Category Archives: food preservation

On Gifting This Year

the last of the rum balls

the last of the rum balls

As usual, I gave a lot of homemade gifts this year. I started planning for this early….very early. At the end of summer I did a whole bunch of canning, which helped immensely this winter.

I love putting up food, but have realized I’m awfully bad about actually consuming it all. So I made certain things I knew would make great gifts. I made some jams, mustards, relishes, and ice cream toppers. I also started some vanilla extracts months ago, but they still seemed fairly weak for now, so I only gave away 2 jars.

Chris makes some excellent beef jerky, so I gave little baggies of that to my meat-eating friends. I even wrote up the recipe over at From Scratch Club too, in case you want to make some for yourself.

I also wanted to do a few non-edibles. I used this tutorial to make some whipped body butters, and I got a few items from Mountain Rose Herbs to make salves.

I made some close friends and family knitted items as well. Those really need to be started in November, at least for me, to make sure I finish them in time.

For Jack and Chris I’d say we spent a little more than usual (which by traditional standards is still pretty low), but I feel really excited about all of the gifts I bought for them. Chris has been planning out some elaborate gift for me too, and I can’t wait to see what it is.

Plus we are gifting each other tattoos in the new year, since the last time we got them done was when we lived in Washington, over 4 years ago!

Now that we live somewhere with a lot of friends, all of the advanced work really made a difference. I was able to give to more people than usual this year. Next summer I’m going to keep this in mind as I work my way through gardening/canning season.

What homemade goodies did you give or receive so far this year?

The End of Season Scramble

A friend sent me this on Facebook. Hilarious.

It’s Labor Day weekend and I’m spending it laboring. I’ve been canning tomatoes like a crazy person and I still have to put up my tiny sungolds.

I’ve canned whole Romas, made spicy tomato jam, and some ketchup. There are still more pink ones on the vines out in the garden, so I know I’m not even close to being done.

There’s a shift in the air though. Days are getting shorter, corn is slowly starting to be razed on some fields, and in the mornings there’s a coolness to the air.

This is it…the homestretch. The last scramble to get everything put by before cold creeps in and kills everything. So many projects to complete. Everything is a race against the snow now.

Over the next 2 months we will be putting in a raised bed garden for garlic, building a coldframe and planting greens in it, and possibly installing insulation in the basement.

This week I’m putting the finishing touches on the cardigan I’ve been knitting. I can’t wait to slip it on as soon as the weather gets cool enough. I need to start planning Halloween costumes, and even plan out Christmas gifts that will be made.

There are certain aspects of the summer that I’ll miss, but Fall is my absolute favorite. I’m going to welcome it gladly, and fully prepared.

Preserving the Season

In my last post you saw my new shelves and on the 3rd row are all of my preserves.

I wanted to provide links with my alterations in case anyone wants to try these. Some (depending on where you live) may need to wait for next year due to the fruit in them.

The first two were from my Ball Canning book. This book is AWESOME! I know there are a lot of nifty, trendy canning books out now, but you can’t hate on a classic. It’s a classic for a reason. Sure, I don’t want to try everything in it, but it has a lot of great recipes and tips.

I used some Roma tomatoes and made Bruschetta in a Jar. I followed this one to the letter. I used one jar already as a pizza topping and it was good, but be warned…it’s very acidic. There’s wine and white wine vinegar in the recipe and it is necessary for the canning process but also gives it a more complex flavor. If you don’t want to deviate from a standard bruschetta topping, I would suggest just making it fresh each time while tomatoes are in season. Now I just need to make more mozz to enjoy another jar.

Second, was their recipe for Jalapeno Jelly. I love, love, love spicy jellies. For this I only used about 2.5 cups of sugar instead of 6 and omitted the green food coloring. I’m pretty sure that because I used less than half of the sugar that I got fewer jars out of this than the recipe stated. I’m ok with that though, I’d rather have less sugar.

Next up I made a Blueberry Jam with Cherry Balsamic Vinegar and some black pepper. I was inspired by this recipe from Coconut & Lime. I got some Cherry Balsamic from Saratoga Olive Oil Co. and thought that would be great in place of the regular balsamic. Again, I about halved the sugar, but kept the pectin the same. It actually got a little too gelled for my liking, so next time I’d use less pectic, but that’s just a personal preference. This is a jelly that goes awesome with brie and crackers.

After we went peach picking I wanted to make a peach jam but something a little different than just regular jam. I found this recipe which uses habaneros and basil. I have serranos in my garden so I used those and was going to use Thai basil from my garden but it was late when I was making this and I honestly didn’t feel like foraging with a flashlight. I added a couple leftover jalapenos to the mix as well, and also reduced the sugar. It’s a mostly sweet jam with a nice hint of spice.

Lastly, I made tomato paste. I used Pick Your Own’s recipe and honestly it only made a pint’s worth. For all that work, I don’t think I’ll bother again in the future since organic tomato paste is easy to get. I’m glad I did it, because it was interesting to learn and if it made more I’d definitely do it again, but I was really bummed with how little tomato was left when all the juice is squeezed out.

So there you have it! I’m not sure what other things I’ll do before the season is over. Probably just salsa mostly and maybe some hot sauce with my serranos. If I get a chance to get some raspberries I may do something with them as well.

Humanity…we have a problem.

Recently I’ve been mulling something over.

I am incredibly lucky to have this amazing network of women in my life who love to cook, bake, and preserve and who are great at it.

I have a local community of talented and passionate farmers who provide me with things that people pay twice as much for at Whole Foods. Plus I get the benefit of their friendship and even their knowledge for when we get the chance to have a farm of our own.

I have a great local library packed with books on beekeeping and cheese making. There are NOFA conferences and food swaps and classes. Not to mention almost anything I could imagine to want to learn is just a Google search away.

But what eats at me, when I’m at a super fun cheese making party stirring a pot of curds, or trying to figure out how to make hamburger buns, is that my great grandmother would laugh at me if she were still alive.

She used to wake up each morning bright and early to bake bread fresh for the day. Every Christmas she’d knit slippers for my brother and I. She taught my mom a lot about cooking and baking, and my mom still makes her lemon meringue pie that’s so good it’ll make you want to cry.

When I talk to my grandpa, who used to have a farm of his own, about the raw milk we get he says, “Oh that stuff your mom buys at the store just tastes like water, it’s awful.” His son (my stepdad) used to have to milk all their cows before school, even with 5 feet of snow on the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that people are learning about raw milk, organic gardening, canning and everything else. I think it’s fantastic. But I’m taken aback when I hear stories like Chris’ coworker asking him if you have to do something special to an egg before you can crack it and eat it. He honestly had no idea you could use it right from the chicken.

Or the patrons at the market who seriously don’t understand why we don’t carry items like lemons or avocados. I’m honestly just baffled when it happens, and sadly it happens more than you’d expect.

If we can lose all of this basic knowledge in 3 or 4 generations I sure hope it doesn’t take longer than that for us to get it back. There’s just too much riding on it.

Days 14-17: A Whole Lotta Schtuff

Garlic scape pesto. We've been using it on sandwhiches.

Chris, Jason, and I are finally relaxing with beers after a very busy few days. My plans for relaxation failed to realize themselves but I kind of figured that would happen. My inner-Martha, a flat of strawberries, and several impromptu projects took precedent.

I showed Jason how to make several things in the past few days. We made yogurt, garlic scape pesto, and strawberry shortcake. Each time we do something that is new to him he gets out his notebook and jots down instructions. It’s pretty cool to imagine that he’ll go home with a whole book full of cool skills.

Heated milk for yogurt cooling in an ice bath.

Once it's cool enough you add the culture and then it's on it's way to becoming yogurt.

I should also note that in addition to what seem like bigger projects, we have also been teaching him some basic things like how to use a slow cooker, how to make whipped cream, how to make gravy, etc. This just reminds me how important it is I teach these things to Jack now so that he’s more prepared when he lives alone as an adult.

I also got to go to the second FSC Swappers event, and got so many goodies, and met lots of great people. I also got to see some people I met at the last swap. One of the ladies I met was Becky she did a post about her swap experience.

Chris and Jason removed a huge lilac bush-tree thing from the yard in preparation for the fence. Then they went and priced materials. It’s going to be expensive, but about what I thought it would be, and still ultimately cheaper since we are doing it ourselves.

I’m making the most of strawberry season (since I completely missed it last year) and froze 4 quarts of berries from a flat I got from Kilpatrick Family Farm. That was after we ate tons of them. I’m getting more on Monday to freeze as well.

Yes, canning is fun and cool, but I’m not super into jam, I’d rather use the berries in smoothies so it makes more sense to freeze them. I was also not lazy this year and pre-froze them in smaller batches in a baking dish before bagging and freezing again. This reduces freezer burn and having them all clump together while in the freezer.

I used some of the berries in the Brown Butter Banana Strawberry Bread I made for the contest I ran this week. I also happened to make 2 other recipe from Joy the Baker this week, completely without planning it that way. I made the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies and the Mustard Roasted New Potatoes.

I’m not exactly sure what the weekend holds but I’m sure it will be interesting.

Days 3 & 4 – Jam Completion & The Pig Roast

Just as a warning, this post contains pictures of a deceased pig after the jump.

Rhubarb Blueberry Orange Jam

Friday we finished up the jam and I actually haven’t even had a chance to try it out yet. We actually ended up with 4 jars of jam and 2 small ones that were more like compote.

The mix before it got cooked down.

The part where I discuss the pig roast (with photos) is after the jump.

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