leaving an hour earlier than normal, we traveled a few miles to one of two recommended Mexican restaurants (literally across the street from each other). weather (and the wanting of a cold Negra Modelo) lead our clan to Lucy's, a quaint, old-school establishment that had yet to see the modernist, hipster evolution that is quite the attraction in Orange County (which there are several that i LOVE). this was immediately apparent in the interior: reminiscent of a local late-night haunt w/ simplistic lighting, vinyl booths and plain decor. Lucy's is not really concerned with the "look" but rather serving you up with some damn-good cheese-covered, diet-is-over, yumminess that took your mind off the wall and kept it focused on the plate-the way it should be. we scarfed down fish tacos, nachos, and a curious but super yummy dish-the New Mexico Enchilada (which i guess is not really common in these parts), and yes some Negra Modelos.
(exhibit A: New Mexico Enchiladas)
simply put, Lucy's may be a little off the beaten path, but a breath of fresh air amongst the chains that seem to saturate San Bern.which leads us (happily) to our 3rd week in MFP...and to another session of canning via steam/water bath. to make this clearer, there are 2 distinct methods of canning: water/steam bath or pressure canning. the 2 methods are distinguished by the pH (or acidity) of the particular food being preserved and SHOULD not be intermixed-this is a big-time no-no for any kind of preservation (unless you like getting incredibly ill).
last week, we focused our work creating jams (and jellys, conserves, butters) or items that have a high pH and the use of pectin, sugar and heat to preserve. because the fruit (some) has a high acid content, the combination of sugar and pectin allow a lower heat to be used and thus you can use a steam/water bath method. the "transition point" (my wordage), in whether to change methods (to pressure & higher temp) is determined by whether the product is above or below a pH of 4.6.
under 4.6 (acidic)=water/steam bath (lower processing temp)
over 4.6 (more alkaline)= pressure canner (higher processing temp)
now what do you do when something is 4.6 or 4.8??? well, as we learned from making stirred tomatoes, by adding lemon juice or vinegar helps bring the pH down. make sure you use pH paper to make sure of this.
i have to say, i was really excited about learning to work with tomatoes. from soup bases to pasta sauce, savory gifts...basically everyone eats tomatoes!
(ernest: prepping the tomatoes for blanching and other ingredients)
(testing the pH of the tomatoes-has to be lower than 4.6!)
(this week's snacks: preserved cherries and apple cobbler!)
again, i was hanging out at the snack area a ton-hey the apple cobbler was super good! i also had to gain a keen understanding of the complex flavors of the apple-pie filling that we were about to make...never stop learning!
if you haven't had the chance to have homemade pie filling-WOW, you will never go back to that store-bought crap again. if you can do this, start making it now and you will have a great holiday gift.
the only problem with this class is that there seems to be a a little problem with planning the activities of the class: things always seem to be running behind a little and if it wasn't for Ernest bringing his bag of tricks, we would have been left peeling 30 apples by hand! even though we had the peeler, we were just getting the apples to process right around 9pm (when the class ends).
(the apples that would not be- RIP)
PS: we had to leave before the apples were finished processing, but we heard latter that when the apples came out of the steam bath, they exploded after the rings were taken off (rings are the "screw-top" part of the jar. there was apple-sugar mess everywhere and after waiting an extra 30 minutes, the class had to clean up a mess instead of take yummy apples home :(