Daily Grind – Breakfast Sausage

A few months ago I blogged about buying two new gadgets for the kitchen.  The first was a meat cuber/tenderizer and I have used this countless times already.  The second has been used just as much, probably more, but without the success of the cuber.

This second gadget — a meat grinder, was purchased so we could take advantage of the great price on pork butts that seems to be an almost weekly occurence lately.  Hubby and I researched various options and chose a grinder that was heavy-duty so we could grind the pork to make our own sausage.

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The first time we used the grinder we discovered that although heavy-duty and literally “heavy” it would not sit on the counter while we cranked the handle.  This led to us using several clamps to hold it firm while we worked. Next we found that the grinding plate with the smallest holes continually got jammed with fat when we tried using it. I read up on it online and found that putting the meat in the freezer for 45 minutes or more would make the process of going through the grinding plate easier.

I cut up the meat, put it in a pan, and tucked it in the freezer for an hour.  When we fed the partially frozen meat into the grinder, it was better, but still not very good.  The meat still jammed and we were getting quite frustrated.

In order for us to grind the meat, we had to use the grinding plate with the larger holes. We did this and the grinding process went much easier. When we used the meat in burgers that night however, I was not happy with the texture of it.  It was chunkier than I like and still had a good amount of grizzle that had not been ground up.

Because of all the trouble we had with the grinder, it became more of a thorn in my side than an asset.  I didn’t want to use it.  I didn’t want to make more work for myself.  The purpose of the grinder was to save us money on buying ground pork, but in the process what I had really done was make a lot more work for myself.

After letting the grinder sit for about a month, I finally recovered from the initial disappointment of our purchase and decided to suck it up and try again.

First I cut all the fat off the pork butt I planned on grinding.  Next I cut all the meat into 2 or 3 inch pieces and placed them in a bowl with the fat.  After an hour in the freezer I was ready to start grinding.  With the large hole grinding plate in place I began to slowly feed the pork into the grinder.  The meat slowly eased through the machine and produced a coarsely ground meat.  Once all the meat was done I began feeding the frozen fat through the machine. Fat is a necessary component of sausage, so grinding the fat along with the meat is a must.  About 3/4 of the way through the fat the machine began to jam.  I forced the remaining fat through as best I could then put all the ground meat and fat back into the bowl and returned it to the freezer.

While the meat cooled in the freezer I disassembled the grinder, removed all the unground grizzle and fat, discarded it, and then cleaned the grinder.  Once it was clean I reassembled it and removed the cold ground meat and fat from the freezer.

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With the clean grinder I began to feed the ground meat and fat through the machine again to grind the meat finer.  After all the meat and fat had been fed through for a second time I again disassembled and cleaned the grinder. Then I got out my food processor and began to process the ground product in small batches.  This ground the meat fairly fine, removing most chunks of meat and fat that might have gotten by the grinding blades in the grinder.

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This procedure of grinding twice and then processing with the food processor worked!  I made pork burgers one night and moussaka another with the ground product and everyone agreed it was as fine as ground pork from the store, but far tastier.  Success!

With the grinding process down, I decided to set to work on a recipe for homemade breakfast sausage.  After several attempts, this afternoon Grace confirmed that the recipe I ended up with is a keeper.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

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8 lbs. Freshly Ground Pork Butt

3 Tbsp. Salt

3 tsp. White Pepper

6 tsp. Rubbed Sage

3/4 tsp. Ground Ginger

2 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

3 tsp. Thyme

1 tsp. Dried Rosemary

12 Ounces Ice Water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

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Mix well.

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I made small patties of the mixed sausage and fried them in a pan.

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I purchased a pork butt this morning for $1.19 a pound – 10 pounds.  After trimming, removing the bone, and grinding the meat we ended up with 8 pounds of meat. I used all of this for the sausage and now we have four bags with two pounds each in the freezer.  It works out to be less than 1/3 the cost of what breakfast sausage costs in the stores.

Although the process of grinding my own pork is not as easy as I first thought it would be, now that I have a procedure to work with the task isn’t as daunting. I don’t mind having to do a little work to save some money and produce ground meat that I believe is of a higher quality than can be bought at a grocery store. With fresh breakfast sausage ready for cooking in the freezer, my next task will be to test recipes for Polish sausage and begin learning how to stuff sausage in casings.

New gadgets are great, most of the time, especially when I finally get them to work the way I need them to, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Gardening Gadget-Couldn’t Garden Without It

Have you ever received a gift that although you thought it was cool and interesting, never thought you’d use it?  I received one of those this past Christmas, but boy was I wrong!

By the time my girlfriend Suzanne and I got together to celebrate Christmas 2014, it was all but over.  We had both been so busy throughout the holidays that getting together had just not been in the cards.  So early January 2015 we finally connected and enjoyed a morning or gift exchanging, conversation, and some final holiday bliss to close the end of the holiday season.

Suzanne had tons of little goodies for me to open.  It was like Christmas morning as a child all over again.  Every gift was well thought out and definitely something I could use or most certainly wanted.  There was one gift however that when I opened it, even though appropriate for my interests, I just wasn’t sure it was something I would take the time to use. The first thought that went through my head was This is neat, but where am I going to keep it?  Not, when am I going to use it, because honestly, I didn’t think I would.

This is one of those gadgets that the manufacturers sell millions of, but how often they get used is probably far less than they advertise.  Like all those kitchen gadgets sitting on the shelf in my basement, I thought this one was destined for dust collecting somewhere in a corner in the garage. Even Hubby looked at it and admitted it was interesting, but maybe his father would get more use out of.

Well, from day one out in the yard this 2015 Gardening Season, I am happy to say, this little gadget has been affixed to my behind — literally. My father-in-law would have to pry it from my cold dead body before I’d give it up and I will never doubt Suzanne and her ultimate wisdom again.

What the name of this little thing is escapes me, but I refer to it as my “Garden Saver!”

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Now I’m not saying that this little chair is for everyone, but for someone who is suffering with some sort of degenerative knee injury, it is an essential tool to sow seeds in the ground, pull weeds from the freshly tilled soil, and all the other gardening tasks that would require me to do any sort of kneeling, squatting, or dare I say sitting on the ground.

Several years ago I damaged my right knee while working in the yard.  I don’t remember the specifics but do remember the pain to the left of the knee cap on the inside portion of my leg. It was after several weeks of working on my knees, near the end of my project.  When I would stand up from my kneeling position I had to stand still for a few minutes in order for my knee to stretch out so I could put some weight on it and then hobble a little to start moving again.  Within a few minutes, things would loosen up, the pain would dissipate, and everything went back to normal.

This pain came and went throughout the past two years, only bothering me if I was sitting on the ground with my knee bent for any extended period of time or if I sat on my right leg. Still, the pain would quickly go away once I started moving again.

A month ago, the pain on the side of my knee began to bother me whenever I was sedentary for more than 15 minutes.  Not moving around gave my knee an opportunity to stiffen up and every time I got up from a chair or even out of bed, I would hobble around until things loosed up and the pain subsided. Kneeling, squatting, or sitting on the ground were pretty much impossible.

Now the pain is almost constant, even when I do move around or am standing, there is a tinge of pain in my leg and limping seems to be more of a norm than an anomaly.

With the progression of pain and no relief found with Tylenol or wrapping my knee, I seriously questioned how I was going to do any gardening this year.  Well, there it was, the little gardening chair I’d gotten for Christmas.  I took it with me when I turned over the pea garden and used it to separate the weeds from the loosened soil.  Then it was used when I planted row after row of pea seeds.

When I moved over to the large garden in the back and had ten rows of root vegetables to plant, there was no way I would have been able to complete the task had I not had this little seat. Although the pain is still in my leg, it is far easier to get up from this seat than rolling over from a seated position on the ground to my knees and trying to stand.  With this little gizmo I just rock back and forth a bit, and pop right up. There is far less pressure on my knee, not to mention how much easier this is making things on my back.  Plus, let’s not forget how my butt would feel after sitting on the cold ground if I had to scoot around the garden sowing seeds on it.

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Although this is something that is making gardening bearable because of injury, I also think it would be something I would have appreciated if my body wasn’t falling apart.  It is amazing how much easier it is getting up from just a foot off the ground compared to ground level.  Even Grace has taken to the seat and steals it from me whenever I ask her to help out.  For her I think it’s mainly because she doesn’t want to be in the dirt and she sits and rocks in it while I work, but hey, at least she’s comfortable while keeping me company.

So, to Suzanne I have to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  I couldn’t be out there gardening without this, and for YOU I am — Simply Grateful.

The Absolute Easiest Way To Juice A Pomegranate

There is something to be said for too much of a good thing.  The other day while grocery shopping, I just happen to be strolling by the discount produce rack (and I do say strolling by — not making a bee-line for the discount rack the minute I get in the store, shoving anyone who got in my way to the ground) and was thrilled to find three full racks.  It was a dream come true!

One rack was filled with lemons, limes, and oranges all at ridiculously discounted prices.  Every bag of lemons and limes went into my cart.  The next rack was filled with avocados.  I had enough of this in the freezer, so as difficult as it was, I had to pass it by.  The third, well, they saved the best for last — a rack full of bags of pomegranates for $.25 each.  I couldn’t pass that up — every bag that wasn’t oozing juice from seriously overripe pomegranates went into my cart.

Last year I made pomegranate jelly and it was a real hit.  This year, I had other plans.  First and foremost though I had to clean them.  Seeding a pomegranate is one of those tasks that I do not look forward to.  Sure I’ve researched on the Internet all the claims of “easy” methods to seed one of these, and for the most part, about the only one I would recommend would be the underwater method.  It cuts down on the juice making a mess and does make the deed a bit more tolerable, but as for the juicing, there was nothing that sounded the least bit “easy.”

Every site I visited for “juicing” a pomegranate first offered their own “easy” method to seed it.  My favorite had to be the guy who claimed he could seed one in less than 10 seconds by whacking it with a wooden spoon.  I tell you what, if I’m going to whack a pomegranate, it ain’t going to be to get seeds out of it and there probably wouldn’t be much of it left by the time I got done with it.  Whacking it!  I don’t think so.

Not finding anything that would miraculously make the task before me “easy,” I set to work seeding the fruit using the underwater method.  I got to the third one and was done.  I’d had enough.  Honestly I’m not lazy, I just didn’t have time for this.  There were pumpkins to can, the last batch of jalapeno peppers from the garden, the final beet harvest, sauerkraut to make, and the best news of all…cranberries are back in season and I have tons of recipes I’m dying to try.  Spending a few hours seeding the 20+ pomegranates on the counter, was not an option.

Standing there at the counter, staring at the fruit I’d bought — a huge bowl filled to the brim with lemons and limes and a counter full of pomegranates, inspiration hit.  Why not juice the pomegranates the same way I juice my lemons and limes.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I could get the job done in record time with minimal mess and even less effort.  I had to try it.

I pulled out my handy-dandy juicer.  I don’t have one of those wonderfully complex machines that you feed your fruit into one end and a perfect juice comes out the other.  No, I’m a bit more of a hands-on type of gal.  I’ve got a hand-me-down juicer that my father gave me about 10 years ago.  It has juiced more lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit than I care to remember and is still going strong (knock on wood).

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Next I sliced all the pomegranates in half.  This was pretty messy, but expected.

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Then I took one of the halves and placed it on the juicing part (I’d get more technical here, but I have no idea what you’d call that thingy on top that does all the work) and pressed down.  Within 15 seconds I could feel that the pulp was gone inside the pomegranate shell.  Looking into the base of the juicer, I had juice and in the top were a bunch of white seeds.  Wow!  Talk about easy.

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It took me about 10 minutes to juice every one of my pomegranates and  had about 10 cups of juice.  Had I opted to seed and then juice, I’d probably still be working on them.  As it is, I finished the juicing, made a batch of pomegranate syrup and a batch of pomegranate-lemonade concentrate (recipes to follow shortly) and started working on my pumpkins.

Just a portion of the juice I ended up with.

Just a portion of the juice I ended up with.

Now, if you are the type of person who wants that crystal clear juice that they sell in the stores, this is definitely not going to be for you.  This method gets almost all of the juice, without regard for how cloudy it is.  Most of my jams and jellies are cloudy because I want some substance in there, not just the crystal clear juice.  I believe that there are a lot of nutrients lost when you strain every bit of pulp from the juice. I’m not going for blue ribbons here, just good tasting, healthy food.

Also, being a waste-not-want-not type of gal, I couldn’t leave the seeds with the little bit of pulp on them go to waste.  I decided to heat them so more of the juice could release and ended up with another two cups of juice.

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I love being able to find new ways to make my life easier, especially when it involves using a favorite gadget, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Granny Gadget Cunundrum

Earlier this summer while picking up some canning jars at a garage sale I decided to look around at the other treasures for sale.  One of my favorite type of items to look through are the boxes of silverware and granny gadgets that are a standard at most garage/yard sales.  It’s amazing what you can find for pennies in these boxes and the unique finds that await.

While I was digging through the barrage of gadgets this sale had, I happened upon a gadget that I had no idea what it was.  It looked sort of like a bottle opener, but with teeth.

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I must have looked perplexed because the woman selling the gadgets came over and offered, “It’s for corn.”  Oh!  Wow!  The only corn kernel remover I’d ever seen or used looked like this:

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Although this one works, it is awkward and unsteady.  I figured trying this new version couldn’t hurt, especially since it was only $.50.

A few days ago while visiting a farmer’s market, I picked up a dozen ears of freshly picked corn on the cob.  There is no way we could eat a dozen ears before it became tough, but Grace and I love corn stripped from the cob and frozen.

After blanching the corn for 6 minutes I gave the new kernel remover a try.  The first ear took a little work, but by the time I was done, I’d gotten the hang of it.  The second ear was super easy and the kernels came off neat and clean.

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It took only a few minutes to finish all the corn and it was so much neater than the old style kernel remover.

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I had complete control of how deep to cut and how fast I wanted to go.  What a find!

With this new gadget I am heading out to the farmer’s markets again this weekend and plan on picking up at least two dozen more ears to strip and put in the freezer.  Next year I plan on planting corn in our garden and with this little wonder it will make short work of what I hope is a huge harvest, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Friday The 13th Claims Another Victim

Looking for something to do while sitting on the couch this afternoon, Zeb invited me to watch a marathon of Friday The 13th movies. Hour after hour Jason killed his unsuspecting victims until finally dying a horrible, gory death in the end – or did he? Why all those people kept splitting up, going into the dark alone, and opening those doors that mysteriously closed, I’ll just never understand.

While enjoying the festival of slasher movies, I decided to try to be a little productive as well. Grabbing four pounds of roasted peanuts I’d bought a week ago to make some homemade peanut butter, I sat with Zeb and shucked peanuts. For three hours we shucked peanuts. What a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun too.

A bowlful of peanuts.

A bowlful of peanuts.

A bowlful of empty shells.

A bowlful of empty shells.

A bowlful of shelled peanuts.

A bowlful of shelled peanuts.

Once the peanuts were shucked, it was time to start the food processor and make some peanut butter. Everyone gathered around the island as I prepared to start.

I filled the processor with peanuts.

A food processor full of peanuts.

A food processor full of peanuts.

Turned it on.

Peanuts whirling away.

Peanuts whirling away.

Watched it whirl around, and then it stopped.

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Hubby and the kids looked at each other. I turned the unit off, turned the lid, and pulled. It was stuck. For the next 30 minutes, hubby and I tried to separate the lid from the base, the base from the motor, and the blade from the base. Nothing. Grace emptied the contents of the food processor through the hole in the lid thinking it might help. Nothing. Zeb shook the unit and pounded his fist on the lid trying to loosen it. Nothing. It was stuck and not budging.

So much for homemade peanut butter tonight. I blame this on it being Friday the 13th, although I am not typically superstitious what other reason would explain the sudden demise of my food processor.  I know, I know — there are a million reasons:  I filled it too much, it was dying anyway, the $0.75 I paid for it at a garage sale (yes that is seventy-five cents) eight years ago (yes, eight years) was money just thrown away (actually one of the best garage sale finds I ever made), or any number of other reasons, but I’m sticking with the Friday the 13th excuse — I mean explanation.

Tomorrow is another day and I’ll pull out my mini food processor and see if I have any better luck with that and then move on to the blender if necessary. I am determined if nothing else.

Although frustrating, to say the very least, it was a great day of watching slasher movies with Zeb and then enjoying a family effort to get the food processor un-seized. We might not have solved anything today, but everyone was there for support and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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.

Guava Jam – Thanks For The Memories

Everyone has a ‘risk muscle.’ You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day. – Roger Von Oech

It has been a hectic Sunday filled with canning, cooking, shopping, and laundry. All of this took precedent over posting this morning, but waiting provided me with something new to share.

Yesterday on the clearance rack at Randazzo’s I came across several quart containers filled with a fruit I’d never seen before. On reading the PLU sticker I learned it was a guava. I’d always thought guava were the size of a large pear. These were the size of apricots. Not having any idea what I’d make with them I had to have them, so I bought 3 quarts for a total of $2.00. I also got a ton of other things, very cheap — but more on them in another post.

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The moment I got home I went to the computer before even emptying the car. I had to find out if there were any great recipes for guava jam online. My search resulted in a few recipes that used a pink guava, one that used the larger green guava I was familiar with, and only one that used the small, creamy-textured ones I’d bought. Not much to go on, but I’d worked with less. I knew that come morning, I’d be ready to experiment.

Getting up early this morning, the only morning during the week that I can sleep in, I headed to the kitchen anxious to see what working with guava was going to be like. Not liking most of the methods I found on the Internet for “juicing” guava, I decided to use the method I was comfortable with and use for most fruits.

I started by washing the guava and cutting off the flower and stem ends. Next I quartered the fruit and put them in a large stock pan – peels, seeds and all.


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Then I filled the pot with just enough water to cover the fruit and brought it to a boil.

Quarter Guava and put in Large Stock Pot

Quarter Guava and put in Large Stock Pot

Leaving it simmer on the stove for 30 minutes, I tested the guava and found it tender.

Cover Guava with water and bring to boil.

Cover Guava with water and bring to boil.

I have found that in order to get the most juice out of any fruit, using a hand mixer or stick blender while the fruit is still in the pan does wonders. I pureed the fruit until all the large chunks were gone, leaving lots of tiny seeds and a thick creamy mixture.

Puree cooked guava till smooth and creamy.

Puree cooked guava till smooth and creamy.

Now, either because I’m too lazy to stand there with a strainer or too impatient to wait for the juice to filter through cheese cloth, I pulled out my Victorio Strainer. Fitting it with the berry attachment I poured all the boiling liquid into the hopper and strained out the skin and seeds. Some of the seeds did crack during the process, releasing a tiny poppyseed-size seed into the juice. This didn’t bother me, but if you wanted to I’m sure you could strain this out with a fine mesh strainer.

Pour puree in strainer to remove seeds and skin.

Pour puree in strainer to remove seeds and skin.

The three quarts of guava I bought yielded nine cups of strained guava pulp/juice. It was very thick and smelled almost citrusy.

Strained Guava Pulp/Juice

Strained Guava Pulp/Juice

I put 6 cups of the pulp back in the pan, added 3 tablespoons lime juice, and 4 cups of sugar. Bringing this to a boil I then added one pouch of liquid pectin and let it boil for one minute more. I’m not sure the pectin was really necessary because the jam already was fairly thick, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Return pulp to pan - add lime juice and sugar.

Return pulp to pan – add lime juice and sugar.

Finally I ladled the jam into hot 8 oz. jars, covered them with hot lids and bands, and processed them in a water bath for 10 minutes. I filled six jars and another small bowl that I put in the fridge.

Guava Jam

Guava Jam

There was a little jam left in the pan, which I left there for my next project — some sort of guava-fruit combo jam.

I tasted the jam while it was still hot and wasn’t sure what it tasted like. It had a bite to it, it was sweet, but unlike anything I’d ever made. The whole house smelled like guava. Then it hit me. I knew this fruit. I might not have seen it in its fruit form, but back some eight or more years ago we went to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for a family vacation.  Every morning they served fresh squeezed juices in the dining room. The one that all of us drank and enjoyed the most was the guava. It was thick, creamy, white and very sweet. Obviously they had added lots of sugar and more water than I did to make the jam, but the flavor was certainly reminiscent.

After removing the jars from the canner, I tasted the cooling jam in the refrigerator. Wow! Cold the flavor was so much stronger. Very unique. I liked it. So what could I do with the rest of the guava pulp and the little bit of jam left in the pan?

Leaving the canning so I could do some grocery shopping, I headed to Meijer’s. I ran into several workers that I have come to know over the years. Going to the same grocery store for 20+ years, you make friends. Needing some input on my guava dilemma, I asked for suggestions for a fruit that would go well with guava. My thought was possibly pineapple, but one of the women ate guava regularly and thought that a perfect combo would be to add strawberry. Done. I picked up two quarts of strawberries and now have a canning project for tomorrow.

Trying new things is scary, but what’s the worst that could happen? I’d have wasted $2.00 and a little time. What I gained was a new recipe, the satisfaction of utilizing years of canning experience to “fudge” my own recipe, and I got to enjoy a trip down memory lane recalling  the wonderful family vacation we had in Punta Cana, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Pressure Canning Phobia — No More!

“Saw a little girl touch a big bug and shout, “I conquered my fear! YES!” and calmly walk away. I was inspired.” 
― Nathan Fillion

In 1999 I bought my first pressure canner with hopes of pressure canning anything and everything. Thinking that bigger was better, I went for the 22 quart model. Little did I realize how intimidating pressure canning would turn out to be.

I canned some beef stew and a few soup bases, but could never get over the fear of this pressurizing pot exploding in my kitchen. Silly, I know, but the fear stuck with me to the point that for twelve years the canner stayed packed away in its box.

Last summer I decided I wanted to can my own pinto and Great Northern beans. When I found out these had to be pressure canned, I nearly backed away from the challenge, but decided the pressure canner had been idle long enough. I couldn’t let fear rule me.  So I unboxed my pressure canner and set to work.  What I didn’t know however,  was that leaving such a pan idle for so long did have its consequences.

“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.” ― Richie NortonResumes Are Dead and What to Do About It

After preparing my first batch of beans, putting them in the jars, placing them in the canner, and closing the lid, I waited. For over an hour I watched steam escape from every place except the top little spout. How in the world was this pan supposed to pressurize, if the steam kept getting out?

Researching what the problem was, I learned the my gasket had more than likely dried out and this was making it impossible for the pan to seal. There were gaskets I could order, but what about the beans in my pan now? So, back to the Internet I went. Thankfully, there are a lot of people out there like myself that don’t have the patience to wait for parts or the desire to throw money at something when you are not entirely certain you’ve diagnosed the problem correctly. I found several people who described having a similar problem with steam escaping their pressure canner and they suggested using Vaseline to aid in the sealing process. I should have remembered this because I’d used this little trick before on hoses around the house.

I removed the gasket, rubbed it entirely with Vaseline, replaced it, and then pulled out the rubber spout on the top of the pan and greased that up too. Returning everything to the pan, sealing it again, I waited. It took some time, but as the steam increased, less and less came out the sides and eventually there was only steam coming through the spigot at the top. Success. My jars sealed and I was happy.

The only problem with my canner was the size. Most of the time, I didn’t need all the space in the 22 quart model I had. Sure it was nice to have when I was doing beans and could layer them, but if there were only a few pints that needed sealing, the time it took for this canner to pressurize was ridiculous.

That is why I bought a 12 quart model when I found it at an estate sale a few weeks ago. Of course, the only reservation I had with buying a used model was whether or not the gasket was going to be good or not. Knowing I knew how to fix it, I took a chance.

Yesterday I worked on canning green chiles that I found on the clearance rack at Meijer’s. I roasted the peppers on the grill, peeled them, seeded and cored them, packed them in 1/2 pint jars, covered them with boiling water and put them in the new canner. Thirty minutes after turning the burner on, steam was streaming through the top with only a slight leak under one of the handles. As the steam increased, the leak sealed itself and 45 minutes later I took the canner off the burner. Once the pan had depressurized I opened it and found five jars of perfectly sealed green chiles. Awesome! I can’t wait to do more. Now that I know this can be so quick and easy, I am going to add several vegetables to my Canning To Do List for the summer.

Here is what I did:

Start out by washing your green chiles and placing them on a hot grill.

Green Chiles Washed And Set On Grill

Green Chiles Washed And Set On Grill

Grill over high flame, charing the outer skin.

Green Chiles with Skins Chared

Green Chiles with Skins Chared

Place roasted chilies in a bowl and cover for 30 minutes. This will loosen the skins.

Roasted Chiles in Bowl - Steam to make removing skins easier - 30 minutes

Roasted Chiles in Bowl – Steam to make removing skins easier – 30 minutes

Remove the skins. Doing this under running water makes it easier.

Peeled and Washed Chiles

Peeled and Washed Chiles

Remove the seeds and membranes.

Seeded and Cored Chiles

Seeded and Cored Chiles

Slice or chop if desired.
Pack into hot jars, cover with boiling water, leaving a 1“ head space.
Top jars with hot lids and bands.
Place on pressure canner rack that has 2 – 3“ of water and put lid on.

Jars in Canner

Jars in Canner

Turn burner to high and leave until steam flows through top for ten minutes.
Place weighted gauge on top.
Process for 35 minutes at 10 pounds.
Remove pan from heat.
Let cool for one hour then open pan and remove jars.
Check seals.

Canned Green Chiles

Canned Green Chiles

Canning Green Chiles

Canned Green Chiles

Ingredients

  • Green Chiles
  • Boiling Water
  • Mason Jars & Lids
  • Pressure Canner

Directions

  1. Wash chilies.
  2. Grill over high flame, charing the outer skin.
  3. Place roasted chilies in a bowl and cover for 30 minutes. This will loosen the skins.
  4. Remove the skins. Doing this under running water makes it easier.
  5. Remove the seeds and membranes.
  6. Slice or chop if desired.
  7. Pack into hot jars, cover with boiling water, leaving a 1“ head space.
  8. Top jars with hot lids and bands.
  9. Place on pressure canner rack that has 2 – 3“ of water and put lid on.
  10. Turn burner to high and leave until steam flows through top for ten minutes.
  11. Place weighted gauge on top.
  12. Process for 35 minutes at 10 pounds.
  13. Remove pan from heat.
  14. Let cool for one hour then open pan and remove jars.
  15. Check seals.

 

Recipe by:  Tilly Frueh – Simply Grateful Housewife 2014

I am so happy this turned out and even more excited about all the canning I can tackle now that my fear of pressure canning is behind me. I can’t say that the thought of the pan exploding didn’t cross my mind yesterday as the steam built up and the gauge jiggled violently on top of the pan, but it didn’t explode and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Ride-On Vacuum

I’m not going to vacuum till Sears makes one you can ride on. — Roseanne Barr

It’s only fair, you know. Why is it that men get all the really cool toys. Cleaning house takes a lot of tools, more than mowing the lawn. And do you see them coming up with tons of gadgets to make a housewife’s life easier? Me neither. Excuse me if I don’t equate a bag-less vacuum to a ride-on mower. Not quite the same thing.

Men get self-propelled mowers, mulching mowers, tow-behind mowers, and the ever popular ride-on mower. What I wouldn’t give for a vacuum that could do any of those things. I suppose some vacuums are self-propelled, but until they make one that does it without me having to tag along, it’s not self-propelled enough.

What I’d really like though would be a vacuum with a mulching attachment. No more worrying about those pesky dog toys getting caught up underneath or a shoelace tangling itself in the wheels. They’d be chewed into mulch in seconds. So much for having to pick up discarded candy wrappers or that ever popular Kleenex that’s taken up permanent residence on the great room floor.

How about a tow-behind vacuum so I’d have some place to throw all the stuff that I have to pick up and put away. Instead of having to make thirty or more trips from one end of the house to the other, I could just toss it in the back and ride from room to room dropping stuff off as I went. It’d be great as a way to carry all that laundry too. No more struggling to lift the over-full laundry basket and I wouldn’t have to make more than one trip.

My favorite though would be the ride-on vacuum. This would be the ultimate in-house cleaning gadgets. There could be cup holders, a built-in iPod dock, GPS, designer colors, — everything. Not that I’d need GPS, but if you’re going to get a ride-on vacuum, you might as well go all out and I really want it in lime green.

And no, my house is not that big, but have you seen how small the lots are that some of the these men that have ride-on mowers are. I swear my kitchen is bigger. Plus, typically our lawn gets cut once a week, whether it needs it or not. Vacuuming needs to be done around here daily — not that this happens, but if I had that ride-on vacuum, it would have a far better chance of happening.

So, fair is fair! If men can have ride-on, mulching, self-propelled, tow-behind mowers for taking care of the outside of the house, I see no justifiable reason women cannot have the same features in a vacuum for taking care of the inside. And don’t get me started on how helpful it would be to have a dust blower, just like my husband’s leaf blower. I can see me now — protective goggles in place, work gloves on my hands, and a 195 MPH gas dust blower on my back. It’d have to be a backpack model and how about giving that a vacuum feature too. This way when the kids leave that dirty laundry all over their bedroom floors and the towels all over the bathroom, I could just suck them up and drop the bag in the laundry room.

I am really going to have to spend more time in the lawn and garden section at Home Depot. The possibilities are endless. At the very least, they should come up with a vacuum that has a cord long enough to get from one end of the house to the other, a hose that has enough suction to pick up a bowling ball, a crevice tool that can get under the couch and behind the refrigerator without me having to move them, a bag that never bursts, and a belt that never breaks. Having someone to operate this vacuum would be nice too.

Until vacuums catch up with all the advances of lawn mowers though, I’ll marvel at how far we have come since the broom and dust pan were our only options, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Ultimate Coffee Maker

Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility. -Benjamin Franklin

I cannot begin my day without a hot cup of coffee. Nothing is better than being able to get out of bed, come downstairs, and plug in the percolator — the pot having been fixed the night before. Although I gave the task of fixing the pot before going to bed to my daughter, I’m lucky if this happens once a week. Typically I am reduced to dumping the previous days grounds and re-heating the remnants of yesterdays pot before indulging in a fresh pot of brewed delight. I hate letting even a half a cup of coffee go to waste.

When I was a child, I remember begging my maternal grandmother for a tiny sip from her cup and her telling me, “It’ll stunt your growth.” On the other hand, my paternal grandmother either didn’t believe such nonsense or because she had such a kind heart, always shared her cup with me. The sugary-white liquid she gave me though, was nothing like the bitter-brown elixir I enjoy today. I guess she didn’t want to chance that the old wives tale were true so gave me more sugary-cream than coffee.

My love for coffee remained with me and as soon as I was “old enough” to drink it, according to my parents that was around 16 years old, I drank it every chance I got. My parents never had coffee in our home, except when company came over, so my coffee drinking was done at restaurants or when visiting my grandparents.

Even when I moved out on my own, coffee drinking was done mostly when at work or at restaurants because my attempts at duplicating the hearty, rich flavor produced by commercial brewing machines fell flat. I was dishearten to say the least.

Finally, four or five years ago while garage-saling I came across a Farberware percolator for $5.00. Hoping it wasn’t that I was incapable of brewing good coffee and that it was perhaps the coffee makers I had used, I took a chance and bought it. As soon as I washed and dried the stainless steel pot, I filled it with cold water, lined the basket with a coffee filter, scooped in three heaping tablespoons of coffee, and plugged it in. Within seconds loud thuds began emanating from the pot as water was pushed from the bottom of the pot through the tube and then finally slammed into the lid. The kitchen filled with the rich scent of coffee, reminiscent of how my grandmother’s homes smelled while growing up.

I could hardly contain myself while waiting for the Pop-Burp-Thud to stop so I could sample the hot steamy coffee. Pouring myself a full cup, adding a teaspoon of sugar and enough cream to turn the deep brown liquid tannish-white, I nearly burned my lips taking my first sip. It was perfect.

Be it the percolator or the coffee or the maker or any combination there of, I had finally attained status of “Coffee Brewer!” Before that I was merely turning water into sludge and trying to pass it off as coffee.

Since that first cup my tastes have changed and I no longer add sugar to my coffee. Instead, I enjoy the bitterness of the beans toned down with just a splash of cream. And on those especially difficult mornings, I don’t bother with the cream at all.

What a find it was to get a Farberware percolator for only $5 and have it last all these years, giving me the boost I need every morning to push forward and face the day. And how great it is to have the luscious smell of fresh brewed coffee remind me each morning of my grandmothers and all the wonderful memories I have of them both. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure — and for this I am Simply Grateful.