Caramelized Butternut Squash

butternut

Winter squashes are not only great decorations before cooking, but also delicious,nutritious, and add beautiful color to our fall table.  My favorite is Butternut Squash.  Roasting and caramelizing adds an amazing layer of flavor.  Try using any leftovers in soup or salad!

Caramelized Butternut Squash

2 medium butternut squash (6-8 cups cubed) (I have used Costco’s precut squash for super quick and easy preparation)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Note:  cinnamon or cayenne may be added for varying flavor

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off and discard the ends of  butternut squash. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds with a spoon. Cut into  1-inch cubes and pour onto baking sheet lined with foil (for easier cleanup). Add melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Toss and spread in a single layer. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize on edges. Turn the squash a few times with a spatula.  Remove to serving dish.

 

The Real Dill

IMG_1629

 In Texas, we consider dill a cool-weather annual. Plant this herb in the fall, typically mid- to late October, and you can begin harvesting leaves around eight weeks later. It prefers temperatures between 40º and 78º F, but you’ll find mature plants are frost-tolerant.

Our dill harvest is usually over long before we have much to pickle. To preserve dill for the cucumber or okra harvest yet to come, cut fresh dill fronds and bloom heads into segments  2 to 3 inches in length. Fill a gallon-sized glass jar with the dill segments and completely cover with white vinegar (or your pickling vinegar of choice). If the jar has a metal lid, be certain to cover the jar first with a double layer of plastic wrap before screwing on the metal lid. This will prevent corrosion. Place the jar in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to start pickling your harvest. By then, your pickling vinegar will be well flavored and can be used as directed in a favorite recipe. I found this information in  a Texas Gardener magazine article.

One of our family’s favorite “real dills” is pickled okra. To use the preserved dill and vinegar as described above, use this recipe for small batches of pickled vegetables. We also like to add sliced jalapenos.

Basic Pickling Liquid

2 cups dill infused cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 whole cloves garlic
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup equal parts mustard seed, black peppercorns, coriander seed, dill seed and lightly crushed red pepper (approx. 2-1/2 teaspoons each)

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Pour hot liquid over clean, prepared vegetables, add some of the reserved dill leaves and stems from the dill vinegar, and refrigerate until well flavored.

IMG_1772

Blueberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam

016

Red, White, and Blueberry!   Happy Fourth of July!

As promised, the jam I made last week is here for you to see.  The recipe could easily be titled 3B Jam!  Although most of my small batch preserving goes into the refrigerator for safe keeping, I acutally put these jars into a traditional hot water bath for 10 minutes, sealing them nicely for storage on my pantry shelf.  A number of ways to set up water bath canning make it easy for anyone to do.  If you have a stock pot with a circular rack that fits the bottom and a fitted lid, that will work.  There are canning sets available from multiple sources, for prices that range from $ to $$$.  Let me give you the short version!  You can go online and order a large blue granite (enameled) pot with handled rack which handles all sizes of jars) to be picked up onsite at Walmart for $19.99.  Or, if you have a stockpot already, go to Sur le Tables and buy only the rack for $11.99.  I liked this option because 1)I don’t need another big pot to store – 2) this rack has 2 sides:  one holds 7 8 or 16 oz. canning jars, flip it and the other side will hold 4 quart jars.  This is perfect for most of the smaller amounts that I usually have when I make jam or jelly.

Recipe adapted from one found at www.coconutandlime.com

Blueberry, Balsamic and Black Pepper Jam

8-10 cups fresh blueberries

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 box Certo liquid pectin, both packets

1 tablespoon black pepper

 

Equipment:

7-8 8 ounce Mason jars, or other glass canning jars.  Avoid using recycled food jars.

Lids and Rings to fit jar size you are using.  Always buy new lids if you are going to seal them in a water bath for shelf storage.

large stockpot for water bath

separate pot for cooking berries

large bowl for mashing berries

potato masher

long-handled wooden spoon

ladle

wide mouth funnel for filling jars

Wide tongs for lifting jars out of water bath. (these can also be bought where other canning supplies are sold)

Pour the berries into a bowl and mash with a potato masher. A blender or food processor will overdo the crushing, so just muster up the elbow grease for this job. It is almost as good therapy as kneading bread!  Measure it out. There should be about 6 cups of mashed berries. Add sugar and blueberries to a large pot.  It is a good idea to have a pot big enough for berries to only fill about 1/3 full, as ingredients will tend to boil over in smaller pot.

007

If you are using a water bath, fill the large stockpot to a level that would be 1 or 2 inches above jars when placed on rack. Start heating to a boil.  This takes a long time.

Prep jars/lids for canning. I like to put all into the dishwasher and run a sanitize cycle, then place the jars upright while still hot on a towel. Lids should be put into a bowl covered with very hot water.

008

Stirring occasionally with a long-handled wooden spoon, bring the sugar and blueberries to a boil. Boil for about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the pectin. Continue cooking at a low (rolling) boil for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Fill the jars, wiping off lids and threads. Place lids on top and screw on rings. When stock pot water is boiling, lower the jars to rack and process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars carefully, setting them upright on a towel very gently. Leave overnight, during which time you may hear the popping of lids as they seal.  In the morning, press down on the center of each lid. If the lid pops back up, it did not seal, and that jar should be refrigerated for storage.  Tighten screw rings again, wipe off any sticky on the jars, and label if you wish.

Yield: about 7 8-oz jars

010

Note: A good source of canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. There is also good information on the information sheets packed inside Certo boxes.