Magic Monday, October 26th 2009 (or in which I make Magic Chile Soup and POM Jelly)

I was really only gone since last Wednesday, but it feels like in the meantime, a whole season has passed. By the time I returned, the tree in front of my house, (perennially the last to turn) was half golden, and many other trees had shed their leaves completely. On my journey around the state, I got to see snow in the Northwoods (one of my most favorite things) and varying stages of color throughout Central Wisconsin.

This time of year is always amazing to me, as things start to wind down, I almost automatically start to calculate the weeks until planting season will begin again. Somehow, every winter I become a Master Gardener in my mind, and have oh so lofty plans for spring. This winter will be no different, I suppose. I have plans to turn the shady garden into a shade perennial garden and then somehow build some raised beds for the sunny center of my back (south-facing) yard. We'll see, I guess. Half the fun is in the daydreaming.

When we returned Sunday afternoon, I figured since I'm a newly crowned "bean freak" I would have to make something beany on Monday, since there was no made food in the house due to my absence. I soaked some red beans (like how very technical I am for being said bean freak?) that my Mom gave me overnight. I started them at 8 am this morning per the Steve Sando book method: I sauteed some veg, added my beans and their soaking water, brought them to a boil and boiled 5 minutes, then reduced the heat to very low, and simmered for 5,6, then 7 hours. Still no soft beans. Beautiful beans, yes, but not edible.

Now, I have really been reading up about this beanery stuff, and it seems to me that the least preferred method is to pressure cook. But when I was up North, my Mom and Uncle pressure cooked a pot of pintos and I have to say that they were really the most delicious pintos I ever ate. I tasted them before they lovingly became frijoles refritos, and they were creamy and delicious. After they were mashed up, they were just short of divinity.

When I woke up this morning, it was overcast and rainy. A nice day for a bean pot on the stove...

The dried beans, then after cooking for about 7 hours...

I figured since I had just eaten some successful pressure cooked beans, I'd try pressure cooking my 7 hour cooked beans. I used my mysterious Magic Seal pot, that I have no idea where I acquired, and pressured them for 30 minutes. I released the seal, (after safely reducing the pressure by running the pot under cold water) and I had beautiful, creamy delicious beans! And with, my favorite new term, wonderful "pot liquor". By this time, there was really no way to turn them into dinner tonight, but they will be dinner tomorrow (and probably lunch too). I added a quart bag of frozen pork that I made with guajillo chile, some salt, Mexican oregano, cumin, powedered jalepeno and chile powder, and was pretty happy with myself.

Magic Seal. A Quality Saucepan.

Coincidentally, I took out a pint of leftover canned tomatoes that I had popped into the freezer before I left - and the jar happened to be Magic as well. Nice. My Husband likes more brothy soups, and tends to leave all the veg and bits (aka "the good stuff") behind, so I needed more liquid/nutrition anyway. I think I'll call this the Magic Chile Soup.

end part 1.


begin part 2.

I was feeling pretty bad about not making something with this POM pomegranate juice that I received from the nice people at POM... but I just have been so busy. That and I couldn't decide what to make. I Googled to get some ideas, and it seems like a lot of other food bloggers had similar ideas to mine. Now, I am not really a thorough Googler, since I don't really spend that much time on the computer. When I Google, I usually look at just the first 3 or 4 pages of the search. In this search, I didn't find anyone who had tried making jelly, so I figured I'd give it a go.

My first order of business last night was to start bread dough, and make a batch of yogurt. I think the POM Jelly is going to be great mixed into the plain yogurt. I actually love the bitterness of straight pomegranate juice, but I know it's not for everyone. In fact, in most posts I perused, people actually detest it plain. They were hiding it in all sorts of things. If I was going to hide it, I'd probably do it in a chocolate cake, but only since it would add to the antioxidant properties. Dark cocoa powder and pomegranate in one cake? Why, it would be practically saintly! If you are curious what you can do with POM juice, there are a lot of great recipes on the POM site.

I followed the Sure-Jell for reduced sugar package instructions for Grape Jelly, and used POM instead... so it was 5 1/2 c. of juice and 3 1/2 c. of sugar (plus the pectin). I'm figuring, if I use this to sweeten my plain yogurt, it will still be pretty healthy, not to mention a cheerful shade of pink. This particular pectin will allow you to use sucralose (Splenda) instead of sugar, but I would never recommend using that stuff unless you had an unfortunate dietary restriction to the natural stuff. Even then, I'd probably just do without, and drink the delicious POM plain!

Ready for breakfast tomorrow...

I had a little jelly jar leftover, and got 2 8 oz. jars and 3 12 oz. jars. It was the most marvelous ruby color in the light. I fear these dark, shorter days are going to do nothing for my photographing hobby, however.

After the jelly sets, and I eat it, I will photograph it in the light. I am also considering my first blog giveaway of a jar of POM Jelly... but I am going to do a little research on this kind of thing first. Keep checking back for updates!

So, on top of this day spent in the kitchen, it is the 26th. So that means Daring Baker Challenge day tomorrow! Did I leave this until the last minute? Did I find success in yet another challenge of my baking prowess? Tune in tomorrow, same time, same place...