Monday, September 05, 2016

Salsa 2016

This year, I looked at my pantry and I had exactly 1 jar left of salsa from last year, and my records indicate that I made exactly 3.78x of my best recipe Salsa #5.   So I decided to make 4x this year.  Sadly, my usual tomato purveyor for the past 10 years Ann Ruhlig is out of business, so I bought tomatoes from Goetz farm at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.   My yield was 31 pints, which is interesting because last year, I got 33 pints.  Oh well...maybe the tomatoes were more meaty this year.   I used a mix of poblanos and jalapenos; my trusty canning buddy Ellen decided to slice some of the jalapenos in rings to make them look even better in the jar.   Ellen and I have been canning together for years, ever since Ann moved away to upstate New York.  

I used my outdoor canning kitchen again which is the best thing ever!  When I am all done, I just have to hose off the driveway.   Plus it's so much cooler outside; in the morning I had to wear a jacket.  A new purchase this year, a flame tamer really helped prevent scorching.

It sits between the fire and the canning kettle to prevent scorching.   Great add to my canning supplies.   I also cleaned out my pantry and got rid of some of the old stuff that never got eaten, like the pickled green tomatoes or the peaches I forgot were there.  

bbq sauce from 2013?

So far, I've made salsa, strawberry and thimbleberry jam so far this year.   Not sure what I want to make next.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Thimbleberry Jam

When I was a student at Michigan Tech, I spent a couple summers in the Keweenaw, and I vowed back then that I would someday make my own thimbleberry jam.    It finally happened!

Thimbleberries...from the watercolor journal of Marilynn Brandenburger
check out her work here

Growing up downstate, I had never heard of thimbleberries, which I'd describe as a floral, tart raspberry with smaller seeds.   They are also much easier to pick than raspberries, because they have no thorns.   They come into season in the beginning to mid August, and so I planned a trip to our place on Lake Superior to hopefully be timed with the ripening of the berries.   All the souvenir shops in the Keweenaw sell thimbleberry jam, but my favorite place to get it is the Jam Pot  a bakery and preserves spot in Eagle River.   I've always been inspired by their preserves...everything from wild gathered chokecherry and bilberries and rose hips to thimbleberry, their most popular.    It's currently selling for $18 a jar.    I noticed American Spoon is selling it for $23 a half pint.   So I put the family, and our friends Ray and Jen who were up visiting, to work picking berries.   

Thanks to the internet, I found that thimbleberries, unlike raspberries, don't need added pectin.   The recipes I found said to use equal volumes of berries and sugar and to bring it to a boil.   I decided to use equal amounts of sugar and berries by weight instead.   Thimbleberries are very fragile -- we collected them in bags and then put them in a bucket.    They turn into a a sludge almost immediately upon picking them  I poured them and their juice onto a cookie sheet to pick out any detritus (twigs, stems, the occasional tick) and them combined it with an equal part by weight of sugar.   I brought the mixture to a boil for 3 minutes, which seemed to be the average out there on the internet.

After 3 minutes of stirring constantly, I put the jam in hot half pint jars with 1/2 inch headspace and processed for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.   

 We picked 7 lbs of berries, which resulted in 22 half pints of jam.....that's about $400 worth of jam!  

Friday, July 08, 2016

Pollinator Garden

Today I planted a pollinator garden to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service and to take my mind and heart off of the horrible violence in the news today.    I'm tired of reading preachy facebook posts from people who think they know all the answers.   I sure know I don't have all the answers, but I got some seeds from the NPS, and planted them in the garden of our lake house, which is on the shore of Lake Superior in the Keweenaw.   Hope they grow!

The seed pack included lupinus perennis aka wild lupine which I see growing all over the Keweenaw. There was also Asclepias tuberosa  which we know as butterfly weed, Rudbeckia hirta or black eyed Susan, Monarda fistulosa, which is wild bergamot and Solidago canadensis or Canadian goldenrod.  Here's my garden located on the map!

To find out more about the project, check out the Pollinator Project.    Also you can get free seeds from the National Park Service.   Find your park!  Hopefully, a year from now I will see some flowers in my garden and remember that even though there is evil in the world, there is also good people and love and flowers.