Tag Archives: jam making

Back to the Harvest – 8/30/2018

With the trip behind us, it was time to return to the putting by for winter, a routine that generally is done a bit at a time all summer.  The berries were early and dozens of jars of jam were made and stored.  The tomatoes are not as prolific as in years past and with the blister beetle damage and something that takes a bite out of every one that turns red on the vine, I started picking them pink, ripening them in a window sill, and popping them in a huge bag in the freezer when they were ripe.  Once home, the apples and Asian Pears were ripe and beginning to drop, so they were harvested.  Also before leaving, a bag of Muscadine grapes were harvested and popped into the freezer for later.

The young apple trees that we bought about 5 or 6 years ago do not produce good fruit.  The fruits are small and gnarly, but have good flavor.  Some years I make applesauce from them, but it looked to be too much effort this year with the misshapen damaged little fruits and I wasn’t sure what would become of them, when Wilderness Road Regional Museum posted that their press was up and running and cider was being made for their Harvest Festival.  There weren’t enough apples to get much cider, but the Asian Pears were better formed in spite of some stink bug damage and they also were picked.  There were about 8 gallons of fruit in two buckets and Tuesday afternoon, off we went to press most of it.

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The two buckets produced a bucket full of dry pulp for the chickens and a gallon of rich cider for us.  A quart was stored in the refrigerator to enjoy now and the remaining 3 quarts were put into wide mouth pint jars and frozen for later.

Yesterday, the remaining Asian Pears were sitting on the counter and half were peeled and cooked down with a chopped orange and some sugar to make a few half pints of Pear Marmalade.

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Last night, the grapes were removed from the freezer and pulled from their stems to sit over night in a covered pot.  First thing this morning, a cup or so of water was added and they were simmered soft and run through the food mill to remove skins and seeds, then through a tight mesh bag to remove the pulp that remained.  There wasn’t enough juice to make a batch of jelly, so a couple of cups of unsweetened Concord grape/cranberry juice was added and a few half pints of very grapey jelly were made and canned.

Following that, the last few Asian Pears were peeled, cored, and chopped along with the pulp of a fresh lemon, some sugar, and pectin and a few pints of Asian Pear jam added as well.

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That left the tomatoes.  The bags of frozen tomatoes were dumped in the sink to begin to thaw so that the core could be removed and the skins slipped off.

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A pot full of basic tomato sauce was simmering on the stove to be turned into a  sauce that can be seasoned with Mediterranean herbs and spices for pasta or spiked with hot peppers for chili when the weather chills.  Once it  thickened enough, it was ladled into jars and canned for the panty shelves.

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The first six pints of 11 jarred.

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Though only 10 will make it to the pantry.  A blow out.  That hasn’t happened in a long while, but is a hazard of canning.

 

The tomato plants are recovering from the blister beetle damage and hopefully, we will get enough additional tomatoes for at least one more batch of the sauce.  We go through many jars of pasta sauce and chili tomatoes each winter and purchasing them at the grocer does not appeal to me.  I prefer knowing what goes into my food without the unidentified “spices” and preservatives that the labels always describe.

Now we await the onslaught of hot peppers for pickling and fermented sauces, the cabbages to mature for cold storage and another batch of sauerkraut, and hopefully more tomatoes as 11 pints will not get us through the winter.  There is still one pumpkins maturing in the garden and a few tiny ones that may never reach a usable size, but if not, they will be split and tossed to the chickens.

I am beginning to see more feathers in the coop and run, molting season is arriving and that means fewer or no eggs for a month or so.  Perhaps I should freeze more so there are some for baking during the non productive period.

 

 

The Chicken Tree and Blackberry Jam

Three years ago with son’s first deer hunt, followed the next two years with meat chicken kills and processing, we realized that we were both creating an attractant for the dogs and losing a great deal of free nitrogen fertilizer.  As we don’t raise any other animals and I don’t want to give the by products of this process to another animal if we had pigs, we discussed solutions.  Last fall, as we created a garbage bag of feathers and offal that we would have to safely get rid of, we settled on a plan to plant a tree each time we did a deer or chicken kill.

This past weekend after we finished the cull coop and couldn’t spend the other day of son’s visit continuing the house staining project due to all of the rain we are having, we decided to cull 4 of the birds.  Each time we improve on the time before, knowing that as the chickens are raised humanely, that we wanted to kill them as humanely as possible.  As this hadn’t been planned in advance and we didn’t discuss it until Saturday evening, there was no tree to plant.  Sunday after we were done putting the 4 in freezer camp, Son #1 dug a tree sized hole, deposited the feathers and other discarded parts in the bottom of the hole, tossed some of the dirt back in to keep the dogs and carrion eaters out of it and set out to buy a tree.  Unfortunately, two of the local nurseries are closed during this part of the summer to reopen in the fall until after Christmas, Lowes and Home Depot only had Leyland Cypress and Cedars and as we are over run with cedars and end up cutting a few each year from the hay field areas and the Leyland Cypress is susceptible to a fungus that kills it in a few  years here, they were not options.  The last nursery is closed on Sunday and Monday, though we could see some trees in their lot.  The hole was left as is until this morning.

Neither Mountaingdad nor I slept well last night, so we were both up fairly early and decided to go get a bagel in town then go look at those trees.  We came home with an 8 foot Appalachian Redbud.  They grow wild up here, but there were no small ones in our woodlot to transplant.  Being a native tree, it should thrive here and will provide the beautiful red buds and pink flowers in the spring and heart shaped leaves in the summer.  Perhaps next year I will make Redbud jam.  The trip home was interesting as the tree was slighter longer than the inside of his Xterra, so with the wrapped huge pot up against the back gate, the leafy top wrapped in netting and held in my arms in the passenger seat, we got the tree home undamaged and planted in the prepared hole.

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In the fall when we kill and process the rest of the culls, this year’s chicks that exceed our coop capacity and the Red Ranger meat chicks that will be raised beginning mid August, we will be prepared with 2 or 3 three foot white or yellow pine trees from one of the nurseries after their fall products are in.  We have been creating a wind break where the wind roars down the hollow and it is still short of where it needs to end, so those trees will be planted there.  In front of that wind break is a row of shade and ornamental trees and the redbud is in line with them.

Saturday as Son #1 and  I were finishing up the coop and clean up, Daughter and her crew along with Grandson #1 went berry picking along the perimeter of the farm returning with several quarts of wineberries and blackberries.  Wineberries don’t hold up well, so they were eaten quickly, but this morning there were still about 5 or 6 cups of the blackberries left.  While out getting the tree and taking garbage down, we stopped and bought a box of low sugar pectin and daughter and I made 5 cups of reduced sugar blackberry jam, her favorite of the jams we make.  IMG_0161[1]

Five cups of wild blackberry jam cooling on the sideboard.  Added to the harvest of squash, greens and peppers that are coming in at a record rate, I feel like we are finally at the putting by stage instead of the eating it away stage.  I can’t wait for the tomatoes so I can make and can salsa and pasta sauce, the hot peppers and cucumbers for pickling, then the apples to make chutney and apple sauce.  I love as the shelves morph from empty clear jars to jars of meals in the waiting for the cold months of winter.

Putting By Commences

Our strawberry plants are first year and we probably won’t see any berries this year and strawberry jam is grandson and son-in-law’s favorite.  When I was in the grocery yesterday, I saw that 16 oz clam shells of organic strawberries were 2 for $5.00.  Not inexpensive, but a really good price for them.  I haven’t found any you pick strawberry fields within an hour drive of us and even if I did, they probably aren’t organic.  I purchased 6 clam shells of strawberries.  It was interesting that they varied in weight from barely 16 ounces to almost 22 ounces.

I pulled down my copy of preserving by the pint and set about to make jam.

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I love the recipe as it has only strawberries and honey with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice.  Since it is pectin free, it requires longer cooking and a broad shallow pan to cook it, so it only makes a couple of half pints per batch.  The rhythm was quickly found, cutting the first batch, adding the honey to sit for 10 minutes and starting cutting the next batch.  While the first batch cooked, the second batch was prepped.  The first batch was cooked and put in clean jars to can.  While it was processing, the second batch was cooking and the third batch was being prepped.  When done, all 12 half pints popped as they sealed, a good sign and now they are sitting to cool on the kitchen counter.

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There will be a blackberry jam making session this summer.  Blueberries and raspberries canned or frozen for muffins and pancakes or cobblers.

All of the canning supplies will be put away now as it will be a couple of months before we need them again, but it is nice to put something on the shelves now instead of using up the last of the supplies from summer past.  Perhaps we will stumble on another deal on strawberries and will put away a few more jars.

Suds and Sweets

Nope, not beer, though I have been known to make it too.  I realized that my homecrafted soap was nearly gone and as it takes 3 to 4 weeks to cure, I knew that I was going to have to get brave and make a batch or two on my own without my mentor’s help.  I have made two batches in her kitchen and only one here alone.  I have been procrastinating but realized that if I didn’t get over my reluctance and accept that I am still a novice and it might not be perfect, we were going to run out.  Summer is not a good time to run out of soap.  Sure, I could go to the grocery or the Farmers’ Market and buy some, but that goes against my nature.

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Yesterday, the soap making box was hauled out.  I quickly realized that I didn’t have the exact oils that the recipe I selected called for, but know that you can substitute some.  I quickly forgot rule #1, that in soap making, everything is weighed and I measured out the water for the lye mix in liquid ounces.  I measured the oils by weight though.  The recipe that I selected only filled my good mold about halfway, but I covered it, wrapped it in old towels and put it aside to saponify.  Today, when I pulled it out, it was a bit softer than the soap I made with my mentor, but the 6 bars are curing for use in a month.  Since the recipe only made 6 bars, I resupplied on the oils that I was missing yesterday so that I wouldn’t substitute and followed a new recipe to the letter.  When I added the essential oils to scent it, the soap seized and it is crammed and packed in the molds, covered to saponify.  It won’t be pretty, but it will be soap.

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Batch one curing.

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Batch two about to go under cover to saponify.

Today’s raspberry harvest brought me up to the 4 cups I needed to make jam.  Mind you, I don’t need any more jam, still having blueberry and blackberry left from last year, peach that I made a week ago, but I grew these raspberries and I want to savor them all winter.  So down came the pots and jars, the berries mashed, the sugar added and jam making round two for the season begun.

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Jam cooking while the jars heat beside it.

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Six one cup jars ready to for canning.

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Six jars cooling on the counter, as I listen to the satisfying pop as they cool and seal.

The rest of this year’s harvest of raspberries can be eaten as I pick, put in yogurt, and frozen for treats during the winter.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Let Us Preserve

Tis the season to start putting by for the long cold, unproductive months of winter.  We have cousins in Georgia and he has a son in college in Pennsylvania.  We are slightly more than half way in between for them and love to have them for the overnight visit as they drive up and back.  Yesterday afternoon they arrived bearing gifts of fresh Georgia peaches, pecans, and a loaf of a wonderful Artisan bread.  Some of the peaches are at a stage of ripeness where we can enjoy them fresh out of hand or as breakfast fruit, some needed quick attention.  Since our peach trees still are young and not really producing fruit, they are a treasure to enjoy.

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This morning they left to complete their trip north with a southbound return tomorrow and another night with us, so I pulled out the jam making supplies and set to work peeling, deseeding, chopping, measuring and making a batch of peach jam.  That is one jam I have never made before and not wanting to make too much, I first bought the ebook, The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.  As I started collecting jars, I realized that most of my jelly jars have been given away full of jams and jellies and my stock was low.  The recipe said it made 6 cups, I had 5 1/2 cups worth of smaller jars, but figured that any surplus would go in a jar in the refrigerator to be used first.

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Enough made to get us through the winter and still send a couple of jars home with them Sunday morning.  My taste test is that it is sweeter than the berry, plum and pomegranate jams I have made in the past, but a bit on toast or stirred into yogurt or oatmeal will be nice.   The black cherry tree at the top of our road is ripe and my raspberries are ripening enough to sample a couple when in the garden, but if I’m going to do anything with them, I need more jam jars.

Jim’s comment when he came through the kitchen was that I sure was industrious.  I smiled and said it kept me out of trouble.

I love this time of year with new good things to eat appearing nearly daily from the garden or in this case, as a gift.

Next up is to try one or all three of the fermented mustard recipes from the current issue of taproot Issue 10::Seed magazine.  But wait, I don’t have jars!