Yesterday was a busy day in the kitchen for me. I ended up canning 7 quarts of tomatoes. I love canned tomatoes. They make such a difference in taste in my recipes compared to store bought tomatoes. I also started my first batch of Lime Pickles. They are setting on the kitchen table in a large cooler as we speak. Making Lime Pickles is a several day process. They are my least favorite thing to can because it takes several days from beginning to end. However, I love the taste of these sweet pickles in potato salad or tuna salad so it is worth the effort. I use The Ball Blue Book for my canning instructions. I follow canning procedures meticulously even though I have watched the generation before me be very haphazard with canning instructions. Several older women I know, my mom included, never pressured canned their green beans. They had an older method and that was the way it was done. I am sure over the course of my lifetime I have eaten many quarts of these type of canned green beans, and I am still alive to tell about it. However, I still want to know that I have followed the "letter of the law" when it comes to canning. Here is the question that I hope somebody out there can answer for me. My mom always canned her tomatoes except she did not put them in a water bath. The tomatoes were always beautiful in the jar. I have seen these same types of canned tomatoes at our local fair. The jar is full of red ripe tomatoes. I always put my tomatoes in a water bath as the Blue Book instructs. My jars of tomatoes are always separated. The bottom quarter of the jar is the liquid, and the tomatoes seem to float to the top. I know they are safe to eat, but the jar themselves are not pretty. Lets just say they wouldn't win a ribbon at the county fair! I know that the water bath is what causes this to happen because when I can tomatoes like my mom, they are beautiful. Does anybody know why this happens, and better yet does anybody know how to remedy the problem and still follow proper canning methods?
This summer I have gotten lazy when it comes to bread baking. I ran out of wheat berries and it took me over a month before I knew it. I did get more wheat to grind, but the bag is still sitting in my kitchen waiting for me to divide and store. I don't particularly like this job because it can tend to be messy. My family loves the whole wheat bread that I make using the wheat grinder. When I keep this bread made, I am amazed at how much it cuts down on our grocery bill. The whole wheat bread really fills the bellies up, and they stay full much longer. It is usually a staple at breakfast around our house. Our family likes it toasted with honey or jam. Michael really likes it toasted with peanut butter. Back to my original point...I have become lazy with bread baking this summer. There are a multitude of excuses I could come up with, but none are worthy of any merit. Yesterday, I was in the mood to make bread, but I still didn't want to deal with the large bag of wheat sitting in my kitchen. I did the next best thing...I pulled out my sourdough starter from the refrigerator. I did whip up a batch of sourdough bread yesterday evening. (My family also loves sourdough bread, and it is a great change of pace from the wheat bread that I generally make). I love to make sourdough bread because I make the dough the night before. I then let it sit over night to do its thing. The next morning, I shape 3 loaves of bread...let it rise in the loaf pans for about 3 hours...and then bake it. In the past, I always hated to make sourdough bread because the recipe I used was very unpredictable. Sometimes I had great bread, but other times I had no bread at all. Much of the bread success depended on the temperature of the house. We lived in Florida at the time, and my husband kept the air conditioner very cool. My bread never did well. Several years ago, I was reading our local paper. The food editor wrote a story on our county fair and the different people who had won blue ribbons for different recipes at the fair. She even included many of the recipes in the story. The sourdough recipe was one of them. This recipe is a true jewel to me. It has solved all of my Sourdough Bread problems. Yeast is added to the recipe which ensures success in rising no matter what the temperature of the home is. This is not your "traditional" sourdough recipe, but it does have great flavor...and it works. Hope you enjoy.
grace and peace,
Starter: 3 Tablespoons Potato Flakes, 1 cup warm water, 3/4 cup sugar. Mix this all together. Store in a container that can breath. I use a plastic container with small holes punched in the lid to let air through. Let this sit on your counter for 2 to 3 days. After that, store in refrigerator.
To make the bread combine the following:
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup starter (that is at room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 package yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
6 cups bread flour
Procedure: On the day you want to make bread, take the starter out of the refrigerator. Let it sit on the counter for at least 4 hours. I usually let mine set out all day. In the evening, assemble the bread dough using the above recipe. I have a large plastic container that I grease and mix the bread in. I use my hands to knead the ingredients together until a nice ball of dough is formed. This doesn't take very long. Cover with a dish towel. Set the container somewhere free from drafts overnight (about 12 hours). The next morning the dough should have risen quite a bit. Punch dough down and shape into 3 loaves. Place each loaf into a greased bread pan. Let the loaves rise again for 3-4 hours. Keep an eye on them because if they rise too much, they will fall when you bake them. They should be over the top of the pans in a nice loaf shape. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Take the bread out of the pans to cool on a wire rack. I usually butter the tops when I take them out of the oven.
To feed the starter: When you assemble the bread dough, you must "feed" your starter. After you take 1 cup of starter out for your bread, add 3 tablespoons potato flakes, 1 cup warm water, 3/4 sugar. Stir with a nonmetallic spoon. A wooden or plastic spoon works well. Leave the starter on the counter overnight. This is what gives the bread the sourdough flavor. Store the starter in the refrigerator. You can use this starter several times a week, but the more you use it the less the sourdough flavor is there. I have gone a month or two before using my starter. I just keep it in the frig. I have never had any problems doing it this way. Some people take a cup of starter out once a week. If they don't want to make bread, they just throw the cup of starter away. Then they feed the starter. I wouldn't do this unless it had been more than 2 months since I made bread. The longer the starter sets, the stronger the sourdough flavor will be.