Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apples Studded with Cherries and Raisins

vintage 1938 4H canning camp participant

Isn't this an awesome picture????  I found it in the archives of the Ann Arbor News in the Ann Arbor District Library's Old News online database of vintage newspapers.    I've got lots of canning projects going on this weekend.  The season is winding down and there is so much work to do!  Yesterday, I canned apples for a canning demo at the Dexter Farmer's Market.  I made this recipe...I liked that I didn't have to peel the apples but my propane stove cooked really hot and my wedges got mushier than I liked.  If I make this at home again, I would add some Pickle Crisp to keep the apples more firm....and of course, on the kitchen stove, I could manage the heat better.    I can't remember a better year for apples ever in the 20+ years I have lived in the Dexter/Ann Arbor area.   The trees are heavily laden with fruit.  I've had countless offers of free apples from friends with trees.

I made crab apple butter earlier in the week that I need to finish off, and my friend Vivienne gave me a bag of tomatillos that I am going to transform into salsa.  Here's the recipe I canned yesterday at the Dexter Farmer's Market:

Apples Studded with Cherries & Raisins

Makes about 8 pint jars or 4 quart jars

8 lbs medium-sized tart apples (such as Granny Smith), cored, cut length-wise into eighths, treated to prevent browning
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups water
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine apples and sugar. Toss gently to coat apples. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. Add dried cherries, raisins, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes.

3. Using a slotted spoon, pack hot fruit into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover fruit, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot syrup. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process both pint and quart jars for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 10 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thrifty dinner: Chicken and Dumplings

Sometimes, there just aren't enough hours in the day.   Busy days at work  + After school activities + Volunteer work = No time to cook dinner.   On days like that, I sometimes resort to rotisserie chicken for dinner.   The good news is that they are a relatively tasty and healthy option.  The bad news is that no one in our house really likes dark meat, and I have a teenage boy that could probably eat an entire chicken by himself, if left to his own devices. So we usually have to get 2 chickens and we have lots of leftover dark meat.  That can get a little spendy....

Part of my collection of chicken salt and pepper shakers

So usually, my rotisserie birds (or roast chicken carcasses) end up making an encore performance later in the week as chicken and dumplings.   My crew will eat dark meat served in soup or stews, so none of it goes to waste.  Plus, I keep a stock bag in my freezer of onion skins, carrot ends, limp celery stalks, pretty much any kind of vegetable trimming will work except  potato peels.   Made out of stuff I would have normally thrown away, chicken and dumplings are the most thrifty recipe I make - in my view, it's virtually free.

Here's how I make it....first, right after dinner, I dump the chicken carcasses and the contents of my stock bag into my crock pot, along with a couple bay leaves.   I cover the chicken bones with water and set the pot on low and cook it overnight.   The next morning before work, I strain the stock and put it in a container in the fridge.   In a separate container, I save what was in the strainer - bones, chicken meat, veggie scraps.  The next day, or whenever I have time,  I pick all the meat off the bones - this takes a little time, but it's well worth it.  

Chicken and Dumplings

Reserved chicken stock (see above)
Reserved chicken meat  (see above)
2 carrots or parsnips or a combination, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper, to taste

Put all ingredients in a crock pot, cook on 4 hours high or 8 hours low, and then transfer it into a Dutch oven.  Or, you can cook it on the stove top in a Dutch oven for about 40 minutes until the carrots are soft.    Taste the broth at this point - add salt and pepper as needed. Don't be afraid to add enough salt! When you've got it right,  turn the flame up to medium high until the broth is boiling. 

Meanwhile, make the dumplings.   I like to make my dumplings out of self rising flour;; I buy it to make biscuits, so I am always looking for other uses for it.  It makes for a nice light dumpling. 


1 1/2 c self rising flour
1/4 c shortening, cut into small cubes
1/2 c hot chicken stock

In a medium bowl, cut shortening into the flour until it resembles small peas.   With a soup ladle, add about a 1/2 cup of hot stock from the simmering pot and stir with a fork until combined.  On a floured countertop right next to the stove, spread the dough out into a rectangle until it's about a 1/2 inch thick.   With a knife, cut the rectangle into 1 inch squares.   Drop squares individually into the boiling broth, taking care not to crowd them or they will stick together,  stir them gently to separate.   Put the lid on the pot and turn down the heat a little and cook until the dumplings are done, about 15 minutes.   The flour will naturally thicken the broth and the dumplings will float on top when it is done.  

That's it, super easy and super thrifty! This also works for turkey carcasses....Thanksgiving is right around the corner.   I always have a crockpot of turkey remains going every Thanksgiving evening.  

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Where I've been....

I know that some people keep track of all the states that they've visited, and will proudly tell you that they have visited every state in the Union.  Until now, I never took stock of all the states I've been to - and  I was shocked when I discovered I am pretty darn close to visiting all of them:

Better start planning that long awaited trip to New Orleans!