Sunday, September 21, 2014

Put it Up (Winter Preparations) Part 3: Winter Wrap Up!

I'm so sorry about the delay in posting!  It's been, busy, hectic, depressing and all around just overwhelming here the last little bit and honestly I just haven't had the extra energy to blog.

So, since I've had you waiting for weeks now on these posts, I figured I'd better do a wrap up post to share everything I did so that this series gets done know...winter!

So here you go folks!  Be prepared to get bombarded with recipes a little bit :).

1.  Freezing Pesto (Use for Basil)

Before this year I decided I needed to dry my herbs and would hang them up in elaborate bunches around my kitchen.  This year I decided to take it easy on myself.  So, for my basil, I decided the best thing I could do was to freeze it into pesto pucks.  Most recipes, including the one I used call for you to freeze the pesto in ice cube trays. I wanted bigger portions, because I knew that the only thing I'd be using the pesto for was pasta.  So, I put them in muffin tins instead.

The changes I made to work within our allergies:  I used Blue Diamond almonds in place of the other nuts the recipe called for.  I also used pecorino romano cheese (it's sheep's cheese) instead of Parmesan to make tummies not unhappy when we eat it.  I also left out the raw garlic and will add it in when I make the pasta as raw garlic tends to go bitter when you freeze it (that and I'm always concerned about the garlic allergy rearing it's ugly head again, so I'm overly paranoid).  The pesto came out good, I have to say :).

2.  Herb cubes (Use for fresh herbs)

I did kind of a two tiered attack when it came to the rest of my fresh herbs.  I divided them up and some I made into "herb pucks" with olive oil to make herb paste later to slather under the skin of chickens that I'll roast or something.  Those I tended to mix herbs that went well together (parsley, sage and thyme...that type of thing).  The rest I took and diced up fine and placed in ice cube trays.  I then took a dry erase marker so I'd know what herbs  were where (o for oregano, etc).  Then I just filled the cubes the rest of the way with water and froze solid.  Took the cubes out by herb type, bagged them in different freezer bags and tagged them for later use.  And voila!  I now have herbs that I can throw into soups, stews, or other dishes or I can defrost and use later.

3.  Blueberry Syrup (Use for blueberries).

If you are lucky enough to have time to pick blueberries, you can use some of the ones you pick to make awesome home made blueberry syrup.  If you DON'T have time, like me, you either have great friends who give you some of their blueberries or do like I did this year and just got the giant bag of frozen blueberries from Costco.  I halved the original recipe, by the way, as we just don't go through enough blueberry syrup around here to make the original recipe's worth.

And, you should have the perfect amount of blueberries left (if you get the frozen blueberries that is) over to make

4.  Spirted Blueberries.  I know it sounds like a kind of odd recipe, but if you make the blueberries with coconut rum?  You will be surprised how close to heaven they taste!  I tried these on a whim a few years ago and they are definitely on my "can every year from this point onward" roster.  They are SO good over pound cake!  If you don't like alcohol or don't believe in it?  Give these a try.  Trust me by the time they get done boiling away in a canner for 20 or more minutes the alcohol is boiled out of them, but the coconut depth flavors will remain and it just adds a depth of flavor that is astounding!

If you don't want to do the alcohol, you could leave it out and just can the blueberries, but you don't know what you are missing ;).

 5.  Blanched and Frozen Kale (Use for dark greens)

I know that a lot of people end up with a LOT of kale up here if they grow it and this is how I use my bumper crop for winter.  I tried canning greens a long while ago, but found that it just wasn't worth the use of the jar as the greens shrunk so much, had to spend so much time in the canner that they'd come out tasting like mush and you'd pull out a tiny bit of green for the use of a big jar.  So, the last couple of years I've blanched and frozen my greens and it works great!  

Instructions can be found HERE.

6.  Ketchup Based BBQ Sauce.  Yes, using fresh tomatoes and such make a better quality of BBQ sauce, but when it comes to my lazy nature, using ketchup as the base for BBQ sauce (I use organic as I think it tastes better), works for me :).

7.  Victorian BBQ sauce or Rhubarb BBQ sauce (use for Rhubarb):

I fell in LOVE with this recipe last year and made it again this year.  If you add some liquid smoke to the final product you'll never know that it isn't traditional BBQ sauce (well it is chunkier).  GREAT stuff!

Check out the recipe HERE.

8.  Strawberry jam.  Kind of straight forward.  I made a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving that made a "strawberries on top" effect where you end up with strawberry jelly on the bottom and your solids kind of float to the top.  It's a neat effect.

There are TONS of strawberry jam recipes on line, so feel free to just google that one.

9.  Sauerkraut (use for cabbage)

I LOVE this recipe for sauerkraut because you ferment in the mason jars.  I do a couple of things different.  I half the water (I know weird right) during the fermentation stage.  It gives you a slight ferment to the cabbage instead of a major one when the ferment period is up.  And since you essentially double the salt during the ferment, the cabbage ends up coming out with a crunchy consistency instead of being mushy when it is all said and done.  It is AWESOME!

When your fermentation period is done, add your water to where it should be (in this case I had to add a half gallon of water back to the brine), heat to not quite boiling, jar up and process in a water bath canner 10 minutes per pint and 15 minutes per quart.  This definitely tastes better when you let it mellow for two months in the pantry.

The amount of sauerkraut above made 14 pints of sauerkraut when it was all said and done (I canned it yesterday). 

10.  Dehydrated celery (use for celery)

I grew some celery in my garden this year with all of these lofty plans to have ants on a log and other cool snacks with it.  Unfortunately the stalks never got big enough to do much with.  So, I decided I was just going to dehydrate it all.  Now I have celery leaf (which imparts a really good celery flavor believe it or not) and cut up pieces of celery stalk (the little jar on the right) to use in soups and other applications over the winter.  Worked really slick!

And there you go folks!  I am thinking about doing a couple of more jam type applications this year (to make into easy tarts and such later) and maybe some extra condiments, but for the most part, I'm done with winter prep for this year.  Hope you all had good luck putting up your stores for winter too!


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