Saturday, July 31, 2010

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Smokin’ Weed’s in Moms Garden



Let me first make a disclaimer concerning my writing skills. I write from the heart and maybe not so much with literary accuracy. Thank the Lord for spell check.



Mom’s garden was filled with a delightful array of herbs and vegetables that beckoned to be picked and made into some wonderful concoction in my mother’s kitchen. However, one day mom’s garden proved to be much more than a place to find fresh garden fare for our table.

I was sitting on the hot brick patio, in our small backyard in Colorado Springs, watching my mother pick lettuce and snow peas for dinner, when my two oldest brothers, “the twins” come out to join us. They both had a strange expression on their faces, reminding me of the one I had when mom heard me utter the “F” word for the first time. That didn't turn out so well.


Brother Brad was fidgety standing above me and Brother Jeff had his hands stuffed deep in his pockets. Mom continued gardening in silence while the boys waited to gain enough courage to spit out their request. “Mom”, they both spurted at the same time (being twins they did that a lot), “can we try to smoke some of your garden herbs?” Not even looking up from her work and without a second thought she said, “Sure, go right ahead”.


What? Did I hear my mother correctly? I was only twelve at the time so maybe I was missing something. Nope, she meant it! Watching the events unfold before me I felt a little light headed and excited about the prospect of seeing my brother’s attempt such a bold act, right in front of mom. Mother went right back to gardening with very little expression and the boys starting picking herbs. 


Mother’s garden ran the length of our house and then around the side where you usually store kids toys, lawn mowers and bikes. Filled with yellow squash, pumpkins and zucchini we learned that this was a place to tread carefully. The boys, stayed clear of the area concentrating their efforts on the mint, borage, dill and chives. Gathering their soon to be sampled “tobacco” they began the process of pulling apart the herbs placing the stems in one pile and the flowering bits in the another (looking back, they seemed very adept at their work). Together, at the exact moment ,they both pulled cigarette paper from their pockets and started to roll.


My brother’s were seniors in high school and it was smack dab in the throws of the 60’s, so seeing this shouldn't have phased me in the least, I mean, I did watch the evening news with my parents and knew about the movement of free love, hippie vans, peace signs and the like. Common, I’d even seen the movie “Hair”. Armed with all my twelve year old knowledge I sat there with my mouth on the ground and watched in horror. Mom just kept on picking.


The first few cigarettes seemed to excite the boys as they puffed the wet tobacco; giggling, so proud of themselves for getting away with their crime. My brother John came out of house to see what the commotion was and ask Mom about the fowl order permeating the air. Stepping out onto the patio John looked at our brothers in silence, and without a word, he retreated into the house.


I think it was at the stage they started smoking the flowering bits, that I noticed a strange green hew come over their faces. Jeff eyes had glazed over and Brad looked as if he would keel over at any moment. The giggles had ended and I could hear a slight moan making its way out of their heaving bodies. Slowly, then at a dead run, they both sprinted to the family bathroom! Gruesome, were the sounds emitting from the back of the house.


Mom picked up her basket of peas and lettuce and as calm as a clam she walked into the house. As she past me, I thought I saw her mouth curl up just a little around the edges.


Now that I’m a mother and have experienced some of my own children’s teenage shenanigans’ I understand how Mom had remained so calm in the face of such defiance. Mother’s and some father’s, have the ability to see into the future, read minds and see out of the back of the heads! Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Foodie BlogRoll Royal JOUST Contest



Foodie Blogroll Royal JOUST Contest Entry
BLT with Red Onion Jam


BLT's are a favorite at my house so for my Foodie Blogroll JOUST I decided to remain true to my canning roots and prepare my version of the classic BLT with a homemade Red Onion Jam. 

The combination of the tart apple and the sweet savory blend of the jam with the smokey bacon, is a delicious union of flavors!

The criteria:  Cook a dish with a local beer or wine, tomato paste and honey!!

Local wine choice: Aspen Peak Cellars, Conifer Red


What is Foodie Blogroll?
A social network of thousands of network bloggers.   Created by "The Queen" Jenn.  You can also find her on Facebook! 



Ingredients: Colorado Honey, Conifer Red Wine by Aspen Peak Cellars Winery, Tomato Paste

Rebecka's Red Onion Jam

2 1/2 quarts thick sliced red onions
(about 15 med 6 large)
2 tablespoons Hawaiian Alaer Sea Salt
2 teaspoons Bolivian Rose fine sea salt
1 tablespoon Fennel seed
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
2 heaping tablespoons Red Peppercorns crushed
1 1/3 Cup Colorado Honey
2 heaping tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Cup Aspen Peak Conifer Red Wine
1 1/2 Cups water



Slice onions by hand or with a Mandolin cover with salt and toss to mix.  Set aside.



Crush red peppercorns and roast in large pot with fennel and coriander to release oils.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. 


Reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.  As sauce thickens stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Pack red onions into prepared jars.  Release air bubbles by insert a chopstick into jars, pour liquid over onions leaving 1 inch head space.  Cover with lids and bands and process in water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove jars and place on clean towel to cool.


 Sandwich

1/2 pound bacon cooked
4 crusty rolls
1-2 large head lettuce leaf
1 thinly sliced apple
1 thinly sliced tomato
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Red Onion Jam

Slice rolls in half and toast with butter or olive oil, spread mayonnaise onto one half of roll and layer apple, lettuce and bacon.  Top sandwich with Red onion jam. Enjoy with a glass of Conifer Red wine and a special friend!


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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mt. Vesuvius Erupts in my Kitchen

This seasons’ canning of Pepper Jelly was fraught with excitement and near disaster.


I was feeling very confident of my canning skills so I decided to can several recipes at the same time this week. With my double recipe of Pepper Jelly coming to the second boil on the stove, I set the timer for 3 minutes and I began cleaning up the dishes from my just canned batch of Apricot Conserve.

I know...after years of canning hot boiling sugar is very volatile and leaving a boiling saucepan on the stove unattended is a really big no-no.  Despite the nagging voice in my head I continued washing up the dishes and wiping down the counters. Out of the corner of my eye I see the bubbling hot liquid just reaching the top of the saucepan rim. Uttering a few choice words, I rush to the stove just in time for the whole mess to come spilling over the edges and onto the hot burner. The smell of burnt habanero peppers and the lava like mess oozing down the front of my stove made me think of what it might be like to see Mt. Vesuvius erupting.  Just at that moment, I remember that I’m wearing my favorite pair of flip flops and my bare feet are just inches below the lava spill. Another expletive emerges from my lips and in a lightening move, I flip off the stove and jump back just in time to see the sticky hot mess hit the floor. Disaster averted, it takes me another 20 minutes to clean up the mess.

I wasn't able to reach the drips that made it down between the stove and counter so I'm sure the hardened, spicy sugar will remain there until some unlucky person decides to remodel the kitchen.   Please God...let the ants be few and their nostrils be filled with smells of the outdoors!!

Luckily, I had already added my pectin and after processing the jars my jelly turned out beautifully.

Lessons learned and notes to self;

1. Never leave a hot boiling saucepan of molten sugar and peppers on the stove unattended!!

2. Never wear flip flops or open toed shoes while canning!!

3. Pray that the mess you can't see, no person or living creature will ever discover!! Print Friendly and PDF

INFUSING LIQUORS WITH FLAVOR

DRUNKEN FRUIT INFUSIONS


Each year my husband and I host our neighborhood New Years Eve party. We serve a variety of finger foods and stock our bar with a wide variety of liquors and mixers for our guests enjoyment.

I love serving homemade infused liquor as the finale to the evening. It's something most people haven't tried before and it is a perfect ending to any holiday party.



I like to wait until after we bring in the New Year with a Champagne toast to serve the Drunken Fruit with an assorted tray of gourmet cheeses. The champagne clears the palate preparing the taste buds for the infused sweet elixirs. I use small cordial glasses to serve the infused liquor ,placing just one cherry or two or three blueberries in the glass prior to pouring in the liquor.

The cheeses are a wonderful pairing with the sweet liquor as they balance out the power of the liquor infused fruit. They are called "Drunken Cherries" for a good reason".


Grappa is a favorite Italian drink, distilled from grape pumice-skin, seeds and stems that are left after wine making. It is my first choice when making my infusions however, Grappa isn't cheap... at $20.00 a bottle it can really add up when the recipe calls for up to 2 liters of liquid. My budget didn't permit this year, so I decided to use the liquor we had on hand,

After looking through our liquor cabinet I found a bottle of Brazilian Cachaca and a bottle of Charbay, Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka. Cachaca is distilled from Brazilian sugar cane and has a very clean flavor which works well with liquor infusions. Of course, you can infuse any type of Vodka or Gin with great success. I've never used Grapfruit Vodka so I'll be very interested to see how my cherries and blueberries turn out this year.



Infusing liquor is a simple process and the ingredients are few. The liquor of your choice, the flavor elements and a little sugar or honey. Quart or 1/2 quart size jars with rubber lids and rims and cheese cloth and a large bowl. The most important ingredient is time.

Measurements are not vital; they depend on the amount of fruit or herb(s) used and the size of the container. Use of sugar is a matter of taste. When using more tart fruit I suggest adding more sugar (one tablespoon for each cup of liquor) I prefer sweeter infusions so I add more sugar to my mixes. Grape, Date and raisin infused liquors require less sugar.

Wash your fruit and herbs prior to placing in clean jars. Add sugar and pour your choice of liquor over. Cover and seal loosely. After filling and sealing jars gently rotate jars to mix sugar, fruit and liquid together.  Steep the flavors anywhere from eight days to four months in a dark cool location. Do not store in direct sunlight unless recipe indicates.


A progress check is needed every few days to release the gasses that form from the steeping process. Liquid can evaporate if your seal is not tight enough so check and refill as needed.

After steeping, filter the liquid and age the infusion indefinitely to broaden the flavors. If you use fruit infusions and the fruit appears to be in good shape you can store the fruit in the refrigerator and eat as a dessert or return it to the jar and keep to serve in cordial cups with liquor.


Drunken Raspberry and Rosemary Infusion

Fill quart jar with washed raspberries, 1 cinnamon stick. 5 cloves, 1 sprig fresh Rosemary and 1/4 cup sugar, pour liquor to cover fruit.  Seal and Store in a warm, dark place for 3 weeks.  Filter as described above and store at room temperature for 1 month or more.  Serve in cordial glasses with a few fresh raspberries.

The hint of rosemary gives this infusion a sweet Earthiness.  Pairing with these hearty cheeses balance the sweetness of the liquor.
Spanish Goat Cheese, Murcia Al Vino-Drunken Goat (looks like everyone is drunk even the goat!), French Goat Cheese, Saint Andre and English Blue Stilton. 





Drunken Cherries Infusion

Instead of filtering the fruit at the end of the infusion process transfer fruit and liquor to a brandy snifter of other decorative jar and serve together as an after-dinner aperitif.

Wash cherries, fill jar with fruit leaving 1/8 inch head space.  Pour liquor to cover and add 1-4 tablespoons sugar (to your taste) for every cup of liquor.  Cover and let steep in direct sunlight for 1 week.  Place in a dark cool spot and steep for three months.

The skies the limit with infusions.  Use you imagination and favorite flavors to create your own special blend of Drunken Infused Liquor.














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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What you will Need & Jar Preparation

Canning Preparations

Don’t feel like you need to go out a purchase a bunch of new equipment for this process. What you have in your own kitchen will do fine. If you need to  add a few utensils for your canning projects most neighborhood grocery stores carry all the necessary items.

For Jar Preparation: use any large pot you have at home.
Jar Funnel for easy pouring
Ladle for scooping hot liquids
Tongs to remove and arrange whole or chopped fruits and vegetables in Canning jars
Small stove top pan to sterilize the jar bands
Regular or wide mouth canning jars with lids and bands
Jar lifter to safely remove jars from the waterbath (I use a clean hand towel)
Tablespoon to skim foam off hot liquid
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Kitchen timer
Cutting board
Sharp knife


Jar Preparation
Safe handling of all your utensils, jars and kitchen surfaces is a must when canning at home. These guidelines must be followed to ensure food safety. We wouldn’t want our friends and family getting sick from eating food that we’ve prepared for them, so be vigilant with your jar preparation.

Select Jars and Cleaning

Make sure to check all your jars for any cracks or nicks in the surface. Discard  jar if you see any signs of damage. Check lids and rims for dents or unevenness and discard any that are defective or damaged. I like to use an antibacterial spray on my counters surfaces and in the sink prior to canning. Fill your clean sink with hot soapy water and gently wash jars with a clean rag. Make sure not to use brushes with wire or previously used sponges. Rinse jars with hot water and place on a clean kitchen towel.

Heating

Jars must be heated for 10-15 minutes before filling to kill any remaining bacteria. Submerge the jars into pot with water about 3-5 inches deep (smaller jars can be stacked) and bring water to a boil. Right when the water begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer until ready to use. If you have a kitchen thermometer check the temperature occasionally (180 degrees F). I just keep my jars at a low rumble so they stay extra hot and then I don’t have to stop to check the water while I’m in the middle of canning. Never pour hot liquids into a cold jar.

Lid and Band Preparation

Two piece vacuum caps generally come with your boxed sets of jars.
Remove the lids and bands and check for any damage. Wash the lids and bands in hot soapy water. (never reuse the lids or bands) place only the lids in hot water on the stove and simmer for 10-15 minutes. When the sealing compound is heated to 180 degrees F you will achieve a better seal.

Now your ready to go… Print Friendly and PDF

Watermelon Pickles Recipe

This recipe was given to me by my mother Anne.  She was visiting with friends while living in Albuqurque, NM in the 60's.  The young couple brought watermelon pickles as a hostess gift to my mother. This began the tradition of canning Watermelon Pickles in our home.



As with most family recipes that get handed down to the next generation, I've made a few additions to the original recipe.   I can’t remember when I first ate a Watermelon Pickle but I do remember the distinctive flavor. Popping open a jar of these delightfully crisp pickles and smelling the combination of clove, cinnamon and ginger was like a bite of summer in a jar. Biting into the crisp freshness of the watermelon rind and hearing that crunch then tasting the richness of the pickle, made our mouths dance with delight.


As kids we chose to just eat them straight from the jar but they pair well with many main dishes. Try serving them with a hot curried chicken and rice dish or as an accompaniment to a leg of lamb. The flavor is strong and sweet so it takes a very hearty dish to stand up against the robust flavors.

Watermelon Pickles
Recipe from Anne Stone

First Brine

1 large seedless watermelon
2 quarts cold water
6 Cups sliced and peeled watermelon rind
4 Tablespoons Kosher or Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons pickling Spice

Choose a large seedless watermelon and cut in half. Remove all the flesh leaving just a bit of red flesh on the rind. Cut off the green skin and cut rind into 2-3 inch strips. In a large bowl place 6 cups of rind into 2 quarts of cold water, add remaining ingredients and let soak 5-6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Rinse the rind in a large colander rinsing off as much of the pickling spice as possible

Second Brine.

1 whole fresh ginger thinly sliced
Cold water

In a large stock pot cover rind with cold water, add the sliced ginger and cook for 30 minutes or until fork tender. Drain ginger water keeping the ginger flesh with the rind.

Syrup
5 Cups water
4-6 cinnamon sticks broken in half
¼ cup whole lemon with peel thinly sliced
¼ cup real lemon juice
2 Tablespoons whole cloves
4 Cups sugar
2 Tablespoons candied ginger

To make syrup combine 5 cups water, watermelon rind, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, 4 cups sugar, sliced lemon, and candied ginger. Gently boil for 30 minutes

Pack in jars
24 -6 ounce sterilized canning jars, hot from the water bath

Using a pair of tongs gently remove the flesh of the watermelon rind, lemon peel and ginger and place in sterilized jars. Using funnel ladle or pour hot syrup over the rind leaving ¼ inch at the top of the jar free. Wipe rims with a damp paper towel to clean any spilled food to ensure a tight seal.  Cover with lids tightly and boil filled jars in water bath for 15 minutes. Remove to a clean hand towel and let stand until you hear a distinctive "pop" or "ping" sound.  It can take up to 24 hours for a proper seal on some jars, so don't be afraid if you don't hear the popping sound right away.  If by chance, one of the jars doesn't seal (push the top of lid and if it moves up and down it's not sealed) . Refrigerate  and enjoy right away with your family and friends. You can also Reprocess a unsealed  jar by placing a new heated lid on the jar and reheating per the recipe instructions.
Makes 18 to 24 jars Print Friendly and PDF

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