Sunday, December 30, 2012

Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies

Sense of Home Kitchen

Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies
~by Sense of Home Kitchen~

These chocolate cookies have a touch of cayenne pepper in them which enhances the chocolate flavor.  If you want to be able to taste the cayenne, but not be overwhelmed by it, use 1/2 teaspoon rather than 1/4 teaspoon, either way they are good.

Makes about 3 dozen

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use 1/2 teaspoon if you want to taste a little heat)
10 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small-sized bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cayenne pepper.

In a medium-sized bowl cream softened butter and brown sugar and sugar.  Then add corn syrup, eggs and vanilla mixing well.  Stir in flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for approximately 9 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Store in an air-tight container.  May be frozen to keep fresh for longer.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Cookies and Bars

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Roasted Garlic, Onion and Red Bell Pepper Dip

Sense of Home Kitchen

Roasted Garlic, Onion and Red Bell Pepper Dip
~Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appétit 1998~

Makes about 2 1/3 cups

1 garlic head, halved crosswise
1 medium onion, peeled, halved crosswise
4 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper

1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, pitted
1 tablespoon drained capers
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 French-bread baguette, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place garlic and onion, cut side down, on small baking sheet.  Brush with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Bake until onion is tender and garlic is golden and tender, turning over halfway through baking, about 30 minutes total.  Cool.

Char red bell pepper over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides.  Wrap in a paper or plastic bag and let stand 10 minutes to steam.  Peel and seed pepper.  Chop coarsely.

Squeeze garlic from skin.  Cut each onion half into quarters.  Place garlic, onion, red bell pepper and the next  6 ingredients in a food processor and blend well.  Transfer to a small serving bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Keep refrigerated.)

Preheat broiler.  Place baguette slices on baking sheet.  Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil (or butter if you prefer).  Broil until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Stir dip and serve with toasted baguette slices.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Appetizers

Monday, December 24, 2012

Rhubarb Clafoutis

Sense of Home Kitchen

Rhubarb Clafoutis
~Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted from the May 1994 Bon Appétit magazine~

Traditionally the French dessert called a clafoutis is made with cherries and when made with other fruit the dessert is properly called a flaugnarde. The clafoutis should have plenty of air in it before baking so the whisking process is important.  It will rise around the edges while baking and the edges will fall back down after it is out of the oven and cooling (as seen in the photos above).

Serves 6

4 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 teaspoon orange extract (vanilla can be substituted)
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb or 10 ounces frozen rhubarb, thawed and well-drained

Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Generously butter a 9-inch-diameter deep-dish glass pie plate.  Beat eggs, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.  Whisk in the 1/3 cup flour.  Add milk, butter, extract, and orange peel and whisk until smooth.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of flour with the fresh or thawed and very well-drained rhubarb.  Place rhubarb and flour mixture in the bottom of the prepared pie plate.  Pour custard over rhubarb.

Bake until clafoutis is set in center and golden on top, about 1 hour 10 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly.  Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top and serve lukewarm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fish Cakes with Caper Lemon Mayonnaise

Sense of Home Kitchen

Fish Cakes with Caper Lemon Mayonnaise
~ Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted a fair amount from Gourmet, February 2007 ~

Serves 4 - 6

Fish Cakes
4 garlic cloves
1 medium onion, halved, then quartered
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs
3/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless blue hake, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 packed tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed

Caper Lemon Mayonnaise
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make fish cakes:
Preheat oven to warm setting (about 170°F.).

With the motor running, drop garlic into a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Add onion and pulse until finely chopped.  Add coriander, cayenne pepper, eggs, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, cumin, and salt, pulsing until combined.  Add fish and cilantro, pulse until coarsely chopped.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  Quickly form fish mixture into 12 patties about 1/2-inch thick each, placing onto the lined baking sheet as they are formed.  Place patties in refrigerator to keep cold, this helps them to stay firm and not fall apart as you work with them.

Place a paper towel on an oven-proof plate and place in the warm oven.  Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Take only enough patties out of the refrigerator as will fit into the pan.  Cook until golden brown on each side, turning only once.  Reduce heat if the cakes brown too quickly.  They will take about three to four minutes per side.  Place fish cakes on plate in oven as they are finished to keep them warm and continue to add uncooked fish cakes from the refrigerator to the pan to cook.  Add more olive oil if needed.

To make caper lemon mayonnaise:
Whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl until combined.

To serve:
Serve fish cakes warm with chilled caper lemon mayonnaise.

To reheat leftovers:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place fish cakes on a baking sheet and place in warmed oven until heated through.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Fish 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pears Poached in Mulled Wine

Sense of Home Kitchen

Pears Poached in Mulled Wine
~Sense of Home Kitchen~
Mulled Wine
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
5 peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 bottle (750ml) semi-dry red wine
1 orange, thinly sliced

Place cinnamon sticks, star anise, peppercorns, and cloves in a muslin bag, pulling the string tight, or in cheesecloth tied closed with a string.  Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 6-quart heavy pot, stirring until sugar is dissolved  then add spice bag, wine, and orange slices.  Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for approximately 5 minutes.

Poached Pears
6 firm, ripe D'Anjou pears

Leaving the pears whole, peel the skins off and place them in the pot of simmering mulled wine, making sure the wine covers or mostly covers the pears.  Simmer over low heat until pears are tender when pierced with a knife, approximately 20 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon remove the pears to a cutting board and slice the very bottom of the pear off so it will sit up.  Pour off and reserve all but 2 cups of the mulled wine.  Pour the reserved mulled wine in glass mug for drinking.  Bring the 2 cups of mulled wine to a boil and reduce by half.  Place a pear or two on a shallow rimmed dessert plate and pour some of the reduced mulled wine over the top.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Florentine Egg Bake

Sense of Home Kitchen

Florentine Egg Bake
~Sense of Home Kitchen, inspired by a Crustless Quiche recipe from Gourmet, March 2008~

Serves 4 - 6

1 1/2 tablespoons fine dry plain bread crumbs
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the pan
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, drained and liquid squeezed out
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup shredded fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. with rack in middle.

Butter an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish, then sprinkle all over with bread crumbs.

Cut the onion in half and slice each half, place in a 12-inch heavy skillet along with the butter and olive oil, sauté over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until onion begins to caramelize.  Add thawed and well drained and squeezed spinach, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste, lower heat and sauté for another minute to blend.  Spread mixture in baking dish, then evenly sprinkle both cheeses on top.

Whisk together eggs, cream, and milk and pour over the cheese in the baking dish.  Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, to taste.

Bake until top is golden and custard is set in center, approximately 25 minutes.  Cool slightly before cutting into squares.

Sense of Home / Recipes / Eggs

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Pancakes

Sense of Home Kitchen

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Pancakes
~Sense of Home Kitchen, inspired by Bon Appétit, December 2003~

Makes approximately 12

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups thick, chunky applesauce (homemade if you have it)
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 large eggs

Additional butter for pan and serving

Applesauce, thick and chunky for serving, or Apple Butter
Pure Maple Syrup

Whisk first 7 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl to blend.  Whisk applesauce, buttermilk, butter, and eggs in a separate large bowl.  Gradually add the flour and spice mixture to the applesauce mixture, stirring while adding, until just blended.

Place a serving plate in the oven and preheat oven to warm setting approximately 150° to 170° F.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, rub a little butter on the pan to prepare it.  Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup measures onto pan, cook until pancakes are firming on edges and bubbles are forming in the center, flip the pancake over and cook until golden brown on that side.  Place pancake on serving plate in preheated oven to keep warm while finishing the remainder of the pancakes.

Serve pancakes with a pat of butter, a dollop of applesauce or apple butter, and warm maple syrup.  Enjoy!

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Breakfast

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake

Sense of Home Kitchen

Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake
~Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2007~

Serves 6 - 8

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 or 5 large Golden Delicious apples (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges each

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Vanilla Ice Cream

For Caramel:
Butter a 12-inch, well-seasoned, cast iron skillet.

Combine sugar and water in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and boil without stirring until color is deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a pastry brush dipped into water to dissolve the sugar crystallizing on the sides of the pan, about 8 minutes. Working quickly, pour the hot caramel into the prepared cast iron skillet.  Set aside.

For Apples:
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add apple wedges and sauté until just tender.  Arrange apple wedges in bottom of caramel-lined cast iron skillet.

For Cake:
Preheat oven to 325° F.

Cream butter and sugar in a medium-sized bowl, add eggs and vanilla, mix well.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl.  Gradually stir in flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating the two.

Spoon batter over apples in cast iron skillet, smoothing to cover.

Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 50 minutes until the cake is a light golden around the edges and a tester comes out clean.  Quickly run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen and immediately invert the cake onto a plate.  The caramel hardens quickly so this needs to be done as soon as it comes out of the oven.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.   Enjoy!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mustard-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Sense of Home Kitchen

Mustard-Crusted Pork Tenderloin
~Sense of Home Kitchen, inspired by Gourmet, August 2000~

The pork is tender and the rub is spicy.  Serve this with a salad and potato wedges that have been tossed in olive oil, pepper and salt and roasted at 425° F. until tender.  The left-over sliced tenderloin, smeared with a little mustard, makes excellent sandwiches.

1/4 cup coarse-grain mustard
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 1/4 teaspoons packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Stir together mustard, dry mustard, brown sugar, pepper, and lemon zest.

Pat pork dry and season generously with salt.  Heat oil in a heavy sauté pan over moderately high heat until shimmering hot, then brown pork on all sides, about 30 seconds per side.

Transfer to an oiled shallow baking dish or pan and coat with mustard mixture.

Roast pork in middle of oven until a thermometer inserted into the center of the thickest part registers 145° F. (according to the USDA food safety guidelines).

Allow meat to rest for 3 minutes, then slice and serve.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Pork 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kraut Rolls with Strudel Dough

Sense of Home Kitchen

Kraut Rolls with Strudel Dough
~Sense of Home Kitchen~

These rolls can be made with any fresh sausage or even just ground pork or beef, chorizo gives the rolls a little bit of spice.  Serve these with your favorite mustard for dipping, a sweet hot mustard is a good complement.  Great for game day snacks or as the main dish with soup or a vegetable salad on the side.

The Strudel Dough
Makes 2 Strudels

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, well beaten
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup water

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center.  In a small bowl, mix the eggs and oil and immediately pour into the well in the flour mixture and stir until combined.  Mix in the water a little at a time, using just enough to form a soft, malleable dough, when kneaded.

Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest in a warm, draft free area for at least 1 hour.

The Filling
1 medium-sized onion
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh chorizo or your favorite fresh sausage
2 cups drained fresh or canned sauerkraut
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 egg yolk, beaten

Peel and slice the onion. Sauté the onion in olive oil until golden brown, place in small bowl and set aside.  Brown the chorizo in the same pan, breaking it into small pieces as it browns, drain excess oil and set aside.

To Assemble and Bake
Preheat oven to 400° F.

Divide the rested dough into two parts, roll one part flat on a lightly floured surface until it is thin (as seen in the photo above, you do not want this to be a thick, heavy dough).  Strudel dough is stretchy and resistant to tearing, as it is rolled out it will have a tendency to spring back, alternating rolling with stretching the dough a little with your hands helps to get the dough thin and stay in place.

Sprinkle the dough with half the chorizo, half the onions, and half the sauerkraut.  Then lay half the cheese slices on and roll the dough up with the filling inside, creating several layers of dough and filling.

Repeat with the other half of the dough and the filling.

Brush the top of the roll with egg yolk, giving the dough a yellow hue and causing it shine after it is baked.

Bake in a preheated 400° F. oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Sense of Home / Recipes / Pastries / Pork / Appetizers

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chippers

Sense of Home Kitchen

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chippers
~Sense of Home Kitchen~

Makes approximately 5 dozen

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
4 1/2 cups oatmeal
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Cream sugar, brown sugar, and butter together.  Add eggs, vanilla, honey and mix well.  Stir in baking soda, peanut butter, and oatmeal and mix until all ingredients are moist.  Add chocolate chips and butterscotch chips and stir until just combined.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet and place in preheated oven.  Bake for 9 minutes, or until just lightly golden.  Remove from oven and let cool on sheet for a minute or two, they will firm up and finish cooking. Leaving these cookies in the oven until brown will make them crispy rather than chewy.  Cool on rack until room temperature, store in air-tight container in freezer.  Take out of freezer several minutes before serving, they will thaw quickly and taste "from the oven" fresh.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Cookies

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Vinegar

Sense of Home Kitchen

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Vinegar
~Sense of Home Kitchen~

The amount of ingredients needed depends on how many and how large of servings you desire.  Below is a list of ingredients, alternate tomatoes and fresh mozzarella sprinkle with onions and fresh herbs, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and enjoy!

Fresh garden tomatoes, sliced
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Red onion, thinly sliced (or use your home canned red onions in vinegar)
Fresh tarragon (basil, if you must)
Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Alternate tomato and mozzarella, sprinkle red onion and tarragon, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and lick the plate clean.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Salads

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Honey Date Walnut Bread

Sense of Home Kitxhwn

Honey Date Walnut Bread
~Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted from Gourmet 1990~

Delicious plain, as well as, with a little homemade crab apple jelly or mascarpone (but then what isn't good with mascarpone).

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups homemade kefir or plain yogurt
2 1/2 cups chopped dried dates tossed with 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Butter and flour two 9- x 5-inch bread pans, set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl sift together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and honey with an electric mixer, beat in the vanilla, eggs, and kefir or plain yogurt.  Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just combined.  Stir in dates and walnuts.  Divide the batter between the two prepared 9- x 5-inch pans and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  Cool on rack.

Serve plain or topped with mascarpone or homemade jellies.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Bread

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Year of Preserving

Sense of Home Kitchen

I have spent a lot of time this year preserving produce from our garden or the gardens, trees and bushes of relatives and friends.  Some of the results of that time spent are shown in the (somewhat blurry)  photo above, some are tucked into our freezer.  I have recorded in the list along the side the items preserved.

I have now moved from preserving to using the product in the foods I prepare.  I have used the red onions in vinegar on a simple snack: cracker, cheese and pickled onion, unbelievably good.  I need to add homemade crackers to my To Do list over there on the right hand side of the website, I have wanted to do that for a long time.  We have already gone through two jars of salsa, we love that stuff.  Applesauce is what I have been eating for breakfast, mixed with plain yogurt or eaten alone, either way there is no comparison to the applesauce or yogurt I could have purchased, making all this time and effort worthwhile, not to mention the amount of money we have saved.  There are hundreds of dollars worth of food in the pantry and freezer that I preserved for a small fraction of the cost.  Some of the food is from foraged sources, such as the asparagus soup and the crab apple juice.  Others are from free sources, our family's apple trees or rhubarb plants.  Much of it came from our garden, not free, but nearly.  The canning jars I have reused for years, next I will invest in reusable lids, should have done that years ago.

These pie pumpkins provided seven quarts of purée and a quart of toasted seeds.  The purée will be used in pumpkin walnut breadpumpkin pancakespumpkin briochepumpkin pie, and these pumpkin chocolate chip muffins that I am making today.  There is so much more that can be done with pumpkin and I look forward to discovering some new recipes this winter, I believe I have seen some savory sauces made with pumpkin and that intrigues me.

I have also harvested rose hips.  In the photo above they are resting in the slightly curved base of my mixer, where they fit perfectly.  The larger hips are from bushes with larger flowers, leave the flowers on the bush after they die and you will be rewarded with rose hips, in the same family as apples and crab apples, they sweeten after the first frost so that is the best time to harvest.  They are packed with vitamin C, though there is more present in the fresh than in the dried rose hips, some is lost in the drying process.  I have made myself tea with the rose hips, just steep 4 to 8 fresh hips in boiling water for 10 - 15 minutes.  After they have steeped, drink the tea and eat the rose hips, they still hold some of the nutrition.

I would like to make rose hip jelly, though I am not sure I have enough of the berries yet, there are a few on the bushes that had not turned red yet so I will gather them and see if I have enough.  If so I will share the information in a post.  If not they will make more delicious tea.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canning Apples

Sense of Home Kitchen

We picked apples at my in-laws this past weekend, there were more than they thought there would be so we were able to bring several boxes home.  I canned apples in a simple syrup to be used in pies, crisps, breads, muffins, or even to be eaten right out of the jar.  When trying to decide how to preserve these apples I had a few things to consider.  Our fruit and vegetable freezer is jammed full of the summer's produce and our meat freezer will be full as soon as we pick up the beef that was taken in a week ago, the apples would not fit into either freezer.  These apples do not keep well, even in a cold storage room, we have tried in years past.  I had already made enough apple juice to supply our needs, so I had only two methods in which I could preserve these apples through the winter, can or dehydrate, I did both.  I used the last 14 quarts I had available to can these apples and then I began dehydrating. The remainder will be made into applesauce and canned in the last of the pint jars.  I also shared a couple of boxes with family and friends.

This has been a productive canning season.  I had received several boxes of old quart and pint jars from a friend and am so glad I did, I have used every one of them.  Our pantry is full, I will share a photo later.  I love that much of our food is from our garden or other gardens and trees in our area, free, or at a very low cost of seeds or plants.  My time and effort are worth something, but this has been a worthwhile way to spend it, the benefits will be noticed in both the budget and convenience of not having to go to the store.  I have also been making my own dish washing soap and laundry soap, but that is a post for another day.

My mom's apple peeler and slicer came in very handy, saving a lot of time and preventing a sore hand.  The apple slices were placed in lemon water immediately to prevent them from discoloring.

A brief time in some boiling light syrup and right into the sterilized jars, packed down and syrup poured over the top. Lids and screw bands placed on top and into a water-bath for 20 minutes (sea level).  I use the instructions found in the book Putting Food By when canning.  There is also a fifth edition, out in 2010, available.    After 12 to 24 hours of resting on the counter I check to make sure they have sealed, take the screw bands off, wipe down the jars, label them, and place them on the pantry shelf without the screw band.  I personally prefer to store them without the screw band as it can hold moisture, causing it to rust.  If you take care of your canning equipment, including screw bands, they will last and can be reused for years to come.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Preserving Garden Herbs

Sense of Home Kitchen

I have been preserving my garden herbs for years and have found that a variety of methods work well, it just depends on the herbs I am preserving.  Tarragon flavors vinegar wonderfully and then can be used on salads with a little olive oil for a tasty and inexpensive salad dressing or added to a sauce for chicken. Just place one cup of fresh tarragon and two cups vinegar that has been heated to just before boiling (do not let it boil) in a very warm, sterilized container, bruising the tarragon a little as you do so, cover and leave set for two to three weeks, strain, place in a clean container, cover and store until ready to use.  The type of vinegar you use is your choice.  Regular white vinegar is fine, white wine or Champagne vinegar is very nice, but more expensive, or try a coconut vinegar as I am using this year.

Several of my garden herbs are dried in my dehydrator.  The house smelled wonderful as I was drying tarragon and parsley, a light licorice smell was released from the tarragon.  Once completely dry they are placed in glass spice jars, the parsley being crushed slightly first.

Some herbs are better pulled up root and all and hung upside down to dry.  I do this with thyme because the small leaves would slip through the screens of my dehydrator and be a challenge to gather together after they dried.  Once the leaves are completely dry I will strip them off their stems and place them in small glass spice jars like the ones below.

Sage and basil leaves are dehydrated, crushed and placed in their glass jars, supplying enough for another year's worth of cooking.

Some herbs I have had success with transplanting to a pot and bringing into the house.  Rosemary I have kept alive for over three years in the past (though this year I have a new plant) and parsley I have been able to keep over the winter and sometimes into the next summer.  So these two I dug up, potted and brought into the house to be used fresh.  I have not had good success with keeping basil or thyme alive for more than a month or two so I dried those and the other herbs from my kitchen garden.  If I have a good supply of one herb from the previous summer I do not plant that one in the garden so some of these herbs are on an every other year planting and some herbs I plant in the kitchen garden every summer.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / In the Garden / Kitchen and Pantry

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Making and Canning Crab Apple Juice

Sense of Home Kitchen

My parent's apple trees did not produce well this year, perhaps a late frost damaged the blossoms, so we were not able to make our usual apple juice, however, we were able to obtain a large number (this is about half) of crab apples and the juice is just as tasty.  This left the few apples I got to be used to make an apple pie and can applesauce, which I love to eat mixed with plain yogurt for breakfast.

This is the steam juicer I use and it works great for making and canning juice, very simple to use.  If it ever wears out and I need to purchase another I will go with this stainless steel steam juicer.  The washed apples go in the strainer at the top, with these small apples I did not even cut them.  There is no need to core either.  Just wash throw them in the top, fill the bottom container with water and heat.  The steam does the work and the juice lands in the middle section, ready to fill sterilized jars.  Once the jars are filled with the scalding hot juice I place a lid and ring on the top and within minutes I hear that familiar ping, meaning my jars have sealed.  If I had a cold press juicer I would heat the finished juice to a simmer, ladle the steaming liquid into prepared jars and place the lids and rings on top.  They seal themselves and there is no need to process in a water bath or pressure canner.

Usually I put about 1/2 cup of sugar in the top with the apples and I get about 2 1/2 quarts juice.  I found that even though the apples I was using were crab apples I did not need more sugar, we prefer our juice a little tart rather than too sweet.  The crab apples made beautiful juice that is full of flavor.  I mixed the juice with a little water when we were ready to drink it since the flavor is so concentrated, stretching the 32 quarts of juice the apples produced enough to, I expect, provide us with juice for an entire year.  This week I will be making and canning chicken stock.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Canning Season

Sense of Home Kitchen

Canning season is upon us and that means other things are put aside, the dust begins to build up on the shelves, spills bake hard onto the stove top, and the book we were reading sits waiting for us to have a quiet moment. Canning season is a very busy time of year, especially tomato canning, once they start ripening I am harvesting and canning nearly every day.  Monday I canned 7 quarts of tomatoes and Tuesday 9 pints of salsa were canned.  I always pressure can my tomatoes, it is fast, easy, and I don't need to check on the acidity of the mixture of tomatoes I am using.

With today's haul of tomatoes I will be canning whole tomatoes again tomorrow.  I can all my tomatoes whole, mixing yellow right in with the red, Beaverlodge Plum in with the Brandywine and Purple Cherokee.  I have always canned my tomatoes this way, the variety only enhances the flavor and results in a quart of delicious whole tomatoes which I can then turn into marinara or pizza sauce, put in a chili, stew, or soup, and any recipe calling for tomato sauce or whole tomatoes.  Last year I canned 25 quarts of whole tomatoes and we just ate our last quart a week ago, my goal this year is closer to 30 quarts since this season's tomato harvest and canning is about a month earlier than normal. I also canned 14 pints of salsa last year, which only took us through until March, so I would like to be able to get closer to 24 pints, that would provide us two a month.  I canned 9 quarts of tomato soup last year and hope to do at least that many this year, so August will be another busy month.

I have a good start on the pantry, but if our garden is to sustain us through the year I will need to do add several more jars of fruits and vegetables.  Our strawberries are producing for the second time this summer and better than the first, I will need to be quick to pick before the slugs get them.  Soon there will be apples to juice and can, chickens will be butchered and more stock made and canned, grapes to harvest, juice and can, corn, pumpkins, more peppers, and whatever else I have forgotten at the moment.  Tomorrow we will take stock of the freezer and determine what else we need before winter.  We have several pints of blueberries, but I know we are short on strawberries.  We will need to have my father-in-law haul a cow in to be butchered, chickens will be butchered, and my husband will hunt deer this fall.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Preserving Zucchini

Sense of Home Kitchen

We have four zucchini plants that are producing heavily causing us to sneak zucchini in all kinds of dishes.  This week we had a tasty ratatouille, with not only zucchini, but also eggplant, celery, pepper, tomato, onion, and several herbs from our garden, I love cooking from the garden in summer.  There was the tomato, zucchini, and beef soup I threw together that we slurped up and wished for more, we ate a very good Southwest zucchini chili today and, of course, I have been preserving zucchini for later use.

I have used the smaller zucchini not only for stir-frying, but also for dehydrating.  Sliced thin and dried, these zucchini will be terrific in soups, stews, and casseroles this winter, I dry green beans to be used in the same way.  The beauty of dehydrated fruits or vegetables is the length of time which they will keep, if I don't get around to using all the dehydrated zucchini this year, it will be just as good next year.  Unlike deep freezing vegetables, which are best eaten within 6 to 8 months, or even canned vegetables which can lose some of their quality after a year to two years. As long as vegetables or fruits are dried completely and kept in a cool dry place, they will keep for years.

Zucchini has to be pressure canned, unless it is pickled, by itself it does not have enough acid to be canned using the water bath method.  This is the case with all squash, however, unlike pumpkin and other winter squash varieties which can take 90 minutes at 11 pounds pressure, summer squash, like zucchini, only takes 40 minutes at 11 pounds pressure.  Like all squash and pumpkin, it needs to be cubed, not mashed so that it does not explode.  Canned zucchini is cooked and ready to use in dishes like the ratatouille and chili I mentioned above, as well as, stews and casseroles.  Leaving the skin on helps to retain some texture.  Zucchini gets a bad rap, perhaps because of the lack of flavor, but that just means you need to put them in dishes that are packed with flavor and then the zucchini can act as a support for the surrounding flavors, a filler if you will, stretching the dish to provide more food and still stay within budget.

I use the zucchini that has hidden from me and grown to mammoth proportions to shred for winter sweet breads. After slicing in half I scrap out the seeds, shred and place two cup measurements in freezer containers for bread to eat with our tea or coffee.

There are several more blossoms so I will be canning, drying, and freezing more.  I welcome this productive plant, we have made some major changes this summer which will mean we are living even more off our garden.  The health store is closed, my husband quit his job and we work together part time so that we can focus on more important things. We have been working toward this goal, our bills are paid off, and we live very simply, sustainably.  At the beginning of summer we gave up TV, expanded our gardens, we are outside more, reading more, and I noticed we sit at the table to eat and converse more.  The garden produce is really starting to come in fast now and tomorrow I will be canning tomatoes.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry