Cooking

Canning Applesauce

Freshly canned applesauce

I love homemade applesauce so much better than anything I can buy at the store. After getting 2 bushels of apples, I knew I would be making applesauce from some of them. It really is easy to make.

There is some disagreement about whether or not you have to peel your apples before making applesauce. It is a personal choice. You can cut up your apples without peeling them, if you are running them through a food mill. The food mill will remove the skins. If you use red-skinned apples, the skins will give your sauce a rosy tint.

I actually peeled my apples, mostly because I knew I was not using a food mill, but was using an immersion blender to make my sauce smooth. Either method is fine.

Sweetening is also a personal choice. You can leave your applesauce unsweetened, if you prefer. I normally use sweet apples for my sauce, so I don’t need a lot of sugar. Plus, I’ll let you in on a little secret. You need some water to help cook down the apples and keep them from sticking to the pot. Instead of water, I use apple juice or cider. It adds natural sweetness to the applesauce and a more intense apple flavor.

You can also add a couple of cinnamon sticks to the batch- don’t forget to remove them before processing.

 

Applesauce

 

12 lbs. apples, I used Melrose and Mutsu

Water

2-3 cinnamon sticks, optional

4 T.  lemon juice

sugar to taste

 

Peel and core apples. Put in water with some ascorbic acid, citric acid or lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Place apples in a pot with enough water* to prevent sticking. Add the cinnamon sticks, if using, and lemon juice. Cook over medium high heat until soft. Time will vary depending on the type of apples you are using, and how large the apples are.  Turn off the heat and remove cinnamon sticks. I wanted smooth applesauce, so I used an immersion blender. Return apple mixture to a boil. Sweeten with sugar, if you like, or leave unsweetened. Have water bath full of boiling water and have hot, clean canning jars and lids and rings ready. Ladle hot applesauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe rims and apply lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes for pints or quarts. Turn off heat and let jars stand in water bath 5 minutes before removing. Set in a draft free area to cool down. Yield: 4 quarts or 8 pints.

*rather than add water, to prevent the apples from sticking, you can use cider or apple juice instead.

Cindy’s Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten Dinner

Sauerbraten is not a dish that you throw together on the spur of the moment. The first time I had sauerbraten was at my sister Cindy’s home. I was instantly in love with it. The flavors were so complex. I could not get enough of that wonderful gravy.

The secret to sauerbraten is the long marinading process. A beef roast marinades in a mix of vinegar, wine, veggies and spices for 3-5 days. In that time, the meat becomes very tender and it picks up all those flavors. It’s almost like pickling the meat.

When ready to cook, the meat is dredged in flour, browned, then simmered in water until tender. All those ingredients in the marinade, flavor the cooking water, creating a broth. The broth is tart. To offset the sourness of the vinegar, a gravy is made with the broth that contains cookies. Yes, cookies. Gingersnaps, to be exact.

It sounds odd, but it really is wonderful. The ginger, cinnamon and cloves in the cookies add such a wonderful flavor to the gravy. I made my own gingersnaps, but you can use store bought. I posted the recipe for gingersnaps yesterday.

Sauerbraten

Marinade:

1 c. red wine vinegar

½ c. cider vinegar

½ c. red wine

1 large onion, sliced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

top from 1 bunch celery

few sprigs of fresh parsley or 1 T. dried

1 bay leaf

4 whole cloves

3 whole allspice

½ t. whole peppercorns

1 t. salt

4- 6 lb.  lean boneless chuck roast – I actually used a bottom round roast

additional flour for dredging

⅓ c. oil

2 c. warm water

¼ c. flour

I T. sugar

1 c. crushed gingersnaps – or a few more

water

salt and pepper to taste

Combine marinade ingredients in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add meat and cover.  Refrigerate 3-5 days. Tum meat at least once a day. Remove meat from marinade and pat dry. Dredge in flour. Heat oil in Dutch oven and brown meat in pan. Add warm water and simmer, covered, for 1- 2 hours or until fork tender. Start testing meat  for doneness after the first hour. Remove meat to platter and keep warm while sauce is being prepared.

For sauce, strain the pan juices and discard solids. Skim off any fat. Return the juices to the Dutch oven and keep hot. In small bowl combine the ¼ c. flour, sugar, and gingersnaps. Stir in cold water until smooth paste is formed. Whisk this paste into the   hot marinade and simmer, stirring until thickened. If it’s not thick enough, make a little more paste with flour and water. Serve meat sliced thin, with sauce on the side, and hot cooked noodles, potatoes, potato dumplings, or spaetzle.

Serves 8 – 12.

Classic Gingersnaps

Ready to be served

Classic Gingersnaps

Classic Gingersnap Cookies

Gingersnaps are one of those cookies- the people that love them – REALLY love them. I will admit to being one of those people. The mixture of spices  and crunchy texture just work together so well.

I cannot remember where I first got this recipe.  This richly spiced cookie is perfect with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea. They are not too sweet, which I also like.

You can use either dried or fresh grated ginger. I really prefer fresh. I keep a piece of ginger root in my freezer, then just grate what I want whenever needed. The ginger lasts nearly forever that way. When I got a new refrigerator a few months ago, I emptied out my freezer and found I had more than a pound of frozen ginger root. That’s a lot of ginger. I guess I buy a fresh piece every time I go to the Asian grocery store. I am determined to use it up. Making these cookies is a first step.

The original recipe called for shortening. I use butter, but chill the dough at least an hour before baking.

So here is the recipe. Enjoy!!

 

 

Gingersnap Cookies

2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
¾ t. ginger (fresh grated preferred)
½ t. cloves
¼ t. salt
1 c. sugar, plus extra for rolling
¾ c. butter
¼ c. molasses
1 egg

Mix together dry ingredients and set aside. Beat together sugar with butter, molasses and egg until light.  Stir in dry ingredients and chill dough at least an hour. When ready to bake, roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in additional sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Edges should look dry. Cool on sheet for a few minutes and then move to rack. Makes about 36.

Vampire Chasers – Cheesy Garlic Toast

Vampire Chasers

If you are concerned about keeping away vampires this Halloween, you might want to make this recipe for cheesy garlic toast. Garlic is widely accepted as a repellent for vampires- and a lot less messy than a stake through the heart.

 

This is one of my favorite appetizers. I make them a few times a year, but they are extra fun to serve at a Halloween party.

 

A mixture of garlic and onions are cooked in butter, then spread over the bread slices. That would be plenty for most garlic bread- but you take it up a notch with a cheesy/ mayo mix on top. Baked for just a few minutes- these are always a hit. They can be served as an appetizer, or as a side with dinner.

 

Vampire Chasers

1 French baguette, cut into 3/4 inch diagonal slices
1 large minced onion
8 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
Slice the French baguettes diagonally into 3/4 inch slices. In a medium skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. Combine the onions and garlic in the skillet. Cook and stir until tender. Set aside to cool. In a mixing bowl, combine the mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and mayonnaise. On a cookie sheet, arrange the French bread slices in a single layer. Spread the onion and garlic mixture on the bread slices. Spread the cheese and mayonnaise mixture over the onion and garlic mixture on the bread slices. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or broil about 5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie

I like all sorts of pies. I would never want to pick just one favorite. If I had to pick, pecan would probably be it. The nuts, the sweet filling and the crispy crust all work so well together. Sometimes, I add chocolate to the pie. It is always a big hit.

This variation on classic pecan pie includes melted chocolate in the filling. I use less sugar than in my  original recipe for pecan pie. The end result is wonderful.

You can use a store bought crust, but I prefer homemade. The crust recipe I normally use when I make pecan pie makes two crusts, but you only need enough dough for one. You can cut the recipe in half, freeze half of the dough, or just make 2 pies!!!

 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 c. light or dark corn syrup

4 oz. German sweet chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1/3 c. sugar

2 T. Butter, melted

1 t. vanilla

1½ c. pecans

1 unbaked 9-inch pastry crust

In medium mixing bowl beat together all ingredients, except the pecans until well mixed. Stir in nuts and pour into crust. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 55-60 minutes or until knife inserted off center comes out clean. Makes 1.

Half and Half Dough

This is a great crust for liquid fillings like custard type pies, pecan and pumpkin. For a sweet pie like pecan you can reduce the sugar in the crust by half.

¼ c. butter, room temp

½ c. shortening, room temp or lard or coconut oil (chilled)

¼ c. sugar

½ t. salt

2½ c. pastry or all purpose flour

1/8 t. baking powder

¼ c. milk

1 t. lemon juice

Cream together the first 4 ingredients until smooth. Mix together the flour and baking powder. Set aside. Combine milk with the juice and set aside. Stir ½ c. of the flour into butter mixture. Stir until smooth. Add a little of the milk, stirring until smooth. Add remaining ingredients alternately until finished. Dough will firm up once chilled. Chill at least 4 hours before using. Makes 2 crusts.

 

 

Bat Wings

Bat “Wings”

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought I’d share this recipe for bat wings. OK, not really bat wings, but you already knew that. I just add black food coloring to barbecue sauce and use it to color chicken wings.

I made a batch for a Halloween party a few years ago and someone actually asked if there were real bat wings. A word of warning- when you use black food coloring it will transfer to you. No matter how careful you are when you eat the wings, you’ll end up with purple fingers.  Also, for the best effect keep the wings intact- no trimming off of the tips.  They look pretty cool when set out on the table. Creepy- but very tasty.

Bat Wings

2-3 lbs. whole chicken wings

salt and pepper

1 c. barbecue sauce- store bought or home made

black food coloring- handle carefully- it stains

Place chicken wings in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Meanwhile in medium bowl combine sauce with food coloring. Add just a little black food coloring at a time. Too much will alter the flavor of the food. Remove wings from the oven and dip them in the bowl of sauce. Turn to coat. Place wings on a clean baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake an addition 45 minutes. You can baste them with additional sauce during the baking, if you like.  Place on a serving platter and provide plenty of napkins.

 

A pile of “bat” wings

Blueberry Cheesecake Wontons

Blueberry Cheesecake Wontons

If you haven’t cooked with wontons, you might want to try it. While stuffed wontons make for a lovely soup addition, they can be filled with all sorts of fillings, from savory to sweet. Once filled, the wontons can be fried or baked until golden brown.

These are filled with a combination of blueberry pie filling and cream cheese. Once fried, they were rolled in cinnamon sugar. They make for a fun and easy dessert.

I taught a wonton class last night.  We had all sorts of ingredients to pick from. Assorted veggies, meats and condiments led to a fun and creative evening. The blueberry wontons were a big hit, as you might expect.

There are different types of wrappers to pick from. I find the best selection at my local Asian grocery store, although many grocery stores carry them, too. They will be labeled as wonton wrappers or dumpling wrappers. I find the dumpling wrappers to be a little thicker, at least where I shop. They come on round or square shapes. For the ones in the picture, I used round dumpling wrappers.

I don’t know that I can give you an exact recipe, but I will try.

Blueberry Cheesecake Wontons

wonton or dumpling wrappers

equal amounts of blueberry pie filling( I used homemade)  and cream cheese

oil for frying

cinnamon sugar for rolling finished wontons

Combine the cream cheese and pie filling in a small bowl. You’ll need a couple of teaspoons of filling for each one, so half a cup of each should give you about 2 dozen finished wontons. Lay a wrapper on your work surface and spoon some filling into the center. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a little water. I just dip my fingertip in a little cup of water and rub it all around the edge of the wonton. Fold in half, squeezing out the air and pressing firmly to seal the edges. Repeat until you run out of filling. Heat oil in a pan. Once oil reaches 350 degrees, fry the wontons until golden brown. You will have to do this in batches, unless you have a really big pot of oil. Drain on paper towels for a minute, then place in a bowl and toss with cinnamon sugar while wontons are still warm. Don’t be tempted to eat them too quickly. They are piping hot in the middle. Let them cool to warm before eating.

You could even heat up 1/2 -inch of oil in a skillet and pan-fry them, turning to brown evenly on both sides.

 

Flaming Ghost Cake

Flaming Ghost Cake

I have posted this recipe before, but thought it might be a good time to post it again. This one is fun for Halloween. You start with a baked 9×13-inch cake. Frost it with chocolate frosting and then use white frosting to draw a ghost on the cake.

You can make all sorts of images- cats, bats, pumpkins. When ready to serve the cake, the eyes are set on fire. Fun effect. Kids and grown-ups both will get a kick out of it.

Just be sure to have proper adult supervision for the kids. The picture doesn’t do it justice. Very cool blue flames. Don’t forget to turn down the lights!

 

Flaming Ghost Cake

1 prepared 9×13- inch cake, any flavor

2 c. chocolate frosting, I prefer homemade

1 c. vanilla frosting, I prefer homemade

3 oz. semi sweet chocolate, optional

2 empty eggshell halves, washed well and dried

2 sugar cubes

Lemon extract

 

Frost cake with chocolate frosting, then spread vanilla frosting in the shape of a ghost. Melt chocolate in a small plastic bag. When chocolate is melted snip off the corner of the bag and use to outline ghost. Place eggshell halves in cake, round side down where the ghost’s eyes would be. Soak sugar cubes in lemon extract and place in eggshells. When ready to serve light sugar cubes and turn off the lights. Serve 12-16.

Variations: You can use the flaming eyes effect on cat shapes, pumpkins or even bats. Practice drawing the shape on paper before frosting the cake. If you bake a larger round cake the whole thing can be the pumpkin. Just frost it with orange tinted frosting.

Goblin Goo Drink

Goblin Goo Drink

If you want a fun beverage to serve for Halloween, try this Goo Drink. It’s easy to make and will give guests a start.

The secret is ingredient is Jell-o. Make whatever flavor Jell-o you like. Once it is firm, mash it with a fork into pieces.

Place some Jell-o in a glass and add ice and whatever beverage you like. I used cherry Jell-o with sour cherry soda. The Jell-o is invisible that way. When your guests take a sip they get little gobs of Jell-o in every sip.

You can play with color combinations, for fun. Grape Jell-o with orange soda looks like little black globs in the drink.

You can do this with Jell-o shots, for the grown-ups.

 

Mash Jell-o with a fork

Mash Jell-o with a fork

Add some Jell-o to the glass before adding ice and soda

Cooking and Baking with Honey

Homemade Granola

Honey has been a favorite sweetener since prehistoric times and still has advantages over sugar even today. Honey is composed of two simple sugars, glucose and fructose. Honey is absorbed in a different manner and therefore causes a slower, more gradual rise in blood sugar. Because honey has a slightly higher percentage of fructose than sugar, it tastes sweeter, and less is required for equal sweetness.

 

Honey contains small amounts of numerous vitamins and minerals, but not enough to fulfill any of the body’s daily needs. Remember that honey does contain calories, cannot be used freely by a diabetic and is not recommended for infant formulas.

 

The flavor, aroma and color of honey vary with the kind of flowers from which the bees gather the nectar used to make the honey. The fructose gives honey its sweet flavor, and the nectar adds the characteristic taste of the floral source to your recipes. Generally, the lighter the honey, the milder the flavor. If a stronger flavor is desired for your recipe, use a darker, stronger flavored honey; if a more delicate flavor is desired, use a lighter, milder flavored honey.

 

Honey can easily be substituted for sugar. Due to honey’s ability to retain water, products made with honey tend to remain moister longer than similar products made with sugar or other sweeteners.

 

Some minor adjustments may need to be made to a recipe when substituting honey for sugar:

  1. Use equal amounts of honey for sugar up to one cup. Over one cup, replace each cup of sugar with 2/3 to 3/4 cup over honey depending upon the sweetness desired.
  2. Lower the baking temperature 25 degrees and watch your time carefully since products with honey brown faster.
  3. In recipes using more than one cup honey for sugar, it may be necessary to reduce liquids by 1/4 cup per cup of honey.
  4. In baked goods, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey if baking soda is not already included in the recipe. This will reduce the acidity of the honey, as well as increase the volume of your product.

 

Moisten a measuring spoon or cup first with water, oil, or an egg before measuring the honey to prevent it from sticking to the measuring utensil. Honey is heavy by weight. A 12 ounce jar equals one standard 8 ounce cup. A quart weighs 3 pounds.

 

Honey Saves the Day

When you are melting chocolate, it will sometimes seize. This normally happens when liquid gets in the melted chocolate. That’s why you have to be careful when using a double boiler. A few drops of water can spell disaster.  It becomes grainy and hard and usually just gets tossed out. But, if you add a little honey to the chocolate and stir it in gently the chocolate softens and can still be used!!!!

 

Mom’s Cold Remedy

 

When I was a kid I remember my mother making her all-purpose combination for making her feel better, if she had a cold or sore throat. She would mix equal parts of honey, whiskey and lemon juice. She said the secret was just to take small sips throughout the day. Not sure if it really helped, but you certainly felt better if you sipped it all day!!   For a non-alcohol version try equal parts honey, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.

Homemade Granola

3 c. rolled oats

1/4 -1/2 c. each of any of the following to equal 1-2 c. total

Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, wheat germ, peanuts, pecans, almonds, hazel nuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, coconut… you get the idea. Don’t forget to chop up any big pieces.

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. orange peel

1/2 t. nutmeg

pinch of salt, optional

1/4 c. oil

1/4 c. honey- or add a little more if you like a sweeter granola

2 t. vanilla

Dried fruit to equal 1 -1 1/2 cups. Some choices could include: raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, pineapple, dates, figs, apricots, bananas, blueberries etc.

 

In large bowl combine oats with seeds and nuts and toss well with seasonings. Heat together oil, honey and vanilla and pour over oat mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes. Halfway through the baking time stir mixture so the edges won’t burn. Remove from oven and return to large bowl. Toss with the dried fruit and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Use in 1 month or store in freezer or fridge to keep longer. Makes 5-7 cups.

Honey Ginger Cough Drops

½ c. honey

2 T. lemon juice

1 t. freshly grated ginger root

Optional for dusting: ¼ cup powdered sugar and 1 t. powdered vitamin C

Kitchen items you will need: a candy thermometer, a candy mold with small openings. You can make the cough drops without the mold; oil a piece of parchment paper and pour the candy onto it. Let it harden, and then break it up into small pieces.

 

Measure the honey, lemon juice, and grated ginger and pour it all into a saucepan.

With a wire whisk, stir the mixture as it heats to a boil. It will become foamy and start to climb up the sides of the pan, remove it from the heat and continue to whisk it until the foam reduces and then put it back over the heat. Repeat this until a candy thermometer reads 300 degrees. You will want to check frequently because the honey heats fast and scorches easily!

If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can also test for readiness this way. Drop a bit of the mixture into a glass of ice water (or, dip a spoon into the mixture and then quickly dip it into the ice water). If the mixture forms a hard, crunchy ball, it’s ready! If not, keep up with the whisking and heating and try again in a minute or so. Once a hard ball forms in the ice water, you’re good to go!

Let the mixture cool until the foam has reduced. Then, very carefully, drizzle the candy into the mold (or onto the oiled parchment paper). Let it cool at room temp until the cough drops are hard. When they are hard, press on the back of the mold to release. Or, if you’re not using a mold, break the cough drops up into pieces.

Optional (to prevent sticking): In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar with the vitamin C powder. Drop the finished cough drops into the mixture to coat. Pour the sugar and cough drops into a sieve and sift to remove extra sugar. Store in an airtight container. These actually do better in the fridge, as they attract moisture and tend to get sticky if left out.