Archive for September, 2010

Corn Cob Jelly

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I know you’re probably thinking, “Whaaaat???” As strange as it sounds, this jelly is delicious.   Some say it tastes like honey, but I disagree.  I’m not quite sure how to describe the flavor, so you’ll just have to try it for yourself.  If you Google corn cob jelly, you will find most of the recipes are the same.  You will also find a murky history, and lots of speculation about it’s origins.  I’ve been making it for more than 15 years (before I started using the internet), and I can’t remember where I got the idea.  I don’t know if the memory is accurate, but it’s floating around in my head that I found it in an historical cookbook.

I’ve played around with my recipe over the years, and I do recommend doing a couple of things differently than most of the recipes you’ll find floating around on the net. To begin with, I use WAY more corn cobs than 12,  I use lemon juice, and I do not use food coloring.  I use red cobs which produce a beautiful natural color.

Side note on pectin: I’ve been using liquid pectin with no trouble for years.  This summer every jelly I’ve made using liquid pectin has failed to set up. I do tend to make jellies from herbs and other foods that contain little or no naturally occurring pectin or sugar. As a result, I’ve switched to using either Sure Jell for less or no sugar, or Pomona’s Universal Pectin. Pomona’s is my first choice, but I was out when I made this jelly, so I’m giving instructions for use with Sure Jell. If you would like to use Pomona’s, use 4 teaspoons each of pectin and calcium water, and follow the instructions on the box insert.

Corn Cob Jelly
Enough red corn cobs to fill a 6 quart pot

4 cups corn cob “juice”
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 box pectin (for less or no sugar needed recipes)

Place 1/2 the corn cobs in a six quart pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1/2 hour to an hour. Remove corn cobs from liquid. The cobs absorb quite a bit of water, so I remove them to a colander sitting over a bowl, and then add the drained liquid back to my pot.  Here is another way in which my recipe is different.  I add the other half of the corn cobs to my pot of liquid, top it off with more water, and simmer my cobs for another 1/2 hour or so.  I like the corn cob flavor to come shining through, so no wimpy 12 cobs are going to do for me! Strain the corn cob infusion through a jelly bag, or old T-shirt material. I usually get enough liquid for two batches of jelly.

1. Prepare your canning paraphernalia: water bath canner, jars, lids, bands, etc. (pectin insert usually includes instructions on preparing your equipment).

2. Measure corn cob “juice” and lemon juice into a 6 or 8 quart pot.

3. Measure sugar into a separate bowl.

4. Mix 1/4 cup sugar from measured amount and 1 box of pectin in a small bowl.

5. Stir pectin/sugar mixture into the liquid in the pot. You may see some clumping, but don’t worry, they will dissolve as the liquid heats.

6. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly.

7. Stir in remaining sugar. Return to a full rolling boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

8. Ladle into jars. Wipe rims. Put on lids. Process in water bath.

Binge and Purge

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

I could feel it building up over the last few days. Work has been making me cranky. On Wednesday I pulled a frozen beef roast and a baking hen out of the freezer to thaw. I also cooked down a big pot of homemade spaghetti sauce, intending to can it on the weekend.  Although cooking can be a lot of work, I still find it therapeutic. I usually walk away from one of my crazy-insane cooking binges feeling mentally relaxed, and a great sense of accomplishment. I guess it must have something to do with the creative process ….. bringing order out of chaos ….. taking random ingredients and turning them into something aesthetically pleasing. Whatever it is, the end result is a temporary purge of stress. By Friday evening I was committed, and set out a pound of white beans to soak for soup before going to bed.

I didn’t set my alarm clock for Saturday morning, but I woke up two hours earlier than normal. Isn’t it funny how our subconscious works?  After a cup of coffee and a quick bite to eat, my kitchen became a major construction zone. I started by searing the sirloin tip roast in my cast iron skillet. I threw it in the slow cooker with some beef broth, and then left it on it’s own to become seasoned shredded beef sandwiches for Sunday’s meal.

The next order of business was to get my chicken rubbed down with salt and seasonings, and into to the oven. About an hour later I had a golden roast chicken that went into a stew pot for a large batch of my roasted tomato and wild rice soup.  My husband and I are hosting a beer and soup swap in three weeks, and this batch of soup is my swap entry.  We will be serving a couple of different soups and different types of beer to our guests, but the real fun is going to be the swap.  Participation in the swap isn’t mandatory, but we’re encouraging our guests to bring six quarts of frozen soup, a six pack of beer they think best compliments their soup, and the soup recipe for sharing. Each guest participating will get to take six different soups and beers home with them. I promise to share my soup recipe with you later this fall.

Once my chicken was in the oven, I filled a pot with water and dried red corn cobs to boil down for corn cob jelly. I know it sounds strange, but I’ve been making this jelly for years, and it’s always a hit as a gift from my kitchen. I got the juice ready for jelly making yesterday, and plan to finish the jelly this afternoon. It’s probably going to be the next blog post I share with you.

Next on my agenda was to finish the spaghetti sauce I started on Wednesday. I pulled the six quart pot from my refrigerator and slowly heated it up while I readied my canning equipment. This is the first time I’ve canned spaghetti sauce, and after the experience I’ve decided I’m going to freeze it in the future. I had one jar crack in the pressure canner, making a huge mess.  Considering the number of tomatoes it takes to cook down into sauce, I was not thrilled about losing a quart.

In between all of these major projects, I squeezed in a few small odd tasks like roasting some coffee for the next couple of days, keeping dishes washed as I worked, starting a batch of sour cream, starting a pot of ham and bean soup with the beans I had put on to soak the evening before, and mixing a batch of cornbread to bake with the roasting chicken.

I went to bed tired, but very content last night, and I slept like a rock. Binge. Purge.

Help! I’m Becoming a Fiber Junkie!

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I know…. two posts in one day, so sue me! Today is  a cool drizzly day that has me reaching for a cup of hot tea, and I’m in the mood for some show and tell.  I just found some of the most wonderful yarn in my mailbox. I got it from my friend, Maggie, owner of Prairieland Herbs. Maggie is also a fiber artist who manages to spin and dye fibers in her “spare time”.  She sells some of her work from an Etsy shop, a place, I’ve discovered, I’m going to need to be VERY careful about visiting. Apparently, I’m in danger of becoming a fiber junkie.

Look at this!  Isn’t it gorgeous stuff! Maggie calls this Lapsang Souchong (which just so happens to be the tea I’m drinking).  It’s a gorgeous natural steely grey yarn, spun from 50% Jacob wool and 50% alpaca. I had no clue what I was going to do with it, but Maggie suggested it would be fantastic for a pair of felted slippers. I’ve never felted before, and I’ve never made a pair of slippers, so it looks like I’m about ready to hit another learning curve.  First I need to find a slippers pattern I like. Any suggestions?

I’m so in love with this yarn! Maggie calls it Gimli.  It’s a 50/50 blend of dark romney and alpaca wool. It’s a natural brown color overdyed with deep forest tones of rust, brown, forest green, navy and slate. I’ve got to decide on something special for this.

Maggie included a couple of silk hankie freebies with my yarn.  I didn’t know what silk hankies were, so I had to look it up.  I just learned to knit last winter, so I’m still a noob. I read that the silk can be incorporated into the wool, but I couldn’t find any specific instructions.  The pink hankie was naturally dyed in cochineal, and the orange was dyed in madder root.  More for me to learn!

Quickie Crustless Tomato Feta Quiche

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

As summer has come to a close, and autumn begins it’s progression I’d like to share one more recipe using tomatoes.  This is something I throw together for lunch on a weekend. In the past I’ve always baked it in the oven, but this summer was so hot that I started making it on the top rack of my grill with the lid closed. In fact, I discovered that my grill makes a very good “oven”.  Sometimes I make this with pie crust, but then it’s not a quick fix. You may notice that I don’t add salt to this recipe.  Feta is salty enough that additional salt is not necessary.

Crustless Tomato Feta Quiche
4 ounces feta cheese, roughly crumbled
1 or 2 large hands full spinach or arugula, rinsed, dried and chopped
1 large handful basil leaves, rinsed, dried and chopped
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk or half & half
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 or 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Handful halved kalamata olives

Preheat oven or grill to about 400°F.  Lightly coat the inside of a pie plate with olive oil. Place crumbled feta in the bottom of the pie plate. Layer the greens and basil over the cheese. Combine beaten egg, dairy, and nutmeg and pour over the cheese and greens. Arrange sliced tomatoes and olives over the top of the mixture and bake approximately 45 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned around the edges. Allow the quiche to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Quiche is excellent chilled. A slice of cold quiche grabbed from the fridge makes great finger food on the fly.  I’ve been know to grab a piece as I’m running out the door, and eat it in the car. If you’re one of those folks always rushed for breakfast, a quiche baked on the weekend can provide  instant breakfast ready for your weekdays.

I’ve also adapted this recipe for party finger food. I get some of those Athens Fillo Shells that can be found in the freezer section at the market.  I’ll warn you, they can be difficult to find in stock during the holiday season, so I try to keep several packages stored in my freezer. I place a small crumble of feta in the bottom of each shell, pour egg/dairy mixture over the cheese, and then garnish each with either  a cherry tomato slice, or a kalamata olive half. These little guys are always a hit.

Oh, one last thought I almost forgot to add…. I’ve also been known to layer 3 or 4 sheets of fillo dough in the bottom of the pie plate for a light crust.  I pop it in the oven for a couple of  minutes to lightly brown, and assemble my quiche as usual.

Making Chèvre (goat cheese)

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I’ve been under the weather over the last few days with a fun little virus making it’s way around our household.  I made this goat cheese just before the bug attacked me, but wasn’t able to find the motivation to write a blog post. Also, Don’t be surprised if my posts are a little erratic over the next 3 months, as the busy season in my shop is underway, and I’ve begun working more hours.

So, on to making goat cheese! It’s not all that difficult, and can be made using standard kitchen equipment. If you’re interested in making goat cheese, I’m assuming you have access to some goat milk. The only things you will probably need to pick up are chèvre culture and some butter muslin.  Both can be purchased at New England Cheesemaking Supply. In fact, I just placed an order for more  chèvre culture, butter muslin, and yogurt culture, so at the end of this post I’ll give away some culture and muslin.  I do have some special little molds for making chèvre in a traditional shape, but I find the butter muslin to be more practical. I save the molds for making cheese for special occasions.

I used to raise my own small herd of Toggenburg dairy goats.  Unfortunately, life circumstances required me to sell my goats a few years ago. However, I have a good friend who has been raising Toggs for more than 35 years, and she and I trade milk for my husband’s maple syrup. I miss my goats, and I hope that maybe some day they will fit back into my life.

Let’s begin with goat milk. The finished quality of the cheese depends entirely on the quality of the milk. High quality milk comes from healthy, well fed animals kept in a healthy environment. Milking should take place in a clean environment and should be cooled as quickly as possible. The choice to use pasteurized or unpasteurized will be yours.  Personally, because the milk I use is not tested, I use the flash method of pasteurization, heating the milk to 160°F for 15 seconds.

Begin by placing 1 to 2 gallons of  milk in a large pot and bringing the temperature to 72°F to 80°F. I do this by placing my pot in a sink full of hot water, stirring occasionally and checking the temperature with my meat thermometer.  Once the milk reaches the appropriate temperature, sprinkle a packet of chèvre culture over the surface of the milk and stir until mixed thoroughly.

Cover the milk and allow it to sit undisturbed at room temperature for 24 hours, or until the milk is firmly set. When it is ready the curd will separate from the whey and it should look something like this.

Ladle the curd into a colander lined with butter muslin.

Next, take the four corners of the muslin and tie them together with a couple of solid knots. Hang the cheese over an empty bowl to allow the whey to drain for 6 – 12 hours. I usually start my cheese making in the evening after dinner. Then when it’s time to drain the cheese, I let it hang overnight, and it’s ready the next morning. I’ll describe my draining set up, but you may want to figure something different.  I use big “S” hooks. I put one end of the hook through the knot of my muslin and hang the whole thing by the other end of the hook from a knob on one of my kitchen cabinets.

Now for the giveaway. I will give away one 5 pack of chèvre culture and a two yard length of reusable cotton butter muslin.  Leave a comment at the bottom of this post and I’ll draw from the names.  Deadline to enter your comment is this Friday evening, September 10 at 8 PM.

Imperial Crème Brûlée Stout Float

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I was going to apologize for two beer posts in a row, but on second thought, no I’m not!  Two of my favorite things ….. beer and ice cream. Why should I apologize?

My brother-in-law brought a bottle of this Southern Tier Imperial Crème Brûlée Milk Stout this past Christmas, and I remember liking it. I stumbled across a stray bottle when I was running errands the other day (it’s a seasonal beer),  so I snagged it. I’ve been meaning to try a stout float some time, and thought this might be the perfect beer to try it with. I was right.

I think the picture is self explanatory.

Edited to add: I  checked my account to see how I rated this back in December. I gave it an overall 3.9.  Black brown with a small thin head. Strong caramel vanilla aroma followed up by chocolate and coffee. Creamy full bodied mouth feel. Flavor was strong sweet vanilla with a bit a coffee and caramel.

Founders Devil Dancer Beer Review

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working way too many hours, not playing enough, and have been really stressed.  Today was my day off and I spent it running errands, so I decided to treat myself to a  new beer this evening.  I was rewarded with a BIG tasting beer from Founder’s Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  One of my favorite beers comes from Founders, and so far I’ve like everything I’ve tried from this brewery.

This one is Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA.  Commercial Description: Founders most complex, most innovative, most feared and yet most revered ale produced. Massive in complexity the huge malt character balances the insane amount of alpha’s used to create this monster. More IBU’s than any brewery has documented, more than you would believe and dry-hopped for twenty-six days straight with a combination of 10 hop varieties. Dangerously drinkable and deliciously evil. We dare you to dance with the Devil. 112 IBUs

My description:  This beer poured a lovely deep copper color, and had a small off white head that dissipated quickly.  I was hit with a distinctively hoppy aroma… citrusy hops, as well as sweet caramely malt. I was really surprised by the flavor, expecting to get smacked in the face with hops. While the hops was definitely strong, it was well balanced with a caramel sweetness that kept the beer from being overwhelmingly bitter. The finish was a nice roasted malt fading into a lingering hop bitterness. The beer has a full bodied, thick creamy mouth feel.  As I said before, this is a BIG tasting beer, and at 12% ABV this one is not for chugging. On a final note, while this is a great tasting beer, I don’t think it warrants the price tag of $18 to $20 for a four pack. Although it’s a different style, Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale is a really great tasting big beer coming it at about $7 to $10 a four pack.

I’m happy to have tried it and rated it on my ratebeer account, but I don’t think I’ll be getting it again because of the price tag. I will be sharing a bottle with my cousin,  giving a bottle to my brother-in-law, and the last bottle will go to my beer tasting facebook buddy in Colorado. Cindy, drink this one when you’ve settled in for the evening, or are relaxing on the weekend.