Posts Tagged 'homestead'

Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce

My wife makes a killer cranberry sauce. The recipe is an amalgam of various recipes that she’s tried or read over the last couple years. We’ve served this the last two Thanksgivings, and it’s a complete hit.

After the Thanksgiving and Christmas season cranberries start going on sale as vendors just want to offload what they have left. Dess found them on sale for $1.49 a bag (half of what they were the week before Thanksgiving) and grabbed 7 of them.

Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce:
Multiplied x 7 for this recipe

1 – 12oz bag of Cranberries
3/4 C Red Wine (Cabernet)
1/4 C Triple Sec
1 C Brown Sugar
1/2 t Ground Ginger
1/2 t Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t Allspice Berries
2 T Candied Ginger (chopped)
1 T Orange Zest
1 Cinnamon Stick

Combine the wine, Triple Sec, and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries.

Place the Cinnamon stick and the Allspice Berries in cheesecloth and tie it off.

Add the spice bundle to the cranberries and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes until the cranberries pop and the liquid thickens. Sometimes we’re left with a couple dozen unpopped cranberries floating on top, and that’s fine.

Remove the spice bundle, stir in the crystalized ginger, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and the orange zest.

Let the mixture simmer another 2-3 minutes and then ladle in to jars.

Lets talk about jars for a seconds. A friend asked me to touch on preparing jars, reusing jars, cleaning jars, etc. When I open the case I take the jars out and remove the lids and rings. The jars get washed, by hand or in a dishwasher. the rings get set aside. Then, before I start my recipe, I fill my canning pot/pressure cooker with water and place the jars in there. As the water heats to boil, the jars heat with it. I let the jars boil until I’m ready to start filling them. I also throw my ladle and funnel in the mix too.

When I’m ready I pull the jars out (slowly and carefully, since they are full of boiling water) and gently tip out the water back in to the pot. I place the lids in a bowl and use the water from the 1st jar I remove to cover the lids with now, just under boiling temp water. This warms the adhesive compound on the lids and gets a better seal going.

Fill the jars with the sauce and leave 1/2″ head space. Put the lids and rings on and finger tighten the rings. Remember, air needs to escape from the jar to form the eventual vacuum seal needed for preservation.

Place the filled jars in your water bath canner, making sure that the jars have at least 2 inches of water covering them. Process for 15 minutes for pints.

Using 7 bags of cranberries this made 11 pints of sauce. And now we can enjoy cranberry sauce year round.

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Let’s can some tomatoes.

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Canned Vegetable; Tomatoes category.

As you know, I have great love for Superstition Ranch Market. When we went there last week they had Roma Tomatoes on sale for $0.25 a pound. In my experience, that’s pretty much unheard of. We talked about it, and decided to buy two cases, 50lbs, for $12.50. An amazing deal. Rather than make spaghetti sauce like last time, we chose just to can the tomatoes. Especially since the transition from stewed tomatoes is easy. Plus stewed tomatoes are more versatile, and easier to prepare.

Canned Stewed Tomatoes

Start off by filling a large pot with water and bringing it to boil, filling your sink with ice and water, and laying out a cutting board and knife for prep work. Henry Ford was on to something….it’s much easier if you have an assembly line.

Look through your tomatoes. I found a couple that started going rotten in the 2 days it took me to get the this project together. Just toss them. If you have any with a dark spot or whatnot, we can work around that.

Drop the tomatoes int he boiling water, using tongs, and let them boil for 2-3 minutes. You’ll notice that the skins start to split. As that happens, remove the tomatoes and drop them in the ice water. this process makes the skins really easy to remove.

Let them chill for a while in the ice bath. If you try to soon, you’ll burn your fingers as the insides can remain hot for a couple of minutes.

As you remove the tomatoes from the ice water, start where the skin split, and remove the skin. On most of them it was super easy. The tomatoes fell out of their skin. On a couple I had to do a bit of peeling.

Remove the stem area and any black spots from the tomatoes. Then cut them in to quarters. As usual, only work with clean, sterile, prepared canning jars. Drop 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in to each pint jar, or 2 tablespoons into each quart. I like to use quarts for what will eventually become spaghetti sauce, and pints for what will be used in recipes. However, we had so many tomatoes that i was scrambling just to find enough jars. If you run out of lemon juice (like I did) you can also use powdered citric acid, red wine, or vinegar for the acid. We did about 1/2 dozen with balsamic vinegar.

Start stuffing your jars. Drop the quarters in and when they reach the neck tap the jar on the counter to get them to settle. I also used my fingers to force them down. Once they look full take a ladle full of boiling water and dribble enough in the jar cover the tomatoes, but leave head space. Honestly, with the juices that came out, this was only a couple of tablespoons of water in each jar. Remember that air doesn’t heat the same way water does, and that’s why the liquid is important. Use your non-metal tool to run around the edge of the jar to release any air bubbles. All the real estate int he jar needs to be tomato or liquid (except for the head space).

Hopefully you put your lids in a small pan of water and heated them (not to a boil). So wipe the rims of the jars, put a lid on each one, and close with a band. Remember, hand tighten. That’s it. Finger tighten even. People have ruined batches of foods by overtightening the bands. Air needs to escape from under the lid.

You can water bath process tomatoes with the added acidity. But it takes 45 minutes for quarts. I chose to pressure can because I can fit more cans in at a time. Fill your canner with jars (remembering to off set the 2nd layer or use a metal grate to build your 2nd layer). For my location I did 12PSI for 15 minutes. (Follow your canner’s manufacture’s manual). After 12 minutes I just shut off the heat and walked away. When all the hissing stops, and all the steam has escaped, I took of the lid and lest the jars rest for another 10-15 minutes. This prevents shock, which can result in breaking jars, which can result in tomatoes and juice the temperature and consistency of napalm exploding on your body. After they’ve had time to rest use your jar lifter to remove them from the pot and place them on the counter where they should be able to sit, undisturbed for the next 12-24 hours.

If you bought as many tomatoes as I did you’ll need to repeat the process 3 times.

Remember, home canning eliminates unwanted added sugars or salts, exposure to chemicals (BPA is leached from the tin can lining in commercially canned tomatoes), and exposure to preservatives. This recipe requires only 3 ingredients; tomatoes, something acidic, and water. If you are on a low salt diet, don’t add any. If you don’t care for lemon juice, add powdered citric acid. For a more Italian flavor add balsamic vinegar or red wine. I also tried to make “Italian Seasoned Tomatoes” this time around. To 6 jars I added a 1/2 pinch of Oregano, Thyme, and Basil. Dried herbs offer a great deal of flavor, especially when canned, so go easy. You could also peel the tomatoes and leave them whole, cut them in half, or dice them; depending on how you wanted to use them.

Here’s the wife photo-bombing my victory shot:

50 pounds of tomatoes with about 10 spoiled tomatoes ended up being 23 pints and 11 quarts of quartered tomatoes. For $12.50 (plus the new jars I had to buy). I wont find commercially canned tomatoes that cheap. And I probably won’t find tomatoes that cheap again this year.

The fruit tends to float while the liquid sinks immediately after canning. So on the 2nd day I rotate all the jars back and forth, like I’m mixing paint, and that gets it’s all homogenized again.

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.

Aggroculture

I’m getting more and more into (the theory and dream) of homesteading and off the grid living.  And the more I read and follow blogs, it almost seems as though this is the beginning of an underground movements of this decades “F the man.”  The pepole I’m running in to are tattooed, pierced, rockabilly, punk rock….chicken farmers.  It’s like the way to fight societies rules, now-a-day, is to raise your own food, produce your own power, and work your own land.  Maybe it’s a coincidence.  Maybe the people I grew up with, and got tattooed with, are now old enough, and in a financial position, to do so.  But personally, i think I’m on to something here.  There seems to be a throw back to late 1800’s early 1900’s independence.

And on that note, I helped my friend Joel build a chicken coop.  Oh..not just some rinky dink little back yard cage.  I’m talking a full on, walk in, chicken chook condo.

Joel picked up a half dozen chicks back in February.  They’ve been living in a dog kennel in his work room in the back yard.  Joel started coming up with plans and designs.  Finally the day came.  He made a run to Home Depot, and called me to come over.

The plan.

When I arrived, Joel was busy staining the wood, and sealing it.

We started by framing out the sides.  3/4 of it will be covered with chicken wire, and 1/4 will be the plywood sleeping area.

After the sides were assembled, we stapled the chicken wire over the open areas.

Joel framed out the door and the 4th wall after I left.  I returned the next day and we put up the 4 walls.  Once the walls were up, we screwed on the plywood for the sleeping area.

One of the side walls is 6 inches higher than the other, to allow for drainage.  One of the first ideas we tossed around was a green roof.  Maybe an herb garden.  Or some kind of vine that the chooks could actually eat.  But due to the size, he decided to stick with something more traditional.

The roof has beam going in each direction for support.

Then, the inside of the residence was finished.  A couple of roosts on one side.

And the egg box on the other.

The area under the coop got a nice layer of bedding.

The outside of the coop looks even better than the inside.

The egg box. Accessible from the outside.

The people door.

And finally…the finished product:

I think it looks amazing.  I can’t have chickens where I’m at right now, so I’m living, partially at least, through Joel.  I think any chook would be lucky to live in this 12′ x 6′ x 7′ luxury condo.

And beyond the independence of raising his own chickens, and getting is own eggs, I got to share int he experience of building your own building.  And that carries it’s own satisfaction with it.

Having a blast!

For more on homesteading and off the grid living check out some of my favorite blogs:

Neo Homesteading.
The Alaskan Life
Living Off Grid

I’ll touch more on the topic in the future.

Herbs down, veggies to go.

Container Garden, part 2 of 2.

Little toes and little plants.

After an unusual high amount of rain, and some changes in my work schedule, I finally found time to finish my 2nd container garden.  The herbs are doing well in the trough.  Now, to move on to growing veggies.

I spent some time walking the halls of Lowes, and they had this nifty little plastic, snap in to place, pre formulated raised garden.  For $40.  For a 46″ square, by 8 inch container.  Really?  I am by no means a carpenter, but I figure I can make something bigger, and better for cheaper.  The back of the prefab showed how you could make clever designs if you bought additional sets.  If I wanted something 9 inches tall and 8 feet long, I needed to spend $160 on their crappy sets.  That wasn’t happening.

I wandered down to the lumber section and found some “premium white wood boards.”  I picked up 4 8’x9″x1″ planks, and a 2″x2″x8′.  I also grabbed a gallon of water seal, and some brushes.  The nice thing about Lowes and The Depot is that they’ll cut any board you buy twice for free.  Seeing as how I wanted a 4×8, I had them cut 2 of the boards right down the middle.  That save me a lot of measuring and cutting time later.

I started by water sealing all the wood.  Then, on to building.

My design was pretty simple.  Cut the 2×2 into foot long sections, use them as the corners, and screw the boards on to them.

Outside corner.

inside corner.

I made the posts a little taller than the boards for a few reasons.  1st, I can staple a net over the top of the whole garden if birds become an issue.  I can lash trellis material to them if I need to.  It made it look a little more decorative.  I can add a “2nd story” to it if I want to add some height for visual effect, or for deep rooted plants.  And, most importantly, you can’t tell if one is a 1/4 inch longer than the other, cause they aren’t next to each other.

I put another board in the middle of the container to add some structural support, and to allow me to tend to one half of the garden at a time or to segregate aggressive growers (like mint).

New garden. You can see the trough herb garden in the back.

I shoveled the rock back from the yard, and loosened the soil up a bit.  I dropped the new container in to place and tried to get it as level as possible.

I dropped a trellis in, for cucumbers and beans, and filled half the container with garden soil and composted mulch.  Near equal parts.  I didn’t want to go back to buy more soil, which is why I split the garden in half to begin with.  I’ll get to the other half in the coming weeks.

I bought this little prefab trellis.  but I’m starting to think about lashing bailing wire between the two brown posts that support the covered patio.  That way, i wouldn’t be limited by height.  I’ll get back to that.

Trellis

I got some fill dirt, and mixed it in with the soil.  Again, about equal parts dirt, soil, and mulch.  That was my magic recipe in the last garden, and I can’t argue wit the results.  X-man helped me mix it all together.

Kids are good at anything that involves dirt.

Then we started planting.  X-man but in some corn and carrot seeds.

Hopefully we'll reep what we sow.

X-Man catches me planting.

Zucchini, Crook Neck Squash, Red and Yellow Bell Peppers, Poblanos, Cucumbers, and String Beans.

Future dinner.

And now, we wait.

I’ll get to the other half here pretty soon.  I’d like to do some leafy greens, but I think I missed my season.  I might go for strawberries, or maybe some easy flowers for the kids to enjoy.

This was not a complex design, nor was it a complex project.  I wasn’t looking for an architectural award.  I was looking for an economic way to grow veggies to feed my family.  Total bill from Lowe’s was under $50, with the seal and brushes.  All I needed at home was a circular saw, a drill, and a handful of screws that I already had.  I think this container will last a long time.  I’ll update any modifications I make to it.



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