Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sweet Corn Cob Jelly

    I was recently gifted some lovely early bi-color sweet corn from some very good friends. Since it was more than we could eat at once I decided to prep it for the freezer following the directions on our site Cooking the Deals. As I was getting ready to take the clean cut corn cobs to the compost bin, I recalled seeing a recipe for Sweet Corn Cob Jelly on this site: Canning Homemade! I decided to give it a try, I followed the direction exactly as written and I have to admit that it was probably the easiest jelly recipe I have ever made. The jelly set perfectly and has a very light, sweet almost lemony floral flavor.
    Corn Cob Jelly

12 large corncobs
4 cups sugar
4 cups water
1 package powdered pectin

yellow food color ( optional)
    Prepare 7 half pint jars, lids and rings. Sterilize the jars and keep them in hot water until ready to use. Cut corn kernels from cobs and save for canning or freezing. It is not necessary to cut right to the core. 

    In a large stainless steel pot add corncobs and water. Heat to a full boil for 10 minutes. Remove the corncobs and using cheesecloth strain the liquid. You will need to measure 3 cups. (Add water if necessary or add additional water to corncobs and boil again to get the full 3 cups.) Put the strained liquid back into the pot and add stir in the pectin. Bring to a full boil. Add in the sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat. If necessary skim off any foam with a metal spoon. If you want add a few drops of the yellow food coloring at this point. 

    On a dishtowel place your hot jars and fill leaving 1/4" head space. Using a clean damp cloth wipe the jar rims removing any liquid jelly that would interfere with a good seal. Place lids on the jars and seal with the rings to 'finger tight'. 

    Process the jars in a water bath canner following proper water bath canning procedures and process for 10 minutes starting to time after the water has come to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit a few minutes before removing, set the jars on a dishtowel in a place where they can sit overnight without being disturbed.   

  Sometime within the next hour you will hear the pinging or popping noise as the jars cool and seal. If you have any jars that have not sealed reprocess them the following day or put in the fridge for immediate consumption.   Be sure to properly label and store the jars.  

This recipe is an excellent way to get even more from your produce. So this lovely gift of a dozen ears of corn netted a total of one dinner,

seven containers for the freezer for future dinners and one pint and 3 half pints of sweet corn cob jelly. This will definitely be one for must make file!

Dill Pickles

My husband LOVES pickles. Specifically, dill pickles. This year from our garden I was able to make 15 quarts and 1 pint of dill pickles. (Okay, if you count them in the picture, you'll see we're one quart short... that one is in the fridge being eaten. ;) )

Dill Pickles
Cucumbers (sliced lengthwise for spears or across for slices for sandwiches & burgers)
Dill (1 head per jar)
Onions, quartered (1 quarter per jar)
Fresh Garlic (1 toe per jar)
Peppers (hot or sweet optional)
Pickle Crisp (1/4 teaspoon per quart or 1/8 teaspoon per pint)

For the brine (makes about 5 quarts):
1 quart water
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1/4 cup canning salt

Prepare the brine in a pot and bring to a simmer. Prep your jars in your water bath canner by sterilizing for 10 minutes in boiling water. Add pickle crisp to sterilized jar and layer in dill, onion, garlic, peppers, and cucumbers. Add the brine leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the lip of you jar clean with a damp cloth to be sure nothing will prevent the jar from making a good seal, put on lid and ring, then return to the water bath canner. Once all jars have been returned to the canner, bring the water to a boil and process for 15 minutes, then remove to cool and seal (the *ping!* sound you hear... Love that sound!). Allow to sit for at least 2 weeks, but over a month is better, for the flavors to really be infused into the pickles.

This recipe is well suited to a refrigerator pickle as well. Just combine all your above ingredients in a large container, I used an ice cream pail, and store in your refrigerator once it has cooled down. You will still need to wait at least 2 weeks for the flavors to develop. When making multiple batches be sure to mark the date you made each batch so you know when each is ready. Refrigerator pickles are a great way to make a home 'canned' pickle without the investment in canning supplies which can lower the initial canning investment significantly. These pickles can be bottled up in recycled jars and kept in the refrigerator or given as a hostess gift during the holidays. In this batch I added lots of red ripe jalapenos and plenty of onions which are great on those burgers or sandwiches. I also added some small yellow summer squash which is a great addition to those refrigerator pickles.

This year I spent about $7.31 for 15 quarts and 1 pint of pickles. To buy that equivalent in the store would be about $40. That means I saved over $32 on pickles.

Here's the break down of approximately what I spent on each item. 
Sugar $1.49
Vinegar $1.78
Canning Salt $1.18
Garlic $1.95
Pickle Crisp $0.96
Cucumbers Free from the garden
Dill Free from mom's garden (mine didn't grow so well this year)
Onions Free from the garden
Peppers (I used banana) Free from the garden

Cucumber Chips

What do you do with garden cucumbers too large for pickles and too many to eat before they go soft? Make cucumber chips in three flavors...garlic herb, ranch and sea salt vinegar... a healthy no guilt snack that is easy to make.

Slice your cucumbers approximately 1/8 inch thick either by hand or with a mandolin into a bowl. Add just enough olive oil to just barely coat the cucumber slices and toss gently. The olive oil can be optional, it mainly aids in keeping the cucumber chips from sticking to the trays for easy removal but is best if you plan on eating the chips in a short amount of time the oil can soften the chips again over time. For longer term storage, omit the olive oil, any seasoning you add will cling to the damp slices and stay once dehydrated. ( I personally prefer them without the addition of the olive oil.) Place the sliced cucumbers on your dehydrator trays (to prevent sticking you can very lightly spray the trays wiping off any excess with a vegetable oil like Pam) and lightly sprinkle with your seasoning of choice. I made two trays each of three different flavors.

The first was ranch using Hidden Valley powdered ranch seasoning and dressing mix.

The next two trays were made using the Weber Roasted Garlic and Herb seasoning, this seasoning is great on any vegetable.

Lastly, before placing the last of the cucumbers on the dehydrator I added some balsamic vinegar and after placing them on the trays I sprinkled lightly with Morton sea salt however a kosher salt or any larger grained salt would also work well.

I have also experimented with a light basting of Frank's Hot Sauce for a buffalo version that is simply amazing with humus as a dip...or even a blue cheese dressing dip.

For a little sweeter version try brushing with a balsamic vinegar reduction and sea salt a less tangy version of the straight balsamic vinegar sea salt.

Place your trays in your dehydrator and set at 125 degrees and dry for approximately 4-6 hours or until they are crisp. Times will vary due to temperature and humidity levels in your area and the moisture content of the cucumbers being dehydrated.

If you plan on storing the chips long term, omit the olive oil as it can soften your crisp chip to a more leather like chip over time. If you have a Food Saver vacuuming system for mason jars it helps to vacuum seal the jars. Another option is to use oxygen absorbents instead or in conjunction with the Food Saver vacuum system.

These make a great, guilt free healthy snack.