Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hot Chile Jelly

I have been wanting to make this jelly for years...since the first time I saw a photo of it  in Lianna Krissoff's Canning For A New Generation:  Bold, Fresh Flavors For The Modern Pantry.  It just looked so pretty.  The fact that I enjoy sweet and hot tastes combined was just a bonus, but really, for me, this is a "bling" jelly.

My CSA has been sending a ridiculous number of hot peppers, which, oddly, I don't typically use in everyday cooking.  I reach for the end product of hot peppers when making breakfast, lunch, and dinner - the dried peppers and chiles, hot sauces, hot oils, etc.  I will apparently have the ability to make a lot of my own "end products" as each of the recipes I have investigated uses only a few ounces of chiles.

The reason I had not tackled this particular recipe, as enticing as it is, before now was strictly due to intimidation.  It calls for making apple pectin and seemed like loads of additional work.  Surprise!  Not really so much!

4 lbs of Granny Smith apples cut into eighths, 4 ounces of chiles and one bell pepper roughly chopped, 3 cups of water, 3 cups of white vinegar, a sliced lemon, and some of the papery skin of a few red onions.
When prepping the apples, you leave the seeds and core but remove the stem.  While the seeds and core add to the pectin levels, the stem contributes nothing but a little yuck factor.  Bring the whole mess to a boil, occasionally giving it a stir, until you see the apple wedges come apart from their skin.  This should take 20 to 30 minutes.  You house should smell divine by now!

The onion skins are for color.  You can also use a cup of plums or cranberries for the same purpose without substantially changing the flavor of the resulting jelly

Drain the mixture into a fine mesh strainer (or a jelly bag), a big one unless you want a mess, set into a large bowl, and let it drip.  You can stir it now and then just to get things moving but if you have made jelly, you know not to mess with it too much or you will make your jelly cloudy.  If you didn't know that already, now you do!

This fits nicely, with enough of a lip to grab later without burning or pinching my fingers, and plenty of room in the bowl for the liquid to drain out.  It defeats the purpose if you have it sit in the liquid

At the end of 30 minutes, you should have about 4 cups of liquid.  If you are short, add some water to the strainer mixture and give it a gentle, non-cloud-inducing stir to make up the difference.

During the wait, you can set up your jelly/water-bath canning process:  sterilized hot jars, small plate in the freezer with spoons, and lids being warmed for later sealing.  Also, wash out that big pot! You are about to use it again and don't want bits and pieces in it (clouds, always the clouds).

Pour the juice back into the pan along with 3/4 cup of sugar per cup of liquid (telling you this for future reference in case you make a small batch of something using apple pectin), in this case, about 3 cups of sugar.  Bring it to a boil and stir to keep from burning until either a candy thermometer reads about 220F or you do the jelly test with your freezer plate and spoon.  This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.

The jelly test -

Version 1:  you put small amount amount of jelly on the cold plate.  Let it rest for 30 seconds and tilt or nudge.  If it runs down the plate, keep boiling.

Version 2:  you dip your cold spoon into the boiling jelly and raise it up about 12 inches, turning it sideways.  If the syrup flows down to form 2 drops that become a sheet and hang off the side of the spoon, it is done.

Once your jelly is done, spoon it into the hot jars, leaving a 1/4 inch headspace. Clean the edges with a damp paper towel or cotton cloth, place a flat lid on each jar, and finger-tighten each ring.  Process the jars in the canner for 5 minutes, timing after the water begins to boil fully, then remove to the counter.  As much as you want to play with them, don't disturb for 12 hours.  Make sure you hear that beautiful ping as each jar seals.

As always, the recipe says you get 4 half-pints.  I get 3 and a 1/2 half-pints, tiny jar not pictures as it was being eaten.  ::ahem::

Krissoff is quiet on what to do wtih all that boiled apple, chile, and pepper mess.  This was my thought
I ended up with about double this - a tangy, spicy, apple-y puree now in the freezer while I ponder its use.  I have ideas!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Thank you, Marisa McClellan, for your obsession with things in jars.  Small batch canning is really the way to go for would be canners on the go.  This recipe is from her Food In Jars, a book I highly recommend to anyone wanting to dabble in putting up.

My local farmer's market had a "last chance" batch of pickling cucumbers, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to make up some pickles or relish or whatever struck me once I got home.  I missed the sweet tang of a bread and butter pickle so I sliced and salted and stuck a bowl (with lid, not pictured) in the refrigerator to wait.

6 cups of pickling cucumbers, 2 cups sliced red peppers, 2 cups sliced onions, 1/4 cup pickling salt
The following afternoon, I rinsed and drained my vegetables and let them sit while I boiled up 2 cups of apple cider vinegar and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  When the sugar was dissolved, I added my seasonings:  2 tbsp of mustard seed, 2 tsp of celery seed, 1 tsp of red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp of ground cloves.  Once the mixture boiled, I dumped in the vegetables, using the 5 minute cook time to set up my sterilized jars and other canning equipment.  Stir occasionally, then remove from heat to fill your jars.

Look how far above the brine this is.  Give it a minute!
And this is 5 minutes later.
At this point, you use your tongs to fill your clean, hot jars with the cucumber mixture.  Carefully fill the jars with the brine, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.

Marisa's recipe says 5 pints but I don't end up with more than 3 and a snack bowl

Tap your jars on a towel covered counter (you do NOT want hot, sticky pickle juice and broken glass all over!) or use a de-bubbling tool to remove all the air pockets.  Check that headspace and adjust the brine levels accordingly.  Wipe your rims, place your lids and rings on to finger tight, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I remove the lid and let it sit, burner off, for 5 minutes just as a matter of habit after a bad, bad experience with canning tomatoes.  Take your jars out of the canner and let them cool on the counter.

Try really hard to not get into them for 48 hours.  I know, it's difficult, but it will be worth the wait!

For a more detailed, official write up, I refer you to Food in Jars:  Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gingerbread! Tastes just like Christmas!

Living in Florida has really messed up my sense of season, so a recent cool snap made me think longingly of Christmas and baking and that awesome rediscovered Gingerbread recipe from KAF's Whole Grain Baking.  I made it a few years ago and then promptly forgot where I got the recipe.

an assembly of likely suspects
This is a very simple, no-mixer-required recipe so I gathered up the ingredients, greased and floured my 8x8 pan (calls for 9x9, but hey, you go with what you have), and heated the oven to 350F.

whisk this - I use pastry flour as it gives a nice moist crumb
Whisk dry ingredients:
2 1/2 cups traditional whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

mix this - in place of brown sugar corn syrup, I used brown rice syrup.  Oh, and I almost never have unsalted butter but as my salt is kosher salt, I've never had saltiness issues with my baked goods

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar corn syrup
1 lg egg
3/4 cup  molasses
1 cup buttermilk

Pour wet into dry and gently stir until incorporated.  Ok, wait, that's what I do.  The recipe actually says "Stir in teh flour mixture until the batter is evenly moistened."  If anyone can tell me why adding dry to wet vs wet to dry matters, by all means, comment!

stir in extras
1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 cup diced dried apricots

The crystallized ginger, purchased at Whole Foods markets in a resealable bag, is not optional.  The apricots can be omitted.  I have made the recipe both ways and love it either way, so personal preference abounds here.

Pour into the pan, bake until center is set for 45 to 50 minutes.  In my case, because of the deeper batter in the pan with less real estate, I go for the longer time.  Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before you dive in with a fork and spoon serve warm.  Leftovers go great with breakfast coffee!
best served with whipped cream...alas, I had none

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Asian-inspired Kitchen Sink Cold Noodle Salad

What to make for dinner when you don't home until 530pm?  This! If I was really on the ball, I'd have made it earlier in the day.  Because you can!

All you really need for this "anything goes" recipe is whole wheat thin spaghetti and a sauce you like.  I go with what I can get at BJ's Warehouse because that's what there is where I live right now. The sauce is an amazing Chili Teriyaki Sauce made by S & F from my old stomping grounds in Portland Maine.  Outstanding products, although this one might be made only for BJs as I do not see it on their website.  I suspect, and will have to find out in a few months when we move and I no longer have a BJs in the state, that you can get a similar taste using a sweet chili sauce and a teriyaki sauce (more chili than teriyaki, based on the color).

At any rate, pasta and sauce are the base and from there, the sky's the limit.  For tonight's dinner, I dug around in the refrigerator and came up with this:  carrots, red pepper, frozen peas, sliced almonds, green onions, and roasted chicken

not pictured, sliced almonds.  I need a crunch and that adds exactly the right amount without overwhelming the flavor
In other incarnations, I have added most of a bag of preshredded cole slaw mix and green pea  pods.  Don't like one of the vegetables?  Leave it out.  Have some zucchini cluttering up your counter top?  Shred it and toss it in!  Going vegetarian only tonight?  Skip the chicken and add more vegetables...or grill up some tofu.  Or...whatever.

Step 2:  enlist the services of a reluctant pasta-eating teenager.
Here it is, all chopped.  
Don't worry about the amounts.  Eyeball it.  If you are seeing too much pasta when you stir it together, add more of whatever you feel is missing.  For reference, I use about a third of a bottle of sauce.  Don't drown the noodles, just give them a reason to not stick together.

Be sure to rinse the pasta in cold water and shake all the water out before dumping it into a very very large bowl...for stirring purposes, you know
stir it all together and serve!