Monday, February 24, 2014

What I do in my "spare" time...

Ok I'm going to start off by saying this is in NO way a book related blog post. But it was inspired by a book related I guess in a way it sort of is a book post. Either way, I'm posting it LOL

I was filling out one of the usual "what do bloggers do" interviews for a fellow blogger (I will update with links as soon as it's up) and one of the questions was "What hobbies, other than reading, do you have?" And that got me to thinking... Not many of you DO know what I do when I'm not reading.  So here's an example of one of my many "extracurricular but not book related" hobbies:

Crockpot Chicken Broth I made over the weekend

I practice the art of food preservation on many levels. Yes, I'm your typical "Betty Homemaker" LOL. Canning, dehydrating, and freezing are an integral part of my life and the only way I would consider living my life. I had the opportunity to have the influence of my Great Grandmother Alice early in my childhood and have gladly continued on in the traditions of using every product in a way that nothing is wasted. 

This is one of the easiest recipe that I can show that ANYONE can make in their own kitchen with canning jars, a deep pot and the addition of a few canning utensils. I start the recipe with the gallon baggie full of chicken bones and veggie ends that I keep in the freezer and add to whenever I make a meal that has either ingredient in it. 

What I do is anytime I either make a full chicken, or buy a rotisserie chicken to use for dinner, I pull the meat off of it and then throw the bones in a gallon baggie and put the baggie in the freezer. As I make dinners that have onions, garlic, carrots and celery in them, I add the ends and pieces that would normally be thrown away into that chicken bone baggie. Yes, you are making homemade deliciousness from things you probably throw away EVERY day. (Hence the "nothing is wasted" concept that I try to live by.) You just keep layering and squishing things in to fill up the baggie completely. I even add the liquid at the bottom of the container from the store or from my homemade rotisserie chicken...additional "free" yumminess right there, y'all!! 

Once the baggie is full - or in my case, this week I had planned a meal that required broth and didn't have any on hand - you pull out your crockpot, throw the contents in (You may have to cut the baggie off, depending on how much you squished and squeezed in there. And I like putting some cheesecloth down in the crockpot first first so all I have to do is pull it up with that instead of having to strain it later...) add enough water to cover the contents of the baggie, put the lid on, and leave it overnight or all day on low. If you don't have a crockpot, you can easily make it in a deep pot as well. Just throw everything in, put water to cover, and boil on the stove on low for 3-4 hours.

While you are patiently waiting for the yumminess to cook down, you need to sterilize the jars that you should have already purchased (if you didn't, now would be the time to go out and get them ;) ) and have them ready to fill. I always have more jars than I "think" I need so that I'm not scrambling around trying to find extra jars.

That evening or the next morning, you either strain the broth into a bowl or pull up the cheesecloth and let it drain, (I don't add salt or pepper initially so this is the time that I check the flavor and add salt and pepper and possibly additional water, if the broth is too flavorful and would overpower the intended dish.) and then put it into the jars with a ladle, wipe the rims, put the lids/bands on, and water bath can them for the time recommended at your elevation. The base time is always 10 mins, so if you live below 1,000 feet, you only have to water bath for 10 mins. 

When your time is up, you pull the jars out, set them on a clean towel on your counter and wait patiently for the "canning music" to begin when the lids start to seal :) On this particular recipe, if your lids don't seal you can either put a new lid on and re-water bath can them or just stick that particular jar in the fridge and plan on using it within a week.

Most avid canning people will have the full set up of canning accessories with the big pots with racks, etc. I have those things and use them when I'm making large batches of things, but I have found that my deep noodle boiling pot with a clean dishrag in the bottom works just fine for little projects. I also have a VERY tiny kitchen, so pulling out the full arsenal of canning equipment just doesn't appeal to me unless it's a big day of canning. The main goal is to have the pot deep enough to where the jars are completely covered with water and have the jars not touching the bottom of the pot. I've never had a problem with the method that I use, so I stick with it :)

The picture above depicts a full gallon baggie of veggies and chicken bones, which is approximately 3 chickens and the equivalent of about 6-7 onion ends/outside, 18 or so garlic ends, 12 or so celery ends and 6 baby carrots (I haven't been using full size carrots lately so didn't have those in there and chose to just "sacrifice" the baby carrots to the cause LOL.) I filled the crockpot up to the rim, let it go on low for about 14 hours, removed the cheesecloth full of now mushy bones and veggies, tasted the broth and added water because it was entirely too strong for my likings, and put it into 9 pint sized jars and 2 quarts. I only canned the pint sized jars because I plan on using the 2 quarts for meals this week. 

Voila! Minimal prep, minimal effort, and lots of yummy goodness from "trash"... That's my definition of starting the week out G-R-E-A-T!! Happy canning y'all <3

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