Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Preserving Food ~ Canning Labels!

Last week I was so frustrated by my pantry collapse that I had decided I wasn't going to can anymore for the year. That lasted for about two days... or until I got two boxes of apples from the market. And then bruised peaches for free, and then corn. Sigh. It really is part of the pioneer in me to put up food when it is abundant and put by as much as possible. I just can't refuse amazingly good, organic food.

So this week was dedicated to peaches, and then corn, and now applesauce. But it was also dedicated to falling in love with my pantry again. To being in love with the process of putting food by and stepping back just enough so that I could see the beauty in my pantry that everyone else saw.

This led me to look for pretty labels for the tops of my jars:

Inspired by Bitter Betty and her wonderful canning labels (which are on all of my green beans) I set out to make my own. The process turned out to be MUCH easier than I thought it was. Although to figure that out, took about 3 hours, a Word savvy best friend, and a very patient husband. ;)

Wide Mouth Jar Labels

What you need:

Microsoft Word
good photos of the food you are labeling
Full sheet shipping labels (can be found at any office supply store)
a good printer
2.5inch hole punch

I have made up a tutorial in pictures, and because it has quite a few pictures showing how I did this, I decided to make it a Flickr set with instructions:

It is a simple process, and once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite addictive. All my jars have pretty labels now... even the ones for the applesauce currently simmering in my kitchen. My pantry love is back.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Market Days

Sorry I am late on this this week. You can all imagine why. ;) The shell shock of the pantry fall out is still going on. We have to replace some moving boxes that got soaked in peach, tomato, and cherry juice, and we have to wash the jars, but the shelves are reinforced... so when I put the jars back up, it should not happen again. I still don't understand why it happened. Nothing shook the garage... there was no more weight on that shelf than any others. It just gave way. But 25 some odd jars later (I really don't know the number, but my guess is between 22 and 25 jars hit the ground) I am feeling much better about the whole thing. Thank you so much for all of the appropriate horror. It was wonderful to get such sweet responses and emails from you all. A lot of work hit the ground yesterday and at this point I am just really glad it wasn't worse.

This weeks list:
Artichokes, green beans, a flat and a half of blueberries for more jam, leeks, cilantro, parsley, dill, Rose Finn potatoes, Italian zucchini, romaine and oak leaf lettuce, golden beets, red Swiss chard, Sun Gold and plum tomatoes, garlic, blond cucumbers, celeriac, two bags of chicken wings, a dozen eggs, and a thing of chocolate goats milk as a treat for the kids. Plus this:

WE HAVE CORN!!! It is so very very good. I made it up that same night and it was so sweet and tender it didn't even need butter. I just dipped it in a little salted boiling water for about 2 minutes and it was plump and delicious. Fresh corn is something that is really only good in season. They can try to grow it far away and then ship it... but it isn't good. Not like this. Tomatoes and corn are two of the things that really only taste like they are supposed to when you get them in season, warm from the summer sun. This was like a little bite of sunshine. It was amazing!

This weeks menu reflects a little bit of the lack of desire to cook anything on my part. It is a less than creative week. But comfort food can be creative and I am all about comfort on these first few frustrating days of fall.


Monday, September 21, 2009


This afternoon I had finished my jam, it had cooled, and I had put it away. Then I went to get my kids ready to go to the library... and I heard this incredible crash! I ran outside to see if Logan and Cyan were ok, and it wasn't them......... and so I ran to the garage. Yep. The whole top shelf of my canning shelf had crashed to the ground. Peaches, tomato sauce, peach jelly, canned cherries... all on the floor covered in shards of broken glass. You would not believe the string of curse words that left my garage this afternoon with the broken jars that I had spent so many hours slaving over... but I am sure it was rather amazing. In fact, if someone had had a tape recorder right then, it was probably the stuff of future blackmail.

Most of you have not been reading me since the Domestic Goddess Disaster when my freezer broke and I had to find a way to use about 150lbs of frozen food in a day. But this was worse... by far. I took a picture of the floor carnage... but when I had the camera out I didn't know about the 'on top of the freezer' carnage or the 'behind the freezer' carnage or even the 'behind the canning shelf' carnage... so the pictures really don't do it justice. There were 14 more broken jars in other places. No... the picture does not do it justice at all. (Because, of course, it had to be the TOP two shelves that got taken out. Thanks Murphy.) As it was, it still took two shovels, an industrial shop vac (borrowed from neighbor), and a huge garbage can to clean up the mess. The mop will have to be applied a few times... the floor still sticks to my feet. But that will come tomorrow.

It is one of those things that I will keep finding until I move from this house in 30-odd years. I will find a piece of glass on the back of something clear across the garage and I will laugh and say "Oh! This must be from the year I had the shelf collapse with 25 jars of peaches on it!" and I will laugh.

Let me tell you... I am not laughing today.

I am, however, not freaking out anymore either. Found three more intact jars of peaches behind freezer. And another broken one... but for some reason, having the death count under 30 made me feel better.


Preserving Food ~ Freezing Pesto

There is something uniquely 'summer' about fresh pesto. The green, the taste, even the smell can bring back warm days and the idea that another summer may just be around the corner. Store bought pesto has always seemed sort of lifeless to me. I love the ease of it, and really enjoy the extra flavor it can bring, but it just doesn't have the zing of freshly made pesto with basil strait from the farm or garden. With that in mind, I went about trying to store some of that summer flare for my families winter meals.

I froze 12 half pints of pesto last week after being gifted with a crazy amount of basil. Last year, when I froze it, I left the cheese in. This didn't freeze too well and so I decided this year that I would just leave the cheese out and add it when we made the dish instead.

Basic Pesto for Freezing

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2 - 3 garlic cloves, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put everything in a food processor and pulse until you get the consistency you want. Makes one half pint (I only have a 1 cup food processor. I am pretty sure the recipe can be doubled or more, but I wasn't able to test it. If someone does do this, would you leave me a comment letting me know how it turned out? Thanks!).

I packed mine in half pint mason jars that I left 1/2 inch head space then froze.

For this recipe, I pulled out my mini food processor. I only use the thing about once a month, but I do love having it as one of my very few kitchen gadgets.

We have already used this recipe for my Pesto Pasta Salad and it turned out great! So much better than store bought.

"The leaning tower of Pesto"

I had a bunch of basil left over, and asked my husband what I should do with it... and he said "give it away. I think 6 pints of pesto is enough." lol! I think he is probably right.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Preserving Food ~ Ginger Plum Sauce

Every recipe for ginger plum sauce I saw had like 7 ingredients. I just wanted something to dip eggrolls in. So when I got these plums for free from a friend, I decided to make up my own recipe:

8 cups of plums (peeled and pitted)
4 cups of brown sugar
3 chunks of fresh ginger (pealed and sliced)
2 Tbs lemon Juice

Reduce plums on low for as long as possible (4 hours was what I did), I ran it through the food mill to get the consistency perfect and then added it back into the pot and added the ginger, lemon juice, and sugar. Simmer for at least another hour (I did two).

SO GOOD! We use it for dipping fresh rolls.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Preserving Food ~ Dishonest Blueberry Jam

Dishonest Blueberry Jam

5 cups crushed blueberries (or 8 cups whole)
5 cups sugar
1 box pectin
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs dried lavender

Combine blueberries, vinegar, lavender and sugar in a large pot. Bring to boil and then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for about an hour, stirring frequently.

Run the whole thing through a food mill to get a super smooth consistency and remove the lavender pieces.

Add back into the pot, bring to a boil and add pectin (you do not want to add the pectin before the food mill or you will have less pectin in your jam).

Follow instructions in the Blue Ball Book of Food Preservation for instructions to can.

I have never been a peanut butter person. My whole family likes the stuff... but I can only choke down about a Tbs a year. lol... so for me, this jam was perfect. It was perfect for accompanying my protein fast food of choice, brie. Between the brie, some pepper crackers, and the blueberry jam, I was quite a happy snacker. :)


Friday, September 18, 2009

Farm Party

Last week we had the annual barn stomp farm party! It was so wonderful. The music and the food far out did last years event, although I missed the games that we so enjoyed last year.

The beautiful, sunny fall weather quickly turned cold as the sun went down. But we had a great three hours of dancing, eating, and enjoying the beauty of the farm. My friend Dustin was the chef this year and omgoodness did he do an amazing job! He and his helpers set out an incredible feast that included an entire roasted pig (raised by another friend of mine), a bunch of coho salmon, and more veggies from the farm than you can imagine. It was amazing (not to mention DELICIOUS!)

Here is a slideshow of the highlights... what a fabulous evening!


In my kitchen, at 8:22am, Friday, Sept 18th, 2009

Good Morning Sun!

This picture represents about 200lbs of food, made into goodness for the winter.

I am finished. It took 5 days, about 38 hours, and a good friend to get me through this week of preservation frenzy. But I am done. My yearly preservation list is almost checked off. I have a bunch more applesauce to do, and some apple pie filling... but I feel SO accomplished right now.

This is my ginger plum sauce. It is for dipping fresh rolls in. It is nothing but plums, brown sugar, and ginger. And it is so amazingly delicious. I can't imagine why the stores plum sauce has so many ingredients in it. This stuff is perfect, as is.

I had some major successes, and some that were not so great. Like the idea to put blueberries in my fruit cocktail instead of the formaldehyde filled Maraschino cherries. Yeah... that was not the best idea ever. lol! All of the jars of fruit cocktail are completely purple. Not bad, but they don't look great. I am thinking that a bunch of fruit cocktail cobbler is in my future. I am sure it tastes great though!

And here is the Blueberry Jam:

I made two varieties this year. When you have spent a full time job amount of time in your kitchen everyday for a week, you start getting 'inspired'. Well... the line between 'inspired' and 'bored' was very thin anyway.

On the right, we have the Honest Blueberry Jam from The Arugula Files. Great recipe. I also cut the sugar down to 5 cups and it worked great... 7 cups would have been WAY too much.

And then, to the left, we have my own newest creation, Dishonest Blueberry Jam. This jam was my 'inspired' moment. At first I was thinking that I would just add Balsamic Vinegar in place of the lemon juice... and then I was thinking, heck, why not really mix it up and add lavender to the pot as well. It is SO good... like give away for Christmas good. The flavor will knock your socks off. It has an almost blackberry richness, yet a subtle hint of tart and the lavender and blueberry are an excellent mix.

Recipes later. :)


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Of course I can!!

Must notice the frantic look:

Found this at a food blog and really felt her pain... and her conviction today. Thought I would share.

I found a couple new food blogs lately that I have been really enjoying:

The Arugula Files

Chiot's Run

I am currently making the "Honest Blueberry Jam" (with my own modifications) from The Arugula Files archives. Must get back to it. But wow... it's beautiful!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In my kitchen at 4:29pm on Tuesday, Sept. 15th, 2009

I set up this table in the center of my kitchen when things get really crazy. You can see my whole set up here. Cutting board and knife in the center, big bowl or pan always to the right of me. Garbage bowl always to the left.

On the table is plums from a friends tree, a pot of apples about to be made into Strawberry Applesauce, a big bowl of bruised fruit to be made into fruit cocktail, and some little green apples from our little tree in the garden.

On the counter there are three half flats of blueberries for blueberry jam.

To the left side of the table is a laundry basket of apples for apple sauce.

Under the table is a box of beets for cake (it isn't full, thank goodness), and two lugs of tomatoes for sauce.

This is my view from where I stand at the other side of the table:

Here is where my littlest plays while I am doing my stuff. Sometimes I give him the less messy scraps to play with in his kitchen. Like the bean tops, or the little green tomato tops.

It is a pretty great set up... I am loving this house the more things I do in it. This kitchen isn't ideal for everyday... there is a lot of 'wasted' space. But for this type of endeavor, it is perfect. Just more proof that this house was meant for us... not just anyone... but for us.

And just as an aside, that table cloth was made from the sheets I posted about in this post. :) It fits both this table and my kitchen table perfectly... and I have enough for 8 napkins besides.


The Mother of all Onions

The Walla Walla was developed by a Italian American who developed it for the early maturation of the crop (weeks before other onions in the season). It was soon known for not only being early, but also being sweet enough to eat like an apple!

This tradition continues with four generations of this same family dedicated to growing the same wonderful crop of onions year after year.

The farms onions were, of course, grown on the farm, but the small farm tradition and the reverence for the Walla Walla variety still live on.

This onion is fast on it's way to bring a bloomin' onion for a wonderful end of summer feast. :)

Here is a recipe for an onion flower and a bit of history of the onions from the farm:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Market Days

Val says "Get thee to a farmers market!"

Goodness my friends... there is SO much food out there this time of year. It is blowing me away. This is the time of year to shop at the farmers markets. You may get hooked, or you may be a seasonal shopper... but if there was any time to go, it would be right now. Everything is fit to bursting with incredible amounts of... well, everything! We have summer squash, right next to winter squash, we have carrots right next to our second planting of snow peas, we have tomatoes, and basil, right next to parsnips and rutabagas. We have everything!

My list for this week: ("Prepare to be amazed!" (a quote from a little friend)) Leeks, celery, sungold and plum tomatoes, red beets (for cake again), snow peas, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, Anaheim and bell peppers, purple cabbage, Romaine lettuce, Italian zucchini, romaine and red Oak Leaf lettuce, red and yellow onions (one is the mother of all onions!), 2 1/2 lbs of basil, a flat of sauce tomatoes, and 4 half flats of blueberries. In the fridge I have rutabaga, parsnips, a dozen eggs, and a half lb of local Chanterelle mushrooms.

And then I have this:

Bruised fruit from the stand next door to make fruit cocktail.

Apples from a tree offered on freecycle (in WA we have plenty of apples to share).

Menu for this week:

List of food preservation for the week:


Fruit Cocktail

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Plum Jam

Plum and Ginger Sauce

Blueberry Jam


Roasted Bell Peppers (in olive oil)

Chocolate Beet Cake (to freeze)

I am going to be a busy lady this week...


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rainy Market Monday and a Menu Too!

I felt lucky to have new tents at the market this year. Last year, when we had a cold rainy day, slowly, ever so slowly, the tent would sag, and then all of a sudden DUMP water on us as we were working. Yesterday though, the new tents saved us from the horrid sudden waterfalls in most ways... by actually working and not sagging and such. So, that was good. What was not good was that we have two tents side by side... so between the two tents was this never ending stream of water pouring down between the two sides of the table. This was uncomfortable. Doubly so, considering that the 15 customers that did come to the market in the deluge asked for things from both sides of the tables... making us walk through the stream of water with every order. I was soaked to the skin (and standing in wet running shoes) the entire day. You really get to see the hard core local foodies when you work the market on a downpour day like yesterday. We thanked each and every person that came to our stand yesterday for coming out in that weather.

You prepare to be cold and wet in Nov... even Oct sometimes (at least you prepare for cold and wet in Seattle in Oct)... but Sept 6th? We were both in cotton layers, and the only reason we had coats is because we got up while it was still dark (ie; still cold). We were not as bad off as some (the lady behind us was in a running outfit and a apron. Poor thing was SO cold by noon that she was dancing around just to keep warm.) but still, a rather uncomfortable day, in which, once again, we made no money for the farm. Sigh.

Living locally in Sept is so easy. It is amazing the things you find this time of year. Anything and everything grows here.... except lemons (which we were asked for yesterday... weird.).

My list for this week: Bell peppers in all sorts of beautiful colors, celery, garlic, cherry tomatoes and Sun Gold tomatoes, red oak lettuce, romaine lettuce, curly parsley, leeks, Rose Finn potatoes, blond cucumbers, crookneck and Italian zucchini squash, purple cabbage, baby artichokes, fresh onions, Walla Walla onions, nectarines, white flesh peaches, a bag of beets for that cake recipe again (SO GOOD!), one dozen and 11 eggs (one broke, so she gave it to me), 12 chicken wings, a pizza and a huge brownie (which I ate there.) Oh, and I was given a 7 lbs (making it a $11) cabbage to make into soup (no one is going to spend $11 on one cabbage and we know it.)

After I got home and took a nice hot shower last night, The Man and I got to go out on a date. On the drive we saw these dahlias at a road side stand. Being local (out of someones front yard) I thought I would include them in the bounty for the week... isn't it beautiful?

Making a menu from this amazing bounty is only hard because there is so much to chose from. This week I chose these selections:
The "notes" section that is on this menu is really nice. I used it to add a couple snacks I want to be sure to make this week. The eggs are already boiled, and the beets are on the oven for a bunch of cupcakes right now. I'll save the smoothies for later in the week. (menu template found here) The Tiny Food Party is actually on Wed for Cyan and her girlfriends... I just forgot in the middle of writing, so I added it to Sunday so it had a place in the week. (Read the way I use my menu plans here.)
Happy Monday everyone!