Sunday, July 14, 2013

Denise's Easy Bread and Butter Pickles

This year our garden didn't produce very well. Thank goodness for the local farmer's market and the local Amish community. We bought 20 lbs. of cucumbers Saturday and by the end of the day, we had 19 pints and 3 quarts of bread and butter pickles along with 11 pints of Kosher dill stacker and 9 pints of slicked pickles. This recipe is very similar to my Grandma Gaudette's Bread and Butter Pickles (which are just as good as the ones that require no canning) with a twist and directions to make a decent batch. I had to made the vinegar/sugar mixture in two batches.
INGREDIENTS:
10 lbs. cucumbers, sliced thin (we use a mandolin slicer)
9 Vidalia onions, sliced in big pieces
8 green peppers chopped into big pieces
1/2-1 cup salt
4 tsps. celery seed
8 tbsp. mustard seed
12 cups sugar
16 cups white vinegar

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Wash cucumbers thoroughly, do not peel. 
  2. Sprinkle with salt. Let stand 3 hours and drain the water off.  Do not rinse. 
  3. Mix cucumbers, peppers and onions together and set aside.
  4. Bring sugar, mustard seed, celery seed and vinegar to a boil. 
  5. Pack cucumbers, peppers and onions in a sterilized jar leaving 1/2" space.
  6. Pour hot mixture into jar leaving 1/2" head space.
  7. I use the end of a spatula to run near the sides of the jars to release any air.
  8. Wipe the top of the jar and seal with boiled lids and rings.
  9. Place in a canning pot on a rack and cover with water.
  10. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the pot. (I wish I knew this secret years ago!)
  11. Once water starts boiling, let pints boil 10 minutes and quarts boil 15 minutes.
  12. Using canning tongs, carefully remove the jars to a towel lined counter and let them cool before moving. 
  13. Properly sealed jars with start "pinging." If they don't seal properly, put them in the refrigerator and consume.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Denise's Italian Pasta

I must be feeling better. Last  night I fixed this pasta salad and it was so good I had to get up and get this posted in case someone wanted to fix it this weekend. Andy and I were out rambling one Saturday about two months ago looking for a certain type of chest to add to the cabin and made our way across the street to this cute cafe, Cafe Savannah in Rogersville. We weren't really hungry so we split the Italian Pasta and chicken salad on their homemade bread. It was quite divine! Mine may not be exactly like theirs but we were really happy with the way it turned out.

INGREDIENTS:
7 oz. box Davinci Tortellini (Parmesan cheese stuffed)
7.5 oz. Reese Quartered marinated artichoke hearts (DO NOT DRAIN)
Small onions sliced into rings
1 small can sliced black olives
1/2 jar of Greek Kalamata olives sliced in  half
2-3 tomatoes chopped
1 small box crumbled Feta cheese
2 huge handfuls of baby spinach
1 package Good Seasoning Italian dressing mix

Cook pasta per directions on the box. Let it cool.
In a large bowl mix all the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate one hour before eating.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Easiest Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge You'll Ever Make

 I think I need to call this my Serendipity Fudge. Serendipity as defined by Merriam-Webster : the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.
After I accidentally forgot to add the sweet condensed milk to my Easy Banana Pudding I fixed for our 4th of July party we held on the 6th; my mind went to spinning....what to fix, what to fix? I remember someone telling me they made fudge with a can of sweet condensed milk so I thought, what the heck, fudge it'll be. I then remembered what "they" say about never making fudge on a rainy day (it won't set). I threw caution to wind and went to digging and this is what I came up with. All I can say is this: We measured 8" of rain in 2-1/2 days and this was some of the best fudge I've ever made. With the concoction I blended, it reminded me of eating a peanut butter cup without eating the gritty peanut butter center out of it. Since the whole plate was almost gone (along with the banana pudding) I knew I had a keeper.
I make a double boiler with a medium glass bowl over a saucepan with boiling water. I'm sure you could use a microwave, but I'm not a big fan of anything that probably alters whatever nutritional value a chunk of fudge might possibly have.

1-1/2 cups of chips (I had 3 partial bags that equaled this amount: chocolate, peanut butter and raspberry)
1 can sweet condensed milk
1-1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons water
Chopped pecans

Melt and blend the first four ingredients, stirring frequently, until smooth and creamy. Stir in the pecans.
Pour into a 8x11 dish and spread out evenly. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before cutting into squares.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Belated Fourth of July Gathering and Menu

Rain, rain, GO AWAY! We measured 8 inches of rain in our rain gauge from late July 3rd to July 6th. Seriously? It's usually so hot and humid on the fourth we're miserable. But, the party must go on. We decided rain or shine, let's do this and do it right. About mid-day a shining light started appearing through the thick clouds and we were on our way for what turned out to be a gorgeous afternoon and evening. Thank you Lord!

We are all about some fun, food, friends and family. All I can say is if anyone left the house hungry this past Saturday night, it was their fault plain and simple. Andy fired up the pit (in progress) early in the morning and had all kinds of good food smoking. I fixed several favorites starting on Friday and finished up Saturday afternoon. We just like to cook plain and simple. Sometimes we overdo it and we did fix a little too much meat this time. I'm including what we cooked how much and how many we cooked for and how much we should cook in the future (in regards to the meat) so you can have an idea on how to not fix too much food. Plus, it'll be a record of what we did for future planning. The amounts prepared were for 25 guests.The basic times on the pit are listed below.

2- 7 lb. Boston Butts (1)
1-4 lb. Goat ham
4-Fryers cut in half (2)
4-Slabs Baby Back Ribs (3)
2-Sticks BBQ Bologna (3)
2-Packs Polish Sausage (1)
Cowboy beans (Use 3 cans of beans next time--ran out)
Potato Salad (small bowl left over)
Hot Slaw (small bowl left over)
Macaroni and Cheese (1 lb. cooked--ran out) 
Vegetable Tray (Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers)
Cucumbers, Peppers and Onions (small bowl left over)
Dill Green Beans and Sweet Pickles (Ran out)
Deviled Eggs (2 dozens-ran out)
Banana Pudding
Fudge
Rotel Dip & Chips 

Andy started building this pit about a year and a half ago. We've added so many projects this past year, he hasn't had time to get the "real" door made.
So we do what any good redneck bunch would do...use a sheet of tin and a "lean to" piece of angle iron or two! :-) It still does a super job.
 You can't beat smoking with good ol' hickory!


 Load me up!
The butts were put on at 7AM. The temperature stayed between 225-250 degrees all day long.
  Getting ready to put the goat in at 10:45AM.
 Lookin' good...but not quite done!
 The split chickens went down at 10:45.
 The chicken is already looking good just 15 minutes later when we put the ribs on.
 It's a wrap! The chicken came up at 12:30PM and we double wrapped the ribs,
butts and goat in aluminum foil.
 Grandaughter Emilee Rae watches Big Poppa check the internal temperature. She can't wait to eat! Hopefully she'll learn our cooking skills and carry on our traditions.

It was all good!

Here's some of our family and friends enjoying a serious game of Apple to Apples! 

 

 Choices, choices!


Apples to Apples requires too much thinking! Several of the guys played cornhole instead.




Canning Green Beans

One of my favorite vegetables is green beans. We go through quite a few cans every year fixing beef macaroni soup, Andy's hamburger soup, chicken stew and more. There has been one thing that has prevented me from canning them...fear of a pressure canner/cooker. I have heard stories of them "blowing up" and it kept me from going there. This year I decided I'd put that behind me. I purchased a pressure cooker a few weeks ago and haven't looked back. One Saturday I put up 21 quart jars and a few days later I put up 12 pints. My only complaint is there is no rushing this. Once you're committed, that's all she wrote. Safety is my concern and I did it by the book.

Green beans are a low acid food. My understanding of why green beans must be pressure canned versus a hot bath is that botulism can not be killed at 212 degrees. It takes 10 pounds of pressure to get the temperature to 240 degrees which will kill the bacteria.

I picked a 5 gallon and 1 gallon bucket one evening. I transferred them to 3 Wal-mart bags kept them refrigerated overnight. (I do not weigh vegetables. I go by the space the vegetable occupies and it's pretty reliable). In my opinion, they're easier to break when they're cold. I snapped these into 1 to 1-1/2 pieces and washed them in the sink.

Each bag made 7 quarts. A few days later I picked a very packed Wal-mart bag and canned 12 pints.
 Pack them into sterilized quart jars and leave 1" of head space.

Fill the pressure canner with 3 quarts of water. Leaving 1" head space, fill the jars of green beans with boiling water. Using the end of a spatula, poke into the jars to release bubbles. Wipe the tops of the jars and seal with lids and rings that have been boiled..
 Place the lid on the canner. Turn the heat up on your stove so that steam begins to stream from the vent. I had my stove on 9 out of 10 on the dial.
Let that steam expel for 10 minutes.
 Place the regulator on top to cook with 10 pounds of pressure. 
For this canner, that meant I took one of the rings off.

 The lid will lock and this piece will pop up. Once that is up, you cannot remove the lid. Do not remove the pressure regulator when this is up! Start timing when the regulator starts a consistent rocking motion. I had to drop the temperature down to 7 out of 10 on my stove.  For quart jars, let it can for 25 minutes; pint jars, 20 minutes.
Once the timer goes off. Set the canner off the stove eye. Once the lock drops down, at that point you can remove the regulator and the cover. It took quite a while for it to release the pressure. Using canning tongs, set the jars on towels on your counter to let them cool. I love hearing the "Ping" that rings when the lid starts sealing the jars as they cool. I was amazed at how long the water in the jars boiled after removing them from the pot.