Posts Tagged 'Gift'

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.

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

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

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

Hot Curry Pickled Cauliflower

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stout Beer Jelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mmmmmm Apple Butter

I drove out to the Superstition Ranch Market on Monday, and found that they had Macintoch Apples for $.69/lb, Fuji Apples for $.40/lb, and Jonagold Apples for $.39/lb.  About 30 pounds later, I’m driving home to make apple butter.

I’m torn on the joys of making apple butter.  Let’s be honest, people are always really impressed when you give them a jar of  preserves or pickles.  There’s an impression that it’s insanely hard to make this stuff.  But I think that’s only because most people don’t, and thus don’t know how.  It reminds me of the old Rice Krispie Treat commercials where mom spend 15 minutes making the treats, only to buy a couple hours of quiet time, throw some flower around, and be received by her family with admiration.  Jam is pretty easy to make.  It takes a little skill, the ability to closely follow a very simple recipe, and bit of free time. But it’s no souffle.  Am I right?
Apple butter on the other hand takes time.  A lot of time.  And while it’s not difficult, I get burned more by apple butter than I do jam (although the jam burns are significantly hotter).  Apple butter also uses more counter space, more dishes, and more manual labor.  So when people are appreciative of my apple butter, I take it.  Every word of it.

That all being said, you know I do this stuff because I love it.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t make it (see Okra).  So I give to you, Apple Butter:

The first step is to get some apples.  Actually, a lot of apples.  Probably at least 10lbs.  You want about 9 quarts of apple sauce. Wait, what’s that you say? You didn’t know we were making apples sauce?  Yes.  We are making apple sauce first, and then apple butter.  And since I’m getting the water canner boiling, and making the kitchen messy, I figure, might as well get it all done at once.  You can’t make too much.  Because if you decide that you don’t want that much apple butter, just can the apple sauce the way it is.  Make sense?

What kind of apples you ask?  What kind do you have?  I wouldn’t use Granny Smith, or anything else overly tart.  But generally any other kind of apple will work. And here’s the thing, the more variety, the better.  I’ve used 5 different types in the past.  Each apple variety brings a little something different to the table, and together, they make magic.

I (as you read above) went with 3 varieties this time; from left to right Jonagold, Macintosh, and Fuji.  Why did I go with those 3?  Did you not see the prices I listed above?  Cost is a huge motivator for me when it comes time to decide what to make.

I bet for step one you’re expecting peel, cut, and core.  Nope.  That’s a huge wast of my time, and a waste of apple.  I let the Kitchenaid do all the work for me.  Did I mention that I use a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer wit the food and vegetable strainer attachment for this? Well I do.  And you should too.  If you fancy yourself any kind of semi-legit cook, or a home canner, or a neo-homesteader, you need a Kitchenaid with the grinder.  I can’t live without it.

Cut the apples into 8ths. Some of the Jonagolds were really big, and they got cut into 12ths or something.  But try to keep the shapes about the same size throughout.  The only thing you need to remove is the produce sticker, and as much of the bulk of the stem as you can.  But everything else stays.

Put about an inch or 2 of water in the bottom of a large pot, and start to heat it on high.  then toss in your apples as you cut them.  I don’t cut them all ahead of time, cause where am I gonna store 30lbs of sliced apples?

Lets interject to discuss pots quickly.  I have mostly All-Clad stainless cookwear.  And it’s amazing.  I also have this cheap-o aluminum stock pot from a grocery store.  And it sucks.  I almost lost half of my patch (15lbs!!) last night when the cheap-o pot got 2 hot spots and started to burn the apples.  Whereas the All-Clad is so thick, it heats evenly and maintains the heat too.  If you don’t have a nice set of cookwear, save up and get some.  It makes such a difference.  At least get a nice heavy skillet and a nice heavy pot.  The All-Clad batch cooked faster, and nicer than the cheap pot ever did.  I actually turned the cheap pot off halfway through and did smaller batches in the All-Clad.

Anyway, heat and stir, heat and stir, heat and stir until the apples are all soft.

As you can see there are some different consistencies in there.  I found that the Macintosh apples disintegrated in the heat.  The Fuji’s put up a good fight, but started to fall apart as well.  The Jonagold’s however, good lord.  They took forever to soften, and they never broke down.  Mental note, what a great baking apple if I need it to stand up to heat.  When all the apples are soft, move them to a large bowl and heat another batch if needed.

The set up: The blue bowl will catch the remnants.  The middle bowl will catch the applesauce, and the bowl on the right contains the cooked apples.  After attaching the grinder/food mill, turn the mixer on 2.  Start feeding the apples through.

This is the part that hurts.  The food mill has a tendency to suck and spit all over the place.  And those apples were boiling 30 seconds ago.  Don’t put your face over the food tray while you’re doing this.  I got hot apple juice in my eye last time. It hurts.  Nuff said.

Cooked apples go in the top.  All the skins, seeds, stems, cores, etc come out here in dried out little apple poo nuggets. This is why the blue bowl is here.

And out of the bottom comes pure liquid gold.  Congratulations, you’ve just made apple sauce.  It’s just that easy.  And if you wanna quit at apple sauce you totally can.  And this is it.  It doesn’t need anything.  No sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, no sodium stearoyl lactylate, no nothing!  And that’s the best part about making our own food, isn’t it?  Now, I have been known to add a touch of cinnamon, but you don’t even need to add that now if you wanna sprinkle it on it when you eat it.  You can just reheat it to a boil,   jar this stuff up and water bath can it for 15 minutes for pints, and 20 for quarts.

That being said, in the interest of transparency, you could also (shudder) used purchased applesauce and start the recipe here.

Those fibrous apple nuggets can be composted if you’re into that (and if you’re reading my blog, you probably are).

Fill a crock pot almost to the top with your apple sauce.  Mine holds about 4 quarts.  Though bigger is fine.  Add 2 cups of sugar, 2T Cinnamon, 1t Clove, and 1/2t Allspice.  Then mix it all together well.

Put a wooden spool, a couple of chop sticks, dowels, or shish-kabob skewers across the pot, and then set the lid on it. This allows steam to escape, which will help it reduce, but keeps yoru kitchen clean and napalm free.

How long should this cook?  I don’t have a clue.  This isn’t so much a science as it is an art.  start with 8 hours, and work your way up.  I’m well above 12 hours, but my Crock Pot isn’t impressive.  Start with your pot on high to get it going, and then turn it down.  Check on it after 6, 8, and 10 hours.  And stir it any time you walk past it.  You want it to reduce in volume almost by half.  I set this at 2am, and it was ready for the next step at 7:30pm. So, almost 18 hours.  But, I also kept the pot on low since i knew I wouldn’t be around.

What if it burns? If it burns, remove the sauce into a bowl.  The burnt part should be stuck to the crock pot.  Clean it, return it to the pot, and continue.  What if it’s too runny?  Cook it longer.  What if it’s reduced too much?  Add apple sauce.  This is the nice thing.  Like I said, not a science.

After however many hours, your apple butter will be reduced by about half.  Mind you, that’s more than in this picture, but I totally spaced taking a picture at that point.

Then you add apple sauce to to the top of the crock again, and another 2 cups of sugar.  Mix well.  Let it cook a couple more ours to combine.  I cooked it another 3-4 hours.

Using an immersion blender, process until smooth.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, either buy one, or skip this step.  I do not want to get an email from you in the burn unit after a blender or food processor mishap.  Ok?  Safety first.  This is boiling apples and sugar.  If you don’t blend this, I don’t think it’s the end of the world, it just wont have that smooth buttery consistency that apple butter should.

That’s it.  You’ve made Apple Butter.

Using safe canning methods (you know, clean jars, ladle, and funnel) fill your jars with the apple butter.  I’ve done pints in the past, but apple butter doesn’t go as quickly as jam in our house.  So I stick to 1/2 pints to avoid any waste.

Remember to leave your 1/4 inch head space, put the cover on and hand tighten the ring.

Put em in the water bath (yes, there are 5 1/2 pints in there) and let em ride for 10 minutes for 1/2 pints or pints, and 15 min for quarts.

Remove, and let sit for 24 hours without disturbing them.  I usually put them back in the original cardboard case the jars came in them, and slide them in a cupboard to keep the kids away from them.

And we’ve made apple butter.  You can put it on toast or english muffins, make PB&AB sandwich, or heat it and brush it onto pork, pour it onto pancakes, mix it in oatmeal, or use it to top vanilla ice cream.

 



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