Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homemade Jelly as Wedding Favors

A dear friend of mine is getting married and she chose to make jelly for her guests as favors. (Which means she totally stole my idea.) The jars will be way more personal than a baggie of mints and it turns out the prices aren’t all that different. However this approach does take a hell of a lot more time than pouring custom printed M&Ms from a bag to a cute little box. That is where I come in.

“Canary can you help me?” - Friend

“Of course I would love to. Lets figure out when we both have time and we can do it up.” – Me

It turns out that the first time when we could both get together was… um… never ago. We went back and forth over weekends and 2 hour chunks of days until the wedding was…uh…like tomorrow. Well not literally tomorrow…more like tomorrow in wedding years. So I packed up every canning utensil, apparatus, instrument, and ideology I own and drove to another state to help my friend make this thing happen.

We started with a 25 lb bag of sugar (omg groooooooooss), and a couple of jugs each of 100% apple and grape juices (Welch’s I think on both counts?) and a dozen times 13 jars (156 I have been told was our number). Oh yeah and enough pectin to make time stand still.
Stacks of jars lids and bands competing for real-estate.
A brides maid was around for the first 45 minutes to help plan and get the first batch of madness underway and the fiance popped in and out at critical times to stir and move and stack and wash and generally do what we had run out of hands to handle. From committing the first recipe sketches to paper to setting the final jar on a table to cool it took us almost exactly 8 hours. (Which is not bad considering I was planning to stay for 3 days if I had to.)

We used and slightly abused the recipes given in the boxes of pectin and we didn’t get too fancy because we did NOT want any do-overs. We did toss in some spices because I cannot be content to let well enough alone. I had eyes rolled at me but I won and it was worth it.
Always write out your recipe even if it only makes sense to you. And when you are dumping in more than 4 of anything make sure you tally...just in case.
We started with the Apple Jelly because it is first in the alphabet. Honest. We didn’t have everything washed or warmed before our jelly was boiling the first time so it was a little bit chaotic and oh hellish. Oops. So after that we regrouped and planned out the rest of our adventure with our fingers crossed that we would fill all the jars. We never really came up with a fail proof system because we had very little counter/table space and nothing was beside anything else in a way that made sense for a real assembly line. Instead, we did a lot of shuffling jars back and forth on baking trays, passing each other in a skinny kitchen, one person with full jars needing lids and another with empties needing to be filled. It was not ideal BUT IT WORKED!
We ended up making 6 batches of apple in 2 rounds and 4 batches of grape in 2 rounds before we were through. (See recipes below) We added a little extra headspace to each jar to stretch our jelly a little farther but even with that as a consideration we ended up with way more jelly than predicted from the original recipes. We filled 74 jars with apple jelly and 82 with grape. When we were done filling jars we had just enough jelly to spread on toast (or a finger) to try out our handiwork.

The apple plus spices combo comes out exactly like apple pie in jelly form and the grape is well…grape.
If you look closely you can actually see the flecks of spice in the jelly.
We also used a 2 quart Crockpot set to warm for the lids. I dumped about a cup of vinegar in the bottom of the pot before I put the lids in and covered them with water and that seems to have kept the lids from staining the pot. I also vinegared up the water in the water bath canner and there weren’t water spots on the jars after they cooled and then racks didn’t stain the canner. New idea? I think so.

We did not decorate the jars in that 8 hour time frame. We aren’t magical sleeping beauty fairies and the bride to be hadn’t actually settled on a design yet. I will try to get some pictures of the for real finished product after the wedding.
Our yield visualized 2 ways. Each box represents a dozen jars...or you can just count the jar army instead.
Special Equipment: Water Bath Canner, Jars, bands, lids, jar racks, canning funnel, bubble tool, patience, teamwork

Apple Pie Jelly
(Based on the Ball Liquid Pectin insert recipe for Apple Jelly from Bottled Juice)

2 C unsweetend 100% apple juice (Which is still plenty sweet)
3-1/2 C sugar
1 bag liquid pectin (we used 4 of Ball then 2 of Sure-Jell Certo)
Pumpkin Pie Spice

1. Add juice and sugar to saucepan (or stock pot in our case) on high heat. Shake in enough spice that you can see the spice when it is stirred into the liquid.
2. While stirring constantly, bring to a galloping boil that cannot be stirred down
3. Add pectin quickly, squeezing out entire contents of package
4. Return to boil and boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly
5. Remove from heat and fill jars (see Processing Instructions below)

a. The Ball Liquid Pectin insert was the only one that had a recipe for jelly from prepared juice. We compared other recipes between the Ball and Certo inserts and found them to be the same or very similar so we used the Ball recipe with the Certo pectin. Yes different types of pectin are not universally interchangeable but sometimes they are. Just pay attention.
b. We quadrupled this recipe the first time with Ball pectin and doubled it the second time with Certo pectin (based on the brands and envelopes we had on hand) and we got good results each time. Yes multiplying recipes can change results and if you cook pectin too long it may not gel. You can also make so much product that it starts to gel before you get it in jars. 4 at a time was the reasonable limit of what we could cook properly on our stove and jar before gelling.
Cookie sheets were indispensable for moving jars around and keeping the counter from getting excessively sticky. Also that top picture represents the full extent of our counter space.
Grape Jelly (with apple juice)
(Based on the Sure Jell Reduced Sugar Pectin insert recipe for Cooked Grape Jelly from Whole Grapes and Cooked Apple Jelly from Whole Apples)

4 C unsweetened 100% Grape Juice
1 7/8 C Unsweetened 100% apple Juice
3 7/8 C Sugar, divided
1 Box low sugar pectin (we used Sure Jell in the pink box)

1. Measure sugar in a separate bowl
2. Add juices to saucepan or stockpot and whisk in each box of pectin plus ¼ c of sugar per box of pectin used
3. Bring to a galloping boil over high heat while stirring constantly
4. Dump in remaining sugar all at once and stir in
5. Return to boil and boil for 1 minute
6. Remove from heat and fill jars (see Processing Instructions below)

a. Again the only recipe we found for jelly from prepared juice came from the Ball Liquid Pectin box so we were winging it a little bit.
b. We were pretty sure we needed 4 batches to fill all the jars but we only had enough grape juice for 3 boxes. We added a single batch of the recipe for apple jelly to get an extra batch. We designed the recipe for 4 batches at once and cut it in half for our use. Then I cut it in half again for the above recipe which is why the volume is a little odd. These recipes are very similar in ingredient volume so feel free to sub grape in for apple if you have it and you should have fine results.
c. We added 2 T of whole cloves to a spice bag and put it in with the juice at the beginning and removed it when we added the sugar. You couldn’t taste it at all. Next time I would try adding 1/8 t ground cloves per batch.
Grape Jelly: Jarred, Lidded, and Banded. Kapow!

Processing Instructions

0. Before you start making the jelly you should have the water bath canner on the stove heating up because it takes forever
1. Quickly ladle hot jelly into jars leaving 1/8 in headspace
2. Wipe rims and threads of jars with damp paper towel
3. Center lid on jar and screw band down to finger tip tight (jar will be hot- reminds you that you are alive. Suck it up wuss…or use a pot holder.)
4. Place jars in canner
5. Return water in canner to boil and process jars for 10 minutes
6. Remove jars from canner and place somewhere out of the way to cool
7. Check seals in 24 hours and reprocess or store as necessary.

a. We had more like ½ in to ¼ in headspace in our jars because we were trying to stretch our jelly as far as we could. Don’t leave more than ½ in. If you have enough for most of a jar, make yourself toast and try it out.
b. You get a lot of foam with jelly. We did not remove and discard the foam because it is just gelled jelly with lots of air stuck in it. We put the foam in the jars, added a little extra jelly to make up for the air in the bubbles and processed the jar. The high temp of boiling will re-melt the jelly and when the mixture cools after processing the jelly will be clear.
c. Apparently according to the Sure-Jell instructions we could have processed our grape jelly for 5 minutes instead of 10 but we didn’t read the directions and over processed. Everything turned out fine anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What went wrong (and the few things that went right) with marmalade

I have already mentioned numerous times that I got very impatient with my marmalade. This led me to try out a bunch of different short cuts hoping for a ready remedy. I also tried a few other new-to-me techniques which other people use with some degree of success.

After 4 days of canning and testing, only one of my shortcuts worked and I personally wouldn’t recommend it. Both of the new techniques I tried worked but I have a few cautions before you try them out.

Citrus Specifics:
1. Each type of fruit and even varieties of the same fruit are easier to handle in different ways and for different recipes. For instance I found that I preferred to deal with room temperature oranges if I was peeling them by hand for preserves but cold oranges worked better with a peeler and sliced better with a knife.

2. A food processor/chopper might be a valid shortcut for slicing your fruit very thin. You sacrifice texture (if you like rind strips) and a small amount of volume but gain time. But you also might destroy your food processor and this I don’t really understand. After using my chopper on my blood orange marmalade I tried to clean it out and found that the inside was coated with waxy orange residue. I tried scraping this out with a spoon, a scrubby sponge, a scrub brush, and steel wool and made little headway. I also tried soaking the vessel in water, dish soap, and 409 again with limited results. It looks as if the plastic the food processor is made out of was actually scarred by the orange peel. Perhaps the peel is acidic enough to break down the plastic? I have no idea. I will keep working on figuring out what is going on.(It turns out that I was almost right about that. But it isn't the acid that's the problem. The main oil in an orange peel is limonene which can actually break down and disolve plastics in a high enough concentration. Yes, Virginia I really did melt my food chopper.)

3. Using a food mill to remove the membranes from citrus doesn’t work at all. I have a decent food mill that I have used successfully for many other operations but in this case it was just an inefficient and cumbersome juicer.

1. Using old bands to line the bottom of a pot instead of a canning rack works well. You can fasten the bands together but you really don’t have to. But there are some obligatory cautionary statements:
    a. You have to have a deep enough pot to allow for water to cover the jar (this is why I was using stumpy jars) and the bands have enough height that this can be tricky
    b. If the holes in the bands are bigger than the bottoms of the jars things might shift enough for jars to tip or fall into the hole and be touching the bottom of the pan.
c. I have hard water and so the chemical reaction between the metal of the bands and of my pot stained the pot. This has happened to my pressure cooker and vinegar will help get rid of the stain or if added to the boiling water will help prevent it from happening in the first place. But it is unnerving when a pot you cook food in directly is suddenly stained black.
2. I have seen keeping lids warm in water in a Crockpot listed as a valid method in several place. It works and it is nice to not have to waste a burner on lids when you have a lot going on. But:
    a. My crockpot on Low was hot enough that I burned myself more than once but the “keep warm” setting didn’t seem to be warm enough
    b. The bands rusted on the inside of the stoneware and on each other. This is probably due to my hard water more than anything else but I can’t get the coloring off of my crockpot liner. I have since used this technique again and a liberal dose of vinegar prevented it new staining so there is hope for this method.

3. Homemade spice bags are great but you might want to double or triple the thickness of the cheesecloth if it is thin or pieces will escape.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hot Blooded Marmalade

Apparently the only way I could get over my I-don’t-make-marmalade hang up was to allow myself to make the most exciting marmalade first. This also happened to be the most complicated marmalade to make and the recipe that I planned from the start to alter the most. But armed with a complete lack of knowledge and an obsession with blood oranges I embarked on a Bloody Temple Marmalade adventure. Then I tasted the rind of the temple oranges and wow were they bitter. So I seamlessly switched the temple oranges out for navel oranges and began a Bloody Navel Marmalade adventure. But that sounded …awful. So I decided to add some crushed red pepper and call my creation Hot Blooded Marmalade. Hurray!

If it sounds like I spent more time fretting over the name of this concoction than I did about the recipe, it did. I was loosely following an online recipe and the one from the ball canning book but mostly I was just flying by the seat of my pants. And I wasn’t exactly…um…thinking. At all.

I peeled the rinds from my oranges neatly, round and round the orange in circles like those hand crank apple peelers do it. Except that they peel strips were anything but neat. And I started cutting them into the thinnest strips I could manage but they weren’t at all thin and it was taking forever. Which is when lazy kicked in and knocked my stupidity up a notch. What I needed was a power tool. I pulled out my sorry excuse for a food processor and chopped the living daylights out of the rind strips. Instead of little slivers I had kibbles and bits, but I got them in a hurry and the taste was the same.
Then I peeled the pith from the oranges which was easy enough even with the tough rind off. And I diligently removed the membranes from each wedge of fruit. For all of about 3 wedges. Then I said to hell with it and chopped the rest into smaller than bite sized pieces. This is when I started wondering how or why people make marmalade.
I dumped the chunks into the rind kibble, added some water and started the stuff to boiling. I measured out my sweeteners for quick application once my premarmalade was up to a boil and in the process spilled both pretty much everywhere. But I did like the effect of burying the red pepper flakes and an amber coffin. And when I went to measure my volume of liquid to make sure bring it up to 6 cups I actually had extra liquid which to me seemed like bonus goodness.

After the sweetness was added I waited, and waited, and waited some more. I was planning to use the thermometer mode of testing gel stage and I knew even though I live at 300 ft above sea level m thermometer registers boiling water at 205 degrees so I was going for 213. Everything stalled right around 200 degrees for what felt like an eternity of stirring. I think it was only about 10 minutes but whatever. Then there was a slow creep from 200 to 210 over the course of about 5 minutes and I was starting to get excited because this thing was really happening and things were thickening up. And then the unthinkable happened and just when the temperature started to approach 213 it crashed down to below 200.
I had no idea what happened but I figured I was close enough to my magic number to fudge it and I pulled my pot from the stove, dumped everything in to jars, and processed them. This girl had to get on with her life. I had 4 other citrus fantasies to indulge myself in and here I was getting bogged down on the very first one. I had 10 8-oz jars and 1 4-oz jar filled up which seemed like a lot and when I tasted the mix it also seemed pretty acrid but I was mentally done with this marmalade. Everything sealed and I was content.

But when I checked in 24 hours I was left with an overly spicy, very bitter, soupy sauce. A big flop. So I de-jarred everything and started it boiling again. I added 2 more cups of sugar to balance the bad flavors and I used the saucer test this time. I kept the thermometer in for good measure and that thing bounce up and down for no good reason the whole time the marmalade simmered.

My final yield ended up at just under 9 8-oz jars and the spice and bitterness were a little more mellow. There is still a pretty strong astringent aftertaste which I think could be done away with by boiling the rind for 10 minutes then draining it before adding the fruit. As is, it works well as a chutney or condiment for pretty much any meat I’ve paired it with including white fish but I wouldn’t slap it on a bagel with cream cheese.
It wasn’t a complete failure but I would say significant room for improvement for sure. And my marmalade making friend to whom I gifted all of the stumpy jars diagnosed my problem all along as not enough patience. Ah well.

Special Equipment: Water Bath Canner, Jars, Lids and Bands, Canning Funnel, Bubble Tool

Hot Blooded Marmalade
(Loosely based on That Bloody Marmalade Tastes So Good by Putting Up With the Turnbulls and Blood Orange Marmalade from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. None of my mistakes should reflect on their recipes.)
6 Blood Oranges
2 Navel Oranges
2 C Water + more
2 C Orange Juice
5 C sugar
½ C honey
2 tsp Red Pepper flakes

1. Wash oranges and lemons and remove peel with vegetable peeler
2. Cut peel into thin strips
3. Working over a bowl, separate fruit segments from membrane/pith and squeeze juice from membrane. Discard membrane and seeds.
4. Add 2 c water, orange juice and segments to saucepan with peel strips and bring to a boil for 30 minutes
5. Measure fruit mixture and stir in enough water to make 6 c total
6. Bring to boiling and gradually stir in sugar and honey and pepper flakes while maintaining boil
7. Continue boiling and stirring until mixture reaches the gel stage ~24 minutes
8. Ladle into jars leaving ¼ inch headspace
9. Remove bubbles and adjust headspace if required
10. Wipe rim, center lid, and screw band to fingertip tight
11. Place jars in water bath canner and adjust water level to cover the jars if necessary
12. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes
13. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars
14. Check seal in 24 hours. Reprocess or label and store

My Yield: 4.5 pints minus about 2 oz or almost 7 8-oz jars

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mixed Citrus Preserves/Salad

I like the recipe because it didn’t feel like making marmalade and I was tired of fretfully standing over a pot stirring and hoping for a gel. I just wanted to dump things in a pot and get on with my life.

I bought at least 30 temple oranges because they were $.10 a piece. I was thinking I was going to turn them into marmalade of some type but the little devils have very acrid skins. No one I talked to had heard of temple oranges so let me tell you what I found out. They have a thin skin (that’s bitter apparently) very little pith and LOTS of seeds but they are very juicy and very sweet. They would probably be perfect for fresh squeezed OJ if you had a tree. They were also nice for this salad.
I had some room temp citrus and some from the fridge and I discovered that while I preferred to slice cold citrus, it was easier to peel warmer citrus if I wasn’t using the peels for anything. The main reason for this was because my hands didn’t get freakishly cold and stop working but the peel also seemed to come free more easily when warmer.

Because the temple oranges had so little pith and were so juicy I didn’t bother taking off the membranes from the segments. I simply peeled the oranges, split them into segments then cut each segment in half with a sharp knife and popped out the seeds. This was messy enough that I set up my own assembly line with a cutting mat underneath to catch extra juice. I would slice the segment over a colander sitting on a bowl so I could keep the seeds and juice separated as well. It took me a while to find the perfect rhythm but once I did things moved smoothly.

I processed the grapefruit in much the same way as when I made grapefruit marmalade. I peeled the fruit and broke it into roughly quarters, sliced the middle/core from each quarter and popped out the seeds then the pulp with my thumbs.

My recipe came from the USDA online canning guide. The nice thing about that book is it includes all manner of modifications for fruit preserves from water only up to candy thick syrup and it even gives allowances for honey (or splenda…gross) so I could pretty much do whatever I wanted to and not really modify their recipe. I went with a very light syrup that was about half honey half sugar.

Hidden somewhere in the citrus preserves section is a statement to the effect of grapefruit preserves fine by itself but oranges taste better when canned with equal parts grapefruit. There were no reasons given or other qualifiers so I have no idea why or what makes this so or if this is true. I used about 8.75 lbs of temple oranges (25 total) and 5.25 lbs of ruby red grapefruit (7 total). I don’t know what my yield in lbs was exactly but I got roughly 2:1 oranges to grapefruit and I was content with that.
I had the option to raw pack and put my fruit in a water bath canner for the same length of processing time as a pressure canner (minus the obligatory venting steam and cooling canner times) but I chose to lug out my pressure canner anyway. Why? Because my canner is tall enough to stack pint jars and I could fit all my jars in at one time.

I fell in to the hot pack method although it isn’t my preference. I’ve been having lots of problems with floating fruit and cooking it is supposed to get out the air before it goes in the canner. I don’t think this altered the flavor of the fruit at all but the color did change. Right around boiling temperature ruby red grapefruit morph from bright pink to bright orange and oranges get lighter.
All of my jars sealed well but I had one that seeped pretty badly for whatever reason. It was of course on the top stack and got all over several of the jars so they got a bath once they cooled down.
There was about a cup of fruit left over when I filled the other jars. I reserved this and used it as a garnish for pork chops that night. It was an interesting switch from applesauce. I also ended up with 2.5 quarts of leftover juice which tastes pretty much like grapefruit juice sweetened with honey. We drank some of it straight up, I used some in my blood oranges in Orangecello and we mixed some in adult beverages. I didn’t process the juice in a canner, I just slapped a lid on and stuck it in the fridge. The jars sealed but wouldn’t have put them on a shelf in the pantry. We went through them too fast anyway.

Special Equipment: Water bath canner with rack OR Pressure Canner, Jars, Lids and Bands, Canning Funnel, bubble tool

Mixed Citrus Preserves/Salad
(Recipe built from the many options in the USDA home canning guidelines)

25 Temple Oranges (~8.75 lb)
7 Grapefruit (~5.25 lb)
7/8 C Honey
1 C Sugar
10 ½ C Water

1. Wash and peel citrus removing as much of the pith as possible.
2. Divide fruit into segments and cut into bite sized pieces. Discard membranes and seeds.
3. Add water, sugar, and honey to large saucepan and bring to boil
4. Add fruit and return to boil
5. Use a slotted spoon to pack fruit into hot jars leaving ½ inch headspace
6. Cover with syrup
7. Use non-metal tool to remove bubbles and recheck headspace
8. Wipe rims with moist paper towel, put lids on jars and screw bands to finger tip tight

9. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes
10. Turn off heat , remove lid and wait 5 minutes, then move jars to counter to cool. Check seals in 24 hours and reprocess if needed.
9. Place in pressure canner and seal
10. Vent steam for 10 minutes then bring pressure 5 lbs and process for 8 minutes
11. Allow canner to depressurize naturally, remove weight and wait 10 minutes
12. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool. Check seals in 24 hours and reprocess if needed

a. Times are for hot pack of quarts and pints. Can raw pack fruit in pressure canner with same time except quarts must pressure can for 10 minutes.
b. Can reduce sugar and/or honey to zero cups or replace honey with equal measure of sugar.
c. Estimate 13 lb citrus/ canner load of 9 pints according to book

My Yield: 13 pts + 1 C (which is surprisingly close to the estimated yield from the book), and 2.5 Quarts of leftover juice.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Morning Whiskey Marmalade

This is Whiskey-fied and it was the only recipe I ran across that suggested an alcohol I had in my bar. I didn’t like the name from the recipe book (sometimes it feels like they ran out of idea and were stretching a bit at the end), I thought putting carrots in marmalade was strange, and really whiskey didn’t seem to fit with the ingredients at all. But it called for Whiskey and I owned Whiskey and I needed to booze up a marmalade.
1. Booze
I liked using navel oranges for this because the pith tends to stay with the fruit not the peel and I didn’t have to worry about seeds. I roughly peeled the oranges and did the peels up in the food processor because I was still in high lazy, max cheater mode. I found that the easiest way to get the orange pulp out from the membranes was to cut the pith from the outside with a sharp knife then use my thumbs to get the pulp out from between the segments. This didn’t work so well for the extra navely pieces at the bottom of the orange but it got me most of the way there with very little effort or waste. I squeezed the pith when I was done to get as much juice back as possible.
2. Segmenting my oranges
The recipe called for whole allspice and cinnamon in a spice bag but I apparently don’t own whole allspice. So I generously decided that the marmalade could keep the allspice forever and I stuck the cinnamon in without wrapping it up. I also added some store bought OJ because I didn’t think I had enough juice when I started cooking. Oh and I cut out some sugar because I always get freaked out when I see all the sugar I am putting into a fruit spread.

3. Trying to follow the directions
Other than that I stayed pretty true to the directions for once. Keep in mind that I was fresh from a failure to gel on blood orange marmalade so I was trying to be on better behavior. I was also regularly getting updates on the birth of a new family member as I stirred and prayed for the gel stage to hurry up which made this more interesting. I toasted the baby with a shot of whiskey when I added the sauce to the marmalade because it felt like the right thing to do (even though I think whiskey is awful stuff) so I guess this is her marmalade? Even though she can’t eat it…hmmm…Child I will have to make you more.
4. My yield 7 half pints. Ignore the jars in the background and the extra stumpy jar. They were from the doomed blood orange marmalade.
Special Equipment: Water bath canner, Jars, bands, and lids, canning funnel, bubble remover

Morning Whiskey Marmalade
(Adapted Morning Cheer Marmalade from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)
1/8 t Ground allspice
1 Cinnamon stick
5 Navel Oranges
1 Granny Smith apple peeled cored and grated
4 c grated carrots (I did not peel, ~6 largish carrots)
1 ½ C Water
1 C Orange Juice
3 C Sugar
1/3 C Lemon juice
¼ C Whiskey (1 very full shot glass)

1. Peel oranges. Chop peels into small pieces using a food processor. (Or score orange rinds into quarters and peel then cut peel into very thin strips.) Add to large sauce pan
2. While working over a bowl to catch the juice, cut pith and outer membrane from each orange. Remove orange segment from between interior membranes.
3. Add spices, orange segments and juice, apple, carrots, water and orange juice to saucepan with peel pieces and bring to a boil
4. Boil gently for 15 minutes then stir in lemon juice and sugar while maintaining boil
5. Boil hard until mixture reaches gel stage ~30 minutes (I forgot to time)
6. Stir in whiskey, and discard cinnamon stick
7. Ladle into jars leaving ¼ inch headspace
8. Remove bubbles and adjust headspace if required
9. Wipe rim, center lid, and screw band to fingertip tight
10. Place jars in water bath canner and adjust water level to cover the jars if necessary
11. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes
12. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars
13. Check seal in 24 hours. Reprocess or label and store

My Yield: 3.5 pints or 7 8-oz jars

Friday, April 1, 2011

Oranges in Orangecello

1. Behold the beauty of the blood orange
First let me say that I am in love with blood oranges. They are beautiful inside and out and I love the way the flavor subtly changes with the color even within the same wedge. They are also sort of a luxury in this part of the world because they are rarely seen in the supermarket so when I saw them I kind of went a little nuts planning to put them in EVERYTHING. Then I did a cost/benefit analysis and cut back on my dreaming a little bit. However, this recipe was definitely a splurge from the idea stage so I went full on, all go no quit blood oranges. 

My inspiration came from Oranges in Cointreau in the “Fruits of Distinction” section of my favorite Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The recipe calls for an orange liqueur meaning something like Cointreu, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec, but I ended up with this:

2. Orangecello
Which. Is. Amazing. It is more than a little sweet and the alcohol is kind of rough but mostly it tastes like Orange Crush for adults.

Since I was starting with extremely sweet to begin with I cut back on the sugar in the recipe. I also had some left over juice from making citrus preserves which equated to pretty much grapefruit juice sweetened with honey so I used that instead of water. I added extra liquid since I took out some sugar but there wasn’t much in the pan. (Keep in mind that the original recipe calls for 3.5 C sugar and 2/3 C water which is basically sugar paste that you melt in to candy which wasn’t my goal.) I assembled, disassembled and reassembled my spices into a spice bag and tossed that into the liquid to simmer.

3. Assembling, disassembling, and reassembling
The spice bag was never completely submerged which probably bothered me more than it should. At any rate the liquid shifted from clear to a mellow honey color as it simmered. And somewhere along the line several bits of cheesecloth string and spice crumbles managed to pull themselves away from the mother spice bag. I eventually had to pull the riffraff out with a fork.
4. Note the color change
While the spices simmered and escaped, I sliced my bloody little victims into half-moons of wonder and joy. This round of prep was a boon to my laziness because you don’t even peel the oranges. You simply whop off both ends, split the orange down the middle and slice. Were I to do this again I would actually cut the orange into quarters before I made my slices because it would be easier to keep from damaging the oranges while cooking and packing but semi-circles worked ok.
5. The lazy way to make orange goodness
I had been seriously questioning the volume of liquid from the beginning, but when I added my oranges to the saucepan it became clear that I was going to need way more juice. I stayed true to the recipe and added ¾ C of my orangecello and ½ C wine but ¾ of my oranges weren’t even wet. So I threw in the rest of my grapefruit juice, brought the wine up to 1 C total and managed to allow myself to part with another ¾ C of orangecello. I still did not cover all of the oranges, but it was close so I let the mixture be.

I picked one jar to be the recipient of all of the messed up pieces so that the gifts looked the best they could and I put the smallest pieces in the stumpy jar because the bigger pieces didn’t even fit.

I was more diligent than normal about getting every last bubble out of the jars because I have been having issues with floating fruit. I did not have any seepage in this batch and the fruit is only floating a little which is ok.
6. None of the fruit is out of the syrup even though there is space at the bottom of the jars
I had less than 8 oz of syrup left after filling my jars. (Which, by the way turned a lovely ruby color.) It tastes kinda like Christmas. I think I kind of, sort of, (REALLY REALLY) want to try this again with a blue Curacao. I want to know if I get purple.

I tried 2 different styles of “tequila sunrise” using the leftover red juice instead of grenadine. The first was tequila with the last of my left over grapefruit juice mixture which wasn’t really all that good. The sugar difference between the grapefruit juice and the blood orange syrup was enough that the layers of yellow and red stayed pretty much separate so you didn’t get the subtle sunrise mixing which gives the drink its name. Plus when grapefruit and tequila get together the bitter tones of both are emphasized and the other flavors are muted. But if you go with tequila, orange juice and blood orange syrup the drink is mighty tasty and the sunrise actually happens.

Anyway here is my recipe…

Special Equipment: Water Bath Canner, Jars, lids and bands, bubble remover, cheesecloth

Blood Oranges in Orangecello
(Recipe highly adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

10 whole cloves
5 cinnamon sticks broken
1 3/4 C sugar
1 1/2 C grapefruit juice sweetened with honey
9 Blood oranges
1 1/2 C Orangecello
1 C white wine (I used a sweet wine but dry might be better)

1. Break spices into pieces and tie together in a square of cheesecloth creating a spice bag.
2. Add sugar, water and spice bag to saucepan and bring to boil for 10 minutes.
3. Do not peel oranges. Cut ½ in off the ends of each orange, cut in half lengthwise and slice into 1/8 inch pieces
4. Remove spice bag (and fragments) and add orange pieces, Orangecello and wine
5. Slowly return to boil stirring gently and remove from heat once boiling.
6. Place orange in jars leaving ½ in headspace
7. Cover with blood orange syrup from the saucepan
8. Remove air bubbles and readjust headspace to ½ in if necessary
9. Wipe rim, center lid, and screw band to fingertip tight
10. Place jars in water bath canner and adjust water level to cover the jars if necessary
11. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes
12. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars
13. Check seal in 24 hours. Reprocess or label and store

My Yield: 4.75 pints or 9 8-oz jars and 1 4-oz jar (with less than 8 oz left over syrup)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grapefruit Marmalade

1. Grapefruit Marmalade

This was the last marmalade I attempted but it should have been the first. Grapefruit marmalade is actually extremely easy and it can be done on a small scale- like one grapefruit- or you can scale it up if you have a grapefruit glut. The only caveat is that this particular recipe calls for a 12-18 hour waiting period mid-stream. The easiest way to make this happen is to start in the afternoon and pick up again the following morning but plan ahead.

I dedicated 2 grapefruit to this recipe (2A) and I used it as a test of one of my food processor shortcut. Based on my previous batches of marmalade I was wondering if food processing the peel actually made the end product more astringent or bitter. So dedicated half of each peel (in case one peel was already more bitter) to a method of rind chopping.

2. A. My victims B. Peeling the victims C. Piles for each method and a spoon that isn’t effective D. Scraped rinds and a pith pile)
I peeled both grapefruit by slicing the peel in quarters to remove it (2B). and then tried two methods of scrapping out the pith- a toothed grapefruit spoon (2C) and a serrated paring knife. The spoon compressed the pith instead of removing it so the knife was much more effective. I was pinching the blade as I used it which was a little sketchy but I kept my fingers. Once the pith was removed (2D) half of each rind was roughly sliced and went in the food processor and half was diligently sliced into slivers as skinny as I could manage (3).
(Keep in mind that if you upscale the recipe to include more than one grapefruit you can combine everything without issue- this division was for the sake of science.)

3. Food processed grapefruit bits vs “thin” slices.
Of the fruits in my marathon grapefruit seemed to be the easiest fruit to remove the membranes from. I separated each fruit roughly into quarters and used my paring knife to slice out the “core” (PICTURE). Next I used my fingers to pop out the seeds-most of which were obnoxiously small. Finally I used my thumbs to separated one side of a segment from the membrane wall (PICTURE), then continued to pull it free from the outside membrane and around to the other side (PICTURE). Since the pulp ends up completely separated later in the process you can mangle the wedges without issue. The pulp from both fruits was combined in a bowl and mixed thoroughly before I split it between the two batches (PICTURE).

4. A. Grapefruit with “core” and with “core” removed B. Separating flesh from side membrane. C. Continuing to separate flesh from the rest or the membrane.
5. Grapefruit pulp

I used the same saucepan for each of my batches up to step 8 of my directions below (6). I had each batch staggered by about 10 minutes but conditions were essentially identical. I needed the pan so I shifted the pre-marmalade to Tupperware to “rest” for the allotted 12 hours.

6. See directions below. A. Boiling the rind B. Adding rind to fruit C. Mixture before boiling D. Mixture boiling (color becomes more orange) E. Mixture ready to “rest” (more volume present in rind mixture)

Then life happened and I couldn’t finish up that night so I put everything in the fridge and came back to it 2 days later. This did not adversely affect my end product as far as I can tell.

Instead of staggering my final boil I used the saucepan and a skillet at the same time (7). I consider this equal enough since they are from the same set and they have the same exposed surface area.

7. One batch in a skillet the other in a pan.
After the sugar was added and the mixture started to boil again it only took 6 minutes for my thermometer to get to 215 degrees which is supposed to be my magic temperature for gelling. I removed both batches from the heat and did a saucer test and definitely wasn’t ready to party (8A). I had everything going again quickly and at 13 minutes from the original boil my thermometer read 220. When I tried the saucer again I had the same results. One more time back to boiling and at 22:30 total time I pulled both batches because the skillet was foaming enough to spill over and I could not stir it back down and the mixture in the sauce pan was making popcorn popping noises. At this point my thermometer read 215 so I have given up hope on using it in the future. I packaged the marmalade in jars (8B) and processed with my fingers crossed. Now that things have cooled I can say that I would have liked a firmer gel but it isn’t bad.

8. A. Boiling marmalade nearing gel stage B. Marmalade ready to go into jars.
I can also say that the food processer method doesn’t affect the taste. However it does alter the texture of the final product and slightly reduce the volume. This makes sense because the rind bits are more compressible than the slices. I ended up with exactly 3 half-pint jars from the sliced peel and only about 2 and a half from the processed peels. So if you are lazy, in a hurry, or likely to lose fingers you are probably safe using the food processor (but see my notes on what went wrong).

Special Equipment: Water Bath Canner, Jars, lids, and bands, Canning funnel, bubble remover

Grapefruit Marmalade
(Recipe adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

1 grapefruit (or more)

1.       Wash grapefruit and score outside into quarters to peel.
2.       Scrape out pith with a knife and discard
3.       Slice peel into thin strips (or food process)
4.       Add to saucepan, cover with water and boil for 10 minutes
5.       Drain water and return to pan
6.       Working over a bowl, separate grapefruit segments from membrane and squeeze juice from membrane and discard
7.       Add 4 c water per grapefruit, and segments with juice to saucepan with peel strips and bring to a boil for 10 minutes
8.       Let stand at room temperature for 12-18 hours (or more). Can remain in pan for this.

9.       Return to a boil and boil for ~15 minutes until peel is tender
10.    Measure fruit mixture and return to heat
11.    While mixture is boiling stir in 1 c sugar for every cup of fruit
12.    Continue boiling and stirring until mixture reaches the gel stage (check using temperature, spoon or saucer tests)
13.    Ladle into jars leaving ¼ inch headspace
14.    Remove bubbles and adjust headspace if required
15.    Wipe rim, center lid, and screw band to fingertip tight
16.    Place jars in water bath canner and adjust water level to cover the jars if necessary
17.    Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes
18.    Turn off heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars
19.    Check seal in 24 hours. Reprocess or label and store

My Yield: Total about 2 ¾ pints or 5- 8 oz jars with some left over

Monday, March 14, 2011

Five Fun Things to Do with Citrus (aka Marmalade Marathon)

...and half the fruit didn't even have stickers
It is citrus season and even in the frozen hinterlands where I live the grocery store carts are overflowing with fruit. So much so that I could get 10 oranges for $1 last week. I bought more than my fair share of all manner and flavor of citrus fruits without having any idea what I was going to make or if I had what I needed. But I was determined to make. Then I came home and game planned (yes this is the wrong order) and realized I had to go back to the store and get both more jars and more specific fruits. After hemming and hawing for 2 days I settled on 5 recipes which is proof that 1. I am unable to control canning urges and 2. I had no idea how difficult citrus could be. But I had 30 temple oranges, 15 blood oranges, 9 navel oranges and 9 grapefruit waiting to be transformed.
I should also mention that I had never made marmalade before. I have “tried” twice before by buying citrus which I used in any number of other things before I even looked at a marmalade recipe. It was like I had some sort of subconscious block preventing me from marmaladery. And even moving into my most recent batch of madness I kept trying to back out at the same time I was buying more fruit.

This turns out to be not without foundation because marmalade was hard for me. I found myself continually impatient, bored and distracted, or trying to find shortcuts. Only once was this actually helpful and that result was mixed.

My biggest warning before you begin is know that making marmalade takes way more time than making other fruit concoctions (yes waiting for jelly juice to strain can take a while but you can walk away safely and do something else). You have to slice the peel into itty bitty slivers which are often thinner than my chubby fingers will let me slice. Some recipes require you to take off the membranes on each segment of fruit. I haven’t seen a recipe citrus marmalade recipe that calls for added pectin so you will be stirring and testing gel stages for a while. And some recipes call for a multiple hour wait period or several rounds of boiling in fresh water to get rid of bitterness from the rind. Unlike with the stock making I was pretty much constantly in the kitchen and I couldn’t really multitask. My 1 day marathon stretched into 4.

I spent a tremendous amount of time standing in front of this counter.

But I did in fact survive and I have 43 vibrant jars in storage plus a handful of remnants that didn’t quite fill a jar sitting in my fridge. I managed to make it through all five recipes and I got some bonus goodies out of the work. I also tried a few new-to-me techniques which I will recap in their own post.

Three marmalades, liquored preserves and a fruit salad

Here are my offerings complete with the many things that went wrong. Just like the canary promised.

  1.  Grapefruit Marmalade
  2. Blood oranges in Orangecello
  3. Morning Whiskey Marmalade
  4. Mixed Citrus Salad
  5. Hot Blooded Marmalade
  6. What went wrong (and a few things that went right)

A note on the “stumpy” jars. When packing up each recipe I filled one stumpy (or different) jar. These jars were given to me full of marmalade and other goodies by a friend who also cans and is much better at marmalade than I am because she is more patient. These jars are my very late Christmas offering to her.

Friday, March 11, 2011

From Chicken to Stock to Soup

This batch of chicken soup was inspired by the fact that all of the ingredients for it were ridiculously on sale in my local supermarket. I planned SOUP DAY when I planned my shopping trip and since I knew it was going to be a long one I did some stuff the day before as well.

For instance I measured out the water for the stock so that it would be at room temperature instead of cold when I started it boiling. (Yes I could have filled the pot with hot water the next day but I don’t trust my hot water heater.) I also chopped all of the veggies that would go in both the stock and the soup. I would have chopped up the chicken but it fit better in my fridge as a whole.

The stock recipe called for 4 stalks of celery but since none of the vegetables in the stock make it to the soup appearance doesn’t really matter. I used several smaller celery stalks from the inside of the bunch and some of the thicker parts of the leafy tops which came out to roughly ten 3-4 inch pieces. The celery plus 4 quartered onions and I was set for stock veggies. For the soup I ended up needing 1 big bunch of celery for my 3 c diced, 3 onions to get 2 cups diced and one bag of baby carrots for 3 cups chopped.

1. Soup Ingredients
On Soup Day morning I switched the burner on under my already full pot and brought the water to a boil while I went about my other morning business (like caffeinating myself). I also started my jars washing in the dishwasher because I knew I would forget about them otherwise.

Once I was fed and caffeinated, I started deconstructing the chicken. This was a hefty bird at 8.83 lbs and it was fattier than your average roaster but since it only cost me $6.35 I am not complaining. First I took off the skin and as much fat as I easily could. Next I haphazardly cut it in to pieces. (I ended up with legs, thighs, wings, breast meat, front/sternum and back. I was shocked at how easy it was to cut up the rib cage to get the front and back of the bird apart.) I didn’t go out of my way to break the bones to help release the marrow flavors but plenty of breaking happened anyway.

I added the chicken and the veggies to the pot (2A) and had it boiling by 10 am (2B). I let it boil until 12. I pretty much walked away from the pot but I probably should have stirred it a little more often as I had some chicken burn on the bottom of the pot.

After the 2 hour boil, I removed the pot from the heat and stuck it in the sink. This served 2 purposes. First it made it easier for me to reach in and scoop out the chicken (2C) and second I could fill the sink with cool water to speed up the fat separating process. I used a spaghetti scoop to pull out as many of the chicken and veggie chunks (2D) as possible from the stock (2E) and set them aside. Then I put the lid back on the pot and put it in a snow bank on my deck to coerce the fat to congeal at the top (2F).

Back in the kitchen I sorted through the steaming bowl of chicken mess (2G). I tossed the bones, skin, connective tissue and overcooked veggies and broke up the chicken for the soup. But really after 2 hours boiling the chicken practically shredded itself when I picked it up. This whole sorting task could have taken half an hour but I would stop shredding when my fingers started to burn and do something else (like switching laundry) for a few minutes while the chicken cooled more. I finished after an hour and then I brought the pot in from the cold and skimmed off a layer of gunk (2H). However I could still see tons of fat floating at the top of the pot. It wasn’t ready to congeal and trying to get it out with a ladle stirred it up and lost a lot of broth. It needed to cool more but I needed my pot back to wash it.

My solution was to switch the liquid to our brew kettle for temporary storage and while I was at it I filtered out the remaining chunks. I used pairs of rubber bands looped together and secured around the kettle handles to hold the cheese cloth in place and slowly dumped out my stock (2I). The stock (2K) went back in the snow for an hour. While I waited, I looked for any salvageable chicken bits in the goopy mess that got caught in the cheesecloth (2J) and took a break to eat lunch, wash dishes and reclaim my kitchen.

2. A. Starting the stock. B. Boiling the stock. C. Removing chicken chunks. D. cooked chicken and vegetables. E. Stock before straining. F. Stock in the snow. G. Shredded chicken ready for soup. H. Removing the nasty grease. I. Stockpot strainer set up. J. Chicken bits removed from stock. K. Cleaned up stock. L. Soup finally ready to boil.
All told I got 9.5 c of cooked chicken from my almost 9 lb bird. Since I only needed 6 c I froze the rest for a dinner next week (can you say enchiladas?).

Another hour in the snow got much more of the fat but not all of it. I could have put the pot back in the snow but I really wanted to get on with my life so I gave in to soup fat. Instead of pouring the stock from the brew kettle directly back into the stock pot, I took the time to measure my yield. I only came up with 25.5c instead of the 32c that the stock recipe is supposed to yield and that the soup recipe called for. I am used to my yields not matching the book so I planned ahead. Earlier in the week I made stock in a super easy but low yield way as a backup. I used this stock to bring the volume up to 33 cups with an extra cup thrown in for boil off.

I dumped in the shredded chicken and the new batch of veggies and spices into the stockpot and brought the soup to a boil (2L). My burner deficient stove took an hour to get to boiling. I let the soup boil for another half an hour and pulled it from the heat for canning.

While the soup was doing its thing I got my pressure cooker and everything else ready for the canning process. My jars were already clean in the dishwasher from earlier so I just turned on the plate warmer setting to get them prepped for the addition of hot soup. I put my lids in a small saucepan of water and got them simmering (not boiling) on the stove.

I made sure everything was set up before I pulled the soup from the heat. (3A). For each jar I would give the soup a good stir and simultaneously scooped the soup from the pot with a glass measuring cup. The veggies and the chicken would sink very quickly so if I wanted anything more than broth I had to be hurry. I put the soup in the jar, probed for bubbles, checked the headspace (3B), wiped the rim with vinegar (3C), put the lid on (3D) and tightened the band to finger tip tight (3E).

3. A Prepared canning counter. B. Checking headspace using mark on lid lifter. C. Wiping rims with vinegar D. Lid lifter in action E. Tightening bands
Once I had 7 jars ready I loaded the canner using a jar lifter, adjusted the water level to about halfway up the jars and sealed the lid (4B). I turned up the heat and waited for steam to start coming out of the vent hole. Once I saw steam I set a timer for 10 minutes to let the steam vent. After 10 minutes I put the weight on at 10 lbs (4C) and waited for the gauge to read 10 (4D-4F). Then I set a timer for 90 minutes and went on with my life. By this I mean I finished packing the jars and cleaned up.
Insert Picture of Canner (Caption Picture 4. A. My canner B. Ensuring proper alignment of lid C. Weight set at 10 lbs D. Starting to gain pressure E. Almost there F. Finally at 10 lbs.

After 90 minutes I turned off the heat and let the canner sit until the pressure on the gauge returned to zero. I unscrewed my lid and gently used a screwdriver to pry it from the bottom to break the seal. I removed the jars with a lifter and set them on the counter where they wouldn’t get bumped then I reloaded the canner for round two. I removed the last jars at 10:55 pm. Total time 13:25 plus some prep the day before. But keep in mind, if I had a better stove this would have gone much faster and much of this was walk away time.

I checked the seals the following morning and everything was perfect. I loosened the bands, labeled the tops, and put the soup in storage.

4. Finished Soup!
My last jar wasn’t quite full enough to have the proper headspace. I canned it anyway but I planned to use it in the next 2 weeks or so. In this case the concern was that over time the extra air would oxidize the food and reduce the quality, but I wasn’t worried about a few weeks.

5. The not quite full jar. No idea why the picture flipped sideways???
We ended up cracking open the jar 2 days later with grilled cheese for dinner. IT IS FANTASTIC. The chicken shreds do clump and knot together obnoxiously but the flavor was great.

Special Equipment: Stock pot, Stock pot, Pressure canner, jars with lids and bands, canning funnel, bubble removing tool (for soup only)

Remember, you can’t use a water bath canner for either the stock or the soup. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can freeze the soup or invite an army over for dinner.

(Original recipes from the Ball Complete Home Canning Book. I doubled everything but the chicken in the stock recipe and some spices.)

Chicken Stock
1 chicken, in pieces (original recipe calls for 1 chicken as well)
32 c water
4 stalks celery
4 onions quartered
20 black pepper corns
4 bay leaves (I added 6)
2 tbsp salt

  1. Bring chicken and water to boil then add other ingredients and boil gently for 2 hours.
  2. Remove chicken and save for soup or another purpose. Also remove and discard other ingredients. Strain stock through cheesecloth.
  3. Cool until fat solidifies and remove from stock.
  4. If proceeding to make chicken soup, measure yield and move to Chicken Soup recipe. Otherwise return stock to boil before placing in jars.

  1. While stock is cooking prepare pressure canner jars and lids
  2. Put hot stock in jars leaving 1 in headspace
  3. Wipe rims with paper towel dipped in vinegar before placing lid on jar
  4. Screw bands on until fingertip tight and place jars in canner
  5. Adjust water level in canner (follow canner manual for this) and seal
  6. Vent steam for 10 minutes then close vent and continue heating until 10lb pressure is reached (or whatever pressure is required for your altitude)
  7. When pressure is reached start timer for 20 minutes (pint jars) or 25 min (quart jars) as appropriate
  8. After time has elapse turn off heat (but don’t move hot and very heavy canner) and let everything cool and depressurize naturally. (= be patient and don’t touch until you are sure the pressure is 0)
  9. Remove the lid and wait 10 more minutes before moving jars to a safe place to cool
  10. Check jars after 24 hours to ensure proper seal. Label and store.

Chicken Soup
32 c chicken stock (Above recipe plus additional if required)
6 c diced cooked chicken (From above recipe)
3 c diced celery
3 c diced carrots
2 c diced onions
1-3 bouillon cubes optional
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Prep canner, jars and lids before you get started
  2. Add all ingredients to large stockpot and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Put hot soup in jars leaving 1 in headspace
  4. Use plastic utensil to remove air bubbles and check headspace.
  5. Wipe rims with paper towel dipped in vinegar before placing lid on jar
  6. Screw bands on until fingertip tight and place jars in canner
  7. Adjust water level in canner (follow canner manual for this) and seal
  8. Vent steam for 10 minutes then close vent and continue heating until 10 lb pressure is reached (or whatever pressure is required for your altitude)
  9. When pressure is reached start timer for 75 minutes (pint jars) or 90 min (quart jars) as appropriate
  10. After time has elapse turn off heat (but don’t move hot and very heavy canner) and let everything cool and depressurize naturally. (= be patient and don’t touch until you are sure the pressure is 0)
  11. Remove the lid and wait 10 more minutes before moving jars to a safe place to cool
  12. Check jars after 24 hours to ensure proper seal. Label and store.

My yield: 11 quart jars (+ 3.5 cooked chicken in freezer)
Start time: 9:30 am
End time: 10:55 pm
Total cost: 0.85/jar (not including jar/lid prices)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Still no internet

I couldn't upload pictures so I held back from posting the last of the chicken soup posts. It will be up tomorrow at lunch. I also completed the Marmalade Marathon and that will start on Monday.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Free" Chicken Broth (aka Prep for Soup Day)

Stephanie O'Dea's new Crockpot cooking book has a recipe of sorts tucked in the back for making stock from ‘waste’ vegetable scraps. I can’t compost and I don’t have a pet to feed celery ends to so this seemed like a brilliant idea. Why had I never considered this before? I wanted to get started yesterday. However, I couldn’t get the roommates to acquiesce to a bag of waste veggies in an already full freezer so I had to put it on hold.

The move put me in charge of my own kitchen and I started my big bag of vegetable bits right away. Unfortunately, I didn't do any shopping for the month and a half or so surrounding the move. The only veggies I had on hand were celery and onions. Though my bag filled up quickly, I needed more variety before I was willing to actually try this out.

I got this chance when every manner of soup vegetable and whole chickens went on sale at the same time. I intended to can chicken soup from scratch but I didn’t trust the stock recipe to give me the proper yield. I needed a cheap and easy plan B and this was it. But since I technically wanted chicken stock I needed to modify. Stephanie has another recipe for making chicken stock from a chicken carcass so I grabbed a rotisserie chicken when I bought everything to make my soup and I had what I needed to make greatness happen. Veggie bits, carcass and Crockpot…ready, set, go.

I needed to diversify my scrap bag, make some plan B stock, and save as much time as possible on Soup Day since I knew I would be cooking all day. I decided the best way to accomplish this was to cut up my veggies for the soup the day before I needed. This would also let me make the Plan B stock and let it sit overnight to separate the fat before I had to cook with it.

It occurred to me that since I was using scraps from beginning to end I might save myself a cleanup step if I lined my Crockpot with a square of cheesecloth before I added the ingredients. I had no idea if this would work but it seemed to perfect to pass up. So I set the insert on the counter, lined it with the cheesecloth and got started. And since I dumped things in to the pot as I dismantled them for later projects this recipe is kind of free in regards to time as well as money.

First, I stripped the tasty chicken morsels from the rotisserie chicken and froze those for a quick meal or salad topper later in the month. Then I channeled my inner cave dweller and tore the carcass into pieces and tossed it in the pot.
Dismantled Chicken
Next I dumped in my veggie bits bag from the freezer and piled on more veggies as I chopped them for the soup. I started with more than enough onions and celery before the soup prep and when I was done I had too many veggie bits to close the lid of the pot so I ended up reserving extra scraps for later stock.
Ingredients ready to go
I sprinkled on a few shakes of parsley, basil, and garlic and three bay leaves and covered the mess with 7 c of water. (I filled the pot to the top. It is supposed to cook best at 2/3 full but I always, without fail, fill any Crockpot I use until I can barely close the lid. It takes longer and is less efficient but I do it anyway. It still works and I get more food.) I folded the corners of the cheesecloth over the ingredients, covered it, and set it on High for an hour to jumpstart the process. Then I turned it down to low for 6 or so hours.

When the broth was done I carefully (because everything was hot and wet) balled up the corners of the cheesecloth and used a couple of rubber bands to keep the pseudo-knot tight. I looped this makeshift sieve over a knob on one of my upper kitchen cabinets and let it drain into the stock for about an hour. Every 15 minutes or so I would poke at the bag from the bottom and the sides to rearrange things and I stopped when the bad wasn’t dripping any more. I didn’t squeeze the bag because I have it in the back of my head from making jelly that you don’t squeeze juice bags. When I was done it was magically easy to remove the rubber bands from the cloth and dump the waste in the garbage.
My brilliant cheesecloth idea
I put the lid back on the pot and stuck it in the fridge to cool overnight and in the morning the fat was waiting at the top of the stoneware just begging to be removed. Mostly free ingredients, mostly free time, and easy cleanup. Perfect.
The 4 stages of Stock. Before cooking, after cooking, before chilling, after chilling (not much change)
As far as taste goes…If I had been using only that stock in a soup it would have been way to celery flavored. Since I mixed it in with other stock it was fine. It got mixed into soup and canned with fantastic results. In fact this worked so well that I repeated it the following week and got less strongly celeried results.

Special Equipment: Cheesecloth (optional), 6 qt or larger slow cooker.

Scrap Chicken Broth
(Adapted from More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, by Stephanie O’Dea, Chicken Broth and Vegetable Stock recipes)
1 chicken carcass
Vegetable scraps, frozen, saved from previous cooking (include onion skins, skip broccoli/cabbage/etc., potatoes, mushrooms.)
3 bay leaves
1 T Italian seasoning (or Parsley, Basil and Garlic Powder)
7 C water

  1. Line 6 qt Crockpot with cheesecloth
  2. Break chicken carcass into pieces and add to crockpot with vegetables. It is okay if these are still frozen if they are broken up.
  3. Cover with water, add spices and stir
  4. Fold in cheesecloth, cover and cook on high for 1 hour then on low for 6
  5. Use cheesecloth to strain liquid
  6. Discard chicken and vegetable scraps and place stock in refrigerator for several hours or over night
  7. When cool remove fat from surface of stock
  8. Place in containers in the freezer if not using right away.

My Yield:  7.5 c 
Stock Photo!
(Please note the plastic caps on the jars. I planned to use this right away. You need to freeze or pressure can this if you want to keep it for any length of time before you use it.)