Thursday, November 15, 2018

Canning Seedless Cranberry Sauce

Like a lot of families, I grew up with the classic Thanksgiving Dinner with the turkey, ham, dinner rolls, stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, green beans, gravy; you know - the usual... But there was one thing that differed from others; the cranberry sauce that seemed to grace everyone's table but ours...

Now that I'm older and with my own family and I'm setting my own table with foods, I'm trying out foods to figure out what it is that I like. Guess what; I love the Jellied Cranberry Sauce that comes in the can to go with my turkey. Thinking of how much I love the cranberry sauce with my foods, I could only imagine what it would be like if I made it from scratch and canned it on my own!

The first year I made the cranberry sauce, it was perfect! I gelled it in the jar with flat sides, so it slid right out into the dish, ready for me to slice it up and serve. It was so great, I was ready to do it again, but when the next year came around - I couldn't find the recipe I used!!! What could have possibly happened???

After many, many days of searching online - I couldn't find one that used pectin, that was seedless and didn't have any of the added stuff (oranges, cinnamon, cloves; what have you not) - I wanted cranberry sauce. After much searching online I picked a recipe (pectin free) and I gave it a go - just using the recipe online minus the added extra seasonings.... 

Should work out, plain and simple, right??? Should be easy - right? I'm not sure what happened, but my first 4 pounds of cranberries went into the garbage disposal - yes, that's right - It doesn't always turn right every time for me. It didn't gel at all, and it had a sharp weird flavor to it - no saving it; nope, not even worth the trouble. 

After a little more experimenting - I finally found the right ratios - so nice in fact, after the first taste: my eyes rolled to the back of my head!

Makes 2 batches

Cranberry Sauce Ingredients - 

4 lbs fresh cranberries (2 large bags)
8 cups white sugar - divided
2 tsp butter - divided (optional)
2 boxes of Sure Jell powdered pectin
About 13-14 sterile half-pint canning jars with matching lids and rings (look for the ones that are straight sided and smooth)
7 quart saucepan

Pour cranberries into a colander and rinse off with hot water, removing the brown and mushy berries. 

Pour berries into a 7 quart saucepan. On medium-heat, slightly heat the cranberries; stir to evenly heat. You will hear some popping, it's like listening for the last pop in a popcorn maker... Only heat the berries up enough for them to change to a solid color instead of their fresh looking tonal mix of color. 
Before the cranberries turned to a solid color. 
Remove from saucepan from heat and process through a Victorio Strainer using the berry screen attachment. **Not ALL the seeds will be screened, but the majority of them will and the remaining seeds will be so small you will not notice them.

Run the seeds/peeling remnants through the Victorio Strainer a second time to get the remaining bit of cranberry sauce off the seeds, scrape the berry screen to get every last cranberry squeezed through the Victorio Strainer.

You will get about 5.5 cups of super thick, pure cranberry sauce. Pretty, pretty!

Measure your sauce into a large bowl. Add enough water to equal the next multiple of 4 cups. For example: if you have 3.3827 cups of cranberry sauce, add water until you reach 4 cups. If you have 6.24 cups of cranberry sauce, add enough water to equal 8 cups; and so on. **A 4 cup measuring cup is very helpful for this part. 

Add ALL the cranberry sauce and water to one large bowl and mix well. 

Now, you're ready to can your cranberry sauce.

Make only one batch at a time - do not double the recipe.

Ingredients for one batch:
4 cups Cranberry Sauce - as prepared above
4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon butter
1 box Sure Jell powdered pectin

Prepare your Victorio Steam Canner on a low heat, with about 1 teaspoon of vinegar in the water. Place lids in boiling water for at least 1 minute. Set up your jars, ladle, funnel, hot pads and all your canning tools, so the jars are ready to be filled. 

Measure 4 cups of sugar in a bowl and set it within reach of your saucepan. 

Add 4 cups of cranberry sauce pulp to your 7 quart saucepan. Add 1 box pectin. Add 1 tsp butter. 

Bring to a boil, medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When you can no longer stir down the boil, or you can no longer stand the popping splatter on your arm: all at once, dump the whole bowl of sugar into the saucepan. 

Stirring constantly, return to boil. You want to look for a full rolling boil, a few bubbles here and there is not quite what you want; just wait for it... You will see it... Once you have the full rolling boil, set your timer for 1 minute...

Turn up the heat on your Steam Canner **Make sure you are familiar with your steam canner directions prior to canning and follow the directions for the steam canner.

Once your timer goes off, turn off the heat to the saucepan, remove your saucepan from the burner and continue stirring until there are no more bubbles.

Ladle sauce in to jars, filling to a 1/4 inch away from the top rim.
It is okay if you have one jar that is not completely filled. If you are doing a second batch, start filling that jar first. If not, pretend the jar is full. With a damp cloth, wipe the rims of the jars to remove any jelly. Place the two part lid with rings onto the jars and finger tighten them, do not palm tighten - some air needs to escape in order for the jars to seal. 

Place filled jars onto the steam canner tray and steam for 10 minutes, adjust time recommended by your altitude. Follow the directions for the steam canner in order to know when to start the timing for the steam canner.

To enjoy: Run hot water over the outside of the jar for a minute. Let the jelly slide out onto a dish to serve. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Paco's Apples, Apples and Apples...

Apples, Apples & More Apples...

and Don't Forget the Apples...

Starting in back right of photo,
working counter clockwise:
Steamer/Juicer, Jugs of Juice, Victorio Strainer,
bowl pure apple pulp, Dried apples
and Canned Apple Pie

I love homemade Apple Butter. I never really liked the store bought apple butter, as it seemed too thick, like molasses. Plus, I could never really taste the apples. Other apple butters seemed to taste of CLOVES only, and I was a little put off by it all. I wanted to taste a smooth APPLE butter.

I have played quite a bit over the years and have developed my own recipe for apple butter. The method of using a Steam Juicer and a Victorio Strainer is really the only way I will ever process my apples. And one can't really make apple butter without making all the other apples: Applesauce, Apple Butter, Apple Juice, Apple Jelly, Canned Apple Pie, Dried Apple Cinnamon Chips and more recently, my happy accident of Apple Fruit Leather.

First step is to make applesauce. A byproduct of applesauce is apple juice.

Applesauce and Apple Juice

Steam Juicer
With thirty gallons of apples for the Fall Canning Season of 2017, we had quite a bit on our hands. After washing our apples, our first step was to quarter the apples and get them in the steam juicer. That's right, take an apple and cut it into 4 pieces. If your apples are 'buggy' cut out those parts (and rinse again), but otherwise, plop them into the seam juicer basket and steam them. You want to seam them until the apples start to split the peeling away from the core/meat. If you steam too long, your apple pulp will be really thick.
Victorio Strainer with Apple Pulp
in the white bowl and
peelings, seeds and stems in the
transparent bowl.

Run the steamed, quartered apples through the Victorio Strainer, which will separate the apple pulp from the peelings, seeds and stems. When I run the apple peelings, seeds and stems back through the Victorio Strainer, I will get one more cup of apple pulp.
  • 13 c apple pulp
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
If you accidentally steam your apples too long, use less apple pulp and add back some juice, I had to do 12 cups sauce and 1 cup juice.

Ladle applesauce into pint jars and process in the waterbath for the recommended times according to your altitude.

Makes about 7 pints.

Check out the website for the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) to find out what your water bath canning times should be... 

With the leftover juice, strain it with a tea strainer to prepare it for the apple jelly - will make a nice, clean and transparent juice. I buy several gallon jugs of water throughout the year and save the jugs. They make a nice way to store the juice in the freezer until you are ready to can jelly. 

Apple Butter

Apple Butter starting to keep
its shape as I stir.
Another one of the reasons I prefer to use the Steam Juicer with my apples over boiling my apples in water is because I am not adding extra water to the apples and I am spending less time stirring and cooking my apple butter down, right before can it.

In the blender, add:
  • 1 c apple juice
  • Fill the rest of the blender with applesauce, up to 5 cup line
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 rounded tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Blend until smooth.
Add to sauce pot.
Repeat steps above to make 2nd blender full.
  • Add 2 cups sugar to sauce pot.
Stir on medium heat until darker and thickened - the apple butter will start to hold its shape after I stir it.

Ladle apple butter into pint jars and process in the water bath for the NCHFP recommended times according to your altitude. I live at 6,100 feet above sea level and I am required to water bath for 15 minutes at 6000+ feet.

**This Apple Butter recipe is also my go-to recipe for making Pear Butter...**

Apple Fruit Leather

Apple butter smoothed out, parchment paper gaps to allow
for air flow in the dehydrator.
My Happy Accident: Starting out with my first batch of apple butter during the Fall Canning Season of 2017, my stovetop decided to throw sparks and quit. So, I had a sauce pot full of apple butter and nothing to do with it. I pulled out my food dehydrator, had my son cut up some parchment paper to fit on the trays. I even made him cut a slit in each of the papers for the air flow to move freely throughout the dehydrator. I poured my apple butter onto the parchment paper, spread it out until it was about 1/4 inch thick. Left it in the dehydrator all night and for a good portion of the next morning. I finally turned it off when the tops of my apple butter layers were no longer sticky to the touch. I do remember rotating the trays once or twice during that time, as there was some spots that were a little thicker than the 1/4 inch. I was able to use a knife and slice some wedge shaped pieces of fruit leather and stored in an airtight container. 
Apple Fruit Leather wedges, I was amazed at how easy the paper peeled off.

Apple Cinnamon Jelly

Makes a real nice soft gel Apple Jelly, one the kids will ask for every time!
Apple Cinnamon Jelly with a very smooth consistency.
  • 9 c sugar
  • 7 c apple juice
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 box of powder SureJell
Measure exact amount of sugar into large bowl and set aside.

Add apple juice, cinnamon and butter to sauce pot, on medium-high heat.

Add one package of powder SureJell and stir. Stirring constantly, bring juice to a full rolling boil, a boil that cannot be stirred down.

Once a rolling boil is reached, dump sugar to sauce pot all at once. Stirring constantly, return to a full rolling boil. Once the juice reaches a full rolling boil, start the timer for exactly 1 minute. Once the timer goes off, remove from heat, and continue to stir until the amount of bubbles have been reduced. Skim off the rest of the bubbles if you want, but I find that the number of bubbles becomes so small that I don't worry about that step. Besides, skimming the bubbles is a way to improve appearance, but we end up eating the skimmed "bubbles" jelly on toast anyways.

Ladle jelly into prepared jars and water bath according to the NCHFP recommendations for your altitude.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Paco's Meatloaf

Lately, my meatloaf has been so delish, it is being requested for dinner! "Can we have meatloaf for dinner? Can We? Can We?" And besides, the next-day-meat-loaf-sandwiches are the BEST!

Back in the day, when I first started making meatloaf, it came out really tough and I was wondering what I had done wrong. My friend told me that I had mixed it too long.

Well, that's how I learned... mix the meat and bread crumbs using my hands, squeezing it to mix it all together, which I have come to find out is also a big No, No! So, for this recipe, I thought to use my KitchenAid mixer. It worked wonderfully!

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prep time 30 minutes, bake time 45-50 minutes.

Homemade bread crumbs quickie (10 slices of french bread, buttered on both sides,
sprinkled on one side with garlic powder, celery powder, onion powder, paprika. 
- toasted at 350°F until dry, flip half way, and dice small.) 
- If not, use one package of Rothbury Farms Seasoned Croutons.

1 pkg small croutons
1 tsp salt
½ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp minced celery
½ c chopped onions
1 c diced spinach (or any veggie you wish to try... I have used zucchini, mushrooms, spinach...)
1 c sour cream
1 egg
2 lbs lean ground beef - use a quality ground beef
About 1 tbls Worcestershire sauce

About ½ c ketchup
About ½ c granulated sugar

If you're not making your own, garlic powder, minced garlic, celery powder, minced celery, onion powder, minced onion- get with it. Homemade seasonings will enhance the flavor of any dish you make!!!

Add croutons, onions, salt, garlic salt, minced celery and veggies to stand mixer bowl. Mix using the paddle attachment.

Add sour cream & egg.

Break up beef into about .5 to 1 inch chunks and place onto top of sour cream and egg. Add Worcestershire sauce around the bowl. Lock stand mixer, set to slowest speed setting, and mix until evenly mixed; no more than 20-30 seconds. Stop mixer, flip over meat mixture using a spoon. If there is still a large concentration of any one ingredient, mix again for another 30 seconds.

Spread out into a greased 9½" x 7½" x 3" glass casserole dish or a dish you prefer. Bake for 40* minutes.

While it is baking, mix the ketchup and sugar and set aside. Yes, I know - ketchup is not so appealing, but how do you think they make BBQ sauce...? Trust me on this one...

Once the loaf has baked for 40* minutes or until internal temp is about 140°F, pour ketchup onto the top of meatloaf and spread it out evenly. Replace pan into oven and bake for an additional 5-10* minutes or until internal temp is 155°F. For the final caramelising of the glaze, set the oven to a low broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until you see a ton of tiny bubbles in the glaze.

Let rest for 5 minutes once you remove it from the oven.

*Remember, if you use a larger pan, cooking time will be less or if you use a smaller pan, cooking time is longer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Canned Nectarine Plum Jelly

Stone fruits! Who doesn't love em?

I love it when I stumble upon something delicious! Honestly, I have been a little busy quilting lately and have been juicing my fruits and saving them in the freezer until I had time to make jelly out of them. I had juiced my peaches and tried to make jelly out of the peach juice. What a mistake! Peaches do not juice well. There is not much flavor. Save your peaches for the Peach Maple Syrup recipe that is coming soon. Pit them, slice them and freeze them. 
Now, nectarines and plums make a nice juice! Nectarine juice is sweet while plum juice is sour. I suppose you can buy the juice already made from the grocery store, but I highly recommend juicing yourself. The flavor is so much better, especially if they are locally grown. I use a steam juicer that was gifted to me.
I like to buy the steril gallon jugs of water made for babies. Not only is the water good for the steam juicer to prevent hard water/mineral buildup, you end up with a jug to store your juice in.
The great thing about the steam juicer is you don't have to cut your fruit up, pit them or do anything to your fruit. Wash them in water and a little white vinegar, and place the in the juicer. Most of my clients prefer plum jelly over plum jam, so I juice all my plums anyways.
Makes about 4.5 pints... 
What you need:
3.5 c nectarine juice
2 c plum juice
(If you don't have enough juice, add apple juice until you get 5.5 cups)
6.5 cups sugar
1 box powdered surjel 
1 tsp butter - to reduce foaming
Timmer set up within reach to time 1 minute
Necessary canning supplies: water bath canner, canning jars, new lids, rings, etc...

Start the water bath canner with enough water on high heat so it can start to boil, add a little vinegar (about a tablespoon or two) to reduce hard water/mineral buildup.

Pre measure sugar in a large bowl and set aside. In a large saucepan on high heat, add exact measured juice, butter and the entire packet of surjel. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the juice is boiling vigorously. It will have a white/lighter appearance from all the bubbles and the boiling doesn't stop when you continue to stir.
It's getting there... But it's such a pretty color!
Once it is boiling vigorously, dump the sugar in the saucepan all at once, and stir. Stir constantly, alternating between a figure 8 motion and a circular motion, do not walk away. Watch the liquid until you see it start to boil. Keep watching it and stirring it constantly. Start your timer when you can not stir the boiling down. Watch it, you will notice it when it changes from a regular boil to a vigorous boil... Hard to explain... Just watch...

You want to time it for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and continue stirring it until it stops boiling. 

Set wooden spoon aside and let the saucepan sit for about 30 seconds. This will allow the 'foam' layer to jell and makes it easier to skim off the top. 

Ladle into prepared canning jars, 1/4 inch from the top. Wipe the rims with a washcloth. Place flat lids on top and finger tighten the rings (do not palm tighten-you want air to escape the jars as they heat up in the water bath canner).

Place filled jars into your now boiling water bath canner. Make sure the jars are covered on top by 1 inch or more of water. Once the water starts boiling again, set the boil time for 5 minutes, adjust the time for the recommendation according to the altitude chart. Of you're unsure of your altitude, download the altitude app on your smart phone. An example: I'm at an altitude of 6,100 feet, I will water bath my jars for 20 minutes.
If you are doing multiple batches, start each time with a clean saucepan, spoon and ladle. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Paco's Apple Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Icing

Inspired by the strawberry cake I've been making with chunks of sliced strawberries in the batter AND by my friend's love for apples, I've come up with an apple cake. Super easy and fool proof, I had my 11 year old son make the cake part.

Preheat oven: 350°F
Prep time: 10-20 minutes
Baking time: 25-30 minutes


5 Granny Smith apples-peeled, cored, sliced and cut into quarters
1 box of French Vanilla Cake mix
3 eggs
½ c olive oil
¾ c water - if using canned apples, use juice
2 tsp cinnamon

Caramel Cream Cheese Icing:
½ c packed light brown sugar
⅓ c heavy whipping cream
¼ c butter-room temperature
1 c powdered sugar
1 box of cream cheese (8oz)
½ c sliced almonds (optional garnish for icing)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Peel, core, slice, and quarter apples using an apple/peeler/corer. Place in a bowl with water and a dash of lemon juice to keep from browning.

In a stand mixer with a flat paddle, add cake mix, cinnamon, eggs, oil & water (water from the soaking apples will work). Mix on low-med speed until lump free, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Fold in drained apples using a wooden spoon.

Spray a 9"x13" baking dish or bundt pan with baking spray. Pour cake batter into dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling, dissolve brown sugar, butter and whipping cream in a small sauce pan on low-med heat, stirring constantly. Once sugar and butter is dissolved, continue to cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and let cool to touch.

While caramel is cooling, in a stand mixer using a wire whisk attachment, mix on low-med speed:  powdered sugar and cream cheese, scraping and poking cheese out of the whisk occasionally, about 3-5 minutes. Add slightly cooled caramel to cream cheese/powdered sugar and continue to mix in the stand mixer until blended and no lumps.

Pour icing onto cooled cake and garnish with almonds.

Refrigerate cake. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Summer 1975 Strawberry Cake

Taken from the Imperial 150th Anniversary Cook Book and altered a little bit. All I have of this recipe is a picture taken of a photocopy from a magazine. I have yet to find this recipe in digital form.

1 package of french vanilla OR white cake mix
3 tablespoons of flour
3 eggs
¾ cup cooking oil
¾ cup water
1 (3oz) package of strawberry gelatin
1-2 cup(s) frozen or fresh sliced strawberries

Combine ingredients in stand mixer and mix well using the flat mixer attachment. Pour into bundt pan sprayed with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Strawberry Sauce:
1 pound of frozen or fresh sliced strawberries
⅓ c of water if using fresh
½ c of sugar

Combine in bowl until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whipped Topping:
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
1¼ cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Pour heavy whipping cream into stand mixer and whip with the whisk attachment until cream becomes stiff (if you stop too soon, whipped cream may become runny after you add sugar and vanilla). Add sugar and vanilla and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Store in a large bowl and can be frozen.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Paco's Slow Cooker Chili Beans (revisited!)

Prep: 30 minutes, Cook: 8-9 hours

About 3 cups cleaned pinto beans
1 lb ground beef
2 cups diced roma tomatoes, fresh
1 whole medium onion, sliced and quartered
1 cup fresh jalapenos, deseeded, sliced lengthwise
3 tbls fresh minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 tbls red chili powder
Enough water to cover beans by about 2 inches in slow cooker

sliced green onions
shredded cheddar cheese

In the slow cooker on high temperature settings, add cleaned beans with water, salt, pepper, chili powder, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, minced garlic, garlic salt. 

Break up the raw ground beef into bite size pieces & drop into the slow cooker. Roll into balls if desired. Cover crock pot with lid. Do not stir for the first 3 to 4 hours.

Leave for about eight to nine hours. Check on it periodically to see if the water is still covering the beans, if not add small amounts of hot water at a time to cover. Half way through, stir to make sure beans do not stick to the side of the slow cooker. You know the beans are done when you test one and it has a smooth texture throughout the whole bean.

Serve in a bowl, topped with shredded cheese, green onions & corn chips on the side.