Thursday, July 29, 2010

Canning - Relish

We went to a wedding last weekend.  We only missed one day of harvesting cucumbers.  That night and the following day our neighborhood got 7" of rain.  Our rain monitor was overflowing.  That was all it took for the little baby cucumbers we had left on the vine to grow into monsters.  They were enormous!  Far too big to fit into canning jars, no matter how I sliced them.  What to do?  Make relish!

Here's my favorite relish recipe: Sweet and Snappy Zucchini Relish 
I simply substituted an equal amount of cucumbers for the zucchini called for in the recipe.

To get the best results:
  • drain the salty mixture in a colander
  • rinse the bowl it was in and put the drained veggies back in the bowl
  • fill the bowl with cold water and swish it around
  • drain it in the colander
  • taste the water draining out - if it's very salty, repeat the rinsing and draining several times if necessary.
Then squeeze out excess liquid.  Dump it in a large kitchen towel (that you don't mind getting stained) and squeeze it firmly several times over the sink.  You will be amazed at how much additional liquid comes out!  You don't want to squeeze it dry.

I made a triple batch, but only got 7 half pints because I squeezed out way more moisture than I ever did before.  I'm a little worried it will be too thick. We'll see.

All that work, so satisfying to see those cute little jars.  Then it was time for us to harvest.  There are 5 pounds of new cucumbers, but these at least will fit into the jars.  I have plans for them: Dill Relish (my darling daughter's favorite), Garlic Dill Pickles, and Bread and Butter Pickles.  When those are done there are tomatoes and zucchini and yellow squash and eggplant and green beans - oh, my!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Let the Canning Begin! Tomatoes

My husband grows an amazing garden.  I cook and can.  It's a match made in heaven.  Yesterday, we picked 4 lbs of green beans, 5 lbs of tomatoes and at least 6 lbs of cucumbers.

Today I canned tomatoes.  Figure on 1 pound of tomatoes for each pint jar.

Assemble your equipment:
This looks like a lot of equipment, but a package of jars will come with lids and rings and you can buy a canning kit for around $15 that will contain all the items I've marked with an asterisk*.  There are even coupons available! Canning kit 6/6 Red Plum newspaper insert. Jars, lids, rings 6/27 Red Plum.

heat proof working surface
tall stock pot
a rack that will fit inside the stock pot
deep saucepan
canning jars (pint), washed and inspect to be free of cracks or chips
canning lids
canning rings
jar tongs*
canning funnel*, optional but nice
spider spatula (looks like a spider web) or large slotted spoon
large bowl full of ice and water
large bowl to put the peeled tomatoes in
garbage bowl to put the skins and cores in
large rimmed cookie sheet
cutting board that will fit inside the rimmed cookie sheet to catch the juice
small thin non-metallic spatula*
hot pads
dish towels that can be stained
paper towels

Assemble your ingredients:
fresh tomatoes
lemon juice (bottled)
canning salt (optional)

You will use the stock pot to water bath (boil) the filled jars.  Place the rack inside the stock pot; fill 2/3 full with water, cover and heat. Using the jar tongs, carefully plunge the jars into the tall stock pot, allowing them to fill with water.  Cover and boil to sterilize jars while you prepare the tomatoes.

You will use the smaller pot to scald the tomatoes.  Fill 2/3 full with water, cover and bring to boil.  Wash tomatoes in plain cold water and pull off the stems and calyxes (green).  If any tomatoes have split skins, set them aside to use fresh today.  Split tomatoes spoil rapidly.  Using one in canning may ruin the entire batch.

Place the cutting board inside a rimmed cookie sheet. It will catch the tomato juice.

When the water in the smaller pan comes to a boil, lower 4-5 tomatoes into the water.  When the skins split, remove with spider spatula into the bowl of ice water.

Leave it in the ice water for a minute or two or until you can pick it up with your bare hand.  Pull on the skin; it will slide right off.  Put the skins in the garbage bowl. When all the tomatoes in the pan have been put in the ice water, add 4 or 5 more tomatoes to the simmering water.

Cut the peeled tomatoes into chunks, putting them into a bowl as you cut them. Cut away any green parts and discard.  Sometimes you will find mold inside a tomato near the seeds.  Throw the entire tomato away; wash the knife and cutting board before continuing.

Repeat the process until all tomatoes have been peeled and chunked.  Turn off the heat on the smaller pan, you won't use it any more.

Using the jar tongs, remove one jar from the stock pot and pour its' water back into the pot.

Place the jar on your heat proof working surface.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon canning salt (if using) and 1 teaspoon lemon juice to the jar.  The lemon juice assures that the acidity of the tomatoes is safe for water bath canning.  The salt is purely for seasoning and can be omitted.  (I don't use salt in tomatoes).

Using your impeccably clean hands (or a spoon) and canning funnel, add chunked tomatoes to the jar, pressing down so that the juice comes up.  Leave 1/2" space between the top of the tomatoes and the top of the jar.

Release any trapped air bubbles by working the thin non-metallic spatula between the inside of the jar and the tomatoes, while pressing the tomatoes down to keep them from spilling out.  Repeat until all tomatoes are in jars.

Put the rings and lids in the stock pot to sterilize them. 
Wet a paper towel and wipe clean the rims and threads of the jars.

Carefully remove one lid at a time and without touching the inside of the lid or jar, place on jars.  Remove one ring at a time and screw onto jar just until finger tight (first sign of resistance).  You don't want them so tight that the air can't escape - your jar will shatter or the air pressure will blow the contents out.

Once all jars are full, wiped, lidded and ringed you are ready to water bath process (boil) them.

The water in the stock pot must be boiling.
Using the jar tongs, carefully place each jar into the stock pot. 
Take care that the jars have space between them, so they don't knock together and so that water can freely circulate.
The water will stop boiling while you are loading the jars.
After all jars are in and the water returns to a boil, start timing.
Process for 10 minutes (pint jars).
Spread out a kitchen towel on your heat proof surface.
When the time is up, turn off the burner and carefully remove the jars.
Set them on the kitchen towel and cover with another towel to cool slowly.

When the jars have cooled, check for seal by pressing down on the center of each lid.  If the lid moves, REFRIGERATE AND USE WITHIN A COUPLE DAYS. Don't attempt to reprocess - it will be over-cooked.
Label the jars with the date and contents.  It's remarkably easy to forget what is inside the jars.  Hmm - tomatoes? salsa?
Store in a cool, dry, dark place.  Like shelves in your basement.

If when opened, the tomatoes don't look right (foamy, moldy) or smell right DON'T TASTE, throw them away.  It's not worth your health.
That being said, I've only had 1 batch of tomatoes go bad.  I used a tomato with a split skin.  Three days after canning, the jars of tomatoes looked foamy.  Out they went!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

$10.11 at CVS - I'm getting better at this!

As my friends know, I don't buy stuff just because it's cheap, I have to be able to use it.  I have enough "stuff" cluttering up my little home without adding unneeded or useless items to it.  If something is free and I can donate it I'll go for it.  But for the most part, for everything I buy I ask myself "Why am I considering buying this?  Is it a good price?  Will I use it?  Where will I store it?"  If something is not my preferred brand, I have to be really honest and ask myself if I will TRUELY use it or is this something that will get pushed to the back of the cupboard?  I'm picky about some brands that I think are such superior products that I'm willing to pay full price, without coupons to have them. 

So here's the story of 4 items; two brands I won't budge on (my hair care) and two I could care less about (my husband's razors and batteries). Relax, he doesn't care what brand of razor he uses either.

Visiting couponmom, I see that CVS has
  • Bic razors for $5.01 a 4 pack and I have two $2 coupons
  • CVS batteries are BOGO, and we need AAA rechargeables
  • Frizz-Ease products are 2/$10, I have two $2.50 coupons and I'll get $5 in Extra Bucks
  • Head & Shoulders are 2/$10 and I'll get $2 in Extra Bucks

I started out with $17 in Extra Bucks from last week.

Transaction 1
2 H&S, used $10 in EB from last week.  Paid $.77 (tax) Got $2 EB.

Transaction 2
2 Frizz Ease used $5 EB from last week, $5 in coupons. Paid $.78 (tax).  Got $5 in EB.  I made money on this one!

Transaction 3
2 Bic Comfort3 Advanced razors 4 packs
2 CVS AAA rechargeable batteries 4 packs
used $4 in coupons, $2 in EB from last week and $7 in EB from first 2 transactions.
Total cost for all items: $10.11

My CVS Journey Begins

I'm a loyal consumer - you do right by me and I shop at your store first and frequently.  However, after getting irritated with my local Walgreens on several occasions, I decided to take a look at CVS, but only I resolved, until the new Walgreens opens on the north side of town and I can shop there without the hassle of begging for a rain-check from a group of self-important coupon haters.

So last week, I went to (LOVE her!) and clicked on CVS where I saw many sales, prices that looked better than my beloved Walgreens and ExtraCare Bucks, the CVS version of Register Rewards.  Hmm, this could be interesting. I clipped my coupons, printed my shopping list and headed out to CVS, where I expected them to be out of everything.  Boy, was I surprised!  They had stock on everything I wanted.  TONS of stock! 

The first thing I did was scan my CVS card. Out popped 5 coupons!  One was for $5 in Extra Bucks on $20 CVS brand purchases.  I was planning on buying their Tooth Whitener and PM Pain Reliever anyway. Sweet!

I was like a kid in a candy store.  Here's the deals I got:

3 boxes of Post cereals 3/$10, $2 coupon and gave me $5 Extra Bucks = $1.00 each
2 Dove deodorant $4.79 each, $2/2 coupon, gave me $5 Extra bucks = $1.29 each
1 Dove body wash $6 (spend $15 on Dove get $5 EB but didn't count the deodorant :<) = $6
2 CVS PM Pain Reliever $9.29 BOGO and half of $5 off $20 = $3.39 each
CVS Tooth Whitener $14.99, $2 peelie, and half of $5 off $20 = $10.50
2 Dawn dish soap $.99, $1 coupon & .25 coupon = .37 each
3 Gillette men's body wash $3.50, 3 coupons: $1.50/1, 2.00/1 and 3.50/2 = $1.17 each
1 Gillette Venus Embrace $9.97, $2 coupon and gave me $5 Extra Bucks = $ 2.97
1 Gillette disposable 4 pack, $7.49, $2 coupon = $5.49
2 Cascade dishwasher gel detergent 2/$6, 2 coupons: $2 & $.50 gave me $1 Extra Bucks = 1.25 each
2 CoverGirl lipstains $7, 2 $1 coupons, spend $15 get $5 Extra Bucks = $6 each
1 Covergirl mascara $3.89, coupon buy mascara get free eyeshadow $3.39 = .50 for BOTH
L'Oreal Lip gloss $9.99 and eyeliner $8.00, $1 coupon and CVS BOGO 50% off = $ 7 each
1 gallon Dean's milk $2.60, gave me $1 Extra Bucks = $1.69
1 CVS earplugs $2.99

Sale prices totaled: $136.05 
Out of Pocket: $87.62    
For next time: $17.00 Extra Bucks
Like spending $70.62  48% savings!

Result: CVS is my new BFF

I'm going to CVS again today.  Results will be in a later post.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Birthday Weekend

Happy Birthday to me!  My hubs was out playing a double header in softball, so I slept in and made myself french toast (with these recipes Angel Bread, Basic Pancake Syrup) for my birthday breakfast with a yummy fruit salad alongside.  Beautiful fresh blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and nectarines were all on sale at Jewel.  I spent about the same for them as I would for the same volume of canned fruit.

After softball, we had lunch with Walt's parents, Anna & Nick.  Meatballs, gravy, mashed potatoes and coleslaw, followed by Angel Food cake filled with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.  She really knows how to feed me :).  Later, we did a little shopping at the outlet mall where I bought myself a few birthday gifts (blouses and kitchen gadgets).

Walt treated me to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Bonefish Grill where I had a Lemon Drop Martini (ok, I had two), Bang-Bang Shrimp, Filet Mignon, and Heirloom Tomatoes with feta and balsamic vinagrette.  Walt had Caeser Salad, Tilapia with Pan Asian Sauce and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.  Walt told them it was my birthday, and we shared a Creme Brulee with a birthday candle.

After church Sunday, we had brunch at Colonial and later went to Jeanie and Mike's where we enjoyed appys, pizza and a birthday cake shaped like a huge cupcake. 

To top it all off, today Walt made lunch (salad with lettuce from our garden), then surprised me with Limoncello (on my wish list) AND dinner on the grill.  I helped prepare the food - he cooked it all.  Those peppers in the pan are the first harvest from our garden.  We got the Yukon gold potatoes at Tom's Farm, our local farmstand. You can't see it, but they're crispy brown on the bottom.

As you can see, I was spoiled all weekend long!  I LIKE it!