This Just In – I Rock

A Spoonful of YUM!
I couldn’t wait to try the Honey Lemon Jelly so as soon as the jars were cool I popped open the runt and dipped me a spoonful of yum!  Oh my goodness this is good!
And you’ll notice that it really jelled!  Woo-hoo!  I am so all about me right now!!  hahahaha
Just wanted to share.
That is all.

Honey Lemon Jelly – Small Batch Canning

Four Pints of Honey Lemon Jelly

In your quest to stretch your food dollar or bulk up your pantry don’t overlook the joy of small batch canning.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and being resilient doesn’t occur overnight.

Small steps make great journeys grasshopper.

Take this Honey Lemon Jelly recipe for instance.  Four simple ingredients combine to make a luscious tart treat and it took less than an hour from start to clean kitchen.

Who can argue with that?

Checking Depth

Here’s a dirty little secret about water bath canning.

You don’t need a “canner.”  Gasp!
You just need a pot deep enough so water can cover your jars by 1 to 2 inches and a rack in the bottom.
Since this recipe only makes four 1/2 pint jars my regular pressure cooker, minuse the pressure part, worked just fine.
And it was much easier to clean up afterwards.
Remember, you can only water bath high acid foods.  Low acid foods must, MUST be pressure canned.  Botulism is not an -ism you want to deal with!
Honey Lemon Jelly Ingredients

For this recipe you will need:

4 teaspoons of grated lemon rind
3/4 cup of lemon juice
2 1/2 cups of honey
3 oz liquid pectin
Don’t be like me, use the right size pan

Combine the lemon rind, lemon juice, and honey in a 6-quart pan.

Don’t be stupid like me and think “wow, that’s overkill.”  When this stuff boils it GROWS.
Bring mixture to a rolling boil (one you can’t stir down) stirring constantly.  Stir in the pectin.  Return to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute.  Remove it from the heat and skim off any foam that has formed.
Pour the jelly into hot jars, cover with lids and rings and process in water bath for 5 minutes.  Remove jars and allow to cool on a clean dish towel overnight.
Honey Lemon Jelly – That’s the runt in front.

When the jars have cooled remove the rings and check the lids to make sure they sealed.  Then tuck away in the pantry to enjoy later.

One note about small batch canning – You can’t always scale down larger recipes.  If you decide this is the way you’re gonna go I would purchase a small batch recipe book.  Do a search on Amazon and you’ll find several.

M.O.M. Second Week

M.O.M Second Week – 28lbs

This past Saturday was my second time at Market On The Move.  I got there at 7:30 a.m. and was gone by 8:30.  This time I got 28 pounds of produce which was just fine.  I forgot to take a sturdy container and was afraid that any more would’ve just resulted in an Ikea shopping bag full of tomatoe juice.  Besides, I think by the time I’ve made weekly trips I will have gotten way more than my hundred bucks worth.

In addition to the ubiquitous tomatoes, they had cabbage and summer squash.  I love me some squash!  Don doesn’t care for it.  He doesn’t care for cabbage either come to think of it.  More for me. 🙂

Summer Squash Ready To Freeze

There are no approved recipes for canning squash.  I don’t know why.  So I froze it.

Just wash the squash, remove the stem end and the blossom end and any bruised spots and slice into 1/2 slices.
Blanch the squash in boiling water for 3 minutes then put in an ice bath for 3 minutes and voila, freezer ready squash.
I tried to vacuum seal the slices but the amount of water that squished out wouldn’t let the bags seal.  I just put them in ziploc bags.
Four Pints of Tomatoe Sauce

All those tomatoes above only made these 4 little pints of sauce.  But that’s 4 more pints of sauce than we had before.

It was a nice test run for next time.  If they have more roma tomatoes I plan on making ketchup.
As a side note, I opened the first jar of the tomatoes we canned from our first trip and used them to make a quick hamburger soup.  It was great… AND we’re all still breathing.
Sauerkraut – Please Work, Please Work

This is my big experiment.

I shredded the  cabbage and put it away to ferment.  If it works we’ll have sauerkraut in about 6 weeks.
Cross your fingers.

Canning – It’s Not Just For Garderners


I’ve created a monster.

The other day Don stopped at the grocery store on his way home from work.  While he was there I got a call from him.  “Do you think we could can asparagus?” he asked.
“O.k.  It’s on sale for $0.97 a pound.  I can only get five pounds though.”
So the next day I stopped at the store on the way home and got five more pounds.  We washed, trimmed, removed scales from, and chopped up 10 pounds of asparagus.  It was not fun but not unendurable, especially since we did it on the coffee table in front of the tv.  🙂  When all the asparagus was prepped I put it in a big bowl with a little water and a wet dishcloth for a cover and stuck it in the fridge.  I canned one batch the next evening and another batch the evening after that.
Easy peasy.  It was only later that I began to think this might be a prelude to the rest of my life.  Hahaha.
16 Pints of Asparagus

This is the result of that effort – 16 lovely pints of canned asparagus.  Yummy!

Now let’s calculate the cost for this adventure – $9.70 divided by 16 pints yields $0.61 a pint for the asparagus plus about $0.05 for the lid which equals about $0.66 total per pint.  I wasn’t too impressed with that price until I popped over to Wal-Mart’s site and found that they are asking $1.98 for roughly the same size can of cut asparagus (it’s like $2.98 for whole spears).  That makes the whole enterprise a little more worth-while.
Which brings me to my first point:  Canning isn’t just for gardeners.  It’s a great way to stretch your food budget.  We could, of course have blanched and frozen the asparagus.  That would be totally acceptable but that limits us to the amount of freezer space available and it also puts our food pantry at risk of power outages.  Also, even though it’s a small amount, once the food is canned there’s no more power required to keep it.
My second point and a recent Aha! moment is this:  Canning is not a lifestyle it’s a skill.  What I mean is it seems that a certain mythos has arisen around food preservation in the recent past.  That mythos says that food preservation is always a huge undertaking and the only people determined enough to suffer through it are survivalists or hippie back-to-the-landers.  This is not true, or at least it doesn’t have to be true if we just change our thinking a little bit.
You may have noticed that I didn’t include the cost of the jars in my cost calculation above.  That’s because during my aha moment I realized that jars are not an expense.  They are an investment.  A good glass jar, properly cared for will last many, many years.  As will the rings and the canner.  How many people when they consider the cost of a meal include the price of the pot?  Or cooking utensils?  Or the stove?  You don’t because those things are tools for your kitchen.  A canning jar is the same thing – a tool.  Once purchased it can be amortized over it’s lifetime until the cost becomes negligible.
You don’t need a thousand jars and a five acre garden out back to make canning food economical.  You don’t need a fallout shelter or a strawbale yurt to be a canner.  An apartment dweller with a water bath canner and some jelly jars who takes advantage of a sale on strawberries to make their own jam and a gardener who grows and cans all their own food are practicing the same skill set.  They both experience the same rewards.  The only difference is scale.

Market on the Move Weekend

Market on the Move produce

Don found out about this non-profit organization that “rescues” produce that is destined to be thrown out.  They take culls from the produce warehouses in Nogales, AZ and truck them to the Phoenix metro area where they distribute them.  For a $10 donation you get to pick up anywhere up to 60 pounds of produce. 

We decided to see what it was all about so we went this Saturday morning.  We wound up buying a yearly membership.  A yearly membership is $100 which allows you to go 11 times a year with no further donation required.
We wound up with 40 pounds of vegetable this time.  Next time I will be a little less shy and we will get closer to 60 pounds.
Chopped bell pepper

We got bell peppers, banana peppers, corn, tomatoes, and those little packets of cherry tomatoes.  I spent the rest of the weekend processing the produce so it wouldn’t go bad.

First I chopped the bell peppers to freeze.  This is a great way to save bell peppers.  When a recipe calls for them I just pull out the bags, give them a whack on the counter and measure the amount.  I use about 3/4 of a cup for a whole pepper.  They taste just as good as fresh.  I also cut them in strips and freeze them for uses like polish sausage and peppers.  Yummy.
Corn on the coblet

Then I shucked the corn and got it ready to freeze.  Freezing corn is so easy and it’s not nearly as nerve wracking as canning it.  I’ve heard so many horror stories about canned corn.  I suspect that it’s because the people canning it were using a water bath instead of a pressure canner.

By the way, canning is not hard.  And pressure canners are not the carnival shoot of safety that they use to be.  Try it, you’ll be amazed.
Anyway, I just blanched the little coblets and vacuum sealed them.  Now they’re sitting in the freezer waiting for some hot water, butter, and salt.  Oh my.
Four pints of pickled peppers.

Next I started on some pickled banana peppers.  These little bastards, I mean gems almost did me in.  Every banana pepper I’ve ever eaten was sweet.  Not these.  These are some kind of Hungarian banana pepper and about 3/4 of the way through chopping and seeding they started letting me know that they’re the badass of banana peppers.  Oh em gee they burn your skin when you don’t wear gloves.  I’ve tried every internet antidote available and my fingers are still burning 24 hours later.  Take some advice – unless you absolutely know that the peppers you are working with are harmless use gloves.

The two jars with the whitish liquid prove just how el cheapo I am.  I had too much brine and didn’t want to throw it away so I canned it.  hahaha  I have no idea what I will do with it but it’s saved by God.
Seven quarts of tomatoes

The peppers were a two step process.  They had to soak in salt water overnight.  I finished canning them this (Sunday) morning.

Then I started on the tomatoes.
The tomatoes we got are really for slicing and so weren’t very juicy.  Where necessary I added some boiling water to the jar to cover the tomatoes.  I don’t think it will hurt anything but I’ll watch them just the same.  I don’t hold out much hope for them being all that tasty.  Really good tomatoes have to ripen on the vine and these were after all supermarket tomatoes.  But hey, they’ll be good filler in a soup or something.
I had planned on canning some orange juice this weekend too but I’m pooped.  Maybe I can squeeze in some more activity in the evenings this week.
The roof is progressing nicely and should be done by tomorrow or Tuesday, thank goodness.  It feels like getting that job done has remotivated us to work on the house some more.
And that my friends was my Market on the Move weekend.  Hope you had a good one too.

A Lemon Pickle of a Day

In my carport.

This is the view out our kitchen door.

That dumpster means that progress is being made on the roof.  Replacing a roof is never a warm fuzzy event, especially when there’s no insurance claim involved, but we got tired of seeing little brown spots appear in our new ceiling paint.  Strangely, there’s not a lot of hail in Arizona so we’re sporting this replacement outselves.  It sucks.
Normally this kind of work wouldn’t require my presence but this time the we were responsible for providing the materials and I forgot to get any plywood to replace damaged decking.  I could’ve gone through the rest of my life blissfully unaware of this if not for a frantic call this morning from Don who conveniently doesn’t drive the pickup to work.  So, as much as it broke my heart, I took off from work and made a quick Home Depot run.  I had half-heartedly planned on returning to work but after the third run to pick up material decided to give it up. 
Lemon Marmalade

I did not waste the whole day though.

During the downtime between runs I managed to finish my lemon marmalade.
Yes, another score!
Oh my gosh it’s good.  Lemony.  Very, very, very lemony.  Like, lemon drop candy lemony.
I has more of a bitter aftertaste than the orange marmalade, but I don’t mind that.  I kind of like old fashioned flavors.
The 1:1:1 ration of citrus, sugar, and water I was talking about yesterday actually worked.  And I managed not to cook this batch too long so it actually has the consistency of marmalade and not candied citrus peel.
I also started this little experiment:
Gujarati Lemon Pickle

This is Gujarati Lemon Pickle.  It’s very labor light but it takes a month for the lemons to pickle.  What you see here is about 2 pounds of lemons in 3/4 cup salt with two teaspoons of Tumeric (sp?) mixed in.

I got the recipe at Evil Mad Scientist.
My very bestest friend at work promises me that it will be the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.  I guess we’ll see in a month or so.
I’m actually really psyched about this for two reasons.  First, I’ve always wanted to ferment something.  Ferment, not foment.  I foment stuff all the time.  Secondly, we have billions and billions of lemons or so it seems.  Last year we just let them fall off the tree.  I hate doing that.  I realize that there’s a practical limit to what you can do with lemons but still, letting something go to waste, especially something that grows in my yard just seems wrong.
Hopefully this will be tasty as well as interesting.

Lemon Marmalade

How cool is this?

This picture has nothing to do with the post I just love it.  Now that’s a sink… AND it has a dishwasher built in. 

Anyway, I found a cooking site that said basic marmalade is always 1:1:1, citrus, sugar, and water.  So I’m putting it to the test.  I’m making lemon marmalade.  If that turns out remotely acceptable I’m going to try some grapefruit marmalade.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wine Bag – No, Not Me Silly

Christmas from my friend

This was our Christmas gift from our very dear friends L & K.

It’s a homemade, handmade wine bag – with wine of course.
Isn’t it beautiful!  I’m very envious of my friend’s hand work.  She is so talented – and much more patient than I ever will be.
She’s thinking of starting a picture blog with her work.
I think she should.

Orange Marmalade Adventure – Destination Reached

First attempt ever at Orange Marmalade

Here it is, the end product of this journey.

I would say for a first attempt things went ok.  I learned one very important lesson.  Don’t let concern for temperature outweigh the necessity of stirring.  If you look closely at the picture you can see little black specks.  Those are not vanilla bean pieces – which I found in one recipe and think I may try next time – those are little burnt, excuse me, carmelized pieces of peel.  Dangit.  I did manage to taste the marmalade and I couldn’t detect an off flavor so maybe it will be ok.  I’m afraid that the burnt bits might get more overpowering as the jars age but we’ll eat it as long as we can.  And speaking of taste… OH… MY… GOD… this tastes so much better than any store bought marmalade I have ever had.  It’s like super-concentrated orange deliciousness!  So, here’s what you do on day two.

Step 1:  Bring the citrus, sugar, and water mixture back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Simmering too low - had to turn up the heat and add about 20 minutes to cook time.

 Step 2:  While the marmalade is simmering wash your jars.  You can wash the jars in the auxillary dish storage (some people call it a dishwasher) and hold them in there so they stay hot.  I just washed mine by hand and then held them in a sink of very hot water.

Jars in hot water - I know how they feel.

 Step 3:  Simmer your lids.

Simmering lids - simmer down now.

 Step4:  Bring the marmalade back to a gentle boil and boil for 30 minutes.  Make sure the mixture reaches 220 degrees Farenheit.  Remember to stir often!

Remember to stir often!!!!!

 Step 5:  Ladle the hot mixture into hot jars, wipe the rim to make sure it’s clean.  Place the lids on the jars and seal with the rings.  Let cool on a clean dish towel in a draft free area.  Check the seals on the jars the next day to make sure they sealed.  Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use first.

There were two concerns I had with this recipe which I found on the Food Network. 

First, there were no measurements for the amount of citrus.  The recipe called for 4 large, seedless oranges, and 2 lemons.  Well, my definition of large and your definition of large might be totally different.  If this bothers you too much – obviously it didn’t bother me too much – then there are myriad other recipes that are out there that are just as simple to make but list specific amounts of citrus.

Second, this recipe doesn’t call for a hot water bath to seal the jars.  I chose to assume that the amount of sugar and acid in the marmalade would “self-preserve” the preserves.  That being said, I’m going to be very careful using this and I cannot in good conscience recommend that you do the same.  If you make this recipe add an additional step and water bath the jars according to some kind of canning recipe.

Here’s a link to the original recipe:  Anna’s Orange Marmalade from Barefoot Contessa