Dandelion “Honey”

picture1166

Everyone on my Christmas list is getting a jar this December… this recipe is that fabulous.  Before we get to the recipe, I should explain a few things.  First, I am a big believer in letting my lawn grow au naturel.  Rain from the sky and an occasional mow pretty much sum up my approach to lawn care, to the chagrin of a few of my neighbors.  This means, of course, that I am blessed with a brilliant display of yellow dandelions this time a year.  Weeds, did you say?  No Way!

Dandelions were imported into the US hundreds of years ago as a nutritious food source.  Dandelions are wildly good for you, rivaling carrots and spinach in their Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Phosphorus.  The entire plant is edible, but today we are focusing on the pretty yellow flower heads.  A quick web search will reveal how dandelion flowers are valued for their antioxidants, their diuretic and antibacterial properties, and their use by herbalists in treating everything from headaches and depression to stomach and menstrual cramps.  Dandelions aren’t weeds… they’re nature’s own grocery store and pharmacy!

Today we are making dandelion “honey.”  The taste is spot-on identical to wild honey, without the hefty price tag.  At about 50 cents a pint (for the sugar and pectin), this “honey” is a real bargain.  It’s vegan, has practically the same glycemic index as honey, and contains pollen (which is where many of the purported health benefits of bee honey originate).  Make sure you pick dandelions from an unsprayed location!  Allow yourself about an hour in the sunshine to harvest enough flower heads for this recipe.

picture1152Ingredients (makes 9 half-pint jars)

8 cups dandelion flower heads (cut just above the base of the flower head, to get all of the yellow and almost none of the green)

8 cups boiling water

6 cups white sugar

Juice from 1/2 large lemon OR Juice from 1 whole, large orange

4 tablespoons pectin powder

picture1154Directions

Step 1) Cover dandelion flower heads with boiling water.  Cover and set aside for at least three hours or overnight.

Step 2) Carefully pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, saving the “tea” and discarding the flower petals.

Step 3) Bring 6 cups of dandelion tea to a boil in a large pot (if you have more than 6 cups of tea, you can freeze the excess).

Step 4) Stir pectin into sugar (the pectin will dissolve more readily this way).  Add pectin/sugar mixture all at once to pot of boiling tea.  Add lemon juice or orange juice as well.

picture1155Step 5) Stir thoroughly until sugar is completely dissolved.

Step 6) Bring mixture to a full rolling boil.  Boil for 3 minutes with stirring, then turn off heat.

Step 7) Follow canning instructions to preserve your dandelion “honey.”  Leave 1/2 inch headspace, and process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Cherry Rhubarb Jam

J1Elevate your PB&J with the lush combination of sweet cherries and tangy rhubarb in this easy-to-make jam. While this recipe is perfectly suitable for canning, you could store it in the freezer just as well. Of course, that assumes you’ll have any left after a few days… Let’s get started!  Continue reading

Sangria Plums

P1This recipe is a twofer, as both the Sangria brine and the marinated plums are delicious on their own. Enjoy these tangy plums baked into a simple cobbler or an elegant clafoutis. Enjoy the Sangria, well, in a glass.  😉  These little jars make lovely gifts. Let’s get started!

Note: If you don’t want to bother with canning, no worries. Stop after Step 3 and simply refrigerate your Sangria Plums. As long as you keep the plums refrigerated and completely covered with the sangria mixture, this recipe should stay fresh for at least two weeks. Continue reading

Ivan’s Easy Mango Jam

mango jamIvan, a Crowded Earth Kitchen apprentice, is excited to share this recipe with you today. His low-sugar mango jam recipe is simple to prepare and so delicious you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making mango jam for years. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups of jam) Continue reading

Freshly Canned Pineapple

pineappleIn my Midwest US community, pineapple is selling for $1.29 this week at Aldi. I have a sister-in-law who lives in Hawaii (I’m not irrationally jealous, really. Mostly.). Do you know what she told me pineapple is selling for in Hawaii – you know, where pineapple is grown?

$1.29

I can’t make this stuff up.

Today we’re taking advantage of this insanely low price by preserving pineapple in canning jars. It’s super easy, and tastes just like fresh Continue reading

Hot Pepper Relish

WIN_20160824_115624Whether you favor hot dogs, bratwurst, or a classic American cheeseburger on the backyard grill, this Hot Pepper Relish is the perfect accompaniment. It has just enough ZING! to catch your attention, and is chock full of garden fresh flavor. To save time, you could prepare half the recipe below and simply store it in the refrigerator instead of canning. I’ve included canning directions as well, because Hot Pepper Relish makes a lovely and simple gift!

WIN_20160823_190908Ingredients (Makes 8 half-pint jars)

4 large green bell peppers, seeded and diced (about 4 cups)

5 large hot Hungarian peppers, seeded and diced (about 2 cups) Continue reading

Great-Grandma’s Corn Relish

WIN_20160822_171609

My Grandpa Fred grew up enjoying this corn relish on the family dinner table. He remembers it fondly. I found his mother’s corn relish recipe in a treasure box of family recipes and, since my Grandpa is just about the coolest guy around, I’m happy to make a batch just for him whenever fresh sweet corn is available. I love you, Grandpa!

*Note: I’ve scaled this recipe down to a manageable size, as Great Grandma made a LOT of corn relish at once! Original quantities (which I occasionally prepare) are 3 times the quantities listed below.

Ingredients (Makes 8 pints)

8 ears of fresh sweet corn

2 onions

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 cup sugar

1 1/3 cup vinegar

2/3 cup water

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 teaspoon mustard seed

1/3 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

Step 1) Working carefully, use a sharp knife to slice the kernels from each ear of corn.

Step 2) Dice the onions and bell peppers.

Step 3) Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Done!

Step 4) Corn Relish may be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks, or may be canned in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. If canning, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Canned Corn Relish will remain fresh for up to one year.

 

 

Garlic Rosemary Refrigerator Pickles

WIN_20160725_161733

If you’ve never made pickles, what are you waiting for? If you can slice cucumbers into bite size pieces and boil water, you have all of the skills you need to make scrumptious homemade pickles! You don’t even need to fuss with canning jars – just place your pickles in any resealable container in the refrigerator, and wait a week. Voila! Delicious.

This recipe uses garlic and rosemary instead of dill, for a flavor that’s refreshingly different from store-bought pickles. Let me know what you think!

WIN_20160725_160826Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

8 cups of bite size cucumber chunks Continue reading

Easy Pickled Beets

WIN_20160725_160814

Easy Pickled Beets are great in salads!

I adore homemade pickled beets. Much more crisp and flavorful than store-bought beets in tin cans (ugh), these Easy Pickled Beets are delicious right out of the jar. Better yet, try them on a green salad with a bit of Chevre cheese… yum!

While this recipe is suitable for water bath canning, you don’t actually need to “can” anything. If you wish, you can prepare this recipe and simply store your beets in a container in the fridge. Also, if you don’t want quite as many pickled beets as the recipe below provides, simply cut the recipe in half. Remember, Continue reading

Zucchini “Apples”

WIN_20160724_144840 - Copy

Zucchini “Apples”

The zucchini plants in my garden have gone completely bonkers. The first few zucchini were fun… we enjoyed Cheesy Zucchini Roses for dinner, and filled the freezer with Chocolate Zucchini Bread… but the zucchini just keep growing! Here’s another delicious way to make good use of this abundant garden vegetable. Zucchini “Apples” can be frozen or canned, and make a delicious “Apple” crisp (see below). And yes, they taste just like apples.

WIN_20160724_112321

Ingredients (Makes 6 quarts)

6 large zucchini

2 cups lemon juice

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

 

WIN_20160724_120821

Directions

Step 1) Peel zucchini and remove 1/2 inch from each end. Slice peeled zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out all of the seeds. The pulpy middle, which contains seeds, is a brighter white color than the outer flesh – scrape out all of the pulp with a spoon and add this to your compost pile. Slice the zucchini flesh into bite size pieces, approximately 1 inch long and 1/3 inch thick. You should have about 24 cups of zucchini pieces.

Step 2) Combine zucchini pieces and all remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and allow zucchini to simmer until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Proceed with any of the following options:

Option 1) To freeze your zucchini apples, allow the zucchini to cool slightly. Then, ladle the zucchini apples into quart size freezer bags. Squeeze out the air, seal tightly, and freeze. You’ll end up with 6 to 8 freezer bags of zucchini apples.

WIN_20160724_120815Option 2) To can your zucchini apples, ladle them hot into sterilized canning jars. Leave 1/2 inch of head space. Seal with lids and bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

 

Option 3) To make zucchini apple crisp, place 8 cups of zucchini apples from Step 2 in a medium size pot. In a small bowl or cup, whisk together 1/2 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Drizzle this mixture over the zucchini apples, and bring the pot to a boil. Boil for 1 minute or until liquid is thickened. Transfer mixture to a greased 2 quart baking dish.

In a medium size bowl, combine 1 cup oats, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons butter. Use two forks or a pastry cutter to combine ingredients until the mixture resembles large crumbs. Spread this mixture over the zucchini apples and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Delicious!

 

Canning Jar Cookies

WIN_20160605_110356

Watching my garden grow is making me anxious for canning season to begin! Alas, unless I want to preserve kohlrabi in jars (not very motivated by that idea), I’m going to have to wait for additional vegetables to appear.

Here’s a whimsical idea – canning jar cookies! I found this adorable canning jar cookie cutter and made a batch of “pickle relish” cookies, shown above.

Ann Clark Mason Jar Cookie Cutter – 4.5 Inches – Tin Plated Steel

For Canning Jar Cookies, I started by mixing up a batch of the same dough I used to make cute little snowflake cookies last December. It’s a satisfying sugar cookie dough that rolls well and holds its shape – perfect for these canning jars! I rolled the dough about 1/3 inch thick, and baked these cookies for about 14 minutes.

WIN_20160605_104951Next, I diced up a few green gumdrops to make “pickle relish.” I used a pastry brush to coat each baked cookie with a light icing made from 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. I sprinkled diced gumdrops on each “jar” and finished with a few gold dragees near the top for the lids. I would have used silver dragees, but I didn’t have any in my pantry.

Aren’t these canning jar cookies cute? They would make a tasty gift, I think!

Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

strawberry jamIt’s that time of year again, friends – Wahoo! Strawberry season! To be fair, strawberry season is still a few weeks away in my Northern climate. However, my sister is visiting from Arkansas, and brought several boxes of fresh picked berries with her (isn’t she awesome?).

The thing about strawberries is, they’re delicious for about one day after they are picked. If you have a large quantity of strawberries to preserve, you need to work fast! Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam is super fast! Ready… Set… GO!

Ingredients (Makes 4  cups)

5 cups of strawberries, washed and cut in half (green hulls removed)

5 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid pectin

Directions

Step 1) Place halved strawberries in a large pot. Mash the strawberries a few times with a potato masher. Add sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice.

Step 2) Bring strawberry mixture to a full, vigorous boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. You want this mixture to really boil… it should boil enough that bubbles continue to cover the surface of the mixture even when you are stirring!

Step 3) When your strawberry mixture has reached a FULL boil (this will take at least ten minutes, maybe longer), stir in the pouch of pectin. Allow the mixture to return to a FULL boil, and boil with stirring for two minutes.

Step 4) Remove the pot from the heat and add grated lemon zest. Stir gently. Allow your Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam to cool before ladling into storage containers. This jam will keep nicely in the refrigerator for two weeks, or can be frozen for up to six months. [As if strawberry jam would be neglected for six months – ha!]

 

Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind

WIN_20160420_175431Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind is an old school recipe which hails back to the Great Depression, when nothing was wasted. Depression era cooks were creative, not because it was chic but because it was necessary. Children love the sweet, tangy taste of these pickles right from the jar. Grown-ups love them as bacon wrapped party snacks, broiled and enjoyed while hot. However you enjoy them, I can guarantee that once you’ve sampled Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind, you’ll never look at a whole watermelon quite the same way again!

WIN_20160418_191438Ingredients (Makes about 4 pint jars)

Rind from one large watermelon

1/2 cup salt

6 cups cold water Continue reading

Caramel Apple Jelly

caramel apple jellyInstead of spending the holiday weekend shopping, why not spend an afternoon making pretty jars of delicious Caramel Apple Jelly for the loved ones on your gift list? Caramel Apple Jelly takes a bit of time to prepare, but the steps are easy to follow and your kitchen will smell wonderful. As an added bonus, Caramel Apple Jelly is a very economical recipe! Pick up a few bags of apples to make applesauce or a festive German dinner, and save the cores for this recipe. You can always cut the recipe in half, to make 4 jars instead of 8.

Ingredients (makes 8 half-pints)

30 apple cores

3 cups sugar

3 cups brown sugar

6 tablespoons powdered pectin

2 tablespoons loose caramel-flavored tea

picture011Directions

Step 1) Place apple cores and tea in a stockpot and just barely cover with water.

Step 2) Bring stockpot to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

picture014Step 3) Place a strainer in a slightly smaller bowl and line with a tightly woven, clean towel (or several layers of cheesecloth) as shown.  It is important that there is room in the lower bowl, below the bottom of the strainer, for juice to collect!

~

picture031Step 4) Carefully transfer the apple cores and juice into the towel-lined strainer.  Be careful to avoid overflow… you may need to ladle a few cups of juice out of the lower bowl and into a second bowl (for temporary storage) right away.  Be patient, and allow an hour or so for all of the apple juice to collect in the bottom bowl.

Step 5) Combine sugars and pectin.  Set aside.

Step 6) Measure 5 cups of apple juice, and bring to a rolling boil in your stockpot.

Step 7) Add sugar mixture to stockpot and, with constant stirring, return to a rolling boil.  This may take a few minutes.  After a rolling boil has been maintained for one, solid minute, remove caramel apple jelly from heat.

picture042 (2)Step 8) Ladle caramel apple jelly into sterilized, half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims clean, and top with lids and bands.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Jars of homemade caramel apple jelly make wonderful gifts.  Remember, making jelly is a fun and economical way to make use of fruit cores!

Holiday Spiced Apples

WIN_20150922_082659Oh, don’t be a scrooge. I know it’s a bit early to use the word “holiday,” but if you’re going to make Holiday Spiced Apples for your own holiday buffet or offer festive jars as gifts, you need to plan ahead. This recipe is easy to prepare, but tastes best after the flavors marinate in the jar for at least two weeks.

8 quarts is a nice quantity for gift giving, and will allow you to save a jar or two for yourself! The same recipe can also be canned in 16 pint size jars, if you prefer a smaller size. Or cut the recipe in half for 4 quarts or 8 pints. If you don’t want to can the recipe at all, simply store your spiced apples in airtight containers in the refrigerator. They’ll last for several weeks.

WIN_20150915_144614Ingredients (Makes 8 quarts)

40 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thick

4 cups cold water

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 1/2 cups “red hots” cinnamon candies

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon whole allspice

1 teaspoon ground ginger

6 cups sugar

6 cups water

4 1/2 cups vinegar

WIN_20150918_144751Directions

Step 1) Dip peeled apple slices into a bowl containing 4 cups cold water and 1/2 cup lemon juice. This prevents browning. After dipping, set apple slices aside in a large bowl.

Step 2) Combine all remaining ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Stir often, so that the cinnamon candies don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Step 3) Reduce heat to simmer, and stir until candies are dissolved. Add apple slices.

Step 4) Simmer the apple slices in brine for 2 minutes. Ladle spiced apple slices into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles by running a butter knife or a canning tool along the inside of each jar. Wipe the tops of the jars clean with a damp cloth, and top with lids and rims.

Step 5) Process quart jars in a boiling water canning bath for 15 minutes (pints only need 10 minutes). Do not open sealed jars for at least two weeks, to allow the flavors to blend. Enjoy your spiced apples!