Monday, October 10, 2011

Sausages in Jars

We've become huge fans of the "meat in jars" concept.  We started this last year when Dave got into making sausages, and we tried a pretty basic venison sausage recipe.  It's great opening a jar of meat and adding it to whatever you've got on the go - much quicker than having to think about taking something out of the freezer to thaw first.

This year, we played around a little with that basic sausage recipe, and came up with three new ones, two of which are in jars, and the last we made into freezer patties.  I'll give you the ingredients here for the mix, but please follow the directions from Hunter Angler Gardiner Cook's venison sausage recipe for the "how to".  Also, if your canning, please follow the pressure canning instructions for ground meat on the USDA's National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Dried Tomato & Fresh Basil Venison Sausage

4 lbs venison
1 lb pork fat
> 1 cup tightly packed fresh basil, chopped
1 head (small, about 8 cloves) garlic, peeled & chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup dehydrated tomatoes, chopped (we used 1/2 cup each of our dehydrated Black Plum and Principe Borghese tomatoes)
1/2 cup dehydrated bell pepper, chopped (we used our Red Ruffle peppers)
1/2 tsp dehydrated jalapeño pepper, chopped (more if you want it spicier)
1 tsp ground smoked sweet paprika
< 1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 cup cold grape juice

After making this into sausage, we canned it.

Curry Ginger Apple Venison Sausage

4 lbs venison
1 lb pork fat
1 tbsp smoked sea salt
1 1/2 tsp curry powder (my own mix)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup dried tomatoes (Black Plum), chopped
1/2 cup dried bell pepper (Red Ruffle), chopped
1/2 cup dried apple (Gravenstein), chopped
2" fresh ginger root, grated
1 head (medium, about 12 cloves) garlic, peeled & chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cold grape juice

After making this into sausage, we canned it.

Fruit & Maple Breakfast Venison Sausage

4 lbs venison
1 lb pork fat
1 tbsp smoked sea salt
1/2 cup each, chopped: dried cranberries, dried blueberries & dried apples

2 tbsp dehydrated bell pepper, chopped (Red Ruffle)
1/2 tsp dehydrated jalapeño pepper, chopped (more if you want it spicier)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp ground white peppercorns
1/2 cup cold maple syrup

After making this into sausage, we froze it into patties on wax paper-lined baking sheets, then cut the wax paper around the patties and vacuum sealed them into freezer bags.

Kitchen Whirlwind

summer preserves 1
Summer Preserves by chotda on Flickr
We've just spent the better part of this week on our feet, preparing food for the coming year.  Dave shot a small buck for us (more on that separately), and the produce from the garden has just been continuing to roll in (I'll try to compile a preserves tally again this year).

We made a discovery this year of a product for canning that I'd read about, but hadn't really investigated.  Low methoxyl (LM) pectin allows you to significantly reduce (or eliminate) the amount of sugar used in a recipe, and you can use honey, or other sweeteners (like stevia, or agave nectar or whatever) in place of sugar, because the gelling process does not require sugar to occur, unlike standard pectins.

I found Pomona's Universal Pectin at Galloway's Speciality Foods in Burnaby, so I picked up a couple of packages to try.  I had a huge batch of various berries (Oregon grape, currants, gooseberries, wild blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, evergreen huckleberries) that I needed to get out of the freezer (we're going to be getting a pig from my Dad soon), and was really keen on making a tart jelly with these fruits.

Well, I made the equivalent of six batches, and it gelled beautifully and perfectly, using little honey as the sweetener, and I made two triple batches following the directions on the package.  I did the same thing with whole strawberries and made the equivalent of seven batches all in one go!  Finally, I made a herbal jelly which I added very little honey to, and it gelled beautifully again.

Benefits of the Pomona's Universal Pectin:
  • Low sugar or use sweetener of your choice.
  • Beautiful gelling (although this might vary... I'll keep experimenting!) even if you make a multiple batch (unlike normal pectin which I don't have any success with because I'm always mucking with the sugar levels and am in a rush so I want to double & triple recipes!).
  • Keeps indefinitely as long as properly stored (cool, dry location).
Drawbacks of the Pomona's Universal Pectin:
  • Can be difficult to source (but check out their "free package" offer, to get you to encourage your local store to carry it).
  • Expensive compared to regular pectin (but I'm looking into the option to purchase in bulk, as it keeps indefinitely).
Still not done yet... we've got a local source for some pears, and our Italian prune plums need dealing with, as do the tail end of our tomato harvest.  Sigh.  But it's so satisfying having all this good food available!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Canning Season Again


This is just a brief note of a list of canning & preserving links that were mentioned in the Victoria Times Colonist on Sunday, August 28, 2011:

Punk Domestics - sounds right up our alley!  Preserving, foraging, home brewing... when I've got some time (hahahaha!) this will definitely get a good look.
Well Preserved - a blog about food & foodies, with a bent towards home preserving techniques.  I like this post especially discussing safety issues around home canning, one of their first references therein is the USDA National Center for Home Preservation, my bible for all things stuck in jars.
Food in Jars - a blog about home preservation.  Some really intriguing recipes.
laundry etc. - a UK blogger's interesting collection of home-related stuff, with lots of luscious sounding recipes and lovely photos.

Another recent article in a recent Times Colonist about preserving fresh herbs.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Salmon Puff Muffins

Red Running

Having given up dairy since about October, I have now decided to try eliminating obvious sources of gluten from my diet, to see if that further helps with Kate's rash and eczemic skin. As a result, my lunch options are even further curtailed, sigh. Looking through the pantry this afternoon, I saw some salmon, and I was just not interested in salmon salad without the sandwich (we get fabulous whole grain bread from True Grain in Cowichan Bay, which mills their own flour, but alas, no more for me or Kate for a while). So off to the internet to see what else I could come up with (what on earth did we do before the internet? oh, yes, books... well, I still use those too!), and ran across this post which mentioned a sort of fishloaf muffin with salmon. Hmmm, I could do that! So here's my effort from today:

Salmon Puff Muffins

2 large eggs, separated
2 cans salmon (8 oz tin, or 213 g if you're in Canada)
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon dried dill weed (or if you've got fresh, go for it)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (I make my own, so I reckoned, what the heck!)

Preheat oven to 350F. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Beat the egg yolks, then mix in the salmon, cornmeal and seasonings. Use a blender or food processor to mash the salmon mix up into a fairly fine consistency. Gently fold the egg whites into the salmon mix, then dollop into prepared muffin tins (I use the silicone muffin tray and I managed 10 muffins out of this recipe). Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until muffins have risen a bit and are golden brown, starting to crack & separate from the sides, and a tester inserted comes away clean.

I thought this recipe would also be delightful with some smoked salmon added in, or instead use crab meat (although why waste perfectly good crab meat this way?). Season to your taste, and it's very nice served with a little (wheat free!) soy sauce. I bet it would be super good with spicy red pepper jelly too.

As everyone in the household, including Kate, loved these (and I was hard-pressed to save a few for tomorrow's lunch), I guess I'll be buying the full salmon share off the Michelle Rose's community supported fishery, and getting busy canning salmon this year!

Smoked Pork Hock Soup

by burnishings on Flickr.

We discovered a wonderful source for local smoked pork products at the Duncan Farmers' Market in the Square a couple of weeks ago: Ravenstone Farm. We'd been making a delicious pork & beans recipe in the slow cooker, but I wanted something different. I cobbled together a couple of recipes from Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss, my "go to" manual for slow cooking and pretty much 80% of our dinners lately! I used a roasted vegetable soup with what I'd been doing for the pork & beans recipe, and got something like this:

Smoked Pork Hock Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled & chopped into 1" rounds
1 sweet potato (the orange fleshed one!), peeled & chopped into 1" pieces
1 small squash (I've used butternut and Marina di Chioggia), peeled & chopped into 1" pieces
3-4 celery ribs, chopped into 1" pieces
1 large onion, chopped into 1" pieces
4 whole garlic cloves
4 cups total liquid - I used about 2 cups red tomato salsa and 2 cups chicken broth, both home-made
1 medium (about 2 to 3 pounds, depending on the size of your slow cooker - ours is a Crock Pot VersaWare, I think 6 quart) smoked ham hock
1 to 2 cups cooked (or canned) chick peas, drained
1/2 tsp cracked white or green peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 425F. Toss the vegetables and garlic in the olive oil and spread over a rimmed baking pan. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until softened and slightly browned at edges. Place ham hock in the slow cooker. Scrape vegetables into slow cooker. You can use some of the broth to wash off the pan into the slow cooker if there are bits stuck, but I've not found that necessary. Pour the chick peas into the slow cooker. Add the salsa and broth and stir the ingredients together a little to distribute. Add the peppercorns, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and cover the slow cooker and cook on low for about 10 hours, or high for at least 5 hours, or until the ham is falling off the bone and the vegetables are tender.

This is a very versatile recipe: use whatever root vegetables you've got on hand that you feel like including. It's wonderful with parnsip, turnip (rutabaga), etc. Just enjoy! And like most soups & stews, it's even better the next night. And if you happen to do the baked beans recipe (which I'll have to post at some point) as well, it's fabulous mixed in with this.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Addition Part 3 - Raising the Roof

We're now pretty much past the weather-critical work, so we'll see how it progresses, but we're so excited that we've got to this point. Len has worked very hard constructing the pieces and figuring out how he'd manage to put it all together. It was a bit of a nail-bitter when the crane engaged the roof, but when the tension caught and everything lifted all beautifully in one go, it was perfect!

Addition Part 2 - Raising the Walls

Addition Part 1 - Construction & Deconstruction

We've had some delays with the construction of the addition to the house, but the bits are finally constructed and installed, yay!! So here's a quick review of the process for your viewing pleasure, broken into three posts.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Baby Led Weaning - an update

OK, we are totally hooked!! All of us are thoroughly enjoying this baby led weaning thing. Kate is having fun, we're amazed at what she'll try and what she actually manages to consume, and mealtimes are just so joyful. I know that Dave & Mom were both quite skeptical, Mom especially worried about the choking hazard possibilities, and while that's not completely eliminated (hey, we eat & breathe out of the same hole, choking is a risk for everyone), Kate seems to be developing the skills needed to successfully maneuver her food around safely. As long as we provide her with safe shapes and textures within reason, she's been pretty good at managing her food very well. She does gag now and then (much more at the beginning) as she would hit her gag point and try to move the food around, but she's definitely figuring things out very well.

I have been grappling with the dilemma of choosing between the order of foods I'm supposed to be introducing Kate to and following the concept of letting Kate try different things. We're balancing it somewhat, and I'm not being a very strict adherent to the order, although I am keeping her away from cow's milk products until she's at least a year (as she's demonstrated a reaction to milk proteins), and probably will wait until she's at least a year before introducing legumes & wheat due to intolerance demonstrated in our family. Other than that, we're having a great time exploring new foods together.