Cranberry Candied Jalapenos

Cranberry Cowboy Candy!

I was making a batch of the infamous cowboy candy today. These recipes are famous and all over the internet. Since I was experimenting with the Cranberry Jalapeno Jam I had a revalation. WHAT would cowboy candy with the tartness of cranberries be like?

And. My friends. My dear beloved friends. I fell in love. Deeply in love. And now you can to.

Your welcome.

I started with the basic Cowboy Candy recipe but I did omit the garlic, turmeric and spices that often go with it. I sliced 3 pounds of jalapenos, leaving the seeds in them. You can remove the seeds for less heat.

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Then I boiled 2 cups apple cider vinegar and 6 cups sugar for five minutes to get it nice and syrupy. I added my peppers and cooked for five more minutes. I then added two cups of cranberries to the pot and cooked this for ten minutes to let all the flavors really combine. This let the cranberries plump up but they did not split or separate.

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Does that look wonderful? Amazing? Shocking? Make you wanna scream it from the rooftops amazing?

Then, I removed the peppers and cranberries and put these into hot jars.

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I cranked the heat up and hard boiled the syrup for five minutes until it was a thicker syrupy consistency. Then pour your boiling hot syrup over your cranberries and peppers.

Cry because it is so good. Or give it out as Christmas Presents. The syrup is such a beautiful red color!

Remove air bubbles, wipe your rims, don’t lick your fingers until later, then process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Cranberry Candied Jalapenos

3 pounds Jalapenos

2 cups cranberries

2 cups apple cider vinegar

6 cups sugar

Combine sugar and vinegar, simmer for five full minutes. Add Jalapenos and simmer five more minutes. Add your cranberries and simmer another ten minutes. Place your cranberries and Jalapenos into hot pint or half pint jars. Boil the remaining syrup hard, for five minutes. Pour this over the top of your cranberry Jalapeno mix with 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air pockets, wipe rims, place caps and rings. Process in Boiling Water Bath for 15 minutes.  This made 4 pints.

Cranberry Jalapeno Jam! Yes Please!

Cranberry Jalapeno Jam!

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Cranberries appear to be everywhere this time of year! I love them frozen in smoothies, cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, in fact, I can’t think of cranberry anything I don’t like. I was making a batch of candied Jalapenos and spotted my bag of cranberries and a new thought began to surface!

First I googled to see if I could find a cranberry Jalapeno Jam but primarily I found ones made with juice, and I wanted the whole berry texture. I only had liquid pectin, so I adapted the Jalapeno Jam to include less Jalapenos and added cranberries. Since cranberries should be water bath canned for 15 minutes, I increased my waterbath time to 15 minutes instead of the 10 minutes that is commonly used for processing jelly.

Let me tell you. Divine. More then divine. My daughter took the spoon and I didn’t see her for ten minutes. She is eyeballing the jar trying to figure out how to disappear with it!

I wanted my cranberries chunky but not whole, so I poured the rinsed bag of cranberries into the blender and added one cup of white vinegar. I pulsed these until they were a chunky texture. You could use a food processor or chop these, just happened that the blender was right there! One bag equaled about 5 cups of cranberries.

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Chopped them all up so they could blend well with the vinegar. I could have chopped the peppers here too, but did not think about that until later. I was excited. I live on the wild side.

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Then I chopped four peppers. The jalapeno recipe on my pectin box calls for 12 jalapenos and 2 cups vinegar, so I am quite sure that the one cup of vinegar will cover my four peppers.

I removed the seeds because I wanted this to have a bite, not be completely burning hot! You could leave them in for more heat thought. IMG_20131117_091252_603

 I combined the cranberries, vinegar and peppers together. Then simmered this for ten minutes (Time recommended to simmer cranberries in syrup by NCHFP).

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I then added 5 cups of sugar. The interesting thing is the Jalapeno recipe called for 6 cups, but apparently it didn’t make a difference with setting up. Maybe this is because the sugar in the cranberries? I also added 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cloves. I really did not taste these in the final project though.  I brought this to a boil and boiled for one full minute.

I then added the liquid pectin and boiled hard for one more minute.

This did not create any foam. It went right into the jars easy as could be! I capped and water bath canned for 15 minutes.

Then, I licked the pan clean! Delicious!

Cranberry Jalapeno Jam

1 12 ounce bag cranberries (about 5 cups)

4 jalapenos, seeded and diced

1 cup vinegar

5 cups sugar

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1/2 tsp cloves (optional)

1 packet liquid pectin

Combine cranberries and vinegar. Pulse until these are well chopped but still have texture. Combine cranberry vinegar mixture with jalapenos. Place in large stock pot. Simmer for ten minutes. Add sugar, cinnamon and cloves, bring to a hard boil and boil one full minute. Add pectin, stir well and bring to boil. Boil hard one more minute. Place hot jam into hot jars. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims. Cap with lid and ring. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Then, you can thank me. It is that good. Promise!

Say it isn’t so Sweet Potato!!

I love sweet potatoes. I mean… I REALLY love sweet potatoes! Something about them sings to me!

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When I was a kid I had them once a year, covered in marshmellows and more like desert. There is NOTHING wrong with that. Trust me. I still love them… gooey, sweet, dessert on your plate before dessert. What is not to love?

And then I grew up. I was vegetarian. Then Vegan. Then carnivore again. Life happens right?

But somewhere in there I found that sweet potatoes are amazing in muffins, pancakes, hellooooo Sweet Potato Pie!

I also found they can take awhile to peel, cook, mash, get ready when you just want some sweet potato to quickly add! Do you know that anything that calls for pumpkin is even better when sweet potato is added? True! Try it!

And… AND… if you can them, and they are soft, not only can you just mash them up quickly but… they really do make the best and quickest marshmellow brown sugar sticky dessert on your plate. You can do it anytime.  Like… Friday night after a bad week or Monday afternoon at the start of the week. I won’t tell! Promise!

Canning Sweet potatoes is super easy!

First gather your sweet potatoes. Scrub them well . Cut your ends off (Well, you don’t have to, but it feels weirdly wrong to leave them on)

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Drop them into boiling water. These cook about ten minutes and then, when you pull them out, the skins should peel right off! Easy Breezy!

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But they are hot. Really hot! Can you see that steam? Go fast!

Then, you can quarter them or slice them into chunks. These are processed for 90 minutes so lean on larger chunks. Smaller ones may just fall apart. As you chunk your sweet potatoes, put them into hot jars. Cover these with boiling water, remove air bubbles, cap and process for 90 minutes.

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See! I told you it would be easy! NCHFP mentions that you can also can these in syrup if you are going for something sweet. I don’t do that because we use them in a variety of ways but you COULD do that if you wanted. Syrup mixes can be found here NCHFP Syrups

How to use these?

Mash and add to your mashed potatoes for a surprise

Substitute for pumpkin in muffins, pancakes or cookies

Make a sweet potato pie

Drain, rinse and sauté up with bacon and onions

Drain, slather with butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. I won’t tell. Promise.

I used about 11 pounds of sweet potatoes and this made 7 quarts. Scrub your sweet potatoes, boil for ten minutes to heat through and remove skins. Quarter or chunk them into uniform size. Cover with boiling water (or Syrup). Remove air bubbles. Replace caps and process for 90 minutes (quarts) or 75 minutes (pints) in a pressure canner.

Soup Day!

We love soup!

Chicken soup, minestrone, corn soup, veggie soup, bean soup, you name it we will eat it! Soup is one area of canning that you do get to flex your creative muscles! Following guidelines from NCHFP you can use any soup, bean and vegetable combination that you wish to use. Any bean or legume must be rehydrated first! Then, combine this with broth, simmer for five minutes and place into hot jars with a 50% solid to a 50 % liquid ratio. You then must pressure can for 60 minutes (pints) or 75 minutes (quarts) and TaDa!!

SOUP!

That being said, this is actually a slightly different version of Bean Soup from Ball Blue Book of Canning. I made some small changes but will discuss them. These changes remained in line with NCHFP, so I think we are safe!

Some items should not be canned. These include (but are not limited to)

*Butter/fat/oil

*Rice, Pasta, Grains in general (barley etc)

*Thickeners such as flour, cornstarch, arrowroot etc.

But if is a vegetable, meat or bean! Have fun and experiment!

For today’s canning, I decided on bean soup because we had baked a ham and had a quite large ham bone left. I removed the fatty outer layer and used the bone with some bits of meat attached. I also left out the hot peppers called for in the recipe and I added chopped carrots! Carrots go with soup, right?

First, I soaked 4 pounds of white beans.  Cover them with water and bring to a boil for two minutes. Then turn them off and set aside. When you start, they look like this!

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After an hour, they will look more like this!

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Then you want to drain the liquid out, place back into a large stockpot (or a roasting pan in the oven) with one chopped onion, 4 chopped carrots and 2 hamhocks, 1/2 pound salt pork or a ham bone with the majority of fat gone!

I like to bake mine in the oven so that I don’t worry about burning it, it also warms up my house and leaves the stove open for other food!

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However you cook it, you want to simmer this for two hours. This lets the flavors combine, the beans fully cook and lets the meat get really happy with the beans. Then, take your big soup bone out, shred the meat off of it and add it back in. Notice this is mostly meat and not the fat. Fat is not good in canning! It can really cause problems for sealing your jars, as well as insulate the bot toxin thus preventing heat penetration.

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Once they are all back together, bring your soup up to a boil. Pour your hot soup into hot jars and leave a good  one inch head space. With these, I go about 3/4 of the way with beans and veggies and the rest with broth. Your beans will continue to absorb that liquid so be pretty generous with it! These jars are actually a bit fuller then usual, I took some of the beans out, but of course THAT picture was accidently deleted.

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Then, remove air bubbles with your plastic spatula (NOT your metal butter knife), wipe the rims, cap them and place into your pressure canner. NCHFP calls for a different timing then Ball did, but I went with the Ball Blue Book time of 90 minutes for quarts (75 for pints) because this is so close to their recipe!

Then, when your done, they all cook together and are Happy!  This is a bit better picture of the level I typically go for bean soup! Perfect for a cold winters day!

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Bean Soup

4 pounds dry navy beans

4 hamhocks, a large ham bone or 1/2 pound salt pork

2 chopped onions

4 large chopped carrots

salt, pepper, seasoning to taste

Rinse your beans, cover with water and simmer two minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for one hour. Drain water and add beans, vegetables and meat back to stockpot or ovensafe container. Simmer for two hours until fully cooked. Shred meat (removing fat) and combine with beans, bring back to simmer. Place into jars leaving one inch head space. process for 90 minutes (quarts) or 75 minutes (pints). This makes seven quarts with enough left over for dinner for four.

Simple Frugal Apple Caramel Cake

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Simple Apple Cake. You just can’t get better then this for a fast simple dessert that will make you smile!

This cake is one of my oldest cake recipes I have. This is super simple, frugal and can be made into a healthy cake. I honestly don’t know where the recipe comes from, I found it in a recipe box from a yard sale 20 years ago. It’s been a sturdy recipe!

The thing I love is the ingredients are simple, it makes a small cake and you can have it in the oven within ten minutes. I often bake it while we are having dinner, so its still warm when it comes out!

First, chop your apples. I usually cut the “cheeks” off, then dice up. I have done this when the apples were chopped fine and when chopped larger. It really is personal preference. I have also made this with pears. Any harder fruit would work I am sure.

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You need two cups of apples, this is often just 2-3 apples, depending on what size and variety they are.

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In a mixing bowl, cream your butter until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. In separate bowl mix your flour, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon. Combine your creamed butter and flour mixture. Mix well but don’t beat this hard. Then hand stir in your apples. You could also add another half a cup of dried fruit. Cranberries are especially nice! So is lemon zest! You could add a 1/2 cup of nuts if you wish. This is a very forgiving recipe!

Pour this all into an 8 inch square baking dish (or a round one, or a rectangle or whatever you have!

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This will rise up and be quite moist. It bakes for approximately 35 minutes at 350 degrees. It should spring back when you press down in middle (notice the thumb print? Don’t ask a ten year old boy to test it. . . )

For the caramel sauce, its rather simple.

combine your brown sugar and cornstarch together in a small saucepan. When well combined, stir in your heavy cream, butter, and salt. Simmer on low, stirring until thick. Usually this is done within 5-6 minutes.

Cut your cake, then pour the caramel sauce right over the top. If you really want to indulge, have some ice cream too! Delicious!

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Recipe:

*** Note that this is a forgiving recipe. If you want to use whole wheat, then you can (we do) it will be denser but if you eat this way you already know the texture! You can use white sugar, brown sugar, sucanat, honey (though you may want to throw in another tablespoon or two of flour to even the texture out.

*** Note that you can add other fruits, dry fruits, nuts etc. to this. I have made all sorts of combinations with this over the years. It is very basic recipe so adapt to your own like!

 

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar/brown sugar/honey/sucanat/turbadino/whatever sweetener you like!

1 egg

1 cup flour (we use whole wheat, use what you wish)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

2 cups chopped peeled apples (whatever variety you have… or pears, firm peaches, bananas?)

*nuts, dry cranberries, coconut, raisins etc. if you choose

Sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch (please buy GMO free if at all possible!)

1/4 cup cream (half and half, heavy cream or even evaporated milk if it is what you have)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 tsp salt

 

For Cake:

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg. In separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add to your creamed mixture. Stir in apples and any other ingredients you may use. Pour into 8 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

For Sauce:

Combine sugar and cornstarch. Mix well. Add other ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until thickened. Pour over cake and enjoy!

 

Amazing Apple – Pear Butter

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Need I say more?

It’s that time of year that everybody is searching for apple butter recipes or what to do with the 6 pears or 8 apples or when you are just exhausted with applesauce and don’t know what else to make. The thought of peeling one more apple makes you want to cry and call your mommy. I know…. I have been there!

On our Facebook Group Page (have you joined? Our Happy Preserving Facebook Page!) I see many questions regarding fruit butters, sugar amounts, options, and what to do with the leftover apples. Here is my solution!

I should preface to say there is no hard and fast recipe here. This depends on your fruit, choices of sweeteners, what you have available to you! Food preservation should be safe, but it should also be practical. If you have brown sugar, use it! If you like white sugar, use it! Not enough cinnamon? It’s ok! This is about frugal living, filling bellies with healthy foods and enjoying the process.

First, this batch I used half apples and half pears. You can use ANY fruit combo here! If you have peaches, throw them in! No pears, its fine, just do apples! Half a bag of cranberries? Sure! Throw it in! The difference will be adjusting the sugar volume to match the taste you seek.

Now, to be fair, you can get a basic apple butter recipe anywhere. I have found that people get worried about the volume of sugar, and this is understandable! Ball calls for 3 cups of sugar to 6 pounds of apples! WOW! People who are following canning rules (AS they SHOULD be!) Also worry if they have 3 pounds apples or six pounds because it strays from the recipe. This however is one area that it is ok to stray from that.

So, moving forward… This “recipe” takes whatever amount of fruit you have and is cooked for a low time in your crock pot. If you don’t have a crock pot you can use your oven, however watch closely for burning. You can use whatever combination of sugars you like to have. I used brown sugar, turbadino sugar and honey to season this batch. Finally, you can use whichever spices that appeal to you.

So maybe this isn’t really a recipe. It’s a process. (Can you tell I am a therapist? It’s a process….it takes time…)

First gather your fruit. Wash it up, core the fruit, then quarter or chunk it up. You do NOT have to peel your fruit. In fact I think that fruit butter benefits from skins on. It adds a richness to the end result. So chop it all up and fill up your crock pot!

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Once your crock pot (or roaster if using the oven) is full. I fill this about one third of the way full with apple juice that I canned from the applesauce I made. (Remember this post Hello Autumn! Hello Apples!). You can also use apple cider or any other fruit juice. You could use water as well, but it may not be quite as rich.

Now, just turn on low and let it good several hours. This will vary depending on your crock pot, fruit etc. I typically will let this go overnight. It smells amazing when you wake up! Then, it will look something like this!

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If you have a hand held immersion blender, just use it at this time to puree all of your apples and pears together. If you don’t, you can use a blender, a food processor or even a potato masher. Your apples will be super soft and should mash right up with little effort.

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At this point, you can add your sweeteners. This is so variable! We like our apple butter sweet but not jelly sweet! For us, it typically ends up being approximately one cup of sweetener to each crock pot full. Taste your sauce at this point. Is it sour? Add a bit more, pretty sweet? Maybe be conservative. Remember that your apple butter is going to condense and flavor will intensify!

We added 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup turbadino (a natural sugar that has a bit of a molasses flavor) and 1/3 cup honey)

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Add in your seasonings! We go heavy with this! I used 3 tbsp. cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of cloves. Mix it all in. Then, you need to fill your crockpot once again. I use the applesauce I already made to do this. You could add more fresh fruit and cook it down as well. Either way, you want to refill the crock pot so that you have a full pot again. Note that this can be skipped! You don’t HAVE to do this, I just like to start with a full pot! I had one quart that didn’t seal and a pint that was leftover. That filled the pot!

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 Now, you want to let this cook down. I put a wooden spoon across the crock pot, then lay the lid over this. It allows the moisture to escape so that your apple-pear-fruit butter can reduce down. I turn it on low and let it go another 6-8 hours. Again this depends on your own crockpot. You will know it is done when its thick, spreadable and delicious!

Like THIS! Notice how much it has reduced? (that looks really quite unattractive doesn’t it! The sides will dry up as it reduces. Well… the blog is real! I’m no fancy photographer!)

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To preserve your apple butter, it needs to be brought back up to a high temperature. I replace the lid on the crockpot and turn onto high. My crockpot typically will have the apple butter simmering by the time my canner is hot. You could also heat it in a pan on the stove. Either way make sure your apple butter is HOT when you place into jars.

Next, just ladle your thick butter into the hot prepared jars. You can use pints or half pints. Fill jars to 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Cap and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

 

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In general, my crockpot will use about 12 – 15 pounds of fruit, and will result in 12 half pints of butter.

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 Then, enjoy a slather of butter on a piece of warm homemade bread. YUM!

So, to sum it up.

Use whatever fruit combination you have on hand. I like to fill my crockpot, and this often takes 12-15 pounds of fruit. It is best to use at least half apples or fruit high in pectin but not necessary. I have done this with peaches, cranberries, plums as well. The big difference is cooking time with fruits that may have a higher water content.

Add liquid (juice, water, cider) approximately 1/3 of the way of your fruit

Cook several hours (butters need several hours!) then puree

Add more sauce if you want, or season to taste. We use 1 – 1/2 cup sweetener per crock pot (honey, sugar, sucanot, turbadine etc)

Add spices as you wish. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves are good additions. We go heavy on cinnamon, light on nutmeg and cloves

Leave in crockpot several more hours until reduced, thick and spreadable!

Bring to a simmer. Ladle into pints or half pint jars with 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath!

ENJOY!

 

 

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WHY do you make all that JELLY???

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There is a problem with home preserving. It is an insidious disease that takes over your life and before you know it you have 99 bottles of jelly and you realize that you can’t ever possibly eat that much toast.

What do you do?

Well, here is the glory of jelly and the reason I think its absolutely one of the most frugal ways to stretch your budget. First, jelly is made from in season and easy on the budget fruits. Strawberries in June, blueberries in July, Blackberries in August, add in the citrus marmalades in the winter, apple jellys in autumn. Did we even touch on the savory jellies like jalapeno and garlic jellies?

Here are ten frugal and delicious ways to use your jelly you may not have thought about.

1) When your jelly doesn’t set, it becomes syrup. We all know this right? However you can use any jelly to make a fruit syrup for pancakes or waffles! Strawberry jelly warmed in a pan is delightful over pancakes and waffles! Marmalades can be amazing on blueberry pancakes! If it is too thick, then add a few tablespoons of water to thin, if too thin, then simmer in saucepan until thick! End of the month and the budget is tight? Pancakes with peach jelly over the top is a delight for kids! Or… French toast with Cherry preserves!

 

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2) Layer your cakes with a jar of jam! Put cherry preserves between dark chocolate, Raspberry between layers of a lemon cake or apple butter between layers of a spice cake.

3) Apricot, grape, apple and berry jellies can be turned into a great basting sauce for pork loin, chicken or even fish. Mix your jam with barbecue sauce and pour over a loin, then roast into a crockpot on low for several hours. Mix with barbecue sauce and pour over meatballs then simmer in a crockpot. It provides a sweet and savory sauce!

4) Make a batch of whole wheat muffins, but place a teaspoon of jam into each muffin before baking. Fill your muffin cup halfway, place a spoonful of jelly on the batter, cover with another spoonful of batter then bake as normal. Make sure you let these cool before you remove from the pan!

5) Bake a sheet cake but turn it into a “spoon cake”. When you remove from the oven poke holes in your cake with the end of a wooden spoon handle. Heat your jelly until thin and pour over the cake as a glaze! This will soak in and provide you with a rich and moist cake! You may be surprised how many combinations you can come up with! Spice cake with pineapple preserves, white cake with strawberry jelly, chocolate cake with lemon marmalade!

 

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6) Mix your jelly into plain yogurt for a healthier and sweet flavoring! Add a drizzle of honey or some granola and fresh fruit to make this into a full meal!

7) Mix raspberry, blueberry or lemon preserves with vinegar and olive oil for a sweet salad dressing. This is delicious over fruit or spinach salad! I find that equal combinations of jelly/vinegar/oil is good, but you can experiment with what works for you!

8) Make sugar cookies that are small, then use your jam to “cement” them together! These make beautiful gifts during the holidays to give out. Who else is giving unique cookies with lime blueberry filling??

9) Use as a sauce for ice cream Sunday’s or banana splits! Turn that 2.00 carton of vanilla ice cream into something special when your scoop has raspberry sauce poured over the top!

10) Mix into your hot cereal! Your oatmeal or ten grain mix will get an extra wow with lemon marmalade or apricot tucked into it! Add dried fruit for a nutrition boost!

11) Look! A Bonus! Make your cinnamon rolls like you would regularly but spread marmalade inside instead of cinnamon, apple butter would be divine, maybe even a berry jam! Flavor your glaze to match your rolls! Delicious!

If you have tried all of those and your still drowning in jelly, remember that these make great gifts! if your crafty sew small bags and tuck a jar inside, lace with a ribbon and add the above list! Or add a bag of organic pancake mix! Your friends and family will love having something that you are less then excited over when you realize 25 jars of strawberry jelly just may have been a wee bit much!

What ideas do YOU have for jelly and jam?