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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Planning For A Long Cold Winter–Let’s Start With These Muffins

Our garden was pretty much a big wash out this summer. I’m thankful that our harvest, or lack thereof, doesn’t mean we will have to go without this winter.  It just means we will be buying more canned goods and frozen veggies from the grocery store which never taste as good as those you preserve or freeze yourself.

Because of this, I have started stocking up on many of the canned goods I anticipate we will need to get us through a long cold winter.  Fortunately, I did get around to freezing some delicious sweet corn that our good neighbors gave us, and I have made several containers of homemade applesauce that went directly into the freezer too.   Today, I decided to add to my freezer stockpile by making a batch of these ever so tasty breakfast muffins (Banana Oat Mini Chocolate Chip) that should help make any morning just a little warmer and brighter – no matter the temperature. 

If you’ve got some brown bananas sitting around that you just aren’t sure what to do with, you MUST make a batch of these muffins!   These muffins are a bit heartier than my mom’s banana bread recipe. They also have mini chocolate chips in them which helps capture your taste buds attention.  I’m also thinking that a quarter of a cup of chopped walnuts would really send these muffins over the moon but I didn’t add any to this batch.  Maybe next time!

Banana Oat Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

1 stick of margarine (or butter), sliced

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. sour milk

1 c. old-fashioned oats

2 c. all purpose flour

3/4 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place baking papers in muffin tins.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put mashed bananas in a large bowl and cover with both brown and granulated sugar; let sit for a few minutes.  Add sliced butter and eggs; mix thoroughly.  Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla.  Mix in flour and oats until combined.  Fold in mini chocolate chips. 

Fill baking papers about 2/3 full.  Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center.  Allow to cool before removing from the tins.

There is nothing sweeter smelling than ripe bananas covered in brown sugar.  Is there?

How do you prepare for long cold winters?  Does it involve preserving or freezing?

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?