Friday, September 29, 2017

The "Food in Jars Mastery Challenge" - September: Fruit Butter

Well, the September installment of the "Food in Jars Challenge" was for fruit butter. I'm not new to fruit butter, as I grew up helping my grandma pick apples from the loader bucket of my grandpa's tractor so we could take the apples inside and make applesauce and apple butter.  My grandma always made her applesauce kind of chunky, and it's my favorite - the same way I try to do mine when I make it on my own now, though I never can seem to get it quite the right level of chunkiness like she did.

Anyway - I have also made cranberry-apple butter in the past, and last summer I made peach butter.  I am a big fan of the slow cooker method for fruit butter, and love how thick and smooth the end result is.

For this month's challenge, first I was planning to do apple butter - but I checked the "jams and jellies" section of my canning pantry and turns out I don't really need anymore apple butter for right now.  As I was looking, turns out I also have a couple small jars of cranberry-apple butter left and several jars of peach butter. My next thought was plum butter, maybe a small batch recipe, but then I realized that the plum season here was short, and over - so no plums for me!

Finally, took a peek at Marisa's September blog entry about making fruit butter to see what recipes she had gathered for us.  Though it isn't a canning recipe, I settled on the Maple Sweetened Pumpkin Butter recipe, because our garden produced a lot of Cinderella baking pumpkins this year and it seemed like a good way to use a couple of them.

I just cut two of them (gross weight was 5 pounds) in half and removed the seeds. Splashed a touch of olive oil on them, and lightly covered with tinfoil. They baked in the oven at 350 degrees for about 2 hours.

Once they were cool, I removed the skins and put all of the pumpkin into my slow cooker on low, added the other ingredients, and blended it all with my immersion blender (I couldn't live this "I can quite a bit" life without this thing!)

I then put a flour sack towel on top of the slow cooker bowl, and the slow cooker lid on top of that. The towel helps catch the moisture that gathers, instead of letting it drop back into the butter.  (I do this for anything I make in the slow cooker, which really isn't much - but spinach dip, queso, soups - it prevents them from getting runny from the condensation. This is a super cool trick that I read in a cooking magazine once.)

After it cooked for about an hour like this, it was really thick (my pumpkin was actually really thick when I started, we didn't have a lot of rain here this year so I don't know if that is why or if it is just the type of pumpkin.) Anyway, after an hour it seemed to be the proper consistency.

This basically tastes like pumpkin pie filling to me, although very delicious pumpkin pie filling! I froze it in two quart-size Ziploc bags and I think that we are just going to use it to make pumpkin pie. Really delicious pumpkin pie!

In an unrelated to my pumpkin butter note, I saw this recipe today for an "Apple Butter Old Fashioned" drink and I think we are going to use some of that pantry apple butter to try this soon!

Another recipe of Marisa's that was in her September blog post is for "Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter," which I also thought sounded really delicious.  When things slow down a bit around here and it's the middle of winter and I don't have anything else to do, I might give it a go!

Monday, September 18, 2017

The "Food in Jars Mastery Challenge" - August: I Missed It!

Well, as many of you have been seeing, I have been participating in the 2017 "Food in Jars" Mastery Challenge.  For each month in 2017, cookbook author Marisa McClellan selected a category for participants and provides tips, podcasts, recipes and more about that category to the participants for that month.

So far this year, I had participated in every single month, sometimes on the last day but I got it done!  But, when we got to August, I just kind of missed it.  The category for August was low-temperature pasteurization.  From what I read about this, the short version seems to be that it allows you to can things (mostly pickled) at a lower temperature for a longer period of time and results in a crispier pickle.  It uses equipment like a steam canner and/or immersion cooker, neither of which I own nor wanted to purchase at this time.  I have been wanting to make some homemade yogurt, and at some point asked on our Facebook group if this qualified for the low-temperature pasteurization category and the consensus seemed to be no.  Anyway - I skipped the August challenge.  I am kind of disappointed that I did, but ... life goes on!

What I DID do in August was:

1) I made a double batch of Zesty Peach BBQ Sauce. I followed the Fresh Preserving website's recipe except I used 2 jalapenos for the heat instead of red pepper flakes (safety gurus don't worry, I used that much less sweet pepper so it's all good.)  The peaches I bought came in a 15-pound box and I only used 6 pounds for my sauce, so my husband started a batch of peach raspberry wine with the rest!  (Raspberries from our freezer from our patch.)

2) I made a batch of garden zucchini relish and a batch of dill pickles.

3) I entered 9 jars of "Food in Jars" in the Murray County Fair and brought home 8 ribbons!  My goal for this year was a blue one, so I was excited by the outcome!  Left to right: confetti pepper jelly, zesty peach BBQ sauce, dill pickles, spicy dilly beans, garden/zucchini relish, ketchup, orange marmalade, and raspberry jam.  Not pictured is my entry for low-sugar strawberry jam, which didn't get a ribbon because it has "poor eye appeal" because my "fruit is floating." Gives me something to do better next time, I suppose.

So, here's to next year's fair and packing the pickles tighter, making the fruit not float, and aiming for one of those coveted fancy purple ribbons. And to next month's (which is actually this month already) September challenge for fruit butter.  Onward and upward, my friends!