Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese, plus an Internal Dialogue while I Cook

We’ve got some butternut squash (and pumpkins and the like) from our garden that need to be used up.  It’s been sitting on the counter for a few days–I’ve been avoiding it.  But, today, I was inspired to cook it up into something delightful.  After I finished, I realized that I follow a strikingly similar pattern every time I cook, and here it is:

“Good Lord I am hungry.  I wonder what I should make for dinner.”  *text the hub-dubs: Dude, what are we going to eeeeeat tonight?

Silence.  No surprise.

Then I find a recipe, and today’s magic hunger-bullet is butternut squash mac-n-cheese.  So then I call the hub-dubs for an opinion.  He tells me he thinks it sounds awful.  Then I tell him to cut up the squash for me (please).

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He took a photo.  I’m impressed (I also have no editing software on this computer.  So it goes.).

Even in its infancy, this recipe is going to be “tweanked.” You can thank my favorite mother-in-law for that term, by the way.  Here’s why: the recipe calls for ricotta cheese.  Know where ricotta cheese is at? The store.  Know where I am NOT going on my way home from work? The store.  People put cottage cheese in lasagna all the time instead of ricotta.  This has pasta, ergo, it’s pretty much the same thing as lasagna.  Plus, cottage cheese is in my fridge.  Win.

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Full disclosure: I eyeballed the chicken broth in here.  Totally, completely guessed.  I did measure out the squash though, which is a good thing because I ended up using about half of it.  I’m not totally out of my mind.

If by ‘simmer for about twenty minutes’ this recipe means ‘boil until you are finished doing dishes’ and ‘mash’ means ‘blenderize the heck out of it,’ then I followed this recipe to a T.

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Speaking of T, I lost my T spoon, so I measured everything with my t spoon.  I’d really like to know where my T spoon is at though.  I feel a bit crippled without it, plus it means my really nice set of stainless steel measuring spoons is incomplete.

Ok, so up until now I’ve, you know, mostly followed the recipe.  But it says this cheesy goodness needs to bake for 20 minutes covered and an additional 30-40 minutes uncovered at 375 degrees.  Please child, this is going in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes.  In my dutch oven.  Because I just got it for Christmas and have been dying to use it–I also boiled my noodles in it and thought, “sweet, less dishes.”

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Oops.  Forgot to add the spices about two steps ago.  Also forgot to measure them.  This looked a bit too bland for me, so I threw in a couple handfuls of jalapenos and a splash of the juice for some extra zing.

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Well, looks like that turned out just fine, doesn’t it? Once you know the rules, you can break them to your heart’s content and tweank whatever you want.

I think I’ll make this dish again, little (and big) changes and all.  The hub-dubs was skeptical, but even he said it rocked his socks off.  Yesssssssss.

Pumpkin Pudding Experiment gone Right!

I’m a horrible experimenter.  I want to make sure anything I make comes out right the first time–knitting, sewing, cooking, what have you–I think it’s because I simply hate waste.  I can’t imagine creating something, especially food, and then not eating it.  So when I experiment I usually look for similar recipes to try out and adapt a tiny bit or I combine several recipes together.  Usually, if it’s not awesome, it’s at least edible, so I can make a show of choking down one or two servings and then pushing the rest off Hub-dubs. 

Not today though.

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Today I has a cooking experiment go amazingly, awesomely right. I am so proud, especially since I played tennis so horribly earlier today the guy playing next to me was flat-out laughing (to my face, which I guess makes it better?).  That, among other things, contributed to my “inadequacy day.”  I hate those days.  They put me in a bad mood and all I want to do is eat my feelings. 

I shall chow down on this. 

THIS is pumpkin pudding–but not the nasty, overpowering, god-awful Jell-o pumpkin pudding I was so excited to try this year.  Seriously.  Horrible.  THIS pumpkin pudding has a delicate pumpkin flavor with just the right amount of spices.  It’s awesome.  I would totally eat any feeling with this–joy, sadness, inadequacy–because let’s face it, who doesn’t love pudding?

And this experiment all came about because I hate waste:

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I had egg yolks to use up.  They came about because I made these cheesy cauliflower tot-things that have been floating around Pinterest.  By the way, they just tasted like cooked cauliflower.  Nothing special, and a waste of four eggs!

I sort-of-kind-of adapted a pudding recipe (I’m not going in totally blind) from my Bible, The America’s Family Test Kitchen Cookbook or whatever it’s called. 

Here’s what you’ll need for the pudding:

3 T. cornstarch

1/4 c. dark brown sugar

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 egg yolks

3 T. butter, melted

3 1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. pumpkin butter

1 tsp. vanilla

 

There are very few pictures for this post, for a couple: a) making pudding is boring–it’s really just a lot of stirring.  b) how can you make pudding look good? It’s custard.  There’s only so many angles you can shoot it from, and, news flash: they all look the same.  Because it’s custard.  So, use your imagination on the bits where there’s no photos. 

First, whisk together the sugars, salt, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. 

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(ugly photo)

Then, turn the burner on medium-high heat.  Slowly whisk in the butter, milk, egg yolks, and pumpkin butter.  Technically you are supposed to “stir constantly” until it comes to a boil, but you can really get away with “stirring frequently.”

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And yeah, this is the last photo.  Because pudding, although delicious, is BORING. 

Alright, so we’re boiling.  Turn down the heat to medium-low.  NOW you want to stir constantly until the pudding gets nice and thick–you’ll feel it thicken.  When it has thickened (like, 1-4 minutes), take it off the heat and add the vanilla.  Stir well.  Now you have a choice to make: you can either pour it into a dish (or several little dishes) and let it cool, or you can strain it through a mesh strainer to remove any potential little bits of scrambled egg.  Full disclosure: I totally did not strain my pudding.  It looked smooth, so I thought, “what the hell?” Into the dish it went. 

Once you’ve strained (or not, I certainly won’t judge) your pudding, place plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding, put in the fridge, and let cool several hours. 

How did I know this experiment really, really rules? The Hub-dubs had no idea what I was making, so I took him a spoonful and all but shoved it into his mouth (not an uncommon occurrence around here), and he says, “the flavor is really good, but it tastes awfully…pudding-y.”  Then his eyes lit up a bit when he realized it was pudding.  Then he high-fived me.  anything in the Bank house that gets a high-five is a win. 

One more thing: if you don’t have pumpkin butter, use 1/2 c. pumpkin puree plus some pumpkin pie spice.  I’m sure it will do the trick. 

Now go forth, and eat your feelings of awesomeness!

Giving Thanks…for Pie!

Come Thanksgiving, there are a lot of things I’m thankful for. 

One of those things is a husband who lets me use him for a food guinea pig. 

This year, Thanksgiving was just the two of us, which was really bittersweet.  We spent our first Thanksgiving in WY together, and have gone home for the past two years–and we planned to make that our tradition.  But, this year we stayed in Wyoming.  We made a huge spread, even though no one came over.  One of the things I made was a pumpkin pie.  Not just any pumpkin pie, but a pumpkin pie. 

This posed a problem: the Hub-dubs’ favorite food is pumpkin pie.  Plain-Jane, nothing exciting, pumpkin pie.  So it was a real stretch for him to tell me, “sure, you can experiment with this year’s pie.”

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Add to the 2013 List-of-Things-I-Am-Thankful-For: the pie turned out.  Now, in order to properly experiment, you need to know a little bit about the science behind baking–why things do what they do and how they act.  This experimental crust was partially inspired by a recipe in this month’s Taste of Home (the gingered-truffle pie thingy).  I also consulted my Bible:

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Best wedding present I ever got.  I use it all. the.  time.  I like the little information they put in their about food–it’s really helped me come a long way.  But, that’s a different story.  Back to it. 

And so, without further ado, I bring you: Pumpkin-Gingerbread Pie (aka pumpkin pie). 

For the crust:

1 c. flour

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. cloves

4 T. cold butter, cubed

1/4 c. molasses

*This recipe will yield you a thin (see photo above) crust pie and you’ll actually have about 3/4 c. filling left if  you make it in a 9″ springform pan like I did.  So if you like crust, are making a bigger pie, or are using a bigger pan, double the recipe. I thought the crust was a bit thin, so I would make 1.5x this recipe foe my pie–then I also wouldn’t have any leftover filling (although I did make crustless pumpkin pie out of that just in case this didn’t work out.  Can’t wait to try it)*

You’ll also need your favorite pie filling recipe.  If making the crust took all of your ambition, use this easy one from Libby’s. 

You’ll also need a food processor.  Well, maybe not need need it, but a food processor makes life a lot easier.  If you don’t have one, Christmas is coming–put it on  your list and remember to be good for Santa. 

Preheat the oven to 350.  Then, place the flour, sugar, and spices in the food processor and pulse until well mixed. 

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Then add the cold butter and pulse until the crumbs look like sand–or, more accurately, panko:

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At this point I dirtied an extra dish by transferring this mixture to a bowl and hand-mixing in the molasses.  You could add it to the processor and pulse, but I feel like that my be a terrible idea.  If you try it though, let me know how it turns out–I’m all about dirtying as few dishes as possible. 

Once the molasses is mixed in, pour the mixture into the pan of your choice:

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Now just pretend this is a graham cracker crust and go to town.  Press down on the mixture and completely cover the bottom and push the excess crust up the sides.

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Pop that bad boy in the oven for 7 minutes or until it’s beginning to set.  Once you pull it out there will be air bubbles and it will look a bit weird, but in the 30 seconds it tool for me to snap a ‘cooked’ photo, my crust went back to normal.

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Pour in the pie filling and bake according to the recipe’s instructions. 

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Ta-da–a great finish to the ultimate meal!

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Now, this piece is pretty nekked–I made a rookie mistake–no whipped cream in the house.  I thought about making whipped maple cream to go on top, but I mistakenly threw this idea out to the Hub-dubs and told it was “wholly unnecessary.”  Maybe tomorrow once I come out of my food coma I will try that.  I also think this crust would be good with crystalized ginger in addition to everything else.  Experiment with it–then tell me how it turns out =)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Labor a Little Bit Donuts

Ahh, Labor Day Weekend.  A really good excuse to lounge around and enjoy (for many of us) an extended weekend and for my husband and me, enjoy some time with his folks who are visiting from WI. 

It all started yesterday when we decided it would be a good day for a donut.  The Hub-dubs and Dad-in-Law went to the bakery to find…it was closed! For Labor Day weekend!  Garrr.  Then I had an idea that was partially inspired from Pinterest (namely, this recipe here). 

First, let me tell you a little bit about donuts.  I worked in a bakery when I was in college.  Eventually I got promoted to donut-froster extraordinaire.  It was a cool job–I was always busy and usually had a full day in by noon, but I HATED donuts.  Hardcore.  Three years after working there, I enjoy a donut every now and then, but don’t like them on a regular basis.  Be forewarned though: when I want a donut, I want it NOW and there’s nothing in the ‘verse that can stop me from having a good donut.     

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Enter biscuit donuts.  They are easy, delicious, and will have your skeptical spouse giving you high-fives while he/she is drooling over your incredibly awesome donut. 

You only need a few ingredients, really:

  • 1 package Pillsbury Grands! biscuits

  • Oil for frying

for bavarian cream donuts:

  • 1 small package french vanilla pudding

  • 1.5 c. milk

  • about 4 oz. chocolate chips or chocolate candy bar

  • 4 T. Milk

  • 1 T. butter

  • 1.5 c. powdered sugar

For fruit-filled donuts:

  • jam, jelly, or pie filling of your choice

  • equal amounts of cream cheese and powdered sugar, for cream cheese frosting

  • Sugar for coating

  • Splash of vanilla

Special tools:

  • Pastry bag with metal tip (the donuts will fill, just not as well, with a plain ziploc bag)

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Those few ingredients can make all this–yum!

I would recommend using the homestyle/original/plain-jane type biscuits–they worked really well.  But here’s the dilemma I found myself in: There are a lot of types of biscuits and I mean A LOT.  The decision about which biscuit to get can be pretty overwhelming–so make a right where I made a wrong: drink your first cup of coffee before going to the store to pick them out.  I think the decision will be much clearer then. 

So gettin’ back to the gettin’: this is all I had to get at the store:

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Fill up a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan with oil and turn the burner to medium heat.  While that’s heating, mix the pudding with 1.5 cups of milk.  Add a splash of vanilla.  Put the pudding in the fridge to firm up until you’re ready to fill the donuts. 

While your oil is heating, grab a small saucepan and add 4 T. milk, 1 T. butter, and whisk until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips and whisk again until melted.  Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar. Again, whiskwhiskwhisk! There might be a few granules left in the mix, but that’s ok.  Set aside to cool. 

Once the oil is heated, put the biscuits in the oil–I did four at a time.  (Here’s a nifty little aside: I tried the whole “put a popcorn kernel in your oil and when your oil is ready the popcorn will pop” trick but it lagged by about 10 minutes–it’s best just to throw a drop of water on the oil and stand back–when it sizzles put  your stuff in).

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You can already tell these are going to be good, huh? Fry those puppies for about 2 minutes on either side until they’re a nice, golden brown.  The best method to turn the biscuits are to use two wooden skewers normally reserved for kabobs. 

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Once you’ve cooked the donuts on both sides, lay them on paper towels to dry/cool while you make the next batch. 

When you flip your last batch to the second side, go ahead and turn the burner off.  Your oil will stay hot enough to finish the final side of the donut. 

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See how they puff up like a real yeast donut? That is grade-A awesomeness right there…but you haven’t gotten to the fun part yet. 

It’s filling time! Use jam, jelly, pie filling, pudding–whatever you have on hand to fill these. 

Have you ever filled a cream puff? The concept is the same.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a metal tip with the filling of your choice, insert the tip into the side of the donut (midway between the top and the bottom), and fill ‘er up until it looks/feels full. 

Want to know another advantage of using a bamboo skewer? When you lift it out of the oil, the pointy side will poke a hole in the donut, allowing steam to escape and giving you a perfect place to start filling. 

Once everything is filled, then  you can frost–with the chocolate frosting we’ve made, with cream cheese frosting, or by simply dunking them in granulated or powdered sugar. 

To make cream cheese frosting, combine about equal parts powdered sugar and cream cheese. Add a splash of vanilla and mix well.  Then frost.  It takes up to 1 T. frosting for one donut. 

Viola! You’re all ready to enjoy your delicious donuts.  Be sure to save the oil so you can make them again!

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Blue Ribbon Bread

Do you know what you can do with 40 pounds of cherries? A lot.  The hub-dubs and I went up to Flathead MT last weekend for a little vacation and came back with two cases of cherries for canning and wine-making. 

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This is the product of 20 pounds of pitted cherries.  Holy cow.  I wanted to save the pits for a heating pad so I washed all this up and ended up with some really nice dry bits of cherries–the part that sticks to the stone when you pit the fruit.  I couldn’t let that go to waste so I rinsed all that off and decided to make some bread with cherries. 

Here’s the deal: the Hub-dubs likes bread with fruit, but he isn’t too keen on quick breads (too sweet, he says.  I didn’t know such a thing existed).  He keeps telling me if I found a way to incorporate fruit into regular bread, I would be his hero. 

I was in ultra superhero mode today. 

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Enter the Blue Ribbon Bread.  It’s subtle, delicious, and won a blue ribbon at the fair (which is a good thing, because if it didn’t I would have to name it wheat-flaxseed-oat bran-cherry bread, and that just doesn’t sound quite as catchy.)

Here’s what you will need:

1.5 c. wheat flour

1.5 c. white flour

1/2 c. oat  bran

1/4 c. flaxseed

1 c. cherries, chopped fine and patted dry (like  you do with spinach)

1 c. milk (anything but skim)

1/3 c. water

3 T. unsalted butter

3 T. honey

1 envelope (2.25 teaspoons) yeast

2 t. salt

 

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In a small bowl, combine the milk, water, honey, and butter and microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is warm, about 110 degrees.  Meanwhile, mix together the flours, bran, and flaxseed in a bowl.  Measure out 3.5 cups of this mixture into a large bowl and mix with the yeast and salt.  Add the cherries to the top of this mixture.  Pour the warm liquid into the dry mixture and mix with a dough hook, adding the remaining flour after about 5 minutes.  For some tips on how your dough should look, check out my other bread post here.  Mix your dough with the dough for a total of ten minutes, adding flour a little bit at a time.  You may need some extra white flour if your cherries were still a bit juicy.   It’s ok–just get your dough to the right consistency. 

Place your dough on a floured surface and shape into a nice ball.  Place in a greased bowl and cover with a towel and put somewhere warm and a bit humid to rise (some ideas are: near your wood stove, in your oven (see older bread post), in your microwave, in your window sill–there are all sorts of places to hide it) for about 60-90 minutes–if you live at a higher altitude though, cut that time down to 45-60 minutes, until your dough has doubled in volume. 

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After your dough has risen, take it out and place it, again, on a lightly floured surface.  Here’s a secret I learned from the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook: stretch your dough into a 9×9″ square.  Then, roll it up like you’re rolling up a sleeping bag that needs to be crammed into a really small space.  Place that roll, seam-side down, in your lightly greased loaf pan.  Cover and let rise again, 60-90 minutes (less time at high altitude).

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It got away from me a bit.  This rose a little too long.  Anywho, sprinkle the top of your loaf with some oat bran and put it in a 350-degree oven.  Fill an empty loaf pan with hot water and place that in the oven next to your bread.  You’ll get really nice texture this way.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, until internal temp measures about 200 degrees. 

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Top with some jam (or eat plain) and enjoy!

Cooking for your best friend

Cooking for your family is easy–they are obligated to tell you it’s great. 

Cooking for your friends is tougher.  What if they don’t like it? You’ll start going out to eat instead of having fancy dinner parties that secretly suck.  But, there’s good news. There’s one friend who you can cook for and she’ll love it (and you) forever.  You can make the same dish over and over again, and she’ll scarf it down like there’s no tomorrow. 

Enter Yellow Dog. 

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She’s so photogenic.  And she’s eating our spent grain doggy treats!

Here’s what you’ll need:

4 c. spent grain

1 c. peanut butter

2 eggs

2 c. flour

This recipe was originally posted here.  I always do a double batch once the Hub-dubs is done brewing. 

First, get out a big bowl and measure out your grain.  Accuracy is not the most important thing in the world here. 

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Then you need to get to mixing.  I’ve found it’s best to really get in there nice and deep-like and smash it all around with your hands.  It’s awfully messy, but it’s effective!

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Once it’s all mixed, pat into one or two cookie sheets.  You want your treats thick, but not so thick they never dry out.  Once it’s all patted down, take a butter knife and cut the treats in the shape you want them. 

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Put the pan in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes or so.  Again, accuracy is sooooo not important here.  After the first go-round in the oven, they should look something like this:

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…Except not as blurry.  Turn down your oven to 200.  Loosen the treats from the pan and spread them all out–you could even use an extra pan to spread them all out.  Put them back in the oven until they’re all dried out, about 4 hours. 

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As you can see, Yellow Dog just looooves her little treats.  And your furry friend will too!

Toe-mae-toes

Guess what I did today?

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Turned all this fresh deliciousness into canned deliciousness, that’s what.

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Know what else? I’m going to teach you how to, too! Here’s what you will need:

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  • A jar funnel (not completely necessary, but makes life much, much easier)
  • A small saucepan
  • A canning pot with a canning rack in it
  • a jar lifter/jar tongs (again, not necessary, but save yourself tears and burned hands and get some)
  • lids
  • rings

There’s something else, but what is it? Hmmmm…..oh yeah.  Jars.  Quarts work best because you usually need that many tomatoes for a recipe, but pints are alright too.  Ok, let’s get crackin’.  First things first–wash your jars.  A canner holds 7 jars at a time, so you can wash 7 at a time, or wash in multiples of 7.  There are several ways to go about this.  One, you can find a small child and make him or her wash them for you.  Two, you can squeeze your teeny little hand in those jars and scrub-a-dub, or you can use the ‘sanitize’ feature on your dishwasher.

Has someone ever gotten sick off your canned goodies, or has it happened to you? Well, it’s never happened to me and I’ve never been that person who has made other sick.  Follow these directions and it won’t happen to you either.  First, if you wash the jars by hand, follow these important directions:

  1. Inspect all your jars for chips and the like–best case, chipped jars won’t seal. Worst case, chipped jars break and you’ve lost a jar of stuff and have glass all over your water.  And, if you used a non-reusable lid, you’ve lost a lid, too! So inspect them and don’t use any that look like this: Image
  2. Wash all your other dishes first, or get them out of your sink.  No clutter!
  3. Clean out your sink.  Get in there real nice and deep like and get your sink sparkling clean.  Then you can think about starting to wash your jars. 
  4. Fill your sink with hot water.  HOT water.  As hot as you can stand it.  Use rubber gloves if you have to, but that water had better be dangerously close to scalding.  Know why? Hot kills germs.  Warm lets germs grow.  So make it hot, hot, hot! Then, wash your jars.  If you have read ahead and are thinking at this point, “well I can just whip up my dishes then do my jars–easy peasy.” 

NO.

You can’t do that.  Know what else helps germs grow? leftover food from this morning’s cereal bowl.  Start clean, start fresh.  Back to it. 

5.  Give your rings a little dip, then set them out to dry with your oh-so-clean jars.  This part is so very important, it’s not even funny: do not touch the lids of the jars from here on out.  Very important.  I think I made that clear already. 

Let’s get to the fun part.  While canning, especially things like tomatoes, is much easier and much more fun with someone, you can totally tackle this alone.  Fill your canning pot with water.  You’ll need lots of water.  Put that on the stove, but don’t turn it on quite yet.  Just be prepared.  Then, fill a smaller ( like a soup crock) pot with water.  You do turn this one on.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Finally, fill another pot with water…if you are doing more than one batch of tomatoes.  If you aren’t, then the pot of water you just turned on should suffice. 

Your boiling water is to take the skin off the tomatoes, and so is the ice water.  First, drop your tomatoes in the boiling water–but only for 45 seconds-1 minute.  Leave stubborn maters in for a bit longer, but not too long–you’re taking the skin off, not cooking them.  You’ll know they’re ready when the skin starts to split when you poke them.  Then drop them in the ice water.  The skin should come off nice and easy, like this!

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The skin should come off so easily, you should be able to hold it one hand and take a picture of it, while you are peeling (want to know another clean kitchen hint? Look at my fingernails.  Notice how they’re not painted or dirty? There’s “how not to get other people sick off your cooking” tip #2 for today). 

Next, you are going to want to cut your tomatoes.  Romas are really conducive to canning whole, but not necessarily these.  I cut them into sixes, then changed my mind and cut to nines.  But here’s how you cut them efficiently:

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Cut in half cross-ways (stem to the side)

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This photo shows six pieces, but nine is better, and here’s why: to cut sixes, cut twice across, turn a quarter turn, then cut once.  Then you have to cut the core out of two pieces (see where the stem and core is? You don’t want that).  Now, if you do eights (two cuts on either side), then you pull out the middle core and viola! Make sense? Good.  Now, many people do not like seeds in their canned tomatoes, but I am too lazy and don’t like waste, so I leave the seeds in.  It’s up to you.  Let’s move on.  

Fill your jars with tomatoes.  Try not to touch the rim as much as possible.  You can use your funnel if you want.  Turn your canning water on and your other water.  Then, take the small saucepan I said you needed wayyyyyy at the beginning and put your lids in it.  Put one more lid than jars, in case you mess up.  It’s quite common–don’t plan on being perfect.  Fill your small saucepan with enough water to cover the lids, then bring it to a boil. 

Once your tomatoes are filled to the of your jar, you will be filling the empty space with the water you just boiled! Now, pickyourown recommends adding 2 Tbs. lemon juice to each quart, so you should probably do it.  This site is my canning bible, people.  It’s amazing.  If you have any canning question, they’ll help you out with it. 

Anywho…

I didn’t have a funnel for a long time, but then I got this cool one from Mom and Dad, because they’re pretty cool cats.  I love it because it tells me where my head space is.  Head space is the distance from the top of the jar which you fill with liquid.  Tomatoes require 1/2 inch. 

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So, fill your liquid to about a 1/2 inch.  Then remove your funnel and take a clean rag, wet a corner in some boiling water, and carefully wipe the rim.  Never wipe the rim with a used portion of rag.  Keep rotating to new pieces of the rag. 

Now here’s the tricky part. 

Very carefully, lift your lids, one at a time (using metal tongs), and place them on your jars.  if your lid slips and falls to the counter, get a new one.  Same for if it touches anything but the rim of the jar.  Once your lid is on, screw a ring on it and hand-tighten.  Not too tight now! Place each jar in the raised canning rack.

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Your jars should not be touching.  If they do, one may break.  And that’s bad.  So, once everything is situated, GENTLY drop the canning rack into the pot and process.  There should be enough water to cover each jar by appx. 1 inch.  Processing times vary by food and altitude, so be sure to check out the website I already gave you or the Ball Blue Book for processing times.  I’m at high altitude, so these took about 55 minutes. 

Once they’re all done, take them out with your jar tongs and gently set them on a towel on a level surface. 

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If you are using regular lids (metal), you will hear if they seal…they will make a popping sort of noise anywhere from 5 minutes-24 hours after being taken out of the water bath.  Reusable lids are a different story.  I don’t recommend reusable lids for beginners.  However, if you’ve been canning a bit with a high success rate, make the investment.  I use Tattler lids.  If you can a lot (like me and the Hub-dubs), these are a great investment.  You only have to use them three times and they’ve paid for themselves.  And they last a really long time.  Anyway, if you are using reusable lids, you will have to wait a long time to see if they’ve sealed.  Immediately after they come out of the water bath, you need to tighten the ring again, because it loosens during processing.  Then, once they’re cool enough to handle, gently unscrew the ring and pick up on the lid a bit (there’s just a touch of overhang).  Don’t jerk it, but lift the jar up enough to know it’s sealed.  That’s how you know. 

There, you’ve done it! Now, some of you may be thinking, “gee that was fun, but I feel like I wasted a lot of that tomato.”  Well, our family motto is waste not want not, so here’s what we did:

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Yup, that’s a huge bowl of pureed skins and cores.  I made spaghetti sauce with it:

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Now, ignore the terrible lighting and bit of olive oil floating on top, and it looks good, no? It was delicious.  So there you have it.  Sauce and canned tomatoes.  Now you’re a pro.