Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 10: No Knead bread

A while back, we tried a recipe for overnight bread, which you can read about here, and find a link to the original recipe we used.

I then tried an “over day” version, using the dough baby from my Babcia’s bread experiment. It was fantastically successful!

We’ve made it again, as a pretty basic no-knead bread and, once again, it turned out awesome!

If you are new to this blog and don’t know the background to this, you can read the story behind my experiment to try and recreate the bread my grandmother made in pre-WWII Poland, as my mother remembers it. Or you can check out all the posts about it at this link. All links will open in new tabs, so you don’t lose your place here!

Here is how we made No-knead bread, using the old dough method.

The first step is to dig the dough baby out of the flour it sleeps in.

My Babcia did bread baking once a week, and when the old dough sits that long, it tends to be dry enough to break apart into pieces before reconstituting it. This time, the dough baby had not been sleeping in its bed of flour for that long, and it was still quite… doughy! πŸ˜€

So I just pulled it apart a bit and placed it in the bottom of a very large bowl.

I don’t know how much that is. Maybe about 2 cups, including the flour stuck to it? The dough baby rises and collapses while stored in the flour, and I made no effort to measure the quantity.

I also pre-measured 2 Tbsp each of course salt and sugar, and 1 Tbsp of yeast.

The yeast would be optional. The dough would need more time to rise without it, which would give more of a sourdough flavour.

Four cups of very warm water was added to the dough baby. Since it wasn’t dry enough to break into pieces, I spent some time stirring it and breaking it up in the water.

Then, the sugar and yeast was added and mixed in, the bowl loosely covered, and it was left for about 10 minutes.

I like to use traditional active dry yeast, rather than quick or instant dry yeast, but that’s just me. The traditional yeast needs more time to proof in the liquid compared to the quick yeast, and the instant yeast wouldn’t need to be added at all at this point, but would be mixed in with the flour.

If I were not using yeast, I would leave the water, dough baby and sugar mixture in a warm place for much longer, checking regularly to see how active it was.

Here is how it looked after 10 minutes. I stirred it again to break up the dough baby a bit more.

Then it was time to add some flour.

I started by adding 3 cups of flour. It’s easier to mix in that amount compared to starting with just one cup.

I decided to use Durum wheat flour at this point, just because I have it. Use whatever flour, or mix of flours, you like best!

After the first 3 cups was thoroughly beaten in, I added another cup of flour and the salt.

More flour was beaten in, about a cup at a time at first, then a half up at a time.

How much flour to use is something I’ve never been precise about. I know there are bread bakers that weigh and measure precise amounts, but in my experience, that just doesn’t work. The amount of flour needed can depend on things like how fresh the flour itself is, to how much humidity there is in the air.

With 4 cups of water, I would have expected to work in at least 8 cups of flour for this recipe (with my usual kneaded bread, I typically used 5 or 6 cups of flour to 2 1/2 cups liquid).

We are very, very dry right now.

Today, I worked in 7 1/2 cups of flour, and probably could have done with a bit less.

By this point, I was working the flour in with my hand rather than trying to stir it with a spoon. If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook, go ahead and use it!

Before setting it aside to rise, right in the same bowl, I sprinkled some flour over the top and sides, in case it rose high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl’s lid.

Lightly cover the bowl, then set it in a warm place for about an hour. With our chilly our kitchen is in the winter, I heated our oven to its lowest setting (145F on “warm”), then shut it off before I started mixing the flour into the dough. The covered bowl is left in the warm oven, with the light on, to rise. Anywhere that is warm and draft free will do.

Here it is, after an hour. It just barely touched the bottom of the lid! πŸ˜€

The dough it then pushed down and worked a bit to incorporate the flour that had been dredged on top.

Next is a very, very important step.

A piece of the dough needs to be removed and set aside for the next batch of bread!

I dumped some flour on a container and plopped about a cup of dough onto it.

Once the new dough baby was set aside, the rest of the dough was dumped onto a 9×13 inch baking sheet that was lined with parchment paper. The last time I made this, I used a parchment paper lined lasagna pan, but I could also have split it into two parchment paper lined loaf pans.

If I didn’t have parchment paper, I would have well oiled the pan, first.

Speaking of oil…

After spreading the dough out to fill the bottom of the pan, I stabbed at the dough with my fingers to create “dimples”, then topped it with oil, course salt and dried parsley flakes.

I happened to still have some fake truffle oil that I used, but an olive or avocado oil would work just was well.

The pan was then set aside for the dough to rise again. Since this batch is so flat and thin, I started preheating the oven for 450F right away. Had I used loaf pans or the lasagna pan again, I would have let it rise longer before preheating the oven. If I had used no yeast at all, it would be left in a warm place until doubled in size.

While the shaped loaf was waiting to go in the oven, there is this to deal with…

The bottom of the bowl still has quite a bit of dough stuck to it!

We can’t let that go to waste!

Into the bowl went the new dough baby, and the flour it had been resting on.

While working the flour dregs into the dough baby, scrape as much of the dough stuck to the sides and incorporate it into the dough baby.

You probably won’t get all of it off the sides, which is okay.

The dough baby is now ready for a nap. I have a canister of flour that I bury it in, but it can also be buried right in a bag of flour, as long as you’re not planning to use the flour for anything else in between bread baking!

After the dough baby has been buried, it will rise quite a bit before collapsing in on itself, breaking through the surface of the flour. Remember to check on the dough baby later on, to make sure it is still covered in flour.

Once the oven is ready, place the pan of bread into oven and bake. If you wish, place a container with about a cup of water on the rack under the bread pan, to add some steam to the oven as it bakes.

For a very flat loaf like what I made today, it took about 25 minutes. A deeper loaf, or a pair of loaf pans will likely need 30-40 minutes. Bake it until it looks like this.

With the oil added to the surface, it will have a deep, golden colour when it’s ready.

When baked, remove from the oven and left to cool for a few minutes. Once it is safe to do so, remove the bread from the pan and onto a cooling rack (parchment paper makes that job a LOT easier!).

I really like the big, flat slab of bread, but it is a bit hard to cut a slice off! πŸ˜€

Here is how it looks on the inside.

The crumb is light and fluffy, yet still wonderfully chewy. The star of the show, however, is that golden, flavorful top crust! It’s just a lovely and delicious combination of textures and flavours.

The only problem with this bread is how difficult it is, not to just scarf it all down right away! πŸ˜€

Here is the recipe.

Old Dough No Knead Bread

Ingredients:

  • old dough set aside from previous bread baking
  • 4 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp traditional active dry yeast (optional, or use 2 Tbsp if you don’t have old dough)
  • 2 Tbsp course salt
  • about 7 or 8 cups of flour
  • small amount of good quality oil (olive oil, avocado oil, etc.)
  • small amount of dried parsley and course salt

Break up the old dough into a large bowl. Pour water over the old dough and stir. Add the sugar and yeast and leave to proof for about 10 minutes. If you do not have old dough, use the larger amount of yeast and proof it in the sugar water. If using only the old dough and no added yeast, leave the bowl in a warm place until the mixture is bubbly.

After the yeast and old dough has proofed, add 3 cups of flour and mix thoroughly until it forms a very smooth batter. (An electric mixer can be used at this stage.)

Add the salt and 1 cup of flour, mixing thoroughly.

Add more flour a little at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until it reaches a thick but sticky consistency. Use your hands to mix in the last of the flour. (If you have an electric mixer with dough hook attachments, switch to the dough hooks at this point.)

Leaving the dough in the bowl, dust the top of the dough with flour and cover loosely. Place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size.

Prepare baking pans by lining with parchment paper or oiling thoroughly.

When the dough has risen, punch it down again, folding it into itself to incorporate the flour dusted on top.

Dust some flour on a small plate or bowl. Remove about a cup of dough for the next batch of bread, setting it aside on the floured container until later.

Pour the remaining dough into the prepared baking pan(s). Using your hands, press the dough to fill the pan to the edges and corners, then stab into the surface with your fingers to create dimples in the dough.

Carefully sprinkle oil across the surface of the dough, then use your hand to spread it evenly across the surface.

Sprinkle the oiled surface with course salt and dried parsley.

Set aside in a warm place to rise.

While the bread is rising, return the dough set aside earlier to the mixing bowl, along with any flour in the plate or bowl. Use the flour and the dough ball to scrape off any remaining dough stuck to the surface of the bowl, working the dough ball until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball, then bury it in a container of flour, for use in the next batch of bread.

When the pan of rising bread is almost doubled in size, preheat the oven to 450F.

Place the bread in the centre rack of the preheated oven; if desired, place about a cup of water in an oven proof container on the lower rack to create steam.

Bake until the bread is a deep, golden colour – about 25 minutes when using a 9″x13″ baking sheet, about 30-35 minutes if using loaf pans, or a cake or lasagna pan. The finished loaf should sound hollow when the bottom is tapped.

Set aside to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the bread to a rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer

Recipe: Mushroom, Bacon Haluski

Today, I bring to you a variation of the traditional Polish dish called haluski. You can go here for a traditional recipe with some common variations. The link will open in a new tab, so you won’t lose your place. πŸ™‚

Oddly, though my parents were both born in Poland, and I grew up with a lot of traditional Polish foods, haluski was not one of them. Mind you, when I was a kid, I hated cabbage and probably wouldn’t have eaten it if my mother did make some! Even so, my parents also took us to Polish celebrations and events in the city, and I have no memory of this dish. I did not discover it existed until within the past year or so, while looking up things to do with cabbage!

Of the recipes I found, the most basic is onion, cabbage, noodles, and a lot of butter. Some include bacon, kielbasa or a variety of cured meats, like pancetta. I tried making it with bacon, and we liked it enough that it has since become a fairly regular dish in our household. My husband is not too keen on cabbage, though. πŸ˜‰

This time, I decided to experiment with the recipe, and I am very happy with the result. The plain egg noodles were replaced with mushroom egg noodles and, because I still had some left, I included dried mushrooms as well.

The dried mushrooms are a mix of white button mushrooms, crimini and shiitake mushrooms.

The next time we dry mushrooms, we need to do a whole lot more! πŸ˜€

The noodles I used are a brand that is easily found in our area, usually in its own little display. They are made with 2% porcini mushroom granules.

While preparing the noodles according to package instructions, I chopped the cabbage and onions, cut the bacon into small pieces, and set the dried mushrooms to reconstitute in boiling water. If I were using fresh mushrooms, I would have just sliced them.

Not pictured is the butter and seasonings. The seasonings can be just salt and pepper. As I still have some left, I used mushroom salt, as well as freshly ground pepper, garlic granules and paprika. Fresh garlic can be used instead of the granules, adding them in just before the cabbage.

The bacon pieces were added to a large pot and fried until they started getting crispy. The bacon fat is used in place of butter at this point.

Then the onions were added and, after they had softened a bit, the reconstituted mushrooms were added. The liquid was included, too, which helped deglaze the pot. The seasonings were also added at this point.

Where I using fresh mushrooms, I would have added them to the bacon before the onions.

Next, the cabbage was added, along with a dollop of butter, and cooked until soft.

By the time the cabbage was ready, the noodles were cooked and drained.

The cooked noodles were then mixed in, along with another dollop of butter.

Here is the end result, sprinkled with dehydrated parsley from our garden.

The mushrooms and mushroom noodles were a very tasty modification to this traditional dish. The flavour they add is not overpowering, but there is a whole new layer of umami in the dish that works very well! I think it would have done nicely with a dollop of sour cream on top, too.

Here is the recipe! If you give it a try, I hope you come back to let me know how you like it. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Mushroom, Bacon Haluski
serves 4, generously

Ingredients:

1 medium cabbage
1 medium yellow cooking onion
1 package bacon slices, 500g
1 package mushroom egg noodles, 350g
1/3 cup dried mushrooms of choice
seasonings to taste (mushroom salt, pepper, paprika and garlic granules were used for this recipe)
butter, as needed

Directions:

  • remove outer leaves from cabbage, core and chop into pieces about the same size as the noodles
  • chop onion and slice bacon into roughly half-inch pieces
  • line a small bowl with a coffee filter. Add the dried mushrooms, breaking up any larger pieces, and cover with boiling water
  • cook noodles according to package directions
  • while the noodles are being prepared, place the bacon pieces into a large pot. Cook on medium high heat until desired crispness, stirring frequently
  • add chopped onion and cook until the onion begins to turn translucent, stirring frequently
  • add the reconstituted mushrooms (the coffee filter makes it easier to pick them up out of the liquid). Cook briefly, then add the liquid the mushrooms were soaking in. Stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot.
  • add seasonings. Continue cooking, stirring often, until onions are soft and the liquid is cooked down until almost gone
  • add the chopped cabbage, along with about 1/4 cup butter (adjust quantities of butter as needed). Combine well and continue cooking, stirring often, until cabbage is at desired tenderness
  • add cooked and drained noodles to the cabbage mixture, adding more butter as desired
  • combine well. Cook until the noodles are heated through.
  • serve while hot

Enjoy!

Brownies, with recipe

Along with the sourdough batter bread my daughters made today, they also made brownies!

I wasn’t there to take pictures as they made it, but here is their recipe.

I didn’t realize until I uploaded the picture that there’s flour covering some of it. That reads “1 1/4” for the white sugar. πŸ™‚

For the chocolate chips, this time they used mini Reese’s Pieces.

These are such decadent brownies!

I think I’m going to go have a piece…

The Re-Farmer

Historical recipe: one recipe, two products

One of my long time interests is experimenting with historical cooking.

I say experimenting, because it’s not unusual for these recipes to include ingredients that are no longer available, hard to find, unknown or even extinct. Plus, they often don’t include a lot of information, either because it was assumed the reader already understood what was needed, or it was simply technologically impossible for the time period.

Thankfully, that’s not as much of a difficulty for recipes from more recent time periods.

Not too long ago, I discovered a YouTube channel called Townsends, featuring all things 18th century. I highly recommend it! I was intrigued by this video on how to make Mushroom Ketchup.

Yes, you read that correctly! Mushroom. Ketchup.

It sounded both weird and delicious at the same time! πŸ˜€

I found the recipe here, and decided to give it a go.

Continue reading

Bigos – Re-Farmer Style!

Traditionally, bigos – otherwise known as Hunter’s Stew – is made with game meat and a whole lot of ingredients I don’t typically have on hand. I just used what I had! Maybe I should call it Non-Hunter’s Stew? πŸ˜€

This is my version of Poland’s national dish!

I made this yesterday evening, for today’s eating, and I must say, it turned out very well!

It was breakfast – and a fine breakfast it made!

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar fermented vegetable sauerkraut or purchased sauerkraut
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 5-6 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 small to medium sized head of cabbage
  • 5 or 6 crimini mushrooms or mushrooms of choice
  • cooked sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces, to make about 2 – 3 cups
  • 2 cups cubed pork or fresh meat of choice
  • 1 package bacon
  • 1/2 cup crab apple cider vinegar, mixed with 1/2 cup vegetable broth, or 1 cup de-glazing liquid of choice.
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • optional: seasonings to taste
Top row, left to right: sauerkraut (rinsed and draining), chopped crimini mushrooms, cubed pork, cooked sausage (honey garlic).
Middle left: frying bacon pieces. Middle right: de-glazing the pan
Bottom row, left to right: softening cabbage mixture, all ingredients stirred together, stew after 1 hour in oven, stew after 2 hours in oven.
Centre: Bigos, after resting overnight, topped with sour cream and parsley

Instructions:

  1. Turn oven on to 350F.
  2. drain sauerkraut, rinsing if desired. Squeeze out excess liquid.
  3. chop onion and garlic coarsely
  4. core and finely cut fresh cabbage. Cabbage, onion and garlic can be combined into one bowl for later.
  5. trim mushroom stems, cut mushrooms in half, then slice. (Alternatively, re-hydrate dried mushrooms in boiling water, then chop coarsely. Reserve liquid to add to the stew.)
  6. cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces
  7. prepare de-glazing liquid (my vegetable stock was hot water and powdered bouillon)
  8. Place the cooked sausage pieces into a large, oven safe pot with lid.
  9. In a large frying pan, fry the bacon pieces until just browned. Add bacon to the sausage, reserving rendered fat in pan.
  10. Brown pork cubes in the bacon fat. These do not have to be cooked through. When browned on all sides, add to the sausage and bacon mixture, reserving fat in pan.
  11. Add mushroom pieces to the reserved fat and cook until just starting to brown, stirring frequently. (If using reconstituted mushrooms, skip this step and just add the mushrooms to the pot with the meat.)
  12. Add de-glazing liquid to the pan and cook liquid down to about 1/3rd volume.
  13. Add cabbage, onion and garlic to the pan. Cover with lid to steam for a couple of minutes, and for the cabbage to reduce slightly. Continue to cook, turning the mixture often, until vegetables are softened.
  14. Add the sauerkraut and softened cabbage mixture to the pot with the meat and mushrooms.
  15. Add the crushed tomato and tomato paste (plus reserved mushroom stock, if reconstituted mushrooms were used). Mix thoroughly.
  16. By now, the oven should be preheated. Cover the pot and place in oven.
  17. Check after about an hour and stir. If the liquid level seems low, add boiling water, as needed to prevent burning.
  18. Check after 2 hours and stir. Adjust liquid again, if needed.
  19. Cook for another half hour or so.
  20. Can be eaten immediately, or left to cool and rest overnight (recommended).
  21. Serve with rye bread, or a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with parsley if desired.

For this, I used no added seasonings at all. The ingredients themselves add a lot of flavour on their own. However, feel free to add whatever seasonings you like, if you feel the need.

Of course, after this was done cooking last night, I had to have a small bowl to taste it. It was definitely a success! Letting it rest overnight did allow the flavours to mellow and combine very nicely. It was a subtle difference, but enough for me to recommend giving it that extra time.

The more traditional ingredients for this dish includes a greater variety of meats, with game meat being the prime ingredient, and even prunes – though the bigos I’ve tasted in the past did not include prunes. Some versions include things like grated carrot, but my fermented vegetable sauerkraut includes carrots, so there was no need to add more.

The amount of sauerkraut I used is a bit on the low side – a typical jar of commercial sauerkraut is about 900-1000ml (approximately equal to a quart jar) and my jars are 500ml. Even adding the last of my plain sauerkraut gave me just over that amount. However, that is also the equivalent of more than half a head of cabbage. The fresh cabbage I used was more on the large than medium size, so between the two, the total quantities didn’t change much.

This makes quite a large quantity of stew, and it really helps to have a very large, deep frying pan with a lid. Even then, I had to be careful adding the cabbage mixture to the pan! Using the lid to let it braise for a bit made it much easier to stir, as the cabbage released its liquid and reduced in size.

This dish can be made on the stove top instead of the oven, but that would require continuous attention and stirring to make sure it cooks evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom. Using the oven is just simpler and more efficient.

If you try this recipe, do feel free to let me know how you liked it!

The Re-Farmer

Things with crab apples: jelly, three ways

Once we got our crab apple cider vinegar made up and set aside to ferment, it was time to turn to the rest of the crab apples!

The apples had been cleaned and left to soak in cold water with vinegar overnight. The extra time allows for any damage and bruising to the apples to be easier to see.

The next steps were to remove the stems, then cut the apples. These crab apples are small enough that I just cut them in half.

This was the time to cut out any damaged bits – or remove some apples completely.

There were quite a few that looked fine on the outside, only to be bad in the middles. The above photo is what I removed from the apples, including the small batch I used for the apple cider vinegar.

Just a little something for the compost pile. πŸ™‚

As I have some of our choke cherries and sour cherries in the freezer, I decided to make several small batches, including spiced jelly. Some of the recipes I saw said to cook and strain the apples first, cook the juices with the other additions, strain them again, then make the jelly.

I had no interest in cooking and straining these twice, and saw no reason to. Instead, I divided the cut up apples into three pots. I had two medium sized pots plus my smaller stock pot, so after I filled the two smaller ones, any left over apples went into the bigger pot. My smaller pots each held about 6 cups of chopped apples, and the bigger pot had about 7 cups of apples.

I then made my additions.

The spiced batch got a couple of cinnamon sticks, 2 pieces of star anise and about a tablespoon of whole cloves. The others got about 1 cup of frozen fruit added.

Next, water was added until the fruit was just covered. They were then brought to a boil, covered and left to simmer until soft.

The pot the choke cherries were in turned out to be just a touch too small, and I had to transfer it to my other stock pot to prevent it from over flowing.

After about 20 minutes or so, I stirred them down to break up the fruit a bit; I had to use a potato masher on the spiced apples, as the pot was too full to stir properly!

I continued to cook them until the fruit was quite soft.

This is the sour cherry batch on the left, choke cherry batch on the right. I forgot to get a picture of the spiced batch before I put it up to strain.

While the apples were cooking, I prepped for straining.

I currently have only one jelly bag, so I lined colanders set over large bowls with cheese cloth.

I used the jelly bag for the spiced mixture and hung it up in my usual spot. By then, I already had over a litre of juice strained out!

I had to get creative to hang the other two. I used one of those wire frames made to hold bags open, like for leaf bags. Thoroughly cleaned, of course. I set it up on the dining table and hung the tied off cheese cloth bags of apple pulp on the frame, with their bowls of juice set up under them and the colanders removed. I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the set up, though.

I then left the bags to drain overnight, though we did cover the various bowls with whatever we had on hand. One got a piece of cheese cloth stretched over it, another bowl was the perfect size for our mesh frying pan splash screen, and the big measuring cup got covered by a large mesh sieve. These all allowed the juices to keep dripping in, while keeping out any dust, cat hair, insects or whatever else might be floating about.

Note: they don’t need to be left overnight, but the pulp should be given at least a couple of hours to drain. Some recipes suggest to squeeze the pulp to extract more juice. This will result in a cloudy jelly, so that’s up to you! πŸ˜‰

That was all done yesterday. Today, it was time to cook things down!

I did each batch one at a time, rather than all at once, starting with the juice that was already in the measuring cup.

This is the spiced apple pulp from the jelly bag. The pulp all went to the compost pile.

I ended up with almost exactly 5 cups of juice from the spiced apple and the choke cherry batches, and almost exactly 8 cups of the sour cherry batch. For each cup of juice, I added a 3/4 cup of sugar.

Which felt like an insane amount of sugar, but that’s how it works!

Each batch was boiled to the gel stage.

Before I started cooking any of them, though, I started sanitizing my canning jars. With how much juice I ended up with, I knew my dozen 250ml (1 cup) sized jars would not be enough. I decided to use one 500ml (2 cup) for each batch, then use however many of the smaller jars I needed to empty the pot. The larger jars will be for our own use, and the smaller jars can be given out as gifts, if we want.

I also made a discovery.

We have not been able to replace our damaged hot water tank yet, which means it’s still heating the water to extremely high temperatures. I figured I would take advantage of that and use it to sanitize my jars and implements.

I was able to set up all the jars in a large container on the counter near the stove. I was also going to use my candy thermometer, so I dug that out, washed it, then put it into one of the jars to scald. Shortly after, I pulled the candy thermometer out. The whole set up with the water had been sitting for about 5-7 minutes since I added the hot tap water, so I had to do a double take when I saw the thermometer.

It was at almost 100C.

That’s 212F.

The instructions I was following said to cook the juice and sugar mixture to 210F to reach gel state. My tap water was already hotter than that!!

The juices reached beyond 210F very quickly, so there was no way temperature alone was enough to reach gel stage, so I kept boiling it. After the first testing, I went to wash the thermometer and discovered there was water in it.

???

Looking closer, I discovered that the glass covering the bulb of the thermometer was gone! For all I know, this is damage from our move. I very rarely use the candy thermometer.

So I threw that out.

Which meant I was checking for the gel state using the *spoon test.

Each batch took me at least half an hour of boiling before it reached the gel stage.

Once each batch was ready, I filled some jars – I added cinnamon sticks to the jars with the spiced jelly – covered them, then set them aside to cool while I washed everything before starting the next batch.

My 8 cups of sour cherry juice mix, and 5 cups of spiced juice mix, each gave me the same number of cups of jelly, but for some reason the 5 cups of chokecherry juice mix resulted in only 4 cups of jelly!

I still don’t have the tools to do a hot water bath, so these are not shelf stable, and will need to be stored in the fridge.

I absolutely love the colours in these!

After they had a chance to cool, my daughters used some when making supper this evening. They made grilled cheese sandwiches with some of the sour cherry jelly spread in with the cheese. It was really good!

The Re-Farmer

Homemade Crab apple jelly, with flavour variations

Items needed:

  • cheese cloth or jelly bag
  • bowl to drain juices into
  • if using cheese cloth, a colander that fits in the bowl
  • canning jars, jar funnel and lids, sanitized
  • place to hang pulp bag over the bowl
  • large saucepan or stock pot with lid

Ingredients:

  • crab apples, washed, stemmed and chopped. (no need to peel or core)
  • sugar

Optional flavour additions

  • about a cup of fruit or berries per 6 cups of chopped crab apples.
  • any combination of whole, not ground, spices, including cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, star anise, etc. to taste.
  1. Place cleaned and chopped apple pieces into a large pot.
  2. Add any flavour options desired.
  3. Add enough water to just cover the fruit. Bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until apples are very soft. Stir the fruit every few minutes.
  5. Mash the mixture with a large spoon or potato masher. Cook for a few more minutes.
  6. While the mixture is cooking, dampen a jelly bag and ready a bowl to catch juices, or line a colander placed in a bowl with cheese cloth (in 4 layers) and prepare a place to hang the pulp over the bowl.
  7. When the fruit is cooked until completely soft, spoon the mixture into the jelly bag over a bowl, or into the prepared cheese cloth. Tie off the bag and hang over the bowl to drain for at least a few hours, or overnight. (After draining, pulp can be composted.)
  8. Prepare canning jars and sterilize implements.
  9. Measure the juice extracted and place into a large saucepan or stock pot. Add 3/4 cup sugar per 1 cup of juice.
  10. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring often, until mixture reaches gel stage*. This will take about 20-40 minutes, depending on how much juice there is.
  11. Pour hot jelly into heated canning jars. Skim off foam, seal and set aside to cool.
  12. Process in hot water bath or store in refrigerator.

* Sheet test for gel
Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread.Β  Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally, edge down, and watch how the mixture drops.Β  When the mixture reaches the gel stage, it will begin to β€œsheet”, with the jelly breaking off the spoon in a sheet or flake, rather than pouring or dripping.

Recipe: Roasted Chickpeas

Here is a really easy recipe for a healthy snack to satisfy those cravings for something crunchy!

Roasted chickpeas.

Roasted, Seasoned Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • canned chick peas
  • olive oil
  • seasonings to taste

I have found that a 9×13 baking tray fits 2 cans of chickpeas in a single layer very well.

Instructions:

  1. Turn oven to 400F.
  2. Drain the chickpeas into a colander and rinse well. Spread the wet chickpeas onto a baking tray and let the water dry off for a while.
  3. Put the dried chickpeas into a bowl large enough to toss them. Add olive oil and seasonings. (In our last batch, we used Scarborough Fair Garlic Salt and freshly ground pepper. You can use ordinary course salt and pepper, if you wish. It would be great with Rosemary Lemon Salt as well, or if you want to stay away from salt, use your favourite Mrs. Dash mix. )
  4. Toss the chick peas until well coated with olive oil and seasonings.
  5. Return the chick peas to the baking tray and spread into a single layer. Place on centre rack in pre-heated oven.
  6. Roast for about 20 minutes. Take the pan out and give it a shake to turn the chick peas. Return to oven and continue roasting to desired crunchiness, giving the pan another shake every now and then. (We like them extra crisp. With our oven, that takes more than an hour of roasting time. Our oven also has some cold spots, so when we give the chick peas a shake, we also turn the pan, to ensure even roasting. )
  7. When done, remove the pan and allow the chick peas to cool.
  8. Once cool, store in an air tight container.

These make a really excellent and healthy snack, and are downright addictive!

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer

Cracker Toffee with Bacon Salt

A super easy and quick recipe to share with you today. Warning: these are amazingly addictive! πŸ˜€

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This recipe takes something I don’t normally like – chewy toffee – and turns it into a delectable treat (that doesn’t stick to my teeth!). Using semi-sweet dark chocolate chips and unsalted crackers helps keep the sweet and salty flavours from becoming overwhelming.

Cracker Toffee with Bacon Salt

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • unsalted saltine crackers (about 35-40)
  • 2 cups semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • Bacon Salt for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Spread a layer of crackers on the tray. Lift the edges of the aluminum foil around the crackers to keep them snug and in place. Set aside.
  3. In a small pot, melt the butter and sugar together. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. After 5 minutes, pour the toffee over the crackers and spread evenly, making sure all the crackers are completely covered.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven, then spread the chocolate chips evenly over the crackers and toffee. Let sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate (if necessary, place the tray back into the still-warm oven to soften the chocolate), then spread the chocolate to cover the entire surface.
  6. Sprinkle a small amount (a little goes a long way!!) of bacon salt over the top, ensuring that each cracker gets a bit. (Note: you can substitute coarse Himalayan Sea Salt, or any other sea salt, in place of the bacon salt.)
  7. Let cool completely. Can be refrigerated to harden faster.
  8. Once completely cold, peel away the foil, then cut or break apart into pieces.
  9. Can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Not that they will last that long. πŸ˜‰ Can also be frozen.
  10. Enjoy!! πŸ™‚
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A thought occurred to me as I was resizing the above photo, noting my very grungy looking baking pan. A 9×13 jelly roll pan, I’ve had this for many years. In fact, when I moved off the farm at age 18, it was among the items I took with me, along with cutlery I still use today, and a few other necessities. I have had this pan for 32 years and 18 moves. My mother had this pan for longer than I can remember.

It’s entirely possible that this pan is older than I am!