Monday, November 26, 2012

Freezing Pie Crusts

Okay, I know that Thanksgiving was last week and most people want cleansing food right now, not pie, but I have to share the most ridiculously logical and yet unthought-of-by-me approach to pie crusts.  Frozen crusts.  So simple, I can't believe it never crossed my mind before now.  I mean, I have made and frozen disks of pie dough which are easily thawed and rolled accordingly, but I never (call me crazy...I know!) thought to actually roll it out, place it in a pie plate with pretty fluted edges, and freeze it.  It makes pie so easy! 

So, even though Thanksgiving has passed, there are more holidays just around the corner, and you can never be too prepared for homemade pie.  Whip up a double batch of your favorite pie dough or use my favorite all-butter dough, and get it ready ahead of time.  You won't regret it. 

To freeze the crusts, simply chill your dough as you normally would.  Then roll it out and place it in aluminum pie pans (or in your good pie pans if you don't mind freezing them).  Flute the edges as desired, and stack the crusts with wax paper in between each.  Put the stack in a plastic bag or wrap in wax paper and aluminum foil and freeze.  When you need one, just remove it from the bag and bake from frozen just as you would a store-bought crust. 

FYI...the pie in the pictures is Toffee Pecan Pie from Martha Stewart (very likely the best pecan pie recipe you will ever try...seriously!). 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What's For Thanksgiving Dinner?

As I mentioned in my last post, I will be having a small Thanksgiving this year.  Very small, in fact.  Since both of our families live out of town, and my husband's family will be out of state for the holiday, we will be doing Thanksgiving just the two of us.  That means a very scaled back, yet equally yummy holiday dinner.  We did want to make enough for leftovers, though, because really, isn't that the best part of Thanksgiving?

So, we will be having the basics...a small roasted turkey breast, gravy, some stuffing, a veg, and dessert.  As I sat down to try to decide which recipes to use, I thought it would be helpful to offer up some ideas for Thanksgiving.  The following are dishes that will fit perfectly into any holiday dinner, and most of them are easy to prepare.  So, if you are a procrastinator (like me) and are still trying to figure out what to make, check these out.  They make excellent dinner choices and leftovers for the long weekend of football watching, shopping, Christmas tree searching, and decorating that follow the big day. 

Pickled Beet Salad with Walnuts and Fried Goat Cheese
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Pecans and Cider Vinaigrette


Aunt Lynn's Sweet Potato Casserole
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Honey Butter Glaze
Roasted Turnips with Sorghum Syrup
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Applesauce Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting
Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake
Mini Apple Pies with Spiced Apples
Toffee Pecan Pie

Sauces and Pickled Goodies:
Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Pecans
Cranberry Conserve with Apples and Pecans (canned)
Spiced Pickled Pears
Pear and Cranberry Conserve


Monday, November 12, 2012

Canning Thanksgiving Conserve

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and due to various circumstances, the husband and I will probably be spending the holiday at home.  Just the two of us.  That means that, even though we will want a Thanksgiving meal, we don't need to cook nearly as much as if, say, we were spending it with family and friends.  That also means, that even though cranberry sauce is a must-have in my opinion, there is no way we will eat an entire quart of the stuff.  So, I started thinking about canning it.  Actually, I've thought about canning it before, just to have on hand, but never got around to it.  Now, we can have it on Thanksgiving and several other times throughout the year.  Of course, you don't need to wait for a Thanksgiving alone to can cranberry sauce or conserve.  Now is the perfect time to do it while fresh berries are available, and then you will have it on hand all year round.  

The cranberry sauce I make is more of a conserve with the addition of apples and nuts.  If you want to make the conserve without canning, check out last year's post.  For the canned version, I used a recipe from National Center for Home Food Preservation which is almost identical to the recipe I have always used.  It does make a few changes, which I am sure are there to ensure the safety and longevity of the canned product.  The changes include using more sugar (if you use less, the final product may not last as long on the shelf) and limiting the amount of nuts to 1/2 cup.  Their version did include raisins which we don't like, so I added an equal amount of chopped apple.  The apple will not affect the acidity negatively, but to keep it safe, make sure you do not increase the amount of nuts in the conserve from the amount listed.  

The cooking time on this conserve can be anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes once it begins boiling.  You are looking for a temperature of 220 degrees (as if you are making jam).  You can test it out on a chilled plate to see if it mounds and sets up.  

Cranberry Conserve (canned)- makes approx. 5 half pints
adapted slightly from National Center for Home Food Preservation

1 quart (4 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over and washed
1 cup water
3 cups granulated sugar
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Prepare the canner, jars, lids, and rings. 

Place the cranberries, water, sugar, zests, and juices in a skillet over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Cook rapidly, stirring frequently 5 minutes until cranberries begin to pop.  Add the apple, and continue cooking, stirring frequently 15-25 minutes until the mixture reaches a temperature of 220 degrees.  Five minutes before it reaches the desired temperature, add the pecans.  Ladle the mixture into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles, and wipe the jar rims.  Top each jar with a sterilized lid and ring, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove jars to a towel to cool for 24 hours before labeling and storing.

Printable Version

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's That Time Again!

As the days turn crisp and the leaves begin to fall, cabbages of all sizes start showing up at the farmer's market signaling the time for sauerkraut.  After experimenting with sauerkraut several seasons, last year I stumbled upon the easiest and most fool-proof method I have seen.  I posted about it last year, but since it is sauerkraut time again, I thought it would be helpful to have a little reminder. 

This method was published in a Martha Stewart magazine in an article about a woman who owns a company which makes various flavors of sauerkraut.  The method eliminates the need for large fermenting crocks which not everyone has floating around the house and uses pint size canning jars instead.  It also seems to be easier to take the cabbage through the fermenting process without it going bad. Three pounds of cabbage produces approximately three pints of sauerkraut, and it is easy to increase the quantities as needed since you are essentially using a pound of cabbage per jar. 

This year, the cabbages at the market were huge.  I opted for a six pound cabbage which gave me six jars of kraut.  I started them on October 15, so I am a good way through the process.  The longer it sits, the stronger it will taste, so it is good to begin testing it after about twenty days to see if you like it.  You can add flavors such as caraway or apple, but I like to make it without added flavor as it is more versatile that way.  

The basic things to remember with this method (and others) are below: 
  • You will need a cool (around 70 degree) and dark location for fermentation.
  • You will need to save several good-looking outer cabbage leaves to cover your shredded cabbage before placing the lid on top.  
  • You will need to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze the cabbage to extract juice.
  • You will need to loosen the lids on the jars every few days to release pressure (you don't want your ceiling wearing sauerkraut), and you will need to replace any liquid lost with a brine mixture.
  • You will need to store the finished product in the fridge or process it in a boiling water bath for long-term storage. 

If you find yourself with an abundance of cabbage, head over to my original post on this method and try it for yourself.  It is easy and will reward you with great tasting kraut to use through the winter. 

And one more thing, if you have never tried sauerkraut balls, you should head over to Pinterest or search online or a recipe that sounds good to you.  A friend of mine makes these little babies with sausage, sauerkraut, and cream cheese, they are excellent as a holiday appetizer.