I made my first pumpkin cheesecake a few years back and has been a recurring addition to our Thanksgiving dinner ever since then…though baking cheesecakes can be/sound a bit intimidating with a few techniques mentioned below it can be pretty easy to have success on your first attempt. In addition this is also a great way to get rid of my masses of pumpkin puree in my freezer saved from this years pumpkins
- 1 graham cracker crust (homemade or store bought)
- 16 oz. of crème cheese (2 – 8 oz. packages)
- ⅔ cup brown sugar
- 1.5 cup of pumpkin puree (or one can of store bought pumpkin)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- 2 eggs
- Preheat oven at 350 degrees
- Beat cream cheese until it appears fluffy
- Add sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and and beat until well combined
- Add eggs one at a time and beat until creamy
- Place empty graham cracker crust to a cookie sheet and place in oven with rack pulled out. Fill with mixture until full and carefully push rack (and cheesecake) into the oven. You can attempt this pour and move away from the oven but unless your day job is working on a bomb squad most likely this will lead to some filling on the floor and yourself.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes keeping a careful eye on the edges if you start to see some browning your cheesecake is done cooking.
- At this time I turn off the oven and crack open the door a few inches to let things cool down gradually, optionally you can pull it out and place the cheesecake on a cooling rack for 1-2 hours. Though if you are in a hurry you can speed up the cooling by placing your cheesecake in the refrigerator after 10-15 minutes though you significantly increase the chance of causing a ugly split down the middle of your nice cheesecake.
- After cooling for 1-2 hours cool or overnight(if you can wait that long)
The end of this summer I planted a bunch of carrots one afternoon and I unfortunately pretty much forgot about them. Without proper thinning I ended up with quite a few short and/or twisted carrots which I decided would be perfect to make some fermented ginger carrots.
Step 1: Clean and peel carrots. Peeled and cut the ends off of the carrots and set them aside.
Step 2: Shed the carrots. With a food processor this speeds up the process significantly but you can also do this with a hand shredded or even some good knife work. The smaller the carrots the faster the fermenting process will be. After slicing place carrots into a bowl and mash them a little bit to get some carrot juices flowing. (personally I use a piece of wooden dowel) Finally toss in 1-2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger.
Step 3: Fill with brine and wait. In a separate container mix 1 quart of distilled water with 1.5 tablespoons of sea salt and mix until dissolved. Pour over brine over carrots and cover jar with some cheesecloth. Typically with fermenting I would have to construct something to keep the vegetables from floating to the surface but I have found with carrots they are pretty good about sinking to the bottom on their own.
You can let them ferment on a warm counter for a few days or up to a week and a half. Then move them into your refrigerator where they will continue to ferment at a much slower rate until all are consumed.
My seed collection from my Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin I purchased a few years back finally paid off and I was able to produce a couple of decent sized pumpkins which should provide me enough pumpkin goo (canned pumpkin) to make plenty of baked goods this fall. For those who have not made their own pumpkin goo the process is very easy…even easier this year with my new food processor (no need to add bit of water to help my struggling magic bullet I have used in the past)
So with about a gallon of pumpkin puree on hand I froze about 3/4 of it by spooning some into silicon muffin cups, freezing for a couple hours, adding to freezer bag and repeat.
With what I had left seemed like a good idea would be pumpkin pancakes which I made this morning with the following recipe.
- 1.5 cups milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2.5 teaspoons pumpkin spice (1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ginger)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Mix milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar in bowl.
- In separate bowl combine flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt and stir until well combined.
- Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and mix just enough to combine (over mixing can lead to chewy pancakes)
- Heat a griddle or frying/cast iron pan on medium-high heat and pour ¼-1/3 cup of batter into pan and flip when brown and serve.
This weekend we decided to head to our favorite pumpkin patch to get some obvious pumpkins, kettle corn, cider donuts, and about a dozen pounds of u-pick apples.
Now that I have amassed a plethora of apples we decided to make some homemade applesauce. For just a few apples I would just cut the apples by hand but with this many I break out my apple peeler which gets the assembly line moving much faster.
If interested here is the applesauce recipe I traditionally use for my applesauce…not super sweet but with nice hint of lemon.
- 5-6 pounds of apples (peeled, cored, quartered)
- peel of half a lemon
- Juice of two lemons
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon (more if desired)
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1.5 cup water
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Add all ingredients into large pot over medium high heat. Cover and bring to boil then lower temperature to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Note: This also works great with a crockpot (high to boil and low for 30+ minutes)
- Once the apples get a soft and mushy remove lemon peels and mash with a potato masher. For a less physical approach an egg beater (personal favorite), immersion blender, food processor, or blender (pulsing) can smooth things out real quickly
Good for on year in the freezer and probably good for a couple weeks in the refrigerator…though it has never lasted that long with my 11 year old daughter knowing about it. Great cold but I like it best warm with a bit of vanilla ice cream or a splash of cream or whipping cream.
When my first cucumber started to rot in the vine when I was waiting for it to mature, I realized that I grew the smaller variety of which grows 6-8 inch cucumbers which are perfect for pickling to enjoy a nice nutritional snack. Having a few nice specimens on the vine this afternoon I decided to make myself a few pickles. Step 1: Clean the pickles. One of the surprises when I picked my first cucumber a few years back was the little spikes they have on them…you don’t see any of those by the time they make it to you in the grocery store. I quick bit of brushing of your hand should get these off. Finish this off with a quick wash in the sink and you should have a few clean almost pickles. Step 2: Cut the Pickles. If you have a small variety like mine you can get away with simply quartering (or cutting in sixths if you have an extra girthy one). For full size cucumbers you will probably need to cut it into two pieces and cut each half into sixths or eighths depending on how large of spears you desire. Step 3: Brine the Pickles. There are many good recipes for brines out there. Here is my favorite that provides a good balance of sweet/salty/spicy as well as some extra components to have a nice balanced flavor profile. Simply add the ingredients to a 1 quart mason jar, give it a little shake, then add your cucumbers. Secure the lid of the jar and give the jar another shake and place in your refrigerator.
My Pickle Brine
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water (or enough to cover the pickles)
- 3 T sugar (artificial sweetener works here)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dill
- 1/4 tsp pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp mustard seed
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
Step 4: Wait. This can be the hardest part, you need to wait at least 3 days for your pickles to brine, possible a couple of days more if you needed to add much more than 1 cup of water to cover your cucumbers. As more cucumbers come in you can simply add them to the jar and have a non-stop supply of incoming snacks…at least until the end of summer. For something a little more traditional you can also try the following:
Alton Brown’s Dill Pickle Brine
- 5 1/2 ounces pickling salt, approximately 1/2 cup
- 1 gallon filtered water
- 3 pounds pickling cucumbers, 4 to 6-inches long
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon dill seed
- 1 large bunch dill
Directions: Same process as above though probably going to have to wait 6-7 days before your pickles are ready and are good for about 2 months.
My youngest (2 years old) decided to venture out and too a little strawberry picking this weekend. It took her a little while (probably a solid pound of berries) to figure out we were supposed to be picking berries and putting them into our flat and not her mouth. Thirty minutes later and $11.50 paid I left with my full flat (11.5 pounds of berries)
The great about thing picking fresh strawberries is they are ripe and delicious, but the bad thing is you only have a few days before they start to go bad. Knowing that my little strawberry monster (and her older sister) would not even be able to get through over 11 pounds of berries in 3-4 days so had to start considering preservation methods.
Prevent the strawberries from molding
Here is an easy technique to extend the life of your berries by a few days to even a week. Prepare a solution of 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water (example for pint of berries I prepared above I did 1/8 cup of vinegar and 1.25 cups of water) Add your strawberries and given them a quick spin. Next you can optionally rinse them (solution is pretty weak so I do not taste any vinegar taste if I don’t rinse) and then place on an open air container.
This technique also works for other berries that may have molding problems and can enable your berries to last about a week or even up to 2 weeks depending on the actual ripeness when they were picked.
Sugar coat them
Though fresh organic strawberries are sweet enough all by themselves but adding about a teaspoon of sugar to a pint of cut strawberries will generate some strawberry syrups which can easily give you a week in the fridge. This can be a great topping to ice cream, pound cake, angel food cake, or even by themselves topped with a little whipping cream.
This was the first obvious method of saving some of these delicious berries for next year. I picked up some new 1/2 cup jars since we typically do not make it through a full cup jar once the 3 week timer starts after cracking the seal. Also great size for sharing with the neighbors.
The recipe for any type of jam can be found in your box of pectin but I will repeat it here since I personalized some techniques to speed up the process.
- 5 cups of strawberries (4 cups crushed)
- 7 cups white sugar
- 1 package of pectin (I personally prefer the liquid form)
- Wash and cut tops off berries and crush them. I personally add them to my food processor and given them a little pulse to chop them up. Be sure not to over do this you want some chunks in there not a smooth puree.
- Add berries to large pot or saucepan and heat at medium high and add sugar.
- Let berries and sugar come to a rolling boil (when you still bubbles continue)
- Add pectin and wait until rolling boil returns and let boil for 1 minute while constantly stirring
- Remove from heat and fill cleaned a boiled jars/lids with 1/8 inch gap at the top being careful to remove any jam on the top of the jar.
- Once all jars are filled add to large pot filled with water on rolling boil (be sure to account for the displacement that will occur when you add your jars) The directions say you should have 2-3 inches of water over your jars. My tallest pot doesn’t allow this even for these 1/2 cup jars but have gotten good seals with 1/2-1 inch of water above in the past.
- Let boil for 10 minutes (more if higher altitude but see directions on pectin) and let sit at room temperature. Check the button on the top to see if you have a good seal. If one doesn’t stay down, no worries just through it in the refrigerator and that will be the first jar you consume. Let the remaining sit a room temperature for 24 hours, checking the seal again.
Your jam should be good for up to a year with a solid seal and up to three week refrigerated after opening.
Freezing strawberries is a very easy option for preserving your produce. What I do is wash the berries and remove the tops and split any berries that are significantly larger than the others. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze for 8-12 hours and transfer to freezer bags and remove air with a straw (poor mans vacuum sealer) or use real vacuum sealer like I did below. With this technique the berries should not stick together and all ready to make some shortcake next winter.