Food Archive

Instant Pot Ketchup update

Posted May 3, 2017 By Ruth

Husband reports that he REALLY likes the flavor of this batch.

Also, after some discussion with some other IP owners it was suggested that maybe the IP needs to be set to “saute” to force the mixture to reduce better.  Its worth a try.  Will report when I try it again!

Instant Pot Ketchup

Posted April 24, 2017 By Ruth

So, in browsing Instant Pot recipes I happened on THIS recipe.  My biggest issue with the ketchup recipe I use is the cook time.  The IP version eliminates alot of that.  In addition, the two are actually fairly similar, after some recipe comparison I decided to try making my original ketchup recipe using the IP instructions.

I used the saute function to heat the oil and simmer the cloves, turned the IP back off, added the thawed tomates (the extra benefit here is the amount of liquid they produce when thawing means no smushing required to get the liquid level right), added the seasonings, set the IP and let it run.

(a note on the original recipe, though the first time I made it I bought a fresh onion and a can of tomato paste, since then I’ve used tomato powder +water for the paste, and onion powder for the onion.  I generally use frozen garlic from my garden, though once I used powdered garlic and hubby didn’t notice a difference)

After the pressure cycle I did a quick release, opened it, pulled the spice packet temporarily while I pureed everything with the stick blender, then put the spices back in and set it to slow cook – high.  I had to unplug it to run the stick blender, or I’d have just left it on keep warm, as the IP recipe implies.

The IP recipe says that it only needs to simmer there for 10 minutes to reduce by half.  Half an hour after setting it mine had barely reduced at all.  And not because it was plenty thick.  Now admittedly I didn’t use all paste tomatoes or the like, infact it was barely half paste tomatoes, and my recipe calls for a bit more vinegar, but I’d have expected to see a noticeable reduction in volume based on the description in the recipe.  This is not something a bit of cornstarch was going to fix.  I ran it through the food strainer and put it into a pot on the stove to simmer and reduce.

I had to simmer it for close to an hour to get the right consistency.  I might as well just have dirtied the pot in the first place.

Husband hasn’t had a chance to try it yet, I’ll add that in once he does.  But at this point I’m not impressed with the recipe.  Yes, I didn’t follow the ingredients word for word, but I’d have expected to see SOME reduction, and I basically saw none.

Storing tomatoes

Posted January 2, 2017 By Ruth

Ran across an interesting article on long term storage of tomatoes in dry (sifted) wood ash.  Digging around a bit more and it turns out that this isn’t actually a new idea, and that it actually works.  Science abstract here (gotta track down the full text, they tried various levels of moisture).  Additional info here.

Kinda cool.  My problem with trying it here is the moisture content.  I gotta see if I can track down the full article from the testing to see what moisture levels weren’t worth it.  We tend to be pretty damp here through the fall at least.

Jalapeno Jelly

Posted September 18, 2016 By Ruth

As asked, today’s batch of Jalapeno Jelly (with a couple Buena Mulata’s tossed in):

imgb2826 imgb2827


As you can see I’m a bit lazy and don’t bother to remove the seeds, but then the point was the hot peppers.  I modified THIS recipe to make this.  I use Ball’s low sugar pectin, so it only requires 4.5 cups of sugar instead of 6 cups, and I always have to use extra pectin (the entire 4.7ounce jar, the recipe tells you to use about 3/4 of the jar anyways if you measure it out) or it doesn’t set up right.  And I replace the pound of green peppers with a pound of red ripe hot peppers.

Bonus to frozen tomatoes

Posted August 24, 2016 By Ruth

When I remember to pull them out of the freezer far enough in advance to actually thaw all the way before trying to cook them down I’m able to drain off a TON of clear liquid!  That ought to help with the cook down time quite a bit!

BTW, this now makes 8.5 gallon ziplocks cooked down.  There’s at least that many still in the freezer, and a ton of tomatoes still on the plants in various stages of ripeness!


Posted August 20, 2016 By Ruth

Since I have an abundance of tomatoes this year I thought I’d try my hand at making ketchup, especially since Husband eats it by the trailer load.  The recipe I used is in THIS cookbook.  Btw, if you’re looking for a series of decent cookbooks for yourself or for giving, I have really liked these America’s Test Kitchen books, at least the ones I’ve picked up so far (I understand the pressure cooking one isn’t so great, but the others I’ve picked up I’ve liked).

The final step of the recipe is to smush the puree through a fine mesh strainer.  I got about halfway through that when it occurred to me that the food mill might have been a better option for my hands (the left hand in particular, which was holding the strainer, was really unhappy with me), but even after switching over my hands were still very unhappy.  I still hurt this morning.  After I griped about it on Facebook my mother offered to buy us a crank food strainer as an anniversary gift.  I won’t be doing ketchup again till that arrives.

Simmering down it didn’t smell all that great to me, but I don’t eat ketchup anyway (and absolutely can’t stand the smell of cloves).  Husband, on the other hand, eats ketchup on damn near everything, and thought it smelled divine.  Final results: he says it needs to be a bit sweeter (easy enough), and, as much as he loves the Black Plums and their smoky flavor in the ketchup, he’s missing that acid bite of the usual tomatoes (he said he’d absolutely eat it as it is though, so it must not be too far off!).  So next batch I’ll add in some of the Blue Berries (maybe 1/4 of the tomatoes?), and see how that goes.


Update: after the ketchup sat for a while, and was then properly shook up before he put it on his burger last night, he now says not to change a thing and its perfect the way it is.  I’ll take it!


Note: all Amazon links go to Amazon via my Amazon Affiliates account.  If you buy something on Amazon after clicking through one of the above links I might earn a few pennies.

Canning tomato sauce, research and frustration

Posted August 12, 2016 By Ruth

Ever since I started making our own tomato sauce I’ve wanted to can it instead of freezing it (like I do).  And yes, technically you can, safely, can tomato puree.  But the approved as safe recipes all tell you to add extra acid to the mix for safety.  Since part of why we like our homemade sauce is the low acid this didn’t appeal to me.  What I’ve never quite understood is why they tell you to add acid to the pressure canned version too.  After all the whole point of the pressure canner is to do LOW acid stuff.

So this week I emailed the National Center for Home Food Preservation to find out WHY they tell you to add acid to the pressure canned version.  The response was that the listed pressure canner version is just the equivalent of the water bath method (for folks who prefer to pressure can), not a low acid, safe from botulism, method.  Personally if I can safely water bath can it I’m going to do that rather than haul out the pressure canner, but ok, I can see that.

But there’s an approved spaghetti sauce recipe, with very similar proportions, for pressure canning with no added acid.  Is there any reason why I can’t just use those times to pressure can a low acid tomato puree?

The response had two parts, the first stated that since that hadn’t been tested with pure tomato puree she couldn’t say that was safe (which I can understand, after all, if she agrees with me that it’s safe and I do something stupid with it and get sick, or die, from botulism, she doesn’t want to get sued).  But she should have just left it there.  The next part stated that most likely the tomato puree is going to be thicker than the spaghetti sauce so THATS why its not safe, cause the thicker the sauce the harder it is to get the heat to the center of the jar right.

Look, the tomato sauce (which is pure tomato puree if you follow the instructions) recipe calls for 28 pounds of tomatoes to make 9 pints of sauce.  That’s just about 3.11 pounds of tomatoes per pint of finished sauce.

The spaghetti sauce recipe calls for 30 pounds of tomatoes, plus other stuff, to make 9 pints of sauce.  That’s 3.33 pounds of tomatoes, plus other things, per pint of finished sauce.

I highly doubt that the tomato puree is going to end up thicker than the spaghetti sauce……

I haven’t decided if I’m going to try canning my sauce or not this year (though I’m highly tempted).  But I really dislike being given stupid reasons for why I shouldn’t do something…….

Long Pie Pumpkin, thoughts and review

Posted October 11, 2015 By Ruth

According to the internets, the Long Pie Pumpkin was brought to the USA sometime in the 1800’s, where it was dubbed the Nantucket Pumpkin.  Sometime after it was dubbed the Long Island Pie Pumpkin, which was in turn shortened to Long Pie Pumpkin.  Apparently they were quite popular in Maine for a while.  Anyone with grandparents from the area who gardened who might be able to confirm that?  I’m curious.  Supposedly lore states that they were “stacked up like firewood” for storage.  I can believe that.  I paraphrase, there are several pages out there with the history written out if you hit google and do a search for the Long Pie Pumpkin.

Like many heirloom varieties they faded in popularity as the general public was taught to expect pumpkins to be round and “normal” looking.  However they have qualities that make them potentially ideal for growing in colder climates and shorter seasons, on top of being a tasty pie pumpkin with almost no “stringy-ness”, as well as storing well.

They’re listed as having an approx 95-105 day growth period.  Actual reality is that the time spent on the vine can be quite a bit shorter than that implies.  These pumpkins can be picked as soon as the “ground spot” turns orange (from yellow).   Pick that green fruit, store in a cool place for long term storage, or in a warmer place for faster ripening, and they’ll continue to ripen just fine off the vine.

And my own experience backs that up.  I planted out my seedlings in Mid-May.  Admittedly we were having an abnormally warm spring and summer, but I could have picked the first “ripe enough” pumpkins before the end of July.  Two months to produce fruit that could be picked and stored for future use.  Now I left mine on the vine to ripen since we were having a decent summer.  I pulled 6 little (orange) pumpkins off the vines that died early, but left the 4 big ones to finish up.  Picked them back at the end of August/beginning of Sept.  Here’s a photo of 3 of them:


The biggest of those three was 13.5 inches long and weighed in at 5.5 pounds.  Not a bad size for a pie pumpkin!

The little pumpkins had a fairly soft skin and were easy to cut up for cooking and pureeing.

The big ones?  OMG.  I ended up resorting to a clever and soft headed 3lb mallet to get through the rind.  THAT worked quite well.  Every other knife I tried?  Barely scored the skin, no matter how sharp it was.  So if you grow these, be warned, vine ripened fruit have one hell of a rind!

That biggest pumpkin got processed first, so I kept track.  I removed 1.5lbs of seeds/guts and stem ends before putting them into the oven to bake.  When I pulled it back out of the oven I had 2 3/4lbs of puree.  Not a bad harvest!  However that’s where I hit my next problem.

I’ve not processed a lot of whole pumpkins, but I’ve done a few.  Cut them in half, gut them, place them face down on a baking sheet with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven, and bake at 400degrees till you can pierce the skin with a fork.  Right?

That hard rind struck again.  Instead of softening, like every other pumpkin I’ve done, it hardened even further while the flesh softened and fell off.  I over baked that first pumpkin by at least 20 minutes because I didn’t realize what was happening.  Not a big deal, the puree tastes fine, but consider this your heads up!  Now, I haven’t processed the other larger pumpkins, so I can’t swear that it wasn’t something I did wrong, but still….

Very tasty flesh.  Not sure how to compare it to other pie pumpkins as I don’t have a ton of experience with others, but definitely tasty!  I will absolutely grow them again, and will highly recommend them to other folks looking for a pumpkin to grow in a cold/short season summer!

Thats a little hot!

Posted August 12, 2015 By Ruth

I made my first batch of hot pepper jelly this week.  Right on schedule.  Except the ingredient list was a little different this year.

Normally I weigh out just short of a pound of red ripe Jalapenos, toss in a single red ripe Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper or ripe Habanero (or just do a full pound of Jalapenos, depending on what we have in the garden), and go from there.

This year the hot pepper growth pattern has been screwy.  The Jalapeno plants are half the size they normally are, and though they’re producing nicely they aren’t as loaded as normal.  However the Hot Wax plants are huge and loaded (normally they’re smaller than the Jalapenos and less loaded).

So I was getting ready to make jelly and realized I had 1/2pound of Jalapenos, and 1/2pound of Hot Wax peppers, and a single ripe Habanero pepper.  So I shrugged and made jelly out of that combination.


I will occasionally eat the tiniest little bit of the pure Jalapeno jelly.  But this batch is way out of my league.  Even Husband choked on it when he had his first taste.  Its a little hot!


I also pulled three cantaloupes out of the garden, a couple more Sugar Baby watermelons, the first harvest of Rattail Radishes, three more zucchini, another two colanders full of tomatoes….

Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Posted June 19, 2015 By Ruth

Anyone tried this variety?  It caught my eye, because its rated for down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  Apparently you’re supposed to plant it by the end of the summer, it HAS to over-winter in an actual WINTER, and then you harvest in the spring??

I might have to try it.  I’ll have to cover it for the winter regardless, we regularly dip below 10 in the winter, but the concept is tempting!