Cracker Toffee with Bacon Salt

A super easy and quick recipe to share with you today. Warning: these are amazingly addictive! 😀

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This recipe takes something I don’t normally like – chewy toffee – and turns it into a delectable treat (that doesn’t stick to my teeth!). Using semi-sweet dark chocolate chips and unsalted crackers helps keep the sweet and salty flavours from becoming overwhelming.

Cracker Toffee with Bacon Salt

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • unsalted saltine crackers (about 35-40)
  • 2 cups semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • Bacon Salt for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Spread a layer of crackers on the tray. Lift the edges of the aluminum foil around the crackers to keep them snug and in place. Set aside.
  3. In a small pot, melt the butter and sugar together. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. After 5 minutes, pour the toffee over the crackers and spread evenly, making sure all the crackers are completely covered.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven, then spread the chocolate chips evenly over the crackers and toffee. Let sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate (if necessary, place the tray back into the still-warm oven to soften the chocolate), then spread the chocolate to cover the entire surface.
  6. Sprinkle a small amount (a little goes a long way!!) of bacon salt over the top, ensuring that each cracker gets a bit. (Note: you can substitute coarse Himalayan Sea Salt, or any other sea salt, in place of the bacon salt.)
  7. Let cool completely. Can be refrigerated to harden faster.
  8. Once completely cold, peel away the foil, then cut or break apart into pieces.
  9. Can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Not that they will last that long. 😉 Can also be frozen.
  10. Enjoy!! 🙂
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A thought occurred to me as I was resizing the above photo, noting my very grungy looking baking pan. A 9×13 jelly roll pan, I’ve had this for many years. In fact, when I moved off the farm at age 18, it was among the items I took with me, along with cutlery I still use today, and a few other necessities. I have had this pan for 32 years and 18 moves. My mother had this pan for longer than I can remember.

It’s entirely possible that this pan is older than I am!

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Flavored Salts: Raspberry Wine

Though I made five different flavored salts at once, I will be doing a post for each flavor separately.

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Using wet ingredients to flavor salt requires a fair bit more time.  The typical recommended ratio for a red wine salt was 3 cups wine to 1 cup salt.  I chose to use a locally made raspberry wine I found, instead.  Most bottles are about 3 cups, but we had to taste it, too!  Which means the actual amount of wine we used as about 2 1/2 cups total.  Of course, feel free to adjust quantities to your taste!

Also, the raspberry wine tasted much like the raspberry wine my father used to make!  I’m not a big wine person, but I think we have a winner, here!

The wine will be reduced to a syrup, which means 3 cups of wine works out to roughly 3 Tbsp syrup.

Raspberry Wine Salt

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups raspberry wine
  • 2 cups Kosher salt

Also needed:

  • baking tray lined with parchment paper
  • saucepan large enough to allow roam for foaming
  • very strong stirring spoon
  • food processor or coffee/spice grinder
  • jar with lid
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Step 1: pour the win into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a gentle boil.  Continue cooking until the wine is reduced to a thick syrup.

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For the raspberry wine we used, it took about 45 minutes to reduce to a syrup.  Near the end, it began to really bubble and foam.

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Once reduced to a thick syrup, remove from heat and let cool briefly.

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Step 2: stir in the salt and mix to thoroughly coat the salt with the syrup.  This is where I had to switch to the stronger mixing spoon!

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Step 3: spread the salt and wine mixture onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet and spread evenly.  Place into the oven with the light on and the temperature at the lowest setting.  After an hour or so, turn off the oven but leave the light on.  Leave overnight to dry. 

Note: you can take the baking sheet out every now and then and turn the salt – this can be made easier by using the parchment paper to fold the salt over itself, then spreading it evenly again.  After doing this, reheat the oven to the lowest setting again, then shut it off, leaving the light to help maintain the heat.

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Step 4: once thoroughly dry, remove the baking sheet from the oven.  Break apart the salt and crumble it with your hands as much as possible.  There will still be some clumps.

Step 5: using a food processor or spice grinder, pulse the salt in batches, just enough to break up the clumps.

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Step 6: after processing the salt mixture, transfer it to a jar, or divide among small gift jars, and seal.

Links for all five flavors made:

Rosemary Lemon
Scarborough Fair Garlic
Mushroom
Raspberry Wine
Bacon


Flavored Salts: Bacon

Though I made five different flavored salts at once, I will be doing a post for each flavor separately.

flavoured.salts.five.mixes

Bacon Salt

Ingredients:

  • 1 package thin cut bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
  • 2 cups Kosher salt
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Also needed:

  • food processor, coffee/spice grinder
  • small rubber spatula
  • jar with lid, large enough to have room to shake the salt, or a mixing bowl
  • a larger funnel or canning funnel would also be handy

Note: the bacon needs to be cooked until very crisp, then drained of as much fat as possible.  I find the easier way to do this is to cook the bacon in the oven.  Line a baking tray (a 13×9 inch jelly roll pan works well for this) with aluminum foil and top with an oven safe cooling rack.  Lay your bacon slices out on the rack.  It may take some finagling to get them all to fit!  Cook the bacon in a 350F oven until dark and crisp, flipping the slices about half way through.  Once cooked, place the bacon on paper towels to get rid of any surface fat.  Go ahead and crumble it up with the paper towel in the process.  Leave the bacon on paper towel to cool completely – I left it overnight.

Step 1: using grinder or processor, pulse the bacon pieces in batches until they are quite fine. 

Note: the bacon may quickly become paste-like, and stick to the sides.  Use the rubber spatula to scrape it off in between batches.

Step 2: measure 2 cups Kosher salt into a jar.

Step 3: add the bacon bits to the salt and shake.

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I should have used a bigger jar!

Note: it may be necessary to use a mixing bowl to combine the salt and bacon.  Use your hands to rub the bacon into the salt and break up any clumps, then transfer to a jar, or divide into small gift jars.

Due to the fat content that may still be on the bacon, this salt is best stored in the refrigerator.  

Links for all five flavors made:
Rosemary Lemon
Scarborough Fair Garlic
Mushroom
Raspberry Wine
Bacon

Flavored Salts: Mushroom

Though I made five different flavored salts at once, I will be doing a post for each flavor separately.

flavoured.salts.five.mixes

Dry salts are made with a basic ratio of 1 tsp flavors to 1/4 cup coarse salt.  Feel free to adjust to your own personal tastes!  For the salt, you can use Kosher salt, pickling salt, sea salt, or any coarse salt you prefer.  I used Kosher salt, which is fine enough to not need further grinding, but coarse enough to maintain a nice texture.

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Note: you can use any dried mushroom you prefer for this mix.  I used a gourmet blend from Costco. 

Mushroom Salt

Ingredients:

  • dried mushrooms
  • Kosher salt

Also needed:

  • food processor, coffee/spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • jar with lid, large enough to have room to shake the salt
  • a larger funnel or canning funnel would also be handy

Note: you will need about 4 tsp powdered mushroom for 1 cup of salt.  I used quite a bit more dried mushroom than needed for my 2 cups of salt.  After grinding it down to a powder, I measured out what I needed for the amount of salt I had, then put the rest into a sealed jar to use as flavoring during cooking.

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Step 1: grind the drive mushrooms to a powder. 

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Step 2: measure the Kosher salt into a jar.

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Step 3: measure our your mushroom powder and add it to the salt.  Cover and shake thoroughly.

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Step 4: Label your jar and set aside for about a week, out of direct sunlight, to give the flavors time to meld, giving the jar a thorough shake on a regular basis.

If desired, measure out portions of the combined mixture into gifting jars.

Links for all five flavors made:
Rosemary Lemon
Scarborough Fair Garlic
Mushroom
Raspberry Wine
Bacon

Flavored Salts: Rosemary Lemon


Though I made five different flavored salts at once, I will be doing a post for each flavor separately.

flavoured.salts.five.mixes

Dry salts are made with a basic ratio of 1 tsp flavors to 1/4 cup coarse salt.  Feel free to adjust to your own personal tastes!  For the salt, you can use Kosher salt, pickling salt, sea salt, or any coarse salt you prefer.  I used Kosher salt, which is fine enough to not need further grinding, but coarse enough to maintain a nice texture.

Rosemary Lemon Salt

Ingredients:

  • lemon zest
  • dried rosemary leaves
  • Kosher salt

Also needed:

  • food processor, coffee/spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • jar with lid, large enough to have room to shake the salt
  • a larger funnel or canning funnel would also be handy

Step 1: measure out the lemon zest and rosemary leaves (see note below).

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Dehydrated lemon zest and rosemary leaves.

Note: For 1 cup of salt, you will want about 4 tsp ground rosemary/lemon mixture.  I made mine using 2 cups of salt, so I used about 3 rounded tablespoons total (1 Tbsp = 3 tsp) of the lemon zest and rosemary leaves, to get approximately 8 tsp after grinding.

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Lemon zest and rosemary leaves, ground together.

Step 2: grind the rosemary leaves and lemon zest together, to a fairly fine powder.

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Two cups Kosher salt.

Step 3: measure out your salt into a jar.

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Kosher salt with rosemary, lemon zest powder.

Step 4: add ground rosemary and lemon zest to the salt.  Close the jar and shake thoroughly.

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Step 5: Label your jar and set aside for about a week, out of direct sunlight, to give the flavors time to meld, giving the jar a thorough shake on a regular basis.

If desired, measure out portions of the combined mixture into gifting jars.

Links for all five flavors made:
Rosemary Lemon
Scarborough Fair Garlic
Mushroom
Raspberry Wine
Bacon

Nutty Seedy Brittle

I decided to try something new tonight; making a brittle.  While I’ve certainly had brittle before, I’ve never made it until now.

When I started looking up recipes, I thought I might not be able to, since they all included corn syrup.  This is something I don’t normally have in the pantry.  However, I did find some without corn syrup, so it worked out in the end.

Before I share the photos and recipe, here are some important notes.

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First, make sure you premeasure all your ingredients, first.  Once the sugar starts to caramelize, you will have to work quickly, so have them all ready and on hand.

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Second, make sure you have a baking sheet or pan oiled/buttered and ready before you start.  If it’s not well oiled first, it will be next to impossible to get the brittle off once it hardens.

It would also be preferable to use a heavy bottomed saucepan, if you have one, for even heating, as sugar can burn easily.

And finally, have a trivet or pot holder near the pan.  When the sugar caramelizes, you will need to work quickly to remove it from the heat and add the final ingredients, so make sure to have a safe place where you can put your hot pot, stir things in, then immediately pour it onto your prepared pan.

For this brittle, I used a mix of pecan pieces and roasted, salted sunflower seeds, because that’s what I had on hand.  Since the sunflower seeds and butter were both salted, I was lighter on the added salt.  I also used kosher salt; being a coarse salt, there’s a bit less in the measuring spoon than when using table salt.  If I were using table salt, I would reduce the amount by about half, unless I were using unsalted butter and none of the nuts/seeds were salted.

Nutty Seedy Brittle Ingredients (makes about 2 – 2 1/2 cups)

1 1/2 cups nuts and seeds (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp baking soda

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1. Combine sugar, water and salt into a saucepan over medium/medium-high heat.

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2. Bring the syrup mixture to a gentle boil, then set timer for 10 minutes.

3 . Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, watching for the colour to change.

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This is after 10 minutes. 

4. Continue to boil until the colour changes from clear to a light amber colour.  This may take another 10 minutes, depending on your stove.

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5. As soon as the colour changes (or the temperature reaches 300F on a candy thermometer), remove from heat.

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6. Quickly add the butter, vanilla and baking soda, while stirring constantly.  The mixture will foam up.  Continue stirring until the foam subsides and the mixture begins to look glossy.

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7. Quickly stir in the nuts and seeds, then pour the mixture onto the prepared pan.

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8. Flatten the mixture, as needed, and allow to cool for about 20 minutes, or until brittle.

That’s it!

It’s a simple recipe, using some pretty basic ingredients.  It’s just a bit finicky on technique.  Well worth it!

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer

Home Made Chicken Stock

The following is a “use watcha got” recipe to use up the carcasses of your cooked chicken (or turkey).  This stock is cooked down to be more concentrated, and should result in a rather firm, gel-like consistency when cool.

Decide ahead of time how you will store your stock, and prepare in advance as needed.  I used pint sized canning jars and sterilized the canning funnel, jars, lids and rings during the last hour or so of cooking.  You could also pour the stock into ice cube trays for freezing, or use freezer bags.

You will also need a colander and bowl large enough to hold your stock, plus a sieve and cheesecloth for straining.  Having a giant measuring cup is also very handy to stain into, making it easier to pour the stock into jars.

Ingredients:

bones and skin from roasted chickens (or turkey)
pan drippings
onion and/or leeks
garlic cloves
vegetables such as carrots, celery (including leaves), celeriac, parsnips
herbs such as rosemary, thyme, savory, sage, bay leaves, ginger, parsley or dill
peppercorns
salt; optional
cold water
optional additions: lemon or orange zest, a splash of apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

homemade.chicken.stockNote: Quantities will depend on how many carcasses you are using.   For 3 carcasses, I used 1 large onion, a whole head of garlic, 4 carrots, and whatever herbs I had handy in my cupboard.

Seasonings will also depend on how the chickens were seasoned when cooked.  When I roasted ours, I first rubbed them with lemon juice and put the lemon pieces, with some bay leaves, into the cavities.  I also rubbed lemon salt, paprika, pepper and oil into the skin.  Because of this, I was able to be light on the salt and pepper when making the stock.  What salt I did use was lemon salt.

  1. Place your chicken bones and skin into a large stock pot.  Scrape pan drippings in (cooled pan drippings may be gelled, which is awesome).
  2. Add onions, cut into large pieces (skin can be left on, if you wish), or leeks cut into 2 inch or so chunks.
  3. Crush garlic cloves with the side of a large knife (skins can be left on, but I like to remove them) and add to the pot.
    Note: If you don’t have fresh onions or garlic, dried can be used.
  4. Vegetables do not need to be peeled.  Just scrub them, and remove the root ends.  Chop them into about 2 inch pieces, then add to the pot.
  5. Add fresh or dried herbs and other seasonings of your choice.
  6. Add peppercorns (or ground pepper, if that’s what you have) and salt.  If you’re not sure about the salt, leave it for later, after tasting.
  7. Add enough cold water to cover everything by about 1 or 2 inches.
  8. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Do not stir, as that will make your stock cloudy.
  9. Simmer for about 3-4 hours.
  10. Place a colander over a large bowl.  Carefully pour everything in the stock pot, into the colander.  Gently lift out the colander, allowing to drain, and set aside.  Colander contents can be discarded.
  11. Wash the stock pot out and place back on the stove.  Pour the stock, through a sieve, back into the stock pot.
  12. Taste for seasonings.  Adjust as desired.
  13. Bring the stock to a boil.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer the stock down until reduced by 1/3rd.
  14. Line a sieve with several layers of cheesecloth and place over a bowl or large measuring cup.
  15. Gently ladle the stock into the lined sieve.
  16. Fill prepared containers with strained stock (in batches, if need be) and seal.
  17. Refrigerate or freeze, as desired.

 

Using the carcasses of 3 chickens, I was able to fill 11 pint sized canning jars (all the ones I had available), plus have 3 cups of stock left over.

The second cooking down of the stock concentrates it a bit; if you wanted to, you could continue to cook it down more, for an even more concentrated stock.  Keep this in mind when you use it, as you may need to water it down a bit.

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer

Brined Turkey with bacon

I was interrupted while making our Thanksgiving dinner today. I got a call from home care, telling me that there had been a sick call, and no one would be able to do the meal assist with my mother.  I did confirm that she would still be getting her bed time assist, then said that I could go over to do the meal assist.  So I turned all over to the girls to finish, and headed out to help out my mother.

Everything was ready by the time I got back, so we went straight to setting up for dinner.  I half carved the turkey before I realized I forgot to take a photo! 😀  So here is half of our bacon covered, brined turkey! Continue reading

Makin’ Mayo

Today, my daughters cracked open a new jar of mayonnaise that we bought just a couple of days ago, and discovered the seal was cracked.

Which means it had been sitting in our cupboard, with the vacuum seal broken.

So, that got thrown out.

Since we weren’t about to drive into town just to buy a jar of mayonnaise, and I happened to have the ingredients, I made a quick batch.

This is an easy mayonnaise recipe from the home economics cookbook I got from when I was in junior high school – a cookbook that is still one of my most used, because it’s filled with basic recipes like this one.

Homemade Mayonnaise

I also have these handy little pint canning jars to use to store it, too. 🙂  Since this is an uncooked version, I sterilized them first.

mayonnaise ingredients

The ingredients are pretty basic; dry mustard, salt, paprika (that is the amount in the recipe; when I’ve made it in the past, I usually used just a pinch), a large egg, vinegar and oil.

While you can adjust how much paprika is used, to taste, the quantities of the rest of the ingredients should stay the same.  That doesn’t mean you can’t get creative, though!  I’ve made this using olive oil, and avocado oil can be used as well.  You can use one egg, or two egg yolks.  Instead of white vinegar, try another light vinegar, such as white wine vinegar.  I wouldn’t use a dark vinegar, such as balsamic, as it would be overpowering, but go ahead and try it, if you want.  I’ve even successfully used prepared mustard instead of dry (not the bright yellow kind, but there are a lot of flavourful Dijon mustards out there that will work quite well).

The important thing about making mayonnaise is in creating the emulsion.  The original recipe was written before electric mixers were common, and the instructions say to add the oil, one drop at a time, while beating vigorously until it thickens!  Even with an electric mixer, it’s important to add the oil slowly.  Just a thin drizzle.

The need to thoroughly beat in the oil, as it is slowly being added, requires a bowl that is small and deep.  I used my 4 cup measuring cup, because even the bowl that came with my stand mixer was too big for a single recipe.  If I had doubled it, it would have worked fine.

If you are using a blender, immersion blender or food processor, however, the blades turn so quickly, it emulsifies before you know it!  Just add the oil in a steady stream.

Here is the original recipe, with my modifications added in [brackets].

Mayonnaise

1 tsp dry mustard [can use equal amount of prepared mustard, such as a dijon]
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika [can be reduced to taste, or none at all for an almost white mayonnaise]
1 large egg or 2 yolks
1 cup salad oil [can be any vegetable oil, olive oil, or avocado oil]
2 Tbsp vinegar [white vinegar or any light vinegar of choice]

  1. In a small but deep bowl, mix spices and egg
  2. Add oil one drop at a time, beating constantly until and emulsion forms (mixture thickens). [If using an electric mixer, pour the oil in a steady stream no larger than a pencil.]
  3. Beat in 1 Tbsp vinegar and the remaining oil in larger quantities. [Using an electric mixer, you can add all the vinegar now, or after all the oil has been added.]
  4. Add remaining vinegar and beat vigorously. [Pour into sterilized container.] Refrigerate.

 

Hint: let the egg come to room temperature, first.

Note: if the emulsion refuses to form and “breaks” (one of the reasons buying mayonnaise can be preferred!), it might still be rescued.  Take an egg yolk and beat it in another small, deep bowl.  Then, slowly add the broken mayonnaise, a little bit at a time, while beating vigorously.

If that still doesn’t work… well… there’s always the grocery store! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Making Chokecherry Vinegar

The original recipe for this can be found here.

I adjusted the original recipe for my quantity of chokecherries.

Chokecherry Vinegar20180802.washing.chokecherries
Soaking time: 24 hours
First boil: 5 minutes
Second boil: 2 minutes

5 cups chokecherries
1 2/3 cups vinegar
1 2/3 cups water
sugar

Wash and mash the berries.  Place them in a glass bowl (I mashed the washed berries in the bowl).

Combine vinegar and water.  Pour over the mashed berries.

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Vinegar and water solution poured over mashed chokecherries.

Let stand for 24 hours.

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Chokecherry and vinegar mix, after 24 hours.

Place in a large saucepan and slowly bring to a boil.

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Make sure to use a large enough pot to give the chokecherry mixture room to expand as it boils.

Boil for 5 minutes.

Strain through jelly bag.  Do not squeeze.

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I placed a moistened jelly roll bag into a large measuring cup.  Layers of cheese cloth can be used instead.

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I used an elastic band to close up the bag and hang it over the measuring cup.

Measure 1 cup of sugar for each cup of juice.

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I got just under 3 cups of liquid from the 5 cups of berries.

Combine chokecherry liquid and sugar into a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.

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While boiling the berry liquid with the sugar, I could really smell the vinegar!

After boiling for 2 minutes, allow to settle.

Bottle, let cool, and refrigerate for up to 6 months.

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I sterilized a quart jar and a small pitcher with a liquid tight seal to store the chokecherry vinegar.  The pitcher will be a gift for my mother.

To use: put ice in a glass.  Add 2-4 tablespoons of chokecherry vinegar.  Fill with water, club soda, ginger ale or sparkling water.

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer