With the summer months here, I’ve felt like I’m slipping a bit lately. I’m in a bit of a daze and the coupons and sales have tempted me into a lot more of my previously banned conveniences. Its becoming more and more economical to “cheat.” From prepared sauces to paper plates, I’m really struggling to hold onto my greener more sustainable ways of thinking. I mean I understand that the contents of processed products are questionable, but its mass produced and for that reason its become a lot cheaper. I always have to thing, its so ironic how ass backwards we’ve become as a society. What would our ancestors think of this mess? I mean its heartbreaking how complicated something as simple as a tomato has become. As much as I hate to admit this, at times my awfully expensive grocery bills are really overwhelming, so I just stop going. Yes, I actually boycott the store. At the time it seems like a good idea but then enters man meat with: ice cream, cookies, soda, 30 pounds of sugar, 15 pounds of hot dogs, corn dogs, chips and just about everything I’ve limited in my home. So I have to put my big girl pants on, and ride the road in the middle. I’ll suck it up and go to the grocery mart but let it be known, I really didn’t want to. Becoming more self-sufficient with our food does not mean we’re going without, it just means we’re cutting back
a little. Over the past few years we’ve simply changed our habits, and even though we I still fight off some of the conveniences, I’m still really trying to simplify and make more and more must-haves myself, here at home. One of the ways I do this is by cooking 98% of my own meals and second, I hold up a tradition that our ancestors would actually recognize, canning. I process foods during the summer when produce is more affordable so that we have fresh homemade flavors all year around. (and we’re not selling a kidney for it.)
Things that you love from the grocery mart, you can make at home cheaper, healthier, and more natural. Pepper jelly and sweet chili sauce (sometimes called Thai sweet chili sauce) is something we’ve loved for years. With summer produce, I’m able to find vegetables more affordable than any other time of year. Peppers that are $2 a pound in other months, this time of year I can find closer to $1 per pound. An added bonus to making it yourself is that you can guarantee its quality, and you can make it the same every time if you want to. You can also vary the recipe from time to time, by adding or leaving out ingredients. I’ve made different variations of pepper jelly’s with pineapples, garlic powder, limes, REALLY hot peppers, and even apple juice. This type of chili sauce is wonderful on chicken, fried goodies, even toast or bagels. My favorite way to serve it is with cheeses. Its great with cream cheese, goat cheese or yogurt cheese on crackers. Homemade yogurt cheese is remarkably simple to make its just a matter of straining a container of yogurt and adding seasonings as you’d wish. Yogurt cheese is a wonderful alternative whenever cream cheese or goat cheese is called for. It can be made low fat or full fat, and it can be flavored however you’d like. Depending on what type of yogurt you purchase will determine the cost, you can choose to save a buck or two and use whatever off-brand yogurt, or you can go for the gold and buy organic goats milk yogurt, either way your making a delicious homemade cheese for a fraction of the cost of standard gourmet cheeses. Homemade snacks, no fuss, no chemicals, just delicious old fashioned treats. (ahem except the crackers maybe)
Homemade Sweet Chili Sauce (Pepper Jelly)
This recipe is the most natural recipe I’ve come up with so far. Instead of using food coloring I colored the sauce with 1/2 teaspoon of Turmeric. It did not drastically change the flavor. When naturally coloring foods you will want to keep tastes in mind. (For example if you want a bold red color you could try using paprika.)
This pepper jelly recipe originally called for two packages of liquid pectin, after reading the ingredients I was not a huge fan of the idea so I used one package of standard powdered pectin. For a sauce you can use one package of powdered or liquid pectin, if you want an actual gel, or jelly you will want to double up and use two packages of either.
12 ounces total, peppers and onions (about 1 1/2 cups) *see note
1 1/2 cups vinegar (white or cider, I used white)
6 cups of sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 package powdered pectin
Finely mince peppers and onions, you can do this in a food processor or mini chopper. If you have sensitive skin wear gloves. (Always be sure not to touch your eyes…or your kids they will not be happy) Combine peppers, onions vinegar and sugar in a pot. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 5 minutes, add pectin and stir until its thoroughly dissolved. Boil an additional 2-3 minutes. Place into prepared jars.
To seal jars: 8 ounce jars process in a water bath for 10 minutes. (once they are processed be sure NOT TO TOUCH THEM for 24 hours so the seals have time to set)
*Note: I used 4 jalapenos with some of the seeds and 1 poblano. This was approximately 4 ounces total, Instead of using all peppers, I also used 4 ounces of finely diced red onion. This mixture of half onion, half pepper resulted in a sweet very slightly spicy sauce. If you want it spicier leave more seeds in, if you want it milder be sure to remove all of the seeds. You can vary the recipe for all peppers, hot or sweet, more or less onion, no onion. Its really a matter of spice preference and what you happen to have on hand.
One bottle of chili sauce runs up to $4 at my grocery mart, this recipe total is about $7 for six, 8 ounce jars.
New to Canning and Jam Making? Check out these pages.
Pickyourown.org, All About Canning A favorite canning reference of mine for years. Its Great!
National Center For Home Food Preservation USDA Complete Guide To home canning
Ball (jars) Useful is an understatement
|(I swear its a clean towel, its just old as dirt.)|
Homemade Yogurt Cheese:
1 tub of yogurt, you an use full fat, low-fat, non-fat or Greek.
(goats milk yogurt would be GREAT if you can find it)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix salt into yogurt and place yogurt into a sieve or canister lined with cheese cloth or a clean dish towel. Allow to strain 4-24 hours. Once the mixture is your desired texture you can mix in seasonings, I like garlic powder, chive, pepper and additional salt.
Store in an airtight container, will last in the fridge for a pretty long time if you add at least 1 teaspoon of salt.