Archive for the 'canning' Category

Finally, my time to Shine

Everyone loves mason jars. Everyone. And they’re popping up all over the place. Now, seeing as how I’m one of the biggest mason jar fans in the country, people send me stuff about jars when they see it. Something I’ve been sent a lot is “Moonshine” in mason jars. Apple pie, blackberry, cherry, etc. Now we all know that they aren’t actually moonshine, as they are lawfully produced and sold in the US, under the watchful eye of the ATF. But…I bet they are tasty.

So that brings us to this idea. I started looking and asking around for recipe ideas. Most of what I saw said 1 gallon of apple juice, one gallon of cider, various aromatics, and a bottle of Everclear. Now, if you take 256 ounces of non alcohol, and add 25 ounces of alcohol, you end up with a product that is 9.7% alcohol by volume (19 proof). I’m pretty sure they make Porters stronger than that. That wouldn’t do.

See, I’m leaving shortly on a 12 day Mule Deer hunt in a forest that is dropping well below freezing every night. I need something that will keep me warm. Either by consumption or ignition. It’s moonshine for god’s sake. Not a White Zinfandel. It should burn the hair off the chest of those who have hair, and grow hair on the chest of those who have none. So I decided I’d create my own.

20131026-021628.jpgGraham’s Apple Pie Moonshine

1 – 750ml bottle of Everclear 190 proof Grain Alcohol
1 pint Apple Juice
1 pint Apple Cider
1/4 C Brown Sugar
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2 Nutmeg…uh, Nuts?
1/2 Apple (variety your choice)

Toss the brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and nutmegs (still super confused at to what to call these) in a pot.

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Measure out two cups (1 pint) of the juice and cider. Who needs measuring cups, right?

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Add the liquids to the pot and stir to dissolve the sugar. Heat. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

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Now, why didn’t we add the Everclear? Two reasons. 1st off it evaporates at like 188 degrees. If you boiled the cider and Everclear for 20 minutes you’d be left with a hard cider, not moonshine. The 2nd is that Everclear is no joke. This stuff is basically pure alcohol at 190 proof.

20131026-022542.jpgIf you have a gas stove and you off vapor enough Everclear you could start a fire. So keep the booze on the counter and the cider in the stove.

After 20 minutes turn off the heat. Using a canning funnel and ladle. (Seriously, you could put the stuff in anything. From a decorative bottle to a Tupperware container. But I love mason jars, so it’s going in a mason jar.) Catch one cinnamon stick and one nutmeg and drop them in one quart sized jar. Grab the others and drop them in the 2nd jar. Then try to get one pint of cider mixture in each jar. Eye balling is ok. Remember to set your mason jars on a towel or wooden cutting board. Cold countertops, especially Granite ones, can cause the jars to shatter once hot liquid is added to the cold jars.

20131026-023122.jpgLet the mixture cool at least 20 more minutes. The longer the better. Then add the bottle of Everclear, divided between the two quarts. Slice your apple in to….slices. (Don’t like the sound of that sentence.) Drop 2-4 slices in each jar. I used Honeycrisp, because they are the undisputed champions of apples. But you could use Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, whatever.

20131026-023658.jpgSo before you put that lid on, lets talk some science real quick. Let’s just say you decided not to let the cider cool. You just added the Everclear into the hot jar of cider. Then you toss your lid on, secured down with a ring, and walk away. What’s going to happen? As we discussed earlier Everclear evaporates at a relatively low temperature. Which means that alcohol is turning into vapor and that vapor is beginning to take up space. What happens when there is more vapor than space? Big Badda Boom. Now I’m not saying that your jar is going to explode. But I’m also not not saying that. However it’s very likely that the weak aluminum lid comes flying off the top with great force.

So if you don’t have the time to wait for whatever reason do the following. Fill your sink with the hottest water that your faucet will muster. Lower your jars into the sink. Start turning the faucet from hot to warm as you let some water drain out of the sink. Then turn your faucet from warm to cool, and then cool to cold as you continue to let the water slowly drain from the sink. Do this until your jars are cool. The transition has to be slow or your jars will shatter. Ok, back to the fun.

I like to mark my jars so the kids don’t think it’s a treat they can snack on.

20131026-024350.jpg Let’s do the math on this shine real quick. 2 pints of juice and cider is 32 ounces. 750 mL of Everclear are 25 ounces. Added together that’s 57 ounces. If 25 of those ounces are alcohol what proof is this? 43.86% or 88 Proof. Now THAT’s a lot closer to real shine.

This stuff only gets better with time. And no need to worry about processing. No bacteria can grow in this high of an alcohol content. In future batches I’m thinking about withholding 1/2 cup of apple juice and adding 1/2 cup of Fireball Whisky instead for an additional cinnamon kick.

I plan on using this to Irish up my hot apple cider around the campfire, as well as keeping a flask on me for those dusk and dawn hunting hikes up north.

If you have a shine recipe feel free to share or link it in the comments.

Happy canning!

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Meals In A Jar; Sloppy Joes

I have a 12 day Mule Deer hunt coming up next week. In preparation, I was trying to come up with self contained meals in mason jars, to save on my finite cooler space.

One of the first things I thought of was Sloppy Joes. But instead of just the sauce, like a can of Manwich, I wanted the meat in the recipe too.

I did some searching around and found a base recipe to work off of. I was originally given the recipe by a member of a canning group I belong to. But I also found the same recipe a couple of places online. So I’m not sure who get’s credit. Either way, I modified it slightly.

Ready To Go Sloppy Joes

2lbs Ground Beef
1 C Chopped Onion
3/4 C Chopped Green Bell Pepper
1 1/2 C Catsup/Ketchup (Use Heinz or Hunt, or make sure your brand has no thickeners added)
2 T Brown Sugar
2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
3 T Heinz Chili Sauce
3 t Worcestershire Sauce
2 t Yellow Mustard
1/4 C Water

Yield 3 Pints

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For complete transparency, know that I doubled my recipe, and also used 3lbs of beef and 1lb of chicken.

Start by adding your beef, onion, and green pepper to a hot skillet. If you chose to use chicken, add some olive oil to the pan first. If you double your recipe, this is easier to do in two batches

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Brown the ground beef and cook the onions to translucence. Depending on the fat content of your beef you may need to drain the fat off. Mine was lean enough that it didn’t need it.

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I prepped by putting my ketchup/catsup (that’s a whole different debate), Worcestershire Sauce, Chili Sauce, and Mustard in one bowl, and my brown sugar, cider and water in another. Stirring to dissolve the sugar.
When the beef and veggies are done, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

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Bring everything to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes I took the lid off and found that it was a bit runnier than I’d like. I kept the lid off and stirred it until it reduced to a consistency I wanted. Fill your clean mason jars to a 1″ headspace.

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Top with your heated lids and finger tightened rings. Process at 11lbs for 75 minutes for pint, and 90 minutes for quarts. Remember, you can’t fit much more than a half a cup of meat onto one hamburger bun. That’s four servings per pint and eight servings per quart.

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I haven’t cracked these open yet, as my hunting trip is next week. I’ll definitely come back and update the bottom of this post with a review. But my eight-year-old son and I ate the little bit of leftovers that wouldn’t fill a seventh jar and so far we are both very happy with it. He has requested that I make them from scratch for dinner. Which really isn’t a bad idea since it too less than 30 min to make.

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The flavor was very comparable to a can of Manwitch sauce. Maybe a touch sweeter. Next time I will add less sugar and try to spice it up just a little bit more, maybe with some hot sauce. But we’ll see what it tastes like out of the jar.

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If you have ideas for self-contained meals that can be opened from a jar, heated, and served please share or link them in the comments.

Happy canning!

Brandied Peaches and Fireball Whisky Peaches

I was offered to go in halfsies on a case of 40lbs of peaches. I didn’t really have time for 20lbs of peaches. But I’m a sucker for a deal. Plus, I was told these were really good peaches. So I agreed.

When they came in I was in the middle of my work week. During my work week all I do is work. So they had to wait. On Saturday my friend told me he fit them in his fridge since they were getting very ripe. I picked them up Saturday night, and put them in my fridge.

Sunday I got up, pulled them out and stared at them. Stared and stared. I broke out my Ball Blue Book, The Joy of Pickling, and Put ‘Em Up. I read recipes and browsed websites. What should I do with the peaches?

I’d seen other’s talking about brandied peaches before. I checked my liquor cabinet and pantry and found that I had everything I needed. And compared to jams, chutneys, barbecue sauces, etc, brandied peaches seemed a bit more quick and easy to get done.

This recipe is adapted from the book Put ‘Em Up.

Brandied Peaches
10lbs of Peaches
5 c Water
2 c Brandy
1 1/4 c Sugar
1/2 c Honey
2 Cinnamon Sticks
8 Cloves

Get a pot of water to a rolling boil. Fill another pot, large bowl, or sink with ice water. I prefer to vigorously scrub out my sink, and then use that. Add some Fruit Fresh or crushed Vitamin C tablets in to the water to prevent browning.

Put a few peaches at a time in the boiling water. The less ripe your peaches are, the longer they need to blanch. My peaches only took a minute. Don’t overfill your pot either. The peaches will cool the water down, and likely you’ll overcook the ones on the bottom.

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Pull the peaches out with a slotted spoon or a pair of tongues and move them to the ice water. For a small batch like 10lbs, blanch and cool the whole batch. If you’re processing hundreds of pounds (you should have a helper) work in batches.

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When you pull the peaches out the skins should slough right off. I find that the skins kinda get hung up on the very bottom point of the peach. I use the palm of my hand to rub the peach and break the skin off. Then I peel it off. Toss the peeled peaches back in the water.

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In a non-reactive pot combine 5 cups of water, 2 cups of Brandy, 1 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup honey, cinnamon sticks, and 8 cloves. Heat to dissolve the sugar and honey. I was hoping to burn off some of the alcohol so I boiled it for a minute.

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Take out one peach at a time and cut in half lengthwise. Do this carefully. Once peeled, those little buggers are slippery. I used a cheap serrated steak knife that was sharp enough to cut the peaches, but not sharp enough to go through my hand.

Freestone vs Clingstone

Peaches come in two varieties; Freestone and Clingstone. The difference is whether the flesh of the fruit attaches itself to the pit, or not. Before I started canning I never paid much attention or even cared what variety my peaches were. But let me tell you, trying to cut and pit Clingstone peaches is a huge pain in the butt. You have to cut the pit out, or rip it (and the surrounding flesh) out of the fruit. What you are left with are not the perfect peach slices you expect, but a smattering a peach chunks. Generally I find that farmers markets, produce specialty stores, and produce managers know whether peaches are freestone or not. The easiest was to check is to cut the peach in half and try to take the pit out. Don’t be afraid to ask before committing to buying them.

The peaches I got were some of the best freestones I’ve ever had. I twisted several of them open to have the pit fall out with no effort at all. Put the peach halves back in the water.

Start packing your peach halves in clean jars. Not gonna lie. These guys did not pack well. I fit about 6 halves in each quart. If you chose to go with quarters or eighths you might have better luck. But I wanted the halves.

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Fill each jar with the brine to 3/4″ headspace. Try to keep the cloves and cinnamon out. Put a lid and ring on each jar and then swirl it around to release the pockets of air between the peaches. Some of my jars went down quite a bit.

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Top off with syrup to bring it back to the proper headspace.

Fireball Whisky Peaches variation

Now, the book had the proportions listed above. And the brine filled 6 quarts. But I had 20lbs and 11 quarts. Imperial to metric conversion messes with me sometimes. You buy a 750ml bottle of brandy, you feel like that’s quite a bit. You don’t realize it’s only 3 cups until you’re halfway through a double batch of brandied peaches and out of brandy. See where I’m going with this?

So for the second half I walked to my liquor cabinet and stared. What could I use? Brandy, Marsala, Rum, Scotch, Amaretto, Fireball Wisky, Vermo….. Wait a minute. Cinnamon Whisky? With peaches? That sounds….really good!! I grabbed the bottle and returned to the kitchen. For a Fireball variation omit one cup of brandy and add 1 cup of Fireball brand Cinnamon Whisky.

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Wipe the rims of the jars, put on lids and rings, and water bath process for 30 minutes.

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I wasn’t given any clear direction on this. But I’m guessing much like a pickle, these bad boys should sit for 21 days before opening. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m excited for them to be done though. I have thoughts of Warm Fireball Peaches on Vanilla Ice Cream, Brandied Peaches with a Pork Roast, or maybe a Peach Cobbler or Crumble made of a combination of the two. I’ll update the page when I break the seal on one.

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Let me know what your favorite canned peach variation is.

Happy Canning.

Buhsketty Sauce; Or How To Get Your Kids To Eat A Weeks Worth Of Vegetables

Canning stuff is all fine and good. But what are you supposed to do with it? I’m trying to post more recipes that use home canned items to give you a better idea of options that are out there.

When we canned 200lbs of tomatoes last year we considered making pasta sauce. But, not knowing what we’d use or in what quantity, we decided to stick with stewed tomatoes that could be made in to Italian sauce or a variety of other things.

Over the last 9 months I’ve tried a variety if techniques and recipes. This is my favorite recipe for pasta sauce.

Pasta Sauce
2 quarts canned tomatoes
Olive Oil
Onion
Garlic
Vegetables Of Your Choice
Red Wine
Balsamic Vinegar
Oregano
Basil
Thyme

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I always start this recipe by raiding the fridge and pulling out all the vegetables that have been forgotten over the last two weeks. Bell peppers, sweet peppers, that little 1/4 of a head of cauliflower that’s starting to get rubbery, the one crook neck squash, and that pack of mushrooms you found on clearance. Pretty much anything you find is good. I always have, and always use, carrots. They add the perfect sweetness to the sauce.

This time I happened to find some panchetta that needed using up. You could also add bacon, Italian sausage, or fat back if you have that. If you don’t just add more olive oil to the pan instead.

Start by rendering out the fat of whatever meat you’re using.

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Chop the onion and garlic, and slice the carrot into thin rounds. Add them to the hot pan and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are slightly browned and softened.

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For this recipe I used pickled garlic that I made previously. Pickled garlic is great. It makes garlic last 6 times as long, preserves all the garlic flavor, but takes that acrid bite out of the cloves.

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Add the the vegetables in order of hardness. For instance, cauliflower, then zucchini, then peppers so everything cooks to the same consistency.

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Take your tomatoes and drain the clear liquid off of them. I’ve found that tomatoes really hold the liquid trapped in the jar so I move them around with a fork to release it all. If you canned them in a regular mouth jar screw a blender base on the top. If you use widemouth jars an immersion blender will fit right in the top.

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Blend until the tomatoes are pureed.

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Add the tomato sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. This time around I decided to add a jar of hot Italian sausages that I canned a couple of posts ago.

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Since they are already in tomato sauce I just added them right in.

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Add a healthy pinch of oregano, basil and thyme; 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of any red wine; and 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. I like my sauce on the more acidic side, and feel that balsamic adds some good depth to it overall, so I’m more heavy handed with it. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for a while.

While we are waiting let’s talk about spices. Have you seen Ball’s little shorty half pints? I glued some hobby magnets to their lids and use em as spice jars on my fridge.

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Ok, back to the sauce. The basic idea is to sauté the vegetables, puree the tomatoes, added herbs and acidity, and then simmer until it teaches the consistency you like. I prefer mine a little on the thicker side, so I let it reduce for a while.

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I like this recipe because it cleans out my veggie drawer. Ill add portabellos one week and sweet mini peppers the next. Ive also added kale or spinach to the mix. But my favorite part is that my kids gobble it all up. All of it. They love spaghetti. They love the sauce. And they don’t even care what’s in it.

If you have a pasta sauce that uses home canned ingredients, please share it.

Happy canning!

Hot Italian Sausage In Tomato Sauce

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Canning Meat category.

Italian Sausage in Tomato Juice

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I’m trying to delve deeper in to the world of canning. To try more meats. And specifically, to can more things that are closer to ready to eat.

We were at the grocery store looking for pork to smoke (a whole different post) when I saw packages of hot Italian sausages on clearance for half price. In the past I would have frozen them. But I figure, why not put em in a jar?

The National Center For Home Preservation says to brown sausage and then process it in water, stock or tomato juice. My thought process was this: water would be a waste. Why remove all that flavor into water that would likely be drained out anyway. Stock sounded ok. But all I had was previously home canned smoked chicken stock. And that didn’t sound that great. So that left me with tomato juice, which I didn’t have. But what I did have was previously home canned tomatoes.

I figure hot italian sausage is destined to be in pasta sauce at some point in the future. So why not process it in tomatoes now? I grabbed a wide mouth quart of canned tomatoes off the shelf. The immersion blender fits right in the top, and in no time it was a quart of tomato puree. I put that in a pot with a pint of water to make my tomato juice.

I placed the sausages in a pan and browned them on both sides.

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Once they were brown I cut each sausage in to 5 pieces.

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Place the pieces in a quart jar. This took a little bit if engineering. But luckily years of playing Tetris paid off. Just make sure you’re filling voids in the jars where you see them. In total I cooked 6 pounds of sausages that ended up filling 4 quarts.

Heat the tomato juice to a boil and cover the sausage pieces with the juice. Leave a 1″ headspace.

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Use a plastic utensil to remove any air pockets or bubbles. Why plastic, you ask? Because metal can cause micro scratches and fissures in the glass. This can be the catalyst for thermal fractures in the future.

Top with lids and bands and place in a pressure canner at 11lbs for 75 min for pints or 90 min for quarts.

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Use this chart to adjust for altitude.

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Always turn off the heat and allow the pressure canner to cool by itself when the time is up.

The finished product looks like this. Not too bad. Sometimes canned meat looks like a lab specimen. This looks more like Spaghettios.

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I’m huge on making my own pasta sauce right now. Generally it’s 2 quarts of tomatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, squash, peppers, wine, balsamic, and spices. In theory a jar of sausages can be added, without taking the time to defrost and brown the sausages, cook them through, and letting them simmer in the sauce. The flavor’s already in there.

Happy canning.

I pickled a peck of picked peppers.

Ok, so that title is a bit misleading. I actually pickled 3 pounds of store bought peppers. But this was a total win of a recipe. I’ll be keeping these on hand forever.

I wanted to make pickled peppers for a while. Only problem was, for what? My younger kids don’t like too much spice, and I’m not real keen on strong heat. I didn’t want to make jars and jars of stuff just to sit around.

What I wanted was something closer to “Hots.” A blend of sweet and spicy peppers packed in oil that is popular on sandwiches on the east coast.

I found yellow chile peppers at the grocery store. Didn’t know much about them, but they looked good. And I thought they’d look good in a jar. So I grabbed a couple pounds and brought them home.

On the way home I stopped by Cost Plus and found their Weck Jars on sale. So of course I grabbed 3 of them as well. I know the price is high. But I love them. Weck jars have a presence to them. They just look so amazing with food in them. The added benefit of food only touching glass is a bonus.

Pickled Pepper Brine
5 C White Vinegar
1 C Water
4 t Pickling Salt
2 T Sugar

Start by rinsing and hand washing all your peppers. Pretty easy step.

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Cut the top off each pepper and then slice lengthwise.

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Pack the pepper halves in to jars. I pushed them down to compress them, but not enough to break them. My childhood Tetris experience definitely helped me out.

Combine the brine ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour the hot brine over the peppers leaving 1/2″ headspace.

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Add your lids and rings, or in case of Weck jars, rubber bands and lids.

Process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

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Skip ahead 3 weeks. I always let my pickled foods sit for 21 days before opening. It can be murder seeing them every day. But it’s totally worth it.

The end result were peppers that have a mild heat like green chiles, the tang of vinegar, and the subtle sweetness that you get with sweet peppers. It’s like a blend of sweet and hot peppers, but only one pepper. I couldn’t be happier.

Tonight I chopped a couple up and used added them to a bowl of mild chili. But I can totally see these sliced on a sandwich, mixed in with ground beef as a burger or meatloaf, or on a pizza. As soon as stock runs low I’ll be making more.

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Shank You Very Much

Braising. It’s one of my favorite ways of preparing meats. Braising uses moist heat and time and takes tougher, less expensive cuts that have huge flavor, and break them down into tender delicious dishes.

Im going to over two recipes today. Moroccan Lamb Shanks With White Bean Ragu which contains a variety of spices and seasonings and Beef Shanks In Red Wine that has less ingredients, but a full rich flavor.

The 1st recipe is not real picture intensive because I was too busy cooking. :)

Moroccan Lamb Shanks with White Bean Ragu, Chick Pea Mash, and Roasted Cauliflower

4 Lamb shanks
1 T Cumin
1 t Turmeric
2 t Coriander
1/2 t Cayenne Pepper
1/2 t Paprika
1 t Fennel Seed
2 t Kosher Salt
1/2 t Black Pepper
2 t Mint
1 T Chopped Ginger
1 Onion
4 T Olive Oil
1 qt Canned Tomatoes
1 qt Stock
2 C White Wine
1/4 Preserved Lemon
1 Pint White Beans
Handful Of Spinach

2 can garbanzo beans/chick peas
1/4 C chopped Cilantro
1 C stock (chicken or veg)

1 head cauliflower
2 T olive oil
1 t Salt
2 t Pepper

Oven at 425.

Heat half the oil on a skillet. Sear the lamb shanks on all sides until brown. In a dutch oven heat the other half of the oil and brown the onion. As the onion is cooking add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, paprika, and fennel seed. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan.

Once the shanks are seared add them to the dutch oven. Add salt and pepper. Stir in the canned tomatoes, stock, beans, ginger, and mint.

Take the preserved lemons and cut the flesh out. Filet the pith off of the zest. Rinse the zest well under cold water. Slice the zest crosswise into the thinest strips you can muster. Add the strips to the pot. Bring the contents to a boil.

Cover the dutch oven and place in the oven for approximately 2-3 hours. Add the handful of spinach 20 minutes before serving and stir it in the pot. The meat on the shank should be very tender and fall easily off the bone.

Core the cauliflower. Break off the florets from the base. Cut larger florets in to smaller pieces by cutting up the stems and separating by hand. Place the cauliflower in a pan or cookie sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then toss to coat. Roast the cauliflower for 25-30 minutes.

Combine the chick peas and stock in a pot. Heat. Roughly mash the peas with a fork or potato masher. Heat through. Add the cilantro and stir to combine.

Serve the cauliflower and chick pea mash next to the shank. Top the shank with the bean and spinach ragu.

These shanks are so flavorful as you taste the lamb with bursts of coriander and lemon, heat from the cumin and paprika, and the depth of the turmeric and ginger. It seems like a lot. But the white beans and chick peas help mellow it out.

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Hope you enjoy.

For a dish with less spice, but just as much depth, try my 2nd dish.

Beef Shanks In Red Wine On Polenta

4 Beef shanks
1 Onion
2 Stalks celery
1 Large carrot
1 Bottle of red wine (merlot or cabernet)
4 Garlic cloves
1 Bunch fresh thyme
4 T Olive oil
2 t Salt
1 qt Beef stock

1 C Corn meal
4 C+ Vegetable Stock
3 T butter

Oven at 400.

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Heat the oil in a dutch oven. One at a time, sear the shanks on all sides. Remove the shanks as they are seared and store on a plate.

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Chop the onion and cut the carrot and celery into 1/2″ pieces. Add them to the pot and cook until the onions start to turn translucent.

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Add the red wine, beef stock, and thyme.

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Bring the contents to a boil and cook to reduce some of the liquid. This concentrates the flavor.

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Cover and place the pot in the oven for 3-3 1/2 hours. The meat with retract from the bone and the connective tissue and meat will be very tender.

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Heat the vegetable stock to a boil. Slowly pour in the corn meal while stirring vigorously. Reduce to a simmer. This is where polenta gets tricky. You want it to be thick, but not lumpy. If it get’s too thin, cook it longer. If it gets lumpy, slowly add mor stock. Continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

These were so tender that as I tried to remove them from the pan the bones slipped from the meat. I pocked the marrow back into the bone and tossed the bones aside.

Spoon the polenta on a plate. Place a shank on top and the add the cooked vegetables.

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Cowboy Candy; Or How To Make Weapons Grade Pepper Spray At Home

When your passion is putting food in jars people tend to find out. Most of my friends know that I spend many weekends canning in the kitchen. They also know that I hate seeing food wasted and generally will try to find some way to preserve anything anyone drops off on my doorstep. This has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the nicer points is that generally I get volumes of free produce. The drawback however is dealing with my wife when she comes home to find approximately 300 pounds of lemons on the countertop.

This weekend I returned from a short trip back east to a message from a friend who told me that he had lemons and jalapenos waiting for me. Lemons are easy. Limoncello and preserved lemons, as well as candy lemons are an annual thing for me. But jalapeños I haven’t done yet. So I started thinking of creative ways that I could use my hot little friends.

After the success of Dilly Beans I decided its time for me to go back to canning roots and try some of the tried and true local gems that people have been making for ages. Forget innovation. Forget variation. Some things are good for a reason.

So here we go. Another recipe I’ve heard about for a while but had never tried is Cowboy Candy. Cowboy Candy is candied jalapeño peppers. Just like with the beans, people rave about these things. They talk about the stuff like it’s crack. Like once you start you’re gonna be fiending in your bedroom crying for another jar. Every recipe I’ve come across comes with the same warning. “Make more than you expect. You’ll go through faster than you think. Your friends will take your entire inventory.” If everyone is this wild about them they must be onto something.

They’re supposed to be amazing on burgers, with cheese and/or crackers, on top of meat as a glaze, as a condiment or straight out of the jar with a fork.

20121212-021224.jpgThe following recipe is found all over the Internet. I don’t even know who to give credit to at this point. Maybe it’s public domain by now? I found it the recipe I followed on a Facebook canning group. But you can find it, word for word, on several sites.

Cowboy Candy
3lbs Jalapeños
2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
6 Cups Sugar
1/2 t Turmeric
1/2 t Celery Seed
3 t Minced Garlic
1 t Cayenne Pepper

The peppers that my friend brought over were red and bit small. So I decided to pick up some larger green ones from the grocery store. Together I felt they made a nice mix, added some variety, and looked appropriate for the holiday season. I used 2 pounds of green and 1 pound of red peppers.

20121212-021606.jpg I’ve made many recipes with many hot peppers in them before and generally don’t wear gloves. However this time you’re going to be slicing at least 3 pounds of jalapeno peppers over the course of probably 20 minutes. It is well worth your time to wear a pair of latex or rubber gloves during this process. You will appreciate this when you need to rub your eye, scratch your nose, or God forbid, use the restroom.

Start by slicing off the very top of the pepper to remove the stem. Then slice the pepper into little 1/4 inch rounds.

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20121212-022325.jpgWhen you are finished set the peppers aside. In a large pot combine the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and spices. This is the one point where I deviated from the recipe. I read online that many people found this recipe to be very sweet and they reduced the sugar. I reduced the sugar by one cup. However, I doubled the recipe for the brine.

20121212-022404.jpg Bring the brine to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for five minutes. Then add the pepper slices and simmer for four minutes. You don’t want to be standing right over the pot while the stuff is boiling. The combination of vinegar and peppers coming up into your eyes and lungs is quite overwhelming. I had the fan on over the stove throughout. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppers and place them into clean jars. Leave 1/4 inch headspace.

20121212-022628.jpgReturn the remaining brine to the heat. Boil it hard for six minutes. Then use a ladle to pour the brine over your peppers in the jars, again leaving headspace. Use a clean paper towel and a dab of white vinegar to clean the rims of the jars.
Process half pints for 10 minutes and pints for 15.

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It was suggested that the leftover brine makes an excellent marinade, addition to sauces, or a condiment in and of itself. I went ahead and jarred up what I had left and processed it alongside the peppers.

As with everything pickled these bad boys need to sit for a little while. The suggested time is three weeks. We’ll see how long these last in my pantry before the wife finds them.

I also plan on adding these to my repertoire of easy to make Christmas gifts. Although slicing the jalapenos took a little bit of time the actual process for cooking and preparing the cowboy candy was very easy.

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Do you have a favorite family recipe for pickled or candied produce?

Happy canning.

The Holy Trinity Of Bloody Mary Toppers

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Pickles, Relishes, and Spiced Fruits category.

After I made my Dilly Beans I got some feedback. “Put them in a Bloody Mary” they said. “The spicier the better” they said. “And add some pickled asparagus and pickled Brussels sprouts too!”

I thought this would make a wonderful idea to bring to a holiday party. Some mixer, vodka, and a variety of pickled vegetables and olives as toppers. But the idea of toting several quart jars around with me in December wasn’t appealing. Then it hit me. Why not do them in the same jar?

I started reading the NCHFP’s directions on pickling each of the individual vegetables. The real difference was that asparagus and brussels sprouts are processed for 10 minutes whereas the beans are only processed for 5. So I did some asking around and found someone who said that they processed their dilly beans for 10 minutes and they still come out crunchy. And with that was born the idea for the holy trinity of Bloody Mary toppers. But the idea of those three things hanging out in a jar together seemed awfully green to me. So while I was at the store I picked up those miniature red, orange, and yellow peppers as well as purple pearl onions.

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Bloody Mary Pickle Mix
Asparagus
Green Beans
Brussels Sprouts
Mini Sweet Peppers
Pearl Onions
Garlic
White Vinegar
Pickling Salt
Water
Dill
Black Peppercorns
Mustard Seed
Dried Red Chiles
Red Pepper Flake

I decided to go with the same brine and seasonings as my Dilly Bean recipe, except that I also add mustard seed to the jars.

Let’s start with the Brussels sprouts. First off, did you know they grow like this?

20121201-214458.jpg I never really thought about or imagined what Brussel sprouts look like as they grow, but I guess I thought it was more like tiny cabbages coming out of the ground. Turns out they grow on gigantic stalks that look like DNA. My wife picked up two of these stalks to use for Thanksgiving. It turns out that was twice as much as we needed so we had one left for this project. She told me ahead of time that she’d started by cutting the little sprouts off of the stalk. However she quickly discovered that simply snapping them off was much quicker and more efficient. So if you buy your sprouts like this, simply start at the bottom and snap them off, working your way around to the top.

20121201-214745.jpg These bad boys are going to be cut, blanched, boiled in brine, and then sitting in a jar for who knows how long. So you want healthy, tight, clean little sprouts. I started by trimming the stem just a little bit and then pulling off any leaves that weren’t firmly wrapped around the sprout or had blemishes. Then I sorted them into two piles, big and small. I cut all the big ones in half so that their total size were about equal.

20121201-215040.jpg Get a pot of water boiling and drop your sprouts in. Set a timer for four minutes. Blanching helps start the cooking process to make them tender, improves the color, and can help kill harmful bacteria. After four minutes immediately remove them and place them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

20121201-215203.jpg For directions on how to blanch the pearl onions see my entry on pickled beets.

Get an assembly line going for your jars. Put the dill, garlic, black peppercorns, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, and dried red chili in each jar. Then start working on your Tetris skills. Each jar needs asparagus, green beans, brussels sprouts, mini sweet peppers, and pearl onions.

20121201-215610.jpg I found it easiest to stack the very vertical beans and asparagus against one side of the jar and then fill up the remaining space with the oddly shaped items. The onions and garlic fill the little recesses left over. Try to get a fairly even mix of vegetables in there so that the last person to the jar isn’t stuck with four green beans and a half of a brussels sprout.

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20121201-215813.jpg Follow the directions from the dilly bean recipe to make your brine. Pour your hot brine over the vegetables. Add your clean lid, clean ring, finger tighten it, and place into a water-bath canner.

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Process for 10 minutes. Once the time is up remove the jars carefully and set them on a tea towel or cutting board where they can have a chance to cool slowly and undisturbed.

20121201-220102.jpg And there you have it. First off, these are some of the coolest looking jars that I’ve ever made. Second I think they’ll do well as gifts or as favors to the host or hostess of a holiday party that you are attending. Since they are pickles remember to make them three weeks ahead of the date that you need them so they have time to brine. Also my peppers are desperately trying to float to the top. I found out afterward that to avoid this you can take a small knife and cut one or two slits and each pepper. This will allow the air to escape and the pepper will suspend in the liquid.

Set this jar out with some picks and a bowl of olives and your guests have their choice of what to place on their Bloody Mary. Alternatively this would also make a good accompaniment to a cheese or antipasto platter.

Do you have a different combination of pickled vegetables you enjoy? What are your favorite Bloody Mary toppers? Let me know.

Happy canning.

Of Cranberries and Apples

I waited and waited for cranberries to drop below $1 a bag. And my favorite low cost produce store sold out without ever reaching that price. So I finally folded and bought 15 bags at $1.50 a piece. I think this is the cheapest I’ll find them.

I had an initial game plan. Half would be Odessa’s, to make Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce. The other half was to be mine to make a sort of apple cranberry chutney I’ve been wanting to try.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) the Internet is an amazing pool of awesome information and ideas, and I stumbled across something I couldn’t resist. Pickled Cranberries.

And with those ideas stirring in my head I went in to the kitchen. 9 bags of cranberries for Odessa, two to pickle, and four for chutney. Or so I thought.

I should mention that this post won’t be very picture heavy, cause I was cooking my ass off tonight. Felt like everything on every burner needed my constant attention. And I was interrupted by two mishaps. One by my kid, and one my own doing.

Odessa started with her recipe first. It’s still my favorite cranberry sauce. And I could have two jars a month and be happy.

Cranberry Apple Chutney

24oz cranberries
20 apples, cored and rough chopped
9 cups sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced
4 cups water.

This is a recipe that I found through Instagram, and then modified. The original recipe, as it was provided to me called for 8 cups of apples, 4 cups of cranberries, 6 cups of sugar, and one lemon. I based my math off of the amount of cranberries that I had left. But that was nearly 16 cups and I didn’t have it in me to add 24 cups of sugar to something.

I chose to go with Granny Smith and Fuji apples to stick with the red and green holiday theme.

20121128-014819.jpgFor what it’s worth, Fuji apples do not hold up to cooking, a little key point that I forgot. Opt for Lady Pink, Braeburn, Honey Crisp or other firm apple instead, if given the choice.

I used my handy dandy apple corer/slicer and cut the apples into 6 slices. Then I rough chopped the slices into pieces.

20121128-014748.jpgPut the water in a large pot, heat, and add the cranberries. I gave the berries about a five minute head start over the apples. As the cranberries start popping add your apples to the pot. Once the cranberries and apples start to cook and release more liquid add your sugar as well and stir thoroughly mix. Cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the cranberries and apples begin to cook down. Then add your lemon zest and juice.

20121128-015454.jpg I tasted the chutney after originally having only added 6 cups of sugar. That still seemed a bit too tart. I added another 3 cups of sugar, bringing the total to nine, simmered, and taste it again. That seemed like a good amount.

Continue to cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture thickens.

20121128-015541.jpg Pour your cranberry chutney into clean mason jars, apply your lid and ring.

20121128-015644.jpg Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pints.

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20121128-020016.jpg This ended up making 14 pints.

As I was looking around the web for cranberry recipes I came across an idea for pickled cranberries. Pickling is my most recent obsession. The author suggested adding a spoonful of pickled cranberries to club soda and gin, or tossing them in olive oil and topping a goat cheese and arugula salad with them. This sounded way too delicious to pass up.

Pickled Cranberries
24oz Cranberries
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon juniper berries (I didn’t have these, and didn’t want to run out to the store. I’ll add them next time)

Place the allspice, clove, peppercorns, and juniper berries in cheesecloth and tie off.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and spice bundle in a pot and heat to a boil. Add the cranberries and cook for 5-10 minutes until the cranberries have popped. Bring the mixture back to a full boil.

Remove the spice bundle and cinnamon sticks and set aside. Ladle the cranberries into jars, and then add brine to the 1/2″ headspace. Cut the cinnamon sticks in half and add a piece to each jar.

Lids, rings, and 10 minutes in a water bath. As these are pickles, let them sit for a while before opening and enjoying.

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**Update**
The wife cracked a jar of the pickled cranberries today and made herself a cocktail of tonic water, gin, and some cranberries. Not long thereafter she texted “OMG these things are awesome.” I asked her to take a picture, and classy it up a bit so I could post it here. Ladies and gentlemen, my wife’s classy picture of her cocktail:

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Cranberry Pickled Apple Slices
It was at this point that I thought I was done. But I noticed that I had this gorgeous red tinted, cranberry scented brine left in the pot. I couldn’t bring myself to toss it out. I decided to be adventurous. I took two Fuji apples a d two Granny Smith apples and cored and sliced them. I returned the spice bundle to the brine and added the apple slices. My intent was just to cook them to the point of being soft. However at this very moment my three-year-old walked into the kitchen and told me that he had broken some glass. When I went to investigate I found that he had made his way into my canning pantry and was playing “how high can I build a tower of jelly jars.” Turns out the answer is seven. The tower had fallen and a jar if Strawberry Citrus Jam met its demise. In the time it took me to deal with and clean that, my apple over cooked. But, oh well, not the end of the world.

The apples were added to jars and covered with brine. Then processed for 10 minutes. I’ll probably warm them and use them to top vanilla ice cream. Or serve them as a side to pork chops.

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So there’s 4 things you can do with cranberries and apples. I’m definitely considering those pickled cranberries as Christmas gift idea #2. Show up to a holiday party with a couple jars of those bad boys, some vodka, gin, and mixers? You’ll be the hot of the party.

As I said earlier, I’m on a huge pickling kick right now. If you have a great recipe, or know of a must have pickling book, please share.

Happy canning.



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