Friday, August 19, 2011

The Plum Trees Are Laden

We have a little plum tree in our back yard.
Some years it produces buckets-full,
so much that I call friends to come and help themselves.

Other years it seems to take a sabbatical.
This is one of those years,
which is okay with me.  After all,
we still have plenty of plum jam in the pantry.

Wild, tart roadside plums

Help with pitting buckets of plums (more in the fridge!)  2009

So, in homage to our faithful little tree,
I am sharing some recipes with you.
The kind that will carry you through the
long winter months to come.

For rosy apples, juicy plums,
And honey from the bees,
We thank You, Heavenly Father God,
For such good gifts as these.

~ Anonymous

Plum Chutney
yield 10-12 pints

10 cups chopped plum
4 cups cider vinegar
6 cups brown sugar
1 cup preserved ginger

 Tie these up in a cheesecloth:
3 cinnamon sticks
8-10 whole cloves
8-10 whole allspice
6 cardamom pods

Put ingredients into large nonreactive pot.
Simmer until thick, approximately 1-2 hours.
When thick, pour into hot, sterilized jars.
Adjust lids, not too tight.
Process 10 minutes.
Tighten lids.

Botanical plum, Redoute

Plum Chutney
yields 2 pints

3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup slivered, crystallized ginger
2 teaspoons pickling salt
2 teaspoons mustard seed
2 large cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/4 chopped onion
1 cup golden raisins
3-1/2 cups halved plums

In heavy, nonreactive pot, boil vinegar and sugars, dissolving sugar.
Add remaining ingredients, except plums.  Mix well.
Stir in plums.
Simmer, stirring, until thickened, about 50 minutes.
Ladle hot chutney into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space.
Adjust lids.  Process.

Damson Plum, by Petula Stone

Pickled Plums
yields 6 quarts

6-1/2 pounds plums
5-1/2 cups cider vinegar
4 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
6 small dried chili peppers
12 whole cloves
36 allspice berries
1 Tablespoon cardamom pods
24 thin slices fresh ginger

Prick each plum 3x.
In a large, nonreactive pot, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil.
Stir to dissolve sugar.
Add plums and reduce heat to low.
Let them cook gently until heated.
Put 1/3 of a cinnamon stick, 1 chili pepper, 2 cloves, 6 allspice berries, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods, and 4 slices of ginger into each sterilized jar.
Ladle hot plums into jars.
Cover with hot syrup, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
Seal and process.

Théo van Rysselberghe, Still Life with Plums, 1926

Pickled Plums With Red Wine
yields 4 quarts

6 pounds firm plums
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
4 thin slices fresh ginger
4-2/3 cup sugar
3 cup red wine vinegar
3 cups red wine

Prick plums each 3x.
Tie spices and ginger into cheesecloth bag.
Put into nonreactive pot with sugar, vinegar, and wine.
Bring to a boil, dissolving sugar.
Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool.
Put plums into a bowl.
Pour cooled syrup over them and let rest 8-12 hours.
Drain off syrup into nonreactive pot,
add spice bag,
and bring to a boil.
Remove pot from heat, let syrup cool.
Pour over plums.
Let rest in syrup 8-12 hours.
Put all back into nonreactive pot.
Cook plums over low heat until skins begin to crack.
Transfer to sterile quart jars.
Boil syrup until thickened, then pour over plums. leaving 1/2-inch head space.

Benjamin Roberts, Still life of plums with a cabbage white, 1862

Plum Schnapps
This doesn't take so many plums as the previous recipes.  I should be able to make this with our sparse crop this year.  Wouldn't it be delicious drizzled over a little vanilla bean ice cream?  Or splashed into a hot Christmas cider?

Use sweet and fully ripe plums - cultivated or wild cherry plums (Prunus cerasifera).
The plums must be fresh, firm, unwrinkled, smooth-skinned with no blemishes or soft spots.
You can make the schnapps in different ways.
You can use either the whole fruits, the whole fruits with small holes in them, or the whole fruits cut into halves - with or without the pits.
Using different methods, you get different results. It's a matter of taste which method you may want to use.
Personally I prefer the method with whole plums with small holes in them - I use a thick needle to pierce the skin to the pit.
You can use frozen plums. Just remember to defrost them in the vodka.

  • Put 10-15 plums in a clean glass jar with tight-fitting lid.
  • Cover well with clear, unflavoured vodka - 40% alcohol content (80 proof).
  • Let steep for 3-6 months or more in a dark place at room temperature, 18-20°C (64-68°F).
  • Shake lightly and taste it from time to time.
  • Strain and filter your infusion into a clean glass bottle or jar with tight-fitting lid.
  • Store (age) for at least 2 months in a dark place at room temperature before serving.

Ground Cherries

A ground cherry plant.

These are my ground cherries.
Some people call them husk-tomatoes.
They're not ripe while attatched to the plant.
In fact, being in the nightshade family, they're toxic.
Both the leaves and the green fruits.
You'd have to eat quite a large amount to become very ill.
Still, I educate my kids and the neighbor kids.

Ripe fruits on my garden path.

This is the reason they're called ground cherries.
They'll fall to the ground when they're ripe.
It's important to harvest daily so as not to loose a precious one!
They're so sweet that, if I wish to save any for a recipe,
I have to scold my children repeatedly to refrain
from eating them.

Now it's just a wrong to deliberately prevent your offspring
from such delightful nourishment.
Thus, I welcome most any springtime stray,
and there will be many.
You only need to plant these once.
They're prodigious self-seeders.

They're generally very clean within their husk.

In this photo I have my basket of harvested fruits.
You may need to hunt around a bit
to be sure you're not missing any.
The children will be happy to help you with this
chore, for once.  Strike a deal, they may eat half of what they find.

I set the greenest ones aside to ripen.

My glistening yellow fruits!

The rest I freeze for my long-anticipated ground cherry recipe.

My cashe of frozen ground cherries.
Below them I've begun to collect rosehips.
But thats another post.

For two years I've been enticed by the idea
of ground cherry jam.
A friend of mine was good enough to give me her recipe,
and this is the year I plan to make it for our pantry.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~

Ground Cherry Jam

3 cups ripe ground cherries
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 package Sure Jel
3 cups sugar

Boil and mash ground cherries, lemon juice, water, and Sure Jel.
Mash well in order to absorb the sugar.
Add the sugar.
Boil according to Sure Jel directions.
Makes 3 medium jam jars.

Isn't this lovely?
Truly a golden nectar of the gods.
This photo is from Under the High Chair,
but soon I may be posting my own.

Here's to stocking the pantry, friends!
Get while the gettin's good!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Crab Apples For Eating

Naturally, I was curious about this.  There is such an abundance of these neglected tiny fruits.  I can't say that I blame people, what a pain in the keester to pick a bushel of marble-sized produce.  However, we pick cherries, and wild plums, and raspberries...really we don't want to bother with the lowly crab apple.

Still, they're generally ripe after the raspberries and before their larger and more noble relatives, the real apples.  There are a few inquisitive and determined souls out there like me that just may be enterprising enough to attempt a crab apple recipe.  I did this with rose hips last year and now it's a favorite!

I haven't tried any of these yet, but I'm excited to begin a new food journey.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~

Crab Apple Jam
yields 8-9 pints

4 cups apple pulp
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1-1/2 packages powdered pectin
8 cups sugar

Put apple pulp and lemon juice into a large, nonreactive pot.
Bring to a boil.
Add pectin.
Return to a boil.
Slowly add sugar and stir, bringing to a boil.
Boil for 1 minute, or until jam sheets off the spoon.
Pour into hot, sterilized jars.
Cover and process 5 minutes.

Pickled Crab Apples
yeilds 2 pints

1 2-inch cinnamon stick, broken
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 pound crab apples, stems on

Tie the spices into a cheesecloth bag.
Put into a nonreactive pot with:


Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Remove the pot from heat and let syrup cool.
Pierce each crab apple through with a large needle, to keep from bursting.
Put them into the pan of cooled syrup and slowly bring to simmer.
Cook until tender and translucelt, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Let rest 12 to 18 hours.
With a slotted spoon, remove the crab apples from the syrup.
Pack into hot, strerilized pint jars leaving 1/4-inch head space.
Remove the spice bag.
Boil syrup.
Pour over fruit.
Seal jars.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~

Crab Apple Liqueur
From Recipe Secrets

4 quarts crabapples, washed,cored and quartered
4 cups sugar
3 cups vodka

Fill 1 (4-quart) mason jar with tight-fitting lid with prepared crabapples.
Add the 4 cups of sugar and three cups of vodka.
Store the jar on its side, turning once every day for 16 days to help the sugar to dissolve.
After 16 days, filter out the fruit bits and bottle.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~

Cedar Waxwing on the Crab Apple, Sandra Cointreau

Crab Apple Hot Pepper Jelly
From Recipe Secrets

2 lbs crabapples
1 1/2 cups water
red wine vinegar
3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup sweet green bell peppers
1/3 cup hot peppers (mix and match hot peppers for color and preferred degree of heat)

In a Dutch oven, combine crabapples with water.
Cover and bring slowly to simmer.
Cook until crabapples are very soft.
Pour into a colander lined with a square of dampened cheesecloth and placed over a deep bowl.
Weight down with a saucer and heavy can.
Let stand until dripping stops.
Discard pulp.
Pour collected juice into a liquid measure.
Add enough vinegar to make 3 cups.
Combine in a saucepan with sugar.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Add peppers, then boil briskly for 8 to 10 minutes or until set.
Stir for 7 minutes to prevent floating peppers.
Pour jelly into hot, sterilized 8-ounce canning jars.
Seal with two-piece canning lids.
Let cool, then refrigerate.
For long-term unrefrigerated storage, process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes immediately after sealing jars.

NOTE: To test for set, remove pan from heat.
Dip a cold metal spoon into the liquid and hold well above the steam.
Turn spoon sideways and let liquid run off.
When it forms two drops that run together and drip from edge of spoon, jelling point has been reached.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~


Goldfinch in a Crab Apple Tree, Janet Zeh

Crabapple Schnapps
From Danish Schnapps recipes

Use freshly picked and fully ripe crabapples. They are fully ripe when the pits have become dark brown.
You can use almost any species - so start with your favourite one, then try some other species.
However, Siberian Crabapple (Malus baccata)and also Chinese Apple (Malas prunifolia) are two species that are highly recommended.

  • Wash 10-20 crabapples and cut them in halves. Leave the skin on.
  • Put them in a clean glass jar with tight-fitting lid.
  • Cover with clear, unflavoured vodka - 40% alcohol content (80 proof).
  • Let steep for 8-10 weeks or more - in a dark place at room temperature, 18-20°C (64-68°F).
  • Shake lightly and taste it from time to time.
  • Strain and filter your infusion into a clean glass bottle or jar with tight-fitting lid.
  • Store (age) for a couple of months in a dark place at room temperature before serving.

Note: If for some reason you are not satisfied with your infusion, there are ways to adjust both taste and flavours:

Too strong-flavouredIf your infusion is too strong-flavoured and overwhelming you can just dilute it with the same kind of spirit you used as base.
Allow to settle for a couple of days or more before serving. Taste it to find out.

Too weak-flavouredIf your infusion is too weak-flavoured you can enhance the flavours by adding a little, little bit of sugar.
True Danish flavoured schnapps should not contain more than 10-15 grams sugar per liter. But of course, you can add as much as you want to suit your own taste.
You can add the sugar directly, but because sugar is more soluble in water than in alcohol, it's usually better to make a simple sugar syrup...
...and add it to your infusion little by little.
Allow to settle for a couple of days. Taste it again, it might need some more.
Never use artificial sweeteners - NEVER! You will ruin the taste.

Remember to keep your schnapps bottle tightly closed and in a dark place before and between servings.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~

The Crab Apple Fairy, Cicily Mary Barker

Crabapple Butter
From Recipe Secrets

6 cups sieved crabapple pulp
Grated peel and juice of 1 orange
2 cups sugar, optional
1 tsp cinnamon, optional
½ tsp cloves, optional
¼ tsp nutmeg, optional

Combine pulp with orange peel and juice in a Dutch oven.
Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat to medium and boil gently, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens to desired consistency.
Stir in sugar and spices, if desired, and return mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
Ladle into hot sterilized half-pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
Remove air bubbles with a narrow rubber spatula or plastic knife.
Add additional crabapple butter, if necessary, to maintain headspace.
Wipe jar rims thoroughly with a clean damp cloth.
Seal and process in a boiling water bath. Process for 15 minutes
Crabapple butter may also be cooled and frozen for up to one year.

Yields 6 half-pint jars.

Now I'm off to beg my generous neighbor for some crabapples...

Preserving Tomatoes

Tomato Ketchup
I'm still working on this recipe.  It's too sweet and seasoned for my taste.  In my next batch I will reduce the sugar content and the spices.  They marinate in there for a long time, and I would like to still detect a nice tomato flavor on our Memorial Day picnic.

4 quarts tomato pulp
4-5 large onions

Remove peel from clean tomatoes, either by blanching or freezing.
Qharter and squeeze out some of the juices by hand.  (Reserve for drinking or canning.)
Process tomato and onion in blender or food processor.

~  OR  ~

Quarter and cook tomatoes with onions.
Pour into foodmill, allowing the thin juices to run off.
Transfer this mixture to another bowl and press out thick pulp.
Measure pulp.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~

In a large, nonreactive kettle, combine:

4 quarts tomato pulp
2 Tablespoons celery salt
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups vinegar
1/4 teaspoon mixed pickling spice, tied in cheesecloth:

bay leaf
mustard seed
allspice berries
cinnamon stick

Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat & cook slowly 1 to 1-1/2 hours, stirring occassionally.
Remove the spice bag.
Combine ina bowl:

5 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Stir into boiling tomato mixture.
Boil 5 minutes.

Seal into hot, sterilized jars.

Tomato Juice
This is a handy recipe to have around when you have all that nice tomato juice from making ketchup.  I use it during the winter months to tenderize my beef roasts.

3 to 3-1/2 pounds tomatoes per quart
bottled lemon juice

Wash, drain, and core tomatoes.
Cut into quarters.
Simmer until soft.
Press through a seive or a food mill; compost seeds and peels.
Heat juice for 5 minutes at 190°F.  Do not boil.

Add 2 Tablespoons lemon juice to each quart


1 Tablespoon lemon juice to each pint.

Ladle hot juice into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space.
Adjust lids.
Process: pints 40 minutes, quarts 45 minutes in boiling water bath.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~

Your pantry is filling up for the winter now. 
Don't worry, harvest time won't last forever.
Keep reminding yourself how your mouth will water in February!

More Pickles

Bread & Butter
These are delicious eaten just as their name implies: simply atop buttered bread.

3-1/2 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch
2-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 Tablespoon mustard seed
1-1/2 Tablespoons mixed pickling spice:

cinnamon stick
mustard seeds
bay leaves

In 5-quart non-aluminum saucepan, combine brine:


Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Fill sterile jars with cucumbers.
Cover with hot brine, leaving 1/8-inch head space.
Process 20 minutes for quart jars, 10 minutes for pint jars.

Dill Pickle Relish
For this I used the cukes that grew to three pounds in the week that we vacationed with my in-laws.
Not a fan of the sweeter relish, I was searching a recipe for the lesser-known dilly cousin.  It's my first year making this recipe.  I'm curious to discover if I'll be writing a reduced-sugar recipe next August.

Sweet pepper

Clean, trim, and finely chop vegetables.


2 cups white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon dill seed
2 teaspoons mustard seed
1 -2 teaspoons turmeric

Bring the brine to a boil.
Add your cucumber mixture; return to a boil, stirring often.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20-30 minutes.

Fill hot, sterilized jars to within 1/2-inch of rim.

This is how I feel after two weeks of pickling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pickle Recipes


Italian Pickles
These are my favorite pickles.  The oregano and olive oil mellow the vinegar bite.

1/2 pound pickling cucumbers, trimmed 3/4-inch
2 celery stalks
5 teaspoons pickling salt
1/2 small cauliflower head
1 large carrot, sliced 3/16-inch
1 cup peeled whole shallots
1/2 pound sweet pepper, seeded & sliced thinly in rings
6 bay leaves
12 garlic cloves
1- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
6 oregano sprigs
2 -3/4 cup white wine vinegar (5% acidity)
2- 1/2 cup water
6 Tablespoons olive oil

Gently toss washed and trimmed cucumbers and celery with 1 teaspoon salt.
Let stand 1-2 hours.
Drain well.
In large bowl, combine these with the remaining vegetables.
Into 6 pint jars place:

1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns

Pack jars with vegetables, adding a clean oregano sprig to each jar.
In a nonreactive saucepan, bring the brine to a boil:

remaining 4 teaspoons salt

Stir to dissolve salt. 
Pour hot liquid over vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
Top each jar with 1 Tablespoon olive oil.
Process 20 minutes.


Grandma Lyn's Dill Pickles
These are the pickles my husband grew up eating.  I like to keep a batch of brine in the refrigerator for quick preserving.


11 cups water
2 cups vinegar
1 cup canning salt


Into 7 quart jars:

1/2 teaspoon dill seed
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1 clove garlic
1 dill stem
2-3 hot peppers

Pack each jar with pickling cucumbers.
Fill with hot brine to within 1/2-inch of rim.
Process 10 minutes.


French Pickles
I add cabbage to this brine and they're all the rage!  The herbs and the allspice compliment all the vegetables, but especially the cabbage.
1-1/4 pound very small pickling cucumbers
2 medium bell peppers
1/2 pound shallots, peeled
1/4 pound carrots, julienned
1/2 pound patty pan squash, 1-inch
5 large garlic cloves
1-1/4 teaspoons black peppercorns
20 allspice berries
5 tarragon sprigs
5 thyme sprigs
5 small, fresh chili peppers
2-3/4 cups white wine vinegar
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon pickling salt

Gently wash cucumbers and remove blossom ends.
Combine clean and prepared vegetables in a large bowl.
Into 5 sterilized pint jars place:

1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
4 allspice berries

Pack jars with vegetables.
Add a tarragon sprig, a thyme sprig, and a chili pepper.
In nonreactive saucepan, bring brine to a boil:


Stirring to dissolve the salt.
Pour hot brine over the vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
Process 20 minutes.


Armenian Pickles
This is the first year I've made these.  They're the gorgeous pink ones in my photo below.  I'm looking forward to trying them, all the flavors are captivating! 

2 quarts mixed vegetables:


1 small raw beet, peel and slice
2 large garlic cloves
8 basil sprigs
8 cilantro sprigs
8 tarragon sprigs
1 cup white wine vinegar
3 cups water
3 Tablespoons pickling salt
6 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 1-inch cinnamon stick

Wash and trim vegetables.
Pack into 2 sterilized quart jars, interspersing herbs and garlic.
Shake the jar to settle the vegetables.

In a nonreactive saucepan bring the brine to a boil:

white wine vinegar
bay leaves

Fill with hot brine to within 1/2-inch of rim.
Process 10 minutes.

~    *    ~    *    ~

You're on your way,
Happy pickling!

(After pickling season, I need to dust.)

Addendum:  18 August, 2011

Norwegian Pickle
We love the State Fair brand Norwegian pickle, so I looked it up online.  Of course I found several, but most of them are generally the same.

14 cups cucumbers, sliced thin
2 cups green pepper, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, cut fine
2 cups onion, sliced thin
4 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons celery flakes
2 cups white vinegar
2 Tablespoons salt

Mix all ingredients well. 
Put in glass containers and store in refrigerator.
Keeps for months.
Do not heat.
Makes 1 gallon.

Fabric Scrap Ideas

We ladies adore buttons.
I don't know what it is.
None of my friend's seem to have a "thing"
for snaps,
or hooks and eyes,
or zippers.

I think everyone's grandma had an old
button jar.
Mine had several.
I absolutely loved them.
The shapes, textures, colors, and materials
are mesmerizing to a young girl.

I've done all kinds of things with
the nostalgic buttons that I've been blessed
to inherit from my lovely Grandma.

Donna L Shook, "Grandma's Button Jar"

However, I never thought of making my own.
Until I was researching fabric thrift.
Creating, collecting, and conserving,
all in one fell swoop!
I admire anything that is this practical.

We no longer need to purchase a button-making tool,
all we need is one of these tiny kits.

Easy peasy.

Life is Sweet

Marie LeJeune's fabric flower,
from her "Life is Sweet" blog caught my eye.
I love the way she used her colors
and folded her petals.
She gives a great tutorial
and makes it look easy!

Art Fire

 The idea of creating your favorite
fabric designs and characters 
into darling button sets is exciting.
I'm inspired!

The possibilities are delightful!
bobby pins,
lapel pins,
anything you can dream up.

Art Fire

Lost Button Studio

Heidi Boyd
Many of the ideas you'll find offer detailed tutorials
so you'll know what you're doing each step
of the way.

~    *    ~    *    ~    *    ~

Another fun way to use up your beautiful scrap colors
is the fabric yoyo.

There are templates out there now-a-days
to make it faster and easier
to whip up a batch while the youngsters
are at football practice
or piano lessons.

Make some ornies with beads and ribbon.

Decorate a garland for a holiday.

Accessorize your handbag with your favorite colors.

Make a colorful gift for your new nephew!

Finally, I'm reminded of my Great Aunt's quilts.
Her beautiful quilts were made from her
aprons, dresses, and husband's shirts.

One in particular, called a postage stamp quilt,
comes to mind.
These are generally made with 1-inch squares.

These are tiny little squares!
From 3/4-inch to 2 1/2-inches, this is super-thrift.
It's no wonder these were most common
during times of economical recession.
We find many of them in rural areas,
where folks just had to work harder
to scrimp and save.

Today we have the benefit of our rotary cutter,
however, we must still remember to
trim up our excess
(a.k.a. garbage).
and store for our magnum opus.

Or mini opus.

I made these two postage stamp quilted pieces
for my kitchen.  One is nice and long for
our table.  It helps us to keep the table cleared off,
even if it is at the expense of covering the runner.

 The other is displayed as a backing in a pane
from this old window frame
from my sister-in-law.
With ribbon and buttons, it's a nice
place to display a photo or postcard.

That's all I have for today, friends.
It's lunchtime for us here,
and I have many growling tummies to tend.

Save those scraps!

About Me

My photo
As long as I'm on this journey, rambling through life's exhilarating highs and trudging heavily amongst it's incapacitating lows, I might as well share whatever may be gleaned from my little bits of wisdom and my many missteps. No room for judgment from this broken mama. I'm writing from my heart: raw, open, messy, but saved. And I'm still thanking God!