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.



Monday, September 28, 2009

Market Days

The bounty of this season is keeping me amazed. And also keeping my body tired! I am sore today from moving what ended up being over 5 tons (literally) of veggies yesterday. We had over 1,000 lbs of beans to deliver alone! That is a heavy load. When I see a view like this table though, it really is worth it.

The seasonal overlap is really interesting. The idea that peaches can be ripe at the same time we have fresh parsnips seems so odd to me... and yet, the seasons don't end abruptly, but change gently from one to the next, so why not the produce? It just doesn't seem like we should have tomatoes and winter squash at the same stand, grown at the same farm... does it?

This Sunday's market was the best yet. I hope this year is like last year and the sales just go up until the end of the year. It looks to be that way so far.

This weeks list:
Rutabaga, parsnips, nectarines, artichokes, butter and oak leaf lettuce, kale, four different colors of carrots (for roasting), shallots, garlic, green onions, Italian zucchini, plum tomatoes, curly parsley, summer savory, chives, cilantro, raspberries, blackberries (both for jams), broccoli, cauliflower, a dozen eggs, and two slices of home cooked pie.

Since I took a couple weeks off of major food preservation (and since my pantry shelf has more space now) I decided to bring home a few of our extras and our bruised.

Three lugs of fresh corn, to be dried and made into creamed corn this winter.

Bruised peaches for canning.

A box of bruised apples for sauce and pie filling.

And here is this weeks menu:



Sunday, September 27, 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!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

I love fall...

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."- Albert Camus

Fall is by far and away my favorite time of year. Not just for the bounty, but for everything about it. The days feel cozy, perfect for my favorite things; like soup, blankets, fireplaces, and long stents of reading good books. The rain is not too distant, and yet, the sun is not too distant. Both feel within reach... but the darkness has something comforting about it. The cold evenings calm my mind. Make me feel less frantic about the day. It is a time of year for a cup of tea and a warm bath. It is a time of year I tressure.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Today feels like a Spontaneous Gratitude kind of day.

Sometimes it is so hard to maintain perspective. It feels like the world is crashing down. And you know you are probably being too dramatic, and you know that you have beautiful things in your life..... but for that moment, they all escape you. That feeling, in essence, is why I started this blog in the first place. To categorize those moments that kept me going. Those times when I have been down, and thought "gosh, I am such a lazy lump and do nothing all day" and then I look back on here. I read a few of my own posts (does that make me strange?) and I feel better about myself. Because I do love what I do. I may not get paid (except in hugs), I may not fully be able to see the fruits of my labors until my children are grown and I see how they chose to live their lives. And then again, they may take different paths and I may never see the influence that I have had. But in collecting these moments, in having these precious days not slip away unnoticed, I am able to feel the true worth of the life I live.

After the last four days, I feel the need to spend some time being thankful. The shelf breaking, the craziness with my kids, and then scare at the farm yesterday.... I am feeling a bit helpless. There is so much to be grateful for... There is so much good. It is just hard to see at times like this. So here is my spontaneous gratitude for this hectic, sad, and crazy week.

My new apron.

Late bloom roses that are set all around my house.

First of fall crafts.

And last but not least, a tsunami resistant, earth quake proof, 2X4 reinforced pantry shelf:

(This is the 2X4 secured to the wall with 3 inch galvanized decking screws. Then the shelf is attached to it. There are two of these support boards, along with the nature of the 2X3 built shelves in the first place... that sucker is going nowhere!)

I am grateful!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Field trip with a side of homicide.

This morning Cyan asked if we could go to our favorite farm instead of the zoo like we had planned. I thought that sounded like a great idea as we hadn't been there for a few months now that we live 25 minutes away. We started getting our chores finished and then got ready to head out. Logan started in on his before nap routine about an hour early and so I begrudgingly decided that we would have to wait until after nap. I wasn't happy about it. But it was better to wait if Logan was going to melt down on our little field trip. So at 3:30pm we get on our way to go see the goats and pick up some apples for sauce to can.

It takes us a while to get down there since we have moved... but the kids got really excited as they started to see the familiar stuff around the farm, and the horses and houses... along with the huge pumpkin patches that we have gone to every year for pretty much their whole lives. When we pulled around to go into the parking lot however, it was taped off with yellow police tape. Don and I were both thinking that something was really strange... and then we saw the police cars... and then news vans. We knew as we drove by that something was really wrong.

I called my aunt who lives close to there and asked her to check online to see what had happened. This is what she found:

Woman Shot at Lattin's Cider Mill

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A woman showing up for work was gunned down by her former boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself.

Co-workers tried to stop the horrifying and deadly encounter as it played out at Lattin’s Cider Mill, a popular farm near Tumwater.

How stinkin' crazy is that? And on the one day we were going in the last 4 months??? SOOOO strange. So very strange. I seriously went to this farm once a week for 6 years or so. We spent Easters there, Halloweens there... We got all our eggs and produce from there for years! I have taken field trips with my homeschool group to there numerous times. I have pictures of Cyan feeding goats there as a toddler right next to my desk this second. It was a huge part of our Olympia lives. Just crazy.

I am having a crazy week folks. Feeling very strange and disjointed.


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 ~ Lavender Blueberry Jam

Lavender Blueberry Jam
(Formerly known as "Dishonest Blueberry Jam".  To see why, see previous post. )

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

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!


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