Friday, April 22, 2011

Homemade Mayonnaise - Easy & Great

I'm thankful my car doesn't run on mayonnaise. As the price of gas has almost doubled in the last 10 years, the price of mayonnaise has more than quadrupled. I used to make my own just for fun or to save a trip to the store when I'd run out. Now, making it has become a part of my thrifty kitchen routine. It's not difficult. The taste and texture match or beat the best and most expensive. And, it doesn't contain a single ingredient that I can't pronounce.
(Recipe from my father in 1981)
  • Salt - 1 tsp.
  • Dry Mustard - 1/4 tsp.
  • Paprika - 1/4 tsp.
  • Cayenne - dash
  • Whole Eggs - 2
  • Vinegar - 2 Tbsp
  • Salad Oil - 2 cups
  • Lemon Juice - 2 Tbsp
(Mix all dry ingredients first)
Blend in Eggs followed by. Blend well.
Add 2 cups of Salad Oil and 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice like this:
First, add salad oil, one teaspoon at a time, until 1/4 cup has been added.
Add remaining oil in increasing measurements, slowly (1 1/2 teaspoons, 2 teaspoons, etc.)
Alternate the last 1/2 cup of oil with the lemon juice.

Finally, beat in 1 Tbsp Hot Water.
I use a blender but, toward the end, when the mayonnaise gets really, really thick, I have to stop it a couple of times to scrape down the sides and stir. Transfer to clean jar(s) and refrigerate.
Makes a bit more than a pint (almost 3 cups).

Tweak the recipe for your own variations.
  • Substitute 1/2 to 1 cup of evoo for an equal amount of the salad oil for that olive oil flavor.
Or, try these additions at the end of the mixing process:
  • If you prefer the "salad dressing" flavor over that of mayonnaise (or to sweeten for a perfect Cole Slaw dressing) blend in 3 Tbsp of sweetened Condensed Milk.
  • Add 1 cup of crumbled Blue Cheese for a truly fresh and aromatic salad dressing.
  • Add powdered Ranch Dressing Mix, a little at a time, until your favorite flavor is reached and thin with water to your desired consistency.
  • Add 1 Tbsp each of Sweet Relish and Ketchup plus 1 tsp yellow Mustard for "Sandwich Spread".
If you are in doubt about the safety of using raw eggs, pasteurized eggs are available, though more costly. Having enjoyed homemade eggnog and homemade mayonnaise since childhood, I never hesitate but you should do your own research. A web search on safety will flood you with cautions and the USDA's "No, no, no's". This LINK contains information that I think is less biased...your choice. But whatever you decide, handle all foods properly and keep mayonnaise (and foods containing mayonnaise) refrigerated. I consider this recipe safe to use for a week or two but it seldom lasts that long.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rethinking the Garden with the Budget in Mind

With the downward spiral of the economy and food and gas prices racing to all time highs, even some of my most thrifty concepts are being fine tuned. One of those is my garden. Usually filled with flowers and crops that I only "hope" won't fail; this year, I'm more serious about the decisions being made. For instance, I've always grown jalapenos even though those locally grown are available at the store for a fraction of the cost. This year, I will buy them instead. The same situation exists with tomatoes. In my area, they require a great deal of care, constant struggle against leaf devouring grasshoppers, careful attention to moisture control and protection from late summer's extreme heat. When I discovered a half bushel at the Farmer's Market for $10, I couldn't justify my efforts, much less my potential failures. I began to consider the things we eat on a regular basis...not only the fresh produce but the canned and frozen vegetables as well. I took a look in my pantry, revisited some old shopping lists and gave thought to our ordinary weekly menus.
  • I cannot grow corn in a pot on the deck.
  • 35 heads of lettuce, all maturing at the same time, cannot be consumed quickly enough or canned or dehydrated or frozen.
  • Dried beans are far too inexpensive to take up valuable (and limited) space in the garden.
  • There is too much clay in my soil for potatoes.
So what are my options? Red Bell Peppers are so expensive at the store these days that I removed them from my shopping lists altogether. However, I can grow them as easily as I've grown Jalapenos in the past. Green Bell Peppers have risen in price a bit but continue to be purchased. They, too, can easily be grown in containers and freeze fairly well. Organic carrots are also pricey but easy to grow. Broccoli, cauliflower and assorted greens grow well here as a fall crop, when overnight temperatures begin to cool. I grew them in Alaska but never even thought of them here. Cilantro is also something I buy regularly. A single packet of seeds will meet my summer needs and the excess can be dried for winter use.

In addition to reconsidering the things I will grow, I've given a great deal of thought to the occasional bargains that come our way. Georgia peaches are sold in season here, at roadside stands and can be bought in bulk and canned for much less than frozen slices or cans at the store. There is absolutely nothing to canning them, freezing them or even putting up spiced peaches for the holidays. When bananas go on sale, they are natural candidates for the dehydrator. And, speaking of dehydrating things, a daughter has had success dehydrating tomatoes and canning them in oil for "sun dried" tomatoes at a fraction of the cost. So, these are the things that accompany my transition into the sunny season. As I put things together, work them out and determine if we are actually able to eat better for less, I will let you know.

Gardening - "First Things" in 2011

After waiting for spring for so long, it seemed a shame that I should fall ill just as it arrived. Even so, it gave me a chance to rethink the extent of the gardening I would do this summer. My conclusion? KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Sometimes, simple is more difficult than one would wish. First, I decided that I would not go to the expense and effort of growing tomatoes this year since I discovered them by the bushel at the Farmer's Market at prices my most frugal growing efforts could not match. That freed up 2 very large containers for other use. After deciding on radishes and carrots, I discovered the need to battle burrowing squirrels for the right to use the space. I won! Link to the battle and conquest HERE.
Now the first radishes are ready for the table and as they are picked, carrot seeds will begin to fill the empty spaces. Judging from the abundance of radishes, and if the carrots do half as well, I'll have plenty of them for canning. That will require the purchase of a pressure canner but will allow me to put up so many more good things over the summer. So look for upcoming posts on canning the caning efforts as well as this season's gardening as I explore new ways to grow more in less space and with less work.

Stewed Tomatoes - Yankee Style vs. Tomatoes in the South

Serving tomatoes as a side dish has fallen strangely out of fashion. I don't know why. As a child, in the deep south, with country gardens producing incredible abundance, tomatoes were served at every meal. Plates of freshly sliced tomatoes were always on the breakfast and dinner tables and a tomato sandwich was standard fare at lunchtime throughout the growing season. I'm not talking a BLT, just two pieces of bread with mayonnaise and a thick slice of dripping tomato inside.

Through the fall and winter, with the gardens tilled and planted with winter crops of collards and turnips and the like, when the canning was finished for the season and the kitchen smelled of fresh baked bread, the flavor and acid punch of the tomato still made its way to the evening table. Canned, as they were in my childhood, with nothing added but water and salt, the tomatoes were emptied into serving bowls and eaten as they were, straight from the jar. The texture was different but the taste was that of the summer.

Canned tomatoes would be left to drain in a colander, chopped and added to salads or the jar of tomatoes, liquid and all, would be added to a pot roast for flavor and to tenderize the meat. Such were the tomatoes of my Alabama mother.

My Pennsylvania father, however, had quite a different view of the lowly fruit. He liked them mushed about and cooked to a frazzle. He thought sugar should be added to cut the acidity. But then, he thought sugar belonged cornbread as well. Either situation was enough to send Mother into a tizzy, ranting about her "Yankee" husband. Since she also referred to herself as a "war bride", I must have been 8 or 9 before I sorted out the chronology of WW II and the war between the states. In my childhood home, it seemed they were concurrent.

Be that as it may, my father liked Stewed Tomatoes. Mother considered them almost a sacrilege. Perhaps it is as a tribute to both of them that in early summer I look forward to my first dripping tomato sandwich and in the cold of winter, cook up a pot of Dad's...

serves 4 to 6
  • 1 qt. canned Tomatoes - chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar (optional - I don't use it)
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2-3 cups bread cubes (white - even old buns will do)
Empty contents of quart jar of tomatoes into a DEEP saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in sugar. Add baking soda and be prepared for the tomatoes to erupt into a rising mass of foam. Stir. Remove from heat and stir in bread cubes. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes. Stir again before serving.
A good accompaniment to roasted meats: beef, pork, chicken.