Canning 101: The Boil Water Canner Method

My house has never been cleaner…..

As in, (of course we’re in the middle of spring cleaning season, but…) now that the schools are closed due to the quarantine, all & I mean, ALL of our common areas are cleaned multiple times per day.

It’s a good thing!

Trust me when I say that I am not complaining.

There’s a lot of good that has come out of this time & I am most definitely embracing it, as I hope that you are too!

I have long felt a calling to the old-fashioned way of living: the way that our grandparents used to. Part of this whole virus and restructuring our daily lives has brought all of that back into focus for me.

My friends know that I am their baking-girl, their home-cooking-girl, their sewing-girl, and only few know me as their canning-girl.

Why?

Because I actually used to can a LOT more than I do now, and 5-6 years ago, what I canned, also became their Christmas presents & they loved it. Some of them would even look forward to it, and ask me before hand if I could throw in an extra jar. (Sweet!)

I love canning.

I don’t think that there is anything that I love more than canning, other than sewing.

I mean, there is something very invigorating about the whole process to me.

*Sidenote: This invigorating process that I speak of, doesn’t happen often for me, because I am using really hot stuff & I lot of hot boiling water, that I usually either wait until everyone is asleep or a time when everyone won’t be in the house so that I know for sure, for that couple of hours, no one could possibly get hurt. And when they walk back into the house, I’ve got jars resting. #missionaccomplished.

Let’s Talk Equipment:

There are a couple of ways to do your canning process:

1- Is to use a boil water canner

and the other

2- Is to use a pressure cooker

I have always done the boil water canner method. I do know people that do the pressure cooker method and there are things that you can can with the pressure cooker that you can’t with the boil water canner: green beans is one of them.

Equipment list:

  • a boil water canner or pressure cooker
  • a jar lifter
  • clean, sterilized mason jars
  • brand new mason jar lids
  • clean, sterilized mason jar bands
  • a couple of pot-holders and kitchen towels (as there is going to be a lot of hot stuff)

In general, you’re going to start out with fresh fruits or vegetables.

Next, there will be a process or a recipe, to your finished product that you will need to complete BEFORE you move on to the actually canning process, itself.

For example, if you were making a strawberry jam, to be canned, (that’s different from a freezer jam that stays in the fridge. I’m talking about processing it for shelf life, right now). You would want to have a pot, separate from your canner to cook your jam in. You will need to follow a recipe. For strawberry jam, most call for:

Fresh strawberries

sugar

pectin or some sort of acid, like lemon juice.

Once your jam is done cooking, you will have your jars, bands and lids, washed, dried and hot and sterilized ready to go, because you don’t want to pour hot steaming jam or jelly going into cold mason jars. They’ll bust!

Following a recipe, you will fill the jars up to the “headspace” required for that particular recipe, before you secure the canning lids & bands before placing them into the boiling water.

Let’s talk about “Head space”.

Head space is important.

The proper head space when canning is the difference between a lid that seals properly & one that does not.

You know when you snap open that fresh jar of pickles or that new jar of spaghetti sauce & you here that “pop”?

That’s the same sound that you want to hear when someone opens one of your jars….or it wasn’t done right.

(There, there, I have to tell you the truth about the process. Or else, what good is it?)

So back to head space, you want to “hear” that pop- twice. Once when the jar seals during canning & the other when your jar, after resting a while of course has been opened.

Canning can potentially be a dangerous process, if not done right.

The author of Things She Makes and/or it’s constituents take no responsibility or liability for events that occur during your canning process.

Readers of this blog should be aware that any recipes or processes that are tried are done so at the risk of the reader/participant.

Closing Thoughts.

I have never used a pressure cooker as my canning method but have loved the times that I’ve “put up” jars with my boil water canner.

The next time that we talk, I’ll walk you through a little more of the vocab on the canning end.

I hope that you get something out of this.

Talk soon.

God Stories: “You Shouldn’t Have” {The Flower Delivery}

So I was headed into the office this one particular day, and as I got into the elevator, this 1-800-Flowers delivery man got in too.

He was holding a small bouquet of six of the most beautiful pink roses. I mean, just beautiful. And as I asked him which floor he was going to, I turned in said, “Oh you shouldn’t have”. And he said, “Oh no, these are for Ms. Chemeeka Evans.” And I said, “I’m Chemeeka Evans”. And I looked and me in disbelief and said, “Okay, well these need to go to Suite 324A”. And I was going to sweet 324A. I was the Chemeeka Evans, that worked in Suite 324A and according to him, those were my roses!

So we get up to the 3rd floor, we both get off of the elevator, and I told him that I was Chemeeka Evans, in fact, I worked at the front desk and someone else was covered at the time, so that I could take my lunch break. I got my idea and I showed him. If those roses were for Chemeeka Evans, then those roses were for me.

I had just returned, a couple of days before from Sanibel Harbor Resort on Sanibel Island with a family that I had babysat for. I went with the family, while on their annual company trip to take care of their three kids, two boys and a girl, (ages 7-boy, 6-girl, and 4-boy) while the parents enjoyed some down time.

Their parents were so pleased with how well I took care of the kids that they just wanted to thank me.

What was even more for me than that was, what were the chances, by Almighty God, that I would be walking up into the elevator with the same person that was there to deliver the flowers for me.

The whole act of it, just warmed my heart completely.

The lesson in this: Don’t be afraid to take a chance to pull your name out of the hat as the one with the winning number. It just might be YOU!

God Stories: “We just wanted to BLESS you,” on Valentine’s Day.

I woke up that morning, on Valentine’s Day & I remember that, that particular year, it was a Wednesday. And I remember feeling; having this sensing of the Lord telling me that “He was excited for me”.

I remember that I arrived at work, around the same time as one of my co-workers. And I noticed that she was carrying in a bouquet of flowers.

I was already ahead of her and closer to the door by the time that she got out of her car, and I remember saying to her, “Oh, you shouldn’t have…” A jokester I was. But my co-worker didn’t say anything to me. She just kept on walking into the office. I went in after her, and headed to the breakroom to put my lunch away, like I always did before I started the day.

When I got back to my desk, I noticed that the bouquet of flowers was there, along with a handful of Valentine’s chocolates just scattered around. I was so confused. In my confusion, I looked up, and my co-worker (the one that was carrying the flowers) and another co-worker of ours, (both Christians) were standing there. And I said, “What is this for? Why is this stuff at my desk”. And my co-worker responded, “We just wanted to bless you.” (For as long as I live, I will never forget those words!) She continued, “We know that it’s Valentine’s Day, and we know that you don’t have anyone so we just wanted to bless YOU”. That right there, already made it one of the best days of my life.

When I got home later that day, I sat on the side of my bed with a flyer printed of a local food festival that was going to be happening that weekend, that I really wanted to go to…but I had no one to go with.

I sat on the side of my bed, with the flyer in hand and said, “Lord, I really want to go to this Italian Food Festival this weekend, but I have no one to go with.” As clear as day, I heard the voice of the Lord tell me, “Ask Don”. That’s it. “Ask Don”. Don was a guy that I worked with at church. He was single, as well and served in the church kitchen on the hospitality team, serving slices of pies on Wednesday night and bagels and donuts on Sunday morning. I knew that he’d likely be available, but regardless the Lord told me to ask him, so was going to ask him.

I got to service early that night just so I could go into the kitchen and ask him (with the flyer) about going with me before the service started. I had had it in the back of my mind, before the Lord gave me the idea to ask him to go to the festival, I had planned on asking him if we wanted to grab a Starbucks with me after service, just to say that I wasn’t technically “alone” on Valentine’s night, but this would do.

I took the flyer with me to service and went into the kitchen beforehand. Before I could even finish telling him about the festival and all of the activities that they had, he said, “Yes.”

We had the BEST time that afternoon going to the festival. We laughed, we talked. It was all company I’d say. It wasn’t a date. It wasn’t boyfriend & girlfriend. I can’t even say that we were really “friends”. I just knew that I liked being around him.

After the Italian Festival was over, he told me about another festival, “The Garlic Festival” just 30 minutes away, and asked if I wanted to go and check that one out, which I did. Long story short, it had already ended when we arrived, so we went and grabbed a Starbucks and then sat around and laughed at all of the people that looked like they were freezing cold when they went past. (Lol!)

I enjoyed being with Don. I told him before we both headed home in our separate cars, that if he ever had anywhere to go: the supermarket, the mall, even to run errands, to let me know & that I’d like to go with him.

Thirteen years later, we’re still doing that…….

As much as I enjoy being married, and I look forward to all of those sweet little holidays & I am acutely aware and remember what it feels like to be that girl, or one of the single people out of the bunch.

I know what it’s like to be waiting on God, and waiting on God, and waiting on God, to do things the “right way”, while watching others enjoying the company of the one that they love.

I also remember how good it felt to be able to walk out of the office with a beautiful bouquet in hand & Valentine’s chocolates on Valentine’s Day. And what it’s like to be the single girl, but not the forgotten girl.

Love & marriage is not about receiving, it’s about giving. Who or how can you give to others this Valentine’s Day?

DIY {Chocolate Chip} Little Bites Recipe

I love making things homemade for my family.

Baking & cooking are two things that I absolutely enjoy. And when I find a recipe on how I can make something on my own; something that I know that they’ll love, I jump right on it!

The other day, it occurred to me, that we go through a good deal of Little Bites at times. I mean, when they’re on sale, we’re like, “Stock up!” So I thought to myself, “Why not make my own recipe, my own batch & we can have different flavors, whenever they want, they’ll be here”. So with that, I took another recipe that I have & merged it with this one to create:

DIY {Chocolate Chip} Little Bites

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 buttermilk (or for a substitution use 1/3 cup whole milk and 2 tablespoon of lemon juice to make your own buttermilk for this recipe).

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, and stir until completely blended. Next add in the eggs, vanilla extract, canola oil and buttermilk and then combine until blended. With a spatula or a large wooden spoon add in the mini chocolate chips, until blended.

Generously spray your miniature muffin tins with pan spray. Using a measuring spoon, scoop levels of one tablespoon of your muffin mix into each cavity of your baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

For freezing, divide muffins by 4’s into sandwich size Ziploc bags and then store all of the bags (about 6) into one large gallon size Ziploc bag.

When I first made these, I made up a batch of 24 bites and then stored them in the freezer only taking out a bag or two at a time, or as needed. If you think that your family is going to go through them more quickly, then six little bags in a week, then you can also keep this in the refrigerator until you are done with them.

I hope that your family enjoys these DIY Little Bites as much as mine did!

Maple Pecan Pancakes

We eat pancakes at my house on a weekly basis and I would say, sometimes, on an occasion, it’s on a bi-weekly basis, like when I might throw pancakes into the mix for lunch or even one night for dinner.

We love pancakes especially on the weekends: (1) because I make them from scratch and (2) on a weekend, I don’t have to rush and make waffles, I can literally sit there & flip them one pancake at a time and turn them into on really nice stack.

Well this morning, as I was awake & aware because of the time change, aaannnnddd the fact that my kids were up early, well a little earlier than usual (said every mom & dad on this morning) in their rooms & clowning around, (plus the fact that I have been mulling over a particular maple pecan recipe #soontomake for several days now). I said, “Why don’t we make maple pecan pancakes?!”

Since I always have willing helpers, the kids took their place at the kitchen island and we got to cooking.

So, with this recipe, we substituted 1/2 cup of maple syrup for 1/2 of the full cup of milk that we usually use & added in a 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.

We topped off our maple pecan pancakes with a warm maple-flavored syrup & butter mix.

This goes back to a warm waffle & pancake syrup that I have been making for the past few years. There are a hundred & one variations of it, but the main part of it is flavor, flavor, flavor. *P.S. If you don’t have pure vanilla extract handy, then you had better go & get some.

The right vanilla extract means everything.

My grandmother was famous for buying all types of different, exquisite, and might I add expensive pure vanilla extracts. It made no sense to me in at the time in my teenage years but as an adult, and a self-proclaimed chef, baker, cook, whatever you want to call it. The right flavors mean everything. Don’t short change on the flavor, whether you’re baking or cooking. Tangent over.

Homemade Maple Pecan Pancakes & Syrup

Dry Ingredients

1 cup of bread flour

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

1/2 chopped pecan pieces

Wet Ingredients

1 egg

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup of maple syrup

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Additional vegetable oil or melted butter for cooking.

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, add and combine all of your dry ingredients until they are fully combined.

Next add in your, egg (and don’t mix yet), milk, maple syrup, vegetable oil, & vanilla extract. Once you have all of your wet ingredients added to the bowl of the dry, you can stir until fully combined.

One a large, flat, heated griddle, melt two tablespoons of oil or butter to start. Now the oil will already be in a liquid state, but you still want to have it heated before you pour the batter on to it.

Depending on how many people you’re looking to serve and the size of your pancakes, begin adding the pancake batter to your pan, sticking to the center of the pan as your cooking space. Allow to set for 4-5 mins before flipping, and then flip, and repeat the 4-5 minute set time until both the inside and the outside of your pancake are done.

You can use whipped cream & sprinkles to jazz it up too if you’d like.

Bon Appetit!

Easy Savory Morning Breakfast Quesadilla

I love a good breakfast.

Let’s be honest, I love a good brunch, actually, because like most moms, my breakfast time doesn’t come around until about the 11th hour of the morning… Hello, somebody!

For productivity’s sake, except on the weekends, I try to stay away from the heavy & sweet carbs in the mornings, because those things weigh me down like it’s nobody’s business!

If we haven’t it on hand, my morning veggie of choice is broccoli-raab. If we don’t then I’ll go for spinach. And if we don’t have that, which it’s a rare day that we don’t, then I’ll aim for broccoli. Some kind of dark and green, leafy or not leafy veggie to pair with onion or some fresh garlic will usually do. However, today, I had an appetite & I mean a BIG appetite. I knew that I was going to need more than just something quick, but I didn’t want it to make me sluggish and impact my productivity for the day. So I thought, “Why not make a quesadilla?!”

Way back when a couple of my co-workers and I used to love to cook. I mean, we all liked cooking. If there was one thing that we all liked to do in our spare time, it was to cook. It was a fairly small staff of maybe 20 people including the people that worked in the warehouse & the janitorial staff, and whoever didn’t like to cook, liked to eat. It was a win-win situation! About once every other month or so, we’d have a cooking day on our downtime. No one would go out for lunch that day, and we’d plan who would bring what. I’ll never forget that one of the workers was from Chile & his wife owned a bakery and he’d bring in this giant Chilean cake with thin layers of cake, interlayered in with yummy peaches and cream. I don’t know what it was called, but it was so good. I didn’t want him to sign up to bring anything else, except that. It was that good!

One particular time, I brought in everything that I needed to make chicken or veggie quesadillas. They were so good & so versatile. If you didn’t want chicken, then you didn’t have to have chicken. If you were going the veggie route, (if I remember correctly, one of my co-workers was a vegetarian) then you could have just a portabella-centered quesadilla with all of the other sauteed vegetables and it was just as good.

This morning felt like one of those days at my old-workplace. Even though it was breakfast time, I felt like a “hearty” “healthy”, “I-don’t-need-alot-but-I-don’t-want-to-be hungry-when-I’m-done-eating-either” type of a morning.  So this is what I came up with:

Easy Savory Morning Breakfast Quesadilla

Serves: 1 (but can be doubled.  Recipe by Things She Makes)

November 1, 2019 

Ingredients

1/2 large yellow onion, sliced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 cups of spinach leaves, chopped

1/2 of jarred roasted red peppers, sliced

1/3 baked chicken breast, thinly sliced

1/4 cup shredded swiss cheese

1 large flour tortilla

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, add one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and allow to sit for 3-4 minutes until the pan and the oil are warm.

(Using a wooden spoon for everything)

Add sliced yellow onion and sauteed until light brown and clear.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Using the same pan, add a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, add a tablespoon of minced garlic and saute for two minutes & then add spinach leaves.  Saute until spinach begins to wilt (about 2 mins) and then remove from pan & set aside.

With your sauteed onions, minced garlic and spinach set aside, add one more 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, allow it to spread and then add the flour tortilla. 

Wait 90 seconds (to allow it to warm up, but not burn) and sprinkle on shredded swiss cheese.  Next, add jarred roasted red pepper slices and the spinach, and minced garlic mixture.  Randomly place the sliced of baked chicken breast (leftover chicken is perfect for this), on top of the quesadilla. 

Allow it to sit in the pan, on medium heat, unfolded for another two minutes and then fold.

Breakfast is SERVED!

There you have it:  A simple, delicious, good for breakfast or good for lunch (if you’re catching breakfast a little late), start to your morning!

 

 

Gone Peach Picking: Peach Enchildas

It is my birthday this week & the one thing that I really, really wanted to do was..well it was two parts: (1) go peach picking and (2) make homemade peach enchiladas.

If you’ve never even heard of peach enchiladas, there’s a place down in South Carolina off of Highway 252 called, Mac Pride’s or MacLeod’s Peaches.

They are known for their peaches and peach enchiladas and a host of other things, but I had to have my own homemade peaches and peach enchiladas for my birthday & and I did! *happy dance*

I had never made my own peach enchiladas, but on top of that, a friend had given me this recipe years and years ago (actually 10 years ago, in 2009 to be exact). And I never made them.

He knew that I liked to cook and bake and so he said, “You’ve got to try and make these.” What intrigued me about this recipe was the fact that it was made with soda. I knew then that you had to add either 7up or Mountain Dew to this recipe to make it complete and I liked that. I kind of liked the idea of having to add soda to it. I don’t know why.

Anyways, it’s been years. We actually went to Mac’s Pride last year and had to get their peach enchiladas. So this year, I was making my own!

Here is the recipe that I used to make my enchiladas:

Peach Enchiladas

2 (8 oz cans) of crescent rolls

1 cup of butter

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

4 blanched peaches, cooled and quartered

12 oz. of Mountain Dew Soda

Directions:

Melt butter and then add cinnamon and sugar until blended and set aside.

Unroll crescent dough and place 1-2 peach quarters on each crescent.

Roll dough around the peach, the same way you roll the dough for the crescent shape.

Place in a 9 x 13 pan.

Pour the melted butter mixture over the rolls, then pour over with the Mountain Dew.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Bonus: Serve with homemade French vanilla ice cream or your favorite, good quality vanilla ice cream from the store.

Bon Appetit!

I absolutely LOVED making this recipe! And my kids loved going and picking their own peaches and making it too!

I Love Lemons: Leveled-Up Lemon-Crusted Chicken

Can I tell you how much my family loves this recipe?

Can I tell you how much when I dredge something, somethings in a certain order with the right flour-egg wash- and leveled up bread crumbs combo mix, I have them singing my praises?

Are you really trying to be here for something delicious?

Okay then, Betty, I’m going to need you to grab your apron, clear your kitchen counter, put your game face on and when anyone of your family walks past the kitchen & asks what’s for dinner, I just want you to quip back with up, “Level Up.” And when they say, “Whaaaat?” Just wink. That is all. Just a quick but sure wink back, because, “You got ‘dis”.

Now let’s get cooking.

Okay, first things first: Let’s pretend that you’ve never had a lesson in dredge or let’s say that you think the only way to fry chicken is to drop it in some plain flour and seasonings and then to drop it in frying oil. Let’s just say that’s where you’re coming from. Okay? Scrap that!

Because we’re in beast mode, you are going to need a dish or bowl for your flour and flavor mix, your egg wash, and then your bread crumb and more flavor mix. We’re talking levels…..levels of flavor!

Leveled-Up Lemon Crusted Chicken

Flour & flavor layer

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 tsp of salt

1 tsp of pepper

2 tbsp of onion powder

1 tsp of chili powder

1 1/2 tsp of ground bay leaves

Egg wash layer

3 beaten eggs

Bread crumbs and more flavor layer

(If you have Panko bread crumbs on hand, use them. If not:)

1 1/2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs

1 tsp of chili powder

1 1/2 tbsp of lemon zest

(The lemon zest is your wild card here. If you’re making a recipe that lemon doesn’t go with, then omit that part).

2 boneless chicken breasts

Directions:

In a large dish or bowl, combine only the ingredients for your flour mix layer, and set aside.

In your next section of the station, beat three whole eggs and set aside. Specifically right next to flour mix, as seen above.

Next, combine only the ingredients for your bread crumbs and flavor and set them aside, keeping them in their separate bowl.

*Note: None of these separate ingredient bowls should be combine before we layer them on to our chicken breasts. The goal is to layer in the flavors. That is key!

What I like to do with my chicken breasts, since they are particularly thick, is to divide them. You can either pound them with a meat mallet and then make little slices, or divide them thickness-wise. The method there is up to you.

Once you have done that, you are going to heat half of cup of extra virgin olive oil into a large frying pan, and then add one cup of canola oil to it.

I usually let most of the olive oil cook off before adding the canola oil because I feel like the olive oil adds more flavor.

Once your pan is warm and ready to go, begin to dredge your meat and add it to the pan, one at a time.

Chicken is one of those meats that you want to make sure is completely done with no-pink in the middle before consuming. So don’t rush through this part of the process.

Drain your chicken cutlets on a plate lined with a couple of paper towels, and make sure that all of the excess oil has soaked onto the plate, and not into your food. 😉 Bonus points: I drizzle mine with a little bit of honey right after they’re done draining. Cover them if you’re not serving right away and….

Bon Appetit!

I promise you, that this is a recipe that your whole family will love!

I Love Lemons: Lemon Coconut Sorbet

I LOVE LEMONS. You could say that ten times over and I would never get tired of it. The other night, one of my little ones was watching a series of So Yummy videos and she came across this one particular video and said, “Mama, you have got to see this one.” As I looked on, I immediately thought, “A touch of lemon would be so great in this!” And with that, that idea for this recipe was born, but just a little bit different.

No-churn, churned, and hand-made ice creams are becoming popular. Homemade ice cream is my jam all day long! Like, give me the homemade hand-churned ice cream, day or not, and I am there for it!

The ingredients for this recipe were so simple, and yet so delicious. Plus doubling-up on the pure vanilla extract can help any recipe, any day….as long as it is a dessert recipe. So here goes:

Lemon Coconut Sorbet

Makes 5 1/2 cup servings

1 can of coconut milk

1/8 cup of lemon juice

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

3 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

Equipment:

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl with a whisk, stir to combine all four ingredients until completely smooth. *Note: The insert basket to your ice cream maker should be fully frozen 48 hours in advance of you making this treat.

With your ice cream maker set up, pour your ice cream mix into the maker.

Set to churn for 25-30 minutes or until completely thickened.

You can choose to enjoy your sorbet straight away or put it in an airtight container until you are ready for it.

Bon Appetit