September 26, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Cluster Recipe

Nuts and chocolate are one of my favorite sweet combinations and I really like this recipe I adapted from Hershey's Recipes.  Simple, fast, and the result is better than the packages of peanut clusters you find hanging in your local store.  
Chocolate Peanut Clusters
Songhurst Farm

In a microwave safe bowl add:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon shortening (do not substitute with oil, margarine, butter, etc.)


Melt ONLY until chocolate and shortening begins to melt (but not completely melted).  Stir until smooth.

Add to mixture:
1 cup of unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

Note:  I have used salted peanuts when desperate, and love the combination with the chocolate.


Stir until mixed.


Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.  Let set until chocolate is no longer sticky. 

Now time to enjoy.  Do you have variations that you have tried and like or realize it wasn't so good after all?  I would love to read your comments.

September 22, 2014

Applesauce Canning


On  Songhurst Farm we have a variety of young apple trees that are just beginning to produce.  Most of the apples will not be ready to pick until late September into October, however, one tree was ready to shed it's bright red apples - so I obliged.  My niece, Bethany, came to spend the day and she got to enjoy making applesauce, canning it and taking 24 pints home which she will use to supplement her lunches.  She is such a help and I love spending time with her!


I have made applesauce in the crockpot in the past - which I will post later - put I do not advice canning applesauce made in a crockpot for safety reasons.  Applesauce should be heated to a continuous temperature of 212 degrees F when ladling into canning jars.

We used the recipe for Applesauce from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  The recipe will be posted at the end of this post.  If you need help preparing your jars and canner, visit my post on canning Blackberry Pie Filling or follow this link - 

Here are the steps (in a nutshell) of how to make and can applesauce.



Sort through the apples and pick the ones you want to use in your applesauce.



Wash apples in water.  I add about 1/4 cup of vinegar to the water (when I think of it) and then rinse them again.  But since our apples are organic and have no pesticides, I was not too worried with these.


Chop apples up.  I love this kitchen gadget.  I use it for about all of my chopping needs in the kitchen.  Bethany is using it here to dice the apple quarters.  This helps make the cooking process go faster.

Chopping apples.
~Songhurst Farm

Put chopped apples into a saucepan, with just enough water to cover the bottom.  Not too much or the applesauce will be too thin.  Stir to prevent sticking (and burning).  When hot, place into a food mill or food processor to puree.


Puree cooked apples.
~Songhurst Farm

I have used a food processor in the past and was burned too often...good ol' manual labor works great - especially when you have a wonderful niece who wants a good arm workout.

Bethany tries out the food mill.
~Songhurst Farm

Pour the pureed apples to the saucepot and add 1/2 cup of white sugar per pound of apples.  (Hopefully, you figured out how many pounds of apples you had before you got to this step.) If the apples are tart, you may want to add 3/4 cup of white sugar per pound - or no sugar at all - your decision.

Bring the applesauce (it's now applesauce at this point) to a boil and keep stirring or it will burn on the bottom.

Add your favorite spice.  We added cinnamon.  Maintain the boil while pouring the applesauce into your prepared hot, clean canning jars.  Place jars into water that has been boiling in the boiling water canner.
Placing hot jars into hot water - carefully.
~Songhurst Farm


All jars loaded - now to bring water to a boil again.
~Songhurst Farm

 Once the water comes back to a boil, time the boil for 20 minutes for pints and quarts.  Turn off heat.  Let jars sit in canner for 5 minutes before removing.

Bethany likes to pack these in her lunches when she goes to work, so she used pint jars.  Below is the recipe she used and which I have used many times.

Applesauce ready to eat.
~Songhurst Farm



APPLESAUCE

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds apples per quart
Water
Sugar (optional)
Cinnamon (optional)

Wash apples.  Drain.  Core, peel and quarter apples. Cook apples until soft in a large covered saucepot with JUST enough water to prevent sticking.  Puree using a food processor or food mill.  Return apple pulp to saucepot.  Add 1/2 cup sugar per pound of apples or to taste, if desired.  Bring applesauce to boil (212 degrees F), stirring to prevent sticking (or it will burn).  Maintain temperature at a boil (212 degrees F) while filling jars.  Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust two-piece caps.  Process pints and quarts 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.
RECIPE VARIATION:  Spiced applesauce can be made by adding ground spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice, to the sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  For a chunky sauce, coarsely crush half of the cooked apples; process remaining apples through a food processor or food mill. Combine crushed and sauced apple mixtures; continue for Applesauce.

What are your favorite spices to add to applesauce?


September 07, 2014

Bacon Tips

Bacon is a common food item in our household, so I buy it regularly.  Bacon can be pricey - depending on the brand, thickness, store, etc.  I believe in buying bacon that has more meat than fat on it, and when I do find that package of "meaty" bacon, I feel like I hit the jackpot!  (Just a note - one can carefully inspect the bacon without mindfully ripping the packaging and at the same time show courtesy to others who are shopping in the same department.  Glad I got that out there.)
Bacon coated with flour.

I have a couple of tips to make bacon "stretch" just a little bit more.  Very simple.  The first thing that I do is grab a big knife and cut the whole package of bacon in  half.  I then wrap both package halves in plastic wrap until ready to use.  This serves two purposes - the bacon strips fit better in the skillet - and putting four pieces (2 strips cut into half) on a plate makes it look like more bacon.

The other tip I use is to coat each piece of bacon in flour before frying.  This prevents the bacon from shrinking as much AND it adds a nice crusty, yummy coating on the bacon.  I fry my bacon on "low", turning it when it gets a light golden color.  My husband loves it.

I encourage you to try one or both tips the next time you buy or fry bacon.  Are there other tricks you use when frying or buying bacon?

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