Pizza Sauce and other tomato canning

Today was another day of working on the tomatoes. I looked back and the last post on tomato work was done on Oct. 2, 2017 and I wrote out the soup recipe at that time. I think today’s soup was much better, but that is probably my opinion. Today we took every last ripe tomato off the table, out of the boxes and out of the sleds. There is a post back someplace in this past month that shows how we were running out of space to store the tomatoes that were picked but not quite ripe, and so we grabbed the long plastic sleds from the garage and used them. It was a great way to transport them too.

I am happy to report that by the end of today, the sleds have been emptied and all of the tomatoes are in the house on the extra table under newspapers waiting to ripen. So far we have not had to throw very many away, which is nice. Each year several spoil with the ripen them in the house method, but the alternative is to allow them to freeze outside and they are all lost. I think this is a better idea.

So, I should have done this canning yesterday, but after Thursday’s marathon of house cleaning, I was not moving too well. Today we also had one extra hand as Paulina was home. I started the day with a batch of bread but that didn’t turn out so well this time. Paulina ended up cutting it into cubes and tomorrow she will brown them into croutons. We will see how that turns out. I tried it one other time with very little luck, but knowing her it will be great.

When we were finished with the tomatoes today, we had 5 quarts of juice, 4 quarts and 1 pint of soup, and 16 half pints and 3 pints of pizza sauce. This is the biggest batch we have done this year. James and I figure we should be at about 3 or 4 more times of processing tomatoes before the year is over. As for the soup recipe, it is on the post from Oct. 2. I looked and looked for my recipe for the pizza sauce and could not find anything. I looked at the single jar of it left in the pantry and found I had done those in 2015, so I was sure that I had posted it on the blog, but no luck there. I finally went to the Ball Blue Book and checked, and the only thing I could find was tomato sauce, so we went with that.

Truthfully, I have come up with my own concoction based on what I know about canning. The issue is that I never have a firm handle on how many ounces or pints or gallons of tomato liquid I am dealing with when I start. It is always sort of a hit or miss sort of thing. I wish that I had a way to measure the level of acid in what is in the pot, but I usually add lemon juice just to be sure of hitting enough acid to prevent any sort of spoilage or sickness.

Soup, pizza sauce and juice. The bottom of the sign says “seasoned with love”

For this sauce, which turned out to be 5 1/2 quarts of liquid, I used 1/8 cup of canning salt, not quite 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, about 1 Tablespoon of garlic salt and 1/2 cup of Italian seasoning. We used only Roma tomatoes for this batch. Throughout the entire process I kept pouring off the runny liquid and blended and sieved out the seeds of that and poured it into jars until we had exactly 5 quarts. Paulina peeled the Roma tomatoes, while I peeled the Celebrity and the Big Boys. Those that I peeled were blended separately and put into their own stock pot to make the soup. I also took the liquid off the ones I peeled, and added it to the juice. I think this is the first year that I have planted the Celebrity variety, and I find them to be a bit sweeter. The juice from them has been fantastic. I hope to plant more of them next year and a few less of the Romas, though they produce so much better. Actually for me the Big Boys don’t seem to produce very well, but I probably don’t feed them as much as they need. I will have to try some different methods with them. I also might try rotating where the stands go. I have some stands that seem to always grow smaller plants. I wonder if it has something to do with the medal that they leach into the soil? I guess that is enough of my tomato making story for one day. I need to get to working on my message for tomorrow. The gospel scripture is on rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Not sure how to drag that out for 10 minutes, but I will have to find something. Catch you later!!

Let the canning begin!

I finally washed up the tomatoes, took out the kettles, and did up the first batch of the 2017 season. In the end there are 4 quarts of juice and 6 quarts and one pint of the best spaghetti sauce that I have ever made. I say that because I know the flavor is always there, but this time, I figured out how to reduce the excess juice without boiling it forever, thus the 4 quarts of juice on the side. I strained off as much juice as possible and ran it through the jelly cone before I dumped the blanched-peeled tomatoes into the stock pot. In the end I  pureed a couple of tomatoes and added them to the juice to at least have some pulp. I also added 1/2 a teaspoon of canning salt, sugar and lemon juice to each quart.

Spaghetti and juice

For the spaghetti sauce I must have had about 6 quarts of tomatoes in the stock pot. I heated it on medium and added: 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup canning salt and nearly a full cup of Italian seasoning and a shake of garlic salt. I usually stir it up and heat it just below a boil then check the flavor before I put it in jars. Each batch to me is a bit different because the flavor really depends on the tomatoes. Tonight I didn’t need to do anything else to it. I filled clean quart jars and sealed them up. After 20 minutes of boiling in a canner kettle, I set them out to seal, and happily all of them have. James thinks that we should have spaghetti for supper tomorrow night. We shall see.

Tuesday cooking from the garden

Fried potatoes with beets and beans

Today I was so tired and it was so warm when I got home from school that I decided to stay inside. I was trying to watch Jeopardy when I fell asleep on the couch, pretty standard event for me. I love that show, but I fall asleep almost every time I watch it. Afterwards I proceeded to work on supper. I peeled a couple of the cucumbers from yesterday’s picking and put them into a vinegar and cream mixture. Next I peeled and cubed the beet, and about five small potatoes, then I sliced up some of the beans all from yesterday’s gathering and put all of them into a fry pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter and a bit of olive oil. I salted them with some sea salt, this is good for flavor and makes the beans weep which adds enough moisture to enhance the cooking.

Fried potatoes with beans

This is sooooo tasty. The potatoes and beans are great alone, but the beet adds a little color and gives a little sweetness to the dish. A pan of this never has left overs, which is my newest issue in my anti-clutter mission.

I also took the one frozen pie crust that was left in the freezer and used it to make a couple of apple pie tarts. For filling I used half a quart of apple pie filling that I canned last year. I have been hoarding those jars because I know we don’t usually have a large apple crop two years in a row. But it might be time to use a few of them now and then. It was a welcome desert this evening and gets another corner of the freezer emptied. I need to clear out whatever I can as there will probably be a few items to add before the snow hits. I have a feeling when the frost comes and those flower plants are gone, we will finally find a good beet and carrot crop. Yikes!! What I should harvest this year are the seeds from the cosmos plants. I wonder if I could find an outlet for them. For that matter maybe I should consider the holly hocks. Well, I guess enough rambling for today.

Jam Thumbprint cookies

Jam Thumbprint cookies

This recipe is from Homemade Cookies Cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens.

Last night I made cookies. I was so sure that the chokecherry jelly was too thick and so would never spread that I dug around for a cookie recipe that could use up the jelly. Well surprise for me when I opened the jar, the jelly was the perfect consistency to spread on bread. I made the cookies anyway. James said I can make them again anytime with any jelly.

 

I, par for my style of baking and cooking, did not fully follow the recipe. I omitted the nuts and did not put the meringue on the cookies. I am guessing that is why they are a bit dry. Of course it could have been because I used vegetable shortening instead of butter. They taste like a cross between a sugar and a shortbread cookie. All I know is they go great with a cold glass of milk and I plan to double the recipe the next time I make them. We only ended up with about 32 cookies instead of 48, but then we may have made them a bit larger than we were supposed to.

What have you been baking???

Choke Cherry Jelly

Bowls full enough

Tree full

Last Friday when it was too cold to have the pool open, meaning Paulina was home in the afternoon, and my Aunt Glenda was still in Phoenix, Paulina and I took two medium sized bowls and went to Glenda’s to pick the choke cherries. I normally don’t bother her tree, but after I had posted the pictures of our little tree, and she commented that someone should pick hers, I took that for permission. We filled those bowls as you can see on the picture, and still left plenty behind for another picker.

Mashing the cherries

It took until Sunday afternoon before we got to the actual canning part. It should have been sooner, but things never quite work out on the weekends. Here is what we did. We washed the cherries in a strainer and carefully picked out all of the stems that were still on. Next we put all the cleaned cherries into a large pot and put them on the stove on medium to heat up and eventually boil. As they got hotter, we took the potato masher that we reserve for canning purposes and mashed them down.

stirring in the cone

Eventually–well after the jars were washed and the counter was cleared of all the other dirty dishes, we got to the stage of running them through the canning cone. I don’t know what the exact name is for this thing, but to me it is the cone. I also have an original from back in the day so to speak. You can buy these new again. I am not sure how old this one is, I bought it used when we were first married, so I have had it fairly close to 35 years and have used it every year we had a garden. Because of the high stain value of choke cherries, I made sure everything we used was either glass or stainless steel. I should have checked the dish towels more carefully or insisted on paper. In the clean up, I found that my “like new” dish towel that I use to cover the bread dough was in the clean up mix and now after treatment has three blue spots on it. Oh well, nothing nice ever keeps that way it seems.

So the next phase was actually making the jelly. The recipe which I took from my New Salem Band Cookbook that I purchased many years ago while taking a writing workshop in Bismarck. I bought it from a workshop classmate whose daughter was in that band, but introvert me, I never kept track of her name. Anyway, the recipe verifies with the one from the Sur-Jell box.

boiling up the syrup

In the jars.

Chokecherry Jelly: 5 cups chokecherry juice, 7 cups of sugar, 1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin. In a large kettle mix juice and pectin. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Add sugar and again bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Boil 1 minute or until 2 strands come together when poured from a spoon. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal. The Sure-Jell box said this would make 9 cups. Ha Ha!! I read and followed the instructions right up to the word occasionally. Apparently long words are getting hard for me to understand, or at the best, my patience for long instructions is fading. I stirred constantly and did not stop the boil at 1 minute. I kept trying to figure out how we were going to make it turn into a strand. I kept thinking of the consistency of hard candy. Ah-Duh! Jelly or Jam is to be spreadable. I am afraid of opening the jars. I think we might have the consistency of a firm jello, or perhaps a chewable jolly rancher. At the worst, Paulina and I are thinking we will reserve this for making those cookies that call for a jelly in the center. Who knows they might be rather good.

We were able to keep a nearly full pint of just syrup. That was put in a jar and set in the fridge to use as ice cream topping. I am looking forward to that. When I was little I always hated that because I wanted chocolate and we didn’t buy chocolate because we had chokecherry. Now I understand what a treat we had.

 

Embroidery: Dishtowels

First six days of the week.

Just wanted to share the set of dishtowels that I finally finished embroidering. I actually finished them last week. They were started years ago and I simply had no push to finish them until I needed a shower gift. I sent them with Paulina to take to a bridal shower for a wonderful young woman who grew up with my two oldest daughters. Lindsey is now the owner of her own very successful salon business and I am delighted to say as such is also my hairdresser. I finished these and added two of my knit dishcloths as my gift. I will be officiating her wedding early this summer and I am looking forward to finding a few minutes between now and then to go over some of the details with her and her fiancé Adam.

All finished.

What was left to do last Sunday

In the meantime, just wanted to share these bits of embroidery. I don’t necessarily love doing these, probably because I am not fussy enough to make them look as nice as some others I have seen. I do, though, really enjoy working the crewel embroidery kits that come out looking like a picture. I have many, many of them in a container stashed away. I should really dig them out and get on them. Chalk up another of those projects to help eliminate the clutter. Of course if I finish them next I will have to figure out what to do with them. Enough for now!!

Bread baking disaster!

The yeast is working

The yeast is working

Bread baking 101: Epic fail! Yesterday I tried to make bread from scratch. I used to make wonderful loaves of bread–from dough that I had done up inside my bread machine. Every now and then for whatever reason the dough would over rise and plop, fall into the cellar just before or as I transferred the pans from the top of the oven inside the oven. Yesterday was such a day with the dough from scratch took a nose dive. At first I was going to blame the yeast. Well as you look at the picture to the left, I don’t believe it had anything to do with the yeast.

Bottles and containers of all sorts of things with which to cook and bake.

Bottles and containers of all sorts of things with which to cook and bake.

So, let’s back up a bit. I took my recipe from the bread machine booklet and converted it to a regular scratch recipe. Paulina does it all the time and it works for her…. I started by putting the water into the bowl for the big mixer and adding the yeast. Now Paulina warned me that she thinks the last time her water was too hot. I pulled out the candy thermometer and tested it. I even dug around until I found the original recipe with the optimal temperature listed on it. Something between 100 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I boiled water then needed a few ice cubes to get it right, but it was spot on. The yeast bubbled and fizzed for a bit. I covered the container with a dishcloth until I thought it had worked its magic.

Dough hook at work

Dough hook at work

In the meantime I mixed together all of the dry ingredients including the powered milk that is called for in this particular recipe.  The picture in the paragraph above and to the right is of some of the containers on the counter. The short one is where I store the powdered milk. I love those older unusual containers for things and  when they are all full and waiting to be used, it makes the baking or cooking go so much faster. Anyway, after adding the dry ingredients to the yeast mixture, I let the mixer with the dough hook do its magic. It was great and I love how that dough hook works!!

Covered dough

Covered dough

Final product, nearly flat bread, yikes!

Final product, nearly flat bread, yikes!

When that was all finished, I dropped the dough into another container and set it on the stove covered by a clean dishcloth. The trick that I used when the dough came out of the bread machine was to put it on the stove under cover with the oven warming at 150 to 200 degrees. This would keep the dough warm and help it rise. OK, duh in the past it warmed in the bread machine then I took it out and put it straight in the pans not into another container. After a little bit, I divided it and put it into two pans. The problem is that I didn’t get it into the oven at the right time. Instead I turned the oven to 350 and put in a double batch of banana bread, which if you have made that, you know it takes forever. So, now the dough was in the pans in an area to hot to gently warm for too long. By the time I got the actual bread dough into the oven, it had fallen flat. This will learn me! Next time only bake one item at a time and put the dough straight into the bread pans. Yikes!

Vegetable soup made last night.

Vegetable soup

On the other hand, I was able to pull together a kettle of vegetable soup and a “killer” kettle of Knepfla soup. The vegetable in our house yesterday was made with: 1 quart of whole tomatoes, 1 quart of tomato juice (the really runny kind made when skimming the excess liquid off spaghetti sauce or salsa before adding the seasoning) a couple of cups of cubed frozen beets and carrots and cubed pre-boiled potatoes. I also add a cup or two of slightly boiled rice. The flavor comes from adding some beef base. I prefer Orrington Farms because of the no MSG.

Because I can never boil just a cup of rice, I ended up with enough left over from that to make a bread loaf pan of baked rice. This amounts to the rice, about 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 to 1 cup of whipping cream, about 1/4 cup of sugar and a handful of raisins all sprinkled with cinnamon then covered with aluminum foil and popped in the already warm oven.

Paulina begged for Knepfla soup. She thought it would make her feel better. She did eat, finally.

A pot of Knepfla soup.

The Knepfla soup took a little more work. The picture to the left is an old one from way back, but it is the same soup. It involves an egg or two, a bit of oil and about a 1/2 cup or more of milk. Then add flour until you have a thick dough. This time I made it in the large mixer and it was much easier, but I had it a bit too thick for the mixer. There is a good explanation for how to make it on a post on Feb. 2, 2013. After the dough is made, I cut it up and drop it into boiling water for a bit. The boiled dough balls are technically noodles. The broth is cream of celery with milk, half and half and some water. I add cubed potatoes and carrots partially boiled. Celery is also good, but this time I didn’t have any. I have also made it without cream of celery if I have almost a full stock of celery to cube and boil into oblivion to get a broth. I also use chicken base, again, Orrington Farms. I love this soup, but I am developing an intolerance for milk products and this really gave me a sore stomach today. I don’t know how I survived teen years and adult life as I was quite intolerant as a child to whole milk. Perhaps the 2 percent and the skim were ok then, but sure not now. We have tried the lactose free and that is good, just didn’t have any in the house, and it seems rather sweet so might not work in this soup.

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