apples in a pan 820

Roasted Applesauce with Spices

To me, applesauce is the quintessential fall food.

One of my favorite autumn memories is of wandering an antique apple orchard outside my hometown of Portland, Oregon, bundled up in scarves and layers for the first time of season, picking up windfall apples with my mom and sister. We’d bring our dog with us, and she’d run between the trees, tossing apples up in the air with her nose and then chasing after them.

apples in a roasting pan

Once our bags were full to the top, we’d head home to preserve our gathered fruit. My mom would cover counter tops with newspaper and we’d begin to peel. When the apples were ready, they’d go into her biggest soup pot with a splash of orange juice, cinnamon and grated nutmeg until they’d cooked down into a homey sauce (the peels and the newspaper would go to the compost bin).

roasted apples with spices

Though I live on the other side of the country now, it still doesn’t feel like autumn until I’ve spent an afternoon tramping around an orchard, picking apples and then taking them home to the canning pot.

I make my sauce much like we did when I was young, with plenty of spices and without any added sweetener. The one difference is that instead of cooking my apples down on the stovetop, I peel, core, chop, and roast.

[Read more...]

Preserving roasted peaches on simplebites.net

Preserving oven dried tomatoes and peaches

We’ve all had those days where a line-up of cooking and baking projects have left the kitchen upside down, with every mixing bowl dirtied and an army of utensils soiled. With any luck, there’s a empty spot on the countertop on which to set a wine glass or a coffee cup (depending on how you choose to face the mess) and then there is no other choice but to wade in and get it done.

These days, I am having more of those situations than I care to disclose. With recipe development for the cookbook in full swing and late-summer canning projects tucked around family meal prep, it is difficult to stay on top of clean up, even though I aim to ‘clean as you go‘ every time.

messy kitchen

Danny is usually an amazing help with dishes, but all last week he was laid up with a badly sprained ankle, and I was on my own – not just for the pots and pans, but for all children and household duties. Whew!

Which is why, at 8-o-clock in the evening, when faced with several pounds of peaches and tomatoes to preserve, I decided that semi-dehydrating them was the best course of action. [Read more...]

marinara header image

Home Canned Marinara Sauce

For most of the year, I am a staunch advocate of the small batch. I make jam in skillets, put up pickles one pint at a time, and simmer my chutneys in a miniature Dutch oven. However, come tomato season, I change my tune and go big. Very big.

Over the last five years, I’ve gotten into the habit of buying at least 100 pounds of tomatoes in the first or second week of September and spending a few very messy days painting my kitchen red.

bowls of tomatoes

I peel tomatoes, pack them into jars, and can them whole. I make tomato jam. I roast trays of tomato puree until they thicken into brick-red paste. And I cook up vast vats of basic marinara sauce that becomes the base for batches of meat sauce and soups all year long.

Having homemade marinara sauce on your pantry shelf is a dinnertime lifesaver because it means that you’re never more than 20 minutes away from a meal that you can feel really good about. [Read more...]

wild berries

12 ways to preserve the August harvest (without canning)

I keep telling myself that September is going to be my big canning month, and it very well might be; I can’t say no to the bushels of tomatoes and crisp new apples beckoning at the markets during the fall.

So far, I’ve pickled a few jars of asparagus and made my usual strawberry honey jam, there was a batch of sweet relish, too, but I am not regularly turning my kitchen upside down with mega home canning projects. Oh, the cookbook is taking care of keeping us in dirty dishes just fine, thank you very much.

That said, I am still preserving the beautiful summer produce here and there, by freezing, roasting, packing in oil and drying. These are just some of the options to saving the season.

[Read more...]

Lacto-Fermented Pickles Header

Make Old-Fashioned Brine Fermented Pickles Like Your Great Grandmother

I’m standing at the kitchen counter of the cabin my husband built for us when we moved off-grid. It’s over 90 degrees, it’s approaching the lunch hour, and my three children, aged 1 – 6, are getting hungry.

A set of red headed pigtails is at my side while I chop the mid-summer vegetables that need preserving – summer squash, cucumber, and a few green tomatoes that came off the vines too early. They’re all going into a gallon jar of pickles that will contain no vinegar, will never be heated or boiled, and will not see a lick of refrigeration.

These are old-fashioned brined lacto-fermented pickles. It’s a mouthful, in more ways than one, but these are the pickles our great grandmothers made. They keep for months, if prepared properly, I really appreciate the health benefits we enjoy from them, and though I’ve made them for years, I appreciate them even more now that we’re taking a crack at this sustainable off-grid homesteading life.

Oh and they are dead easy to make. [Read more...]