Sunday, June 30, 2013

Homemade Cherry Wine

When Andy and I met around 11-1/2 years ago, I was surprised he included wine-making as one of his hobbies. He's most definitely not a wine drinker. Now that I know him as well as I do, it's not surprising at all. I know he can't sit still for three seconds and he loves to make, build and create things. The first time I had tried his cherry wine, I was so impressed. It was a light wine and not overly sweet like some homemade wines can be. Well, that wine disappeared pretty quickly, so I had the opportunity to experience making it for the first time.

A friend of his, Doug, has a sweet Grandmother who had a cherry tree and she gave him permission to pick them. Now, I don't want to come off as the whiny baby that I am, but man, you talk about work! There's a lot of work that goes into making cherry wine. We went and picked the cherries we needed and I popped out all the stones by myself. My shoulder and hands were about to kill me by the end of the day. But the wine we bottled probably tasted even better because of the effort that went into it. That summer I attended a Pampered Chef party and I found a cherry stoner. It only does one at a time, but it's super easy and less painful for your body. The other day we were in a big box store and I found one that does 6 cherries at a time. I'm praying next year's cherry crop will do as well as they did this year.
The next spring Andy bought two cherry trees to plant along with peaches, pears, apples and apricots at his place in the country. With the exception of the freeze killing the crop last year, we have been able to make wine from his own cherry trees for the past four years. Typically the weekend before Memorial Day, we are out there picking all that we can before the birds find these tasty treats and wipe them out. This  year the Spring was so cool and the weather so crazy, the cherries weren't ready to pick until the second week of June.

When we finally got married (11-11-11) after being together forever, we thought a few people might like our homemade variety and served the last bottles of cherry wine we had. None of the "store bought" wine was opened. We were wiped out! And then the great cherry freeze of 2012 happened and I was really getting nervous that we'd never get our supply refilled. It's all good! :-) This year's bottle will be ready in time to celebrate our Second Anniversary.
 Stoning the cherries (or removing the pits) is my least favorite task, but I went through 21 lbs. of cherries in around four hours.
 Bowl #1
 Bowl #2
Line a clean 5 gallon bucket with a clean pillowcase. The lower the thread count, the better, when it comes to wine making. (The cherries sat over night in the refrigerator due to the amount of time it took to pick and stone the cherries. Notice the amount of juice that came out.)
 Pour in the cherries into the pillowcase lined bucket.
Using a stainless steel spoon or mashing utensil, mash the cherries.
Put 10 quarts of water in a large pot. Bring  to boil and add to the cherries.

When the water is cool, USING A STAINLESS STEEL SPOON ONLY stir in 1/4 tsp. of liquid pectic enzyme OR 5 tsp. power pectic enzyme. We order our supplies from All Seasons Nashville. If you don't have access to the fresh fruit, they sell purees you can substitute with.
 DAY 2: Stir cherries with a stainless steel spoon.
 Extract all the juice from the cherries and pour into a clean 5 gallon bucket. This is why you want a low thread count pillowcase, it makes it a lot easier to SQUEEZE the juice from the cherry pulp.
 For a 5 gallon jug, we use 12-1/2 lbs. of sugar. Add that to the juice and stir well until sugar is well blended. Add a crushed nutrient tablet also.
In a measuring cup add enough warm water to activate the yeast and add it to the bucket. We do use yeast specifically for wine making when we fix the cherry wine. However, we have used the kind you buy at the grocery when we made muscadine and blackberry wine and they turned out fine.

Cover the mixture up and let it sit for 24 hours in a warm place.

 Pour into a fermenting bottle and fill it up with water to the bottom of the neck.
Place an airlock in the bottle and let it ferment away. When the bubbling quits, siphon it off into clean bottles.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Broccoli and Leftover Ham Casserole

The other night Andy smoked a Shank Portion Ham on the Bubba Keg. We're talking a 10 lb. ham, so you know there were some leftovers. Monday when I came in from work, I checked out the freezer, refrigerator and pantry and whipped up this casserole.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Place 16 oz of frozen broccoli florets in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish
  3. Evenly place cubed ham on top.
  4. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a large bowl mix 1 can of cream of broccoli soup and 1 can of cream of mushroom soup. Fill one of the cans with milk and mix into soups.
  6. Mix 1-1/2 cups of instant rice into soup mixture. Season to taste.
  7. Evenly pour soup and rice mixture over the top of the broccoli and ham.
  8. Sprinkle a little shredded cheese on top.
  9. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. If broccoli is tender, it's done.

Shank Portion Ham Smoked on the Bubba Keg

OOPS! Someone forgot to wrap the ham and check the clock!
It did get a little hotter than we planned, but it was still good!

One of the secrets to successful cooking on the Bubba Keg is to wrap the meat during the last hour of the smoking process.

Andy got the Bubba Keg to hold at that magic 325 degrees. The top vent was set at 1-1/2 and the bottom vent was set at 1/2. A 10 lb. ham, which needs to cook at 20-25 minutes per pound, typically takes around 3-1/2 hours. Let the ham cook for 2-1/2 hours. At that point, double wrap the ham in aluminum foil, close the vents and let it set for about 30 minutes. Check the internal temperature. It should be around 165 degrees. (We let this one go over just a little) Remove the ham from the smoker and let the meat rest for at least another 20-30 minutes before slicing.

I took some of the left-over ham, cubed it and made a quick and easy broccoli and ham casserole the next day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Do you like stuffed cabbage rolls? Well, here is the next best option that tastes just as good but requires a fraction of the work. Once you get the cabbage chopped and meat cooked, all you have to do is let it bake and dig in around an hour to an hour and a half later.

I found this recipe in a ladies group cookbook out of Huntsville about 15 years ago and I tweaked it to suit me. The original recipe was too dry and bland so I added another can of soup and a little extra cheese. I also seasoned each layer and doubled the rice.

1 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion
1 cup instant rice
2-10 oz. cans tomato soup
2 cups of water
Shredded cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

In a 9x13 greased casserole dish, evenly spread out the chopped cabbage. 
(Season each layer with a little salt and pepper)

In a large skillet, brown hamburger meat and onions. Stir in the rice and let it absorb the small amount of grease in the pan. Spread evenly over the cabbage.

In a large saucepan, heat the tomato soup and water. Evenly pour over the meat mixture.

Sprinkle cheddar cheese to suit your taste on top. Tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one to one and a  half hours. (Until cabbage is tender) We serve this with hoe cakes. This is even better the next day!

Chocolate Ice Cream Muffins

Do you have left over ice cream? No, I have not lost my mind! Momma is always bringing some kind of sweet...cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream in the middle of winter...and leaves it for me and Andy to "finish" up. I believe it's her excuse to satisfy her craving for eating something she's not supposed to be eating.

Back in January, one of my FAVORITE blog followers, Shane Crick, sent me this message with the recipe for ice cream bread. Believe it or not, we had ice cream in the fridge (courtesy of Momma) and the timing couldn't have been better! We really enjoyed them because they weren't super sweet---think muffins! I'm including his letter, as I have to attribute this one to him. I  had never heard of them. And easy??? I wish I had this recipe when the boys had their friends over and I had to feed an army. We always had ice cream in the freezer. A gallon of milk and a few dozen muffins and we would have been good to go!

On another note, I was recently diagnosed with adrenal gland fatigue...which explains why I've had absolutely no extra energy. Of course we've been running wide open since last fall and I've attributed it to "just being busy." I've been focused on my new job, a building project and a dock project and I was just too wore out to write and blog about our favorite foods. I finally had myself checked out and now I know what the cause is. Hopefully in the next few months I'll get back on track. Thanks to all of you for hanging in there and coming back as often as you do. I have tons of great recipes and photos ready to upload and maybe now I'll get my energy level back and will share them with you soon.

Thanks so much for the great idea Shane!!! I really appreciate it!

Denise, you have got to try this recipe! It only takes 2 ingredients!
It's easy to make and you can constantly change up the flavor combinations.

Ice Cream Bread
Ice cream
Flour-(self rising)
Baking dish-(your preference)
Non-stick spray.

Melt your ice cream and then add as much flour as there is melted ice cream. I use the pint sizes which is about 2 cups melted and add 2 cups flour.

Combine both and put into a bread, muffin, or whatever pan you'd like to bake it with that has been coated with cooking spray. (I prefer Baker's Joy spray myself.) You could add any extras like candy piece, nuts, etc. to your mixture as well.

Let bake for 30 minutes and then cool before eating.

 Rich, creamy, double fudge???? There's no way you can go wrong with this one.

I used my mini-muffin tin for our first batch.

Like Shane said...two ingredients!

 You know I had to sneak in a little extra sumthin' sumthin'! (raspberry chocolate chips)

I'm going to include these in the breakfast and dessert category. A little butter cream or chocolate icing on top would be incredible!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Wildlife on the Elk River Spring 2013

 River time is our favorite time. We love watching the wildlife and we were not disappointed this Spring! Andy and I hope, Lord willing, to spend many years together enjoying sunsets from our rocking chairs on the landing half-way down to the dock.

 One of three baby foxes rambling through the woods. The mother fox is beautiful, but she is camera shy.

 It has taken us 10 years to finally see an eagle. I was so excited to capture this one feeding early one morning.

 This yellow beauty, a Prothonotary Warbler is one our favorites. They fly all around the dock and are quite nosy. It's not unusual to see one hovering and checking out they activity on the dock.

 The ducks made a noisy entrance from their winter home.

 The Blue Herons put on a show in the slew. They are quite agile fishers.


 This male Wood Duck stands guard while the female nests. It's amazing to watch them fly into the duck houses Andy built a few years ago

 I never tire watching the Mallard ducks.