idea of what is involved.

The finished product will be beautiful jars of tomatoes preserved for future sauces, chili, stews, you name it, it will be good.  Don't let a pressure canner intimidate you, they are really a simple and safe way to can.  I spent approximately $50 on my pressure canner, it holds up to 7 quarts at a time and throughout the years I have canned whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, tomato soup, chicken broth, chicken soup, and green beans.  Most vegetables require pressure canning, or pickling if you want to stick with the water bath method.  I have had canned corn, but I prefer it frozen. For fruits, pickles, and jams I use the water bath method.  Plus the recipe I use for salsa has vinegar in it and specifically says not to pressure can, but to use the water bath method, so I do.  Getting comfortable with a pressure canner opens up the possibilities for more local products canned and on your pantry shelves for later use.

I had better be comfortable with my pressure canner I have a lot more tomatoes ripening in the garden,  those 4 quarts were just the beginning.  When we had all those high temperature and high humidity days in July the tomatoes really took off, some of the plants are 5 feet tall and loaded with tomatoes.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

Sense of Home Kitchen

Lemon Raspberry Muffins
~From the Sense of Home Kitchen~
Makes 12 muffins

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare muffin tins, greasing well with butter and dusting with flour, or line with muffin papers. 

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside.  In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar, mix in eggs, then lemon juice and zest.  Gradually mix in the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in raspberries.  Spoon muffin mixture into prepared muffin pans and bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Garden Produce

There has been much written about eating local, I have written on the subject myself.  This has proved much easier to do in the summer when the garden is producing so well.  Lately we have been eating from our backyard; the berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, and peas have been producing abundantly. This afternoon I was able to spend much of my time out in our gardens.  The temperature finally cooled down, we have had temps in the 90s with humidity to match, or close.  The gardens have become a jungle of growth, making up for lost time with the very cool June we had.  I always think I am leaving enough space between the plants in the spring and about this time of year I am struggling to get between plants well enough to pick the produce.

These bamboo poles have worked very well, holding the weight as the plant grows and produces fruit.  As I was weeding, adding more lattice to the shed for the grape vine to cling to, dead heading flowers, and picking produce, I was also grazing.  That's right, lunch directly from the backyard.  I ate blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peas, and green beans, not necessarily in that order.  From plant to mouth, fruits and vegetables at their peak, which means they were at the peak of their nutritional value, as well as their flavor.  The green beans and peas have been particularly sweet this year, likely due to all the rain we have received.

I have only watered the garden once this summer, rain has provided all the water the garden needs, and then some.  I pulled some small onions this afternoon because they were sitting in an area that was consistently water logged and I was afraid they would start to rot.  Hopefully the other row of onions will be able to stay in the soil long enough for some serious growth.  The raspberries have been producing like gang-busters, we have eaten them fresh, frozen them for winter baking and smoothies, and I have baked with them.  I made raspberry muffins late this afternoon for Sunday morning breakfast, the recipe will follow later this week (if I have time).

We have been eating much of the green beans fresh and raw, they are so good there is no need to cook them and destroy vitamins.  I have also blanched and frozen a few pints for winter meals, this afternoon I added another pint to the freezer.  Food preservation has not moved into high gear yet, the corn is not ripe yet and we have only had enough ripe tomatoes to eat fresh, with the exception of cherry tomatoes that I roasted and froze, more on that later too.  Once the majority of the tomatoes on those 20+ plants start to ripen I will have my hands full with canning.  I should have a little more time to tackle that project then since that will be closer to September and I will be "retiring" from the library at the end of August and working part time managing my parents health food store.

This was our dinner; fresh vegetables picked or pulled from the garden and placed on homemade pizza dough.  As you can see, we do not eat completely local, the cheese on the pizza and the olive oil in the pizza crust are not local, but this time of year much of what we eat comes right from our backyard.  That saves us money, it tastes better, and it is better for us and our environment.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quinoa with Grilled Vegetables and Garbanzo Beans

Sense of Home Kitchen

Quinoa with Grilled Vegetables and Garbanzo Beans
~From the Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted considerably from Bon Appetit, August 2008~

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
1 teaspoon turmeric, divided
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, divided 
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces), rinsed well, drained
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 pounds small to medium zucchini, trimmed, quartered lengthwise
1 large poblano pepper, trimmed, seeded and quartered lengthwise
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 very small onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Combine garbanzo beans and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons oil; press in garlic and stir to combine. Let marinate at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon paprika; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add 2 cups water, quinoa, and sea salt; bring to simmer, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed about 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare grill, warming to medium-high heat.  Place zucchini, poblano pepper, small onions, and cherry tomatoes on rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil.  Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika.  Toss to coat evenly.

Place zucchini and other coated vegetables on grill; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Grill until tender and browned on all sides.  Transfer to work surface.  Cut zucchini crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, dice pepper and onion and add to garbanzo bean mixture.  Add green onions, parsley, grilled tomatoes and quinoa.  Toss to blend.  Season with salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve cold.