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Monday, November 24, 2014

Creamy Caramels




The holiday's are upon us!  Even though it is a week before Thanksgiving, we are making fudge and caramels and other treats to send in a Christmas package to our missionary son who is in Canada.  We need to ship early to be sure it arrives to him in time.

Dave's Grandpa made caramels pretty much every year.  I'd bet that he learned to make them from Grandma, but he was the one who taught me how to make them.  He had acquired a tall , 6 quart pot, a marble slab and made 4 iron bars to form sides on the marble to pour the caramel into.  We were lucky enough to inherit those tools when Grandma and Grandpa weren't able to use them anymore.  Most years we make caramels and though it is at least an hour long process of stirring and watching, the outcome is so creamy and delicious it is worth the time!

Grandma often dipped these caramels in chocolate.  She also used the warm caramel to dip a candy nougat to make pecan rolls.  I never saw these, but on her recipe it says that you can pour this into a couple of cookie sheets in a very thin layer, then when cool, cut in squares and wrap a piece of caramel around a walnut and then dip in chocolate.  Lots of possibilities!

If you don't have access to a marble slab, you'll be fine to just pour these into a greased 9x13 pan or 2 8x8 pans.

Tools you will need:

6-8 quart pot  (this foams up a lot at first and it is a MESS to clean up on your stove if it goes over!  Trust me!)
long handled wooden spoon (the steam coming off is hot)
good candy thermometer - tested and adjust temperature 
marble block with sides added OR  greased pans 9x13 or equivalent


Check your candy thermometer by following the directions HERE.

The recipe:

Old Fashioned Caramels

2 C. butter
2 C. white corn syrup
4 C. granulated sugar
2 11 oz. cans evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. chopped walnuts, optional

Mix butter, corn syrup, and sugar in large, heavy saucepan.  Cook to soft ball stage over medium heat.  Stir as it boils (be careful of the steam coming off!) being sure to stir up on the sides of the pan as well.   When mixture reaches soft ball stage, add evaporated milk - be careful as it sputters and spits when you first start to add.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly.  When it reaches firm ball stage, remove from heat.  Add vanilla and nuts if desired.  Pour into greased pans.  Cool until set.  Remove from pan and cut into desired sized pieces.

Joy's notes:  It takes about 40 minutes from the time you add the evaporated milk until it reaches firm ball stage.  As you get close to firm ball stage, it can start to scorch, so I turn the heat to medium low or even low and continue stirring.  I use a candy thermometer AND test in ice water.  If the color looks right, I pull it off the heat.   I like to wrap my caramels in strips rather than individual pieces and then cut it as needed.


This is Grandpa's Marble Slab and border bars.  It's not fancy at all but it sure turns out nice caramels!



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apple Cider Pressing 2014

One of our families favorite activities in the fall is pressing apple cider!  We have several apple trees, all different varieties.  This year our two heaviest bearing trees were our Gala and Honey Crisp trees.  Honey Crisp is one of my favorite apples!  So sweet!   Cider seems to taste best if it comes from a mixed variety of apples so in this small batch we used from the Gala, Honey Crisp, and a few Jonathan's.  It was perfect!   

We only took time to press 7 1/2 gallons on this particular day but we plan to have at least one more cider pressing day this fall.  I usually just fill plastic jugs and freeze them to use later, though once in a while I'll water bath can some of it in quarts.

Here are a few pictures from our little family day!



Here are our amazing apple washers!  They washed a few bushel of apples.
They did end up pretty wet themselves.




Once the apples are washed we cut them into 1/4th or 8th's depending on how large the apple is.
Some of us have more fun than others at this! 


Did you know if you cut an apple from side to side rather than from top to bottom you get a pretty star "flower" like this?  You'd know that if you were in Mrs. Murray's 1st grade class!


The cut apples are then dropped into a grinder to make a mash of apples.


Dave built this press himself.   The mash is put into a bag and then pressed in the top bucket.  Cider runs out of the holes and into the pan that directs it into another bucket.


We may have had another gallon of cider to save but these boys loved drinking it right as it was pressed!   They sure are cute helpers.


Wes started out in shorts and a t-shirt but finally agreed it was cold enough to dress warmer.  He did leave the shorts on though and no socks or shoes.   But the cider is worth it!

This has become such a fun fall tradition.  It is even more fun when we invite neighbors and friends for a day of cider pressing and visiting!  






Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bread Bowls





There's nothing that fancies up a soup like serving it in a bread bowl!  Thickened soups work best in my opinion, but any hearty soup will work great.   I just used my favorite French Bread recipe for the dough and divided it into 6 bowls.  I thought they were just about the right size.  Tonight we filled them with Cream of Potato soup topped with cheese.

Mix up a batch of the dough - you can find the recipe HERE.   Be sure the dough is nice and firm - not sticky at all.  Divide into 6 pieces.  Shape into a nice, round roll and place on a greased cookie sheet several inches apart. (I did 3 bowls per cookie sheet)  Let rise until doubled and bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned.   Let cool enough to handle.   Slice off top and pull out enough of the bread inside to make room for the soup.  

These will freeze fine for a few weeks if you need to make them ahead.

Bread Bowls are also a fun way to serve savory dips.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

French Puff Muffins




We love muffins!  Once in a while, for special occasions, we make these delightful French Puffs.  They are moist, tender, and just melt in your mouth.  Mmmmm!  This morning we are watching the LDS General Conference on T.V.  My kids tell me these muffins are tradition for conference mornings!  (Often, "tradition" means that we did something once and they liked it so we should do it again. )  The main recipe is in my old Betty Crocker Cookbook I got when I was married.  The cover is gone and pages wrinkled, stained, and torn, but the tried and true recipes in it are still legible. 

Give these wonderful treats a try!  They are so easy and elegant!

French Puffs

1 egg
3/4 C. milk
1/2 C. oil
2 C. flour
1/3 C. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 400°.  Grease a tin for 12 muffins.  Beat egg,  milk, and oil.   Stir in remaining ingredients all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy)  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan.

Melt 1 cube butter in a bowl.   Place 1/2 C. sugar in a separate bowl (you can add a sprinkle of cinnamon if you like cinnamon sugar).    Roll each WARM muffin in melted butter and then coat with sugar.  Place on plate until ready to serve.  Serve warm.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fall Garden Harvest


Look at these adorable garden helpers!

The weather is cooling and was forecasting rain for the weekend so last week we harvested quite a few of our onions.  We are blessed to live in an area where temperatures and humidity allow us to store produce for several months in our garage once it's harvested.   These onions will be set out to let the outer skin and tops dry up and then we'll put them in mesh bags and hang them in the garage to store.  Most years I've been able to keep them in usable condition until March or April.  Once in a while I have to put a heater in the garage at night if the temperatures are getting below zero, but most of the time they're okay.

Wes and Ben helped pull the onions and put them in the garden cart.  They did a good job and were amazed at the huge onions!

Soon it will be time to dig potatoes and carrots.  We'll keep the carrots in coolers and potatoes in burlap bags in the garage for the winter as well.  

Love the ability to grow and enjoy our own harvest!