not quite what your grandma used to make...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

And the canning continues...

The autumn air is crisp, the only bright colors outside are the turning leave, and inside the battle to process all those pounds of apples continue. 

Thankfully the coolness of the garage is keeping the apples crisp and I bought a stockpile of mason jars. 

I cracked open a jar of the Ginger Apple Chutney for dinner one night to make sure it was worth making more.  The Mrs grilled up pork chops and I roasted sweet potatoes, butternut squash and onion from our CSA farm share (what is a CSA? click the link).  Once grilled we slathered some chutney onto the chops and it was delicious!  Definitely worth making a whole lot more. 

Since the first batch of chutney made 2 pint jars and I still had a whole lot of apples to get through - I decided to make 2 double batches (using 2 large non-reactive pots).
8 delicious jars of Ginger Apple Chutney
I had also promised The Mrs an apple pie, but I felt like something a little different.  At the suggestion of a co-worker I tried an Apple Pie with Gingerbread Crust.  Now usually ginger bread says Christmas to me more than Fall, but I will admit it, I already have Christmas on the brain.  I think it's all the years of making handmade Christmas presents and vending at the MECA Holiday Sale that I start thinking Christmas by September.  It takes time to make all the holiday-themed items I sell around Christmas. 

So Gingerbread Apple Pie is would be!

I used this recipe by Amy Bronee at Family Feedbag.  I very recently discovered her blog and can't wait to try out more of her recipes. 

 Since The Mrs and I have started house hunting I've packed up all the odds and ends that I almost never use - so my cookie cutters are somewhere in storage. So instead of the cute gingerbread men topped pie from the recipe, I did a usual top crust.  

I also ended up using a massive pie plate and should have double the crust recipe, but the pie was all but topped when I realized this so my top crust was on the thin side and a little more crunchy than I would have liked once baked.  Now I know for next time and yes - there will be a next time.  This pie will definitely be an addition to Thanksgiving this year. 

While I was spending all this time in the kitchen I found a bunch of salad turnips and watermelon radishes hiding in the back of the veggie drawer on the brink of going bad.  I hate wasting food - especially somethings as delicious as watermelon radishes - so I tossed them in a sanitized mason jar and made them into quick refrigerator pickles. 

I used a basic Refrigerator Pickled Radishes recipe (I forget where I originally found it).

So here's what I did:
 6 watermelon radishes and 7 salad turnips (which equalled about 2 heaping cups) - sliced very thin
1 small red onion (or 2 shallots) - cut into eighths 
1/2c. white vinegar
1/2c. red wine vinegar
1c sugar
1tsp salt

Place the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot and heat over medium-low heat stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Add the radishes and the shallots.  Heat until the vinegar just begins to boil, and then remove from heat.  

Pack into a sterilized quart jar and refrigerate.  Allow the radishes to cure one week before serving.  
*It is important to keep them refrigerated.  Since these pickles are not processed they would go bad at room temp.

After sitting in the refrigerator for a week they were delicious! And I love the pink color from the red wine vinegar.

 All in all it was a very productive week.  I have also been working on a sewing project for the Children's Museum and Theater of Maine. But more on that later...

Until next time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Is Back with Apple Canning Extravaganza!

Hello people of the inter-webs!  After quite some time away from blogging, having felt quite uninspired for a while, inspiration has hit with the coming of a beautiful New England fall. 

Not only am I constantly sewing up a storm, but I'm also making time for my love of retro living.  From now on this blog will not just cover my adventures in selling my hand made wares, but in sharing my ways of living in a handmade home. For example, did I ever tell you how much I love canning?

Which brings me to today's post:

Apple Canning Extravaganza!

Nearing the end of September on a perfectly crisp, blue sky day (can you tell fall is my  favorite yet?) the in-laws and I went apple picking. 

 Perhaps it's the fondness of childhood memories of my growing up in New England influencing my taste buds, but no apple tastes better than a rosy, crisp Mac picked off the tree.  In all of 20 minutes the in-laws and I picked over 60 lbs of apples.  While I can eat a lot of apples, things had to be done with these before they went bad.

The plan: 2 Apple Crisps (for immediate consumption), Ginger Apple Chutney, Apple Butter, and Apple Pie Filling.

With my recipes at the ready, I made a small batch of Ginger Apple Chutney the first night.  It's a new recipe for me and I wanted to make a small batch to try before committing more apples to it. I'm going to crack open a jar this week to decide.  

My peeler sure got a workout.

 Looking at all those peels reminds me: Living in Portland I do not have a place to have my own compost bin/ pile.  Thankfully Portland has this fantastic roadside service: Garbage to Garden. For a fee of $11/ month (or free if you can volunteer some hours) Garbage to Garden gives you a clean bucket each week that they pick up curbside on your neighborhoods garbage day.   Buckets of matured compost are included at your request.  

Now back to the apples.

Sunday morning it was back in the kitchen. I got the apple butter going in the crock pot first so it could cook down all day.  I used mostly  Cortland Apples with a few Macintosh mixed in for the tartness.  

Next came the Apple Pie Filling.  As Cortland Apples are fantastic for pies I used them here for the pie filling.

I made 7 quarts using the quart size jars for the filling knowing that it will be a popular gift item this holiday season.  

In general I do not stray from canning recipes as PH level is very important in your preserved food as to prevent food born illness.  The last thing I want is to give someone a big dose of botulism with their tasty pie filling.  (Always use tested recipes from reliable sources.  My favorites are Food In Jars, the classic Ball Canning Book, and Headspace Canning.

I did end up making one variation to my method: in the recipe for canning apple pie filling the directions say to process the jars in a boiling water bath.  When my water was boiling and I added the first filled jar I heard the devastating pop that only means one thing...

A blowout.  I turned off the water, fished out my jar and runaway apples, dumped the water and started again.  At least it was only one jar.  Remembering our stove runs hot, I turned brought the water to a simmer rather than a boil and added the jars, then letting the temp raise a bit more.  In my experiences, the quart jars seem more prone to temperature differences. Luckily the water adjustment worked out and I was left with six beautiful and tasty jars of filling just waiting for a winter of pies.

It took a Saturday evening and an entire Sunday (hot water bathing the last recipe past 9pm) to get it all done and I still have at least 30lbs of apples left. But listening to all the little pings of the sealing jars as I cleaned up, rounded up my book, and headed to bed made it worth it.

 It was a fantastic day.  I always love a day in the kitchen with rows of beautiful shining jars full of tasty foods to have waiting for me throughout the winter and spring.  

If anyone has some tasty, tried and true canning recipes out there I would love to share! 

Until next time.