Saturday, September 22, 2012

Do the Can Can

So, you want to learn how to Can do you? When people ask me how to do it my reply is usually something like "I dunno......I just do".

Growing up we had a fair sized garden and my mom did lots of canning. It was really more out of necessity than anything. We lived in a very small isolated community and in the winter we often couldn't go to town for weeks at a time. We had a small community grocery store that had the basics, you know, bread, eggs and milk, but it was very expensive and didn't have everything you needed.

My mom canned the basics....peaches, pears, cherries, salmon. Yes salmon, but don't worry, today we will start with something far easier than Salmon.

I always suggest apples as a good place to start. They are abundant in the fall and very forgiving no matter what you do to them but since I am already up to my eyeballs in peaches, we will start there, and I'll do this in laymans terms so feel free to follow along with a glass of wine.

What you NEED (there are lots of other things that are nice to have but you can start out with a very basic set up)......

~a large stock pot,
~canning jars (500ml/pint jars are great for beginners),
~fruit of choice (we are using peaches today),
~a pair of tongs
~a whole lot of ambition.

The very first thing you do is wash your jars and rings. I run mine through the sani cycle. Set the seals aside for now we will get to those shortly.

Now you want your peaches to be nice and ripe because you need to peel them. You can dip them in boiling water for ten seconds and then ice water to shock them and the skin should just slide off but I prefer to use peaches that are ripe enough that the skin just peels off without having to blanch them. Beware though, they are so yummy at this stage you may eat more than you can. So cut the peach around the pit the same way you do an avocado, then twist the halts and they should come apart, this is where you will be thankful that you got freestone peaches. The stone will come right away, then pick the stone out of the other half, it should pop right out. Then grab a piece of skin and just start to pull the skin off. If the peach is the perfect ripeness it should slide right off. You can leave them in halves for quarter them or slice them. Whatever you like then toss them in to the jars. Pack them pretty good, and get about 3/4" from the top.

Once your jars are all full you want to make a syrup to pack the jars with. I use a very light syrup. 1cup of sugar to 4 cups of water. Put sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. While waiting for the syrup to boil Put the seals in another pot of water and bring them to a boil. Once boiled, remove from heat and set aside. Pour the syrup in to the jars leaving about 1/2"-3/4" of headspace. Use a knife slid into the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles and top up with syrup of needed. Wipe jar rim, using tongs remove seal from hot water pan and put on the jar, screw ring on but only finger tight. What this means is just screw it on and give it one good crank. Don't go overboard tightening it. This inhibits the ability for air to escape and a vacuum to be created.

Once you have all of your jars filled and lids on place in your large pot....ideally you will have an actual canning pot with a rack but no worries if you don't. You can buy the racks separately to fit in your really big soup pot or I just cover the bottom with extra rings until a little rack is created. Place jars in the pot and fill with water until there is 1" of water above the jars and put the lid on (I had not yet put the lid on in the photo to the left). Turn stove on high (if you have a flat top range you need to do this on a camp stove outside or at a friends house. Flat top stoves don't like canners) once the water comes to a boil you start your processing time.  For pints you process for 30 minutes and for quarts 35 minutes.  Once the timer goes off, turn the heat off and remove the jars from the pot.  Use tongs to do this and place the jars on a heavy towel to cool.  You want to leave them alone until they are fully cooled, as they cool you will hear the lids snap, this means they have sealed.  Once the jars are completely cool, check the seal by tapping on the lid.  An unsealed lid makes a hollow sound and you can push it down in the center, a sealed lid is already sucked down on it's own.  Now you have canned peaches to enjoy over the winter.  Peaches will remain shelf stable for at least a year.  They are still good after that but a year is generally when the quality will begin to decline.

When you put up your jars remember to remove the rings and store them separately.  This is important, if a seal breaks in storage and bacteria grows you want to know that when you take the jar down.  If the rings are off, the seal will be broken when you take the jar down alerting you to the spoiled jar, if you leave the ring on the contents can ferment and bacteria can grow and the jar can reseal itself trapping the bacteria in and you would never know, and you put yourself at risk.  Now this sounds scary, but in my entire life I've never had a jar unseal while in storage.  I did have one jar of jam that looked iffy when I took it down but it was still sealed....I tossed it.  Better safe than sorry.

So there you have it, happy canning!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Home Made Goat Cheese. YUM

I bought 2 liters of goat's milk recently and unfortunately it didn't end up being needed for it's intended purpose.  Well we've tried goat's milk around here before and no one liked it.  I didn't want it to go to waste so I had to figure out what the heck I was going to do with it.

A-HA.....I've got it!!!  I love goat cheese.  How hard can it be, I will make goat cheese.  So I Googled, I learned, and I made goat cheese.  I will share with you how I did it.

You will need the following:

Large stainless pot, or double boiler
Candy thermometer
Wire mesh colander
Cheese cloth (I prefer muslin)
Large bowl
Goat's milk

Pour Goat's milk into the pot and set on a medium stove, clip candy thermometer to the side of the pot.  Allow heat to rise gradually to 185*.  This can take upto 30 minutes or more.  Whisk often.  Once the temperature is at 185* hold it steady for about ten minutes or so.  You will do this by lowering the heat on the stove slightly.  Once ten minutes has passed, remove from heat and immediately add 1 tbsp of vinegar and whisk until well mixed, you will notice it will start to curdle.  It may not look like much but resist the urge to add more vinegar.  Let mixture sit until temperature drops to about 120*.  Place Colander over a large, deep bowl and line with cheese cloth (layered 4 or 5 times) or Muslin (single or double layer).  Gently pour contents of saucepan over the muslin and allow whey to drain into the bowl while curds remain in the cloth.  Once all of the contents of the pot are in the cloth you can let sit, or you can lift the cloth and gather it at the top and gently squeeze the liquid out of the curds.  Once you have the liquid removed you will be left with amazingly tasty and fresh goat cheese.  From here you can add whatever you like.  My favourite is a little minced garlic and dill!!  Yum.  Cheese will be warm and spreadable, however as it sits, the flavours will intensify and it will become more crumbly like the goat cheese you buy at the grocery store.  This makes a fair bit of cheese and it should last nicely for upto two weeks in the refrigerator.  Ours was gone in just a few days. 

It appears as though I did not take any photographs of the process, only the finished product.  So here it is!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Best Bread Ever

I love to bake.  I love to bake bread.  Since my first child was born I have baked almost all of the bread consumed by my family.  Sure, I still slack from time to time and buy bread at the grocery store, especially in the summer when it gets too hot to bake in my house, but most of the time the family gets to eat nice warm yummy baked from scratch bread. 

I know what you're thinking....ugh, so ambitious, but so time consuming.  WRONG.  Over the years I have tried what seems like dozens of bread recipes on my family.  I was on the search for something quick and easy.  Oxymoron right, how can bread be quick and easy?  I managed to find a single rise recipe that was almost perfect so I tweaked it to make it mine, and make it perfect.  I have carefully guarded this recipe for a number of years, and now I have decided to share it with all of you.  Yes it's true, now you can bake the yummy fresh bread for your family that you have always wanted to bake, but felt you have never had the time to.

Here is what you need.

6 cups Flour
2 plus a little bit cups of water
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
1/4 cup of sugar (white or brown)
4.5 tsp (2 packets) quick rise or instant yeast

I like to use my Kitchen Aid mixer to make my bread, but you can do it by hand if you don't have a mixer.  Just a note on your mixer.  If you have a Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand mixer or the equivalent in another brand, this recipe is a tight fit for your mixer bowl and can be tough on the motor.  If you plan to make bread frequently I recommend one of the KA pro series bowl lift mixers or equivalent or that it be done by hand once you get to the point where you are adding the final two or three cups of flour.  You will be able to gauge for yourself how your mixer handles the dough.

Okay.  Here we go.  Use a class 2 cup measure and fill full with lukewarm water and pour into the mixer bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of melted butter.  in a separate bowl place 4 cups of flour (3 if you are using an artisan stand mixer) and mix yeast in with the flour.  Pour flour mixture into liquid and place on mixer.  Attach dough hook to mixer and mix on 1 or 2 until smooth and elastic.  add remaining flour one cup at a time (Important note, make sure you stop the mixer before you add each cup of flour or you will make a huge mess).  Mix on one or two until well mixed before adding the next cup of flour.  Continue mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.  Turn off mixer and turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for a bit until smooth.  Let rest for ten minutes then divide and place into greased loaf pans.  Let rise for 30 min then bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.  Remove from oven, remove from loaf pan and enjoy.   Yum!!

So there you have it, there is my secret!!

Another thing you can do is make the dough to freeze.  It is a little trickier than making it to bake, but still quite easy.  Instead of using instant yeast, use traditional yeast.  Put the yeast into the liquid and let proof for 10 min.  Continue as noted in above instruction.  When you get to the resting point, let bread rest/rise for 30 min, punch down, shape loaves and put in pans, and place in the freezer.  Once frozen remove from the pan and wrap in saran wrap and place in a large ziplock in the deep freeze.  They should keep fresh for a few months easily.  When you are ready for fresh bread take a loaf of dough out of the freezer, unwrap and place in a greased loaf pan, place in refrigerator overnight to thaw, then place on the stove with the oven preheating and let rise for 30-40 min (Until double in size) then bake as indicated above!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What You Will and Will Not Find Here

So I'm a bit of a foodie. I love to cook, I love to eat. I make most things from scratch including yogurt, granola, treats, bread and most meals.

What you won't find here. You won't find any tips on how to make one chicken feed your family of 11 for 6 days. You won't find any recipes for lentil bean tacos (I tried them after getting rave reviews even by picky eaters on this forum I participate in) they did NOT go over well in my house. You also won't find tips on feeding for family of 11 for $65 a week. Sorry. I've tried all of these and failed. Miserably. So I don't try anymore.

I won't rave on and on about the benefits of "family cloth". Google it if you have questions, and no our family does not use it. I'm not "there" yet.
You won't find posts that lean far to the right, nor will you find posts leaning far to the left. That said I'm not really straight down the middle either. I'm not sure where I am.

What you WILL find. Nutritious meals that your whole family will love. Tips and tricks for getting wholesome ingredients into the tummies of your children. Simple, healthy foods for families on the run. Fun things to do without spending a ton of money, and other day to day goings on of a (mostly) happy homemaker.

You also may find me begging for wine or other sedatives, complaining about Lego and pondering thoughts on how laundry multiplies so quickly. I might be A Happy Homemaker but sometimes I need a little help maintaining "happy". You will find humorous quips and outtakes from my day to day life as A Happy Homemaker. I hope you enjoy reading.

Monday, January 16, 2012

So Here We Are. Hello 2012

It is 2012 and I have a great number of things planed.  I don't believe in resolutions but i do believe in setting goals.  So I set a few.

  1. Knit a sweater for the baby Bee
  2. Knit a sweater for me
  3. Knit a pair of socks
  4. Grow something (other than humans)
I suspect that this will turn into some sort of running list for 2012.  I keep thinking of other things I want to accompish this year.  I suppose I will add the to the list as the year goes on.  Just know that on the day I set these goals I only had 1, 2 & 3 in mind.

Here's looking at you 2012!!