"Kusina" = Kitchen; "Manang" = older sister

A Filipina's unabashed chronicle of her adaptations in the American kitchen. Includes step-by-step photos on how to make pan de sal, ensaymada, pan de coco, siopao, hopia, pandelimon, pianono, atsara, crema de fruta,etc., and if you are lucky, you will find videos too!

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Carving 2011

From L to R: Ben's, mine, and Patrick's
It's that time of the year again, when my children and I bring in the huge pumpkins from the porch so we could carve out Halloween themes on them.
Our pumpkins
I selected these pumpkins from Hannaford grocery store probably a month ago, along with a new pumpkin carving kit (so that this time we had two sets of kits to work with).  It's the fourth year that we have been doing this, and so now it has become a tradition. I have been getting the kits only in the most recent years, though. The kit enabled use to make more complicated and pretty patterns.

working on our pumpkins

We had to pause for the photo.
After we were done, we lit them and placed them out on the porch. Hopefully, they will still be firm by tomorrow night.

I gathered the seeds and brined them, to try roasting them later. The cut out flesh, I also gathered, peeled, boiled, and mashed, because I promised the boys I would make pumpkin whoopie pies that they can have for breakfast tomorrow.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peach Cobbler using Canned Peaches

Peach cobbler
One day this summer, after I gathered several cukes to can, my in-laws arrived with a bushel of tree-ripened peaches. I was not prepared to can them that day, because I had to work the next day, and was thinking of canning pickles instead. So my mind was racing. They were actually offering me two bushels (3 went to my SIL already), but I had to decline since one bushel was all I could possibly handle late that day. So I was panicking thinking that we were having (a big and hearty) supper and how I would be able to can these peaches in the remaining time and still get enough sleep to go to work the next day. My in-laws were sensitive enough to call me to say they were coming over after supper to help can these peaches. I was relieved, because I had no prior experience on how to can them.  We had an assembly line consisting of my two sons, my husband (they were peeling the blanched peaches), my FIL (who did the blanching), my MIL (who cut the peaches in halves) while I placed them in jars, adjusted lids and seals, and processed them in the boiling water canner. Done in three hours.
My canned peaches
Now my storage is boasting of these brightly colored jars of tree-ripened peaches, and while we have enjoyed them plain, I thought I'd try using these canned peaches for peach cobbler. (One would usually see fresh peaches in the recipes.)
Butter, batter, and peaches before baking
I followed a simple but marvelous recipe from myrecipes.com but made the necessary changes using my canned peaches, and also adding a hint of almond extract.

1/2 cup butter
For the batter ~~
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
For the filling~~
1 qt canned peaches, drained
3/4 cup sugar, made wet with 2-3 tbsp of peach juice drained
1 tbsp lemon
1 capful almond extract
sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg per preference
Right after baking
Cut the butter into small pieces and lay on 9x13 pan. Place in the oven and pre-heat to 375°F. Meanwhile, measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Boil peaches with sugar and almond extract while stirring gently. When butter is completely melted in the pan, remove from the oven and add the milk to the dry ingredients of batter until just moistened, then pour slowly into the melted butter without stirring.  When peaches/sugar mixture has boiled, spoon over the batter carefully. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
The goodness of tree-ripened peaches was captured!
Upon taking it out of the oven, the juice will still be boiling. Let it cool down for at least 5 minutes.  Serve this warm (or cool per your preference). Can be enjoyed with vanilla ice cream.

My sons could not have enough! I am glad I had ~20 jars of these peaches...that and my canned apples will be rotating for fruity desserts for the whole year.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stuffed Shells with Pasta Sauce

After I canned spaghetti sauce without meat, I noted that there were two containers of cocktail tomatoes that I got from Backyard Farms during their Open House which I forgot to include in the batch for processing. And so I thought I'd make a sauce out of it and use it for our meal the next day.  There was probably about 2 lb of them. And just like how I made my spaghetti sauce, I roasted them then strained and boiled until reduced to half the original volume. Meanwhile, I chopped 3 cloves garlic, 2 medium onions, and a stalk of celery. I sauteed these in some (home-canned and -rendered leaf) lard, then added the tomato sauce, some salt and pepper to taste, basil and oregano to taste. I also boiled a whole box of jumbo macaroni shells (I should have boiled only half of it because I ended up with a lot of leftover shells.) until al dente, then rinsed right away with cold water to stop cooking.
My son's hands were shaking
when he took the photo

Then I mixed 1 lb pre-cooked ground beef (only added salt and pepper to it then I let it cool down) with 8 oz softened cream cheese, 1 egg, chopped red and green bell peppers (half each), salt and pepper to taste. I used a big cookie scoop to stuff the macaroni shells with this mixture.
Close up

I pre-heated the oven to 350°F. I placed a thin layer of the pasta sauce on a 9x13 pan the placed a layer of stuffed shells on top. I spooned some more pasta sauce atop the shells, and baked this for 30 minutes, adding grated cheddar cheese right after taking out of the oven. I served this with garlic toasted bread and Parmesan cheese on the side.

Hit with everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Canning: Spaghetti Sauce without Meat

Spaghetti Sauce without Meat
After dealing with tomatoes from my garden (took me several weeks to finally use them up!), my friend who works at Backyard Farms Tomatoes (a big greenhouse here in Maine that uses hi-tech to produce wonderful tomatoes picked at the peak of ripeness year-round) gave my mom several more boxes of these (those are three boxes stacked together).  While I made spicy tomato jams (for selling by my SIL) with my own tomatoes, these ones I turned to Spaghetti Sauce without Meat.
Tomatoes from Backyard Farms
I used the recipe from USDA's book on canning, which is also available online here. However, I deviated from the method (because I read in a foodblog) in that I roasted the tomatoes in the oven to get the skins to split so they would be easy to remove. It saves time too. I roasted 30 pounds of tomatoes in 45 minutes, then squeezed out the juice and most of the seeds and water before running them through the strainer. (Using the traditional method of blanching for 30 seconds then dipping in cold water then removing the skins, coring and seeding, it would have taken me the whole day for just those.
Tomatoes after roasting.
I got the courage to try again making spaghetti sauce this year when I finally ordered this vegetable strainer, an attachment to my old reliable Kitchen Aid mixer, which made it easier to remove skins and seeds. (In my second year of canning, the time I spent using the old-style food mill, I got discouraged to make spaghetti sauce again. On top of that, because it needed constant stirring, I would get it burnt, and the whole batch would taste awful!)
The whole food strainer attachment
By removing much of the seeds and water, I came up with juice that had a consistency close to that of tomato sauce. (I kept the juice that I squeezed out in a separate container and later canned that as well, or used in escabeche sauce or sweet chili sauce.)
The seeds and peel come out like sausages
I went ahead in boiling the tomato juice to reduce the volume.  While doing that, I prepared the other ingredients, being careful not to add more than what is asked for in the recipe for the fresh veggies. I did add more of the dry spices (I read somewhere that such dehydrated foods is less risky to increase in the recipes because they do not tend to increase the pH/alkalinity of the product, which would tend increase the likelihood of microbial growth. In sauteeing, I also used my very own rendered leaf lard (in case you tend to say, "Ewe!," pork leaf lard, especially coming from family-bred pigs, are very much coveted by chefs, and are very pricey. Try to google leaf lard and see for yourself.)
Sauteeing the other veggies
And as I mentioned above, making spaghetti sauce needed constant stirring. One gadget that encouraged me was this Ardente Stirrer, which just recently (this year) came out. (I remember I tried to look for a stirrer just a few months ago and all I could see was the Robo stirrer that just sort of vibrated on the pan to "stir.").  This gadget was run by 4 C batteries, which I changed after two whole days of using them for reducing tomato volume. It does a pretty good job. I only had to check every hour or so to see how low the volume was. I had no scorching of the bottom of the pot. Only negative was, the handles eventually curved upward (maybe because of the plastic heating up with all the steam) that it failed to keep itself "holding on" to the handles as it stirred. Hence, I tied them up with the string.
Ardente Automatic Stirrer
Ladled into hot sterile jars, I kept them hot by keeping the jars on my steamer. This is to avoid shocking them in the high heat of pressure canning. 
Ladling into hot jars
 I was able to come up with total of 5 quarts instead of 9 pints (equivalent to 4&1/2 quarts).
One inch headspace
I then pressure-canned for 15 mins at 11 PSI (pounds per square inch) in accordance with Table 1 in the guideline.  As you can see, mine is a dial-gauge. My husband was very kind to setup a propane burner out in our small garage so I don't tie up my stove while I process my jars in the canner.
In case you want to have a better idea of how to pressure can, this illustration from the same USDA site gives one a good idea.
My older son was excited to try the spaghetti sauce, so that he made meatballs from scratch (I asked him to look up the recipe, but he said, "I'll just wing it."  That Tuesday night I came home from work, my two sons have prepared spaghetti and meatballs for supper.  It was so gratifying! I felt so proud of my sons!

This canning post aims to introduce my readers to ideas on canning. A book and/or a DVD are available from the USDA website for those interested in learning how to can.

I just got a nasty comment by a certain Anonymous who chose to hide her identity.  She probably thought I would stop posting in my foodblog if she discourages me enough. She claims to have tried 3 recipes of mine and said "nothing came out good."  I'd say good riddance. As long as I have people who thank me for sharing my recipes, and share encouraging stories/photos of their own, whether on recipes I have here, or recipes they came up with because I inspired them, I will keep posting here. So, Anonymous, sorry to disappoint you, but you can't let me down with that lame comment of yours. I have had worse events in my life that I had to deal with and came out a winner (I don't always win, but I bow out gracefully when I am defeated). So here I am with another post. Dedicated to you. May you someday learn the skills to be a good cook or baker. Then maybe someday you will also be able to share your skills to the world. Be forewarned, though, that this post is not for the inexperienced nor one who does not have a good grasp of science behind cooking. One would also need lots of patience and perseverance for this project.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I made OILY Salted Eggs!

Camote tops, tomatoes and salted eggs
 I remember when I first made a post on Itlog na Maalat, a reader asked me how to make them as oily as the ones commercially available. Well, I had no idea, and the possible answers I offered were: (1) maybe the kind of egg (duck eggs) made the difference, or (2) maybe the use of salted clay instead of brine.
The one on the left was oily
 I tried to use duck eggs once (a house in the neighborhood sold a dozen duck eggs for $3). Those eggs were huge and the shells tougher/thicker! But I used the brine method, and I did not come up with oily salted eggs.
And the one on the right was oily too!
 Quite accidentally, this time, I made ones (I made a dozen) that were all oily. I used our home-raised chicken-laid eggs(and I prepare them within 3 days after being laid).  I still used the brine method.  So what did I do differently this time?

Well, instead of boiling, I cooked these in a steamer (to avoid cracking the shells) for 30 minutes. To further test whether that was what made them oily, I now have three more batches of eggs in brine.  I can test my hypothesis at the end of this month and see if I will consistently produce such oily eggs. I will also try cooking one batch in less time to see if the yolks would not be quite dark.

Tasted EGGcellent as usual!

UPDATE 10/20/11: Betty (a reader) emailed me and said the longer time of brining (one month, which was what I did with this batch), makes the egg oily.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Canning: Apple Pie Filling

Apple Pie Filling Ready to Sell
This is my first time to can apple pie filling. Well, first year, that is. The above photo is my 4th trial this year. I seem to have finally found the right method to can them.

I was not really planning on selling them. But last month, when I was canning tomatoes and tried a spicy hot tomato jam, I gave a sample to my SIL, whose business is to sell her home canned goods to various local stores (mainly convenience stores). Most of her products are pickled cucumbers (bread and butter, dill, and sour mustard). After she tried the tomato jam, I asked her if she thinks she could sell those as well. Her answer was positive. I thought I'd make these tomato jams to use up my abundant supply of tomatoes (I had enough whole tomatoes packed and set aside in my pantry to last a year and beyond).  She actually immediately ordered some from me, and when I brought these to her house along with a 4-oz jar for submission to USDA office for testing, I also brought a jar of my first batch of apple pie filling that I made out of the apples that my mother and friend Cecilia picked from the orchard (we could not finish the half-bushel she brought home, so I thought I'd try to can them before they become bad). She and her husband were excited to see the apple pie filling, and said, "This is beautiful! They are going to sell for sure!" I had to clarify to them that it was a personal use-only apple pie filling and that I was giving one for them to try. But that gave me the idea of perfecting this home-made product for selling.  I am also looking at selling on etsy.

My favorite apples to use for pies is Cortland. Some sites do not recommend using Cortland for this purpose because "they turn to mush." In my experience, they never turn to mush. Maybe the prep has a lot to do with it.

In any case, having the above thought of home canning apple pie filling for commercial purposes, I made a plan to make a trip to the North Star Orchards for pick-your-own apples. Two weeks ago, as I was offering my pickles to my co-workers, the unit sec asked me if I could teach her to can. I offered for her to go apple picking with me and I would teach her how to can apple pie filling. She agreed.
Nanay went apple picking with me

This week is the time Cortlands are available. My favorite timing of canning fruits is when they are freshly picked. Or  at least I can them within 3 days from picking. So after picking the apples, we headed to my house and I taught my co-worker how to can apple pie fillings. I inserted tips and rules on canning safety. I left her to decide on spices and the sweetness. Except for some changes in the spice and using cider instead of apple juice, we used the recipe from USDA's National Center for Home Food Preservation website (without food coloring). I also left out the lemon because using all apple cider instead of water was enough to give me low pH. I tested with a pH meter -- the sauce part was 3.97, and the blenderized apple slices was 4.19. Food safety requires pH value less than or equal to 4.6. Since I was thinking of selling canned goods, I got myself a pH meter. I thought it was a wise investment, especially if I would try my own recipes to can.

Tools that helped me go through a whole bushel in one day producing 28 quarts include:
Steamer (for sterilizing jars)
Canning kit (with bubbler/picker, jar lifter, and wide-mouth funnel)
Apple slicer/corer/peeler
Stainless steel stockpots
Stainless steel ladle
Water bath canner
My sons and Nanay

As for my method, instead of submerging the slices in citric acid solution to avoid browning (I don't care about browning; my jars still looked very appealing!), I set aside some sugar-spices mixture to sprinkle to the slices for every 3-4 apples sliced.  The sugar draws out moisture from the slices, making them shrink a bit, and as a result, they become more flexible and they do not break easily while packing tightly in the jars.  As a result also, they still turn out crunchy instead of mushy even after processing in a water bath AND then baking.  Other than this, I pretty much followed the instructions.
Apple crisp
I usually would end up with some slices that are not enough to fill a quart, so I would use that for apple crisp.

All natural, all fresh ingredients

I plan to sell these.
Out of a bushel, I was able to make 28 quarts (4 batches in the canner) today. I am definitely in a canning frenzy this year, and I enjoy it tremendously! I am hoping to teach canning to my sister in the Philippines when I get the chance to visit. I will look for fresh fruits in season that I can preserve.

Now if only more Filipinos in the Philippines would want to do this as a homebusiness. Can you envision making our favorite fruits and veggies available to the Filipinos abroad, and to the global market? (My husband was quite surprised at how good freshly picked sun-ripened mangoes in the Philippines was. Much better than peaches.)  I would presume that our lowly aratiles, which I used to munch on when I was a child, would be better than blueberry or raspberry jam.

Now if only someone would share their knowledge on how to make the Spanish-style bangus sardines to me, I'd be happy.  I will make my own to stock in my pantry.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolates

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a package of these Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolates in a variety of cacao percentages: the 72% Cacao Twilight Delight, the 86% Midnight Reverie, and the Sea Salt Soiree.
With excitement I bought the suggested pairings for them, but I tried them first plain, and let my husband and sons try them as well. We all agreed...they were so smooth and rich, one thin block would be enough to satisfy your craving.
I liked the pairings with nuts, particularly the roasted peanuts and macadamia nuts (I even tried the suggested BBQ chips) as suggested by the booklet that came with them. (I do not drink alcohol, and nobody does in the family, so wine pairing was out of the picture.)
I must say that dark chocolates and nuts go well together, so much so that I liked the Sea Salt Soiree by itself. I did try to neutralize the intense flavor with the mellow ginger gold apple.
But when my son tried to make S'mores out of them the next night, it was like a light bulb! I tried them as well, and I must say it was probably the perfect way to enjoy them Intense Dark Chocolates by Ghirardelli.

I do know that someday (after I am done with all the canning as I welcome the fall season), I will bake something that uses Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolates...maybe something like Chocolate Whoopie Pies or Molten Lava Cake.

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