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Lavender Chardonnay Jelly

 

 

 

 

 

Canning jars, especially full of garden bounty, fill my heart with joy!

Canning jars, especially full of garden bounty, fill my heart with joy!

When I started finding recipes for herb jellies, I decided to give it a go. What else, besides drying and storing, was I going to do with all the herbs from the garden? When it came to an herb like lavender, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the jelly. I had to try it anyway. Once I had made the first batch of this Lavender Chardonnay Jelly, I made one or two more. Some went into the last CSA share of 2014, some went into bags and baskets as part of our holiday gift giving, and plenty stayed in the pantry for later use right here at home on toast. My Lavender Pinot Grigio Jelly even won a blue ribbon at the Walsh County Fair!

This recipe can be personalized very easily by making substitutions of the herbs, liquid and acid used. I also made versions using rosemary infused orange juice and rosemary infused cranberry juice. These ended up being more appropriate for glazes or toppings for roasted meat. The cranberry-rosemary is great on pork!

There’s plenty of information out there on canning, so I won’t get to specific on tools and method, just the recipe and basic steps. If you’re new to canning and jelly making try the National Center for Home Food Preservation and the Ball Canning website.

 

Making Lavender Chardonnay Jelly | Square Peg Food Farm

 

 

Here’s what you need:

2 1/2 cups Chardonnay or water, fruit juice, vinegar or other wines

1 1/2 cups fresh lavender – I included the flowers stems and leaves. Other choices might include rosemary, thyme, basil, lemon verbena, mint, lemon balm, pineapple sage or any combination that tickles your taste buds (if using dried herbs you can use much less, probably 1/2 cup or so)

3 1/2 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar (white wine, apple cider, rice wine or other)

3 ounces liquid pectin (dry powdered pectin will not give the same results)

4-8 oz jars with bands and lids or about 8-4 oz jars ( I like to have an extra 4 oz jar or 2 ready, just in case of overage)

In addition to the usual jelly making tools, a wire mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth is necessary for straining the steeped herbs.

First, wash and dry your herbs. Roughly chop, then place herbs in a large saucepan and crush them with a wooden spoon or bottom of a heavy glass to help release the oils. Add your liquid of choice and bring to a simmer for a few moments. Remove from heat and let steep, covered for 15 to 20 minutes. At this point it should be cool enough to transfer to the fridge. Store here for a few hours to overnight. ( I have read that the cool steeping period in addition to the warm steeping, will give a better transfer of flavor than just using one or the other method.)

Once steeped, test the flavor. If it’s too strong you can add more liquid, if too weak you can warm and steep a bit longer or add more herbs and steep again.

Lavender Chardonnay Jelly | Square Peg Food Farm

 

Strain the mixture, through a wire mesh strainer or colander with cheesecloth or a coffee filter fitted inside. Measure 2 cups of this liquid into a saucepan. Add your acid of choice (if not using vinegar as a steeping liquid) and the sugar and bring to a boil. When the boil cannot be stirred down, remove the pan from heat and add pectin. Return this mixture to a hard boil that can’t be stirred down and continue for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off any foam, pour the jelly into hot and sterilized jars. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. (Adjust for altitude, if necessary.)

 

There are endless combinations of herbs and liquids you can use to make this recipe suit you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices, as well. The combination in this recipe is a great pick-me-up flavor for a dreary winter’s day!

 

Buffalo-style Pork and Pasta in the Slow Cooker

I was looking at a slow cooker buffalo chicken pasta recipe and decided to make it a few nights ago. Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken any chicken out of the freezer. Luckily, I know that our pork roasts fit into our crock pot from frozen, so I popped one in and started my version of the buffalo pasta sauce. There were plenty of other substitutions made so that I can feel confident calling this recipe my own. I don’t like hot wings, and don’t have wing sauce. The recipe also called for sour cream, but I prefer to use yogurt instead. So here is my take on it. Even our one and a half year old is loving it!

Buffalo Style Pork and Penne | Square Peg Food Farm

Ingredients:

3-4 lb pork roast

1 medium onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped (or to taste)

1 pint diced or stewed tomatoes (fresh will work too, chopped)

1/4 cup ranch dressing ( I use Simply Dressed, you could use a homemade or other prepared ranch if  you like)

2 cups greek yogurt, full fat (low fat if you must, but non-fat is a no)

1 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

3/4 teaspoon dry dill

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon Siracha (more for serving)

Blue cheese crumbles for serving

1 pound penne or other noodles (we like whole wheat)

Place pork, onions, celery, tomatoes, dill, salt and 1 tablespoon Siracha in the slow cooker and cook 6 to 8 hours on low, the roast should be fall-apart tender.

Cook the noodles as per the directions and drain.

Take out the meat and shred using 2 forks or a fork and knife. Into the  slow cooker add the yogurt, ranch, and shredded cheese. Mix well before adding the meat back in.

Stir meat and noodles into your ‘buffalo sauce’. Serve with Siracha and blue cheese. By adding only a small amount of Siracha to the main recipe, this is suitable for most and can be spiced up for those who like it really hot!

 

Cabbage with Bacon

I know many folks are not fans of cabbage. Even if you are one of them, it’s worth trying this recipe! Bacon makes everything better, even cabbage.

Ingredients:

Half a medium head of cabbage, roughly chopped

1/2 pound bacon, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Frying Bacon | Square Peg Food Farm

Chop your bacon into bite size pieces and add to a warm pan. I like my bacon chewy rather than crispy. So, I fry this up at a low temp, just until the fat is translucent. Depending on your bacon, your pan should have plenty of oiliness for the cabbage. If not, add a bit of olive oil or lard.

Chopped cabbage | Square Peg Food Farm

Add your cabbage to the pan and mix it well. I sprinkle with just a bit of salt during this step, you can skip this if you choose. At this point you can turn up the heat if you plan to stand at the stove to stir this. If you have a toddler in the house, like I do, keep it lower and stir when you can.

Cabbage with Bacon | Square Peg Food Farm

Depending on your temp, you may cook this for 10-20 minutes. Stir it often to avoid anything getting crispy. When this is all finished the cabbage will be translucent and have a great caramel color. Try it with your picky kids or spouse, we shoveled it down at are house. This stuff is awesome!

Cabbage with Bacon | Square Peg Food Farm

Making Lard

If you would have asked me about lard, 10 years ago, I probably would have thought you were a little kooky. Now here I am, not only rendering lard from our own pasture raised hog, but shouting it to the world! Animal fats have gotten a bad rap in the recent past, but they are proving to be much healthier than the heavily processed products, like margarine, that we’ve been told to replace them with. Lard has no trans-fats and is full of the fat soluble vitamin Vitamin D (which is great for your immune system) and contains monounsaturated fat that helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Lard is surprisingly easy to make. Let me show you!

7 pounds of hog fat | Square Peg Food Farm

Ground hog fat | Square Peg Food Farm

This is how the fat came to us from the butcher, yes, they did spell our name wrong, who can blame ’em! It was ground, wrapped in plastic, then butcher paper and came frozen, like the rest of our meat. Having the fat ground makes the  heating process go much faster.

Making Lard | Square Peg Food Farm

I have seen recipes online that use a crock pot to render lard. I had 3 packages of fat, about 7 lbs each, and wanted to do it all in one go so I used our electric roaster. As you can see here, I just flopped the chunks of ground fat in and waited. To make the process go a bit faster, and so that you don’ t have to fiddle with the temperature as much as I did, cut your fat into a few pieces.

Making Lard | Square Peg Food Farm

Once the fat started melting and got to the point you see above, I had gotten the roaster to about 175 degrees. This was just right to melt the fat but avoid really cooking it, making for an odorless, colorless lard. Once the fat starts melting, you can start scooping out the clear liquid.

Making Lard | Square Peg Food Farm

Making Lard | Square Peg Food Farm

I poured this liquid into quart canning jars, straining through cheesecloth over my metal screen strainer. The lard will look a bit yellowish in it’s liquid form but will lighten up as it hardens.

Cracklins | Square Peg Food Farm

The solids that are left over after making lard are called ‘cracklins’ and are supposed to be great on salads or anything you’d use bacon bits for. I turned the heat up to about 250 in the roaster, once the liquid had been removed to brown up the cracklins. They taste like ground pork to me, but you could certainly season them if you want to fry them up and keep them. We kept about 1/4 of what was left. The rest went to the laying hens that enjoy and need a bit of good quality fat and protein this time of year.

Making Lard | Square Peg Food Farm

21 pounds of hog fat ended up making just over 8 quarts of snow white lard! In the photo above, you can see the difference in color as the lard cools. The jars on the left are almost completely solid and the last jar on the right was still hot. Now, to find a great biscuit recipe!

Italian Herb Crusted Pork Chops

We have already enjoyed a few of the pork chops from our pastured hog. Cooked up, plain-Jane, they are pretty tasty. Last night I decided to try something a little different. I took a recipe for breaded pork chops and tweaked it a bit. These beauties ended up tender and juicy! I served them up with some seasoned couscous with bell peppers, frozen from the garden, and a green salad.

Italian Herb Crusted Pork Chop served with couscous and a green salad | Square Peg Food Farm

 

Ingredients:

4 pork chops (ours are bone-in, 1 inch thick)

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (we use Panko)

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

1 Tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (approximate)

1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

Olive oil, for pan

Oven proof skillet

If you are using fresh herbs, you can use less than this recipe calls for, maybe about half the amount. I use my trusty 12″cast iron skillet for this (and almost all) recipes. The chops fit in just right.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

After thawing in the refrigerator, allow pork chops to come to room temperature before cooking. This allows them to cook a little quicker and more evenly. Warm skillet to medium. This preheat is mostly necessary if using cast iron, so that the heat will be even once the  chops are added. Add about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, or enough to coat the bottom, and then some.

Combine the breadcrumbs, herbs and spices and toss lightly to mix. Dip each chop in the beaten egg mixture, then into the breadcrumbs, pressing lightly to give a good coat of crumbs. Place the chops into the heated skillet and brown, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Place the skillet with chops into your preheated oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes (depending on thickness of chops) until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

Italian Herb Crusted Chops | Square Peg Food Farm

 

For the couscous:

2 cups of uncooked couscous

1 cup of chopped bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped green onion

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon tarragon

freshly ground black pepper to taste

boiling water

Add all herbs and spices, pepper and onion to a medium bowl. Put the uncooked couscous on top of these ingredients. Pour boiling water over the couscous until it is covered by about 3/4 to 1 inch of water. Let stand for 10 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff, and mix together with a fork. Serve hot, topping with parmesan cheese, if desired.

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