Sunday, August 28, 2011

Canning Plum Sauce

I got some beautiful red plums at the farmers market... what to do with them? 

I love fruit and I love to make jams, jellies, and preserves, but in all honesty, we don't eat that much of it... we tend to have more than we need most of the time. Now if you're talking my brother's peach preserves, that's a different story... I can eat that stuff with a spoon, no bread needed! But as a rule, jams and jellies last awhile at our house... I give a lot away as gifts.

So... imagine my delight when I happened upon a recipe for plum sauce... using fruit... my beautiful plums... and it's not jam! Yay!

This sweet and spicy sauce is wonderful with Asian style foods, chicken... and is wonderful with pork dishes... I've cooked pork tenderloin and chops... slow cooking in the oven in my covered terra cotta cooker (that I got at a yard sale for $3, yay me!) and it's fabulous! I've used it as a dipping sauce for everything from prosciutto wrapped figs to chicken nuggets.

Here's how I made this delicious, versatile sauce...

In a large, stainless steel saucepan I combined...

2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped onion (I used red onions because I had them on hand, use whatever you like)

2 Tbsp. finely chopped seeded green chili pepper (I made two batches... in one batch I used jalapenos, in another, the small chili peppers... they're both great, use peppers with the "hotness" you like)

1 Tbsp. salt (I used canning/pickling salt)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. gingerroot, finely chopped (I had some crystallized ginger on hand, used it with great results)

I brought the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

I added 10 cups chopped, pitted plums...

And returned to a boil. I then reduced the heat and boiled gently, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy... took between and hour and a half and two hours.

While my sauce was simmering and thickening, I prepared my half pint canning jars by heating them in a pan of boiling water. I simmered my lids and rings in boiling water and kept everything hot until my sauce was ready.

I ladled my hot sauce into the jars leaving about a half inch headspace, removed any air bubbles and adjusted headspace as needed. I wiped the rims and tightened the lids on to fingertip tightness.

I processed the jars in a boiling water bath... placing the jars in the canner ensuring they are completely covered with water... brought to a boil and processed for 20 minutes.

I removed the jars from the canner after processing using my jar lifter... set them on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool and to listen for the PING of each successfully sealed jar.

*Remember... wear rubber gloves while seeding and chopping hot peppers or you WILL burn your hands! The best way to seed peppers is to trim off the stem end and then cut the pepper in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and veins using a spoon.

Canning Granny©2011 All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 22, 2011

Canning Field Peas

Purple hulled field peas... high in fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins, and lutein. We found them at the farmers market and bought a half bushel.

Field peas are related to the black-eyed pea... or cowpea... Cowpeas came over on slave ships from Africa to North America and figured largely into the diet of slaves on Southern plantations. The pea's association with "cow" comes from white landowners thinking that beans were fit only for cows, but ironically, the slaves were eating more nutritious, high-protein fare than the heavy salt-pork diet of their masters.

Field peas, black-eyed peas, cowpeas... are a Southern tradition!

My wonderful DH agreed to shell all those peas so I could can them...

DH sits on the porch shelling peas, with his trusty assistant, Smokey at his feet, ever willing to help!

Once the peas were shelled we washed them, and washed them again... making sure to remove any wigglers (worms or bugs). We like to season our peas with bacon or other meat, but we're not overly fond of worm meat... just sayin' (Hey, worms and bugs are a fact of life in vegetable gardening, it's something you deal with and move on... so let's move on)

I canned my peas using a hot-pack method, which means I put my peas in a saucepan and filled with water to cover the peas and brought it to a boil over medium-high heat and cooked for about three minutes until everything was heated through.

I prepared my pint jars by placing them in a pan of boiling water on two stove eyes and kept them hot until I was ready to fill them.

I simmered my lids and rings in hot water, keeping them hot until I was ready for them.

Once the peas were heated through, I ladled them along with the cooking liquid, into the hot jars to within about an inch of the rim. 

I removed any air bubbles by running a butter knife between the peas and the inside of the jar and adjusted the headspace by adding more peas and liquid as necessary. I added a half teaspoon of canning salt to each pint jar, wiped the rims, then screwed the lids on to fingertip tightness.

Peas are a low acid food, so they must be pressure canned. I placed my jars into my pressure canner then (since canners vary, be sure to follow the directions that come with your brand of canner) processed them at 10 pounds of pressure for 40 minutes (quarts would process for 50 minutes).

After processing, I removed the canner from the heat and let the pressure return to ZERO naturally. I opened the vent, removed the canner lid, and removed the jars using my jar lifter. I set the jars on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool and to listen for that wonderful PING of each successfully sealed jar.

Mmmmmm... yummy!!! Can't wait for field peas cooked with a little bacon and some relish on the side this winter... comfort food at its finest! 

Canning Granny©2011 All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 19, 2011

Canning Ketchup

I bought a brand new, stainless steel food mill back in the early spring... I love it! (I fall in love with gadgets on a regular basis) and I've been dying to use it... When tomato season rolled around, I finally got my chance. I always borrowed Mama's food mill in the past when I needed to "food mill" anything and it's been several years since I needed one... and I don't know what happened to Mama's food mill since she passed away a few years ago... Daddy wasn't very organized with her stuff (no offense Daddy, but you know it's true, just sayin'). 

So I bought a new one and decided ketchup would be used for its maiden voyage... Here's what I did...

In a square of cheesecloth I made a spice bag with
3 Tablespoons celery seeds
4 teaspoons whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1-1/2 teaspoons whole allspice

In a saucepan I combined 3 cups apple cider vinegar and the spice bag

I brought it to a boil over high heat, removed from the heat and let it stand for 25-30 minutes, then discarded the spice bag.

Meanwhile (back at the ranch) in a large stock pot I combined 24 pounds of cored and quartered tomatoes, 3 cups chopped onions, and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I brought this mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently, then reduced the heat and boiled gently for 20 minutes. I added the infused vinegar mixture and continued to boil until the mixture began to thicken and the tomatoes and onions were soft (about 30 minutes more)

Now comes the fun part... using the food mill!!! Yay me!

Working in batches, I ladled the tomato mixture into my food mill and turned the handle (wonderfully entertaining for me, I'm also easily entertained and amused), extracting the juice into a saucepan (or bowl, I used a saucepan) If you don't have a lovely food mill like I do, you can press the mixture through a sieve with the back of a spoon.

Once I had squeezed all the liquid I could from the tomatoes, I discarded the solids and returned the liquid to my stock pot.

I added 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
and 1/4 cup canning and pickling salt

I brought this mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. I reduced the heat and boiled the mixture gently until the volume was reduced by half and the mixture became almost the consistency of commercial ketchup (the recipe I was going by said this should take about 45 minutes, I musta had super juicy tomatoes because it took my mixture about 3 hours to thicken, just keep stirring and simmering until you get the consistency you like)

While all this reducing was going on, I prepared my jars by boiling them in a pan of water set on two stove eyes. (I usually put a dish towel in the bottom of the pan so the jars don't knock together so much)

I simmered my lids and rings and kept them hot until I was ready for them.

I ladled my hot ketchup into my hot jars, leaving a half inch of headspace. I removed any air bubbles, wiped the rims and screwed the lids on to fingertip tightness.

I processed my jars in a boiling water bath (place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water, bring to a boil and boil gently) for 15 minutes.

After processing, I removed the jars from the canner and set them on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool... and, of course, to listen for the PING! of each successfully sealed jar! 

(This recipe will make about seven pint jars of ketchup)

OK, now how 'bout an order of fries to go with that ketchup!

Did you know... tomatoes are very high in lycopene, an antioxidant that has been linked to reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. And, amazingly enough, the lycopene in cooked or heat processed tomatoes is more readily absorbed by the body than that contained in fresh tomatoes... from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Canning Granny©2011 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Freezing Okra Mama's Way

As I've said before, there's no better way to eat okra than cut up, rolled in corn meal and fried... a mess of fried okr-y! A Southern tradition.

My Mama and the rest of my family always looked forward to the hottest days of summer when the okra, a heat-loving veggie began to ripen and a mess of fried okry was sure to find its way to many a summer supper, along with fresh sliced tomatoes, green beans, new potatoes cooked with just a bit of butter, and whatever additional bounty the garden offered. No meat needed! You never missed it!

Mama spent many summers trying to capture and preserve that summer "Fried Okry" flavor so we could enjoy the same yumminess come wintertime... just slicing and freezing the okra resulted in a big frozen lump that took forever to thaw and when it did was mushy and hard to roll in the meal... she tried freezing the okra pods whole but then you either had to slice hard-as-a-rock okra pods or wait til they thawed and again... mushy! Canning them resulted in slimy slimy and un-fry-able (pickled and canned are great, as is sliced and canned in veggie soup or gumbo, but we're talking okra for frying)...

So after quite some time and much trial and error, Mama came up with the following method... it's not perfect... nothing can take the place of fresh, fried okra... but it's pretty darn good...

Here's what she did... and what I did with my recent abundance of okra...

I sliced it up like I would to prepare for frying... My DH was a wonder... a gentleman and a scholar... he sliced all those itchy, slimy okra pods for me while I worked on other things... God bless that man!!!

Love Love Love that sweet man's hands!

I sprinkled a light coating of cornmeal onto the sliced okra (you want a light coating here, makes for the BEST fried okra... I hate that thick coated store-bought deep-fried stuff, it's NOT traditional, Southern-fried okra... Light coating of cornmeal! Just what sticks to the damp okra... shake off the rest!)

Then I spread the meal coated okra onto a baking pan and baked it to a partial-doneness in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. It doesn't get brown, it only sort of bakes the corn meal onto the okra and dries it out a little so it doesn't stick together so much when frozen.

I took it out of the oven after the 20 minutes or so (work in batches if you have TONS of okra!) and allowed it to cool completely.

Once it was cool, I bagged it up and vacuum sealed it (don't have to vacuum seal, it's just what I did and since I have a vacuum sealer and CAN, I did... Mama never did) Freezer bags or containers will work fine.

If you DO have a vacuum sealer and decide to vacuum your okra... stop the seal about halfway through the vacuuming step so it doesn't squish the okra completely flat! You don't want that.

Pop your bags of okra into the freezer and you have "almost as good as fresh" fried okra to look forward to next winter!

html, body, div, span, applet, object, iframe, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, blockquote, pre, a, abbr, acronym, address, big, cite, code, del, dfn, em, font, img, ins, kbd, q, s, samp, small, strike, strong, sub, sup, tt, var, b, u, i, center, dl, dt, dd, ol, ul, li, fieldset, form, label, legend, table, caption, tbody, tfoot, thead, tr, th, td { margin: 0; padding: 0; border: 0; outline: 0; font-size: 100%; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent; } body { line-height: 1; } ol, ul { list-style: none; } blockquote, q { quotes: none; } /* remember to define focus styles! */ :focus { outline: 0; } /* remember to highlight inserts somehow! */ ins { text-decoration: none; } del { text-decoration: line-through; } /* tables still need 'cellspacing="0"' in the markup */ table { border-collapse: collapse; border-spacing: 0; }