Sweet Tomato Figs

IMG_2343A few years back, my fellow gardening friend Denise gifted me with a copy of Tomato Imperative. It is unfortunate that this book is no longer being printed, as it is chock full of old school recipes for enjoying and preserving tomatoes.

Today we are making Sweet Tomato Figs, adapted from Continue reading

Zucchini Pickles Two Ways

Left: Spicy Zucchini Pickles    Right: Garlic Dill Zucchini Pickles

My garden zucchini plants went bonkers this year. I’ve already made zucchini apples (a favorite around here), zucchini boats, and several zucchini-enhanced baked goods. With the last of my garden zucchini – because I am uprooting the plants to make room for a late crop of onions – I’m making Easy Zucchini Pickles.

Crisp and tangy, these pickles will stand up to any cucumber pickle, I promise. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes approximately 4 quarts)

2 large (approximately 16 inch) or 3 medium (approximately 12 inch) zucchini

4 cups water

4 cups white vinegar

3/4 cup salt

1/4 cup white sugar

16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

For garlic dill pickles: 16 heads of fresh dill -or-
For spicy pickles: 12 Thai chili peppers, scored lengthwise

Directions

Step 1) Wash zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. Slice Zucchini halves crosswise into 3/4 inch slices, then cut each slice into 2 inch pieces. Set zucchini pieces aside in a large bowl.

Step 2) In a large pot, combine water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic. Bring brine mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to simmer.

Step 3) Pack zucchini pieces into sterilized quart jars, layering a head of dill (or a chili pepper), about 1 cup of zucchini, and about 1/2 cup of brine at a time. Don’t be afraid to really stuff the zucchini into the jar, 1 cup at a time! The back of a tablespoon can be useful for packing zucchini.

Step 4) Leave 1/2 inch head space at the top of each jar (no zucchini should be “poking up” into that last 1/2 inch of space). Make sure zucchini is covered in brine, and tap the jar (or poke with a chopstick) to remove air bubbles.

Step 5) Cover each jar with a sterilized lid and band. For refrigerator pickles, place jars in the fridge. For canning, place jars in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Your zucchini pickles will taste best after one week. Enjoy!

Yes, you need Garden Sauce in your pantry!

Garden Sauce is so simple to prepare, it hardly counts as a recipe. You can make a little or a lot; the ingredients below may be easily doubled or tripled. Not only is Garden Sauce easy to prepare, it is versatile as well! Here are just a few Continue reading

Spiced Cherry Jam

IMG_2161The season for fresh cherries at the market is absurdly brief. When they appear, I buy a few extra pounds for a big batch of Spiced Cherry Jam. The kids like to help, which I welcome – learning canning and preserving methods is a great home school lesson! Cheerful bright red jars of this jam taste like a burst of summer throughout the winter months. Enjoy!

IMG_2157Ingredients (Makes 10 half-pint jars)

10 cups fresh pitted cherries Continue reading

Dandelion “Honey”

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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

Herb Compound Butter

WIN_20160507_194649‘Tis the season for fresh herbs! Enjoy this vintage post, which offers a terrific and tasty way to preserve your summer herbs for year-round flavor!

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Step 1: Combine 1/2 cup real butter with 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs. Blend until evenly combined.

Fragrant, beautiful, and delicious, fresh herbs are bountiful in early summer. It’s easy to take Continue reading

Vintage Post: Dandelion Honey

dandelionThis is a vintage post, but seasonally appropriate and lots of fun. Don’t spray toxins on your lawn… let those dandelions grow au naturel! The beautiful golden color and early summer fragrance of dandelions attracts bees, providing life sustaining nectar this time of year. Bees are HUNGRY in May and June, and if we want them around to pollinate our fruit orchards and vegetable gardens later in the season, we had better provide them with something to eat right now.

You can benefit from dandelions even more directly by making dandelion honey. Give this recipe a try – it’s delicious, and a great conversation starter!

Summer Squash Fritters

squash1Yellow summer squash have taken over my garden – what a delightful problem! Alas, yellow summer squash doesn’t seem to freeze as well as zucchini. We need to enjoy these sunny little veggies fresh, or cook them into something delightful before freezing. This recipe for Summer Squash Fritters accomplishes both – you can enjoy these as 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

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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.