Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Annie's Salsa

I know tomato season is over for most, but some of you are just getting started. When I lived in Florida, we had two tomato growing seasons, spring and fall. So, I had two opportunities to put up as much of this salsa as I could.

If you’ve ever hung out for a while on my beloved Harvest Forum or any well-administered canning forum, you will know that Annie’s Salsa is a legend in its own right. Hundreds, and I mean hundreds of posts have been dedicated to this delicious salsa. I can honestly say you will not find a more delicious salsa recipe in any canning book out there.


Annie is a farmer in Michigan who has been canning since before I was even able to walk. The story goes that she was trying to find a recipe similar to the salsas you find in the store and she tried several variations before she came up with this one. She sent her recipe to her local extension agent to have it tested and ensure it was safe to process and can from home. From what I understood, this was not an easy process and it took a long time (and $$) to get a green light for home canning.

Since then, it’s become a rock star in the canning communities. If you don’t believe me, just Google “Annie’s Salsa” and see what comes up!

The best compliment I ever received for this salsa was from my tree removal company. Since we have moved to the country, we’ve had probably 30+ trees removed from our property. Every time they come out, I give them jars of canned goods as thank you tokens and they ask for this salsa EVERY TIME. And these gentlemen are good ol’ boys from the country whose families have been canning for generations. They’ve tasted it all and they ask for and love this salsa.


I have made 5 cases of this salsa this year! As a comparison, this salsa tastes very much like the Pace's brand sold in the store.

*One note to understand for this salsa is that it has been safely tested to can for pints and half pints ONLY.  Processing for quarts is not recommended by the extension agents for safety reasons. Pints are the limit and quarts are unsafe to process due to their density.

Annie's Salsa
Makes 6 – 7 pints 

8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained
2-1/2 cups onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups green pepper, chopped
3 - 5 jalapenos, chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/8 cup canning salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup 5% apple cider vinegar
2 cups (16 oz.) tomato sauce
2 cups (16 oz.) tomato paste

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Pour into hot pint jars, seal and process in a boiling water canning bath for 15 minutes. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Great Pumpkin Beer Taste Off - 2013 (Round 1)

It’s that time again! Our annual pumpkin beer taste-off is in full swing. We’ve had other taste-offs over the years, but for whatever reason, I didn’t blog about all of them.

This year, we have 17 (!!!!) beers to try, so we’re breaking this down into rounds or else we’d be too drunk to even spell “pumpkin beer”.

(Pictured above from front to back: Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Wolavers Pumpkin Ale, and Schlafly Pumpkin Ale) 

What Are We Looking For?
We are looking for a beer that has a nice spice/flavor profile and isn’t too hoppy or floral. I want to drink a pumpkin ale and think, “This beer makes me want to rake leaves, play football, cook beef stew, and carve pumpkins.” I want a pumpkin beer that makes me think of fall.

To date, our standing champion has been Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale. Every year this beer has been our favorite for pumpkin beer and nothing else has even come close. Let’s see if it has some competition this year!



Schlafly Pumkin Ale – St. Louis Brewery, Inc., Missouri
This is the first beer we tasted. It didn’t have a noticeable spice/pumpkin nose like you would expect from a spiced beer; however, it did have a subtle, pumpkin spice flavor up front, followed by a smooth ale finish. It was a nice, friendly beer that I would serve at a fall cookout. It didn’t bowl me over in the flavor profile, but it was “nice”.

Wolavers Pumpkin Ale (Organic) – Otter Creek Brewing, Vermont
This beer had a light, pilsner color with a floral, herbal, almost “dill-like” nose. Unfortunately, this beer didn’t taste like a pumpkin beer at all; there was no spice/pumpkin profile and it had a strange floral aftertaste. It was; however, a crisp, “grassy” beer that would be a good pilsner stand-in if it weren’t for that aftertaste.


Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Sam Adams Brewing, Boston, MA
This beer had potential in its nose and color. It had dark, almost amber/lager color and a nice spicy pumpkin, hoppy scent. Everything went to hell in a hand basket when we tasted it though. BLEH! This beer tasted like burnt caramel and plastic! It was so bad we dumped out the rest. What a waste. Does Sam Adams not have people in their research department test this stuff before it’s bottled?? Yuck!

Ichabod Pumpkin Ale – New Holland Brewing, Holland, MI
This was the last beer we tasted in this round and unfortunately didn’t “wow” is in either nose or taste. It had a slight, hoppy/green scent with no hint of spice or pumpkin, and the flavor tasted just like any regular, ol’ ale. Disappointing.

So, that's it for this round. Out of this bunch, I would have to say the round winner is the Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale, but it wasn't even close to our favorite Shipyard Pumpkinhead. Stay tuned for our next round!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Ugly Furniture Series: Sexy New Chair

After I had my ugly Duncan Phyfe couch reupholstered last year, I was hooked. Since then, I'm managed to snag a few other ugly, sad pieces of furniture that were in desparate need of some magic. For example, I grabbed this sad, faded, brown mid-century chair a few months ago for $89 at an antique mall.


Yes, he's ugly, but MAN look at those lines! Very masculine, no?


So, I took him down to my favorite reupholsterer and NOW look at him.


RAWR!


Yes, that's an animal print fabric you are seeing. Snake-skin to be exact. Could this previously ugly, sad chair be any more sexier?


The fabric itself has a khaki-colored background, so I had a khaki contrast welting/cording sewn into the sides and cushion. In fashion, animal prints are used as a neutral, so this was my line of thinking. I think the pattern gives the chair interest, definitely plays into the masculine lines of the chair, and it's neutral enough to be used with other furnishings. The teak legs got a polish with some English Leather, and now they glow.


Even my husband, who normally doesn't give a rat's behind about my interior design adventures, liked it! I had a lot of fun doing this and when I saw it for the first time, it was like the feeling you got as a kid when you opened a present on Christmas for something you really, really wanted, but didn't expect to get. To say I was thrilled is an understatement. It made me think that maybe I should be doing more things in my life that bring me as much joy as redesigning this chair did.

It cost a couple of hundred to have done, but definitely cheaper than a very high-end designer chair you would buy from a designer. I spent less than $700 total.


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