Saturday, November 28, 2009

More canning: Pumpkins and turkey broth

Thanksgiving dinner for 15? It's a cinch.

45 pie pumpkins? Help!

Thanks to a friend who had too many pie pumpkins DH and I spent Friday canning pumpkin. And, as always, I saved the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving to make turkey broth for canning so Friday's kitchen output included 39 quarts of pumpkin plus 7 quarts of turkey broth.

DS claimed one pumpkin for carving. Why restrict jack o'lanterns to Halloween? After all, that would leave us with only 44 pumpkins. Every little bit helps, you know.

DH began cutting up pumpkins by 11 a.m. He started out cheerful and slightly goofy. In other words, normal.

He continued carving pumpkins for canning till mid-afternoon when he took DS roller skating, fulfilling a long-promised treat and leaving me with the first batch of pumpkin in the pressure canner plus several pumpkins seeded and sliced and waiting to be peeled, chopped and par-boiled.

All the pumpkin guts and peels went to the animals. The chickens scratched through the stringy seeds and the sheep and Andy found some of the peels palatable. Pumpkin seeds are a natural wormer so I'm saving some of them to grind and add to feed later in the winter, too. I'm wondering if they'd be useful in treating roundworms in T-cat. We can't keep him from indulging in small rodents and sometimes wild birds so he often shows signs of worms as often as once a year.

I used our new All-American pressure canner which is tall enough to allow a double-stack of quart jars. The first batch only had 12 quarts, though, as I misjudged how much pumpkin to heat for jarring.

The second canner held a full 14 quarts. And the last canner of pumpkin for the evening held 13 quarts. It was short one quart because we stopped after prepping 23 pumpkins so I'd still have time to process the turkey broth which had simmered in the roaster oven for most of the afternoon.

Turkey broth only requires 25 minutes for processing in the pressure canner but pumpkin takes 90 minutes and what with bringing the canner up to pressure each time, processing for the required time and then allowing for cool down till the pressure subsides, only to start the process over again, we were up till after midnight.
But I love knowing I have all those jars of pumpkin and broth ready to go into the pantry.

Since DH and DS had their monthly wargaming gathering at the county library Saturday afternoon, I decided to take the afternoon off from canning, too. I spent the time writing out a draft and winding the warp for some kitchen towels I want to weave. The 21 remaining pumpkins will keep till Monday.

We like pumpkin pie all year 'round but I don't make it with the crust. And my sister adapted a traditional pumpkin pie recipe to use half the amount of sugar and milk so DH can argue, somewhat successfully, that pumpkin pie is even suitable for breakfast.

Pumpkin Pie W/O Crust

1 quart home-canned pumpkin, drained and mashed
29 ounces commercially-canned pumpkin
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk AND 3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly oil two 7x11-inch baking dishes.

Whisk ingredients together in order listed. Pour into prepared pans.

Place in oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Note: Substitute up to 1 cup honey or maple syrup for sugar, if desired. Make require slightly longer baking with either of those substitutions.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving dinner

As usual we hosted family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday afternoon. Ever year we try to streamline the job and this year was one of the easiest feasts we've managed.

I brined the turkey Wednesday night and, in keeping with our goal to get as much as possible done before guests arrive, went on to put green beans and a cayenne pepper pod into a slow cooker, added garden-fresh red cabbage with apples to another crock, and steamed just-picked spinach for a bowl of dip. DH made wholegrain bread and make-ahead mashed potatoes, then pared carrots and celery and the ingredients for a fruit salad. I also brewed a gallon of tea and squeezed lemons for another gallon of lemonade so they would have time to chill before serving. DS spent Wednesday afternoon at his grandmother's baking pumpkin pies, Japanese fruit pies (recipe follows) and a batch of sugar cookies.

On Thursday I roasted the turkey along with a pan of dressing while DH opened a jar of the pickled beets canned earlier this year and packages of the few items we couldn't grow and/or prepare ourselves: pimiento-stuffed green olives, black olives and a bag of potato chips. My sister brought a pan of cheese-y corn pudding and Mom showed up early to make the gravy.

By mid-morning early arrivals were snacking on crudites and dip and we all sat down to dinner, right on schedule, at one o'clock. We set butter and fruit preserves on the dining tables DH set up in the living room but, to save space, served the food buffet-style in the kitchen.

With so much of the food prep done in advance, the only thing we could think of to improve on this year's dinner would be to raise our own turkey. Maybe that's what my mother envisioned years ago when she made this wall-hanging for me?

Who knows where the name for Japanese Fruit pie originated? It certainly doesn't have any identifiably Japanese ingredients. But it's been a family favorite for over 35 years.

My mom got the recipe from a friend when I was a kid and one nephew still asks for it for his birthday. He refers to it as "Japanese Fruit Fly Pie," the name he thought we all called it when he was little. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Well, it is.

Japanese Fruit Pie

1 stick (4 oz.) butter, melted
4 whole eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup raisins, seedless
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup coconut, flaked
2 9-inch pie shells

Stir ingredients together in order given. Pour into formed 9" pie shells. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes. To halve the recipe, halve all ingredients except butter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November and the garden's still going

If this were a commercial, our garden would be powered by Energizer.

Thanks to DH's gardening, Andy-the-guardian-llama's manure and those busy grub-scratching chickens, we're eating beautiful cauliflower and sweet turnips and Savoy cabbage this week. Also available are garden beds filled with Swiss chard (green and rainbow), beets, spinach, cos and buttercrunch lettuces, kale, cilantro (who said that stuff is a summer crop?) and another type of cabbage -- Early Jersey Wakefield, I think. Plus I'll be using the usual fresh herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary and even bay) from the garden to brine our turkey next week. There's really something for everyone growing in the garden as the chickens are enjoying freshly-sprouted greens which DH planted where the potatoes were earlier and Andy and the sheep get a share of turnip tops or other greens when picked.

This the first year we've planted Savoy cabbage. Usually DH plants Flat Dutch cabbage (early or late varieties) as our green cabbage and those are very good, too. The heads are large, heavy and excellent keepers. I've eaten that type of cabbage all my life and used it for everything from fried cabbage or soup to coleslaw and sauerkraut. But, oh man, those half-dozen heads of sweet Savoy cabbage that we've had this fall have knocked me for a loop. Who knew there was such a difference? I'm sure we'll still plant plenty of Flat Dutch but I'm holding out for at least a dozen Savoy cabbages, too. They are so sweet and tender we can eat a whole head of cabbage at one meal and all I did was saute it in a little garlic olive oil. My mother said the only way she could improve on it would be to fry a couple slices of bacon, use the grease to cook the cabbage and crumble the bacon over top. But then some people think everything tastes better with a little bacon...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Grape wine, step 2

When I went to check the water for the air lock on the carboy of grape wine last week, I realized it wasn't bubbling very much. Means it's time to siphon the in-process wine out and throw away the grapes and any sediment that remaining in the carboy.

Saturday morning DH set the carboy on the kitchen worktable and I set a large stainless steel pot on the floor beside the table. DH removed the airlock cap and ran one end of a piece of 1/2-inch tubing into the carboy, below the level of the floating grapes, with the other end hanging off the table into the pot. It's like siphoning gas except it's okay if you get a little in your mouth. Matter of fact, it's a good thing because it's an excuse to taste the wine and see if it's coming along as it should.

In this case, the answer was yes! It's robust and fruity. If nothing happens to alter its progress, I think it will be pretty good when it's ready to bottle in a few more months. For now, though, DH hefted the carboy upside down and poured (shook?) the grapes out, then I rinsed the carboy and we returned the wine to the jug and put the airlock back in place.

I'd been afraid that making it from the whole grapes instead of using juice would mean a real mess when it came time to do this step -- removing the grapes through the small neck opening on the carboy. But the grapes were mostly firm, solid globes and poured out without a fuss.

I almost felt wasteful throwing them in the compost as the chickens love grapes but the alcohol level in one grape (all I tasted) would have knocked a little red hen on her butt. Maybe pigs would be okay with a small batch like this but we won't have any till early next year. The dregs of the next wine fruit can go to them as DH is already talking about what we should try next because, unlike with the beer we usually make, we can grow and/or pick all the base ourselves.