Canning: Pasta Sauce

The thing about canning is I want to break open what I've canned the moment it's done to see how it tastes. Only that would defeat the purpose of canning, wouldn't it?

So instead I have patiently begun to stockpile my collection of canned foods until that sad time a few months from now when I can't stop at a farmer's market or visit the Habitat For Humanity food stand or pick up corn from a vendor on the side of the road.

But that's a depressing thought, so we will not entertain such notions anymore.

Besides, I just returned from a bike ride down to the farmer's market and returned with as much produce as my new bike basket would carry. So I'm pretty sure that sad day won't arrive for a while yet.


This week's canning experiment: a basic pasta sauce.

It looks lovely and smelled great as it simmered, and that's about all I can tell you now.


A New Pattern

During her summer in Georgia, Conservative Mom purchased a little surprise for me. Specifically, she found a Pyrex dish (for a steal) in a new pattern.

It's called "Butterprint," according to Pyrex Love. And I'm smitten with it.

I think I was meant to acquire a few more pieces in this pattern, because when I wandered through Mission Mart in L-Town last weekend I found not one but two more Butterprint dishes in near-perfect condition (for less than $2 each--no joke). One was a smaller version of the one C.M. purchased for me, which is shown above. The other was another small dish with the reverse pattern (blue on white), which is hiding in the background of the photo above.

Now, I've been meaning to talk to you all about this. Yes, you out there. Because I want to know: Who's going to remodel my kitchen for me so I have a place to display my growing collection?

Anyone? Hello out there? Hellooooo?


Mmmm Pizza

Just a little glimpse of last night's dinner ...

Homemade pizza with garlic, onion, golden tomatoes, eggplant, fresh moz, and basil. Lovely and mostly local ingredients and oh so good.

In case you questioned whether or not My Mom and I are actually related (although it's pretty darn obvious), this seals the deal: I am as in love with a homemade pizza and a glass of wine on a quiet evening as she is.

I know if My Mom were stranded on a desert island with only one food, she'd pick pizza. I'm beginning to think that's a wise choice.


Free Time

It's amazing how finishing up master's classes and thesis writing has opened up time in my schedule. Despite the fact I still have Elks work and freelance work and my full-time job to keep me busy, I finally have time to do some of the things I've been yearning to do (as well as a few things I just plain need to do).

This weekend, that included:

  • Getting our carpets cleaned for the first time ever. With this hairy beast living in our house for the past couple of years, it was much overdue.

  • Giving the house a good, thorough cleaning.

  • Mowing and weeding and other yardwork that was strangely enjoyable because the weather this weekend was so darn nice.

  • Long walks and jogs with Butter in the park.

  • A bit more canning, which I'll share with you soon.

  • A leisurely visit to the farmer's market and a few stops in my favorite antique and secondhand shops in L-Town, which yielded some fab finds I'll also share soon.

  • Laundry, of course.

  • Catching up with good friends, in person and on the phone.

  • Seeing Eat, Pray, Love and eating tasty Mexican food.

  • Making homemade pizza for dinner.

  • Relaxing on the back patio with my morning coffee and a book.

  • Relaxing on the couch with a book.

  • Relaxing in bed with a book.

Ahhh. The (almost) leisurely life.


Millions of Peaches ...

... peaches for me (and C.B.). Millions of peaches ... peaches for free (sort of).

May this prove, once and for all, that peaches do not come from a can. They come from Southern Illinois.

And they are heavenly. Divine. Out of this world.

The most wonderful juicy orbs of fruit you'll ever eat.

Which is good, when an entire box of them appears on your countertop one day.


Canning: Tomatoes

Next up in the wild world of canning: Butter's Best of Show Tomatoes.

Yep, that's what I decided to call them, to go along with Julie's Jams and Conservative Boy's Delicious Dill Pickles.

(Ahem. But a note about the dill pickles: We broke into a jar on Sunday night at Conservative Family Dinner and ... well ... uh ... let's just say they were potent. I don't know if this was a failure on my part or if this just isn't the recipe for us, but I don't know that "delicious" is the word to describe them. So it may be back to the drawing board on that recipe.)

But I'm guessing that Butter's Best of Show Tomatoes are just fine. You can't go wrong with them, really. All I did was peel the tomatoes and can them in their own juice, so they're ready to use for any number of recipes when tomato season is long gone.

Try canning whole peeled tomatoes yourself with the recipe I used from Food In Jars.

Next up I'm looking for a good sauce recipe, as I use lots of red sauce for pasta and pizza and all sorts of other things.

And, you know, I'd gladly take your family-tested and approved recipe for pickles if you're willing to share. Just sayin'.


Canning: Dill Pickles

Don't you just love a good, crunchy dill pickle?

I know I do. Forget about those sweet bread and butter varieties. I'm a dill sort of girl.

So, after tackling my first attempt at canning with peach jam, I decided to do something about the abundance of cucumbers from my front-yard garden.

That something happens to be Garlic Dill Pickles, with a recipe courtesy Food in Jars, a lovely canning blog I recently discovered.

Here is the result.

I have not yet cracked open a jar to see how the pickles taste, but I have an inkling they're going to be good.

Though I haven't made labels yet, I've decided to call them: Conservative Boy's Delicious Dill Pickles. Except I'm using his real name. Although it might be more fun to use his nickname.

So now we have C.B.'s Delicious Dill Pickles and Julie's Jams.

Any guesses what's next?


Canning: Peach Jam

I don't think I can call myself the Queen of Canning, since before this weekend I had never canned a thing before.

But I do think I will give myself the title of Canning Lady in Waiting.

That's because I went from zero to 12 jars of preserved food in a short weekend that was also filled with pie-in-a-jar making and thesisizing.

I started out my canning exploits with a countertop of peaches I purchased at the downtown farmer's market in Springfield. For some reason, those peaches gave me the urge to make some jam.

So I found a terrific recipe (read: easy!) for just that.

And so I started heating my jars

and my lids.

Then I took my peaches and removed their skins and cut them up.

I mashed the peaches

and partnered them with sugar and lemon juice and let them do their thing on the stovetop.

Then, when the peaches were ready, I filled the heated jars with the jam.

Next I proceeded to follow the canning steps required to finish the process, including working out the air bubbles (full disclosure: I may have forgotten to do this with a few, oops!) and wiping the rims and putting on the lids.

And then the happy little jars were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Now they are ready to eat. I have decided to call them Jams by Julie and, if the spills I cleaned up off the countertop are any indication, I think they're pretty darn good.

Who's ready to try some?

(As for the other canning I did over the weekend ... you'll just have to wait for the next posts to learn about what went into them. Come on, I know you live for the suspense.)


Farmer's Markets and Farm Tours

Have I mentioned lately that I love my job? Because I do.

But then again, what's not to love, when I spent a portion of work last week going to farmer's markets and taking farm tours. Tough assignments, but someone had to do them, and it turns out now that someone is me.

You see, one of the projects I am working on as Green Center manager at LLCC is promoting local foods on campus and in the community. So that, of course, involves farmer's markets and local farms.

On Wednesday morning, I headed downtown to the Old Capitol Farmer's Market in Springfield. It was an insanely hot day, but my trip was worth it, as I came back to the office with peaches, blackberries, homemade soap, a loaf of bread from Sweet Kneads, a cilantro plant, and even freshly ground flour from Illinois wheat.

Then, on Thursday, I joined the Illinois Stewardship Alliance for a tour of Jubilee Farm. It is run by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield and, although it is not certified organic (an expensive and difficult designation to get), it is maintained using organic farming methods.

The farm is lovely and productive and the sisters in charge are passionate about their land and incredibly sweet.

One of the coolest things about Jubilee Farm is that some of their produce goes to feed the Dominican Sisters in Springfield and the rest goes to a Community Supported Agriculture program (in other words, people pay money at the beginning of the season to subscribe, and then receive a bountiful box of whatever produce is ready each week throughout the growing season). Here, they were getting ready for a CSA pickup.

After touring the farm, I also got to stop by the Illinois State Fairgrounds to see the big 100-plus plot community garden there. And I stopped at the Illinois Products Farmer's Market, located right on the state fairgrounds on Thursday afternoons (except, of course, during the state fair). It was another great market, where I picked up some terrific locally made pasta, local cheese that makes the stuff I usually buy at the store taste like yuck, and of course a bit of fresh produce.

If you are ever in the Springfield area, I highly recommend a stop at one or both of these markets. They're bustling, they're full of camaraderie, and best of all they offer the freshest local food you can get (aside from when you pick it from your own garden, of course).


Pie In a Jar

When I stumbled across a blog post last week featuring pie in a jar, I was instantly smitten. You know how much I love pie. And you know how much I love trying new things. Hence, the obsession with pie in a jar.

Besides, can you think of a better way to procrastinate?

I didn't think so.

And so this weekend, I tried it out. I decided I would make going-away pie in a jar for our neighbors on one side, who are moving out to the country and leaving us to do our own lawn edging now. Sniff.

And I decided to make thank-you pie in a jar for T-Bear's dad, who graciously mowed our lawn while we were gone a couple of weeks ago. And a thinking-of-you pie in a jar for T-Bear's mom, who deserves some pie of that variety right now.

(On a side note, I haven't actually given T-Bear's parents their pie in a jar yet. Hopefully tonight. And now I have to, because now that this is in print, I can't change my mind and keep them for myself, no matter how bad I want to try baking one.)

So, as you can see from these photos, the process went relatively smoothly. Cramming the pie crust in the jar was a bit tricky, as I used taller jars rather than short, fat ones. And, naturally, my crust did not look nearly as lovely as the photos from the original post.

But all in all, not too shabby, eh?

I only made four blueberry-blackberry pies this time around, as that's what the recipe made and I had to limit my procrastination time. But I'd make these again.

Besides, I haven't even tried eating pie out of a jar myself yet.

(But don't feel sorry for me. I also made a full-size pie to share with Conservative Family, as they deserve thank-you and thinking-of-you pie too, so I'll get a piece of that this evening.)


An Update

In case you were wondering ...

* I am turning in my thesis in 8 days. I am not allowing myself any more extensions. Then you better believe I will commence a happy dance to rival all happy dances.

* Because no sane person can work all day and write all evening and then write the entire weekend too, I'm hoping to find time to make these beauties and to try this at some point this weekend.

* I also am going to attend this concert at the Logan County Fair, which means of course that I am going to wear these.

* After traveling to California and then for work and then making my summerly stop in Georgia and then heading to Iowa for a wedding all in the span of 3 weeks, I am thrilled to be home for most of the next month.

* Another reason you haven't heard much from me lately: I started a new job July 1. I'm the Green Center Manager at Lincoln Land Community College. This week it has been particularly strenuous. I had to go to a farmer's market yesterday and was forced to buy peaches and blackberries and bread and soap and a cilantro plant. This afternoon I have to go on a farm tour and to another farmer's market. And I'm not allowed to work Fridays in the summer because the college is closed. Like I said, strenuous.

* If you are feeling neglected because of all of this traveling and working, you are not alone. You should see my backyard garden. It's a disaster. And my dog gives me pitiful faces too.

* I am pretty much recovered from the surgery I had in June. It took me much longer than expected, but finally this week I was able to start working out again. So glad I could wait until the heat index is 107 degrees to start jogging outside. But it's OK. Jogging at my top speed yesterday, I think I saw a tortoise pass me.

* Someday soon, I will golf. Maybe next summer.


Pizza Crust

I've mentioned on more than one occasion the search for the perfect homemade pizza crust. Last night, I think I came one step closer.

Kid Sister, T-Bear, Conservative Hubby, and I had make-your-own pizza night. I didn't have much time to make the typical homemade crust, which requires time to rise. So I tried this recipe from The Kitchn for a homemade, thin crust that only takes minutes.

And it was good! And easy! And it worked on the grill!

(Can you tell I'm excited?)

You can even refrigerate the dough for up to 48 hours, so I made an extra batch. Guess what we'll be eating for dinner tomorrow night? (Because, as I learned from My Mom, you can never eat too much pizza.)

In other news, I attempted to re-create the absolutely divine Gourmet White pizza from Mellow Mushroom, which I thoroughly enjoyed while in Georgia visiting Conservative Mom recently.

I had all the ingredients (olive oil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, vine-ripened tomatoes, onion, mozzarella, provolone, and feta), and it was rather tasty, although not quite like Mellow Mushroom's. Yet. Give me time.