Category Archives: garden

Snow Day

DriftingYou can see the wind gently lifting the snow and playing with it on the old shed roof.




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It was supposed to be just some freezing rain today and switching over to just plain rain.  We got all ice today instead.  But the ice, snow, and cold are meaning my kitchen and pantry are getting cleaned out and knitting and spinning done.

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Rhubarb Ginger Jam

Rhubarb Ginger Jame

Rhubarb paired with crystalized ginger is oh so perfect. Tangy, spicy and just a touch sweet. I doubled this recipe and canned it. And despite making a double batch, I think I need to make another double batch of this as soon as I get more rhubarb. The recipe is from the lovely Kaela over on localkitchenblog here –

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May 3, 2013 · 7:09 pm

Lovely Lavender

The bees have bee loving the lavender blossoms

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Harvest Time

Yes, I have been quiet again. But it is harvest time and I am busy putting things up for the winter.

I have been busy putting apples, pears, tomatoes, green beans, and cranberries this past week or so. I still have a 32 pound monster heirloom pumpkin to deal with. Part of it will be pressure canned as cubes and the rest roasted and pureed before being frozen.

But while I have been busy, I have managed to create another apple jam recipe. This one is for the chile heads out there or those who like a little zing in their jams.

Apple-Chile Jam

A note on the apples – use what ever you have on hand. You need to like the apples you are using. Mix them up and use a variety. I have seconds from the orchard for applesauce and asked them to mix up the varieties so I honestly have no clue as to what type of apples I have in my box. Leave the skins on the apples because they will provide the pectin.

For a primer on dried chiles, see this page – The Cook’s Thesaurus Chile.

If you are suing fresh chiles, you may need to add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of pectin. For some reason whenever I use fresh chiles in a jam, it never seems to set up as thick as I would like it. So keep an eye on how your jam is setting up and test it!

I prefer to let the apples sweeten this jam as much as possible. If you do not have honey, you can add white or brown sugar in 1/4 cup increments to sweeten it. But do keep in mind that the taste of the final jam will change based on what you use to sweeten it. If you need to use an artificial sweetener, please make sure it is heat stable.

If you do not like the apples or apple cider you are using, you will not enjoy the final product. Cook with ingredients you love to eat!

Ingredients –
2 pounds of apples (read note)
1 to 2 dried chiles – I am planning to use a dried chipotle and part of a aji panca but adjust the peppers to what you can easily find and your heat comfort level OR dried jalapenos OR fresh jalapenos
1 cup of apple cider
1 to 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 cup of local honey (the amount needed will depend on how sweet your apples are)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
pinch of red chile pepper flakes – optional

Prepare your canner, jars, and lids for canning.

Crush up your dried chiles.

Pour the apple cider and lemon juice into the bottom of a large pan for jam making. Wash and quarter your apples. Core them. Shred the apples using the shredder blade of your food processor. (Or you can use a box grater.) Empty the container into the pot as it fills up.
art to

Add the pinch of salt and the dried chiles to the apple mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and turn down the heat and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, You want the juices mostly gone and the apples to sort of melt and soften down.

Raise the heat back up and slowly add 1/2 cup of honey. Bring back up to a boil. Check at this point. Check the jam for sweetness levels and to make sure the chile levels are at a heat level you are comfortable with. If you need to add more sweetener, add up to 1 cup of honey total. Add the red chile pepper flakes if you want to raise the heat level a touch.

You want the jam to be thick at this point. Think jammy. Fill your hot sterilized jars with the hot jam leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles using a wood chopstick or the handle of a wood spoon. Clean the jar rims and seal with lids and bands. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

You can expect this to make 4 to 5 8-ounce jars.

And as a double bonus, I am updating the cranberry jam that I recently posted.

A friend or three on Facebook asked about some variations to that recipe. And yes it is a jan but if you tell everyone it is a chutney they will not think twice about putting next to their turkey or using it as a savory. I mean they eat the canned cranberry jelly as a savory.

Cranberry Jam – Version 2

I was asked to create a variation on the first version of this recipe and make it more savory and add some items.

I was asked to add crushed pineapple and walnuts to the jam. And as a note to the savory side, you could add a small amount of crushed red chile flakes to add a note of zing.

1 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries (a 12 ounce bag is 3 cups)
1-1/2 cups of water or pineapple juice & water to make
chopped zest from 1 orange (I used a naval orange)
chopped zest from 1 lemon
1 small can of crushed pineapple, reserving and measuring the juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 little bit of fresh grated nutmeg
a small pinch of crushed red chile flakes – optional
1 to 2 coins of fresh ginger or use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of minced crystallized ginger added at the end of cooking
1-1/2 teaspoons of calcium water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon white sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons Pomona’s Natural pectin powder
1/2 to 1 cup local honey (you may want to add some extra honey or sugar since this is very tart!)
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (or pecans if you like them better)

Combine the cranberries, cinnamon stick, zest, nutmeg, fresh ginger and water/juice mixture in a Dutch oven and simmer over medium low hear just until the cranberries start to pop. Once the cranberries start to pop, crush a few with the back of a spatula.

Juice your orange and lemon into a measuring cup. Add enough bottled lemon juice to get 1/3 of a cup. Add to the cranberries along with the crushed pineapple.

Add the calcium water and reserved lemon/orange juice mixture to your berries. Bring to a simmer. Adjust your seasonings at this point. Add your vanilla bean paste at this point. Add 1/2 cup of the honey at this point. Allow the mixture to come back to a simmer and check the sweetness. You want the mixture to still be slightly tart. If needed or you want a sweeter mixture, add another 1/2 cup of honey.

In a small bowl, blend well the white sugar and the pectin powder well.
Once the berry mixture is back up to a simmer, add the sugar and pectin mixture. Bring to a low boil. Check the mixture for seasoning once more before canning. If you need to adjust the flavors, allow it to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes before canning.

Put into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

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Preserving Plums

I managed to end up with almost 5 pounds of lovely plums recently. I knew I had to make an Asian style plum sauce. But I still had a lot of plums left over. So I had to think of another way to preserve these lovely plums. Well a certain some one thought she had a taste of summer in the middle of a dark and dreary Chicago winter last year. She will definitely feel summer when she gets a jar or three of the jams I have been busy crafting all summer.

And can I say that plum jam is a lovely shade of redish purple?


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Preserving Tomatoes

When most people think of preserving tomatoes, they think of canning either straight tomatoes or a simple spaghetti sauce. I will be doing that late on but right now I am exploring tomato as a fruit and making a tomato jam. Tomato jams can apparently be either sweet or savory. I am going for a savory one my first one.

I am using local heirloom tomatoes in this jam and it is taking awhile to cook down but that is fine with me. I had about 4 pounds of tomatoes so I adjusted the acid aka the vinegar a bit and added more. I kept the amount of sugar the same though. The key to being able to can this jam is having enough acids in it. I do plan to try another savory tomato jam plus one or two sweet tomato jams as well. And later on, I will be getting together with a friend and learning to pressure can so I can have some just plain simple pints of tomatoes to enjoy all winter long.


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Waste Not Want Not

Wate not, want not is a proverb I have heard before. And with watermelon, why waste any? I have eaten a bit of the red flesh and the rest is waiting in the refrigerator to be turned into watermelon jelly over the weekend. And the rind? Why waste it?

Pris of KnitBuddies grew up eating watermelon rind pickles and loves them. I personally have never had them. Watermelon rind pickles are definitely a labor of love. They are not quick to make. They require scraping away as much of the red flesh as possible, peel the green rind off, a 12 to 24 hour soak in a brine, than cooking it until it is fork tender. And than you finally start getting to the fun part! Next up is a long slow cook in a sugar brine full of spices before you can even begin to think of canning them. I have linked to the recipe I am using as my basis for the pickles. I have changed the spices though to match what Pris remembers using growing up. In the pot are several cinnamon sticks, s small handful of peppercorns, some allspice berries, a good grating of fresh nutmeg, a small handful of cloves, and several coins of ginger. It still has another hour of gentle cooking to go at the least. Like I said, a labor of love.


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Daff Drops

Raindrops seem to make early spring colors pop.


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