Monday, September 27, 2010

Jam III: Minty

For our third jam session of the season we decided to go the way of savory as opposed to sweet. And it was convenient that Andrej's dad loves him some mint jelly.

This was a two-part process because the first batch went no where. This was mainly because Hill's dad told her there was mint growing in his yard, and while it did taste slightly minty, it was not the real thing. Still not sure if it was a mint cousin, but alas it was off to our beloved Horrock's to buy some premium mint.


From there the process is not too bad. I believe the whole thing was done in less than two hours. Chop the mint and boil with water for 10 seconds, strain and reserve 1 cup of remaining liquid.


Return strained liquid to sauce pan with apple juice, vinegar, sugar and food coloring (we had to use a lot to get a rich green color, real mint jelly is not green). Bring to boil and add pectin. Ladle into jars, cover and process.


Note: prepare the water canner long before you want to place the jars inside. I think I turned it on right before and it took almost half an hour for it to come to a boil.


The end result was a tart, minty apple jelly that is good on toast or pork chops. Yum.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Liver-best (or self.com)

I happened across this very interesting site the other day while trying to prove a bet:

http://nutritiondata.self.com/

And this is what I discovered:

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sausages-and-luncheon-meats/1479/2

I grew up with liverwurst as a kid, but ever since Peppridge Farm stopped making it, nothing else ever compared. But, now that I'm doing all the food shopping 'round these parts, I can buy whatever I want (within reason). When I noticed that there was a sale on Kroger brand, I decided to pick up a bit and give it another shot.

It was even better than I can ever remember. Smooth, soft, tangy, perfect with toast and mustard.

Unfortunately, Hillary got wind of this, and asked me what it was made out of. After that conversation, I'm not allowed to bring it into the house. Le sigh.

I guess the point that I'm trying to make from all this is that Self.com is pretty cool. It has nutritional information for basically any food you can think of, broken down into amino acids, vitamins, nutrient density, caloric ratio, glycemic load, and the food's favorite thing to do on Saturdays.

From all this, I learned that Liverwurst is really very good for you (besides the fat and cholesterol). It's a nutritionally complete food that gives you all the essential amino acids and iron you could ever want. True, the first three ingredients are pork livers, pork fat, and bacon fat, but come on. It tastes really good!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pudding

We like a lot of snacks with our lunches, and one thing we get almost every week is packs of pudding. They come four to a pack and cost about $.89 at Aldi, which is really not too bad.

However, this past week we got to thinking, would it be even cheaper to make our own? The answer is YES. We bought a packet of pudding mix for about 50 cents and all you have to add is milk. One pack of powdered pudding makes about the same yield as a four-pack of the pre-packaged stuff, perhaps even a little more. And since we buy milk anyway, that was no extra expense. The best part...it is so much yummier! The texture and color are better and it doesn't taste like it's been sitting in plastic on a shelf for years (because it hasn't!) Just be sure to keep your home-made variety in the fridge instead of the shelf.

The only conundrum you might face with packaging your own snacks is just that: packaging. Small glass or plastic containers can be expensive, so remember to save the ones that your groceries come in (namely cottage cheese and sour cream containers, we find these are the most convenient sizes.) Most are dishwasher save on the top rack, too.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jam II: Electric Boogaloo

Several forces are at work convincing me to craft more jams. Firstly, ReadyMade magazine had an article showcasing some spiffy homemade jams, and included four recipes. Secondly, while perusing though the thrift store, we came across a carton of 25 half-pint jars for $1.50. Thirdly, we have already used up two of the seven jars of blackberry jam which we made earlier this year.

This means war.

Conveniently, we have a wild grape vine growing in our backyard. Every year it produces a modest amount of grapes. We have been checking it all summer to see how they are coming along, and finally we harvested them. All together we got just over three pounds (enough to make a batch of jam)

We generally followed the recipe on the no sugar needed Ball Pectin, but we didn't use a jelly bag and kept most of the skins in, to make it more jam-like.

First, pick off all grapes from stems and rinse in batches. We did not use any grapes that were split open, or any that had black spots on them.


Next, we mashed them in layers in a large pot with a potato masher. This was a little difficult since as you add more grapes they tend to slip in between the masher, but we got it done. Something with a finer mesh would be better.


Then, add water and boil mixture for about ten minutes. At this point we discovered we had too many skins and it was looking a little weird so we put some of the skins and pulp in a strainer and pushed the juice out.


From here we add pectin and sweetener (we added about 2 cups white sugar, you can add up to 3) and boil for one minute. We forgot to do the jelly test so our mixture was a bit runny, but it set fine once in the jars. This recipe yielded 6 half pint jars of a pinkish tart jelly. Really yummy!


edit: added pictures!