Tag Archive | Ultra Gel

From the Mailbox: Ultra Gel Shelf Life and Storage

It’s a cold, rainy, September day here in Utah and so I decided it was a good time to address a couple of our most asked questions when it comes to storing Ultra Gel.

Ultra Gel

What is Ultra Gel?

For those who are new, Ultra Gel is a gluten free, non-GMO instant thickener made from a particular kind of corn called waxy maize. It can be added to hot or cold liquids for instant thickening which makes it good from everything from ranch dressing to gravy. Ultra Gel is fridge and freezer stable, meaning your products don’t turn into soup or harden up like a rock in the freezer or refrigerator. As well Ultra Gel is stable under high heats and thickens evenly which means it can safely be used for canning and storage and is approved by the Utah State Extension Service. Ultra Gel is known as a ‘magic mix in’ because just a little bit is so useful in so many situations from helping cookies to stay soft longer to making the perfect apple pie filling.

How long of a shelf life does Ultra Gel have?

This answer is for Ultra Gel itself and not products made from Ultra Gel, as those shelf lives vary. Ultra Gel itself has a very long shelf life. It doesn’t go rancid as there are no oils or fats in it and it does not break down quickly. Eventually (several years along) the thickening power of Ultra Gel can break down, but it is still safe to use. For absolutely best results, we advise rotating your Ultra Gel at least every five years, though properly stored it will remain usable for two to three times that long.

How do I store my Ultra Gel?

Because its water availability is so low Ultra Gel does not attract insects or vermin, and there are no oils so it will not go rancid. It is, however, very hygroscopic, which means Ultra Gel LOVES water. If it’s left in an open container it will actually start absorbing moisture from the air (even here in the desert!) and that top layer of starch will harden and get nasty, and open containers always invite cross contamination from dust or other items which could fall inside. So Ultra Gel should be stored in an air tight package. It’s even better if it can be kept in a dark, low moisture environment, but the key thing is keeping the air and the water out. It can be stored in containers from 5 gallon buckets down to zip lock bags, size doesn’t matter as long as it’s sealed.

If it happens that a container of Ultra Gel is left open you can recover. Simply remove the top layer of starch and discard. Anything under about the first 1/2 inch should be fine, as long as there hasn’t been a big contamination, IE: if water has been poured directly into the container or such you’ll likely have to throw it all out.

So there you go. Three things you may not have known about Ultra Gel. What is it? How long is Ultra Gel’s shelf life? And how do I store it?

Have more questions? Send them to us and we’ll get you answers!

Cornaby’s Apple Pie Bars and Perfect Pie Crust

When it comes to fruit filled pies there are many opinions about how much pie crust there should be in relationship to how much fruit filling. My sweet husband is a filling man. He wants a thick layer of fruit filling and enough crust to carry it along. I’m more of a middle ground girl. I want enough pie filling to be interesting but I hate it when all my fruit filling spills out of my crust because there’s not enough crust or the pie crust is too weak.

This is where apple pie bars, or other slab pies really, enter in. This recipe takes advantage of the Apple Pie Filling recipe we gave you a bit ago for a wonderful pie filling that bakes up perfectly, and uses Ultra Gel to help give tenderness and hold to a flaky, buttery crust. This recipe cooks very evenly and the resulting pieces keep the apple pie filling in place and are the perfect eat with one hand breakfast! For a lovely compliment try a little caramel ice cream or a poof of Ultra Gel Whipping Cream.

apple pie bars

Cornaby Apple Pie Bars

6 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 cup cold butter, cut into cubes

1 cup shortening

3/4 cup water, + a little as needed

2 quarts (4 -4.5 cups) apple pie filling

egg white

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and Ultra Gel, mix well. Add butter and shortening and cut into dry ingredients until the consistency of coarse meal. Add 3/4 cups ice water and toss until water is incorporated. Add additional water if necessary to bring dough together. Turn out and knead 5-10 times. Do not over knead. Split into two pieces and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

When cooled roll out the first piece of pie crust large enough to form to the bottom and sides of an 11×17 inch jelly roll pan. Transfer dough to pan and trim sides. Prepare top pie crust as bottom crust. Fill bottom with prepared apple pie filling, add top crust and crimp edges to seal (use a little water or milk if needed, but generally the dough sticks together really well). Whip egg whites to a froth and brush pastry surface. If desired sprinkle with coarse sugar or cinnamon sugar. Vent top crust by making decorative holes with a sharp knife. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until top begins to brown. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate anything that doesn’t get eaten the first night and serve cold for breakfast!

Canning with Ultra Gel and Thick Gel

I love this time of year when so many fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest! My kitchen is quickly filling up with things that need processing: tomatoes, squash, peaches, beans, apples. It just keeps coming! Not that I’m complaining, mind you. :)

So one of the big questions we get this time of year is how Ultra Gel and Thick Gel can be used in canning, and, even more specifically how they compare to products such as Clear Jel.

Clear Jel, like Ultra Gel and Thick Gel is a modified food starch. It has been on the market for many years and is often available through online resources and at Amish stores. However, many people find Clear Jel difficult to locate and hard to use, as well there is concerns about whether or not Clear Jel contains GMO products.

Now, backing up a bit, the first question when it comes to any of these products is: Why do I need to use modified food starch anyway? Can’t I use flour or cornstarch?

The problem you get with some traditional thickeners and methods is that they do not thicken canned goods evenly or consistently. Relying on only natural pectin, for example, means a different result with each batch of fruit, so you often end up cooking a canned product for a lot longer than you really want to, ending up with mushy fruit and loss of flavor and health benefits, in order to get your product to set. As well, pectin breaks down over time and products begin to weep and break apart so you’ll have some sections which are very juicy and some that are over thick.

When dealing with flour and cornstarch they do not thicken evenly, so the processing heat does not move through the bottle evenly and may or may not be able to kill all bacteria, yeasts and molds. As well you can see the same weeping and spotty thickness problems that you see with pectin.

Thick Gel and Ultra Gel are unique in the canning world because of how evenly they thicken products and because if their very high stability under acidic conditions, high heat, and their freeze/thaw stability. This allows for safe canning of items such as soups, sauce, pie fillings, jams and just about anything else which traditionally calls for Clear Jel, flour or cornstarch. These starches have been tested in commercial laboratories and are canning approved by the Utah State Extension service.

Thick Gel and Ultra Gel can be purchased through the Cornaby’s Website, or through Amazon. Locally they can be found at your local Associated Food Stores, Bosch Kitchen Centers and Harmons Food Stores.

Recipe Conversions: If recipes are given by weight instead of volume use the same weight of Thick Gel or Ultra Gel to Clear Jel.

1 Tablespoon Clear Jel=3/4 Tablespoon Thick Gel=2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 Tablespoon Thick Gel=2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

Thick Gel apple pie filling

Canned Apple Pie Filling

Yield: 8 servings per quart

For one quart or one pie:

3 ½ cup blanched peeled and cored cooking apples sliced ¼” thick

¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (opt.)

½ cup cold water

¾ cup apple juice

2 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice

1 drop yellow food coloring (opt.)

3 Tablespoons Thick Gel OR 6 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

For seven quarts:

6 qts. blanched peeled and cored cooking apples sliced ¼” thick

5 ½ cup sugar

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg (opt.)

2 ½ cups cold water

5 cups apple juice

¾ cup bottled lemon juice

7 drops yellow food coloring (opt.)

1 cup Thick Gel OR 2 ½ cup Ultra Gel

 

Peel, core and slice apples; place in water containing ascorbic acid. Blanch no more than 2 quarts at a time for 1 minute in boiling water and keep warm.

Combine sugar, spices, water, apple juice, lemon juice and coloring in heavy 10-12 quart pan. Bring to a boil and gradually stir in Ultra Gel with a wire whisk – If using Thick Gel, combine listed Thick Gel with enough additional apple juice to form a thin slurry and whisk into boiling liquid. Cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Fold in drained apple slices. Fill jars, leaving ½” headspace. Adjust lids and process immediately in water bath canner for 35 minutes (sea level). Add five minutes processing time for elevations of 1,000 to 3,000 feet and ten minutes for elevations from 3,000 to 5,000 feet.

Nutrition info/serving: 128 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat 33 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 30 g sugar, 0 g protein, 2 mg sodium

Cornaby Texas Sheetcake

If you look around there are a lot of versions of Texas Sheetcake floating around in family recipe books and on various cooking blogs. The similarity here is that the title refers to a rich, but tender from scratch chocolate sheetcake with chocolate frosting which has traditionally been served at many events from weddings to school lunch.

I have long loved this recipe, but I find that I love it even more after adding Ultra Gel to the mix. Because of altitude issue I previously always had to muck just a little with the flour to liquid ratio trying to get things right so the very center of this cake didn’t fall, but with the Ultra Gel to balance the liquid issues it comes out lovely every time! I topped my cake with the traditional chocolate frosting, then did some decorating with a little bit of left over raspberry mango buttercream which was a really fun contrast flavor. I’ve also baked the cake and topped it with raspberry jam and served it up with ice cream and that was a killer application too!

Keep an eye on this spot this weekend as we’ll be bringing our Labor Day edition of Canning secrets with Ultra Gel and Thick Gel, including replacing Clear Gel in your recipes and our killer apple pie filling recipe!

Cornaby Texas Sheetcake

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 Tbl Ultra Gel

2 cup butter

1 cup water

1/4 cup baking cocoa

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and Ultra Gel together and set aside. Combine butter, cocoa and water together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil (This can also be done in the microwave). Add butter mixture to the dry mixture and mix well. Add eggs, vanilla and butter milk and stir to combine. Pour into greased and floured jelly roll pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until tests done. Cool and frost with your choice of toppings.

If you want to use this batter for cupcakes or a 9×13 dripper pan increase the baking soda to 2 tsp and the buttermilk to 3/4 cups.

Zucchini Banana Bread

It is some kind of shared delusion that everyone in Utah who gardens plants summer squash. We all do it, even knowing that very shortly we will be in squash upto our eyeballs and desperately trying to decide what to do with it all. Fried, baked, roasted, creamed, shredded…you try everything. This recipe for a zucchini banana bread is one of my favorite uses for all that squash, and it takes care of a handful of overripe bananas all at once. Win win right?

So as I have 7 squash on the counter and can’t make them all into bread…what should I do with the rest of them?

Zucchini Banana Bread

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 cups grated, peeled, seeded zucchini

1 cup mashed overripe bananas

2 Tbsp Ultra Gel

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup applesauce

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup nuts (optional)

Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add squash, banana, Ultra Gel, oil and vanilla and mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; then add to creamed mixture. Do not over beat! Stir in nuts if desired. Place in greased and floured bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for an hour. Yield: 4 medium loaves.

This recipe freezes really well. To freeze, cool loaves entirely and wrap in cling wrap and aluminum foil. Label with date and freeze.

Quick Berry Compote

Earlier this week we decided to have Amazing French Toast for dinner. This means making french toast with Texas Toast slices, or a nice chewy french bread, and serving it with cool toppings like nutella and real maple syrup.

One of our favorite topping is a simple berry compote from fresh berries. It’s easy to make this in about 5-7 minutes on your stove top, or you could even do it in the microwave. The compote can be served warm or cold on french toast, ice cream, cake, cheesecake, yogurt, or anywhere else you’d like a burst of fruit and sauce.A little bit of whipping cream on top wouldn’t go badly either, but I like to keep it simple for breakfast.

I use sugar in the recipe but the sugar is to taste and can be swapped out with sugar substitutes such as honey, maple syrup, agave, Truvia, Splenda, etc.

What would you spread it on?

 

blueberry compote

Fresh Berry Compote

8 ounces fresh berries (blueberries pictured)

1/4 cup lemonade or fruit juice

1/4-1/2 cup sugar (to taste)

1/4 tsp kosher salt

Combine ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, turn down to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add 1-3 Tablespoons of Ultra Gel to reach desired thickness. It works best to add the Ultra Gel one Tablespoon at a time and allow the mixture to achieve full thickness before adding additional Ultra Gel. If you over thicken, no fear, just add a little more juice to bring the mixture back to the desired thickness. This can be frozen for upto 6 months or kept in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

Snickerdoodlechips Three Ways

I know we’ve been teasing you about raspberry pie. I promise it’s still in the works, but I’m waiting for pictures from two other folks so we can display the many faces of raspberry pie.

So…in the meantime…I was having a giant cookie craving. I wanted snickerdoodles…and chocolate chip cookies. As I couldn’t decide between the two I finally ended up doing a snickerdoodle batter which I baked three ways. The first was classic snickerdoodles with no chocolate chips and lots of cinnamon sugar on the outside. The second was snickerdoodles with chocolate chips, snickerdoodlechips if you will, and cinnamon sugar on the outside. And the last is snickerdoodles with chocolate chips and no cinnamon sugar.

The family tried all of the versions and we decided a few things. First we decided all three varieties were better the next day after they’d cooled and had a chance for the flavor to really develop. Second we decided all the varieties were good, but that snickerdoodlechips should be made with a lighter flavor of chocolate, milk or white, as the semi-sweet chips fought a little with the cinnamon. However, all the cookies got eaten so I’m counting all three varieties a win in the long run.

This is another place where we use Ultra Gel in baking as it helps give us a nice tenderness to the cookie and would preserve them longer, except that we ate them all before I could see how long. :) Let me know if yours make it long enough to be a good test.

Snickerdoodlechips

Snickerdoodlechips

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

2 Tbp Ultra Gel

1 – 2 cups chocolate chips or white chocolate chips

Cinnamon sugar for coating

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Mix well. In a small bowl combine cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and Ultra Gel. Add to cream mixture and combine well. ((I prefer this method so that I am certain the leavening is evenly dispersed without over beating the flour and creating too much gluten.)) Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Fold in chips if desired.

Scoop by tablespoons and coat with cinnamon sugar before moving onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. ((We liked them better closer to 9:30.)) Cool on cooling rack. Devour.