"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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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Canning: Pickled Beets

Finished product: Pickled Beets

When I first tasted pickled beets (that my mother-in-law gave for me to try and see if I would like it), I did not like it. It had an overpowering earthy taste. That was 3 years ago. I do remember having beets in potato salad that rendered an exotic taste that I liked...it was a potato salad made by a classmate in med school back when I was in the Philippines.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Canning: Manang's Hot Dill Pickles

Hot dill pickles
This is my variation to the dill pickles that I learned from my MIL.  I changed her basic recipe since I found it too salty for my taste after several months of curing.  I was hesitant to change the ratio of salt to water initially because I was afraid it might lessen the preserving effect. However, last summer, I was quite adventurous, and I bought several book as well on canning. Basing on the recipe of a reliable author in her book The Joy of Pickling, I tried to lessen the salt so that my final ratio was somewhere between my MIL's dill pickles and that author's dill pickles (I was tasting as I was adding salt and kept notes). Then after I was satisfied with the saltiness of the first batch of plain dill pickles, I thought I would try adding crushed red pepper flakes to make them hot. The result was very good, that my husband would always say something like "Delisyoso!" or "If you decide to sell these, guys would like them!"  I have been leaving a quart of these and the bread and butters  in the employees' fridge and my co-workers have been telling me, "You should start selling your pickles." Some even say, "I don't even like the ones in the grocery stores, but your pickles are sooo good.!" or, "I'd gladly pay $10 for a quart of your pickles. They are that good!"

So, if I have readers here who have gardens or have access to fresh cucumbers, you might consider making these and selling them. One thing for sure, this is something not only Filipinos would love, but also Americans who miss the pickles "just like how grandma made them."  The market is definitely there.


Note: I used photos from my old dill pickle post here to illustrate the steps.

On the day of harvesting the cucumbers, wash thoroughly with cold water, remove stems and any part of the peel that looks bad/browned.

Wash jars, lids, and bands with warm soapy water. Rinse well and sterilize in boiling water or steam at least 180 deg F for 30 minutes. Boil water and pour onto the lids and bands until needed.

Start boiling water in the boiling water canner half-filled with water.

In each quart jar, place 8-10 cucumbers (each should be 4- to 6-inches long), 4 garlic cloves and 2 teaspoons dill seeds, 1 tsp (for mild) to 1 tbsp (for medium) crushed red pepper flakes.
Place cukes and spices in jars
For the brine, use 2 qt water: 1 qt cider vinegar (5% acidity) : 1/2 cup canning salt.

To prepare brine, mix 2 qts water and 1 qt vinegar . Boil. Add 1/2 cup canning salt, mix to dissolve. (Increase the proportion according to the number of quarts that you have filled with cucumbers. ) Pour into the jars immediately.
Pour hot brine
Using a non-metallic spatula or a bubbler, remove bubbles by gently poking into the inside of the jars. Wipe the rim with a clean damp cloth or a paper towel to remove seeds or anything that might interfere with sealing.
Release bubbles
Lids and screw bands should be submerged in boiling water (not boiled, for it will damage the sealing compound, resulting to poor seal). Pick up with a clamp or magnetic picker whose tip/s were/was also submerged in the boiling water prior to using. To minimize contamination, refrain from touching the side of the lid that will touch the contents of the jar.
Leave 1/2 inch headspace; wipe rims
Close the jars fingertip tight then load onto the canning rack.
Load into rack
Lower them into the hot water. If water tends to overflow, remove some. Leave enough to cover the jars up to 1 inch above the lids. Turn heat to high and cautiously watch until the water gains enough heat to the point just before boiling (If it boils, lower the heat immediately) then start timing 15 minutes. Never allow to boil as this will COOK the pickles and will result to mushy, not crunchy, pickles.
Lower to BWCanner
Cover the boiling water canner, and process on easy simmer (do not boil) for 15 minutes.
Process for 15 mins
While processing the cans, have a dry towel ready on the countertop near the stove. Close all windows and doors to avoid drafts (the sudden rush of cold air might crack the hot jars. Then after processing for 15 minutes, one by one, carefully lift the jars (with a jar lifter especially designed for canning) out of the rack without banging them with one another (this might crack the jars as well). Place on top of the dry towel. Leave at least 1-inch space in-between the jars. Then when all the jars are out, cover with another towel. These towel will provide cushion for the hot jars not to crack when you place them on the countertop, and will also act as "windbreaker" in case there is a draft. You may now open your doors and windows. LEAVE THESE JARS ALONE FOR AT LEAST 3 HOURS before peeping under the towel, and preferably let them cool for at least 12 hours before moving them. You will hear the popping of the lids, which is a sign of good seal. If within 12 hours one or more of the jars did not seal, you may process them again or place in the fridge and consume them first within two weeks.
Cover with towel
Those jars that sealed properly should be stored in a dark, cool place. Let the pickles cure for at least 2 weeks to enjoy the flavor. The taste is superb by the end of one month. Once opened, the jar should be kept in the fridge until fully consumed. Pickles are best consumed within one year from canning date.

Canning Pork (Leaf) Lard and Making Pork Cracklings

Leaf/pork lard on the left,
chicken oil on the right

I do not know if anyone would be interested in this post. I am guessing that most likely, the pastry chefs and/or Americans who are conscious about food source and who are meat-lovers will be the ones finding this blog post most likely useful.  With the current anti-cholesterol doctrine campaign of the US CDC and the US healthcare in general, I would not be surprised if most Filipinos and the mainstream America would be turning up their noses if they see this post.  Let us just respect each other's opinions and preferences. I do not wish to defend my preference, nor to preach to you what your preferences should be and why. You are grown ups and can research on your own, and you can weigh the information you gather, then decide for yourself. Or you may  choose to follow mainstream America. Just please know that if you leave a comment here trying to preach to me or admonish me as if I was an uneducated 3-year-old child, your comment will be deleted.

However, for those who might be interested to read on articles by authorities in biochemistry (who obviously KNOW what they are talking about) that are not in any way biased/influenced by the (oil manufacturing) companies that provide funding for researches pertaining to such subjects, I highly suggest this link: http://www.health-report.co.uk/saturated_fats_health_benefits.htm.

I would like to demonstrate here how I canned my pork lard. Note that there is no such canning guidelines per USDA's official website on homecanning, and what I did here is based on some other blogger's how-to's and some ideas I got from reading ancient ways of traditional canning done by US farmers as early as 1912 (I downloaded a whole book free from google's library).

As my avid readers know, our family has stores of homegrown pork, grass-fed beef, and chickens (I am lucky that my MIL/FIL takes care of the chickens for us, and the grass-fed beef came from my SIL/BIL's herd of cattles). The freshly-slaughtered pork is hung in the slaughterhouse for a day or two (to drain blood fully), then we are called to give them specific instructions as to the cuts we like. On the day the pig is cut, they (or I, if not pressed for time) vacuum-pack the cuts. My MIL wants her fat back salted. I want it saved for making lard. I also save the leaf lard to render the best lard to use for baking pastries. This process is quite intensive, but I like doing it, because there is less processing compared to getting lard from grocery stores, I don't want to waste them, they taste better for me (I use pork lard for deep frying donuts and meats), I know exactly the source, and leaf lard just makes the best pie crust. And it is expensive to get them anywhere else.

I prepare the jars and sterilize them first by putting them on a baking pan (lasagna pan) sterilized in the oven at 180 deg F for 30 minutes (this totally dries them up so that my lard would not get mixed with water).  I do the same to the lids.

Please note that I like using the wide mouth pint jars, because when I am ready to use the lard, I can easily use a spatula to get what I need. I have minimal lard remaining in the jar once I have used up all its content.

The cut then ground pork lard (or leaf lard; I do them separately) is placed in a wok cooked on low 
heat,  with occasional stirring to avoid sticking at the bottom and for even cooking.  Then when the cracklings are no longer sticky, and the oil has bubbled, then cracklings start to sink, that's the time I scoop the oil out, pass through several layers of cheesecloth on top of a fine strainer, poured directly into the sterile jar.  I then wipe the rim and immediately seal with a lid, leaving only 1/8 inch headspace.  This hot oil will solidify when completely cooled, and in the process, contracts a lot, creating a vacuum that sucks in the lid. I minimize the air because it tens to oxidize the fat, which causes rancidity (maanta).  Then once completely cooled, I check the seals by lifting by the lids without the bands. I then label them accordingly (either as leaf or pork, with the date) and keep in a cool, dark place.

For the pork cracklings themselves, at the end of oil rendering, these are still anemic and soft. I drain them further, then let them cool down. I then measure by 1/2 cups and place each cupful in a sandwich bag, squeeze out excess air, then tie, then all these bags of cracklings are placed in a big freezer ziploc bag that is vaccum sealed (I use the Ziploc vacuum sealer).

Now when I am ready to use the pork cracklings, I thaw a small bag, then stir fry this on medium until it gets aromatic and turns golden brown, flavoring it with garlic salt. Then I place on paper towel to get rid of excess oil. When cooled, I use this as topping for such things as palabok, lugaw, and ramen noodles.  I don't cook more than what I will be able to use, because if I keep the unused pork cracklings in a closed jar, they get soft and rancid after several days (I tried that before...I  ended up throwing them away).

As for the lard rendered that I use for deep frying or for pastry, if I am not able to use up a whole jar, I cover the top of the lard with cling wrap to minimize contact with air, thus preventing oxidation and rancidity. I then keep this in the fridge to further ensure freshness.


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