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Archive for September, 2010

Barbara: Apologies for this VERY late post. I meant to do it right after I raked the leaves and mowed the lawn Tuesday morning, but I was an idiot. The weather has been beastly in Southern California for the last few days. On Monday it was 107 and yesterday it was 93. It seemed cooler Tuesday morning and, besides, I had work to do and I wasn’t going to let a little heat and humidity stop me. And even though I felt kind of awful, I kept telling myself to buck up and push through. So I ended up with heat exhaustion and I couldn’t focus on anything for the rest of the day. Stupid, really stupid!

Now that I can comprehend what’s in front of my eyes again, Mary Beth and I want to share two more plum canning recipes. The first one is a deliciously old-fashioned plum conserve — an old family recipe handed down from our other grandmother. The second is a recipe for plum jam Mary Beth made that didn’t thicken properly. All was not lost though. As you will see, even your “mistakes” can be used in creative ways that will make you look like a star.

There’s one very important caveat with all this experimenting. You should know, and we mean really know, canning basics. There are things you can do that will make canning recipes your own special version and there are things that you can do that might make you, or anyone eating your preserves, sick. You need to know the difference. Go to the National Center for Food Preservation for extensive information on canning safety, recipes, etc. There are many good canning books, but the first one on your list should be the Ball Complete Guide to Home Preserving.

Grandmother Hobe’s Plum Conserve

  • 11 cups (5 lbs) Italian prune plums
  • 2 oranges, halved or quartered and sliced thin (depending on how big you want the rind slices to be in finished conserve, quartered seems best)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Wash, pit and quarter plums (or cut smaller depending on size of fruit). Place in large pan with sugar and raisins.
  2. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Do not add any water, the juices will release as the fruit heats up.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, stirring frequently to prevent seizing. Be careful, the thicker the conserve gets, the more the danger of seizing.
  4. When it begins to thicken up, test with “quick cool test” for the right consistency. Put a couple of small saucers in the freezer. When the mixture seems thickened remove pan from heat, take a little of the liquid and put it on one of the cold saucers. Put this in the freezer for about 3 minutes. Take it out and pull your finger through the liquid. The sides of the divided puddle should move very slowly back towards each other. This test gives you a pretty good idea of how the final product will be. You may have to put the pan back on to boil and repeat this a couple of times to get to the right consistency.
  5. When properly thickened stir in lemon juice and walnuts.
  6. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and process 10 minutes adding 2 minutes for every 1,000 feet above sea level.

Makes approx. 9 – 10 half pints.

Mary Beth: I made plum jam that didn’t thicken properly, but it was still delicious and I’ve been looking for ways to use it when I’m baking. A couple of days ago I made a peach crisp and I threw in a jar of this jam. The crisp recipe called for sugar to be added to the peaches, but because the jam was so sweet, I decided to leave out that sugar (I still used sugar in the crisp topping). It was really yummy. I plan to use my soupy jam in fruit bars and any other bake good that calls for a fruit filling.

Autumn Fruit Jam

(from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving)

  • 5 plums, sliced
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped.
  • 2 medium pears, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp each: ground cinnamon and ginger
  1. Combine fruit, water, lemon rind and lemon juice in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes or until fruit is softened.
  2. Add sugar to fruit and return to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Boil rapidly, uncovered, until mixture jells, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cinnamon and ginger.
  3. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and process 10 minutes adding 2 minutes for every 1,000 feet above sea level.

Makes 4 cups

Variations:

  • Replace cinnamon and ginger with 1 tbsp vanilla extract added to cooked jam just before bottling.
  • For Nectarine Plum Apple Jam use 4 nectarines, peeled and chopped, instead of pears.
  • I also had good results with this recipe using 7 plums and 3 medium apples.

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When we were children, we would go to Connecticut to visit my mother’s parents. Granddaddy Foster was a farmer in his bones and his retirement years were spent perfecting the most beautiful little farm in Ridgefield. On his acre or so of land he grew tons of vegetables and flowers. My very favorite area was a little mini orchard full of fruit trees — mostly apple as I recall.

My grandparents were great “putter-uppers.” They canned all manner of fruits and vegetables, most notably Bread and Butter Pickles and Pink Applesauce. Eating that applesauce was one of the highlights of my visits with them. The pink color came from cooking the apples with the skin on, which is actually the best way to get all of the nutrients from the fruit.

I’m sharing my grandmother’s delicious recipe. It really isn’t all that different from other applesauce recipes that I’ve seen, but to me it’s special because of the memories it brings back.

The only thing I’ve changed is substituting honey for sugar. If your apples are really sweet, you might not even need the honey. I prefer to use organic Macintosh apples, but they are really hard to find and a bit pricey, so I’ve been substituting Fujis which are really good too. You can use any naturally sweet apple. Try combining different types of apples to create your own special mix.

Another tip is to remember that the apples don’t have to be perfect. You can often get a good deal on a bulk buy of less-than-perfect apples at the farmers market if you ask (nicely, of course).

Grandmother Foster’s Pink Applesauce

  • 16 cups of apples, cored and cut into wedges, peels on
  • 1 cup of water (start out with this, you can add more towards the end if necessary)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons honey, or to taste

Sterilize your jars, bring your canning pot to a boil and put your lids in a small pot to simmer. Place the apples, lemon juice and water in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until the apples are soft.

When apple are nearly done, add the spices and the honey. Cook for a few minutes more.  If you want smooth applesauce and are using a food mill the skins will be left behind in the mill. For immersion blenders or if you want a chunky applesauce, remove the skins while the apples are cooking. Blend for a smooth sauce, or smash the cooked apples with a wooden spoon or potato masher for a chunkier sauce.

After putting the apples through the mill or blending, return the applesauce to a boil and ladle into your prepared jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims completely clean and put on the lids.

Put jars into the hot water bath and process for 15 or 20 minutes — start timing when the water returns to a boil. If you’re at an altitude higher than 1,000 feet above sea level, process 2 extra minutes for each 1,000 feet of altitude.

Remove from hot water bath and listen for the lovely “ping” of the lids as the jars cool and seal themselves.

Leave the jars to cool for 24 hours. Wipe them to remove any sticky traces, remove the rings, and check the seal. Then label the jars and store them in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

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Colorado

California

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Colorado

California

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Mary Beth: I’ve been really enjoying my dahlias this fall. Their size and color are amazing and the bloom has been non-stop. But alas, the killing frosts are on their way, which means that soon it will be time to dig up the dahlia tubers and store them away for the winter. I never enjoy doing this, but it really is worth the effort and very rewarding in the long run.

After a hard frost, or when the plants are dormant (which would be in December in Southern California — check with your local nursery for the right time if you’re in another part of the country) carefully dig up the tubers.

Dormant dahlias ready to be dug up.

Using a spade, dig a circle about 12″ out from the plant to avoid cutting into the tubers. Dig under the tubers and lift them out. You might want to use a garden fork for this step. Cut the stem off leaving a couple of inches. Rinse off the dirt (a little bit left on them won’t hurt) and let them dry on newspaper for 2 weeks or so. (I’ve gone longer!)

Dahlia tubers will get bigger and multiply while in the ground.

I usually have a big cardboard box ready. I fill the bottom with sawdust, then layer the dry tubers between layers of newspaper and top off with sawdust. Close it up and put in a dark cool space that’s around 45 degrees. I put them down in our cellar away from the furnace. Don’t worry if you don’t have a space that gets that cold. Just put them in the coolest, driest space you have.

Check on the dahlia tubers a couple of times throughout the winter to make sure they are not rotting or drying out.  If you find a few rotting ones, toss them. If the tubers look like they’re drying out, sprinkle some water on the sawdust to add a little moisture then lay a slightly damp newspaper on top of the whole thing and close the box back up.

Another idea for storing dahlia tubers is to use hanging wire baskets with the tubers wrapped in newspaper. Everybody has their own technique. I’ve had pretty good luck with my method so far, but if you have another method, feel free to share it in the comments section.

I left a bunch on Block Island where they flourished. I also brought a few back to Colorado with me and they are beautiful and still going strong!

A few tips:

  • If you want non-stop fall color dahlias are the way to go.
  • I never am very organized about this, but you might want to separate your tubers by size and color.
  • Use a marker to write the color of the flower on the tuber.
  • If you want more dahlias divide them in the fall or spring. Some people find it’s easier to wait until spring to see the “eyes” — little green/pink bumps on the tubers.
  • Cut the tuber, but make sure each piece has a least one “eye”.
  • The Dahlia Guy has a good YouTube video and you’ll get a good visual on how it’s done.

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Colorado

Block Island


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Colorado

Block Island


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