Can Jam-March (Alliums)

The Can Jam ingredient for March was Alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, and such).  Another tough choice.  What could I possibly make?

For some reason, I started thinking about the local hot dog stand we used to go to when I was a kid and the onion relish they served.  I found a recipe that sounded pretty close to what I remember and…it can be canned!

Sweet Onion Relish (Small Batch) from

6 cups ground Vidalia onions (no Vidalias here yet, so I had to use sweet onions from another continent :-(
1/8 cup canning salt
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (original recipe called for 1-1/8 cups, but I didn’t want it that sweet)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon powdered mustard

Grind (or use food processor) onions, add salt and let stand 30 minutes. Squeeze juice from mixture and discard juice.

Add vinegar, sugar, and spices. (If you prefer, wrap the spices in cheesecloth and remove bag before packing into jars.)  Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often.

Pack both onions and enough cooking liquid to cover in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes about 4 half-pints.

Olfactory memories are interesting.  The taste and smell of the relish cooking transported me back in time…to sitting in the back seat of our 1950-something DeSoto and having the carhop bring out our order, hooking a tray over the driver’s window.  Then you had to turn your headlights on to let them know you were finished.  What a neat blast from the past.

And there will be pictures as soon as I fix the little plastic dohickey that ejects the memory card from the camera…

 Cookbook Giveaway

I’ve decided I much prefer to make bread the old fashioned way so, in cleaning off my kitchen shelves, I pulled out a hardly-ever-used (but somewhat dusty) copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes.  It really needs a new home.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day GiveawayThis is the first book – not the new “healthy bread” one.  And in the interest of full disclosure…

I Got a Little Dampone page did feel the effects of me accidentally misting it with water.

If you’d love to give this great book a home, leave a comment on this post by midnight EST Friday, February 26. And the winner is…

Number 4

Gretchen.  Congratulations and enjoy the book.

 Can Jam-February

I shoulda known goats would pick something like…

Doris and Jilly Pick...Carrots!Carrots for the February Can Jam ingredient.

I promised BarBBQ Bill that I would not stray (too far) from our personal canning resolution of “If we won’t eat it, we’re not going to waste the ingredients or the time to put it up.”

The majority of carrot recipes I found that could be put up using a boiling water bath (one of the Can Jam rules) were jams (carrot cake jam?  We don’t like carrot cake, so I doubt we’d eat jam that tastes like it) or pickles (already have too many jars of pickles in the pantry).

One thing I haven’t made in a while (and that we both enjoy) are fruit butters.  I found a Carrot-Apple Butter recipe in Linda Ziedrich’s book, The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves with these ingredients:

  • 2 pounds carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-3/4 pounds peeled, cored, sliced tart apples
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

and promptly modified the recipe to use up some cranberries I had (another resolution – use up what’s in the freezer by summer).

Carrot Cranapple ButterI decided to make a small batch of Carrot Cranapple Butter:

  • 1 pound carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 7 oz. cranberries
  • 7 oz. apples, thinly sliced (1 large Granny Smith apple)
  • 1 cup sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Carrots, cranberries and juice.I simmered the carrots in cranberry juice until almost tender.  Added the cranberries and simmered until the cranberries started to pop.  I added a cinnamon stick for a wee bit of spice.

Add the apples and cook.Once the carrots were tender, I added the sliced apples, and cooked until everything was soft.

Puree in a food mill.I removed the cinnamon stick and pureed everything in the food processor first.  Then I ran it through a food mill with the medium screen in place.

Cooking down the puree.After the food milling process, I dumped the puree into the crock pot and added the sugar a 1/4 cup at a time, tasting along the way.  After cooking it about an hour, I wasn’t happy with the texture, so I dumped the puree into a blender and whizzed it until the tiny bits of carrots disappeared and got “buttery”.

Looks like butter.After another 1/2 hour, the butter thickened nicely.  I stirred in the vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract) and added another dash of cranberry juice – just ’cause I thought it needed it.

After ladling the butter into the jars (1/4″ headspace BTW), I actually remembered to get most of the air bubbles out before I sealed them (a chopstick works great) and processed the jars for 10 minutes in the BWB.

From this batch, I got one 1/2 pint jar and two 1/4 pints.  I’m sure I would have gotten another 1/4 pint if I hadn’t lost a lot in the back-and-forth transfers from the food processor to the food mill to the blender and some tasting!

Cranapple Carrot MuffinsThe butter was a wonderful complement for these Cranapple Carrot Muffins that we had as our Valentine’s Day breakfast:

  • 1 cup apples, shredded
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (walnuts would probably work, too)
  • 1-1/4 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup applesauce

Mix the apples and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cranberries, carrots and nuts. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix well to moisten the dry ingredients. Lightly beat the egg.  Stir the egg and the applesauce into the apple mixture.

Fill 12 greased muffin tins about 2/3 full and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes.

The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet PreservesAs a reward for reading this very long post, I’m giving away a copy of Linda Ziedrich’s Jams and Jellies book.  Leave a comment on this post by midnight EST, Friday, February 26 to be entered in the drawing.  And the winner is…

Number 2Congratulations, Jenny!

Photo “Hungry Goat” ©iStock/Rhonda Lewis

 Putting Up-Pecans

We received a lovely surprise the other day.

PecansA huge box of fresh pecans in the shell from our wonderful friends in Texas.

Trying to figure out how we could use them up before they went bad, we discovered that pecans freeze very well in the shell – up to four years!

Ready for the freezer.These are ready for the freezer – now, what to make with the half-pound we’re not freezing?  We don’t eat a lot of sweets (certainly not pecan pie), so…

Pecan Crusted Chickenhow about using the pecans to bread some chicken?

Soak the whole pecans.First, we have to shell them.  We soaked the whole pecans to soften the shell.

Crack the shell like a hard boiled egg.Take a nut cracker and start at one end.  Crack lightly, rotate the pecan a quarter turn and crack it in the middle.  Rotate it again and crack the other end.  The shell will break into pieces much like a hard boiled egg, making it easier to pull off the shell pieces.

Shelled Pecans.We started with a little over 1/2 pound of pecans and ended up with 1-1/4 cups of shelled pieces.  You can tell our shelling technique improved – towards the end of the process, we were getting whole halves instead of a bunch of little pieces.  Toast them in the oven until they are dry and golden brown.  Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.

Save the shells!By the way, save the shells.  They work great in the smoker for pecan flavored smoke (nope, we don’t waste anything).

A scant cup of chopped pecans.Now, we’re ready to cook.  Smush a scant 1 cup of pecans into small pieces.  We used the handle end of a hammer to crush them.  I suppose you could use a food processor or some other chopping device, but we were afraid they would come out too fine a texture – we wanted a coarser crumb crust.

Breading MixMix the pecans with a scant 1/2 cup of plain panko crumbs.  You can use bread crumbs, but the panko crumbs make the coating crunchier and they are about the same size as the pecan pieces.  Add about a teaspoon (or to taste) dried rosemary, finely minced.  Basil might be nice, too.

Breading the chicken.Dip a boneless chicken breast in beaten egg, then into the coating mix.  Pat it on firmly.

Let stand until dry.Once the chicken breasts are breaded, let them stand until the coating dries.  This will help it stick during the cooking process.

Saute the chicken.Saute the chicken (we used canola oil) until lightly browned, being careful not to burn the coating.  Burnt pecans are very bitter.

Finish them in the oven.Once the chicken is lightly browned on both sides, place on a rack and finish cooking them in a 350° oven until done (about 20-25 minutes).  We drizzled them with an orange-honey mustard sauce and some orange zest.  Next time, we’ll add the orange zest to the coating mix, but we were afraid it might burn and get bitter like the pecans.

The sauce was very simple – about 1/4 cup of honey mustard, a small spoon of Honeycup mustard (for some spice – optional, but good), the juice of an orange, and chicken broth to thin to whatever consistency you want.

Tender and juicy.The chicken came out very tender and juicy.  With a side of basmati/wild rice and green beans, this was an excellent restaurant-quality meal and cost about $1.00 a plate!

 Cooking-A Marmalade Surplus

After making more marmalade for the January Can Jam and finding some jars from last year in the pantry, I’ve devised some ways to use it up in other recipes.  I don’t eat much jam on toast and BarBBQ Bill doesn’t care for it at all “straight”.

Egg RollsMake a dipping sauce for egg rolls or a glaze for poultry or pork.

Dump a jar of marmalade (I used the citrus marmalade with apricots, but orange works, too) into a small saucepan.  Fill the empty jar about 3/4 full with orange juice – dump that into the saucepan – then fill the empty jar about 3/4 full with chicken broth – and dump that into the saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Thicken it (if necessary) by mixing 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of orange juice in a small cup (this is about how much I use for a half-pint jar.  Cut the amount down if you’re using a smaller jar).  Add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce and return to a boil until it gets clear and thickens.

I added some juice from a jar of pickled ginger and a dash of soy sauce.  Chili paste works too if you want a little heat.  Or Dijon mustard or honey mustard.  Feel free to experiment!

Marmalade BreadAnother favorite – make a marmalade quick bread.

Mix the wet ingredients together.

Whisk the wet ingredients together:

  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup citrus juice (I usually use orange, but a little grapefruit and/or lemon and/or lime mixed with it works, too, depending on your marmalade flavor)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 1 cup (one 1/2 pint jar) marmalade

Sift the dry ingredients together.Sift together the dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For some additional spice, I added 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon – I like orange and cinnamon together.  You can use anise, cardamom, cloves, ginger, or whatever sounds good with the marmalade flavor you’re using (adjust the 1/2 tablespoon measurement based on the spice you are using.  For instance, cloves can be a bit overpowering).  Or leave it out.

Add nuts and citrus zest.Add 1 cup of chopped nuts (I used walnuts) and, if you want, some zest from whatever type of citrus you have.  Stir that around so the nuts get coated with flour.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until everything is moistened.

Turn batter into a greased 9×5x3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

You can also glaze the bread with more marmalade – take the loaf out of the pan and put it on a cookie sheet.  Spread about a 1/4 cup marmalade over the top and put it back in the oven for a minute or two, until it melts.

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