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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

For Your Information

Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Prepping Ahead and Slow Cookers

September has notoriously been an extremely busy month ever since we were newlyweds.  Two of our kids were born in September, a year apart.  September signifies the end of summer so it always meant closing the pool, canning copious amounts of tomato products and back then getting kids ready for school.  I began my undergraduate studies the year our youngest started kindergarten.  This involved a daily round trip commute of three hours on a good day.  Yet I was determined to put healthy food on the table and eat dinner as a family each night.  I quickly developed a lot of techniques to help me achieve that goal.

filled vacuum seal canisters
I always took the kids fishing Saturday mornings whenever the weather was nice.  It was a fun way to bond, always with the hopes of a large enough catch for dinner.  On the way home, we would stop at a couple of orchards and roadside stands for fresh produce.  During the winter months, we took the kids to the grocery store on Saturday mornings for fresh produce.  They were allowed to choose what they wanted.  We'd come home and as a family would prep about half of the produce for easy healthy snacking during the week.   Vegetables went into the fridge and fruits into the never-ending fruit bowl.

The kids are grown with kids of their own.  I still prep vegetables for the week ahead of time but now I put them in FoodSaver canisters.  This keeps them fresh longer and they are in plain sight to encourage healthy snacking.  This is a great easy lunch idea for those dreaded school lunches.  The produce is already cleaned and ready to use!

meatballs in Sweet Baby Ray's sauce
Shortly after starting my academic career that spanned a total of ten years including a graduate degree, I started once-a-month cooking then quickly modified the concept to meet our family's needs.  I used my slow cooker to make chili and meatballs.  I would make a large batch of meatballs then freeze them for an easy to warm up, go to meal starter.  I also used the slow cooker to

I have three slow cookers, now used mainly for bulk cooking sessions and entertaining.    However, all of them are in use when doing a bulk cooking session.  They are wonderful for compact cooking.  One of our kids uses their slow cooker almost daily through-out the week.  I'm old school so rely on my pressure cookers but seriously, the slow cooker is the way to go for ready to eat, healthy meals for the busy family.  The meal is basically ready to eat when you walk in the door making the slow cooker an ideal tool for the busy home kitchen

nacho station set-up
My slow cookers really see the most use when entertaining.  That is because I can make a dish in the slow cooker then set it to warm.  My smaller slow cooker is used mainly for entertaining as it is not programmable.  It does do a lovely job of warming cheese sauce and keeping it warm.  It's also nice for cooking smaller batches of chili and soups.

This is a presentation I did for an gathering earlier this year.  The 250 ml squatty Elite mason jars do double duty as serving bowls.  That is home canned salsa and hot peppers as well as homemade sour cream.  The neat thing is you could easily tailor this for a kid's after school snack.  You can put the toppings in containers in the fridge, sauce in the slow cooker and corn chips in a bowl still in the package ready to be used.  Easy, peazy!

[Disclosure: I am part of the Life Made Delicious Connector program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own. ]

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kitchen Quick Tips - Stuffing Peppers

kitchen quick tips
An easy, no muss way to stuff peppers is to stand the prepared pepper in a drinking glass or measuring cup. This will keep the pepper upright and stable while it is being stuffed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tomato Stock

My tomato canning season in 2011 was almost non-existent.  September 1, 2011 saw us living between our new house with the new gas range not hooked up and the kitchen packed up enough at the old house that canning was pretty much impossible.  We signed all the formal paper work on September 15 making the house officially ours and September 18th headed down south to our vacation home in Florida.  Somehow in the chaos of the move about 2 L of tomato stock along with a few more refrigerator items didn't make their way from a cooler to refrigerator.  I was so dismayed loosing that tomato stock!

tomato stock
As a result we had only a very few jars of tomato stock until this tomato season.  My tomato stock is like liquid gold.  It is cold collected so never exposed to heat before the canning process.  That gives it a deep amber colour full of rich tomato flavour.  It is beyond delightful!  While I use tomato stock for cooking, I have been told is can be used to make delicious cocktail drinks as well.
Pictured are the first 8 - 250 ml jars I canned of tomato stock this year.  By the end of the season I canned 16 - 250 ml jars and 4 - 500 ml jars of tomato stock.  I had one problem with a 500 ml jar so should have had 5 of them but decided to err on the side of caution.  I will talk about that in a bit.  Doesn't the tomato stock look lovely in the jars?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The $10 Challenge

Frugal Kitchens 101One sure fire way to save on your food dollar is to eat local, in season produce.  The Ontario Table has a $10 Challenge: a year of eating local, an incentive by Lynn Ogryzlo, author of The Ontario Table Cookbook.  I highly recommend this wonderful cookbook!  The $10 Challenge ezine is available on her website and you can download the $10 Challenge magazine in pdf format for reading off line.   Her premise is that if every household in Ontario spent $10 a week on local food, we would have an additional $2.4 billion in our local economy at the end of the year.  Keeping our money circulating in Ontario raised those dollars to $3.6 billion and creates 10,000 new jobs.  Now this is a win/win for everyone in Ontario.

This challenge helps the average household save money by buying local.  Why buy imported apples when Ontario apples are available?  They are higher in nutrition and fresher because they have not had to travel the long distances of imported.  Buying local supports our local growers and producers, helping them stay in business and providing a good life for their families.  This in turn results in a stronger community.  Buying local means you get to meet the local growers and producers providing a stronger appreciation from where your food comes from.  It makes us less dependent on imported foods as well.

We have taken the $10 Challenge, have you?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Old Fashioned Chili Sauce

Yesterday, I started writing about my husband's hospital stay just as I was starting my fourth hamper.  While I had all of the ingredients prepped and waiting to be cooked for the old fashioned chili sauce, the tomatoes for the salsas were still draining.  The morning after he was admitted to hospital, I strained off the tomato liquid reserving it for tomato stock and froze those tomatoes then rushed up to the hospital to be there for the ultrasound.  After spending the entire day at the hospital, I headed home at 9:30 PM.  It was late and I was exhausted but knew the chili sauce had to be made and canned that night.  The reality is life doesn't stop because of canning and visa versa.  I had two choices, either make and can the chili sauce or let the produce spoil.

white film on processed canning jars
I have a few quirks when home canning.  I prefer my products to be canned in Canadian made jars.  At one time there were many small glass factories in Canada so I have several older Canadian made mason jars (eg. Consumers, Bernardin, Domglass, Dominion and Canadian mason).  Of those mentioned, Bernardin out of Toronto is still the leading Canadian home canning expert but a few years ago farmed the manufacturing of their jars to a US firm.  Now, don't get me wrong as I do use American made jars (Kerr, Ball, Golden Harvest and now new Bernardin) and I have a few Chinese made jars (Home Discovery), my preference is Canadian made.

I used old Bernardin and Consumers mason jars to can the chili sauce.  Many of these jars were purchased over thirty-five years ago when we were newlyweds so there is sentimental value to the jars as well.  Like my newer jars, the old mason jars see use both in the boiling water bath (BWB) canner and pressure canner (PC) every year and often several times a year.  When I pulled the jars from the BWB canner I noticed a white film on the jars from the first load.  This occurs because of minerals in the water.  The common solution is to add white vinegar to the processing water.  I had forgotten to add the vinegar for the first load but remembered for the second load. Notice how the jar on the right doesn't look hazy?  These mineral deposits can build up on jars that have been run through the canners without vinegar on one or more occasions.  If the build-up is minimal, simply wiping the jars down with white vinegar will remove the film, making the jars sparkle.  If the build-up is a bit heavier, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser quickly removes it with little effort.

old fashioned chili sauce
Despite having less than four hours sleep, I was up early, antsy to get back up to the hospital Friday morning (Aug 30).  I ended up with nine lovely jars of home canned old fashioned chili sauce.  They had to sit until that night to check the seals and polish up the jars. 

I slipped home for an hour at 4 PM and set up the tomato liquid to strain in the refrigerator while I was gone.  I was back to the hospital by 5 PM until I was sure he was settled around 9:30 PM.  I rushed home to polish the jars of chili sauce.  I think they look rather lovely!  Then it was time to can the tomato stock before heading to bed for another short night of sleep. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Freezing Tomatoes

The first hamper of tomatoes arrived mid-August, about two weeks earlier than normal.  I was quite excited to get a head start on tomatoes with the full intentions of processing ten hampers.  On August 28, my husband picked up the fourth hamper just before noon then headed to the office.  A couple of hours later as I was washing the tomatoes he was back experiencing severe abdominal pain.  I stopped what I was doing to care for him.  By early evening he was feeling fine.  I finished washing the tomatoes.  The next morning I was doing the prep work to make old fashioned chili sauce and a couple of batches of salsa.  I had everything measured for the chili sauce, jars heating in the boiling water bath canner when the door flew open, him back again in sever abdominal pain but even worse than the day before.  I took one look at him, called one of our kids to help me get him to the hospital, stuffed the prepped chili sauce ingredients into the fridge, turned off the stove and changed my shirt.  On the way to the hospital, he continued to deteriorate getting worse by the minute at the hospital and by 8:00 PM was admitted.  I came home around 11:30 PM after I was sure he was settled.  It had been a long, stressful day! 

crushed tomatoes packaged for freezing
The next morning he was scheduled for an ultra sound so before going to the hospital, I took the tomatoes that had been partially prepped for salsa (peeled, cut in half, drained but not seeded yet) out of the fridge.  I knew I wouldn't have time that day to make salsa so I packed the tomatoes tightly into freezer containers.  I don't freeze a lot of tomatoes because with the amount of tomatoes we use, we simply don't have enough freezer space and that's including the freezer compartments of two side-by-side refrigerators plus two chest freezers.  Still, freezing the tomatoes was a better option than having them spoil.

I prefer the rigid freezer containers over the zipper style freezer bags.  The containers with the dark blue lids are Ziploc and the ones with the light blue lids are Ball's new freezer containers.  Both have screw on lids so you know they won't pop off in the freezer.  I put the containers into the freezer then rushed up to the hospital where I stayed until 9:30 PM, arriving home tired but knew I had to do a bit of canning to tidy up.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Home Canned Condensed Tomato Soup

Just because I insist on doing as many home canned products as possible to avoid all the food additives in commercially canned foods, doesn't mean I don't like a few convenience products.  Two commercially canned foods I do buy are condensed tomato soup and condensed cream of mushroom soup.  I set out to create home canned versions for both.  Neither recipe are posted on this blog yet as I am still tweaking but the Garden Tomato Soup is also a good recipe to can if you are looking for a tomato soup recipe.

home canned condensed tomato soup
My home canned condensed tomato soup recipe has come about by running several small batches each season then tweaking from there.  I have tweaked for both flavour and texture.  While this soup can be used much the same was as brand name condensed tomato soup, it has a brighter flavour and it it laden with artificial additives.  It is pressure canned at 10 lb pressure for 25 minutes.

Unfortunately, 30 jars of home canned condensed tomato soup will not meet our needs until the next growing season.  I will be running another large batch of the soup with a couple more tweaks.  Once I get it just right, I will post the recipe.  Until then, I back busy in the kitchen processing tomatoes into all kinds of delicious home canned, tomato based products!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kitchen Quick Tips - Green vs Wax Beans

kitchen quick tips
Green and wax beans can be used interchangeably. Wax beans lack chlorophyll but taste very close to green beans and since they have less colour to lose, stand up better during longer cooking in terms of colour.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tomato Juice Just Out of Pressure Canner

I have an All American pressure canner, model 921.  I like to process my tomato products in the pressure canner because the processing time is less which makes a difference as to how many times the canner can run in a day.  The process time for tomato juice in a boiling water bath canner (BWB) is 40 minutes for 1 L jars but only 15 minutes using the pressure canner (PC).   The pressure canner is more energy efficient as I can process a larger number of jars at a time.  The PC only uses 3 L of water per load in comparison to the BWB canner that uses several L of water.

Tomato products are healthier when pressure canned.  Pressure canning increases the antioxidant properties of lycopene.  Now a pressure canner is quite easy to operate.  There are safety features built in to prevent over pressurizing.  As with any stovetop cooking, the pressure canner should not be left unattended.  When filling jars, it is important to leave a 2.5 cm (1 in) headspace.  Most seal failures and/or liquid loss when pressure canning are due to insufficient headspace.  Heat the water in the pressure canner to avoid thermal shock before adding the filled jars. Secure the lid per manufacturer's instructions then vent for 10 minutes.  Venting allows any trapped air in the jars to escape.  In a BWB canner the temperature is 100ºC (212ºF), just enough to kill bacteria, yeasts and molds in high acid foods (eg. fruits, jams, pickles).  The food does not get hot enough in the jars to boil.  The processing temperature in a PC is 116ºC (240ºC), enough to kill bacteria, yeasts, molds and destroy any botulinum toxin that may be present in low acid foods (eg. vegetables, meats, soups).

Foods taken from the PC are usually still boiling in the jar as seen in the video I took of tomato juice just out of the canner.  It is very important to not tilt the jars when removing them as that can cause the contents to erupt, leaking hot liquid everywhere creating a rather dangerous situation.  Do not put the hot jars directly onto the countertop.  Use cork trivets or t-towels to sit the jars on to prevent thermal shock.  It is very important to not adjust the rings unless you are using glass inserts or Tattler lids.  Do not adjust the rings if using the metal single use lids.  Jars should be left undisturbed for 24 hours then remove the rings and check the seal.  Wash and dry the jars and rings.  Rings can be replaced loosely on the jars for storage if desired.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tomato Tips and Home Canned Tomato Juice

Before I start the tomato posts, I thought it would be nice to give a few tips for processing tomatoes.  Aside of the tomatoes I grow, I get hampers of field tomatoes for processing.  A hamper is 5/8 of a bushel or 15 kg (33.1 lb).  Many tomato product recipes call for a certain number of kilograms or pounds while others indicate the required weight followed by the number of milliliters or cups of prepared tomatoes needed.  This gives you and estimate of how many tomatoes to buy if necessary.  On average, 454 g (1 lb) of tomatoes will give a yield of 500 ml (2 c) chopped tomatoes or 625 ml (2½ c) sliced tomatoes or 375 ml (1½ c) crushed or puréed tomatoes.

Tomatoes should be firm and ripe.  Do not use tomatoes with signs of spoilage.  It is common to lose as much as 10% in weight due to spoiled tomatoes in a hamper.  The longer a hamper sits, the more that will be lost to spoilage so only buy or pick what you can comfortably process within a 48 hour period.  Washed well in soap to remove any soil.  Rinse then transfer to a sink of cold water with about a 125 ml (½ c) of white vinegar.  Let soak about 10 minutes.  This will remove any contaminants as well as kill of surface bacteria.  Tomatoes can then be blanched to slip the skins off if desired.

I usually make two or three products per hamper of tomatoes.  When tomatoes are cut, pectase is activated causing the tomato to drain liquid.  Seeding and draining tomatoes that will used for certain products is desirable as it reduces the cook time.  The liquid can be collected, strained and made into tomato stock.  Most of my tomato products are home canned using a pressure canner wherever possible although a few are processed in a boiling water bath canner (BWB).  However, many can also be frozen if you don't want to can them.  All home canned tomato products must be acidified with citric acid, lemon juice or vinegar.  Home frozen tomato products do not need to be acidified.

home canned tomato juice
Commercially canned tomato juice is not expensive but home canned tomato juice is by far superior in flavour.  Home canned tomato juice lacks the tinny flavour many complain about because it is canned in glass jars rather than metal cans.  It is also a great way to use up excess tomatoes from the garden as any variety of tomatoes work well for juice.

I canned 5 L of plain tomato juice in the pressure canner.  I have also been experimenting with a Clamato juice clone which is a spice up version to tomato juice using clam juice as an ingredient (more to come).  Tomato juice can be processed in a BWB canner (500 ml jars 35 min, 1L jars 40 min or 1.5 L jars 50 min) or in the pressure cooker (500 ml or 1 L 15 min at 10 lb pressure) at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea levels.  Refer to the altitude adjustment chart on the Canning FYI page if you are above that altitude for timing and pressure adujstment.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - 25 Ways to Eat Eco-friendly

Frugal Kitchens 101
One of the best places in the home to become eco-friendly is in the kitchen.  The benefit of becoming eco-friendly not only reduces your carbon footprint and reduces your impact on the environment, it can end up saving a substantial amount of money.  This involves becoming a pro-active, informed consumer.  With each of the following points you incorporate into your lifestyle, you will eating healthier while saving money.  You don't need to incorporate all of them at the same time.  Gradually work these tips into your lifestyle as the opportunity arises.  The more you use, the greater the savings.

  1. use reusable shopping bags
  2. choose foods with minimal packaging
  3. choose non-disposable water bottles and hot beverage mugs
  4. avoid anything disposable (eg. paper plates, paper towels, disposable cutlery, food wraps)
  5. shop at eco-friendly places (eg. roadside stands, health food stores, farmer's markets, orchards)
  6. buy local and/or local organic produce
  7. eat at least one meatless meal weekly
  8. eat produce raw
  9. eat in season produce
  10. preserve your produce (eg. home canning, freezing, drying)
  11. grow you own
  12. join a local food co-op
  13. buy locally grown organic meat (eg. no anti-biotics, no growth hormones, free range, grass fed)
  14. check seafood labels for sustainable aquaculture practices (eg. Marine Stewardship Council certification)
  15. avoid CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) meats
  16. check seafood labels for source of origin
  17. avoid endangered fish or those posing high contamination risks (eg. Chilean seabass, Atlantic cod, imported king crab, orange roughy, farmed salmon, canned and Bluefin tuna)
  18. avoid farmed fish
  19. choose organic, hormone-free, local dairy 
  20. avoid commercially prepared convenience foods (anything in a box, jar, bottle or can)
  21. choose raw, non-pasteurized milk if possible
  22. compost food scraps except fat, dairy and bones
  23. eat you leftovers
  24. double your recipes - one to eat now, one to store for a later meal
  25. cook one or more local meals per week

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Starting Tomatoes

Tomatoes started about two weeks earlier this year.  Now, everyone who knows me knows I will be in the kitchen almost non-stop during tomato season.  It's a do not call me, text me, Facebook me or drop by unannounced time.  If you happen to be a telemarketer calling me during tomato processing you can bet your bottom dollar the CRTC is going to hear about it!  I don't answer the doorbell which solves the problem of the door to door salesmen as well.

starting tomatoes
My husband picked up the first hamper of tomatoes on August 15.  Within a few hours my kitchen could easily be declared a war zone.  That's one thing you the reader doesn't see is the behind the scene borderline chaos when I'm canning.  There are jars upon jars everywhere, some filled and cooling, others waiting to be filled, and jars in the canners.  Pictured is fire roasted garlic tomato sauce, condensed tomato soup and to the right just out of the canner tomato juice.  I can run the BWB and pressure canner at the same time so can easily process two canner loads at a time depending on what I'm processing.  All of my tomato based sauces are pressure canned except seafood cocktail sauce, pizza sauce and taco hot sauce.   

A good portion of the tomato based products have been discussed so there will be links to the original posts as well as any tweaking I may have done.  Clicking on those links will give you the recipe, processing method and timing as well as any commentary.  While my signature home canned tomato based salsas (hot, medium, and mild) recipes are not on this blog there is are a few salsa recipes to try including a zesty salsa that is sure to please.  I will be canning and talking about my signature home canned tomato based spaghetti meat sauce and home canned chili.  While those recipes are not on this blog, the processing times are as well as a few tips and hints.  I am currently working on a few experimental recipes (eg. Italian Garden Tomato Sauce, variations on fire roasted sauces, Bolognese sauce).  Some of these recipes will appear on this blog after tweaking.  So there are a lot of tomato based home canned foods to look forward to...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Raspberry Vinegar

We eat a lot of salads and by far prefer homemade salad dressing or vinaigrettes as a topping.  A basic vinaigrette consists of 1 part vinegar, 3 parts oil and binder (mustard, sugar or honey).  Seasonings of choice and/or finely chopped vegetables (eg. onions, sundried tomatoes, sweet or hot peppers) can be added to the basic vinaigrette.  You can even add cheese (eg. Parmesan or blue cheese).  Xanthan gum can be added to give a thicker texture if desired.  With this in mind you can create an endless number of vinaigrettes simply by using a little creativity.

raspberry vinegar
Homemade fruit or herb vinegars are an excellent way to expand the flavours of vinaigrette you can make.  Several years ago we discovered a delicious restaurant house dressing that was a raspberry vinaigrette.  I've been hooked on making fruit vinegars ever since to use as a base in some of my homemade vinaigrettes.

Homemade vinegars are very easy to make.  I find berries work best but you could use crushed pears or apples or basically any fruit you desire.  We are particularly fond of raspberry vinaigrette made from homemade raspberry vinegar.

Homemade Fruit Vinegars
source:  Garden Gnome

Wash about 2 c of the desired fruit.  Peel and pit if necessary.  Lightly crush the fruit.  Pour into a 1 - L mason jar.  Pour 5% acetic acid vinegar over the fruit leaving a half inch headspace..  You can use any vinegar you want as long as it is 5% acetic acid.  Different vinegars will give different flavour results.  Cap and shake the jar well.  Place in a cool, dark area.  Shake at least a couple of times a week.  Let sit for at least 4 weeks.  Strain the vinegar.  Place in a saucepan.  Bring just to a boil.  Ladle into hot jars.  Adjust two piece metal snap lids (or Tattler reusable lids or glass inserts).  Screw bands on jars (adjust accordingly if not using metal snap lids).  Process for 250 ml for 10 minutes in BWB canner at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level.  At higher altitudes refer to altitude adjustment chart on Canning FYI page.  Remove from canner.  Adjust bands if using Tattler or glass inserts.  Allow to cool 24 hours.  Remove bands and test for seal.  Wash and dry bands and jars.  Label and store.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kitchen Quick Tips - Washing Produce

kitchen quick tipsProduce can have pesticide residue unless it has been organically grown.  Even then it should be washed before consuming.  Place the produce in the sink with fresh soapy water.  Wash to remove any soil.  Rinse.  Cover with fresh water and about 2 tbsp of white vinegar.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Drain and dry.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Peach Syrup

Home canners by nature tend to be a rather frugal segment of the population.  While the primary goal is to put safe, healthy, additive food on the table as well as provide a cushion in the form of a well stocked pantry, the economics of home canning cannot be overlooked.  Home canning can save a considerable amount of money and more so if you know how to use the waste or excess from home canning that might otherwise be discarded. 

peach syrup
I canned peach slices using a light syrup (2¼ c sugar in 5¼ c water).  There was about a cup of the syrup leftover so I let it cool then refrigerated.  The following day, I made another solution of the light syrup and added to the first to cook peaches for a batch of candied peach slices.  Essentially the wonderful flavour of peaches was infused into the remaining syrup.  Many would be tempted to discard the syrup but why? 

This delicious syrup is perfect for topping ice cream, pancakes or waffles and it can be used in baking and cooking.  I brought the syrup to a boil and ladled into hot jars then processed for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.   The yield was 7 - 250 ml jars of peach syrup.  That's not bad considering I took a waste product of canning and turned it into a usable, delicious product for the pantry. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Low Sugar Peach Jam

One of the final products I made while canning peaches was a low sugar peach jam using Pomona's pectin.  Pomona's pectin is a low methoxy pectin that uses calcium water for it's gel rather than sugar.  This means I can greatly reduce the amount of sugar used in a recipe or I can substitute some or all the sugar with honey or maple syrup.  Artificial sweeteners can be used with Pomona's pectin but we don't use these types of sweeteners so I can't tell you how well the work.  The best thing about Pomona's pectin is I can create my own recipes for jams and jellies as well as make gummy candies unlike using other types of traditional pectin (eg. Certo). 

low sugar peach jam
I make a fair number of jams and jellies yet very few are ever used as a spread.  Instead they are used as glazes or as an ingredient for baking and appetizers.  Most jams and jellies pair nicely with cream cheese and brie so the possibilities are endless. They are also great stirred into homemade plain yogurt.

Low sugar peach jam has all the gourmet flavour of peach jam made with Redpath QUICKSET, just less sugar.  The colour is a bit lighter but that could be due to the lemon juice that was added.  It is a delicious jam sure to please whether used as a spread or ingredient, a lovely addition to your pantry.

Low Sugar Peach Jam
recipe by:  Garden Gnome

4 c prepared peaches
¼ c lemon juice
2 c sugar
3 tsp Pomona's pectin
4 tsp calcium water
dab butter (optional)

Wash, skin and pit peaches.  Put in food processor then pulse until desired consistency leaving just a few larger pieces of peach.  Measure out 4 c.  Pour into large stainless steel saucepan.  Add calcium water and lemon juice.  In a separate bowl measure sugar and pectin.  Mix well.  Bring the fruit mixture to a boil.  Stir in the sugar mixture.  Stir to dissolve.  Return to boil.  Remove from heat. Stir in butter.  Ladle into hot jars.  Adjust two piece metal snap lids (or Tattler reusable lids or glass inserts).  Screw bands on jars (adjust accordingly if not using metal snap lids).  Process for 250 ml for 10 minutes in BWB canner at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level.  At higher altitudes refer to altitude adjustment chart on Canning FYI page.  Remove from canner.  Adjust bands if using Tattler or glass inserts.  Allow to cool 24 hours.  Remove bands and test for seal.  Wash and dry bands and jars.  Label and store.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Food Anti-Hoarding Law in Canada

Frugal Kitchens 101 I can long remember my childhood days filled with wonderful food memories.  Part of that was a very well stocked pantry.  I have always carried that tradition with me and it has served us well.  It is so much easier to deal with the uncertainties of life, the curve balls life throws at you and simple day to day living with a full tummy.  During the y2K scare, we increased our preparedness but in all honesty, keeping a well stocked pantry remained a norm.  At that same time, I became involved in a few newsgroups relating to the y2K scare.  Like many on the newsgroups, we keep an 18 month to 2 year food supply in our home.  All of a sudden, folks were warning about anti-hoarding laws where your food stores could be confiscated.  They warned of not letting anyone know about your food stores.  The thing is, in Canada even today a well stocked pantry is a matter of survival in many remote areas and a must unless you live close to a larger urban centre.  A year's supply of food is quite reasonable to get a family from one growing season to the next with a bit extra just in case.  With the growing interest in home canning as a way of self sufficiency and putting a healthier, additive free food on the table, the idea of an anti-hoarding law in Canada was a bit discerning.  So I did a bit of research.

Canada was experiencing a severe shortage of sugar in 1918, specifically can sugar, not corn syrup, honey or maple products.  Only cane sugar that was imported and processed was restricted.  It was illegal to hold more than a 15 day supply of sugar in the city or 45 days if more than two miles from a supplier.  Charges and convictions were against merchants and suppliers that hoarded foods like eggs, butter and cheese then allowed it to spoil when folks were going hungry.  I could find no convictions against householders meaning their stores did not fall under the temporary anti-hoarding laws to begin with.  Food control was in place in Canada during World War I  to reduce the home consumption of certain foods required for feeding the troops but at the same time Canadians were encouraged to have household gardens to help supply some of the food they required.  Any food anti-hoarding laws in Canada were very short lived, ending with World War I.  There has been no food anti-hoarding laws in effect in Canada since 1918.  That means, in Canada we are free to stock whatever foods we deem necessary for our family and lifestyle. 

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Summer Salsa

This has been a rather interesting summer with respect to produce.  Adverse spring and growing conditions has affected my home garden as well as local produce.  The asparagus and berry seasons were shorter.    Unlike other years, there hasn't been a break between the various produce.   Cucumbers ran into peaches that ran into tomatoes with pears starting as well.  I was starting peaches the same day I was finishing up peaches.  Tomatoes were about two weeks early so I was still doing peaches when the first of the tomatoes arrived.

summer salsa
I made a half batch of summer salsa to use up a few of the remaining peaches that also incorporated tomatoes and pears.  This was a good way to ease into the next produce while using up produce from the garden.  It was also a nice way to do a test batch of a new pantry product.

Summer salsa has a sweet, mellow flavour unlike the light, lively and spicy flavour of the popular tomato based salsa.  It would be good as a dip, condiment or as a topping for cream cheese based appetizers.  It is delicious!

Summer Salsa
modified from:  Bernardin Complete Guide to Home Preserving, 2006. Pp. 60

2 c peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes
1 c peeled, chopped peaches
1 c peeled, chopped pears
½ c finely chopped red pepper
½ c chopped red onion
2 finely chopped jalapeño peppers
¼ c finely chopped fresh parsley
zest and juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
¼ c liquid honey

Wash and prepare vegetables and fruit.  Combine prepared fruits and vegetables in large stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in parsley, lemon zest and juice, balsamic vinegar, mint and honey.  Boil gently 5 minutes.  Ladle into hot jars.  Wipe rims.  Adjust two piece metal snap lids (or Tattler reusable lids or glass inserts).  Screw bands on jars (adjust accordingly if not using metal snap lids).  Process for 250 ml for 15 minutes  in BWB canner at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level.  At higher altitudes refer to altitude adjustment chart on Canning FYI page.  Remove from canner.  Adjust bands if using Tattler or glass inserts.  Allow to cool 24 hours.  Remove bands and test for seal.  Wash and dry bands and jars.  Label and store.

Yield: 5 - 250 ml jars

Friday, September 07, 2012

Island Spiced Peach Chutney

I was finishing up canning peaches in mid-August and decided to make a peach chutney.   One of our favourite chutneys is mango chutney.  Peaches are similar in texture and flavour to mangoes so I was sure the peach chutney would be equally good.  A chutney is a rich, smooth, mellow, sweet-sour condiment containing a mixture of spices and vegetables and/or fruits.  Chutneys originate from South Asian cuisine.  The texture can range from fine to coarse.  Like salsas, chutneys can be made fresh or home canned for a delightful addition in the pantry. 

peach chutney
I chose a peach chutney recipe that had two options for spices.  The first was an island blend consisting of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  The second was the Calcutta (traditional) spice blend of curry powder, celery seed and mustard seed.  I chose the island blend to make a half batch of the chutney.  With cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves it was a guaranteed winner!

Island Spiced Peach Chutney
modified from:  Bernardin Complete Guide to Home Preserving, 2006. Pp. 89

3¼ lp prepared peaches
1 c malt vinegar
1 c lightly packed brown sugar
 ¼ c fresh gingerroot, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, seeded & finely chopped
½ hot banana pepper, seeded & finely chopped
¾ c golden raisins
¾ c Sultana raisins
½ tbsp pickling salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves

Combine peaches and vinegar in large stainless steel sauce pan.  Stir in sugar.  Bring to a boil and cook until peaches are tender.  Tie ginger in spice bag.  Add spice bag and remaining ingredients.  Return mixture to a boil.  Reduce to simmer.  Simmer until thick, about 45 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  discard spice bag.  Ladle into hot jars.  Adjust two piece metal snap lids (or Tattler reusable lids or glass inserts).  Screw bands on jars (adjust accordingly if not using metal snap lids).  Process for 500 ml for 10 minutes [15 minutes for L] in BWB canner at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level.  At higher altitudes refer to altitude adjustment chart on Canning FYI page.  Remove from canner.  Adjust bands if using Tattler or glass inserts.  Allow to cool 24 hours.  Remove bands and test for seal.  Wash and dry bands and jars.  Label and store.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Peach Salsa

Salsa is a Spanish term for sauce.  In North America, salsa  usually refers to the spicy, tomato-based hot sauces typical of Mexican cuisine.   Salsa made its appearance in North America with the growing popularity of Tex-Mex cuisine and fast food restaurants (Taco Bell, Taco Express) as well as restaurants featuring Mexican cuisine (eg. Chi-Chi's).  In recent years the focus on eating healthy has made salsa a tasty, low fat alternative to fat laden dips.  Salsa is a very popular pub grub offering with nachos and it has become a staple in most homes.  It is one of those sauces that everyone likes!  I make several types of salsa (black bean & corn salsa, zesty salsa, salsa verde) and while my signature tomato based salsas (mild, medium, hot) remain the family favourite, salsas that are not tomato-based are quickly becoming family favourites.

peach salsa
I made a test batch of peach salsa when I was canning peaches.  Oh my, did it ever smell delicious cooking!  As soon as I get a break in canning tomatoes I'm going to pick up more peaches for a full batch of the salsa.  It will go nicely as a condiment with chicken or pork, as a topper for cream cheese appetizers and as a dip.

Peach Salsa
modified from:  Bernardin Complete Guide to Home Preserving, 2006. Pp. 61.

3 c prepared peaches
½ c plus 2 tbsp red onion, chopped
4 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
½ c red pepper, chopped
¼ c parsley, finely chopped
¼ c white vinegar
1 tbsp liquid honey
1 small clove garlic
¾ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Blanch, peel, pit and chop peaches.  Measure 3 cups.  Prepare vegetables.  Press garlic through garlic press.  Combine ingredients in stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Boil gently, stirring frequently, 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Ladle into hot jars leaving ½-inch headspace.  Adjust two piece metal snap lids (or Tattler reusable lids or glass inserts).  Screw bands on jars (adjust accordingly if not using metal snap lids).  Process for 500 ml for 20 minutes  in BWB canner at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level.  At higher altitudes refer to altitude adjustment chart on Canning FYI page.  Remove from canner.  Adjust bands if using Tattler or glass inserts.  Allow to cool 24 hours.  Remove bands and test for seal.  Wash and dry bands and jars.  Label and store.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Candied Peach Slices

I like to experiment in the kitchen, always looking for one more great dish or food product that will go on to become a family favourite.  As I was preparing the peaches for canning sliced peaches, I decided to prepare extra for drying.  Fruits and most vegetables to be dehydrated must be blanched first to destroy enzymes that can cause spoilage during the drying stage and storage.

candied peach slices and peach leather
I blanched about the equivalent slices of three large peaches then puréed in a food processor and poured onto the fruit leather tray.  Once dried this is rolled as a fruit roll or can be dried a little crisper to be powdered.  The end result is in the large jar.

I lightly cooked the remaining peach slices in a light syrup then spooned the slices using a slotted spoon onto lightly oiled dehydrator trays.  Cooking in the syrup rather than blanching in water gives a candied effect.  The slices were dried at 135ºF (58ºC) until no moisture beads showed when the fruit was bent in half.  The slices were removed from the trays, packed into mason jars and vacuum sealed for storage.

Candied peach slices are a lovely addition in the pantry.  They can be used as a snack, an ingredient in trail mix or simply presented by themselves in a fancy bowl on a buffet table when entertaining.  These are sure to be a hit with the kids!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Peach Jam Made with Redpath QUICKSET™

A couple of weeks ago I was in the midst of home canning all kinds of peachy delights.  I could easily have canned the beautiful peaches from the Niagara area as simple sliced peaches, I decided to make a few gourmet products.  There were two reasons for my decision.  First, we do not use a lot of sliced peaches so there is no need for me to can up a bushel of peaches as slices.  This is a fundamental rule of home canning.  Only can what you can reasonably use in the form of what you will use within a one to two year time frame.  The second reason is I really wanted to recoup the expense of a bushel of peaches. 

peach jam made with Redpath Quickset
The first batch of peach jam was made using Redpath QUICKSET™ that I had purchased on sale for $1.  QUICKSET™ makes jam making very easy as only the fruit and lemon juice need to be measured.  It is a longer cook process than using Pomona's pectin and I did notice peach jam made with QUICKSET™ is darker in colour than that made with Pomona's pectin.  If you can't find Pomona's pectin and don't want to order a larger amount online, the QUICKSET™ is easier to use and less expensive than Certo® crystals or liquid.

Peach jam is gorgeous in the jars!  It's even nicer as a spread on toast or stirred into plain yogurt for breakfast.  I like using peach jam as a filler in baked goods (eg. mini tarts) and as a glaze for pork.   It makes a wonderful topping for cream cheese appetizers as well.  Be sure to make plenty of this delicious jam!

Method: Wash, skin and pit the peaches. Place the fruit in a food processor and pulse until no large chunks of peaches remain.   Measure out 3½ c of crushed fruit into large saucepan. Add 2 tbsp lemon juice and the entire bag of Redpath QUICKSET™. Mix well. Bring to a full rolling boil [Add ½ tsp butter to prevent excess foaming. (optional)] and boil for 4 minutes stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Continue to stir for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit. Ladle into hot jars. Wipe the rim and place lids on the jar. Tighten band according to the type of lid being used. Seal -> This means to process in a BWB canner for 10 minutes. Remove from canner. Let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Check seal. Label and store.