condiment, Recipes, Uncategorized

Hot Pepper Jelly

I made hot pepper jelly two years ago, and at that time, I had to buy the jalapenos from the local farm stand because I didn’t have any red ones. You can make hot pepper jelly from green peppers, but the color won’t be as pretty, and the heat will be a bit sharper, not quite as mellow and fruity as when ripe, red peppers are used. This year, I had an abundance of red peppers and none of my previous batch of jelly left, so it made sense to make some more this week with the peppers I’d let ripen.

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I used a mix of ripe jalapeno and Serrano peppers. Serranos are just a bit hotter than jalapenos, but I knew from my previous experience that the heat of the peppers mellows into a nice, sustained warmth in the mouth after they’re cooked down with vinegar and sugar. Don’t be afraid of hot pepper jelly if you’ve never tried it before. This recipe isn’t hot. It won’t burn your mouth. I suppose if you used a really hot pepper, like a habanero or the very hot Thai chiles, it might. But, made with jalapenos or Serranos, this doesn’t.

Now, if you do want a hotter jelly for some unfathomable reason (some people just like to torture themselves, I guess!), don’t use more peppers in the recipe.   Do use a hotter pepper, like a habanero, or whatever you prefer, and use the same amount as the recipe calls for. This is so you don’t upset the acid balance of the recipe and create something that could be dangerous when the jar is opened.

You can, of course, use commercial pectin to make hot pepper jelly. I’ve seen the recipe for it on the Sure-Jell instructions. (I make a batch of strawberry jam with Sure-Jell for Dennis every spring, because he likes everything sickly sweet.) I don’t make my hot pepper jelly that way, and everybody who’s tried my jelly has liked it because it isn’t too sweet. I’m able to reduce the sugar in the recipe because instead of commercial pectin, I use apple pectin stock that I make each year when I’m processing my apples, and then freeze in 1 cup measures, so I always have it on hand when I want to make a jam that needs more pectin than the fruit contains (like hot pepper jelly, green tomato marmalade, or peach jam). Of course, if you use commercial pectin, you’ll also be using roughly twice the amount of sugar. That’s why I love jams and jellies made with apple pectin stock. The natural pectin in the apples allows for concentrating the natural sugars in the fruit while the jam or jelly cooks down, and while some sugar is needed, it’s generally about half of what you need when commercial pectin is used.

You might think that the longer cooking time would produce an over-cooked tasting jam or jelly, but it doesn’t. Because there is less sugar used with this method, the taste is much fresher, and the flavor of the fruit comes through much stronger. I will never go back to making jam or jelly any other way (except of course for that batch of strawberry jam each year for my husband’s sweet tooth). I’ve linked the recipe for apple pectin stock. Scroll down on that post, past the other apple recipes, to find how to make it. This stuff lasts a long time in the freezer. I’ve had some carry-over from year to year, and I’ve used some that’s been in the freezer for two years. It is perfectly fine, so if you don’t use your stock up in a year, don’t throw it out.

Now, to the recipe!

Hot Pepper Jelly

(makes about 7 half-pints)

8 ounces (by weight) ripe, red hot peppers (Jalapeno, Serrano, or your choice–*see Notes)

2 large red bell peppers, cleaned of seeds, and roughly chopped (about 4 cups—*see Notes)

2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen) or roughly chopped black, red, or purple plums (*see Notes)

2 large lemons, sliced (peel on, seeds don’t matter)

6 cups of vinegar (white or apple cider, but make sure it’s 5% acidity)

5-6 cups of sugar

2 cups water

3 cups apple pectin stock

Wearing gloves, slice the hot peppers in half and place them in a large (at least 6 quart) non-reactive pot (ceramic coated or stainless steel). If you want a milder jelly, remove the seeds and ribs of the peppers. (I leave them in.) Clean the bell peppers, removing seeds and membranes, and roughly chop (*see Notes). Add to pot. Add the cranberries or chopped plums, and the sliced lemons. Pour in the vinegar and add the water and apple pectin stock. Bring the pot to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to medium high and continue to boil for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent solid pieces from sticking to the bottom. (Prepare yourself for fumes from the boiling vinegar and capsaicin released from the peppers. The vinegar keeps the capsaicin in check, but it’s pretty potent itself.)

Prepare to drain the liquid off the solids by lining a colander with several layers of cheesecloth or nylon tulle. (I prefer the tulle—smaller holes and easier to maneuver and wash.) Place the lined colander over a large bowl.

When all the peppers have softened, pour the contents of the pot into the lined colander to drain. Stir occasionally to release liquid from solids, but don’t press. You want to keep all the solids out of the liquid so the jelly will be clear. Let the colander drain for about 30 minutes, or until dripping slows or stops. In the meantime, wash out the big pot (there will be a sort of red scum on the sides that you don’t want in your jelly) and get ready to use it again.  Now is a good time to prepare your water bath canner and jars, as well.  Jars should be sterilized!

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Pour off and measure the liquid in the bowl. You should have about 8 cups of liquid. If you don’t have enough liquid, return the solids to a pan, add as much water as you are missing from the 8 cups you should have (if it’s more than a cup, also add additional vinegar, ¼ cup for a cup of water, ½ cup for 2 cups of water), and cook again, on lower heat, for another 15 minutes. Be very careful to keep the solids from sticking and scorching at this point. Strain again, and measure liquid. You want 8 cups of liquid in total before you move on to the next step, which is boiling down your jelly. If you end up with a quarter cup more or less, that’s okay.

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Pour the liquid into the clean pot. Add 5 cups of sugar, stir until dissolved, and bring to a boil on high heat. Let the mixture boil for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then taste it. I ended up using 5 2/3 cups of sugar in mine, and I added the additional sugar 1/3 cup at a time, until I got the combination of sweetness and heat I was looking for. Don’t worry if the liquid tastes a bit bitter at this time. That bitterness cooks out as the liquid comes up to the jellying point. Continue to boil and stir the liquid until it reaches the jellying point, between 20-30 minutes, depending on your altitude. (It takes about 40-45 minutes for me, and I live at about 4500 feet.)

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You can use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, which will tell you when the jellying point has been reached at 220 degrees. I have one. I don’t use it. Because of my altitude, I prefer to use the cold plate method. Place a small ceramic or china plate in the freezer when you strain off the liquid. It should chill for about 30 min. before you start using it to test your set. I start testing at about 20-30 minutes cooking time, when I can see that the jelly liquid has reduced by about half. I place about half a teaspoon of the liquid on the cold plate, put it back in the freezer for 1 minute, and then push at the dab with my finger. If the dab wrinkles, the jelly will set. If it doesn’t, it’ll be syrup. I continue to test every five minutes until I get a good wrinkle on the plate. At that point, it’s ready to go in the jars. I pull the jelly off that burner and put it on the front one, on low, to keep it at a very low simmer, just barely a bubble breaking the surface, while I get it in the jars. This is very important, because if you over-cook the jelly, it will become gummy and set too hard. But you want the jelly very, very hot when it goes into the jars. (As you ladle in the jelly, you may notice that as it cools, it starts to string a bit and stick to the sides of the pan. That’s a good sign you’re going to get a good set, but keep the temperature low so that it doesn’t cook any further.)

The jars should have been sterilized in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes before you pour in the jelly. Ladle the jelly into one jar at a time, cap it with flat and ring, and place it in the boiling water bath canner to stay hot while you fill the rest of the jars. Process the jars in the boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes, adjusting for your altitude (I have to add 5 minutes to all my processing times because of my altitude). Remove the jars after processing and allow to completely cool before removing rings and cleaning jars, if necessary. Always test the seal on the jars before storing. Any jar that doesn’t seal can be stored in the fridge and used first.

Notes:

*8 ounces is about 16 jalapenos or 20 Serranos. I mixed mine and weighed them so I wouldn’t disturb the acid balance. If you use a hotter pepper, please be sure to weigh them so you aren’t guessing on the acid needed.

*I chopped my red bell peppers in the food processor this time, and then I remembered why I wasn’t supposed to do that. It chops them too finely. You want the pieces larger so that no pulp strains through when you drain it. This is to keep your jelly nice and clear. I used 4 layers of tulle when I strained, so I was okay. Whew!

*Cranberries vs. plums: These fruits are added primarily to naturally color the jelly, which tends to be a bit pale without them. However, they also add pectin from their skins, and I find it helpful to achieve a good set. If I didn’t have any plums or cranberries, I would add another cup of apple pectin stock and reduce the water by a cup, and just enjoy a paler pepper jelly. The original of this recipe, from Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation (I highly recommend this book—it’s taught me so much), says that “a handful of papery red onion skins” can also be used to color the jelly. I have not tried this and don’t think I ever will. While you can’t taste the plums or cranberries (I’ve used both), I like the color they give along with the added pectin. I used frozen cranberries this year and got a beautiful color and good set.

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I love this hot pepper jelly on a cracker with cream cheese, on a cracker with bear liver pate, on a cracker with cream cheese and fresh crab (coming, hopefully, in November!). You see the theme? If you’re working on game day finger goods, it’s nice to have a jar of this delicious, spicy jelly on hand. The guys really seem to love it. This jelly is also great on hot, buttered cornbread as an accompaniment to various mild soups, like potato, bean, or a fish chowder—and as a glaze for roast pork loin, it’s killer! Now that I’ve replenished my stock, I’m looking forward to finding new ways to use this wonderful condiment.

 

 

 

 

 

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Beverages, Canning, condiment, Recipes

Vanilla-infused Cranberry-Rhubarb Butter and Syrup: Update

I wanted to make this “happy accident” again to give as Christmas gifts, so here is an updated version of the recipes, which does not include cranberry sauce! Since cranberries and rhubarb are not in season simultaneously, one or the other of them (or both) will most likely be frozen when you make this preserve. I froze cranberries last year at Thanksgiving-time to use in this recipe, and I also always freeze rhubarb for pies throughout the summer. However, I still had rhubarb in the garden last week, so I was able to use fresh stalks this go-round for this recipe. But frozen rhubarb works perfectly well as I discovered last year.

Ingredients:

9 cups cranberries (mine were frozen)

9 cups sliced rhubarb (fresh or frozen)

4 cups water

4 cups sugar + ½ cup sugar, kept separate

2 vanilla beans

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Slit the vanilla beans and scrape the tiny black seeds into the pot. If your beans are fresh, throw the pods in too, just remove them before straining.* Place the all the ingredients except the ½ cup sugar in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until cranberry skins have burst and rhubarb is soft.

Line a colander or strainer with cheesecloth (personally, I prefer nylon tulle—it has smaller holes and is easier to deal with after you’re done—just rinse it out, wash it, and use it again!). Pour cranberry-rhubarb mixture into the strainer and just leave it for an hour or so. You can stir gently, but avoid forcing solids through the cheesecloth or tulle.

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After the dripping has stopped, pour off the syrup you’ve gathered. (If any tiny cranberry seeds have found their way through, you might want to strain through another cloth, but it isn’t necessary.) Pour the fruit syrup into a clean pan and heat until boiling, lowering to simmer for 10 minutes. You should have about 4 cups, or 2 pint jars worth. This can be poured into sterilized, hot jars, capped, and canned in the water bather canner for 15 minutes, adjusting processing time for your altitude. This syrup is delicious in cocktails or non-alcoholic spritzers. You get the tartness of cranberry and rhubarb, the sweetness of sugar, and the floral scent and flavor of the vanilla beans. It is good stuff!

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If you want to use the syrup for pancakes, boil it down a little longer until it is thicker and reduced to the consistency you prefer for pancakes or waffles. If it isn’t sweet enough for you, you can add agave nectar or non-high-fructose corn syrup to the mixture (about a cup per 4 cups of fruit syrup), which will also thicken it more. Bring back to a boil, and can the syrup as directed above.

Now, for the cranberry-rhubarb butter. A word about fruit butters might be in order here. A fruit butter, such as pear butter or apple butter, is a smooth, thick, rich concoction you can spread on toast, or a bagel, or anything else you choose (a cracker with a slice of tart cheese, or a schmear of cream cheese, perhaps). Generally, the fruit is cooked and strained or pureed and cooked down some more until it is concentrated flavor. Oh, my, I do love fruit butters! I make pear butter when I can get pears, and I make apple butter every year from my garden apples. This cranberry-rhubarb butter is just as thick and delicious, but you don’t have to cook it down for very long the way you do pear or apple butter. I am guessing that the abundance of natural pectin in both fruits, and the fact that you’ve strained off some of the juice, have something to do with this.

Now, you could just skip the next step, the second straining, and can this mixture as jam. It would need to be cooked down a little more, until it is thick and glossy, and then it could go right in the sterile jars and be processed for 10 minutes in the water bath canner like any other jam. However, rhubarb can be fibrous, and cranberry skins can be tough even with long cooking, so running the mixture through a strainer is a good idea. And what you end up with is so smooth and delicious, it really is worth the trouble.

So, for cranberry-rhubarb butter, run the mixture through a chinois (also known as a China cap colander) or a Squeezo strainer, or whatever sort of straining device you have. I use a chinois, which I call a cone colander when I’m not being all fancy-like. This gets out all the rhubarb fibers and tough cranberry skins. (I saved this roughage though to eat like cranberry sauce with roast chicken. I don’t really mind the occasional tough skin or rhubarb string.) What you will end up with in the pan or bowl after straining is thick and smooth pulp.

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Put that strained pulp (I got about 5 cups) back in a large pot, add the reserved ½ cup sugar if the mixture is too tart for you (or more, if you prefer a sweeter taste; ½ cup was perfect for me) and heat to boiling. This stuff is really thick, so as soon as it starts to blurp, turn the heat down, and do stir continuously during the heating up process and until the butter reaches a lower heat; otherwise, it will stick and scorch. Cook the butter on a low heat at a constant simmer until it is very glossy. This should only take about 10 or 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The glossiness means that all the sugars have amalgamated, and the pectins have been concentrated, and you will have a nice, thick, rich spread when it comes out of the jar.

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Spoon your cranberry-rhubarb butter into sterilized, hot jars, leaving a ½ headspace, cap, and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes, adjusting processing time for your altitude.

I got 5 half-pint jars of cranberry-rhubarb butter, most of which I will give for Christmas gifts, but at least one jar will be served with Thanksgiving dinner, because it is perfect for that meal.

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Recipe Notes:

*My vanilla beans weren’t fresh, and I learned something. If the beans smell a bit alcoholic, that’s the pod. Scrape the inside of the bean and use that, but discard the pods. The inside is still perfectly fine. My beans were a year old, but had been kept tightly wrapped in a Ziploc plastic bag and in a jar in the fridge. Obviously, you don’t want to use anything that’s moldy or weeping liquid.

With these amounts of fruit, etc., my yield was 2 pints of cranberry-rhubarb syrup, 5 half-pints of cranberry-rhubarb butter (with a small dish leftover to enjoy NOW!), and a pint-sized tub of roughage to eat like cranberry sauce with roast chicken (pic below).

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I hope you’ll freeze some rhubarb and/or cranberries this year to try this recipe. It really is amazingly good. Happy jamming!

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Beverages, Canning, condiment, Desserts, Recipes

Berry Recipes

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It is berry season for all those berries that grow on canes.  I have raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, and Loganberries in the garden, and they bear in that order.  The raspberries are almost finished (until fall, when another variety will start to bear), the boysenberries also are nearly done, and the blackberries are just getting started.  Loganberries will start ripening in mid-to-late August.

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I’ve posted berry recipes before, but I’m gathering the links together for you, so you can more easily find what you might be looking for.  In some cases, you might have to scroll down (or read down) to find the recipe at the end of a post.

Blackberry Cordial and Syrup

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I just made a batch of blackberry cordial and a batch of mixed berry cordial (Logan berries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blackberries), and the mixed berry cordial is delicious.  This recipe will work with any berry juice.

Raspberry Cordial, Jam, Vinegar

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And a reason to make blackberry jam or jelly, Blackberry and Wine Poached Pears

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And a recipe to use your berry-infused vinegar in, Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

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And finally, since I just made a different version of blackberry syrup, I’m going to post the recipe here, with a few notes.

Blackberry Syrup

4 cups of blackberry juice

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of agave nectar/syrup

Simmer the blackberry juice and sugar together for 8 minutes, then add the agave nectar and boil for 2 more minutes.  Keep at a low simmer while ladling into hot, sterilized jars (pints, quarts, or half-pints) and add flats and rings.  Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

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Note:  My old syrup recipe, in the first link above, called for light corn syrup, a cup.  This recipe makes delicious pancake syrup (or it can be used in cocktails or spritzers), but with the concerns about corn syrup today, I went looking for a new recipe.  I found the one above that uses agave nectar, one cup, and it’s really good.  However, when I compared calorie and sugars numbers between corn syrup and agave, I was somewhat surprised.  Light corn syrup contains 5 grams of sugars per tablespoon and 15 grams of carbohydrates.  Agave nectar contains 16 grams of sugars and 16 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon.  Of course, corn syrup is problematic for other reasons, but if you’re just counting calories, it’s a bit of surprise that the syrup made with corn syrup has fewer calories than the one made with agave nectar.

The choice is yours:  both recipes make an excellent syrup for pancakes, cocktails and spritzers, or to drizzle over ice cream sundaes or mix up in a milk shake, or stir into some thick Greek yogurt . . . . What would you put it on?

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condiment, Fermenting, Recipes, Uncategorized

Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing for Spring Greens

I love those fresh greens from my garden and greenhouse:  spinach, lettuce, kale.  I’m picking them now, a little late because I didn’t have my usual volunteers (I’m blaming the drought for that) and because my surgeries kept me from getting into the garden and greenhouse as early as I usually am in spring.

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But now it’s time for fresh salad, and to go with those lovely, fresh spring greens, you need a special salad dressing.  I have one.

Some years ago (2013 to be exact), I made some raspberry- and blackberry-infused vinegars from my own homemade apple scrap vinegar and the pulp from my jam making.  I must say, those vinegars turned out beautifully, but I have not used them as much as I thought I would, so I still have some in the fridge, two years old but as delicious now as when I made them.  So to honor my fresh spring greens, I dug up my recipe for berry vinaigrette salad dressing.  Last time I wrote about this, I used my raspberry-infused vinegar, but this time, I used the blackberry-infused vinegar.  And all I can say is:  WOW!  Here is the recipe, with links to instructions for making your own infused vinegars.  I hope you will try this recipe, because I know you’ll enjoy it.

Raspberry or Blackberry Vinaigrette with Chia Seeds

(makes about ¾ cup)

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of minced onion (I like red onion in this)

¼ cup raspberry-infused vinegar or blackberry-infused vinegar

2 tablespoons of honey or agave syrup

½ teaspoon dry, powdered mustard or prepared Dijon mustard

½ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons chia seeds

 

Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor (if using food processor, you can mince the onions with it) or with a whisk in a bowl. The mustard will help to emulsify the dressing, but it will separate slightly, so it should be shaken well before using. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more honey or agave one teaspoon at a time until the sweetness level is right for your taste buds.

Now, if you don’t have any raspberry-infused vinegar, and don’t want to make it, for whatever reason, you can make this dressing without it. Simply substitute white wine vinegar or even rice vinegar for the raspberry-infused vinegar, and for the honey or agave, substitute raspberry jam or preserves. Again, taste your dressing to see if you’d like it sweeter. My version isn’t very sweet, as I don’t happen to care for sweet salad dressings.

Update:  When I started looking for recipes for raspberry vinaigrette salad dressings, I noticed that they all contained poppy seeds.  I have nothing against poppy seeds, but I don’t keep them in my kitchen.  However, I do have chia seeds on hand and am working on ways to incorporate them into more dishes (oatmeal and puddings, for example).  So I thought, why not?  At the time I decided to put chia seeds into this vinaigrette recipe, I didn’t know that chia seeds release a substance that thickens liquids.  This actually makes them perfect for a salad dressing, because they keep the dressing thick and emulsified.  In other words, they give the mustard, the traditional emulsifier for dressing (emulsification, put simply, is the smooth mixture of fats and liquids) a helping hand. This salad dressing won’t separate on you the way most vinaigrettes do.  And the chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, good for your heart and other body parts, so it’s all to the good to incorporate them into as many dishes as you can.

Eat your spring greens with some delicious berry vinaigrette dressing with chia seeds.  It’s all good for you!

 

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condiment, Dairy, Fermenting, Recipes, Side dishes

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch-Style Salad Dressing

My husband is addicted to ranch salad dressing. I like it too, but I don’t like all the extra junk they put in the stuff sold in stores: soybean oil, for instance. I stay away from soybeans because they are treated with glyphosate herbicides. So I’ve been working on a buttermilk ranch-style salad dressing that is made with the freshest, healthiest possible ingredients. These include homemade buttermilk, cultured at home and full of good probiotic organisims (make it from organic milk for best health), homemade mayonnaise (also made with healthier, higher grade oils than the commercially-produced mayos), and home-grown and dried herbs. Now, you can make this dressing with store-bought buttermilk, store-bought mayo, and store-bought herbs, and it’s still going to taste better and be better for you than any ranch dressing you buy in a store. I hope you’ll give this a try.

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch-Style Salad Dressing

3/4 cup homemade mayo *

¾ cup homemade buttermilk **

1 tablespoon homemade apple scrap vinegar ***

1 tablespoon dried tomato skin powder ****(optional—I’m always looking for new ways to use this)

¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (regular paprika may be used)

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1-2 tablespoons dehydrated onion bits (ground in clean coffee grinder or spice grinder) or onion powder

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

½ teaspoon dried hyssop (I like this herb, it adds a sharper greenness than parsley, but it isn’t common, and can be omitted)

Pinch (or more) of dried thyme

¼-1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)

¼-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (I like freshly ground)

Start with the lesser amount of seasonings. Mix well in jar with tight lid. (You can see I used an old ranch salad dressing jar to make it easier for my husband to find it in the fridge. He’s a bit challenged when it comes to seeing what he’s looking for!)

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Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. You may substitute other herbs, or use fresh herbs, but fresh herbs will lessen the storage life of your dressing. I use dried in the winter when we eat fewer salads, and fresh in the spring and summer when my herbs have greened up and my own lettuces are producing, and we go through the dressing in a week or two.  Fresh chives are delicious in this dressing when you have them.

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Store in fridge. Keeps about 2 weeks in fridge, or longer, depending on the freshness of your buttermilk and mayonnaise. I’ve had it last over a month. It might separate, but you just shake it back together. Discard if the dressing becomes moldy.  That’s when you know the dressing has exceeded its shelf life!

Notes: *If you have not yet tried the easiest homemade mayo ever, please click here for the recipe. It is so good, and it also contains some probiotics if you use active culture yogurt and raw vinegar in it. If you use store-bought mayo, the dressing will still taste great.

**Making your own buttermilk is so easy. I love making it at home because I can make it the amounts I am likely to use. I used to buy it a quart at a time, and half of it would always go bad before I used it up. I hate wasting anything and discovered that I could freeze leftover buttermilk to use as a chicken marinade or in baking, but if it’s been frozen very long, the active cultures in it die, and then it can’t be used to make sour cream or more buttermilk, although I believe it’s still good for baking. (When you use buttermilk in baking, you need to add baking soda, which reacts with the acids in the buttermilk to make light, fluffy, baked goods).

So now I make my own buttermilk, about a cup at a time, which is perfect for making a batch of gluten-free buttermilk pancakes (recipe coming soon—so good!) or a jar of buttermilk ranch salad dressing, or cakes, biscuits, and other baked goods. To see how to make your own cultured, probiotic buttermilk as you need it, please click here.

***Those of you who follow this blog know that I make my own apple scrap vinegar. It is probiotic and tasty. If you’d like to try it yourself, click here.  You can make it on a small scale, in a half-gallon jar, which is how I started out. Now I have enough organic apple scraps from my apples to make it in 5 gallon buckets! But you can buy Bragg’s vinegar raw, or you can use any apple cider vinegar in this recipe.

****Also if you follow this blog, you’ve seen me write about saving my tomato skins when I make charred salsa, tomato-apple chutney, and Italian Red Sauce. I’ve found various ways to use them; please click on the links if you’re interested in new ways to use your dried tomato skins: pulled pork rub, braised and barbecued pork ribs. The tomato skins can be omitted from the ranch dressing recipe if you choose, but I like it.

I hope you enjoy this ranch dressing recipe enough to ditch the store-bought dressings with all the added ingredients that nobody needs to be ingesting. The bonus with this recipe is that you get some probiotics to boot! You really can’t beat that deal.

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Beverages, condiment, Dairy, Desserts, Recipes, Side dishes

Making Buttermilk

Now, some of you might be asking, why would you want to do that? Well, buttermilk is probiotic. It’s a culture/ferment that uses lactobacilli to alter the chemistry of milk. I must confess, I do not drink the stuff, although my father loved it. One of his favorite snacks was a big glass of buttermilk poured over a bowl of cold, crumbled cornbread, with a couple of fresh green onions from the garden on the side. I never developed a taste for that dish, but I have learned that buttermilk in baked goods lends a lightness only rivaled by sourdough. And it is excellent in salad dressings, and as a marinade for chicken, so I’ve been told, though I’ve never done it. I’ve come to love the stuff, and I keep a small jar of it in my fridge at all times. I enjoy knowing I have something freshly probiotic to mix into a salad dressing, for instance. I’ll be sharing a couple of my favorite buttermilk recipes with you in future posts.

Making your own buttermilk is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is mix 1/3rd cup of cultured buttermilk from the store with 1 cup of fresh milk. Shake it up in jar with a good lid, let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, and you’ll have buttermilk. On the left is the old jar, with what’s left of the buttermilk I made a couple of days ago, and on the right is the fresh batch that will be ready in 24 hours.

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You’ll know it’s ready when you tilt the jar and the buttermilk pulls away from the side of the jar. It will be thick and viscous.

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At this point, it will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

I’ve learned through experimentation that the more often you culture buttermilk, the tangier and thicker your buttermilk will become. Also, you can make buttermilk from milk of any fat content, but the more fat, the thicker the buttermilk tends to be. Buttermilk mixed into half and half or heavy cream will produce sour cream that is similar to crème fraiche. For that recipe, click here.  You can use this cultured cream just as you would any sour cream or crème fraiche, in dips, in baking, as a topping for baked potatoes or cheesecake!

Always save 1/3 cup of cultured buttermilk to mix with 1 cup of fresh milk for a new batch. Of course, you can double or triple these amounts, keeping the same proportions, if you wish to make a larger volume of buttermilk.

Check back with me in a few days for a recipe using fresh, homemade buttermilk.

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condiment, Gluten-free, Recipes

Stick Blender Healthy Mayonnaise

How many of you have given up mayonnaise because of health reasons? How many of you have tried making mayonnaise with a more nutritious oil, only to end up with a gloopy mess in your blender or bowl that didn’t amalgamate? There is a better way.

Do you have a stick blender (a.k.a. immersion blender)? An egg? Some good oil? Some fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar? If so, you have the makings of the easiest,  healthiest, and best mayonnaise you’ll ever taste.

Recently, I read an article about twenty-one foods that were supposed to not only prevent arterial plaque build-up but to actually clear out plaque deposits. One of those foods was avocado. Now it happens that I had just found quite a bargain on avocado oil, normally rather expensive, at our local Grocery Outlet. And it also happens that I was out of mayonnaise and couldn’t find a brand I wished to buy. I’ve gotten rather picky about my mayo in the last few years, and I don’t buy bargain brands of mayonnaise any more. They just don’t taste right.

So, avocado oil, no mayo, and an ah-ha moment. I’d read about stick blender mayo about a year ago, had meant to try it, and had just never gotten around to it. Besides, there’s not much point in making mayonnaise when you have a great big jar of Best Foods from Costco sitting in your fridge. But now, convergence.

There are so many different stick blender mayo recipes on the internet, it was hard to choose one. Then a particular recipe was recommended to me, so that’s where I started. Here is the link to the recipe I began with, although I altered it a bit, and ended up with the most delicious mayo I’ve ever tasted. Dennis didn’t really want to taste it because he’s not that fond of mayonnaise and usually only puts spicy brown mustard on his sandwiches, but when I insisted, he said, “Mmmm. Wow, that’s good. Way better than store bought. I’m going to start putting that on my sandwiches from now on.”

I rest my case.

Stick Blender Mayonnaise

1 large egg*

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I used my homemade apple scrap vinegar)

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon plain active culture yogurt** (I used my homemade yogurt)

1 cup light tasting oil *** (I used avocado oil.)

Now, this is where the fun begins. You need a container to hold your ingredients that will also hold your stick blender. I used a jar I’d saved, because I could mix the mayo right in the vessel I intended to store it in. You can use a plastic container, or a deep bowl, and transfer your mayo after it’s made to any storage container you like.

Put all the ingredients in the order listed into the vessel of your choice. Let the egg settle to the bottom of the vessel, then put your stick blender all the way to the bottom of the vessel and turn it on. You’ll see mayonnaise forming almost right away. Move the blender around and up and down a little to mix in all the oil. The entire process only takes about 30 seconds.

When all the oil has been mixed and your mayo is creamy white and thick, you’re done.

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Turn off the blender, remove it from the vessel, and scrape off all that lovely lusciousness. Your mayonnaise should last for several weeks in the fridge. Because it contains no preservatives, it will not last indefinitely like store bought mayonnaise. But that’s okay—it’s so easy to make, whenever you run out, a fresh batch is only 30 seconds away!

Notes: *Using raw eggs scares some people. There’s a process for pasteurizing eggs at home if you’re one of those folks. I just use the freshest eggs I can buy whenever I have a raw application, and I don’t worry about it. In this case, I think the combination of oil and acids in the vinegar (lemon or lime juice can also be used) and mustard, as well as the salt, makes for a pretty safe combination. And the addition of the **active culture yogurt is also said, according to some, to keep the mayonnaise fresh longer.  I found a recipe for coconut oil mayonnaise, not made with a stick blender, but which I would very much like to try with a stick blender, that uses Greek yogurt and whey. Whey is simply what drains from the yogurt and contains the lactobacilli which make milk into yogurt, so adding active culture yogurt has the same effect.  ***For oil, you can use any light-tasting oil: extra-light olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, walnut oil. Strongly flavored oils, like extra virgin olive oil, may cause your mayo to be too strongly flavored.  I stay away from canola oil because it is one of the commercial crops sprayed with glyphosate herbicides.

I now have about 1 ½ cups of avocado oil mayonnaise so good I can’t decide exactly what I’m going to do with it. Sandwiches, of course, maybe some tuna salad or egg salad. Homemade buttermilk salad dressing? Potato salad? How about a little mayo mixed with some lemon juice and lemon zest as a sauce for steamed broccoli or asparagus, or perhaps a dip for artichokes? I am going to have some fun!

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