Monday, October 1, 2012

Making Easy Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

 It's that time of year again!  While the apple crops were ruined by the frost this year in Michigan, you can still find local apples but they are at a premium.  I purchased some Honey Crisps and Granny Smith Apples from a local orchard that shipped some apples in from the west side of the state.  I wanted to make sure they were not waxed apples.

This is the time of year to make apple butter, apple pies, apple crisp and stock up on homemade apple cider vinegar. I thought you'd like to see how to make the apple cider vinegar. You can use whatever amount of apple scraps to make the vinegar. The most important ingredients for successful results are patients, clean apples, sterilized utensils and jars.  

1.  Wash the apples very well. Note: If you purchase apples at the store, many times they have a wax coating.  You will need to remove the wax coating from the apples - If at all possible, buy organic, non-waxed apples.  You can also use crab apples.  Experiment with different varieties and find what suits your tastes best. 

2. Peel and core the apples saving the skins and cores.  (Use the apple slices for a pie, apple butter, apple cake or apple crisp.)   I use between 8 - 12 medium sized apples.

3.  After you peel and core the apples, you need to get a large bowl, crock or jar.  (Check to make sure the glaze does not contain lead glazes.)  Put the peels and cores into the vessel.  I use a large glass jar I use for fermenting veggies.  MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS STERILIZED. 

4. Cover peels and cores with water (measure by quarts) and cover them by an inch or so of water.  For every quart of water used to cover the apple scraps, you'll need 1/4 cup of sugar.

 5.  After measuring the sugar, mix it into the apple scraps and water until dissolved.
 6. Place a plate or bowl over the apple scraps to keep submerged under the water.

I use a small white glass plate that fits perfectly inside my 5 gallon fermenting jar to keep the scraps submerged.

(I have found it is easier for me to use the 5 gallon glass jar - it is easier to sterilize and I can peek at the progress!)
 7.  After submerging the apple scraps below the water surface, you need to put the mixture in a dark, cool space (65 - 75 degrees) to be left undisturbed while it ferments.  If you use a glass jar, be sure to keep it wrapped with a towel so that light doesn't prohibit the fermentation process.  (UV light will destroy the process!)  Don't cover the top, it has to breathe.

8.  Cover the top of the vessel with a piece of cheese cloth so it can breathe and gas. It will also keep bugs from getting into your mixture. Secure on the vessel with a rubber band.
9.  Now you wait a week!  The mixture will start to bubble as it begins to ferment as it forms yeast.  This usually begins within 3 -4 days.  At 7 days, check your mixture.  If there is any black mold that has grown, remove it with a plastic spoon (do not use metal).  If you have mold forming, the mixture was not kept cool enough.

10.  Strain the scraps in a colander lined with cheese cloth. Sterilize some Mason Jars (canning jars).  After straining the scraps, pour the strained liquid into the sterilized canning jars leaving 1" head space and cover the top with a piece of cheese cloth and secure with either the rubber band or the screw band. ( I prefer using the rubber band because the screw bands sometime rust.)

11.  Store the jars in your pantry or anywhere where it is still dark and cool for another 6 weeks.  A film will start forming on the top of the liquid - This is the "Mother".  There will be sediment on the bottom of the jar. You can stir it up and more "Mother" will form on the top.  Saving some of the "Mother" will speed up the process the next time you make vinegar.

12.  At 6 weeks, the yeast should have eaten all of the sugar which leaves you with shelf-stable vinegar! Remove the cheesecloth and replace with a sterilized lid and screw cover.  Apple Cider Vinegar lasts indefinitely if kept stored in a cool dark place.

Apple Cider Vinegar that contains the "Mother" has numerous health benefits.  While most apple cider vinegar in grocery stores do not contain the "Mother" - It is pasteurized and filtered which removes the health benefits.  (You can find unpasteurized vinegar with "Mother"  at health food stores for about $6.00 a quart or more.)  Read about the amazing health benefits by clicking here.

 CLICK HERE     - My Youtube Video on Making Vinegar

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kiwi Preserves

Kiwi Preserves
While out shopping, I found a great deal on Kiwi Fruit - a box containing about 16 extra large Kiwi for less than $5.00 - They were the about the size of tennis balls!
I had remembered seeing a couple of recipes for Kiwi while looking through Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving and thought I'd try one out.

I chose the Kiwi Preserves - It sounded interesting and I already had all the other ingredients; pineapple juice, lime juice, sugar and pectin.

The recipe calls for 4 Kiwi (peeled and thinly sliced)
3 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 pouch liquid pectin

Add all ingredients except the pectin  into a stainless steel pan.  Bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin and boil hard for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Ladle preserves into prepared jars leaving 1/4" head space.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rim, add lid and screw cap, finger tight.  Put into a hot water bath and process 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes with lid on after processing, remove from hot water bath canner and let sit 6 to 12 hours to cool.  Clean and label jars; store in cool, dark place. 

Of course I could not wait to taste it!  The Kiwi Preserves have a tart-tangy flair yet it is sweet - reminded me of the old sweet tart candy - mouth-puckering good!  I had so many Kiwi, I made a double-batch that produced 8 and 3/4 1/2 pint jars.

I have a few more Kiwi left so I may make the Kiwi Chutney next!

Happy Canning!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

What NOT to Store in your Food Storage

Like many of you, I have been looking for information online, read plenty of books and blogs, watched videos, and spoken with a few people on food and emergency food storage, and a lot of research on home canning.  What I have found is there is plenty of information available regarding what food and items you should have in your food storage;  It is much harder to find  information on what you should NOT store.                                                           

Below, I copied the information off of the website of Utah State University Cooperative Website on what food items you should NOT store.  Click here for a link to their website.
  1. Home Canned Butter, especially unsalted, canned butter. (Why - unsalted canned butter has NO protection from botulism, slated, home canned butter has no science-based process to can safely)
  2. Petroleum jelly covered raw eggs. (Why - there is No protection from microbial contamination.  This is a major foodborne illness risk)
  3. Milled Grains (Whole wheat flour, Cornmeal, Cereal, Granola) (Why - quality deterioration)
  4. Oily Grains or Seeds (Nuts, Brown rice, Pearled barley, Sesame seeds) (Why - quality deterioration)
  5. Home canned Quick Breads (why - these foods are not safe for home canning) 
 There are plenty of alternatives for the items listed above. 
  • As an alternative to storing home canned butter, consider buying "Ghee" which is clarified butter.  You can find Ghee in the specialty aisle of most grocery stores, at Indian or Asian Grocery Stores. 
  • Another alternative to storing home canned butter is powdered butter.  You can find a source for powdered butter here.  Powdered butter has a storage life of 3 to 5 years.  
  • You can also find powdered eggs at Augason Farms.  If you prefer, you can also buy margarine powder.
  • An alternative to storing petroleum jelly covered egg, consider buying powdered, pasteurized eggs. (Click here for an online source.)  Honeyville Grain also has a product called "Ova Eggs" that are crystallized eggs that are very good. You can visit their online store by clicking here.
  • Instead of storing milled grains, consider buying whole grains and corn and investing in a grinder; either a hand mill grinder or if you prefer, an electric grinder.  (I have both in case of electrical outage, I would still be able to grind my wheat and grains.)

When storing food, you want to ensure the money, time and effort you have spent is safe, stores well, and will be there when you need it!

National Center for Home Food Preservation

The National Center for Home Food Preservation 

With rising food costs, concerns with what additives are in their foods, many folks have gotten back to gardening and preserving their own foods. The first thing anyone should do before they begin to home can foods, educating yourself to ensure the foods you will be serving and eating are canned safely.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation offers a FREE online home study course! The course is broken down into modules and they allow you 6 months to complete the study course.  I highly recommend the course.

The course has "pre-module" testing so they can evaluate your knowledge before you take the course and a test at the end of each module.  At the end of the study course, you can give an online evaluation of the course and as long as you passed and completed all of the modules, they will send you a certificate of completion.

To apply for the course, click here.

In addition to the online course, their website offers you plenty of recipes, fact sheets, food safety, links, and other valuable information on canning, drying and freezing food.  It is truly a good resource for folks putting up food.  Click here to visit their website.

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers a very popular book, "So Easy To Prepare" which is a 375 page book with over 185 tested recipes, step-by-step instructions and in-depth information for both new and experienced food preservers.  The book has a new chapter on recommended procedures for home-canned salsa and 35 new, tested recipes.  This book is a Must Have resource! To order the 5th edition of the book, "So Easy To Prepare" by the University of Georgia, click here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Moo-Ville Creamery in Michigan

         Just thought I would share a favorite place to visit of mine with you...


What a wonderful place to visit in Nashville, Michigan located off Route 66.  (Who'd of thought Michigan had a Nashville or a Route 66!)  The creamery is located at 5875 S. M-66 in Nashville at the corner of M-66 and M-79.  The creamery offers pasteurized cream line which is non-homogenized milk, a wonderful variety of homemade ice cream, butters, meat, and cheese to die for -  I love their cheese curds! 

When visiting the creamery, you can enjoy their petting farm, and they offer tours of the farm and creamery where you can see the dairy cows being milked.  It's a great place to take kids to learn about farm life and where milk comes from. The tours are from June - October and it is best to call ahead call (517) 852-9003 for more information.

I visit the creamery to purchase my milk for cheese making.  Their milk is so good!  It tastes like the milk our milkman used to deliver when I was a kid back in the 60's!  (Yes, I am over a half-century old!)

Don't forget to take a cooler - You will want to bring a taste of the creamery home with you! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fabulous Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding
One of my favorite fall/wintertime desserts is Bread Pudding (believe it or not!)  While I know folks look at this dessert as a "poor mans dessert" it is actually a French Dessert.  It is also a great way to use up a loaf of bread.

It is wonderful to enjoy on a crisp fall evening or cold winter night. 

This dessert offers the right balance of sweet with the addition of the warm spiced rum sauce, and at times, I add just a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

Bread Pudding: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees;  (While oven is heating, mix together the wet ingredients in one bowl and the cut up bread in another bowl.)

  Wet Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla 
Dry ingredients:
  • 5 cups bread cut into 1" - 1 1/2" cubes
  • 1/3 cup raisins 
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Butter for greasing baking dish
Cut bread up into small pieces and put into a large bowl.  (I cut them into about 1" squares)  Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over the bread cubes.  Let soak about 10 - 15 minutes to soak up wet mixture.  Put into a well greased (I use butter) deep baking dish.  Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until the bread pudding is browned and firm to the touch.  Use a toothpick inserted into the center, it should come out clean.  Let cool.

Spiced Rum Sauce:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 Tablespoon corn starch 
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 3 - 4 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Spiced Rum 
 In a small saucepan, place cream and over medium heat, bring to a boil.  Whisk in cornstarch mixed with water into low boiling cream.  (Make sure to keep whisking so you do not burn the mixture.) Bring to a boil while whisking.  Remove from heat and add sugar and spiced rum.  Taste to see if mixture is sweet enough for your taste.  Add more sugar if needed.  Let cool until warm.

Just before serving, use a fork to put holes into the bread pudding and pour the rum sauce over the top.

Let me know how you like this decadent dessert!  Enjoy  :-)

Michigan Apple Harvest 2012

Our Opening Day 2012 Cider Mill Visit

Every year we look forward to visiting the local cider mills to enjoy a cup of fresh cider and hot sugar spice doughnuts! (Oh course, we like the apples too but we love having the cider and doughnuts on a picnic table over looking the orchard and pumpkin patch!)  Here you can find a lot of home made craft items, maple syrup, local honey, cherry juice, cider vinegars, canned relishes, caramel apples and at times, apple wine!  Opening weekend usually means long lines.  We pulled in and were pleased there did not appear to be any lines...

This year, we were in for a shock - NO APPLES!  I am sure everyone is aware of the awful drought suffered by the mid-west, the floods, and fires but the frost suffered here in Michigan has really come into perspective for me.  While we had a pretty mild winter, the heavy frost we suffered really hurt the apple and cherry farmers here in Michigan.
Bare Apple Tree!

It was really sad to see the trees with no apples.  The few apples they had were trucked in from the west side of the state where a farmer hired 6 helicopters to fly over the 30 acres of apples to keep the frost at bay.  Of course, this raised the price of a bushel of apples to $32.00!

While we still enjoyed a glass of cider and the wonderful hot sugar spiced doughnuts, it was sad to see the cider mill so empty and no apples on the trees.

I hope the pumpkin demand helps the orchard owners make it through this difficult year.  We will make the journey to support the orchard and enjoy the hot sugar spiced doughnuts and hopefully a glass of cider.