Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quick Dill Pickles

Last weekend, I made refrigerator pickles.  Today I picked up some pickle crisp and made regular dill pickles.  This is the easiest dill pickle recipe you can make.  It's also easy to scale up or down depending on how many cucumbers you have.  An all around great canning recipe!

Quick Dill Pickles
Makes 4-6 pints (depending on how you cut the cucumbers)
3 pounds cucumbers
3c white vinegar
3c water
3Tbsp pickling salt
4-6 cloves garlic
4-6 sprigs of fresh dill OR 4-6tsp dill seed
about 1tsp pickle crisp (optional, but makes a much tastier pickle in my opinion)

1.  Prepare canning jars and lids and canner.  Put the jars in the canner so they warm up.

2. Wash the cucumbers and slice the blossom end off (the blossom end has enzymes that will soften the pickles).
3. Slice the pickles to your preference.  For this go around, I used my mandolin to make uniform slices, but you could also cut the cucumbers into spears, or slice them length-wise to make sandwich slices.  If you do something like spears that are easier to pack tightly in the jar, you may end up with fewer jars and need less pickling solution.

4. Mix the vinegar, water and salt in a pot and bring to a boil.
5. Put one clove of garlic and a sprig of dill or 1tsp dill seed in each jar (the jars should be hot)
6. Pack the cucumbers into the jars leaving a 1/2 inch head space.  Put a heaping 1/8tsp pickle crisp on top of the cucumbers (1/4tsp pickle crisp if you are using quart jars).
7.  Pour the hot pickling solution over the cucumbers, leaving a 1/2 inch head space.

8.  Apply lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (15 minutes if you're doing quarts).  Adjust times if you are at an altitude about 1,000feet.

If you are new to boiling water bath canning, I suggest you read the guide at the National Center for Home Food Preservation before you get started.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Make Your Own Frozen Pizza

Like a lot of families with kids running from activity to activity, there are nights where we just want to throw a pizza out and have a quick dinner with no complaints from anyone about, "I don't like this!"

Those nights are when a stack of homemade, frozen pizzas come in handy.  This recipe is a slight adaptation of one that came out in Cook's Country three years ago and we've been enjoying it ever since.  The secret to this recipe is a really wet dough and adding moisture to the cheese.  This keeps everything from drying out in the freezer

*Note, my directions are for a single recipe, but I took pictures while I was making a much larger batch

Makes two 12 inch pizzas
4c flour
¼c cornstarch
2 tsp yeast (1 envelope)
½tsp baking powder
½tsp sugar
1½tsp salt
1½ c evaporated milk (lukewarm)

½ c water (lukewarm)
2Tbsp olive oil

1 can diced tomatoes (14.5oz)
1Tbsp olive oil
1Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1Tbsp dried basil
1tsp dried oregano
¼tsp red pepper flakes

3c shredded mozzarella 
¼c grated parmesan
¼c evaporated milk

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix flour, cornstarch, yeast, baking powder, sugar and salt.
2. In separate bowl, mix evaporated milk, water and oil.
3. With mixer on medium low speed, slowly add liquid mixture in a steady stream and mix until dough comes together.
4. Continue mixing until middle of the dough is a uniform texture and there are sticky strands on the outside:
5. Scrape dough in to an oiled bowl.  It will seem very sticky.  Even stickier than my usual sticky dough.
6. Spray plastic wrap with non-stick cooking spray (so the dough won't stick to it when it rises) and use it to cover the bowl.  Set dough aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
7. Pulse tomatoes in a food processor until coarsely ground.  I used the roasted tomatoes I made earlier in the week rather than canned tomatoes.

8.  Heat 1Tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan and cook tomato paste just until beginning to brown

9. Add spices and garlic and stir until fragrant.

10. Stir in tomatoes.  You can adjust the consistency to your preference at this point.  If it is too runny, gently simmer until it thickens up.  If it is too thick, add some tomato sauce.
11. Set sauce aside until dough has doubled
12. Mix mozzarella, parmesan and evaporated milk (and take a picture that doesn't include blinding white spots)
13. Divide dough into aluminum pizza pans.  Or any kind of pan, really.  As you can see, I was using what I had around.  The dough will still be very sticky.  That's okay, that's what keeps it from being dried out after you freeze it.
14. Oil your fingers and press the dough into the pans.  It will spring back at first, but if you keep at it, you can press it all the way to the edges of the pan.
15. Spread your sauce on top
16. And top with the cheese mixture and any other toppings you want
17.  They store best if you cover them with plastic wrap and then foil.  They stack just fine, even before they're frozen.
To bake: preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees.  Remove plastic wrap.  Remove pizza from aluminum pan and place on cooking stone.  Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray and use it to cover the pizza.  Bake about 25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake about 5 minutes more until cheese is melty.


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