Sunday, 28 September 2014

Chocolate Pecan Squash Cupcakes

Awhile back I came across a great deal on boxed cake mix.  My kids love cake, a mix is easy, and you can add stuff to it to make it taste a bit better.

This time, I used a mix to make naked cupcakes.  I don't really like to use icing too much.  The kids and Joel will put peanut butter, almond butter, chocolate cream cheese, etc. on the cupcakes, each to their individual taste (or nothing at all, too).

With the addition of shredded squash, the cupcakes come out very light and moist.

Chocolate Pecan Squash Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

1 box chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups shredded summer squash (I used frozen shredded pattypan), squeezed to remove excess liquid

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.  Spray liners with Pam (or equivalent).

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a bowl with a hand mixer for a couple of minutes.  Add nuts and squash.  Mix until blended. Spoon into lined muffin tins.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.  Remove from tins and let cool on rack.

Saturday, 27 September 2014


A few apple trees, and 90 pounds of apples later, I have 38 jars of applesauce!

I make plain applesauce.  I don't add anything to it.  No cinnamon, no lemon juice, no sugar.  Nothing but apples and some water (or the pot will scorch).  I find plain applesauce more versatile.  I can always add flavourings if I need to and I can use this applesauce in other things without adding other flavours.  I also don't peel or core my apples.  I use a food mill to hold back the undesirable parts of the apple.

I start with quartering the apples into a large stock pot and adding about 1 litre of water.

I bring it up to a simmer over medium heat and then turn it down to low.  Any higher of a heat and you risk scorching the apples.  And, you cannot get that taste out.  Yuck.  After about 20-30 minutes, with some occasional stirring, the apples will be nice and mushy.

Off the heat and into the food mill.  As mentioned above, the food mill will keep behind any undesirable parts of the apples.  This is what's left behind:

And this is the yummy part:

What's really nice about using the food mill is the incredible lack of waste.  After 90 pounds of apples, I'm left with one bowlful of apple waste (about 10 pounds) and 38 jars of applesauce.

That's it.  The food mill is incredibly efficient and maximizes your output.  Pretty awesome, huh?

Oh, yeah, I processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes because I'm at elevation (20 minutes if you aren't).

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Apple Pie Filling and Canned Apples

Last week, I came across a great deal for apples so I bought 40 pounds, thinking I would make canned apple slices.  I want to do applesauce, too, but I'll picking those apples this week.

Anyway, I get down to business today.  Apple in the peeler contraption, place peeled apple on the cutting board, use another contraption to core and slice at the same time, apple slices into an anti-browning solution (3 Vitamin C tablets, ground, to 2 litres of water).  I'm motoring along, happy as a clam, quickly filling up a couple of large bowls with sliced apples.  Finally, I'm ready to put the slices into a boiling sugar water syrup (2:1 ratio water to sugar).  Into the pot they go.

If you have been following my blog lately, you'll have noticed that I prefer hot packing over raw pack.  I think the fruit comes out tasting better, plus you can fit a lot more fruit in a jar hot packed because the air void in the fruit get exhausted during the boiling.

Well, after a couple of minutes of boiling, I notice the apple slices feel a bit soft when I stir them with my spoon.  I didn't even get to the recommended 5 minutes.  It dawns on me that the reason I got a great deal on these apples is that must be from last year's crop.  Gah!

I figured that I'd finish one canner load (7 1-litre jars) and make apple pie filling with the rest. We're not big pie eaters, even though pie is awesome, but we do use pie filling in plain yogurt.

So, 40 pounds of apples eventually ended up as:
  • 7 1-litre jars of sliced apples
  • 7 1-litre jars of apple pie filling
  • 5 500-ml jars of filling
  • 1 250-ml jar of filling

One thing you may have noticed with this post is I didn't take more pictures.  Oops.  I forgot.    I was in such a zone today.  I was doing the stuff with the apples, I was baking bread, I was making dinner, washing dishes as I was going along, that I completely dropped the ball with the pictures.

We'll be apple picking on Monday, so when I make applesauce, I'll show you my apple contraptions.  Promise. 

Pear Syrup

Well, I finally got around to making the syrup from the pear scraps.

Just like with the peaches, I saved the pear peelings and cores, the anti-browning water, and the sugar water.  I put them all together into a big pot and simmered it for about an hour.

The first straining was to remove the peels and cores.

Followed by a finer straining to remove the pulp.

Into a nice big pot went the juice and sugar with a 2:1 ratio of juice to sugar.

After awhile, I had to transfer the syrup mixture to a smaller pot as my thermometer isn't long enough to reach the bottom of my large stock pot. However, I had to watch the mixture more closely in the smaller pot.  I had my syrup foam over once in the past and cleaning that mess on the stove-top was awful.

Finally, the syrup is ready.  You can really see the carmelization of the sugars.

Into some jars and a boiling water bath for processing.  I process for 10 minutes because I am at elevation but normal processing time would be 5 minutes.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Homemade Corn Syrup

This syrup has a unique flavour.  It doesn't taste like the stuff you buy in stores.  I will be using it in place of honey when I do my baking.  It might go on pancakes, too.

It all started with the sack of Taber corn I got on the weekend.  After canning that delicious corn, I had 2 large bowls full of corn cobs.

The cobs were a bit too big, so I split them in half.  I just took my heaviest knife and gave the cob a whack in the middle.  Then I just grabbed the cob and broke it where the knife hit it.

I filled my pot with the cobs and water to cover.  I simmered the cobs for about an hour.

I removed the cobs and strained the liquid a few times.

I measured the liquid into a pot with some sugar.  I use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to sugar.

After boiling for about 45 minutes, I had to transfer the mixture to a smaller pot as my candy thermometer couldn't reach the liquid anymore.  You can see the colour change.

Finally, when the temperature reached about 220ºF, I poured the syrup into jars and processed them in a boiling water bath.  I had to process for 10 minutes because I'm at elevation, but normally you would process for 5 minutes.  They came out a beautiful golden colour.

Pattypan Squash

Joel and I went to a U-Pick on Sunday and picked up about 25 pounds of pattypan squash. Isn't that word great? Pattypan. That's a fun word to say.   I tried to grow some this year, but I wasn't successful.  I kept getting lots of flowers, but nothing developed after that.  I think next year I'm going to have to try and hand-pollinate.

I chopped up the yellow ones, and the baby zucchini, into chunks.  I then blanched them in boiling water for 2 minutes, followed by plunging them into an ice bath.  After draining them really well, I froze them on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and when they were frozen, I bagged them.

I shredded the white Pattypan squashes.  I did not blanch them.  I bagged them in 2-cup amounts and laid them flat on a baking sheet to freeze.

My sauces, stews, and baked goods just got healthier!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Canned Corn

Taber corn!  Yay! 

Joel went out early this morning and brought home a sack of Taber corn.  OMG!  It's so sweet you could eat it raw!

I reserved 6 cobs for tonight's dinner (Salmon Chowder in Bread Bowls), but the rest was for canning.

The twins helped me shuck the corn.  Look at all that sweetness!

I found a "food hack" awhile back, and I decided to try it out.  I must say it works like a charm.  Trim the corn from the top of the corn cob.

Then insert the trimmed end into the hole of a bundt cake pan, and continue cutting the corn off the cob.  It works very well.

Into a pot goes 1 litre of water and 3 litres of corn.

The corn is brought to a boil then packed into hot jars.  The jars were then pressure canned at 15 pounds pressure (because I'm at elevation) for 55 minutes (pints).

I ended up with 18 500-ml jars of canned corn.

I ended up with an extra 1 litre of corn so that went into the fridge for dinner later this week.  Well, except for this little bit.  This was my late lunch.  Yum!

I didn't throw out the cobs, though.  Those will be turned into a corn syrup.  However, that's another post.

Canned Pears

There was a great sale on Bartlett pears earlier this week.  Bartletts are really good pears to can, as they hold their firmness well.  Pears really do well with a hot pack.  Raw pack pears can sometimes be a bit mushy, so hot packing, even though it takes more time, is totally worth it.

I made up a solution to prevent browning, by grinding up 3 Vitamin C tablets and adding the powder to 2 litres of water.

For peeling, I tried out my apple peeler but it really didn't do a very good job.  I ended up using my potato peeler and it worked like a charm.

After peeling, I cut each pear into quarters, then cored it with my paring knife.  Each quarter was then cut in half.

Once the bowl was full, I added the cut pears into a boiling sugar solution (2:1 ratio of water to sugar).  When doing this much fruit, I generally start with 2 litres of water and 4 cups of sugar.  I ended up having to add 1 litre of water and 2 cups of sugar about 2/3 of the way through the pears.

Once I added the pears to the boiling sugar solution, I had to bring them back up to boil.  Then I boiled them for 2 more minutes.

The pears were packed tightly into hot jars and topped with the sugar syrup.

I processed the pears in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes for 1-litre jars and 25 minutes for 500-ml jars.  I had to add 5 minutes to my processing time because I'm at elevation.  So, if you do not have to adjust for elevation, the processing times would be 25 minutes for 1-litre jars and 20 minutes for 500-ml jars.

Forty pounds of pears resulted in 14 1-litre jars and 2 500-ml jars.  I cut up the pears into smaller pieces for the smaller jars.

The peels, cores, anti-browning water, and leftover sugar solution will be made into Pear Syrup in the next couple of days.