Category Archives: Preserving

Juicer Rhubarb

juicer ready for rhubarbBought a juicer. A Cuisinart, on sale. More precisely, it’s a juice extractor. Fruit or vegetables go in, spin around while little blades separate the pulp from the juice.

First to go in is rhubarb. Here’s how it worked out for me. The quantities I give are for the pitcher on my juicer, which holds 32 ounces (4 cups or .95 L).

Prepare the rhubarb, set the juicer speed

Wash about 18 rhubarb stalks and chop into 4-5″ lengths (10-12 cm). The juicer manual didn’t include rhubarb in its speed settings guide. So I chose the 2nd fastest, same as what’s recommended for pears or celery. I figured they were close to the consistency of rhubarb.

Feed the tube

rhubarb juice in juicer pitcherFeed the rhubarb pieces into the juicer tube a few at a time. My juice container holds 32 ounces. In this picture, it’s too full. See the darker liquid and foamy stuff above the band near the top? You don’t want that in your juice. A barrier inside the pitcher holds back most of it but it still leaches into the spout. I skimmed off as much as I could, trying not to mix it into the juice below. That’s easier to do if the jug fills only to the top mark.

Strain the juice

pouring-rhubarb-juicePour the juice from the pitcher into a measuring cup. Leave the lid on the pitcher – it also helps block the foamy stuff.  And, although it’s hard to co-ordinate your hands, it helps a lot if you also use a cheesecloth-lined sieve for this initial pouring. Keep the flow as even as possible and watch it as you near the bottom. Stop pouring when you start to see the cloudy, green residue enter the flow. Throw that out.

Next pour the juice into another bowl or pitcher through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Rinse the cheesecloth and container to remove residue and foam. Then filter the juice back and forth between pitchers a few times to strain out as much foam and residue as you can.

Add water and sweeten

add-water-to-juiceMeasure the amount of juice and heat the same amount of water. For 4 cups water, I add 1/2 cup sugar. Stir until it dissolves. Pour into the pitcher of rhubarb juice and mix well.

Taste it. Add a bit of sugar or water if needed. If you can’t fix it without losing flavour, make more juice and mix the two to correct the proportions. A splash of lemon juice brightens the taste, if needed.

Bottle

Put a funnel in your juice bottle and pour your juice in. You can line the funnel with a bit of cheesecloth if you want to do one more filtration.

remove-foam-from-juiceThe juice will foam up in the bottle. If you’re using a flexible container, gently squeeze it to make the juice move up the neck. The foam will rise so you can scoop it off. Be careful to not squeeze too hard. It can pop up and you’ll have juice all over the counter. I know; it happened.

One juicer load of rhubarb made one 1.89 L bottle of rhubarb juice.

Is a juicer easier?

I don’t know if the juicer is any easier or better than making juice by draining cooked rhubarb through a sieve (here’s how to do that). You get a completely raw product using the juicer. But you also get the weird green foam, which you don’t get by cooking and sieving.

glass of rhubarb juice with lime sliceYou go from picking your rhubarb to having a finished bottle of juice more quickly using the juicer because you don’t have to stop and wait for gravity to act. But the quantity you can make at one time is limited by what the jug holds. One bottle rather than the usual two I make using sieved juice. However, both methods result in equally good tasting juice.

Apple Chutney

Apples left over from a good crop this year from our trees. As much apple chutneyjelly and juice as I could handle making, apple crumble too. Maybe apple chutney? Lots of recipes on line. But most called for raisins, which I did not have and don’t actually like in chutney. One, however, fit the bill: myheartbeets Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney.

So Google told me an Instant Pot is a fancy pressure cooker that does everything except eat the food it cooks. Not having one, I improvised – with one ordinary cooking pot. I don’t know how mine compares to that made in an Instant Pot, but I like it. Delicious, easy to make and versatile.

Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney (adapted)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (didn’t have them, so omitted)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves (I used 1 dried bay leaf)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (my addition)
  • 4 red apples (approx. 1½ lbs) cored and quartered
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder (I used 1 tsp minced fresh ginger root)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne, adjust to taste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

add later:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 tsp Kashmiri chili or paprika (for colour), optional
How I made it

apples-ready-to-cook1. Core and cut up apples. Sprinkle them with lemon juice to keep them from browning. (Also, in looking for substitutions for curry leaves, I read that they are kind of citrusy. So lemon juice would not hurt.) My apples were small so I just quartered them. If I were using large apples, using my method, I’d chop the quarters again. The way, the peel in the chutney would not be overly large.

2. Put oil in a medium size saucepan and allow it a minute to heat up. Then add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves to the pot. Once the cumin seeds begin to brown, add the apples and remaining spices (turmeric, ginger, salt, cayenne). Give everything a good mix, then add the apple cider vinegar.

3. Cook for 15 minutes at medium high heat.

apples-cooked-15-mins4. Mix well and mash up apple pieces. My apples pretty much did this themselves, so I just stirred it a bit. If need be, purée with an immersion blender, or pour in a blender and purée, then pour back in the pot.

5. Add sugar, cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. I only cooked it maybe another 5 minutes.

apple-chutney-paprika added6. Stir in Kashmiri chili or paprika, if you wish, and cook another minute or two. I used 1½ tsp paprika.

7. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. I got a 16 ounce container full (about 475 ml).

Ready to use, or can it

I think this would can nicely – although it really is so quick to make that you could just make a container full as you need to. However, jars of it would make a lovely gift – and make you look like a really good cook.

So far, we have tried it on cheese and ham sandwiches – wonderful! chutney-with-beefMy husband also used it as the sauce in a stir fry. Sliced beef, cauliflower, red pepper and sliced cooked potato. 3 tablespoons of chutney and ¼ cup water added. Heated through, and served on rice. A bit of spicy heat in it, but delicate and light. Perfect.

Salsa

An excellent medium tomato salsa. It is chunky so if you want a smoother salsa on chipsalsa, cut your veggies into smaller pieces. If you want it hotter, increase the jalapeños. To keep the veggie balance, decrease the green peppers. The tomato sauce and paste give it a nice, thick texture.

As posted by Jazze22, the recipe says 45 minutes preparation and 1¼ hours total time. Preparation – peeling and chopping – took me way longer than that. I chopped everything by hand, and maybe a food processor would be faster. I peeled and chopped long enough to start thinking longingly of supermarket shelves lined with jars of salsa. However, after finally finishing, mine tasted so good and I know exactly what is in it and what isn’t. And that’s worth a lot. Isn’t it?

(* indicates my addition to the original recipe)

chopped veggiesSalsa Ingredients

  • 8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained (4-5 lbs whole*)
  • 2 1⁄2 cups onions, chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 cups green peppers
  • 1 cup jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed*
  • 1⁄8 cup canning salt
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup vinegar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (12 ounce) can tomato pastecooked veggies

Directions

  • Mix all together and bring to a slow boil for 10 minutes (medium heat*)
  • Seal in jars and cook in hot water bath for 10 minutes

Yields 3 quarts or 6 pints. (I got 5 pints with a bit left over)jars of salsa

Dill Pickles

I’ve always liked dill pickles, but I didn’t like homemade ones. They handwritten dill pickles recipe photo d stewartjust didn’t have the crunch that Bick’s and any store-bought ones had. Then I tried dills that Helen Erskine made. She and her husband Sam were my parents’ neighbours and friends in Belmont. I guess my shock showed because Helen asked me ‘what is it, dear?’ It’s good, that’s what it is!

So good that even though I was a teenager and had never canned pickles in my life, nor had any intention of doing so, I wrote down her recipe. Miraculously, I never lost that scrap of paper.

It was a long time before I started making pickles. Even longer before I felt confident to try dill pickles. I didn’t want to ruin my memory of Mrs. Erskine’s perfect pickles. I saw, when actually using the recipe, that there were key things that I had not written down. But I figured them out. So below is my amended recipe.

Helen Erskine’s Award-Worthy Dill Pickles

4 qts (8 lbs / 3.6 kg) pickling cucumbers
1 pint (2 cups / 480 ml) white vinegar
3 qts (12 cups / 2.85 ltrs) water
1/2 cup (120 ml / 113 g) coarse salt
sprigs and heads of dill – a couple per jar
garlic cloves – one large for each jar

cucumbers-garlic-dill-photo-d-stewart1. Wash cucumbers well. Remove any stems without cutting into the cucumber itself. (2018 note: I read that you should soak whole cucumbers in ice-cold water for 3-4 hours before starting pickling – it helps keep them crisp.)

2. Sterilize 6-7 clean quart/litre jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Put snap lids in the canner (or in a separate small pan of boiling water) for the last five minutes.

3. Start preparing the pickle brine (#4). As it heats, your jars should be done. So you can begin packing the clean jars with dill and cucumbers (#5).

4. Put water, vinegar and garlic in large stainless steel or enamel pot and bring to a boil. Add salt. Bring to a rolling boil. (You can instead put a garlic clove in each jar. If you don’t like garlic dill pickles, just leave it out.)

filling-jars-photo-d-stewart5. When jars are sterilized, remove one (carefully, with jar tongs). Put a couple sprigs of dill in it, then pack cucumbers in tightly but without crushing them. Repeat with remaining jars.

6. Scoop the garlic out of the brine and discard. Then ladle brine into the jars. A jar funnel helps keep the rim of your jars clean. Fill to 1/4″ from the top of the jar. Wipe rim with a clean wet cloth and put snap lid and screw cap on. Repeat until all the brine is in all the jars of cucumbers.

You can either a) pack all the jars with cucumbers then fill and cap or b) pack, fill and cap one jar then another. With the batch pictured here, I chose option b.

With luck, your amounts of cucumbers and brine will match. If not, you’ve either got cucumbers left over for something else or brine you can keep if you’re going to do more pickling soon. If I need a little more brine to fill a jar, I quickly heat up a small amount of vinegar, water and salt. Then I mark that jar with a different coloured cap or make a small scratch on the lid. When I label them, I mark it as ‘use first’.

jars-in-canner-photo-d-stewart7. Make sure the screw caps are finger tight and put the jars back in the canner. Bring the water back to the boil. The water should come about one inch over the top of your jars. Let them boil for 10 minutes.

8. Carefully remove and put on a rack to cool. You’ll hear the snap lids pop soon. That tells you your seal is good. (On my handwritten recipe, at top, overflowing the jar with brine and turning upside down is what you do with the old style glass lid sealing jars, not the metal snap lids.)

dill-pickles-photo-d-stewart9. When they’ve cooled, take the screw lids off.  Wipe the jars, especially around the top, with warm wet cloth or paper towel. You can put the rings back on, or not as long as the seal is good. Date them and put in a dark, cool place for 6 weeks.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles you buy in the store are thinly sliced bread and butter pickles photo d stewartrounds of cucumber only. But most of the recipes for them include sliced onion and sometimes chopped green pepper. I like them the way they come from the store, but I like making my own. So I adapted a good recipe I found online. I make them exactly as below, except I leave out the onion and increase the cucumber. It makes about 6 pint jars.

Recipe (Diana Rattray, thespruce.com)

  • Four Five lbs pickling cucumbers
  • 1 large onion, quartered, sliced abt. 1/4″ thickness
  • 1/3 cup kosher (coarse) salt
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes – optional

slicing-cucumber-photo-d-stewartWash cucumbers and cut off ends. Slice crosswise into 1/8″ slices. Toss in a large bowl with salt and onion; cover with 4-6 cups of ice cubes. Cover and let stand 4 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Boiling water bath:  Wash jars thoroughly and heat water in a small saucepan; put the lids in the saucepan and bring almost to the boil; lower heat to very low to keep the lids hot.

Making pickles: Drain cucumbers in a large colander and rinse with cold water.

pickles-in-pot-photo-d-stewartIn a large, nonreactive [stainless steel, glass, enamel] pot over medium heat, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add the drained cucumbers and bring to a boil.

Pack pickles in jars

With a slotted spoon, loosely pack the pickles into prepared jars. Ladle the liquid into jars, dividing evenly. With a clean damp cloth, wipe away any drips around the rims of the jars, and then cover with 2-piece jar lid and screw ring. A lid lifter comes in handy to get the bottling-pickles-photo-d-stewartflat lids out of the water, or you could use tongs. Adjust the screw on rings firmly but do not over-tighten.

Place filled jars in the prepared boiling water bath, adding more hot water as needed to bring the water up to about 1 inch above the jars. Bring the water to a boil. Cover and continue boiling for 10 minutes.

Lift the jars out of the water and place on a rack to cool. For best flavor development, store the pickles in a cool, dark place for at least 3 to 4 weeks.

A mandolin slicer (second pic) is great for cutting cucumbers.  My hints & hacks page has more on this wonderful tool. For these pickles, you can use small and large cukes. I’ve used regular field cucumbers and they worked fine. If you like long slices rather than rounds, cut the cukes lengthwise.

Apple Jelly

Making apple jelly is like making any other fruit jelly except you don’t need to add pectin. Apples have loads of pectin. When I started making jams and jellies and was much more conscientious about not apples-photo-d-stewartadding additives, I added a few apples to any fruit for the pectin. Then I got lazy and started using commercial pectin.

But in this year’s apple jelly making, I found a recipe that reminded me that you don’t need to add pectin to pectin-filled apples. And it’s easy. Basically, just add sugar and lemon juice to the apple juice and boil until it gels. (My notes are added.)

Apple Jelly (Mick Telkamp, HGTV)

Yield: About 6 half-pints (I got 4)

5 pounds apples (about 16 cups chopped)
6 cups water (to extract 5 cups apple juice)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups sugar (I used 3 cups)

apples-cooking-photo-d-stewartWash and chop apples into small pieces, including skin and cores, and place in a large pot.

Add 6 cups of water to the pot and bring to boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes until apples are soft.

Pour into jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl to separate juice. Allow to drain without pressing or forcing juice from the apples for the clearest jelly. (Leave several hours or overnight)

apple-jelly-froth-photo-d-stewartCombine 5 cups apple juice, lemon juice and sugar in a pot and bring to boil over high heat.

Continue to boil until a temperature of 220 degrees F is reached. (25-30 mins)

Test jelly by dipping in a cold spoon. If the jelly drips from the gel-test-photo-d-stewartspoon in a sheet, jelly is ready. If not, allow to cook a little longer and test again. (Watch it and you’ll see the colour deepen. Also when stirring, the resistance on the spoon increases slightly.)

Once the jelly thickens, transfer it into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.

Cap with lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes to seal.

Apple jelly will store in a cool location up to a year without loss of texture or flavor.apple jelly photo d stewart

Lessons learned

A couple of lessons I learned in my first two times using this recipe. First, when you’re near the gelling point, check it every minute or so. I let it cook another five minutes after seeing it was almost gelling. Too long. I got one jar of jelly solid enough to make gummy bears.

Second, keep stirring. And use a pot with high sides. In my second batch, I left it unattended for a minute too long. I had it in a Dutch oven that I thought was plenty big enough. And it was – as long as I kept stirring the froth down. But left alone, it started frothing higher and higher. I couldn’t get it stirred down fast enough. So, a huge mess on the stove.

Learn from my mistakes and you’ll have delicious jelly, easily made.

See also my making apple juice. It’s exactly the same except you don’t gel the juice.

Apple Juice

apple-tree-photo-d-stewartIt’s been a good year for our apple trees. They grow near the house, in the fields and woods. More apples than the deer can eat. Different kinds – red, yellow, crab and not. Why couldn’t I make apple juice, I wondered. Cook and strain, just like I did for rhubarb juice. I googled and, yep, you can.

Cut up apples

apple-bins-photo-d-stewartI halved the small apples and quartered large ones. Smaller pieces cook faster and it also lets you better see parts that are bad or wormy. I didn’t peel them or cut the cores out.

Put cut apples in a large pot and add water. After some trial and error, I found about a third as much water as apples gave the right strength of juice. So for 16 cups of cut-up apples, add 5-6 cups water.

apples-cooking-photo-d-stewartCook until apples are soft, about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the quantity and the apples.

Line a sieve or colander (plastic, enamel or stainless steel) with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth, dampen it. Then sit it in a bowl or pot that fits so that there is clearance for the liquid to drain. Have two more containers nearby – you’ll likely need them in the next step.

Strain apple juice

Carefully pour the liquid and apples into the strainer. Your bowl will soon fill because the juice will drain through quickly. Move the colander over to your spare bowl with one hand and, with the other hand, pour the juice into another bowl or jug.

straining-apples-photo-d-stewartKeep doing that until all the apples and liquid are in the colander. Leave that to drain. Take another colander or sieve, put cheesecloth in it and strain the juice several more times from one bowl to the other. You’ll see a bit of apple pulp in the bottom. Rinse the cheesecloth, and repeat.

If your apples are sweet enough to eat, I doubt you’ll need to add sugar. Taste the juice while it’s still hot to see. Be careful, add only a bit at a time.

You can freeze it in plastic bottles or can it in sealing jars. You can likely make it as a concentrate by using less water.

Is it worth it?

apple juice photo d stewartIf you have the apples anyway, it’s worth doing. But if I had to buy them, I don’t think I would. The juice is a bit cloudy. Maybe a finer mesh sieve or a jelly bag. Maybe a juicer. But that’s just aesthetics. The juice tastes good.

See also my Apple Jelly. Or see how to make Rhubarb Juice and Rhubarb Jelly. It’s the same process, just with or without gelling or added pectin.

Rhubarb Juice

glass of rhubarb juiceLast summer, looking at my still flourishing rhubarb patch, a friend said “We used to make pies and jam and then made the rest into rhubarb juice.” Really? This had never crossed my mind. Just cook it down a bit and strain it, she said. So I did. It’s wonderful. Like pink lemonade, only better.

Cut then cook in stainless steel

Cut washed rhubarb stalks into 1″ pieces and put them in a large stainless steel stock pot. I did 16 cups of chopped rhubarb at a time. That’s about 25-30 rhubarb stalks.

rhubarb-in-potI added water to more than cover the rhubarb and cooked it on medium heat until it softened, about 30 mins. Then I added sugar, 2 cups to start. The amount depends on how sweet you want the juice. Cook the rhubarb another 20 mins until completely soft. Taste the juice and add more sugar if you like. I added about another half cup. Add sugar when the juice is hot so it will dissolve.

While it cooked, I lined a big colander with 3 layers of cheesecloth, overhanging the edges. Use stainless steel, plastic or enamel. Rhubarb will discolour, and be discoloured by, some metals.

Drain in stainless steel or plastic

rhubarb-in-cheeseclothPut the colander on the rim of a deep pot or bowl, so it has clearance to drain. Carefully pour the rhubarb and water in it. Let sit until fully drained. Skim foam off the top of the juice.

Bottle juice

juice-bottlePour the juice into clean bottles. I used 1.89 litre plastic store-bought juice bottles and filled about two and a half per batch.

It freezes well. Don’t fill the bottle right to the top so it has room to expand. You can also bottle it in sealer-lid jars. Here is how to do that. This recipe, however, is for a concentrate. So you add water when you want to drink it. Some recipes also call for zest (grated rind) of lemon or orange, added while the rhubarb is cooking.

(Got a juicer? Here’s how I made rhubarb juice with mine.)

$40 Beets

Several years ago, my husband grew beets and decided to pickle and can them.  He had jar-lids-photo-Dorothy-Stewartwatched me bottle relish and tomatoes and thought ‘I can do that.’  So he set to it.  He made one canner full, eight pint jars.  Then he printed labels for the jars:  $40 Beets.  He said he’d calculated that, at shop labour rates, that is what each jar cost him in time spent.  Thus ended his canning career.

Garden melons-with-cat-photo-D-StewartBut this year he moved on, with a new garden, to freezing.  We even bought a new freezer to hold the abundance of produce we have (insert slightly ironic smiley-face here).  Bok choy and zucchini have done splendidly.  There are melons of all types growing larger each day.  Four kinds of beans and three kinds of peas, all thriving and delicious.  And corn – truly the most wonderful tasting corn ever.

The only person I’ve ever known who grew corn in a small garden was my grandfather.  Garden corn-photo-Dorothy-StewartBut I was too little to remember the taste of it, if I ever ate any.  It takes a lot of room, considering you get only two ears per stalk.  I had thought it was a bit odd to grow it, maybe even that we were revisiting the $40 beets experiment.  In season, it’s easy enough to buy corn fresh from farmers’ markets.  But it doesn’t taste as good as ours.  I learned, taking those ears straight from the stalk to the cooking pot, that they justify any amount of space taken up.

No matter how delicious it is, a person can only eat so much corn.  So he is freezing it, following Corn-blanching-photo-D-Stewartsuggestions found online.  After preparing several cobs for blanching, he read that the best way to freeze corn straight out of the field is in the husk.  If it was picked longer before than that, like that you get from a store, it should be husked and blanched before freezing.  We will try both ways.*

We’ve had little luck with the pepper plants, tomatoes and spinach.  Too much rain this spring caused a delay in planting the garden.  Garden plowing-photo-Dorothy-StewartLettuce is only now starting to look leafy.  They may be vegetables not suited to the Maritimes or our soil is not right for them.

The garden was plowed then rototilled in what had been field, so the soil was clods of dense earth.  Topsoil had to be added.  With the rain, it was a very mucky mess for a long time.  But then the seedlings (started from seed in the house under grow lights) gained strength in Garden beans-peas-Dorothy-Stewarttheir little stalks.  Along with the weeds, they flourished.

Now we are reaping the harvest.  The chickens love the corn and cobs.  Zucchini and beans get a ‘meh’ from them.  I’m hoping that when – if – the lettuce comes in that they will like it.

Because, still, the biggest thrill for them is the mixed salad greens that chickens-photo-Dorothy-Stewartcome in plastic containers from the supermarket.  Within seconds, they completely devour them and look expectantly for more.  I’m sure there is an object lesson for us somewhere in that.

* Neither way worked.  This year we grew corn again, but less, and cut the kernels off the cob after a couple minutes of blanching.  They taste just fine.  There is a round tool you can use or just use a large, sharp knife – carefully. The frozen corn on the cob went to the chickens.

 

Grilled Zucchini

zucchiniIf God has blessed you with so much zucchini that even the chickens run away when they see you coming, here is one solution. Grilled, for the freezer.

Preparing Grilled Zucchini

preparing grilled zucchiniJust cut the ends off, cut in half and slice lengthwise.

Toss with olive oil and herbs such as oregano, basil, or herbs de provence.

 

Zucchini on BBQGrill lightly on the bbq both sides.

You don’t have to cook it, just grill until it “sweats.”

 

 

Grilled Zucchini ready for freezerThis what they look like when they’re done.

Then lay out in a single layer on non stick cookie sheets and put in the freezer.

After freezing, bag ’em and you’re done. It’s easy and is great in tomato sauce or casseroles, especially in the middle of winter.

My husband spent all day dealing with produce from our garden.  He posted his grilled zucchini process on Facebook, and I stole it.