Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pineapple Habanero Jelly

At the end of this summer, I was gifted a large number of habanero peppers out of my boyfriend's garden. He makes a fantastic habanero marinade for grilled pork loin, but unfortunately I have a mental block on preparing my own pork loin. I had a bad experience a few years ago with a cheap pork loin that I will never be sure I cooked right. I don't know whether it was my preparation or the quality of the meat that made me sick, but I haven't been able to bring myself to cook pork loin again since then.  That meant replicating the marinade was out of the question for me.

Still, I love hot peppers and really wanted to find a way to use it the 6 beautiful habaneros I had in my fridge.  The best way to manage the heat and make the peppers go the farthest seemed to be in a sauce of some kind.  I had had pure habanero jelly before in small quantities (best combined with cream cheese to calm the fire) and knew that it probably wasn't a realistic condiment in our house. After a little bit of internet research, I came across a promising recipe for Pineapple Habanero Jelly.  The sweetness of the pineapple melds nicely with the habanero to make the jelly palatable in slightly larger portions than a pure habanero jelly.

I was a little nervous since I had never used pectin before.  I'd made strawberry and cherry jelly with my grandmother in Michigan, but we had never needed pectin to get a gel.  I didn't know what else to do with the peppers, so I decided to give it a go. Six habaneros meant doubling the recipe. I also realized that despite having done water-bath canning in the past, I don't actually own my own canning set.  A collapsible steamer basket in the bottom of one of our biggest pots worked just right as a substitute. I also really love it on a toasted bagel with peanut butter. The nuts and the peppers combine for an almost Southeast Asian flavor. Yum! Definitely a success.

Pineapple Habanero Jelly:
  • 6 habanero peppers
  • 2 - 20 oz cans of pineapple in juice, drained
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. fruit pectin
  • 8 - 1/2 pint jars
Sterilize the jars, lids, and rims using boiling water. Wearing gloves, cut the habaneros in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Place in a food processor. Add the drained pineapple and bell pepper and process until smooth. Combine sugar, vinegar and pepper blend in a large pot. Stir on medium-high heat until it starts boiling. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the fruit pectin and return to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Pour the jelly into the prepared jars, place the lids and rims on tightly and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Let cool on the counter. If lids do not "pop" down and seal, store the jars in the refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from Southern Kissed. Be very careful when handling habaneros. Do not touch your eyes, mucous membranes, your pets, or your children.  It is best to wear gloves when handling them and wash your hands well after handling. I tried using both crushed and ringed pineapple there didn't seem to be much difference aside from the rings being easier to drain. Next time I would probably use chunks for ease of draining, but maximum quantity of fruit in the can.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Easy as Pie

So today, I'm writing about two firsts: my very first blog post, and my very first solo pie.

I spend a lot of time finding fun stuff on the internet (and more specifically, Pinterest). Sometimes, I actually get around to trying it myself. The more projects I've tackled, the more I've wanted somewhere else to document what I try -- somewhere I can include more detail, more pictures, and have more interaction. When I finally decided to give blogging a shot, I consulted a group of trusted friends to help my come up with a name.  As always, they came through beautifully. So here it is: My Life Unpinned.

For the pie, I trusted a different kind of friend: my 1964 edition of The Joy of Cooking that I got as a hand-me-down from my mother when I got my first apartment in college.  Often, I will consult a number of recipes from various sources (my sizable cookbook collection, the internet, my mom or grandma) before I settle on a recipe for a dish I've never made before.  However, in this case, I decided to go straight for my copy of Joy of Cooking.  It is well worn, has bookmarks all over it, and contains many of my family's favorite go-to recipes.  I knew that I could find a pie recipe that would not be over-complicated, but that would still result in a consistently delicious pie.

I did cheat a bit and use frozen pie crust from Giant.  Everyone talks so much about finicky pie crust is.  It seems like it would be very easy to understand all of the theory (minimal handling, keep it cold, etc.) but to still screw it up.  Focusing on the filling allowed me to get comfortable with that process, so that next time I can attempt my own crust.  Plus... my former pastry chef coworker admitted to me that she sometimes enjoys frozen pie crust too. That is, right before she offered to send me her crust recipe.  A quick note about the apples -- they were a mix of Granny Smith and Fuji apples, which were picked on a trip to Homestead Farm with some of the very same ladies who would end up helping me title this blog.

I successfully made it through the pie, and now I've made it through the post. Both can only get easier with more practice and more experience.

Apple Pie:
  • 2 frozen pie shells, thawed for ~15 minutes
  • 5-6 cups apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (6.5 medium/small apples)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1/4 t cinnamon (or apple pie spice)
  • 1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/8 t salt

Place apples in a large bowl and sprinkle with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt.  Sir the apples gently until they are well coated. Allow to stand 10 minutes to macerate (this is a good time to clean up the mess you've inevitably made while prepping the apples). Place them in layers in the pie shell. Optionally, dot with 1.5 T of butter. I did not use butter and my pie still turned out beautifully.

Follow the directions on the pie crust for joining the upper and lower crusts.

Preheat oven to 450. Cover the pie with an upper crust and poke some holes to allow steam to escape while baking. Bake in a 450 oven for 10 min. Reduce the heat to 350. Bake until done, 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!