Day 195–Slightly Badass Blackberry Jelly

It is somewhat misleading to call this recipe “jelly”. Jellies are lovely, crystal clear productions that have no pulp or fruit particles visibly present. So this recipe I am presenting to you is not like that. This recipe is a fun, full of itself cousin to true jelly. Think of it as that rogue cousin who shows up at a family funeral with a six pack of beer instead of a pound cake. You know exactly who I’m talking about, don’t you?

While this jelly won’t earn any ribbons for beauty at the State Fair, it is delicious, full of flavor and would be good on a biscuit or on a pork tenderloin. The reason it isn’t crystal clear and sparkling, is because I use a food mill instead of cheesecloth to extract the seeds. This leaves in some of the fruit pulp that makes the jelly opaque instead of clear. I don’t care. When I have blackberries, I’m using every little bit of them I can!

Slightly Badass Blackberry Jelly

8 cups of fresh blackberries
3 tsp. calcium water (this comes with the Pomona Pectin)
3 cups pure cane sugar
3 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin
1/4 cup water

Rinse the berries and put in a nonreactive stock pot. Add the water. Mash the berries with a potato masher and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes.

Put a food mill with a fine blade over a large bowl. Fill the food mill half way with the cooled blackberry mixture. Process until there are just seeds remaining and dump the seeds into a container for composting. Continue until you have processed all the berries.

Pour 3 cups of the processed blackberries into the pot and bring to a boil (NOTE: if you have more than 3 cups of processed blackberries, adjust the amounts of the remaining ingredients accordingly).

Add the calcium water and bring to a boil again. Mix the pectin and sugar in a bowl. Add to the boiling blackberries and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Scrape off any foam.

Either refrigerate the jelly or ladle into clean, hot half-pint jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow jars to rest in the hot water for 5 minutes. Remove from the canner and set aside. Check seals after 24 hours and if seals are good, store for up to 1 year.

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Day 184–Freezing Through the Summer

Whole green beans in a carton.

I’ve been canning a lot of food lately, trying to make sure we can eat locally all year AND trying to reduce the amount of food we toss into the compost because we can’t eat it fast enough. I have to admit–I love canning. It was scary at first, but I have my own little system now and that makes things more efficient and comfortable. The fact that I haven’t killed anyone with my jam also boosts my confidence significantly šŸ™‚

But putting up food for the winter months includes freezing and drying foods, too. I still don’t have a deep freeze, but I did manage to put up a LOT of strawberries this spring. Where are they? They have all been eaten–mostly turned into fruit/yogurt smoothies, which we have every morning. It make me realize just how much fruit we plow through each week. ARRGGHH. So, come winter, I will not have strawberries. I am, however, going to try again with peaches, blueberries and blackberries. And I’ll try some vegetables as well. Yesterday while waiting for my marinaraĀ sauce to cook, I blanched and froze some summer corn and some green beans. I’m on my way to rebuilding my stock of foods for winter–not that we mind kale, collards and sweet potatoes, but won’t it be nice to have fresh tasting corn as well? As long as we don’t have corn smoothies, I think we’ll be more successful with vegetables!

Here are some foods that freeze well (some of these surprised me):

  • Corn (blanch, strip from the cob and freezeĀ the kernels)
  • Whole tomatoes (Tip: once frozen, the skins just slip off during thawing)
  • Peaches
  • Kale/collards (cook first)
  • Green beans
  • All berries
  • Peppers
  • Chopped herbs (put them in an ice-cube tray and fill the compartments with olive oil!)
  • Onions (chop them and freeze them in bags in 1 c. portions)

 

Day 183–Making Marinara Sauce

Tomatoes

I came home from working an event on July 4th to find two lovely boxes of tomatoes on my doorstep, left by The Produce Box! The two, 10 pound boxes of field tomatoes are part of my next big challenge–makingĀ marinaraĀ sauce from scratch. If nothing, this make me more appreciative of all the mammasĀ and nonas before me who made sauce with no air conditioning. As I type this, the sauce is simmering away (and will for another few hours) and my house smells AMAZING. In fact, I am starving and it’s only 10:00 in the morning–I’m sure this has much to do with the incredible aroma wafting through the house.

While making tomato sauce does take some work, much of the actual work is done on the stove while you can do other things around the house. The recipe I have called for blanching and peeling the tomatoes. I decided to skip that part and instead used a food mill to process the partially cooked tomatoes. MUCH faster and I didn’t add a lot of unnecessary heat to my kitchen. I’m keeping my sauce pretty simple. I’ve added some diced onion, minced garlic, and basil leaves, but that’s it. Since I don’t know how I’ll be using the sauce, I’m leaving any additional seasoning for when I open the jars to use them.

Here is the recipe I am using. There are so many tomato sauce recipes out there that you can find one to suit your preference fairly easily.

Easy Marinara Sauce

  • 20 lbs. tomatoes
  • 3 large onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice per quart jar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt per quart jar
  • 2 washed basil leaves per quart jar
  1. Wash, trim and quarter the tomatoes, making sure to cut off any bruised or damaged areas.
  2. Add about 1/4 of the tomatoes to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher to extract the juices.
  3. Continue adding the cut tomatoes to the pot in batches and continue mashing with the potato masher until all the tomatoes are in the pot (NOTE: at this point, I needed two stock pots because even my biggest one wouldn’t hold all the tomatoes. Later, as the tomatoes cooked down, I was able to get everything in one pot).
  4. Simmer the tomatoes for about 30 minutes. Let cool a bit and add the tomatoes in small batches to a food mill set with a fine mesh blade over a large bowl. Continue processing the tomatoes through the food mill to remove skins and seeds. You will need to empty the food mill several times (save the skins and seeds for compost!).
  5. Return the tomato juice and puree to the pot(s). Add the onion and garlic and let simmer over medium low heat for about 3 hours (this will depend on how much water your tomatoes contain).
  6. Prepare and sterilize quart sized canning jars (5-6). Add 3 Tbsp. of lemon juice, 2 basil leavesĀ and 1 tsp. of kosher salt to each jar. Ladle the sauce into the hot jars, leaving 1/2 ” of headspace. Release any trapped air. Wipe the rims, place lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let jars sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars from the canner and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals. Store for up to 1 year.

Day 181–Peach Salsa

I feel like I have been canning like a fiend, but there is still so much to do! I’ve mentioned my farmer’s market hoarding tendencies and it’s all I can do not to buy up everything in sight. But I do know that is a recipe for DISASTER! I did manage to can some peach salsa last week and we tried it out with some smoky grilled pork tender

loin. It was magic! We would definitely enjoy it with chips and salsa or on quesadillas. Yum, yum! Here is the recipe in case you want to give it a try. The original is from Sherry Brooks Vinton’s book, Put ‘Em Up, which I think is the best canning recipe book I have. This week, I’ll be canning tomato sauce–new territory for preserving my local food bounty!

Spicy Peach Salsa

  • 3 lbs. peaches, whole
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
  1. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, cumin and salt in a large, nonreactive pot. Peel, pit and dice the peaches, adding them quickly to the brine so they do not brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and jalapeno and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes (this will in part depend on how juicy your peaches are).
  4. Remove from heat and refrigerate or can using the boiling water bath method.
  5. Ladle salsa into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Release the trapped air.
  6. Wipe the rims clean, put lids and bands on the jars and process in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars rest for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check the seals and then store for up to 1 year.

Day 171–Bread and Butter Pickles

20120622-132925.jpg

What to do with a bumper crop of cucumbers? Why, make pickles, of course! I’ve been reading a lot about how to make cucumber pickles and the science of the fermenting process and I have to say, it scares me a little. The whole bacteria management of true pickle making is really not made for my seemingly random and inconsistent personality. I have a limited attention span, people, and I need recipes that embrace that (because at this point in my life, I will probably not become focused like a laser beam). Enter the Bread and Butter Pickle. Simple. Fresh. Easy. A pickle recipe made for a mom who often forgets why she walked downstairs, only to remember once she goes back upstairs. You know. That kind of thing. I don’t do sourdough starter for that reason either.

I made these pickles using locally grown, Kirby pickling cucumbers, which are in absolute abundance here right now. In fact, I may plant some next year because they are taste good all by themselves and they are nice and small. I like this recipe because it is pretty quick and doesn’t call for a commercial pickling mix. It also doesn’t require weeks on tending while the cucumbers slowly ferment on my counter top. This recipe is from my favorite canning book, Put ‘Em Up!

We haven’t opened up a jar of these pickles yet, but we did have some leftover brined cucumber slices that didn’t have a home and they were very good. So good we ate them all. The onion really amps up the flavor. These are a little sweet and a little tart–not too much of either. In about a week, we’ll try some and see how they are. I’m hoping they are really tasty because we now have 5 pints of them šŸ™‚

Bread and Butter Pickles

  • 5 lb. cucumbers (we used Kirby), ends removed and cut into 1/4″ coins
  • 1 lb. onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c. + 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • 4 c. distilled white vinegar
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. mustard seed
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. celery seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. turmeric
  1. Layer the cut cucumber and onion with 1/2 c. salt in a large bowl. Cover with a layer of ice cubes and let sit for 2 hours. Drain and rinse.
  2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, mustard, peppercorn, celery seed, turmeric and remaining salt in a large, nonreactive pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the drained vegetables and return to a boil, stirring to ensure all vegetables are heated through. Remove from heat.
  4. Store pickles by either ladling into bowls and jars and storing in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or can.
  5. If canning, ladle the vegetables into clean, hot pint canning jars. Add the brine to the jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Release any trapped air. Clean the rims, add lids and collars. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit with lid off of the canning pot for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals and store jars for up to 1 year.

 

Day 159–Peach Butter!

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When I was little, I hated peaches. Would. Not. Eat. Them. It wasn’t the taste, I just couldn’t get past the fuzzy skin. I was a nectarine girl all the way. Then I moved farther south, where peaches grow everywhere and you just can’t resist the sweet fragrance coming from the market stalls. Fuzz you say? What fuzz? I am totally over it. When peach season hits, it’s like striking gold for me. Peach cobbler, peach ice cream, peach crisp and just plain ol’ peaches–the super ripe kind that drip juice down your chin and make you a target for every yellow jacket in the area.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that eating locally means putting up the goodness of the season so that you can continue to enjoy locavore eating all year round without having to depend on just a few seasonal crops. I’ll be freezing peaches, for sure, but I found a recipe for peach butter that, judging from our taste of what was left in the pot, will be heaven in the middle of winter. Just open a jar and spread some summer on my morning toast. Yum. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Peach Butter (makes about 5 half-pints)

2 c. water
1/4 c. lemon juice
8 lb. ripe peaches
2 c. sugar
1tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine the water and lemon juice in a non-reactive pot.

Peel and chop the peaches, adding the fruit to the water/lemon juice. Compost peach peels.

Bring the peach mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes (peaches will be soft). Puree with a food mill or stick blender.

Return the peach puree to the pot and add sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Simmer until thick (this took 50 min for me). Stir frequently so the puree doesn’t burn.

Store your peach butter in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or can using the hot water bath method.

Ladle puree into clean, hot jars (I used half pint jars), leaving 1/4″ headspace. Release trapped air, wipe jar rims clean and put lids on jars. Screw bands onto jars just to finger tightness.

Process for 10 minutes in a hot water canner (jars should be in boiling water 10 min). Open canner, turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes.

Remove jars and set aside 24 hours. Check jar seals and set aside in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months.

Day 148–Pickled Beets with Dill and Mustard

CDC beets

I am in mourning today for the lovely, lush squash, zucchini, bell pepper and cucumber plants that I found mangled and ruined in my garden today. HATE voles. HATE them. So this weekend, I will be digging out my raised beds and putting gravel and/or weed matĀ in the bottom to stop those things from destroying anymore plants. UGH!!! Thankfully, two of my raised beds are new and I was smart enough to put weed mat down before filling them. So sad to see all that promising food go bye bye. Sad and maddening.

This afternoon I managed to get my beets cooked and sliced and ready for pickling. We have the remnants of tropical storm Beryl outside, so it’s a good time for an indoor activity. This is a promising recipe–I love beets and dill. I added some mustard seed as an experiment–I love what mustard seed adds to homemade pickles!

Pickled Beets with Dill and Mustard (makes 3 pints)

  • 2 pounds beets (roasted or boiled, peeledĀ and sliced)
  • 1 c. distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. fresh dillweed
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard seed
  1. Set aside your prepared beets.
  2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat.
  3. Pack the beets into clean, hot pint jars and leave enough room for the dill and for the brine to circulate.
  4. Divide the fresh dill and mustard seed among the jars. Pour the hot brine over the beets to cover by 1/2″. LeavĀ 1/2″ of headspace in the jar. Release any trapped air in the jars.
  5. Put clean lids and bands on the jars. Either refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or process in a hot water bath for 30 minutes and leave in the canning pot with heat off for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check the jar seals and store for up to 1 year.

 

Day 130–Blueberry Jam

Blueberry

Blueberry jam always seems like such a luxury to me and I’m not even sure why. It’s not as though blueberries are rare, but somehow they seem a bit precious. They are not as treasured as blackberries, which will always be my favorite, but they’re still pretty special. North Carolina blueberries, when cooked, seem to have so much more flavor than they do when they are raw. I don’t think this is true of wild Maine blueberries, which are much smaller but packed with flavor. My Produce Box this week included a container of this year’s first blueberries and I added on 6 more to my order for good measure (!). What to do on an evening when Ellie has homework and Tom is playing softball? Make jam, of course! Just me and my boiling cauldrons of goodness bubbling away. Here is the recipe I used. Judging from the last bits that Ellie and I sampled from the bottom of the pot, this recipe is a keeper! It is from “Put ‘Em Up!” which is a terrific book on home food preservation.

Quick Blueberry Jam (this recipe made 6 half-pints)

  • 1-2 c. sugar (depending on your taste; I used 2)
  • 2 tsp. Pomona’s Universal Pectin
  • 8 c. blueberries, stemmed
  • 1/4 c. bottled lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. calcium water (included in the Pomona box)
  1. Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the berries with a splash of water in a medium nonreactive saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over low heat. Add the lemon juice and calcium water. Stir.
  3. Pour in the sugar/pectin mix and stir to dissolve.
  4. Return to a boil and them immediately remove from the heat and let the jam rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam.
  5. From here, you can ladle the jam into jars or bowls, cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Or you can can the jam.
  6. To can, ladle the jam into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace. Release the trapped air.
  7. Wipe the rims clean, center the lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let the jars rest in the water for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove jars without tilting them and set aside for 24 hours. Check the seals and then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Day 112–A Strawberry Workday and Strawberry Fruit Leather

Saturday was all about strawberries at our house. We managed to get up and out of the house early and meet some of our fellow scouts at a local strawberry patch. The morning was beautiful and the berries were plentiful. It’s fun to watch everyone’s strawberry picking strategies. I pick the closest spot and start picking. Tom checks out the field and picks the spot where he thinks most people won’t have picked and Ellie gets as far away from us with her friends as she can. I’m thinking this mirrors our personalities fairly well šŸ™‚

There is something about an entire field of ripe strawberries that makes me tend toward hoarding. I want to pick them all! In the end, we had four large buckets of beautiful, ripe berries and two pints of locally produced Maple View Farm ice cream. Two excellent treats! Once we got home with our bounty, the work began. We rinsed and checked our berries and immediately started hulling them for jam.

We made eight half pints of strawberry jam in all. The jam started out as old fashioned, slow cook jam with no pectin. After 90 minutes of cooking the berries, lemon juice and sugar, I couldn’t really tell if the jam had jelled, but I canned it using a hot water bath thinking that surely 90 minutes was enough time. The next morning, I re-cooked it and canned it a second time because it was too soupy. A lot of extra work, but I think I’ll be happier with the results this winter. And in the future, I may just use pectin with strawberries. They seem to have a lot of juice in them and it doesn’t cook down very well. Maybe blueberries are better?

After making the jam, we made strawberry fruit leather, based on a recipe in Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ‘Em Up cookbook. I was interested in this because fruit leather is a nice snack, but we don’t buy fruit rollups–they’re pretty full of junk and very low on actual fruit. The fruit leather drying process took longer than the recipe called for (about 4 hours instead of 2), but the end result was totally worth it. Our strawberry leather is chewy, tart and bursting with strawberry flavor. Soooooo good. Apparently, the fruit leather will keep in an air tight container for up to one month, but it will not last that long in our house! The recipe is below.

While we were canning and drying, I also froze 6 quarts of berries. I rinsed them, hulled them, then put them on parchment lined baking sheets, which I popped into the freezer for about an hour. When the berries were frozen, I put them in quart sized freezer bags. This way, they don’t get mushed and frozen in a big block.

After all that, you would think I’d collapse, but no, I decided to make a strawberry cobbler (recipe to come). Inspired by a similar recipe from Creative Noshing, I took our peach cobbler recipe and substituted strawberries as a test. It was amazing–especially when served hot with our Maple View Farm ice cream. Wow!

So our final total was 8 half pints of jam, 6 quarts of frozen berries, one batch of fruit leather and one strawberry cobbler. For good measure, I pickled 4 pints of asparagus spears (more on that this week). Needless to say, my house smelled great all day and at the end of the day, I slept very well. It was nice to take a day to devote just to cooking, canning and enjoying the literal fruits of our labor!

Berry Fruit Leather

  • 4 cups of berries (any will do!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Wash and dry the berries. Combine them with water in a large skillet and bring to a boil. Simmer until the berries begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Puree the fruit by mashing it with a potato masher or using a stick blender (my personal choice).
  2. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Line a rimmed backing sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Return the berry puree to the pan and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently until it thickens to the consistency of baby food. Add the sugar and still to dissolve.
  4. Spread the sweetened puree onto the baking sheet, tilting the pan or using an offset spatula to create an even layer about 1/8″ thick.
  5. Dry in the oven until tacky to the touch, about 2 hours (for me this was 4 hours).
  6. Cool to room temperature. Side the parchment onto a cutting board and roll the leather into a tube. Slice the fruit into 2″ strips and store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Day 107–Balsamic Strawberry Jam

Garden Strawberry

Success!! Having learned some lessons from my first round of jam making, I purchased more beautiful berries from the farmers market and gave it another go. Much better! I made two rounds of quick jam using pectin (this time Pomona’sĀ Universal Pectin) and my results were more “jammy” with no fruit float. Also, Pomona Pectin allows you to make low sugar jam, which is terrific.

I also put up 3 quarts of frozen berries, which will last about 15 minutes in my house, so I better get moving! This Saturday (depending on the weather) is berry picking day for us, so we should have more berries on the way!

Deciding to do something a little fancier, I made 3 half pints of regular strawberry jam and 3 of a balsamic strawberry jam. I had just enough 17 year balsamic vinegar (a gift from my mom) to make it work. The taste is richer and more complex than the regular jam. Not for pb&j, but would be great on roast pork, pound cake or ice cream!

Here is the recipe I used from “Put ‘Em Up” by Sherri Brooks Vinton. I added 1/2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter to the mix. This wasn’t in the recipe, but was recommended as a way to reduce the amount of foam produced during cooking. It worked very well.

Quick Strawberry Jam (for Strawberry Balsamic, subĀ 4 Tbsp. lemon juice with 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)

1c. Sugar
1 tsp. Pomona’s Universal Pectin
4 c. Strawberries, hulled
1tsp. Calcium water (included in the Pomona’s box)
4 Tbsp.Ā Bottled lemon juice (or 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)

1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (optional)

  1. First, get out all your ingredients and make the calcium water (mix powder w/water and set aside).
  2. Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Put the berries in a non-reactive pot and mash well with a potato masher. Slowly bring berries to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Add butter, if using.
  4. Stir in the calcium water and lemon juice or vinegar/lemon juice.
  5. Slowly add the sugar/pectin mix and stir to dissolve.
  6. Return the mixture to a boil, stirring to ensure that the mixture is heated thoroughly.
  7. Remove from heat and let it rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam.
  8. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or can by using the following instructions.
  9. Ladle mixture into clean, hot half-pint canning jars, leavingĀ 1/4″ of headspace. Release any trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.