Who doesn’t love having a jar of marinara in the pantry?  It’s so comforting to have; it’s nearly an instant meal. Pour it in a pot with a bit of cream, and you have tomato bisque. Smear it on some dough and you have pizza. Bake a spaghetti squash while you raid the rest of your pantry, and you have a gorgeous, healthy plate of Puttanesca. Brown up some Italian sausage while you boil water, toss in some pasta and throw in your marinara and boom, dinner is served. Look how thick and luscious it is! But buying it in the store isn’t always cheap, and sometimes there are some questionable ingredients included.  So what do you do when you have a garden-full of tomatoes and an empty pantry?  Make [... To read more, click here ...]

 

Pico de Gallo for Canning makes 12-14 pints   10 pounds canning tomatoes 1 pound red onion Jalapenos (I use 8 for “medium” and 12 for “hot” salsa), stems removed 2 large Poblano peppers, stems removed 2 large heads of garlic, cloves separated and paper removed and discarded 2 Tablespoons pickling salt 1 Tablespoon fresh ground pepper 4 ounces prepared lime juice   Weigh out your ingredients in advance.  If your tomatoes need a bit of trimming before use, add a few extra ounces (I normally add 4 to 6 ounces) to the scale to accommodate for trimming.  It is important that you use tomatoes specified as “canning” tomatoes for this recipe to ensure that the pH of your salsa is safe for processing without a pressure-canner.  If you are [... To read more, click here ...]

 

I have a confession to make.
I lost my yogurt-making mojo this winter.

Three batches in a row. Ended up with milky. . . milkiness.

So I decided to revisit my yogurt making routine. I decided to think outside of the box, found a few tips online, rolled up my sleeves and tried again.

And it worked. I made yogurt. And not only did it work but I made the thickest, creamiest yogurt I’d ever made in the two years I’ve been making yogurt. I used to have to strain my yogurt, for a day, to get it this thick. It must be a fluke.

So I did it again. And again. And revised and streamlined my technique. And I’m in love. . . .

Mar 042011
 

So it’s been my plan for the last few months to make roasted vegetable stock this spring to fill up our pantries for Lent and meatless Friday meals. One of my favorite books for simple, Lenten meals, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, uses vegetable stock often for added flavor and now that I know how to can stock, I thought, why not?

Until I opened my pantry and saw row after row and jar after jar of turkey and poultry stock, produced over the last few months, just looking at me. Pregnancy fatigue was getting me down and it just seemed like too much to have to consider making and storing more stock, sanitizing jars, buying another box of lids, and hauling out the canner from the basement. Don’t get me wrong, for meat-based stocks, the canning process is fantastic, my new favorite thing, and I use it all the time. But for vegetables? Sigh, I was getting tired just thinking about it.

And then I remembered those lovely little jars of bouillon I used to buy and keep stocked in my fridge before I realized they were all full of MSG. It was so simple to just heat up some water in our electric kettle, add a spoonful or two of bouillon and voila! Instant soup, or flavor to any dish, from jambalaya to minestrone to risotto.

So I decided to make some. Bouillon that is. One extra ingredient on the list, five minutes of chopping and two minutes of processing and I was done. With a full quart of bouillon in my fridge, just waiting for our next meatless meal. . .

 

Ahhh . . . stock. Watch any cooking show on TV, read any mainstream cookbook or food blog and you will come across that beloved ingredient . . . stock. Chicken stock. Beef stock. Veal stock. Vegetable stock.

Stock is nourishing. Stock is flavorful. Stock is frugal.

It’s the best of all worlds.

And, if you make it at home, it’s even better. A simmering pot of chicken stock is pretty much de rigeur around here the day after I roast a chicken, and T. knows better than to disrupt my bags of frozen chicken parts, awaiting their turn in the stockpot.

But then, once you’ve made it, how does one store stock? Sure, at the store, it comes in nice, cute, little, shelf-stable boxes, but at home it’s a bit more difficult of a storage problem. I’ve frozen it, with great success, in both freezer bags and glass jars, but I didn’t find it as useful for me. I’d forget to defrost it in time, or it ended up taking too much space in my small apartment freezers. When we moved to our new home, my freezer got smaller still, but in the interim, I inherited a pressure canner from my grandma, and oh, the places I can go with it!

My favorite (and what I use it the most for) pressure canning recipe? Stock.

It’s changed my life.

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