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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2011

From our home to yours…

 “We Wish You All a Very Merry Christmas and All the Joy the New Year Brings!”

Tomatillo Chicken Soup

December 22, 2011

We are days away from Christmas and I know I should be posting about baking tasty cookies that ooze homemade jam or the best way to decorate your jars for gift giving or even providing you all with wonderful tips for enhancing your Christmas dinner but like most people at this time of year I’ve been swept away by it all.   So, instead I will proceed on the course I set out to complete many months ago. 

The post should have appeared in October when tomatillos are harvested and available here in Northern Ontario.  However,  I know for a fact lots of southern US states will be seeing these guys make their way to farmers markets very soon!  They are part of the tomato family and should ripen along side their red cousins.

 

Tomatillos are those delicious tomato like fruit used in an assortment of mexican dishes.  I fell in love with them after just one bite.  Now, some will probably think I’m crazy but I actually enjoy eating them out of hand.  They are tart yet sweet, with a firm texture and very small seeds.  Perhaps a cross between an asian pear and a kiwi!?!  If you can get them to grow, they will take over because they are a weed so it is a good idea to plant them in a separate area.  A weed bearing fruit?…what an excellent idea!  I “heart” tomatillos!

In the early fall and before the frost hits, I helped a friend harvest these golden green little gems.  There were so many it was hard to imagine putting them all up.  I took about 30lbs of them, many were gifted to fellow canners, some added to sandwiches, and those left behind were turned into the soil to grow up again next year.

About 16lbs of tomatillos were made into Tomatillo Mexican Salsa (a true must) leaving another 14lbs to contend with.  We concluded soup was a quick and easy way to put up the remaining tomatillos.

TOMATILLO CHICKEN SOUP:

  • 2 whole organic chickens
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 cups onions; approximately 6 onions or 1 kg; coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups carrots; approximately 4 large carrots or 1 lb; chopped
  • 14 lbs tomatillos; husked and quartered
  • 3/4 cup garlic; approximately 15 cloves; minced
  • 1 1/2 cups hot banana peppers; approximately 3

Clearly, we had a glut of tomatillos and this recipe was derived out of the need to put them to good use.  You can do it on a much smaller scale using boneless skinless chicken breasts but we decided we were going to need more than just a few chicken breasts to make this soup hearty.  So, two whole chickens was the most economical way to proceed.

  1. Place the quartered chickens in the oven at 325F to roast for 1h30.
  2. Once cooked, remove chickens from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Remove skin and all meat, chop into small bite size pieces.  Set aside to add to soup later.
  3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, add 3 tablespoons of  the fat from the stock (or 2-3 tablespoons olive oil).  Add onions, carrots, and garlic and sauté until golden brown (about 10 minutes).
  4. Stir in prepared tomatillos, banana peppers, and chicken stock.   Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer covered pot for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and remove.
  6. Using an immersion blender or working in batches in a food processor purée the soup.  Tomatillos’ tartness is balanced out with heat so be sure to taste the soup and if it requires more fire add some hot sauce, cayenne pepper or chili flakes.  Do it bit by bit.  Personally, I can’t handle too much heat so recipes presented here are always adjusted to suit my tastes (a comprise my husband adjusts when food is served by pouring on the Franks).  You can always spice it up more when served.
  7. Return to medium-high heat and add chicken.  Stir to combine.  Taste the soup and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  8. Remove from the heat and ladle into hot sterilized 1 litre (quart) jars leaving 1″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace by topping with hot soup.   Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.
  9. Process in a pressure canner following directions carefully.  We pressure canned this soup at 10lbs of pressure for 80 minutes.  Please follow the instructions and guidelines outlined in your pressure canning manual or found on The National Center For Home Food Preservation.   This soup can also be served fresh or jarred and refrigerated to be eaten over the next couple of days. 

Put up Total:

  • 9 x 1L regular mouth mason jars

 

Chicken Stock

December 11, 2011

I had great intentions of writing about all our kitchen creations while I was away helping my sister.  However, even the best set plans can be turned upside down when you are preoccupied with enjoying  family, friends, and loving a new baby. 

We started this post on the 17th of October and it is the prerequisite to the next post and instrumental in most of our soup recipes.  Often we make stock as needed but like all good things it really makes life simpler to do up a couple of batches and have them ready and waiting on your pantry shelves.  You will need to have a pressure canner to preserve any soup stock whether it is chicken, beef, or vegetable because the pH is too high for water bath canning alone.  But, not to worry for those without a pressure canner, you can make it as needed and it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze for weeks.

RECIPE FOR CHICKEN STOCK:

  • 2 whole chicken carcasses (reserve meat for soup, sandwiches, casserole, etc…)  Note:  your local butcher may sell chicken bones for this purpose.
  • 1 large onion; skins on and chopped
  • 2 large carrots; washed and chopped
  • 2 stocks celery; washed and chopped
  • 1 large head of garlic; approximately 5 large cloves
  • 4 knorr chicken cubes
  • 16 cups water
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • handful of fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the chicken carcasses on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in a 425F oven for about 20 minutes or until the meat just starts to brown and the kitchen smells good.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a deep stockpot.  Reduce to simmer.
  3. Place the chicken carcasses along with the other ingredients in the stockpot.  Return to a boil.  Reduce heat but keep the mixture boiling uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Boil for about 3 hours for the flavours to concentrate.  Add salt and more pepper if needed to taste. 
  4. Remove from heat.  Strain the solids and skim the fat. 
  5. Ladle hot stock into hot sterilized jars leaving 1″ headspace.  Remove any air bubbles and top up with additional stock if necessary.  Wipe rims with a damp paper towel, center lids and rings on jars and tighten rings until resistance is met and then adjust until finger-tip tight.
  6. Process in a pressure canner following directions.  We pressure can 1 litre (quart) jars of stock at 10lbs of pressure for 25 minutes.  Please follow the instructions and guidelines outlined in your pressure canning manual.
  7. The stock can also be used right away.  Or, allow remaining stock to cool then refrigerate for up to 4 days.  Once the soup goes cold in the fridge you will be able to skim off and discard the solidified fat from the top.  For an easy way to store leftover stock, simply freeze it in ice-cube trays then use later to add flavour to sauces, gravy,etc.

Dehydrating Red Sheppard Peppers

November 11, 2011

Dehydrating is a great way to preserve the season’s bounty especially when time is tight. Last year we purchased the Excalibur 3926T and have enjoyed using it to put up peaches, apricots, bananas, strawberries and an assortment of hot and mild peppers. It’s quick and easy and relatively fail proof (even our over done apricots could have been resurrected but instead became Gussy snacks – Gus is the youngest of our three Labrador Retrievers).

 

The day before my departure for the “big baby boy birthing event” I discovered a drawer full of red Sheppard peppers I’d forgotten about in the fridge. Now, things are a little blurry (lack of sleep, baby excitement and all) so I don’t recall our original plans for these beauties but with a limited amount of time I opted on dehydration. It’s so easy I feel kind of ridiculous for outlining the steps below. The only thing to watch is the amount of time you leave them in your machine, as it’s better to under do it and add more time, than to end up with a bunch of Gussy snacks.

DEHYDRATING RED PEPPERS:

  • wash red peppers well
  • cut off stems and remove seeds
  • slice into strips about 1-11/2 inches wide (or in small pieces…the strips/pieces will dry quicker than whole peppers…believe me we’ve done it both ways and our small whole habañeros took days to properly dry)
  • place them on the drying racks
  • adjust the dehydrator to the vegetable setting and set the timer

We originally set the timer for 8 hours and added a couple more hours after checking them the next morning. The thicker peppers were still a little soft and squishy in the middle but a few more hours did the trick.  Store in a glass mason jar.

Trick or Treat?

October 31, 2011

Wishing you all a Very Happy Halloween!

So far, my tricks are eating, sleeping, pooping, and crying.  Soon to improve.

A New Baby Boy…

October 30, 2011

At one forty-seven this morning I was blessed to be a part of the most miraculous event of my life; the birth of my baby sister’s first baby.  A perfect, beautiful boy, Sutter Jeffrey. 

Taking part in the birth of this special little person was the greatest gift and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and love for being able to share in my sister’s experience.  My baby sister, Kathryn, delivered Sutter into this world with grace and courage (and without any pain medication).  Admittedly, I’ve been nervous, anxious, and excited for his arrival but there truly are no words to express the tearful joy I felt as I helped this new little life join our family.

Kathryn, you are amazing and I burst with happiness for you, Daniel, and baby Sutter as you start the next chapter in your life.  I am so very proud of you!  Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of the most life altering and beautiful experience of my life!  I love you.

P.S.  There is not a mountain climb on earth that can top this!

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