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Archive for July, 2011

After blogging about our bountiful harvest on the farm, it only seems fair to add a few recipes to go with the lovely fruits and veggies we grow.  Cucumbers, blackberries, zucchini, squash…we’ve been so blessed with our gardens this year that we have had to come up with some new and creative ways to eat them.  Here are a couple of simple recipes that we came up with, borrowed or just added our own spin to.

Blackberries Galore!

July is not really one of my favorite months.  I don’t enjoy extreme heat unless I intend to be in the river.  I don’t like the ticks, the flies, the mosquitoes.  I don’t enjoy high electric bills caused by the constant running of the AC.  However, I do enjoy the bountiful blackberry harvest that July brings to our farm.  We aren’t talking a couple of gallons.  We have far more blackberries than we will ever be able to harvest, but we greedily grab as many as we can before the short fruiting season is over and we are left with nothing but dried leaves and vicious thorns.

Unfortunately, blackberries are not known for their long shelf life, so we have to find creative (and tasty) ways to preserve them for the year ahead.  Here’s a few ideas and recipes that we have come up with to ensure we have some of their sweetness to sample in the coming months.

Freeze them ~

This one is simple.  Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and place a single layer of berries on it.  Keep them from touching so they don’t freeze together.  Pop them in the freezer for a couple of hours, then transfer them to an air-tight freezer bag.  They will keep for several months and can be added to pies, tea, syrup, pancakes, or (our personal favorite) they can be added to drinks in place of ice cubes.  They add a little bit of summertime to tea, water, coffee or any other beverage!

Make some jam or jelly~

Now, before you dismiss this as too difficult or time consuming, just read on.  I was a little scared of the whole canning process at first because it seemed so complicated and messy.  But, I weaseled in on some friends who were doing canning a few times and realized that, once you knew what you were doing, the whole thing was pretty simple.  Jam, especially, was quick and easy and completely worth the effort. Three ingredients and a pot is all you really need.

Ready?

Ingredients:

5 cups mashed berry pulp or juice (for seedless jam)

7 cups sugar

1 box pectin

(7) 8 oz canning jars

Mix the pulp/juice in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for 1 minute.  Add sugar and continue stirring until the mixture resumes boiling.  Allow to boil for 1 minute. Put a spoonful of your jam in the freezer and see if it has reached the desired consistency.  If it is too thin for your liking, boil it for another minute and test it again.  Don’t boil for more than a minute at a time as things can happen quickly at this point and you don’t want it too thick.  When you have reached the desired gel, skim off the foam and set it aside.  Carefully ladle into sanitized jars and cap.  Place in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.

That’s it.  It really is that simple.

The only problem I ran into was that I couldn’t convince my water-bath canner to boil, so I had to grab a smaller pot with a tight-fitting lid to use instead.  It worked fine.  Just make sure you have at least 1″ of water over the top of the jars and don’t have the jars packed in too close. Keep them from touching and clinking together while they boil.

If you are looking for a jam with less sugar, you can buy low-sugar and no-sugar needed pectin anywhere they have canning supplies.  The process remains the same.

Oh, and remember that foam you skimmed off?  Don’t throw it out! It is still good.  It’s simply jelly with too many air bubbles, which gives it a funky texture that kids love.  My kids snatch spoonfuls and eat it plain, but that’s a little too sweet for me.  Instead, I use it mixed in with a bit of  (or in place of) syrup on pancakes or waffles.  It easily re-liquifies when warm.  I’m thinking of adding it to the Gooseberry Sour Cream Pie that everyone has been asking for, too.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

I also intend to juice up enough to make several more batches of jam throughout the year.  Somehow, I just don’t think 7 jars is going to last too long around this place…

Cucumbers ~

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I don’t like cucumbers all that much. Every now and then I’ll wish for a nice, fresh cucumber, but it is usually in the middle of winter when I’m wishing for a nice, garden-fresh anything.  So, why then, did I plant so many cucumbers???  You can’t freeze them, you can’t dehydrate them.  That only leaves canning.  Fortunately, we really like pickles.

This was almost as easy as the blackberry jam.  So easy, in fact, that I now have 21 jars of pickles made and have enough cucumbers brining to make another 10 or 12 jars.  Told you we liked pickles.

We don’t do sweet pickles, though, so all I made was dill.  Here’s how I did it.

Ingredients:

cucumbers, zucchini, garlic, green tomatoes or any other veggie you want to throw in the mix. Slice, cube or leave whole.  I like to slice and cube mine.

Pickling spices ~ you can use the pre-mixed, fresh or make your own up.  We us fresh dill (2-4 immature sprigs), mustard seed (about 10 seeds per jar, peppercorns (2-5 per jar), and sometimes chili peppers (1/2 per jar)

Grape or oak leaves – this is optional, but adding a leaf to each jar will help your pickles retain crispness

Fill sanitized quart-sized jars, packing as tightly as possible.  Keep the jars warm so you don’t break them in the next step.

Boil the following together, stirring frequently:

4 Cups vinegar ~ apple cider or white with 5-6% acidity

4 1/2 Cups water

6 Tablespoons canning or kosher salt

Ladle carefully into jars, leaving 1/4″ from the top of the jar.  Run a popsicle stick or butter knife along inside of jar to remove any air pockets trapped between the veggies and jar.  Place lids and rings on jars and place jars in water-bath for 15 minutes.  Remove from bath and set aside to cool.  This will take 10-12 hours.  Make sure they seal properly and store in a cool place.  You can eat them after a week or two, but they will take up to 6 weeks to fully develop their flavor.

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