Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mincemeat Minus the Meat

On Monday this week I went in for my first attempt at a mock mincemeat recipe. Mincemeat was something we got to have at Thanksgiving around our house. It was made out of the green tomatoes that were left over from the summer. It was a wonderful filling for a pie; green tomatoes that should not be wasted combined with dried fruits, lots of spices, sugar, and some suet. Since I could not find green tomatoes last year at our usual market, I made plans to make this pear version of mincemeat. After my canning plans were made, I ended up finding lots of green tomatoes at another market I have started to attend, but I thought I should stick to the pear plan.

One of the big advantages of doing this recipe is the lack of suet. Suet is a beef fat that would take the recipe into the realm of pressure canning, which, for now is not an option due to my lack of a pressure canner. Another added benefit was the use of pears. Some people love mincemeat until they find out it is made from tomatoes. I know there are tomato sensitive people out there, so this is much more crowd friendly. The dried fruits I used in this recipe were currents, golden raisins I dried in the dehydrator here, and some dried apricots that I finely chopped up. It made me feel all warm and excited for the family fruitcake this winter!

Next went in the spices. The recipe I used from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving called for cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger. I debated exchanging the nutmeg for already ground mace, but I stuck with the nutmeg. I thought I should try the recipe as is for one year and then start tweaking. This recipe also called for brown sugar rather than a white sugar. This seemed to lend a nice warmth to the mincemeat. It smelled just like the holidays around the house.

Next came the peeled, cored, and cut pears. This took what seemed like forever. I wanted to make sure the pieces of pear were not too big as I will be making this into mini-pies for the two of us. Big fruit does not work that well in mini-pies. It works even less in the pocket pie mold I got from a kitchen store. After the pears were folded in, it was time to cook the mixture down. It made the house smell even better. This was one of the first recipes I have made for canning that I could not help but taste periodically during the cooking.

The taste was rich and layered. Everything a person looks for in holiday cooking was in that pot. I cooked it all down until it was a pretty solid mix with little liquid. From there I went to the canning process, and after 20 minutes in the water bath, I had four pint jars ready for pies, tarts, or pocket pies later this year. I am so excited by this recipe and cannot wait to crack a jar open. I decided to hide them in the pantry hoping that out of sight out of mind will work. I think that I will make up one of the mini-pies for a change of pace this year at Thanksgiving along with the usual pumpkin pie that I always make.

The clouds are rolling in fast for the storms we are expecting this weekend, so I should sign off and get my walk in before it gets too nasty. Then it is time for some Christmas gift making... yes you heard right. I am starting extra early this year in the hopes to get done in a sane and happy manner. Today is some experimentation with the computerized cutter in the hopes that a couple of projects will be easier with out having to cut all the parts by hand.... ah the wonders of technology. Well off to walk, craft, and cook.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jars of Sunshine

Sorry for the radio silence on the blog as of late. I have been super busy with commitments and blogging has not fit into the schedule as I had hoped. The seasons have drastically changed here. We went from a super chilly summer into a couple of short lived heat waves after summer was officially over. Then, the temperatures around here dropped like a rock and the rains returned to the San Francisco Bay area. This weekend is supposed to be rainy just like last weekend. This rainy weather is not met with worry though as I have jars of sunshine to get me through the winter months.

A while back, one of my acquaintances blogged about buying a house and acquiring a new lemon tree. She was looking for things to do with all the lemons. She also was looking for some canning lessons. I traded her canning lessons for some lemons, and out of the trade came not only a great friendship, but also these awesome jars of strawberry lemonade concentrate. She had made some of this as well, so I had her notes to go off of for tweaking mine. I used the Ball book that I have for a recipe, and she got her's off of the internet somewhere. In her recipe, she said that the concentrate ended up being way too sweet even when watered down. This was good to know, so I cut my sugar levels by quite a bit. I like lemonade to be a bit sweet but not cloying by any means. I also strained my strawberry pulp, as Dan is not a big fan of the seeds in strawberries. This extra step took quite a while and also cut the yield I had on strawberry pulp by a bit.

I ended up with four pints, one from Dreah and three of my own, to take me through the winter. I had a little left over that I placed in the fridge and recently got out to test. It was quite good. The mix of the different types of Meyer lemon and regular lemons made for an interesting lemon flavor that was not too harsh. The strawberry flavor was a nice enhancer but was also not overwhelming. The sugar being cut down was also a good move as it was just the right amount of sweetness for me, and if someone else wants it more sweet, they can always add more to their glass. I think this could also be great as a daiquiri or margarita base if one wanted to use it that way or it could be cut with lemon lime soda or club soda as the Ball book suggests. Needless to say, I will be trying to get more lemons from my friend next year to make this one again! Now off to work on those perplexing socks I am trying.