Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Plain Vanilla

Did you know 98% of all households purchase ice cream?
Did you know children ages 2–12 and adults aged 45 and over consume the most?
At our family cookouts purchasing ice cream is like washing clothes on New Year's Day. You just don't do it! 
Homemade ice cream is a staple at our summer cookouts. My mom makes strawberry, peach, or cookies-n-cream, but there's just something so intoxicating about Granny's Vanilla Ice Cream that makes it the most popular among ice cream flavors at our cookouts.  Get ready, this recipe is long and tedious!

Ganny starts by combining the following ingredients in a large stock pot:

4 – 4 ½ cups of sugar*
5 TBSP. cornstarch
French Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix
1/8 tsp. salt 
 Once the dry ingredients are mixed, Granny adds:
1 gallon whole milk
5 large eggs (well beaten)
Granny says beat those eggs until they turn a "lemony" color and are foamy.  She likes to use her manual hand mixer.  I, on the other hand, make a mess each time I TRY to use that thing, so I'll stick with an electric hand mixer!
Once the eggs & milk have been added to the mixture whisk it all up. Place the pot in a large pot of water (making it a double boiler).
Don't stop stirring.  Don't want the sweet mixture to stick to the bottom of the pot. Granny said the liquid looked too sweet. ... I still haven't figured out what that looks like.
Once the mixture is introduced to heat...
Stir, stir, stir and then stir some more.
When the water in the bottom pot has boiled for about 10 minutes (look for the signs to know it's cooked for the right amount of time). 
Make sure to wear appropriate foot wear while boiling.  Granny & I did not so we were constantly dodging the water as it bubbled out.
Here are the signs Granny looks for to let her know the ice cream has cooked long enough: as the mixture cooks it will become thicker and will coat the spoon.
   Remove the pot(s) from heat.
Now it's time to add all the flavors that make this ice cream so yummy (and intoxicating)!
1 tsp. lemon flavor
12 oz. evaporated milk
2 TBSP.  vanilla extract (or flavoring)
½ tsp. rum extract
Dash of yellow food color
See, it's intoxicating!
3 TBSP. rum
3 TBSP. whiskey
Now it's time to call in "The Taster" to make sure everything is just right. Granny's mantra is "you learn by trial and error."
The Taster is not sold in stores.
PawPaw tasted and had Granny make some adjustments to compensate for her "too sweet" mixture (she could tell by looking at it).  FYI, the adjustments are noted above.
*The sugar should be adjusted according to taste.  All 4 ½ cups of sugar may be too sweet so start with less and add more as needed.

The mixture gets a chance to cool down and rest (just like the fried chicken).  Granny likes to let it rest overnight so all the flavors can mix and mingle.

The morning of our cookout, PawPaw transfers the cream to the ice cream freezer and the freezing begins.
In the meantime the family fills up on a plethora of protein and carbs...

 After recovering from the above, it's time to indulge in Granny's Intoxicating Vanilla Ice Cream!
It's true. Children between 2 & 12 consume the most of Granny's ice cream.
 I know it's a long and tedious process, but look at those satisfied faces!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Granny's Not Making Macaroni!!!

I had the perfect plan for Granny this week.  She was going to teach me how to make her mac & cheese!  (I had tried a few weeks ago and it turned out ... DRY.  Granny took one look at it and said I hadn't added enough milk.
I showed up at Granny's and told her the plan.  Granny replied "I don't know what to tell you, but I'm not making macaroni."  Granny proceeded to tell me what her dinner plans included.I pleaded that mac & cheese would accompany those items perfectly. Granny's reply: "I don't know what to tell you, but I'm not making macaroni."
So that meant I would have to attempt Granny's mac & cheese on my own...again!
CLICK HERE for a printable version of recipe for when the hankering for Mac & Cheese is just too overwhelming.

I gathered Granny's ingredients.
I boiled my pasta and buttered my dish.
What was next.... I had to guess because Granny was at church and I couldn't call to ask. So I just had to think WWGD? (what would Granny do?) So I guessed my way through by trying to call on my photographic memory (or lack there of) of how I had seen her do it so many times before.

Add the Cheese Whiz.
Stir the cheese in.
Layer the pasta, pepper, cheddar, and muenster cheeses.
Add evaporated milk. (I used the whole container. Didn't want a repeat of the desert mac & cheese)
Bake. (Make a note to use a deeper dish so I don't make a mess in the oven next time.)
Relish in Granny's comment "You've got it! Trial and error is how you learn!"

UPDATE:  The Girl and the other girls (Granny's other granddaughters) recently made dinner for the entire family.  Using the things we've learned from Granny since starting this blog.  It seems The Girl forgot that Granny also adds a layer of Velveeta cheese to her mac and cheese.  Luckily Granny was watching while we were making dinner and alerted us to the missing ingredient.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When Life Hands You Lemons...

 I have two things to share:
Since the whole goal of this blog is to learn to cook like Granny, I recently tried a few of her recipes without her being present. 
Granny and my mom went to visit family in Denver so we were without her culinary skills for a few days including Sunday which is usually when we all gather around the table to delight in Granny’s cooking. 
Being without our matriarch (and me with without my momma) may seem like a bowl of lemons, but it turned out pretty sweet. PawPaw fired up the grill and the rest of the family tossed up a wonderful salad and baked potatoes.  But what dinner would be complete without dessert?
I've gotta have my dessert, so I decided our lack of dessert was a problem I would be happy to remedy.  I knew of the perfect dish to make sans Granny. It's our family’s go-to quick dessert: Lemon Icebox Pie.
Honestly this is one I’ve been making for a while.  I can’t remember if my mom taught me or Granny.  But I’m delighted it is one recipe I can make without looking at a recipe.
Here is all that’s needed.
I've made this pie without the egg yolk several times. Turns out fine either way.
I added the zest of one lemon even though this pie is pretty tasty without it. 
There’s no baking, frying, or rolling required for this.  Just whisk it all up and pour it in a ready-made crust (homemade graham crust are fine too … just not as quick).
I put it in the fridge for a few hours until it was nice and firm.  Then I headed to dinner with the family, pie in tow.  Once at Granny’s house I put the pie in the freezer just to make sure it would be ready when we were.  I forgot about it after a few hours, but once we remembered it, it didn’t last long. 
Chewbacca gobbled up the last slice! And that was that!
Thing 2…
I tried to make Granny’s fried chicken. 
Granny's chicken
I was missing a few of the seasonings she used, but it still turned out okay…yeah just okay.   
My chicken
My chicken wasn’t even close to tasting like Granny’s, but that just means I’m still pressing toward the mark.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Strawberry Time!


I love, love, love fresh picked strawberries.  The family goes to the strawberry patch once or twice (or three times) during strawberry season. That's because we do so many things with our fresh picked berries. Everyone has their own strawberry specialty. Granny's specialty is Strawberry Jam.
I am not an outdoorsy person, but I will go out and pick some berries!
Growing up I don’t think I knew jelly was sold at the grocery store.  That’s because all the jam, jellies and preserves I had ever had were made by Granny.  So imagine my surprise when I opened up Granny & Paw’s refrigerator and saw this:

Granny & Paw use the blasphemous jelly on PB&J sandwiches (and now I do too).
Everyone seems to think making jellies, jams and preserves is a ridiculously hard task, but trust me it’s not that hard.  In fact I’ve been making it myself for years now (I can say years because it’s more than one and that makes it plural)! It only takes a few ingredients.
The recipe comes in the box of Sure-Jell.
I thought this was one time when Granny actually used a recipe…thought.  It turns out Granny has been making the cooked strawberry jam recipe so long she no longer needs the recipe.  I’m almost that good.  I think I only had to look at the recipe 39 times this year. WhooHoo! Way to go Me! 

Granny and I do things a little different when we make our jam.  Although the results are the same, I wanted to help watch Granny do things her way. 
We started by washing the berries.
Granny’s next steps are to slice and mash the berries.

I agreed to mash the berries Granny's way.
I prefer the much more tedious task of putting my berries in the blender and crushing them for less than 15 seconds. Whew!... I know it sounds exhausting, but it’s not that bad.

Granny prepares her jars by putting the jars and lids in a metal baking dish filled with a little water and heating them on the stove.  I never knew what the purpose of heating the jars. Granny said it’s to get the jars warm slowly so they won’t break when the hot jam goes in.
The next step (for both of us) is to put the mashed berries in a large, deep pot.  Mix in the Sure-Jell and butter and bring it to a boil.
As soon as it’s boiling add in all of that sugar and let it boil again.
It only has to boil for 1 minute.
Granny removes the hot bubbly mixture from the heat and begins removing some of the foamy bubbles from the surface.  I hate this part of the process, but Granny makes it look super easy!
See that foam? Granny skims it off using a spoon.

Foam removed from the surface of the jam
Once the foam has been removed start ladling the jam into the prepared jars.  Granny used ten 6oz. jars.

Now here is where Granny detours from the recipe.  Sure-Jell suggests using a canning contraption of sorts and boiling the jam in the jars for a few minutes.  Granny's way around this step is to screw on the lids and put the jars upside down for 5 minutes.  

When the 5 minutes are up flip the jars right side up.  As a kid I would always hang out by the jars to listen for the magic pop. The popping lids indicate the jam is all set and ready to be devoured.
 I'll post some of the other ways we use our fresh picked berries soon! Right now I need to learn how to make biscuits so I can eat some of that jam!