Tuesday, July 19, 2016

'Mater Sandwich

Now I know there will be a few disagreements with my version of making a Tomato ('Mater) Sandwich. That's fine, you are free to use light (white) bread and Miracle Whip and I'll keep on with what I like best. There was a time a fresh loaf of white bread, a homegrown tomato and a jar of Hellman's mayonnaise was the only way to make one, but I've sworn off white bread and switched to wheat decades ago. Now, using a store-bought---NOT HOMEGROWN--tomato. Please, just don't go there. The only time to eat a tomato sandwich is in the summer, around July. No garden? Go to the farmer's market and get one. There is a difference.
How much nutritional value is being subracted by removing the peel? Not sure, but if I'm making the sandwich, the peel is being removed. It takes a really sharp knife, to quote a family friend many years ago, to "skin one." Andy makes them with the peel left on and I will still eat them.
Peeled or unpeeled, this step must not be skipped. You don't want your bread getting all soggy! Slice the tomatoes and spread them out on a paper towel or two. Lightly salt the tomatoes and let them sit for a few minutes. This will draw out excessive water. They'll still be juicy, but you won't ruin your bread.
Slather each side of the bread with mayonnaise.
Pile up the tomatoes on one side. Add a little pepper and there you go!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Refrigerator Referees

 Do you know how many bottles of cocktail sauce are in the refrigerator?

How many times have you been hit with a question like this. And no, it's not a rhetorical question. You are truly expected to answer it. Gosh, I've always hated pop quizes.

I was asked this not once, but two evenings in a row recently. Of course I didn't know the answer. Why? Because I'm not a counter of things.

In my defense, we had two semi- and not so recent dinners that revolved around the seafood theme. One at the house and one at the river. Oh my, I am truly hoping there aren't any more bottles in the fridge down there.

The kids (who are all grown but will be referred to as kids forever) all love seafood. So we had a big lobster, crab leg and shrimp dinner and then we had a shrimp boil when we celebrated Memorial Day. In my defense, I have had a bit of brain fog for the last couple of years so I couldn't remember if we did have any or not. Plus, if we didn't and I put one in the fridge, there's supposed to be one in pantry. Whoever opens the last bottle from the refrigerator is supposed to write it on the grocery list. So you see where I'm going with this.

None of our kids were raised to "dine like the rich," like my Mother says but they all do like their seafood. There was a time when Andrew wouldn't touch it. Back when Dale could break the bank eating shrimp; Andrew's favorite seafood was hushpuppies. No, I am not joking. All of you out there reading this and judging me, just go right on. I used to order hushpuppies from the local fish place while Dale was tearing off shrimp tails faster than you could say, "whoa son!" Back then, I had kids who wouldn't eat any form of a potato, fried or mashed; one liked chicken nuggets and the other would only eat a hamburger with no pickles or any condiments. I can not count the nights when I would say, "one of these days you boys are going to realize you grew up in a house with a Mom who cooked good food." Poor Andrew, I had to lie to him that a roasted chicken was really a baby turkey, which he liked, to get him to eat chicken. I never gave up cooking good meals but I didn't let them eat junk all the time...Only on soccer nights and when their friends spent the night in droves. And on friend nights, it was surprising how many of their friends would gladly devour whatever I had cooked up.

One night Andrew and I stopped at Zaxby's after a late game. We ordered some type of chicken club sandwich and lo and behold that boy ate a pickle. The first time I had witnessed this in over 17 years. He must have noticed the look on my face. In his calm, cool way of talking, he just grinned and said, "oh yea, I like pickles now." Not only that, he was willingly eating chicken and french fries. Shocking indeed.

Now they are both grown and are extremely health conscious eaters; gladly covering all the food groups.

Sorry to ramble on. Back to the original point I was trying to make. In Andy's defense; when we were dating, I did tell him when my last name was the same as his, he could be the boss of the fridge. I was notorious for putting everything under the sun in the fridge and he believed the top shelf was to be reserved for the beer and there should be as little as could be in the rest of it. It should almost look like we were starving people is what I equated it to. Like maybe one night's left overs would be it. OK. You are talking to the daughter of the Queen Mother who has the largest refrigerator on the face of the Earth and couldn't pack one more thing in there if your life depended on it. I get it honest.

For the most part, we sort of adhere to his preference, but since I've been home, it's out of control. I will admit. I have been cooking some things in bulk, but we'll take care of that this weekend and we should be back to ground zero.
Just so you know, the answer to today's pop quiz is five! Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! (Picture the Count from Sesame Street) Five bottles of cocktail sauce! Technically we had two Zesty and three original, but who's counting?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Home Made Cherry Jam

One of my favorite jams is cherry jam. One of my least favorite to prepare is cherry jam. Maybe that's why it's so good? Cherry jam requires pitting the cherries. Not fun. We have a couple of cherry trees so in addition to making cherry wine, I make cherry jam with the left over cherries.

Because jam and jelly making is such a quick process, I don't always have step-by-step pictures. However, I had a helper on hand to get a few shots for me. I will break down the steps from the Sure-Jell pectin I use. The directions are not on the same side of the sheet so it's a little confusing. I have always had success using this product and when it comes to canning, I'm looking for easy, safe and consistent results. Who wants to spend a lot of time and have poor results?

I cannot stress enough how careful you need to be. The mixture will be very hot and you are dealing with boiling water. Be sure you don't have any kiddos underfoot when you are doing this.

Sterilize your jars (I do mine in the dishwasher), lids and rings (I boil these in a pot of water on the stove).
Get out your canning tongs to pull the jars from the pot; canning funnel and the magnetized tool to pull your lids and rings from the hot water and a clean cloth to wipe the jars down prior to sealing them.
I set my canner on the stove and set the rack in the pot raised for easy access and fill with water so that when the jars/rack are submerged, the jars will have one to two inches of water above them. (You can always add more boiling water if needed) I put the lid on the pot and turn the heat on high.
I use my food processor and pulse until I get the right consistency.
Measure out 4 cups of finely chopped cherries. (Around 3 pounds of tart cherries)
In another bowl, measure 4-3/4 cups of sugar (regular, not artificial) and set to the side.
In a large pot, on high, add the cherries and stir in one box of Sure-Jell. Stir constantly. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming. Bring this mixture to a boil.
Add in the  sugar. Bring it back to a full boil and let it cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Remove any foam with a spooon. This will be very hot! Put the excess foam in one of your used bowls to discard later.

Using a ladle, pour up the mixture into the jars through your canning funnel and leave 1/4" head space. Wipe the jar top and sides before placing a lid and ring on them.

Space the filled jars around the raised up rack. When all jars are filled, carefully lower the rack into the water. Add additional boiling water, if needed, so that the jars are adequately covered. Put the lid back on the pot, bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. (Jelly is 5 minutes, Jam is 10 minutes)

When that time is up, turn off heat and carefully remove the pot from the stove eye. When removing the lid (with a pot holder), be careful of the steam that will be released!! I remove my lid with it pointed away from my face.

Fold up a towel and place on your counter.

With my canning tongs, I carefully move my jars to the towel to cool. If any of the jars didn't seal, be sure to refrigerate and consume first. If you don't hear equal "pings" for the quantity of jars processed and the lid springs back when you poke the middle of the jar, it didn't seal correctly. 24 hours later, I move them to the box my jars came in, mark the date on them and store them.