Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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The Holy Trinity of Soup and a Pressure Canner

The beast.

The beast.

As mentioned in a previous blog, it’s canning off season, and the polar vortext has left me, a skier and winter lover, stuck inside. What do I do with time on my hands? I cook stuff.

I’ve been considering making my own veggie stock. I use it in several recipes, and I’ve noticed that the most obvious flavor that most veggie stocks impart is salt. They are salty. I don’t taste much else there.

I’ve wondered how much my recipes would improve if I had some kick-ass veggie broth instead of mega-salty water. I hunted broth recipes. I’ve not made this before, so I didn’t know what I was looking for. I was armed with one bit of knowledge. The holy trinity of veggie soup flavor is garlic, celery and onion.

I found this. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Vegetable-Broth-51212620

Garic? Check. Onion? Check. Celery? Check. Plus, thyme and coriander are wonderful additions. Bonus points for most of the ingredients already present in my fridge.

My first time making this I salted once the broth was finished. I added about 3 teaspoons. That was salty enought to accentuate the flavors, but not so much that it over powered the veggies. Otherwise I didn’t wander from the recipe. The broth didn’t have much flavor. But then, I don’t imagine broths are supposed to have much flavor. Isn’t that why you add stuff to them for soups and use them as a base for other stuff?

The real test of the broth would come the first time I used in a recipe. My first use cases were in a recipe for peanut thai noodles and then pineapple curry. Both were super, but the recipes only called for a half a cup of broth. Given this insignificant amount as compared to other ingredients, I didn’t notice an earth shattering difference. But when I used the broth in pumpkin curry soup, I noticed. It just made the soup have a little more depth. That soup is already spectacular; the homemade broth bumped it up.

My first run out with the broth was successful enough that I wanted more. On my second batch, I browned the veggies and got a nice fond on the bottom of my pot before deglazing with the 3 quarts of water. This minor step both brought a nice color to the broth and also imparted a great flavor. I will continue with this modification.

When I make my third batch of broth I will make another addition. Mushrooms. I think the earthy addition will round out the flavor and make this broth a go to for cream of mushroom soup. Yum. I can’t wait to try this.

Broth requires pressure canning. I didn’t pressure can my first batch of broth. I poured some of it into ice cube trays and the rest went into 1.5 pint jars. Broth ice cubes were a stroke of genius on my part. I have a number of recipes that call for a small amount of broth (less than a cup). My 1.5 pint jars carry too much liquid to thaw a whole jar and only use a half a cup.

We pressure canned the second batch. It was as much an experiement as it was a necessity. It simply isn’t that difficult to store 3 quarts of broth in the freezer, unless you are some sort of food hoarder. (I just thought of what it must smell like in the home of a food hoarder and grossed myself out.) The pressure canning went fine. I don’t know that I will find time to replenish my veggie stock once we hit canning season, but I am sure I will miss it when I return to using those little cubes of salt that pass for bullion.


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Pressure Canning: Shit Just Got Real

I have been canning for a few years. I knew this day would come. I bought a pressure canner. Pumpkin is what sealed this deal. Stocks and meats just don’t excite me like pumpkin. When faced with the possibility of using that sad, metallic-tasting paste that comes out of a can for another year, I went to the internets in search of pressure canners.

The first thing you should know about this canner is that it looks like it is not to be trifled with. The second thing you should know is that after perusing the directions I became anxious that I could literally cause an explosion in my kitchen. Looks, in this case, were not deceiving.

Pressure Canner

THE BEAST!

This was our most ambitious canning session to date. We planned to can a couple of varieties of apple sauce, apple butter, pumpkin butter, and pumpkin cubes. Note that we chose to can cubes because it’s not advisable to can pumpkin puree at home. The cubes will just need to be run through my food processor before they are added to my favorite recipes.

We started off with a half bushel of apples and nine pumpkins. Here’s the recipes/instructions for what we did.

Big pot of apples.

Here’s the apples when we were cooking them down. After this we put the apples through a food mill. We brought the resulting sauce back to boiling before canning it.

Here's the apples after we processed about half of them.

Here’s the apples after we processed about half of them.

These pumpkins looked amazing.

These pumpkins looked amazing.

Pumpkin cubes: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/he266

Apple sauce: http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipe.aspx?r=126 (we made half the batch plain as instructed here except with less sugar. We got golden delicious apples, and they were pretty sweet without the sugar. We made the other half the batch with cinnamon and vanilla bean w/ seeds.

Apple butter: http://www.canningacrossamerica.com/recipes/apple-butter/

Pumpkin butter: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-butter/

Here’s the random things that we learned. I think we accidentally put 2 tsps of nutmeg in the pumpkin butter as opposed to the 1 tsp that the recipe called for. Two tsps is great if you want the nutmeg to overwhelm all the other flavors including the pumpkin. (FAIL) The pumpkin butter thickened really quickly on the stove. I don’t think we cooked it for more than 20 minutes, and in that time the concoction got much darker and thicker.

Finished jars of apple butter.

Finished jars of apple butter.

Here's a jar of apple butter coming out of the pot after processing.

Here’s a jar of apple butter coming out of the pot after processing.

The apple sauce was excellent. It was so excellent that we needed to stop ourselves from eating it before it made to the jars. If we do another fall canning session, it will be to do more apple sauce.

The pumpkin that we canned bears almost no resemblance to what comes out of store-bought cans. The color is a bright yellow and the flavor is closer to acorn or butternut squash. This made me wonder what they do to the pumpkin to get it that color and to get that mealy flavor. I don’t know if you have ever eaten a spoonful of pumpkin from the can, but it has that non-taste that commercial baby food often has. The pumpkin that we put in the jars had this slightly sweet, creamy flavor.

Image

I mentioned in a past blog that I get my produce for canning at the Lunken Airport farmers market (if you aren’t from Cincinnati just ignore that last sentence). The people who go there aren’t wholesalers; they are the actual farmers. For what they may lack in customer service skills, they more than make up for it with knowledge about the produce. The old curmudgeon farmer that I work with most often, while doubtful of my intentions at first, has now warmed to my tattooed self. It seems like I keep clearing hurdles with him. On my pumpkin purchase, he seemed pleased that I recognized the pie pumpkins from the mess of decorative gourds and pumpkins.

While we were bagging up my pumpkins he pointed to a huge green and white mottled gourd. He asked if I had ever made pie with one of those. I said no, because I had never seen this type of gourd before. He pushed his vintage (NOT RETRO) John Deere hat further back on his head and said, “Once you make pie with one of those, you’ll never want a pumpkin again.” I have heard of a gourd that is fabled to be more tasty than pumpkin. I’m pretty sure curmudgeon farmer just pointed out my gourd Moby Dick. Needless to say I will be going back next week to get one of those gourds. Be on the look out for the Moby Dick gourd blog post next week.