Sunday, May 3, 2015

Preserving Lemons Update

Last month I tried my hand at a method of preserving lemons used in France. Basically, the lemons are in a salt brine. The jar of lemons looks beautiful and the liquid has taken on a yellow hue, and I just loved how they looked on the counter. I had been keeping them in a cool room and I was now ready to try one. I opened up the jar, and to my surprise, the entire surface was covered in a layer of mold, and the topmost lemon was barely poking out of the brine. I was very disappointed that my experiment had not turned out and I was not keen on trying a lemon that had been sitting around in mold!

 I couldn't throw them out just yet. I let the jar sit on the kitchen counter for a week or so while I pondered the effects of the mold. First of all, the mold was just on the surface, and many a time I have cut mold off the edge of some cheese before eating it. I have never gotten sick. Mold shouldn't just make you sick. And back in the old days, do you think people were afraid of a little mold? Heck no! The lemons in the rest of the jar looked perfect. I decided to see if I could skim the mold off the surface and throw away that top lemon, and still manage to salvage the rest of the lemons. Well, that is just what I did and guess what! They are GREAT! I have used them 4 times now. I just take one out, cut it into quarters along the slits that I put the salt in, rinse briefly under cold water, and use. It is great on fish, and I even squeezed one in my iced tea, and no, it actually wasn't salty tasting in the least. I had no salt taste, even though you do get a bit of salt when you squeeze the juice and then taste it. I love these lemons. I am definitely going to be preserving more for future use.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Preserving Lemons

I stumbled across a book while browsing and came across this book about preserving without canning or freezing. The book is Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning, by Chelsea Green Publishing. I was intrigued, especially since it wasn't just about dehydrating. This includes preserving in the ground or root cellar, lactic fermentation (think sauerkraut), preserving in oil, salt, sugar, vinegar, and alcohol. This book was originally written in french and covers classic  methods of preservation according to various contributors and their time honored customs that had been handed down through generations.

Fed Ex and UPS always just drop off any packages that they deliver on our covered front porch and leave it at that. Now, you know, we got Ernie back in December and he is usually put up in his kennel while we are at work or run to town for errands. A couple of weeks back I needed to run into town for a much needed haircut. Ernie needs to be able to be trusted to stay on our property along with Cooper to man the place and generally, be a dog out in the country. But little steps. I wasn't going to just up and leave for the whole afternoon, after all, he is only 5 months old. So, I figured he could handle an hour and half unsupervised and could be trusted. After all, wouldn't Cooper scold him if he got out of line? Cooper is supposed to be showing Ernie the ropes. I got home with my new do, and pulled up in the driveway, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what all the garbage was strewn across the front yard. As I wandered over to investigate, I saw shreds of packaging paper, bubble wrap, and what was left of my brand new book! Complete with grass and dirt in between the pages. Yep.

You can't really tell from the picture, but the first ten or so pages have been chewed at the corners, and I put some packaging tape over what used to be the rest of the cover. Apparently, Ernie figured that the package was a toy to shred to pieces and needed to be dealt with before I got home. I was not very happy! It's a good thing he's cute.

One of the first methods of preserving that caught my eye was lemons in salt. I love lemons. I enjoy them in ice tea, for cooking, and fresh juice is hard to beat. But I don't usually buy lemons unless I have a specific purpose, and often am cooking something that uses fresh lemon juice, but since I don't have any on hand, I use the bottled juice. Now, what if I could have  a real live lemon any time I wanted. That is very appealing to me. So I sterilized a half gallon jar, and got to work. You soak the lemons for several days changing the water. I used organic lemons, I like them better and they are smaller with a thinner rind. Then you boil water and let it cool. Slit the lemons length wise not going all the way through the ends, and add non-iodized salt into the slits. Cover with the cooled water, seal and wait a month. Rinse and use. I have about 3 weeks to go before I try one. The picture clarity isn't the best, but they do look pretty in the jar. I will let you know how they turn out. I don't see why you couldn't use this method with limes as well.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Meet Erine ...

Meet Ernie, our newest household member of the golden retriever variety. Cooper is being a good sport and playing tug of war with him. I don't remember puppies having to pee every 1/2 hour to hour. I hope his bladder gets bigger soon.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cherry Pickin' Time

 They are so fresh you can see that the stems are still green. I estimate that each bag weighs about   10-12 lbs. I was dreading the process of pitting because I have 2 single pitters, and even with DH's help, it is a long and tedious process. I decided to run to town yesterday and see if I could find a more efficient tool for this task. Success! At Fred Meyer, I found this nifty pitter.  It is important not to stem the cherries before you are ready to use them because they will rot. You just load up the hopper with washed and stemmed cherries.You can see my washed cherries on the left, the hopper with cherries, and the bowl on the right that the pitted cherries pop into.  Then, just push the plunger and out comes your pitted cherry. The pits are disposed of in a little container of the other side of the unit. This little gadget saved me so much time and back ache! It was well worth the $20 and as my DH says, never pass up a tool you can use.

I processed one bag yesterday and was able to put up 14- 1/2 pint jars of cherry jam and 9 pints of cherry sauce. If you have never made cherry jam, try it. It is absolutley delicious and you may have a new favorite. For the cherry sauce, which is great over ice cream, cheesecake, or pancakes, I was using a Danish Cherry Sauce recipe from my Ball Blue book, when I realized that the almond extract that the recipe called for, had all evaporated out of the tiny bottle. So, no almond extract in the sauce and it is still delicious. I thickened the sauce with Clear Jel. I just used a lesser amount the the recipe called for in cherry pie on the Clear Jel label, plus I added some lemon juice.I doubled the recipe so used 6 lbs. of cherries just for the sauce.

The cherry sauce is on the left and the jam is on the right. I plan to share some of the cherries that are left with friends, and then can up some pints and put a bag or two in the freezer. All in all, summer harvest season is off to a good start in the orchards. As for our garden, we just got our transplants in the ground today. The potatoes have all come up, but it has been so darned windy, that we couldn't get anything in the ground until now. Hopefully, it is not too late in the season for our little transplants to get to growing.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cheese Waxing

I have been able to get local low temperature pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk and decided to try my hand at making cheese. I ordered a simple cheese making kit and on Monday, I made Farmhouse Cheddar. It is supposed to be really easy and although all I had to go on was written materials, I think I did okay with the exception of reading the directions too many times, thus, numerous mistakes and oversights. The cheese curds seemed very forgiving and I really don't know what I was doing, but I was not too sure about when the curds were ready to be pressed. Well, I pressed on anyway and then let the cheese dry for 5 days. Today was waxing day. I went to Goodwill and bought a pot since the wax will forever be melded to it.

I thought I was going to find the waxing very taxing and I was not looking forward to dipping the cheese. Well, I had fun and the following pictures and the results of waxing my cheese adventure, which is the round wheel. I figured while I was going to melt a whole pot of wax, I might as well make use of the wax and my time and I drug out two- 2 lb. bricks of Tillamook cheese, and a small mozzarella and a sharp cheddar. I cut the Tillamook into 1 lb. blocks so it would easily fit into the pot to be dipped. For those of you that don't know, Tillamook cheese is a famous and popular brand native to the west coast and is made in Tillamook, OR. Most of their cheeses are medium cheddar, but they also make mild and sharp cheddars, as well as a vintage white cheddar (excellent) and some other specialty cheeses. Tillamook cheese is VERY good and our go-to cheddar.

This pic shows the cheese after dipping with the second coat of cheese. The round one is my Farmhouse cheddar.

Here you can see our specialty pot courtesy of Goodwill. It will forever be our waxing pot.

Here are our finished products with labels attached with a thin coat of wax. I will age my cheddar for at least 2 months. The other cheeses I will see how they fare sitting around at room temperature. They are supposed to continue aging, and as long as there are no holes in the wax, should be just fine to eat.
If you have any cheese making adventures that you would like to share, please let me know!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pickled Asparagus

I know I have been away for eons, but that does not mean that I have not been visiting friends blogs. I have been passive just because I have been so busy with life, and I have not taken the time to post comments. I know you all understand how it goes. That said, I have been wanting to try a pickled asparagus recipe, because we like it and I just don't have the drive to eat plain asparagus during its season more than 2-3 times. I love it on salads, to eat out of the jar, to embellish with come chopped hard boiled egg with Dijon mayonnaise, or what have you. I have never canned it myself. I have found 2 recipes. One in Preserving the Harvest by Carol Costenbader, and another from a friend.

Here is Carol Costenbaders:

Pickled Asparagus

3 C distilled vinegar
3 C water
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp salt
3 # (8 C) asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
4 cloves garlic
 2 tsp pickling spice
12 whole black peppercorns

Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a 2 qt. saucepan and heat to a boil. Pack the asparagus in two 1-quart jars, leaving 1/2 " head space. Divide the garlic, pickling spice and peppercorns between the two jars. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the asparagus, leaving 1/2 in. head space. Cap and seal. Process for 20 min. in a boiling water bather canner and adjust for altitude if necessary.

 Here is another recipe that is a homestead recipe, try it at your own risk, as I have not tried it, although, I hear it garners $10 a quart jar from the people that spend the time to make it. I think it sounds absolutely delicious.

Cajun Pickled Asparagus

1/4 C pickling salt
2 1/2 qts cider vinegar
2 1/2 qts  water
3/4 C brown sugar
Bring this brine to a boil-
 in each Qt jar put:
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp cumin seed
1 clove garlic

Pack jars with washed, trimmed asparagus, leaving 1/2 in. head space, pour brine over top and process in boiling water bath canner for 15 min., adjust altitude if necessary.

 Enjoy. I plan to make this recipe over Memorial Day weekend and will let you know how it goes.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time to Think Spring

I just got my first seed catalog in the mail yesterday. Yep, it's that time to start planning your garden. I want to try some new veggies and some new management practices. If anyone knows of any way of "weeding" that doesn't require back strain and pulling, please share with me. I have been perusing the catalog and am getting excited to get my hands dirty. My biggest problem is that once school starts, the garden goes by the wayside in September. So, I need to keep up my enthusiasm for at least 9 months. I will post soon with future gardening plans.

Happy New Year, Everyone!