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Authors’ note: We’ve really neglected our Honey in the Kitchen section, but we’re about to remedy that by posting our favorite recipes for canning and preserving some of this season’s bounty. We’ll post them in Tuesday’s Tips from time to time and then archive the recipes in Honey in the Kitchen along with tips for canning and preserving.

Mary Beth: My plum tree is overloaded with fruit and some branches look like they’re ready to snap. Every day I’ve been picking almost-ripe plums to prevent them from ripening on the tree in hopes of keeping the bears away.  So far we haven’t had the pleasure (?!) of their company.

My kitchen counters are filled with beautiful plums and I can’t let all this goodness go to waste, so I’m canning plums this week. Today I packed whole fruit in boiling honey water. It’s something I never tried before, but my interest was piqued when my sister sent me a link to the wonderful Food in Jars blog a few weeks ago. There I found a great recipe for whole plums preserved in honey syrup. I put out a Tweet asking for plum recipes last week and I got a response from Hello_Kitty suggesting the recipe from the same blog.

It turned out to be very easy and it’s good way to get my ever-growing pile of plums a reasonable size, although I’ve been doing a pretty good job myself by eating at least 30 plums a day! These little jewels are perfect size to pop in your mouth — so sweet and delicious.

I wish I could tell you what kind of plums they are, but the tree was here when we moved in so I’m not sure — maybe Italian Plums?  Can anyone identify the variety from my picture? Whatever they are they make a delicious treat.

Whole Plums Preserved in Honey Syrup (Recipe from Food in Jars)

1 1/2 cups of honey
4 cups of water, enough plums to fill four quart jars (I used three of my four quarts)
4 cinnamon sticks, a vanilla bean sliced into four pieces or four star anise bits*

In a medium saucepan, combine the honey and water and bring to a boil.

Bring a canning pot or large stock pot to a boil. Put your lids into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Clean canning jars and pack the plums in as tightly as you can. Insert your cinnamon stick, vanilla bean or star anise. Fill jars with honey syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.

Wipe rims to remove all traces of any spilled honey syrup, apply lids and tightened rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes (start timing when the pot returns to a boil after the jars have been placed inside).**

When processing time is up, remove the jars to a cutting board or towel-lined countertop (as they cool and seal, they might spit out a bit of sticky syrup, so don’t let them cool on any surface that can’t handle that). Let the jars cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

When jars are completely cool, remove the rings, check the seals and wipe the jars down to remove any sticky residue. Label and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

*I tweaked the recipe by adding crystallized ginger to a few jar. I added cardamom to another jar. You can probably think of other good flavorings to try.

**I had insomnia the other night and I was reading one of my canning books — Preserving Summer’s Bounty. Good thing or I would have missed an important step for canning in high altitudes!  You must increase the processing time by two minutes for each 1,000 feet above sea level. So if you live 3,000 feet above sea level, process six minutes longer than the recommended time. If you’re at 4,000, then process for eight minutes, etc…

I’m still looking for plum preserve recipes if anybody has a good one. I’ve got lots of plums, so I would like to try a few. If you’d like to share, just add your recipe to the comments.

This week Durango is celebrating Eat Local Week and I’m planning on celebrating by looking for some  fruit and vegetables for canning at the Farmers Market this Saturday. I want to capture a bit of summer in a jar to savor during the coming winters months…burrrr!

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Mary Beth: Ray and I were under the weather on Labor Day weekend, so I decided  to make a nutritious soup using all the wonderful vegetables in my garden. As I was picking the ingredients for the soup, I was thinking about the article I read on the Garden Rant blog where the author mentions the occasional bug she may unknowingly serve her family. It made me chuckle, but it made me buck up too — if I don’t eat that kale that looks like it was blasted by buckshot, then what’s the sense of having an organic garden?! So I grabbed a handful of that too. I had to triple wash it and really rub those leaves to get rid of the bugs. I won’t go into details, but it wasn’t pretty.

Anyway, I got through it and the soup was delicious. And maybe, just maybe, the missed bug or two were actually the medicine we needed to get better!

Fresh from the garden

Fresh from the garden

Garden Vegetable Soup with Barley (bugs optional!)

  • 1 bunch kale, with stems, roughly chopped  (I started throwing the entire kale leaves, stems and all, in the soup when I read my niece Kristin’s blog. She has a great blog on nutrition and food. You can read about the benefits and healing properties of food at foodbykristin.)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, with stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 large beets with their greens, beets cubed, greens, with stems, chopped
  • 1 medium Trombetta squash, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 2 large yellow tomatoes, cubed
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • handful of basil, roughly chopped
  • 3 small onions, chopped
  • lots of garlic, smashed
  • oregano, sage, parsley, sage, tarragon, rosemary — whatever you have on hand
  • Barley about 1/4 cup, or more
  • filtered water
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Saute garlic and onions in olive oil until tender. Throw in rest of veggies and saute until tender. Add basil, sea salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir. Add water, about 4 – 5 cups, and barley. Bring to a boil. Add the fresh herbs. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

I don’t worry about too much about measuring ingredients for the soup. I just add whatever is ripe in the garden, season with lots of fresh herbs, add salt and pepper and add enough water to make plenty of broth. Whatever ingredients I use, it always makes a thick delicious broth and it’s really good for you. Just don’t look too closely… no, seriously I got them all!

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