Friday, October 12, 2012

Pink Applesauce

Fall is here, and it is truly beautiful here in Michigan.  The leaves are changing colors and the air is brisk! The apple orchards are full of apples ready to be picked.  Cider is pressed and doughnuts are warm and yummy.  This is definitely my favorite time of year. In fact, my house smells like heaven, since I have an apple crisp in the oven and apple sauce cooking on the stove!   Yup, I am preparing for winter!

Every year I make applesauce just like my Mom.  She's 84 and her applesauce is done and in the freezer.  I don't think that I have ever purchased applesauce because it's really easy to make and it tastes wonderful, plus no preservatives!   You can use any type of baking apple or a combination of apples, but I always use Jonathons.  A funny story; when I was younger I wanted to name my future children after apples: Jonathon, Cortland, and McIntosh.  Gwyneth Paltrow could have been a little more creative!

 Next, core the apples, put them in a large pot with a little water and place the lid on the pot.  Simmer on low until the apples a very soft and mushy.  It will take a couple of hours.

 My stove top light tends to yellow my pictures, but this apple "smash" is a nice pink color because of  the apple peel.  When it is cooked down, it's ready for the food mill.
Place a food mill over a large bowl and ladle the apple "smash" into the food mill.  By twisting the handle, the soft apple is pushed  into the bowl, leaving the apple peel in the food mill.  Keep going until all of the apple sauce is in the bowl.
I like to add a little sugar to the apple sauce, but tend to keep it on the tart side.  My husband is the official taster to get just the right amount.  You can add cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever flavors you like.  A friend of mine used to add cinnamon candies.  But, I like just sugar.

 Yummy, a big bowl of apple sauce.  I ladle the apple sauce into plastic containers and freeze them for the year.  Just thaw and eat!  My kids like it best when there are frozen chunks of applesauce, kind of like a slushy!  I like it best with ham or roast pork tenderloin.
Or maybe ,just an afternoon snack!

Hope you're having a wonderful week and an even better weekend!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Time for Jam

August is quickly coming to a close.  Labor day is just around the corner and the football season is about to begin.  August means the end of summer and getting ready for school to begin.  For me, August also means it's time to "can."  With roadside vegetable and fruit stands full of fresh, delicious produce and the Farmer's Market bursting at the seams, I have a tremendous urge to preserve all that "goodness."  I usually "can" sporadically over the late spring and summer, but move into a "higher gear" in August.  

Some of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering why go to all the trouble to preserve food when there is such a plentiful supply at the grocery store?  In other words,   Why "Can"?   I "can" or preserve for a few reasons;  
1.  Once you have the supplies and can reuse the jars over and over, it saves money, especially if the produce comes from your own garden.
2.  The product tastes better.   I know what goes  into the product; there's no preservatives, artificial flavors, and lots of fruit and/or vegetables, no fillers.
3.  With so many amazing recipes available, you can create new products and tailor them to your family's tastes.
4.  Home preserves can be a nice gift to give to those you love. And, yes, I know that not everyone appreciates home preserves, but I try to limit giving my preserves to those that  I know will enjoy the gift. 
4.   I come from a family that preserves food.  My Grandma used to can hundreds of  jars of food, layer meats with fat in large crocks, and have other crocks full of pickles.  She lived on a farm and grew most of the produce.  She had a root cellar for potatoes, onions, apples, squash, etc.  She preserved enough food for a family of eight for a year.  Now, that's a lot of preserving.  Canning was not a choice for her, but a necessity.  My Mom and Aunts also preserve food.  My Mom is 84 years old and just finished canning pickled beets and  a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes.  My daughter also "cans."  So,I guess it's just what we've learned to do and what we enjoy!
3.   Last, but not least, having a pantry lined with homemade preserves is a really gratifying feeling.  I love looking at the jars all lined up, knowing that I am ready for the year! 

This year I tried a new recipe:  Blueberry Lime Jam.  It turned out really well.  The lime juice and zest really gives the blueberry jam a light, crisp taste.  My family seems to love it.
 Decorating the jars is fun and seems to showcase the product.

When canning, fresh produce is a must.  Although limes do not grow in Michigan, there is a fruit market that provides really nice produce that I use when I cannot get really fresh produce.

The Blueberry Jam recipe that I used is from the "Ball Blue Book," a necessity for all those that preserve foods.  I thought I would share the recipe for those interested:

Blueberry Lime Jam

4 1/2 C crushed blueberries
1 pkg. liquid pectin (Certo)
5  C sugar
1 T lime zest
1/3 C lime juice

1.  Crush blueberries one layer at a time.
2.  Combine blueberries, sugar, lime zest, and juice in a large pot.
3.  Heat to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
4.  Add Certo and let return to boil.  Boil for one minute stirring constantly.
5.  Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary.
6.  Ladle into clean, very hot jam jars.  Wipe jar  rims and add lids and rings, leaving 1/4" head space.  Water bath, if preferred.  Lids will seal with a "pop."  If  lids do not seal, refrigerate jam. Please see "Ball Blue Book" for "canning" specifics.

Have a wonderful Labor day weekend, and try making a batch of won't be sorry!

Monday, August 6, 2012

"V" Cookies

You're probably wondering why on earth I would make a couple of dozen "V" cookies.  Well, my "niece" was about to graduate from the University of Vermont (YEA!) and my "cousin", her mother, was planing a graduation/family reunion party in Vermont to celebrate this amazing accomplishment.  Since out last name begins with the letter "V", it seemed an obvious choice.  I'm glad she thought of it!!  I decided to used The University of Vermont's colors of "green and yellow" to decorate the cookies.  I really wanted to make each cookie different, which was fun, but took a bit longer to finish.  As you can see, I was really reaching for ideas near the end...
 From plaid, to polka dots, to lace, flowers, and grapes, I was having fun!

At about this time, I started adding butterflies, caterpillars, hearts, balloons , and more plaid and polka dots.  Yep, polka dots are always fun!

My cousin reported that the party was a lot of fun; it's always fun to gather our extended family together.  She said that everyone enjoyed the cookies and each person got to choose their "favorite!"

I'm so glad that I got to make cookies for the occasion.

And of course, Congratulations to the graduate. 

 Good Luck to you, Rachel, we wish you the very best.  Follow your dreams!

Letter cookies can be used for almost any occasion; you can make these cookies as complex or are as simple as you  like.  They are always a winner! 

Happy August...hope you have a great week!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Colorful Jelly Candies

I've really been interested in learning how to make candies. In fact, all kinds of candies.  I decided to start with jellies and work my way to hard candies, then onto molded chocolates.  The whole "chocolate tempering" is a bit unclear to me.  As it turned out, finding recipes for jellies, or gumdrop candies was not easy.  I wanted a recipe where I could alter colors, and flavors, and use molds.  I finally found a nice recipe in "Candy Cookbook" by Mildred Brand, published by Ideals.  The recipe is pretty simple, but I must admit Ive had trouble reproducing it with consistent results.  

I've made this recipe a number of times, and when it turns out, it's delicious!

I've used LorAnn extracts for flavoring; these hearts are cherry flavored.

Silicon molds are a necessity due to the high temperature of the candy.  I have used Wilton silicon molds, but have found a lot of variety with "Fat Daddio" molds.

This is a Wilton mold and the candies are flavored with a Blackberry extract.

So pretty in a candy dish!

Lemon Hearts!

Orange flavored flowers, daisies and roses

Chewy lime sunflower candies

As I said earlier, I have had trouble with the texture of the candies.  They are often too soft and sticky.  The colors and flavors are wonderful.  I have also used "Tart and Sour"  to make the jellies a little sour, which I like.

These candies are soo much  fun to make, and really tasty.  I plan to practice more this winter, when it is not so hot outside, and try to perfect the consistency of the texture.

Any advice regarding how to obtain the perfect chewy texture, every time, would be appreciated!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beautiful Day Lilies

Summer is here and with it comes those hot, humid days when a cool breeze makes all the difference.  Summer is a time for hot dogs at the ball park, juicy tomatoes off of the vine, swimming, and for me...a time for flowers.  I love a beautiful flower garden and hope someday to have the type of garden with a slate foot path through  scads and scads of flowers!  Not too long ago, my cousin bought a fairly new, beautiful house.  Another cousin, who has an absolutely beautiful yard, was asked to plan the landscaping, as the previous owners didn't quite get around to doing it.  I was roaming the yard with her and another cousin and she was throwing out ideas for plantings.  I suggested Day Lilies in a certain area and she said no,  and I think she called them "junk" flowers.  She had some in her yard and had a tough time getting rid of them.  I was really surprised, as I really love Day Lilies.  But, everyone has their own tastes, which makes the world so much more interesting.  I thought I would share some of our Day Lilies with you, and maybe you will understand why I love them!

We have a few different varieties, but all have similar leaves and of course the blooms only last one day.

There is a farm not too far from us, where they develop different varieties of Day Lilies. A couple of years ago, my husband and kids and I each picked out a Day Lily to bring home that we call our own.  My son and daughter can remember the names of their lilies; I don't remember the name of mine...typical!  I should just make up a new one!

This is the "double, frilly," Day Lily that my husband chose. And, no, he doesn't remember the name either.  It is so pretty!

The is my Day Lily, it is more off white than yellow.  The "Day Lily" experts have been trying to develop a white Day Lily, and I though this was pretty close!

This is a pretty common variety of Day Lily.

This is my daughter's Day Lily.  It's called Music Melody...yes, she remembered the name!  I think this one is particularly pretty, so delicate!

This is my son's Day Lily...Vibrant!  And yes, he remembers its' name..Scarlet O'Hara!

I had to show one with a bug inside!

Another one of my favorites!

Yep, Day Lilies are beautiful flowers!

I hope you're enjoying the summer, it is just flying by.  Stay Cool!