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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!

Eat’n Up ~ Elderberry Cheesecake

October 25, 2011

A basic recipe can be transformed into something special by adding some of your homemade preserves.  Here we take a simple cheesecake recipe and subtly flavour it by adding a splash of homemade elderberry maple syrup, toss on a few elderberries to dress up the final plate and voilà!  It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 but looks and tastes like you slaved on it for hours.  The hardest part is waiting for it to cool.

RECIPE FOR ELDERBERRY CHEESECAKE:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup butter; melted
  • 750 grams of cream cheese; softened (3 packages of Philly Cream Cheese)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup elderberry maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup fresh elderberries; about a month ago we stemmed and froze about 9 cups of elderberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a mixing bowl.  Place in the bottom of a springform pan.  Press to flatten.
  3. Place cream cheese in a microwave proof bowl and heat for approximately 20 seconds until soft (time may vary so watch carefully as you do not want to melt the cheese).
  4. Add sugar and vanilla to softened cheese and stir well to combine.
  5. Add eggs to cream cheese mixture one at a time and mix until well combined.
  6. Pour in elderberry maple syrup and gently fold until syrup streaks the white mixture.
  7. Pour cream cheese mixture over graham cracker crust and place in the oven to bake for 40-50 minutes or until almost set.  Test with knife by inserting it in the center.
  8. Allow to cool and set up for 3-4 hours before serving. 
  9. Slice and serve.  Sprinkle with fresh elderberries and drizzle with additional syrup.

Consider experimenting with your next cheese cake by stirring in some maple syrup or adding some of your homemade preserves like strawberry jam or spiced blackberry jam.  How do you alter simple recipes with your homemade preserves?

Eat’n Up ~ Lasagna

October 16, 2011

While the wind howls and blows bringing what feels like winter with every breath, Matt gets busy in the kitchen preparing my favorite “comfort” food, lasagna.  The wood stove is packed full of logs and finally cranking out some much needed heat to warm cold toes.  I pour us both a cold pint of our favorite beer, Flying Monkeys’ Hoptical Illusion, pull up a stool at the island bar, and settle in to watch Matt whip up this cheesy mouth-watering meal.  He relaxes into a rhythm which is just plain fun to follow.  He slips and slides in sock feet across the hardwood floor methodically washing, chopping, stirring, cooking, and even breaking to take the photos.  He always makes it look so easy.

Lasagna is one of those meals that instantly brings memories of childhood flooding back to me.  My mom was the queen of the layered, cheesy, runny “homemade” sauce lasagna that would leave you smacking your lips and licking your plate when backs were turned.  And, until Matt began making lasagna with our homemade tomato sauce, I never thought I would ever taste one as good as my mamma used to make.  But, she’s now met her match, forced to throw in her apron because Matt’s lasagna is just as good…maybe better but don’t tell her that.  I swear the secret to great tasting lasagna isn’t all the extras you add to make it your own but the fresh home canned tomato sauce.  Okay, I’ll concede better ingredients help too, but without the sauce you’ll never compete with mama.

RECIPE FOR LASAGNA (6-8 servings):

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pepperoni
  •  750 mL homemade tomato sauce
  • 1 cooking onion; chopped
  • 8-10 stuffed olives; thinly sliced – if you can find the Tassos olives for a reasonable price get them…they’re yummy!
  • 4 cloves garlic; minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil; divided
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 475 grams ricotta cheese; 1 container
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups old cheddar; grated
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella; grated
  • 1 package oven ready lasagna noodles (homemade noodles if you’re ambitious)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, egg, nutmeg, and fresh parsley.  Stir to combine.
  3. In a skillet set to medium-high heat add 1 tsp olive oil and ground beef.  Cook until the beef is brown. 
  4. Then add onions, pepperoni and remaining olive oil.  Cook until onions are softened about 10 minutes.
  5. Mix in garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Pour in tomato sauce, stir to combine all ingredients and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat, add olives, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. On the bottom of a baking dish (approximately 9″x12″) place a layer of lasagna noodles.  Smooth in thin layers over the noodles, the meat sauce mixture, the ricotta mixture, and the grated cheese.  Repeat layers until ingredients are used up. 
  9. Finish with a layer of grated cheese on top.
  10. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and place in preheated oven to bake for 40 minutes.
  11. Remove cover and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the cheese is browning in spots.
  12. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20-30 minutes.

Matt swears the cooling time is very important in order to let the lasagna set up properly so it can be served in those picture perfect pieces (as seen in photo at the top of the page).   But, I could care less about waiting 20 long minutes to sink my teeth into one forkful.  I really don’t mind a saucy, liquidy mess on my plate because it reminds me of my mom’s lasagna.  Back in the day, there was simply no way she was making four hungry kids wait 20 minutes for their favorite meal.  So, a plate of runny cheesy sauce with noodles sounds right up my alley and the sauce part is easily swept up with a few passes of garlic bread.  At least that’s what I think.

Note:  We purchase our stuffed Tassos olives with red peppers and onions from Costco.  They usually stock them in the fall and winter months and they are about a third of the price of retail value.

Planting Garlic ~ A Fall Job, A Summer Harvest

October 8, 2011

Garlic is a fun and easy crop to grow and now is the time to plant it for any of you who are wanting to harvest your own next summer.  A few months ago, we purchased 50 big beautiful heads of garlic at the Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market from Hewitt’s Maple Ridge Tree Farm.  These heads were gigantic, healthy, and perfect specimens to plant for next year’s crop.  In fact, I wish we purchased more.  This is our second year growing garlic and we saved the biggest heads from this years crop to add to those purchased.  We go through a lot of garlic between every day cooking and canning.

In order to preserve the garlic for both consumption and planting you will need to dry it.  We bundled  5-6 whole heads of garlic with butcher’s twine and hung  them outdoors in our screened in porch.  Drying them is easy as long as you remember to keep them out of direct sunlight and make sure there is an ample amount of air flowing around each one.  A garage, shed, or screened in porch are perfect spots to hang the heads.  Alternatively, if you don’t have access to an exterior spot, you can lay them out on drying racks in the basement with a fan to continually circulate the air.  But, be warned your house will smell like  garlic for about a month.  So finding the right place to dry your garlic is something to consider.  We used both methods; drying our purchased bulbs on the porch and our harvest inside on racks (yes, the place really did smell like garlic and I thought it would never go away but it did).

It takes about  a month and a half to dry the garlic depending upon your climate.  Check the heads occasionally to be sure they are properly drying and that no mold is forming.  Once they’re finished drying it will probably be time to plant them. 

Planting garlic is typically done in the fall about three weeks before the ground freezes.  This will allow the roots a chance to develop and the tops should not break ground before the winter snow flies.  It’s an easy task and with a few friends doesn’t take long.  Break apart the whole heads of garlic separating each individual clove.  Select well-developed bulbs with a nice shape and the plumpest cloves from each bulb.  It is the clove size that will determine the size of the new bulbs. 

We started by rototilling the soil.  It’s important to loosen the dirt to allow the roots a place to grow.  So, turn the soil and don’t be afraid to get dirty.  We also alternate where the garlic is grown from one year to the next and choose a sunny spot.  Create rows approximately 4 inches apart and plant each clove 4 inches from one another about 3 inches deep or the depth of you finger (root side down).  Then cover with loose soil mounding over your planted rows about 4″ high.  Water and wait for them to do their thing. 

In the winter, when the ground is covered in a thick blanket of snow and there is no sign of anything green anywhere you may spot the garlic shoots poking out through the snow.  Proof they are growing.  As the snow retreats and warmer weather takes hold your garlic will develop green shoots known as scapes.  

 

At the end of June, these flower heads or garlic scapes were cut in order to divert all of the plant’s energy to growing a larger bulb.  Besides, the scapes are a tasty treat delicious to cook with and/or pickle.  We did some this year and find they’re an interesting addition to the pantry.  Definitely not to be wasted.  

By the third week in July the heads should be fully formed and the leaves will start to turn a bit yellow or brown.  It’s time to harvest your crop.  Reach beneath the soil to investigate whether or not they’re large enough (it’s better to check before harvesting ~ you can always leave them a little longer).  If they are about the size of a child’s fist or the size of the whole bulbs from which you started then they are ready.  Pull them out and using a pair of sharp scissors cut off the roots on the bottom of the bulbs and cut the stock leaving about 12+ inches.  Then it starts all over again.

Planted:

  • Side garden 20 rows with 8 cloves each row ~ 160 cloves
  • Front garden 22 rows with 9 cloves each row ~ 198 cloves
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