Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Super Green Tea

Up until now, I hadn't found a Green Tea I enjoyed sipping.  This is now my favorite.  It's not the ordinary bland green tea ... it has a little zing to it.  I highly recommend it!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Not your usual pear sauce.

Zeke would eat a pear before any other fruit ... and Graham will eat almost any fruit.  The two of them have been having a pear a day since I picked up my lug last week!  It's a great snack and not so sweet as other fruit.  So, the pear sauce is a treat for Zeke, usually. 

Suzie's Spiced Pear Sauce - approved by Zeke, Graham and Angelina

My normal method of preservation is peeling, coring, and quartering the pears to preserve them in a light syrup.  This year, I wanted to try something new ... pear-sauce that resembles applesauce.  I found a couple recipes and proceeded to try one out.  At a point in the recipe, it said to use the 'old taste method' to adjust spice and sweetness.  I adjusted to the point of it being a different recipe, so I'll post it below. 

Suzie's Spiced Pear Sauce
Yield:  9.5 pints  (I only canned 8 pints because that's all my canner will hold in one batch.  The rest is for snacking!!)

5 quarts peeled, cored and diced pears*
2 quarts water**
1 1/2 cups sugar***
1 Tbl. lemon juice
1 Tbl. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground Cloves
1 Tbl. Stevia powder***

1.  Prepare the pears by peeling, coring and dicing/pureeing.  Put the prepared pears in a large stock pot or dutch oven.  Add the water, sugar, lemon juice, and stevia.

2.  Bring to a full, rolling boil, then reduce heat to create a low boil.
3. Add the vanilla and spices.  Continue cooking at a low boil for 15 minutes.  If you've chosen to dice the pears, boil until their texture is at your preference.  I used a potato masher to make the pear chunks smaller in my first batch.

4.  Hot water bath the pear sauce in pint jars for 12 minutes.

*For the first batch, the chunks of pear were about 1/2 inch cubes.  It left the sauce chunky.  I plan to puree the next batch to make it even more like applesauce.

**I used the full amount of water in my first batch.  I plan to cut back to 1.5 quarts water for a thicker sauce.

***At first, I used only 1 cup of sugar, but with the amount of spice the original recipe called for, it wasn't sweet enough for my taste.  The original spice combination tasted bitter to me, too.  So, I added the extra 1/2 cup sugar and added cinnamon.  The spice combination was much improved, but it was still not enough sweet.  So I added 1 Tbl. stevia, which is equivalent to 1 cup sugar in sweetness, to make the pear sauce taste the way I wanted.  If you want, you could cut the sugar to 1 cup and make up for the sweetness with extra stevia.  Use the taste test!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Peppers - Green and Purple??

While Jules was visiting, she also took the kids over to Grandma Green Acres' garden to make sure all the produce was picked.  Grandma & Grandpa Green Acres have been on vacation and left the kids in charge of the garden.  I haven't made it over, so was very grateful Jules took on this task.  They picked raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers. 

In our garden, they picked 13 zucchini - only one of which was still usable (the rest were quartered for composting) and tomatoes!!!  The tomatoes you see on the counter are from my sprawling tomato garden - and they are red.

The peppers were purple and green.  I haven't raised purple peppers before, but their flavor is very mild.  I cleaned and sliced all the purple peppers.  At the end, 9 bags of sliced purple peppers went into the freezer.  Of the green peppers, 3 were sliced and one was diced.  I used to blanche the peppers, but have since learned it's an unnecessary step. 

So, the raw peppers are bagged and Food Saver seals the bags for freezing.  Slick and easy.  Ready to go for a winter casserole or soup.  I do label and date the bags before freezing, BTW.

Loads of corn

I have never 'put up' this much corn in one year!  In fact, the amount put up in just this year probably tops what I've done in all my married years combined.  THANK goodness my sister was here last week to help with the last batches.  It would have been overwhelming for me alone.

1.  The first step is to clean the corn - basically de-silk and remove any damaged areas.  I wash in the right sink and transfer the cleaned cobs to the left sink/dish drain.

2. The kernals are cut off each cob.  I've found a sharp paring knife works best and is quickest for me.  I've tried other methods, but just prefer this.  I cut the kernals in a brownie pan and use a second pan to collect the 'cut' cobs.  The 'cut' cobs go into the compost pile.

3. I have a LOT of 'cut' cobs in the compost.  My compost has three sections, the cobs are dumped in the long term compost!  They'll take a while to decompose, but eventually I'll transfer them to the main pile.

4. One batch is comprised of 9 cups corn kernals, 3 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 Tbls. salt.  This mixture is brought to a boil, boiled for 15 minutes, then cooled.  I like to cool the blanched/cooked corn overnight and package it for freezing the next day.

5. My sister, Jules, and I made enough to create 8.5 to 9 batches, which we spread out between four pots.  One pot is already cooling in the frig.  Thank goodnes for a large cooktop.

6.  I was up early the next morning to package corn for freezing.  This is the first year I've frozen in 3 cup packages.  Our family is growing and the boys are eating more.  I also froze at least a dozen 2 cup packages to give to Jules - as a thank you for all the hard work!  I used the Food Saver, but you could use freezer bags.  You'll just need to use the corn more quickly.  I've found that the Food Saver preserves and protects from freezer burn for up to two/three years.  While nutritional content may not be as good the last year, flavor has not been an issue.

** I think this might become an annual event, because I cannot imagine doing this alone.  My kids just aren't quite old enough to do the cutting (they could probably wash/clean, but I'm picky about that task - I don't want to be picking out husk & silks from the cut kernals!).  Next year, I'll have to remind Jules to bring a cooler so she can take her portion home right away.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

BBQ sauce

I prepared this BBQ sauce yesterday for Pork Spare Ribs.  I baked the ribs at 200 degrees in a dutch oven for 2.5 hours, spread a bit of this sauce over them, then baked for another 1.5 hours.  Then, I drained the fat, spread more BBQ sauce over the ribs and baked at 300 degrees for another 1.5 hours.  The ribs were a tender and tasty treat for the Labor Day supper.

BBQ Sauce
Yield: enough sauce for about 4-5 pounds of ribs

1 Tbl. white sugar
1 Tbl. paprika
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. ketchup
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl. lemon juice
2 Tbl. minced onion
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a small pan.  Simmer for 1/2 hour, then use as needed.  Some of the sauce can be reserved for dipping, if you prefer.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Plums and 'what they're good for'

The sweet smell of plums was wafting around the house early today, signaling that I'd better get them used before they were too far gone.  After washing (no need to remove spots, just take out spoiled or overly ripe fruit), I divided the plums into three pans and just covered them with water.  Next, I boiled the fruit until it was soft and the juices were released. 
Mashing before they'd been softened proved to be a big mess and resulted in me having to change shirts.  So I decided to wait for the skins to split ... that went much better.  After the mashing, I simmered the plums for a bit longer just to make sure all the juice was released.
Below is my straining system; I've used this since my first year of marriage.  It's slow, because it only handles a small amount at a time, but it works.  I remember by mom used to put the whole amount of fruit (especially chokecherries) in a pillowcase and let it drip overnight.
Below is the first 8 cups of juice.  I ended up getting 23 cups of juice from the plums!
I chose to save the first 8 cups to make into jelly or syrup later.  The juice will keep in the refrigerator for quite a while.
I made low-sugar jelly with the second 8 cups, using Pamona's Pectin.  Obviously, it's not as sweet, but it's healthier.  I chose to water bath can all the jars to ensure they sealed (and will keep longer).
The end result was 7 pints of plum jelly.
From the last 7 cups of plum juice, I prepared plum syrup.  The recipe is simple ... for every 2 cups of juice, add 1 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. almond extract.  Boil for 15 minutes, and ladle into jars.  You can use the syrup immediately (refrigerate extra), or process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes to seal the jars.  It turned out beautiful in color and has a great tangy taste with a hint of almond.