Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Easter

Just a few days late...

I thought the girls might be getting too old for an egg hunt but I was wrong. They were waiting for it all day long. Mimi prepared the eggs while we went to church. Thanks Mimi! 

The joy of candy filled eggs!
Blue really wanted some candy but all he got was a kiss:)
 The next day, these Lindt dark chocolate bunnies came in the mail.  Thanks Liz and Grandmother Gail. Yum!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

First Spring Harvest

This is not exactly the first harvest. We've brought in a few other greens and things that grew over the winter. I've also used small batches of greens and lettuces from the garden for dinners all last week. This is the first big harvest of lacinato kale--1 pound 12 oz.
Here is how the garden is coming along. Remember those little seedlings we started inside back in January? (Here's the link to the post and pictures about how we got everything started.) The row to the far right of the picture is cabbage and Brussels Sprouts, the second from right is collards, the third is onions.
Here the far right row is red Russian kale and garlic, then lacinato kale, then peas, then broccoli, lettuce and garlic, the far left row is potatoes.
Daniel and the girls outside all weekend.
Still coming up with new ways to ride the zip line.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Homemade Jam: How to and Why I love it

I have been making jam with fresh picked berries for several years. Each year I do it I make more because we love it so much. We go to u-pick farms for strawberries in the spring and then blueberries in mid summer. As I said in an earlier post this week we picked about 14 pounds of organic strawberries for $2.25/lb. I think we ate about 4 pounds fresh on pancakes and for snacks, so I had about 10 pounds for jam.

Benefits of making jam at home:
  1. Control of amount of sugar and what is going into the jam
  2. Supports local farms
  3. Less waste--use same jars year after year
  4. Cost:  I spent about $1.50 per 8oz jar of jam 
  •  I've been buying conventional (not organic) all fruit preserves at Kroger for $1.79 for 8 oz. To get it homemade, local, and organic would be a whole lot more.
  • The only place you can get organic jam cheaper is in large quatities at Costco or maybe Trader Joe's and we don't have either. 
This homemade (local and organic is even better!) jam makes great gifts for teachers, friends, neighbors, and families. Another thing I love about having jam around is that it is very satisfying to have the pretty red or blue jars of fruit in the pantry. It is very rewarding to pull a jar of my own jam out of the pantry and serve it to my family:) 
    What you need to make strawberry jam:

    Berries. For the smallest batch you'll need about 2 quarts of berries which will yield 4-5 cups of jam. (If you want to make a bigger batch you can. I made 4 batches at once.)

    Pomona's Fruit Pectin
    This is an all natural pectin that can be found at your local natural food store like Earthfare, Wholefoods, etc. (or the amazon link provided) It is what makes the jam have the gel consistency without using gelatin or alternately using tons of sugar and cooking way down the old fashion way. It comes in a small box for somewhere around $3.00-$4.00. There are detailed instructions and recipes inside the box.

    Jars. Jars come in cases at the grocery stores. You only need 4-5 cup or 2 pint jars but you have to buy them in a case. Consider this an investment as you'll be able to use the same jars for many years.

    Lids and rims. The metal rims can be used many times but the flat lids have rubber seals and these need to be replaced every year. Get these near the jars at the grocery store.

    Sugar. The amount depends on how much you want to use. I used 1 cup organic sugar per batch.

    Water Bath Canner. Get from Target, Walmart or hardware stores. 

    Misc. Canning supplies optional but very helpful. The funnel and tongs are a must.

    The Process:

    1. Wash, trim, and mash about 2 quarts of berries. You'll need 4 cups of mashed berries for one batch.

    2. Sterilize the jars. Do this by boiling them in water for 10 minutes or cleaning them in high heat dishwasher. Leave them in the water or washer until needed so they stay warm. Consider how much time this step is going to take because getting a large pot of water to boil or a cycle in the wash take different amounts of time. When you have about 20 minutes left start the rest of the process.

    3. Sterilize the lids and rims. Put them in small pot covered with water and boil for 10 minutes. Leave them in the pot until needed.

    4. Open box of pectin. Directions clearly explain the following. It comes with 2 small pouches. The large one is the pectin that you add to the sugar and the small one is calcium powder.

    5. First add the 2 teasponns of calcium to 1/2 water and stir well. Keep in the refrigerator until needed.

    6. Measure proper amount of sugar in a bowl. The amount varies depending on your taste.

    7. Measure 2 teaspoons of the pectin (large pouch) and add to the sugar. Stir well.

    8. Place berries in large pot and add calcium water. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Add sugar and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

    9. Use a ladle and funnel to scoop hot jam into hot jars. Leave a half inch of space at top of jar. Wipe rims with wet cloth. Place lids on top. Screw down rims tight but not too tight. Usually I tighten as much as I can then go back a bit.

    10. Use tongs to place jars in boiling water. They need to be fully submerged with about an inch of water on top. Boil for 5 mins (check instructions because you may need to add time depending on altitude.)

    11. Remove from water with tongs and let cool. After a few minutes check that jars have sealed. I love hearing the little clicks as the lids are sucked down:) It's a sign of success! If they do not seal the first, remove lid and check that there is nothing on the rim blocking the seal and reboil for 5 minutes.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2011

    Day trip: Strawberry Picking, Angel Oak, and Folly Beach

    We are actually on Spring Break this week so we decided to head over to the Charleston area with some friends for a quick day trip. Last year we visited Ambrose Farms to pick organic strawberries. The Farm is beautiful and full of veggies so I was in heaven. We picked 14 pounds of berries in about 30 minutes. I made jam out of them today!
    While driving to the farm last year we drove right by the Angel Oak Tree but didn't have time to stop. So this year we took a picnic and ate lunch by this massive 400-500 year old Live Oak tree. To give you an idea of its size, the tree's circumference is 25 feet and its area of shade is 17,000 sq. feet.

    The girls were not happy that they were in the presence of the best climbing tree ever but not allowed to climb it.
    They didn't stay sad long.

    We spent the last few hours of the day at the beach. It was extremely windy and a bit chilly but the kids never seem to mind.