Busy weekend is busy!

Canning season is upon me and I’ve just spent the last two days madly preserving all the ripe garden & CSA tomatoes I possibly can before there’s any chance they’d go off.

Now I’m kinda pooped! Holy cow, I didn’t realize how much work I’ve done in the last 36hours.

I actually started working on preserving things late on Thursday night. I began with a recipe for Tomato-Apple Chutney from the most recent issue of Jamie (Oliver) Magazine, but instead of doing it stove-top, I chose to dump everything into my crockpot and then head to bed, thinking that I would have a nicely cooked & reduced product that I would be able to just pour into jars for processing when I woke up in the morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out that way because I forgot that slow cookers are designed to cook so that you don’t lose all your prescious cooking liquids. What I had really wanted was a method of low & slow cooking without me needing to babysit the pot for hours on end — in this case 3 hours of babysitting. Next morning, I discovered that I still had a whole potful of apples, tomatoes, onions & raisins swimming in their vinegar bath, just as I had left them the night before. Feeling a little disappointed, I poured the entire contents of my crockpot into the “Christmas pot” Dad gave everyone last year and set it on high to boil off quickly, but then turned the heat back down to a gentle simmer so all that hard work wouldn’t scorch or stick to the bottom of the pot.

Three hours later, I finally got to can and process my chutney, as originally planned!

20130928-212402.jpg
Apple-Tomato Chutney

I have to admit, this year has been pretty amazing for our garden & we had an incredibly successful tomato harvest: 15lbs worth! 7lbs were actually picked sun-ripened on the vine and the remaining 8lbs were picked still green. In all the years we’ve been trying to grow tomatoes at home, we’ve never ever had tomatoes come close to ripening on the vine, let alone grow & harvest 15lbs worth, until this summer! ^_^

Once the chutney adventure was complete, I moved onto making a batch of Picante Sauce, a wonderfully rich and flavourful sauce that I haven’t enjoyed since we finished the last little jar sometime last year — I’m still rather impressed that I accomplished preserving 40lbs worth of homemade canned tomatoes & picante sauce, two years ago. That was pretty ambitious for a first time!

20130928-214405.jpg
Picante Tomato Sauce

When I woke up this morning, I realized that I still had way too many tomatoes that needed to be preserved somehow or I would lose them. For the last few months, I’ve been seeing a recipe for Tomato Jam pop up on bogs all over the place and remembered to bookmark it for that ever elusive “someday” — if the success of our tomato harvest this year wasn’t a sign that this was my opportunity to make it, then I don’t know what is. Happily, it turns out that I had purchased the Food in Jars Cookbook last year but hadn’t realized that the Tomato Jam recipe in the book was the same recipe that I had been seeing posted everywhere online.

Lemme tell you, chopping 5lbs of tomatoes turned my fingers a ridiculous shade of orangey-red and the Tomato Jam took just as long to cook on the stove as the chutney did :P Needless to say, it was a long three hours of simmering and I didn’t really wanna be just sitting around on my duff not doing anything. Just before I had started the Tomato Jam, I noticed that the plums and nectarines I had bought a couple weeks ago, were starting to get waaay overripe. I didn’t want to lose the fruit and somehow remembered there was a recipe for Small-Batch Mixed Stonefruit Jam in the book, a few pages earlier than the Tomato Jam, so I got to quick work of cutting up the rogue fruit & mixing them with sugar to be put in the fridge for later.

Once the Tomato Jam was on its 3 hour simmer, I had my way with the Small-Batch Jam. I was a little concerned that the jam might not set properly, it might not taste great, and truth be told, I dunno that it looks so great at the moment either. Although, having said that, I am curious… I have renamed the jam to Exotic Plum-Nectarine Jam because I changed two of the three simple ingredients in the recipe and it seems to be a rather appropriate name for this concoction.

I substituted lime for lemon, mainly because I had bought too many limes for the Tomato Jam recipe, not knowing how much juice you can get from an average lime. These limes were crazy juicy, I managed to squeeze 1/2 cup juice from only 2 limes! The biggest ingredient change was instead of using regular granulated sugar, I used organic coconut palm sugar that I had in the pantry. The taste of this sugar is actually rather pleasant to me and it has a distinctly familiar “asian-sweet flavour” to it, if that makes sense.

Using the coconut palm sugar made it suuuuper dark in colour and to be honest, I am kind of hoping that it makes for a less sweet jam. Talking to a girlfriend about my fears of failure with this recipe, the crazy dark colour, the new & potentially different flavour profile from the sugar, and the ridiculously lumpy fruit, she suggested that it might taste really good as an accompaniment to a cheese plate, so I am crossing my fingers and hoping with all my heart that she is right!

20130928-222906.jpg
Tomato Jam (left)
Exotic Plum & Nectarine Jam (right)
Advertisements

Things I’m making…

image

This year we’ve finally managed to harvest our first ripe tomatoes! Admittedly, I could eat them right away, but it just felt right for me to preserve them for a winter meal instead. So this year’s tomato harveat is being oven-roasted/dried with my homegrown rosemary and basil, low’n’slow, then put into freezer bags for later in the year.

image

HOLY CRAP I made sauerkraut!!

Boring…

I have discovered that since The Hubbs moved Ponyo upstairs to the bedroom and Tiny Bubbles down to the kitchen, I no longer have the inclination to post as much as I used to. As a result, methinks it’s time to bring my laptop back down to the kitchen so I can continue to record all the stuff I’ve been doing.

Cuz I’ve had a busy and productive three-ish weeks and oh man I wish I had posted pictures and recipes and thoughts of all my hard work as I went along. There is something to be said about having a full-sized monitor and keyboard when you’re writing. Tiny Bubbles is a fantastic little machine, but it is just that: little. Great for portability, but not as comfortable to use when you’re wanting to sit for a long time writing and editing and stuff.

So… what have I ~really~ been doing for the last few weeks?

Canning.

Lots and lots of canning. Originally, I had mentioned that I was done canning for the year a couple weeks back, but apparently I was wrong. Crabapples from my parents tree were beautifully ripe, the first frost of the season meant that our garden tomatoes needed to be plucked off the vine A.S.A.P.

As an aside, friends are having babies that just kept popping up (out? *snicker*), so freezer meals needed to be made for new Mamas & Papas. So it was decided that I needed a new shirt with all the goings on around me:

Shut Up About Babies

Here’s the excessicely detailed breakdown of all my hard work:
1x500ml raspberry “taffy” jam
4x250ml raspberry “taffy” jam
2x250ml strawberry jam
5x250ml spiced honey blueberry jam
12x250ml crabapple cider jelly
1x500ml crabapple cider jelly
2x500ml pickled Christmas peppers
1x4L pail lacto-fermented garlic-dill bucket pickles (guesstimate total 5x1L sloppy packed jars)
6x1L whole canned tomatoes
3x500ml green tomato sauce
5x500ml whole canned tomatoes
8x250ml picante sauce
3x500ml picante sauce

In a slightly less messy looking count:
25 assorted jars jams & jellies
3 jars of jam “dregs”
7 assorted jars of pickles
25 assorted bottles tomato products

Total Summer’s work: 60 assorted jars of homemade!

HOLY CRAP! I am absolutely flabbergasted o_O;;

I guess I now know why I’ve been so tired. Wow.

And because I’ve been wanting to share pics of all my hard work:


Spiced Honey Blueberry Jam for pancakes


Whole Canned Tomatoes


Picante Sauce


Hot Red Peppers for Picante Sauce


Not-Knuckle, Pork Knuckle Roast


Crabapple Cider Jelly

Canning 2011 Complete

Apparently it’s been a rather long week of silence on my end of interwebz land.

I’ve been having piss poor internet connections all week long that would just roll over and die from about 2pm til early evening. Why that hour in particular I have no idea, but I do know there are generally no issues when The Hubbs plays WoW from after dindin until bedtime. Annoying doesn’t even begin to describe how much frustration I get because of the drops. It’s kind of embarassing to realize that most of my contact with the outside world revolves around something as seemingly simple as a working internet connection.

So yea, if by chance people have been trying to get a hold of me since last week, my appologies if I have been missing you.

But anyhow. On to the important stuff: TOMATO MARATHON!

Last weekend was the Tomato Marathon of Doom, which I successfully completed on Tuesday with a final double batch of the Picante Sauce. On the whole, I am exceedingly impressed and pleased with all the stuff I made with that whole box of tomatoes. I used a jar of the canned tomatoes for the first time to make ratatouille for dinner on Thursday night family dindin and it was pretty darn tasty. Interestingly enough, compared to a regular commercial canned tomatoes, the batch I made in jars taste a lot better! I really didn’t think “canned tomatoes” would taste different, but they do.

As for the picante sauce, we tried a jar of it on the Labour Day Monday whilst at J & Miss R’s playing D&D and it wasreally, really good. It had just enough warmth to it from the jalapenos and hot red peppers but it wasn’t mind blowingly hot and it didn’t feel like your tongue was being bitten off, either. The only other seasoning to the sauce was salt, pepper and oregano. It would make a fantastic tomato base for quite a few different recipes if you didn’t want to just eat it straight from the jar with a bowl of tortilla chips beside you. It would be really fantastic used as a pizza sauce instead of a plain ol’ tomato sauce, used as a zippier pasta sauce mixed with a jar of plain canned tomatoes, a really wonderfully spicy tomato soup diluted with some milk or just plain water, and I think the best idea yet would be as a bloody mary/caesar.

Once the Tomato Marathon was over, I decided to take a sampling of the lacto-fermented garlic dill pickles that I had sitting around in its crock for about a week and a half on Thursday. I have to admit, lacto-fermenting stuff is a bit scary looking if you’ve never contemplated the notion of vegetables sitting around in a salt water solution, left to its own devices and nature’s whims. Today’s North American culture is so engrained with the hyper-cleanliness of things that the idea of leaving something to ferment (aka ROT) in its own natural juices that everyone gets all paranoid that you’re going to get sick and die from eating something that isn’t 100% clean or pasteurized.

I will admit, that the first time I looked into the crock to skim off the scummies and floaties from my crock, I was kind of shocked. But I promised myself that I would see this project to the end and make sure to sample the pickles before giving them to anyone else. I figured that with my immune system, if I don’t get sick (very unlikely chance to begin with) no one else will. As predicted, my mother freaked out with the idea of eating them, but whatever, it’s my mother.

The pickles were pretty good! Once they were soaked overnight, at least. HOLY MOLY were they salty! I was really surprised at how salty they turned out to be straight out of the crock. I admit, the white stuff on my pickle was not the most appetizing looking and so I gave it a brief rinse under running water before initial sampling. The garlic & dill flavours were noticeable, but hard to distinguish with the overwhelming saltiness. Once I decided that the sourness of the pickles was to my liking, I had to figure out how to properly store them.

I had originally considered the idea of taking the brine the pickles had been sitting in and boiling it to kill off all the questionable beasties in the water, but then as I was boiling everything on the stove, I realized a couple of things: A) boiling the liquid to “sterilize” it would only increase the salt content of the brine because of the water being evaporated by the boiling process B) it stank something fierce.

So I decided to chuck out the brine, gave all my pickles a quick wash in fresh water and then let them soak overnight in the fridge in a bucket of cold water to leech out the excess saltiness while I considered my options. 24 hours did a marvelous job of getting out the salt yet still leaving the garlic-dill flavour. I was impressed.

After much consideration, I decided to go the route of “refridgerator pickle”. I didn’t want to do a traditional garlic-dill process which would involve the whole sterilizing and pasteurizing of pickles at a specific temperature in a boiling water bath since I had had more than enough of canning for the year. Plus, to be honest, I was just dead tired from the week’s preserving of tomatoes. I was aiming for something to be as little work as possible, which is another reason why I had tried lacto-fermenting in the first place. Lo and behold, the Company’s Coming preserves book came to my rescue: Bucket Pickles.

I realize that it would seem a lot of people are not fans of sweet pickles, but to be honest, I quite like them. Especially when you pair them with a plate of cheese and kielbasa sausages and crackers. The recipe for Bucket Pickles is ridiculously simple and I made it even simpler. Normally the recipe would require sliced onions and some sliced bell peppers, but I used only my lacto-fermented pickles.

Basic recipe is: get 4L ice cream pail, mix in sugar, vinegar, salt, celery seeds, tumeric and mustard seeds together. Add in your sliced veggies and let sit for 2 hours. Stir a bit and add more veggies, then cover the pail and throw it into the fridge. End of story. Apparently it’ll last up to 6 1/2 months in the fridge this way.

So that is what I made in the end — Lacto-fermented garlic-dill Bucket Pickles. ^_^

All in all, I think I did pretty darn awesome this year for preserving and canning. Will I do tomatoes again next year? That is a very good question and I am leaning towards yes. While it did take a ridiculous amount of energy out of me, I am thinking that the results are well worth the pain and suffering I endured to complete the experiments of the year.

Don’t you hate it when things don’t go as planned?

So today was supposed to be THE day.

T-DAY. TOMATO-DAY.

I woke up and while The Hubbs was out and about grabbing me the last couple of ingredients that I needed on hand for my day of preserving my bountiful tomatoes, I discovered that my pressure canner appeared to be a dud.

Following the instructions in the manual, I did everything as instruction and I couldn’t get the damn thing up to pressure. I had it steaming away for a good half hour and I still couldn’t get it to jiggle the pressure gauge.

So in the end, after three hours of fighting with it and being utterly dismayed, we returned it. We returned it and then spent another two hours trying to find a replacement with absolutely no luck.

Tomorrow I am going to try one more store (Bed Bath & Beyond) before I totally call it quits and give in to ordering the Cadillac model of pressure canners, exhorbant shipping be damned: the All-American.

The day wasn’t a total loss, I did manage to still do my canning, but it took a lot longer than I had hoped given the late start time.

After all my hard work, I came out with:
6 x 1L
5 x 500mL

I have just enough tomatoes leftover to make a batch of salsa or piquante sauce which will conveniently enough use some of my jalapenos before I pickle the rest.

I have some thoughts on my water bath canning experience with the tomatoes but it’s damn late, I’m damn tired, and I still have a damn lot more work to do in the morning so I should probably consider going to bed since I haven’t done any proper cleaning still. *sigh*

Long day was LONG.

Hmmm Kimosabee..

I may have gotten a little too carried away.

I went to the Farmer’s Market this morning with my gf as planned and picked up everything I wanted to: 1 case of roma tomatoes @ $28, about 1.5-2lbs of hot peppers (jalapeno + some adorably cute hot red peppers in the shape of small tomatoes/apples) and an early pitstop to another market for my $90 special order of Spragg’s Meatshop pork.

Those were all planned purchases, the “getting carried away” part has more to do with the fact that I’m going to have to preserve and process all this stuff before the weekend’s end! More specifically, before end of Sunday since we have plans on Monday afternoon for D&D.

Soo.. yea. It’s just after 2pm now and I ~could~ try to pickle some of my peppers this afternoon before The Hubbs and I join J & Miss R for dinner, games and corned beef prepping this evening.. but somehow I don’t think I quite have enough time. If we weren’t doing dinner & games, I would totally be getting down with pickling my peppers. I think I shall reserve hot pepper pickling for Sunday.

Hmmmmm…

The tomatoes are gorgeous looking and I don’t think would fare well if left hanging around the house too long. I could put them in the garage in hopes that it’s a smidgen bit cooler to hold them until tomorrow… I should at the very least get washing of all my equipment (ie: the pressure canner + 1L jars) and I should be able to accomplish that with the rest of the time I have remaining this afternoon. I thawed out a package of short ribs and I just have to decide now if I want to make plain tomato sauce + canned tomatoes, or if I want to make a short-rib sauce. Thinking about it “out loud’, I think I shall just do a plain tomato sauce + canned tomatoes. Or more specifically, do the canned tomatoes while the sauce is cooking away. That way (hopefully) by the time the sauce has had a chance to cook down and get tasty, the raw-packed tomatoes will have had sufficient time to do their thing in the canner + cool down enough to remove from the pot and then start on canning the sauce jars.

I may be in need of another dozen 1L jars…. shit o_O;;;

OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?! XD

Think of me this weekend and wish me luck, I think I am going to need it. LOL.

Thoughts on pickles…

I spent most of Sunday making two kinds of pickles. Two kinds of pickles which I would not have ever considered making in the past by myself — whether it because of the method involved to make said pickles or because of the pickled product itself.

One of the items I made on the weekend was pickled jalapenos. They were the easiest…. actually, no, scratch that. Of all the pickled vegetable recipes I have made thusfar, with the exception of the dill pickles I’m gonna talk about below, these were actually super simple by comparison.

I bought a bunch of jalapeno and hot red peppers from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday with The Hubbs, which turned out to be a lot less than I had originally thought. They were quite beautiful and surprisingly: Amazingly cheap! $2.49/lb for all the peppers that were on display that afternoon.

hotpeppers.jpg
Jalapeno & Hot Red Peppers

The recipe I used came via the lovely Ms. Shala from Don’t Eat the Paste, who directed me to the Canning Across America website.

The recipe was insanely easy. I mean, if you already have boxes of jars on hand that are clean from previous canning sessions (as I generally do) and all you have to do is sterilize them, more than half your work is already done! That’s how hard this recipe is. The peppers are washed, sliced and squished into the sterilized jars as tightly as possible and then the hot brine is poured over top. Seal’em up, toss them back into their swirly hot tub and 15 minutes later, you have pickled jalapenos!

pickledpeppers.jpg
Floaty “Pickled Christmas Peppers” post hot water bath

Obviously I haven’t yet tried the peppers since they require a few weeks of standing time, but I have high hopes that they’ll be tasty. How can they not be? They’re homemade! ^_^

As for the other pickles that I made this weekend, I’ve been reading about online for the last couple months about lacto-fermented foods. Delicacies in that category you may be familiar with: yoghurt, kimchi, saurkraut and good old fashioned pickles not made with vinegar, but instead, plain old salt water.

I have had experience in the kimchi-making department and would love to do it again as homemade kimchi just tastes niftier than store bought. There’s certainly nothing wrong with store-bought kimchi, I always have a jar of it in my fridge, but the dedication involved to make it from scratch (and the taste!) makes it uncomparable to the kimchi you buy in the store.

The lacto-fermented pickles seem to be a project that is fairly easy to customize and the least fear-inducing when experimenting with something that can and will mold on you during the time it ferments in its ceramic crock. Compared to regular vinegared pickles, this recipe is also incredibly easy to master once all your equipment is squeaky clean and your ingredients are ready to roll.

pickleingredients.jpg
Lacto-fermented pickles ready for crock assembly

The recipe I used came from the Wild Fermentation website for Sour Pickles. I’m not going to write it at the bottom, just click the link. The website is a basic resource if you don’t have the book, which I don’t. Ms. Shala also introduced me to the book and I’ve been pining for a copy ever since. One day I shall get a copy… one day.

I bought and used a whole bunch of local ingredients for making these lacto-fermented pickles and for some reason I’m incredibly proud and kind of excited to see what kind of difference this makes in the resulting pickle. I realize that it’s probably going to taste completely different from the vinegar pickles simply by the fact that this recipe doesn’t even use vinegar. But it will be an interesting experience nonetheless.

As a side note, check this out:

HutteriteGarlic.jpg
Hutterite Garlic (left & centre) vs. China Garlic

Holy cow! The size and taste of the Hutterite garlic vs. store bought garlic that ALL seems to come from China is astounding! I mean, not all Hutterite garlic is that size, but still… that’s insane! And yes, I did purposefully buy the biggest head I could find just because it was THAT big. Silly, I know.

I did have a little bit of a lightbulb moment on Saturday afternoon and I’m feeling like a total idiot for it, too. One of the weirdest ingredients I noticed (which is optional) is the use of fresh grape leaves, which are tannin rich, to help keep things crunchy. I don’t have grape leaves and Calgary is not really conducive to growing grape vines. A good recommended subtitute is using oak leaves and I just happen to have an oak tree planted in my backyard. For the longest time I couldn’t make the association of oak leaves + tannins and thought that it was kind of weird to just throw some indescriminate tree’s leaves into my pickling crock. But then the lightbulb moment came while we were out and about again to pick up some jugs of distilled water: Oak trees-> Oak barrels -> Chardonnay. DUH! So yea, then I felt much better about throwing the oak leaves into my crock to make pickles ^_^

crockbottom.jpg
Oak leaf covered bottom of crock

As to the procedure, once you’re ready to take on the task of lacto-fermented pickles, you might want to take into consideration (the night before) to toss all your cucumbers into a big bucket of ice cold water and stash it in the fridge overnight. This will apparently help rehydrate them if they’re not feeling their 100% cucumber-crispy-selves. Otherwise, once that’s all said and done, make the brine, layer all your ingredients on the bottom of the crock, top off with enough brine to cover the cucumbers by a good amount once weighted down (with a plate and boiled rock!) and then cover everything with a tea towel and set aside in a cool dark place to ferment for a few weeks. Check on the progress of your pickles every couple of days, skimming off any scum and mold you see and making sure to wash the plate and rock before reintroducing them back into the brine solution as to avoid making more mold and weirdness.

pickles2011.jpg
Pickling cucumbers ready to be covered in brine!

As I’m discovering over and over again, homemade does taste better and I’m wanting to make more stuff from scratch, if possible, just for the experience and be proud to say, “Check it out! I made that! How nifty is this??”

Pickled Jalapeno Peppers
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
~1lb mixed peppers, washed and sliced into rings

Sterilize the jars and lids and keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a nonreactive pan, whisk together the vinegar, water, salt and cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the salt dissolves.
Pack each 500ml jar tightly with pepper rings and one garlic clove each up to the base of the neck of the jar.
Ladle hot brine to cover the pepper rings leaving about 1/4 inch at the top of each jar. Free any possible air bubbles, wipe rim of jar clean and screw on the lids.
Process in a hot water bath for 10-15 minutes.
Once all the jars reach room temperature, store in a dark cupboard for about three weeks to let flavors develop before opening.
Opened jars can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 months. Sealed, these pickles will keep for about one year.

OMG! OMG! OMG!

Guess what I found at the Blackfoot farmer’s market!?!?

I finally got a an old fashioned pickle crock!!! :D

We were just picking up a couple of things at the market — I had every intention of buying a flat of tomatoes to can salsa with, but it was SO hot out that I just wilted. I ended up buying 1 bag of pickling cukes and a handful each of some jalapeno peppers & unnamed red hot peppers. I am going to make pickled jalapenos out of them tomorrow and mix the two.

I was totally ready to leave the market by that point, but The Hubbs was desperate for something to drink because the nice Hutterite farmer we bought the cukes from gave us a sample of fresh HORSERADISH to try… on top of a fresh RADISH. So we were both burning something fierce. We didn’t end up getting anything to drink, but we did make a quick tour through the flea market side to see what there was of interest (generally nothing). We were on our way out of the flea market section when I looked down and saw 2 MEDALTA pickle crocks! I paid $35 for a 2Gal crock. Score! :D Thinking about it in hindsight, I prolly should have offered $30… oh well. I didn’t have the change on hand for the $37.50 asking price, so I offered thirty-five. I fail at haggling and I figured $35 was close enough to the original price that I wouldn’t insult the gentleman.

So The Hubbs said the crock is my 9 year anniversary wedding present.. *giggles*

ANYHOW! I’m going to make lacto-fermented kosher pickles!! I would make dill pickles, but I just realized I didn’t buy any dill :P~ I suppose I could just make plain’ ol garlic pickles..? Would that be okay? Probably.. and pickled jalapeno peppers.

SUPER STOKED!!

Hrmmm kimosabee..

Yea.. it would seem that my jam making skills are just not quite up to snuff anymore. Having had that one year hiatus of doing much of anything last summer, my abilities to discern whether a jam is properly set has failed me this summer. So my jam making this year is a bit of a failure on my part. I’m a little bit sad. Oh well.

*sigh*

I just had a slice of toast with the dregs of my strawberry jam and like the raspberry, it’s overset. Not nearly as badly as the raspberry taffy jam, but the strawberry is just a smidgen harder than I would prefer, but still… it’s overset. *tragic sigh*

At least the nice thing about jams is that they are not by any means inedible if they’re over or underset.

My spiced honey blueberry jam has now been renamed a compote and goes amazingly well on a buttered pancake and then rolled up jelly-roll style. In fact, the spiced honey blueberry compote goes quite well on top of the same pancake that has been first coated lightly with some Swedish Creamed Salmon in a tube… just sayin’ if you’re feeling a bit adventurous in the palate.

The raspberry taffy-jam I gifted to J & Miss R with the warning of its overset texture and they were actually pretty excited by it because they are planning on using the jam as a pierogy filling. Apparently overset jams make perfect fillings because it doesn’t run all over the place when you’re forming and sealing the pierogies. You blob it on and it stays exactly where you put it.

As for me and what I have planned for my next big ambitious project(s)… I dunno. I’m waiting for The Hubbs to go shopping with me to buy the much coveted Pressure Canner so I can take over the world. I have so many ideas in my head for things that I want to do with this canner, but until I can get my hands on it, it will just be ideas. I did talk to Mom this morning and mentioned to her that I was wanting to buy a pressure COOKER, but she said that I could just take theirs and if they ever need it, they’ll take it back for the day. Go me! Now I can finally start making some of those slow-cooked dishes in well under the time it takes for them to cook in my crockpots. Super excited about that and will probably take it off their hands tomorrow after family dindin. I wonder how fast you can make joak in a pressure cooker…? :O

I did make a lovely riff on Brown Eyed Baker’s Blackberry Pie Bars yesterday afternoon for The Hubbs’ work snacks which are very lovely along with a batch of homemade tortillas for dindin to be eaten with last week’s leftover braised shortribs that I turned into a really yummy hash and our garden ripe tomatoes.

The bar recipe makes enough for a 9×13″ pan, but since it’s just the two of us and I prefer to make only enough snacks for The Hubbs that he can eat within a week, I cut it down to a half batch. Instead of the suggested blackberries, I used up the last of the gifted blueberries from The Hubbs’ sister last week when I made the compote. It was the perfect amount of berries so I was pretty pleased with myself.

The only change to the recipe I made was swapping out the sour cream for sour milk. I rarely have sour cream on hand and I’ve found that the sour milk (milk + enough lemon juice to decently cover the bottom of your measuring cup by 1/2cm or so, no matter what the cup size is) works most adimirably in recipes without any problems whatsoever. So if my recipe calls for anything like sour cream, creme fraiche or buttermilk, that is now my go-to sub. For some reason that makes me pretty pleased.

So the original recipe for the Blackberry Pie Bars is here and below is the halved recipe with my substitution in brackets.

Blueberry Pie Bars

Crust and Topping:
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, cubed and chilled

Blueberry Filling:
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream (or sour milk)
10 Tbsp all-purpose flour (1/2 cup + 2Tbsp)
3 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F
Grease a 9″ baking pan and set aside
In food processor combine sugar, lemon zest, flour and butter. Pulse until the pieces of butter are no larger than the size of peas.
Measure out 3/4 cup of crumb mixture to use for topping and set aside until needed.
Press remaining mixture into the bottom of greased pan.
Bake until golden brown ~15-20 minutes. Let cool while preparing filling.

For filling: combine eggs, sugar, sour cream/milk, and flour in food processor until thoroughly combined.
Pour mixture evenly over the crust and top with blueberries, making sure all of the berries are spread in one layer.
Sprinkle reserved crust mixture evenly over filling and bake until the top is lightly browned, about 45-55 minutes.
Let cool for at least 1 hour before cutting.

I am gonna take over the world!

Yup! I got it into my head last night that I want to buy a pressure canner, and The Hubbs said yes :D

I am going to pressure can everything in sight!!

I kid.

Sorta.

I was thinking that I would really like to make some spaghetti/tomato sauces to have on hand in the pantry. We never buy spaghetti sauce anymore (have you read the ingredients on most of those jars??) and to be honest, I miss having an instant sauce on hand that doesn’t require hours and hours of prep work and cooking to taste yummy. The only way to really get around canning tomato sauces without risk of botulism is with pressure canning them. Plus, if the desire should strike, I could also make things like chicken soup that would be shelf stable and would get rid of all the damn carcasses in my freezer! Homemade chicken soup! YUM!! Our freezer is becoming a ridiculous repository of things that I want to make, but since we have no large dedicated space for long term food preservation/storage available to us, pressure canning would actually be a really awesome idea. Plus it would mean having instant meals at hand which aren’t of weird questionable origin & taste (ie: frozen meals or grocery deli foods).

Apparently you can pressure can EVERYTHING. Which I guess is understandable if you think about how canned goods are made like canned fish, chilli, spaghetti-os, spam, etc…

The weird thing, or interesting thing, depending on your point of view — is watching all these youtube videos of people doing exactly this in the United States. For some reason all the youtubers are Americans preparing for the collapse of the world where there’s no food, water and electricity and OMG people with guns will come and steal your stuff! Perhaps this is a possibility, but it just seems so weird that people are stocking up YEARS worth of stuff — medical supplies, dried goods, ammunition(!!), canned goods, water, etc.. Those people of the more self-sufficient type, are pressure canning everything they can lay their hands on for the future “SHTF” (shit hit the fan) zombie appocalypse.

Am I being naive thinking that this is an unlikely situation to happen in my lifetime? I dunno. I mean, it’s not like EVERYONE is doing this kind of disaster preparedness, but with the way some of these people are talking during their videos, it makes me wonder if perhaps it’s just extreme paranoia…?