Canning & Eating Sauerkraut – A New Year Tradition

canning-saurkraut-processed-jars

On New Year’s Day, Hubby and I canned the homemade sauerkraut we made this year at Krautfest about 12 weeks ago.

canning-saurkraut-marty

In past years, we froze it in Ziploc bags, but we decided to can it this year, and I’m so glad we did.  It tastes so much better this way, and no freezing and thawing.

canning-saurkraut-packed-jars

It was really quite simple to do.  We “cold-packed” it – meaning we did not heat or “cook” the sauerkraut first.  We simply packed the cold sauerkraut in warm, sterile jars and processed them in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.

canning-saurkraut-pot

Easy instructions can be found HERE.

Pork or kielbasa and sauerkraut is a New Year’s dinner tradition in our home and in our area.  Eating it on New Year’s Day is supposed to bring good luck and fortune in the new year.

So eat it we did!  Did you eat yours?

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Old-Fashioned Hard Tack Christmas Candy

Old Fashioned Hard Tack Christmas Candy

Making Old-Fashioned Hard Tack Christmas Candy is more than just “making candy.”

It is an opportunity to pass down family holiday traditions.

It is an opportunity to create memories.

A chance to spend time with those you love,

and a way to make a homemade Christmas gift.

hard tack candy flavors

So when my daughter-in-law, Colleen asked if we could make hard tack candy this year, I was so excited!

It has been quite a few years since the days when I was about her age and my mother-in-law taught me.

My sister-in-laws and I got together every year with my mother-in-law to make hard tack candy around this time (Thanksgiving weekend), so that the guys could take a bagful in their pockets for their annual deer-hunting trip, which always opens the Monday after Thanksgiving in our neck of the woods, and we would have plenty to enjoy and share as a special homemade gift.

hard tack christmas candy boiling

The recipe is quite simple, but also a bit messy, so we were very fortunate to have an extra helper this year in Charlie, who kept the floor lickety-split clean from any powdered sugar, butter or flying candy that hit it!

charlie christmas 2015

Colleen and her sweet sister, Katie, caught on amazingly quick, and we ended up making 10 batches to split between the three of us.

colleen hard tack christmas candy

katie hard tack christmas candy

 

hard tack jodi colleen katie 2015 christmas candy

We were happy with our results, and now the tradition has been started for the next generation.

hard tack christmas candy 2015

I hope you will give it a try!

Old Fashioned Hard Tack Christmas Candy 2

There is still plenty of time to make this sweet treat and create some memories with a new family tradition.

Here’s our recipe:

Old-Fashioned Hard Tack Christmas Candy

  • Servings: approx. 2 cups
  • Print

Ingredients:Old Fashioned Hard Tack Christmas Candy 2

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup Karo Corn Syrup
  • Food Coloring
  • 1 dram (tsp) LorAnn Oil & Candy Flavoring of your choice (we used Cherry, Lemon, Strawberry, Raspberry, Watermelon, Orange, Butterscotch, Spearmint, Peppermint, and Cinnamon)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Butter (room temperature)

Mix water, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan.  Heat to boiling and boil until it reaches 300 degrees F (hard tack) on a candy thermometer (takes about 20 mins).

While that is cooking, prepare your cutting station.  Cover counter or table with an old tablecloth.  Pour powdered sugar directly onto the tablecloth and spread around. Amply butter three dinner plates and place on table amidst the powdered sugar.  Sterilize scissors or kitchen shears in a pot of boiling water.

When the mixture reaches 300 degrees F, remove from heat and add food coloring and oil flavoring.  Stir until combined.

Pour onto prepared buttered dishes, dividing evenly between the three.  Let it cool for up to a minute, then begin gently pulling with scissors to edge of plate.  With buttered hands, begin to pull and cut it off into the powdered sugar.  You can snip a little at a time, or pour off large dollops into the powdered sugar.  Let cool slightly and turn over to assure both sides have powdered sugar on them, but do not allow the powdered sugar to mix INTO the candy.  Snip with shears into bite-sized pieces.  Place in a colander and shake off excess powdered sugar.  Spread out on a platter to cool completely.   Store in air-tight containers, mason jars, or Ziploc baggies.

A couple of pointers:

  • I can’t even imagine making this by myself.  I think a minimum of three people are needed to keep it moving as you need to work fast once you pour it as it cools quickly.  Plus – it is so much more fun doing it together!
  • It is HOT!  Be prepared!  Butter your hands and plate liberally to be able to deal with it, and work quickly.
  • Be careful when pouring in the oil flavorings as some are very potent – cinnamon and the mints especially.  Be sure not to breathe in directly over the pot, and have the room well ventilated – open the door or window if necessary and have your exhaust fan on.
  • Some people pour the hot liquid into a pan, let it cool, and then crack it by banging the pan on the counter or table or using a gentle small hammer or tool to pound and crack.  I think that makes it very sharp, but you can do that if you prefer.
  • If you make cinnamon and mint along with fruit flavors – store separately until you put together to gift or serve as the cinnamon and mint flavors can overpower all others.

I hope this was helpful.  Any questions, let me know.

What is your favorite flavor?

Do you have a favorite holiday cooking or baking or crafting tradition?

Cheers & Hugs,

Jodi

Giving Keys and Mini Beers

Our family is so fortunate to have a “best friend” family.  My BFF Jill and her family make up our extended chosen family.  Together we are the McHendy Family (a combination of McKinney and Henderson). 🙂

Our kids have grown up together.  We have spent Christmases and New Years and many other holidays and celebrations together through the years (as well as a few trying times, tragedies, changes, and everything else life throws at all of us!).

This Christmas, even though are kids are grown – – with a few married and a few moved away to other states – – we were able to all gather together the day after Christmas to celebrate our family friendship.

I like to share small, but hopefully meaningful gifts with our McHendy family.

mchendy girls giving keys bracelets

This year, I was excited to find The Giving Keys for the girls.  If you haven’t heard of it, I urge you to check out their website and their mission.  Per their website, “The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send us the story of their key being paid forward.”

I ordered a key bracelet (The Never Ending Bracelet) for each of the girls and had the word “Grateful” engraved on it, because I am grateful for each one of them in my life.  After they wear it for a while, they are to pass it on and express their gratitude to someone in their life.

mchendy girls giving keys bracelets 2

For the boys, I painted “McHendy” in gold sharpie on a shot glass for each of them.

McHendy shot glasses

To try to get them all to look relatively the same, I chose a font I liked and printed the word “McHendy” out on a sheet of white paper.  I cut it out to fit into the glass and simply drew over it while it was inside the glass.

mchendy boys shots 2

Once opened, we filled each shot glass up with a “Mini Beer.”   Have you ever had one?  They actually taste more like a creamsicle than beer, but they look like a little glass of beer, so are fun to make.  (To make a Mini Beer, simply fill a shot glass 2/3 full with Licor 43 and top with a splash of heavy cream)

mchendy boys shots

Here’s a picture (sorry a bit blurry) of our McHendy “Kids” who I love so dearly (including a few new members!)

McHendy Kids at Christmas 2014

Here they were what seems like about 10 minutes ago…

jules1

Cherishing memories then and now!

Cheers & Hugs,

Jodi

 

 

Killer Chocolate Making Tips

chocolate class colleen and jodi

I got a new nickname Thursday night…  “Killer”

It all started out quite innocently.  (Isn’t that what they all say?!)

I’m pretty sure Mary, the instructor at the Chocolate-Making Class I attended at our local community college Thursday evening, dubbed me this because of my “killer” chocolate tasting making skills.  Or – maybe it was because she recognized my “killer” charm, wit and personality.  Or it could have possibly been for my “killer” fashion sense (I mean who doesn’t envy an aging 50+ in jeans, pink Keds, and an Old Navy funnel neck fleece?!).

But alas, I’m not sure any of the above apply.  I actually was a bit of a hot mess Thursday night…

Colleen, my daughter-in-law, and I were texting about something earlier this week, when she asked,  “Hey, don’t we have some kind of chocolate-making class coming up soon here in December?”

I had completely forgotten!

Several months ago when the local community college published their “Fall/Winter Continuing Education” pamphlet, I had registered us for this as something fun to do together.  It was this Thursday evening.

Thursday started out like many others these days with rising early and every intention of jumping in the shower before jumping into my work (from home) day.  But, as is more often the case than not lately, that didn’t happen.  Dang if I didn’t open my laptop first to start working, and next thing you know, Marty is home, and I am still in my pajama pants and hoody, bed head, yesterday’s mascara, and with a half cup of cold coffee on my desk – – – at 5 o’clock!

Colleen was coming at 5:30 for our 6:00 class.  YIKES!

Jump in the shower, slap on some makeup, gargle with a bit of Listerine, and come out smiling.  Ready with two minutes to spare.  Score!

As we were driving to class, and I was secretly praying that I was heading to the correct campus location, my friend and neighbor, Tracy, called.  I answered (on speaker – hands free!) trying to be witty with, “Do you have a visitor?”

(You see, Tracy is Mikey’s and my walking buddy – and when I leave and he is left to his own accord with doggie door freedom – my little 37 lb furry son likes to take the beaten path through the woods to Tracy’s house and whine at her door until she lets him in for some “poor little ole’ me” ear scratches and belly rubs.)

But Tracy said, “No…  Did you forget we have a chocolate-making class tonight?”

I looked at Colleen.  OH YEAH!  Tracy is the one that told me about this class, and we were meeting her and her sister there.  Sometimes I seriously think I am developing early onset Alzheimer’s!  (But then one of my boys will charmingly question:  Early? onset?” GRRR!  Some day they will be 50+, and I hope their kids remind them often how ancient they are too!)

We showed up for class, with another amazing two minutes to spare, after choosing the farthest parking lot from the Arts & Hospitality Building we could find just so we could run  walk briskly through the freezing cold and dark charming campus paths and arrive ready to rumble create magnificent sugary confections.

Mary was wonderful – and so was her daughter and chocolate-melting assistant, Ashley.  Mary has been making homemade chocolate for over 30 years and works professionally in the food industry.  At first, reserved and professional, her true wit and humor unraveled as the evening progressed.  We learned some great tips for melting and molding and filling chocolates, while making new friends and laughing along the way.

chocolate class mary instructor 1

TIP:  Mary taught us to completely fill the plastic mold with melted chocolate (i.e. for chocolate covered cherries) to thoroughly coat all sides of each individual mold.  You then turn it over onto parchment paper and let the inside drip out.  Place in refrigerator or cool spot to let set, then repeat a second layer.  Fill it full again and turn over and dump.  Let harden again, then place a cherry inside and fill to top with chocolate.  (Roll in fondant if you like.)

TIP:  Use a squeezie bottle to fill molds.  In the past, I had always spooned into the mold and made a bit of a mess.  Squeezing it in is a breeze and much neater…….

Unless you are “Killer!”

I think I must have been showing off and trying to finish filling my molds first.  I was humming along smiling and laughing and squeezing and filling, when SPLAT! – the lid popped off the squeezie bottle and all the chocolate was splattered atop the mold!

I was so embarrassed I forgot to take a picture (imagine that!?)
If Mary wanted to kill me was frustrated, she sure didn’t show it.  She simply instructed me to grab a spatula to scoop it off onto the parchment and kindly refilled my squeezie bottle.  (THANK YOU MARY!)

I continued on, and my chocolate covered caramels turned out quite yummy – you never would have known if I didn’t tell you here what a total mess I made!

chocolate class caramelsThis photo is AFTER the cleanup!

The next time Mary made her rounds checking on all of our progress, she politely and slyly asked,

“How are you making out, Killer?”

She said it so sincerely and innocently and quietly, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing!

And being one to “not let it go,” I continued on all night with my new nickname.   I also dubbed my sidekick chocolate-making aficionado, Colleen as “Killer Junior.”

TIP:  Use “melting” chocolate – not chocolate chips (i.e. Nestle). Mary mentioned they put something in chocolate chips to help them keep their “chip” shape that prevents them from melting completely and smoothly.  I have found this to be true, and there is a big difference in the end product when using “melting” chocolate!

TIP:  We used Merckens brand chocolate, and it was pretty good.  I would give it a medium/average rating.  It’s not the cheapest, but far from the most expensive also.  It did melt beautifully, but the taste was not as creamy and milky as I personally like if I am going to indulge in chocolate treats such as this.  I look forward to trying out some other higher quality chocolates, but this was not too shabby.  (Marty and Nick were pleasantly surprised at what I brought home!)

chocolate class mary instructorMary showed us how to make peanut and coconut clusters.

TIP:  Use FREEZE-DRIED coconut as opposed to the typical sweetened, flaked coconut you might typically use for baking.  It turns out much better!  Less moisture content to “confuse” (for lack of a more technical term) the chocolate and result in a delightful treat.

While Colleen was busy making her favorite white chocolate covered peanut butter cups, I was flitting around being disruptive to everyone taking pictures and offering my own tips….

chocolate class colleen making white chocolate peanut butter cups

While Colleen was making our dark chocolate covered fudge fondants, I took a few more photos, offered a few more tips, and did accomplish a bit of chocolate making too!  (note those beautiful caramels on the right in my spot below… though Colleen did do the white drizzle part… I know I know – I have the best D-I-L ever!)

TIP:  Once all of your chocolate and filling is in the mold, tap it lightly a few times on the table or lightly shake back and forth horizontally a few times to even and smooth out the chocolate before it sets.  It makes the WORLD of DIFFERENCE in the finished product!

chocolate class colleen chocolate fudgeI did manage to make chocolates, and look at what we ended up with!

TIP:  A great way to melt chocolate and keep it melted is to do it in a crockpot.  Who would’ve thought?

chocolate class our boxesNot too shabby – eh?

We had a BLAST!  We learned some great TIPS…  We made chocolate (which Marty and Nick are thoroughly enjoying)…

But most of all – we made memories!

TIP:  Clean-up is much easier if you let the chocolate cool and harden.  Place the squeezie bottles that are all but empty, but coated with chocolate, in the refrigerator for several minutes.  When the chocolate hardens, all you need do is squeeze the bottle several times and the hardened chocolate cracks and releases from the sides into a pile of broken up pieces in the bottom of your bottle.  This can be saved and remelted.  Much more cost-effective than washing and throwing out all of that delicious chocolate – and A LOT less messy too!

And after all that fun, Colleen and I were both thinking candy making and cookie baking the next day.   I found the 40+ molds I had boxed up in the attic from about 20 years ago when Marty’s Mom and sister and I used to do all this together and texted Colleen to see if she wanted to come borrow to use for her baking and cooking this weekend.  It brought back a flood of happy memories….

and I hope Colleen will remember our day and many more to come as we enjoy spending time and making memories!

chocolate class colleen and jodi

Killer, Jr. & Killer

Of course she is the cute one on the left!

Cheers and Sweet Hugs,

Jodi