A few years ago my husband and I moved our little family out of the city to the small town where he grew up. It was the best decision as parents that we have ever made. Our city neighborhood was dirty and dangerous. Here we have fresh air and open spaces. Like most small towns, everyone knows each other. As an outsider, I identified three factors that would make me “A Local”:
- Have a child enrolled in the public school
- Do something to make it into the police blotter of the local paper
- Enter something in the annual Agricultural Fair
Well, Lydia just completed 4K so item one has been completed.
In spite of being pulled over with expired plates and out of date insurance information I was let off with a warning and didn’t make the paper so that was disappointing. I was, however, featured on a poster at the Piggly Wiggly for using Pig Points so I’m just going to call that good enough.
That brings me to criteria number three…
The annual fair happens one block from my house but unfortunately coincides with our yearly trip up north for my husband’s family reunion. Thankfully I have a friend who was willing to drop off my stuff for me. I am entering Spiced Pear Jam, Apple Raspberry Jelly and Pickled Garlic. I’m not going to lie…I’m really nervous about this. There are absolutely no consequences to winning or losing, but I fear that the judges are going to disqualify me or something like that and I would honestly be sad and embarrassed. So we’ll see. I am writing this in a cabin by a lake and the fair starts in a few days….
..So I’m back and here are the results:
- Apple Raspberry Jelly – Second Place. Good Enough.
- Spiced Pear Jam – First Place…Yass!!
And finally….the Pickled Garlic…..
WHAT?!?!?! Having only been at this for a few months, I cannot express how incredibly gratifying it is to have won this award. I celebrated by taking my daughter for a spin on the Ferris Wheel and purchasing the Ball Complete Guide to Canning and Preserving. I’m pretty sure this green lights me to blow the family fortune on jars.
I got some great advice from a woman who was part of the judging committee and I am looking forward to hitting the Farmer’s Market and getting some new and fun things to can for the fair next year.
Since not only did I enter something in the fair, but because of how well my stuff did I will be mentioned in the Lodi Enterprise next week,I think I can officially call myself a Lodian now!
I have never liked eating fresh fruit. I don’t know why. My daughters and husband are nuts for it – we go through two bags of apples, 20 bananas and a cantaloupe every week in addition to whatever other fruit I pick up for them. The exception for me is pears. I love everything about them – the shape, color, scent, flavor, texture, you name it.
Last week my store had pears on sale for less than $1/lb which seemed like the perfect opportunity to grab some and make something fun. While the end result was terrific, it was an uncomfortable and occasionally painful route getting there.
To begin, I got the recipe from Fun Home Things. This is just the kind of recipe I like – no unnecessarily pretentious ingredients or arrogantly complex instructions. My general philosophy about food is: get the best ingredients you can and do your best to keep it simple and not ruin them. This recipe plays nicely into that idea.
- 4 c. peeled and chopped pears
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 Box Pectin
- 1/4 c. Water
- 5 c. Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
Here’s the How To (a cautionary tale):
- Prepare canning equipment. Ok, so here’s where my issues began. Everything was fine and working just as it should as I heated up my water and jars, etc. But…I chose a really muggy evening to make this and my kitchen has crank open windows so a fan wasn’t really an option. Sweaty? You betcha…and it only got worse when the water came to a boil. I was HOT and damp.
- Combine pears, lemon juice, water and spices in a pot. Whisk in pectin and bring to a full boil.(Pan number two full of steamy boiling stuff only added to the generally tropical atmosphere of my kitchen.)
- Add sugar all at once and return to a full boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. (Ok, now standing over and actively stirring a boiling pot of jam did nothing to make me more comfortable. The fact that I had the heat too high initially and it was spitting molten jam (ouch!) at me didn’t make me very happy either.)
- Remove from heat and skim off foam. Ladle into prepared jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and secure lids. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. (It was around this time that Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me earwormed into my head, “I’m hot, sticky sweet…”)
- After removing the jars from the water to cool, I thought the best thing I could do to help the heat in the kitchen was to get rid of the boiling water. It was when I was (I thought carefully) dumping out the water that I hit my arm with the pot acquiring a nice burn. I retreated to the blissfully cool living room with a freeze pop that I intermittently ate and pressed to my arm while picking of dried globs of jam from my skin and clothing.
The good news is this jam is really delicious and as far as gelling and appearance I think is my best effort to date and well worth any discomfort or injury!
Wisconsin in spring doesn’t offer many choices for fresh fruit so sometimes “locally sourced” means “whatever was on sale at the Piggly Wiggly”. So, as I was perusing the aisles for over priced groceries I came across this juice that was on sale this week.
This looked like a good candidate for some quick and easy jelly. I used the same method that I used for the Mango Lemon Jelly from a few weeks ago:
- 4 cups juice
- 1 package of pectin
- 4 cups sugar
I know that the mango lemon jelly failed on the first attempt so I made a few changes to help this jelly work out the way it should. First I changed the pots that I used to cook the jelly opting for a wider pan with more surface area for the jelly. Second, I was more careful about achieving a full rolling boil.
- Mix juice and pectin, bring to a boil
- Add sugar and return to a boil and cook for one minute
- Pour into sterilzed jars and process for five minutes
- Such a pretty color! Anyway after five minutes in boiling water take them out and let them cool.
So that’s it. It gelled up just the way I hoped it would and tastes great. My husband said it was “refreshing” and my daughter wouldn’t stop chewing long enough to tell me what she thought and instead just gave a thumbs up. I’m putting this one in the success column and moving on to the next project.
If you live in an area with a Piggly Wiggly you are familiar with the concept of “Pig Points”. For those of you who are not able to Shop the Pig, it’s simple. Each week there are certain items that will earn you points if you buy them. These points translate to money off at the gas station. Every year we go to a week long family reunion that is a 4 hourdrive from home and I make it my goal to earn enough pig points to pay for the gas for the trip. Compulsive? Yes. Long story short, I ended up with a bag of granny smith apples because it earned me $0.11 in pig points. My opportunity to use these points came this past Saturday when my baby was taking a nap and my 5 year old was all over me the way only a five year old can be. I put on a Disney movie, bought myself some time, and made jam.
I got this recipe from Mrs Whellbarrow’s Kitchen.
- 4 cups of diced apples packed firmly
- 2 Tbsp of lemon juice
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 box pectin
- 4 c white sugar
- 1 c firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp butter
- Add water in between the apple pieces to fill to four cups
- Put the apples, water, lemon juice and spices in a pan and sprinkle pectin over the fruit. Stir well.
- Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil.
- Add both sugar, stir well and bring back up to a full rolling boil for exactly one minute stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Remove and foam that remains.
- Ladle into hot clean jars leaving 1/4″ of headspace.
- Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
This smells so good while it’s cooking and it tastes even better. This whole recipe and processing took about one princess movie to complete and I think is one of the favorite recipes that I have made so far. It’s particularly good on waffles. I have a feeling I’ll be making this one a lot since granny smith apples are a pig points earner pretty often. That’s just fine with me.
My husband has a cousin who makes the most amazing Bloody Mary you have ever tasted. At any family gathering he is dragooned almost immediately into making a batch for the family. I thought it would be fun to make different pickled things to bring to our family reunion this summer. So, with that in mind, I made pickled garlic this weekend. This was a great project for a number of reasons: not much is growing here in Wisconsin yet so this was something to do until things warm up and fruits and veggies become ready to pick, it was freakishly easy, and it was a great project to do with my daughter. This recipe came from Grow A Greener World.
First the cast of characters:
- 1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup distilled water
- 1 tbsp. pickling salt (or kosher salt)
- 1 lbs. garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (my store did not have fresh rosemary so I omitted it. Bummer.)
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 4 tsp. brown or yellow mustard seeds (divided)
- 4 pinches crushed red pepper flakes (divided)
- 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns (divided)
- 4 lemon slices
- Get your water bath canner ready and put 4 half-pint jars in there to warm up.
- In a small non-reactive pot combine the vinegar, water and salt and bring to a simmer.
- Into each of the jars place a thyme spring , a bay leaf, 1 tsp mustard seed, a pinch of pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp of peppercorns. (This is a great step for kids to do. I put each jar’s spices into a little baby food container so that she could add them to the jars.)
- Fill up the jars with garlic and add brine leaving 1/2″ of head space. Make sure all the cloves are covered with the liquid.
- Top each jar with a lemon slice. Dislodge any air bubbles and add more brine if needed.
- Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. These are shelf stable for up to one year.
So that’s it. As simple as it gets! I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks how they turned out!
I started this blog completely on a whim over my lunch hour yesterday at work. That said, there are some projects that predate the blog and this is one of them:
My local store had Mango Lemonade on sale last week and I got the idea to turn it into jelly. After consulting a friend and doing some online research I figured the recipe would be something along the lines of 4 cups of juice + 1 pkg of pectin + 4 cups of sugar. I used a pretty standard method: mixed the juice and pectin, brought it to a boil, added the sugar and boiled for one minute, put it into jars and processed for 10 minutes.
The jars came out of the water sparkling like jewels except for one that apparently had it’s ring screwed on wrong and leaked lemony syrup all over the place. Oops. That was my omen of bad things to come and sure enough, the jelly didn’t gel. Grrr.
A little more research online and I tried fixing it. I dumped all the jars back into a pot and threw in a little pectin. I brought it to a boil and added a little more sugar. More boiling, jars, processing. This time…it gelled! Woo hoo!
This jelly is delicious and summery. It’s got a nice sharp lemon bite on the finish. My plan was to pick up some bagels and cream cheese while I was grocery shopping today so that I could take a beauty shot of this jelly adorning a schmeared bagel but I forgot to buy both of those items while I was out. Yeah…I’m gonna be good at this blogging thing.
I’m starting this blog as a way to track my experiments in canning and preserving. When my husband’s grandmother passed away I received her water bath canner. At the time I didn’t know what it was and thought it was just a really gigantic soup pot but probably one that I would never use. It was while I was reading a blog post from a friend of mine about making apple butter that a light bulb went off in my head sending me down to the far corner of my basement to retrieve the canner.
Now a few years and a couple of batches of apple butter down the road, I am beginning to take the time to learn how to can in earnest. I’ve been trolling Pinterest for recipes, reading all kinds of blogs, and buying cookbooks on the topic. It was probably unnecessary to buy the cookbooks – everything I could need is online, but truth be told I have an addiction.
So come along with me on this little culinary adventure. I promise to post the failures as well as the successes, and I’m sure there will be plenty of failures. Who knows? There may even be a jar of something yummy in it for you…but only if you promise to return the jar!