June 14, 2010

Kitchen Geek

I'll admit that I'm a certified foodie. I'm such a spazz when it comes to ingredients, kitchen gadgets, etc... and I LOVE to experiment with things that are outside of most people's comfort zone in the kitchen. I got into canning a few years ago... mostly just because my dad dumped about 25 pounds of white peaches at my doorstep and said "Do something with these". I went to the store, totally clueless, and bought sugar, jars, pectin, etc... and followed the recipe in the Sure-Jell box... and it was DELICIOUS! I got hooked after that! Wanted to make jams, jellies, dips, salsas, etc... but wasn't sure how to go about this. I experimented a bit and created some beautiful apple butter that fall, which was a happy accident since it was applesauce that got a little over-cooked! Last year I made peach and strawberry jams, and an amazing pepper and onion relish that I serve with cream cheese and crackers.

This year I figured I'd make my usual stand-bys... the strawberry freezer jam, maybe some salsa. Then I stopped at my mom & dad's house yesterday and my dad was picking tart cherries from a tree in the yard - this was the first year it had produced a decent amount of fruit, and the first time that he noticed the fruit soon enough to beat the blackbirds to it!!! A few hours, some nicked fingertips, and about 14 quarts of pitted cherries later, I left the house going, "What on earth am I going to do with these things???" And so I started on my canning journey for the summer with some delightful spiced cherry butter - about halfway between jam and a preserve, this is spiced with cinnamon and a pinch of cloves, and almond extract for an extra punch. So far I've made a double batch, which yielded two 12-oz jars and 4 half-pints (for the non-foodies, that's about 2/3 gallon).

I still have an ungodly amount of those cherries left, so I am thinking I might just preserve them in their own juice, can them, and figure out what to do with them at a later date! Might even be nice to save the "fresh" cherries for a rainy, wintry day and make a new batch of the cherry butter then!

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