Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spoiler Alert

In case you're wondering why I haven't posted anything on the blog recently, I was away for a while cooking on a train.  A train, you ask?  Why yes!  I used to work on one before and my friend Courtney, who now works on another train, needed someone to fill in for her while she took some time off.  I know it sounds kind of strange, who else but me takes a vacation to go work another job??  A crazy person with no money and an obsession with food, that's who!!  Anyway, I was riding the rails and cooking in a tiny train galley, visiting friends in far-off, exotic places like Seattle, Chicago and Salt Lake City.

I haven't made any pies recently, but the last two days I've been working on some canning projects.  I decided a few years ago that I wanted to give people homemade gifts for the holidays, rather than spend money on crap they may not need or enjoy.  So among the many treats I have planned, I made some corn relish, peach butter and bourbon vanilla peach jam.  Oh, and that's the spoiler for those of you on my Christmas treat list, sorry.  I have a feeling you'll get over it once you taste these delicious goodies.  I used Colorado corn for the relish, which was so sweet I was calling it "corn candy."  And of course I used Colorado peaches, which I was so delighted to score a case of imperfect peaches for $22 at the farmers market!

Even though these aren't pies, I'm taking the liberty of posting the recipes anyway because this is my blog and I'll do what I want, thank you very much!  If you've never done any home canning before I highly recommend you give it a try.  Not only is it fun and economical to make your own jams, jellies, sauces and pickles, people really love getting a homemade gift.  It seems like life has gotten so complicated and the holidays have become a stressful frenzy of over-spending.  It's nice to keep things simple and give a gift that comes from the heart.

The most important thing with canning is to follow all instructions carefully and sterilize everything - jars, lids, bands, utensils, ladles, tongs, everything!  If you've never canned at home before, I recommend you read up on the subject on the Ball home canning website.  Remember, when you're processing the jars the water must be at a FULL BOIL before you start your timer.

Corn Relish 
Adapted from a recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving
Makes approximately 13 half-pint jars (I filled 4 half-pints, 4 pints and had about a pint left over that I used for dinner that night!)
8 cups fresh corn, cut from the cob
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced
2 cups red bell peppers, diced
2 cups green chiles, diced (I used fresh Hatch chiles)
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups vinegar (I used half cider and half rice wine vinegar)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tb. dry mustard
1 Tb. mustard seed
1 Tb. ground turmeric
1 Tb. red chile flakes
1 Tb. kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and bring to a full boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Ladle hot mixture into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process half-pints in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Fresh Colorado corn relish.  Delicious with hot dogs or any grilled meat.

Peach Butter in a Crockpot
Adapted from this recipe from Bed and Breakfast Foodies
Makes 7 half-pint jars
12 cups diced peaches, peeled and pitted
6 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Combine peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a crockpot.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  At this point I used my immersion blender to puree until smooth.  If you don't have one, puree the peaches in a blender before adding to the crockpot.  Remove the lid and change the setting to low heat.  Simmer for about 8 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very dark, syrupy and thick.  When you dip a spoon into the peach it will "sheet" off the spoon, rather than drip off in several strands.  Fill hot, sterilized jars with the hot butter and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Dark, intensely sweet and peachy butter.  Delicious on toast, pancakes, waffles or your finger!

Bourbon Vanilla Peach Jam
Adapted from the recipe inside the box of Ball Fruit Pectin and this recipe from Beantown Baker
Makes 6 half-pint jars
4 cups finely diced peaches, peeled and pitted
5 cups sugar
1 box Ball Fruit Pectin (1.75 oz)
2 Tb. lemon juice
1 fresh vanilla bean
1/4 cup bourbon

Split the vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds.  Combine with the peaches and lemon juice in a large pot and slowly stir in the pectin.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down.  Add all of the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Bring to a full rolling boil again and boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and skim any foam if necessary.  Remove the vanilla bean and stir in the bourbon.  Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process in boiling water for 15 minutes.
Peaches flecked with fresh vanilla and spiked with bourbon.

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