Monday, September 15, 2014

Slow Cooker Apples in Bourbon Custard

    Holy Shit. I'm not one to normally go nuts about something that came out of a slow cooker, but I can say without fear of contradiction that this is the best thing outside of my chili to ever come out of a slow cooker. I just threw this together completely on a goof and magic happened. Seriously, once you have this, you'll forsake all other slow cooker desserts. We're talking eyes in the back of the head, open mouth groaning kind of good. Unless you don't like apples. Then you're shit out of luck. As always, notes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Apples in Bourbon Custard

  • 6 small-medium apples, spiral cut and cored (you'll need one of those apple corer/peeler/slicer things or you're in for more work than you want)
    This thing. You can find them on Amazon for under $20, or at Pampered Chef for $1,200.
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (we used pecans, but I imagine walnuts or cashews would be delightful)
  • 1/2 cup sultanas (that's fancy-talk for gold raisins)
  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup Benchmark Brown Sugar Liquor (if you don't want the booze, just use an equal amount of brown sugar. If you can't find Benchmark, you can mix about 2 tablespoons brown sugar with 1/4 cup bourbon for roughly the same effect)
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. If you haven't already done so, run your apples through that apple corer/peeler/slicer thing. Do your best to get the apple off the spindle whole. You will be scored on artistic merit.
  2. Spray a slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Place the apples in a single layer on the bottom (we were able to barely fit 6 apples in a 2.5 quart cooker)
  3. Mix the chopped nuts and raisins. Fill the middle of each apple where you removed the core. 
  4. In a medium bowl (you can use a large bowl if you'd like. I wouldn't recommend using a small bowl unless you like making a mess), mix sweetened condensed milk, honey, bourbon and cinnamon. Pour mixture evenly over the apples. 
  5. Cook on LOW for 3 hours or until apples start to get tender and liquid takes on a custard-like consistency. 
Good times!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kosher Dill Pickles

     First off, let me make it clear that these pickles are not truly Kosher. Our house would never pass a Kosher certification. The six pound pork shoulder in the freezer pretty much locks that one up. We don't even grow the veggies right. According to Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:19, we screwed up since we grew our cucumbers in a field with a bunch of other seeds. So, semantics (or Semetics "I'll be here all week! Try the veal and tip your servers! Don't forget the 9:30 show is nothing like the 6:30 show; you can't bring your kids to the 9:30 show!") aside, these are just some tasty pickles to nosh on as you see fit. Eat them from the jar, use them in a potato salad, or slap them on a hot dog (WITHOUT KETCHUP. Please, I'm begging you, don't put ketchup on a hot dog). As always, notes and changes are in blue. 

Kosher Dill Pickles
via Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book

  • 2-1/4 pounds 4-inch cucumbers (we just used whatever cucumbers we had on hand. No clue as to type. If they weren't 4 inches, we just cut them down to make sure they'd fit in a pint jar)
  • Fresh dill heads (LOL WUT? No clue as to what they're asking for. I, for one, refuse to decapitate an innocent dill. We used a teaspoon of dill weed in each pint jar)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Hot red peppers (we used whole dehydrated cayenne)
  • Pickling salt
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  1. Wash cucumbers. Pack them in hot quart jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace (we derail almost immediately. One, we used pint jars. Two, we used full sized cucumbers, so we cut ours into spears, then shortened them as needed to get them in pint jars. We did, however, wash them. I think.)
  2. To each quart, add 2 heads fresh dill, 1 clove garlic, 1 hot pepper and 1 tablespoon pickling salt
    (if you're doing it our way, you'll be adding to each pint, 1 teaspoon dill weed, 1 clove garlic, 1 dried cayenne and 1-1/2 teaspoons pickling salt)
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar and 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil.
  4. Pour boiling liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids.
  5. Process in boiling water bath (20 minutes for quarts, 15 for pints)
  6. Yields will depend on how committed you are to violently jamming cucumbers into the jars.
  7. As always, if you're not familiar with canning, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation to avoid poisoning anyone.
Good times!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Peach Bourbon Applesauce

     There's really not a whole lot to making applesauce. It's pretty much just apples and sugar. It's not really missing anything. Except booze. Everything is better with booze. I took a basic recipe from The Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book and added a fantastic peach liquor. The booze cooks out but leaves behind a subtle peach flavor in the applesauce that is just wonderful. If you want the original recipe, just leave out the booze. Canned, this will hold for around a year on the shelf. We like to make a gallon at a time and just put it aside in quart jars. It's nice to get a taste of summer in the middle of winter. As always, notes are in blue.

Peach Bourbon Applesauce
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book 

  • 6-7 pounds apples (use whatever type you like. We just stole ours from our neighbor's apple trees)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup Benchmark Peach Whiskey
  1. Wash, quarter and core apples. Combine apples, 4 cups of water and color keeper. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes or until apples are tender.
  2. Press apples through food mill (if you have a KitchenAid with a food mill attachment, this part is wonderfully easy. If you're using a manual food mill, this recipe qualifies as a Pain In The Ass)
  3. Put milled apples in a large pot with the sugar and booze. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent scorching or sticking. Taste and add sugar or more booze as needed. 
  4. If you plan on eating a gallon of applesauce on the spot, you can skip this and the next step. Pack into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. 
  5. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath (as always, defer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation to make sure you are canning correctly)
Good times!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pasta with Cherry Tomato and Red Pepper

     We truly enjoy pasta in our house. There's nothing finer than a finely crafted pasta dish. If that's what you're looking for, you're probably on the wrong website. I can, however, provide you with a tasty and simple pasta recipe. Our garden has been producing tomatoes and peppers like crazy, so we were looking for ways to use them up. A basic, olive oil-based pasta dish seemed just the thing. It totally was. This is a fresh, light recipe that has a bit of a kick from the red pepper flakes. Give it a try and see what you think. Maybe less oil? Maybe add some shrimp? Get creative. As always, notes are in blue.

Pasta with Cherry Tomato and Red Pepper

  • 1 pound pasta of your choice (don't pick something goofy like giant shells or lasagna noodles)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (insert obvious virgin joke here)
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cored and sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • shredded Parmesan for topping
  1. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sautee for a couple of minutes, until garlic starts to brown.
  3. Add the bell pepper. Sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Sautee another 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Add the pasta and toss over medium-low heat for 2-3 more minutes to incorporate ingredients. Garnish with Parmesan.
Good times!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pickled Dilled Beans

     First, let me say that I'm not responsible for naming this recipe. Talk to the author of the cookbook. "Pickled Dilled Beans" sounds cumbersome and kind of dumb. Why not just go with "Dill Pickle Beans?" The other way just sounds tortured. If you want a goofy sounding name, how about "Beans, Dilled and Pickled?" Ok, I'm just babbling now. I'd love to tell you how these taste. I have no idea; we just canned them and put them up on the rack. They look very nice. We did a half batch, which is what you see in the directions. You want more, you need to brush up on your multiplication table. Since this is a canning recipe, I once again beg of you to defer to the fine folks at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for tips on how not to give everyone the squirts. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Pickled Dilled Beans
via Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors

  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh green or yellow beans
  • 3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1/3 cup canning/pickling salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 12 fresh dill sprigs (didn't have these in the house. We went with 3 teaspoons dried dill weed)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  1. Sterilize 3 pint jars 
  2. Wash beans, trim stem ends and cut into 4-inch lengths (if your beans were less than 4 inches to start, I guess you'll have to tape them together or something)
  3. Combine vinegar, salt, red pepper and 1 cup water in a stainless steel saucepan (don't put in the dill yet! You're doing that next). Bring to a boil. 
  4. Place 1 clove of garlic and 2 dill sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dill weed) in each of the hot, sterilized pint jars. Pack whole beans tightly in jars (this is where The Wife's freaky little hands come in "handy." She can really get in there and load in those beans). Cover with hot pickling liquid, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. 
  5. Seal and process jars in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove jars from the water and let stand, undisturbed, at room temperature for 24 hours (We totally disturbed our jars. We stood right there and told them at length about the state of the economy). Eventually, you should hear a telltale "thunk" noise when the lid locks down. If it doesn't, you can either reprocess them or just put them in the fridge after they've cooled and eat them. Sealed and stored properly, they should last up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.
Good times!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cabbage Borsch

     As you may already know, we do a lot of canning in our house. We have a fairly abundant garden and are always looking for ways to preserve all those great foods until we really want to eat them. The freezer will only hold so much and there's only so many things that take well to dehydration. That leaves canning. We have exclusively done water bath canning largely due to the fact that I am a big baby and live in fear of leveling the kitchen in a pressure canning incident.

     This summer, we finally gave in. We admitted that not everything should be pickled.

     We set up for pressure canning. Our first attempt was a cabbage soup out of a 41 year old cookbook. I figure if we made it safely through the initial danger of running the pressure canner, the worst that would happen is botulism when we ate the soup. It turned out that my fears were unfounded. At least the pressure canning fears. We still might get botulism when we eat the soup down the line. If you follow the instructions for your canner and in the link provided below, you might be able to keep insurance claims to a minimum. If you don't want to pressure can, simply stop after step 2, though you might want to cook the soup a bit longer. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Cabbage Borsch
via Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cookbook
  • 5 pounds tomatoes
  • 8 cups coarsely shredded cabbage
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped onion (The Wife just informed me we apparently forgot to add the onion. Whoops.)
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and cut into pieces (no specification was made as to type of apple. We used Red Delicious.)
  • 2 tablespoons beef bouillon granules (we used the cubes with a ratio of 2 for every 3 cups of water. Feel free to toy with the measures to get the salt fix you crave.)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • dried cayenne peppers (1 per pint jar)
  1. Wash, peel, remove stem end and cores and quarter tomatoes. Use a small spoon to scrape out excess seeds, if f desired (no, it was not desired. You already had us do everything other than declare allegiance to these damned tomatoes.)
  2. In a 4-6 quart kettle or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients (that includes the onions. Don't forget the onions like we did and live with the regret). Bring mixture to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  3. Ladle soup into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids. Process in pressure canner at 10 pounds. Process pints for 45 minutes, process quarts for 55 minutes. If you're a wuss like me, who is even afraid to open a tube of biscuit dough, you'll wisely spend this time outside behind the safety of a brick wall. IF YOU'RE GOING TO PRESSURE CAN, PLEASE VISIT THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR HOME FOOD PRESERVATION AND READ UP ON THE PROCESS. We don't want you inadvertently remodeling your kitchen or making a needless trip to the emergency room.
Soup's done!
Good times!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hot and Sour Soup

     Once again I turn to my trusty copy of The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. This time it's for soup. You can never go wrong with soup. Unless you undercook something and give everybody dysentery. Then I suppose you've gone wrong. You could also spill a scalding hot bowl on your crotch. I suppose that would be wrong, too. OK, you can go wrong with soup. This particular soup is worth the risk. One of my favorite treats at a Chinese restaurant is the hot and sour soup. I am always on the lookout for a recipe that replicates that experience. This does not even come close. Don't let that scare you away. This soup is really tasty and pretty easy to make. We really screwed around with the recipe and were very pleased with the results. If you can manage to keep the sodium down, you've got a really healthy meal. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Hot and Sour Soup
via The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook
  • 3 or 4 dried black mushrooms (as I do not normally engage in witchcraft, I do not normally stock these. We went with a 15-ounce can of straw mushrooms. Keep the liquid if you use the canned!)
  • 1/4 pound lean pork (none on hand. We went with an equal amount of ground turkey)
  • 2 bean curd cakes (that's kind of a nebulous measurement, so we went with a 1 pound block of firm tofu, cut into about 1/2 inch squares)
  • 1 scallion (we used 2 since the garden is overrun with them)
  • 1 15-ounce can stir fry vegetables, drained. We're talking water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, baby corn, sprouts, etc.)
  • 5 cups stock (we used a home made shrimp stock. Feel free to use the stock of your choice)
  • 1 cup mushroom soaking liquid (obviously you're only going to have these if you used the dried mushrooms. If you used the can like we did, just pour in the liquid along with the mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry (none on hand, we used an equal amount of dry vermouth)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (since this was hot and sour soup, we used an equal amount of pique sauce. It was still vinegar based, but had an extra hot pepper kick)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt (omitted. There's already enough sodium in here)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (doesn't say what kind. I used a bit of black and about 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes)
  • A few dashes of Tabasco if you want more heat
  • Sesame oil
  1. Soak dried mushrooms. Reserve soaking liquid (or just open can and don't drain it)
  2. Sliver mushrooms, pork and bean curd. Mince scallion. Beat egg lightly. Blend cornstarch and cold water to a paste (we didn't cut the mushrooms at all. We used ground turkey so no slicing there. I decided to simply chop the scallions just to be a bastard).
  3. (The original recipe does not specify what to cook the soup in. I went with a 5-quart pot.) Bring stock and mushroom soaking liquid to a boil. Add pork (or turkey. Or both if you're feeling daring) and mushrooms (if you went with the canned mushrooms, just unceremoniously dump the entire contents of the can into the pot. If you're also using the optional can of stir fry vegetables, it goes in at this point, too) and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. 
  4. Add bean curd and simmer, covered, for 3 more minutes.
  5. Stir in sherry (or vermouth), vinegar (or pique), salt (if using. It's your heart; do what you want), soy sauce and pepper. Pour in cornstarch paste to thicken. Stir gently. 
  6. Slowly add beaten egg, stirring gently once or twice (no more than twice! It would be bad. Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light) Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sesame oil and scallions.
    Total protonic reversal.

    Good times!