Finally getting some strawberries from the garden. The squirrels are stealing their fair share, but still leaving a few for us. I'm looking forward to going to my favorite u-pick -- hopefully next week -- so I can get enough to make a good stock of strawberry jam.
Recently I made marmalade for the first time ever and it was easy, but took quite a bit longer than berry jam. I used the recipe for the citrus marmalade from an awesome cookbook -- Food in Jars.
Of course, it would have been even easier if the power didn't go out just as I was about to start the canning part of the marmalade making. Canning by candlelight was a bit stressful, but made me feel all old-timey. And the marmalade came out fine in the end with all the jars sealing properly.
I have to say that it is delicious on chocolate chip scones and I thought it was quite tasty on the jam thumbprint cookies I made this week.
I totally made strawberry jam -- from my own homegrown strawberries! This is a first, as I've never had enough ripe berries at the same time to make it a possibility. The last few days though I've been getting about 3/4 lb. of berries every day, so I decided to make a small batch of jam.
Small batch jam takes very little time to bring up to temperature, plus there is less hassle since you aren't getting all that canning stuff out and sterilized and such. I had just enough to fill my cute little LeCreuset jam pot a little over half full.
Really Small Batch Strawberry Jam Recipe
3/4 lb. of berries (weight before removing tops)
1 cup sugar
Juice and zest of one small lemon
1 tsp pectin (I used the Ball low sugar pectin)
Trim and quarter your garden fresh berries and throw them in a heavy bottomed pan with the sugar, lemon juice and zest. Cook over medium heat, stirring now and then until the mixture reaches 220º or appears to be gelling. Add 1 tsp. of pectin -- sprinkling over top of jam -- and stir well while continuing to cook for about a minute.
Transfer strawberry jam to a suitable container and refrigerate once it cools a bit.
It's going to be very difficult to wait two weeks before cracking open the strawberry vodka I've got brewing in the pantry.
We've been getting about a pint of strawberries from the garden every day, which is awesome, so when I skipped Monday (our super busy day here), I was in for a good harvest on Tuesday. In fact, I had enough for the strawberry vodka with plenty left for snacking.
I've seen numerous posts around the blogs concerning strawberry infused vodka and it appears that all you have to do is cut up some berries and add the liquor. I did just that, filling a clean pint jar 3/4 full of cut berries and then filling the jar with my favorite vodka. (Yes, it's a giant bottle -- but it was on sale at Binny's for nearly the same price as the regular size.)
I'm seriously looking forward to a strawberry vodka tonic and perhaps a sparkling strawberry vodka lemonade. Yum!
I made gluten free Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday and I have to say, it went pretty well. Of course we will all be going to my mom's on the actual Turkey day, but since there is a lot of gluten involved in the traditional meal, Maddie and I will be unable to truly stuff ourselves.
For our mini Thanksgiving I made a half turkey breast, stuffing (made with gluten free bread), mashed potatoes, gravy and fresh cranberry sauce. The turkey cooked in about 1 1/2 hours and was quite moist for being just white meat, and the stuffing was reminiscent of my mom's stuffing, although not as good.
As for the cranberry sauce -- make your own if you have 10 minutes to spare. Really, that's all it takes and I think it's quite a bit beter than that canned stuff. Here's what you do... get a bag of cranberries, boil a cup of water + a cup of sugar. Add the cranberries, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. The cranberries will pop, so may I suggest one of those spatter screens.
One bag of cranberries resulted in this much sauce -- enough for our mini gluten free Thanksgiving, a small jar for the freezer and another jar to take to my mom's for Thanksgiving.
Oh, and remember that lemon curd I made? I made some mini gluten free scones and we ate them this past weekend too. Super yummy!
Did you know that vanilla extract is super easy to make? Like, super easy. And even with good vanilla beans and decent vodka, it's probably going to be way cheaper to make your own than to buy it at the grocery.
First get some vanilla beans, not those pathetic and ridiculously expensive ones from the grocery though. Instead, may I suggest the internets. I bought mine from Beanilla.com and they arrived quickly and were lovely, plump and fragrant. And in case you are curious, I'm using the Bourbon variety.
Next, get yourself a bottle -- I just used a pint canning jar which I ran through the sanitize cycle in my dishwasher (probably not necessary because of all the alcohol). Then cut your beans to fit. I cut mine in half and sliced them open lengthwise. Use three beans per cup of alcohol. I used absolute vodka because I couldn't imagine using my pricey Ketel One, but I didn't want a half bottle of super cheap stuff getting dusty in the liquor cabinet.
Now I wait. I understand it takes about 6-8 weeks to mature. But look at all those lovely vanilla bean seeds floating around int he vodka! Oh, and if you want vanilla vodka for holiday beverages, just use sooner -- I'm guessing about 2 weeks will get you some lovely vanilla flavor. Oh, and you need to keep it in a dark place -- especially if you are using a clear glass bottle.
Since I was sanitizing jars anyway and had a big bag of lemons in the fridge, I decided to make some lemon curd. I used David Lebovitz's Lemon Curd recipe because it was easy, used one pan and had a lower sugar to lemon ratio -- and I like my curd lemony. From what I have heard (via my Googling) lemon curd freezes well, so the two smaller jars will be saved for future lemon fixes in the deep darkness of winter when they will be much appreciated.
Traveled a great distance to go to a 'producer only' farmers' market in Bloomington, IL. It was good, but I didn't find any berries -- at all. Boo. We did get some ground cherries, which were new to us and quite tasty. (Plus cherry tomatoes, corn, cucumber, and some super tasty potatoes.)
Oh yeah, and they had balloon animals.
I did eventually get my berries -- at Target. I know! Crazy, right? But at least Tar-jay had semi-local blueberries. (From MI.)
So I did get to make the mixed berry jam I was dreaming of -- well, in my dream the berries were local and organic and all that, but anyway...
Now my pantry is full of jam -- seriously full! Strawberry, raspberry, cherry, blueberry, and mixed berry. And let's not forget the rose petal jam in the freezer.
Looking forward to filling up another shelf of the pantry with canned tomatoes!
I guess I could call this the summer of jam, because I can't seem to stop making it -- rose petal, strawberry, cherry, raspberry and blueberry so far. With the new kitchen I finally have some counter space -- and near the range, no less. After being without this luxury for so many years, it seems the food making and preserving projects I had dreamed up are all being realized.
Now, if only I could easily find some local produce to play around with. After driving for nearly an hour to find the blueberries at a semi-local farm (which claimed they had black raspberries, but didn't), I was discouraged. It was especially frustrating to drive through miles and miles of nothing but corn (okay -- there may have been a few soybean fields too). I mean, don't we grow people food in Illinois anymore? Do I have to buy tasteless strawberries grown halfway across the country? I know they can grow here. I grow some in my own back yard.
Believe me, I've driven for miles, visited several local "farmers' markets" and searched high and low for farmstands. It makes me crazy!
Anyway. That's my food rant. I'm looking forward to the few local farms that set up stands around town (Glasscock's and Siegel's) -- although they mostly sell local sweet corn. Sigh.
We went to the farmers market this morning, and there wasn't a whole lot to be found. There were lots of strawberries (which is odd, since it's so late in the year for them -- but the weather here has been weird), and not much else. One booth did have some (fairly) local sweet cherries, so I brought two pints home.
One pint was immediately turned into jam, which was quick and easy since it was such a small batch.
About one and a half jars for eating now, and one to put up. I had it done before lunch.
A lunch which included a homemade Cherry Vanilla Cream Soda! Super yummy. (I used the recipe for the cream soda syrup that you can find on Martha Stewart's website.)