For the holidays this year I chained myself to the kitchen. I tried as much as possible to use homemade goods in place of store bought gifts. My main two projects were (of course inspired by the South) Pecan Bacon Brittle and Pickled Okra. Both went over quite well, so wanted to share the recipes, ma' dear readers.
Pecan Bacon Brittle
original recipe from Everything Tastes Better With Bacon
makes about 1 pound
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) chopped pecans
1/3 to 1/2 cup cooked bacon bits (6 to 8 ounces uncooked bacon)
Grease or butter
a large nonstick baking sheet
In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, increase the heat to high, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 290 degrees. Immediately remove from the heat.
Stir in the butter, vanilla, baking soda, pecans and bacon bits. The mixture will foam. When the foam subsides, quickly pour the hot mixture onto the prepared baking sheet as thinly as possible. Do not spread with a spatula.
Cool at least 10 minutes before breaking into pieces. Store in a covered container.
original recipe from Alton Brown
2 pounds young, small to medium okra pods
4 small dried chiles, split in 1/2
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
12 sprigs fresh dill
4 cloves garlic, whole
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups bottled water
Special Equipment: 4 pint-sized canning jars, sterilized*
Wash the okra and trim the stem to 1/2-inch. Place 1 chile, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 3 sprigs of dill, 1 clove of garlic and 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns in the bottom of each of 4 sterilized pint canning jars. Divide the okra evenly among the 4 jars, standing them up vertically, alternating stems up and down.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the salt, vinegar and water to a boil. Once boiling, pour this mixture over the okra in the jars, leaving space between the top of the liquid and the lid. Seal the lids. Set in a cool dry place for 2 weeks.*Tips on Sterilizing Jars
Properly-handled sterilized equipment will keep canned foods in good condition for years. Sterilizing jars is the first step of preserving foods.
Jars should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with a glass, plastic, or metal lid, which has a rubber seal. Two piece lids are best for canning, as they vacuum seal when processed.
To sterilize jars, before filling with jams, pickles, or preserves, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray. Boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.
Use tongs when handling the hot sterilized jars, to move them from boiling water. Be sure the tongs are sterilized too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes.
As a rule, hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars. All items used in the process of making jams, jellies, and preserves must be clean. This includes any towels used, and especially your hands.
After the jars are sterilized, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.