Our Summer Faves

It’s that time of year again…yes, the back-t0-school, end-of-the-summer, what-do-I-do-with-all-this-great-produce?  time of year! I love hanging out at the local Farmer’s Market in late August and September because I find such great treasures. Have you noticed recently how beautiful fresh produce can be?

I know that we have some new readers here and I wanted to bring to your attention some of our summer favorites. These posts are perennial favorites that Laura and I actually refer to all the time ourselves! We’re all about preserving and saving some of these wonderful summer flavors to enjoy during the winter months. NOW is the time to plan for this!

What do we do with all this fruit?

We love us some fresh veggies….

Other summer faves:

Now.

Take a stroll with me through our farmer’s market. I think I mentioned before that I think that fresh produce is just gloriously beautiful and I want to share some of my personal favorites with you. (And I can NOT help it that a photo of a pecan sticky bun snuck into this gallery of photos. I do NOT know how that happened!) If you want to see full-sized photos, first click on the photo in the post and then click on the photo in the post that comes up.

 

Barb

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Homemade Applesauce

This week I’m making applesauce…a LOT of applesauce. This batch, and probably most of the batches I make in the next three or four weeks are NOT going to get canned though. Applesauce is my secret snacking weapon! I’m always looking for healthy snacks  to appease the ravening hordes hungry guys in my house who go searching for calories in between meals.

Right now the apples in the grocery stores are plentiful and priced right. I buy several 5# bags of apples (Romes are my favorite for applesauce) each week and keep our fridge stocked with fresh, homemade sauce. Homemade applesauce is an easy, healthy, inexpensive snack.

Basket of apples

Homemade Applesauce

  • Wash apples
  • Quarter them and cut out the bad bits
  • Boil a whole bunch in a deep stock pot with an inch or two of  water until mushy. Don’t turn the burner on high because it’s possible to burn the apples.
  • To make the apple milling process easier, I usually give the cooked apples a brief whir through my food processor or I use my submersion blender to coarsely break the apples up. The cores and skins are still on the apples, so you’re not really trying to make this smooth. It just helps speed up the milling step.
  • Put the mush through the apple mill
apple mill
  • Add sugar as needed to the sauce
If you don’t have an apple mill, you can peel and core the apples before cooking them. After they’re cooked, you can process them the rest of the way in the blender, the food processor, or with the handheld immersion blender.
I store my homemade applesauce in a big 6-quart tub in the fridge. My guys always gobble it up within about a week, so I don’t worry about preservation beyond refrigeration for the week. In our house, this tub of applesauce is one of those snacks you can eat any time without checking with mom first.
Bowl of homemade applesauce
If you’re going to store the applesauce for longer than about a week, you should probably can it in quart jars.
If you want to can your applesauce sauce
  • Put the sauce back into a large stock pot and bring back up to boil
  • Sterilize lids and rings
  • Wash quart jars (the jars ended up getting sterilized also, but every cookbook I can find says that running them through the dishwasher is enough.)
  • Put sauce in jars
  • Water bath the jars for 23 minutes
Canned applesauce
I usually use Rome apples because right now I get the best price on those and often they turn the sauce a lovely pink. If you have access to other varieties, different apples will give you some delicious variations in flavor. Experiment with different types of apples to find your favorite combination.
Barb

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Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Pickling, and other methods of “putting by” for the winter

It’s that time of year again…time to think about “putting by” some of the amazing summer produce for those long, dark winter months. There’s nothing like opening a jar of home-canned peaches and tasting the sweetness of summer or cracking open a jar of raspberry jam and being transported to back to the sunny berry patch. I’ve found that between canning, freezing, dehydrating, and pickling, I can save most of the flavors of summer.

Here are some of our methods:

Let’s start with our Jam and Jelly-making how-to’s:

Peach Jam

Then there’s dehydrating:

Pickling is a great favorite:

Jars of pickles and pickled peppers

Don’t forget freezing:

Cherries for freezing

And, of course, canning:

Jars of Peaches

I do want to point out that there are a few places where I make the disclaimer that *I* use a certain method but don’t recommend it for others. For instance, I invert my jars of super-hot jam for about ten minutes before letting them cool on the counter. I don’t water-bath can them after that. In my home, jam goes quickly and is rarely called upon to actually remain on the shelf for very long. The USDA, however, does not recommend doing this.

Because I really, really want my readers to have all the information they need for safe “putting by,” I want to share a few links with you that give you officially times, directions, temperatures, and parameters for preserving.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few links so I’ll come back and add on things as I think of them.
I promise. The work you do in preserving summer’s bounty will definitely be worth it when you feast on the delicious food you’ve “put by” for the winter!
Barb

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Fresh Blueberry Season

The first question is always, where can I go to pick blueberries? Then, where is the BEST place to pick blueberries? Later, how many blueberries should I pick?

And those questions lead to a whole slew of other questions, like What do I do with all these blueberries??? How do I use ALL THESE blueberries???? What can I make with all these blueberries? How do I store the blueberries? How do I make jam with the blueberries? And if you’re like me, that’s just the beginning of all the questions.

handful of blueberries

This post will take a stab at STARTING to answer some of these questions.

Where can I pick my own blueberries? Over the years I’ve found that the very best way to find the best u-pick places is to ask around. Word of mouth usually means a lot more in this business than a lot of advertising.

U-Pick Blueberries

Here is a link to a listing of u-pick farms in Appalachia.

Here is a link to a site called Pick Your Own. You can search for your state and your specific area for u-pick farms. This site also has some great recipes on it, so take a few minutes to poke around on it. You’ll be glad you did.

Where is the BEST place to pick blueberries? Like I just said, ask around. The topic of U-pick farms is often a subject that most people have clear opinions on. My personal favorite is in western Michigan off the Shelby Road: Andrews U-pick.

ripening blueberries

How many blueberries should I pick? Well, how many can you afford to pick? Picking blueberries is like picking summer. There is nothing quite like eating blueberries that I picked in August…in the middle of January! It really helps to have an idea what blueberries are selling for in your local grocery store. You don’t want to pay MORE than that to pick your own unless you’re going for the experience. For the last several years, I’ve paid $1.50/lb at Andrew’s U-pick.

bucket of blueberries

What do I do with all these blueberries? Other than eating and eating and eating….

You can freeze blueberries. This year, I should end up with about 100 pounds of blueberries in my freezer. Blueberries are such GOOD food, loaded with anti-oxidents and other good things.

You can make Blueberry Jam. I personally like to make blueberry jam with no added pectin. Here is another no-pectin recipe for berry jam.

Here are a couple of my favorite blueberry treats:

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberry Sausage Breakfast Cake

 

Blueberry Crumble

Fresh Fruit Pie

and even

Salmon Wellington with White wine-balsamic vinegar-blueberry reduction

There’s really no end to the many ways you can use fresh or frozen blueberries. This is one food you want to stockpile, and because they freeze so well, you CAN stockpile.

Blueberries on the bush

Barb

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Fresh Pineapple in Rum

Yesterday I saw a photo of a jar of pineapple soaking in rum and it looked so much like a jar of sunshine that I decided to try it myself. Since I still had some rum left from Christmas baking, a fresh pineapple sitting on my counter, and a piece of ginger in the fridge, I was set! The weather has been cold and dreary and the splash of bright yellow on my windowsill just makes me smile.

Covered jar of pineapple and rum

After I tell you what I did, I’ll tell you what I plan to do with the finished product.

Start with a whole fresh pineapple. Cut the outside peel off and cut the remaining fruit into wedges.

Sliced pineapple

Peel a 1″x2″ piece of ginger root and cut it into about 3 chunks.

peeled ginger root

Stuff the wedges of pineapple into a wide-mouth canning jar. I pushed the pieces of ginger down into the center of the jar. As I was getting the final wedges of pineapple into the jar, I was really cramming those babies in and I could see the juice accumulating at the bottom.

Fill the jar with pineapple wedges

Now it’s time to pour enough rum over the pineapple to cover it. You might need to put the lid on the jar and shake it a little to get the rum worked all the way through the fruit. If you need to add a little extra once you’ve shaken the jar, that’s okay.

cover the pineapple with rum

Now what my photos don’t show is that I did run out to pick up some maraschino cherries. I stuffed a couple of those in on top of the pineapple just because I knew it would look pretty and because the flavors all seem to work together.

Now put the jar in the fridge for two weeks. After two weeks, the pineapple will be completely saturated with rum and the rum will have a lovely pineapple essence. The ginger gives everything a little extra edge.

Now…what to DO with this bounty once it’s done? Well, I have some ideas that I’ll be sure to write up and photograph if they turn out as well as I think they will.

I plan to use some of the pineapple by grilling it with Jamaican jerk chicken. I’m also reading lots of different recipes that call for pineapple to be cooked with meat. I’m going to do some experimenting with a pineapple upside down cake too. If it were summer, I would probably include a long, skinny wedge of pineapple in Dave’s famous Green Flash.

We’re not much for mixed drinks so it’s actually a bit of a challenge for me to decide what to do with the pineapple flavored rum that is leftover from this project. I do have a recipe for rum cake that I might try using this. As I get inspired, I’ll fill you in. And if YOU have any brilliant ideas for how to use this pineapply rum, please share your ideas in the comments!

If you ARE inclined to use the pineapple rum in mixed drinks, it will work perfectly in Pina Coladas, Mai Tais, Mojitos, Daiquiries and a whole bunch of other drinks in the tropical family.

Pineapple in rum

Barb

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