Recipes | Easy Trail Mix

Okay, so this barely qualifies as a recipe. It really doesn’t. But there isn’t another comparable word for a “handful of this, handful of that, shake it up” sort of concoction. But it has become one of our favorite quick snacks! Not to mention, this old coffee cannister is pretty nostalgic for me – It recalls years of memories of my grandparents and their delicious chocolate chip cookies, since this served as their cookie jar as far back as I can remember.

Anyway, Brad and I eat a lot of nut mixes and trail mixes. We come in from chores or cow work and just need a quick snack mid-morning, and a handful of something, oftentimes peanuts or cashews, generally does the trick. We had found a couple of really good trail mixes at Sam’s Club, but we ate enough of them that I finally decided I wanted to start just mixing our own trail mix. As silly or simple as this might sound, we enjoy the homemade version better than the store bought versions.

Pick from a variety of nuts, M&Ms or chocolate pieces, and dried fruit, add desired quantities and shake it all up! You can go sweet or savory, with seasoned or unseasoned nuts, roasted or raw, salted or not, and the list goes on. If you want to get a little fancier, you could toss your mix with a little olive oil and a seasoning of your choice, and bake briefly in the oven. The possibilities are endless.

This one is peanuts, almonds, M&Ms, and raisins. There were supposed to be cashews, but I think I accidentally ate them all before I got around to mixing this up. I made a second jar for myself without raisins. Brad pointed out that there were twice as many M&Ms in my jar as in his jar, but I pointed out that he got all the raisins. Fair’s fair.

Recipes | Ricotta Cheese

I was leafing through a book I picked up at a shop in Custer, titled The Essential Guide to Self-Sufficient Living, by Abigail Gehring. It is a beautifully curated little book, full of excellent, simple recipes and project ideas. Due to a positive Covid test yesterday, I’m now in quarantine with some time on my hands, so it was the perfect opportunity to try this easy recipe for ricotta cheese! Ricotta cheese is pretty pricey at the store, so I rarely buy it, but it is my favorite filling for crepes. Homemade crepes and ricotta cheese will be the perfect Christmas morning breakfast!

Ingredients:

1 gallon of milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

In a large saucepan or stockpot, combine the milk and salt and heat it slowly to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. I used a candy thermometer to watch the temperature. When it reaches 180 degrees, remove it from heat and add the vinegar, stiring for about a minute. Curd will begin to form and the whey will start to separate out. Cover the pot and let it sit for about 2 hours. After two hours, ladle or pour the milk mixture into a cheesecloth-lined collander. Allow it to drain for about another 2 hours. After that, it is ready to use!

Tips and Notes:

This was a very fun recipe to throw together, especially with some time on my hands, and yielded about a quart of ricotta cheese. The resulting fresh ricotta cheese has a very nice mild flavor. However, I should have drained it for less time. I think I let it sit a bit longer than 2 hours, and the curds are much firmer than I was expecting. Next time, I may let it sit for as little as 10 minutes, just to get the bulk of the liquid off, but to keep the cheese softer.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Recipes | Savory Tomato Pumpkin Soup

There is something soothing and comforting about a bowl of hot soup on a cold winter day, and with the snow falling and winter setting in, this easy soup is festive and flavorful. I’ve discovered that pumpkin is a lovely addition when cooking, so I wanted to share this unique take on a traditional tomato soup. I’m afraid I’m not a recipe follower, so naturally I’m also not an exact recipe writer, so use your own taste to determine quantity of some of the ingredients. Ingredients

1 15. oz can pureed pumpkin

1 15. oz can of diced (or crushed) tomatoes

~2 cups milk

chicken bouillon to taste

other spices to taste (garlic, minced onion, salt, pepper, savory)

Preparation – Combine pumpkin, tomatoes, and milk in a saucepan and whisk together. If using diced tomatoes, puree with an immersion blender before combining with other ingredients. For a thicker soup, use less milk. For a thinner soup, use more. Add chicken bouillon to taste (I used about a half tablespoon, or less, probably – less is better. You can always add more). Add dried garlic, dried minced onion, pepper, salt if desired, and savory. I’m generous with the garlic and onion. Again, add to taste. Heat and let simmer until all the dried ingredients are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Ladle into bowls and garnish with shredded cheese and dried parsley.

I’d like to try this sometime with fresh garlic and onion, and perhaps even add some other vegetables, but for now it makes for a great quick meal!

Enjoy!

 

Save

Recipes | Wild Plum Jam

The wild plums are sure bountiful this year! I don’t know what they were like last year, but this year has been amazing. I went picking again this morning with a friend, and we picked about 6 gallons of plums! I couldn’t believe it. When we drove up to the (secret) plum thicket, my heart sank a little, since the branches seemed awfully bare. But we climbed down into the thicket and the ground was covered with beautiful, firm, ripe fruit. Most of what we picked we actually picked off the ground. The plums that were still on the tree were barely attached and just fell off into our hands, or fell to the ground as we shook the branches.IMG_4288eYesterday, I finished processing my first batch of plums as plum jam, and it did not disappoint. Here is the recipe, the process adapted from a recipe on Kitchn and a Sure-Jell recipe.IMG_4270eIngredients

  • ~1 gallon of plums
  • 1 box powdered pectin
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. butter (optional)

Process

Wash plums and cut off bad spots. In a stockpot with about a half a cup of water, cook the plums with pits, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, mashing the fruit as you go. A potato masher can also be used to help loosen the pits. When the plums have reached a sauce-like consistency, remove from the heat and pull out the pits, leaving as many of the skins as possible. Use an immersion blender to blend the pulp and chop up the skins. Measure out 6 cups of pulp. There will be extra. In a stockpot, combine the plum pulp and the powdered pectin. Add butter if desired to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Mixture should continue to boil even while you are stirring. Add the sugar. Return to a boil, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Skim off any foam that forms, and save for a taster.

Pour into prepared jars, clean the rims and threads, and seal jars with two-piece canning lids. Process 10 minutes in hot water bath (I adjusted for altitude and processed for 15 minutes).IMG_4272Notes

Jam differs from jelly in that jelly uses only the juice, while jam uses all of the usable fruit, including the skin. Plums can be pitted before or after cooking. Either way is bound to be tedious. I left the pits in and after an hour of pulling the pits out, I was almost in tears. Part of that may have had to do with the fact that I didn’t start processing them until 11:00 pm, so it was 1:00 am and I was still pulling pits out. So it was bad timing. If I make jam again, I don’t know if I will leave the pits in and cook them, or pit them ahead of time. I may try to use a ricer, which would unfortunately pull the skins out, but would at least make it easier to separate the pits and the pulp. It would be worth a try. IMG_4281eI had never made plum jam before, and I don’t know if I have ever even eaten plum jam before. But it is exquisite on bread with a generous quantity of butter. Enjoy!

 

Recipes | Crabapple Syrup

Finally! Fruit processing season has been here for a few weeks now, and I am thrilled to report a few new recipes that have been added to my recipe collection. This recipe for crabapple syrup is adapted from one I found on the Backyard Forager website – here is the original article and recipe. I have my own method of juice extraction, but I needed the sugar-to-juice ratio and the cooking and processing time. It is a wonderfully tangy syrup, and I look forward to using it on or in a number of things – yogurt, pancakes, icecream or sorbet, lemonade or iced tea…The list could be endless.

Ingredients

10 c. crabapple juice

10 c. sugar

1.5 T pectinIMG_3892Method – Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Heat the mixture to boiling and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Skim foam off the top and save the skimmings for a taster. Pour syrup into sterile jars. Clean rims and threads, and seal with two-piece canning lids. Processes for 1o minutes in a boiling water bath, or adjust for altitude. I processed the jars for 15 minutes, since we are at ~3600 feet above sea level. Yields about 7 pint jars.IMG_3906Notes – I added the pectin in the hopes of thickening the syrup a little. The original recipe doesn’t include any pectin. The chokecherry syrup I made last year was very runny, even though it included pectin, and I liked the consistency even though other family members didn’t. Crabapples have a fair amount of natural pectin, so I was hesitant to add too much pectin and end up with jelly rather than syrup! However, the 1.5 tablespoons didn’t really do anything. After thinking about it, I realized it was kind of a joke that I even thought that little pectin would do anything at all to that quantity of juice and sugar, but math and ratios (yes, simple math, I know) are not my strong suit. They aren’t even my weak suit. They just aren’t. Period. I also added a splash of lemon juice, and could have added more (go back to math not being my strong suit). As far as the headspace, I left about a half inch of headspace, which might be a little much, but I don’t think it will matter. I probably could have gone with 1/4 inch.

There is something exceedingly satisfactory about the process of home canning. I’m so glad it is that time of year!

 

Recipes | Wild Rosehip Jelly

There is something mysteriously delightful about the process of gleaning from Creation’s garden and being able to process and store and enjoy the homemade food. It was chokecherries earlier this summer, and now it is rosehip season. IMG_1582Last summer while hiking, we found a huge (secret) area of wild rose brambles, laden with the beautiful red-gold fruits of the rose. By the time we got to them, though, it was quite late in the season and many of the fruits were overripe and dry, so we really didn’t get enough to do anything with them. This year, however, we hit them at their peak! Mom and I spent an hour or two west of Custer picking rosehips, and came home with about 3 quarts of fruit. Harvesting rosehips isn’t as productive as harvesting chokecherries, but it is worth it. This afternoon, I processed the hips and turned them into the most beautiful honey-colored jelly. It is recommended to pick rosehips after the first killing frost for the best sweetness – Custer had it’s first frost back in August, at which point I doubt the hips would even have been ripe. Either way, the jelly is very flavorful. I found the jelly recipe online, since this isn’t an inherited project!
IMG_1588Wild Rosehip Jelly

8 c. rosehips, with stems and ends removed (should yield 3 cups of juice)

1/2 c. lemon juice

1 package pectin

1/4 tsp. butterIMG_1590Juice Extraction: In a large pot, cover rosehips with water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 20 minutes, mashing fruit to a pulp as it softens. Rosehips contain tiny fibers or hairs around the seeds, which can cause irritation to the throat, so these must be strained out. Strain fruit pulp through a cheesecloth-lined collander or a jelly bag, saving the juice and setting the pulp aside. Put pulp in a pot and again add water to cover. Simmer again briefly and strain again. Discard pulp. If necessary, use fruit pulp and water once more to get to the necessary 3 cups of juice. For every 8 cups of rosehips, you should get at least 3 cups of juice – I used 12 cups of fruit, roughly, and easily had enough juice for a double batch. Juice extraction is not a science. There are many methods! IMG_1674Jelly: Add 1/2 cup lemon juice to 3 cups rosehip juice. Stir in 1 package of powdered pectin. Stir well. Let the juice mixture come to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Once it boils, stir in the 3 1/2 cups of sugar, stirring constantly. When sugar has dissolved, add 1/4 tsp. butter, to prevent foaming. Bring to a hard boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. IMG_1679Remove from heat. Let sit briefly and skim, keeping the skimmings for a taster. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space, and seal with two-piece canning lids. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. IMG_1681Jelly making is rather captivating – I am planning a trip back west of Custer to pick more rosehips this weekend!

Laura Elizabeth