November 29, 2011

Strawberry Jam

I know, I know, most of my blog posts recently have been canning related. But there's just so much to learn and know about the art of preserving. I recently joined a preserving online community, Punk Domestics, and submitted one of my apple posts (see here).

I have also been brainstorming canning related Christmas ideas, as my family members and friends know by now that some of their gifts will be canned. I'm thinking some cranberry sauce, chutneys and possibly canned bruschetta (would be great for Holiday party appetizers). I have already given away most of our apple butter and apple pie filling jars because sharing something you made with others is the best part of the process.

Strawberries

Once upon a time we had a crazy idea to make strawberry jam favours for our wedding. The idea sounded neat at the time, but we slowly learned that making 100 jars of jam takes a lot of work. We were lucky to get a good deal on strawberries back in July while they were still in season, but then came the task of finding freezer space and storage space for all of the berries and jars. Our wedding venue fell through a few months ago, so we decided to put off the wedding for awhile while we figure out what to do.

Strawberries

We don't know what we're going to do with all of the jam we made, as I'm not sure how long self-preserved jam lasts, but I'm sure the jam will find a good home eventually.

The jam is actually one of the easier canning recipes I have come across. You don't have to cook the mixture for hours or add a lot of fancy ingredients. The only laborious part comes in de-stemming the berries, which did take quite awhile considering we bought 8 flats (36 quarts) of strawberries...

Strawberry Jam (from BHG's Canning Magazine)(Makes 6-8 jars)
Ingredients:

12 cups strawberries (3 quarts)
1 1.75 ounce package of pectin
1/2 tsp butter
7 cups of sugar

Directions:

1. Place berries in a pot and mash them with a potato masher as you bring them to a boil.
2. Stir in the pectin and butter. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.
3. Add sugar all at once. (Yes, there is a lot of sugar in jam recipes, so don't be alarmed. This is what seven cups of sugar looks like)
4. Bring mixture up to a rolling boil again and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon.
5. Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
6. Process jars in a canner for five minutes.

Considering the high sugar content, the jam only has about 38 calories per tablespoon according to the magazine. There are also many fruit combinations you can use to make the perfect jar of jam. I have also tried rhubarb, as well as black cherry, and had great results. To me, a good jar of homemade jam is a canning classic that will never go out of style.

Strawberry Jam

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November 21, 2011

The great part about canning is you can find uses for large amounts of food without it going bad. If you've ever wondered what to do with 20 pounds of apples, then read on. Seriously, I didn't know there were so many ways to use apples since discovering apple picking. I have made apple butter, apple pie, baked apple oatmeal and now apple pie filling and apple sauce.

Apple sauce is a given when it comes to something to make with a large amount of apples. It's great in oatmeal, yoghurt, desserts and by itself as a snack. Apple pie filling on the other hand is a new thing to me. The concept of having pie filling readily available in a jar in my pantry seems a little too convenient (and dangerous). I mean, open a jar, dump the filling into a pie crust and you have a homemade apple pie? Good thing I now have six jars of it...


The apple pie filling was a little more finicky to make, and a little messier, but it would make a great hostess gift along with a readymade pie shell. 

Apple Pie Filling (adapted from this and this recipe):
Yields approx. 6-7 quarts
Ingredients:

14 cups of peeled, cored and sliced apples (amount doesn't need to be exact as you add what you need to each individual jar)
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cornstarch or flour for thickener
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon juice
10 cups water

Directions: 

In a large pan, mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add salt and water and bring to a boil until bubbly. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. 
Pack jars tightly with apple slices leaving 1/2 inch room on top. 
Now for the messy part, and trust me, it will get messy. Fill the jars with the hot syrup and remove air bubbles. I found poking the apples and inner sides of the jar with a knife helped to distribute the syrup, although it did sacrifice the overall "sliced" look of the apples. According to some canning websites, air bubbles are bad when it comes to canning, and can ruin the sealing process, so I made sure my jars were mostly bubble-free. 
Process jars for 20 minutes in a canner. 

Applesauce is a little easier to make and probably better for you with less sugar content. Eight pounds of apples (about 24) will make approximately six pints of sauce. 


I went for the original recipe this time. You can also make flavoured variations with ginger, honey or maple. 

Applesauce (from BHG's Special Edition Canning Magazine)
Ingredients: 

24 medium apples
2 cups water
Cinnamon stick or powdered cinnamon to taste
1 cup sugar

Directions:

1. Core and quarter apples.
2. Combine apples, water, cinnamon and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25-35 minutes. 
I don't have a food mill, so I mashed the apples with a potato masher. I'm alright with having peels and chunks in my applesauce, but if you are not then press the apples through a sieve or mill and return the pulp to the pot.
4. Stir in the sugar and 1/2 to 1 cup of water to make desired consistency. Bring to a boil and stir constantly. 
5. Ladle sauce into jars, leaving 1/2 inch room on top, and process in a canner for 15-20 minutes. 
These are two more ways to use apples in case you ever find yourself with 20 pounds of apples. You could also make apple cake, apple tarts, apple chips, apple crisp...the list goes on.
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November 13, 2011

Sometimes you just get a hankering for some good old-fashioned comfort food. You know, the kind that looks awful and is impossible to photograph, but tastes wonderful and feels warm in your belly. For some reason I had a hankering for cabbage rolls. I don't really know why. I used to hate them as a kid. I also hated olives, pickles, most vegetables, wine (not to say I drank it a lot as a kid, but the sips I had I thought were disgusting and didn't know why adults liked it so much) and peppers. Now I eat olives and pickles straight from the jar, love wine and apparently like cabbage rolls. I still hate peppers.

There is really no way to make this post glamorous or pretty-looking. Besides the fact that I made cabbage rolls, I also tend to sometimes be messy when I cook. It's quite difficult to keep my "mise en place" pristine when my kitchen is the size of a walk-in closet. I don't think I've shared a picture of my kitchen on the blog yet, but this is what I have to work with:


Only one person can cook or move in the kitchen at a time, so this is why there is sometimes a little clutter in my food photos. One day I will have a gorgeous kitchen and take beautifully styled food photos like the food bloggers I admire, but for now, I will make cabbage rolls in my apartment closet, I mean kitchen.


Cabbage rolls -- an Eastern European speciality-- consist of cabbage stuffed with various fillings, such as meat, rice and vegetables, baked in sauce. If you're looking for a cheap meal that will feed many people or survive many days of meals, then this is that meal.

Cabbage Rolls (adapted from this recipe) Ingredients: 

1 head green cabbage
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1 tbsp dill, parsley
1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Cook rice for 30-40 minutes (You can put the rice in the rolls uncooked, but because I was using brown rice, which takes longer to cook, I was worried it wouldn't cook thoroughly in the rolls).
2. Place the cabbage in a large pot of boiling water and boil for about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
3. Heat oil in a saucepan and add onion and garlic. Cook until softened.
4. Mix ground meat, rice, dill, salt, pepper, lemon juice and onion mixture.
5. Carefully remove a leaf from the cabbage and lay it on a work surface. Cut out the stem of the leaf. Place desired amount of filling on the leaf and roll closed.
6. Spread a layer of tomato sauce in a casserole dish and place finished rolls in the dish close together and snug.
7. Pour stock over rolls, then dollop tomato sauce over to cover. Grate parmesan cheese on top if desired.   Bake covered for 40 minutes at 375F, then uncovered for about 20 minutes.
Like many casserole-type dishes, there is no way of making them look or sometimes even sound appetizing, but believe me, there is nothing wrong with doling out a meal in one melted, gooey mess.
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November 07, 2011

I did it again. It was a nice weekend and we ran out of our stash of apples, so I thought, let's go apple picking! I checked with the local orchards and this happened to be the last weekend of the year for pick-your-own apples. Last time I went with a friend, but this time Mike and I went to stock up on the last fresh apples of the season.

I didn't get any pictures of the orchard last time, so I had to snap a few phone pictures of the sun beaming through the rows of apple trees:


And of course, I had to admire our bounty: 20 pounds of fresh, beautiful apples.


Naturally, I was thinking of ways to use the apples and this time I had to give in and make a good old fashioned apple pie. It really is the only logical thing to make when one has so many fresh apples, don't you think? 


After some research and deliberation between a few recipes (because I'm a food nerd), I decided on Canadian Living's "Best-Ever Apple Pie" recipe. 

(Five apple pie recipes open on my computer at the same time. This is how intense I am sometimes...)

I used a ready-made pie crust for the bottom because I had one in the freezer to use. I made the top lattice pastry from scratch. I used mostly Granny Smith apples, as they seem to be the best for pie making. 

Canadian Living's Best-Ever Apple Pie 
Pastry 
3/4 cup shortening
3 tbsp butter, softened
2-1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice water 
Filling 
8 cups thinly sliced peeled apples (about 2-1/4 lb or 8-10 apples)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
Glaze 
1 egg yolk
2 tsp sugar

Directions:

1. Peel and thinly slice apples. 
2. Toss apples with lemon juice, sugar, spices and flour. Set aside. 
3. For the pastry: In a bowl, beat shortening and butter until smooth. Stir in flour and salt then pour in water all at once. Stir until dough forms. Transfer to a floured surface and knead into a thick disc. Refrigerate for at least one hour. 
4. At this point you could make the bottom crust with the pastry dough (see full recipe). To make the lattice top, lay chilled dough out on a floured surface. Cut into thin strips. For good step-by-step instructions on making the lattice, check out this tutorial
5. Add the lattice strips in desired pattern. Whisk egg yolk with 1 tbsp water then add sugar. Brush pastry with mixed egg wash. 
6. Crimp down edges or use fancy pie shapers like these ones that make your pie look like a spaceship.
7. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350F and bake for 40 minutes. 

This was actually my first time making an apple pie from scratch (alright, almost from scratch) and I'm glad I finally know how to make a pie. I also canned some apple pie filling this weekend, so now I have even more of an excuse to make more pies. There's really nothing better than the smell of a freshly baked apple pie. 
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November 01, 2011


I'm back with yet another pumpkin recipe. I've received a few comments, questionable looks and concerns from friends over my recent pumpkin obsession. Perhaps it's finally time to put down the can of pumpkin and stop daydreaming in orange. Maybe I have to admit that pumpkin season is over. Soon it will be time to move on to an equally delicious and timely food trend, like gingerbread or eggnog, and leave pumpkin behind. So, I leave you with the most delicious, moist breakfast muffin recipe using pumpkin. But first, a Halloween recap:

We had a great Halloween weekend this year and I was really pleased with our costumes. I was Hipster Ariel and Mike was a Justin Bieber bobble head. When he first told me about his costume I didn't really get it, but after he came back from the print store with a huge printout of Justin Bieber's head I just had to laugh.


I was also happy that we finally got a pumpkin this year. I hadn't carved one in years, so I was excited to actually get one and roast the seeds (obviously the best part).


I have always just carved the standard triangle eyes and smile, but I stumbled across a cute cat-themed pumpkin template. In my opinion, you can never have too many cats in your life. Not sure if our cat agreed:


After all of those Halloween treats, these muffins are a feel-good, healthy breakfast. According to the original recipe, they are only 71 calories a muffin. I usually have one for breakfast, then another one as a late morning snack with coffee.


Pumpkin Breakfast Muffins (adapted from Dashing Dish)
(Makes 12 muffins)
Ingredients:

1 cup pure pumpkin
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup plain yoghurt (can be Greek or regular)
3 large egg whites
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
3. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
4. Divide mixture among a greased muffin tin.
5. Bake for 20 minutes.

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