Posts Tagged With: Food Preservation

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

Review: “Preserving with Friends” and that’s what I did.

At the end of May, Calamity Jane gave away ten copies of Harriet Fasenfest’s DVD, Preserving with Friends.  I shamelessly plugged myself and won one of the copies on the condition of giving it a thorough review.  I was so excited to receive my DVD in June, and it was so generous (and trusting) of Harriet to give away ten copies!

Then I had a baby in July, and Harriet and CJ probably thought I took the DVD and ran, but I didn’t.  I watched it and took notes while I was breastfeeding. At first I was daunted by a three and a half hour DVD, but it is broken up into lots of short, easy to digest segments, which worked perfectly for me.  I was able to watch one or two sections during the kids’ nap times.  It also includes some cool bonus features if you stick it in your computer (printable charts, pectin making instructions, etc.).

I have made jam and pickles before, so I was tempted to skip over the beginning where Harriet talked about boiling water bath canning basics, but I am glad I didn’t.  The DVD offers a lot of great tips, and my favorite was boiling your jam in a low, wide pan so that the liquid evaporates more quickly, and that she was working outside on her grill!  Two of the most daunting parts of jam making (the time it takes and how hot it gets in my non-air conditioned house) solved, right off the bat!

I wish I had this DVD when I was learning how to make jam.  Actually seeing how Harriet does it made it so much easier to understand.  Much less intimidating!  When I got to the canning fruit section, I found myself saying that I could can tomatoes!  I always wanted to but was too intimidated!

The gems offered in this DVD continue throughout with Harriet’s guests, showing different techniques for making pickles, fermenting and something I was most curious about, pressure canning.  She has the experts in each of these fields sharing their recipes and tips.  Actually seeing the methods helped me so much more than just reading about them in a book.

The DVD includes a bonus section featuring the basics of dehydrating with an electric food dehydrator, freezing with a vacuum sealer and storing root vegetables like onions and garlic.  I wish there was more on these techniques, but they could probably be a whole DVD unto themselves!

Then this weekend, after picking some fresh berries, I had a friend over and we put Harriet’s techniques to the test.  I know I promised to do the plums, but since they are frozen and we had fresh berries that we didn’t want to go to waste, we tried Harriet’s recipe for strawberry jam.

Using a wide pan really saved time and I was really happy with the turn out.  And my friend who had never done any canning or preserving before was happy to try it and she even borrowed my DVD.  I was tempted to give it away too, but I actually plan to re-watch some sections after I get a big jar for fermenting and a pressure canner of my own.

Also, as a side note, I love the name of the DVD.  It is much more fun to preserve food with a friend.  Much more fun.  So thanks too, to Kristen for coming over and jamming with me!

Usually I don’t promote products on my blog, but I have to say that I really liked seeing these techniques, and since so many of us are teaching ourselves these arts, the Preserving with Friends DVD is a great alternative to a book.  It is excellent for visual learners or for giving yourself that confidence boost to stop thinking about it and actually getting yourself some jam in the cupboard.  It’s totally worth the $24.95 to purchase it.  So, get yourself Harriet’s DVD, grab a friend and stock that pantry!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Recommended Reading | Tags: | 4 Comments

Late Summer Snapshot

It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve made it onto the computer.  I’m sure you were wondering if I had some sort of mysterious injury related to a grub hoe and a compost bin.  But I assure you, everything is fine.  The sun has been out, and things have been growing like mad, including both boys and C.  So the blog has been collecting dust!  In the mean time, I’ve been able to get a few things done around here.

We picked cucumbers up at our CSA and put up 48 quarts of pickles.

We got the tree trunk and stump hauled away to a mill.

And we put some 7 pounds of elk meat into the dehydrator to become jerky.

We harvested corn and our first potatoes with the neighbor.

I have to say that harvesting potatoes is one of the funnest things ever – it’s like a treasure hunt!

We ended up with 40 pounds of fingerlings and 50 pounds of Desirre red potatoes!  We will have plenty for seed next year and hopefully enough to store through the winter.

We also have a neighborhood BBQ in the works and have been spreading the hens’ good will via eggs and some extra garden onions.

We are getting ready for some berry picking and peach picking in the next week or two.  I am excited to get some preserves into the pantry as well.  We are going to take a walk tomorrow to the house with the concord grape vine and see if the new family there will share some grapes with us this year like the last tenants there did.  We are bringing some 2010 jam with us to give them as an incentive!

The late summer/early fall is one of the busiest times around our homestead.  Harvests are coming in, the dehydrator is running, and we are trying to see if we can manage to get the yard back in shape in time to participate in the second annual Denver Botanic Gardens chicken coop tour.  If you remember, I made some improvements on the coop this spring with the tour in mind, and last year was a lot of fun, so it’d be really great if we can pull it together in time.   More updated posts in the coming days – I am finally getting back on the ball around here, I think.  😉

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Community, DIY, Garden, Independence Days, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

When the Power Goes Out

All across the country this spring, there have been storms taking out power (and, of course far worse).  My cousin in Alabama was affected earlier this year.  Thankfully she is ok, and was able to drive to Nashville to stay with family for a few days until the power came back on.  This makes me think a lot about disaster preparedness, and I know I’m not the only one.  Sharon Astyk and Greenpa both commented on the CDC’s article about the impending zombie apocalypse last week.  Northwest Edible Life asked about balancing energy consumption and preparedness (which gave rise to this post for me).

We aren’t really in a great place yet as far as being prepared for a natural disaster.  We’re pretty good about preserving food in the summer, enough to get us through the winter, but really nothing long term.  While we’ve been living without a fridge now for the last four weeks, I know we couldn’t hack it without our freezer.  The ice to keep everything from spoiling is pretty crucial.  We keep the majority of our preserved food in there as well.  Without power, we’d be coming up short pretty quickly, especially in the summer time with regards to our meat.

Happily, here in Colorado, the most likely time for a prolonged power outage would be the winter, and that in it of itself mitigates some of the potential damage to the freezer-stored food.  In the case of a power outage that was not during the cold or not soon to be resolved, I really think this is a place where community can help.  Our neighbor, for example, has a couple of generators. But he is a bachelor and has no food stock piled what-so-ever (I’m pretty sure he buys food everyday for each meal). So we could really come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, wherein, his generators help keep our food from spoiling, and we feed him. Of course, generators are only temporary as well, and in the event of something extending past that, we’re pretty much screwed.

We could definitely dehydrate, but only if we do it ahead of time, as both our food dehydrator and oven are electric and power company dependent.  While we could prepare a lot of herbs and some veggies this way ahead of time, I’m not a huge fan of jerky.  So that still leaves most of our meat vulnerable.  We don’t have a pressure-canner either, and a boiling water bath is not enough to safely preserve meats.

One meat preservation option we’ve considered is the possibility of smoking meats. We’ve been on the hunt for an oak barrel that we can use to make a smoker in our yard, as I saw done at the local living history museum last summer. We watched them smoke two chickens in a barrel over bricks dug in the ground. It was super cool and we’ve been wanting to do it ever since. This could even be done in the winter, in an emergent situation, provided you already had the hole for the bricks dug.

This reminds me a lot of Little House in the Big Woods.  I love how detailed the descriptions Laura gives for how the Ingalls family preserves meats for the winter.  Smoking venison and hams, freezing sausages, and putting up salted pork in the attic.  This always makes me wonder what exactly salted pork is and how it tastes, and what the process is.

So I’d like to know what systems others have in place?  Are you prepared for a disaster, whether a short term one, like a weather related power outage, or a long term one, like peak oil or zombie apocalypse?  How are you preserving meat for long term storage?  Are you building community food systems, so that in the event of a disaster you have resources other than your own to draw from?  Is it practical to store meat in the summer time?  (The Ingalls family did not, all their meat storage was just for the winter.)  How else, besides freezing, are you storing food – canning, root cellars, dehydrating, salting, smoking????  Do you have recipes to share?

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Food, Preparedness, Sustainability | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

How to Make Grape Jam – In Pictures

How to Make Grape Jam in Pictures on Punk DomesticsWhen the concord grapes get ripe, we like to make jam!  Here’s how we do it.

You’ll need two quarts of concord grapes, six cups of sugar, two small saucepans, a strainer, a canning pot and accessories, and three pint jars with lids and bands.

Wash the grapes and measure out two quarts.  In this picture, there are enough for three batches (six quarts).

Next, peel the grapes, putting grapes in one pot and peels in another.  When the grapes are ripe, you can just give them a squeeze and the grapes pop right out of their skins.

Cook the grapes without water and the peels with just a little water in separate pots for ten or fifteen minutes until the peels are soft and the grapes are separated from the seeds.

Combine the peels in a larger pot with sugar (3 cups per quart of grapes).  Strain out the seeds from the pulp, and add the pulp to the sugar mixture.  Bring to a boil until jam reaches the gelling point.  You can test this with a candy thermometer (211° in Denver), a spoon or by putting a plate in the freezer.

Ladle your hot jam into hot jars.  Process pints in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes here in Denver.  Process five minutes less if at sea-level or using half-pint jars.

Voilà – Grape jam!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, DIY | Tags: , , | 3 Comments


This weekend was the weekend of fruit.  On Saturday morning we went to Palisade for the second time this summer, and we came home with 319 pounds of peaches.  150 pounds were for friends, and we kept the other half for ourselves.  Then, Sunday morning, before we had even gotten a peach into the freezer, my brother-in-law came by with over 1500 Italian plums.  Thankfully the plums are a bit green, as we didn’t really have much time to mess with the fruit on Sunday.

Monday, we ate some of the plums in a plum coffee cake, and then we went to our friend’s home outside of Allenspark.  Mike grilled and we gathered around the fire pit, and had a nice evening with friends (and peach cobbler), watching the smoke from the fire in Boulder county blow over the horizon.

On the way home we stopped outside of Longmont where we could see the fire above Boulder.  My pictures here don’t do it justice, but it was incredible.

Tuesday is farm day for me, when I go and work at the CSA.  I brought home our share, and had barely pulled into the drive when our friend, Rich drove up with twenty plus pounds of concord grapes!  These grapes are our favorite and they were very generous!

So we have a fruit filled week ahead of us.  I had actually planned to pick strawberries and raspberries this week too, but I am putting that off until next week in hopes that I can get somewhat caught up around here before adding more to it!

Here’s the update:

Plant something – nothing.

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches

Preserve something – three batches of peach preserves, two and a half boxes (approx. 30 lbs) of peaches sliced and frozen, 3½ pounds green beans frozen, 1 gallon bag of tomatoes frozen, 2 batches of carrot soup in the freezer.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  Lots and lots went to the goodwill over the last couple of weeks.

Want Not – nothing that I can think of right now.

Build Community Food Systems – all the fruit trading!  Yum!

Eat the Food – as mentioned, plum cake and peach cobbler.  Also eating all the yummy farm veggies.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  😉

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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