In My Life, I've Loved Them All

According to Google Autocomplete, we are all a bunch of toddlers…

But
If it is in autocomplete
I’m not the only one wondering…

Playing in the Kitchen: Pecan Pie

Fall is officially here! I’m so excited! And it means I should start digging up (and posting) some of my go-to Seasonal Recipes… like a Classic Pecan Pie!

So there are at least 8 different ways to pronounce this type of pie... to me it is: [pi:kn] with stress on the second syllable (“pee-KAHN”).  Actually mine sounds more like pa-KAHN.  At any rate, this nutty dessert seems to be the Fall pie of choice in my house. * Jump to the recipe *

Back in 2010, I decided to get adventurous, forgo the frozen Marie Callendar’s version and make pecan pie from scratch.

And I’m just posting it now.  Oops.


Pecan Pie from Scratch

As I tend to do with any new food adventure, I scour my cookbooks & the internet until I find a version I like, then pick and choose tips from other recipes.  If I had written this post earlier, I could have name dropped all of the pecan pie recipes I discovered.  Again, sorry :/

The Pecan Pie I produced most closely resembles The Pioneer Woman’s “Pecan Pie that will make you cry.”  Except I didn’t chop up the pecans as finely as she did.  And I used my old-standby pie crust recipe.

The Pioneer Woman won me over because she gives helpful cooking advice for knowing when the pie is “done.”

The baking temperature required seems to vary widely from oven to oven. Mine bakes perfectly in 50 minutes, but some are reporting that the pie is still soupy. If the pie is very jiggly when you remove it from the oven, cover with foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until mostly set. 

Good advice!  Escpecially since this isnt the kind of dessert you can stick a toothpick in to test for doneness!

Without further ado, here’s a good stand-by recipe for your classic Pecan/PEE-can/pee-CAN/pa-KAHN pie!

Classic Pecan Pie

Ingredients

1 whole Pie Crust (unbaked)

1 cup White Sugar
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
½ teaspoons Salt
1 cup Corn Syrup
¾ teaspoons Vanilla
? cups Melted Butter
3 whole Eggs, Beaten
1 1/4 cup Coresly Chopped Pecans
Place unbaked pie crust in standard sized pie plate.

Combine mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl.

Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.

Pour syrup mixture over the top.

Cover top and crust lightly/gently with foil.

Bake pie at 350º for 30 minutes.

Remove foil, then continue baking for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans.

Allow to cool for several hours before serving.

Enjoy!


Save The Tomato Juice… Make Tomato Water?

I’m not crazy.  I just can’t stand wasting things.

This summer, I’ve been lucky enough to peel and chop up a lot of tomatoes from Dad’s garden.  Most have been made into bruschetta, where I seed (remove seeds and goo) before I chop.  The whole cutting process leaves a lot of juice on the board… and it would be such a shame to just wash it down the drain.  So the peels/seeds/goo goes into a strainer along with the cutting board juice.  The juice that leaves the strainer goes into ice cube tray and frozen for later.  What’s left in the strainer goes in the compost bucket.

IF you really want to take preservation a step further… you can dehydrate the skins and then grind them into a powder to use in recipes.  I have not gotten to that level of thriftiness.

Luckily, this summer I read an article in Bon Appetit about “Tomato Water”... thus proving I am not crazy for wanting to save the juice!

Bon Appétit suggested taking it a step further. Using the juice and some additional flavors, you can essentially make a “stock” to use in a variety of dishes.

Tomato Water
By Michael Anthony, Bon Appétit

Makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes (about 3)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 medium shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. kosher salt

Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth; set over a large bowl. Pulse tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil, cilantro, parsley, vinegar, and salt in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
Transfer mixture to prepared sieve. Cover and chill at least 12 hours. (Do not stir or press on solids, or tomato water will be cloudy). Discard solids; cover tomato water and chill.

DO AHEAD: Tomato water can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.


BA’s ideas for your Tomato Water

  • Use in place of chicken stock in risotto

  • Toss into panzanella

  • Add to a Bloody Mary

  • Spoon over Oysters on the half shell

  • Use as a poaching liquid for Fish

  • Stir into gazpacho

I will probably go a little less fancy, and add some to some jarred pasta sauce to give it a little fresh flavor.  It’s go great in my next pot of chili too!

Saveur magazine has a version of Tomato Water as well.  It’s the more literal approach… which is what I (unknowingly) did.

Tomato Water
By Saveur magazine

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS

5 lbs. very ripe quartered, cored tomatoes
Water

1. Working in batches, put 5 lbs. very ripe quartered, cored tomatoes into bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix on low speed until tomatoes break down and release juices (or mash in a large bowl with a potato masher).

2. Rinse two clean, large, thin cotton kitchen towels in hot water. Spread one towel over a large glass beaker or nonreactive bowl and ladle half the mashed tomatoes onto towel. Gather opposite ends of towel and tie securely to make a sack. Hang sack from a yardstick or broom handle suspended above beaker or bowl.

3. Repeat with other towel and remaining tomatoes. Sacks will drip clear tomato water for about 4 hours; if red liquid begins to appear, discontinue dripping. (Do not squeeze cloths, or water will cloud.) Transfer tomato water to a nonreactive container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Discard solids.

Both magazines recommend a slow drip to get all of the tomato’s water… the same method you’d use to get fruit juices for jelly! Can you make a savory tomato water jelly? I am sure someone has thought this though before. At any rate, the drip bag process is very easy with these simple tools:

Looking forward to some fresh tomato pick-me-up with the saved juice, especially once tomato season is over!

[National Sewing Month] Diaper & Wipes Pouch

Did you know that September has been “National Sewing Month” since 1982? It started with a proclamation from President Ronald Reagan, declaring September as National Sewing Month “In recognition of the importance of home sewing to our Nation.”

What a great opportunity to share one of my more recent home-sewing creations (beyond my typical quilts).

DIY Diaper and Wipes Pouch

There are fairly easy to follow instructions (and downloadable pattern) from Crazy Little Projects.

I was able to purchase 2 coordinating “Fat Quarters” of fabric and the matching Velcro at Wal-Mart. The only other supplies you’d really need are thread, fabric scissors and a sewing machine. A small quilting ruler can be used to check that all of your seams are consistent.


DIY Wipes Pouch Front & Back

Crazy Little Projects has some great step-by-step photos. They came in handy when I was inspecting my finished project. The arrows below show some little bunch parts where the top flaps meet the body of they pouch. Since I am a crazy perfectionist, it bothered me that they were not laying completely flat.

Minor bunches- Diaper and Wipes Pouch
But then I closely examined the original tutorial, and her example seemed to have little bunches  too.  So I stopped worrying and happily gave to to my cousin as a very-belated baby shower gift!  I’ve been told it is very handy size and nicer than ones you see in the stores.  Which makes me happy!  Even if they are just being polite!

BONUS: After baby is out of the diaper/wipes stage, it will still make a nifty carrier for various essentials… like pens and pencils… or coupons… or snacks. :D

I am chalking this up to a Pinterest WIN!  (You can follow all my Boards here)

Summer Canning with Fruit, Berries, and Beer

So I picked up the canning hobby a little late in the season. A couple times this August I saw berries on a ridiculous good sale at the store, and it made me realize summer was coming to a close and berries were going with it! I bought lots to blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Some went into coffee cake, some went in the freezer, and I decided to try to make Jam with the rest.

Jump to the recipe:

Triple Berry JamReduced Sugar Peach JamStrawberry Balsamic SyrupOktoberfest Beer Jelly

 

Summer Canning with Fruit, Berries, and Beer

Here are the Recipes… and my notes on what I did, what went wrong and how I’d fix it for next time. I hope to look back at this years from now and laugh at the mistakes. But trying something and making mistakes is how you learn! Watching presentations and reading about examples can only
do so much. You have to get your hands dirty (or in this case, very sticky!).


Triple Berry Jam
Proportions for 6 8oz. jars
4 cups crushed berries, mix and match your favorites such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and/or raspberries
4 ½ Tbsp Ball® RealFruit® Classic Pectin
3 cups sugar

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
Prepare and measure ingredients for recipe.
Combine prepared fruit in an 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in Ball® RealFruit® Pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


The recipe came from the Ball website FreshPreserving.com I used 1 pint of blueberries, 1lb carton of strawberries, & 1 1/2 boxes of raspberries. Jam Taste test: Amazing! Seriously, this work out to just the right combination of berries. Jar #1 is almost gone.


Crushed Berries for Jam
I crushed the berries a little bit at a time in a bowl… later I found out you are supposed to a large flat surface (like a pyrex baking dish) and crush them in a single layer. Over crushing with mess up the amount of pectin in the berries, and things wont jell right.

The pot I used was medium sized and the jam almost boiled over, oh dear. How did I not visualizes the amount of space 3 pints of boiling jam would need? Next time, use the biggest pot.


Jam- Boiling Fruit

I didn’t have special equipment… just our stock pot, grilling tongs, plastic seam allowance ruler from my sewing kit and a Pampered Chef silicone oven mit. To save a lot of future frustration… get the TOOLS! Specifically the jar grabber tongs and Lid Lifter. I stuck my arm down in te boiling water to lift out the jars. Protected by the Silicone Mitt, of course, but as a general rule it is probably not the smartest thing to do.

I washed my jars in the dishwasher with a heat rinse cycle so they were HOT w/o having to boil them. I washed the lids and rings in soapy water and set aside. Didn’t realize simmering the lids was important.

Either I forgot or didn’t realize you needed a rack for the bottom of the pot.  Oops. This detail is important because it helps the water circulate all around the jars.

I used the FROZEN SPOON test and the jam seems to set fine!

The recipe called for 6 jars, but I only had  enough for 5 (so about 8 oz of jam short).

 

Peach Jam
4 cups Peaches – Pitted, Peeled and Finely Chopped
4 1/2 Tbsp Ball® RealFruit® Classic Pectin
3 cups Granulated sugar
3 Tbsp Bottled Lemon Juice

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
Prepare and measure ingredients for recipe.
Combine prepared peaches and lemon juice in an 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in Ball® RealFruit® Pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


Peaches were on sale for 99 cents a pound. I thought I was buying 1 pound, but the scale in the produce section must have been off… I ended up worth 5 large peaches, weighing 1.38 pounds.

I used the tomato peeling method for getting the skins off, and it worked like a charm! Skins and pits went into the compost bucket.

I chopped up the peaches and measured how much it made… what I thought would be a couple cups turned out to be almost 5 cups. So I used the Ball Pectin calculator to figure out the proportions I needed. I went for the REDUCED SUGAR option, because even measuring 3 cups of the stuff into a bowl seems like a ridiculous amount. No wonder jam is delicious!


canning bath

I remembered to put extra jar lids in the bottom of the canning pot (instead of a rack). I FORGOT TO PUT THE JARS IN to heat up before filling. Dumb. DO NOT put cold jars into HOT WATER. I remembered this as I just barely set a jar into the hot waterbath. Luckily I did not have a Mason Jar Explosion. So I wasted a lot of time bring the water back down to cool/luke warm… mainly with ice cubes and ice packs, and dumping some into the kitchen sink to clean some dishes.


The taste test was great! And all of the lids sealed fine. But I don’t know if the jam is too stiff… it doesn’t move at all in the jar when I tilt it around. There are several reasons for stiff jam. I think the culprits may be overcooking or too much pectin.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has some good tips on
What to do with Stiff Jams. Just in case.

 

Strawberry Balsamic Syrup
5 cups crushed strawberries (about 4 lbs)
1 Tbl lemon juice
3 TBL Balsamic Vinegar
1 box Pectin
7 cups granulated sugar

8 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
Combine strawberries, vinegar and lemon juice in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


This is actually the 4th recipe I tried to can. I knew I wanted to try it ever since I read the variation to the Traditional Strawberry Jam recipe on the Ball site Freshpreserving.com.

My mistake: Not doing the ONE THING you’re supposed to do when you are learning how to can. I went rouge and didn’t follow the Ball approved recipe. After making the Peach Jam that seemed to set up so nicely, I realized that low sugar jams can work. The Ball Pectin calculator gave a strawberry recipe w/ low sugar, but w/o the addition on lemon juice and Balsamic Vinegar. I wanted Balsamic AND low sugar.

The thing is, jam making is definitely a science. If there isn’t the right proportion of sugar and acid and pectin, it just wont work. The mixture also has to reach a specific temperature (220°) or it will not jell.

I followed the the recipe but reduced the sugar. So after the final boil I tried the frozen sppon test, and it didn’t set. Then I tried the frozen plate test. Then I boiled for another minute and repeated the tests. And then a third time. When it still didn’t seem to set correctly, I decided to just jar it up and process it in the waterbath.

Luckily, the resulting “loose jam” is DELICIOUS! It will go perfectly on Angelfood Cake, or ice cream, or french toast. So I am very happy.

This batch yielded 5 8oz jars and 3 4oz jars or “Syrup” plus an extra couple ounces that I just put straight in the fridge.

FOOD IN JARS wrote a lovely post on How to tell if your Jam has set. Now I know.

 

Beer Jelly
2 12oz Bottles of Beer (flat)
1 Tbl Apple Cider Vinegar
1 box Pectin
3 1/2 Cups Sugar

Pour Beer into a pitcher to decant. Refrigerate for 24hrs (or until flat).
Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
Mix beer, Vinegar, and Pectin in a pan over high heat. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring constantly.
Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


This batch yielded 2 8oz jars and 4 4oz jars… and a few extra oz that went straight in the fridge.

Beer Jelly ingredients Before I tried this, I did a thorough search of the internet to see what exactly I needed to do. It’s hard to believe there isn’t an official Ball Canning/USDA approved recipe for Beer Jelly. Wine Jelly yes, beer no.

I posted a question on SC Canning’s Facebook Page, and her follower Darcie gave me some good Beer Jelly Advice. And it inspired me to use my favorite seasonal beer, St. Arnold Oktoberfest. It is already Fall-Flavorful so I didn’t think adding extra herbs/spices would be necessary. And technically, I do want to preserve the flavor of my favorite beer to enjoy even after the season as passed! That’s what canning is all about. Saving flavor for the future!

The only real mistake I made here was not using a large enough pot. I knew the beer would boil up, but I didn’t realize HOW MUCH! I thought it was flat so there wouldn’t be an issue. Wrong. As you can see in the YouTube video below, it goes from simmering to MASSIVE BOILING in a matter of seconds. I turned off the heat before anything boiled over the top, and dumped the hot beer-vinegar-pectin-sugar mixture into our old pressure cooker pot. Somehow I didn’t burn/kill myself in the process. And even THAT huge pot could barely contain the “Hot Break”. Home-brewers are probably laughing at me right now.



Sydney Rubin of In A JAM offered some very helpful advice on when I was freaking out that I may have done something wrong.
She says the bubbles after removing it from the waterbath are probably ok… as long as they stopped once the Jelly cooled. It also may be “too set,” which is actually ok by me because I am planning to melt some down to use as a glaze for chicken or pork… or to make a dipping sauce… or to eat with pretzels. At any rate, I never planned on “long term storage” for the beer jelly. :)

Thus concludes my Canning Adventure for August 2013. I am left with lots of jars of edible (though maybe not perfect) goodness. And the realization that we indeed have Hard Water. But you can wipe down you jars with Distilled White Vinegar and no one will ever know!


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