Jam Fever!

Last weekend, we went to Palisade for our annual trip to Bracken Orchard to pick peaches.  We drive 240 miles over the mountains, each way, so we want to make sure we make the trip worth it.  This year, we came home with 368 pounds of peaches (slightly less, since about half a box was Fuji apples).


We had 15 pounds for my sister and 40 pounds for some friends, but the rest we’ve been working on getting put up for the year.  Most of them are sliced and frozen in quart-size bags, and many get made into various jams for our use during the year and for gifts.  We canned some a few years ago, but we feel like the frozen ones are more versatile and last us longer.  Plus they are easier to put up and take up less space.

True to form, I decided to defrost 40 pounds of the plums that were given to us last year at peach time.  We didn’t have time then to process them properly, so of course I thought we’d have time this year!  What is wrong with me?!? I spent the whole week making plum jam while Rick sliced and froze the peaches.  I didn’t get all the plums done before some started to smell “off,” but I got most of them taken care of.  Smarter people would have just defrosted a little at a time.  Then I moved onto the peach jams.

This has been the most fun I’ve ever had jamming though.  My friend Kristen has been a godsend, coming over twice to make jams.  We got a little crazy the second time, trying new recipes.  I spent a good portion of my grocery budget last week on organic Madagascar vanilla beans, green cardamom pods and various liquors for our jam.  Some combos we tried:  Peach with Honey, Vanilla Bean and Brandy (wow – the smell!), Plum Lavender (AMAZING!!), Peach-Plum Ginger, Plum Noir (ooh lala!), and a couple of original creations, Kristen’s Honey Peach Cobbler jam, and my Jalapeno-Honey Plum.  We’ve had a ball.

I’ve even ordered special jars.  I hope they arrive by this weekend (I plan to make Peach, Blueberry and Grand Marnier jam and my favorite traditional peach preserves), but if they don’t make it, I’ll use them next year. I found most of these recipes on the Punk Domestics site, by the way.  If you put up – you should definitely check it out!

So what are your favorite ways to use peaches?  Plums?  Any awesome jam recipes?

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Recipes, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Jalapeño-Honey Plum Jam

What do you do when you’ve got 40 pounds of last year’s plums left in the freezer and you need to make room for this year’s peaches?  You put your grandma’s apron on over your mei tai and start making jam!

Last year, my brother-in law picked us nearly 70 pounds of plums from his parents’ place.  But he brought them just when we were elbows deep in peach and grape processing.  So I stuck them all in the freezer with the intention of making them into jam later, when it wasn’t so hot and we weren’t so swamped with other fruit.

Well, here it is, September again, and we are once again swamped with fruit.  And I’ve still not touched those plums.  So I started defrosting them, and went at it with the jam making.  But as there are still 40 pounds, I wanted to get creative.  I went searching for a little jam inspiration and I found it on Canarella.  Sweet and spicy – my favorite combination!

Since my plums were previously frozen, they turn all mushy when defrosted.  No good for straight up canning, but perfect for jam.  Here’s what I came up with!

Jalapeño-Honey Plum Jam

2 pounds plums, pitted and chopped
1½ cups honey
1½ tsp jalapeño powder*
2 T lemon juice

In a large sauce pan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.  Cook until jam gets to the gelling point (use the saucer method or one of these methods).

Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars, wipe rims of jars, add lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes (10 minutes in Denver or similar altitude).

Makes 4 half pints.

*I make homemade jalapeño powder by slicing and dehydrating jalapeños, then grinding in a food processor.  This powder is delish on buttered popcorn!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Cannellini Beans and Kale

Last week we made a tasty side dish with our garden and CSA goodies.  Rick thought it was good enough for me to share.

Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Cannellini Beans and Kale

2 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite size florets
coarse salt and red pepper flakes
1/4 water
1 bunch of kale leaves from the garden, tough stems trimmed, washed, dried, and cut or torn into pieces
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
parmesan cheese

In a 12 inch skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add cauliflower to pan and season with red pepper flakes and salt to taste.  Let the cauliflower brown well before turning and continuing to “toast” on all sides.  When the cauliflower is getting nicely browned, add water to the pan and scrape up any browned bits.  Add kale, cover the pan with a lid and let cauliflower steam until most of the water is absorbed or evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Remove cover and stir in garlic and beans.  Stir until beans are heated through and the rest garlic is fragrant.  Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.

I wish I had gotten a picture, but it was so good that we ate it before I could grab the camera.  Let me know if you give it a try and you like it.

Categories: CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Lazy Peach Cobbler

MMMmmmm… Monday!  I thought I’d share one of my favorite, easy dessert recipes this morning. Peach Cobbler!

You can make this recipe in a cake or brownie pan, but I like it in my cast iron skillet.  Preheat your oven to 325°.  Add 6 tablespoons of butter to your pan and stick it in the oven to melt.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.  You can use any kind of flour.  In these pictures I used white, but have used whole wheat and even corn flour before.  Basically, whatever is on hand.  Keeps it easy.

To this add your liquid – I use 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup half and half or cream.  But any combo will do, cream making it a bit richer.  I’ve used buttermilk before and it’s delish.

Once that is all mixed up (about the consistency of pancake batter), remove your pan of melted butter from the oven and dump it in.  Don’t stir it in the pan.  You can see that the butter sort-of goes to the edge of the pan, and that’s ok, don’t mix it up – this is the lazy way, remember.

To this add about three cups sliced fresh or defrosted, unsweetened peaches.  We get lots of peaches in the late summer, and a great many go into the freezer for us to use throughout the year.  We defrost them and add them, with their juice.  Just dump them on top.  Again, don’t stir, but if there’s a big pile, I’ll move some over to an empty space.


If you want, you can sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar on top at this point, but I usually don’t since we eat this so often, we’d be fat, fat, fat if I did!  Put the pan in the oven and leave it there for an hour.

When your done, it’ll be delicious, peach cobbler – the easiest you’ve ever made!

Categories: Recipes | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Spinach-Black Bean Enchiladas

Last week, after all the rain we’ve had, we collected an abundance of spinach.  It’s been so  yummy.  I decided to spinach up a few of our regular recipes.  I came up with this gem, and had to share with you!

Spinach-Black Bean Enchiladas

2 cups cottage cheese
A big, giant bowl full of spinach
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
18 corn tortillas, cut in half
1 recipe Garlicky Enchilada Sauce (recipe below)
1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
coarse salt, ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  In a food processor, combine cottage cheese and spinach and process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl with garlic and black beans.  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.

In a 2 quart baking dish layer 6 tortilla halves.  Spread with half the spinach-black bean mixture.  Add 1/2 cup enchilada sauce.  Layer 6 more tortilla halves and the remaining spinach-black bean mixture.  Top with remaining tortilla halves and cover with 1 cup of enchilada sauce.  Save remaining sauce for another use.  Sprinkle Monterey jack cheese over the top.

Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbling.

Homemade enchilada sauce is easy to make and much more flavorful than prepackaged.  Usually I use onions as a base, but one day when we were unexpectedly out, I used garlic instead.

Garlicky Enchilada Sauce
In a medium sauce pan, heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil over medium-high.  Saute 6 minced cloves of garlic and 4 teaspoons of ground New Mexico chili powder until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in 2 Tablespoons white vinegar and 2 cups tomato sauce (I use tomatoes from the freezer, put through the food processor, but a 15 oz can is fine).  Stir in 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5-7 minutes until slightly thickened.  Salt to taste (perhaps 1/2 teaspoon?).

Categories: Food, Recipes | Tags: | 3 Comments

Green and Good!

Since at this time of year, everyone seems to have an abundance of greens coming from the garden, I thought I’d share my favorite green smoothie recipe.  I shared it a couple weeks ago on my birth blog, but that you might appreciate it too.

This recipe was given to me by my midwife, Jen Anderson-Tarver, but I’ve played with it a bit to suit my personal tastes and moods.

To a blender add:

1/2 pound kale, tough stems removed
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sliced frozen peaches, or approx. 1 frozen peach, unsweetened
And 1 of the following of your choice:  either 1 whole carrot, 1/2 a banana, OR 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Blend until smooth, pour into glasses and enjoy!

The original recipe calls for the half a banana, but I don’t really care for bananas in smoothies.  They are a bit too sweet for me.  I like to substitute the carrot, which is a little sweet, but not too much, and since I don’t otherwise like carrots much, it’s a good way for me to sneak them into my diet.  The blueberries are a good choice if you don’t want your smoothie to actually be green… great for those with an aversion to green foods.  We’ve also substituted spinach for kale, though I prefer the kale if we have it.

This is the smoothie H and E ask for over and over.  Rick usually makes it with a carrot for me, and they like it just fine.  They’ve even bragged to the neighborhood kids about how good it is.  Of course, E has been known to run from me stuffing handfuls of spinach into his mouth before I can make him come back inside.  So fun having kids that like to eat their greens.  How lucky are we!

Categories: Recipes | Tags: | 4 Comments

Independence Days: Spring Fever

So this week, I’ve been bustin’ out projects left and right.  We built the chickens the new nest box on Saturday.  Rick cut another big limb off the tree Sunday morning, but the weather quickly turned too cold and snowy to do anything else outdoors.  Instead we did some decluttering in the former office, and started some major basement reorganization.

Rick picked up more stone for our future patio, and I’ve sort of been on a baking kick too.  Not to mention the serious, and much needed hose-down Rick gave the high chair (I don’t remember H getting it so dirty?), the copious amounts of laundry he got off my plate this weekend, and the serious scrub down in the kitchen.  What would I do without him??

Rick says I’m nesting, but I think it’s a bit of spring fever.  I am just so happy that warmer weather is here, to get a little vitamin D, to get some dirt under my fingernails again.  It was a long winter for me.

This week’s report…

Plant something – more spinach, more leeks

Harvest something –  24 eggs, spinach enough for a couple omelets.

Preserve something – some pork gravy Rick couldn’t bear to throw out.  😉

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, etc.  Lots of recycling this week.  😉  Listed three chairs on craigslist to make more room in the little house.  We sold one on Monday.  I hope the others sell, we could use the money and the room!  Also still haven’t missed a week of meal planning (yay me!).  That’s 12 weeks straight now.

Want Not – Built the chickens a new nest box, got more stone, been scouring craigslist for everything lately, including a new camera and a picnic basket.  Haha.

Build Community Food Systems – nothing major or even interesting here this week.  Do you hear the crickets chirping yet?

Eat the Food – The usual – stuff from the freezer, another jar of jam, elk, etc.  Made some really yummy potato soup-turned corn chowder from frozen corn this week.  Recipe from my head:

3 slices of bacon
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped (I cut mine into various sizes so some break-down and some don’t)
corn from 4-5 ears
salt and pepper
shredded cheddar and/or pepper jack cheese

In a large pot, cook the bacon until crispy over med-high heat.  Remove the bacon to drain, and reserve 3ish tablespoons of the grease in the pot.  Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.  Add the flour and whisk until there are no lumps and the flour is cooked but not browning.  Add the milk, whisking, a cup at a time until all the milk is added and there are no lumps of flour.  Add the potatoes and corn.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the milk doesn’t scorch, the reduce heat to a simmer.  Continue cooking about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the smaller pieces begin to break down.  Meanwhile, crumble the bacon and shred the cheese.  When the small potatoes are broken down, serve with cheese and bacon pieces on top.  Serves 6 (ish).

Categories: Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 4 Comments

Three Cheers for Volunteers!

Last week we went out to the garden and found THIS!  Volunteer spinach!  Hooray!

We decided to take advantage of the nice weather by getting a bit of garden prep done and putting a few seeds into the ground.  Rick also helped the neighbor get more ready on his garden by digging out three tree stumps and getting some major tilling and composting into the beds.

Our neighbor is cracking me up.  When he first wanted to do the garden he gave me free license for garden design as long as it included corn and potatoes.  Now he’s got definite ideas about what he wants and doesn’t want, so we are modifying the plans I made all winter a bit.  I’m actually really glad, since it tells me he’s a lot more excited about his space than he is letting on.  We’re adding carrots and onions.  He’s from Indiana and missed the corn fields, so we are planting four long rows for him to walk through.  I talked him into beans with the corn, though he thinks he “won’t like how it looks,” he’s willing to let me try it since I keep telling him the beans will help feed the corn.  But corn and beans are still a few month off.  This is what we actually planted this weekend:

Plant something – spinach, lettuce (four kinds), radishes, and peas.

Harvest something – eggs, compost and a leaf or two of that volunteer spinach.

Preserve something – Ah – TAMALES!  My friend, Jen, came over on Saturday and while Rick and the boys kept busy digging out tree stumps, we made a triple batch of corn and poblano tamales.  We ended up with 90!  Jen took about 30 of them home and let me keep the rest.  She was super generous and I’m very grateful!  We put away enough for five meals in the freezer, and kept out enough for Saturday’s dinner and lunch on Sunday.  And – OH were they delicious.

We also learned about making lard – we rendered pork fat both last year and this year.  But we learned a bit more this time around.  We ended up coming up short, so we added bacon grease.  I knew I was keeping that around for something!

Waste Not – compost and recycling

Want Not – Sunday we bought a few new baby chicks.  I really want a hen that will go broody so we can have her raise future chicken generations, so we’re hoping the Buff Orpington will provide on that front.  We added another Araucana, because I really love getting colored eggs,  and I’ve been thinking of actually, finally, selling some eggs, just to recover the cost of the feed, so we added a third – a Black Star.  Wouldn’t it be great if one of them liked to lay double-yolked eggs?  We had one pullet in the last batch that laid them nearly every day like a champ, but she was killed by a fox attack.

Build Community Food Systems – Well – already mentioned the tamales and the neighbor’s garden.  That’s it for this week.

Eat the Food – lots of items from the pantry.  Nothing special.

Categories: Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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