Sunday, July 13, 2014

Currant Jelly

I was given a gift of currants from a work friend - he has an awesome garden and had a surplus, so I stopped by his house on Thursday to pick some.  I've never made anything with currants and actually have never really made jelly....only once I made a May Wine jelly...but  that doesn't really count.  A few years ago, I bought a jelly bag, but I never had occasion to use it.   Now was the time!!

I stemmed the's debateable whether you need to do that or not.  For every lb of currants, you need to add 1/2 cup of water and heat it for about 30 minutes, mashing with a potato masher.   Then you strain....I had about 6 lb of fruit, and it made about 6 cups of juice.  Let it strain for about 6 hours.  If it's cloudy (mine was) strain it twice.  DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BAG! That will make it even more cloudy.  Making the jelly was super easy.....for each cup of juice, add one cup of sugar.   Here's how mine came out:

Currant Jelly
makes about 6 half pints

6 c. currant juice
6 cups sugar

Heat juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Turn up the heat to medium high, and boil, stirring occasionally, until you hit the gel temp of 220F.   Add to half pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space, and process for 10 minutes.  couldn't be easier, and I actually LOVE THE TASTE! I think currrant jelly is my new favorite.  very tangy and beautiful.  I can't wait to plant some currant bushes myself.

I tried out the new Ball Platinum Jar just to see how they would look and I think they will be great for gift giving.    Lovely! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Camping Pot Roast for 30

This past weekend, I went whitewater rafting at the New River Gorge in West Virginia with my son's Boy Scout troop.  It was a total blast!

It rained a little bit the last day we were there - the scouts went ziplining; I stayed back in camp to make pot roast in our dutch ovens.  Pot roast is an excellent choice for a dutch oven dinner; it takes a long time but is very forgiving and can serve a lot of people if you have to do so.  I made it with extra au jus so we could have it "French Dip" style on french bread rolls.

Dutch Oven Pot Roast
This serves about 6 people, multiply by 5 to serve 30.  I made enough beef for 30 in a 12 inch and 14 inch Dutch oven.  

3 lb chuck eye roast
1/4 c. flour
salt and pepper
3 T vegetable oil
3 onions, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
1 large carton beef broth
2 bay leaves
Crusty rolls or bread, for dipping

Heat a chimney of coals until the top ones are ashy, about 20 minutes.   In a plastic bag, shake roast, flour, salt and pepper until the roast is covered in flour.   When the coals are hot, empty about half of them into the fire pit, and heat the dutch oven until the bottom is hot, add the oil and brown the meat on each side.   Remove the meat, and then add the vegetables and place the meat on top; add broth and the bay leaves and cover.   Pour about half the remaining coals on the top of the oven and arrange them evenly on the top, and then refill the charcoal chimney with new coals to heat up.  Cook until the beef is tender; about 2 hours, replenishing with hot coals as needed on top and bottom, and rotating the pot and lid every 20 minutes or so to assure even cooking. Charcoal usually only stays hot about 30 minutes, so always keep some in the chimney heating up so you have it when you need it.  If I can hold my hand a couple inches over the coals for longer than 5 seconds, I know it's time to add more coals.   Serve sliced on crusty rolls with the broth for dipping.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Strawberry Jam Making Update

Years ago, I finally purchased what I thought would be the holy grail of jam making, Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber, the self proclaimed "Jam Queen" of the Alsace region of France.  Alas, I found her recipes confusing and complicated, to say the least.   I sure was pleased to read that Kevin West felt the same way in his wonderful book Saving the Season: A Cook's Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving.  He said that Madame Ferber led him to "ruin many pounds of good fruit" and that "one gets the impression that she published her cookbook to avoid revealing anything about how she actually makes preserves"  So French!

I tried her technique of macerating the fruit, but I found it took forever to get it to hit the gel temp of 220 F.  I eventually gave up and just canned the jam anyway, but it definitely was more cooked than I would have liked.   I should have looked at Kevin's book instead   His recipe for strawberry preserves with elderflower liqueur looks amazing and much simpler.   After macerating the fruit overnight, strain the mixture and allow the syrup to get to the gel point, and the n add the fruit and heat for another 3 minutes or so.  I'm going to have to try this next time.