It's a new year! Yay!

Now usually January is a slow month. After the holiday parties and year end snafus, January is typically cold and dull, just the perfect time to sit back and chill after the craziness. 

Unless you're planning a wedding.... and you realize that it's approaching in almost 100 days. -cries- The Fiancé and I have been very due diligent. Ordering invites, finalizing catering and DJs, booking photographers and officiants, etc. But there are a couple remaining to-dos that I've been procrastinating. 

This past summer, along with some friendlies, I endeavoured to handmake all my wedding favours. My chosen craft: Jam. (Of course my favours are food! Duh.) Guest list all counted out, I had to make at least 100 jars, if I intended on making them place card holders as well. Turned out the summer had been much more productive on the favours front than any other point in the idea's life. I made strawberry basil, strawberry rhubarb, sweet cherry, pear, orange marmalade, nectarine, and blue plum. And also peach jam. But that wasn't for favours... I wanted some jam too! ;) 

My favourites would have to be the marmalade and the nectarine jams on toast. But the best, by far, and by the spoonful, has to be the sweet cherry jam. When I first had a taste of it I had to sit on the ground, my knees were so weak. No jokes.   

That being said, for those who will be attending the wedding, there will be no choosing of favourites! The Fiancé is making a jam allocation protocol so there is no sore feelings about who's getting what jam. All the jams are excellent. I just like those three best personally. XP

Jam and allocation done. I wanted to have a double use for these favours as place cards. 

We used vista print for our invites. They have so many add ons using the design theme, from mouse pads to printed tees. Unfortunately, they didn't have jam labels. Come on internet! Why you fail me now? =(

So I gritted my teeth and opened up Word. Easy peasy to add shapes to measure and fill in the background with a design from our cute invites: an A+M heart carve into a tree. <3 And I only had to fight with "Compatibility mode" for a little bit. XD Success! All ready to receive the names of the RSVPed!

Now to set up the registries and send out the invites! Look out February! There will be lots of jams in your future! 


The Half-Assed Hobbyist

Tomato Babies

This whole gardening year I have had high hopes that I would have enough tomatoes to make this savoury tomato jam. With the devastating falling over of my giant tomato plants, I thought for sure I would be waiting till next year to achieve this dream. But. My plants had other ideas.

I managed to collect enough for two batches of a savoury tomato jam that was an office favourite at the test kitchen I worked for back in AB. Essentially its the most fancy ketchup analog you'll ever eat. I love it on toast, warmed up on sandwiches, or even by the spoonful. Haha. ;)

Savoury Tomato Jam

In order to can this recipe, I needed to add an acidifier. I chose vinegar so the result is a tangier jam than the original recipe. I would however keep this jam refrigerated and eat it within 2-3 months. More for quality than safety. Also. If you are planning to can this recipe, get your waterbath canner sterilizing jars during the simmering stage of the jam. That way there is a smooth transition from cooking to canning. Makes ~2 cups.

2 TBSP oil
1 cup white onion, chopped
1 TSBP minced garlic (2-4 cloves)
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped drained oil-packed dried tomatoes, patted dry
1/2 cup chopped drained canned roasted red peppers, patted dry
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 TBSP fancy molasses
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  1. In a large dutch oven, with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onion becomes clear. Add garlic. Cook for 2 more minutes, or until garlic is fragrant. 

  2. Add tomatoes through molasses. Stir together and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and most of the liquid has gone. Remove from heat.

  3. Using an emersion blender or food processor, process the jam using an on/off pulse until just about smooth. Don't over pulse the jam, you want a bit of texture left. Add the parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Pulse just to combine. 

  4. To Can: I did a good post on how to can safely here! It's for fruit jam but the essentials are there. Below is the version for this recipe:

    1. Sterilize All The Things. As mention above, it's best to get this part going during the simmering stage of the jam. Thoroughly wash all jars and screwbands and lids and utensils (jar tongs; wooden spoon; ladle; jar funnel; plastic knife or spoon) in hot soapy water. Rinse clean of all soap residue. Fill the waterbath canner with water (and ~2 TBSP vinegar) and bring the canner to boil. Place all your jars evenly spaced in the canner and boil the jars for at least 10 minutes. (This will sterilize the jars.) Dry all screwbands and utensils and lay them out so they're easily accessible. Also, set a flat bottomed sauce pan filled with water on the stove. Put in the snap lids. Then, from a kettle filled of boiled water, add enough hot water to make the water in the sauce pan warm. This will soften the wax ring on the lids helping the jars seal completely.

    2. Prep All the Ingredients. Having now simmered and food processed the jam, you are ready for canning! ALSO. Make sure your canner is boiling hot! You won't have time to bring it back to a boil after you've started your jam. I also usually have a kettle of boiling water going as well in case I need to top up the canner during the process. 

    3. Start Canning. Now for the fast hot mess that is jam making. Bring your jam back to boil. (Since it is thick it will bubble more that boil. Watch out for white shirts as it may spit at you!) Now that your jam has been sufficiently lava-ed, remove it from the heat. Using the jar tongs, remove a sterilized jar from the boiling canner and empty the water in it back into the canner. Place the jar on your clean counter next to the jam pot. Place the jar funnel on the jar and ladle the jam smoothly up to the recommended head space marker (for my recipe I used a 1/4 inch headspace). Remove the funnel, remove any air bubbles from the jar by running a plastic utensil around the sides of the jar, and wipe the rim with a damp paper towel or clean damp cloth. Place a warmed lid on top. Place a screwband on the jar, then grasp the jar with the jar tongs. Tighten the screwband to ONLY fingertip tight. This literally means using your finger tips only, tighten the screwband until there is enough resistance that it stops. Then, keeping the jar level, lift it up and place it back into the canner. Repeat!

    4. Finish Canning. Now that all your jam has been put in jars in your canner, top up the water with more boiling water from the kettle, if need be (I usually like about 2 inches of water above my cans, if I can get it). Depending on your altitude, you'll need to adjust the time you process the jars. But it's a standard 10 minutes across the board, no matter what. (For Alberta, add an extra 5 minutes.) With the canner lid on, process the jam in the boiling waterbath. After the time is done, remove the jars with the tongs, lifting them straight out of the canner (NO tipping to get water off the top!). Set them down to cool in an out of the way space. From this point on, till they're completely cooled, No Touching! Resist the urge to poke them! As they cool, you'll hear the popping sounds of the snap lids sealing. Even after this has happened, No Touchy! It's a waiting game now. If you did it right, you'll have delicious shelf-stable jam to look forwards. 

    5. Enjoy! Let the jars cool completely. This will take up to 8 hours. After they've cooled, check that all the jars have sealed. The snap lids should be divoted inwards and you should be unable to pry them off with your fingers.** Ta Da!!! Done!

Keep in mind! This recipe is not shelf stable. (Well. It may be that it's shelf stable but as I have not tested it long term I don't recommend that it sits out.) Instead, keep it in you fridge and eat it before 2-3 months. Also. ** If the lid did not seal do not fret! The jam is still good to eat! It just needs to be eaten first and within 2-3 days. =) 

I'm so happy that my little tomato plants did it. From little seeds to 7 foot giants! =) I hope my grandpa would have been proud. <3


The Half-Assed Hobbyist

Always Pie.

Historically speaking, I do not make pumpkin pie from scratch-scratch. I much prefer buying a can of pureed pumpkin than making my own. This year however, I had a pumpkin sitting on the counter, saying to me 'Cook me! It won't be hard! You'll love it!'.

Never trust a talking squash. 

Pumpkin Pie (From scratch-scratch)

2 eggs
2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves

Pureed Pumpkin (Recipe below)
Pie crust (Recipe below)

  1. Prepare pureed pumpkin!! (Kill the talking squash!!)
  2. Pre-heat oven to 425'F. Using a rolling pin, roll out pie crust to fit an 8 or 9 inch pie plate. Transfer pie crust to pie plate, shape or flute edges (if you want) and pierce pastry all over with a fork. Bake pie crust for 15 minutes till slightly golden. (You can brush with egg yolk as well to get a glossy pastry.)
  3. While pie crust is baking, whisk eggs thoroughly until light in colour. 
  4. Add pureed pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, sugar and spices. Mix pie filling together thoroughly.
  5. Remove pie crust from the oven and while still hot fill with pie filling. (Depending on the size of your pie shell you may have some batter left over.)
  6. Reduce oven heat to 375'F. Bake pie for 35-45 minutes, until filling is puffed around the edges and the centre is firm. 
  7. Cool completely. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve with whipping cream!

Puree Pumpkin: I've found there are two best ways to make pureed pumpkin. Either by baking the pumpkin, or boiling it. 

To bake, prepare the pumpkin by giving it a good scrub, cutting it in half (remove the stem first), and scooping out the seedy-gooey innards. Pre-heat the oven to 325'F. Place pumpkin halves face up on a foiled cookie sheet and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Scoop hot pumpkin out of the rind into a blender. Puree and chill.

To boil, prepare pumpkin by giving it a good scrub, cutting it in half (remove the stem first), and scooping out the seedy-gooey innards. Peel the pumpkin rind off the raw pumpkin flesh. Fill up a large dutch oven (or two) with cubed raw pumpkin. Add water to pot till 3/4 of the way full. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, covered, for 45-50 minutes. Check that pieces are soft. Drain and puree and chill.

If the puree is still runny I recommend cooling the puree and straining it through a super fine mesh sieve. I tried boiling off the excess liquid and lets just say it was a minor disaster. 

Pie Crust: My favourite pie crust is my standard pie crust found here. It makes enough for three pies, top and bottoms, but it freezes well so portion out what you need and freeze the rest in discs. Or. You know. Buying a pre-made pie shells works just as well too. Haha.

I will be looking into my squash-communing issue. Don't worry. Until then though: Piiiiiiiie. <3


The Half-Assed Hobbyist

Sultry Saucy... Apples

After three pies and 2 batches of apple butter I still had about 15lbs of apples left. 


Next time I won't pick so many.... (But it could be argued that it worked out for the better! Shhhhh....)

So I sat down with my lovely lady Lesley and got a'peelin'! The last of the apples were allotted for apple sauce, another canning first. I got out the handy dandy Joy of Cooking book and took a peek at what making apple sauce entailed. It's probably the simplest recipe I've seen when it comes to canning. Apples, washed and cored (peeled if you want), boil 'em, mash 'em and stick 'em in a can! I tweaked it a bit: 

Apple Sauce

~7lbs apples (I used McIntosh)

Cinnamon (optional)
Brown Sugar (optional)

  1. Prepare an anti-browning solution. (Either lemon juice or dissolved vitamin C tablets or a specifically purchased anti-browning agent.)
  2. Wash, peel and core apples. Cut into quarters. Place into anti-browning solution. Repeat till all the apples are prepared. 
  3. Prepare jars for canning. See here for sterilization directions.
  4. Drain apples from anti-browning solution.
  5. In a large non-reactive saucepan, place apples and 1  1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir occasionally and skim off excess foam into a separate bowl to discard.
  6. Mash apples with a potato masher, emersion blender or transfer apples in batches to a blender to puree. (Transfer back puree to the saucepan afterwards.)
  7. When the apple sauce is a consistency you like, add cinnamon and/or sugar to taste. (I added ~2tsp cinnamon and ~1/8 cup brown sugar.) Stir to combine and bring back to a boil. 
  8. It's canning time! Fill hot jars with boiling applesauce leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. (Remove the funnel, wipe the rim with a damp paper towel or clean damp cloth. Place a warmed lid on top. Place a screwband on the jar, then grasp the jar with the jar tongs. Tighten the screwband to ONLY fingertip tight. This literally means using your finger tips only, tighten the screwband until there is enough resistance that it stops.) Place in waterbath canner. Repeat. 
  9. Process apples sauce for minimum 15 minutes. Check your altitude though! Higher altitudes need longer! Add 5 minutes if you're 1000m above sea level and so on. 
  10. Remove apples sauce from the canner and leave to cool completely. I usually leave mine for 24 hours before handling. 
  11. Check the jars have sealed. If you can't lift off the snap lids with your fingers, they've sealed! Yay! Label and store in a cool dark place. 

My my my. What an apple-y success! 

Now what to do with a metric ton of apple sauce? Well I made the most amazing applesauce and bacon pancakes.... So good. 

But that story's for another day! ;)


The Half-Assed Hobbyist

Apples Apples Everywhere

Since my lovely trip to the apple orchard, I had 40 pounds of apples to deal with. There were literally apples Everywhere. When I worked for the test kitchen in Alberta, one of my coworkers brought in a batch of her apple butter. I was initially super confused... as it wasn't butter at all. The name refers to butter in the way that it spreads. Apple butter is an apple spread made by reducing the moisture content of the apples to the point that it gains a spreadable constancy. 

Which is fancy wordage for bake the apples till they're spready-like. 

Since this takes forever (some recipes say to bake apple puree for over 12 hours in the oven, stirring every hour. WAT.) I decided to look up some slowcooker recipes. More energy efficient AND I get to sleep and cook at the same time. Woo slowcookery! Below is my recipe for overnight apple butter. I started mine at 8pm so It would be ready for the following morning.  

Overnight Apple Butter

~5 lbs apples (Cortlands or similar), washed, peeled, cored and sliced

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp vinegar

  1. In a 5L slowcooker, place apples. 
  2. In a bowl, combine sugar through nutmeg. Pour over apples in slowcooker.
  3. Pour remaining ingredients (apple juice through vinegar) over apples. 
  4. Place lid on slowcooker. Cook, covered, on high for 2 hours, stirring once an hour. 
  5. Lift lid and place slightly off centre so steam can escape from the slowcooker. Cook on low for 10 hours. (Sleepy time!)
  6. Using a clean blender or food processor, puree apple butter and return puree to the slowcooker, on high, uncovered, for another 2-3 hours or until desired consistency is reached. 
  7. Can safely in sterilized jars using a waterbath canner to process. Follow the canning process used here. It made 3 X 250mL jars and a bit extra. So prepare 4-5 jars just in case. 
  8. Enjoy!

Mmmm. It's super concentrated apple-y goodness. I used it as a spread on toast (or fresh bread). Or for something totally different: spread it on fresh hot biscuits and serve with ice cream. Or use it in BBQ sauce. Ooo. That's a good idea. Hmmmmm. Apple butter BBQ sauce. 


Why didn't I think of that sooner?

Stay tuned. <3


The Half-Assed Hobbyist