Saturday, July 23, 2011

Strawberry Sauce

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.  Beatles







Strawberry season is almost over in our neck of the woods.  We've been making the most of them.  Plain and simple, rinsed in cold water.  Cut in half with a spoonful of sugar over the top and a little bit of cream.  Cut in quarters and added to fresh Greek yogurt with a dollop of honey to sweeten the bowl.  Sadly, fresh, organic strawberries are few and far between these days with the hot, dog days of summer quickly upon us.  So I recently found myself with a few leftover quarts and decided to sneak in one last, delicious strawberry canning session before declaring strawberry season officially over for the year.  So head to your local farmers market and see if you can grab some strawberries to make this delicious strawberry sauce!





Strawberry Sauce



Ingredients:


For each quart of strawberries, this recipe will yield a quart of sauce:  I used 5 quarts of strawberries
2 cups of sugar per quart
1 quart water for each quart of berries


Instructions:


Begin by washing and picking over your berries with cold water.  Again, allow 1 quart of berries for each quart of sauce you would like to have.  Set aside.


In a large canning pot or stew pot, combine 2 cups of sugar and 1 quart of water for each quart of strawberry sauce you are making.  Bring the sugar and water to a full boil. Drop in the berries and cook for about 5 minutes.  


Pour sauce into clean, hot jars making sure to divide cooked strawberries evenly among your sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Seal with rings and lids.


Process in a boiling-water canner for 20 minutes.


Uses:


Pour over pancakes as a light syrup.
Add to yogurt for breakfast, stirring gently.
Pour 2 tablespoons into a tall iced glass of Seltzer for a refreshing summer tonic.
Add 1 tablespoon to milk for a strawberry milk drink.
Pour over ice cream, with a banana quarter for garnish.
So many uses, so little sauce.... sigh....







Monday, July 18, 2011

Vegetable Broth from Scraps





"Being economical connects you to your food on a very deep level.  Kitchen economy is all about making the most food with the least amount of money.  It's about being conscious of where food comes from and the care it took to grow it.  It's about appreciating every last bite, minimizing waste, and considering your carbon footprint.  Kitchen economy speaks to both a richer bank account and a richer connection with your food and the environment.  It does not mean clipping coupons or driving around town for the best deal.  Grandma said it best when she said, 'Waste not, want not.'  That's the best kind of economy we can hope for."  Urban Pantry, Amy Pennington.


Vegetable broth from scraps

We can food for many different reasons, not the least of these include creating delicious, high quality food for our families, minimizing the additives used in our food, staying within our food budgets, the calming and meditative influence canning has on our minds and lives.  The ability to use our food to the very last drop, extending the life of it to serve more than one purpose is at the heart of kitchen budget mindedness.  It is the very simple ingredients which we are most likely to find multiple uses for.  Today's blog explores making vegetable broth from the cast-offs, vegetable trash which in the past we may have tossed away, without realizing that there was a little more life to be had from this "so called" trash.  With grocery bills rising through the roof in a very lean economy, food banks not being able to keep up with the demand for more food from those who once would never consider frequenting such a place, and food shortages with starving children around the world, it is time we became aware of how wasteful we might be and make amends.  In the United States of America, we waste approximately 27% of our food, sending it to landfills throughout our country.  In other words, we waste one pound of food for every American every day.  Think about it.  So let's look at a way we can be thrifty with our "cast-offs" in an effort to make amends for this atrocious statistic.


Vegetable scraps from Mock Sausage and Apples with Sweet 'Taters.

Vegetable broth from scraps is the easiest recipe to make simply from scraps of the vegetables you use everyday.  For the next week you need to begin to collect in a plastic bowl or gallon bag your vegetable cast-offs.  This includes the random vegetable not eaten at dinner, the peelings from veggies you cooked for a meal, any left over stems from your herbs in which you have deleafed for cooking or the unused soon to go bad vegetables sitting in your pantry.  Within a few days, you will be surprised at how much healthy vegetable cast-offs you have available for your broth.

This evening, I made broth from several stems of herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, and basil), carrot peelings and carrot ends, sweet potato peelings, onion skin, mushroom bottoms, and one garlic clove.  The broth is fragrant and flavorful for future recipes.  

In a large stockpot, cover the bottom with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Heat oil over medium heat.  Add the vegetables to the stockpot and allow to sit quietly in the olive oil for at least 10 minutes.  Try not to stir the veggies too many times.  We want them to heat up and carmalize a little.  You might toss in a splash of vermouth as Amy Pennington does in her recipe or add a little water and deglaze the pan by stirring.  Add 10-12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Allow to simmer for at least 30-45 minutes.




Allow the broth to cool completely.  Strain the broth of vegetable scraps and put in clean jars or plastic container with lids.   Allow 1 inch headspace in the jars, as the broth will expand as it freezes.  Place the broth in your freezer and use within 4-6 months or in your fridge and use withing 3-4 days.


Compost scraps after broth has been strained out.

This delicious broth can be used for a number of recipes including soups and stews, stuffing, etc.  Use it in place of chicken or beef broth if cooking vegetarian.  Remember that you can use any combination of vegetable cast-offs.  I try to make broth every few days so that peelings and such are reasonably fresh.

For more kitchen economy ideas, please take a look at Amy Pennington's Urban Pantry.  It is full of ideas for a green, abundant pantry that will enable you to create delicious food for your family.








Saturday, July 9, 2011

Strawberry-Pepper-Mint-Jam



Right now I just want to chill for awhile. Take a hiatus from all the craziness. To clean my house, see my family. Just see some movies and pick some strawberries.
~Lauren Ambrose








Do you remember what jam you put on your peanut butter sandwich as a kid?  Most likely it was strawberry jam.  An American classic, strawberry jam has probably been around for as long as women have gathered in the fields to pick fresh strawberries and taken the baskets home to prepare delicious strawberry concoctions for their families. 


 Bright, sun ripened strawberries abound here in the Midwest this time of year.  So it was that I found myself recently with 4 pounds of strawberries sitting on my counter waiting patiently to become something wonderful.  In my kitchen, strawberry jam needs to burst with more flavor than the traditional recipe makes.  So playing with different herbs, it was decided that pepper and mint were just the ticket.   Sweet and sun flavored with a bite at the end makes for a much more interesting strawberry jam.  It is deeelishhhousss!!  This is not your momma's strawberry jam that's for sure!






Ingredients:
6 cups crushed strawberries
15 good grinds of black peppercorns
20 mid-size mint leaves, chopped finely
4 cups sugar
1 box premium fruit pectin for less or no sugar needed recipes




Instructions:


Day 1:  
1.  Measure exact amount of fruit and crush.  Place in a large bowl.  Add 15-20 good grinds of fresh whole peppercorns and 20 mid-size mint leaves that have been chopped finely. Mix well.


2.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator overnight.




Day 2:
1.  Prepare jars, lids and screw bands washing in hot sudsy water, rinse well, and put in saucepan.  Pour boiling water over and allow them to sit in the hot water until ready to use.  Drain well before filling.


2.  Place prepared fruit in a large, nonreactive saucepan.  


3.  Add 1/4 cup sugar from measured sugar with box of pectin.  Add this mixture into fruit and stir well.  Add 1/2 teaspoon butter to strawberry mixture to prevent foaming during boiling.  Bring mixture to a full boil (does not stop bubbling when stirred).


4.  Stir in remaining sugar (3 and 3/4 cups) quickly.  Return to a full boil and boil for one minute stirring the entire time.  Be patient as this may take awhile.  


5.  Ladle into prepared jars quickly.  Hot water process for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and place jars on a clean towel.  Cover with another towel and let sit for 24 hours.








Strawberries are the angels of the earth, innocent and sweet with green leafy wings reaching heavenward.  ~Terri Guillemets

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blackberry, Rhubarb, Lemon Preserves

Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes - The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Blackberries, those little black diamonds of pure sweetness are delicious when paired with the tartness of rhubarb and lemon.  In the middle of winter when our world is filled with snow and cold and the darkness of days; Blackberry, Rhubarb, Lemon Preserves will transport you back to sunny, warm, summer days with each bite.  Slather it on buttered toast, cream cheesed bagel, buckwheat pancakes, or simply spoon it out of the jar and eat a "marmalade spoon" as my middle son called them.  With time, the blackberries will candy and taste deeelishhhhhhousssss....

As an aside, you will be filling yourself with a number of good for you things, like magnesium, calcium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and manganese, as well as, antioxidants.  On an educational note, this is called a preserve rather than a jam because it has actual small pieces of fruit lying in the jam.  

So as the summer is winding up with berries coming in season and rhubarb starting to tire out, consider putting up some of this delicious preserve to have on hand when the winter doldrums make a little taste of summer a survival necessity.   





Ingredients:
5 cups blackberries, crushed
2 cups rhubarb, diced
1 medium lemon, sliced thinly and seeds removed
7 cups sugar
1 box premium fruit pectin



Instructions:

Begin by preparing jars and lids and rims for canning.  Wash jars, lids, and rims in warm sudsy water.  Set jars filled with water in large water canner half filled with water.  Bring to a boil, then turn off heat.  Set lids and rims in a small saucepan filled with water.  Bring to a boil, then turn off heat.

Prepare fruit as listed.   Measure exact amounts of fruit.

Measure exact amount of sugar in a separate bowl






In a large saucepot, combine 1 box pectin with blackberries, rhubarb, and lemon.

Bring mixture to a full rolling boil.






Quickly, stir in all of the sugar.  Return the sugar and fruit mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat stirring constantly for one minute.

Remove saucepot from heat.  Skim off any foam.





Quickly ladle fruit mixture into clean jars.  Wipe rim and thread of jars clean.  Place two piece lids onto jars.  Place in water canner.  Process 10 minutes.

Remove jars from canner and place on a fresh towel to allow to dry completely.  Let jars sit for 24 hours.



Enjoy!