Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And Ott's A's Sunshine Award goes to .......

I watched the Emmy's this past weekend, so I feel the need to be a bit dramatic with this blog award.  (Humor me.)  Can't you just hear some announcers voice stating that title?  Of course in my mind he is standing next to actress in a lovely evening gown clenching a gold trophy that they are about to award to someone who act totally surprised and run up on the stage to give an acceptance speech.  As they thank everyone under the sun the orchestra will start to play music queuing the presenters to tug at the winners arm to get him off stage.  As they all walk off stage, waving to the crowd and clinging to their trophy the show goes to commercial as the announcer tells you what famous celebrities will be up next. 
So here's my version of an acceptance speech, while my evening gown is my pj's, my trophy is a badge and there is no orchestra to cut me off.

Every time I receive an award on this blog I am always incredibly honored to think someone else thinks as much about my blog as I do.  So I have to give a huge thank you for this award as it came from Sharon over at Keen Inspirations.  Sharon always has great craft and garden projects so if you haven't checked out her blog before please stop by and tell her Ott, A said Hi!
The rules of the Sunshine Award are to pass this on to 12 other blogs whose positively and creatively inspire others in the blog world. It’s hard to pick only twelve that fit that description, however there are some blogs I always tune in and read every word they write so today I am listing those blogs here.

2 Maids a Milking- This blog has great insight the life of a Dairy Farmer.  They blog about their cute kids, great recipes and you'll want to be sure and check out their corn maze!!!

Gal in the Middle-Always a fun read with entertaining stories about her family and her commute into work each day. 

Walking off the Beaten Path-  Lana always has the cutest stories about whats going on around the house, kitchen, family and farm.  A day reading her blog is like walking in the back door, sitting down at the kitchen table and visiting with an old friend. 

Family Balance Sheet- Great blog for gardening, recipes and money saving tips!!!

Frog Belly Soup- Sewing and crafts with some cooking and canning.  Very cute, very creative, and very well worth the read.

From the Hive-A fellow canner, who also gardens and gives all kinds of tips and advice on being domesticated.

Adrienne's Food Adventure-  This is a blog you should start to follow.  She gives great tips on preserving food all kinds of way.  And shows you all the recipes she uses it on all year long.  It's like Canning Week everyday on her blog.  Love it.

Griggs Dakota- A newly found favorite of mine with posts about life in North Dakota.  Here lately I've been so intrigued with their Canola harvest, be sure to stop by and learn more about that.

Inside BruCrew Life- Firstly not only does she also need coffee to get her through the day, but she also has fun recipes, cupcakes, crafts and more. 

Marsha's Garden Blog- Marsha always has the most amazing pictures of flowers in her garden.  I could look though her pics all day they are that pretty.

Traveling Memories- A fellow gardener, baker and canner.  I probably like her blog so much because we have so much in common.

Now que the music and send this post out to commercial as I have probably gone on too long telling you how great all these blogs are.  Please stop by and check them out as I'm sure you'll want to add them to your reading lists as well!!!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

from garden plOTT to kitchen pOTT: Canning Week Linky Winner

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Just like all good parties, at some point they come to an end.  But what a party it was!!!!!!  Jen and I were so pleased with the responses to all of our tips, recipes and how-to guides.  It was our hope that bloggers would become more educated and encouraged about canning on their own from reading our posts and joining in all the other party fun like our facebook page, give-a-ways and linky party. 

Speaking of our Canning Week Linky Party we are pleased to report over 60 entries.  This made judging quite a challenge but Jane from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms made the tough decision and decided to award a copy of her cookbook "Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms" to.............


Sherry from A Happy Valentine

Jane said, "I really enjoyed her post on Homemade Apple Butter! I felt like I could smell the Apple Butter cooking in the crock pot and her pictures were great!  And, I was also intrigued by Sherry's post on Strawberry Fig Preserves! The figs were very interesting and I found myself wanting a taste of the finished product!

Big Congrats to Sherry as we will be in contact to get you your cookbook.  And if you would like a copy of the cook book for yourself you can visit Amazon.com to pick one up.
 
I also wanted to thank Cindy from Skip to My Lou for her guest blog post on Thursday as well as my partner is canning crime for the week Jen over at From Mess Hall to Bistro.  (Be sure to stop by her page today to see who won all of our fabulous canning give-a-ways.)
 
Keep on Canning!

Friday, August 27, 2010

from garden plOTT to kitchen pOTT; how-to can potatoes

As I'm sure most of you know Ott, E and I have a garden and whatever we can't eat during the harvest season I try to freeze or can so we can enjoy it throughout the winter.  This year we had a lot of potatoes, so I decided to can them and use them this winter in various soups to keep us warm on those cold winter nights.
Canning is relatively simple and once someone talks you though the process, you will wonder what it was you were so afraid of.  Think of it like baking a cake from scratch.  That first time someone might have had to tell you how to sift flour and you might have had to go out and buy a sifter but once you did it you could read any recipe and make any cake and use your sifter again and again.  The same is true with canning.  Once you figure out how to make an Ascorbic acid or syrup, and purchase your jars and canner, you can take any item of produce and prepare it for canning. 

For the purposes of this "Canning Week Blog Party" I will be giving tips on using a Pressure Canner while Jen over at From Mess Hall to Bistro will be giving tips on using the Hot Water Method. 
In this How-To Guide I will be giving step by step instructions on how to can so you could switch out potatoes for any vegetable and the only thing that would really change is the preparation of your produce up until you put it in the jars.  I strongly encourage using good cookbooks like Ball Blue Book-Guide to Preserving or the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for all the exact processing times and procedures for each item of produce. 

So to start I wash my jars and leave them sitting in warm water.  I like to make sure the temp of the jars is warm when I add my warm produce and then when I place the filled jar in the hot water in the pressure cooker (keeping a constant temperature helps keep the jars from breaking).  I will also take my lids and rings and place them in bowls full of hot water too. 

My pressure cooker I will then fill about 1/2-2/3 full of water and put on low heat to get that heating up as it's a large volume of water and takes a while.  (Make sure you have a rack plate in the bottom of your canner.)  At this point in time I will also have two additional pots on my stove with water in them and will turn the heat on them to get the water to a boil. 
For the potatoes I cleaned, peeled and diced them in one of the pots which has an ascorbic acid solution.  (An easy ascorbic acid solution is 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1/2 gallon of water.  This prevents your potatoes from darkening.)  Back on the stove I have another pot of boiling water, and I'll get to that in a second.  Once all of my potatoes are prepared I make sure the pot boils for a minute or two and then drain.  (This is a blanching process to quickly cook your potatoes.) 
Next I start to turn the heat up on my canner so the water will start to boil.  I also, get my jars out of the hot water, empty them and place them on a towel.  I take the drained potatoes and fill each jar as full as I can get with potatoes.  To help me do this I use a funnel and sometimes a spoon to help push the potatoes down. 
Then I take the second pot of just plain boiling water and ladle water into each jar to about an inch from the top.  (It's important to leave head space for any expansion that occurs later.) 

Then I add 1/2 tsp of salt to each pint jar.
Next I quickly take a paper towel and wipe off the edges of my jars.  (This ensures the rim is clean and that the lid will seal properly.)

I then take my lids out of the warm water and place them on top of the jars.

Then I take my rings out of warm water and screw the rings on top of them.  I give each one an extra tight grip to ensure they are screwed down as firmly as possible.

Next I place my jars inside the canner.  (I use tongs to help be do this.)  When the jars are inside and the water is boiling I place the lid on my canner. 
At this point I watch the pressure gauge on the lid.  (When you first put it on the gauge will be down, but once heat and steam build inside the canner the gauge will lift to let you know your canner is air tight.) 
Once that happens I place my weights on the valve.  For potatoes they suggest 10 pounds of pressure for 35 minutes.  (Please note some canners have gauges that tell you how many pounds of pressure you reach but mine has three weights a 5, 10 and 15 pound and the way I know the canner has reached the appropriate pressure is that the weight will start to rock and spin and make noise.  At that moment I turn down the heat on my canner just a little because I want to maintain the temperature of my pot and not let it keep rising.  At this time I also set my timer for 35 minutes and wait.

Once 35 minutes have passed, I turn the heat on my canner off.  I then take the weight and gently push it to allow steam to slowly escape from the canner.  (Careful patience is needed here as the canner is extremely hot and you need to release the steam slowly.)

Once all the steam has escaped I completely take the weight off and wait for the pressure gauge to drop back down.  Once that drops I know it is now safe to take off my lid. 

Then I take my jars out of the canner and place them on a towel to finish cooling and drying.
At this point in time I listen for my jars to pop.  (The lids will give a little click sound and then I breathe a sigh of relief because I know it worked and they sealed.  Another way to verify this long after they are out and cooled is to press down on the lids.  They should be firm and not allow you to push down and make the popping sound yourself.)  I then will leave my jars alone for a good 24 hours before I move to the pantry. 

Some additional tips for your canning.  Always have lots of extra kitchen towels around.  Your working so much with water, filling jars, etc. that they get damp quickly and easy access to more is helpful.  Also, your kitchen is going to get hot, so crank up the AC and get some extra fans moving air into the kitchen.

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Although this is the last day of our "Canning Week Blog Party" you can still get more tips and recipes over on Jen's Blog today; From Mess Hall to Bistro, and while you are there don't forget to sign up for our give-a-ways as there are lots of kitchen and canning items you won't want to miss (like 2 Ball Home Canning Discovery Kits amongst other things).

If you are interested in learning more about canning check out our facebook page where you can post and find recipes, ask questions and meet other canners.

And if you are a canner feel free to link up to our Canning Week Linky Party and share what you know and how you can. The linky is open till 4 pm Friday, August 27th and we are excited to announce that we will be having a guest judge for our linky party.....Jane from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms will look for the post with the most descriptive explanation, good pictures and entertaining read and that blogger will win a copy of her cook book "Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms" which is also available for purchase on Amazon.com
Make-Ahead Meals For Busy Moms
All winners will be announced on Saturday, August 28th.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

from garden plOTT to kitchen pOTT; guest canner cindy

I am pleased to announce that I have a guest blogger to showcase today during our "Canning Week Blog Party."  When I first saw her version of Canned Apple Pie Filling I knew she would fit right in with our party.  Please join me in welcoming Cindy from Skip to My Lou.  Now lets pour ourselves another cup of Latte' and check out her Relish Recipes!!!!


Canned Relish



If you love Harry & David's Onion Pepper Relish. You will have to give this relish recipe a try!

HotPepperJelly5


Onion and Pepper Relish



5 - 14.5 oz. cans chopped tomatoes (drained)
6 bell peppers (seeds and ribs removed) (I used two each of red, yellow and green)
6 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons salt
1 - 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (I used 1 1/2 tsp)
6 jalapeno peppers with seeds and ribs removed (a spoon does this easily)
3 medium onions
2 cups white vinegar
2 small boxes powered pectin (1.75 oz)

First chop all vegetables. It goes together very easily once all the chopping is done. To make this quicker I used a food processor.

HotPepperJelly1a

Mix everything together, except the pectin, in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer about 1 hour. Add in the pectin and boil for 1 minute.

HotPepperJelly2

Pour relish into hot sterilized half pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch head room. I needed 13 half pint jars.

HotPepperJelly3

Place lids and rings on jars. Process jars by placing them in a large pot of water. Water level should be an inch over jars. Boil for 15 minutes. Carefully remove jars from water and allow to cool. You know jars are sealed when there is no give in the lid.

I plan to attach a tag to mine that says, "For an easy dip, mix jar contents with 2 - 8 oz packages of cream cheese and serve with corn chip scoopers."

Enjoy!

If you are looking for more ideas on handmade gift giving, take a moment to browse through the Handmade Gift Guide.

Big thanks again to Cindy from Skip to My Lou for sharing these great recipes with us!!!
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The "Canning Week Blog Party" is still going on!!! Don't miss out on all our give-a-ways (like 2 Ball Home Canning Discovery Kits amongst a lot of other cool stuff) over on Jen's Blog; From Mess Hall to Bistro, and while you are there check out her canning recipes and tips. 

If you are interested in learning more about canning check out our facebook page where you can post and find recipes, ask questions and meet other canners.

And if you are a canner feel free to link up to our Canning Week Linky Party and share what you know and how you can. The linky is open till 4 pm Friday, August 27th and we are excited to announce that we will be having a guest judge for our linky party.....Jane from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms will look for the post with the most descriptive explanation, good pictures and entertaining read and that blogger will win a copy of her cook book "Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms" which is also for sale on Amazon.com
All winners will be announce Saturday, August 28th!!!

from garden plOTT to kitchen pOTT; canning salsa


The older I get the more I like Mexican food.  So canning salsa has become more of a priority since I eat more of it.  What I've noticed though is how much money I saved by making and canning my own salsa.  If you think about it the average jar of salsa cost $3.00 at the grocery story.  I can grown the tomatoes, onion and peppers in my garden for a couple of dollars (less if I grow them from seed).  If I chop up, add some spices and can myself that's easily a dollar or two per jar I'm saving.  One evening after work I made and canned 12 jars of salsa in about 3 hours time.  (That's roughly $24 I saved!)  And here's how I make it:

10 cups chopped, seeded, peeled cored tomatoes
5 cups chopped and seeded green peppers
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic
2 T. Cilantro
1 T. Salt
1 T. Sugar

That's right 1 Tablespoon Sugar.  This is my personal secret ingredient.  I know you're probably questioning that but give it a try sometime I think you'll find it adds that extra something to tickle your taste buds.

So, to get my tomatoes peeled I cut the stems out, and cut a small x on the bottom of the tomato before putting them in a pot of boiling water for about 4 minutes.  Then I drain the tomatoes and place them in ice cold water for another 4 minutes.  After than the skins peel right off, thanks to the x on bottom which gives you a place to start at.
From there I scoop out the seeds with my hands and place the remaining tomato in my food processor along with the other ingredients to chop it all up.  Next I place my salsa in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil.  Then I reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  After that I ladle the salsa into warm canning jars, being sure to leave 1/4 inch head space.  Next I take a paper towel and wipe off the rim of my canning jars before placing my lids and rings on top.  Then place the jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. 
This recipe yields 6 pints.
To kick it up a notch I take the above recipe and add 1 cup of pineapple.  If you've never tried Pineapple Salsa you should as it has a great taste to it.  To dress it up a bit I went through and only used yellow tomatoes to give the Salsa a really nice yellow color as you can see in the picture above of the jar to the left and the picture below in the food processor. 
Ummm.... doesn't that just make you want to grab a bag of chips and eat it all up?!?!
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We hope you are enjoying our "Canning Week Blog Party" and you can still get more tips and recipes over on Jen's Blog today; From Mess Hall to Bistro, and while you are there don't forget to sign up for our give-a-ways as there are lots of kitchen and canning items you won't want to miss.

If you are interested in learning more about canning check out our facebook page where you can post and find recipes, ask questions and meet other canners.

And if you are a canner feel free to link up to our Canning Week Linky Party and share what you know and how you can. The linky is open till 4 pm Friday, August 27th and we are excited to announce that we will be having a guest judge for our linky party.....Jane from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms will look for the post with the most descriptive explanation, good pictures and entertaining read and that blogger will win a copy of her cook book "Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms" which is also available for purchase on Amazon.com
Make-Ahead Meals For Busy Moms
All winners will be announced on Saturday, August 28th.

This post was linked to the following parties:
Strut Your Stuff on Somewhat Simple, Show Off your Stuff at Fireflies and Jellybeans, Thrifty Thursday on Tales from Bloggeritaville,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

from garden plOTT to kitchen pOTT: apple pie filling

This post is an example of how canning and time management tricks come into play......Now lets say I'm at work and out of nowhere someone decides to have a carry in lunch the next day. Yet that evening I've got meetings to go to, dinner to get around not to mention laundry to do and a yard to mow.... you get the picture.... we've all been there. No worries though, because all I really have to do is walk to my pantry pull a jar of apple pie filling off the shelf. Walk to my freezer and pull a frozen single layer pie crust out. I add a few spices to the apples pour in the pie shell, stick in the oven and out comes a tasty Apple Crumb Pie. While that's baking I can get everything else on my to-do list done (multi-tasking at its best) and when I walk in the office the next day for the carry-in everyone thinks I slaved away all night just on their pie. Shhhhh.....it'll be our little secret! One afternoon in the fall canning saves me countless hours the rest of the year, and therefore every bake sale, carry in, meeting refreshments need I have, is quick and easy to pull off.
To start will I wash, peel and slice about 5 pounds of apples into bite sized chuncks.  I then place my apples in a big bowl of water with 1 T. Salt and 1 T. lemon juice.  (This prevents the apples from darkening while you are getting everything else ready.)   

On the stove I get my syrup mixture going.  In a large pot over medium heat I mix a ratio fo 4 cups water to 1 cup sugar and wisk around until the sugar dissolves. 

At the same time I've got my jars in hot water in the sink getting them warmed up.  I've also got my lids and rings in bowls of warm water and my canner is on the stove 2/3 full of water and the heat is on high to get it boiling.

Next I drain the apples and cook them in the syrup for 5 minutes.  At this time I add 1-2 tsp. cinnamon(depending on how large your pot and batch of apples are).

Finally I get my warm jars out and pack the apples (which are hot) into the jars covering with the syrup mixture up to 1/2 inch of head space.  I then take a paper towel and wipe off the rims of the jars, place my lids and rings on tightly and place into my canner.  Here is a tip: I like to use quart sized jars as one will fill a pie crust.

For canning these I use the boiling water bath method, and leave the jars in there for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes I turn off the heat and leave the jars in there until the steam stops coming out the top of my pressure canner.  Once that is done I take the lid off, and remove the jars to a towel on the kitchen counter and wait for the sound of the lids to pop telling me they have sealed completely.
So here is how I make my Apple Crumb Pie and my handy recipe card for you to print off and keep for when you want to give it a try. 
















My tip for canning apples: Buy and apple peeler/corer; one of those that sticks to your kitchen table or counter and you turn the handle and the apple gets peeled and cored at the same time.  Although there is an intial investment in products to help you can they do pay off after a couple time of use and in the end will save you lots of time. 
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The "Canning Week Blog Party" is still going on!!!  For more canning tips head on over to Jen's Blog; From Mess Hall to Bistro, and while you are there don't forget to sign up for our give-a-ways as there are lots of kitchen and canning items you won't want to miss.

If you are interested in learning more about canning check out our facebook page where you can post and find recipes, ask questions and meet other canners.

And if you are a canner feel free to link up to our Canning Week Linky Party and share what you know and how you can. The linky is open till 4 pm Friday, August 27th and we are excited to announce that we will be having a guest judge for our linky party.....Jane from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms will look for the post with the most descriptive explanation, good pictures and entertaining read and that blogger will win a copy of her cook book "Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms" which is also for sale on Amazon.com

All winners will be announced on Saturday, August 28th.
This post was linked to:
Works for Me Wednesday from We are That Family, Penny Pinching Wednesdays at The Thrifty Home, Look what I made at Creations by Kara, Show us What You are Working on at Me and My Bucket, Make it Yours Day on My Backyard Eden, Bargarin Brag Wednesdays at Bargarin Shopping Paradise, Idea Sharin' Wednesday by Women Who Do it All,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

from garden plOTT to kitchen pOTT; canning tomato juice

Today I am going to share with you how I can tomato juice.  I find that canning this juice one afternoon in the summer saves me time and money come winter.  It's very convenient to pull off my pantry shelf and make soup with.  Ott, E loves my vegetable soup and all I do is add some vegetables and meat, heat up on the stove and it's a quick, tasty, warm and healthy meal on those cold winter nights.  I like to use quart sized jars for juice as that makes a nice sized meal of the two of us.










So to start with I have my jars cleaned and in a sink of hot water.  I also have my lids and rings in bowls of hot water.  I put a pot of water on the stove to boil and fill up my canner about 2/3 full of water and turn the heat on low. 





I clean my tomatoes and cut the stems out.  Cut them in half and then drop them into the boiling water. 








I leave them in there for a couple of minutes so they get soft and then drain off the water and place them in a food mill with a pan underneath to catch the juice.  From there it takes some elbow grease to turn the food mill until there is nothing left but seeds and skins.









I then place the freshly squeezed juice in the pot back on the stove to warm up a little and at the same time turn the heat up to high on my canner. I also get me jars out of the sink and get them ready to be filled with juice. I used a funnel and a ladle to get the juice in the jars and am sure to leave some head space at the top of the jar.
Once your jars are filled you can add 1/2 tsp. salt to the jars for flavor but I choose not to.  I still take a paper towel around the rim of the jar (to make sure there is no debris to keep my jar from sealing).  I then add my lid and make sure my rings are screwed on tightly.











Lastly I place my warm jars in the canner. (Remember it's important to keep jars and juice warm so they won't crack when placing them in the canner.)  Once they are all in and the water is boiling I place the lid on the canner.
Once the steam and air have left the canner the pressure gauge will pop up and I know it is time to add my weight.   I can quart sized tomato juice at 10 pounds for 15 minutes. 

Once the weight starts to shake and quake I set my timer for the 15 minutes, and when it is done I turn the heat off.  I will then tilt the weight so it slowly releases steam.  (It's important no to release the steam too quickly as it could cause your jars to break.)

Once all the steam is released I will take the weight off and wait until the rest of the pressure leaves the canner and the pressure gauge drops down.  At that time I take off the lid and carefully remove the jars from the canner. 

Once the jars are out, I turn the heat back on the canner and sometimes add some more water to it, and then get the next batch going.  Doing multiple batches does take some timing because you don't want your jars to get cool waiting on the water to heat up.  At times when I am doing a lot I have 2 canners that I get going and try to alternate when they have jars inside them so there is always one batch ready to go. 

Listen for your jars to pop so you know they have completely sealed.  And don't be surprised if your juice starts to separate.  That is normal and whenever you are ready to use your juice shake it up before you open the jar.

My tips for canning tomato juice is wear old clothes as there is a good chance at some point you are going to get some juice on you and it is hard to get out sometimes.  Also select varieties of tomatoes that are juicy and not meaty.  I try to keep the meatier tomatoes for sauce or salsa.

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For more canning tips head on over to Jen's Blog; From Mess Hall to Bistro, and while you are there don't forget to sign up for our give-a-ways as there are lots of kitchen and canning items you won't want to miss.

If you are interested in learning more about canning check out our facebook page where you can post and find recipes, ask questions and meet other canners.

And if you are a canner feel free to link up to our Canning Week Linky Party and share what you know and how you can.  The linky is open till 4 pm Friday, August 27th and we are excited to announce that we will be having a guest judge for our linky party.....Jane from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms will look for the post with the most descriptive explanation, good pictures and entertaining read and that blogger will win a copy of her cook book "Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms." 
All winners will be announced on Saturday, August 28th.

This post was linked to:
Gratituesday at HeavenlyHomemakers, Tasty Tuesday Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace, Tuesday at the Table with All the Small Stuff, Tuesday Taste with Crazy Daisy, Two for Tuesdays with the Girl Chef, Delicious Dish at It's a Blog Party, Twister Tuesdays with GNOWFGLINS
Tip Junkie, Anything Related Tuesday at All Thingz Related, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday at New Nostalgia. TopsyTurvy Tuesdays with I'm Topsy Turvy
 
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