Archive for the ‘Do It Yourself’ Category

Comforting Fall Soup – Apple and Butternut Squash Soup

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I can’t believe it’s already October, which according to NPR is peak decorative gourd month.  Also, Halloween!!! Since we’re celebrating the gourds in all forms, decorative and delicious, we figured we’d kick off the month with a delicious and hearty soup recipe – our butternut squash soup with apples. It seriously tastes like autumn in a bowl.  Plus, it’s a totally festive orange soup – perfect for this time of the year.  If you’d rather, you can substitute the butternut squash with  pumpkin to make a pumpkin soup. Still festive. Still delicious. Just look for a small sugar pumpkin, not the one you’d be using for a jack-o-lantern. More flavor.  Now, unless you’re just on our blog looking for deals (in which case, click here) let’s get cooking – I’m gonna teach you how to make soup that’ll knock your festive fall socks off!

First up, gather your ingredients! As you’ll see, this is a vegetarian soup, but if you’d prefer, you can make it with chicken stock. I just know I’m always on the quest for great, hearty vegetarian dishes this time of the year, and this is a great one.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (approximately 2 medium squash)
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 3 apples, diced  (I prefer Fuji or Granny Smith)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil if you’d prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 5-6 large leaves sage, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4-5 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you’d prefer.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green onion, for garnish, optional
  • Sour cream, for garnish, optional

If you use those garnishes, it’s gonna look a little like this – I skipped the green onion but went crazy with the sage:

Instructions

  1.  In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium high heat.  When it’s melted, add the onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook until the onion begins to get transparent, then add the carrot, celery and onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables just begin to get tender. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds more.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add the butternut squash, apples, brown sugar and herbs. At this point, consider adding an additional small pinch of salt, especially if you like your food salty. I’m a bit of a salt fiend.
  3. Cook over medium for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add about 3/4 of the stock (chicken or veggie, your choice.)   Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium low, and leave it alone until the vegetables and fruits are completely tender. There’s a good chance they’ll absorb a lot of the liquid as well.
  5. Time to puree the soup. I use an immersion blender, but you can also puree in a blender, in small batches. When it’s all blended and smooth, put the soup back in your soup pot and taste it. Does it need salt? Pepper? A tiny dash of hot sauce? Add it.  Now’s also the time to take a look at the texture. If it’s too thick, add more of your stock, bit by bit. Keep tasting and adjusting the flavor. If the stock makes it too salty, add a bit of water, or even orange juice. If it’s too thin, let it cook a little longer. Some of the water will evaporate.
  6. At this point, it’s time to serve the soup. Get out your favorite soup bowls (we’re partial to acacia) and keep them handy. If you want a crispy sage garnish like we have above, simply fry your sage in a small pan with a bit of oil or butter. Set on a paper towel and it’ll crisp right up.  If you’re using sour cream, a little dollop goes a long way. If using chives or green onions, simply mince them up.  Put the soup in the bowl, garnish at will, and enjoy!

Some serving notes: If you’re wondering what to serve with butternut squash soup, I’d suggest going the *not to be named Italian restaurant*  way and doing soup, salad and bread(sticks.)  This is a hearty, super filling vegetarian soup (or not vegetarian, if you’d prefer) and it doesn’t need much. I love it with crusty, lightly buttered bread and a simple salad.   It’s also delightful with grilled cheese – like tomato soup with grilled cheese, but with this unmistakably fall flavor. For dinner parties, this is great in tiny bowls, little jars, or even shot glasses as an appetizer.   If you want to make a huge batch and make it last longer, here’s how to freeze soups like this butternut squash soup:  Put it in freezer-safe containers (I use 1/2 liter jars – they’re the perfect lunchtime serving size) leaving about an inch of head space.  Since this soup has a lot of water in it, it’ll expand.  Freeze for up to 3 months (I’ll admit, I’ve gone as long as 6 to no ill-effects.) If you freeze in serving sized containers, rather than in one giant vat, it’ll be super-easy to only defrost just what you need when you need it…especially if you need a last minute lunch.

Cheers to fall, everyone! What’s your absolute favorite fall recipe? Are you a soup junky as well?  Don’t forget to take pictures of anything you make from now until October 16 and hashtag it with #pmtcFallTable – you could win a $100 gift certificate to our site! You can also re-post the picture below to win! Details here.

How To Make Apple Pie Filling – And How to Can it!

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Have you noticed how good apples are right now? It’s because they’re actually in season. The rest of the year, those fresh apples you’re eating were actually picked ages ago, kept chilled and under-ripe, and gassed to ripeness, which is why you’re more likely to get a mealy, sour or bland apples in the spring or early summer. Since apples are SO crazy good right now, I try to take advantage of the season. I go apple picking or hit up my farmer’s market for the freshest, ripest, most flavorful apples. I buy bushels of them and preserve as many as possible. I make applesauce, reduce apple cider to syrup, apple butter, shred apples in with my sauerkraut  (it’s crazy good), pickle them, preserve them in syrup, make jam, and, most importantly make liter after liter of apple pie filling. Why? Homemade apple pie is amazing, and when you make it with apples at their peak it’s a magical and beyond flavorful experience. It’s worth canning gallons of apple pie filling even if you just make 2 or 3 pies a year. It’s great on vanilla ice cream as a quick dessert, good swirled into yogurt or oatmeal as breakfast, and SO good as an accompaniment on a cheese plate. Brie and apple pie filling on baguette? Pure, unadulterated bliss.

If canning is still a little intimidating, check out our basic canning tutorial – We made really delicious jam and talked you through it step by step.  You can also check out the fantastic Food in Jars blog – SO much good stuff.  Whether you’re a complete canning newbie or an old pro, I think you’re gonna like this recipe – It’s crazy easy, quick, and delicious. Plus, it multiplies and divides well so you can make as much or as little apple pie filling as you want.  Ready to make pie filling? Ready to become obsessed with canning and convert that spare closet into a canning cellar? Let’s go!

Ingredients – Recipe makes 3 quarts – enough for 3 Apple pies!

  • 10 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 4 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown  sugar
  • 3/4 cup Clear Jel (a cornstarch-derived thickener)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Peel, Core and slice those apples, then toss them in half the lemon juice and water to keep them from browning.
  2. Prepare 3 1-liter jars or 6 1/2 liter jars by sterilizing them.
  3. In a large pot, combine the apple juice and the rest of the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer.
  4. While it heats, whisk the Clear Jel, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt together.
  5. When the juice mix is simmering, gradually stream the sugar mixture (step 4) into the pot, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
  7. When the mixture thickens, add your apples, tossing to combine.
  8. Fill the jars, leaving about a generous inch of headspace (this filling expands.)
  9. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and process in boiling water for 25 minutes.
  10. Remove the pot from the heat and let jars sit in water an additional 10 minutes.
  11. After 10 minutes, remove the jars and let cool! Check the seals. If sealed, these keep up t0 6 months in your cabinet, or 3 weeks open in the fridge. Like it’ll last that long. . .

Some tips

  • Whatever you do, don’t use red delicious apples for pie. Them’s eating apples. I have the best luck using a variety of apples in my pie. I use a mix of granny smith, pink lady, braeburn, and golden delicious for a super-appley, complex tasting filling. Yummmm.
  • If you can’t find Clear Jel, don’t use thickener. Just whisk in cornstarch right before making the pie.
  • Wanna peel an apple quickly? This guy has a brilliant idea. Alternately, peeling top to bottom is more efficient than going in circles

    Peeling Apples fast

    There you have it. Apple pie filling that you can make while apples are in season and enjoy all year long.  Or, if you feel like giving the gift of pie (because seriously, everyone likes pie)  Consider wrapping these up with pretty labels and ribbons and giving them as gifts!  They make a great Christmas gift, or a Thanksgiving hostess gift. Plus, if you make it yourself, I hear the calories don’t count!

Simple Sauerkraut Recipe – Just in Time for Oktoberfest!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

So, you know we’ve got these fermenting crocks, and you know we think they’re awesome. You can see them in action in our kimchi and our pickles post. Of course, what good is a truckload of fermentation crocks without a killer sauerkraut recipe. Bonus: If you start your kraut now, you’ll have a fresh batch of sauerkraut for Oktoberfest. Because what’s beer and brats without sauerkraut?

Before we start, let’s break it down: What is sauerkraut and how do you make sauerkraut that tastes awesome? Simply put, sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Now, I know you’re thinking “eeew, fermented food is gross,” but you would be wrong. Other fermented foods that you probably know are: Kimchi, Pickles, Sourdough, Cheese, Coffee, Chocolate, Yogurt, Beer, Wine, Vinegar, and Miso. I’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t like at least one of those things. So get ready to be a home-fermenting convert.

Supplies You’ll need:

Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • 2 heads of cabbage – Ideally organic – sometimes pesticides impede bacterial growth. Great for farmers, terrible for fermenting.
  • 3 tablespoons seas salt

Seriously. That’s it. All that punchy, funky flavor comes from the fermenting process. Here’s how to make sauerkraut in just a few simple steps. It really is a basic sauerkraut recipe.

  1. Shred or finely slice your cabbage. You can see in our photos that we did a coarser shred, but the finer the shred, the quicker to ferment.
  2. In a large mixing bowl (or the crock itself)  toss the salt with the cabbage, kneading the salt into cabbage. Note: If you have cuts on your hands, this will sting. I learned the hard way.
  3. Once the cabbage has been thoroughly massaged and starts releasing liquid, pack it tightly into a crock. Use a plate, the stones, or a kraut pounder to pack it down.
  4. Once all of your cabbage is packed into the crock, pour any liquid remaining in the bowl into the crock.  The crock should have released a more liquid during the packing process and be submerged or close to submerged in liquid.
  5. Put weights on the cabbage.  The stone weights should be submerged in liquid by about an inch. If they’re not, mix a cup of water with a tablespoon of sea salt and pour enough to cover the weights.
  6. Once your weights are submerged and your massaged, salt-scrubbed cabbage (it’s like a veggie spa day) is packed in place and weighted, pop a lid on that crock.
  7. If you’re using a Crock with a water well seal (recommended), fill the water well. If you’re using a pickle pot or storage canister style crock, just pop the lid on. If you’re using an open crock, cover the opening in a couple layers of cheesecloth.***At this point, the hard part is done. Promise***

  8. Move the crock to a cool shady place and leave it alone.
  9. At this point, your only job is checking every few days to make sure the kraut is still submerged. If not, repeat step 5. as needed.
  10. It can take between a month and 6 months for your kraut to ferment. I can’t imagine what 6-month fermented sauerkraut tastes like. Our Sauerkraut recipe was pretty perfect after 1 month.
  11. Once you hit about 4 weeks, start tasting your sauerkraut every 3 or 4 days. I like mine crisper, so 4 weeks was perfect, but the longer you keep going the softer and more pungent your kraut will become.

A few notes:  Sometimes you’ll see a little scum floating on your brine. Simply skim it off with a slotted spoon. Once your sauerkraut is done, there are a few ways to preserve it. Either pack it into kilner jars and keep in the fridge for up to a year or you can go about actually canning sauerkraut. We added 4 cloves of crushed garlic, a teaspoon of ground pepper and a teaspoon of sugar to one of our cans to experiment with flavoring–truly delightful! Try it out if you want some added flavoring.

To can your sauerkraut, simply pack your kraut with brine into clean, sanitized Kilner jars. Leave 1/2 inch at the top of each jar, making sure brine covers the cabbage completely. Measure your head space from the top of the brine.  Once your jars are packed, put the covers on. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and process the jars of sauerkraut for 25 minutes in boiling water (start marking time when the water comes BACK to a boil after adding the jars.)  Remove from heat, allow jars to cool, check seals, and boom! Shelf stable sauerkraut.

See? That simple.

Better than Maraschino Cherries: DIY Cocktail Cherries Recipe

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time, I was a 5 year old flower girl in a wedding. White dress, adorable, the whole nine yards. Well adorable until I, the 5 year old flower girl, got rip-roaring drunk. No, this is not a tale of bad parenting, but a cautionary tale.  You see, at the wedding they served a cocktail, and in those cocktails were maraschino cherries. You know, the bright red ones. Anyway, since maraschino cherries are somewhat gross to the adult palate, apparently, lots of the adults left them in their empty glasses. And since as a 5 year old child nothing tasted better than super-sweet candied cherries, I went from table to table, plucking the booze soaked cherries from the empty cocktails and eating them. A few dozen boozy cherries later, and I was tanked.  My parents were somewhat embarrassed and my pristine white dress was stained red from cherry juice.

homemade cocktail cherries

Cut to 25 year later. I STILL love boozy cherries, but I’ve learned to enjoy them more responsibly. Of course, at this point, in the age of craft cocktails, I’m not satisfied with the almost-glowing red canned maraschino cherries of my ill-spent youth. Instead, I generally make my own homemade cocktail cherries. These awesomely flavorful brandied cherries are perfect in a cocktail, incredible on ice cream, and delicious on their own. We’ve also mixed them in to sangria, syrup and all – SO good.  making brandied cherries from scratch

While it is very possible to buy high-quality cherries for cocktails (think luxardo cherries rather than maraschino cherries,)  those high-end bottles of cherries in syrup are expen$ive!!! And with it being cherry season, and cherries being so cheap, I thought, why not make and can some of my own? They’ll be just as good (even better) than store bought, significantly cheaper, and way less scary.  Bonus: they make awesome gifts or party favors. This recipe is really easy to multiply if you’ve got an abundance of cherries.  Ready for an awesome cocktail cherries recipe? Lets go.

How to make your own maraschino cherries

Materials

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound Pitted Cherries (pit then weigh)
  • 1 cup brandy or maraschino liqueur (like luxardo, available at most well-stocked liquor stores)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • zest of one orange, in large strips (use a veggie peeler or knife)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Brandied Cocktail cherries

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients except brandy and almond extract to a saucepan.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until cherries release their juice.
  • After about 5-7 minutes, turn the heat to low and add the maraschino liquor or brandy.
  • Cook on very low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • When the syrup is very thick and sticky, remove the cinnamon stick and orange peel from the mixture and set aside.
  • Remove from heat, add the almond extract.
  • Immediately pour the cherry mixture to clean, sanitized jars. I like these kilner jars (or these!)for party favors or gifts, or these larger ones if I’m just keeping them on my bar cart.
  • Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • When properly processed and sanitized, these cocktail cherries will stay good for up to 6 months at room temperature, or a month opened in the refrigerator. They won’t last that long.

There you have it – a simple, delicious way to preserve delicious cherries during the peak of the season. If you really want to show these beauties off in a cocktail, keep it simple. A Manhattan or an Old-Fashioned will do the job.  Other delicious ways to use up these cherries – drizzled over ice cream or yogurt, blended in to a milkshake, between layers of a black forest cake,  or strain and bake into your favorite chocolate dessert. Just don’t throw out that syrup! It’s delicious!

homemade maraschino cherries

How to Have a Spa Day at Home: Homemade Sugar Scrub and Avocado Honey Face Mask

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

It’s time to start your home spa journey. Are you ready? Deep breath in! *hyyouuuuuuuuuuuuuuu* Deep breath out *haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa*. Now we’re talking. It’s time to get luxurious in the comfort of your own home.

Whether you’re throwing a spa party for a small group of friends, or enjoying a day off of work and some alone time, you can never go wrong with a spa day. We’re really excited to share both our Homemade Sugar Scrub Recipe, and our delightful Organic Avocado Honey Face Mask. They both take ten minutes or less to prepare, make a great gift for friends and family, and save you tons of money on skincare. I guarantee–if you use this scrub 2-4 times a week and follow your scrub sesh with the avocado and honey face mask application, your skin will feel softer and more hydrated than it has in years. I gave a sample to my mom last week and she is absolutely in love! This is a woman who does not cheap out on her skincare regimen, and who I’ve been trying to convince for years that she doesn’t need anything fancy to upkeep her -already- beautiful skin. Last week she finally used some of this magic scrub, and her mind totally changed:

Mom Sugar Scrub Screen Shot

Mom approved! #Score #ImDoingSomethingRight

The benefits of avocado and coconut oil for skin are endless. If you’re looking for a cheap, easy and healthy way to cleanse and hydrate your skin, look no further.

Sugar Scrub Ingredients

Featured Items: Kilner Blue Top Jars (Made in the UK!), Acacia Wood Round Calabash Bowl, Acacia Wood 12″ Square Plate

Hydrating Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

What You’ll Need:

1 cup white sugar (you may use brown, but I like to use white for citrus scents.)

1/3 cup coconut oil (found at most local grocery stores these days! People also use coconut oil for hair maintenance, butter substitution in baking and cooking, etc.)

Zest of 1 lime (may substitute with 1/2 grapefruit rind if you would like a noticeably sweeter scent or like this scent better. It will also color the white sugar a lovely coral color.)

5-15 drops lemon or lime essential oil (lemon is easier to find.)

5-10 drops coconut essential oil (optional)

Sugar and Coconut Oil

1. Combine sugar and coconut oil. If it’s too dry for your taste, add more coconut oil and if it’s too oily add some more sugar! The consistency is totally up to you. The nice thing about coconut oil is that it’s almost entirely unscented, so it won’t make a difference in the scent if you add more or choose to dilute it with additional sugar.

Lime Zest

Featured Item: Acacia Wood Round Calabash Bowl

2. Add the grated lime zest to the sugar coconut oil mixture. We actually chopped up our lime peel to make it more chunky, but zesting is recommended and preferred. You can also add lime juice, or even lemon juice/zest. The goal of this scrub is to be generally citrus-y, so if there’s one citrus fruit you prefer, this recipe is definitely flexible! The benefits of lemon and lime include preservational qualities and natural antiseptic properties. By adding a little bit of lemon or lime juice to this scrub we are not only extending its shelf life, but also providing the benefit of a deep, thorough skin cleanse that will kill off many unwanted “germs”. Pretty awesome that this is a natural attribute of the fruit!

3. Add your essential oil drops, and stir thoroughly. If you actually want to smell any coconut you’ll have to add a coconut essential oil. Otherwise, as mentioned above, the coconut oil is basically scentless. This allows you to add as little or as much scent as you want according to personal preference! Brilliant.

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

4. Pack your Kilner Jars full of your homemade sugar scrub, and voila! Gift, or keep for yourself. This is a great party favor or group activity for a spa party, wedding shower, or craft day. It’s also entirely edible, so it’s safe to make both around and for kids! If you skip on the coconut oil, this also makes a great “rim sugar” for beverages. Our adorable Blue Top Kilner Jars come in a vast array of shapes and sizes, from a sample size to a more hefty pot of scrub.

~

Honey Avocado Face Mask Ingredients

Avocado Honey Face Mask

What You’ll Need:

1 medium to large avocado, preferably ripened

1/3 cup honey

1/2 a lemon or lime (to squeeze!)

1 Kilner .25L Preserve Jar

Scooping Avocado

1. Scoop the avocado into an Acaciaware Bowl from its shell. This recipe makes 1 small jar of face mask, which is good for personal use. If you’re making a larger batch, simply multiply the ingredients by the number of jars you’d like to make.

Add Honey to Face Mask Mix

2. Add the honey. At this point it’s also time to add that squeeze of lemon or lime; this will keep the mix green/fresh for a longer time due to the acidic properties of the juice.

Mash the Avocados for Face Mask

3. Mash the avocado honey mixture with a spoon or with your hands! This part is fun. How easy is this?! If you’re looking for an extremely smooth avocado face mask, put the mixture into a glass or metal mixing bowl and use an immersion blender to smooth out/puree the avocado honey mix.

Finished Honey Avocado Face Mask

4. Apply liberally to your face after using the coconut lime sugar scrub. That’s literally it! The face mask has a shelf life of about 3-5 days in the fridge. Sometimes it even lasts a little longer. We’d love to know how you like both the sugar scrub and this face mask: please tell us in the comments, or shoot us an email at social(at)pacificmerchants.com!

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Last but not least, no home spa day is complete without hydration. Staying hydrated is a great way to make your skin truly glow, and your body function at its full capacity. Your body works so much better when it has water! Sometimes drinking plain water can be boring though, so we decided to try out a flavored water recipe.

Flavored Water

Featured Items: Kilner Vintage Clip Top Bottles, Kilner .5L Preserve Jars, and our Acacia Wood Baguette Tray.

Strawberry Water

Featured Item: .5L Kilner Preserve Jar

Simply add quartered strawberries and sliced lime to your water for a lovely and naturally sweet-sour flavor, or a combo of basil and cucumber for a crisp, savory flavoring. Do this in a Kilner Bottle, and keep refrigerated for a few hours before serving so the fruit has a chance to more greatly flavor the water. Serve in our adorable .5L Kilner Preserve Jars, and garnish for insane cuteness. I am seriously obsessed with jars, it’s a problem. #JarHoarder

Me (warning: this is terrifying):

Jar Hoarder

Feeling a bit more relaxed? We hope so. Hopefully the above photo didn’t jar you too much on this day of relaxation (get it, get it?).

Let us know how your projects turn out, and if there’s anything you tried that you liked better! Also tag your photos on Instagram with #pacificmerchants to show us what you’re up to. Remember people…it’s all about enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Everything else falls into place.

Love,

Pacific Merchants


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