This feels a bit like a cheater post – a list of ingredients with one line of directions. But I couldn’t fit it nicely into my stew post (coming Sunday), so you get two. It makes up a little for my light posting schedule this month, right?
Anyway, homemade stew seasoning takes just minutes to whip up and I’m willing to bet that you have everything in your pantry already. But more than being quick, homemade seasoning means that you know exactly what’s in it – no preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce. Don’t make stew much? Simply halve the recipe for an even smaller quantity.
Ever since starting my own family, I’ve enjoyed going fruit picking. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed it. But there’s something special about watching your child eat fruit off of the bush or tree, and sometimes, become a complete and adorable mess in the process of eating the fruit.
I’m pretty new to preserving but it’s something I been enjoying as much as going fruit picking. Plus, it became a necessity when we picked such great quantities, particularly of berries, that we couldn’t eat them all before they went bad. If only berries lasted as long as apples… <sigh>
Anyway, with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in gardens, farms, and markets, the Sunday Supper Community is sharing their favorite recipes for preserving (freezing, canning, pickling, etc.) summer produce. With that in mind, this week I’m sharing a blackberry jam recipe that we enjoyed (chosen because unlike most jams, it had the minimal about of sweetener in it).
Be sure to check out the other Sunday Supper recipes for preserving your produce after the recipe.
For the first time in several years, I feel like we’ve had fall here in MD. Usually the weather goes straight from keep-your-ac-cranking hot to curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire cold. This year, we actually have had some beautiful fall weather. Sweatshirt weather. Apple picking weather.
While my apple picking buddy is away right now (and missed terribly!), I couldn’t let this year pass without a trip to the farm. My hubby and I took Sophie pumpkin picking for the first time. We had a picnic with some great friends. And I dragged my hubby to the apple orchard, to pick some of the tastiest apples of the year. Seriously. Apple picking apples taste sooo much better than store-bought apples.
I had a lot of plans for those apples, beyond eating. I probably didn’t pick enough. I made Apple Berry and Rosemary Shortbread from Desserts for Breakfast (who takes amazing photos if you haven’t visited her blog). I made a ton of apple sauce for Sophie (she only likes homemade apple sauce, not store bought apple sauce). And finally, I tried my hand at canning for the first time – I made apple butter, my contribution this week for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted by Meal Planning Magic. While the apple butter is a great contribution to a holiday breakfast table, I’m planning on giving my jars as Christmas gifts to teachers as part of an apple-themed basket along with some apple-scented items from Bath and Body Works.
I used Red Delicious apples for this recipe. The original recipe calls for 2 lbs. MacIntosh apples and 2 lbs. Granny Smith apples. However, author Eleanor Topp says that you can use whatever is fresh and local. The different types might “change the texture of the butter slightly, but starting with quality fruit is the most important thing.”
The recipe refers to a “procedure for shorter processing time,” also from The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving. Those directions are interspersed in the recipe below, so that you can time everything appropriately.
I did not use any special canning equipment. I used a large stockpot instead of a canner, and regular kitchen tongs instead of canning tongs. The only thing I bought were mason jars.
I found the labels for the jars at Money Saving Mom. Head over there to download your free printable labels.
Adapted from The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving via Epicurious
Makes 7 cups (4 – 8 oz. jars)
4 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and diced (~10-12 apples)
1 c. apple cider
2 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbs. lemon juice
Get the apple butter started: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine apples and apple cider. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced by half and apples have started to soften.
Meanwhile, fill a boiling-water canner (or a very large stockpot) with hot water. Bring to a boil. Using tongs, place canning jars in boiling water. Water should come about 2 inches over the jars. Boil for at least 10 minutes to sterilize. (This step took ~45 minutes for me.)
Continue with the apple butter: Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Increase heat again to medium-high and boil for another 20 minutes or so.
A few minutes before apples are ready, add lids to boiling water and sanitize according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Line a baking sheet with a couple of clean dish towels while you’re waiting.
Finish the Apple Butter & Can: Using an immersion mixer, puree apple butter to desired consistency. Remove jars and lids from canner/stockpot and place on lined baking sheet. Pour apple butter into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch of room to the rim. If needed, remove air bubbles from jar by sliding a clean spatula between glass and food. Add additional apple butter if needed.
Wipe rim of jar to remove any excess food. Center lid on jar and screw on band until fingertip-tight. Return sealed jars to the canner, adding boiling water if needed to ensure that the jars are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Boil for 5 minutes.
Remove jars and return to lined baking sheet to cool to room temperature, at least 24 hours. Check jar seals – the lids should be turned downwards and should not move. Tighten band (mine came loose even though jar was sealed).
Label and store in a cool, dark place until giving away or enjoying.
When I was young, my mom used to take my brothers and I to Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream. I always got Chunky Monkey – vanilla ice cream with peanut-butter filled pretzels and chocolate swirls. Today, I only find Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer section of my local grocery store. I don’t know the last time I actually saw an ice cream shop.
It took moving after college for me to find another ice cream place that I loved just as much – Coldstone. Like when I was a kid, I find a flavor I like and don’t vary. At Coldstone, it’s cake batter ice cream (with crunched up graham crackers mixed in). Oooo, so good.
I’m not sure if it was because Coldstone made cake batter-flavored things popular or not, but since I met that ice cream flavor, I’ve been a sucker for cake batter-flavored things. I have tried cake batter bark (pictured at left), but was sorely disappointed – I found that the flavor of the white chocolate overpowered the cake batter flavor, no matter how much extra cake mix I added. But my chocolate cake batter toffee cookies were a winner as were the yellow cake batter and sprinkles variation below.
I don’t usually keep cake mix in the house, so when experimenting with the latest cookie recipe as well as the bark, I gave homemade cake mix a try. The recipe below reflects a half batch of the original recipe, as I didn’t have any need for a full 5 cups, no matter how long it can be kept.
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 Tbs. vanilla extract
In a food processor, pulse all ingredients except the butter and vanilla until just combined, about 15 seconds. With the mixer running, add butter cubes and vanilla until the mixture is fine and crumbly.
Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months
Note: I have only used this in recipes that call for cake mix. If you’d like to make an actual cake with it, please see Mel’s Kitchen Cafefor instructions.
Posts for vanilla extract have been flying around the blogosphere for quite a while. Reviews are always great – wonderful flavor, a fun and create gift… but I held back from trying it myself, mostly because vanilla beans are so expensive. I finally ordered myself a bunch from the highly recommended and economical Beanilla, and decided to make vanilla extract myself. (It helped that my jar of vanilla extract was running dangerously low!) I’ve seen instructions where as few as 3 vanilla beans can be used for 8 oz. vodka (i.e. on Joy the Baker, Chocolate & Zucchini, and My Baking Addiction) or even with run. I started off this way, using vodka and Tahitian vanilla beans, but after 2 months, I ended up with a vodka strongly flavored with vanilla rather than vanilla extract. I added two more vanilla beans and within a few days, the vodka had turned into vanilla extract.
Homemade Vanilla Extract: Starter
8 oz. vodka
4-5 medium vanilla beans
Pour vodka into a clean airtight container.
Split the vanilla beans lengthwise. Add split vanilla beans to vodka.
Close and shake. Store in a cool, dark place for about 2 months, shaking once a week.
Homemade Vanilla Extract: Reuse
You can keep adding to vanilla extract. When other recipes call for vanilla beans, throw the remaining bean into the jar and add a little more vodka. This way, your jar will never be empty.
When jar of vanilla extract is empty, remove vanilla beans and dry them out and reuse them in another vanilla extract starter set or throw them in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. The beans can be used up to 3 times for vanilla extract, as the vodka soaks up only so much flavor.