Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Remove Burnt Tomato Sauce

So, I've been doing a lot of canning. And when I can I'm a bit messy at times. Seriously, I think it is impossible to avoid it! When I had a big overflow of tomato juice and sauce I knew that I would be left with a big mess to clean up. There was a huge amount of burned on gunk left on my stovetop when I was able to take the kettle off the burner. Not very fun. I wish I had taken a picture of how bad it was, but I think you'll get the idea.

Thank goodness I remembered that it can be easier to remove than just scrubbing till my arms want to fall off. All it takes is some baking soda and some patience.

First I VERY liberally sprinkled baking soda over the entire mess. I dumped quite a bit over the area since it was a pretty thick mess. I sprinkled a little bit of water on it and just let it sit for a while. I think I did some dishes and kind of forgot about it for at least 10-20 minutes.

The next step was wiping it off. In the picture you can see that part of it has wiped off fairly well. I kept washing out my dish cloth and rewiping it, but not really scrubbing too hard. Some parts just wiped right off, some parts were still a big, black, yucky mess.

I just dumped a bunch more baking soda over the parts that didn't clean up, sprinkled a bit more water and continued on my way with the rest of the dishes.
When I was done with my other clean up I just came back and wiped it down again. Most of it came right off by then. There was a chunk that seemed determined to stay on there, but with a little elbow grease it finally gave up. I didn't worry too much about total perfection (I rarely do) because I knew I'd be canning the next day and probably have a similar mess to deal with!

Luckily, it wasn't so bad the next day. If it had been I would have just reached for the baking soda again! Such an easy way to make quick work of canning messes. For more great Kitchen Tips visit Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Zucchini Relish

Which could also be called "The best pickle relish you've ever had that has no cucumbers in it whatsoever!" or "An easy way to use up a lot of big zucchini fast." or "Gift back those zucchini your neighbors hid on your porch without them knowing they are getting zucchini!"
I do not even remember where I first heard mention of making zucchini relish, but it was on a website somewhere this year. "Huh, that's a great idea, if it works" was my first reaction. As everyone who lives in Wisconsin (or most other states) knows zucchini is something that grows really well and really abundantly here. Many people find themselves doing everything they can to just give away the extras. Cucumbers so too, but not with the same prolific zeal that zucchini does. My garden did not feel it right to supply me with EITHER of these items this year, but gratefully the farmer's market does!

We do not typically eat a lot of pickle relish, but after getting a few big zucchini from assorted people and then being able to buy about 6 bigger ones for only $1 at the farmer's market I figured I'd see if I could make some relish myself. (We already had lots of diced and shredded zucchini frozen for winter use.) Since cucumbers are like $2-$3 a pound it made sense to give the zucchini recipe a shot. And the recipe says its delicious and I'll never buy pickle relish in the store again, so it must be worth a shot!

I found the recipe that sounded the simplest with the fewest ingredients here. I liked the fact that I had gotten a bunch of red peppers from our freecycle connection, there were onions in the drawer and cheap zucchini to use. My biggest expense was getting spices (turmeric, celery seed, and dry mustard) but those weren't too bad and really it was just the turmeric that I wouldn't have normally had in my cupboard. The sugar, vinegar, corn starch and black pepper are pantry staples for us as well.

Basically you just grate up the zucchini, onions and red peppers. I used my Kitchen Aid attachment to do the zucchini (seeds, skins and all) and onions. It really wasn't too great with the onions, but I figured it didn't matter how smooshed they were as relish is more about flavor than anything else. I ended up using my little Cuisinart to do the red peppers as they were already in a large dice and I just needed to get them finer. These all get salted and put in the fridge overnight. Or for 2 days as was the case with my first batch!

The vegetable mix gets rinsed, drained, and put in a pot to combine with the other ingredients. This is where the spices, vinegar and sugar all get added.

Mix well and bring to a boil. This cooks for 30 minutes and does get a bit thicker thanks to the cornstarch. When stirring make sure you use a utensil that you do not mind getting stained. I used a wooden one (as I am doing more and more these days) and it is the prettiest yellow color up to the point that the mixture reached! I do not mind at all, but even my enameled cast iron took on a yellow hue for a while. The turmeric is strong stuff so be aware of any drips or where you put your spoon down. You could end up with stains on your counter tops as well.

Doesn't this look like it could be cucumber relish? Smells strong, but good while cooking!

The finished product after boiling and canning. I'm trying to remember, but I think I waterbathed the pints for about 20 minutes. I followed the suggestion that was on another recipe and figured that since this is so similar in texture I should be okay. The linked recipe does not specifically give a time for canning.

I've tried some of this on a sandwich and it was wonderful! I typically only use relish in chicken, egg or potato salad or occasionally on a hot dog. I have a feeling that the 12 pints I've put up will be used up though. The color is great, the flavor is awesome! I actually have a bit of store bought relish in the fridge and when comparing them I found the store bought one to be too uniform in size of chunks, too all one color as it is just pickles with a tiny bit of red something in it, and just too sweet smelling and tasting. This one is just more fun all the way around! And I think it would make a really nice looking gift as the colors and texture make the jar look very festive.

Next year I hope to get lots and lots and lots of zucchini and red pepper to be able to put up a bunch more of this! I originally just did the 6 pints, but when I got a few more zucchinis last week I knew what I'd be doing with those too :) I pulled red pepper out of the freezer and whipped up another batch right away.

Happy Canning!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Funny Is This?

I just thought this eggplant was too cute. Doesn't it look like it is waving? Or like it is a hook to hang a purse on? I didn't see this part until I got home as it was in a basket of 3 eggplants (for $1) and they just dumped the basket into my bag. Too funny!

Anyone have any great eggplant recipes? I didn't grow up eating it, but have made a few things with them the last few summers. We've made Pasta Norma and I've put it into veggie lasagna and even oven roasted it with beets and garlic. Mike isn't a huge fan and I think it is mostly the texture. I know my grandma fries it, but I haven't tried that yet. I'd love any suggestions you might have!


What Tuesday and Wednesday Looked Like

Yup, it was crazy trying to can with a very active toddler!

Tuesday Mike was gone all day playing for libraries and schools which left little guy and I on our own. Typically I love days like that, but when you are trying to deal with produce that can't wait and do some canning it makes it a bit tricky. The above picture was taken at about 7:30 am and shows most of the contents of one cabinet now spread out on the floor. It actually got worse than this at times! Thank goodness for nap times :)

So this is what got prepared and canned on Tuesday.

There are 5 batches of strawberry jam in those jars. I've run out of 1/2 pint jars so we will be eating jam by the pint. I don't think my husband will mind having to eat up a bunch at a time! Strawberry jam is his favorite. We have more jam in this house than we could possibly eat in a year, but I'm sure that some will make for great gifts as well this holiday season. It is wonderful treat that I've never really bought, but we like having now that I have access to fruit that is best used for things like jam.

There are also 6 pints of zucchini relish, 2 pints of pear-apple sauce, 4 pints of pineapple, 4 quarts of tomato juice, 3 quarts of diced tomatoes and 4 pints of diced tomatoes. It is amazing how small 39 jars of food can look in a picture! Especially when it took me an entire day to get that all put up. I know I'll get better/faster at this the more years I do it. And I also think that it would be faster to focus on one thing at a time. I got such a variety of things that I had to multi-task in the type of things I was making. And goodness knows that it takes some serious time to make jam when you do it without pectin!

This is Wednesday's work.

Wednesday I started by washing up lots more jars! I think there are 25 more jars of things pictures. There are 6 more quarts of diced tomatoes and tomato juice, 5 pints of diced peaches, 3 pints of peach sauce, 4 pints of pear sauce and 7 pints of apple sauce. The pears I got were really 'organic.' The apples were also picked from trees that are totally ignored, but I've little worry about bad spots or worm holes. The pears have been much harder to deal with though. And after a while I started getting fed up with them. I've got a few more to do (they weren't fully ripe yet) and I'm kind of dreading them. Some of the remaining ones are bigger and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get some diced pears out of them. We'll be eating an awful lot of sauces this winter!

I've still got lots of apples to deal with and many of those will be come sauce as well. I will be freezing some and may try and do some apple pie filling. My biggest worry is running out jars as it appears that I will be soon.

I realized I never took a picture of Thursday, but it was an all applesauce day. I only canned what I had cooked down or at least cut up the day before. My family needed me to be more focused on them and the apples are more forgiving than the other produce. I believe I did about 14 more jars that day. 4 quarts and 10 pints if I remember correctly, all applesauce!

Hope your food preservation is going well!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not For the Faint of Heart

Canning is going well, but is exhausting work! And I'm not even really doing that much stuff compared to many people out there. I seriously think they should consider canning for the next summer Olympics or something. What other sport makes you stay in a kitchen with boiling pots of water and other assorted things for 10-12 hour stretches at a time? And then stay on your feet while coring, peeling, chopping, measuring, washing, filling and oh, so many other things? I think that the Olympic committee would be impressed by the stamina and endurance of many serious canners.

I'm too tired to get my camera and load pictures, but I've got lots to show. I've done so many different things in the last 2 days and had to call it really early this evening. My husband and son needed my attention and food, so canning got put away until tomorrow.

So far I've done:
5 batches of strawberry jam
diced tomatoes and tomato juice
diced peaches and peach sauce
pear sauce
apple sauce
zucchini relish
and canned some pear-apple sauce that I had made on Saturday

Mostly I'm working on apples from this point on. A few pears will be diced up once they ripen. I'm going to be out of jars tomorrow which makes me really sad! I'm also almost out of lids, so I need to stock up on those or be done canning and freeze things from this point onward.

Can't wait to show you pictures!

Monday, September 21, 2009

When It Rains, It POURS!

I am living in a state of overextended gratefulness. Somehow I've become a recipient of a HUGE amount of differing types of produce, all in about 36 hours. And most of it needs to be processed IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner. And I worked today and have to go back in tonight. It has been crazy and I can't wait to share all about it.

Yes, I finally got some tomatoes! :) So, so happy!

(and strawberries, pineapples, pears, watermelons, grapes, apples, potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, a few assorted other vegetables.)

Lots of canning in my future and I am very, very, VERY grateful that I have off the next 3 days. I'll be working hard!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Cube Shelves

My mom never takes the time to garage sale when she is at home, but we went when we visted her in Kentucky in July. If you read about it you may remember that she was hard to get home...just one more stop, I never get to do this, etc, etc, etc. Little guy and I were worn out!

Well, they came to visit a few weeks ago and while we were at a wedding my mom discovered a rumamge sale about a block from our house. She picked up some things for herself and drooled over a few she didn't buy as well. That night she informed me that we needed to go back on Sunday. I was not really excited about it as it was a really busy weekend and I had a lot of corn to process as well.

While my dad, Mike and my father-in-law were golfing my mom and I started working on the corn, but she mentioned the rummage sale again. I pointed out that the little one was sleeping and I couldn't leave the house. She kept checking to see if they were still out there...it was actually pretty funny how badly she wanted to go back to the yard sale!

Once he woke up we were out the door. She ended up finding a few other things and I found two items to bring home. Both were great deals, so I wasn't upset that we went! :) the first were these. They are two cube shelves that I'll hang in our living room for pictures or little things to go in. They were never opened and still had the plastic around the box. They were marked $2, but I asked and she took $1 for them. Normally, I do not haggle, but I didn't need these, but like them and figured I'd see if she'd take $1. Why does $1 feel so much easier to spend than $2?

I didn't get a photo of the other item, but you've all seen them. It is a pizza stone. I've got one and we love it. We have homemade pizza every Monday night and the stone has become very dark with use. As our little one eats more and more I realized that we will soon be needing to make 2 pizzas and I didn't have another stone. I didn't have it on the list yet, but knew it would need to be added soon. They only wanted $1 for that as well and I didn't ask them to go any lower! I think my mom was bummed that I saw it first as she has a quite impressive selection of stoneware, but no actually pizza stone. I don't feel too bad about it though as they do not eat pizza weekly like we do. And her homemade pizza recipe goes into her set of rectangle pans prefectly. All in all it was a good little side trip thanks to my mom's persistance.

Any deals in your neck of the woods? Share away!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Seriously Great Soap!

I plan to write up my cloth diaper routine at some point. Today I found a giveaway that includes one of my must have items to cloth diaper. It is Charlie's Soap!

We switched to Charlie's Soap about a month before the little guy came along. We wash all our clothes, his clothes and his cloth diapers in the stuff. It is awesome! Cleans really well, has NO scent, causes no skin reactions and does not build up on our cloth diapers. It is seriously great soap!

I'm so excited about the chance to win some more as well as a chance to try their other cleaning products. Wish me luck in the drawing over at Life in a Shoe. And if you want to win too, I don't blame you :)

Oh, and it isn't too bad for price. The little 80 load bags go a LONG way in our HE machine. Two bags lasted us a full year and that includes doing lots and lots of diapers!

Hope things are great where you are! I've been canning again...

Monday, September 14, 2009

And The Fun Never Stops

Or at least it hasn't yet! :)

A few more canning adventures to share today. I mentioned the dill that I got from my parents that was picked out of my grandparent's garden in South Dakota...did you get all of that? I put it to good use in the traditional way by canning dill pickles and also canning dilly beans. We used to do big whole pickles when I was growing up as well as bread and butter pickles. I threw caution to the wind and canned dill pickle spears! And I've never had pickled dill beans, but it seems to be a very popular thing and I love dill so I figured I'd give it a try. So, Nettacow you were right that pickles were in the picture! But beans, who would have thought? Tons of canners all over the place, that's who. Now for enough time to pass so I can crack open a pint and give them a taste!

First things first, here is the recipe I used for Canned Dill Pickles. Here is my big bowl of cucumbers all cut up and ready to become pickles.

This gave me enough for 7 pints of pickles and a few left for eating as they were. I really tried my best to squish them in the jar as tight as possible which is why they wouldn't win any blue ribbons at the fair. But even so, aren't the jars cute all ready for their brine?

The beans and pickles required a bit of garlic so I got to work smooshing and then peeling some cloves. Hopefully it doesn't affect the flavor too much, but I find that it is SO much easier to peel garlic when you've smashed it with the knife first.

Then I washed the beans and got them ready for a quick 3 min steam. I did this with the frist pints I canned, but when I came back a few days later to do some more beans I picked up at the farmer's market I skipped this step. I figure they are going in a boiling water bath, so they are getting as cooked as they need to be. Any one have any thoughts on this? Will my other jars be terrible?

The key to good steaming is to stop the cooking process ASAP. So after the 3 minutes was up they headed into an ice water bath.

I bought these at the farmer's market as well. I cleaned out this vendors green beans ($1/lb) and to equal 2 pounds I needed a few yellow ones as well. I did a couple of jars all green and a couple mixed.

A hill of beans!

Okay, so the disappointing thing. I haven't gotten a picture of them afte they came out of the water bath. It was late, the lighting was bad, I was hot and tired. Need more excuses? :) I will get one though. And then I'll show you that a girl can learn and how much prettier my next set of dilly beans were. There is a trick to packing green beans into a jar!

Have a great day,


Friday, September 11, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Canning Edition

Since we are in full on canning mode in most parts of the country, I thought it only right to feature a recent frugal find that has to do with food preservation.

As you may have read yesterday I have recently been blessed with produce from relatives in South Dakota and Wisconsin. I've also been able to find produce through some friendly freecycle folks. (I'm doing another pickup later in September!) I've even been busy supporting our local famer's market. All this wonderful bounty has been being enjoyed and also preserved to make sure we can enjoy it for many months to come.

When canning often the 'other' ingredients and tools are often the most expensive part of the recipe. I was lucky to get some quart jars and two dozen or so pint and 1/2 pint jars from my mom's huge stash. I found another dozen pint jars at a rummage sale for $1. They were still in their original box and had perfect rings on them and they were at least 30 years old! The other great find was completely accidental. My manager at work was getting ready to move from a good sized house to a smaller town home. She had three boxes of jars---was I interested? They were headed to the dump if I didn't take them and as they were originally her grandmother's she'd like to find them a good home. I was VERY interested! I was excited to see that the boxes were almost completely filled with pint jars.

I grew up canning with my mom and 98% of what we canned went into quart jars. I'm finding that I like using pints at this point. We are a smaller family and they just seem less overwhelming than the quarts. Now, if I EVER find tomatos and get to can those they are going in quarts. Hopefully lots and lots and lots of quart jars. For the things I've done so far I really like using the pint jars the best. And nothing is more frugal than dozens and dozens of free pint jars!

I've been fortunate to really stock up on sugar when it was $.99/ 4 lb bag and I found some vinegar for $1.50 a gallon. I've gotten dill from my grandparent's garden. I did have to spend a little money on pickling salt ($2) and pickling spices ($2.12). The lids I've bought at Wally World and they are $1.50 for 12 lids. I have two pots--the big one was a second hand gift from my mom and the little one I bought years ago and just held onto it. I am still looking for a metal ladle, but the jar lifter, rack and funnel were in with the big pot my mom gave me. My canning colanders were wonderful rummage sale finds! I spent $8 for two of them and haven't yet decided if I'm going to sell one or keep them both.

Canning can be as expensive or as frugal as you make it and I am happy to report that ours is staying pretty frugal! Put the word out that you are canning and it is amazing what will come into your life. And don't forget the internet when it comes to finding easy, wonderful recipes to can!

Any frugal finds in your life? Have a great Friday!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More South Dakota Goodies!

There weren't just chokecherries in my freezer when I got home from work. My parents had brought lots of harvest goodness from my relatives in South Dakota!

My Aunt Mary had also sent along A TON of sweet corn. They planted about 2 1/2 pounds of seed this year and it did really, really well. From what my parents shared it sounds like they have sweet corn coming out of their ears! :) Bad, bad pun, I know. When the family got together to see my parents they brought an entire car load to share with the sisters. Then when my parents went to their home they filled their car up again to share with me. My mom and I processed a ton of corn while she was here and she took 3 vacuum bags with her as well as a bag to eat fresh. Mike and I ate a bag fresh as well and I ended up with 20 more bags in the freezer. We will have lots of corn chowder, salsa chicken with corn and black beans and sides of corn this winter! If anyone has a good corn recipe to share I think I'll be up for trying them t his year. I think we ended up freezing and eating somewhere around 180 ears of corn in the end.
They also have bees and she sent a gallon of honey for my sister, my mom and me to share. I am THRILLED about that. We love using honey and this is from their farm which makes it even better! This was an awesome surprise and we can't wait to dip into our big beautiful jar.

Not pictured, but also sent along were a big bag of dill from my Dad's parents. Two years ago I was suppossed to take dill from them, but I forgot. This time my parent's remembered! You'll see what I've used it for soon. I've got a few heads left and they may just be left to dry and used later. I just love the smell of dill! It should be sold as aromatherapy in my opinion. I also was happy to get 4 large zucchini, but I do not know whose garden they came out of. They have been chopped, shredded and stuffed. I frozen a bunch and we ate a lot. So good!
In the picture, but not from South Dakota are some really wonderful tomatos. While my parents were here we went to see my only relatives here in Wisconsin. My Dad's sister and her husband live about an hour away so went for a visit. They sent us home with a few big tomatos and lots of great cherry sized tomatos. The bigger red ones were SO sweet and the yellow ones were the cutest! They look like pretty little pears or light bulbs. We loved munching on these as we've only gotten 3 tomatos from our garden as of this morning.
I'm so grateful for family that is willing to share from their harvest. If only we lived closer we could help them with their extras more often! :) I look forward to being able to return the favor when I finally have a big garden that produces. For now, I will be sharing my Starbucks coffee bean when we return to South Dakota!
Have a great day,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


My parents recently visited us on their way home from a trip to South Dakota. They were both raised there and both sets of my grandparents as well as many aunts, uncles and cousins live there now. A few relatives sent along things for me! I am a truly lucky girl.

I had never tasted or even seen a chokecherry until I came home to find about 4 gallons of them in my freezer. Thank goodness for the internet! I looked up a recipe for chokecherry jam and one for chokecherry syrup. I figured we might as well give them both a chance as we had no idea what to expect.

I would say that chokecherrys are a bit winey tasting. The juice, jam and syrup have the dry mouth feel that the tannins in a good red wine will leave with you. The cherries have a large pit relative to their size and are a bit messy to work with. Luckily the juice wiped up easily and the jam jelled pretty easily. The juice is a beauiful purply-magenta color and my pictures do not do it justice!

I put my canning collander to good use! The larger pits made getting all the juice and pulp out a bit tricky, but I got enough to make me feel like it was worth my time.

My stations...from the boiling kettle (with the cherries and a bit of water) to the collander to the pan (for the pits and skins) and the big measuring cup (for the juice and pulp). I ended up doing all of this part on day one and then coming back to make the jam and syrup and do the canning on day two. Too much mess, too little time to do it all at once!

This is the juice and a TON of sugar boiling away to make jam. The first batch of jam got really good and sticky, the second stayed a bit looser. I may have just not let it boil long enough as it was a large pot of juice. The syrup is the right consistency for pancakes and we look forward to trying a batch really soon!

I am excited by how frugal this project was. There was a lot of sugar involved, but recently our store ran a promotion for $.99 bags of sugar (4 lb size). I figured I used about a full bag of sugar to make all the syrup and jam. So even with lids and such I spent about $2 total. Of course, I also used some energy, but in the end it was a lot cheaper than buying syrup or jam! And no added colors or chemicals. I told Mike that the syrup looks like the bright colored stuff at IHOP, but it is the real deal!

Wait until you see whatelse my wonderful Aunt Mary sent for us!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Can You Identify This?

This is what has kept me from posting. Do you know what it is? It looks harmless enough...cute little purplish berry type thing.

Then you start cooking it down and it turns into this.

And now you know why I haven't been around much lately. My kitchen floor has not yet been scrubbed and for that I'm very sorry. Many canning adventures to report. And I'm not working tomorrow, so stay tuned for an update!

I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day. I spent a big part of mine laboring...uh, working. After about 45 hours of childbirth I should know better to refer to anything except that as laboring. The weather here was wonderful and I did get to enjoy some of the afternoon.

Have a great day!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Where does the time go?

So, its Friday and I do not have a post written! Has it really been a whole week? Somehow I accidentally took a week off of posting. Between the family in town, working too many hours, and life I have not had time to think! I promise to take some time this weekend to get some thought on paper...on-line! I've been doing some canning and some freezing and can't wait to get some pictures and thoughts up.

Harvest time is upon us and there is nothing more frugal than putting up and freezing some of summer's bounty to be enjoyed all year long. I've been canning chokecherry jam and syrup, freezing corn, freezing zucchini, and canning dilly beans and cucumbers. Good times!

Have a great day and I'll be back soon,