Taste and see …

Jam!! and a couple of fruit butters August 31, 2010

Filed under: Canning,Crock pot — F. Penner @ 2:44 PM
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This summer I was inspired by my sister-in-law to try making jam.  She’s been doing it for several years now, and loves it, and I thought, ‘Hmm… that could be kind of fun!’  I started with a Crock-Pot recipe for blueberry butter because it seemed pretty easy.  Puree the blueberries, cook them down a little in the Crock-Pot, then add the sugar & spices and let it cook down a bit more, then ladle it into the jars, put the lids on, and stick them in boiling water for 10 minutes to seal them.  I set out with intentions of finishing at a decent hour so I wouldn’t be up until midnight or later trying to finish canning everything, but I realized that my biggest pot was probably not big enough for more than 2-4 jars, nor did I have a trivet or anything that would fit on the bottom of my pot to rest the jars on.  So I headed out to Walmart and picked up their last huge canning pot, complete with the rack to put the jars in.  It’s big.

And I have nowhere to put it, so it’s been sitting on my table for now, until I finally remember to take all those bags sitting in my closet to Goodwill.  But at least I have it… I came home, pureed my blueberries, put ’em in the Crock-Pot and went and did something else for 4 hours or so, poured the sugar & spice in, then did something else for another hour-ish.  I probably should have let it cook down a little bit more because I think it was probably a little more liquidy than it’s supposed to be, but for my first attempt at canning or making jam ever, I think it turned out just fine!

After my initial attempt, I decided that I kind of enjoy making jam, so I decided that I was going to go peach picking at a local orchard with some friends and make peach jam.  However, the weekend before I went peach-picking, my mom came to visit, and she had gone peach and blackberry picking with my sister-in-law before coming to see me, so I took some of her blackberries and made blackberry jam.  The real way.  Standing over the stove, stirring the jam… I was expecting to get splattered and have little mini-jam burns on my arms, but that didn’t happen.  And it only took maybe an hour and a half total?  And it’s wicked yummy.  The recipe I used (the one in the pectin box) said I could de-seed half of the fruit pulp before cooking it down, so I did – it’s such a pain to pick all of those seeds out of your teeth!

Finally it was time for peach-picking.  I was paranoid all week that it was going to rain and spoil my plans because the weather report for that day kept changing.  Fortunately, it did not rain – it was just a little cloudy.  So 4 of us went, and when we got to the orchard, the girl behind the register told us that they had a ‘buy one box, get the 2nd free’ deal going on.  We were all very excited about the deal, never thinking about how many peaches that actually was! (or about the fact that I was really the only one who had plans for the peaches – the other girls were there more for the hanging out part :))

Yeah.  Don’t ever tell a girl, or a group of girls, that you’ve got a ‘buy one, get one’ sale… especially when it’s fairly obvious they have no!! idea how many peaches will fit into a big half bushel box (I think that was the size).  So we lugged all our peaches back to my place, and then spent the rest of the afternoon making jam, one batch at a time.  I made the girls helping me boil (parboil?) the peaches before peeling them for the first two batches of jam, and then decided by the time we got to the third batch that waiting for the water to come to a boil took too long, and I was running out of ice for the water bath – so we just used a paring knife.  You lose a little more of the peach flesh, but I’m pretty sure it’s easier, so…  At any rate, we made three different batches of peach jam (using the recipe in the pectin box), and I’m not entirely sure why, but the first batch looked different than the next two.  It’s kind of bubbly – we decided that it must have been the absence of the 1/2 teaspoon or whatever of butter I didn’t put in.

After making all that jam, I still had a ton! of peaches left over, so I sent a bunch home with the girls, made a couple of pies (both of which turned out watery… 😦 but now I know to add more flour to peach pie as well as apple), and still had lots of peaches sitting in my fridge.  So I decided that since I had all these peaches, and I didn’t want all of them to end up sliced in my freezer, I’d try some peach butter.  My sister-in-law had sent me an easy recipe (and a sample – yum!) so I just used that instead of hunting down one.  I think next time I make a fruit butter (hopefully apple in another month or so!) I need to keep cooking it down until it definitely seems thick, because I’m pretty sure this butter also turned out a little more liquid-y than it’s supposed to be.  It still tastes good, but yeah… it needs to be thicker.  Oh well!  There’s always next year… maybe I’ll limit myself to one box of peaches though.

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a few recipes – but no pictures… April 21, 2010

Filed under: Cakes,Crock pot,Desserts,Dinner,Soup — F. Penner @ 8:57 PM

Wow – it’s been a while.  I’ve actually cooked (and baked) a decent amount, just haven’t bothered telling y’all about it for whatever reason.  I know I got side-tracked with Easter (which was awesome, btw!!) and then just got lazy.  Oops.  So what have I been cooking over the last month?? Stuff… that usually involved veggies and cheese, among other things.  I actually went through all my cooking magazines that I’ve collected over the last several years and pulled out just the recipes that sounded good, and threw the rest out.  My living room looks, well, about the same, actually.  But instead of a large stack of magazines, I’ve got a much smaller stack of magazine pages.  I’m going to have to organize those at some point.  Anyway, I decided to share a couple of my favorite recipes from the last month, and presumably next week sometime I’ll be back to one recipe per post, or at least more frequent postings than once a month.

Recipe #1

“BLT” Pasta

from Kraft Food magazine (available here as well)

  • 3 cups (8 oz.) penne pasta, uncooked
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut up
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Cook the pasta as directed.

Meanwhile, cook cream cheese, milk and Parmesan cheese in a large skillet on medium-high heat for 3 min. or until cream cheese is melted and mixture is well blended, stirring frequently.  Add remaining ingredients; cook and stir 5 min. or until heated through.

Drain pasta; return to pan.  Add sauce; toss to coat.

I love this recipe – it’s got bacon, cheese and pasta – yummy! (and I use an extra slice or two of bacon – just FYI)  However, it’s not as yummy as leftover lunch the next day.  It tastes fine, it’s just not as good.  Maybe it’s just me.

Recipe #2

Jane’s potato soup

(From Cooking with Paula Deen)

  • 1 30 oz. bag frozen hash-brown potatoes
  • 3 14 oz. cans chicken broth
  • 1 10.75 oz. can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened

In a 6-quart crock pot, combine potatoes, broth, soup, onion, and pepper.  Cover, and cook on low for 5 hours.  Stir in cream cheese; cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until combined.  Garnish with green onions, if desired.

I was in a hurry when I made this – I got home later than I was planning and didn’t want to wait the 5 1/2 hours it would have taken to cook, so I cooked it on high for 2 1/2 hours or so instead.  It tasted just fine, but the onions were still a little crunchy… I think the faster cook time didn’t cook them all the way?  I’ve only used my crock pot a couple of times, so I just sort of assumed that putting the heat on high instead of low would just cook everything twice as fast.  Oh well…

And of course there has to be a dessert in here…

Recipe #3

Lemon Pound Cake

(from Cook’s Country)

Cake

  • 16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten

Syrup

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

*3 lemons gives you more than enough zest and juice for the whole recipe

For the cake:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.  Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into bowl.  Stir sour cream and lemon juice together in a second bowl.

Using fingers, toss lemon zest and sugar together in large bowl until clumps are gone.  Add butter and beat with electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and light, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add beaten eggs in three additions, mixing until smooth and scraping down bowl after each addition (mixture will begin to look curdled).  With mixer on low, add one-third of flour mixture, followed by half of sour cream mixture, stopping as necessary to scrape down bowl.  Repeat, ending with flour mixture.  Scrape down bowl, then mix on low until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Use rubber spatula to give batter final stir.

Pour batter into pan and smooth top.  Gently tap pan on counter to release air bubbles.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 55 to 70 minutes.

For the syrup:

While cake bakes, stir sugar and lemon juice together in saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves.  Simmer for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside.

Cool cake in pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack.  Brush top and sides of still-warm cake with syrup and cool completely, about 2 hours.

For the glaze:

Whisk confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in bowl until smooth.  Spread glaze over cake, allowing some to drip down sides.  Let glaze set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Funny story about this pound cake… I initially made it on a Sunday afternoon, thinking that I would have enough time before Bible study to get through the syrup step.  However, I had taken a nap and didn’t realize that the cake took an hour just to bake until after I had already put it in the oven.  So I turned the temperature up, thinking I would just see what happened – I needed to leave by a certain time.  Now, I don’t think I have a 9×5 pan, I think I have the next size down, because when I poured the batter in, it came pretty close to the top of the pan.  But I didn’t know until after this experience that I don’t have a 9×5 – I thought I did – so I just put the pan in the oven with all the batter in it!  Not a good idea… it overflowed a bit.  I was going to put a cookie tray under it once I realized there was batter all over the bottom of my oven, but then I realized I had to leave in like, a half hour, and the batter on the floor of the oven was starting to burn, and yeah, it was just not good.  I ended up just pulling the pan out of the oven and throwing out my partially done cake – it was pretty messy!!  And my oven is still burning off the batter, I think, because every time I’ve used it since I can smell it burning.  mmm!! 😛  At any rate, I still really wanted to make this, so I gave it another shot another day when I actually had the time to bake it properly.  And I also made myself a little mini-loaf with the extra batter so I didn’t overflow again – it was wicked good!! 🙂