Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Springing into Action!

Phew!  Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to get behind…This spring I honestly feel I can’t move fast enough.  As many of you know, I have been rather all consumed with The Good-Stuff getting product made, the website created (you want to talk learning curve!), general business stuff organized and getting the business ‘launched’  It really has been fun…but what about cooking things other than jam?  What about the bees, the chickens and the toy farm?! 

The bees are doing great!  The two hives made it through the winter…yippee!  Something we have been a bit challenged with in the past and the hives are growing like crazy, in fact they grew so fast that both hives ‘swarmed’!  Swarming occurs when a hive feels cramped in their existing home.  They create a new queen to mind the fort and the ‘old queen’ and about half of her trusty subjects hit the trail in search of new digs (don’t you wish it was that easy in real life when you start to feel a bit cramped…sure a lot easier than cleaning out cupboards!) Anyway, the gals swarmed into our orange tree and we were able to collect them and then get them to a new home to be enjoyed by another beekeeper.  The whole process was totally amazing!

Our chickens are also having a grand life…Goldie is quite the ruler of the roost and is pretty sure we built the coop just for her.  She has become an egg laying machine, laying about six eggs a week.  Our two little chicks (or two little goof-balls as we refer to them) are growing like weeds.  We got them on March 2nd when they were a day old.  Having been handled a lot since day one has made them very friendly, actually they are quite content to just come right up and sit in your lap…as my father would say…’who ever heard of lap chickens…’ We named them Yin and Yang, well, because they are…in so many ways…

We have finally cultivated the toy farm!  We are planning on doubling the size but are a little behind the eight ball on that one.  But the original plot, after weeding the monster weeds that appeared after the rains and as soon as the sun began to shine, is planted with tomatoes, beans, corn, squash and of course zinnias…the other half will have peppers, eggplant, more corn and tomatoes, as well as peas and more flowers.  Fingers crossed that will happen soon!

Now through all this I don’t want you all to think I have not been preparing food for my own larder, think again!  As someone who uses lots of chicken stock, I tend to freak a little when I think I might run out…so while lots of other things were happening, I managed to get a pot of chicken stock simmering on the stove.  This is an easy one to cram in amongst the other tasks you are doing as it takes little tending and the results are grand.  Whether you choose to freeze it in quart size ziplock bags or pressure can it (for those of us who are defrosting impaired) it’s a good recipe to undertake. A tip I learned from the butcher at one of our local markets - this is a life saver (and a money saver as well) -  you can purchase the bones left over from the ‘boneless skinless breasts’ the butcher sells.  There is lots of lovely breast meat left on the bone and of course lots of ‘dem bones’ for great stock flavor.  Our butcher freezes them in big blocks and then saws off a chuck (I usually get 5 LBS.) when you want to purchase some.

Chicken Stock

Recipe for 5 - 1 quart jars                                                                     


1                              Whole Chicken (alternate - chicken
                     necks, wings, carcass from roast chicken, or  chicken bones from
butcher) about 5LBS

1 ½ GAL           Cold Water

1                      Carrot, peeled

1                      Onion, peeled and halved

1                      Celery Stalk

1 head  Garlic, halved

1 tsp                 Salt

Few black pepper corns

Few sprigs        Parsley

1 or 2    Bay Leaves

NOTE:  Stock can be stored in containers in freezer if you do not wish to pressure can.

1.      Get out tools    

A.     Pressure canner

B.    Large pot to sterilize jars, large pot to make stock, small pot for lids

C.    Strainer

D.    Jar lifter

E.    Tongs

F.    Wide mouth funnel

G.    Towels

H.    Chop stick

I.      Ladle or big spoon

2.     Put the chicken in a large pot and pour in1 ½ gallons cold water.  Over high heat, bring the water to a boil, and then turn the heat down low so that the broth is barely simmering, with bubbles just breaking the surface.

3.     Skim off the foam that rises to the top, but leave some of the fat; it adds lots of flavor to the stock and can be removed at the end.  For a nice clear stock, do not let it boil again, or the fat and the liquid may emulsify. turning the stock cloudy and greasy.

4.     After skimming, add the vegetables, salt, peppercorns, and herbs and continue to simmer for 3 to 4 hours.

5.     When stock has 1 hour left to cook, set up the 2 pots for boiling water

A.     Pot to starilize jars

B.    Lid pot

6.     Wash jars

By now things are boiling…

7.     Put lids in small pot to heat

8.     Put jars in large pot

Back to the stock…

9.     Strain through fine strainer.  Allow stock to cool until fat solidifies, skim off fat.

10.  Bring stock to a boil in a large sauce pot.

11.  Remove glass jars from pot

12.  Fill jars with hot stock, fill with liquid leaving 1” head space

13.  Wipe edge of can with clean damp towel

14.  With tongs put 1 lid on jar and finger tighten ring on jar

15.  Put 3 QTS boiling water into pressure canner

16.  Put jars into canning pot

17.  Place lid on pot and seal per canner instructions

18.  Exhaust air from the canner and jars by adjusting heat to a relatively     high setting to obtain a free flow of steam from the bent pipe.

19.  Reduce heat to maintain a moderate steam flow.  Allow steam to flow for 10 minutes.

20.  Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and heat canner until pressure dial gauge registers 10 LBS pressure.

21.  Processing time begins when pressure gauge registers the correct pressure.

22.  Process stock - pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes at 10 LBS pressure.

23.  At the end of processing turn off heat.  Remove canner from heat source.

24.  Let pressure drop of its own accord, do not quick cool.  Pressure is completely reduced when the air vent/cover lock and overpressure plug have dropped and no steam escapes when the pressure regulator is tilted.

25.  Remove cover, if cover seems to stick or is hard to turn do not force it open.

26.  Remove jars from canner.  Set jars on board or cloth to cool.

So buck up, make some stock, you’ll be really glad you did!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Lovely Loaf of Bread...Finally

Bread was fast becoming the bane of my baking existence…you’d think something that humans have been making for oh say 30,000 years or so would be no big deal. Now it’s not like I can’t bake things in general. I get it about measuring carefully and having fresh ingredients, I can bake a great cake, pie or even yeast rolls and pizza dough, but a nice loaf of bread…
It all started when I decided I wanted to make whole wheat sour dough bread. Just a plain old loaf, you know, for sandwiches and toast…I ordered starter, fed it as directed and it happily bubbled away like it had good sense. Then to the recipe, the first one I tried was from Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery. Okay, a little lofty I admit, going for the totally artisanal loaf right out of the gates, but like I said, I can bake, how hard can it be?
So, after an ENTIRE Saturday working on this loaf (I’m not exaggerating, I have witnesses) I produced something that at best would be described as ‘edible’.The next recipe I selected was considerably less labor intensive but produced bread so dry that one bite sucked all the saliva out of your mouth and made it just this side of impossible to swallow…that one went right into the trash. The third attempt as least produced something of use…a door stop, a loaf so heavy and hard that my husband actually used it as a door stop until it started to mold. Then followed half a dozen more loaves of less than savory character. Now this is where most reasonable people just say, okay maybe bread baking’s not for me, Ms. Silverton makes a nice loaf, why not go down to the corner store and pick one up? Unfortunately, this is also where I dig in my heels, and proclaim that a bunch of stupid flour and starter are not going to get the best of me!

 I did (again - this is starting to look like a pattern) ridiculous amounts of research via the internet, gleaned all manner of tip and procedure and then went to a place where I knew they would know what to do…’The Joy of Cooking’ I have a very old copy that was my mother’s, back from when they baked bread because, well, everybody baked bread. I knew Mrs. Rombauer would know what to do. Hers was for white bread so I had to make adjustments, but I had also learned that wheat flour sucks up a lot of moisture so I decided to blend the flours. Also, lower gluten content could have affected it’s ability to rise. So I tweaked the recipe based on my new found knowledge, added some sunflower seeds and millet - to give it an artisanal bent, made sure it was kneaded long enough for the gluten to get sticky and voila, a lovely loaf of moist, tasty bread fit for a sandwich!

So here is my recipe, that even the bread baking impaired can make with confidence!
You will need to procure some sourdough starter, whether online or from a friend before you can take on this recipe…
Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
This is a two day process, although there is very little hands on time, it is not something to be made in the morning and served for dinner…just so you know…

1 ½ C lukewarm water
1 C sourdough starter
3 C whole wheat flour
1 C all purpose flour
2 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
Mix together, making sure all ingredients are well combined. Let stand uncovered, in a warm place, to ferment overnight.

Next morning, stir dough to mix in any ‘crust’ that has formed, then add
1 C high gluten flour
2 TBS softened butter
2 eggs
1C all purpose flour
In your standing mixer, with dough hook, mix at fairly low speed for 15 minutes. At 15 minutes do the ‘gluten test’ on your dough… take a small piece of the dough, flatten it out , hold it with both hands between your thumb and forefinger and gently pull it apart, if the dough can get almost transparent before it breaks apart it is ready, if not mix for an additional 5 minutes and test again. Make sure the dough has reached this point before you proceed.
At this point add ½ C millet and ½ C raw sunflower seeds if desired and mix well.
Split the dough into two pieces and shape into loaves. Put into 8 ½” loaf pans, brush lightly with melted butter and let rise, covered until almost doubled in size. Bake in a preheated 400D oven for 45 minutes.
Your house will smell heavenly…now it’s time to enjoy!

Monday, January 30, 2012

One more might be the last you'll ever need!

Citrus citrus everywhere…our trees are exploding, the farmers markets are full, even our CSA box has a modicum of these juicy bits of sunshine. And I am surely doing my part to either eat or preserve as much as I can. And through it all I seem to have developed a bit of a marmalade obsession. I want to try new combinations of fruit. Get the color and consistency just right. Make a marmalade that, quite frankly, would be hard to live without. So in my truly research obsessive way, I have read more recipes for this lovely spread than there are types of fruit and have come to the conclusion that EVERYONE does it differently and EVERYONE has their own idea of what the perfect marmalade might be like…quite well jelled/rather runny, chunky rind/thin slivers, soft peel/crunchy peel, very tart/very sweet…well you get the picture. So I set out to create my perfect marmalade. A recipe that could be sort of a master. A recipe that one could change out the fruit indiscriminately, add herbs, peppers or liquor and still come up with…perfect marmalade. This has been a true test kitchen project. The first thing I determined was that, with few exceptions, the volume of fruit and the volume of sugar are the same. For me the weight was 3 ¾ LBS. fruit and sugar. If I used these quantities, plus water, I could make enough marmalade to fill 12 of my 190ML jars. I also gleaned from various recipes that if you make a sort of cooked juice from part of the fruit,
and use that as part of your liquid you can get a very intense fruit flavor. Lastly, lots of slow cooking creates good fruit consistency and a lovely consistency of jelly. I then set about applying this ‘formula’ to all manner of citrus…and low and behold…it worked! So here you go, one of my personal favorites Honey Meyer LemonMarmalade…
Honey Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Aprox. 12 - 190 ML jars

3 ¾ LBS Meyer Lemons
¾ LB Honey
3 LB Sugar

Cut 2 ¼ LBS lemons in half crosswise, half lengthwise and then cut into thin slices to create little ½ rounds. Put the slices and their juice into a nonreactive pan, cover with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling remove from heat, cover with a lid and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining 1 ½ LBS of lemons into eighths. Put them in a nonreactive pan, cover with enough water so that the wedges float. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Gently press down on the citrus every half hour or so to help release juices. When finished cooking remove from heat and strain juice through a strainer, being sure to press out every last drop of juice, then strain a second time through a fine sieve, cool.

Now, over high heat, reheat the lemon slices to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until soft.

Place 3 spoons on a plate in the freezer for testing ‘set point’…To test set point: take a frozen spoon from the freezer, scoop a small amount of the boiling marmalade from the pan, place back in the freezer on the plate and wait about 3 minutes, then remove the spoon, push the marmalade with your finger, if it is a nice jellied consistency the marmalade is ready.

In a bowl, combine sugar, honey, cooked juice, fruit slices and their juice. Transfer to a large nonreactive pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook at a rolling boil for aprox. 50 minutes - to the set point. Turn off heat, skim off any foam, and let marmalade rest for 10 minutes. Fill your jars and process.

The honey flavor is subtle, but definitely there…and don’t limit this marmalade to toast or peanut butter…it is lovely with goat cheese and cracker paired with some nice crisp white wine. Enjoy!

A one size fits all marmalade recipe? on Punk Domestics

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ooo la la Quince Marmalade...Beautiful inside and out!

The quince, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful fruits out there.  Being slightly more irregular than the pear and dusted with a bit of tan fuzz they are an artist’s delight.  And then there’s the scent, sort of a honey apple that seems to float in the air.  The fact that they are rather hard to find in this country definitely adds to their allure.  There is something else magical about quince…uncooked; their off white meat resembles the consistency Styrofoam.  Not until the quince is cooked for several hours do they transform into soft edible fruit, with an even more beautiful aroma and a lovely rosy color.

Quince is very high in natural pectin, making it a natural for making preserves.  In fact the word marmalade is derived from the Portuguese word  marmelada or a preserve made from quince.  The word then morphed into something meaning any gelled fruit…go figure, and the English and their citrus took it from there.

Now in Greece, quince are plentiful and are used to make all manner of delicious delights from something akin to our apple sauce to quince paste,  a yummy confection resembling grown up gummy bears.  Having a Greek neighbour, with her own quince tree, I have had the opportunity to play around with quince and make a few of these treasures.  But this year I decided to go all out.  I found a gentleman at the farmer’s market who was selling quince and I purchased 6 LBS so that I could make actual quince marmalade.

Okay, so it’s seriously labor intensive.  Peeling and coring the quince is not for the faint of heart and then cutting them into little pieces about the size of shoestring potatoes does take a while.  Although the cooking time is long, it’s not like you have to monitor the pan at all times so that helps.  And the result is to die for…the flavor is sweet apple honey goodness and the color is like the finest glass of rose wine.  Well worth the effort in my opinion.  So if you can rustle up some quince, take the plunge and turn a beautiful fruit into an even more beautiful marmalade. 

I worked from the recipe in ‘The Bluechair Jam Cookbook’ by Rachel

Quince Marmalade

½ LB                                                  Peeled  and cored quince

1 LB & 2 ¼ additional LBS          Granulated sugar

5 LBS                                               Quinces cut into eights

3 ½ oz.                                              Fresh lemon juice (meyer lemon)

1                                                         Star Anise

1 ( ½ inch)                                       Vanilla Bean - split

1-2 oz                                              Brandy

Peel & core ½ LB of Quince.  Slice thin slices and then cut each slice into this strips - think shoe string potatoes….Combine quince slices with 1 LB of the sugar in a non reactive pan.  Add two inches of water - I  actually measured with my ‘kitchen ruler’ from the bottom of the pan to a depth of two inches.  Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to a simmer and cover half way with a lid.  Cook without stirring for about 2 ½ hours.  The liquid will turn a lovely color of rose and the quince slivers will be translucent. Be sure to check the mixture at about 20 minute intervals to see if the mixture looks too syrupy - if it does add a little water.  When it has finished let the mixture ‘rest’ for the night.

While you are cooking the quince slivers, prepare the quince juice.  Place the quince eights into a nonreactive pot and fill with cold water to cover the quince by one inch.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat and allow to simmer, covered for 2 to 2 ½ hours.  It will be a wonderful rose color when it is ready and the liquid will have thickened to the consistency of a light syrup.  While the quince cooks, occasionally press down with a wooden spoon on the fruit  to help soften them.  The fruit needs to remain submerged so add water if necessary.

Strain the juice from the fruit but pouring through a colander over a  heat proof bowl.  Cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight to drain.

Next morning, remove the quince pieces and their juice from the refrigerator and strain through a fine sieve to collect any remaining solids. 

Place a plate and spoon into the freezer to be ready to test the jam later.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the little quince pieces and any of their liquid, the quince juice, 2 ¼ LBS sugar, lemon juice, star anise and vanilla, and stir well.  Put the mixture into a nonreactive pan and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Continue to cook at a rapid boil until a small amount of the mixture removed with the spoon and placed into the freezer for a couple minutes is the consistency of jam - about 25 minutes cooking time.  Stir in the brandy and stir constantly.

Skim any foam from the marmalade, remove the vanilla bean and star anise.  Pour into ½ pint jars and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Remove from the pot and cool.

For all your hard work you will be rewarded with the most luscious marmalade, fit for toast, cheese, or spoon…          
The Lovely Quince on Punk Domestics

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Punk Domestics

Just wanted to point out the new 'badge' on Kitchenkapades...'Punk Domestics'  It is a great site with lots of wonderful foodie info. from tecniques to recipes.  Hopefully I will be posting on their site in the future and as always I will let you know.  But do check them out if you don't already know of it's a pretty great thing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pepper Pomegranate can you last gift...

Well, alright, so a last minute invitation to a Christmas party won out over canning last night…but the good news is I was able to get things together tonight and as my husband prepared some vegetables for our dinner I canned up some Pepper Pomegranate Preserves!  I did prepare the pomegranate seeds during my lunch break today, but otherwise this is a seriously quick and easy recipe.  A definite crowd pleaser with it’s smoky (Santa Fe Chiles) and sweet (pomegranate and sugar) flavors.  It’s great with toast, duh, or cheese and crackers, or with pork or chicken and it’s very pretty to boot.  At the very least it’s a nice stocking stuffer…

Pepper Pomegranate Preserves
Make aprox. 4 - ½ pint jars

1 C Pomegranate Juice
3 C Pomegranate seeds (about 2 good sized Pomegranates)
2 ½ C Sugar
2 Medium  - Tart Cooking Apples, cored and chopped
2 tsp. crushed dried Santa Fe Chiles

Get your canning pot boiling and put in 4 - ½ pint jars to heat.  Warm lids in a second pot.

In a saucepan heat Pomegranate Juice to boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until reduced to ½ C.  Add remaining ingredients and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid portion is the consistency of honey.

Remove jars from pot and fill leaving ¼” head space, remove air bubbles, wipe rims, put lids on jars and return to canning pot.  Process for 15 minutes.  Remove and cool.

There you have it…ready for giving…little jars of Pomegranate goodness…

Hopefully some of you have enjoyed a bit of canning for the holidays…May you all be well, safe and enjoying the company of loved ones this holiday season - whatever your are celebrating!  Here’s to 2012 and all the canning opportunities that lay before us!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gifts Day Two - Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Okay, are you ready for another quick, last minute gift idea?  Meyer Lemon Marmalade.  Oh, I feel the eye rolling, lip curling, snickers out there…marmalade?’ Like I’m going to whip that up while I’m desperately trying to get all the billion other things together for Christmas…really?! ‘  But wait, don’t be so sure of yourself, it really IS quick…I did mine while I was fixing supper…I’m not kidding…

Well , it’s sort of a two day process, but the two pieces are really quick, so that counts as quick…

Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Makes aprox. 6 - ½ pint jars

6 Meyer Lemons (1 ½ LBS)

4 C Water

4 C Sugar

Day One:  Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds.  Tie seeds in a cheesecloth bag.  Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice.  Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5 quart stainless steel pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature for 24 hours.

See that’s all there is for the first night!

Day two:  Bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 4 cups, about 45 minutes…(here’s where you start making dinner)

Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate gels, about 15-20 minutes.

Ladle hot marmalade into jars, filling to within ¼ “ of the top.  Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids.

Put jars in a water bath canner filled with boiling water and boil jars for 5 minutes.  Remove jars and cool.

There you have it, add a lovely label, and you have six more gifts ready for giving!

Tomorrow…Pepper Pomegranate Jam…