Homemade Maraschino Cherries: Easy, Delicious, Fun!

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I decided to try out a recipe for homemade Maraschino cherries for my summer beverage and dessert enjoyment. Who knew it was so easy – and soooo delicious? Continue reading

Simple Tricks to Keep Apples and Pears Fresh In Freezer!

 

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Canning apples is wonderful, but sometimes you just have too many apples to get processed before they start to go bad. That’s when the freezer comes in awfully handy!

Step by Step Guide on How to Freeze Apples

  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water
  2. Sprinkle enough table salt in the water to cover the bottom of the bowl (this is done to keep the apples from turning brown while you are cutting the remainder of the apple)
  3. As you cut the apples or pears, drop them into the bowl of salt water
  4. Once bowl is full, strain fruit and drain water out of bowl. 
  5. Place fruit into Ziploc bags or freezer safe containers
  6. Place fruit into freezer

How I learned how to Freeze Apples

One of the great things about freezing apples is that you can thaw them for a pie, toss them with sugar and cinnamon for baked apples, or even save them to can when it’s more convenient.

There’s a trick to freezing apples, though. Do it wrong, and they’ll turn a completely unappetizing shade of brown.

In the past, I’ve tried following the recommendation of soaking apples in a bowl with lemon juice added to prevent the slices from turning brown as I processed them. But that never did really work well for me. They always seemed to turn brown no matter what I did.

Adding citric acid, or Fruit Fresh, can also prevent your chopped fruit from turning.

Ball Fruit Fresh

Fruit Fresh is another thing you can use to keep preserved fruit looking good. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

But I just hate to have to stop and run out to get just one thing.

I’d finally given up on trying to freeze fresh apples and pears, until one day when I happened to meet a woman who taught me her secret. My family had taken a day trip to the mountains, and we stopped at a quaint little Mom & Pop Diner for lunch. As I got my four children seated in the little booth, I smiled at the sweet elderly couple who sat at the table adjacent from us.

My husband was up at the front placing our order when the nice lady leaned over and said, “What beautiful children you have!” I thanked her, of course, and the ice was broken for a conversation to ensue.

I told her we were looking at some property for sale in the area, and she began telling me all about how much she loved the area and about her own home there. She shared that she had fruit trees…My ears perked up when she mentioned her trees, and I asked her if she canned her apples and pears.

She shook her head. “Oh no, I don’t do much canning anymore. I just freeze my fruit now. It’s much easier.” Curious, I asked how she managed to keep her fruit looking nice in the freezer. And to my delight, she shared the trick she’d learned from her mother growing up.

Ball Preserving and Pickling Salt

You can use Ball’s Preserving or Pickling Salt too! Rinse well. At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Before she starts cutting up her fruit, she gets a large bowl and fills it with ice cold water. Then, she sprinkles enough table salt in the bowl to cover the bottom (she doesn’t ever use any measurements).

As she cuts her apples or pears, she drops the slices into the bowl of salt water to keep them fresh as they wait for the rest of the batch to join them.

When the bowl is full, she strains off the fruit, rinses and drains it well, then packs it into Ziploc bags or freezer-safe containers to be stored in the freezer. I asked her if the fruit ever tastes salty, and she said it never did, you just have to rinse it well.

As I eagerly listened to her explaining her method, I could hardly wait to give it a try myself. Before we headed back home, I found some locally grown apples and pears, and determined to freeze them using her instructions.

And guess what? It worked beautifully!!

Freezer bag of frozen apples

My apples, frozen and gorgeous! It just takes table salt and a good rinse.

I couldn’t have been more excited. My fruit looked just as white and crisp as it did the moment I cut it. And it stayed that way for months, until I was ready to whip up my favorite fruit crisps.

If you’ve ever wondered how to freeze apples and pears… now you know! Like I said, canning fruit is a lovely thing to be able to do, and I highly recommend that everyone learn how.  But when you need a little change of pace, freezing is the way to go!

Editor’s Note: This post was first published in November 2013.

Pickle Your Fall Vegetables With A Lacto-Fermented Process

recycled paper cutting board

Durable! Our employees swear by our Epicurean® Cutting Board. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

I have always made a lot of pickles. We eat something pickled nearly every day. Pickled beans and beets are our favorites with carrots and cauliflower nearly as popular. We like bread and butter pickles too. Lately, I have been making a lot more lacto-fermented pickles than traditional canned pickles in brine. We can make a ½ gallon of pickles and eat them over the course of a few weeks and then just make up another crispy batch.

The process is really simple too. All you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board and some ½ gallon jars. Almost any vegetable can be fermented although a few things don’t appeal to me. I have tried pickled greens and found them, well; odd is all I can say about them. Continue reading

What To Do With An Abundance of Apples?

Stainless Steel Cider Press

Stainless Steel Cider Press

Oh, what to do with an abundance of apples? It has been the year of fruit here in Massachusetts. The trees are weighted down with peaches, pears and apples. There are so many that I’m receiving whole cases as gifts from people who have more than they can eat or preserve. So what to do with this gift from the trees (and from desperate neighbors)?

First of all, if you have your apples in a root cellar or cold storage, you have time to process. It’s not like tomato season!

Options abound. I have already pressed 120 pounds into cider. Next up will be canning. I want to do sauce but I also want to do pie filling. On a cold winter’s day, I can get away with a pot of soup for supper as long as I have a hearty dessert. I do NOT have a family that considers a bowl of soup supper otherwise. If the filling is sitting in a jar the whole thing takes minutes as I keep rounds of pie dough in the freezer waiting for the night I need a great dessert or a pot luck contribution. So let’s make pie filling today.

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Manage Your Homestead’s Food Supply Successfully

A LOT of just harvested garlic bulbs!

How do you process all this garlic? Dry some, crush some! Click for more info about Lehman’s super garlic press.

When you grow and raise a lot of food, one of the tricks to making it pay is managing the inventory. That means record keeping, not always my favorite thing but necessary if I am going to avoid waste.

Last month we harvested our garlic and it was phenomenal. I harvested 15o heads. That might seem like a lot but we are garlic lovers and I need enough to eat and to save for seed for next year. The biggest bulbs were pulled out immediately. The temptation is to eat those but that would leave me inferior seed. I put those heads away to plant in this month, and dry the rest to use throughout the year.

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Michigan Apples Keep Judy Hustling

Bushel baskets available at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Bushel baskets available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

I was a busy bee over the weekend. Bought a bushel of mixed apples grown right here in Michigan, and made applesauce and apple butter. Sounds so simple with so few words, but it’s actually quite a lot of work, even though I significantly changed two labor-intensive steps.

I have a food press, one of those cone-shaped dealies with a wooden pestle. It’s hard work to press apples with their peels, cores, seeds and stems through it, and you’re constantly cleaning out the scrap. I also have an attachment for my Kitchen Aid that will separate the scrap from the apple flesh, but I didn’t want to dirty more dishes. Continue reading

Lactofermenting for the Time-Challenged

Stainless steel bowl available at Lehmans.com.

All the root veggies are washed well, not a speck of soil remains. Then they air-dry. Use a colander, or spread on your counter on a clean dishtowel. Stainless steel bowl for photo spiffiness only! (Lehmans.com has ’em.)

Alrighty then, it’s that time of year. The garden is starting to really gear up and I have more produce than we can eat before it goes bad. My plan for filling the pantry with wholesome and delicious foods that have less than 5 ingredients, none of which came out of a lab, is working.

Pickling for people disinclined to boil vinegar
So, what is a girl to do with all this bounty?

I know, I’ll lacto-ferment it all. I like lacto-fermented veggies, so does the hubbin, and I really actually find cutting up veggies to be enjoyable. I’m weird that way!

And as a completely unrelated bonus, lacto-fermenting things is so incredibly easy that even I can’t mess it up. Though I thought I had and threw out the first batch I ever made: more on that later.

Lacto-fermenting is what creates sauerkraut, kimchi and cocktail onions, to name some of the more commonly known results of the process.

Sandor Katz The Art of Fermentation at Lehmans.com

Make your own healthy, pure lacto-fermented veggies, vinegars, pickles and more! Pick up The Art of Fermentation now at Lehmans.com to get started fast.

It is a bacterial process, utilizing critters that are present in any environment that has not been completely sterilized (it will not work in outer space, so those of you reading this from the Mir Space Station, sorry, try it when you get back home), so yes, when I first got into this process I had to get over my germophobia and embrace the little things (metaphorically speaking). It’s similar to the fermentation that creates alcohol, just with different microbes.

Which brings me to examine exactly how one goes about lacto-fermenting, rather than creating carrot booze accidentally.

We want to attract the right kind of microbe, so we have to create the right kind of environment. Think of it as very, very small game trapping, because the microbes are all there, hanging out together. We want to encourage the lactobacilli, while discouraging the yeasts (alcohol) and other things that would spoil our food. Continue reading

In a Pickle…and Those Darn Tomatoes!

Try pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! It's available now at Lehmans.com.

Perfect Pickler: large size fits your 1 gal to 2-1/2 gal wide mouth jar; small size fits your 1/2 pt to 2 pt wide mouth jars.

Beyond Pickles I have always made a lot of pickles. We eat something pickled nearly every day. Pickled beans and beets are our favorites with carrots and cauliflower nearly as popular. We like bread and butter pickles too but by now, last year’s are are getting a bit soggy and nobody likes a soggy pickle. Lately, I have been making a lot more lacto-fermented pickled than traditional canned pickles in brine. We can make a ½ gallon of pickles and eat them over the course of a few weeks and then just make up another crispy batch. The process is really simple too. All you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board and some ½ gallon jars. Almost any vegetable can be fermented although a few things don’t appeal to me. I have tried pickled greens and found them, well…odd is all I can say about them. Continue reading

Simple Sorbets a Refreshing Alternative

Ice Cream Spade

It’s all in the design. This spade is so popular in our store we can barely keep it in stock. Now you can have one without traveling to Ohio.

Chris Funk, today’s guest contributor, has been experimenting with sorbets for a while. A great home cook, Chris is also known for his pretzel buns. Today, he’s sharing his simple sorbet recipe, which is perfect for seasonal berries, stone fruit, apples, and pears.

                                                                                                            –Country Life

I’ve mainly started making sorbets because it was a healthier alternative than a full heavy cream or  a half and half ice cream. So it started with a strawberry sorbet: a delicious base mix, but a pain to make due to the seeds!

Then I moved onto raspberry, then peach, and now pear. Pears are just coming in here in southwest Ohio, and we have some really great ones grown locally.  Any favorite fruit will work, you just sometimes have to take the juiciness of the fruit into consideration when you’re making the sorbet. This is especially important if you decide to use a frozen fruit for the sorbet. You’ll have to thaw and drain it before moving on with the recipe.

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How Do Canning Jar Lids Work?

Canning JarsHow Canning Jar Lids Work Canning jar lids work by forming a vacuum seal during processing. The sealing compound on the lid sits against the jar and forms the all-important seal with the screw band holding it in place.

As the food in the jar is boiling during processing, oxygen is pushed out of the jar. As the food cools the lid will be sucked down and the rubber seal will form a tight seal keeping out air and protecting the food from any further contamination until the lid is removed. Standard canning lids are not reusable. The screw band part can be used over and over but the flat lid is a one-time use. After use the sealing compound will become indented which might interfere with a new seal. Continue reading