Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Finished Quince Jam by MGF/Lady Disdain
Finished Quince Jam, a photo by MGF/Lady Disdain on Flickr.

My mom and I are canning partners. Each summer, starting about the end of July, we start madly preserving the harvest. We can all kinds of food, which makes up a good share of what my family eats during the winter. My only regret is that, for some bizarre reason, I was actually too intimidated by canning to do any preserving until about 5 or 6 years ago. Asking my mom to help me, I found it intensely satisfying and much simpler than I thought it would be. It is a beautiful sight to see canning shelves filled with jars of pickles, tomatoes, salsa, peaches and pears, applesauce, jam and loads of other goodies — all local foods.

A lot of people who want to do just a bit of canning start with jam. Grocery store jam is often full of sugar and natural food store jam comes in very small, expensive jars. To make low or no-sugar jam, you cannot use standard Certo brand pectin. I tried Certo Light pectin, but found the results unreliable (sometimes the jam would set and sometimes it wouldn’t) and was frustrated that the instructions said not to double recipes. Making 5 or 6 little tiny jars of jam at a time for our family of nine did not seem efficient to me!

Then, out of nowhere the happy fateful day arrived. I was at our local natural foods store and noticed the Pomona’s Universal Pectin on the shelf. I can only believe that God must have prompted me to buy a box since it was about $6, which is about three times as much as grocery store pectin. On a whim, I picked it up and took it home.

Later on at home, I looked over the instructions. I was pleased to find that Pomona’s makes three times the jam that regular pectin does and giddy to read that they encourage you to double or triple the recipe AND to experiment! If you have ever made jam before, you know that most pectin instructions do not encourage creativity and all but ban you from doubling the recipes. Pomona’s honestly seems to be virtually fail-proof.

Making up our first batch of jam with Pomona’s pectin was lots of fun. We did a double recipe of the low-sugar version included in the product insert. There are instructions as well for a no-sugar version, but we prefer just a little bit more sweetness. The resulting jam is absolutely delicious. It has tons of flavour, set beautifully and is gobbled up by everyone. I couldn’t be more pleased. We later made raspberry, pear, peach and apricot jam with the same, perfect results — not one fail.

If you are thinking you’d like to do just a little bit of canning, I heartily encourage you to try some jam (using Pomona’s pectin!). As long as you have a large enough pot to cover the small jars with water, you really need no special equipment. If you would like to try canning later this summer and the berries you want to use are ready now, you can freeze them to use when you are ready. We had excellent results doing this a couple of times.

So, that’s it! The secret for us is to use the right pectin. By the way, I am telling you about Pomona’s just because I love it, not because they paid me or even gave me any free pectin. (I wish.)

Are you planning on canning anything this summer? Do you have a favourite recipe you like?

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Each day, our 9-year-old daughter makes breakfast for our family of 9.  Today she made frugal use of some leftover hot cereal by baking leftover hot cereal muffins. Since canning season is almost upon us, we decided to serve them with butter and a variety of jams to use up the few 2010 jars we have left before making the 2011 batches.  Breakfast was just delicious.  We felt like we were at a fancy Bed and Breakfast!

If you want to be frugal and use leftover hot cereal, but don’t have the quantity listed here, feel free to substitute an equal amount of flour for the hot cereal and increase the liquid slightly to make good muffin batter consistency.  Alternatively, you can keep a container in the freezer to collect leftover hot cereal until you have a reasonable amount for baking.

Here is the recipe she used.  It is adapted from a muffin recipe in The Tightwad Gazette 2, by Amy Dacyczn.

Leftover Hot Cereal Muffins
makes 2 dozen

2 cups leftover hot cereal
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs

2 cups flour (all whole wheat or half whole wheat and half unbleached)
1 cup sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 to 1 cup optional extra additions (craisins, raisins, coconut, nuts, seeds, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease two dozen muffin cups.

Place all the wet ingredients, including hot cereal, in the blender and blend briefly to combine. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the blended wet ingredients and stir to just combine.

Scoop into muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve warm with jam and butter or eat plain.

Speaking of jam, tomorrow I will be posting my secret to preserving delicious, low-sugar jam.  If you have never done any canning, this is a very simple place to start that requires very little special equipment.  You can make just a few jars if you like or quite easily make a big batch to keep your family supplied with jam all year.

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As I have been saying to a dear friend of mine (Hi Shannon!), way too many crockpot hot cereal recipes are mushy by morning. I can remember one particular recipe we used for oatmeal that included raisins put in the night before.  By morning, the oats were mush, the ‘raisins’ truly became the re-hydrated grapes that they were and, as a result, I now have one child who is completely turned off raisins in food.

Onto the recipe.  I don’t know the source for this as it was passed onto me by a dear friend.  It is a wonderful cereal with excellent consistency, not pasty like many others I have tried.  This makes a lot, so of course, feel free to cut back if you don’t have a whole bunch of kids!

Combine in crockpot:
10 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup wheat berries
1 cup barley
A pinch of salt, if desired

Turn on low overnight.

Serve with this dried fruit compote.  It is absolutely excellent and really makes the cereal heavenly.  You can prepare it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until morning when you should gently reheat it.  You will not need any added sweetening if you use it.

Dried Fruit Compote:
4 cups water
3 cups mixed dried fruit (such as prunes, dates, apricots)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2-3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup whole almonds

Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve warm or hot over cereal.

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Don’t stuff your child in a turkey, take a photo and post it on your blog.  It might draw the attention of Child Protective Services.

Do be specific when asking your husband to get the biggest turkey at the turkey farm.  Our turkey was 35lbs this year!  When I asked Steve to get the biggest one from our turkey guy, he took me seriously!

I hope you had a great Christmas and a wonderful holiday.

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I hope you like some of these blog posts, which I have enjoyed recently. I love to follow links from blogs I read.  It is fun to see what inspires other bloggers.

A great post with terrific advice, What to Do when you don’t feel like cooking supper at Yes They’re All Ours

A yummy-looking recipe for Homemade, Healthy Poptarts at Heavenly Homemakers.  Did I ever tell you that while I was pregnant this time, I suddenly craved poptarts?  It was a huge let-down when I actually bought them, from the sweet, warm, crusty, pie-like goodness that I dreamed up in my head to the bland, chemical concoction that they really were.  I’m looking forward to trying these.

Making Homemade Natural Chapstick at Passionate Homemaking.  This looks like lots of fun!

And, a lovely post entitled, “Giving Your Children the Best Day” at Steady Mom.  It was a bit of a tear-jerker and a wonderful inspiration.

Have a blessed weekend!

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A few things I have enjoyed recently, which you might like, too.

Make Your Own Powdered Sugar with Sucanat over at Heavenly Homemakers.  I also think this would be a great kitchen skill to know for times when you are out of powdered sugar and want to avoid a trip to the store.

Finding Quiet Time at Owlhaven, written by a Mom of 10.  If she can find quiet time surely we can, too!

Why Memorize Scripture at A Holy Experience with a unique and wonderful idea for motivation.

A lovely post at Passionate Homemaking on Christian Literature for Children 0-8 years.

We love to use natural remedies in our home whenever possible, so I really enjoyed Using Homeopathic Solutions for the Family at Keeper of the Home.

I LOVE herbal teas, so I was thrilled to see Celebrate the Harvest (herbal tea) with Georgiann’s own recipe at The Garden Gate for a tea she calls Cottage blend.  I think I’ll whip some up tomorrow!  (Hi Georgiann!)

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I love drinking herbal teas and especially love drinking them during pregnancy.  I am bewildered by the fact that herbs are not used more for general health since they can be a phenomenal source of much-needed nutrients and when prepared as a tea, the bioavailability of those nutrients is wonderful.  I read a terrific article about this in a free newsletter and I will contact the author for permission to share it with you.  For now, I’ll share the recipe I use particularly during pregnancy.  I also like to serve this all winter to my family when there aren’t as many fresh fruits and veggies available.  I greatly prefer it to vitamin/mineral supplements!

Pregnancy Nourishment Tea (but not just for pregnancy!)
From The Natural Pregnancy Book:  Herbs, Nutrition and Other Holistic Choices  By Aviva Jill Romm 

2 parts red raspberry leaves
2 parts dried nettle
1 part dried oatstraw
1/2 part rose hips
1/2 part dried alfalfa
1/2 part red clover blossoms
1/4 – 1/2 part dried spearmint leaves
* A note on ‘parts’. Use any measurement you like (tablespoons, cups or ounces or grams), just be consistent throughout the recipe.

Combine in a nice big jar.  To prepare, use about a 1/4 cup or so of somewhat packed leaves (I stuff a large tea-ball full) to a teapot of boiled water (about a quart or so).  Steep for 20 mins to 2 hours.  Serve plain or with a little honey (or, gulp, sugar like me) and a squeeze of lemon if you like.  A great way to drink this tea in the summer is to prepare as above and then add an equal part of apple cider for a delicious, refreshing and highly-nutritious drink.  My kids love it!

I like to try to follow the suggestion to drink 1 cup a day in my first trimester, 2 cups a day in my second and three cups a day in my third.

Two of my favourite places to get herbs in Canada:
Judy’s Organic Herbs
Richters Herbs

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