12.07.2011

Prepping for Canning Christmas Presents, and Peanut Butter is Amazing

Yesterday I finally got some time to prepare for my big canning project.  This year, I am borrowing my sister-in-law's idea of home-making Christmas presents.  I will be giving out a canned jar of my favorite Thai Peanut Sauce.

The recipe for the peanut sauce, obviously requires a lot of peanut butter to make a large batch for canning.  For this recipe, I like to use my own homemade peanut butter.  After having homemade peanut butter, trust me, you will never go back to the creamy, salty, processed peanut butter you buy at the grocery store.  I have tried other natural peanut butters from health food stores, but I still prefer mine.  I get my peanuts from Winco, a local grocery store, in the bulk food items, and I usually get the unsalted, roasted peanuts.  If you get unsalted, unroasted peanuts, you can just as easily make raw nut butter.

So where did I learn to make peanut butter?  From, what I consider the authority on nut butters, a blog called "Heather Eat's Almond Butter", specifically this post.  It is relatively simple: with your nut of choice, place a good amount into a food processor (no more than half-way full), and grind, grind, grind!  At first, depending on your nut choice, it will turn into a crumbly, granular powder.  Eventually it starts to become nice and smooth.  Depending on what nut you use, and the quality of your food processor, this could take a few minutes, or a while longer.  I know that I have a very small food processor, but it handles nut butters fairly well.  If it feels like it's taking a long time to thicken and become creamy, let the mixture sit for 5 minutes and try again.  I find that this let's the nuts have time to leak their natural oils, and make blending a lot easier and faster.  Here is me with one batch (I had several batches to make enough butter for canning I'll do another day):


As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have never canned anything before, but I have done quite a bit of research so far.  I'm planning on canning my sauce on Sunday this week, so pictures and funny stories are sure to come after that.  When I was young, I remember my grandma canning in her kitchen.  She usually canned raspberry, grape, or strawberry jelly, which was a family favorite we could enjoy all year.  As my very loved and missed grandma has passed away two summers ago, I will be able to use her canning equipment, with new jars I have purchased.  I'm hoping with her canning pot, jar rack, and widened funnel, I will be able to channel her canning skill and know-how, all while remembering her importance in my life during this wonderful Christmas time.  

My grandma taught me many things, from card games, to baking and cooking.  The most important lesson in the kitchen she taught me was just to be scrappy.  By that I mean, don't always follow the rules of baking and cooking and just do things the way you want to.  A lesson I think is very well reflected in my recipes on this blog.  One of my favorite memories of her, is when we made peanut butter oatmeal cookies, or something along those lines.  Near the end, the dough was so thick, my little arms could barely mix it, so my grandma had me wash my hands and just go-for-it!  I had the best time just mixing the dough with my hands and the cookies came out better for it, and better for grandpa to enjoy sampling.

Another large influence of my cooking life has been my mom.  The most important thing my mom has taught me is the value in having a meal together.  At least four nights a week when I lived at home, my family and I were lucky enough to have a homemade meal.  That is something I hope to continue with a family of my own someday.

I know that my cooking skills and love of, what I consider one of my hobbies, has come from my grandma and my mom.  I was so lucky to learn as much as I did (and am still learning) from these wonderful women.  And since my mother has become plant-strong, we have found a new way to connect and enjoy ourselves cooking together and talking about recipes every chance we get.  

Who started your love of cooking (and eating)?  What is the best lesson about cooking or life that you have learned from them?

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