Winter cooking ideas for things to do

Winter Scene2





I know most of my readers are snuggled up warm in their house for winter. Got plenty of time to cook but no fresh fruit to cook. No problem, here are a few things that are tried and tested to be worth the effort! So make a list of things to get at the grocery store and get to cooking. Hungry mouths are waiting for something special that tastes great.

The first thing that comes to mind is apple butter mainly because cooking this will drive your family members wild with the aroma. Don’t want to hear how hard it is because it is not. Just a few simple steps to start and let your crock pot do the rest. It doesn’t have to be fresh apples. It can be made with apple sauce, but it has to be no-sugar apple sauce.

Crock Pot cooking

Crock Pot cooking

EASY APPLE BUTTER: 12 cups apple sauce (unsweetened, it says so on the label). 9 cups sugar. 1/3 cup cider vinegar. 3 teaspoons cinnamon. 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice. 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix all ingredients completely and pour into a large crock-pot. Cook for 10 – 12 hours, removing the lid for the last hour (this thickens the butter). While cooking, stir every few hours to make sure no sticking occurs. If you are really lazy use crock pot cooking bags found in your grocers with all the other baggie stuff. It is next to the turkey bags (which also work if you can’t find crock pot bags).

Sample size spoonfull

Sample spoonful

Try to keep spoons for sampling before it is done. While it is still warm from cooking try it on hot biscuits, toast and yes even pancakes or waffles or to really kick it up (I have heard that before) try it on ice cream. For a long time I would not eat syrup on my pancakes. I only used apple butter and not syrup. No special reason, I just love apple butter that much. Something about apple butter that makes it different from other toppings, you can rewarm it in the microwave. Don’t put the whole jar in, just put a couple of tablespoons in a small saucer and pop it in for about 15 – 30 seconds depending on your microwave. I say that because we recently had to buy a new one and the time the new one cooks anything is about half of the time our old one took. So try it 15 seconds, stir and taste. If it is hot, stop there and eat. If not 15 seconds more. Any longer and it might be time to buy another microwave.

Canning Pot. Worth the investment of less than $15

Canning Pot. Worth the investment of less than $15

If you want to put some up in canning jars, you will need real canning jars, domes and rings as well as a good canning pot with rack. Carefully ladle butter into clean canning jars filling to within 1/4 inch of the top. Take a damp paper towel and clean the rims (very important). Now place on a sterilized dome and add the ring. Finger tighten the ring, this means not too tight (no air escapes, jar won’t seal). Not tight enough and water leaks in and spoils your work. Place jars on rack and put into boiling water pot that has water at least 2 inches over the tops of the jars (necessary for a good seal). Boil the jars for 10 minutes then carefully remove and place jars on racks or towels. Let set a couple of hours. During this time you will hear a popping sound, this is the domes sealing. When jars are completely cool check to see if any did not pop, if you find some two choices: 1. Start over with the cleaning then a new dome, the old ring is OK. Reprocess in the water bath. 2. Place jar in the refrigerator and eat those jars first. I like #2 but that is just me. You have enough apple butter for a while, depending on how many hungry people are closed up for winter.

Frozen fruit

Frozen Fruit

In case you have never checked your grocery store freezer department, it might be stocked with all types of frozen fruit that is just begging for you to cook something with it. We have a company in a small town just North of were we live that puts all sorts of fresh fruits in a flash frozen bag. When thawed the fruit tastes almost like the fresh fruit you had back during the summer. In some cases it tastes better, because not all fruit is available everywhere. We have recipes for Peaches (, Strawberries (, Blueberries (, and Blackberries (, just click on the link and it will take you to the recipe. But you have to come back to see what else is going on. You can make jam or preserves or fruit syrups from all of them. No picking, no peeling, hulling or anything else. Just thaw in a colander set in a pan in your refrigerator. This is important, because when fruit thaws juice drips into the pan. Use this for jelly or syrups or just add to fruit when you cook it. As far as directions, just use thawed fruit in the same recipes I have given you over the past few years. Look up recipes in the archives of my site it is not hard (even I can do it). After cooking jams, jellies or preserves use the same canning procedure listed above for things that might last you till the spring thaw comes.

Jams, jellies and preserves or butters are not the only thing you can make from the fruit you find in your store. I will give you a couple of recipes  that we enjoy. One recipe our neighbor made and brought over. We tasted it and went crazy, it was one of the best peach cobblers we had ever eaten. So I will give you the recipe and tell you my neighbors name so when you taste, you will know who started this. I am also going to give you a recipe for a super desert that came from a craft show we did in West Palm Beach Florida.


Outside at Yellow Daisy Festival


Inside at Columbia South Carolina


Inside at West Palm Beach

We used to travel all over with our setup and did indoor and outdoor shows from Miami to Washington D.C. and from Charleston west to the Mississippi River. We had invitations from other areas but could not do the trips to further away places.

Well on with the story and recipe for an exotic desert that is easy!!! The ingredients are apple butter, graham crackers, french vanilla bean ice cream. The utensils needed are a small ice cream scoop (like the ones used for melon balls, they make scoops the size of a quarter). First thing you need to do is make a whole bunch of melon ball size ice cream scoops and put on a sheet to freeze. Take some graham crackers and put into a small zip lock bag, crush the crackers with a rolling-pin or a small pot bottom. You will use the apple butter when you are going to serve the desert. Now the story of how this came about. We were doing a late spring show in West Palm Beach at the fairgrounds. One of our regular customers from Georgia shows stopped by and said that she had moved South. She was in trouble and needed a fancy dessert for a dinner party she was having. I told her to stop back in a while and let me come up with something. When she stopped back I told her to put a about a small amount of warm apple, depending on how many people you are serving. Allow at least 2 tablespoons per person. Heat in a microwave till it was hot (not bubbling),  into a small dessert bowl add the cracker crumbs then ice cream on top. This needs to be served immediately as it will all melt into a mess if you wait too long. She stopped back the next day and said the dessert was a huge hit. So big of a hit that she bought 4 cases of apple butter for use later. Sorry I don’t have any photos to show you they melted. She also said that more people raved about the desert than the dinner that she had cooked for hours.

The next dessert is the one from our neighbor Kim. She is Mary Lynn’s biggest buddy. They talk and message each other all the time. She made this one time while I was just home from the hospital and Mary Lynn had no free time to cook anything. Kim brought this over along with several other things to eat. She is that type of person, she brings us stuff all the time.

Kim's Peach Cobbler

Kim’s Peach Cobbler

Well now the desert, Kim’s Peach Cobbler: 1 box Duncan Hines moist butter cake mix. 2 cans Comstock brand Peach Pie filling. 2 cups sugar. 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon. 1 can Del Monte sliced peaches. 1 1/2 to 2 sticks butter cut into pats. Take some butter and butter the pan. Pour all the peaches into a long rectangular pan with high sides. Pour the dry cake mix over the peaches. Place pats of butter on top of the cake mix. Mix sugar and cinnamon and save. Bake peaches/cake mix pan on top of another flat pan to keep over flow from your oven. Cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Take out of oven and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar all over the top, make sure to cover the top well as this is where your top comes from. Return to oven for 45 minutes. Remove and check to see if your top is formed from sugar/cinnamon.

Kim's Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream

Kim’s Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream

If it is return and finish cooking another 10 minutes. Your peaches should be bubbling out the top. Remove, let cool to eating temperature. Serve with vanilla ice cream topping. It is absolutely awesome. You would never think that cinnamon would work with peaches. Well it does more than work, it goes crazy with peaches!!! If you don’t want ice cream (and I can’t figure out why), you can just scoop up a big batch of cobbler in a bowl. Great any way. How about whipped cream (the real stuff)?

Have not tried this with any other fruit, but keep watching and I will let you know if and when I do.

I know you have heard this before but just when I get going it is time to stop. Well if you like this blog and would like more ideas about making thing you buy in the store, let me know and I will do a whole blog about these type of items. Remember when you get closed in with winter weather you can still make great things in your kitchen.

Don’t forget…. let me know what you would like to make or any ideas you have for the next blog. I do take request. I don’t even have a “Tip Jar”. Don’t be shy and think that someone else will ask for the things you want made. 

Also don’t forget to check out my new blog dedicated just to Salsa. I have recipes for make and eat as well as canning recipes. I will also tell you when a recipe is just for make and eat with a chip. The site is Stop in and check it out. From the looks of the numbers not many are looking. Hard to believe with so many request for salsa recipes that you have not at least peaked. Well there is no time like now as we are at the end of this blog. Bookmark it in your computer, or better still subscribe and you will get new blogs e-mailed to you. While you are at it, subscribe to this blog also.

Also if you have any questions you would like me to try to solve. Just drop me a note at  Please feel free to SHARE my blog on Facebook or Twitter or even, or any place else you can think.

I want to get as many people exposed to the good things as possible. So share and ask your friends to share, PLEASE. They just might give you something that they made to say thanks for the share. Don’t keep my blogs a secret, pass the word on to your friends, neighbors and family members.Jellyman Hat

Don’t forget, if someone asks you can you can it? 

About Pete Austin & The Austin House

My wife, Mary Lynn and I had a very sucessful canning business for over 15 years, called The Austin House Jams & Jellies. We had to close it due to pure health. I will be writing a blog about some of the recipes, and how to use them. Also some of the interesting, funny, weird things that have happened in our traveling with the business. If you follow me, you will see that I look at things just a little different than others. If you look at the header at the top of the page, you see that I am looking at things. Making sure eveything looks as good as possible.
This entry was posted in Apple, Apple Butter, Award Winning, Best of Show, Bing Cherries, Blackberry, Blackberry Jam, Blackberry Preserves, Blueberry, Butters, Canning Jars, Cider Vinegar, Cooking, Family Tradition, Food Gifts, Food Preservation, Fruit Butters, Fruit Syrups, Gift Basket, Holiday Cooking, Holiday Gifting, Home Made, No artifical ingredients, No preservatives, Old Fashioned, Peach Cobbler, Peaches, Recipe, Strawberry, Strawberry Huller, Strawberry Shortcake, Syrups and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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