Thanksgiving Pies – Tradition With A Twist

I have never understood why people stress so about having Thanksgiving dinner at their home.  For me, this is probably the easiest meal to make.  You buy a turkey, clean it, make some stuffing, stuff it, then put it in the oven for 5 to 8 hours depending on the size.  Done!

Sure there are side dishes to make, but peeling potatoes, cleaning the Brussel sprouts or other vegetable, making some rolls or bread, making a salad, and baking a few pies is pretty much like dinner every other day, so where is the hassle.  Granted there are typically more people eating at the table, but it takes only minutes to peel a few potatoes or make a bigger salad.

I love having Thanksgiving.  Admittedly, I am probably a bit spoiled here though, because much of the work that would typically have to be done on Thanksgiving morning is already done for me and waiting for me in the pantry.  When Grace was cleaning up the kitchen before our guests arrived, she was surprised at how many empty canning jars she had to load into the dishwasher.  This is where all that canning and preparation I do throughout the year really pays off.

First I used canned apple pie filling for the Apple-Cranberry-Currant Pie. Next it was canned pumpkin for the pumpkin pie.  Then four quart jars of homemade breadcrumbs for stuffing, several jars of pickled beets, two jars of homemade cranberry-plum sauce, and of course we had to break out a few jars of homemade fruit-juice-lemonade concentrates to mix with club soda for drinks.  Every time I started working on something else for the dinner, I found myself heading to the pantry to raid the shelves.  It was great!

The one thing I was not able to find in my pantry, YET, were the sweet potatoes.  I have them on my list of things to still can this year, along with white potatoes, but because of my decorating agenda for the holidays, it has not been checked off my never-ending To Do List.  Still, being able to cut down on how much time I spent in the kitchen this Thanksgiving was truly something to be thankful for.

Using some of the canned pumpkin from the pantry was a new experience this year.  I have frozen pumpkin puree for many years, but canning it was a new experience.  Slicing into it after Thanksgiving dinner, I have to admit I was a bit nervous.  Handing the first slice to my father, I asked him to tell me how it was.  He slowly cut off a tiny bite with his fork and sampled it.  After swishing it around in his mouth, as if he were at a wine tasting, dragging it out longer than my racing heart needed, he smiled and told me it was wonderful.  Hubby got the second slice and agreed with my father adding, “This is probably the best pumpkin pie you’ve ever made.”  Granted I think he says that with each pumpkin pie I make, but still, being able to maintain that standard was very important to me.

My pumpkin pie recipe is nothing special, but it is always a big hit, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 Quart Jar of Home-Canned Pumpkin (for me this turned out to be 16 oz. of puree)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2/3 Cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • Pastry for Single-Crust Pie

Drain home-canned pumpkin and puree pulp till smooth in food processor.  Combine pumpkin, sugar, and spices with a whisk.  Add eggs, lighting beating to combine.  Add milks and mix well.

Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared pie crust and bake in 375 oven for 25 minutes.  Cover pie with foil after 25 minutes and bake another 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool completely before chilling.

This year, Grace helped with the pies and we opted not to drag out the mixer.  We mixed everything by hand and the pie turned out fine.  Sometimes it’s nice to get away from all the gadgets, although they certainly have their place in my kitchen.

The other pie we made was another traditional Thanksgiving favorite in our home — Apple.  This year, however, I decided to make it with a bit of a twist.  I added some cranberries, currents, and just a touch of brandy.  Definitely a keeper.

Apple-Cranberry-Currant Pie with Crumble Topping

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  • 1 Quart plus 1 Pint Apple Pie Filling
  • 1 Cup Fresh Cranberries
  • 1/4 Cup Brandy
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Currants
  • Pie Crust for Single-Crust Pie

Topping:

  • 2/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Butter

Combine brandy and currants and let sit for 1 hour until currants are plump.

In a large bowl combine pie filling cranberries currants and brandy.  Pour mixture into prepared pie crust.

To make topping, mix flour and brown sugar and cut in the butter using a pastry blender.  Sprinkle topping over pie.

Put pie on foil-lined cookie sheet and bake 55 to 65 minutes.

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Thanksgiving is a time when people stop and take the time to remember all the things they have to be thankful for. There are so many things everyday to be thankful for, unfortunately not everyone takes the time to remember this. Thankfully this holiday reminds those that maybe forget all the things they should be grateful for everyday to stop and take notice.

This year besides the things that I am grateful for everyday, I was especially thankful for the time spent with Grace in the kitchen making pies, the cut-down amount of time I needed to spend in the kitchen away from the family preparing dinner, and a pantry that made this all possible, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Strawberry Guava Jam And Then Some!

“Time stays long enough for those who use it.“ – Leonardo Da Vinci

There was so much to get done today in so little time (I know the reality of time, but that isn’t going to stop me from denying it) that once again I got up well before the alarm clock and headed down to the kitchen.

Strawberry Guava Jam was first on my list of “Must Do Today” items. Having juiced all the guava yesterday, my job was fairly simple. All I had to do was slice the strawberries I needed to add to the guava and I’d be set. Here is the recipe:

Strawberry Guava Jam

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups Guava Juice/Pulp (see Guava Jam recipe for juicing instructions)
  • 6 Cups Sliced Strawberries (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Pint Apple Pectin Stock
  • 3 Tablespoons Lime Juice

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 minutes or until strawberries are tender. With a stick blender, spot puree.  This is my cheat for not crushing one cup of the berries prior to mixing with the other ingredients.  Depending on how chunky you want the jam, puree to your liking.  Remove from heat and let stand five minutes. Ladle jam into hot 4 oz. or 8 oz. jars and cap with hot bands and lids. Process 10 minutes in water bath.

This jam is not very sweet. My husband loves it because he prefers jams on the tart side, but I don’t see why you couldn’t add more sugar if you wanted. The rule seems to be one cup of sugar for every cup of guava but with the addition of the strawberries, you could easily add two or three more cups to sweeten this up.

With the jam done and all the guava used, I moved onto my next project — corn. Over the weekend I came across two boxes of corn-on-the-cob on the discount rack. For $2.00 I got 77 ears of corn. This worked out perfectly because I just finished my last bag of frozen corn from last summer’s farmer’s market shopping.

Freezing Corn Pictorial

 

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Freezing corn is easy. The blanching only takes five minutes and I enjoy using my little kernel remover gadget to clean the cobs. In all, this project took an hour and half and yielded me 5 quarts of frozen corn — more than enough to keep us happy until July or August when Michigan corn starts showing up at the market.

The rest of my day was spent cooking dinner, cleaning the house (well that’s what I call it — others might say moving the dirt from one spot to another), driving my daughter to school and then work, and then finally I ended the day by making another batch of dehydrated apples. That was the other huge find on the clearance rack. I got three boxes of apples for $5.00. I haven’t even finished the first box yet and already I’ve gotten 4 quarts of dehydrated apple chips for the pantry.

Dehydrated Apple Chips

Wash Apples
Peel, Core and Slice

An apple/corer/peeler gadget saves a ton of time.

An apple/corer/peeler gadget saves a ton of time.

Place on dehydrater trays

Apples placed on tray - no touching.

Apples placed on tray – no touching.

Spray with lemon juice (both top and bottom of tray)

Love using a spray bottle with lemon juice - so easy!

Love using a spray bottle with lemon juice – so easy!

Set tray on dehydrater and leave for 18 to 24 hours
Let cool

Dehydrated Apple Chips

Dehydrated Apple Chips

Remove from trays and store in quart mason jars sealed with FoodSaver

It was a productive day — it needed to be. There is nothing worse than buying produce off the discount rack and then not doing anything with it until it starts to spoil. Yes, I have done this and end up suffering buyer’s remorse, canner’s guilt, and housewife shame for days after. Today I utilized the bargains I bought and added stock to the pantry, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

I Love the Sound of Canning Jars Popping in the Morning

I am definitely a morning person.  Getting up early, starting the day, tackling projects first thing in the morning is how I work best.  By mid-afternoon my energy and incentive begins to wane, and by dinner, I’m ready to call it a day.  It is rare for me to start a project after 6:00 p.m. because by that point I’m counting the hours until bedtime.

This morning I decided to make a batch of unsweetened applesauce.  I need this for a new recipe that I want to try for chocolate cakes in mason jars.  I have been having a blast making banana bread and apple bread in jars, but the kids have been asking for something chocolate.  The applesauce in my pantry has sugar and cinnamon, so a plain batch was on my never-ending “to do”list.  Finding seven bags of apples on the discount rack at the grocery store, gave me reason to finally undertake this project.

By 7:30 this morning I had the apples peeled and in a stock pot boiling down.  There were a few apples left so into the dehydrater they went.

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With the dehydrater going, I turned my attention back to my applesauce and began to can it.  Two loads in the canner and nine pints later, the applesauce was done and the soothing sound of canning jars popping filled the kitchen.

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Last summer while looking for something to do with apple peel and cores left over from making homemade pressed apple cider I discovered that I could use them to make apple cider vinegar.  I made three gallons that are safely tucked away in my pantry.  Seeing as I don’t need any more of this, I needed another option for the peels and cores.

A few days ago I came across a blog with instructions on how to make apple pectin stock for jams and jellies.  Perfect.  As soon as the last of the applesauce was in canner, I filled my largest stock pot with the peels and cores, covered it with water and set it on the stove to boil.  If you’re interested in the complete instructions, here is the link for the apple pectin stock:

http://localkitchenblog.com/2009/12/08/apple-pectin-stock/

It is now 1:30 and the apple pectin stock is straining through a jelly bag.  I should have this boiled down and canned before dinner and then I’ll call it a day.

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A productive day filled with new recipes, old recipes, home-canned goods for the pantry, apple chips to snack on, and the sound of canning jars sealing in the kitchen, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.