Friday, December 20, 2013

Tomato Pasta Sauce

Tomato Pasta Sauce
Posted by Cris

We love our fresh tomatos all summer, but then they all come at once so we blanch them (quick 10 secs in boiling water), peel the skins and core them and freeze them in bulk.

And then hunting season comes and I start cooking. Only this year Jon didn't go up nort' so he helped!

Zucchini (or squash)
Salt and Pepper

I would love to give you exact amounts and all so you could replicate this, but that's not how I cook.  I had 4 big gallon ziploc bags of tomatoes, 6 cups of zucchini (measured pre-frozen) and 1 onion and LOTS of garlic  (10-14 cloves) basil and salt and pepper are to taste. 

Here are the steps - defrost (it took a good 24 hours for those tomatoes)

Chop and Saute the onion and garlic.

Enjoy the smells!   Put it all in the slow cooker to marinate. 

 Add the garlic and onions to the slow cooker. 

 Add BASIL (I love basil! check out pesto here!) I rescued this tiny plant from the garden and its now on my kitchen windowsill for fresh basil all year long.  I also have a lot of dried basil.  Both work great.  
 Zucchini is not the most common ingredient in tomato sauce, but we always have a lot of excess that I shred and freeze in 2 cup portions.  *Why 2 cups? It's the right amount for zucchini muffins. The reason I add it is to thicken the sauce and add some extra vitamins and vegetables - what the kids (and hubs) don't know won't hurt them.   

So when it thaws there is a LOT of excess water. Since we are trying to thicken the sauce that needs drained off.  I put all of it into a cheese cloth.   

Wrap it up and strain.  It's really easy.

Okay - so that goes into the slow cooker too.  Mix it all up. Let it cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.  Taste it throughout and add salt and pepper.  If it tastes bitter, you can add carrots (shredded or cooked/mashed) to sweeten things up.  I had to do this last year, but this year it was fabulous without. 

When all done cooking its still very chunky.  We like our tomato sauce well pureed - so we put it in a blender and puree away. 

You can certainly eat this right away or store in the fridge for a few weeks.  

We went ahead and added to jars and started the canning process! 
You need to leave a 1/2 inch of head space. 

Its a water bath process - which I think is easier than pressure cooking, but whatever. 
They have to stay in there for 35 minutes.

And when it was all done we have 12 jars of beautiful homemade Tomato Pasta Sauce. 

PS - Also amazing as PIZZA sauce. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

How to make Homemade Grape Jelly

Grape jelly is easy. You technically don't even have to have real grapes. You can use store bought grape juice, but then, what fun would that be?  As with any food which you process yourself, making jelly is not only simple, but very gratifying as well. The taste is sooooo much more flavorful when you remember the fact that it was YOUR spoon that stirred it, and it was YOUR hands that picked the grapes, from YOUR vines. A small amount of grapes will yield a LOT of jelly. Can you say Christmas presents? Who doesn't like homemade goods?

First is the obvious. You gotta pick the grapes. I know mine are ripe when the chickens begin wondering beyond their normal range giving the appearance of tiny trampolines beneath the vine, as they jump up trying to get the lower bunches.  I use small shears to detach the bunches, as pulling them off of the vine makes it bounce a lot and drop perfectly good grapes.

Don't they look scrumptious?

After picking the grapes off of the stems, I washed them and threw them all in a cook pot. Add about 1 3/4 cups of water for every 5 pounds of grapes. Mash them with a potato masher. DON'T use a juicer. As with raspberries and such, if you use a juicer, you will get a lot of bitterness from the seeds. They do not have to be crushed very well, the cooking process will bring out the flavor. 

bring the grapes to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. In no time, your kitchen will be smelling like a Welch's factory.

Next, strain it to get rid of the hulls, pulp, and seeds. You wan't only juice if you are trying to make jelly. 

You will need 5 cups of grape juice for 1 batch of jelly. Pictured here is 3 batches worth of juice from our 1 dinky little grape vine.  If you don't quite have 5, relax, you can just add water to the juice. It will dilute it slightly, but providing it is less than 1 cup of water, I doubt you will know the difference.

Along with the 5 cups of grape juice, you will need 7 cups of sugar and 1 pack of Pectin (I use Sure-Jell). Pectin is found naturally in the peels of fruits, but I would suggest buying it if you want to get this jelly done THIS YEAR!.

Pour the juice into your cook pot and put some flammage to it. It needs to come to a boil, so Medium is good.

Pour in the pectin right away and stir it in.

While you are waiting for the juice/pectin to boil, fill your jars with hot water to help prevent breakage when you fill them with your yummy jelly.

Once the juice/pectin reaches a boil, pour in the sugar while stirring constantly. ALL 7 cups.

Keep stirring. You need to reach a full rolling boil for a full minute before turning off the burner.

Then pour the jelly into your jars.

Process the jars for 5 minutes in a water bath.

Let the jars cool for 24 hours and ENJOY!!!!!