Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making Cherry Preserves

Good Morning! I made Cherry Preserves yesterday and took pictures with you in mind. I thought some of you may enjoy and try for yourself this recipe and procedure for making yumminess out of sour cherries.

First, you get the cherries. :)  I grow Bing Cherry trees, so it is relatively easy for me. You may consider Orchards where you know the grower.  Or, just pick some up at your local produce stand. Make sure you get the sour or pie cherries. Sweet cherries will not work.

Once picked or bought, cherries need to be pitted. I squeeze the seeds out one at a time. Some own tools that pit the cherries for you. After I hand pit my cherries, I feed the pits and bad cherries to my chickens - it is a treat for them.

Once pitted and culled, measure out 4 1/2 - 5 cups cherries. Put this in your 4 quart saucepan.  I am making preserves using whole fruit.  If you want to make jam, cut up the fruit into very small pieces.  If you want to make jelly, cook the fruit a few minutes and then strain for several hours until you have all the juice you can get out of the fruit. General rule of thumb is to add as much sugar as you have fruit and/or juice. I usually drop it a bit as that is a bit too sweet for me.

Before doing anything else, select your jelly jars and get them in water to gently boil and sterilize. I use 1/2 pint mason jars, but I think those wide mouth round 8 oz. jelly jars are so cute (but expensive at $1 each). I boil the jars and the sealing lids, but not the twist lids in a blue enamel canner pot. I also sterilize a ladle.  I set a clean towel out on my counter to keep my counter "sterilized" and the tools needed to work the jars (jar grabber, paper towel to wipe off the jars, canning funnel, etc.).

I then measure out 4 cups sugar into a bowl and get my 1 package of pectin out.  I am now ready to make some preserves.  I follow the directions on the pectin package - adding my package of pectin to my fruit and bringing it to a rolling boil on medium high heat.  The package described "rolling boil" as a boil that does not stop when you stir it.  That helps to know that!

Once the fruit is at this rolling boil, the package tells us to quickly add the sugar, stirring it in and allowing it to come to a rolling boil again never changing the heat.  Then, boil for one full minute. I set the timer. And, I stir it  a couple of times in the interim while I'm pulling out my sterilized jars, lids, & ladle from the canner pot.  When the timer goes off, I put the cherries on a cool burner and begin to ladle the mixture into the jars.  As careful as I am, I always need to wipe of the jar rims and then place the seals on the jars and twist the lids on pretty snug.

When this is done, I gently ease the jars back into the canning pot and gently boil for 10 minutes.  Pulling them back out, I invert them on that towel for 5 minutes (wearing a mitt when handling these hot babies).  I set the timer because I do get distracted quite easily.  When the timer goes off, I set them back right side up and they almost always within seconds to minutes.  When they have cooled and using a permanent marker, I write the item and date on the lid.

And, this recipe made 7 1/4 jars for me. Enough to share a couple and eat through the winter. Yum.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Simply Baking Bread

Good evening, folks.

I hope you are faring well. I'd like to share a simple pleasure, if you will allow it.

Winter time finds me with only the one job - my online shop. Summer has me doing that and my farmer's market job, which is much like two full time jobs - so little time left over. But, in the winter, I bake bread. I make a very simple recipe that is sooooooo very good. You will love it. I've been making this bread twenty plus years.

Here is the recipe:

5-6 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
3 tablespoons sweetener
2 pkgs. yeast (3 1/4 tsp.)
2 1/4 cups warm (about 110 deg. F) water

To be less vague regarding the ingredients...when I say flour, I mean good flour - not a cheap brand. This really makes a difference in the taste and texture of your bread. My favorite flour is Kings flour, but Hodges is good, too. And, I'm sure there are other brands. I don't care if I have bread flour or regular flour, but I do care if it is a good flour.

I use sea salt, old-fashioned lard (NOT ultra refined - yuck!), and usually brown sugar. I've also used honey and molasses.

I live in an area of limestone hard water. So, I used distilled water for my bread.

Before you begin, use an olive oil spray or some shortening and coat 2 loaf pans or 2 cookie sheets and 1 large mixing bowl. You also need a lightweight towel (I use cloth diapers I purchase
for this purpose) big enough to cover the bowl and the 2 pans.

I get a big stainless steel bowl (about 6 quart size), and measure 2 cups flour into the bowl. I add all the ingredients except the yeast and water.
When the water is warm, I add the yeast and then quickly add the measured water. I stir vigorously with a whisk for one minute. Then, I switch to a spoon and start adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time until I reach a dough that will come out of the bowl fairly easy. Using the spoon and a bit extra flour, I scrape the dough onto a floured surface and knead this dough while adding flour until I get a fairly firm dough - one that will turn in a bowl with little stretching.
This will take a few minutes, even up to 10. Then, I put this dough into the bowl and turn it over once to coat the whole dough with the oil/shortening coating. Then, I
place this bowl in a warm draft free spot for about an hour, covered with a lightweight cloth. We want the dough almost doubled. If you poke it with your finger, it should leave a hole where your finger was - it is ready.

Hour is up, and I punch down the dough while simultaneously pulling it out of the bowl onto a newly cleaned and re-floured surface. I split it in two - cover one half and work the other. I enjoy most individual rolls, so I elongate the piece with my hands, much like the shape of a French or
Italian bread, and then using my dough cutter, I cut 1 1/2 inch slices off, dip them in flour on each side, and lay them on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. I can get 18 on each sheet. I do this with both sides. But, you may choose to shape each into a loaf shape and place it in your loaf

It must now rise. I cover it and set my time for 45 minutes. When that goes off, I turn my
oven on between 375 and 400 deg. F. When preheated, I bake one pan at a time for 16-17 minutes. For a loaf bread, bake both loaves together and check for doneness beginning 22-23 minutes. You should be able to tap it and it sound hollow. For the mini breads, you want a top that is starting to brown.

Slide them off the sheet when done, and cool them on a rack. You can then place them in freezer bags and thaw one at a time for use. They usually take 15-20 minutes to thaw. Very convenient.
Or, take the loaf out of the pan immediately and cool it on a rack. Loaves may be frozen, too. I have to wrap mine in plastic as there were no sizes of resealable bags big enough for the loaf.

And, that is it! It is so easy if you have a few hours to spare and ingredients on hand - what a lovely thing to do for yourself and your loved ones. Healthy and economical, too.

Thanks again, kathleen

1. The bread dough in the pics from the steel bowl to the glass bowls is focaccia bread.
2. Additives are many and varied. Watch amounts only with respect to the bread holding together. Ground sausage, cinnamon and sugar, dill and rosemary, substitute 1 cup wheat flour - no one will ever know, etc.
3. You can make English muffins with a few variations to this standard recipe.
4. Prepare to eat the first one out of the oven with some butter - best food!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Follow Up On Making Comfrey Salve

In my comfrey salve post, I never got around to explaining how to make it. Instead, I got involved with the government's involvement in herbs and their uses. Fortunately, I have a reader who reminded me I never explained how to make the salve. So, today, I'm going to do just that.

Let's talk a bit about comfrey. It is a perennial herbaceous herb that "contains calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and B12 and more protein in its leaf structure than any other known member of the vegetable kingdom"(1). It is agriculturally grown in many countries for its substance.
As a pain salve, we are concerned with comfrey's leaves and roots. Here we find allantoin. Allantoin is a protein that is said to promote healing. Check out these very few (out of thousands available) sites on allantoin. It is found in sufficient quantity in comfrey and sugar beets. :)

That said...let's make a salve with it. First, we need to make comfrey oil. After I harvest a whole 2nd or 3rd year comfrey plant (you may not get the whole taproot), I take the leaves off and dry them flat on nylon mesh. I clean the roots and cut them up into pieces and dry them in a very warm and dry spot a couple of weeks to a month. The leaves are dried in a few days.

When all is dried, place a few chopped roots in the bottom of a 2 quart size pot, and then add your crumbled leaves on top of that. Pour in extra virgin olive oil until you have about an inch over the herb. Place on stove top range at low heat (you should be able to touch the pot throughout the whole 6 or more hours you are steeping the herb), stirring about every 15 minutes to help release the properties of the herb. After 6-8 hours, strain the oil through cheesecloth into a glass container.

If you want to forgo the salve, you may use this oil in place of it. It will keep properly stored (cool and dark) up to a year. If you want to make a salve, read on...

I like to add ingredients to a salve that help the purpose of the salve. If this is for joint pain, and I use it for such, then I add ingredients that are said to sink in and help with pain. I add shea butter to my salve, as well as aloe butter for any topical pain. I add emu oil on the liquid side with a bit of tocopherol for a longer shelf life. Then, I add a blend of essential oils that are also said to aid in deep seated and/or joint pain. In my particular salve, I use a couple more herbs in the herbal oil process, as well. I add spicebush berry dried and ground, and I add meadowsweet herb that is said to contain salicylic acid. But, you may or may not add other herbs to your oil. I don't think it is necessary for pain relief.

I like my wax to be around 15%. Sometimes I'm a little more or less (gardener's salve to First Aid salve), but comfrey is about 15%. I add butter at about 30%, blending a combination of two butters. You may choose to use another butter. Or decrease the butter, and increase your wax up to 10%.
My herbal oil is at 33%, emu oil at 10% and wheat germ oil at 3% with a bit of tocopherol (.1 ounce per total of 7 ounce of product.

And, because this salve is a liniment salve, I add 18 drops of essential oil blend per ounce of salve. This is the maximum allowed in using aromatherapy but often recommended for use in a liniment.

I use two pyrex measuring cups. I use a postage scale. I make my recipe by weight, and I weigh out the wax and butters in the larger of the two cups. I heat the wax and butter in an open oven, there are many ways to do this. The main goal is to do it thoroughly but not overdo it. If any of these ingredients overheat, you lose a lot of precious properties of the oils and herbs.
I measure the liquid ingredients into the smaller of the two cups while the wax and butter are melting. I place this cup in the oven a very few minutes before the wax and butter are melted. I often take out the wax just before it is all melted and stir it to melt it completely. This helps me keep an eye on it and not let it overheat. Then, I take out the warmed liquid oils and slowly pour it into the wax stirring constantly with a wooden skewer stick to incorporate it fully and keep it from solidifying. When I place a drop on my wrist and it doesn't burn (lol), I add my essential oils in the same way I added my liquid oils. I stir, stir, stir. Now it is ready to pour into your prepared containers.

I often read to let it cool completely before you cap your containers. I do not do this. I cap mine while still warmed but solid.
And, now you have made comfrey salve. You may apply this technique to any salve you would like to make...using different herbs and oils in the herbal oil process to using different ingredients in your salve recipe and different essential oils to top it off.
Thanks for reading...Kathleen
(1) Herbs, contributing Editor Lesley Bremness, RD Home Handbooks, Reader's Digest, Pleasantville, NY, 1990.