Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Interesting recipes to try

Sichuan Pork Noodles - ground pork is used here in this recipe from America's Test Kitchen.  It would be good on a work night.
Crockpot Ratatouille - from my friend Diana's wonderful blog...this looks like a great recipe to make when I have over purchased at the farmer's market.  I hope to make it this weekend.
Stromboli - from a fellow Michigan Lady Food Blogger, this recipe looks like it would freeze well.
Zingerman's Coleslaw - from Ann Arbor's most famous restaurant
Crockpot stuffing - From one of my blog favorites - Mennonite Girls Can Cook.   And indeed they can!  So can we Catholic girls....I keep waiting for someone to start that group blog so I could participate.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Raspberries in Honey Syrup

The raspberries are great this fall. My daughter went with me to the farmer's market - she has recently shown an interest in canning. She asked if she could can some raspberries. "Raspberry jam?" I asked. "No, just raspberries". Why not? Actually, I am thrilled with how these came out. I can see serving them all winter in cocktails, with ice cream or yogurt, or on waffles. This recipe came out pretty tangy. I think you could go with a heavier syrup if you wanted.  I think it's perfect just the way it is.  We bought 5 quarts of berries for $22, and I think we ended up with 12 pints of product, give or take a few 12 oz. jelly jars in the mix.  That's a little over $2 per jar - a great value!

Raspberries are ridiculously easy to can, too, because it's done with a raw pack. Raspberries couldn't withstand the heat of a hot pack. Here's how we did it....doesn't our jar look good with the cute owl candle holder I found at an estate sale a few weeks ago?

Raspberries in Honey Syrup
5 quarts raspberries, rinsed in cold water and picked over

Honey syrup
1 cup honey
1 cup sugar
5 cups water

Heat syrup ingredients until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Ladle about an inch or two of syrup in hot clean jars, and then pack with raspberries. Tap jar on a towel to fit in more berries without crushing them. Fill to 1/2 inch headspace, and then top off with syrup to a 1/2 inch headspace, if needed. Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Because these tended to spew liquid, I recommend removing the canning kettle lid and let the jars sit in the hot water with the flame turned off for 5 minutes. Allow to cool, remove the bands and clean off the outside of the jars with window cleaner.

Next project, my daughter wants to can apples.  "Apple sauce?" I asked.   "Nope, just apple slices."  Why not?  That will be our next canning project.

An ode to my chosen profession

Just yesterday, a beautiful grandmotherly type of woman asked my friend and me, "Are you gals engineers?" as we were entering Greenfield Village to enjoy a lunch at the historic Eagle Tavern.  We replied that we were and she said "I think it is so wonderful what a woman can do these days!"  And I had to agree with her, It was 32 years ago this fall that I started in this profession, and when people talk of life changing decisions, this is mine.   I am so glad I did it, and I am sad that the numbers of women choosing engineering has been declining in recent times.  Back in 1982, I chose it because I was good at math and science.   I can't say that I enjoyed high school math and science, but I was good at them.   I didn't come to enjoy those subjects until I was studying engineering, and I learned how to use them as tools to solve problems.  I also like being a woman in a man's field.   Just yesterday, I looked around the room and realized that once again, I was the only woman in there in a room of 20 men.  I forget this most times, because the guys I work with are just other thinkers to me instead of men.   But it still is remarkable to be the only woman in the room...

Engineering is a profession, like medicine or the law.  It's more a life journey, not a job folks pass through on the way to something else.  Generally people stay doing it for their whole lives - I think it is because the education is so difficult, and it is a mostly stable, well paying profession.   And it's because you think a certain way.  It's a great field for a woman, but because it is largely a male profession, it's not the kind of career where a woman can take 5 years off to have kids and come back to it.   Most women engineers that are mothers are working mothers.  Not all women are cut out to do both at the same time - it takes a certain kind of energy and ability to multitask and have your head and your heart in two places at once.   It's hard to know that ahead of time.   Many women engineers I know end up quitting after they have kids.  They are unable to handle both at the same time.  The lure of being a problem solver for someone with a scientific bent is hard to give up.    The problem solving spills over into everything we mother used to hate selling houses to engineers because they'd get a ruler out and a level to hang a picture on the wall.   Everything always can be fixed to be better.   Sometimes I have to remind myself that lots of things are just fine the way they are, even if they aren't perfect. 

Gordon Brown, who was the Dean of Engineering at MIT in the 60s, describes what we do as "Engineers operate at the interface between science and society" and I think that's a good way to put it.  Only 2 U.S. Presidents were engineers, and they were generally thought to be failures as presidents - Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.    I think this isn't surprising - if you were going to pick the opposite of "engineer" when it comes to profession, it would have to be "politician".  Engineers use facts to solve problems, politicians use their powers of persuasion and personal charisma to do what they need to do.  However, Hoover described engineering in this way..... "Engineering is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realisation in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standard of living and adds to the comforts of life. This is the engineer's high privilege." And a high privilege it is indeed!  I am blessed to be a part of this wonderful profession.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can Jam September: Honeyed Peaches with Mint

Even though this was the September canning challenge, I canned these peaches at the tail end of August, when I was leading one of my monthly canning demos at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, who graciously host me under a tent if it is crowded or under the awning if it is not.  Everything I know about peaches can be found in this blog post I wrote last year.   Michigan is the nation's 3rd largest producer of fresh peaches, after California and Georgia.  I know it seems odd that we could grow peaches here up north so prolifically, but the west side of my state has some unique climate given the effects of Lake Michigan.  

However, what I learned this year while canning peaches outdoors for the first time is that bees are really active in late August, and they love honey! Perhaps I should have known this, but right after I started canning at the market, the bees arrived, and they wouldn't stop.   It was like a scene out of The Birds.....

...except instead if "birds" it was "bees" and instead of Tippi Hendren in a smart suit, it was me in a canning apron and rubber gloves.    The good news is that I didn't get stung!  I abandoned my tent at the market and finished these beauties at home.   The even better news about this recipe is that honey is lovely with peaches.   I tucked a mint leaf or two in each jar and it really made the peaches taste fresh.  

Honeyed Peaches with Mint

Makes about 8 pints

8-12 lbs peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, treated with Fruit Fresh to prevent browning, and drained.
1 batch hot honey syrup

To make hot honey syrup:
1 c. honey
1 c. white sugar
4 c water

Bring to a boil over medium high heat just until sugar is dissolved, keep warm until needed.

To hot pack peaches, warm peach halves one layer at a time in hot syrup for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, pack cavity side down in jars leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Ladle hot syrup in jar to cover peaches. Remove any air bubbles with a chop stick or cocktail stirrer, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add a couple mint leaves, if desired. Place lids on jar, adjusting until bands are finger tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Canning - odds and ends


When I am done with a particular canning project, the last thing I want to think about is the label.   But getting it done is important....nothing worse than opening up a jar of crab apple butter to find out it is salsa, etc.  Plus, it's super east to grab a jar off the shelf for a quick potluck dish to pass or a hostess gift when it is already labeled.  At a loss for inspiration for clever and cute jam labels?  Check out Martha Stewart' Jam Labels

  • These labels from Martha were originally for maple syrup, but are very cute and could be used for canning, too. More MSL labels -  vintage looking box labels that can be used for canning
  • From, there are several styles of canning labels here.
  • Some labels from HP can be found here

Weights and measures

I am always looking for approximately how many peppers are in a pound or how many pounds chopped are in a cup, etc. when I am shopping for a canning recipe.  Here is the helpful chart that is featured in the back of my favorite canning book, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Laurie Devine.   When using this Produce Purchase Guide,  note that actual yields will vary based on size of the items and preparation techniques.