Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pomegranate Jelly

Yep, more jelly. I am STILL a mad canner, outta control.

The other day I got an email from the POM Wonderful folks, wanting to know if I'd be interested in trying out their product.

Um, yeah! I LOVE pomegranate. I always have. Not as sweet as a grape, not as tart as a cranberry and a total workout to eat.

Well lucky me I got a whole box of POM Wonderful. I drank one bottle with fizzy water and lemon. And made a little grenadine with another bottle. But then I decided that what I really wanted to do was to figure out how best to make the gift last as long as possible.

I made ice cubes out of one bottle. Which is good for future use, but still, not quite it.

So I made jelly with the rest. And it tastes DELICIOUS! It is not as sweet as the grape jelly I made earlier this week, and it tastes exactly like pomegranate. Shocker, I know.

Just so you know, I typically don't use pectin. But I wasn't sure how the pomegranate juice would cook up and I did not want to risk wasting all that precious ruby red liquid.

I used SureJell Low/No Sugar pectin and figured that the grape jelly recipe on the insert would probably also work for pomegranate juice.

Pomegranate Jelly
makes five 1/2 pints and one pint

4-1/2 cups pomegranate juice
juice of one lemon
3 cups sugar
1 package SureJell Low/No Sugar pectin

Before you start, make sure that you boil your jars and bands for ten minutes to sterilize.

Stir the pomegranate and lemon juice together over low heat and bring to a gentle boil.

While that is boiling, measure out the sugar. Place 1/4 cup of sugar aside in a separate bowl and stir it together with the pectin.

When the juices come to a hard rolling boil, that boils even when you stir it, add in the sugar. Bring it back to the boil, stirring constantly.

Then add in the sugar/pectin mixture and stir constantly. This time when it comes to a boil, count off a minute.

After a minute, remove the pan from the heat. Ladle into sterilized jars, cap, and process five minutes in a hot water bath.

Try not to tip the jelly when removing from the water bath. It will look totally liquidy, but it will firm up as it cools down.

Gorgeous stuff.

***Updated to include this photo***

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Under pressure.

Behold the All American Pressure Canner

I bought it from a fellow on Craigslist and all it needed was a weight which I ordered from Red Hill General Store (best price) and a swipe of oil around the lid.

To test it out, I pressure canned water. The nice lady at the manufacturer suggested that idea to check for leaks and accurate pressure. Once I figured out how not to explode a big aluminum bolt bomb of boiling hot water under pressure, I decided to try out making real food.

Vegetarian baked beans!

All the recipes I found said to process the beans at 10 pounds for 65 minutes, which I did. But I am curious if that is because every recipe added a square of salt pork. Does anyone know if the time is less for purely vegetarian beans? I am not entirely against adding salt pork, but I didn't have any on hand.

For this recipe I used Baer's Navy beans and a molasses sauce - molasses, cider vinegar, a pinch of salt, dry mustard, a shake of ginger, and some onion pulp.

Next I am going to try my hand at pickled beets. Stay tuned.

In other canning news, I've been busy. Staying busy has helped me deal with the sadness of Grandpa's passing and canning requires plenty of concentration.

Therefore the water bath has also been busy on the boil.

Pickled onions (left) Grape & Pomegranate Jelly (right)

Oh and a couple of pictures from that last batch of canning.

Green Tomato marmalade.


Green Grape Tomato Pickles.
I hope they aren't crap.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Goodnight Grandpa.

Some of you out there might know that me and m'Grandpa were like two peas hanging out in a pod. Sadly he passed away yesterday morning.

A shared love of PBS and maple syrup and geraniums and coffee with light cream and cinnamon donuts and long aimless drives to "see stuff" and many annual November Turkey Shoot weekends definitely made us friends as well as family. I really enjoyed hanging out with him. I especially loved to call him late at night - in my family everyone goes to bed by 9pm (I know! Bunch of geriatrics!) but Grandpa would still be up at 10pm to chat about everything and nothing.

Grandpa loved to garden, he made jam, baked banana bread, let me take him to his first McDonalds drive through, he was unfailingly patient and took all my abuse with good humor. I mean, the Evil Twin and I used to refer to him as "The Turtle" and not always behind his back. And sometimes when he was dawdling especially slowly we'd look at each other and say "ok, who flipped The Turtle on his back?"

I do not regret the times I rolled my eyes at him when he would stand at the top of the escalator, unaware of the people piling up behind him, or the times I was impatient with him because he needed 6+ hours to find the exact, most perfect, just right pair of corduroys that evidently existed in his own imagination. I don't regret being petty with him because it was part of our friendship, I was myself around him and he thought I was okay anyway.

For one birthday we calculated that his lifetime martini consumption number somewhere near 10,135 - which would explain why he looked so great and lived so long. Pickling is a terrific form of preservation if you ask me.

(Grandpapa - Turkey Shoot 2008)

Oh and he was pretty sure a jar of currant jelly he made in Maine circa 1989 was still good to eat in 2005, so aside from a big oval head, I am pretty sure I also inherited my intestinal fortitude from him.

He will be missed terribly but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to also have been friends.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Green Tomatoes

I happened to mention to my dear friend Spruce Bruce that I was currently in the fevered throes of canning and he said "I have a few green tomatoes for you".


He showed up with tub of tiny gourd shaped green tomatoes and assorted other sized green tomatoes.

It was a lot. And I was sort of at a loss. So I made little green tomato pickles (4 half-pints). And a couple of jars of green tomato marmalade (4 half-pints). And I still have a bunch of tomatoes left.


The colander was full of tomatoes. I started jarring them when I remembered to take out my camera. As per usual really.

I filled about 4 half-pint jars, or maybe 5. I can't remember now.

Then I poured the hot pickling brine over it, sealed them up, and processed them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

They actually look pretty good to me right now, but I am going to let them sit for a bit and, well, pickle.

After making the pickle I made some green tomato marmalade. When I told La Maman that I had a sh*t ton of green tomatoes to do something with, she told me that La Meme used to make green tomato jam with lemon. And that sounded like marmalade to me.

I basically cooked down sliced tomatoes with thinly sliced lemon pulp and peel until thick, jarred and sealed it, then processed them for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

8 jars of cooked green tomatoes later, and I was done.

I still have one tray left of green tomatoes, so maybe I will do something with them tomorrow.

Another Birthday Cake

La Maman's birthday was last week and there is only one kind of cake she REALLY loves - hazelnut dacquoise.

You might recall that I made a massive one at Easter, but now that everyone is dieting for the Evil Twin's wedding I was not about to make anything ginormous.

So I made individual dacquoise for her party.

Let me interject here that I am all about cutting corners when I cook, except when it comes to canning. But if a recipe has more than a dozen ingredients and steps, I look to see what I can cut out.

Therefore when it comes to making meringue, I kind of wing it. I get it that the bowl has to be oil free and the egg whites have to be at room temperature and that the oven has to be at just the right heat and you can't make them on a rainy day and all sorts of scary rules like that.

Which is just too much effort for me. I just whip up my egg whites a bit (hopefully I remembered to take them out early to get to room temp, and degrease the bowl and the whip, but chances are I didn't), add a big pinch of cream of tartar, then keep whipping until stiff, all the while slowly adding the sugar as I go. At the end I'll fold in chocolate chips, or sliced almonds, or in this case toasted, skinned, and pulverized hazelnuts.

Then I pipe it out, or blob it out depending, and bake it for an hour then turn off the oven and let them dry out.

As I like to say: boom, done.

I made two meringue rounds per dacquoise, but in retrospect I think three would have worked well also:

Piped out meringue rounds.
The poopy looking stuff on top is chocolate hazelnut mousse.

The thing with the mousse... Well let's just say that the first batch was a disaster, but not totally a waste. I should have just melted the chocolate into the heavy cream, then whipped it up the next day, and THEN put in the ground hazelnuts. But I didn't. Oh well. So it just never whipped up. So I added some butter and that sorted it out. Kind of. Because it really unfortunately looked like poo.

Then flip over the top rounds and mush them down onto the "poo"

As you can see from the shiny brown bits in the meringue, I was a little sloppy in my meringue making.

Then I stuck the tray into the fridge to get them nice and cold before dousing them with chocolate glaze.


I promise you that this was pretty easy to make. It's all about chopping out the fussiness and adjusting for things that don't work out exactly.

Everyone liked it, and no one thought it looked like poo at all.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Freezing Food

You know what I love? I love lots of things, but I especially love blueberry pancakes on a snow day.

And you know what else? The snow is coming. Maybe not today, probably not tomorrow, but there will be snow before blueberries are back in season!

Which means that all summer long I've been stockpiling a store of frozen blueberries, frozen at the height of the season. I have about 6 cups worth and had been storing them in regular ziploc bags until I noticed that they were getting covered in ice crystals.

That's not a good sign.

So in order to protect my precious supply of blueberries I decided to invest in a vacuum sealing system. Which are startlingly expensive in some cases. Yipes!

I decided against the fancy, higher end versions that involve heat and bags that can only be ordered online . Frankly I don't need a big system because it's just me and really I don't freeze all that much. Well, at least that is what I tell myself because just thinking about it now...... hmmm you know.... I freeze more than I think I do.

Anyway someone had suggested a Reynolds Handy Vac system and I looked for it at the local Stop & Shop. They had the Handy Vac in stock, but not the bags. The Vac itself was ten bucks and requires batteries which annoyed me. Which annoyed enough people I guess because the Handy Vac system has now been discontinued. Oh well. That explains the no bags.

But one shelf down I found the Ziploc Vacuum Pump system for four bucks. The simple hand operated pump comes with three complimentary quart size bags to get you started and bags are also available in gallon size. If I ever get to the gallon size, I will need an intervention.

I portioned out my frozen blueberries in to the vacuum bags and then used the hand pump (no batteries!) to suck out the air. So far so good and I am pretty confident that come the first snow day, I will be enjoying blueberry pancakes!

Canning Fever - Part 2

As you may have guessed from the past couple of posts, I have recently been on a canning binge. And as promised, here are a few photos of the results.

As a result of the canning class with Eugenia Bone, I am now obsessed with preserving tomatoes. I eat a ridiculous amount of crushed tomato, especially in the winter when I just want to start a stew cooking while I have a hot shower. But mostly I like to eat a little pasta with a can of tomatoes dumped on top with tons of garlic and parsley.

The jar on the right is how freshly canned tomatoes sometimes look just out of the water bath. The clear yellow liquid is the pectin separating which is apparently quite normal. Just turn the jar upside down a few times and you will get something like what you see on the left.

This is a little pot of tomato concentrate. I have a love/hate relationship with tomato paste. I will eat it directly out of the tube, squeezing it straight into my mouth. But I hate how sometimes tomato paste can taste a little metallic, which can usually be solved by cooking it a little first but which isn't always practical, especially when I am just eating it out of hand. I call this tomato concentrate because it is a little looser than paste, but thicker than ketchup and it is just tomatoes, no spices.

On the left a jar of pickled cauliflower and on the right, roasted red peppers. I am really excited for the cauliflower which needs to sit for a little longer. Both red peppers and cauliflower are in season right now. The red peppers were selling for $1 per pound and I think it was about $1.50 for a big head of perfect cauliflower.

Apples two ways. On the left are spiced apples, on the right crab apple jelly.

I made the crab apple jelly from crab apples off the tree I planted out back. The tree was covered in fruit so I figured why not. The jelly came out cloudy because I pushed the fruit through the cheesecloth a little more than I should have. Eh, I was warned so I can only blame myself.

We used spiced apples last night to make little tiny turnovers:

Which we made from rolling out Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough and re-shaping it. Just pinch the edges together with a fork and sprinkle with sugar before baking. Delicious!

I also made mint jelly from some leftover Ginger Gold apples and a few stems of mint from the backyard. I am totally not at all sure how this is going to turn out, possibly it is going to be way too sweet, but we'll see what happens around Easter.

And lastly preserved lemons:

Lemons were 5 for a dollar the other day so I bought ten and made 2 jars of preserved lemons - one large and one small. I can't wait to use them in a dish with chicken and olives.

Ok so, the tally so far is:

-- 6 pints of pickled cauliflower
-- 8 half pints of spiced apples
-- 5 pints of marinated red peppers
-- 8 pints of crushed tomatoes
-- 6 4oz pots of tomato concentrate
-- 2 pints of crab apple jelly
-- 4 4oz pots of mint jelly

And now that I have acquired a pressure canner I will try my hand at more substantial foods. Like baked beans. Or chicken soup. I just need to get a couple of parts for the canner cover.

And a nap.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More on food preservation

Ok, ok, yes, I am obsessed. Moving right along, shall we...

So far this week I have processed the following:

-- 6 pints of pickled cauliflower
-- 8 half pints of spiced apples
-- 5 pints of marinated red peppers
-- 6 pints of crushed tomatoes

I am picking up a secondhand pressure canner tomorrow and am looking forward to canning soup. Right now red peppers are nice and cheap so I was thinking about roasted red pepper soup. And now that the cauliflower is looking so nice right now, I am thinking to make more pickle.

So this winter, when it blizzards out, come on over! There will be plenty for all.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Canning Fever.

I have a problem and canning is thy name.

Pictures to come, but let me just say that I pickled cauliflower yesterday - 6 pints. And then today I was stuck in a long work meeting so by the time I got home I needed to do something to calm the self so I made 8 half pints of spiced apples.

My house smells lovely and I feel like I accomplished something and NOW I am ready for bed.

Why this is a problem? Because I am already planning what to can tomorrow.


This can't be good.

Down Cape Eat-a-Thon Part 2

Uhhhh oh yeah, there was a part one to this... you can read about that HERE.

And realistically it is a little late to be posting about Labor Day now, but a chocolate bag was involved so I can't really let it go.

Oh but first let me explain about this place:

This is the Improper Bostonian - the Evil Twin called it "tea dance for straight people". It is where Jim Plunkett plays songs and heckles his audience. It is where I went and got so blind drunk that I passed out for 12 hours straight. Flat out on the bed, fully dressed.


When I finally could get mostly vertical without dry heaving, the ET and I drove up to Provincetown to visit Uncle Don and KenDoll who fed us delicious food that I could not stop eating:

There is NOTHING better than pasta and meat sauce for restoring a person after a massive hangover.

I know, I know, you were thinking that the chocolate bag would have sorted me...

After the jaunt to P-town (one of my most favorite places on earth!) we headed back Down Cape.
And went out for dinner, natch.

The Future Bro-in-Law had sorted us out for dinner that night at the Ocean House, which I've heard so much about.

This was the gorgeous view from our table:

And now that I've left it so long, I've forgotten what everyone had, but I know that I had oysters. Never say die, right?

And the chicken:

And then everything else:

The dip for the bread


Lobster ravioli

Hmmm. Pasta of some sort.

And I think this was the cod.

Of course all this was just hurdles on the eating derby to the Chocolate Bag - literally a bag made out of chocolate and stuffed with brownie, ice cream, caramel, banana, and chocolate sauce. You only think it will make you sick. It won't. I should know.


Side view

Whoops! Smashed to bits to get to the ice cream
Behold! the Chocolate Bag!

So yeah, I ate my way through Labor Day. And I've only just now recovered. Now, who wants to go get a Chocolate Bag with me?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Canning with Eugenia Bone

I was over in Cambridge today learning canning skills from the lovely Eugenia Bone, author of Well Preserved.

Right now I am in full tilt canning mode and I will post all about this later. But let me just say right now that I totally have a kitchen crush on Ms. Bone!

She is utterly charming and completely down to earth about canning. I learned a lot and the class was far too short at two and a half hours.

Seriously, I could have spent two and a half days in class and that probably wouldn't have been enough.

Happy Birthday to You!!!

I am not going to say who, but today someone's birthday.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Today's favorite ingredient

I found this in the North End, at Salumeria Italiana, but I've seen it in other places. Pretty much I have been putting it in everything lately.

So far my favorite recipe is to put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet with a few minced cloves of garlic, some red pepper flakes, and a big pinch of smoked paprika. Get the oil nice and hot and throw in a half dozen cleaned shrimp. Let it sizzle a bit and turn pink, then turn the shrimp.

Just as they are about done I throw in a can of chopped tomatoes, or some cooked broccoli, or even cauliflower. Or you could have it as is with a bit of bread to soak up the garlicky oil.

Very delicious.