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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chocolate Raspberry Jam

What can I say about this jam other than it will change your life? Imagine the pure, tart, sweetness of fresh raspberries combined in a love fest of melted, bittersweet chocolate. Now take that image and smear it all over your naked body and let Ryan Gosling slowly lick it off. Got it? You’re welcome.

THAT’S what this jam will do for you!

This recipe is the love child creation from the fairy Godmother of canning, Christine Ferber and Mes Confitures, and another recipe that I’ve had for a long time. Christine Ferber’s canning recipes usually involve a 2-step process of letting the fruit and sugar macerate overnight, which greatly improves any true, bring-to-gel jam or jelly recipe, but I didn’t want to go that route with this recipe. 

Her Raspberries with Chocolate recipe also calls for processing the berries through a food mill to get rid of the seeds, which believe me, is an AWESOME way to go, but I also happen to like the seeds and doing so would also require way more raspberries to make up the bulk. So, what I really took from Christine’s recipe to make this orgasm-inducing jam is the chocolate.

Ah, yes. The chocolate.

My old recipe called for mere 3-ounces of chocolate, which was barely detectible; however, Christine calls for a healthy 9-ounces.  And besides, more chocolate is always better!

Now, where is Ryan Gosling?

Kathy’s Chocolate Raspberry Jam
Makes 6, half-pints

6 cups frozen raspberries, crushed or 7 pints fresh raspberries (I used frozen that we picked)
*¾ cup of semi-sweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate chips, ground in a food processor
4 cups of sugar
1 box powdered pectin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon butter

Note: Process the chocolate chips to where the chips resemble a rough ground powder.

Place raspberries, pectin, lemon juice, and butter in a heavy, non-reactive saucepan and bring to a full, rolling boil. Add sugar all at once; bring back to a full, rolling boil and boil for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and add ground chocolate; stir well to combine. Skim any foam if necessary.

Ladle jam into prepared jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Bean Pickin' Time

The tomatoes are done! I finished with about 8 pints of Green Salsa Verde made from all the green toms leftover.

My canning label software has been out of commission for the past couple of months, as it was residing on my old PC and not my laptop, and so I haven't been able to label all these quarts and pints of tomato products in my basement. It doesn't take long for everything to start to look the same, and it was a command decision to get my label software reloaded when what we thought was a pint of salsa spooned over nachos (football season!!!) turned out to be Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce.

Total buzzkill.

Now, my bush beans are coming in and for these babies, I simply wash, snap off the ends, snap into pieces, and then blanch/freeze for quart freezer bags. Every year, there is a discussion on the Harvest Forum on whether to freeze or pressure can beans and it's always a tie. Some people say the only way is to freeze, and some say that pressure canning is the best. Meh.

I'm with the former, as pressure canning beans results in taste and texture that is exactly like the canned green beans you would buy from the store. My thought is, "If I wanted canned green beans, I would buy them!" At least when I freeze green beans, I have some control over whether to cook the snot out of them or not. Which usually I do anyway, but sometimes I'll under cook them a little if they are going into a casserole or soup.

Happy Fall Ya'll!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Last Tomato Haul

I thought this would be it for The Year of The Tomato, but alas, I have another tub exactly like this sitting in the garage waiting to be made into something. Last week, we hauled 40 lbs of beautifully ripe tomatoes from our patch. We are now over 200 lbs harvested this year!

Of all that we grew, our favorite by far has been Brandywine Sudduth Strain. This tomato is the epitome of the perfect balance between sweet, savory, and acidity. To me, this tomato is what a fresh tomato should taste like. A few plants made it from my winter sowing experiment and it was enough to convince me to only grow tomatoes for eating next year.

All other canning tomatoes will be purchased from the farmer's market next year. I'll admit, the sauce I made for canning did taste a little better using a mixture of all the different tomatoes I had, but it wasn't enough to convince me to do again next year. Of course, I say this now, but I might change my mind again next year. Other contenders for flavor were Early Girl and Druzba. Early Girl was pretty close to Brandywine, but they were small tangerine-sized tomatoes, and Druzba was candy-sweet. We also grew Black From Tula, which had an almost smoky flavor, but it was prone to cracking and splitting on the vine. Nope....Brandywine is my girl for this year. 

For now, I picked the last of the ripened and green tomatoes yesterday and the tomato patch will be put to rest (blight has set in). The other 40 lb tub of green and ripened tomatoes will be made into a green salsa verde. I think I'm set with canned tomatoes till next summer!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July In The Garden

This is the time of year where my canner, the dishwasher, the washing machine, and our compost pile are all doing overtime to keep up with the onslaught of produce. I guess that make me a busy woman too! But first, some pretty flowers...

Red gladiolas by the back porch. I love these things and can't get enough!

Black-eyed Susans blooming their little hearts out.

A Tigger Melon blossom. I ran out of steam by the time I planted these and only have 4 plants growing...I'll guess we'll see what happens.

The Tomato Prison...protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of salsa.

We are up to 132-135 lbs of ripe tomatoes picked this season. Hubby and I had a bet. I bet that we would harvest 90 lbs and he bet 120 lbs....looks like we have both lost and we still have MUCH more to go. Basically, we have grown an entire human being in tomato weight!

Cutie patootie Paris Market carrots. These babies are about the size of a ping-pong ball or smaller. Originally, I was going to pickle them, but I couldn't find a recipe that I was interested in, not to mention I didn't think that each one of these tiny things would need to be peeled. They are going to be roasted with my measly beet harvest for dinner tonight!

Happy parsley is happy!

Bush beans are growing. I am going to have A LOT of beans (god willing) this season.

A lovely visitor on some basil flowers. I haven't had to buy any basil this year for pesto!

My languishing Malabar Spinach. I'm not sure why this isn't crawling up that trellis like a wild fire. I've given them a boost of organic fertilizer a few weeks ago and barely anything..oh well, you can't win them all.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tomato Prison

This is what it has come down to in order to keep the friggin' crows out of my tomato patch:

I have cattle panel fencing, tin foil tied to pieces of string, twine strung across any opening, and electrical wire running along the bottom of the boxes.

At first when this all started, I thought we were having mice or rats, so we set out mouse traps. I was losing about 4-5 green tomatoes a day and had to do something. The tomatoes that were damaged didn't actually have gnaw or teeth marks on them, they seemed to be hollowed out completely from a small opening in the fruit. When we didn't catch any mice and the damage continued, I was suspicious. I knew it was something larger than a mouse/rat, as some of the limbs on the tomato vines were broken from something larger trying to get at the higher setting fruit.

I hung sheets of tin foil on string and that worked very well for a while. The occasional crinkling and noise put off from the tin foil rustling in the slightest breeze even spooked me out. It sounded like someone, or something, was sneaking up on you from behind. But still more loss.

So, I ordered this battery operated electrical wire from Amazon. Even though it is operated by D batteries, it still puts out a good zap and it has worked from keeping ground dwellers out. It worked for a while, but we still continued to lose tomatoes. I was setting my sights on the crows more and more until one day I caught one red-handed (winged?). I took a look at a tomato that was damaged and then noticed a definte "V" mark made by a beak.

The little shits land in the yard and walk right up to the beds and help themselves like it is some sort of grocery aisle. The electrical wire stopped them for a time, until they figured they could hop right over it in between the rows and party on, so we had to set up the cattle panels with the twine on top of everything else. The crows won't go into an area where they can't easily have a wing span to get out in case they are caught. They won't go into an area where they can't fly out and escape quickly.

This has worked (for now) and I scare the fcukers away from the property every chance I get. My tomato patch looks like some sort of ghetto, produce prison. if I can keep the bunnies from eating my hollyhocks!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ground Cherries

This past winter, I decided to winter sow some Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry seeds that I ordered from a seed company. Descriptions for the fruit on these unusual plants include "pineapple in flavor" or "mango-like" and I was curious. They are in the same family as tomatoes and tomatillos, and from what I've read, they are an old garden fruit that were once grown abundantly, but not any more. The fruit makes an excellent jam, so of course that convinced me to give it a try.

More research revealed the seeds needed stratification (cold weather) to sprout and were notorious for taking a long time to do so. Well, during the winter, time is all you have, so I planted them without any expectations. To my surprise, they have done exceptionally well! At first, I wasn't bowled over by their flavor, but then I learned they needed to really ripen to get that pineapple flavor.

They do look like tiny tomatillos in their husks, but when you peel the husks back, they are about the size of a very small grape.

The plants grew to about 4 feet tall! And true to their name, the ground cherries are ready for "picking" when they fall off the plant to the ground. It's like nature's own Easter egg hunt.

I usually make two or three passes around the bed they are growing in and have been picking a bowl-full every 2-3 days. The plants have been super tough and nothing has bothered them, not even the crows! They have been pestered by flea beetles and white flies, but that hasn't slowed them down at all.

More research told me that the cherries freeze wonderfully in order to gather enough for jam, so that is what I have been doing. I let them sit in a bowl for a few days in their husks to fully ripen and dry the husks out before peeling and freezing. I can't wait to see what kind of jam these babies will make!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sixteen Pounds

On Sunday, I harvested 16 pounds of tomatoes from my tomato patch. I picked 13 pounds last week, which were partly devoured on BLTs, with cheese and wine, and in salads before the rest were processed in pints for the most honored sauces.

This brings my season total up to almost 30 pounds, as I didn't weigh the first few I picked earlier. There's probably a good 20-25 more tomatoes ready to be picked even as I type...gotta love it! This batch is destined to be sliced and mixed with some fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. What is left over will be made into salsa. So far, my favorite has been Early Girl in taste. There are two German Johnson's in this batch that are heirlooms and I'm curious to see what they taste like.

Unfortunately, all of my winter sowed tomatoes weren't mature enough to make it into the garden beds and are being grown in pots. I didn't think they would make it, but surprisingly they are doing just fine. They have set fruit, but they won't be ready for a while. Next year, my goal is to only grow tomatoes that I grew from seed. No store bought transplants, even if that means I go without.
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