Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spiced Pear Butter

I am so thankful that fall is right around the corner, and one thing I love about fall is the fruit.  Apples, figs, pears...they are all wonderful.  My mom and I got together recently and canned some pears from her backyard tree.  She came in with a bucket of pears that we estimated was around twenty pounds just by looking at them, but when weighed, ended up being double that amount.  Apparently I am not very good with visual estimating when it comes to pears.    Our plan to make one recipe with pears quickly turned into us scurrying around to plan several things to do with them.  One of the things we ended up with, and I am so glad we did, was this Spiced Pear Butter.

This butter is so good!  It has a slightly coarser texture than your more typical apple butter since pears are a little grainy, but it makes for an interesting end result.  The spices are definitely present without being too assertive, and I thought it was a little quicker to make than apple butter since it didn't have to cook down quite as long.  The cooking time could vary, however, due to the type of pear being used.  The ones we were using were old-fashioned pears that are hard even when fully ripe so they are not quite as juicy and not as good for eating out of hand.  I am sure the recipe would turn out perfectly fine with other pear varieties but may need to cook a little longer. 

I have tried this butter on biscuits and toast, but it is also very tasty stirred into plain yogurt with a little Fruit and Nut Granola sprinkled on top.  I also think it would be heavenly smeared atop a stack of pancakes in place of the standard syrup or served with pork on a fall evening.  It would also make a fabulous gift for the holidays. 

So, if you're looking for something comforting and familiar while still being a little different, consider giving this a try. 

Spiced Pear Butter- makes approximately 6-7 half-pints

This recipe was adapted (the spices only) from Tart and Sweet.  It was originally supposed to have cardamom in it which would be delicious but happened to be almost fifteen dollars when I went to purchase it, so I changed the quantities of the other spices to compensate for my lack of cardamom.  If you wish to use cardamom, add 1 teaspoon of it with the other spices, but cut the cinnamon and nutmeg from 3/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each. 

6 pounds pears, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Prepare your canner, jars, and lids.

Place the pears, lemon juice, sugar, and spices in a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer approximately one hour until the pears are soft and can be smashed with a wooden spoon. 

Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Return the mixture to the pot, and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, for 20-25 minutes until the butter mounds on a spoon and no liquid seeps around the edge of the mound. 

Ladle the hot mixture into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles from each jar.  Wipe the jar rims, and top each jar with a sterilized lid and ring.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars to a towel to cool for 24 hours before labeling and storing. 
 Printable Version

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jalapeno Peppers: Dehydrated

I realize I seem a little pepper crazy these days, but the summer is drawing to an end and some of you may find yourselves with peppers you need to use or preserve, so I thought I would share one more idea.

A while back I told you I purchased entirely too many jalapeno peppers.  I was a little overwhelmed by them at first, not sure what to do with the excess, but I quickly found functional uses.  I made pickled jalapeno slices and jalapeno jelly, but I still had a little over two pounds of peppers that hung out in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  Just as a few began to look a little wrinkly, I decided I had to finish what I started.  I wasn't sure exactly which direction to take, but I knew I wanted something I could use in everyday recipes like rice, salsa, and soup without a lot of extra effort.  I decided to dehydrate them, and that turned out to be a perfect way to preserve them.  They are dried enough to make them shelf stable for a while, but they also rehydrate nicely in soups and other liquids. 

What you will need to be successful is an oven with a drying feature (like mine), a dehydrator, or an oven that will allow you to set the temperature somewhere around 140-150 degrees.  You will also want to use a wooden spoon or other object (something that won't melt) to prop the oven door open just a little to allow the moisture to escape as the peppers dry.

I started with around two pounds of peppers that I washed and dried.  I removed the stem end from each pepper and used a small paring knife to carefully remove most of the seeds from inside.  I then sliced the peppers somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.  You could also make your life a little easier and slice them without removing the seeds and either dry them with the seeds intact or shake them a bit to loosen some before drying. Just remember, the more seeds you leave in, the hotter they will be. 

Once they were sliced, I placed them in a single layer on several unlined baking sheets and placed them in the oven to dry.  They took somewhere between 10 and 12 hours to dry completely.  You want the end result to be very dry, almost crisp and brittle in order for the pepper slices to be shelf stable.  If they are still leathery, they will not keep on the shelf and will need to be frozen for long-term storage. 

After they were completely dehydrated and cooled, I placed them in a tight sealing jar (my two pounds made about 1 pint of dried peppers) and am storing them in my cabinet.  They make great additions to salsas and cornbread (rehydrate them and chop them a little first), soups (especially with corn and potato), and other dishes where you would be cooking the peppers anyway. 

So, if you find yourself with a surplus of jalapenos (or other types of pepper) or just want to have some on hand for the cooler months, try dehydrating them.  It's as simple as turning on the oven!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jalapeno Jelly After a Long Absence

After a longer than expected absence from blogging, I'm finally back.  I really didn't intend over two weeks to pass between posts, but I ran into some issues (some wonderful, others not so much) which kept me away.  One was a trip to Utah which I got back from on Friday.

Utah was full of beauty.

Beautiful landscapes...

Beautiful farmer's markets filled with produce including these tomatoes...

and beautiful mile high biscuits served at a great little diner for breakfast.

And as if Utah didn't offer enough beauty, I stepped off the plane and drove straight to the NC mountains for the first apples of the season.  Here is the apple pie I made when I got them home.  

The other not so beautiful thing that kept me away from the computer was a storm which blew some obviously important part of the computer out of whack causing us to go without internet all weekend and week up to today.  Oh well, you can't have everything. 

So, I'm back, and posting about a recipe I have been meaning to write about for a while now.  Jalapeno jelly is the perfect jelly for those of you who may be like me and want something that goes beyond toast.  This jelly is sweet but it also has enough heat from the chiles to make it interesting in a savory kind of way.  It is perfect served with snacks and is very popular as hor d'oeuvres in the South where it almost always appears atop a huge mound of cream cheese.  It goes beyond these common uses though and pairs well with meats, and a spoonful goes a long way to adding unexpected flavor to a vinaigrette. 

The recipe is made without the common need of removing juice from fruit to make jelly which makes it relatively quick and painless.  The heat can be adjusted by altering some of the chiles used.  The recipe comes from Ball and I am posting it below for my own records.  The original recipe stated that it made five (8 oz) jars but mine made six and still had a very good set. 

Jalapeno Jelly-  makes 5-6 half-pint jars

12 oz jalapeƱo peppers 
2 cups cider vinegar, divided
6 cups sugar
2 3-oz pouches of liquid pectin
Green food coloring, optional
Prepare your canner and sterilize jars, lids, and rings. 

Puree the peppers and 1 cup cider vinegar in a blender until smooth.  Combine the puree with the remaining vinegar and the sugar and bring to a boil in a large non-reactive saucepan.  Continue to boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Quickly squeeze all of the pectin into the mixture and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and add the food coloring, if using, until the desired shade of green is achieved.  Skim the foam from the top of the jelly using a clean spoon. 

Ladle the jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe the rims and place lids and rings on each jar.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove to a towel to cool for 24 hours before checking seals and storing. 



Monday, August 6, 2012

Under Pressure

A little over a year ago, I took a class on pressure canning.  In the class we canned green beans, and it looked so easy I became obsessed with getting a pressure canner.  I was imagining myself canning jar upon jar of soup, chili, vegetables, and stock.  I finally broke down and purchased one.  I was so excited when it arrived in the mail.  I removed it from the box and set it aside.  I looked at it daily.  And looked at it.  And looked at it some more.  I just could not get up the nerve to use it.  I don't know why, but I was intimidiated by it like I think so many people are.  Finally, I put it in the closet where I saw it occasionally and promised myself I would eventually put it to good use.  Well, I am glad to say, that I finally ventured into the pressure canning arena and found it to be very low on the scary scale afterall.  I've been using my pressure canner for soups and stocks, and I'm enjoying my newfound canning flexibility.  

Soup getting ready for the pressure canner
So, here I offer you a great recipe for vegetable soup which I have posted before under my Cooking page (for those of you who may want to make it but not can it).  This is the soup I have been eating all my life.  You can make it with or without ground meat.  This particular version has a half pound of lean ground beef, but you can certainly omit it with no negative consequences to flavor.  You will want to read my new page Pressure Canning 101 if you are new to pressure canning, and you will definitely want to read the manual that comes with your canner as well.  It is a simple and completely safe process if you do your research ahead of time. 

Jars of soup going into the pressure canner before the lid was placed on top
Pressure canning uses higher temperatures than the water bath method.  The higher temperatures are necessary to kill botulinum spores found in moist low-acid foods (like soup and vegetables), so it is important that this soup be either pressure canned or frozen for storage. 

Finished soup-  the bubbles are the result of the soup continuing to boil inside the jars upon removal from the canner.  Once the jars were cool, the bubbles were no longer present.
Vegetable Beef Soup for Pressure Canner-  makes approximately 6 quarts

You can omit the meat if you prefer a vegetarian soup.  You can also add other vegetables that you like.  When canning this soup, I only cook it a few minutes as it will continue to cook in the pressure canner, and you don't want to end up with a mushy soup.  Once it comes to a boil and tastes good to you, it is time to put it in the jars.  Make sure you taste this soup each time you make it as you may need to add more of the condiments to get the flavor right for you.  The amounts are flexible.     

1/2 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 ears worth of fresh corn kernels, sliced from the cobs
1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in 1 inch pieces
1 quart fresh or frozen lima beans or other shelled bean of choice
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 quart diced tomatoes in their own juices
2 quarts vegetable juice such as V-8, plus more if soup is too thick
1 heaping tsp minced garlic
1-2 tsp A-1 sauce
3-4 drops hot sauce
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbsp ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your pressure canner and jars. 

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add the beef and cook, crumbling, until brown.  Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Add the vegetables, diced tomatoes, and vegetable juice.  If too thick, add more juice until it is the consistency you desire.  Add the A-1, hot sauce, Worchestershire, and ketchup, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the soup to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Taste the liquid to make sure it is seasoned according to your preferences, and add more juice to thin the soup out if needed. 

Pack the hot soup into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1 inch headspace.  Remove the air bubbles from the jars.  Wipe the rims of the jars well to remove any residue, and place sterilized lids and rings on top.  Place the jars in your prepared pressure canner.  Process at 11 pounds of pressure according to your canner's instructions (adjusting correctly for altitude) for 75 minutes (for quart jars).  Pints can also be canned and will need to processed 60 minutes.   

Printable Version

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Headspace!

One year ago today, I made my first post on Headspace.  Since then I have done a lot of cooking, canning, and writing about it all, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. 

This blog is just a small thing started for my own benefit more than anything else.  In the process of cataloging my activities I've picked up a few readers and have had many visitors, and I want to thank those of you who take the time to stop by and read about my kitchen adventures. 

For Headspace's birthday, I am trying to make some things a little more user friendly.  One thing I'm going to be doing is linking a printable version of each recipe to its corresponding post.  I've done this with a few so far, and hopefully will find time to go back and do it to all of the old posts.  For now, though, any new recipes posted will have the printable version.

I have also started using a Facebook page for Headspace that I started a year ago.  No one knows about the page at this point because I have not been using it, but feel free to visit and share it if you like.  When I post on the blog, I will link the post to the Facebook page.     

I hope this will be a helpful feature.  In addition, I am working on several other features, and I will let you know about those as I get them worked out.  If you have any suggestions of things you would like to see on the blog or things that would make it more user friendly, please let me know.  I can't promise I will make them happen, but I will definitely try.

One year down, many more to go!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Easiest Peach Cobbler

We're in the thick of it....peach season, that is, and if you're anything like me there's nothing like a good peach cobbler to make it feel like summer.  Well, that and 100 degree days.  I've made many cobblers over the years, and they have all been a little different while still carrying the name cobbler.  Some were topped with strips of buttery pie crust while some had dollops of dough baked into the filling.  Still some, like my Old-Time Peach Crumb Pudding, taste just like something your grandmother would have made or a dessert you would get in a little country diner.  But the cobbler I am talking about today has something going for it that those others don't.  It is, by far, the easiest and quickest to make and it doesn't dirty up a bunch of dishes in the process. 

My sister-in-law turned me on to this cobbler which comes from Pioneer Woman.  Ree used blackberries, but others fruits work just as well, and I found the peaches to be perfect.  The batter is mixed first and poured into a shallow baking dish, and the sliced peaches are gently placed on top.  As the cobbler bakes, the batter puffs up around the peaches to create a light breading that is gooey on the inside, crisp on top, and delicious through and through.  

Easiest Peach Cobbler- serves 8

I am renaming this Easiest Peach Cobbler to distinguish it from other cobblers I make.  I have not changed this recipe except to substitute peaches for blackberries, and I can claim no credit for it in any way.  It is all Pioneer Woman's genius.  I am posting it here so that I have a record of it for myself made with peaches.  Check out Ree's original post for yourself, and enjoy!

1 stick butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
2 cups peeled, sliced peaches

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a shallow baking dish (I used a 1 1/2 quart oval dish). 
Melt the butter. Pour 1 cup of sugar and flour into a mixing bowl, whisking in milk. Mix well. Then, pour in melted butter and whisk it to combine. 

Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish.  Gently lay the peach slices on top of the batter, distributing evenly. Sprinkle ¼ cup sugar over the top.

Bake for 1 hour until golden brown on top.  Serve plain or with ice cream or whipped cream on the side.

Printable Version

Posted by on July 3 2009