Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ode to my Oven

 Ode to my Oven
(AKA Decent Poetry Takes a Holiday, as does my Oven)

Oh oven, dear oven
Why hast thou forsaken me?
Cookies, pies, and cake
Were supposed to bake
To perfection
In your toasty tummy.

Now no heat radiates.
No delicious smells emanate,
To make us anticipate
The delicacy on the plate.

Christmas draws ever near
And it appears painfully clear
That the repairman won't appear
Before the beginning of the year.

No Chex mix, no cupcakes,
No casseroles or strudel.
No brioche, no biscuits,
No shortbread or noodles.
You may hear me exclaim
As I drive out of sight,
"The oven's not working,
It's pizza tonight!"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Road Home

If you take I-35 South out of Norman, you will soon come across Exit 104, Goldsby/Washington.  Take that exit and keep going south on Highway 24. 
You will drive about seven miles before coming to this sign.  As you approach the town, there is a three-way stop.  Turn right.  Welcome to Washington, Oklahoma, in McClain County.  The town was named after George Washington, an Indian Chief, who once lived in the area.  (I have forgotten the name of his tribe.)

Washington is a small town - just a dot on the map.  When I was a Senior in high school, way back in 1979, we only had 151 students from Kindergarten through 12th Grade.  (I know this because I was editor of the Yearbook and had to count those photos more than once.)  The town is a little bigger now.  I think there are a few hundred in school and there is a four-way stop at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 24.  There is even a set of apartments.  There are four churches, a Senior Citizens' Center, one convenience store, a medical supply store, and a bakery/cafe, but not much else.  There used to be a bank and a movie theater way back in the 1920s, but those burned down and were never rebuilt.  More recently, there was a cotton gin, Maynard's Drug, Haxel's Hardware, Burns' Mill, Clyde's Barber Shop, Keith's Grocery, a domino hall, and a laundromat.  Retirement, illness, death, and the economy took care of those, however.  They are now and forever only in the town's collective memory. 

My grandparents owned the drug store.  (See my previous post from October 1st about that, if you are interested.)  They lived southwest of town in this house.  They built the house in the 1950s.

Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren loved to come visit.  There was a ping-pong table in the basement, a trap door with a secret entrance (which was really a laundry chute, but no child would ever want to believe that!), fields to run in and play softball, a barn to explore, two ponds for swimming and fishing, a huge front porch with a swing, and countless cows, chickens, dogs, and cats.  When the cousins were at Grandmother's house, everyone wanted to be there, too.  Dominoes, Rook (with special Maynard Family rules), and teasing the children were standard game play for the adults.

Granddaddy passed away in 1987.  Grandmother lived alone for several years before her health forced my mother to move in with her around 2002, in order to help care for her.  My mom was the oldest of the six children and the only one of to be widowed, so it worked out well.

Grandmother lived a good and full life, surrounded by her family and friends.  She passed away on September 26, 2010, five days before her 101st birthday.  My mother currently stays at the house part-time, but is preparing to move back to her own home.  My mother and aunts and uncles have not yet decided what to do with the house and land.

My mother is 81 now and I haven't lived in the Washington area for over twenty-two years.  But this is the place I was raised and it is a big part of who I am.  There is a peaceful feeling that descends over me when I recognize the red dirt in the landscape and I know that I am truly home.

But I am struck by the question of how much longer will I be traveling this road to home?  ...and it makes me a little bit sad.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Anatomy of an Illicit Nap - As Told by Leiua

1.  Select your napping spot in a place where you know you are not supposed to be.  Try to look extra cute.

2.  Watch your humans to ensure they are not going to yell at you to move.  Tail wagging helps.

3.  Slide down to a comfortable napping position.

4.  Be sure to keep your guard up a little, so you can make sure you don't get interrupted by anyone.

5.  Don't let other dogs usurp your napping place.  They will try.

6.  Enjoy your nap!  You deserve it!!

7.  When your nap is over, get up and go to bed for a good night's sleep!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

12 Days of Christmas Swap!

Bloggers are invited to participate in the 12 Days of Christmas Swap, sponsored by Sami at Symmetry in Motion.  It should be fun and creative!  Once matched, I will shop, create, etc. until I have my 12 gifts.  Then I will package and ship them to my swap partner.  There is a spending limit, but not a minimum - only the maxim that you can save money, but you can't be cheap.  I will post more about this later.  And let me be the first to say "Merry Christmas!" (even if isn't Thanksgiving yet).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sarah's Lucky Pumpkin Cheesecake

My daughter, Sarah Luck, is married to an Airman and they have been stationed in South Korea for over two years now.  (I miss her more than words can say!)  We communicate mostly through Facebook and telephone.  It always strikes me a little odd when she calls, because she has a "local" - as in MY area code - telephone number through Skype.  

When she was younger, I tried to get her interested in cooking and baking.  She could not have cared less at that time.  I suppose there was just too much to do back then.  We had much more fun on "Mommy-Daughter Night" when the husband/father was out working late.  We did all the requisite things - dinner, movies, miniature golf, Tulsa State Fair, shopping, etc.  Too bad there weren't any cooking classes for kids back then.       
When she married, Sarah and her husband, Adam, realized that neither of them really knew how to cook.  But, no worries.  She called and asked people for recipes, read magazines and cookbooks, and researched recipes online.  She turned out to be a fine cook.  

Sarah graciously agreed to share her recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake on the blog.  She and her husband will be back in the U. S. within a year.  I can't wait until we have an opportunity to bake together and share the bounties of our kitchens. 

So without further ado, here is the recipe for "Sarah's Lucky Pumpkin Cheesecake":

Sarah's Lucky Pumpkin Cheesecake

What you need:

Springform cake pan, mixer

To make the crust:

1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup butter, melted
To make the batter:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
To put it all together:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all crust ingredients together and press into the bottom of springform pan.  
  3. Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool. 
  4. In the mean time... In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, blending each well.  Set aside one cup of the mixture.  (This batter will be cream-colored.)
  5. Add 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the main bowl, blending well. 
  6. Pour the pumpkin batter into the crust and tap the pan on the counter to level.
  7. Drop the plain batter by spoonfuls on top.
  8. Swirl with a knife to marble your cake.  Be careful not to over-mix the batters or you will lose the marbling effect.
  9. Bake 55 minutes.  Remove from oven.
  10. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan.  Set the pan on a wire grid and allow to cool.
  11. After the cheesecake has cooled to room temperature, place it in the refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours before serving. 
  12. Before serving, remove the Springform pan collar.
Enjoy! This recipe has become a holiday tradition in the Luck house. My daughter made the one pictured above for her husband to take to work with him.  She also took the beautiful photograph.
(Cheesecake cutting tip:  If you want to cut the cheesecake before serving, here is an easy tip.  Cut a length of dental floss approximately twice the diameter of your cheesecake.  After the cheesecake has cooled, remove it from the Springform pan and place it on the counter or cake plate.  Wrap the dental floss around one hand and hold the other end in the opposite hand.  Firmly, but gently, use the dental floss to cut the cheesecake.  When you get to the bottom of the cake, let go of the floss being held and pull it out from the other side.  Wipe the floss with a clean cloth, if necessary, and continue to cut the cheesecake utilizing this method until you have the desired number of slices.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"You Can Learn to Read" - video

My sister, Kristi Parker Hazelrigg, the media specialist at Parkview Elementary School in Midwest City, Oklahoma, wrote and sang the lyrics (see below for the words) to this song.  It's based on Taylor Swift's, "You Belong with Me".  Kristi also produced the video, which stars Maggie Place, one of our little cousins.

I think this is adorable and I hope you do, too!  It's a great way to introduce children to the joys of reading and offers just the right encouragement.  Please feel free to share the video with one and all.  Maybe it will go viral.  Wouldn't that be something!  :D

You  Can Learn to Read 
Inspired by Taylor Swift’s “You Belong with Me”; new lyrics by Kristi Hazelrigg 

You’re staring at the page and you’re upset
You can’t understand a single word that it says
You just can’t read the story like they do

You’re in your room, it’s a typical day, you’re bored
You need to read to let your imagination soar
But you just can’t read the stories like they do

So many good books, open up and take a look
But with silent E's, Q's and U's, you’re getting confused
Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find
That you can make some sense out of all those little lines

If you could see how all those letters work together
Line ‘em up and sound ‘em out, then you’d see
You can learn to read, you can learn to read

Reading all the words and knowing what they mean
I can’t help thinking this is how it ought to be
Laughing on a park bench, reading to yourself--Hey, isn’t this easy?

There’s somethin’ ‘bout reading that can turn your life around
‘Specially when you find a book that you can’t put down
You say you’re fine, I know you better than that
I know you wanna read a book like that

History and dinosaurs, fairy tales, cookbooks
Animals and astronauts, Goosebumps and joke books
Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find
That you can make some sense out of all those little lines

If you could see how all those letters work together
Line ‘em up and sound ‘em out, then you’d see
You can learn to read

Standing by and watching how your mom reads
All this time, how could you not know, baby?
You can learn to read, you can learn to read

Oh, pretty soon you’ll be reading ‘neath the covers in the middle of the night
All the books that make you laugh and the books that make you cry
You’ll have your favorite ones and you’ll share them with your friends
Think I know it won’t be long, think I know how this will end….

Junie B., Green Eggs & Ham, Ramona Quimby
Ferdinand, Anansi and Winn Dixie need you to learn to read

Miss Rumphius, Frindle, Max and all the Wild Things
Charlotte, Wilbur, and Tuck Everlasting need
You to learn to read, you can learn to read

You can learn to read
Have you ever thought just maybe you can learn to read?
You can learn to read!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Roger's Pasta Salad

I haven't posted in a bit, so I thought I would put together a little post about a very easy pasta salad.  My husband found this recipe in the little newspaper put out by an area lake community.  We modified it a bit to suit our tastes and you can do the same.

First, I gathered all my ingredients together.  If you are observant, you will see that "one of these things is not like the other" (with apologies to Sesame Street).  Do you see it?  Yes, there it is - a small handgun right between the carrots, Dijon mustard, and pasta.  This is EXTREME COOKING!!  We don't want to take the chance that someone is going to bust in the kitchen and hijack dinner.  (Actually, the hubby put the gun on the counter when he got home and I didn't see it when I took the photo.  If you are a firearms enthusiast, it's a L. W. Seecamp .380.)

If you are brand-loyal or a foodie elitist, you are probably cringing at the Best Choice products shown.  Personally, I think their pastas and tomato products are pretty much the same as most of the higher end items, so I have no issue with using them to save a little money.

For this recipe, I used pork steaks.  I grilled the steaks the night before and let them sit overnight in the refrigerator before slicing.  When writing this post, I realized that I left the green onions out of the recipe this time.  It was still delicious!  This salad gets better with time, as the dressing soaks into the pasta and marinates the vegetables and meat.  This pasta has been suggested as the perfect picnic food.  As long as you are able to keep it cold before serving, it should be great.

I like the Tupperware mixer/shaker for making the dressing, as I can use the measurements on the side of the cup for the olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Once the other ingredients are added, I just pop in the shaker ring and snap on the top.  Then I do my best Carmen Miranda impression and merengue around the kitchen to the music in my head, shaking the heck out of that Tupperware and mixing the dressing by default.  For grating the Parmesan cheese, there is nothing like a Microplane grater.  I own the box grater, this beauty you see in the photo below, and a smaller one that also does little garnish-thingies.

Roger's Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

  • 1 (16 oz.) pkg. pasta - preferably rotini, cavatappi, large shell, etc.; cooked according to package directions, rinsed with cold water, and drained
  • 1 (28 oz.) can cut tomatoes, drained
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/3 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1 (2.25 oz.) can ripe black olives, sliced and drained
  • 2 pork steaks, beef steaks, chicken breasts, or lamb chops, cooked and sliced thin 
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce
In a large bowl, combine cooled pasta and vegetables.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce
Pour olive oil into mixing bowl, add wine vinegar, minced garlic, mustard, Miracle Whip (or mayonnaise), and fresh lime juice.  Season with salt and hot sauce to taste.  Whisk until smooth.  Pour dressing over and toss well to coat.  Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.  Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the salad before serving.

Modified from "Outdoor Cookin' with Otis" (Grand Times on Grand Lake news gazette), 06-25-97.

Friday, October 1, 2010

National Homemade Cookie Day (October 1st)

Today, October 1st, is National Homemade Cookie Day.  It is also my grandmother's 101st birthday... or it would have been.  She passed away peacefully last Sunday, September 26th.  My grandmother, had a good life... a great life, even.  She loved her family, which included 6 children, 18 grandchildren,  39 great-grandchildren, and 9 great-great-grandchildren.  (I am not counting spouses here, but if I did, the whole family numbers greater than 100!)

Grandmother was always a bit shy and quiet.  When she got married at age 18, she was so embarrassed that she wouldn't even get out of the car and go into the pastor's house.  The preacher had to go out to the Model-T Ford and perform the ceremony while they sat in the car. 

Grandmother and Granddaddy, Barbara Anna (Melton) & Johney Burse Maynard, owned and operated Maynard's Drug in my hometown, Washington, Oklahoma, from 1951 - 1980.  Washington is a small town and they sold everything.  Just before school started each year, they sold school supplies and all of the required school books.  The kids and grandkids pitched in to help during that time.  All of the grandchildren longed for the day when they were deemed old enough to help sell school books.  Big Chief Tablets, Fun with Dick and Jane, elementary workbooks, and number 2 pencils all have that old familiar smell that I love.

One of my favorite things had to be the soda fountain.  Grandmother taught me how to make the perfect Coke.  (Hint:  It's all in the wrist... well, and the correct ratio of syrup to carbonated water.  LOL)   It had the old-fashioned pump-type syrup dispensers, fruit dippers, a double-sink, and water spigots - one for carbonated water and one for plain water.    I loved the glass rinser.  It was a small round hole with a rubber ring around the top and a rubber grid on the bottom.  You inserted a glass upside down and sprayers squirted water all around and inside the glass, rinsing it clean.  There were five or six red-leatherette barstools on the opposite side for customers.  The stools were about 3' or so tall and spun around.  I remember we used to get into trouble for spinning on them too much. 

There was a candy counter with all sorts of delicious goodies - Pixie Sticks, Secret Centers, Hershey's Chocolate Bars,  Jaw Breakers, Tootsie Rolls, gum, crackers,  etc.  Just about everything you could imagine was there to choose from.  Halloween meant the addition of wax lips and Wowee! wax whistles.

Free comic books were also high on that favorite things list.  Once the unsold comics were pulled from the shelf and the covers torn off, we got to take home huge stacks of them.  We poured over Archie, Little Dot, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Casper, Superman, Batman, and even the war and love comics.  We kept stacks of them in the house and would read and re-read them until they were falling apart.

Most of the grandchildren loved the malt-flavored ice cream.  It was a special ice cream for making malts, and Granddaddy would rebuff our requests for it, but we could always talk Grandmother into letting us have it on a cone.  Malt ice cream was white, but it wasn't vanilla or chocolate, just malt.  I would love to find some now days, and have looked all over the internet and in stores, but it is nowhere to be found.  (If anyone knows where I can find some, please hook me up!)

Grandmother's specialty dessert was Italian Cream Cake.  It was always so tall and loaded with fluffy coconut.  It was absolutely divine.  In honor of her - and of National Homemade Cookie Day - I think I am going to make Italian Cream Cookies... or some type of cookie, anyway.  I won't be able to get photos posted today, but I will update the post later to show the cookies.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen... Meet George!

Ladies and Gentlemen... meet George!
[With apologies to JFK, Jr. and the now defunct "George" magazine] 

The Tulsa Cake Club meets every second Tuesday of the month at All Things Cake, the best cake supply shop in Tulsa.  It is a gathering of people (all women and girls right now) who like to bake and decorate cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc. Some are professionals, some, like me, aren't. We have demonstrations, club news updates, suggestions for charitable giving of cakes or cupcakes, door prizes, snacks, etc.  

This month's demonstration was on modeling fondant.  Club member Diane Bewley was our demonstrator.  She makes the most amazing fondant pieces to decorate her cakes and she is completely self-taught!  Each person received a small lump of fondant, a piece of dried spaghetti, a toothpick, and a cotton swab.  Diane showed us how to make a baby out of the fondant.  I defied convention and made a bunny, complete with buck teeth and a bow tie.  I thought George turned out pretty well for my first time modeling a figure, considering I only spent about 15 minutes on him.  (By the way, those are not polka dots on his head.  It's a reflection of the overhead lights.)  
George is named in honor of the Looney Tunes cartoon, in which the abominable snowman (à la Lon Chaney's characterization of Lennie from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck) refers to Bugs Bunny, and says, "I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him."  Thanks to Jennifer Schooley Bengel for reminding me about that cartoon classic!  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Watermelon! (And a Short Lesson on Seed Saving) :D

I stopped at a local roadside stand the other day.  Really, it was just a couple of tables with tarp canopies over them to keep off the hot Summer sun.  Initially, I drove past the stand, but I turned around after spying several different types of watermelons on the tables.  I saw what I knew to be Jubilees, Juliettes, Black Diamonds, and Sugar Babies.  I was hoping for a yellow-meated watermelon, but the gentleman manning the stand didn't have any.  However, he did have four beautiful OrangeGlo melons, which have a gorgeous golden yellow-orange flesh.  He stated that he purchased the OrangeGlos from someone who was unable to purchase the seeds anymore and had to save them every year so that he had enough to replant a good crop.  

That statement got me thinking about my father, who, up until the year of his death, had always planted a very large garden with several different types of watermelons.  He always dried some of the seeds and planted them the next year.  My mother moved out of the house I grew up in a year or so after my father died.  I have no idea if she took the seeds with her or threw them away.  It was a long time ago (1989), so she may not even remember (and they probably aren't viable at this point, anyway).  I will have to ask her, though.

I stood at the sink and ate the heart of one-half of the melon first.  I prefer watermelon at room temperature and this one was delicious!  The watermelon was refreshingly tasty, with a crispness and sweetness that bespoke Summer days gone by.  The rind was fairly thin.  Since I don't care for the slight bitter taste, I cut around the rind by about 1/2".  

I sorted the seeds onto a paper towel with a piece of wax paper underneath to prevent the seeds from soaking through and sticking to the counter.  I turned the seeds frequently to ensure even drying.  After they were completely dry (about 3 days), I rubbed the seeds to remove any dried watermelon flesh and stored the seeds in an envelope.  [If you must use a plastic bag to store the seeds - even temporarily - be sure to leave a large opening for air circulation.  If you seal the bag, the moisture inside will most likely kill the seeds.]

The weird part about all of this is that I don't have a garden.  Oh, I want one, but my husband doesn't want me to "tear up the yard", even though it would be in the back and no one would see it.  Personally, I think the fresh, organic fruits and vegetables would be worth it, but he doesn't.  So sadly, no garden for me... for now.  I'll keep working on him, though. 

My nephew, Garrett, said he would like some seeds because, in his words, "I'd love to take those seeds.  If I could grow my own watermelon, I'd be ridiculously happy."  Far be it from me to stand between him and true happiness.  (Obviously, he doesn't visit any home improvement stores, co-ops, or farm implement stores or he would know that they all carry tons of seed packets each Spring.)

I will also offer seeds to anyone who asks, for as long as I have them to share.  If you are interested, leave me a comment.  If you like watermelon, you will most likely love the OrangeGlo!

Below is a short tutorial on saving and drying seeds for future planting.  I found the information via

Seed saving has been practiced for years, and is a form of evolution. Plants that don’t survive well, or are sickly are discarded, while strong, healthy plants are preserved and grown against the next year. Presently, this is mostly done by seed companies, but any gardener can save their own seeds and dry them for the next year.

Plants are grown from one of two sources. The first are typical seeds, which are plant embryos contained in a hard shell, similar to eggs. The second source is known as transplants. Transplants are portions of living plants that are able to grow out of the soil independently.

Saving and drying seeds to use later is about maintaining the same genetic make-up and variety of plant. For the plant to be the same as its parent, it can only be pollinated with pollen from plants of the same variety. For airborne pollinated crops, no other varieties can be within a mile of the plant. Insect pollinated plants must be at least a quarter of a mile away from other varieties. Self-pollinated plants have no risk of cross pollination.

Hybrid plant seeds can produce a number of different plant types, because only the person who owns the original parent plants can produce more hybrid seeds. Be sure to check the package on the first seeds purchased before attempting to harvest and dry future seeds. F1 Hybrid indicates the plant is a hybrid and seed saving will not be possible. F2 means the plant can be involved in seed saving.

Different seeds are harvested at different times. Most fruit seeds can be extracted after ripening, but before rotting. Squash, cucumber, and pumpkin should be left on vine until after the first frost. The seeds can then be separated from the pulp and dried at room temperature. Pod plants and seed heads should be left to dry on the vine, and the seeds should be gathered before dispersion.

Biennial crops, primarily made up of root plants, do not produce seed at the end of the growing season. Instead, the roots should be dug up during the fall and stored at a temperature between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 7 degrees Celsius) through the winter.
Once the seeds are properly harvested, gently rub them between your fingers to remove any excess chaff. Store them in an envelope in a cool, dry room, and label the envelope so there is no confusion later. For best results, plant them the following year. Continue to choose seeds from the best plants to replant every year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mustard & Herb-Encrusted Lamb Chops, Fried Cornmeal-Battered Okra, and Sweet Potatoes

I received this recipe via text message from Martha Stewart Living.  Each day they send the name of a recipe and if you think it sounds good, you text, "Cook", in reply.  You receive another text with the shopping list.  You have to go online to get the preparation directions.

We don't often eat lamb, so this sounded different and delicious.  The bonus was that it wasn't hugely labor-intensive.  The lamb chops came from a local meat market.  They were rinsed, patted dry, and seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

While the lamb chops were adjusting to room temperature, I sliced up a some fresh okra.  Since there was only enough for two people, I don't think it qualifies as a "mess of okra".  (I've always loved that figure of speech, though.)  I read somewhere that if you use too much water to wash the okra, it becomes sticky,.  The okra was briefly rinsed and patted dry immediately before going into the dry ingredients, a simple mixture of yellow cornmeal, salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of sugar. 
Meanwhile, the lamb chops were brushed with a mix of Dijon Mustard and minced garlic.  They were then dredged in bread crumbs, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and Herbs de Provence.  The recipe actually called for rosemary and Italian herbs, but I didn't have any on hand.
Herbs de Provence contains both of these, plus several other herbs, so I thought it would be a good substitute.  It was.

The lamb chops were fried in a small amount of vegetable oil over a medium-high flame until browned on each side.  The Parmesan in the crust made the chops brown a little faster than I wanted, so I had to move them around a bit.  We also prefer our lamb cooked a bit more than you see on television cooking shows.  (We cook ours to a medium level, while the cooking world suggests a very rare, red meat.)  The okra was fried in a different skillet until golden brown on each side.  Sweet potatoes with honey and brown sugar made a nice side dish for this home-cooked meal.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Strawberry Lemonade Marmalade

I found this recipe on another local blogger's site, The Errant Cook , and decided it would make a good first try at home canning. .  Since I consider her also to be a friend, I asked if she would mind if I blogged about making the recipe.  She generously agreed, and only asked that proper credit be given to Doris and Jilly Cook, where the recipe originated.  If you click on the hyperlink for "The Errant Cook", you will be taken to her post about making the same recipe.  If you click on the hyperlink for "Doris and Jilly Cook", you will be taken to the actual recipe.

I remember helping my mother and oldest sister do some canning way back when, but I had never tried it on my own.  The original recipe is actually titled, "Strawberry Lemon Marmalade", but the finished product reminded me a lot of strawberry lemonade, so I renamed it.  I had some Ball canning jars, lids, and rings in the garage so the only immediate cost was for the lemons, strawberries, and sugar.

Starting out with a bag of lemons, I selected 5 small to medium ones.  I cut off the ends of each lemon and made sure the pith (white part covering the lemon flesh) wasn't too thick.  Next, I used the mandolin slicer to thinly slice the lemon, rind and all.

I chopped the lemons and placed them in a 5-quart dutch oven.  They were covered with water (no real measurement, just about an inch above the lemons).  I boiled them for five minutes, then turned off the burner.  The recipe directs you to leave the lemons on the stove overnight.  I did, but the next day I realized I couldn't finish the marmalade, so I put the lemons in the refrigerator.  In the meantime, I sliced up a quart of strawberries and put sugar over them.  I left them in the refrigerator, too.

After the strawberries and sugar had made a sufficient amount of juice, I took them out and smashed them with a potato masher.  This made them nice and pulpy.

The lemons were poured back into the 5-quart dutch oven and added the strawberries.  The recipe called for 3 cups of sugar, but I added about 3/4 cup more after reading how some people thought the recipe was a bit too tart.  I cooked the fruit mixture over medium-low heat until it started to boil.  

The flame was reduced enough to keep the mixture at a low boil, which kept splatters to a minimum.  (I used a high-heat silicone-based plastic spoon to stir the mix on a regular basis.  I found the spoon at The Stock Pot in Tulsa.)  In the meantime, I put the canning lids in hot water in a shallow pan to heat thoroughly.  This is so the seals are properly prepared.  I didn't have a water bath, so I filled my pressure cooker 3/4-full of water and began to heat it to a boil.  I didn't have a jar rack, either, so I crumpled several pieces of aluminum foil and heated them with the water. 

Since there is no pectin in this recipe, it took a long time to get thick.  After about 30 minutes or more, the mixture started to cook down.  After about an hour, it was a rich ruby color flecked with bright yellow particles.  
I had to ask "The Errant Cook" how to know when the marmalade was ready, as I couldn't see it actually jelling (again, probably because there is no pectin in the mixture) and I was having trouble finding this information on the internet.  She graciously told me to chill a small plate in the freezer.  After the plate is chilled, you take a spoon of the mix and place it on the plate.  Turning the plate on its side, if the mixture runs, it's not ready to can.  If it stays in place, it has jelled. It turned out my marmalade was ready to can, so I got out the Back to Basics Canning Tools (a set I also purchased at The Stock Pot), which includes a jar lifter, a magnetic lid lifter, canning funnel, kitchen tongs, and a jar wrench.  I had prepared the jars and rings by running them through the dishwasher, so they were clean and dry.  I carefully filled seven jars and two small baby food jars.  The lids were removed from the hot water and placed on the jars.  The jar rings were placed on and tightened.  I used the jar lifters to transfer the hot, filled jars to the homemade water bath.  I had one casualty. 
After picking up the glass and metal and mopping up the mess as best I could, I transferred the other jars to the water bath.  I carefully set the jars into the aluminum foil crumples and made sure the jars were not touching.  I added more hot water to the pot, covering the jars by 2 - 3 inches.  The jars were boiled for 10 minutes.  I lifted the jars out and placed them on a kitchen towel to cool.  I listened as the jar lids made their distinctive pops and wheezes indicating that they were properly sealed.  I later checked to verify that the jars were properly sealed and they were, with the exception of the baby food jars.  As they were used jars, the lids didn't seal and actually popped off in the water bath.  The marmalade remained in the jars, so I poured off the water and replaced the lids.  I put these jars in the refrigerator, along with the small amount of extra marmalade that was left over.  (NOTE:  If the jars don't seal, you can safely refrigerate the jelly for several weeks.)  As the jars cooled, I cleaned the kitchen and properly mopped the floor.  

I finished up with 6- 1/2-pint jars (7, if you count the one that broke) and 2 small baby food jars of marmalade.  I loved the ease of the recipe and the flavor was incredible!  With each bite, you get the sweetness of the strawberries and just enough of the tartness from the lemons.  It's really a complex mix of flavors.  The finished jars also looked very pretty with the different colors showing through the glass.