Sunday, February 6, 2011

Making caramels and hard candies has been something I was never good at. Until we got a candy thermometer. It makes it much easier to watch the temp and get the perfect consistency.

I tried it with these caramels and they turned out so yummy! I love the combination of the sugar and the salt. I used pink peppercorns, lemon flavored sea salt, and Himalayan pink salt.

Pink peppercorns have an almost citrus flavor, you need a bit more of it to taste than the salt. My personal fav is the himalayan rock salt.

Salt and Pepper Caramels
1 C. butter
2 1/4 C. brown sugar
2 C. cream
1 C. light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
rock salt or crushed pepper (2 tbsp of each)
Line an 8x8 baking pan with buttered tin foil so the edges hang over. In a heavy sauce pan, melt butter, add sugar, cream, and syrup. Mix well.
Stir mixture over heat until it is a boil. Lower heat to medium. With a candy thermometer boil mixture at a steady rate until the heat reads 248 degrees (about 40-50 minutes)
Remove pan from heat. Stir in vanilla. Quickly pour caramels into pan. Cool and cut into squares (place in refrigerator to speed up cooling and make for easier cutting, after it comes to room temp)
Press squares into rock salt or crushed pepper until the tops are coated. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Store up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Makes 64 small squares or 30 large.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I used the Grape Leaves!

Back in July, on my parents farm, we harvested (prolly the last growth) of grape leaves from my mom's vines. While this was a little late in the season for the picking, they still looked really nice and I was very excited to have them in the winter to use with the large amounts of hamburger we tend to have in our freezer.

I rinsed the leaves in plenty of water to remove any salt from the canning (very gently!) I'd say 80% turned out with no rips or tears. The larger leaves work the best, so next year we'll have to make sure to pick the big ones!

To make dolmades you simply mix ground beef (or lamp or pork or a mixture!) with uncooked rice and spices. Wrap the mixture in the grape leaves, like you would an egg roll or burrito, it's about a table spoon per large leaf, don't overfill.

Then placing any ripped leaves on the bottom of a dutch oven, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and place the wraps on top. Cover with about an inch of water, and then cover again with a bowl or large plate. You want the rice to cook and the beef to steam, but not in to large of an area, ideally with some weight on them. This worked for me with the dutch oven and a glass plate, but you could also use a small sauce pan with a tight lid I would think.

After about 30 minutes the water will have evaporated and the dolmades will be cooked.

I didn't add enough spices to the meat mixture, so make sure you make it very flavorful, with oregano, mint, dill or another green herb. Lots of things could be used as a spice.

The leaves were so tender and just fell apart with a fork. Can't wait to try these again!