Freezer-friendly

Cilantro Pesto

Homemade Cilantro Pesto, made with fresh cilantro leaves, blanched almonds, red onion, serrano chile and olive oil.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: About 1 cup

I have, over the years, attempted to grow cilantro several times. Each time the plants bolted before I got much use out of them.

This year I planted a bunch of seed in October, when the scorching Sacramento summer weather cooled down, and the plants have been thriving for months!

As the cilantro gets more mature, the stems thicken and the leaves get much bigger, signaling “pre-bolt” and a good time to make cilantro pesto.

Unlike basil pesto, this pesto requires no Parmesan or garlic. The complementary flavors are red onion and serrano chile instead.

Also, almonds are used instead of pine nuts. Almonds seem to enhance the flavor of the cilantro, rather than compete with it.

Use the pesto with pasta, as a filling, or with chicken in tacos. Some of this batch got mixed in with some cottage cheese for a delicious tortilla chip dip.

You can add more serrano chiles if you like things hot. A full teaspoon will give you a nice, warm pesto.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups, packed, of cilantro, including stems
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped and seeded serrano chile
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method

1 Toast the almonds: Heat a small skillet on high heat. When the pan is hot, add the blanched almonds in a single layer. Stir with a wooden spoon. When the almonds are fragrant and start to brown, remove them from the pan.

2 In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, almonds, onion, chile, and salt until well blended.

3 Slowly add the oil: With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.

Add more oil as needed for your use.

Whatever you don’t use, you can freeze. Line a ice cube tray with plastic wrap and fill in the individual cube spaces with the pesto. Freeze and remove from the ice tray, put in a sealed freezer bag for future use.

Posted by gen_gen - 2019 at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Make Your Own Juice Popsicles

Homemade popsicle recipe. Easy to make your own juice popsicles, with concentrated juice or lemonade.

Is there nothing better than an ice-cold popsicle on a sweltering summer day?

No need to wait for the ice cream man’s truck to make a pass through your neighborhood. It is easy to make your own popsicles.

Do you make popsicles at home? How do you make your favorites?

I bought the rocket molds for these popsicles years ago. Similar molds are available through Amazon.com by Tovolo. The Tovolo molds come with a snap-in base to hold them upright in the freezer. The molds easily come off of the popsicle after you run them under warm water for a few seconds.

The handle doubles as a “drip pan” to catch the juice as it melts. A potential problem is that the molds may stand too high for some people’s freezer compartments. But the upside is that you can easily remove one popsicle at a time.

There are other molds available on the market, some with built-in reusable plastic sticks, some using wooden sticks. An ebay or Google search for “popsicle mold” will turn up many options. In addition to the popsicle molds by Tovolo I found similar sets of popsicle molds for sale.

What juices to put in the mold? My favorite is lemonade. If you use ready made juice or lemonade, you might want to boil it down first, reducing the juice by about a half, and add a little corn syrup. If you are using frozen concentrated juice, add half as much water as you would normally. The biggest problem with homemade juice popsicles is that they turn out too icy. A higher sugar to water ratio will help reduce the iciness, as will a little bit of corn syrup.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you want them, and if you are using Meyer lemons, use less sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup of lemon juice (about 4 large lemons)

Method

1 Make simple syrup: Heat 1 cup of water and 3/4 to 1 cup of granulated sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the zest of 2 lemons and 1 Tbsp of light corn syrup into the sugar water. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool.

2 Add simple syrup to lemon juice: Juice enough lemons (about 4) to produce 1 cup of lemon juice. Strain out any pulp. Add the simple syrup to the lemon juice, straining out the lemon zest as you pour the syrup into the juice.

3 Pour into molds and freeze: Pour the lemon mixture into the popsicle molds. Put into a freezer for at least 4 hours to freeze.

4 To un-mold, run under hot water for a few seconds.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , , ,

How to Make Homemade Sausage

Step-by-step tutorial, with photos, on making homemade sausage. Includes recipe for Italian sweet sausage.

Ready in:

  • Yield: Makes 5 lbs of sausage, or about 15-20 links

Please welcome guest author Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook as he walks us through the steps of homemade sausage-making. ~Elise

Making sausage at home is one of those lost arts that really is not so difficult as it sounds. At its core, a sausage is simply ground meat and fat, salt, and flavorings. It really is not much more involved than grinding your own hamburger; you don’t even have to stuff it into links if you don’t want to.

Yet the flavor of a well-made link surpasses the sum of its parts, and a truly great sausage is fit to be served as a main course at a fancy dinner.

Good sausage is all about balance. Balance of salt and savory, balance of meat and fat, balance of spices and herbs within the whole. Knowing a proper ratio of salt to meat (and fat) is essential, but once you understand it you can adjust to your own perception of saltiness, which varies wildly among people.

Some sort of liquid helps tighten the bind when you mix the sausage meat; and without this bind you have hamburger, not sausage. You also need a proper amount of fat, at least 20 percent – I have not yet met a low-fat sausage worth eating.

But beyond those “rules,” your ingredient list is limited only by your imagination. You can toss in as many or as few herbs and spices and other flavorings as you’d like. What liquid to use? Anything from water to fruit juice to wine to cream.

What sort of meat? Usually pork, but beef and lamb are also good, as are game animals. Do you want a fine grind or a coarse one? How much fat? I like 25-30 percent, but you could go as high as 50 percent.

A good start is a typical Italian sweet sausage, and this is what I’ll walk you through here. Sweet sausage is only slightly sweet – it’s really called so to differentiate it from the Italian hot sausage, which has paprika, chiles and oregano.

Before You Start: Special Equipment Needed

Before you begin you do need some specialized equipment; this is what keeps many home cooks from bothering with sausage.

First, you need a proper meat grinder. I suggest the attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer as a good start. Stand-alone meat grinders are good, too, and you could even use one of the old hand-cranked grinders. You need at least two dies – coarse and fine – that dictate how wide the strands of ground meat will be when they emerge from the grinder.

You will also need a good scale, as most sausage recipes use weight, not volume to properly measure ingredients; a little too much or too little salt in a sausage and you can ruin it. Precision matters.

Are you going to stuff your sausages into casings? Then you need a sausage stuffer. Quality stuffers can run several hundred dollars, but if you plan to make sausage with any frequency, I highly recommend spending the cash. Do not stuff your sausages using the grinder attachment, as it will get the mixture too hot and can ruin the texture. Either do this right or leave your sausages loose.

If you do stuff your sausages, you need casings. Most decent butchers make their own sausages and will sell you hog casings, which are the scrubbed, salted intestines of a pig. (Don’t feed these sausages to those who cannot eat pork! I once knew a guy who made a lamb sausage so his Jewish friends could eat it, but forgot and stuffed them in hog casings. That did not go over too well.)

Some people like the synthetic collagen casings you can buy on the internet. I do not. Why bother with this? The stuffing process compresses the meat and fat mixture and integrates the flavors better than in loose sausage – it is why most professionals prefer sausages in links.

Another option is to ask your butcher for caul fat, which surrounds the innards of pigs. It looks like a spider’s web and, once moistened in warm water, can be cut and used as a wrapper for your sausage to make crepinettes. Wonderful stuff. Other alternatives are using blanched savoy cabbage leaves or something similar as casings.

A piece of equipment that is handy but not vital is a wooden rack of some sort to hang your links on, as sausage links need to tighten in the skins at room temperature for a while, and then “bloom” overnight in the fridge.

Before You Start: Get Your Ingredients and Equipment Cold

The first thing you need to know is that you want your ingredients all laid out and at the right temperature BEFORE you begin. Start by making sure the meat and fat is extremely cold by putting it in the freezer for an hour or two. You can even use fat straight from the freezer, as frozen fat cuts better.

Why the emphasis on temperature? Think of it like pie dough, where you want the butter to stay separate from the dough – if the butter gets too hot, it ruins it. Same with sausage. You really, really want to avoid “smear.”

A good way to tell if your sausage meat and fat are cold enough is if your hands start to hurt and go numb while handling it. You are looking for as close to 32 degrees as you can get without actually freezing the meat – using pre-frozen meat is fine, but you if you then refreeze it, it will suffer greatly in quality.

This carries through to your equipment. Put your bowls and your grinder in the freezer or at least the refrigerator for at least an hour before using them. I can’t say it enough: Cold, cold, cold.

You also need to be prepared to spend a few hours on this project. Under pressure, I can make a 5-pound batch in an hour, and pros are even faster than I am. But when I first started it took me several hours. Don’t have anything planned and leave distractions behind. You get breaks in the middle of this process, so worry not.

Ingredients

Hank’s Sweet Italian Sausage

  • 4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 pound pork fat
  • 40 grams kosher salt
  • 35 grams sugar
  • 20 grams toasted fennel seeds
  • 6 grams cracked black pepper
  • 4 grams ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
  • ¾ cup dry sherry
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar

Special Equipment Needed for basic sausage

  • Meat grinder with coarse and fine dies – either KitchenAid with grinder attachment, a stand-alone grinder, or an old fashioned hand-cranked meat grinder

Additional Equipment Needed for Stuffed Sausage Links

  • Casings – hog casings
  • Sausage stuffer
  • Wooden rack to hang sausages to dry

Ingredients

Hank’s Sweet Italian Sausage

  • 4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 pound pork fat
  • 40 grams kosher salt
  • 35 grams sugar
  • 20 grams toasted fennel seeds
  • 6 grams cracked black pepper
  • 4 grams ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
  • ¾ cup dry sherry
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar

Special Equipment Needed for basic sausage

  • Meat grinder with coarse and fine dies – either KitchenAid with grinder attachment, a stand-alone grinder, or an old fashioned hand-cranked meat grinder

Additional Equipment Needed for Stuffed Sausage Links

  • Casings – hog casings
  • Sausage stuffer
  • Wooden rack to hang sausages to dry

Method

Making Bulk Sausage

1 Start with very cold ingredients and equipment: Make sure your ingredients are laid out, and the meat and fat are very cold (fat can be completely frozen), before you begin (put meat and fat in freezer for 2 hours). Put bowls and grinder in freezer or refrigerator for an hour before using them.

2 Cut fat and meat into chunks, keep cold in bowl over ice: Prepare a large bowl of ice and put a medium metal bowl on top of it. Slice your meat and fat into chunks between an inch and two inches across. Cut your fat a little smaller than your meat.

To keep your ingredients cold, put your cut meat and fat into the bowl set into a larger bowl filled with ice.

3 Quickly mix meat and fat, add most of your spices, then chill: When the meat and fat are cut, mix them quickly.

Pour in most of your spices; I leave out a tablespoon or two of fennel seeds and a tablespoon of black pepper for later. Mix quickly.

Add the salt and the sugar and mix one more time.

Put into a covered container or top the bowl with plastic wrap and put the sausage mixture into the freezer for at least 30 minutes and no more than an hour. Now you can call back whoever might have bothered you when you started this process.

4 Meanwhile, mix ¼ cup of sherry vinegar and ¾ cup of dry sherry and put it in the fridge. I know sherry is not traditional in Italian sausage. You can use white wine and white wine vinegar if you’d rather (I save red wine and red wine vinegar for the hot sausages).

5 Immerse casings in warm water: If you plan on stuffing your sausage, take out some of the casings (you need about 15-18 feet for a 5-pound batch of links) and immerse them in warm water. (If you are not planning on stuffing your sausage, you can skip this step.)

6 Set up your grinder: After your sausage mixture has chilled, remove your grinder from the freezer and set it up. I use the coarse die for Italian sausage, but you could use either.

Do not use a very fine die, because to do this properly you typically need to grind the meat coarse first, then re-chill it, then grind again with the fine die. Besides, an Italian sausage is supposed to be rustic.

7 Quickly push mixture through grinder, then chill: Push the sausage mixture though the grinder, working quickly. If you use the KitchenAid attachment, use it on level 4. Make sure the ground meat falls into a cold bowl.

When all the meat is ground, put it back in the freezer and clean up the grinder and work area.

8 Mix in remaining spices and sherry mixture: When you’ve cleaned up, take the mixture back out and add the remaining spices and the sherry-sherry vinegar mixture.

Using the paddle attachment to a stand mixer (or a stout wooden spoon, or your VERY clean hands), mix the sausage well.

With a stand mixer set on level 1, let this go for 90 seconds. It might take a little longer with the spoon or hands. You want the mixture to get a little sticky and begin to bind to itself – it is a lot like what happens when you knead bread.

When this is done, you have sausage. You are done if you are not making links. To cook, take a scoop and form into a ball with your hands. Flatten out a bit. Cook on medium low heat in a skillet for 5-10 minutes each side until browned and cooked through.

Additional Steps for Making Links

9 Run warm water through casings and set up sausage stuffer: If you are making links, put the mixture back in the freezer and clean up again. Bring out your sausage stuffer, which should have been in the freezer or refrigerator.

Run warm water through your sausage casings. This makes them easier to put on the stuffer tube and lets you know if there are any holes in the casings. Be sure to lay one edge of the flushed casings over the edge of the bowl of warm water they were in; this helps you grab them easily when you need them.

10 Slip a casing onto the stuffing tube (And yes, it is exactly like what you think it is). Leave a “tail” of at least 6 inches off the end of the tube: You need this to tie off later.

11 Add meat to the stuffer and start cranking the stuffer: Take the meat from the freezer one last time and stuff it into the stuffer. If all the meat will not fit, keep it in a bowl over another bowl filled with ice, or in the fridge while you stuff in batches. Start cranking the stuffer down. Air should be the first thing that emerges – this is why you do not tie off the casing right off the bat.

12 Let the sausage come out in one long coil, then tie-off: When the meat starts to come out, use one hand to regulate how fast the casing slips off the tube; it’s a little tricky at first, but you will get the hang of it. Let the sausage come out in one long coil; you will make links later.

Remember to leave 6-10 inches of “tail” at the other end of the casing. Sometimes one really long hog casing is all you need for a 5-pound batch.

When the sausage is all in the casings, tie off the one end in a double knot. You could also use fine butcher’s twine.

13 Pinch and spin links: With two hands, pinch off what will become two links. Work the links so they are pretty tight: You want any air bubbles to force their way to the edge of the sausage. Then spin the link you have between your fingers away from you several times.

Repeat this process down the coil, only on this next link, spin it towards you several times. Continue this way, alternating, until you get to the end of the coil. Tie off the other end.

14 Hang the sausages, and prick air bubbles with sterilized needle: Almost done. Time to hang your sausages. Hang them on the rack so they don’t touch (too much), and find yourself a needle. Sterilize it by putting into a gas flame or somesuch, then look for air bubbles in the links. Prick them with the needle, and in most cases the casing will flatten itself against the link.

15 Let dry an hour or two then chill: Let these dry for an hour or two, then put them in a large container in the fridge overnight, with paper towels underneath. Package them up or eat them the next day. They will keep for a week, but freeze those that will not be used by then.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Blueberry Sorbet

Smooth and ultra blueberry-y, homemade blueberry sorbet, perfect for a hot summer day.

Ready in:

  • Yield: Makes a little less than a quart

Hope springs eternal. At least when it comes to my garden.

I planted a small blueberry bush earlier this spring, only to watch it slowly lose leaves down to a few bare stems. Visions of blueberry glory, dashed!

We’ve moved the plant to a new location, a bit more shaded, and planted a new blueberry bush near it, so (and this where the eternal hope comes in) maybe we’ll have some lovely blueberries next year.

In the meantime, blueberries are plentiful in the market, thank goodness. Usually I buy them by the double-basketful. And then eat them.

This time though, inspired by a lovely blueberry sorbet I had in Austin, Texas, I thought I would try my hand at making some sorbet.

So good! And really easy to make. The small additions of a little lemon zest (a bitter), lemon juice (an acid), and just a pinch of salt, brighten the intense blueberry flavor of this sorbet. Perfect for a hot summer day.

If you want your sorbet to last a while in the freezer, and not get too rock hard, you might want to add a tablespoon or two of corn syrup to the mix. Or you can add 2 tablespoons of kirsch or a berry or orange liqueur.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, rinsed, stems removed and discarded
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch salt
  • Fresh blueberries and sprigs of mint for garnish

Method

1 Place the blueberries, sugar, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to coat blueberries with the sugar. Mash with a potato masher.

2 Put the mashed blueberries into a blender and blend for a couple of minutes until smooth.

3 Place a sieve over a large bowl and working in batches, press the mixture through the sieve, using a rubber spatula. This will catch the tougher and larger pieces of lemon and blueberry peel.

4 Chill the mixture for at least an hour in the fridge. Then process following the directions of your ice cream maker.

Eat immediately (the sorbet will still be a little soft) or freeze at least a few hours to help firm up before eating. Eat soon after making though, as the sorbet will get progressively harder the longer it stays in the freezer.

Serve with a few fresh blueberries and a sprig of mint.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Crema di Limoncello

Homemade limoncello! Favorite Italian digestif, rich as custard and strong enough to knock you down. Everclear infused with plenty of lemon zest then swirled together with milk, sugar, and vanilla.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 7 days
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Makes a little more than 3 quarts

With the warming weather, our lemons are practically falling of the trees. Here’s a lovely way to use them, homemade limoncello from guest contributor Garrett McCord. Enjoy! ~Elise

Limoncello is a traditional digestif (a drink served after the meal to theoretically aid in digestion, but also an excuse for another nip) served throughout Southern Italy, particularly in the area surrounding the Gulf of Naples.

It’s produced by infusing a strong alcohol with the zest of plenty of lemons and then adding sugar, resulting in a sweet, floral, and citrusy spirit.

It’s a bright and memorable end to a genial meal with friends and family. While there are many producers who have been making it for years, many families make their own. And why not? It’s so easy to do!

This particular, modern limoncello recipe was taught to me by my friend, Dennis Kercher, an adept home chef who for years ran a popular underground restaurant here in Sacramento.

He infused his liquor, Everclear being the best choice for its liver-shockingly high alcohol content and ability to adopt flavors, with lemons and then blended it with milk and sugar.

He always served it at the end of the meal chilled – almost frozen – in tiny ice cold glasses that could hold no more than perhaps an ounce.

An ounce was more than enough. It was gloriously rich, almost like melted ice cream, with a kick that could send you to the moon (or at least home in a taxi).

I’ve adapted the recipe a bit by making it a bit stronger and adding a vanilla bean to give it a sweeter, creamier, rather indulgent flavor.

Feel free to use regular lemons or Meyer lemons, though I use the regular lemons for their more assertive presence. This is a simple drink to keep on hand for yourself, for guests, or give out as gifts.

Ingredients

  • 10 lemons
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Everclear (a quality vodka will do if you can’t find it)
  • 8 cups (1.9 liters) whole milk
  • 5 cups sugar (1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds and pod
  • cheesecloth
  • bottles

Ingredients

  • 10 lemons
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Everclear (a quality vodka will do if you can’t find it)
  • 8 cups (1.9 liters) whole milk
  • 5 cups sugar (1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds and pod
  • cheesecloth
  • bottles

Method

1 Infuse Everclear with lemon zest for one week: Zest the lemons using a lemon zester or the fine groove side of a grater. (Save the zested lemons and use them for some of our great lemon recipes!)

Place the zest and the Everclear in a container and allow to infuse in a dark, cool place for a week.

After a week has passed strain the liquid through the cheesecloth into a very large glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowl.

2 Make limoncello base: In a large stockpot or sauce pan, warm the milk, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds and pod over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until dissolved.

Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (this will take a few hours). Discard the vanilla bean (wash it and save it for another use) and strain the mixture through the cheesecloth.

3 Combine limoncello base with zest infused Everclear, strain and bottle: Combine the Everclear infusion with the sweet milk and stir together. Pass through a colander lined with cheesecloth to catch any solids. Funnel into bottles and store in the freezer.

Be sure to leave room in the bottles for the mixture to expand if it freezes to avoid an explosion. Use within six months. Serve small amounts in chilled glasses.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , ,

How To Make Jam in the Microwave

Easy microwave jam! Ready in under 20 minutes. Strawberry jam, peach jam, blueberry jam, or any other fruit jam you like.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 to 1 1/2 cups of jam

This one goes out to all of you who really want to make jam, but just lack the time, energy, counter space, or mental fortitude for a large canning project.

Microwave jam is ready in under 20 minutes and makes one perfect little jar of jammy goodness. Here’s everything you need to know.

When I first stumbled upon Elise’s recipes for Microwave Strawberry Jam and Microwave Fig Jam, I thought, “No way.” No way that making jam could be that easy. No way that it could be as good as “real” jam.

Consider me a convert. I have now tried this microwave method with blueberries, peaches, and strawberries, and the results have been nothing short of jam heaven.

This jam is just as sweet and spoonable as any other homemade or store-bought jam. You can spread it on toast, swirl it into ice cream, or just eat it straight from the jar. No judgment.

This jam is ideal for whenever you have a few fruits going soft on the counter or if you scored an extra pint of berries at the farmers market. Two to three cups of chopped fruit or berries will give you about a cup of jam.

Since we’re not actually canning this jam – it goes straight into the fridge – you can use any kind of sugar you prefer. Regular sugar, honey, brown sugar, agave, and maple syrup all work well. Between 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup is usually enough to sweeten the fruit and give it a good jammy texture.

The microwave is really a perfect tool for making a small batch of jam like this. It cooks down a few cups of fruit very quickly and efficiently, making a concentrated jam in about 15 minutes of cook time.

The jam will bubble up quite a bit as it cooks and nearly quadruple in volume. Be sure to use a microwave-safe bowl with at least an 8-cup capacity and stir the jam every few minutes. Also, use oven mitts when removing the bowl from the microwave since it will become quite hot.

The only truly tricky moment comes in judging when the jam is done. In my experience, 15 minutes of total cooking time is a good average for most fruits. However, the jam will still look a bit syrupy and un-jammy at this point, so the temptation is always to cook it a little longer.

My advice is to resist that temptation. The jam is ready when the syrup coats the back of the spatula and falls in big, heavy drips back into the bowl. It will set more firmly as it cools, and cooking it longer can cause the sugar to crystallize and harden.

Don’t stress yourself out about it if you’re not sure – just let it cool and see how thick it becomes. If it’s still seems too loose, just stick it back in the microwave and give it another round of cooking.

Stash this jam in the fridge or the freezer. It will keep for several weeks in the fridge, or for about three months in the freezer.

Tips for Success!

Chunky vs. smooth jam: Change up the texture of your jam just by chopping your fruit into larger or smaller pieces. For a smoother jam, you can also puree it before cooking, or mash the cooked fruit against the side of the bowl as you stir.

Use an 8-cup capacity, microwave-safe bowl: The jam will bubble up quite a bit and quadruple in size as it cooks, so be sure to use a large bowl. Use oven mitts when moving the bowl from the microwave.

Stop cooking when the jam is concentrated, but still syrupy: The jam will still look slightly loose when done, but it will firm up as it cools. Resist the temptation to cook it for longer.

More Jams to Love Straight From the Microwave!

  • Blueberry Jam in the Microwave
  • Easy Microwave Fig Jam
  • Microwave Strawberry Jam

You can also cook this small batch of jam on the stove-top. Simmer gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until it reaches a loose jam consistency.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 cups berries or diced fruit
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, honey, or other sweetener
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste

Special equipment:

  • 8-cup glass measuring cup or microwave-safe mixing bowl
  • Heat-proof spatula
  • Oven mitts
  • Half-pint canning jars or other small refrigerator container, for storing

Method

1 Prepare the fruit: Remove all seeds, cores, pits, or other non-edible parts. Peels can be left or removed. Cut larger fruits like peaches and strawberries into small pieces. Berries can be left whole.

2 Macerate the fruit and sugar: Toss the prepared fruit with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar or other sweetener and 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (to taste) in an 8-cup glass measuring cup or microwave-safe mixing bowl. If you’re using berries, lightly mash them to release their juices. Let the fruit macerate for at least a half an hour, until the sugar is dissolved and the fruit looks syrupy.

3 Microwave for 10 minutes, stirring halfway: Microwave the fruit, uncovered, at full power for 5 minutes. The fruit juices will bubble up as the fruit cooks, quadrupling in volume. Carefully remove the bowl using oven mitts (the glass will be hot), and stir the fruit. It will look quite loose and liquidy at this point. Return to the microwave and cook another 5 minutes.

4 Stir the fruit again: Remove the fruit from the microwave with oven mitts and stir it again.The jam will probably still look fairly syrupy at this point. Mash the fruit against the sides of the bowl if you’d like a smoother texture, or leave it as is for a chunkier texture.

5 Continue to microwave in 2 to 3 minute intervals. Stir the jam between each interval and continue cooking until the liquid concentrates to a sticky syrup that coats the back of the spatula and falls in heavy drips back into the bowl. Don’t worry if the jam still seems a little loose at this point; it will set more firmly as it cools. Total cooking time is usually around 15 minutes for most fruits.

If you’re unsure whether the jam ready, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Over-cooking can cause the jam to crystallize and harden. If the jam still seems loose after it cools, return it to the measuring cup and cook it a few more minutes.

6 Cool and store the jam: Transfer the jam to a canning jar or other storage container. Let it cool, uncovered, on the counter. Once cool, cover and store in the refrigerator for several weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , , ,

How to Freeze Leftover Whipped Cream

Leftover whipped cream? Just freeze it! This method is perfect for topping hot cocoa or making a midweek dessert feel extra-special.

I know, I know. Who in the world has a problem with leftover whipped cream?

But let’s imagine a hypothetical situation wherein you have misjudged your guests’ enthusiasm for whipped cream-topped pie following a big holiday meal, and now you find yourself faced with a fairly large amount leftover.

Do you throw it away? Do you save it, knowing that it will likely lose its billowy magic over the next few days?

Let me offer a third option: Freeze your leftover whipped cream for later.

Whipped cream freezes – and thaws – surprisingly well. Just drop mounds of it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze overnight. The next day, peel off the frozen whipped cream clouds and transfer them to a freezer bag or container for longer storage.

When a situation arises for a few spoonfuls of whipped cream, just pull out what you need.

In my opinion, the very best use of these frozen whipped cream puffs is to top a hot mug of cocoa or coffee. Not only do they melt slowly into the hot beverage, providing time-release doses of cream, but they take the edge off a steaming hot cup (without cooling it too much!).

You can also use the leftover whipped cream to top a slice of pie or other dessert – yes, this works! Place the frozen whipped cream on top of your dessert, then let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to thaw before serving.

As a dessert topping, the whipped cream holds its shape quite well without becoming grainy or separating, but it does lose some of its perkiness. The frozen edges also have a tendency to crumble as you handle them, as well.

This is perfectly acceptable for a midweek dessert casual family gathering, but less ideal for situations where looks are important, like a dinner party or a special occasion. For those, I’d recommend making a fresh batch of whipped cream.

Any whipped cream can be frozen – sweetened or unsweetened, plain or with other ingredients mixed in. Whipped cream that has been stabilized with some cornstarch or cream cheese tends to keep its shape a little better when thawed.

Be sure to transfer the frozen whipped cream to a freezer container within a day or two; it can quickly start to pick up off-flavors in the open air of the freezer.

Ingredients

  • Leftover whipped cream

Method

1 Line a baking sheet with parchment (or a Silpat) and spoon the whipped cream on top in small mounds. If you’re feeling fancy, you can pipe the whipped cream in pretty twists using a piping bag. Aim for single-serving portions.

2 Freeze overnight, until the whipped cream is frozen solid.

3 Peel the whipped cream off the parchment and store. Transfer the frozen whipped cream mounds to a freezer bag or other freezer container. Don’t worry if the edges crumble a little as you handle the mounds; this is normal. The whipped cream is best used within a month, but will keep for up to three months. (You may notice that it picks up off-flavors from the freezer over time.)

4 To use the whipped cream: The frozen whipped cream can be placed directly on top of hot cocoa or coffee and served. You can also place the mounds on top of a dessert: place on top of the dessert and allow to thaw at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serve.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: ,

Sous Vide Teriyaki Salmon

Sous Vide Teriyaki Salmon! This is an easy freezer meal, plus it makes the best fish EVER. Simple teriyaki marinade with soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, and ginger.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 to 70 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings

This post is brought to you in partnership with Joule: Sous Vide by ChefSteps

After cooking salmon sous vide, I am convinced that this is the only way that salmon — and all fish, really — should be cooked. Period. Full stop. Forever and ever. For reasons which will shortly become clear.

But perfectly cooked salmon isn’t the only thing this recipe has going for it. No, the other attraction is that this sous vide recipe makes an outstanding freezer meal.

Having a few of these teriyaki salmon fillets prepped in the freezer and ready to cook sous vide is a lifesaver on nights when other dinner plans go awry.

NEW TO SOUS VIDE COOKING? START HERE

  • Everything You’ve Been Wondering About Sous Vide Cooking at Home
  • How to Use Your New Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
  • How to Seal Foods Without Using a Vacuum Sealer
  • Sous Vide and Food Safety: What to Know

Okay, let’s start with what I’ve disliked up until now with my relationship with fish: dry crusty edges, undercooked middles, inconsistent results no matter what technique I use, and the all-consuming fear of screwing up an expensive piece of fish.

Preparing those very same fish fillets sous vide is a game-changer — a term that I don’t use lightly.

Cooking sous vide means that the fish is submerged in water and cooks at a single, steady temperature the entire cooking time. This is important because it means that every part of the fish cooks exactly the same, and it won’t overcook because the fish physically can’t get any hotter than the temperature of the water around it.

And this is important because it means perfectly cooked fish from end to end, inside and out, thin bits and thick bits. No overcooked edges or undercooked middles. Just supremely flaky, buttery, silky fish.

It’s hard to truly communicate to you the lusciousness of this sous vide fish without you trying it for yourself. It flakes into pieces under your fork, but it’s also so soft that it practically melts on your tongue. It reminds me of the texture of silken tofu — the way it’s so smooth and tender that it’s almost creamy. You have to try it to believe it.

Now let’s talk about the other aspect of this technique: how well it works as a freezer meal. How is this? Because another advantage of cooking sous vide is that you can cook foods while they’re still fully frozen. You freeze and cook the salmon in the same freezer bag. I love it.

Let’s say you find some salmon on sale, or you know you have a particularly busy few weeks coming up, or you just want to stash a few fillets away for emergency weeknight dinners. Bundle up your fillets in their own personal freezer bags, stash them in the freezer, and pull them out whenever you need an easy meal, no thawing or pre-planning required.

This works because the temperature of a sous vide water bath is so steady and the food cooks so quickly. The fish cooks nearly as fast as it thaws, and no part is ever in a temperature danger zone long enough for there to be any food safety risk. Nifty, right?

Sous vide salmon needs little more than salt, pepper, and olive oil to transform itself into a delicious dinner, and if this is what you’re into, then I say go for it.

But if you want to perk things up a bit, I highly recommend this teriyaki version. It’s a simple teriyaki marinade, made with just soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar), garlic, and ginger, and it adds a sweet-salty-tangy flavor to the fish. Add a few tablespoons to the bag along with your salmon fillet and you’re set.

From there, you can cook the fillets right away or freeze them for up to 3 months. Even if you’re planning to cook the fillets within a day or two, I’d still recommend sticking them in the freezer so they don’t over-marinate, plus then you don’t need to worry if your plans change and you don’t get around to making your lovely fish dinner.

I use the Joule smartphone app from ChefSteps to set the temperature and cooking time for my salmon, which syncs with their Joule immersion circulator. It’s worth noting that even if you have a different immersion circulator, you can still use the Joule app to calculate temperature and cooking time for your sous vide meals. It’s really a very handy app with lots of basic sous vide recipes and helpful step-by-step tutorials.

Once you’re done cooking, drain off the teriyaki sauce from inside the bag, whisk in a little cornstarch to thicken it up, and spoon it over the salmon as a glaze. This all ends up looking a little brown and mundane (which is the opposite of how it tastes), so I recommend a sprinkling of green onions or cilantro to brighten up the plate.

And there you have it! Easy freezer meal. Restaurant-worthy salmon dinner. All thanks to the magic of sous vide cooking.

Curious to give sous vide a try? Check out the Joule immersion circulator from ChefSteps. (I love mine!)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon or salmon fillets, 1-inch thick
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cornstarch, for thickening the sauce
  • Sliced green onions or chopped cilantro, to serve

Special equipment:

  • The Joule or other sous vide immersion circulator
  • Quart-sized freezer bag (I use Ziploc)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon or salmon fillets, 1-inch thick
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cornstarch, for thickening the sauce
  • Sliced green onions or chopped cilantro, to serve

Special equipment:

  • The Joule or other sous vide immersion circulator
  • Quart-sized freezer bag (I use Ziploc)

Method

1 Get ready: Pull out 4 freezer bag, and label each bag with the recipe and the basic cooking instructions (you’ll thank me for this later when you’re trying to remember which recipe to follow!). Flip the zip-top edge of the bag outward, forming a cuff around the bag. This helps the bag stay open and upright.

Fill a large bowl or stock pot with 4 or 5 inches of water. Lay out a kitchen towel.

2 Make the teriyaki marinade: Whisk together the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, and vinegar for the marinade.

3 Cut the salmon into 4 portions (if not already done). Aim for equal portions, though it’s fine if they are different shapes. If you’re buying at fish counter, you can also ask the person at the counter to do this for you.

4 Season the salmon: Divide the garlic and ginger between the fillets (about 1 teaspoon of each per fillet). Use your fingers to spread the garlic and ginger evenly over the surface of the salmon. This step helps them stick to the surface of the salmon after the teriyaki marinade is added.

5 Transfer the salmon to freezer bags: Slide one fillet into each bag. Usually the fillets fit in the bottom of the bag (as pictures), but it’s fine if they are sideways.

6 Add the marinade and seal the bag: Holding the bag upright, add about 3 tablespoons of marinade to the bag. Flip the cuff back up and seal the bag almost closed, leaving about an inch un-zipped.

Holding the bag by the unzipped portion, submerge the bag in the pot of water. Use your other hand to gently press out any air pockets from around the salmon. Lower the bag right up to the unzipped portion so that all the air bubbles are forced out, then pinch the bag closed.

Lift the bag out of the water; the plastic should hug the sides of the salmon, pressing right up against the fish. If it doesn’t, or if you see any big air bubbles around the salmon, repeat sealing the bag. (Read more here.)

Transfer the bag to the kitchen towel and pat dry. Repeat with adding the marinade and sealing the remaining freezer bags of salmon.

7 Cook or freeze the salmon: If desired, skip to the next step and cook the salmon right away. Otherwise, freeze the salmon overnight or up to 3 months. The marinade will become opaque but may not completely solidify; this is normal. Even if you plan on eating the salmon within a few days, I’d recommend freezing it so that the fish doesn’t over-marinate.

8 When ready to cook, heat the sous vide bath: Fill a large pot with at least 6 inches of water. Add the Joule (or other sous vide device) and heat the water to 122F.

9 Cook the fish: Once the sous vide bath is heated, add as many salmon fillets as you’d like to cook. (Do not thaw frozen salmon.) It’s fine if the tops of the bags poke out from the surface of the water, but the salmon itself should be completely submerged. Add additional water if needed to cover.

Cook fresh (unfrozen) salmon for about 40 minutes, or cook frozen salmon for 70 minutes. Salmon can be left in the sous vide bath for up to 30 minutes after the end of cooking without significant change in flavor or texture (after 30 minutes, it starts to get a little mushy).

When done, pull all the bags from the water and lay them on a kitchen towel. Pat the bags dry.

10 Make the teriyaki sauce: Holding the bag over a microwave-safe measuring cup, snip one of the corners of the bag and empty the teriyaki marinade into the cup. Add water as needed so that you have 1/4 cup of liquid for every salmon fillet you have prepared. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch for every 1/4 cup of liquid.

Microwave on high in 30 second bursts, whisking between each burst, until the sauce thickens and bubbles around the edges (about 30 seconds for each quarter cup). If it doesn’t seem to be thickening, whisk in another 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch for each 1/4 cup and continue heating.

11 Serve the salmon: While the sauce is heating, slide each salmon fillet out of its bag and onto a plate. If you’d like crispy skin (optional), warm a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear the salmon, skin-side down, for a few minutes or until the skin is browned and crispy.

Transfer each fillet to a plate, drizzle each one with sauce, and sprinkle with sliced green onions or chopped cilantro. Serve warm.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Baked Sweet Potato Taquitos

These Sweet Potato Taquitos are vegan and baked instead of fried for a healthy riff on one of our favorite fried foods. They’re just as crunchy and great with some cashew cream sauce on the side.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 24 taquitos, enough for 6 to 8 for dinner or 8 to 12 as an appetizer

I have a weakness for fried foods. I think it’s that perfect crunching sound when you take a bite, but I’m sure the hot-delicious melted insides help a bit, too.

It’s actually one of the reasons I’ve always refused to buy a fryer—moderation and fried foods aren’t words that tend to go together in my own life so I’ve always avoided buying a fryer. I can’t be trusted.

Since we don’t often fry foods in our house, I’ve gotten creative over the years with baking foods you’d traditionally fry. Some experiments don’t work, while others, such as these taquitos, are almost as crispy and golden brown as their fried counterpart. A little bit of oil brushed on the tortillas is really all you need.

BAKED VEGAN TAQUITOS

For the filling, especially vegan filling like the one I’m using today, I like to stick to a vegetable or two along with beans — black, pinto, or white beans. Mashed beans make for a filling that sticks together, which makes the taquitos easier to roll. (Want to make your beans from scratch? Here’s how to make them on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker.)

I like to swap out the vegetables depending on the season. Right now, with our crisp fall weather, I gravitate toward sweet potatoes. But for spring, it’s all about the greens such as kale and spinach, and in the summer, it’s zucchini and peppers.

HOW TO ASSEMBLE TAQUITOS

Once the filling is made, making the taquitos is as simple as rolling the taquitos, brushing them with bit of oil, and baking them.

A few words of wisdom from over the years: smaller, store-bought tortillas that have been heated in a damp towel make for the best assembly. I’ve found the shelf-stable tortillas to work best second to fresh, homemade tortillas. If your tortilla cracks while rolling, they probably aren’t warm or damp enough.

Also, after rolling, make sure the taquitos are placed seam side down. And to duplicate that perfect crunch, brushing the taquitos with oil before baking.

FREEZER-FRIENDLY TAQUITOS

These sweet potato taquitos freeze well. Just place the assembled taquitos on a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper. Make sure the taquitos are not touching each other. Pop the sheet pan in the freezer and freeze them until they’re solid. Transfer the taquitos to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to six months.

There’s no need to thaw before baking. Just add about 5 minutes to the bake time.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH TAQUITOS

To keep these vegan, I like to drizzle with a variation of the cashew sauce. It’s great with cilantro and garlic—I like to keep it simple.

Eat these taquitos as a tasty movie snack or serve with them alongside a simple salad with greens and roasted vegetables for a light vegan dinner. These taquitos are also a great hand-held toddler meal! Instead of topping the taquitos, I give my son a small bowl of cashew dip with these taquitos.

More Great Vegetarian Tex-Mex Recipes to Try!

  • Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos with Ranch Sauce
  • BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Tacos
  • Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
  • Texas Stacked Enchiladas with Corn and Black Beans
  • Avocado Toast with Pan-Seared Corn, Olives, and Queso Fresco

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed; liquid reserved (or about 2 cups homemade beans)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 24 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil for brushing

For the dip:

  • 1 cup creamy vegan cashew “cheese” sauce
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

To serve:

  • Cilantro
  • Minced red onion

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed; liquid reserved (or about 2 cups homemade beans)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 24 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil for brushing

For the dip:

  • 1 cup creamy vegan cashew “cheese” sauce
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

To serve:

  • Cilantro
  • Minced red onion

Method

1 Make the filling: In a medium skillet, combine the shredded sweet potatoes with the black beans, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the bean liquid.

Simmer the mixture until the sweet potatoes are tender; 6 to 8 minutes. Lightly mash the black beans and stir in the minced cilantro.

2 Warm the tortillas: Wrap tortillas in a damp towel and place in a 300˚F oven for roughly 10 minutes to warm. Alternatively, wrap the tortillas in damp paper towels and place in the microwave for 20 seconds or so.

3 Assemble the taquitos: Place a tortilla in front of you. Scoop 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling onto the third of the tortilla closest to you. Roll the edge closest to you over the filling and tuck the edge tightly under. Then, continue to roll.

Place the taquito seam side down on a baking tray lined with parchment. Stick with a toothpick if necessary to keep the filling from falling out. Repeat with remaining filling. (Depending on how much filling you’ve used with each taquito, you may have tortillas leftover.)

At this point, the taquitos can be frozen for up to 6 months; see headnotes for detailed freezing and reheating instructions.

4 Bake the taquitos: Preheat your oven to 425˚F. Brush with olive oil and bake for 18 to 22 minutes until tortillas are browning and crisp.

5 Assemble the dip: While the taquitos are baking, in a small bowl combine the cashew cream with the cilantro, garlic, and salt.

 6 Serve: Serve the taquitos with the cashew dip drizzled on top, along with a sprinkle of cilantro and minced red onion, if desired.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , , ,

How to Cook Dried Beans

Here is (literally) everything you need to know about cooking dried beans at home. With a few tips, beans are really so easy, and there are literally hundreds of ways you can use them! The texture can’t be beat, and you can always freeze what you don’t use.

Ready in:

  • Cooking time: 45 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the type of bean
  • Yield: About 6 cups cooked beans

Home-cooked dried beans are an easy way to stretch a dollar, boost the nutritional value of dinner, and round out a meal. Canned beans also have a place in my home, but the flavor, texture, and versatility of dried beans can’t be beaten.

The key to cooking a delicious batch of from-scratch beans on the stovetop depends on two things: the age of your beans and knowing when to salt them. The rest is up to you.

WHICH DRIED BEANS TO COOK

I use this simple stovetop method for small, medium, or large beans such as the following:

  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • Navy beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Great Northern beans
  • Cannellini beans.

Note: This method will not work for lentils or split peas, which are not really beans per se but still in the legume family. Lentils cook much quicker than the aforementioned beans and don’t require pre-cooking.

HOW OLD ARE YOUR BEANS?

If you’ve ever spent hours on end cooking beans and they are still too firm to enjoy, the culprit probably isn’t the recipe or your cooking technique, but rather the bean itself. If you happen to get to the point where you’ve cooked these beans and come to this unfortunate end, unfortunately, your best bet is to pitch them.

For the most part, dry beans are best used within two years of harvest. Knowing a harvest date isn’t always the easiest, but most dry beans at the supermarket have a best buy date printed on the bag. Check it before you buy or, barring that, if you’ve got a random bag lying around in the pantry, before you cook it.

If the beans are past their prime, save them for pie weights and replace them with something fresher.

To ensure freshness when shopping for beans at the supermarket look for the best buy date on the bag and have a general idea of when want to cook them. Alternatively, look for local producers at your farmers market and ask them about harvest dates.

The best part about beans that they are a relatively low maintenance and low cost nutritional powerhouse. You don’t need to overthink them.  

SHOULD YOU SOAK YOUR BEANS?

The Internet debate on soaking will go on until the end of time. Overnight soak, quick soak, or no soak at all—these are all hotly contended!

The biggest benefit to soaking beans the night before you want to use them is that it will reduce your cooking time. Look at your schedule for the day and the time you have on your hands, and make the best choice for you. If that is a priority for you, then by all means soak away.

I tested both Great Northern Beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas). I found that the unsoaked beans took only 30 minutes longer than the soaked beans to reach peak tenderness, and I didn’t notice a discernible difference in texture when it came to the finished bean.

Like many things when it comes to home cooking, your desire to soak or not soak is a personal choice. You will not destroy your beans, your dinner, or your gastrointestinal system by choosing one method over the other.

Ready to soak (or not)?! See below for the scoop on each method.

OPTION 1: SOAK YOUR BEANS OVERNIGHT

This method is for you because:

  • Soaking reduces cooking time
  • Creates a plumper bean that cooks evenly
  • Reduces the beans’ negative impact on your digestive system

What to do: Put the beans in a bowl. Cover with water. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. Leave overnight on the countertop. Drain, rinse, cook, and eat.

OPTION 2: QUICK-SOAKING YOUR BEANS

This method is for you because:

  • Like the overnight soaking method, this reduces the cooking time, which is nice when you are braising beans like in this Cowboy Beans

What to do: Put beans in a pot. Cover with water. Bring them to a boil. Cover. Remove from heat and let rest in the warm water for an hour depending upon the bean. Proceed with recipe.

OPTION 3: DON’T SOAK YOUR BEANS

This method is for you because:

  • Soaking requires planning ahead and that’s not your jam.
  • You want creamy beans. When you soak beans, they release starch in the soaking water, which can reduce the creaminess of the beans in your final dish.
  • You like bold colors. You want your black beans black and your red beans red. No soaking means more of the color stays with the bean, and not leached out in the water.

What to do: Put beans in a pot. Cover with water. Cook. Eat.

HOW LONG TO COOK DRIED BEANS

Since cooking time depends on the age of your beans and whether your soaked them, there’s just no way of providing specific cook times when it comes to beans, but in general:

  • Small beans (black beans, black-eyed peas and navy beans): 45 to 90 minutes
  • Medium beans (Great Northern, kidney, pinto, garbanzo beans): 60 to 120 minutes
  • Large beans (large Lima, Cannellini beans, butter beans): 80 to 180 minutes

Want really fast beans? Make them in the pressure cooker! How to Make Fast, No-Soak Beans in the Pressure Cooker

WHEN TO SALT YOUR BEANS

This debate about salt is as endless and contested as the soaking debate.

In my tests, salting the beans at the beginning of the cook time resulted in a firm-textured bean that took longer to cook. However, salting the beans in the middle of the cooking process gave the beans enough time to season properly and resulted in a creamy texture. The latter is definitely better.

In short, season the beans with salt when they are tender enough to taste (meaning you can bite through them), but not completely cooked through (still a little toothsome). This may be anywhere from half to three quarters of the way through the cooking process.

A NOTE ON ADDING SUGAR TO BEANS

If you want to make sweet beans, such as Boston Baked Beans, prepare yourself for the long haul. Sugar, like salt, makes it difficult for the beans to soften. They will eventually cook, but it can take five hours or better.

HOW TO MAKE A POT OF BEANS

Here’s the run-down of how to make a basic pot of beans, bringing together everything we’ve talked about so far:

  1. Sort the beans. Toss out any stones and wrinkled beans. Give them a quick rinse under running water.
  2. Soak or don’t; it’s up to you.
  3. Add beans to a pot and cover with three inches of water. Do not add salt.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Don’t let the beans boil aggressively or they will break apart and turn to mush. A slow and gentle simmer is the best way to cook a bean.
  5. Add salt when the beans are edible but al dente. If you add the salt too soon, it takes longer for the interior of the bean to become tender. If you add it too late then the beans won’t be fully seasoned.
  6. Test the beans every 15 minutes toward the end of the cooking time to determine when they are perfect for you.

A few extra notes:

  • For soups and salads, pull the beans off the heat when they are cooked through, and tender, but not creamy. This assumes they will continue to cook in the soup, and you want them to hold together in your salad.
  • For beans you plan to use on their own or in a dip, let them cook until soft and tender, but still intact. Cooks Illustrated recommends covering the beans, removing them from heat and letting the residual heat continue cooking the beans until they reach your desired consistency.
  • I’ve been known to let the cooking water reduce, while stirring occasionally to help release the starches, which creates a creamy bean broth that I personally love.

WAYS TO FLAVOR A POT OF BEANS

From the start of cooking:

  • Add 1 bay leaf, 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, and a handful of parsley stems tied with twine, so they can be easily removed from the pot. Peel and quarter a yellow onion. Leave the stem end intact and toss half of it into the pot as well.
  • Toss peppercorns, chilis, cumin seeds, garlic cloves, and coriander seeds in a square of cheesecloth. Tie it up and add it to a pot of black beans, pinto beans or black-eyed peas.
  • Add onion, cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika at the beginning of the cook time.
  • Add parsley stems, thyme, onion, garlic, and carrot.

After the beans have been cooked and drained:

  • I’ve never met a pot of beans that didn’t benefit from a little red wine vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice.
  • For Italian-inspired beans (and my favorite way to eat white beans): Drizzle them with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and freshly minced parsley.
  • South of the Border Beans: Add lime juice, chopped chilis, freshly minced red onions, and cilantro.

HOW LONG DO COOKED BEANS KEEP?

Once cooked, beans will keep in the fridge for up to four days and can be frozen for months. Whether you store the beans in their cooking liquid or drain them first is depends on how you intend to use them.

If I know I’m probably going to use the beans as a side dish on their own or in a soup, then I want the creamy liquid full of starchy goodness. If I will probably use them in a salad or possibly a mashed filling in my child’s black bean quesadillas, then I will likely drain them.

HOW TO FREEZE COOKED BEANS

If you’re looking for a great way to maximize space and get ahead of the cooking game, check out Emma’s post on How to Freeze Beans and Broth.

Save your Cooking Liquid!

If you don’t store the bean in their liquid save it anyway. Depending upon how you season the beans the cooking liquid can be frozen and added to soups or chilis to add body.

You can also reduce the liquid until it becomes Aquafaba (bean water). It’s ready when the consistency of the cooking liquid is similar to egg whites. Then use it as an egg replacer in any number of recipes. Vegans have been doing it for years.

GREAT RECIPES TO USE A POT OF BEANS

  • Lemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans
  • Refried Beans
  • Kale and Sausage with White Beans
  • Easy Black Beans and Rice
  • Texas Stacked Enchiladas with Corn and Black Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans, such as chickpeas, great northern, cannellini, navy, or black beans
  • Water
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans, such as chickpeas, great northern, cannellini, navy, or black beans
  • Water
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Method

1 Sort through the beans: Pull out and discard any small stones or wrinkled or broken beans.

2 Soak the beans (optional): Place the beans in bowl. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water. Cover and leave on the countertop until you are ready to cook them the following day. Drain the water. Rinse the beans.

Alternatively, you can quick-soak your beans or skip soaking altogether; see above for a breakdown of these options.

3 Cook the beans: In a large pot set over medium high heat, add the beans (either soaked or unsoaked) and cover them with water until it reaches about 3 inches above the beans.

Bring the beans up to a boil, then reduce the heat to gentle simmer. Leave the pot uncovered and cook.

4 Salt the beans: After about 40 minutes, check a bean to taste it. If it’s firm, but tender, add 4 teaspoons of salt. Give the pot a gentle stir.

Continue cooking until the beans are creamy, but intact, about another 20 to 50 minutes.

Note: Total cooking time will vary based on the type of bean, the age, and whether you soaked or not. See total cooking time estimates in the headnotes above.

5 Store or serve: If serving immediately, drain the beans through a fine mesh sieve and place them in a bowl. Season as desired (see headnotes for suggestions) and serve.

If storing, allow the beans to cool completely in their liquid, and then store in their broth in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to three months.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Freezer-friendly   Tags: , ,

Next Page »