Posts Tagged 'homesteading'



Everything is better in pears.

I’ve been eyeing a pear butter recipe for a couple months now. This is the recipe that I saw over at r/canning on Reddit. The user that posted the recipe said that he subbed brown sugar for half of the white sugar. Having made more than my fair share of apple butter in the past I wanted to try my hand at this pear butter.

When I saw that Bountiful Baskets was offering 38lbs of pears for 24 dollars I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. First off I wanted to commend Bountiful Baskets on their selection of fruit. When I got the car home Saturday morning the pears were all that beautiful yellow green, some with pink hues. I don’t know what variety they were, but the box was marked Rogue Valley Farms (which I looked up and found to be in Washington State). The pears were all firm, which concerned me at first, thinking that they weren’t ripe. However when I sliced off a piece I was amazed; Firm but juicy, extremely flavorful, and with what I can only describe as pure pear flavor. Sometimes ripe pears can be soft and overly juicy, making them delicious but messy. These were not the case. I probably had a half dozen that first day.

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By the time I got back to the case on Tuesday the pears were very ripe. My bad for leaving them confined in that box for 3 days. But luckily my intent was to make pear butter and not just can them outright. Two of them felt like water balloons with the skins barely holding, but those were my only loss.

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If you read my blog, and haven’t figured it out yet, you NEED a KitchenAid stand mixer. I could not make it without my KitchenAid, my AllClad 8qt pot, and my Presto 23qt pressure cooker. Those are 3 must-haves in my kitchen. The fruit and vegetable strainer (food mill) attachment saves me hours of manual labor. If you didn’t know, the skins and cores of pears and apples contain a substantial amount of pectin. We like pectin. Pectin makes is happy. People who peel and core their fruit prior to cooking are tossing away fruit pulp and pectin that would improve their recipe. So if you’re really getting into canning buy yourself a heavy bottom stainless steel pot to cook the fruit, a KitchenAid with attachment to macerate the fruit, and a nice big heavy canner to preserve the fruit. All three are lifetime investments.

On a tiny side note, I was complaining that I needed a larger stock pot to cool larger quantities. My wife made the mistake of letting me go to the store by myself. And I returned with this.

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About $1000 worth of AllClad (though with some good bargaining I paid 2/3 of that). My point is I love my wife….and quality cookware will last a lifetime and make kitchen time more enjoyable.

Spiced Brown Sugar Pear Butter

Pears
Lemon Juice
Water
Chopped Ginger
Star Anise
Lemon Zest
Cardamom
Nutmeg
Sugar
Brown Sugar

Ok, back from my tangent. Start by pulling the stems out of the pears. If they are ripe they’ll slide right out. That is the only part we won’t be using. Cut the pears into quarters lengthwise and the rough chop the quarters into 3-5 pieces depending on the size if the pear. Put the chopped pears in a large pot with lemon juice and water. Add the star anise and the ginger.

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Heat to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the pears are soft. If your pears are firm this could take 20-30 minutes. Mine were soft in about 10 minutes. Remove the star anise which may be in pieces now.

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Run the pears through your food mill/vegetable stained/chinoiserie to create pear sauce. I noticed that the fiber of the pears was clogging up the mill after a while and the expressed matter contained a lot of pulp. So I added about a half cup of the liquid from the pot, mixed them up, and ran them through a 2nd time. That seemed to do the trick. The remnants should be dry and solid and consist mainly of skins and seeds. Like this:

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Return your sauce to the pot. Add the nutmeg, lemon zest, and cardamom.

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Then stir in your sugar and brown sugar. Make sure to break up any clumps of sugar. I used an immersion blender to mix it up and to get a smoother texture on the pear.

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This is the part where we talk about patience and taste. You’ll notice the original recipe called for 5-6 pounds of pears, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar per 2 cups of pear sauce, and a half teaspoon of each of the spices. Starting with 38 pounds I didn’t weigh out 5-6 pounds. I simply estimated l, dividing my crate into 6. I followed that recipe for my first batch. And I found it to be to watery, under seasoned, and so sickeningly sweet that I couldn’t eat it. I don’t know if it was my variety of pears, but I basically got diabetes when I tasted it. I couldn’t imagine how much sweeter it would get with reduction. So I added at least 1/3 of the volume again of pear sauce. I also upped the seasoning. The original recipe also said to cook for 45 minutes to 2 hours. My apple butter cooks 8-10 hours and I think it’s worth it.

Luckily I had 38 pounds of pears that turned in to over 16 quarts if pear sauce to play with. Heres half of my total.

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So here’s what I finally came up with that I liked.

16 cups pear sauce
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup water
2 T chopped ginger root
3-4 whole star anise
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1 heaping t cardamom
1 heaping t nutmeg
Zest of one medium lemon

Heat your mixture to a boil and the. Reduce to medium. You want a good steady boil to reduce it down. Stir it regularly. And be careful. Mine was boiling and popping several inches into the air. I got some pretty painful burns on my fingers.

Please be patient. I have yet to try a fruit butter recipe that finished quickly that is good. I let both batches go just over 3 hours. And I only stopped because I was exhausted and had to get up in another 3 hours to see the kids off the school. The butter should be a deep rich color and bubble like lava rather than boil.

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The mixture reduced in volume by about a third. The lack of sugar made for a runnier product. I tasted it at least a dozen times and couldn’t see myself adding any more sugar. The pears themselves were so sweet that it would have ruined it. To try to firm it up some I added one package of pectin. Not sure if it helped, but it made me feel better. I also ran the immersion blender through it again to get a smooth texture.

When your butter gets to a texture you’re happy with follow the regular sterilize the jars, fill the jars, close the jars procedure.

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Process for 10 minutes for half pints.

I wound up with 49 half pints of pear butter and 6 pints of pear sauce (the left overs that weren’t enough for their own batch of butter). Not a bad haul.

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The flavor is fantastic. Lighter than apple butter, but still very flavorful. The anise comes through nicely and is a great alternative to clove. I’ve had it on wheat bread and dinner rolls so far and have no complaints. It is a bit runnier than my apple butter, but not so much that it drips off the bread. It sets up more in the fridge. And again I wouldn’t trade a firm set for an overly sweet product.

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All in all I really like this recipe. I’d love to try it again with a variety of different pears. I definitely agree with OP in the fact that pears need more delicate accompaniments than apples. I think their spice choices were spot on, though I would increase the amounts.

My favorite part of finding recipes is trying them and making changes to make them my own. If you try this and make some changes that you enjoy please let me know about them.

Happy canning.

Speed Jamming

So after realizing what an amazing deal the pineapples were and how easy they were to can, I returned to Superstition Ranch Market to pick up some more for $.69. I called ahead to make sure they were on sale. By the time I got there they had 14 left. That’s it. I grabbed 10 of them and threw them in a box. They were very soft, for a pineapple, and a little wet on the outside. But I knew I was using them tonight. I also grabbed another flat of strawberries for $.33 a pound, knowing that this might be the last time I do strawberries this year. Walking through, I saw blackberries at $.50 per 6oz, which isn’t the greatest deal I’ve seen, but is still an excellent price. I grabbed another flat.

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I’m finally getting the hang of formulating a game plan before I start. I came home and decided what jam I was making tonight, as well as what I was going to can. First thing I did was get all of my jars ready. The jars were opened, lids and rings stacked separately, and jars aligned to the left hand side of my stove.

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Then I prepped all my fruit. I cut the tops and bottoms off the pineapple, peeled it, removed the core, and chopped them into chunks. I simmered the pineapple in the simple syrup as I prepped the berries. I cut the hulls off of the strawberries and threw them in a bowl.

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That’s when I realized I was out of pectin. I put the quarts of pineapple in the processor, set the timer, and ran to the grocery store. When I came back the pineapple was removed and I set in on the jam.

I ran the strawberries through a food processor. Recently I have found this is faster than smooshing them down with a potato masher. I run about a quart and a half of strawberries each batch. I pulsed the food processor in quarter to half second bursts. You do not want to liquefy the strawberries, just break them down in size. If you need to, err on the size of too big rather than too small. As the strawberries will break down further as they cook.

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I also use the potato masher on the fruit from approximately 1 1/2 to 2 pineapples to make the “crushed pineapple” for the jam.

First up, Strawberry Pineapple Jam.
2 C Pineapple
2 C Strawberries
1 Package Pectin
4 C Sugar

I’m not going to give instructions on every recipe that I post on here for jam. Jam is jam. The ingredient list is what changes, the process stays consistent from time to time. If this is your first time making jam and you need to find out how, browse back until you find my strawberry lemon jam recipe which gives you explicit step-by-step directions.

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I managed to score a sous chef tonight. While I was working on my first batch of strawberry pineapple jam, my son was busy mushing up blackberries with the kitchen aid food mill. This is hands down his favorite job to do in the kitchen. I swear he gets more joy about shoving little blackberries to their death and he does doing anything else. And I really appreciated having the extra set of hands tonight.

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So this is the part with my time-saving process. I have all my fruit ready to go, pectin and sugar sitting on the countertop, jars are open and ready to go, waterbath processor boiling at a full, and another pot ready to be filled with fruit.

I start with the first batch. Fruit and pectin in, bring it to a boil, add the sugar, bring it to a boil, and fill the jars. The dirty pot, ladle, funnel, and whisk immediately go into the sink and get filled with the hottest water my sink can muster. As that is happening I return to the full jars, put a lid and ring on each, and place them in the water bath. Now I have just 10 minutes to get my next batch done.

I wash the pot and accessories and return it to the stove that is still hot. I measure out four more cups of fruit, and four more cups of sugar. Fruit and pectin go in the pot and are heated to a boil, then the sugar is added and it is brought to a boil again. This is right about the 6 to 7 minute mark. After boiling for a full minute I remove it from the heat and start filling the jars. Usually the timer on the first batch goes off as I’m filling the first couple jars of the second batch. I take a timeout from filling the jars and remove the first batch from the water, placing them to the right of my stove on a dishtowel. As soon as the jars of the second batch are full the pot and accessories go back in the sink full of hot water, rings and lids are placed on the second batch and they are placed in the water bath processor. And then I move onto my third batch.

I don’t have the timing down perfect yet. It seems that about the fourth batch I’m running just a little bit late. Right after I pour the sugar in my fruit, the batch in the water is ready to be removed. I find myself stirring hot jam with my left hand while removing jars from the water bath with my right. It’s precarious, and I’ll admit I have my fair share of scars on my wrists, but I wear them with pride.

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If I prep my fruit for each batch of jam as I go along it is taking me approximately 25 to 35 minutes per batch. That is still a pretty good time. If I take 20 to 30 minutes to prep all of my fruit ahead of time I can now do one batch every 10 minutes…I guess 11 to be perfectly honest about it. That to me is a satisfying time.

As I finished up the strawberry pineapple jam, my son was done with the blackberries. The third batch turned into blackberry jam.

Blackberry Jam
5 C Blackberries (through a foodmill, not whole)
1 Package Pectin
7 C Sugar

On the fourth batch I found myself short of strawberries, short of pineapple, and short of blackberries. This is where I love making jam. Because so many fruits just naturally go together. The last batch was a near even mixture of strawberries and blackberries.

Strawberry Blackberry Jam
3 C Blackberries
2 C Strawberries
1 Package Pectin
6 C Sugar

The last of the pineapple was wrapped up to be put in yogurt the rest of the week.

Just over three hours later I have 6 quarts and 3 pints of canned pineapple, 18 half pints of strawberry pineapple jam, ten half pints of blackberry jam, 2 pints and 6 half pints of strawberry blackberry jam. Adding this together with Tuesday’s production I managed to make 90 half pints of jam and 3 gallons of canned pineapple in about 7 hours. I’m pretty happy with that.

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I definitely think that prepping your fruit ahead of time is the way to go. Make sure that you have enough jars and pectin to supply what you want to make, and get everything laid out on the countertop. If you are organized and dedicated you can really go through six batches of jam in an hour. If each batch yields 8 to 12 jars, that’s can you keep you well-suited for a while.

Now I need to find time to get to those 8 pounds of pears that are mocking me from the refrigerator….

Easy As Pineapple

This week I canned my first batch of pineapple. It was pretty much the easiest thing ever. But I thought I would make a post in case you are like me, and love step-by-step directions with pictures attached.

I found myself at Superstition Ranch Market again this week and they had pineapples on sale for $.69 apiece. I picked up four of them.

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Start by cutting off the top and the bottom of the pineapple and then slicing the peel off from top to bottom.

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Cut the pineapple into quarters.

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Now it’s a breeze to slice the tough core out of the pineapple. Simply cut along the top of each quarter removing the hard woody material that made up the core.

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I sliced each quarter in half lengthwise and then chopped the pieces into almost cubes about 2 to 3 cm in width.

Pineapple has to be preserved in fruit juice or syrup. I did not have any pineapple juice or grape juice on hand, and I did not want to go through the process of trying to juice the small amount of core and peel that I had sliced off. Since the pineapple was already very sweet I decided to go with a very light syrup. 2 cups of sugar for 7 cups of water.

Combine the sugar and water in a large pan and apply heat.

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As the syrup heats up the sugar will disappear and the liquid will turn clear. Heat until boiling, then add your pineapple. Pineapple is better preserved using a hot pack method over a cold pack method. The fruit is also less likely to float in the syrup if you hot pack it.

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Allow the fruit to simmer in the syrup for approximately 10 minutes. You’ll notice the pineapple appears slightly more translucent and floats in the pot.

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After that it’s business as usual. Place your fruit into clean jars, packing the fruit down slightly. If you need to add some of the syrup from the pot to leave one 1/2 half inch headspace. Put on your lids and bands and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for courts.

Four pineapples filled 6 pints and one quart, or 1 gallon of process pineapple. Visually it is very consistent with store-bought pineapple. It does not seem to have broken down any more than the fruit that you purchase and I can.

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I have not priced out canned pineapple recently but at $.69 each, already having the jars at home, adding the trivial cost for sugar, this seems very cost-effective. Basically a gallon of pineapple for just over three dollars. I don’t think that can be beat at the grocery store. The more I think about it the more I’m considering heading back to buy ten more.

On a side note, this is the first post that I’m making with the WordPress iPhone app. I’d appreciate any feedback anyone has on whether the format is different, or if I’ve overlooked anything due to my speech to text posting.

Happy Canning.

Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce

My wife makes a killer cranberry sauce. The recipe is an amalgam of various recipes that she’s tried or read over the last couple years. We’ve served this the last two Thanksgivings, and it’s a complete hit.

After the Thanksgiving and Christmas season cranberries start going on sale as vendors just want to offload what they have left. Dess found them on sale for $1.49 a bag (half of what they were the week before Thanksgiving) and grabbed 7 of them.

Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce:
Multiplied x 7 for this recipe

1 – 12oz bag of Cranberries
3/4 C Red Wine (Cabernet)
1/4 C Triple Sec
1 C Brown Sugar
1/2 t Ground Ginger
1/2 t Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t Allspice Berries
2 T Candied Ginger (chopped)
1 T Orange Zest
1 Cinnamon Stick

Combine the wine, Triple Sec, and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries.

Place the Cinnamon stick and the Allspice Berries in cheesecloth and tie it off.

Add the spice bundle to the cranberries and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes until the cranberries pop and the liquid thickens. Sometimes we’re left with a couple dozen unpopped cranberries floating on top, and that’s fine.

Remove the spice bundle, stir in the crystalized ginger, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and the orange zest.

Let the mixture simmer another 2-3 minutes and then ladle in to jars.

Lets talk about jars for a seconds. A friend asked me to touch on preparing jars, reusing jars, cleaning jars, etc. When I open the case I take the jars out and remove the lids and rings. The jars get washed, by hand or in a dishwasher. the rings get set aside. Then, before I start my recipe, I fill my canning pot/pressure cooker with water and place the jars in there. As the water heats to boil, the jars heat with it. I let the jars boil until I’m ready to start filling them. I also throw my ladle and funnel in the mix too.

When I’m ready I pull the jars out (slowly and carefully, since they are full of boiling water) and gently tip out the water back in to the pot. I place the lids in a bowl and use the water from the 1st jar I remove to cover the lids with now, just under boiling temp water. This warms the adhesive compound on the lids and gets a better seal going.

Fill the jars with the sauce and leave 1/2″ head space. Put the lids and rings on and finger tighten the rings. Remember, air needs to escape from the jar to form the eventual vacuum seal needed for preservation.

Place the filled jars in your water bath canner, making sure that the jars have at least 2 inches of water covering them. Process for 15 minutes for pints.

Using 7 bags of cranberries this made 11 pints of sauce. And now we can enjoy cranberry sauce year round.

Let’s can some tomatoes.

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Canned Vegetable; Tomatoes category.

As you know, I have great love for Superstition Ranch Market. When we went there last week they had Roma Tomatoes on sale for $0.25 a pound. In my experience, that’s pretty much unheard of. We talked about it, and decided to buy two cases, 50lbs, for $12.50. An amazing deal. Rather than make spaghetti sauce like last time, we chose just to can the tomatoes. Especially since the transition from stewed tomatoes is easy. Plus stewed tomatoes are more versatile, and easier to prepare.

Canned Stewed Tomatoes

Start off by filling a large pot with water and bringing it to boil, filling your sink with ice and water, and laying out a cutting board and knife for prep work. Henry Ford was on to something….it’s much easier if you have an assembly line.

Look through your tomatoes. I found a couple that started going rotten in the 2 days it took me to get the this project together. Just toss them. If you have any with a dark spot or whatnot, we can work around that.

Drop the tomatoes int he boiling water, using tongs, and let them boil for 2-3 minutes. You’ll notice that the skins start to split. As that happens, remove the tomatoes and drop them in the ice water. this process makes the skins really easy to remove.

Let them chill for a while in the ice bath. If you try to soon, you’ll burn your fingers as the insides can remain hot for a couple of minutes.

As you remove the tomatoes from the ice water, start where the skin split, and remove the skin. On most of them it was super easy. The tomatoes fell out of their skin. On a couple I had to do a bit of peeling.

Remove the stem area and any black spots from the tomatoes. Then cut them in to quarters. As usual, only work with clean, sterile, prepared canning jars. Drop 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in to each pint jar, or 2 tablespoons into each quart. I like to use quarts for what will eventually become spaghetti sauce, and pints for what will be used in recipes. However, we had so many tomatoes that i was scrambling just to find enough jars. If you run out of lemon juice (like I did) you can also use powdered citric acid, red wine, or vinegar for the acid. We did about 1/2 dozen with balsamic vinegar.

Start stuffing your jars. Drop the quarters in and when they reach the neck tap the jar on the counter to get them to settle. I also used my fingers to force them down. Once they look full take a ladle full of boiling water and dribble enough in the jar cover the tomatoes, but leave head space. Honestly, with the juices that came out, this was only a couple of tablespoons of water in each jar. Remember that air doesn’t heat the same way water does, and that’s why the liquid is important. Use your non-metal tool to run around the edge of the jar to release any air bubbles. All the real estate int he jar needs to be tomato or liquid (except for the head space).

Hopefully you put your lids in a small pan of water and heated them (not to a boil). So wipe the rims of the jars, put a lid on each one, and close with a band. Remember, hand tighten. That’s it. Finger tighten even. People have ruined batches of foods by overtightening the bands. Air needs to escape from under the lid.

You can water bath process tomatoes with the added acidity. But it takes 45 minutes for quarts. I chose to pressure can because I can fit more cans in at a time. Fill your canner with jars (remembering to off set the 2nd layer or use a metal grate to build your 2nd layer). For my location I did 12PSI for 15 minutes. (Follow your canner’s manufacture’s manual). After 12 minutes I just shut off the heat and walked away. When all the hissing stops, and all the steam has escaped, I took of the lid and lest the jars rest for another 10-15 minutes. This prevents shock, which can result in breaking jars, which can result in tomatoes and juice the temperature and consistency of napalm exploding on your body. After they’ve had time to rest use your jar lifter to remove them from the pot and place them on the counter where they should be able to sit, undisturbed for the next 12-24 hours.

If you bought as many tomatoes as I did you’ll need to repeat the process 3 times.

Remember, home canning eliminates unwanted added sugars or salts, exposure to chemicals (BPA is leached from the tin can lining in commercially canned tomatoes), and exposure to preservatives. This recipe requires only 3 ingredients; tomatoes, something acidic, and water. If you are on a low salt diet, don’t add any. If you don’t care for lemon juice, add powdered citric acid. For a more Italian flavor add balsamic vinegar or red wine. I also tried to make “Italian Seasoned Tomatoes” this time around. To 6 jars I added a 1/2 pinch of Oregano, Thyme, and Basil. Dried herbs offer a great deal of flavor, especially when canned, so go easy. You could also peel the tomatoes and leave them whole, cut them in half, or dice them; depending on how you wanted to use them.

Here’s the wife photo-bombing my victory shot:

50 pounds of tomatoes with about 10 spoiled tomatoes ended up being 23 pints and 11 quarts of quartered tomatoes. For $12.50 (plus the new jars I had to buy). I wont find commercially canned tomatoes that cheap. And I probably won’t find tomatoes that cheap again this year.

The fruit tends to float while the liquid sinks immediately after canning. So on the 2nd day I rotate all the jars back and forth, like I’m mixing paint, and that gets it’s all homogenized again.

Hot Curry Pickled Cauliflower and Stout Beer Jelly; Two Quick and Easy Gift Ideas.

Last Christmas’ gift giving was Jammathon 2010. I made about a dozen different fruit jams and handed them out to anyone that was on our Christmas list. This year I wanted to mix it up a bit. After spending some time on http://www.reddit.com/r/canning/ I found some simple recipes that peaked my interest. Both appeared to be relatively quick and easy, unique, and a bit on the exotic side.

First I tried Hot Curry Pickled Cauliflower; which I found at http://www.handjobsforthehome.com/2011/12/curry-pickled-cauliflower. I modified the recipe slightly by quantity. I’ve made the recipe twice now. The 1st time I had a head and half of cauliflower. The 2nd time I had 2 smaller heads.

Hot Curry Pickled Cauliflower

3 C White vinegar
1 C Water
½ C Brown sugar
1 T Curry powder
1 T Salt
1 Cauliflower
1 Red bell pepper
1 Onion

Start by cutting the Cauliflower into florets. Try to keep them approximately the same size, try to keep them bite sized, and remember that they need to fit neatly into your jar. I cut the larger florets into smaller parts. Dice the onion and the red pepper.

In a large pot combine the vinegar, water, brown sugar, curry and salt. On a side note, don’t brown sugar measurements seem somewhat arbitrary? It seems that as long as you keep applying pressure, you can keep packing more sugar into that measuring cup. Anyway, stir all that together over high heat and bring it to a boil. After the liquid boils, add the vegetables, stir, and boil again.

After the liquid returns to a boil, allow it to simmer for 3-5 minutes. You want the vegetables to soften, but remember that they will cook an additional 10 minutes in the canner. Fill your clean and sterilized canning jars with the vegetables and brine, remembering to leave your head space.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes for pints. I upped the time to 20 minutes for quarts. I made the pints to give away, and the quarts to keep. My wife loves spicy stuff like hot pepper mixes, spicy pickled vegetables, etc.

Next I tried my hand at Stout Beer Jelly that I found over at http://growitcookitcanit.com/2011/03/17/stout-beer-jelly/.

Stout Beer Jelly

2 – 12oz bottles of Guinness Extra Stout
1 Box of pectin
3 1/2 C Sugar

First off, a warning. Seriously. Use the biggest pot you own. You’ll think to yourself “24 oz of beer? How much could it make.” You’re wrong. When you grab your medium stock pot, put it back, and grab the biggest damn pot you own! The original recipe said “It will be very frothy, that’s normal.” This is an understatement. It’s like saying that Jolt Cola “May cause some excitement in children.” The reaction that occurs when you combine beer, pectin and heat creates what I thought was a movie prop from Ghostbusters. You have been warned.

Add your 2 bottles of beer, and your box of pectin together and heat to a boil, stirring briskly. Allow it to boil, and continue boiling for 1 minute. Then add the sugar, all at once. Bring it back to a boil. And watch in terror as the volume creeps to the top of your pot as you stir with such vigor that your arm starts to cramp.

Boil for 2 more minutes as you artfully dodge volcano like explosions of your hot alcoholic sugary concoction. If you did not heed my warning you are now cursing your poor decision as it boil all over your stove. FYI, if that happens, it will create a horrid smell. Just use the large pot for god’s sake.

Remove the pot from the heat. This will quell the foam monster. Ladle the jelly in to your clean sterilized jars. I suggested spooning one ladle full in each of 5 jars, and then returning and topping off each jar again, as they tend to lose volume as the bubbles cool.

What I do love though is how the jars look like little pints of Guinness. Even after they are processed and cool.

Process the jars for 10 minutes in a water bath. The original recipe suggests using this to glaze lamb, or on a fancy grilled cheese. I’m also going to try it on a rotisserie pork roast, or a cheeseburgern with sauteed onion and caramelized onions.

I love making my own foods. I love canning. And I love sharing my creations with others. I think these little 20-30 minute projects are fantastic. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with my ambitions (like right now, as I have 50 pounds of Roma tomatoes staring at me from the corner). But a quick canning project makes me feel accomplished. Not to mention that people, in my experience, are far more impressed with a hand made, home created gift, than they are a gift card. So make something in your kitchen to give out at the office party this year.

And if you have a canning recipe that you consider quick and easy, please let me know in the comments. I’m always up for trying something new.

Aggroculture

I’m getting more and more into (the theory and dream) of homesteading and off the grid living.  And the more I read and follow blogs, it almost seems as though this is the beginning of an underground movements of this decades “F the man.”  The pepole I’m running in to are tattooed, pierced, rockabilly, punk rock….chicken farmers.  It’s like the way to fight societies rules, now-a-day, is to raise your own food, produce your own power, and work your own land.  Maybe it’s a coincidence.  Maybe the people I grew up with, and got tattooed with, are now old enough, and in a financial position, to do so.  But personally, i think I’m on to something here.  There seems to be a throw back to late 1800’s early 1900’s independence.

And on that note, I helped my friend Joel build a chicken coop.  Oh..not just some rinky dink little back yard cage.  I’m talking a full on, walk in, chicken chook condo.

Joel picked up a half dozen chicks back in February.  They’ve been living in a dog kennel in his work room in the back yard.  Joel started coming up with plans and designs.  Finally the day came.  He made a run to Home Depot, and called me to come over.

The plan.

When I arrived, Joel was busy staining the wood, and sealing it.

We started by framing out the sides.  3/4 of it will be covered with chicken wire, and 1/4 will be the plywood sleeping area.

After the sides were assembled, we stapled the chicken wire over the open areas.

Joel framed out the door and the 4th wall after I left.  I returned the next day and we put up the 4 walls.  Once the walls were up, we screwed on the plywood for the sleeping area.

One of the side walls is 6 inches higher than the other, to allow for drainage.  One of the first ideas we tossed around was a green roof.  Maybe an herb garden.  Or some kind of vine that the chooks could actually eat.  But due to the size, he decided to stick with something more traditional.

The roof has beam going in each direction for support.

Then, the inside of the residence was finished.  A couple of roosts on one side.

And the egg box on the other.

The area under the coop got a nice layer of bedding.

The outside of the coop looks even better than the inside.

The egg box. Accessible from the outside.

The people door.

And finally…the finished product:

I think it looks amazing.  I can’t have chickens where I’m at right now, so I’m living, partially at least, through Joel.  I think any chook would be lucky to live in this 12′ x 6′ x 7′ luxury condo.

And beyond the independence of raising his own chickens, and getting is own eggs, I got to share int he experience of building your own building.  And that carries it’s own satisfaction with it.

Having a blast!

For more on homesteading and off the grid living check out some of my favorite blogs:

Neo Homesteading.
The Alaskan Life
Living Off Grid

I’ll touch more on the topic in the future.

Herbs down, veggies to go.

Container Garden, part 2 of 2.

Little toes and little plants.

After an unusual high amount of rain, and some changes in my work schedule, I finally found time to finish my 2nd container garden.  The herbs are doing well in the trough.  Now, to move on to growing veggies.

I spent some time walking the halls of Lowes, and they had this nifty little plastic, snap in to place, pre formulated raised garden.  For $40.  For a 46″ square, by 8 inch container.  Really?  I am by no means a carpenter, but I figure I can make something bigger, and better for cheaper.  The back of the prefab showed how you could make clever designs if you bought additional sets.  If I wanted something 9 inches tall and 8 feet long, I needed to spend $160 on their crappy sets.  That wasn’t happening.

I wandered down to the lumber section and found some “premium white wood boards.”  I picked up 4 8’x9″x1″ planks, and a 2″x2″x8′.  I also grabbed a gallon of water seal, and some brushes.  The nice thing about Lowes and The Depot is that they’ll cut any board you buy twice for free.  Seeing as how I wanted a 4×8, I had them cut 2 of the boards right down the middle.  That save me a lot of measuring and cutting time later.

I started by water sealing all the wood.  Then, on to building.

My design was pretty simple.  Cut the 2×2 into foot long sections, use them as the corners, and screw the boards on to them.

Outside corner.

inside corner.

I made the posts a little taller than the boards for a few reasons.  1st, I can staple a net over the top of the whole garden if birds become an issue.  I can lash trellis material to them if I need to.  It made it look a little more decorative.  I can add a “2nd story” to it if I want to add some height for visual effect, or for deep rooted plants.  And, most importantly, you can’t tell if one is a 1/4 inch longer than the other, cause they aren’t next to each other.

I put another board in the middle of the container to add some structural support, and to allow me to tend to one half of the garden at a time or to segregate aggressive growers (like mint).

New garden. You can see the trough herb garden in the back.

I shoveled the rock back from the yard, and loosened the soil up a bit.  I dropped the new container in to place and tried to get it as level as possible.

I dropped a trellis in, for cucumbers and beans, and filled half the container with garden soil and composted mulch.  Near equal parts.  I didn’t want to go back to buy more soil, which is why I split the garden in half to begin with.  I’ll get to the other half in the coming weeks.

I bought this little prefab trellis.  but I’m starting to think about lashing bailing wire between the two brown posts that support the covered patio.  That way, i wouldn’t be limited by height.  I’ll get back to that.

Trellis

I got some fill dirt, and mixed it in with the soil.  Again, about equal parts dirt, soil, and mulch.  That was my magic recipe in the last garden, and I can’t argue wit the results.  X-man helped me mix it all together.

Kids are good at anything that involves dirt.

Then we started planting.  X-man but in some corn and carrot seeds.

Hopefully we'll reep what we sow.

X-Man catches me planting.

Zucchini, Crook Neck Squash, Red and Yellow Bell Peppers, Poblanos, Cucumbers, and String Beans.

Future dinner.

And now, we wait.

I’ll get to the other half here pretty soon.  I’d like to do some leafy greens, but I think I missed my season.  I might go for strawberries, or maybe some easy flowers for the kids to enjoy.

This was not a complex design, nor was it a complex project.  I wasn’t looking for an architectural award.  I was looking for an economic way to grow veggies to feed my family.  Total bill from Lowe’s was under $50, with the seal and brushes.  All I needed at home was a circular saw, a drill, and a handful of screws that I already had.  I think this container will last a long time.  I’ll update any modifications I make to it.


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