Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Tall One-TTO

As some may have noticed, I have decided not to use our real names on our blog. I know that I am putting it out there for all to see, giving people a glimpse into my backyard, my kitchen, my little patch of earth but I gotta keep a little privacy right? So this is The Tall One (TTO) that isn't usually what I call him. I often call him by his front name or any variety of expressions heard coming from the mouths of mamas all over the world. Sweetie, sugar, honey, baby and in his case Shoogie Boy (which is cutesy for Sugar Boy). Around about the time he turned 10 or 11 he asked me to please only call him that when no one was around. Now, at the wise old age of ALMOST 16 he would rather me never utter those words again so to show him that mama does respect his wishes I have named him TTO in this blog. It is short, accurate and not at all cutesy. Aw well, no matter what, no matter how tall, no matter how old he will always be my Shoogie Boy! And he IS cute, dontcha think?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When life gives you ugly oranges make marmalade!

I'm always on the look out for a way to save money and make the most out of everything. I have been keeping my eye out for people that have more produce than they can handle. I found someone on craiglist that said they had an orange tree with sour oranges and we could have all that we could pick. I didn't think about it being June and many months past orange harvesting time! I drove out to the island with Farm Boy and we picked oranges. Lots and lots of oranges.
They looked pretty bad but they smelled good. I had such plans for all these free oranges. I would dehydrate, can, candy, juice and craft with them. What I ended up doing is making marmalade. The skins were too ugly to mess with dehydrating. The inside was dry, pithy and the seeds had started to sprout from the inside of the orange.

Most of the oranges were not usable. I juiced what I could and then used some organic oranges I purchased for the zest and peel in my marmalade. I put the juice and the thinly sliced organic oranges (seeds removed) in a stock pot with about 1 quart of water and set it to simmer.

The seeds went into a small saucepan with a cup of water and boiled them for 5 minutes to extract the pectin from the seeds. The seeds were strained and the liquid was added to the big pot to simmer. I let it simmer for a good while. An hour or more. Until the peels were very soft. Once the peels were soft I lined a colander with muslin and strained all the liquid from the oranges. I picked out the pretties peels and was able to easily slice off just the zest. It was much easier than the way I have done it in the past. I set the zest aside. I measured the liquid and then added 1 cup of sugar for each cup of juice I had plus a cup of water and brought it all to a boil. I boiled it and stirred constantly until the mixture jelled when dropped on a cold plate. I would say it took about 15 minutes.

I added the zest to the boiling mixture and turned off the heat. I then poured it into prepared jars and then processed it in a BWB for 15 minutes.

In the past I treated my citrus peels by trying to scrape as much of the white off as possible then boiling in a small amount of water with a pinch of baking soda and changing the water at least once. I think this is to get rid of the bitter flavor that some citrus peels have. Lime is especially bitter. I found that I didn't have to do that with this recipe. If I were using lime I would definitely do that.

I ended up with 7 cups of juice and it made 10 half pints of marmalade. It is very good if I do say so myself! We have already gone through two jars. It is wonderful on fresh biscuits or bread right out of the oven. I am sure it would make a wonderful glaze for pork, chicken or salmon.

Tomato what??? Part 2

After the enchilada project I still had 4 cups left of tomato paste. I was tired and so done smelling tomato products and washing utensils with orange stains but still, I just couldn't bring myself to waste it and I knew that if I didn't do something that night it just wouldn't get done. I have a chronic pain condition so these kitchen extravaganzas of mine usually take me a few days to recover from so it was a Now or Never sorta thing!
I decided to try BBQ sauce. I was not using a recipe because none of the recipes I found called for 4 cups of tomato paste. I just made it up as I went and tasted it along the way. I gathered the ingredients that I thought would go well in BBQ sauce. I used Farmer Boy's homegrown jalapenos, onion, garlic, dehydrated bell pepper, dehydrated celery leaf, sugar, ginger, a pinch of cinnamon, apple cider vinegar and dry mustard.
My sous chef dumped the ingredients into my handy dandy Bosch Blender and gave it a whirl. **Notice the pan of encharitos under his arm made with my fab enchilada sauce**

We poured into a big stock pot and mixed it with the tomato paste and a blender full of water. It was very thick and tomatoey so I added more water and simmered. Still very NOT BBQ tasting. I added some liquid smoke and more water. Then I found a can of peach nectar in the cabinet and added that. It was starting to taste better. It isn't your KC Masterpiece or Kraft BBQ sauce, I would say it is more in line with the real stuff you get with authentic Texas BBQ.
After adding and simmering and adding and simmering I decided I just had to get some sleep. I dumped the whole batch in the crock pot and put it on low. It was Saturday night and we had church in the morning so I would let it slow cook until after church.

It mellowed and became more flavorful after slow cooking. I canned it in 12oz jars. Because of the high acid and vinegar used I just did a boiling water bath (BWB). We used it on the broilers I raised this spring. It was mighty good. Would it be too cliche to say it was Finger Lickin' Good?

Tomato What??

A few months ago (ok last November!) I planned to can some spaghetti sauce. I bought a #10 can of tomato sauce for this project. Well, as with most of my plans something came up and I put the project on the back burner. Fast forward 7 months and now I am ready to do my spaghetti sauce. I found the big can and dusted it off. I rifled through drawers looking for my hand held can opener and finally was able to open this monster can. Uh oh, something is not right! I looked at the front of the can and realized I purchased tomato paste! Tomato paste being a thick paste is much more tomatoey than I needed for spaghetti sauce! As anyone that knows me knows, I just hate hate hate to waste. This tomato paste would probably equal about 90 gallons of tomato sauce if I watered it down.
I suppose I could have still made spaghetti sauce but since the fam was asking for encharitos for dinner and that required enchilada sauce I
decided to try canning that instead. I used about 2/3 of the can on my enchilada sauce. It made 13 - 12oz jars and 3 pint jars of sauce. Yeah! I used up almost all of my paste! I still had about 4 cups left and that went into another project.
I wish I could share a recipe but I just make my enchilada sauce by adding this and that and tasting it until it tastes the way I want it to. I pressure canned it just to be safe. It contains beef broth and a few other low/no acid ingredients.
It turned out great and the encaritos were a hit as usual! Now I will be able to make this family fave more often because I have the enchilada sauce on hand.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Freaky Red Bug

What is this nasty little critter? Well after spending good amount of time googling "freaky red bug on pepper plants" I found that this little cutey (NOT) is the baby version of the Leaf Footed bug. The author/photographer seems to find great pleasure in watching these bugs but I very much hate to find them feasting on my jalapenos and tomatoes! I am keeping this army of bugs under control with a weekly spraying with Neem Oil.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dehydrated Hash Browns

I love playing with my dehydrator. If I can find a way to preserve food and save space I am a happy Farm Girl Wannabe! I grated and dried 10lbs of potatoes into instant, shelf stable hash browns. I peeled and grated the potatoes using the shredding attachment for my bosch universal kitchen machine. I set the shredded potatoes in a big bowl of cool water until all the potatoes were finished. This seemed to keep them from turning brown. Once they were all sliced I sat them in a colander and dipped them briefly in boiling water. I then spread them out on the mesh trays of my dehydrated set it to 125 and let them dry overnight. Don't toss out that big bowl of soaking water, your plants will love it!

To use the hash browns I soaked them in warm water along with dried onion, dried bell pepper, dried garlic for about 10 or 15 minutes. Drain well (save the soaking water!) and fry until all the veggies are tender. I poured a little of the soak water into the pan and covered it to help speed up the process. Salt and pepper according to taste. The soak water has the flavor the of the potatoes and other veggies in it. I usually save that water and use it as my liquid in the crock pot if I am slow cooking something for dinner that night. If not I toss it in the compost or in the chicken bucket.

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