Saturday, June 25, 2011


Ugh, this post has taken me far too long to get to, but it also took me far too long to get through last week as well. Between canning the following, making yogurt for the very first time, coming down with a stomach virus, and all the normal circus activities that go along with being a stay at home mom to a 2 and 4 year old, why, I just didn't have it in me. Come to think of it, after that tummy bug, there wasn't much of anything left in me. So, without further ado, I give you escabeche.

One of my favorite canning resources is Liana Krissoff's, CANNING For A New Generation, Bold, Fresh Flavors For The Modern Pantry. My sweet hubby surprised me with this extensive, highly informative, and let's not forget tasty, cookbook last summer and it quickly made its way to the top of my favorites list. I attempted to give it a cover to cover read that very night, but I'm Mama to two very young children and sleep won out.
The recipe I used for escabeche vegetables is adapted from this and found hubbs congratulating himself for this purchase. He loves Mexican cusine. And, what's Mexican cusine without escabeche to garnish and complete your dish?

Yields: 5-7 pints

1 lb carrots, trimmed and cut into 1 in. lengths
1 lb jalapeno chilis, you can either cut them in half lengthwise, or cross hatch a slit into the bottom and leave them whole. This allows the liquid to penetrate the pepper
1 small onion, thinly sliced
5 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
2/3 cup olive oil
4 tsp pure kosher salt
3 Tbs. dried oregano
7 tsp of minced garlic or 7 cloves

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids
2. Combine vinegar, 1 cup water, oil, salt, and oregano in large non reactive 6-8 quart pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 5 min.
3. Add the carrots and cook until just crisp, roughly 10 min.
4. Add jalapenos and onion and bring back to barely a boil.
5. Working quickly, place garlic in each jar.
6. Transfer veggies into jar by means of a slotted spoon.
7. You'll want to ladle the pickling brine into each jar. It's important to keep the oil evenly distributed among jars. Leave 1/2 inch headspace.
8. Use your handy dandy Ball tool for air bubbles, or a chopstick and run it around the jar to remove all air bubbles. Clean the rim with a wet paper towel.
9. Center lids and tighten bands till resistance is met. Then tighten to finger tight.
10. Place in boiling water bath canner and process for 20 min. Remove lid and let set for 5 min. Then remove and leave undisturbed for 12 hours.

Liana goes on with a recipe for catfish fillets in escabeche where the fish is poached and cooked in a tomato and escabeche sauce that just sounds wonderful. I hope to give this a try within the next few weeks after I let mine cure. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let's Pickle

This past weekend I was in the mood to pickle. I had a deep desire to breathe dill. Unfortunately, I never made it to the farmer's market that morning so I had no fresh dill or Kirby cucs to play with. I did, however, have a stash of squash, zucchini, and dill seed. And, with that I set about pickling summer squash spears.

Yields: 4 pints
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water, I use filtered pitcher water
4 tsp. sea salt
4 tsp. minced garlic
4 tsp. dill seed or 4 dill heads
4 tbs. chopped onion

1. First I made ready four pint jars. That's the beauty of refrigerator pickles. You can make them in small batches, fairly quickly, and without much fuss. They will need to continuously be stored in the refrigerator since they are not processed and sealed. In the fridge they should keep several months. I have had some stay fresh upwards to a year. But, as with all home food preservation, use your better judgement.
2. I cut both ends off the squash to fit the jars. Then I cut them into spears. I blanched them for 1 min. followed by an immediate ice bath to promote crispness.
3. In saucepan combine vinegar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 1 minute.
4. In jars place 1 tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. dill seed, 1 tbs. chopped onion into each jar. Then pack pickles on top. Pack them snugly, but not tightly.
5. Slowly pour brine mixture over the spears, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean and place lids and rings on jars. After cooling a bit on counter move to the refrigerator to cure for a week.

I'm dying to open up a jar and give them a go since this was the first time I'd pickled summer squash in this manner.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Freezing Strawberries

My family and I are huge fans of fruit. When I was pregnant with my second there was some discussion that she might arrive bearing an uncanny resemblance to Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory considering my consumption of copious amounts of blueberries. To this day I maintain that it was not a mere craving, but a dire need in order for me and my unborn to survive. And, frankly, if anyone around me were to survive at that time as well, then they had to ensure that there would be 8lbs of blueberries stashed in the fridge at all times.
That being said, we're downright giddy now that all the fruit is coming in. We cannot get enough of it. And, that's a problem. We moved to Texas a little more than a month ago. I know no one. I know where nothing is. I know no farmers. I know of no "you pick" farms yet. I'm sure that will come in time, but while I'm still settling us into our new digs this leaves me with purchasing our produce from the tiny and waaaay over priced farmer's market down the street or from Costco and other markets.
Given that we are on an extremely tight budget and we consume truckloads of the sweet gift of the gods, I often opt for shopping Costco for our produce needs.
I know some of you are balking at this very moment about not buying local. Just the other day I was chastised on another site for making all of the heavenly pineapple concoctions as pineapple is not local. And, I agree. Pineapple is not a local fruit. But, I cannot name one single pineapple farmer here in the state of Texas much less the rest of continental United States. Correct me if I'm wrong, because I would love to visit a pineapple farm, and I just don't see a trip to Hawaii in my near future.
I would love to buy local and support our local farmers. I'm the daughter of a farmer, so this hits close to home. However, we simply cannot afford it. I have to make the most of what we have, when we have it.
And, here's how I do it. When I see a sale on say, strawberries at the grocer I stock up. Or, I will buy them from Costco and save some to nibble on now and others to savor later.
Then I can them. And, when I have canned countless jars of marmalades, jams, jellies, and berries in syrup, then I freeze them.
As I began washing and hulling strawberries yesterday, it occurred to me that something I find so simple might be daunting to someone new to the food preservation scene. And, that's the whole point of this site, to help introduce others to this wonderful kitchen craft and learn from one another. So, here's how.

Step 1. Wash the strawberries gently. I soak them first while sorting out any bad ones. Then I rinse under running water.
Step 2. Place in colander or salad spinner to drain.
Step 3. Cut the tops off and hull.
Step 4. Place on a lined cookie sheet. I usually just line mine with paper towels making them less likely to slide around.

Step 5. Place in freezer.
Once frozen, bag and label. Use a vacuum seal to remove all air if you have one. If not, seal the bag most of the way and place a straw into the corner. You can remove the air yourself by the straw and finish sealing.

There are many different ways to freeze, but this way works best for me. Since they're frozen individually they don't tend to stick to one another in giant ice cubs when pulled out.
Another thing I love to use frozen strawberries for is in place of ice cubes in lemonades, punches, or cocktails. It gives the drinks an added elegant touch quickly and effortlessly.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pineapple-Habanero Pepper Jelly

Note to self: The next time working with peppers, please ensure the pantry is stocked with plastic gloves before beginning the recipe. Otherwise, be prepared to to wrap your hands in two layers of plastic wrap and a sandwich bag again.

Yields: about 4 half pints

3-4 cups fresh cleaned, cored, and chopped pineapple
5 Habanero peppers seeded*
2 packages pectin
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

*A word on Habaneros
To lesson the toxic aroma when cutting the peppers, freeze them beforehand. Make sure to cut them near an open window or near a fan. For some it may be necessary to wear a mask. And, above all else, please wear plastic gloves! I cannot stress this enough. The last thing you want is to burn your eyeballs out of their sockets by accidentally touching anywhere near your face.

Prepare jars, lids, and canner
Blend pineapple and 1/4 apple cider and place in large pot.
Puree peppers with the remaining apple cider. Add to pineapple.
Cook on medium low to low heat stirring often. Once mixture is at a boil add sugar and pectin stirring well to completely dissolve.
Stirring frequently, continue cooking on low till mixture thickens. Roughly 30 min.
Once mixture has thickened bring up to a rolling boil and boil hard for 1 min.
Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars. Leaving 1/4 in headspace wipe rim with wet paper towel, center lid, and tighten band till resistance is met. Place in boiling water bath canner and process for 10 min. Remove lid and turn off heat let stand min.

The jelly has a wonderful caramelized color after simmering for so long. Use as an appetizer, spread, or even on ribs.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quick Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade

This recipe I found in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving . Last summer my canning buddy, Kelly, introduced me to this extensive book of helpful tips and some really great recipes. And, since last summer we're now separated by a few states, I bought my own copy just a few weeks ago.
This marmalade is bright and refreshing. If made exactly to recipe then you can expect a sweet frontal assault followed by an equalizing tartness that really hits the spot. I may not have any of this left by the time winter gets here when I most need a reminder of warmer days. I'm almost certain scones were made just for the purpose of being slathered in this marmalade.
I tend to like things more on the tart side, so the next time I make this I will use no sugar pectin and far less sugar.
Here's the basic run down. And, as is always the case, I deviated slightly from this following recipe.

p. 93
Yeild: about 7 half pints

1/4 cup thinly sliced lemon peel
4 cups crushed hulled strawberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 package regular powdered fruit pectin
6 cups granulated sugar

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids
2. In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan (I used my Calphalon dutch oven and it works fine), combine lemon peel and water to cover. Bring to boil over medium high heat and boil for 5 min until peel is softened. Drain and discard liquid.
3. Add strawberries and lemon juice to peel and mix well. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
4. Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered by water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Strawberry-Pineapple Conserves

I had an idea for a conserves in my head when I came home with six pineapples and five pounds of strawberries earlier this week. I thought the combination would be perfect for topping cheesecakes, ladyfingers, or even straight from the jar on a graham cracker.
I found several recipes that looked interesting but, not quite what I was after. In the end this is what I came up with.

Yields about 6 half pints

3 1/2 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups crushed pineapple
1 package no sugar pectin
grated peel of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins

Bring to boil in large pot over medium heat the fruit, pectin, and lemon juice stirring frequently. Once boiling add sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and add walnuts and raisins. Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/4 in. headspace. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Bird Lied

The bird lied. There. I said it. My chicken made a fool out of me this evening. I'm a seasoned veteran when it comes to roasting chickens. It's one of my "go to" meals that I pull out at least every ten days or so. The natives love it and the roasted veggies I toss in for "more the merrier" company in the oven. Hubby loves it. I love it. The only one I can see that might be offended would be the chicken, but that point's moot. And, certainly given the choice the chicken would much rather have been roasted than fried. Am I right?
I put the chicken on a ceramic roasting dish inside of my cast iron dutch oven stuffed with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, and lemon juice - all the usual suspects. The outside was coated with olive oil and more salt and pepper. I then placed it in a preheated oven set to 375.
Half an hour later I tossed in a few handfuls of carrots and waited another 45 minutes. At which time I pulled the bird out for a peek. And, I realized the chicken was still raw on the inside.
The wild tribal natives dancing about my kitchen that are known to be my family would not understand such a tardy guest to our supper table. I had timed all side dishes to be finished when my timer went off. I was left with the dilemma of substituting hotdogs for our main course or pushing back our supper time and reheating all side dishes.
How could this happen I kept asking myself. It then dawned on me that this is the first chicken I've roasted since moving to Texas. Our stove/oven is gas. Maybe that was the problem. Or, maybe the chicken just had it in for me. Well, we'll just see who has the last laugh, won't we?