Vanilla Lime Spirited Cherries

2014 Jul 27_1225

Child Picks CherriesFive years ago I bought a little self-fertilizing dwarf sweet cherry whip from Jung’s nursery – a variety called Black Gold Sweet Cherry.  Gardening with edibles is my passion; unfortunately my yard is less than ideal for such a hobby.   The word “postage-stamp” comes to mind when describing it.  In addition to its limited size, a large maple and a north-facing growing space limit sunlight.  Despite these challenges, I have (in my humble opinion) managed to create a fairly pleasing landscape with a number of edibles.  Over the years I have had some epic failures in my edible gardeniGirl Picks Cherriesng adventures but also some smashing successes.  This sweet cherry tree is the latter—a prolific producer of sweet cherries in a tight space with sub-optimum sunlight.

Hands Full of CherriesWe picked a record 6+ pounds of cherries this year from this little tree. The unprecedented bounty caught me by surprised and sans a cherry pitter.  Cherries have a short shelf life.  No way to eat them all fresh and no desire to pit even 3 pounds with a paper clip.

Canning in syrup without pitting seemed the obvious choice. Canning with the pits has some cons.  The pits dictate that you must eat them out of the jar as is—no future cherry pie or jam making as you could with frozen.   On the pro side, canning with pits adds a lovely almond flavor to the cherries.  If I use them as garnishes in drinks then I don’t think anyone will be overwhelmed with the nuisance of pit spitting.  Olives have pits.  Fresh cherries have pits.  People can deal.

And since I’m using the preserved cherries in drinks, why not throw in a bit of booze with the syrup— spirited cherries.  Given my intractable pioneer sentiments, I normally wouldn’t waste my precious cherry crop on such a frivolous food enterprise.  “Do we really need spirited cherries to make it through the long, cold winter?”  (This is the way my mind works, people—obsessive compulsive utilitarianism).  But, actually I do need these to make it through the winter, and they will serve a purpose because back in January, at the Tosa Ladies Book Club annual planning meeting, I volunteered to host our Christmas Party.   I have had the privileged of being a member of this book club for 10 years and I know from experience that a few of those gals take their cocktails very seriously.  Spirited Cherries shall serve as the foundation and inspiration for the required holiday cocktail.  I’m thinking Manhattans or Cherry Lime Rickies, but I’m open to suggestions.

Meanwhile,   I’m off to Door county to pick more cherries  so I’ll have plenty of cherries for cocktail recipe testing.   My new Oxo cherry Pitter arrived in the mail and I’m itching to use it.

Spirited Cherries for Canning--The Ingredients

Spirited Cherries
Author: 
Recipe type: Food Preservation
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 3 - 3.5 pints
 
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds cherries, washed only (do not remove stems or seeds)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup brandy (vodka or rum)
  • ¾ cups bottled lime juice
  • 1-2 vanilla beans
  • Optional Additional Spices--1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise flower, or a few cloves
Instructions
  1. Wash all canning jars, lids and screw caps. Place the jars in the hot water bath canner and simmer. Place the lids in a smaller sauce pan filled with water and keep those at a low simmer too. Set screw bands aside on a dry towel.
  2. In a non-reactive medium pot, add sugar, water, brandy, and lime.
  3. Make a slit length-wise down the vanilla bean. Scrape out the sticky seeds and place in the pot along with the vanilla bean pod. Add any other spices if desired.
  4. Bring the ingredients to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes.
  5. Add cherries and bring to a boil again--boil for 1 minute longer.
  6. Remove from heat and pack hot cherries and syrup into sanitized, hot jars. Leave ½ inch head space.
  7. Remove bubbles with a skewer, wipe rims with a damp cloth and place lids on jars. Tighten screw bands to finger tip tight and place in the canner making sure the jars are under water by at least an inch.
  8. Place lid on canner and bring to a boil. Start timing at boiling--15 minutes( at 1000 ft altitude or less)
  9. Once time is up, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Time for another 5 minutes.
  10. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool for 12 hours at least.
Notes
It takes about 1 pound of cherries to fill a single pint jar.

*You may substitute lemon juice for lime, however be sure to always use bottled and not fresh for canning recipes as the acidity level of fresh varies too much.

Cherries

Wash the cherries but leave the stems and pits.

 

Spirited Cherries--preparing the syrup

Bring the water, sugar, lime, brandy (or other spirit) and vanilla beans and pod (plus any additional spices) to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  This is the syrup.

Spirited Cherries--heating on stove for hot pack

Add the cherries to the syrup and bring to a boil again, boiling for about 1 minute.

Laddle the hot cherries and syrup into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Process pints for 15 minutes and quart jars for 20 minutes.  Spirited Cherries

See my instructions for Hot Water Bath Canning if you need instructions.

Copyright Notice: Local Global Kitchen images and original content are copyright protected.  Please do not publish these materials without prior consent.

 

 

How to Freeze Strawberries

StrawberriesIt is strawberry season, and once again, you got carried away at the u-pick farm and the farmers market. Or maybe it was just me. (The kids each wanted to pick their own flat, and I couldn’t deny them the pleasure, could I?) Household members (one in particular not pictured here) accuse me of food hording all through Wisconsin’s short growing season particularly with fruits as sweet and ephemeral as the strawberry. So while the season is here for 3 or 4 weeks in June and early July, we indulge in fresh and the extras we freeze.  Freezing offers the quickest and most simple way to preserve them, and it allows us to eat local strawberries all year long.

Frozen strawberries can be eaten as is.  My kids think this is the best treat ever–like a popsicle–and sometimes prefer this to a fresh berry.  You can also add them to smoothies; they bake up beautifully in pies and cobblers.  It is also a good idea to freeze berries before preserving them in other ways.  Frozen berries make a superior quality jam with fewer floaters than jam made with fresh.  Freezing berries pasteurizes them; this is an essential step in making fruit leathers with a longer shelf-life as freezing kills any bugs or eggs. With so many uses and freezing this easy, let the berry hording begin.

Steps to Freezing Strawberries–Individual Quick Freeze Method (IQF)

  1. Clean the fruit.
  2. Remove the stem.
  3. Spread the fruit so that the pieces are not overlapping on cookie sheets and freeze.
  4. Once frozen, place in freezer bags or containers and label.  They will keep in a deep freeze for up to a year.

This yields individually frozen fruit which you can use in any portion you want later–a single berry or a quart.  All berries freeze well using this method.  You may also freeze rhubarb like this.  Simple chop the rhubarb first before laying it on a cookie sheet.

Quick Pack Methods: You can simply dump the clean and de-stemmed fruit in a bag in the portion you desire–pint, quart etc. You can even mix in a little sugar. They will freeze as a mass. Not as flexible for later use, but the job gets done even quicker.

Strawberries--Freezing

Use a spatula to transfer the frozen berried from the cookie sheet to the freezer bag.

2014 Jul 03_0956

If the kids picked the berries, why not have them freeze them too?

Strawberries--Freezing

Always use “freezer” bags, not “storage bags”.  If you don’t over stuff them you can stack them neatly in the deep freezer.

If you don’t have a deep freezer (and I suggest you get one if you want to eat locally grown food as much as possible) you can transform these into fruit leathers and store them on a shelf.

Click on the links for these frozen strawberry recipes:

Copyright Notice: Local Global Kitchen images and original content are copyright protected.  Please do not publish these materials without prior consent.

 

Homemade Applesauce for Canning—Rich, Rustic, Caramelize Sweetness in a Jar

Every year just as growing season comes to an end, I make at least 10 quarts of applesauce and can it.  It takes a lot of energy to make 2½ gallons of applesauce, and truthfully, I don’t always feel joy in my heart as I go through the process.  However, the taste and flavor of homemade applesauce overshadows the toil and labor of the processing.  Store-bought simply cannot compare to the homemade product.  Besides, the children rave about it, request it, nay, demand it, and how can you say “no” to that sort of praise especially over such a healthy, wholesome food.

To lighten the load and put the joy back into canning, I usually enlist the help of a friend or two and dedicate an afternoon.  I also process smaller portions here and there throughout November and December, and at these times, I use the help of the kids.

In addition to helping hands, the right tool for the job can make all the difference.  Get an apple peeler/corer gadget.  It makes peeling and coring manageable; some would even say—particularly the kids—fun! I bought mine at a big box store 5 years ago for $13.00 and it still works like a charm.

My recipe consists of one ingredient—apples.  Any sort of apple will do, even the less flavorful varieties like red delicious. Any sort of condition will suffice.  Why transform crunchy, pristine beauties into mush when so many sweet and homely ones are looking for a place to shine. I generally buy seconds (apples with flaws sold at a discount) from my farmer, and cut away any bad parts.

Some may want to add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.  I am a bit of a purest about my applesauce preferring to enjoy the unsullied flavor of caramelized apples.  Not everyone shares my opinion; I respect that.  Add spices if you wish. It will not impact the safety of the canned product.

Useful Weights and Measures

  • 4 pounds of apples makes 1 quart of applesauce
  • 1 peck of apples is about 12.5 pounds
  • ½ bushel of apples is about 25 pounds
  • 1 bushel of apples is about 50 pounds

Homemade Apple Sauce

Ingredients

  • Apples

Steps

  1. Gather and prepare your jars and canning equipment. See How to Can Pickles and Fruits if you need a canning tutorial
  2. Begin peeling and coring your apples. After peeling and coring a few, toss them into a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid.
  3. Cook the apples on a medium-low heat with the lid on.
  4. Continue peeling, coring and tossing apples into the pot as you go.
  5. With a masher, mix and crush the cooking apples every 3 – 5 minutes.  Be certain to return the lid to the pot after each time you add more apples.
  6. If the apples seem to be cooking too slowly, increase the heat a little at a time.  If they begin scorching add a bit of water and reduce the heat.  The goal is to cook them slowly in their own juices without added water.  This makes for a rich flavorful applesauce.  Time and heat should soften them with minimal mashing.
  7. After the last apple is added cook at least 10 more minutes.
  8. Once the desired golden color is reached and the apples are thoroughly cooked, you may smooth out the texture further with an emersion blender.
  9. Keep the sauce simmering as you add it to canning jars.  Leave ½ inch head space and process both pints and quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.
  10. Once processed and cooled completely, remove screw bands and wipe the jars thoroughly. (The applesauce leaches out during canning and creates a sticky mess on the outside of the jar.)  Label and date.

Cooking with Kids:  The little one gives a tutorial on using the apple peeler/corer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freeze Peaches & Make Fresh Peach Lemonade

Peaches grow best in sub-tropical climates, not here.  I know a few farmers with a few trees, but the harvest is hit or miss.  Happily, this year was a hit.  With our balmy, seemingly endless-summer, which felt more like the South of France than Southeast Wisconsin, peach-tree growers experienced a bumper crop.

Hooray, because eating a fresh, tree-ripened peach is a small slice of summertime heaven.  Second to that, a properly preserved tree-ripened peach surely beats a rock-hard, off-season grocery store peach any day of the week.  So while the season lasts, eat them…and preserve them.  Options remain endless—syrups, pie filling, even pickles.  I prefer to freeze them mostly, but I also make peach fruit leathers and peach butter, neither of which can easily be found at the supermarket. I do follow a strict rule and never can peaches.  Canned peaches conjure memories of bad times like junior high school lunch or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

HOW TO FREEZE PEACHES

Step 1: Blanch and Remove the Skins

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
  2. Add whole peaches no more than 8 at a time to the boiling water, cover with lid and time for 3 minutes.  Start timing immediately. Don’t wait for it to return to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the sink, create an ice-water bath.
  4. After 3 minutes, remove peaches with a slotted spoon and place the fruit in the ice-water bath to cool as quickly as possible. This is called blanching, and it stops the activity of the fruits’ enzymes thereby preventing browning.
  5. Once cooled, the skins should slip off easily.
  6. Cut into wedges or halves removing the pit.  I sometimes skip the knife and just use my hands depending on how I will use the fruit later.
  7. Next transfer the cleaned fruit to another large bowl of ice-cold water which has been acidified with lemon juice—¾ cup lemon juice to 8 cups water. The lemon water is an additional safe-guard against browning.  Leave the cleaned peaches here until you are ready to pack and freeze them, and do not dump the water out at the end.  You can turn it into a Peach Lemonade. I’ll show you how.  Read on. (Crushed ascorbic acid/vitamin C will also do if no lemon juice is on hand, but you won’t be able to experience the peachy lemonade).

Step 2: Choose a Freezing Method

Wet Pack Methods:
1.  Sugar Pack
Sprinkle desired amount of sugar over the peaches as you layer them in the freezer-safe storage bags or containers. I use about 1 tablespoon sugar for every 2 cups peaches. Let it set at room temperature for about 5 minutes before freezing it.  This allows the sugar to bring out the peach juices.  Leave ½ inch headspace to allow for expansion in the freezer.
This is my preferred method—great results with less work.  I pack them in 1-cup or 2-cup plastic containers, and use them in my packed lunches or for after-dinner treats all through the winter.  The kids love them.
2. Honey Syrup Pack
Honey syrup is much simpler to make than simple syrup with sugar and water.  You don’t have to make it in advance as it doesn’t require cooking and cooling. Moreover, it has more sweetness with fewer calories. The syrup will be easier to make if the water and honey are warmed slightly.
  • Very Light Honey Syrup—4 parts water: 1 part honey
  • Light Honey Syrup—3 parts water: 1 part honey
  • Heavy Honey Syrup—3 parts water: 2 parts honey

Again, pack the peaches in desired proportions in freezer-safe containers leaving ½ inch headspace to allow for expansion in the freezer.

Dry Pack Method:
Blanch and remove peach skins and pits. Cut into wedges, place on a cookie sheet and set in freezer.  Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe storage container. I can easily remove the number of frozen wedges that I want anytime.  This method is great for storing peaches which you will later bake.  I also like to throw these into smoothies and of course I use them to make Peach Lemonade.
“No time–Freeze now, Prepare Later Method”:
Use this method when you’re really pressed for time and the peaches are on the verge of spoiling.  Put the entire peach in the freezer. That’s it. Transfer it to a freezer bag if you’re planning on leaving it there for more than a few days, otherwise, it will start to shrivel. You can later run the peach under warm water and the skins will slip right off.  I use these peaches to make fruit leathers or peach butters.  This “No time” method works for tomatoes too. 

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Peach Lemonade
Author: 
Recipe type: Beverage
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: About 2 quarts
 
Why waste even a bit of peachy goodness? I think of this as my reward after an afternoon of processing and preserving peaches.
Ingredients
  • Lemon water used to hold the cleaned, blanched peaches (about 8 cups)
  • Lemon juice as needed
  • ¾ - 1 cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Take the lemon water that the clean peaches were floating in awaiting processing and place it in your blender or if you have an immersion blender, transfer it directly to a pitcher. The water will be a peachy-orange color with small bits of peach flesh floating in it.
  2. Add sugar and blend thoroughly in your blender.
  3. Taste and add more sugar or lemon juice if needed.
Notes
Because of the peach bits, it will be a nectar consistancy. Add a whole, clean peach (no skin, no pit) if you'd like an even thicker nectar. This will also work if you want Peach Lemonade on a day you don't want to process a batch of peaches. Ingredients 1 - 2 peaches sans skins and pits ¾ - 1 cup sugar ¾ cup lemon juice Directions Blend in your blender, adjust for flavor, and serve.

Cooking with Kids:  Let your kids help with removing the skins and pit.  I also let my girls spinkle in the sugar while I layer the fruit in containers–just measure out the sugar in advance or have them. They also love to use the blender.  What kid doesn’t like using a noisy machine?  Lastly, the kids must participate in adjusting the taste–great sensory exploration for the little ones and an opportunity to describe flavor for the older ones.

Tip: I want to give a shout out to Tree Ripe.  Long before I knew that we would get a bumper crop of peaches, in late June I headed to the parking lot of the Ace Hardware in West Allis to buy peaches off the back of a truck arriving straight from Georgia.  I bought 70 pounds of peaches. I know GA isn’t exactly local, but it directly supports farmers, and Georgia is closer than California, and I can’t live on apples only.  I also bought 10 pounds of MI blueberries.  If you live in the Midwest check Tree Ripe out.