Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dessert Mint Pesto

Garden mint is taking over my little corner of the world! I've been on a quest to find new ways to use this wonderfully aromatic herb. Happened upon a recipe while looking for different pesto recipes and had to give it a try.

2 cups mint leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

So out to the herb bed I went and I snipped and snipped, hardly making a dent in the abundance of mint (I think that just rhymed somehow!).

I rinsed my mint and shook it dry...

Then stripped all the leaves off into a measuring bowl...

I had four cups of mint leaves if I pressed down on them.

Pay no attention to all the squash in the background...
it is also trying to take over my world!

So, I doubled the recipe... In my blender I combined the mint leaves...

With the walnuts (any nut will do... Mmmmm Macadamia would be yummo! But I had walnuts... which are yummy too!

I added the honey...

And the vanilla extract (which I made last year, by the way, and it's wonderful! I'll never go back to storebought vanilla! Never!)

Then I blended it all up! This took a little doing and I almost grated the handle of a wooden spoon in there a time or two... but at last I got it all blended and smooth... Oh the SMELL!!!! I wish you could smell the smell!!!  Too bad we don't have smeller-net!

Then I poured (and scraped) it into a couple of freezer cups to store in the freezer (kept some out for eating NOW!)

My imagination is going WILD thinking of things to do with this stuff... I'm thinking sandwiched between two chocolate cookies... stirred in chocolate ice cream... as a filling between two layers of chocolate cake... (am I seeing a chocolate theme here or is that just my imagination?) or just with a spoon right out of the cup (well maybe not, but it's really really good!)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Canning Pickled Beets

Mr. G says that when he lived in Australia, many times instead of tomato slices on hamburgers, they put a slice of sugar beets. When our beets got big enough to harvest, I cooked a few. He seemed a little disappointed since he remembered them being sweeter than the ones I cooked. I decided to pickle some and one variation of the recipe I found was a sweet pickled beet... after consulting with my dear husband, we chose the sweet variation to pickle our first batch of home grown beets...

Here's what I did...

I cooked the beets, leaving the root end and an inch or two of the tops on to prevent them bleeding out.

Once they had simmered for about 30 minutes, I drained them and rinsed in cool water until I was able to handle them comfortably.

I sliced of the root end and the tops and the peels slid right off.

I had every size beet imaginable... some as large as a tennis ball, down to some no bigger than a large marble... the big ones I sliced in 1/4 inch slices, some I left whole, and some I halved or quartered.

I gathered my ingredients together...

The recipe I used said 7 pounds of beets (I only had a little over 3 pounds, so I halved everything)

7 pounds of beets (about 10 cups)
10 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
Allspice (didn't measure the allspice, I just put a few in)
2-1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups sliced onions (optional)

(Like I said before, I halved everything)

For a variation that is not a sweet beet, 3 Tbsp. pickling spice would replace the cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice... another variation, caraway beets, substitutes 2 Tbsp. caraway seeds and 2 tsp. whole black peppercorns for the pickling spice. And there's always the variation of adding thinly sliced onions to any of the above... I chose to add some onions to mine as well.

I tied my spices into a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, I combined the vinegar, water, sugar, onions, and the spice bag. I brought the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. I reduced the heat and boiled gently for 15 minutes, until the spices infused the liquid.

I added the beets to the saucepan and returned the mixture to a boil.

Using a slotted spoon, I ladled the beets and onions into my hot pint jars, leaving a generous 1/2 inch headspace.

I ladled hot pickling liquid into the jars to cover the beets. I removed any air bubbles by running a butter knife between the inside of the jar and the contents, adding more pickling liquid if necessary.

I wiped the jar rims with a damp cloth...

... then put the lids and rings on, tightening the rings to fingertip tightness, and processed in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes... (Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered in water. Bring to a boil and process for 30 minutes)

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

(since I only had 3 pounds of beets and halved the recipe, I only got 3 pint jars... the entire recipe as it's written above should make about 6 pints)

Pretty Pickled Beets!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Canning Turnips

Back in March I planted turnips... thinking I'd get a few turnip greens... I got a few turnip greens... then I got turnips. Saturday, I pulled a five-gallon bucket about 3/4 full of turnips... one or two as big as a baseball... I told Mr. G I was gonna can them...

He said he wasn't sure he liked turnips... Don't tell him I said this, but I wasn't sure I liked them either, I know I've eaten them in the past... I couldn't remember if I liked them or not... but I wasn't going to waste perfectly good vegetables.

I decided to cook some up for dinner that night as a test to whether we actually LIKED turnips or not. I mashed them, added butter and salt and pepper and we ate them... they really didn't have much taste... Mr. G thought they could use a little livening up with some hot sauce or relish or something... but all in all, we agreed that we liked turnips... we didn't LOVE them, but we liked them.

So I canned the rest... here's what I did...

I peeled that big ol' bucket of turnips...

Then I diced them.

I put them in a stainless steel pot and covered them with cold water, drained the water off, then covered them again (there was debris and a little dirt, so they needed a rinse off)... I actually filled two stainless steel pots with diced turnips covered in water.

I brought them to a boil over medium heat and let them simmer for five minutes.

I used a slotted spoon to fill my hot, sterilized pint jars with the hot turnips...

...then filled the jar with hot cooking liquid (from the pot), leaving a half-inch headspace.

 I added a half teaspoon of salt (canning and pickling salt) to each pint jar. (optional, it's a matter of taste)

To remove any air bubbles, I ran a butter knife between the inside of the jar and the contents, adding more liquid if necessary.

I wiped the jar rim with a damp cloth to remove any residue.

I put the hot lids onto the jars, tightening the bands to a fingertip tightness.

I loaded the jars into my pressure canner... and processed them at 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes (quarts would be 35 minutes).

After processing and allowing the pressure in the canner to drop to ZERO... I removed the lid, and using my jar lifter, took the jars of turnips out, set them on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool...

... and to listen for the satisfying PING of each successfully sealed jar!

I canned 12 jars of turnips... anybody got any good recipes for using turnips? I only know "Diced With Butter" and "Mashed With Butter."

Turnips on parade!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Canning English Mint Sauce Straight from the Garden

Mint is growing like wildfire in my front yard... I grabbed some tools from the garden sheds and snipped off the above bounty and you can hardly tell I touched it. The rest of the mint will continue to grow for other recipes on another day but for today this will be more than enough.

I used my harvest to make Traditional English Mint Sauce... delicious served with lamb or pork dishes.

Here's what I did...

I gathered the mint... loads of it! I washed it well, then removed the leaves from the stems, discarding the stems and any yellowed or brown leaves.

I finely chopped 4 cups of freshly washed fresh mint leaves... OK I STARTED finely chopping 4 cups of mint leaves and realized that when finely chopped, mint leaves will take FOREVER to accumulate to 4 cups... so...

I used my blender and some of the vinegar called for in the recipe... if you're a purist, feel free to hand chop... I had Season 2 of Downton Abbey on DVD to watch and wanted to get finished in time to watch an episode or two before bedtime. Priorities you know!

I poured my chopped mint leaves and vinegar mixture into a stainless steel stockpot, then added...

4 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup lemon (or lime) juice

2 12-ounce bottles English malt vinegar

2 cups vinegar (the original recipe called for white vinegar, I used apple cider, this is the vinegar I used to aid in blending/chopping my mint leaves)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

I brought the entire mixture to a boil and simmered until the leaves were softened. (took about 10 minutes of simmering)

After simmering, I ladled the hot mixture into hot, sterilized pint jars, leaving one inch headspace.

I wiped the rims of the jars with a damp cloth to remove any residue or spillage.

I tightened the lids on to fingertip tightness.

... And processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. (cover the jars with water, bring to a boil, and gently boil for 15 minutes)

After processing, I removed the hot jars using my jar lifter...

...and set them on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool.

And now for a nice leg of lamb... Mmmmmm!!!

For a printable copy of the recipe, click here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Making Garlic Powder

The first of our garlic harvest has been gathered (there's still quite a bit more out there just waiting!). This was our first try at planting garlic and it seems to have been a success. It's so exciting after putting all those cloves into the ground WAY BACK last fall and watching the little green shoots appear a few weeks later... then get bigger and bigger, all the time wondering if there's REALLY gonna be garlic bulbs under there.

When the leaves began to yellow, then turn brown in May (I thought we had until June or July!) we began the harvest, but after getting up the brownest-leaved ones first, we realized we probably have a few more weeks before we need to get the rest. We have garlic bulbs of every size... from one that's as big as a tennis ball, to LOTS that are much much smaller, to a few that are not much bigger than the end of my thumb. But they're all garlic and so aromatic.

The garden book says to lay the bulbs with the leaves still attached in full sun for a couple of weeks to cure... but it's been raining... I mean REALLY raining every day, it's been difficult to find full sun lately and no matter where I've put them, the water seems to puddle up underneath and I feared all our hard work would be in vain if those bulbs of yummy garlic-ness rotted in the rain... so after a week of trying to cure them... I decided to go ahead and dehydrate them and make some garlic powder.

Here's what I did...

I separated all the cloves, then peeled the papery outer layer off... and put them in the dehydrator... at first I set the temperature to 90 degrees (the temp recommended for herbs) but after 24 hours nothing seemed to be happening in there, so I upped the temp to 130 degrees (recommended for fruits and veggies)... it still took a couple of days (did I mention we've been getting torrential rains and thunderstorms for the past few weeks? and the humidity has been like 100 percent every day. Mind you, I'm not complaining, the garden has LOVED this rain and the lower than average June temperatures here in the S.C. Midlands... if you think of 70-80 degrees as low temps... we're usually up in the 90s or even 100 by this time of year)

Anyway, after a couple days, the garlic was completely dry and ready for the next step. I think next time I will slice up some of the larger cloves (I had left them whole) so there is a more uniform size, some of those bigger pieces took much longer to dry out than the others. Live and learn!

With small items like garlic cloves, I make parchment circles to line the dehydrator trays
 so they don't fall through the cracks. If I had an Excalibur dehydrator, I wouldn't
have this problem... but Alas! I don't... One day...

Next, I popped those crunchy bits of garlic goodness into the blender... a few at a time and gave them a whir...

... and continued blending until I had powder...

*Warning... if you lift the lid of the blender too soon after it stops, you will get a lovely cloud of garlic puffing out the top... I learned my lesson (garlic is so good for you, wonder if there are benefits to inhaling a garlic cloud? Hmmm???) It's a good idea to let it settle for a few minutes with the lid on, just sayin'!

If I had an extra shaker jar, I would have poured my garlic powder into one of those (I like to save shakers after they're emptied, or they sell nice glass empty ones at Fresh Market for next to nothing)

I DO have canning jars of every size... so my garlic powder went into one... a pint jar... I will add more to the jar later when I harvest the remainder of my garlic...

... and that's it! Easy Peasy!

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