November 2, 2014

Our first.. and second.. canning experience

Have you all ever canned before?
It is not an easy feat.
And is definitely time consuming.
And when your first time doesn't turn out the way you wished, you have to do it all over again.

Last month, I went berry picking with a co worker. She was nice enough to allow us to go on her property and pick the most beautiful cranberries I had ever seen. I mean they were so big and red and oh, did I mention big?
And the best part, she gave us her Alaskan berry cookbook from the 80s to make this high bush cranberry sauce that she said was just to die for.

I had never canned before, but I thought if she was willing to help me pick berries, let us use her canning utensils, and offer us her cookbook to follow the recipe, I should at least try.

^^ The recipe we followed.^^

^^ All of our necessary ingredients! ^^

^^Have you ever seen prettier cranberries? ^^

^^ Sanitizing our cans and lids and rims ^^

 ^^ Josh using the sieve. This is used to get the juice out of the berries and to leave the stems, skins, etc. out of the juice. ^^

^^ To properly can, you need to keep the jars and lids hot even before you put the sauce in. Since we didn't have a dishwasher, this task was a little difficult. But luckily, we were able to borrow this pot from friends so we kept our jars/lids in the warm water bath as we made the sauce. ^^

 ^^The sauce. This took the most time since you have to be constantly stirring it and watching it to make sure it's the correct consistency. ^^

^^Once the sauce was ready, we took the jars out of the hot water bath, quickly poured the sauce into the jars as fast as we could, tightened them without burning ourselves, and transferred them back into the hot water bath for 10 minutes. ^^

^^ And then after 10 minutes, we took them out of the hot water bath, and hoped we heard little "dings" of success that they were actually sealing. That "ding" was the best sound! ^^

So like I said, that was our first canning experience. We thought we did everything perfectly, because we had succeeded in hearing the little "ding".
We were fooled.
The next day we decided to open one to see if we got the right consistency.
We didn't.
We were supposed to make a high bush cranberry sauce. We made a high bush cranberry jam

And so that meant we had to do this whole process again. But with our second canning experience, we only made half a batch.
The first batch consisted of 12 cups of berries. Since it was late in the season, I only picked 6 cups. And luckily, my friend mentioned how I could put the first batch of jam back into the sauce so those first 4 hours of canning wasn't a complete waste.

So I did the whole process again, by myself I might add.
As soon as the jam started to bubble, I poured the 12 jars of cranberry jam into the pot of what would hopefully turn out to be cranberry sauce and prayed I would cook it just a little longer to thicken it, but not wait too long again where it would be too thick.

Let me tell ya, pouring the hot cranberry sauce into now 18 jars by yourself, and trying not to get it everywhere, was a little stressful.

But lo and behold, I succeeded. 
We got 18 beautiful jars of high bush cranberry sauce and you know what? It tastes great!
I put some pork chops into the crock pot one Sunday, and for dinner Monday night, I shredded the pork, and heated the cranberry sauce with it - and it tasted fantastic!

When you do it right, canning can be such a cool thing!

What do you can?

October 15, 2014

Recipe Wednesday: Sweet Potato Hummus

Hands up if you love hummus. Consider all four hands in the Hall's household up, up, up in the air! We just can't get enough of this stuff. We even allow ourselves to pay the big bucks to get this at the store. I mean $8 for the big bowl? We don't care!
So when I saw this recipe from this awesome Alaska from Scratch blog, I knew I had to make it. I never knew hummus could be so easy to make. I just added all the ingredients to my kitchen aid mixer and let it go to town. It took awhile for it all to mix up well, but the wait was worth it. The sweet potato really gives it a nice flavor and eaten with the baked tortilla chips - oh yum!
For the hummus:
- 1 lb sweet potato or yam, cooked, peeled, and chopped (two yams was about 1lb)
- 1 (14.5oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt to taste
For the chips:
- 8 flour tortillas
- olive oil
- sea salt
For the hummus:
- Add all the ingredients to a blender, food processor, or kitchen aid mixer. Mix until smooth. If too thick, more olive oil can be added. Season with salt to taste. You can opt to add some olive oil, paprika, or nutmeg to the top for serving. Pair with baked flour tortilla chips. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
For the baked flour tortilla chips:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the tortilla triangles in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Brush the tortilla triangles lightly with olive oil. Season with sea salt. Bake for 6-10 minutes or until they begin to brown and crisp up. (They get more crisp as they cool).

October 9, 2014

Apple Cider

I am so excited to share this recipe with you, you guys!
Recently, Rachel from Oh, Simple Thoughts shared this on her blog.
I saw it and immediately knew I was going to make some.
The other weekend, Joshua and I hit up Costco in Anchorage. I decided to buy two huge cases of apples. Like both cases equaling 30 apples combined. That's a whole lotta apples.
Before moving to the bush, I hardly ate apples. But since living in Newtok, they were the easiest fruit to ship so my mother would always send me some in her care packages. Luckily, her care packages came so often I hardly went without fresh fruit. But I so looked forward to eating those apples she sent that now it's a habit. Plus, I had just found some great recipes that involved apples that I thought we would use them no problem. I was wrong. They started getting mushy and not as crisp. Which is fine for cooking, but I wanted them even more for snacking, and I don't do non-crispy apples, ya know? So you see why when I saw this recipe, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to use those 12 extra apples we had left!
Another great thing about this recipe, be prepared to have your house smell fantastic. The cinnamon, mixed with the cloves, all spice, and nutmeg, combined with the juices of apples and the orange - oh my goodness. It really is just heavenly.

- 12 apples, it doesn't matter what type, quartered
- 1 large orange, chopped into eighths
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tbsp whole all spice
- 1 tbsp ground cloves (or 1 tbsp whole clove)
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg (or 1 whole nutmeg
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- large stock pot
- Place apples, orange, and all spices in the pot. Add sugar. Cover with water until there is about an inch and a half from the top of the pot.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered for one hour. Then uncover and allow to simmer and reduce for 2 more hours.
- Using a fine mesh strainer, strain mixture into large pitcher or container. Serve immediately or allow to cool at room temperature and refrigerate for up to 2-3 weeks.