My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the month “November, 2015”

How to Can (Apple Butter)

So in my last post, I described how to make some delicious, slow cooker apple butter. Once you make your own batch you’ll have to decide how to store it. You can just freeze it and it will keep in an airtight container for six months. For longer shelf life, you’ll have to look at canning your preserves. Now, I am an armature canner myself but (spoiler alert) all of my jars sealed perfectly so I feel confident sharing my method with you.

I should reveal here that I do not own a traditional canning pot. I use a big pasta pot and it works just fine. More on that in a bit.

To make my life a little easier I purchased this kit from Wal-Mart. It contains a funnel, an air bubble remover, a magnetic lid lifter, and a jar lifter. None of these items is mandatory but they sure cut down on time and mess. Time to start canning!

IMG_1931

First, I sterilized my jars. The jars can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher but if you wash them in the empty dishwasher and keep the door closed afterwards, they will stay hot until you’re ready to use them. Then you can remove the jars a couple at a time as needed.

IMG_1932

While my jars were in the dishwasher, I took the seals (lids) for the jars and put them in a small pan of water. I heated them until hot, but not boiling. I left the seals in the water until each jar was ready.

Next, I filled my canning pot about half full of water. I heated the water until boiling and put in a clean tea towel. This stops the jars from touching the bottom of the pot and replaces the traditional canning rack in most canning pots.

IMG_1944

I filled each jar leaving the recommended head space, (in the case of apple butter, 1/4 inch space left between the preserves and the top of the jar.) I used my funnel to make this process a lot less messy.

IMG_1938

I placed the seals on the jars using the magnetic lid lifter.

IMG_1939

Next, using my trusty Ov-Gloves (oven mitts with rubber grips on them,) I put the rings on the jars. I only tighten them finger tight. You really don’t have to crank down hard, snug is fine.

IMG_1940

Then it was time to place my jars in the pot of boiling water. I used the jar lifter to transport them in and out of the water. When placing them into the pot, I made sure there were no folds in my tea towel so the jars didn’t tip over. I also placed them so they weren’t touching. Don’t crowd the pot or your jars might not seal.

IMG_1943

I kept an eye on the pot to be sure that the canner is maintaining a full boil. You may also need to add boiling water to keep the water level up. I boiled my jars for the required time in the recipe, (10 minutes in this case.) After 10 minutes I turned off the heat and gave the water a minute to stop boiling. Then I moved each jar to a dry tea towel on my wood counter top. Wherever you rest your jars, make sure it is heat proof and that the jars are spaced a few inches apart.

Now for the nail-biter, will the jars seal? Resist temptation to tough the jars or press the lids at this point. Just wait for that satisfying pop. Two of my jars sealed right away. Three more sealed two minutes later. The last jar didn’t seal for almost five minutes. My house has never seemed so quiet. The good news is that if one of your jars doesn’t seal, you can still eat the apple butter, you just have to store it in the fridge and use it first.

IMG_1945

Store your jars in a cool, dark, dry environment. I use my basement pantry. Happy canning!

Advertisements

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Well, Fall is truly here and the apples are ready for harvesting.

IMG_1894

I’m making and canning apple butter. This post will cover my apple butter recipe and I’ll talk about how to can it in a later post. I used my slow cooker for this recipe and it leads to a lot less stirring and worrying!

I like jam well enough, but in my mind nothing beats apple butter. It’s like creamy, smooth apple pie filling. It’s great on toast or tea biscuits, or even as a glaze on pork.

Yield: About 6 250 ml Mason jars. You can freeze or can the apple butter.

Ingredients:

5 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced (any varieties you prefer) HINT: 1 pound apples = 3 cups prepared apples.
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

IMG_1923

I used Granny Smith, Gala, McIntosh, and Honey Crisp apples. They are all great for cooking and a mix of apples gives the butter a better balance of sweet and tart.

Now, to prep my apples, my mom sent me an apple peeler-corer. She’s the best.

IMG_1924

IMG_1925

This baby was amazing. It cut my prep time in half and wasted less of the apples this way.

I placed the prepared apples in my slow cooker. You can double or half this recipe, but 5 pounds fits my slower cooker exactly.

IMG_1926

In a medium bowl, I whisked together the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. I sprinkled it over the apples and stirred gently to combine.

IMG_1928

Then I cooked the mixture on low for 10 hours. Do not open the lid or all the steam will escape. No peaking!

At hour 10 I added in the vanilla extract, breaking up any large chunks of apples that remained with a potato masher.

IMG_1930

I covered it back up and cooked it for an additional 2 hours.

At the 12 hour mark I used my immersion blender to puree the apple butter until smooth. If you want the apple butter thicker, you can continue to cook it on low with the lid of the slow cooker slightly ajar so that steam can escape. Keep in mind that apple butter thickens as it cools.

And voila, perfect apple butter. Up next, how to can your apple butter.

IMG_1934

 

Art Assignment 37 Paper Weaving

I have always wanted to learn how to make those woven paper hearts people make for Valentines Day or to hang on their Christmas trees. I did a little research and learned they are called Danish paper hearts. Apparently, they were “first described by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen in his 1845 story ‘The Fir Tree’,” (http://theiff.org/current/events/danish-heart-improbable-paper-topology-workshop/). Now people around the world make them and fill them with treats for their loved ones. This sounds right up my alley. I decided to make two paper hearts for my niece and nephew’s upcoming birthdays, (their birthdays are close together so we’re having one big party for both.)

If you want to make your own paper hearts, the template I used can be found here. This is the beginner version so it’s a good one to try with kids.

Attempt one: Meh, it’s not bad but I bet I can do better.

IMG_1994

Much better! Using smaller weaving strips really improved the look. This one is for my nephew.

IMG_1996

This one is for my niece.

IMG_1995

The weaving looks pretty neat inside as well.

IMG_1997

Now to fill these hearts with some birthday treats. Not the healthiest choices, I’ll admit, but everyone deserves a special treat on their birthday.

IMG_1998

Besides, part of the job of being an auntie is getting to spoil them a little bit.

IMG_1999

IMG_2001

#theartassignment

 

 

Art Assignment 36 Scramble Scrabble Dinner

I love completing art assignments, but this one was a bit of a disaster for me. I’m going to document it anyway because I tried it and the end result was still pretty tasty. Either way, if some of your art assignments haven’t turned out so well, I hope you’ll sympathize.

First, I had trouble finding people to play the word game with me. Most of my friends are teachers and this assignment happened to fall within report card time so everyone was pretty swamped. I had no choice but to use my wifely charms to get Nick to participate with me. It helped that I promised a tasty treat at the end of the game.

Here are our word lists:

IMG_2014 IMG_2013

In an effort to maintain simplicity (we thought,) we chose this small selection:

IMG_2015

So we decided to make grilled nectarines and salted caramel ice cream, topped with toasted almonds. Sounds yummy, right? Yeah, but not so simple once we got started. I headed to the store to pick up the ingredients. So in addition to falling in a busy time, November may not be the best time to plan an art assignment involving fresh produce. I know we are living in a much more global world, but some foods are still mostly seasonal (at least in Canada). I just didn’t realize nectarines were one of them.

IMG_2003

These are the only nectarines I could find and they cost me $6.99. Ouch. Well, in the name of art I bought them. I assembled the rest of my ingredients and got ready to cook.

IMG_2002

Nick and I headed to the kitchen with a recipe for salted caramel ice cream from David Lebovitz. Now, I should say that I have made a number of Lebovitz’s recipe in the past and they have been amazing. However, this recipe was really complicated. Don’t believe me? Check it out here.

So Nick and I were in the kitchen whipping egg yolks…

IMG_2005

and melting sugar.

IMG_2006

Looking good so far…

IMG_2007

The sugar looks properly melted to me.

IMG_2008

And there it is. As soon as the butter hit the pan, the acrid smell of burnt sugar filled the kitchen. We had over-heated the sugar.

IMG_2009

The caramel was bitter and frankly, so was I. I felt very discouraged. I thought about starting over but Nick and I were both a bit tired out by round one. I stomped back to the store and picked up something to salvage this art experiment.

IMG_2016

So Nick toasted some sliced almonds…

IMG_2017

And I grilled the nectarines. I think this was the prettiest part of this whole assignment.

IMG_2018

We put it together into this delicious dessert. Sorry for the slightly dark photo but it was getting late by this time.

IMG_2021

So that was the end of our crazy cooking experiment. Maybe using store-bought ice cream was a bit of artistic plagiarism, but we ate the evidence so that’s the end of that!

IMG_2024

Why We Remember

Today is Remembrance Day. It is an important part of Canadian culture. WWI formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That’s why every November 11th at 11AM we observe a moment of silence. To learn more or attend a Remembrance Day event in your area, visit Veteran’s Affairs. Please join us in honouring our veterans.

Perfect Pumpkin Seeds

Whether you’re carving a Jack O Lantern or making a pie, you’ll likely have some pumpkin seeds kicking around this fall. Here’s my recipe to turn them into a delicious, healthy snack.

Ingredients:

Pumpkin seeds

Olive oil (enough to lightly coat the seeds)

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (optional)

IMG_1950

After carving my Jack O Lantern, I rinsed all the pumpkin goo off the seeds in my colander. Then I let them dry on a clean tea towel. Once they were dry I preheated the oven to 350F.

IMG_1951

I placed them in the bowl and added enough oil to lightly coat the seeds. I sprinkled on some salt and pepper and tossed to combine.

IMG_1952

I spread the seeds evenly onto a parchment lined baking sheet and popped them in the oven.

IMG_1953

I baked them for 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Once they were cooled, Nick and I started snacking on them. If you have any left over you can store them in Ziploc bags. Happy snacking!

IMG_1954

Homemade Applesauce

IMG_1918

I love making my own applesauce. It’s easy and I can adjust the taste to my liking. Today I’m going to show you how to make your own applesauce. I’ll be making a small batch to put in the fridge, but you can easily make a double batch and can or freeze it for long-term storage.

On a recent drive into the countryside, Nick and I stopped into McCully Hill Farm.

IMG_1893

I purchased some Gala, Empire and Spartan apples. You can use any blend of apples that you like. I suggest you use both sweet and tart apples that are fairly soft for easy cooking.

IMG_1894

 Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 lbs of apples (about 7 to 10 apples, depending on the size), cored, and quartered
  • 4 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to strip 4 lengths, zest only, not the pith)
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp lemon juice (more or less to taste)
  • tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar (to taste)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

IMG_1905

Start by coring and cutting up the apples. I leave the skin on mine but if you like a smoother texture you can peel the apples first.

IMG_1906

Use a vegetable peeler to peel four large strips of lemon peel.

IMG_1907

Place the cored and quartered apples into a large pot with the strips of lemon peel, the lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, sugar, water and salt. You might want to start with half the sugar at this point and add more to taste later.

IMG_1908

Bring to a boil on high heat, then lower the temperature, cover the pot, and maintain a low simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the apples are completely tender and cooked through.

IMG_1910

Once the apples are cooked through, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the lemon peels. Use a stick blender to blend up the sauce to your desired texture. Add more sugar to taste. If too sweet, add more lemon juice.

IMG_1912

I poured mine into Mason jars to store in the fridge and freezer. You can also freeze this sauce in plastic containers and keep it in the freezer for up to a year.

IMG_1914

This sauce is rich and delicious. The combination of the spices and the lemon in it make it more complex than the store-bought stuff. Try it for yourself and enjoy!

IMG_1916

 

 

Novels and Art

Sometimes when I need some time to myself I go swimming. Being under the water blocks out distractions. My mind wanders and sometimes wild ideas find me.

I was swimming yesterday when I thought What if you could have your favourite books illustrated by your favourite artists? Now this goes deep into my book-nerd brain but stick with me for this thought experiment. Choose one of your favourite books, (for me, Alice in Wonderland,) and have it illustrated by an artist of your choice, (Salvador Dali, for instance. Imagine his take on the Mad Hatter’s tea party or the Queen of Hearts.) You could have the artist add details in the margins or full colour panels. They would even create a new cover for you.

https://i1.wp.com/world.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Alice-wonderland-168x250.jpg 

I’d love to run a dusty little book shop that somehow provides this service to bibliophiles. I had so much fun matching my favourite stories to artists I love that I thought I’d include some more of my ideas below.

Klimt illustrating Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/Klimt_-_The_Kiss.jpg 

M.C. Escher illustrating Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

 

For an all Canadian example, how about Lorne Harris illustrating Susannah Moodie’s Roughing it in the Bush?

 

Train Spotting with illustrations by Andy Warhol.

  

Monet adding full colour panels to The Secret Garden.

 

Rossetti providing illustrations for The Complete Works of Shakespeare, (or at least Hamlet.)

  

Good work brain! We had fun today. Let me know in the comments which book and artist you would choose for your library.

Post Navigation