Posts filed under ‘Canning’

Fulfilling those goals and holiday jams

I added five more products to Maggiemakesit.com and Etsy this morning. That’s 20 of the 30 promised by the week of Christmas. Of course, don’t forget with the volume of packages being sent over the holidays, you’ll have to be early to make sure your gift or holiday party accessory will arrive on time. Priority mail is fast, but still subject to holiday delays.

In other news, I’m making holiday gifts. I broadcast jams and fruit butters to my family and friends. It’s an item made with love and you can do so much with it; toast/waffles/biscuits, ice cream, meat glaze, brie-accompaniment, oatmeal-flavoring… Today, Apple Cider Butter with Orange, and next week I’ll make apricot and peach. I have loads in the freezer from this summer.

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November 30, 2016 at 6:37 pm Leave a comment

Confession and Obsession

I confess that I steal fruit.

It all started about five years ago. Our beautiful orange cat Alyosha had moved on to cat heaven, and we found our tolerable apartment infested by rats. They were attracted to the fruit falling off the neglected trees in the neighbors yard, and invited themselves in for a further feast in our home. For weeks, we bitched about it to friends while we very carefully put all food away,  closed cabinets, scrubbed incessantly, and left traps for the rats and insects (the fruit flies were really bad that year, too, because they were also feeding on the fallen fruit; they turned a few batches of cider to vinegar– sad face).

One day, I believe it was Miss Partner who said, “We should just harvest that fruit.” Ding! I went to work, and Miss Partner went picking. I came home to twenty pounds of plums and a handful of limes on the kitchen table. “What should we do with them?” Miss Partner asked. I cracked my knuckles or rubbed my hands together (this is more likely) or stroked my non-existent beard. I went to the bookshelf for our recipe books, including the Ball Canning bible Miss Partner bought just in case of apocalypse. Then I made pie, cake, sorbet, jam, and dehydrated some to prunes.

The new hunter, Krausen; so far he's demonstrated much skill with slugs, grasshoppers, and lizards.

The new hunter, Krausen; so far he’s demonstrated much skill with slugs, grasshoppers, and lizards.

Eventually, we caught the rats, and employed a new hunter. We also continued to unburden the trees the neighbor continued to neglect. This practice went on for years. We got tired of squeezing through the gap in the fence and put a stealth gate in the fence, water their apple tree, weed a small area, and plant other crops on the land. Then one of the other fences failed, making my activities more observable by a neighboring apartment complex. I also got tired of walking through the weeds to get to the abandoned compost bin and moved it closer to our stealth gate. That was probably the last straw right there. Somebody told on us. One day, we couldn’t open our stealth gate. We found someone had screwed 12 feet of board to the bottom of fence, effectively locking our gate. Miss Partner and I looked at each other, voiced our indignation, and then our understanding, and laughed that they wasted so much board trying to lock us out when we could just squeeze through the fence or walk around the block through their parking lot. Since then the owners hired landscapers to clear the area of suckers and weeds and trimmed the fruit trees, but that is all.

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Admitting I have a problem is the first step, right?

So that was the beginning. What began as a way to reduce vermin by taking their free food has become a free fruit and canning obsession. It has led me to buy 25 pound bags of sugar from Costco, comb the ads for deals on canning jars, ask my friends for their jars, and mass this collection of preserved goods that is great for birthday and holiday gifts (made with love and sugar; what could be better).

"Would you like some tomatoes?" Ella CSA asked me. "Yes," I replied. The next day I find 50 pounds of tomatoes on my porch.

“Would you like some tomatoes?” Ella CSA asked me. “Yes,” I replied. The next day I find 50 pounds of tomatoes on my porch.

These days, I try to get free fruit more honestly by asking for it, offering my time to help with a harvest, or house sitting. I do less trespassing and more public tree picking early in the morning. I walk the streets and look for trees dropping fruit; that means nobody wants it, right? I have promised Miss Partner will not have to bail me out of jail for my transgressions.

November 23, 2014 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

Maybe an original idea: SASS Butters and new process

Before I explain the acronym, I want you to know your guesses. It’s time for audience participation. Write it down. Go ahead and put it in the comments. Then vote on your favorites (I think there is a like button in the comments). Maybe I’ll send a jar of jam or necklace/earrings to the winner, or maybe the runner-up, depends how I feel. If your birthday is coming up, that might sway my decision, but I’ll need a picture of your ID to confirm (wink).

SASS. I couldn’t have asked for a better acronym. I’m really excited what you will come up with. I’m serious. Don’t read further until you make your guess.

This idea stems from a home brewing practice to isolate the characteristics of flavor in a beer brewed with one malt and one hop. It is a clever way to train the palate for these flavors and develop other recipes based on the result. The acronym for this is SMaSH. Single Malt Single Hop.

One of things I share with Miss Partner is the deep love for apple season. And I love the SMaSH idea so much, I hijacked it for apple butter. Single Apple Single Spice. It occurs to me S can also stand for Sugar/Sweetener (muscavado, demerara, maple, coconut, etc., in the natural realm; I don’t think stevia, erythritol or aspartame have preservation qualities) or Spirit (bourbon, wine, cider, gin, etc.). I will definitely be going down those roads. So far we have; Crabapple-orange zest, Crabapple-chipotle, Crabapple-ginger, Gravenstein-allspice, Burgundy-black pepper, Early Times-rosemary, and Mutsu-nutmeg. Today, I’m going to do York. What should I spice/sugar/spirit it with? Go ahead: comment!

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Stop coveting my stash of jars and Mutsu.

Perhaps SASS is not an original idea, but a repackaged idea for the delicious potentials provided by a myriad of apple varieties and spices, sugars, and spirits. I haven’t seen any other’s taking the SMaSH idea and tweaking it, but I’m sure you’ll post some in the comments for me. Please?

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Finally, another use for this grater.

I know. Recipe please. Okay. Again we go to the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. There are three variations of apple butter. Sweet Apple Cider Butter calls for cooking the apples in cider, making applesauce. The sauce is then pureed, sugared, spiced and cooked down to spreadable consistency. When canning, the headspace is 0.25 inches, processed in water bath 10 minutes, rested with lid off 5 minutes, removed from water bath, and allowed to sit 24 hours. Honey Apple Cider Butter calls for a smaller amount of honey instead of sugar. Traditional apple cider butter calls for the use of water and increase in sugar (the cider was adding sugar before). Miss Partner and I  prefer to ferment and drink the cider (not always in that order), so more often we go for the traditional recipe.

I used to follow the recipe to the letter, until crabapples. The crabapple butter recipe doesn’t call for the skinning; those little bastards are so tiny that half the apple is lost if you tried to skin them and it takes three times longer to skin all the crabapples you need for one batch. This butter also thickened quicker. Makes sense; most of the pectin is in the skin. No more peeling all day long! No more wasting peels! Very important: use only organic apples for apple butters if you wish leave the skin on (re: pesticides).

IMG_2342 IMG_2345 IMG_2346These new developments using SASS and skin-on have inspired me move to different kitchen tools. After using it to make an apple-kholrabi salad, my stand grater now gets a bag over the top to keep apple slices from flying off the mandolin-side (I also use this when making skin-on pies); the thinner pieces, a few millimeters, means shorter cook time. The immersion blender is awesome for making less bowls and pitchers to clean. The internet revealed the beauty of using the crock pot to eliminate scorching and decrease stirring, while allowing for a second (more needy) batch in the stock pot on the stove.

In clumsy conclusion, apple butter is awesome, try some new things, comment on my post, and enjoy apple season! Cheers and smears.

October 3, 2014 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

Where Art Meets Survival; Burning Man Provisions

Embrace sculpture burn

Embrace sculpture burn

That’s right. Miss Partner and I made the trek from the central coast of California to the dusty desert outside Reno, Nevada; Black Rock City, population roughly 70K for one week out of the year, a Mad Maxian landscape complete with Thunderdome, teaming with art cars and art installations. The festival induces a metamorphosis of normal looking people into sparkly, animal printed, post-apocolyptic, sometimes naked, sometimes shirtcocking (I just learned about this), furry, tutu’d beings called Burners, who enjoy an idealistic culture guided by the ten principles of Burning Man for a week.

A ticket costing about 400 USD gets you the following amenities:

A scrap of land on a dry alkaline lake bed
Porto-johns
Medical facility (hope you don’t need to visit, but if you must, it is pretty cool!)
2 radio stations
Center Camp, including a post office, bike parking, and a stage

It also provides the following entertainment:

Burning of the Man
Burning of the Temple
All the other participants and whatever they can afford to bring with them

Center Camp

Center Camp

Miss Partner is excited by the challenge of survival in the extremely harsh environment; very dry, sometimes very hot, sometimes very cold, sometimes raining, sometimes 70 mph winds. Mostly this terrifies me. I really dislike the wind. I especially loathe it in dusty environments after spending eight years monitoring breeding endangered species on a central coast dune complex. Just place yourself there; chilly wind coming off the ocean, making your eyes water and chilling any exposed skin, sand scraping any exposed skin and falling into necklines and ear holes and your lunch, the smell of the sea air marred by exhaust, and the calls of birds drowned by the whine and roar of ATVs, UTVs and all other manner of crazy vehicles. At Burning Man, it is sans ocean. The sand is replaced with a fine alkaline dust and the noise becomes diesel engines on art cars and the heartbeat like bass of the house music stage, playing 24-7 in the near distance. We were lucky last year with the weather. This year, it was windier, and we skipped the rain earlier in the week. You’ll be happy to know, MP’s silver dome withstood the 20 mph winds like a champ and did not fall apart like some did. Yeah, girl!

Home sweet dome.

Home sweet dome.

In anticipation of anything that could go wrong, we filled Penelope (Miss Partner’s Mini) with solar panel, air bed, sleeping bags, clothing, food, camp stove and camp cooking utensils, and hooked her up to a 7-foot trailer with pieces for the geodesic dome MP built, the janky dome cover I made (I really did mean to redo it for this year), ladder, step stool, marine battery, swamp cooler, water, ice, etc. It’s like a backpacking trip without the hiking. Pack it in and pack everything out, except for what you leave behind at the porto-johns.

While Miss Partner updated the trailer sides, prepared the new solar panel and inverter system, I prepared the provisions. As there is a no-spill-nothing-on-the-playa policy, the regular camping cleaning procedures are difficult to apply. Water used for washing dishes is limited by the amount of water you have left after you calculate 1.5 gallons per person per day and the amount you can evaporate in a day, because otherwise you have to bring it all home. While we will probably have space, 24 gallons is a lot of water and will take up a lot of space. When Miss Partner first told me this, I replied, “Screw it. I’m not going,” but I did; it wasn’t so bad.

All meals were prepared to be frozen, pre-cut, with no need for pre-heating. It worked out pretty well. Dishes were eaten right of their containers, with a light dusting of playa (because you can’t escape the dust), and the containers were set aside for the dishwasher when we returned home. This year, Miss Partner wanted to do a little more cooking, because it looked like the nights would be much cooler, but they weren’t really. I think she just wanted coffee, because the first year we only had chocolate covered espresso beans; I thought making coffee was too messy.

So, now, the moment you’ve be waiting for; the menu.

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Mini Apple Pies!

I have been obsessed with pie forever. A muffin tin is an excellent vehicle for mini pies of all kinds. So far it has given us;

Mini Gruyere Black Trumpet Mushroom Strata
Mini Apple Pies
Mini Gorgonzola Picante (thank you, Fromagerie Sophie) Chantarelle Polenta
–at this point I ran out of butter, and for some of you it may get a little weird–
Chocolate (Apple Sauce) Muffins
Avocado Coconut Muffins
Apple Spice Muffins

The casserole dish has given us the following; pre-cut and packaged in tupperware:

Piquillo pepper, etc. Strata

Piquillo pepper, etc. Strata

Piquillo Pepper Squash Blossom Goat Cheese Strata
White Bean and Hazelnut Blondies (gluten free!)

So (clapping crumbs off hands), that ought to take care of some breakfasts, lunches and desserts. Now the hot meals.

Miss Partner had the forethought a few years ago to purchase a pressure canner. It’s pretty awesome when we run out of freezer space for my made-with-love black beans. Now it shall be used to can the following for our burn;

French Onion Soup
Beef Stew
Chili

Other Items:

frozen sausage, bacon, homemade scones, hot chocolate mix, coconut water, beer, wine, mead, cider, MP’s bacon bourbon chocolate chip oat cookies, several varieties of apples, coffee, grilled cheese sandwiches with roasted eggplant

Well, we and our two friends brought more food than we needed. We could probably bring half the amount of food and booze next time. There were a ton of food themed camps and pop-up bars everywhere. We drank so much water, we couldn’t drink much alcohol and barely got drunk the entire Wednesday through Sunday (We like to get there early and leave late to avoid the incredible lines to get on and off the playa). I achieved my goal to eat and gift all the muffins I made, so I have earned the playa name Dusty Muffins (I’m just glad it has nothing to do with fainting). Yes, I realize there is some innuendo there, but hey, that’s part of Burning Man. I gave out muffins to our fantastic Cleu Camp neighbors, people enjoying coffee on the coals of the Man the morning after he burned, random people caught at art installations during a white out on the playa, etc.

So. A different plan next time. Less food and booze. More costumes.

September 5, 2014 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

Frustrating Retail Experience; Elderberry Jam

Some things in life just come together with a little help. Like heavily hinting you want Miss Partner to bring clippers on the last day of farm sitting so she can collect those elderberries hanging over the dirt road, but, maybe not, because I’m not sure when I can process them, but she does grab them and you are able to process them the following week and they stayed good in the refrigerator. And then there are those experiences when things don’t make logical sense, like you call Staples, ask them about their ink cat ridge recycling program, they reply, “$2 a cartridge,” that’s all, and you show up and they say you actually have to buy $30 dollars worth of ink to get your credit. Or your dad tells you about a sale on canning jars at Ace 2 for $14! and it turns out to just be the pint jars, not the smaller 8 ounce jars you actually want. These frustrations happened right after each other. I felt so betrayed. Why do I bother trying to save money going to these other stores when Amazon and the wonders of a Prime account will get these things for me with much less fuss and waste of time, delivered right to my door, and maybe soon by a drone!?

IMG_2331Can you believe I followed up this retail experience with processing elderberries for jam? Yes, yes, I did, but I like tedious, as you can see. Only halfway through the haul did I finally think to search the interwebs for methods of separating berries from stem (and I found this and this, one of my heroes also making elderberry jam, and wouldn’t you know it, these two bloggers know each other). I tried the fork method, but found it was a little slower and got smaller stems in the mix. I returned to the gentle massage between hands and the gentle twist using all my fingers. Still, took a while, but it did seem faster. As you might imagine, my hands have the appearance of playing with charcoal. So far, no amount of washing has removed the stains. Meanwhile, Krausen finds a new toy to play with; a lizard tail. So proud of him!IMG_2344

The other thing I noticed about elderberries was the smell. There is a beautiful bloom of wild yeast making the dark blue berries look frosted. I think the warmth of my hands might have heated up the yeast and caused the berries to smell a little like feet, but rinsing them reduced the smell, unless my olfactory receptors were already overwhelmed, reducing my continued experience of the funky smell.

IMG_2334The recipe is from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Miss Partner bought it to be prepared for the apocalypse when it comes (she’s not a conspiracy nut, really; no more than being prepared). Freaking fantastic book. Pectin and no pectin recipes. When I jam, I don’t seem to do great with the pectin. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong yet. So, yeah. Screw pectin. A really cool thing about no-pectin jams, you can half or double or adjust the recipe without fear your jam won’t gel! YES!

8 cups elderberries (my haul wasn’t 8 cups, it was 4. Perfect!)

0.25 cup vinegar (really? yeah, I know!)

6 cups sugar

IMG_2335Put it in a pot. Boil till thickened. For me, this took a really long time. Over an hour, but I was pretty gentle on the heat, because I was distracted by making a batch of apple butter (when I jam, I like to go all day! and get as many recipes as possible done. More efficient to keep that water bath hot). During the cooking, it smelled a little– uh, meaty? But maybe that was due to the adding the vinegar?Anyway. Gel test. Put in hot jars, headspace 0.25 inches, wipe rim, put hot lid and band finger-tight. Process in water bath 10 min. Remove from heat, remove lid. In 5 minutes take out jars and leave in place for 24 hours. More details in your canning book, if you’re not familiar with this process.

The taste. Yeah, I love Garrett’s description of the flavor. Blackberries and port, but deeper. And the texture; I may have cooked it too long because it’s like molasses at room temperature. Whatevs. It’s effing delicious, right Jeremy? Too bad there are only three jars.

IMG_2350I really had to include this picture in closing. Wade recently gifted me 49 jars that had been in his granny’s belongings. I love this little bit of history, even though there is apple butter in the jar now.

 

August 6, 2014 at 4:20 am Leave a comment


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