Friday, September 28, 2012

Trick-or-Treat Bag

With October only a few days away, I felt the need to add something a little spooky to my Etsy shop.  

Who's kidding who,  I don't do "spooky!"  I like to stick to the "cuteness" genre.  And so you'll find, an adorably cute jack-o-lantern trick-or-treat bag, just in time for Halloween!

It's the perfect little bag for little ones to carry along as they trick-or-treat through the neighbourhood, collecting loads of goodies and candy.  It is made with a nice durable twill fabric.  It's fully lined which makes it completely reversible, just in case you need to hide that super scary pumpkin face! If you want more details you can check it out in my shop.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Emporio 74

First it was a Spanish blog, now it's an Italian blog!  My Etsy shop was featured on Emporio 74.  

I love deciphering through another language to read about my products.  Emporio 74 is a beautiful blog.  I loved searching through it, even if I was just looking at the pictures!  I'm a visual learner.  I always give things a visual scan first before reading anything.  Yes, I judge a book by its cover. Sorry!

Grazie, Emporio 74 for the mention!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Homemade Ketchup

I tried making something new this summer - Homemade Ketchup.  Let me tell you, it's delicious!

I had thought about making it last summer but I wasn't convinced that the taste and consistency would even compare to the well known Heinz brand.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it tasted even better than Heinz Ketchup.  Seriously!  The consistency has room for improvement but it's pretty close.  You really need to simmer it for a LONG time before it starts to thicken up.  I simmered mine for a little over 2 hours and it still could have used a little more time.

I've seen many recipes over the years for homemade ketchup but it wasn't until I got my hands on the book, Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff, that I knew I had found the one for me.  I have borrowed this book from the library several times and fell in love with it more and more each time.  Not only is it filled with amazing canning recipes, but it also has recipes for you to use your preserves in!  Pie, cobbler, tarts, curry, chili, soups, you name it.  On top of all that, it has excellent step by step instructions and endless tips on everything.  My wonderful mom just bought it for me last week for my birthday, so I now have my very own copy!  Thanks, mom!
Here's the recipe for you.  I doubled it and I went a little easy on the spices.

Good Ketchup
Makes about 4 half-pint jars

1 tbsp olive oil
8 ounces onion (about 1 large), chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
7 pounds tomatoes, preferable Roma, chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity), or more to taste
1/2 cup packed brown sugar or honey, or 1/3 cup agave nectar, or more to taste
2 tsp pure kosher salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground all spice
1/4 tsp ground cayenne

In a wide, 6- to 8-quart preserving pan, hear the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and soft but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes.  Pass the mixture through a strainer or a feed mill fitted with the smallest holes to remove the seeds, or puree the mixture in a blender in batches then push it through a sieve.

Return the puree to the pan.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently to prevent the solids from sticking at the bottom, until thick, this could take as long as 2 hours, depending on your patience and your need for thickness.  Taste, and add more vinegar or sugar as necessary.

Ladle hot ketchup into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top.  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it's just finger-tight.  Return the jars to the prepared water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, boil for 20 minutes to process.  Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours.  After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the centre of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately.  Label the sealed jars and store.

Cooking down the onions.
Adding the spices.  This is when the lovely aroma begins!
The tomatoes are soft and ready for pureeing.
After going through the food processor in several batches and strained through a sieve.
This is what didn't make it through the sieve.
Final product!

We are loving this ketchup on our veggie burgers and veggie dogs.  It has also been great with grilled cheese and homemade fries.  I think it will make lovely Christmas gifts.  I love putting together a basket of my homemade preserves, along with other little goodies, to share with friends and family during the holidays.

If you like canning or are interested in learning more about it, you will love this book!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Busy Back to School Season

Pepper Picnic has had a very busy Back to School season.  It has been wonderful!  Thanks to everyone for all their business and support!  

It's great to know that so many families are choosing reusable bags for their kids lunches (and their own) instead of plastic.  Thanks to the many blogs and websites for featuring my products this year, and for bringing awareness to others about reusable bags and all the great little handmade businesses out there.

Thanks to Whatsername Jewelry for recently featuring my bird print snack bag on their website. There are lots of great Halloween ideas going on over there right now.  Stop by and check them out!

Look how pretty this Halloween wreath is.  You can make it too!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Canning Tomatoes

I'm still here!  It's just been a crazy busy time - lots of canning and a busy back to school season!

We love tomatoes in my house and nothing beats a juicy garden fresh tomato.  Come the middle of winter in Canada and it's hard to find anything close to a fresh juicy tomato.  That's why we love canning our own tomatoes so we can enjoy them all winter long.  

We usually can big round tomatoes, like Beefsteak, but this year we went with some beautiful Romas.  We always use Romas when making our homemade salsa but this year we decided to use them for canning as well.  Romas, also known as plum tomatoes, are a great tomato.  They are excellent for canning because they have far less water and seeds and a lot more "beef" to them.  Which leads to a thicker sauce in a quicker amount of time when cooking them down.

Canning tomatoes is fairly easy.  It's just a matter or washing, peeling and coring and then stuffing them into jars with a little hot liquid and then canning them in the canner.  If you want to try canning your own tomatoes (or anything for that matter) has some great recipes with very well laid out instructions and photos to guide you through the process.

This little girls loves to help with canning!

Some of our favourite ways to use our canned tomatoes are in soups, stews, chili and casseroles.  The family's all time favourite is Chana Masala!  I'll have to share that recipe with you soon!