Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Campbell's Tomato Soup...

I am addicted to soup...the home made kind...eating it, making it, it really doesn't matter.

Not all people have that kind of time on their hands...to be making home made soups.

I have to admit, I have been guilty of using canned soups.
For some strange reason, my lil guy's favorite soup is Italian Wedding Soup...
That is one soup I probably wouldn't bother making from scratch...

Even still...when I do resort you packaged foods, I try to dress them up as much as I can.

Take plain jane Tomato Soup for example.
It's a classic...

Italian spice Tomato Soup with garlic cheddar biscuits

This soup serves as a perfect starting point for great cooking!

You can add it to sauces, stews, dips and chilis for thicker, sweeter consistency.
Its the main ingredient in my tangy saucy meatballs that are a potluck mainstay.
The same sauce can be used on spare ribs as well.

If I'm just making soup...
I'll add a number of different ingredients to change the flavour up.

Italian:  Thyme, oregano, garlic powder and parmesan cheese.
Mexican:  green peppers, chili powder and red pepper flakes, topped with sour cream.
Cheesy:  mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
Sweet:  marjoram and a pinch of white sugar
Fall:  pumpkin puree, turmeric and a pinch of nutmeg

You can visit www.campbellsoup.com and click on the Campbell's kitchen tab
for more recipes and ideas.
Be warned, they do feature Campbell's products heavily.
The purpose of my post was to explain that using some forms of 
ready made food is alright...
as long as you know what you are buying.
I highly encourage people to read the label.
If there is one thing in that list you can't pronounce or explain its
origins...put it BACK!
I feel that Campbell's tomato soup is simple and every item
on the ingredients is real.

If you are specifically looking for soup recipes, click here to head directly
to the soup page at Campbells.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tapping those Sugar Maples....part 2

Part 1 was originally posted last winter...

...we now return to our show!

Collecting the sap has proven to be the easiest part of the process!
Filtering and storing the sap is tricky, but can be done.
The best comparison I've found is milk.
You must store the unprocessed sap like you would milk.
You have to keep it cool but not frozen.

We kept the sap in the snowbank in sealed buckets.

Cover them up too...

Fantastic Husband then constructed a very basic module for processing the sap.
He took our copper firepit and loaded it with wood.
Around the firepit, he placed several green logs (wood not seasoned/dried) for use as supports.
On top of those green logs, he placed a door from a fence we disassembled on the property.
He filled some large pots with the sap and boiled slowly for about a day.

He collected, stored and processed sap for about 2 weeks before his enthusiasm diminished.
That's about when the sap started running like CRAZY.

He asked me one night...should I keep collecting sap?
He felt obliged to the trees to continue tapping.
My response was simple...if you are asking the question, then you've already made up your mind.

Quit now (while you're ahead) before the whole experience makes you bitter.

After the sap boiled outside for the day,
he would bring the pots inside to continue to boil the sap down on the stove top.
That's when the process becomes very tricky.

We went through a whole batch before someone mentioned adding milk.
Something we hadn't really read about...or read and didn't really believe that was a necessary step.
The sap has dusty sediment called affectionately called sugar dust.
It isn't harmful...but it also isn't pretty.
You add the milk towards the end and it miraculously clarifies the sap.
You end up with a more translucent sap!

If you boil the sap too long, you get candy instead of syrup.
The only item we neglected to pick up before starting this endeavour was a candy thermometer.
I mean, how many opportunities do you have to use a candy thermometer?!?!
(Not much in our house...there's already too much store bought stuff)

I never would have thought we would be tapping maple trees...and yet there we were...

Ah well,  the first batch was a bit thick.
The second, third and fourth batches were much better!
Above you can see the difference in colour between batches.
The longer you wait in the tapping season, the darker the colour of syrup.

We put the thicker candy-like syrup on some snow.
Made Husband and I feel like we kids all over again.

(The actual kids loved it too)

We used to have a family tradition of eating pancakes on Saturday mornings.
That was before I became a shift-working, part timer.
Most of my shift happen on the weekends now, but we still have wonderful memories.
Pancakes on snowy mornings...

We decided to try something a little different this year.

French Toast!

Owen helped while I observed.

The fresh homemade maple syrup was better than I could have imagined.
It tasted like the wood we used to boil it down.
Delicate hints of cedar and poplar, not to mention the smokey flavour that permeated the sauce.
It was like maple syrup straight out of the woods!
It was by no means a highly industrialized effort.
In the end, it was a very time consuming and very laborious labor of love...


We are making syrup again this week...so stay tuned to my Facebook page for meals and recipes
featuring the lovely syrup of the gods....