High-Acid

Homemade Ketchup and an Update You Didn’t Ask For

Remember me?

It’s been awhile…  4 months, to be more specific.  I haven’t forgotten you!  Just got caught up in life!  I have a few new adventures – one being that my husband, after nearly 3 years of being unemployed, got a job!  He actually went into my family’s business and is LOVING it!  I’m so happy for him, because he’s spent most of his career being relatively unsatisfied.  Now he’s running a school catering business and putting his super annoy… incredible efficiency skills to good use!  Another bit of news is that I have a “job” too!  I started babysitting these two darling girls who are sisters, just 11 months and 20 months old.  (Crazy people!  My girls are three YEARS apart and I thought that was kinda fast!!)  It’s a really good fit, having four girls running around during the day, and it makes me chuckle a little to think that with cleaning my parent’s house every other week and babysitting full time during the week, I’m actually getting PAID to be a stay-at-home Mom!  Ha!

So, life is good!  I also invested in a new camera, and after my next two posts (which are already photographed by my old crappy camera)  you will start seeing some sharper pictures of the canning process.  I sure know how to keep you on pins and needles, eh Dear Reader?  🙂

A sneak peak of my new photographic capabilities!  This is my youngest daughter, Dagny.  Isn't she just the epitome of summer here?

A sneak peak of my new photographic capabilities! This is my youngest daughter, Dagny. Isn’t she just the epitome of summer memories here?

Anyway, I made some ketchup way back, even before Christmas.  I think I even alluded to it like a tease on my Facebook Page, but then never bothered to post it.  This ended up being a blessing in disguise though, because it gave my family time to actually consume the ketchup!  I still have a quart left, and I’ve learned a few valuable lessons:

1. Make this in small batches.  Unless you eat ketchup every single day with every single meal, you probably won’t consume an entire quart before it goes bad.

2. Do not store this in one of those cool retro red ketchup bottles or anything that doesn’t have a lid in the refrigerator, because if you do you will find yourself eating it and thinking it doesn’t taste quite right.  And then you will discover mold.  And then you will die of horror.

3. Do not put too much cayenne in the batch or your children will not eat it.  Wussies.

4. Whilst in the “reduction” phase of this recipe, a “low boil” is NOT the same as a “simmer”.  A low boil is more like reducing the heat from a high heat to a medium heat.  You want the sauce to boil down sometime while you’re still young, and if you turn the heat all the way down to simmer, you will die and be buried before it ever reaches the consistency you desire.  I’m actually writing from Heaven as we speak.  It’s amazing up here!  Say yes to Jesus!

5. Make this.  It’s really good and worth buying all the unfamiliar spices for!  The directions are all from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation, and they claim that the consistency will be thinner than commercial ketchup.  I think you can probably get pretty close to the right consistency depending on your patience in the reduction phase.  My batch turned out a little thinner than Heinz, but still held up nicely on a french fry.

Homemade Ketchup or Catsup for you weirdos out there 😉

Makes about 7 pint jars

What you will need:

  • 3 Tbsp celery seeds
  • 4 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (4 inches each), broken into pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole allspice
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 24 lbs tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pickling or canning salt

Directions:

1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a corner of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a corner of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, add vinegar and spice bag.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes.  Discard spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, add vinegar and spice bag. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes. Discard spice bag.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes.  Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.  (I actually pureed and strained my tomatoes before adding the vinegar.  You can do it either way.)

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes. Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes. (I actually pureed and strained my tomatoes before adding the vinegar. You can do it either way.)

Using a food mill or a food processor and working in batches, puree mixture.  Transfer mixture to a mesh colander placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, shaking and  banging the colander on the side of the bowl to force the liquids through.  Discard solids.

4. Using a food mill or a food processor and working in batches, puree mixture. Transfer mixture to a mesh colander placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, shaking and banging the colander on the side of the bowl to force the liquids through. Discard solids.

 

5. Return liquid to saucepan.  Add sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 45 minutes

6. Meanwhile, prepare jars and lids.  See Instructions for Boiling-Water Canning.

7. Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding hot ketchup.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistence is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

8. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

I chose to can this into quarts, which I would not recommend.  Pints or half-pints make much more sense since there are no preservatives!  (Am I wearing a muumuu in the reflection?  That was SO 4 months ago! Tsk!)

I chose to can this into quarts, which I would not recommend. Pints or half-pints make much more sense since there are no preservatives! (Am I wearing a muumuu in the reflection? That was SO 4 months ago! Tsk!)

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Categories: Canning, High-Acid, Journal, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , ,

Apple Pie Filling in a Jar

Apple season is pretty much over, and applesauce is usually the most popular canning choice when faced with a case of apples, but I decided to switch it up this year.  Well, that and I still have a jar of applesauce left from last year.  My kids go through phases, and they are NOT in an applesauce phase right now.  So anyway, I thought this looked pretty fun!  It took me awhile to find the ClearJel, so I’m going to save you the trouble and tell you right now that you will probably have a hard time finding it in store, too.  Here’s a link to a good price on ClearJel on Amazon.  (Plus if you go through this link I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you!  Thanks!)

Why use ClearJel instead of cornstarch?  “ClearJel is a cooking starch that is acceptable for use in home canning.  Not all cooking starches are suitable for home canning, as reheating causes some to lose viscosity.  Making mixtures too thick can interfere with required heat penetration during heat processing.”  (Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation, p. 170)

Apple Pie Filling  Makes about 7 pint jars (or 3 quart jars, if you weren’t paying attention and accidentally filled quart jars instead of pint jars.)

What you will need:

  • 12 cups sliced peeled cored apples, treated to prevent browning (directions below!)
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup ClearJel
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 1/2 bottled lemon juice

Directions:

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.  For more information, click here

2. In a large pot of boiling water, working with 6 cups at a time, blanch apple slices for 1 minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a covered bowl.

I actually poured a teapot of hot water over the apples instead

(I actually just heated a teapot and poured the water into a large bowl holding all the apple slices.  That seemed easier.)

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine sugar, ClearJel, cinnamon, nutmeg, water and apple juice.

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Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Add lemon juice, return to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

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Drain apple slices and immediately fold into hot mixture.

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Before processing, heat, stirring, until apples are heated through.

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4. Ladle hot pie filling into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot filling.  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 with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 25 minutes for pint jars and 35 for quarts.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

There you have it!  Not too hard, eh?  Now any time of the year you have a yen for apple pie or apple turnovers, all you have to do is buy make pie crusts and open your jar! 😉

PS.  Did you notice my new ladle??  It is so awesome; I am smitten!  It gets into every nook and cranny of the jar and has made my life just that much easier!  I got mine at Meijer, but here’s a link at Amazon if you want to check it out!

Categories: Canning, Fruit, High-Acid | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Pickles: My First Love

Mrs. Wages dill pickles

I think in the future, looking back on this summer, I can probably call this “The Summer of Pickles”.  I’ve made three different kinds of pickles this summer, mostly out of experimentation, and with the ultimate goal of achieving my heart’s desire:  Vlasic, without the food coloring and preservatives.  I’ve always been a Vlasic girl, and unfortunately, it looks like I’m going to continue to be one.  I just cannot seem to nail down the right recipe!  I tried Mrs. Wages dill mix, and the flavor is great, but the crunch is non-existent.  I tried fermentation, and the crunch is decent and the flavor is unique and delicious, but it just isn’t Vlasic.  The best pickle I’ve made so far, in fact, is the recipe for “Old South” pickles on the back of Mrs. Wages pickling lime mix.  It’s basically a bread-and-butter pickle, but better.  I love them, but I can’t promise my heart to them exclusively.

I’m not going to give up.  I shall pursue my quest for a Vlasic copycat.  And when I master it, you will be the first to know!

In the meantime, here are some tips for pickling cucumbers.  I actually have not followed ALL these tips yet, which hopefully is why my pickles haven’t been super crunchy.  The problem is that I’m growing my own pickling cucumbers, and I only get 2-3 ready at the same time, and I don’t really feel like putting all that effort into 2-3 pickles!  I’ve decided NOT to grow my own pickling cucumbers next year, and instead order them in bulk from my local produce market owner.  He told me that I can order them by size, which will be nice because then they will all be around the same size and ready for pickling at the same time!

Cucumber Tips:

  • Use the cucumbers the day of or up to 24 hours of picking them (for the best crunch.  You can certainly use them after that, but they won’t be as crunchy.)
  • Do not wash the cucumbers until you are ready to use them!  They start to deteriorate much quicker once washed.
  • When making dill pickles, select pickles that are no longer than 6 inches.
  • Cut 1/16 inch off each end of the cucumber.  The blossom end contain enzymes that can cause soft pickles.
  • Use only pickling cucumbers, the pickling brine will not be able to penetrate the wax coating on other cucumbers.

Brine Tips:

  • Use only stainless steel or glass equipment.  Other materials can react with the acid and alter the taste and color of the pickles.  Especially do not use wooden spoons, they will absorb the flavor!  (And, as a former Cutco salesgirl, I feel inclined to urge you to pitch all your wooden spoons and cutting boards.  They are nasty and unsanitary!  That is all.)
  • Always use high-quality commercial white distilled or cider vinegar with 5% acidity unless other types are specified in the recipe.
  • Use Pickling Salt instead of table or iodized salt, and use the correct amount called for in the recipe.
  • Use only new dried spices, if using.  Spices that have been on the shelf for over a year will not produce the best result.
  • You need soft water to make pickles.  If you only have hard water, you can soften your water by doing this: Bring hard water to a boil in a large stainless steel saucepan and boil for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 24 hours.  Skim off any scum that has formed on the surface and carefully decant or ladle into another container, without disturbing the sediment that collects at the bottom.

(All tips were taken from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

Old South on the Left, Refrigerator Pickles in the middle (How cool is that jar? I found 3 of those at a garage sale this summer!), and Mrs. Wages Dill mix on the right.

Here are a few recipes for you to experiment with:

I made the dill pickles with Mrs. Wages dill mix, which is pretty simple to do.  I added Pickle Crisp, and can tell you that if you are a) not using pickling cucumbers, or b) not using freshly picked cucumbers, that even with the Pickle Crisp, you will NOT get crisp pickles.

Adding Pickle Crisp to my dills

Rather than write out a whole post on it, I will just direct you to the wonderful blog post I found for the refrigerator pickles.  Recipe for fermentation-style refrigerator pickles

Doesn’t this jar look like something from the ’70s? I’m slightly concerned it actually might be, since I purchased it from a teeny tiny grocery store in a teeny tiny town. The mix YOU will be buying comes in 2012 packing;)

Old South Cucumber Lime Pickles

What you will need:

7 lbs cucumbers (sliced crosswise)

1 cup Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime

2 gallons water

8 cups white distilled vinegar, 5% acidity

8 cups sugar

1 Tbsp pickling salt

2 tsp mixed pickling spices

Directions:

  1. Soak clean cucumbers in water and lime mixture in crockery or enamel ware for 2 hours or overnight.  Do not use aluminum ware.  (I used my two biggest crockpots)
  2. Remove sliced cucumbers from lime water.  Discard lime water. Rinse 3 times in fresh cold water. Soak 3 hours in fresh ice water.
  3. Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and mixed pickling spices in a large pot. Bring to a low boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove syrup from heat and add sliced cucumbers.  Soak 5-6 hours or overnight.
  4. Boil the slices in the syrup 35 minutes.  Fill sterilized jars with hot slices.  Pour hot syrup over the slices, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Cap each jar when filled.
  5. Process pints 10 minutes, quarts 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.
  6. Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s instructions.

(Recipe taken directly off the jar of Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime!)

The Old South pickles are pretty good!   It is a labor-intensive recipe, but I really like them and think it is worth the effort.  I will be making them again next year.

I’m still getting cucumbers out in my garden, so when I get around to it, here is  The next pickle recipe I’m going to try!

Wish me luck!  And good luck with your own!

Categories: Canning, Fermentation, High-Acid, Pickles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Basic Tomato Sauce and Condensed Tomato Soup

I’ve been making my own tomato sauce for several years now and have gotten into a certain…rhythm.  It’s not a difficult process, per se, but it is time consuming and extremely messy.  So messy, in fact, that the first time I made tomato sauce as an adult (without the tutelage of my wise mother) I swore I would never put myself through such an ordeal again.   My kitchen was a disaster and my sauce turned out thin and uninspiring.  In fact, I didn’t even use some of the quarts I had canned because looking at them brought back such unpleasant memories!   (Who says cooking isn’t an emotional experience?)

Those days are gone.  I’ve trial-and-error’d tomato sauce to a Chelsea Perfection: a rhythm I am pleased with, and a product I am thrilled with.  There is no need to blanch and peel the tomatoes, and all you need is a food processor and a strainer!

Step 1 – Choosing Tomatoes:  Choose the right kind of tomatoes!  If you can, use at least 50% of your batch with Romas.  They are small but meaty, and will give you the consistency of sauce you desire.  I like to blend 3-4 kinds of tomatoes to get the best flavors.  This year I planted and harvested Romas, 2 kinds of Heirlooms, and Better Boys.  Or Big Boys.  Or Early Girls.  I can’t remember.  I’m not sure it matters.  They’re red and if you let them get very ripe on the vine they have an amazing flavor…or so claims my husband.  I hate raw tomatoes, but adore all tomato products.  I know, I’m weird.

Step 2  – Preparing Tomatoes: Wash the tomatoes, slice in half, and cut out any blemishes, spots, cracks and the cores.  I then quarter them, and throw them all into a stainless steel pot.  According to the Ball Book of Home Preserving, “the acid in tomatoes can react with aluminum, copper, brass, galvanized or iron equipment, creating bitter flavors and undesirable colors”.  Turn the heat on medium, and cook them down into a mush.  Sometimes I even take a potato masher and make sure the chunks are practically liquified.  This isn’t totally necessary, but it does help to speed the process up a little.

Step 3 – Process and Strain: Here comes the messy parts!  I set up a work station like this:

Tomatoes in pot on stove (yes, I realize this is not a stainless steel pot. I’m a rebel.), next is food processor, next is the pot sauce will get strained into, then a waste bowl for the seeds and skins.

Once the tomatoes are completely cooked down, and resemble sauce more than whole tomatoes, break out your food processor.  Ladle a few cups of mush into the food processor and blend for several seconds.  Then transfer the liquid to your strainer.  Jiggle the strainer a bit to get all the juice through, then – with moderate force – bang the strainer down on the edge of the bowl to encourage the sauce through.  This doesn’t take very long, less than a minute.  There is no need to use a spoon to force it through, just do a variety of bang-bang-jiggle-jiggle’s on the side of the bowl.

Bang-Bang-Jiggle-Jiggle!

Once all the sauce is forced through the strainer, all that is left is the skins and seeds!

Step 4 Reduce Sauce:  Once all the mush has been processed and strained, return the pure sauce to the pan.  I usually rinse or wash the pan first, to make sure there aren’t any rogue seeds left in there.  Now assess your sauce.  Is it already the consistency you desire?  If so, you are ready to can, freeze or use it.  If it’s still a little thin then you want to reduce it.  Reduce is a word that the meaning of which eluded me the first time I made sauce.  What reduce means, in the cooking world, is to bring your sauce to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer, and let the sauce simmer for some time until the amount of sauce has decreased.  What happens during this time is that the juice evaporates, and the overall quality of the sauce thickens.  Depending on the type of tomatoes you use, sometimes you need to reduce your sauce by half!  (Meaning, you will get 2 quarts instead of 4!)  Try not to let this discourage you, as it did me at first.  You will be much happier with a thicker sauce when the time comes to use it, and even though it seems frustrating to “lose” half your sauce, you really want a nice, thick sauce in the end.

So anyway, if you need to reduce your sauce, do it now.  This might take an hour, so be patient.  Keep the heat on simmer and stir occasionally.  I usually need to reduce my sauce by a third, using the 3-4 kinds of tomatoes that I use, and it takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Your finished product is a pure, no-additives, nice, thick tomato sauce from scratch!  At this point, you can use it, transfer it to freezer-safe jars or bags (you should let it cool first!), or you can can it.

Step 5 – Clean your kitchen!  Messy stuff, eh?

Canning Tomato Sauce

How much sauce you will yield will depend on how many pounds of tomatoes you started with, and how much you needed to reduce your sauce.  It’s highly variable.  I usually get about 3 quarts out of a full large stockpot of quartered tomatoes.  You will really have to play it by ear and hold off on preparing your jars and lids until your sauce is done so you can eyeball it and see how many jars you will need.

See the canning process for a boiling-water canner here, (you can also pressure can tomato sauce…more on that at a later date!) adding these steps:

  • Tomato products need bottled lemon juice added.  Add 1 tablespoon to pints and 2 tablespoons to quarts.
  • Process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes.

Jars acclimating to room temperature

Condensed Tomato Soup

Makes 4 pints.

In my quest to rid my cupboards of Campbell’s (*sniff* I love Campbell’s!), I needed to come up with a condensed tomato soup version.  I could just make a delicious tomato soup and freeze it like a normal person, but normal people think ahead and pull stuff out of the freezer the day before they want it.  I never know I want tomato soup until about 10 minutes before I HAVE to have it, so freezer soup isn’t gonna cut it!  There’s also that tricky problem that you’re not really supposed to can anything with thickeners or dairy due to heat’s inability to penetrate those types of fat for safe consumption.  SO, I’m shooting for a product very similar to Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup.  Open jar, add milk, microwave.  Yum.  Here’s what I came up with, and it’s shockingly easy.

What you need:

  • 8 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • bottled lemon juice

Directions:

1. Bring sauce to a boil, add sugar.  Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each pint.  Follow these basic steps for canning with a boiling-water canner, and process pints for 35 minutes.

2. When ready to use, open jar and dump into bowl.  Add half a pint (1 cup) of milk, and warm on stove or in microwave.  I usually add shredded cheese to my soup (I like a lot of cheese.  Like, a ridiculous handful.  And I wonder why I’m chubby.)  Serve alone or with grilled cheese sandwiches!  (No, the grilled cheese sandwiches do not always replace the insane amount of cheese I put in my soup.  I have problems.)

The Verdict:

It tastes very similar to Campbell’s!  It’s a little more tangy, which I like.  I am absolutely thrilled to be able to have the convenience of canned soup that tastes almost exactly like the real thing without all the cons – BPA, high fructose corn syrup, etc.  It’s a keeper!

Categories: Canning, Freezing, High-Acid, Soup, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Canning Classes and HOT Pickled Peppers!

That’s me in the salmon shirt at the stove. Isn’t my friend Sarah’s kitchen amazing? It really was the perfect gathering place for 20+ women.

Monday night I was honored to be asked to teach a canning class for my church’s Mom’s Group, MOMentum, at the home of a new friend.  I knew about this class several months ago, a fact that did not discourage me from my typical procrastinating style.  I started thinking about the class a week in advance, but it wasn’t until about a day before the actual class that I finally decided on WHAT to can!  I had to keep it simple since it was an introductory class, I also needed to keep it short since it was an evening class and well, everyone has lives outside of food preservation.

Some of the lovely ladies at the class

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, my fabulous in-laws gifted me with an entire bowl of what we all thought were banana peppers.  I discovered this honest mistake at the expense of my poor one-year-old’s reaction to chomping down on a pepper ring.  I quickly tasted the offending ring and realized that this was no innocent banana pepper!  This baby was HOT!  And my baby was MAD!  I’m pretty sure she’s scarred for life over peppers, and there’s a good chance she’ll never trust me again.  Mama duped her, ain’t no two ways about it!

Another shot of this gorgeous stove, and me trying to look nonchalant. I really don’t think “nonchalant” is a word anyone would use to describe me, no matter how hard I try to achieve the appearance of such. (Yes, I’m aware of the oxymoron there)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, I digress.  So I settled on pickling these spicy peppers since I had them, and also because the recipe is simple, and they only needed to process for 10 minutes.  Perfect!  I washed and cut them all into rings before the class.  I brought samples of everything I have canned this year, which looked kinda cool on my friend’s counter, I have to admit.  I brought my pressure canner, mostly because I wanted to show it off, but also because I really have no desire to use my “borrowed” boiling-water canner anymore.  The pressure canner is taller, and I never have the concern that it will boil over like I did with the boiling-water canner.  Since I can use my pressure canner AS a boiling-water canner, why not?

Sarah, our host, teaching us about how to make delicious, healthy smoothies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The class went well!  I’m not a natural teacher, despite the fact that I used to be a musical theater actress in high school and college.  I get wildly nervous standing on the same floor as my peers, trying to get information from my brain out of my mouth in a coherent manner.  Being up on a stage with rehearsed lines… way different.  At any rate, we all had a lot of fun, and I think I was able to sputter out the basic steps of canning.

It did occur to me, however, that although the steps are usually included with my recipes in my posts, I really should have a specific page dedicated to them.

More harvest posts are coming as well, I have been canning nearly every day for about two weeks and have lots to share with you!  For now, here is the recipe for Hot Pickled Peppers!

Hot Pickled Peppers (Recipe adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

What you will need:

  • 2 lbs hot yellow peppers
  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed

Directions:

  1. Heat jars in boiling-water canner
  2. Place lids in small saucepan, simmer (not boil) until ready to use
  3. Wash peppers and slice into rings.  Consider wearing gloves while doing this step, otherwise avoid touching anything on your face for the rest of the day!
  4. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water and garlic.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, until garlic flavor has infused the liquid.  Discard garlic.
  5. Pack peppers into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar.  Fingertip-tighten rings.
  6. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are covered by water by at least 1 inch.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to a towel on the counter, cool, label and store.

Categories: Canning, High-Acid | Tags: , , , , , ,

Tomato Basil Soup from Actual Tomatoes

I’ve never made my own tomato soup before.  I have, however, consumed approximately 8,000,000 cans of tomato soup over the last 2, almost 3 decades.  I’m sure that’s not much of an exaggeration, either.  It’s kind of ironic how much I love tomato soup and all tomato products because until recently, I wouldn’t touch a raw tomato with a 10-foot pole.  I’ve since matured drastically in a culinary sense (I’ve even started eating mushrooms!  Gasp!) and no longer sneer at tomatoes, even gone as far as ceasing to pick them off of menu items.  So lately it’s occurred to me that it’s high time to finally make my own tomato soup, for once and for all.

Are you starting to worry that this is becoming more of a blog on soup than it is on preserving?  Me too.  I have an addiction!

But in my defense, it was a pretty crappy day.

No sun in sight.  Rain, dreariness, inside activities.  All signs that point toward soup.

Okay, here’s the scoop:  Everyone has a thing, right?  Well, I go in phases.  I guess you could even say phases are my thing.  The phase I’m going through right now is that commercially canned foods are from the devil because of BPA, even though I’m not even entirely sure what BPA is or why it’s from the devil.  (You can read the link, but if you’re like me all you’ll get from that is “don’t eat it, it’s from the devil”) But whatever, that’s my thing.  So anyway, the point of telling you that is because I had a really hard time finding tomato soup recipes that were truly from scratch.  They all used canned tomatoes, which are apparently some of the worst offenders for the whole BPA thing, so obviously I don’t want to use them.

So here’s a quick tutorial on making tomato sauce.  We’ll revisit this in about a month when the tomatoes are in season, but they’re pretty cheap in the stores right now anyway, so maybe this is useful information now!

Tomato Sauce (makes about 1 quart)

What you will need:

  • 8 big juicy tomatoes, like beefsteak or big boys
  • 8 Roma tomatoes
  • a strainer
  • a food processor
  • a pot
  • a plethora of paper towels or a heavy duty sponge

Directions:

The first step is to wash the tomatoes.  Next, we’re going to blanch them to remove the peels easier.  You do this by bringing a pot of water to a boil.  For the larger tomatoes, you might want to cut them in half, but it’s not necessary.  Just a little easier.  Once the water is boiling, you carefully place the tomatoes in the water for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Then remove them, and with a tongs or a fork, peel the skin away.  It should peel away without much effort.  If it’s still sticking, return the tomato to the boiling water for another 30 seconds. You can technically skip this step since we’re going to strain the tomatoes anyway, but I think it makes straining so much easier to get rid of the peels first.

Next, empty the water from the pan, cut up the tomatoes into halves or quarters and return them to the empty pan.

Heat, stirring often, over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until they look like this:

This is when I start salivating, and my husband – who worked in a tomato factory as a teen – leaves the house.  Once the tomatoes have boiled down to a chunky sauce, turn the heat off and bring out the food processor.  Load up the food processor and puree the tomatoes. Depending on the size of your processor, you may need empty and re-load to process all the tomatoes.

Now it’s time to strain out the seeds!  The best way I’ve found to do this is by using a strainer.  (Go figure) Ladle one or two scoops of puree at a time into the strainer, and hold over an empty bowl or pan.  BANG the strainer on the bowl to get all the “meat” through.  This is much faster and more effective than pressing the puree with a spoon.  It does make a little bit of a mess, but that’s what the sponge is for!

This is what the strainer should look like after you’ve smacked all the meat out of it:

Just the seeds and whatever didn’t boil down is left!  All the good saucy meat made it through!  Once you’ve done this to all of the puree, return the sauce to the stove and bring to a boil.

Now, from this point, if you just want sauce, you’ll bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for about an hour until the sauce is the consistency you prefer.  From here you could can the sauce or freeze if you aren’t going to immediately use it.

But since we are going to immediately use it, go ahead and let it simmer down for 30 minutes or so, or until it’s thicker than a soup consistency.  Now we make soup!  I used this recipe for the base of my soup.

Tomato Basil Soup 

What you will need:

Directions:

Follow the directions from the above link, substituting the tomato sauce for the cans of tomatoes.  Add the cheese to the soup at the very end while the soup is simmering hot and allow it to completely melt and become one with the soup.  It really adds a heartiness and amps up the “comfort” level (aka, calories…) of the soup!

 

The Verdict

It turned out really good, although in typical Chelsea fashion it was a little trial by error.  I started with only about a pint of sauce so it wasn’t a rich enough “tomato” flavor for me, but once I added more sauce I liked it.  You can skip my sauce and just make it with cans of devil tomatoes like the recipe calls for, which is probably more accurate than my rendition.  We got several meals out of this!  The first meal was served with a hunk of homemade bread (which I almost burned, but still turned out pretty good), another meal was served with lemon cream pasta (which I added sauteed garlic too…a must!), and the last meal was served on this rainy June day with…duh…grilled cheese!  As I was making grilled cheese I got feisty and threw some cheddar into the soup as it was heating up (Ok, I’m lying.  It wasn’t cheddar.  It was fake plastic American cheese.  Also from the devil, but somehow not a part of my current thing.) and that made all the difference in the world!  Now imagine if I had used real cheddar!  That didn’t surprise my husband at all when I did that because I’m well known for adding half a block of shredded cheese to my tomato soup. So rather than make you discover this happy pairing by perchance, I figured I’d just add it to the recipe.

An Important Afterthought

Oh yeah!  This is a food preservation blog… I keep getting distracted by recipes and the actual consuming of the food!  If you want to make up a bunch and pressure-can it, do not add the cream.  That has to be added as you heat it because it’s not recommended to can dairy.  If you choose to can this soup, process quarts at 10 lbs pressure for 30 minutes and pints for 25 minutes.  You could also eliminate the carrots and chicken broth and can it in a water-boiling canner, processing quarts for 40 minutes and pints for 35.  Either way, pressure-canned or water-boiled, you do need to add 2 Tbsp to quarts and 1 Tbsp to pints of bottled lemon juice (fresh squeezed lemon juice doesn’t contain the appropriate amount of acidity). If canning is not for you, you can always freeze it!  I ended up adding the cream to mine and freezing it, because as a life-long yo-yo dieter I just don’t make a habit of keeping cream in the house, so I wanted to use it all before it a) went bad or b) tempted me to dip chocolate chip cookies in it.

Cheers!

Categories: Canning, Freezing, High-Acid, Soup

Sun-Dried Tomatoes Vs. Dehyrator-Dried Tomatoes

I stumbled upon a book a few weeks ago that immediately intrigued me.  The title alone drew me in:  Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation.  I mean, come on, any book that completely summarizes it’s contents within it’s own title has to be a quick, easy read, right?   As it turned out, most of the recipes in there were a little far-fetched even for me.  It is a pretty interesting book, and I do recommend borrowing a copy from your library.  It’s basically a cookbook with a collection of authors almost exclusively from charming French provinces.  While I can appreciate the nutrients saved by not subjecting foods to extreme heat or cold to preserve, most of the recipes were obscure enough (chestnuts in vinegar and a bucket?) that I simply couldn’t see myself actually consuming the products.  And who has time to put up food they won’t ever eat?  The different methods of preservation NOT involving the ones that are so common and available to us today (canning and freezing) are pretty cool though.  I mean, this is hard-core Prairie Mama stuff, and normally I’d be all over such adventures.  But as I said, I just cannot see my my family passing oil-packed cottage cheese that’s been stored in my basement around the table.  Ick.

There was one recipe I did immediately try, however.  Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil.  Easy-peasy, right?

Sigh.

Nothing is ever easy-peasy for this Prairie-Mama-Wannabe.  I probably would have starved my 14 children if their existence depended soley on my food preservation skills.  (That and the fact that my husband wouldn’t shoot a deer if the darn thing was foaming at the mouth.)  Although at least we’d all be skinny…

I digress.  Let’s get to the point of the post, shall we?

Sun-Dried Tomatoes packed in oil

What you will need:

  • Small tomatoes, like cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Gauze or cheesecloth (or a old window screen, if you’re a hillbilly)
  • Coarse salt
  • Oil

Directions:

Wash your tomatoes and slice them in half the long way.  I was able to catch my daughter’s nap and prepare mine while watching repeat episodes of “The Nanny”.  I will subject you to Dagny’s perfect baby cuteness now:

Don’t you just want to pinch those sweet chubby thighs?

I placed my halves on one of my dehydrator trays, but any platter will work.  Next, sprinkle the halves liberally with the salt, cover with the cheesecloth and set in the sun.

Yeah, that’s a window screen you are seeing.  I didn’t have any cheesecloth and I live out in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t about to drive 30 minutes just to have a classier picture to post.

Not that I didn’t seriously consider it…

Ok, what really happened was that I assumed I had cheesecloth or at least something that would have worked and went ahead and cut up all the tomatoes and salted them before confirming that fallacy.

Can I get some props for creativity?  It actually worked to my advantage anyway because we had some pretty intense wind the days I had this outside, and I think it would have created a problem with anything lighter than my window screen.

Anyway, this is the tricky part of drying foods in the sun:  They actually need to BE IN THE SUN.  Not the dark, not the rain, and definitely not the hail.  Seems pretty common sense, but common sense and Chelsea Daniels have very little in, well, common.

The directions say to turn the tomatoes twice a day and to bring them in at night ‘lest the dew undo the day’s drying.

The first flip

You know what else completely undoes a day of drying?  A storm.  A big, country-style, tornado-looking storm, complete with hail.

That’s right.  I thought to take pictures of The Storm, but didn’t think to Bring In The Tomatoes.  Doh!

It’s okay, the next day was sunny and warm.  I was kind of starting from scratch again, but by the end of the day they were shriveling nicely.

At the start of Day 3, I left to go grocery shopping, remembered my tomatoes and texted my husband (at the store, not on the road 🙂 ) to please set them out in the sun for me.

At the start of Day 4, I remembered my tomatoes and realized they spent the night outside.  In the dew.  Oh, and the rain.  Of course.

Let’s just skip forward to the “done” part.  What should have taken 2, maybe 3 days of attentiveness took ME 7 days.  But sun-dry they did finally do, and NOW we get to the true easy-peasy-ness of this recipe.

Slap those time-sucking shells of what once ’twere tomatoes into a mason jar, fill it to within 3/8 inch headspace with olive oil, screw the lid on, set it in your pantry and stop wasting any more time on them!

Except I couldn’t quit thinking about them.  I was irritated that they had proved to be such a task for me, and I was irritated with myself for being irritated.  I decided to see if there was any true benefit to sun-drying them as opposed to sticking them in the dehydrator.  Do they taste better from the sun?  Sun tea does have a slight advantage over stove tea.  Suntans have a serious advantage over tanning bed tans.  Surely true sun-dried tomatoes have a magic in them that the dried bits from my dehydrator cannot match.

Of course I tested this theory:

Dehydrated Tomatoes

The brand name is kind of ironic, since I used these in the dehydrator…

What you will need:

  • Small tomatoes
  • A Dehydrator
  • Coarse salt (optional, but recommended)

Directions:

This truly is easy-peasy.  Slice up the tomatoes, lay them on the dehydrator tray, (I only used one tray because we just don’t consume many dried tomatoes) salt them, turn it on the “fruits and vegetables” setting, and in about 6 hours (depending on how packed your dehydrator is) you’ll have dried tomatoes!  Pack them in a glass jar with oil to 3/8″ headspace, seal them with a lid tightly, and store in a cool place.

The Verdict

If you aren’t as flighty as I am, sun-dried is the way to go.  The sun-dried tomatoes had a richer, fuller-bodied flavor than the dehydrated tomatoes.  I actually forgot to salt the dehydrated tomatoes (I said I was flighty!), too, and the salt on the sun-dried ones was really a nice touch.  If you are prone to forgetfulness like someone else I know, the good news is that the dehydrated tomatoes are still quite tasty, and absolutely worth it.  I was pleased to discover that I really liked the oil-packed tomatoes, and can envision myself wrapping them in basil leaves for a snack, or scattering them over a fresh salad.  I will be making these again, and I will most definitely be using my ditz-proof dehydrator!

Even Dagny wants to try one!

 

*Note* This recipe did not say how long these tomatoes will last.  Use your discretion and inspect the tomatoes for any spoilage before consuming.

Categories: Dehydrating, Fruit, High-Acid, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , , ,

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