Just Peachy

It has been a while since I posted, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has been going on in our little household. I have been very busy! For one thing, our seventeen year old grandson is visiting for the summer. We have been having fun. He is the “darling” of my friends. Shortly after his arrival we celebrated his 17th birthday, followed up a few days later with our community Independence Day Celebration. Here he is with a few friends:

Clayton at 4th

He is a great guy and even participates in our early morning water aerobics classes.

 

Besides going to our pool almost every day, I keep myself busy. One of my hobbies is canning food. It is very time consuming and hard work but I consider it fun and a great way to provide good food for our little family. Here is what I did over this weekend with a case of fresh Georgia peaches:

Putting up Peaches

Putting up Peaches

The tally is:

9 pints of brown sugar pie filling

7 pints of peaches in light syrup

9 pints of peaches with Splenda and lemon

7 half pints of peach jelly, made from the seeds and skins

7 half pints of peach barbecue sauce sealed

2 pints of peach barbecue sauce for the refrigerator (I ran out of jars!)

1 pint of sugar free peach syrup for tea

20 peaches for fresh eating; after all I couldn’t can all of them!

 

We tried the barbecue sauce tonight on some leftover roast pork as sliders. It is delicious!

Peachy Barbecue Sauce

Peachy Barbecue Sauce

Here is my recipe:

Peach Barbecue Sauce


6 cups finely chopped pitted peeled peaches (about 3 lb or 9 medium)

1 cup finely chopped seeded red bell pepper (about 1 large)

1 finely chopped hot pepper

1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 large)

3 Tbsp finely chopped garlic (about 14 cloves)

½ cup of honey

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp salt

Preparation : Prepare 8 half pint jars, lids, and rings. Sterilize the jars and lids, and keep them in the hot water until it is time for processing. Make sure to fill your water bath canner and bring the water to a simmer. I put the jars in the canner until I fill them, then I place each back into the canner.

 

Cooking: Puree the peaches, then in a large stainless steel pot combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring often.  I use my wand blender to puree everything when I think the vegetables are tender. Continue to cook until mixture gets thick and gets to the consistency of a barbecue sauce, about 25 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Filling the jars:  Place your hot jars on a dishtowel, place a canning funnel in the mouth of the jar and fill each using a ladle and leaving ½” headspace.  Remove air bubbles and refill to the proper headspace with more sauce if necessary. Taking a clean paper towel wet it with warm water and wipe the rims of the jars removing any food particles that would interfere with a good seal. Using your magic wand extract the lids from the hot water and place them on the now cleaned rims (I use Tattler lids so I have to use my tongs). Add your rings to the tops of each of the jars and turn to seal just “finger tight” (with Tattlers turn the ring back slightly).

Processing: Make sure your rack is on the bottom of the canner and place the jars in the water bath making sure that the water covers each of the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add hot water to the canner if it doesn’t measure up. Cover the pot and turn up the heat under the canner and wait for the water to start boiling. Once the water has come to a boil start your timer for 20 minutes. When complete turn off the heat and remove the cover and let the jars sit for another few minutes. Remove the jars and place them back on the dishtowel in a place that they will sit overnight to cool. Do not touch or move them till the next morning. (If using Tattlers, like me, use a dish towel to protect your hands while tightening the rings completely, then allow the jars to cool undisturbed)Some recipes may take overnight to seal. Check your lids and reprocess any jars that did not seal.

I canned 7 half pints that sealed plus 2 pints extra that I refrigerated. Your mileage may vary. The sauce was deemed as delicious by my two menfolk tonight.

Is your curiosity piqued by the idea of Peach Jelly made from the skins and seeds that might otherwise be thrown away? It is most delicious and almost free! Now, I know that a lot of people think that peach seeds contain deadly amounts of cyanide. But I have made this jelly many times and I (as well as many of my friends and family) survive to this day! The almond-like seed within the pit lends a slight almond flavor to the peachy-ness of the jelly.

Waste not, want not: Jelly from peach skins and seeds

Waste not, want not: Jelly from peach skins and seeds

 

Here is how I make it:

 

Take the seeds and skins from your prepared peaches; I used about a quart of skins and seeds.

Cover with about one inch of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

Strain the cooled material through cheesecloth, and squeeze gently to extract all of the liquid. Measure 3 ½ cups of liquid. I actually had 5 ½ cups, so I kept a pint aside to make syrup. If you don’t have 3 ½ cups of liquid, just add a bit of water to make 3 ½ cups. If you choose to, you could boil the juice down to make 3 ½ cups instead of setting some aside.

Prepare jars, lids and rings as I indicated above. Measure out 4 ½ cups of sugar and set aside.

Return juice to cleaned kettle. Add 1 box of powdered pectin and bring to a full boil.

Add sugar all at once and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam. I added about 1 teaspoon of homemade vanilla extract, just to make it a little different from my last batch of peach pit jelly. It is completely optional.

Fill hot half-pint jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust two piece caps and process 10 minutes in boiling water canner.

 

What about that extra pint of juice? I added about a cup of Splenda and heated it in the pot after I transferred the jelly to the jars. (I left the little bit of jelly in the pot and stirred it into the syrup). I ladled the syrup into a jar and refrigerated it to add to my iced tea. Yummy!

And now for another shot of my handsome grandson, Hubby, and friends waiting in line for the Fourth of July goodies :

Waiting in line for lunch

Waiting in line for lunch

 

Posted in Cooking, Do It Yourself, Food, Food Preservation, Kids, Recipe | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey Special

Sometimes Mr. M is allowed to go to the grocery by himself, usually to buy his ice cream fix. A few days ago he came home with two turkey breasts that were on special. Now we love turkey, but two whole turkey breasts for two people? Not to mention that the freezer is full in anticipation of having our teenager grandson staying for the summer. Oh, and did I mention that the Florida weather is hovering around 90 degrees?

Mr. Giant Crockpot to my rescue! One day, I cooked the first turkey breast with traditional seasonings to make a delicious dinner. I had to split the breast in half to fit it into the slow cooker but I made it fit! I was delicious served with homegrown green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy and homemade cranberry sauce.

How to follow that up later in the week with the second turkey breast? I decided to go Caribbean, by rubbing the turkey skin with a spicy mix and cooking it whole in the giant crockpot (it actually fit, barely). Here is what I used for the rub:

2 Tbs  ground dried ancho chile

½ tsp ground cayenne chile

½ tsp ground dried onion powder

1 tsp ground dried garlic powder (not garlic salt)

¼ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp dried Mexican oregano (or Mediterranean oregano)

½ tsp ground black pepper

This is a pretty spicy rub so feel free to adjust any of the ingredients. Just don’t leave out the cinnamon because it adds a lot. I actually used about twice this amount for the turkey breast. I am one of those eyeball cooks, so this is my best estimate of what I actually used.

I just rubbed it all over the turkey breast, skin side and underneath.

The only addition to the pot was about 1 tablespoon of hickory smoke flavoring. No additional liquid, because the turkey will make its own.

Here are some photos of the results:

 

Right out of the slow cooker

Right out of the slow cooker

Juicy, spicy slices!

Juicy, spicy slices!

 

We enjoyed this with farro and a simple romaine and tomato salad. Yummy!

Leftovers, you ask? Oh yes! Plenty! Today I used all of the little scrappy pieces to make chicken salad sandwiches. The skin and bones are in the giant crockpot with some vegetable scraps to make stock. Tomorrow, I will use some of that stock to pressure can the rest of the turkey breast in pint jars for some meals later. Since it looks like the canner won’t be full, I will use the rest of the space to can some dried beans also. Very economical!

Have you ever tried cooking a turkey breast in your slow cooker?

What’s for dinner tonight? Not turkey! Hamburgers! Inspired by our homegrown tomatoes.

Posted in Cooking, Cooking Lesson, Food, Frugal, Recipe, Slow cooker | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Amateur Photography

 

As I have said before I love taking pictures and I love to travel, and I especially love to take photos of places I travel to visit. On one European trip, I discovered this really great capability of my little (inexpensive) digital camera. With a little practice I am learning to take panoramic photos! The operative word here is practice. It sounds easy: Just take three photos in succession at the same level while moving the camera to the right with each succeeding photo. Easy right?

 

Hmmm. not quite right

Hmmm. not quite right

Well at least it sounds easy. So, I am practicing when I find an inviting panorama. I think I am getting better. Here is a panorama I took one night as we were leaving Funchal, Madeira:

Night lights in Funchal

Night lights in Funchal

It is the last view we had as we left the Island of Madeira just off of Portugal, before we sailed for Florida. Every time I look at it, I want to go back! Click on the photo if you want to see it more clearly. I took it as we were moving through the harbor and it still looks pretty continuous. Guess I might be getting the hang of it.

Posted in Do It Yourself, Europe, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Youngest Residents in our Seniors’ Community

In many parts of the country Sandhill cranes are migratory. But not in our community! They are here to stay… and stay… and raise their babies! We have a few families that reside here all year and every spring they raise one, or more usually, two really adorable babies. Here a quick picture I shot yesterday:

 

Sandhill Crane family

Sandhill Crane family

Posted in Animals, Florida, Photos | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Making Fairy Dust

My sixteen year old grandson likes to tease me that I am a witch. My friends here in Florida think I am that strange friend that makes weird stuff in her kitchen. I am really just a preserver who likes to know where her food is coming from. I think it is best to use as much of a food as possible. My humble opinion is that many of the ailments we are discovering in our population, especially the children, may be stemming from the fact that the food supply is becoming more and more refined and selective.

Our grandparents frugally used as much of a food as possible. Animals were processed and eaten snout to tail and usually the more perishable parts, like the liver, were eaten first. Now only the more appealing, select parts of an animal are offered up, wrapped in plastic and on a Styrofoam tray in our markets. My grandchildren probably have never seen, much less tasted, many animal parts. (Although, if they have spent much time with Grandma, they do get the opportunity to try out those “parts” that we delight in, like beef tongue.)

I hold the same belief about vegetables. Any gardener cringes at wasting any eatable part of something they have planted and nurtured to maturity. Wasted time and effort? Not a chance! A freshly pulled beet offers more than just a root to be savored. Look at those lush leaves at the top! There is an entirely different opportunity in the kitchen; two dishes from one plant. When beets are to be found in a supermarket they usually have but a few inches of the top’s stems if any at all.

All of this leads me to making tomato powder, or Fairy Dust as I call it (I’m a witch, remember?) When my supply of home canned tomato sauce begins to diminish, I buy a case of organic tomatoes (Why buy? Because I still haven’t got the hang of successfully growing tomatoes in Florida). I grind the tomatoes through an attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer, which strains out the skins and seeds. Maybe in another post I will tell you how I make the tomato sauce but today I want to tell you about those skins and seeds. They could be composted, or even worse thrown away! No, not in my kitchen! They are food!

Here is what I am talking about:

001

Tomato skins and seeds

I dehydrate this stuff until it is crispy. I can even pick it up:

Dry enough to pick up

Dry enough to pick up

 

I stuff the dried material into a pint canning jar that I use exclusively with my blender.

Into the jar

Into the jar

Remarkably, the opening of the jar is an exact fit for the blade components of my blender.

It fits

It fits

 

I invert the jar and blade and blend away until I produce a fairly fine powder. I sift out any large pieces and grind them up too.

006

Grinding the tomato skins

Then I put the powder into a bottle for storage.

Fairy dust aka tomato dust

Fairy dust aka tomato dust

This lovely powder is a great addition to my kitchen. It makes a wonderful addition to soup, sprinkled over a salad for a “wow” factor, and many other uses. I can add some boiling water to a tablespoon of it to make tomato paste. Imagine, on demand tomato paste that lasts indefinitely on my pantry shelf! And as a nod to the whimsy I love, I call it my Fairy Dust. (Want to know what my Pixie Dust is? Mushrooms that I rescued from the markdown bin at the store, dehydrated, and ground.)

As my Mom always said: “Waste not, want not.”  Do you have a creative way to use a food that might be wasted otherwise?

Posted in Cooking, Cooking Lesson, Do It Yourself, Food, Food Preservation, Photos | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

1985 Called…

And demanded my stove back. Yes, that was the actual Manufacturer’s date on the stove in our home. The burners had two temperatures HIGH and OFF. The oven had one temperature: Burned. I looked online for repair parts and discovered that unless I wanted to pay a LOT of money for specialty repair parts, I was out of luck. And yet, I had managed to figure out a way to use my canner on it and to cook on it after a fashion (with a lot of attention). Here’s a photo:

021

Last week Mr. M discovered a note in our community laundry room  advertising a stove. We investigated and found a neighbor about a mile away selling his one year old smooth top stove. He had recently moved into a new home and had an extra stove. The price was very reasonable so we bought it and brought it home in the back of our Hyundai Santa Fe.

Prior to bringing it home we moved the old stove out and donated it. When we moved it we discovered why we were having so much trouble with our floor sliding apart. It is a constant problem. The floor is obviously a newer addition but it just wouldn’t stay put. Here is why:

surprise!

I have no idea why the previous owner cut the flooring like this. I don’t want to buy additional flooring to fix this, so I came up with a fix. First I used some shims for the smaller gap and to “frame” the outlet box:

surprise!

Then I found a couple of pieces of trim the previous owners left behind and cut them to fit with my pruners:

Ready

Taaadaaa! No more sliding floor!

We put in the new stove and I cooked our first meal on it:

OOooooOOO, New!

OOooooOOO, New!

Isn’t it beautiful? And I used my pressure cooker to prepare our corned beef dinner. It was fantastic. I could bring the pot to pressure and turn the heat down and the burner would go on and off to maintain the right temperature. Wonderful!

There is just one small problem: (Isn’t there always??)

UHH OHH!

UHH OHH!

Nothing I can’t live with!

Posted in Do It Yourself, home repair | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

One of the things we do in Florida

Veranda

Ten years ago I couldn’t convince Mr. M to take a cruise. He was adamant that cruising was stupid and something he would NOT do. I, on the other hand , had taken a wonderful cruise in the mid-seventies with my Mom and sister-in-law. For over 30 years, I tried to convince him to take a cruise with me.

While we were in Mexico, I decided to force the issue. I traded a bunch of timeshare points for a one week cruise of the Eastern Caribbean. I told Mr. M, that I loved him and I wanted him to go on the cruise with me, but if he refused I would just go without him. Grudgingly, he decided to go; after all it was already paid for, he said.

Well, it seems that I have created a “Cruise Monster”! He absolutely loves cruising. In fact, he is now our official cruise planner. He researches cruises online and makes the reservations. Then he looks for the best cabin deal and keeps upgrading until we have to make the final payment. (Between you and me, I think that one of the reasons we moved to Florida just might be to make cruising more accessible.) He is such a cruise addict that on a 32 day cruise around South America, he spent some of his time at sea, “cruising” the internet for future cruises.

Since that first cruise, Mr. M and I have become global travelers (as opposed to tourists). We have learned to pack minimally, and what we are interested in for each country we visit (or how to avoid the Tourist Traps). We don’t buy many things in our travels, but I do buy salt and cheese. I have quite a collection of international salts. I use some of each but I keep a small portion as my souvenir. The cheese? Have I told you that my favorite food is cheese yet??

Posted in Florida, Photos, Travel | Tagged , , ,