Monday, September 2, 2013

Pear Preserves Without Pectin

See? I told you I have been busy!! I like to compare pear preserves to something more along the lines of a fruity sauce/gravy for your biscuits or to top vanilla ice cream with. It's a little runny, but all the better to sop up with your biscuit. I backed off a little on the sugar. Every jar I've been gifted with has been so over the top sugary sweet I felt like I need to knock out a gallon water after one bite.
You know how you see pear trees loaded down everywhere and nobody does anything with them? This won't knock a huge dent, but it will be worth your time and effort. Any left, be sure to vacuum seal for future use in a pear cobbler. Just use this peach cobbler recipe and substitute with pears. Mmmm! Talk about good eating! When it comes to pears, I'm so picky it's ridiculous. I won't eat a store-bought pear. There's just something artificial about the smooth, non-gritty meat of them that turns me off.

12 cups of peeled and chopped pears (remove any spots)
5-1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

 Dump your chopped pears into a large pot.
 Stir in the sugar and spices and mix well.
 Turn the eye on to medium heat and stir frequently.
 Once it starts to bubble, turn heat down slightly and let it simmer for around two hours.
 Remove the foam from the top of the fruit.
Ladle into sterilized jars (wipe rim and seal with sterilized lids and rings) leaving 1/4" head space. This made 10 jelly jars of pear preserves. I sealed them with the hot bath method and let them process for 10 minutes. Be sure your jars seal properly before storing them. If they don't seal, refrigerate and use.

Easiest Kosher Dill Pickle Chips and Stackers

Just like my opinion on pickled okra, there are some things that shouldn't be rocket science. If you see any bags of these at Wal-Mart, go ahead and buy them up. They disappear quickly and you know how Wal-Mart is, they'll be putting out Halloween stuff before canning season has begun and you will be out of luck. Follow the directions on the package using 9-11 lbs. of pickling cucumbers. We visited the Farmer's Market and pulled as many similar sized (and straight) cucumbers as possible. Using our mandolin slicer, we sliced half into chips and the other half as stackers to be used on pannini sandwhiches, burgers, etc. I mixed the seasoning with7-1/3 cups of water and 3-1/3 cups of vinegar, poured the hot liquid over the packed jars and sealed. This will save us a bunch. The way we go through pickles.

Easiest Way to Pickle Okra

Here lately I'm of the opinion that if you can do something well and it's easy...why not? It kind of goes against what we try to achieve by canning veggies and fruits and growing our own beef, but sometimes you just have to take the easy way out. One of Andy's co-workers told us how he made pickled okra and we decided to take him up on his advice.
Here it is: Go to Wal-mart (ughh!), buy a bag of Mrs. Wages "Create Dill Pickles," follow the directions and add half a clove of fresh garlic before you seal the jars. Process them for 5 minutes (pints).
Seriously, that's all there is to it after you have washed your okra and packed them in a jar. I recommend using 3-4" STRAIGHT okra, but beggars can't be choosers as some of mine were even smaller and had a hook on the end. I was told to figure 1 lb. of okra per pint jar. Well, I went to the Farmer's Market and picked through a few crates to get 7 lbs. of okra and I ended up with 13 jars of okra and ended up having to fix two bags of the seasoning. I think the lady must have meant 1 lb. per quart jar. It's all good...just like the pickled okra. Grandbaby Emilee Rae loves pickled okra and we now have enough to keep her happy.

How to Fix Fresh Southern Purple Hull Peas

This year we experimented with freezing our fresh, hand-shelled purple hull peas in a pillowcase in the deep freezer. I couldn't wait to cook up a big pot of them. They are so easy to fix and don't require as much cooking as dried beans/peas. Even my Mother, who literally said she didn't like them (and had never eaten them in her life) ended up liking them, eating them and taking some home.

After you sort through for bad peas, in a pot, drop 2 cups of frozen, uncooked purple hull peas. Cover them with water. Bring them to a boil. Let them cook for about 20 minutes. Drain the first boiling of water and the purple-gray foam off. Cover with water again and drop in a ham hock or leftover bacon grease. Stir every so often. Let the peas cook for about 30 minutes. Check to see if they need additional water. Taste the broth. Add salt to taste. Let peas continue to cook until they reach the desired texture you want. Serve with cornbread.

Frozen Purple Hull Peas

This summer has been one of the coolest summers I can ever remember. That is, with the exception of the day Andy went to go pick these purple hull peas. We had a family friend who offered to let us pick our own and Andy took him up on it and came home with two tightly packed 5 gallon buckets. The heat index was ridiculous that day and these were a little bit of a pain, but we've fixed them twice and they were worth the sweat and labor. Even my Mother, who literally said she didn't like them (and had never eaten them in her life) ended up liking them, eating them and taking some home. I do need to say, after we hand-shelled these, a friend offered use of their electric sheller the next day. I can honestly say I'm glad we did what we did. We've all become so lax about how we get our food, it's good to experiment things "the old way."

Back when I was in high school I babysat the Vanzant kids. Linda would pick a bushel of beans in the evening and the next day me and the kids would have them shelled and ready for her to can when she came home. It was a good experience.

*Disclaimer: This style of freezing was recommended to us by a friend who has a degree in agriculture. This is the first time we have tried to store beans this way. If you are hesitant about this at all, do not do it, We are experimenting with this as an alternative way to store and use only what we need as needed.
 The hulls were loaded with peas! We didn't weigh them, but this will last us for quite some time.
 Pour the fresh peas into a clean pillow case.
 Well, let's see how this goes!
Twist and securely tie. Store in deep freezer. Click here to learn how easy it is to fix purple hull peas.

Canned Apples or What To Do With Those Apples Growing on the Tree

Several years ago Andy planted a variety of fruit trees. We are finally reaping the rewards. With all the rain we've had this year, we have picked (and shared the excess) cherries, apples, and pears. The garden, apricots and peaches haven't been as prolific, but we have blessed to stock up on some fruits. And what is better than a cobbler or cooked apples in the winter? Andy pulled out his "Rotato" to make the peeling process a little less painful. If they sell them with a suction base, get one! Ours doesn't have it, but it beats the heck out of hand-peeling.

1 Wal-Mart sack of apples peeled, cored and sliced (I used Granny Smith & Red Delicious)
Syrup for 9 pint jars:
6 cups of water
3 cups of sugar
 These are handy, but apples growing in your background usually have a little lean to them. Either level up the bottom before coring or cut out what the blades missed.
 One of the few that cut perfectly!
 In a large pot, place six cups of apples in one gallon of boiling water. Once the water returns to a boil, blanch for five minutes. Remove apples from the pot to a large bowl and continue until all apples are done.
 While the apples are blanching, mix up the syrup. Pack the jars with hot apples. Remove all the air pockets and top with the hot syrup leaving 1/2" head space.
Ladle into sterilized jars (wipe rim and seal with sterilized lids and rings). This made 9 pint jars of apples. I sealed them with the hot bath method and let them process for 15 minutes. Be sure your jars seal properly before storing them. If they don't seal, refrigerate and use.When you get ready to eat them, add a little cinnamon, all spice and additional sugar, if needed and finish cooking.

Grandma's Cucumber Relish

Cucumber relish is a recipe handed down to me by my sons' Grandmother Inman. The first time I made this I was probably 20 or so. She had a jar set out to eat with white beans and I thought it was to die for. We had a small garden with plenty of cucumbers and onions, so there you go. The next time you grill some hot dogs or polish sausage? It's good on that too. I still have the hand-written recipe in my recipe scrapbook from so many years ago. I'm sure my kids will enjoy seeing it once they're older and can appreciate things like that. This is one of those recipes that are so easy to fix, but there is a lot of waiting time.

12 cucumbers, peeled
4-5 onions
2-1/4 cups of granulated white sugar (1 lb)
2-2/3 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 tsp. turmeric

CAREFULLY using a mandolin slicer or box grater, grate up the cucumber and onions. Sprinkle with salt  and allow to stand 3 hours. This will draw all the water out. Drain well!
 Mix all ingredients in a large pot.
Bring to a boil and let it boil for eight minutes.
Ladle into sterilized jars (wipe rim and seal with sterilized lids and rings). Ladle into jars leaving 1/2" head space. This made 10 jelly jars of cucumber relish. I sealed them with the hot bath method and let them process for 10 minutes. Be sure your jars seal properly before storing them. If they don't refrigerate and use.

Drake's Marinated Onions For Pork or Steak

 Grilled pork tenderloin, asparagus, wild rice and marinated onions made for a great combination!

Andy's co-worker Drake shared this recipe with us. I jotted the ingredients down as Drake called them out. I think it turned out pretty good...especially since I had never eaten it before. I might have gone just a little heavy on the crushed red pepper and a little too light on the Alabama (Dale's) sauce though. We decided to try this recipe one weekend at the river. Andy and I are the type that once we back down the driveway, we are pretty much there and don't leave until time to go home. Therefore, when we got ready to fix the onions and grill the pork tenderloin, we realized it we were a little low on the Alabama sauce and had to make do. It was too far past five o'clock to make a run to the store.
While you can still buy Vidalia onions, now is the time to give it a try. It won't be long and they'll be gone until next season.

2 large Vidalia onions
Season to your liking with:
Crushed Red Pepper
Garlic Powder
Alabama Sauce (Like Dale's Sauce)
Quarter the onions and lay on an over-sized piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.
 Place pats of butter on top and season with dry spices.
 Coat well with Alabama sauce. (I will add more than what the picture shows next time!)
 Seal and wrap aluminum foil well. Place on a baking sheet in the event butter seeps out.
Serve on top of pork or beef or as a side dish. I mixed a little in with my rice and it was delicious.

Crockpot Apple (and Pear) Butter

 You won't have to take a trip to Gatlinburg or Cracker Barrel when you find out
how easy it is to make your own apple butter!

I love apple butter. Amanda and Dale brought a jar back from a trip to Gatlinburg and I rationed that stuff out like I'd never get to eat it again.
Last weekend Andy made a trip out to the country to check the fruit on the trees he planted several years ago. While he was out there, he picked a "Wal-mart" sack of Granny Smith and Delicious apples and another of those good gritty pears you can't buy in the stores anymore. I was a little surprised that the apples were ready to pick but they were crisp and sweet or tart, depending on which you ate. I spent the whole day Saturday putting up pickled okra and cucumber relish and had no time to even touch the fruit. Andy ended up having to work all weekend so on Sunday I tackled the two bags...but first, what to make? I knew pear preserves was the first thing I was planning to tackle. We  had already canned several jars of apples and I didn't want to over do it. Apple butter came to mind and I set out to figure out how to fix it while the pears were cooking. I came upon the "Eating Richly When Your Broke" blog and found this recipe for guidance. I veered off the path a little, but her combination of seasonings was right on! Mine was also ready to can in 24 hours and it was pretty smooth so I opted to skip the immersion blender step.

Ingredients: 13.5# apples*
3 cups sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves

If I'm cooking in the crock pot, it's going to have a liner in it. These things are incredible! No more scrubbing! With this recipe, you'll be so glad you used one. I peeled and cored enough of the apples (see note below) to fill the crock pot. (Remaining apples will be added in after 7-8 hours of cooking) I set the temperature to low and covered the apples with the remaining ingredients.

Be sure to mix the sugar and spices well so that the apples are coated. Every so often, I would give this mixture a stir. After 7 or 8 hours, I noticed the apples were tender, but they weren't breaking down like I thought they would. Now, keep in mind, the apples I used are probably not the most recommended apples, but I'm not going to let them go to waste and this turned out really well! Mmmm, what to do? Potato masher to the rescue! I lightly mashed the apples a little and it was perfect!

So, my first 8 or so hours go by and the cooked apples look really good and the house is smelling wonderful! At this point, I start to peel the rest of the bag when I noticed something my dear husband didn't tell me. The rest of the reddish apples at the bottom of the bag were *pears! Well, when life hands you pears, make apple-pear butter!
This go around I diced the apples (and pears) a lot smaller. Mix them in and let them cook. At this point, I went to bed. I would sample the flavor and see if you need to add any more sugar or spices. It tasted good as is, so I left it alone.
In the morning, this is what was awaiting me when I got up. I gave it a taste and it was wonderful! I couldn't decide if I should just let it go all day on warm while I was at work or go ahead and can it. Because my crock pot seemed to be cooking so much faster than I expected, I decided to can. This was so good I didn't want to overdo it.

I started sterilizing jars, lids and rings and filling my canner with water. Ladle into jars leaving 1/2" head space. This made 12 jelly jars of apple butter. I sealed them with the hot bath method and let them process for 10 minutes. Be sure your jars seal properly before storing them. If they don't refrigerate and use. These started "pinging" immediately so we will be eating this on biscuits all winter. I did have just enough time to fix a few pieces of toast and try out that little "extra" I kept out for testing purposes. :-)