Homemade Wild Black Raspberry Jelly

This weekend hubby and I put on our work boots and followed a wet muddy path out behind our house until we got to the wild black raspberry plants.  I have been wanting to make some homemade jelly for a while now and it just didn’t seem right to let these plump juicy berries go to waste.

Of course we had to battle mosquitos, a couple Daddy Long Legs, and some noisy birds that warned us to leave their berries alone.    But in the end – it was all worth it.

I followed this recipe for  Blackberry Jelly that I found posted by Kathy in Florida on Food.com.  If you follow the instructions just as I did, then I think you’ll be eating homemade jelly too!

When I have fruit that has a lot of seeds like these berries do I prefer to make jelly over jam because I can avoid the seeds all together.

This recipe was easy to follow and the jelly making went fairly quickly.  I used a box of SUREJELL for the pectin.  I have always had good luck with this brand and it’s what my mom used long before I started making jams and jellies.  *Cooks note: Remember to skim the foam off the top before putting the jelly in jars.

And did you know there is no written rule that says you only have to eat jelly on toast or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?  Try it on a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I am now officially in the jam and jelly making mood.  My next adventure?  To pick cherries and make homemade cherry jam.

Have you ever made homemade jams and jellies?  What’s your favorite flavor?

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Making Your Own Dill Pickles

I have been a pickle making fool this year.  And I am sure there are some of you that are probably thinking that you could never preserve pickles.  Maybe, you’re even slightly intimidated by the thought.  But I’m here to tell you there is nothing to fear.  I decided to create this post in the simplest terms to show you how easy it is to make your own homemade dill pickles.  I figure these pictures and short instructions might help take away any apprehensions you might have. 

For those of you who have never canned before, you will need a canner or very large pot that you can immerse your jars in when it comes time to put them in the water-bath.  We will get to all of that in a minute.

This recipe is nice because you can make 1 quart of pickles or 6 quarts of pickles at a time (or however many your canner will accommodate).  The recipe is from my Better Homes and Garden (Red & White Checked) Cookbook. Page 147 in my book.

The ingredients needed for this recipe are per quart; not per batch.

5-6 cucumbers (the recipe suggests 4” long)

2 Tbsp. dill seed

1 tsp. mustard seed

1 3/4 c. water

3/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. pickling salt

* I added one clove of peeled garlic to the jar of some of my pickles.  It gives them a mild garlic dill taste.

So, are you ready?  Here we go!

1.) Rinse cucumbers and then soak them in very cold water.  *It should be noted that a lot of recipes call for pickling cucumbers only.  I’ve used several varieties in my canning adventures and haven’t had any trouble doing so,  but there is a first time for everything.  It is also best if you use smaller cucumbers (in diameter) because they are less bitter and seedy.

2.) Wash the jars and screw bands that you intend to use in hot soapy water; rinse thoroughly and then place them upside down on a clean dish towel.  Put (new) lids in very hot water and set aside. Don’t cheap out and reuse old lids because you will risk them not sealing properly when you put them in the water-bath.

3.) Prepare the seasoning by measuring out the mustard seed and dill seed for each quart individually; then place it in each jar.

4.) After placing the spices in each jar, measure out the ingredients (salt, vinegar and water) for the brine and place it into a large stock pot.  This brine will later be brought to a full boil.

5.)  Remove cucumbers from the cold water and dry them off.  Slice each cucumber in half – length wise, or quarter each one length wise if they are a little larger in diameter.  I put all of the odd sized pieces in one jar and can them too.

6.)  Fill a canner with enough water to cover the lid of each jar you intend to process.  Start heating the water on high heat.

7.)  Loosely pack each jar with the sliced cucumbers leaving at least a 1/2 inch of headspace at the top.

8.) ,Bring brine to full boil.

9.)  Ladle the boiled brine into each jar and cover the cucumbers, again leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top.

10.)  Wipe the edge of each jar rim with a hot clean cloth and secure the lid and band.

11.)  When all of the jars are ready, lower them into the canner. 

12.)  When the water in the (covered) canner starts to boil rapidly, boil the jars for 15 minutes.

13.)  Once the boiling is complete, move the jars of pickles to a cutting board or something that will withstand hot temperatures.  I suggest using canning tongs that are designed for lifting the jars out of the canner.  These jars will be extremely hot so be careful.

14.)  Allow jars to cool at room temperature.  The lids will start popping when the seal is made.  This is a good thing!  To make sure each jar has properly sealed check them by feeling for an indentation in the center of the lid.  If the lid is firm then the jar is sealed.  If there is any play in the lid when it is pushed on then the jar is not sealed properly and it will not be safe to store on the shelf.

The pickles should set in the jar for 1 week before you open and eat them.  These pickles are crunchy and have a nice (not overpowering) dill flavor.  That’s probably why I’ve made three batches so far.

Have you ever canned before?  Are you comfortable or intimidated by it?  Or, is Vlasic your friend?

Getting Pickled

I have no room to complain about the abundance of veggies we are getting from our garden this year, especially since last year was a total wash.  The only thing that I might say is that when life has you going a hundred different directions, your garden doesn’t wait for you to catch up; it just keeps growing.

The vegetable drawers in my fridge are packed full of zucchini and cucumbers.  And now our jalapeno peppers are coming on strong.  Yes, it’s time to make homemade pepper jelly.

My mother was a domestic wonder woman, and truthfully I think she enjoyed it just as I do.  She made it all look so easy and I know that isn’t always the case.  My daughter just bummed homemade strawberry freezer jam from me (just as I did my mom), and she even asked if we could make my mom’s recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce (together) this year.  Could it be that she looks at me as a domestic wonder woman too?  She does tell me that I make blue ribbon deviled eggs and that makes me laugh every time she say’s it.  Of all the things to be admired for, it all boils down to eggs?  No pun intended.

Today, I want to share one of my mom’s recipes with you.  This is my favorite refrigerator pickle recipe.  You won’t believe how easy they are to make, and if you like sweet pickles, you won’t be able to stay out of them.  They are not overly sweet in my opinion, and they are super crunchy for a refrigerator pickle – yum!

Sheila’s Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

Makes about 2 quarts

8 medium sized cucumbers, sliced thin

1 large sweet onion, sliced thin

1/2 c. salt

In a large bowl, place cucumbers, onion, and salt.  cover with cold water and let stand 2 hours. 

Drain and lightly rinse cucumbers with cold water.  Add the following:

2 c. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. mustard seed

1 tbsp. celery seed (I used 1 tsp. of celery salt)

1 c. vinegar ( I used 1 1/2 cups of apple wine vinegar since the recipe didn’t specify)

Mix all ingredients well; cover and place in fridge. Stir a couple times a day for a day or so.  These pickles keep in the fridge for several weeks.

These pickles make a great snack, go great with a hearty sandwich, and are delicious with hamburgers or pulled pork sandwiches too. 

So, are you a sweet or dill pickle fan? 

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Strawberry Freezer Jam 2012

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This is my favorite time of the year.  Fresh fruits make their way onto our table and into our freezer for those long winter months ahead. 

Making strawberry freezer jam has been a seasonal tradition in our family since I was a small girl. 

If you didn’t catch my recipe for it last season than get it here now!

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Do you make your own jams and jellies?  What is your all-time favorite flavor?

Sweet Corn and the Deep Freeze

If you live in climates where fresh fruits and vegetables are practically unheard of during the winter months than you might appreciate this post.  You know what I’m talking about, it’s that time of year when the only things that you’ll find  green are misletoe or Christmas trees.  *Disclaimer – if you can’t associate with this type of winter season than send me your address I’m coming to visit!

To help myself feel as if I have some, even if it’s just a little, control over the situation I typically think ahead.  I pick fresh berries and freeze them, make an abundance of sweet jams and jellies, and if the conditions are right – I load the freezer up with some veggies too. 

Our neighbors always plant a Goliath of a garden which they share with their family, friends, and neighbors.  This year, thanks to their generosity, they offered us sweet corn to freeze and to eat fresh. 

Have you ever froze corn?  It’s not hard.  You just have to blanch it before freezing it. I usually pull out my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book to refresh my memory on blanching times before I freeze anything.  In the case of freezing sweet corn, here is what to do. First, put a big pot of water on the stove and set the heat on high temperature to bring the water to a full boil.  Then husk and wash the corn. Once the water is boiling  drop the corn into the pot one ear at a time.  The size of the ears of corn depends on your blanching time. For example, the cookbook recommends 7 minutes for small sized ears, 9 minutes for mediums sized ears, and 11 minutes for larger sized ears. Start timing your blanching process the minute you drop the corn into your pot.  *If you live 5000 feet above sea level add another minute to your blanching time.

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Once the corn is blanched plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking process.  When the corn has cooled enough so you can handle it cut the kernels off of each cob and package it in freezer bags or containers. I use freezer bags and press them flat so they take up less space in the freezer. 

I know there will be many a winter night that this home grown corn will taste great smothered in butter and salt and pepper.