Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rose Hip Jelly

Yesterday morning, I found myself on a lovely beach. I'd just come off of my overnight shift, and I was tired. The weather was perfect. Just warm enough, a light breeze, sunny, not humid at all. I grew up on the water and, when I encounter a day like yesterday, I remember how much I miss it.

But, as usual, I was there with a purpose! The Chair of our department lives a few blocks from that beach and had been keeping an eye on the rose hips for me. Last week he said I'd better get over there to pick them if I was going to. He even let me park in his driveway, lest I get a ticket for being a nonresident. The recipe I was using called for 4 quarts of hips; I packed 2 half-gallon pitchers in a backpack and brought them with me. I had them filled within a half an hour.

Here's the recipe, in case that website ever goes away:
4 quarts rose hips
2 quarts water
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
5 cups sugar

Clean the hips, remove the blossom ends and, if you're really inspired (I wasn't), remove the seeds. Boil them with the water, mashing them when they are softer. Strain the juice, and use 4 cups for the jelly. Add the lemon juice and pectin, bring to a boil. When it is boiling, add the sugar all at once, and return to a hard boil for 1 minute. I ended up with well over 6 cups. It's a reddish orange and tastes citrusy, but not really orangy. I have seen it described as like tangerine or hibiscus. I don't really think it's either of those. It's a taste all it's own. But it's very, very good.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jury's Still Out

We tried the half-sours tonight with our burgers for dinner. I think they're pretty good, but I got a squishy one the first time and then a more crispy one. They have a slightly smoky flavor; maybe that's the grape leaves? My husband is less enamored with them. So, they're edible, but they're not what we're used to. Perhaps we won't make them again, but the experiment was worth it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fermentation Complete

At least, I think so. It's hard to tell. But I checked on the half-sours today, and tossed 2 that were really squishy ("bloaters," I think they're called). They tasted like pickles, a good sign. They are now in the fridge for 3 days and, if we don't get sick in the meantime from the taste testing, we'll be able to eat them after that.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I Caught a Fish!

This past weekend was the annual camping trip and, in the last 5 minutes of the trip, I caught a fish! As you can tell, I'm pretty excited about it. I was saying it to myself all the way home: "IcaughtafishIcaughtafishIcaughtafish..." I don't know what kind it is, maybe someone can ID it for me? Oh, and I did put it back. (And, yes, that is a Barbie fishing rod. I didn't feel like getting mine out. Maybe it's good luck?)

From a food perspective, now that I can things eating is a lot of fun. I brought the last 2 jars of peaches in syrup and they ended up being dessert each night. And they went fast! I also brought 2 jars of chicken soup, a jar of baked beans, and 2 jars of pickles. We got through everything but the pickles. And we downed 14 brats. That was Saturday night's dinner.

There were 5 adults and 5 kids on this outing, next year we'll plan it better and all end up next to each other. This was the same campground as last year; it wasn't as quiet and restful as last year but we still had a good time (the guy with the produce seemed to be missing, we don't know why!). We traipsed off to an old cemetery and explored; the oldest stone was from 1791. I took it as a good omen that there were blackberries at our campsite, and found more blackberries and even wild blueberries all over the place. We saw the Milky Way, the kids saw shooting stars, and it was nice to relax for a few days.

And I was able to update my online inventory from the campsite. Thanks!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


If you look down and to the left you will see that the inventory looks a little different today - it was switched over to the new system last night (Thanks!). Now every single jar has a little QR code sticker on it, and the inventory can be updated by just scanning a jar with my phone. It's COOL. (Some people might call it geeky...we don't mind. We know we're geeks.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another Pickling Adventure


A bushel is a LOT of cucumbers. I came home from work today and set upon the last of them, making 8 quarts of the dill pickles we like (the recipe from the American Family Cookbook). However, I only got 7 quarts.... why? Because I made a stupid mistake.

I had too many cukes for a 7 quart batch, and the canner only holds 7 quarts. I made 8 quarts, and figured I'd process 4 quarts at a time. Well, by the time the first batch was done, the second batch had cooled too much, and as the first jar went into the boiling water I heard, "CRACK!"

That's a terrible sound.

Sure enough, the bottom had cracked right off. I had to toss that jar, dump out the water, clean the pot, and refill it with cool water and the last 3 quarts. They eventually were processed for 10 minutes once I finally got the pot boiling again.

While that disaster was occurring, I was multi-tasking. I had been encouraged to make half-sours so I decided to try them. I've been afraid of the fermented-type pickle. It seems like a lot of work and, maybe I'm wrong, there seems to be more ways it could fail. Regardless, I thought the recipe (from The Joy of Pickling) was easy enough and, since they only take a week, I could manage the commitment. So I got 3 half-gallon jars cleaned in the dishwasher, put in 2 grape leaves, 3 cloves garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp each of peppercorns and coriander (crushed together), and 3 T. dill seed and the cucumbers. To this I added the brine, and topped with ziploc bags filled with brine to act as weights. (The grape leaves are supposed to make the pickles crispy.) Supposedly they'll start fermenting in about 3 days.

Yeah, I think I'm done with pickles. For now...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Variations on a Theme

Guess what I did today? If you guessed "made pickles," then yes, you're right. But you could have also guessed "went to work and had a good day," or "went to the spice store," or "played an actual board game with the kids" and all of those would be right, too! Busy day!

I did not make 22 jars of pickles. I did make 8 pints of spicy bread & butter pickles. I used the same recipe as yesterday but used white vinegar instead of cider vinegar, and added 2 long hot yellow peppers from the farm share. Even before boiling them in the vinegar/spice/sugar solution, they had quite a kick! (Probably because I left in all the pepper seeds...)

Tomorrow I'll get to work on another batch of dills. I might even try fermented pickles. If I'm feeling brave!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Think I Went a Little Overboard

This morning we drove 50 miles each way to get to a specific farm I know which generally has pickling cukes and B-grade peaches for canning. In the past few years I've gotten 1/2 bushel crates of peaches, but they've always been the clingstone kind. Well, I called to check on their supply yesterday and the very nice woman told me they will have the freestone kind in September. So I'll wait on the peaches until then. However, they had lots of what she called "funny looking" cukes. That's what I had as a plan for today...pickles!

So I bought 1 full bushel of "2nds" pickling cukes.... for $12. That's really awesome. We also had freshly made doughnuts for breakfast, and picked some blueberries, just for fun. Both children felt the need to ask me if I was going to use the berries for anything. When I said no, they each shouted "hooray!" (Maybe I'm canning too much?)

After an afternoon outing I got to work. The rest of the family washed the car and I started to slice the cucumbers and onions for the bread and butter pickles. "Seconds" are definitely funny looking - some are bigger than usual, some odd shapes, some just right, but they require some creative slicing to get them to be reasonable sizes. After I got the B&B's set up, I moved on to the Kosher style dills everyone likes. I am now officially out of farm share garlic and onions. The Kosher style dills recipe is in the Culinary Arts Institute's American Family Cookbook, which I "borrowed" from my mother several years ago. They have some really old-style recipes in there. And a whole chapter on how to throw a party for 50+ people. (Hah!) So I now have 7 quarts of dills and I want more but have to get more garlic and dill seed first.

I hunted around a bit and found a couple of pickle mixes my mother had bought me last year for my birthday. Considering I was out of onions and garlic at this point, I was at a loss for what else I could do, so I decided to give one of these mixes a try - Mrs. Wages Kosher Dill Pickles. This made 7 quarts of chunks (remember the creative slicing?) that are now cooling.
We're going to take a break for dinner but afterward I'll finish the Bread & Butter pickles. This recipe is from The Joy of Pickling: Old-Fashioned Bread-and-Butters. I'm still trying to recreate the bread & butters of my youth, last year was closer, but not quite right. Let's see how this recipe stacks up to that mythological standard. I should get about 4 quarts from this batch, and might make another. When I get more onions.

I still have 1/2 a bushel left, after all.