Canning and Jamming

Two weeks ago I had the brilliant idea to pick my own strawberries. I used to do it as a child with my mom, brother and sister at Rohrbach's Orchards or Stahl's Farm in central Pennsylvania. Mind you, mom did most of the picking, while we all did most of the eating. I imagine we ended up eating exactly as many as we picked by the end of the day. I mention this story as I noticed a few kids in the field picking at the same time as I was, doing the same thing! The boy was trying to find the perfect strawberry, so at the end of 20 minutes, he still only had 3 picked. His middle sister was picking berries like a madwoman, and filled her container in the same amount of time. The youngest girl, well, she picked everything she ate so her basket was empty.

While watching the three work (or eat), I managed to pick about 10 pounds worth, naively thinking that would amount to about 10 Ball 8oz. Canning Jars. Then I brought them home, and realized how severely I had underestimated my loot. After two hours of de-stemming the berries, I had to call it quits for the night. I resumed two nights later for the canning process.

I had purchased a Ball Canning book to help guide me with Strawberry Jam, amongst all of the other veggies and fruit that I want to process over the summer. The book mentions that you need a canning pot, a tray for the jars for the pot, and other kinds of special equipment. Me, I'm cheap, so I used a 12qt stock pot and some tongs. It did the job just fine.

To make the jam, be prepared. It takes a lot of sugar. More than the eater cares to know. The recipe itself is simple. 10 cups of berries (when mashed, make 5 cups of berry/juice mixture), pectin, which is purchased in the Jello aisle of a supermarket, a bit of lemon juice, and a whole lot of sugar-7 cups worth!!!! The recipe calls for you to smash the berries, which tends to be quite a stress reliever, then boil with pectin and lemon juice, followed by adding sugar, boiling again, and then putting into the processed jars (jars that were in boiling water). Put the jam into the jar, add the lid and seal, and boil for 10 more minutes. Take the jars out and let them sit for 24 hours before moving. You will hear all of the lids pop. If they did not pop, they are not sterilized, and therefore you should eat immediately/put in fridge for current use.

The recipe makes about 8 8oz jars. My 10lbs of strawberries equated to 23 jars plus about 2 for current use. I have been eating the jam all week, and I must say, it is pretty darn delicious!


CSA Commences!

Two weeks ago our CSA began. I posted here about joining Kettle Pond Farm CSA in Southern Mass, and had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first basket. Finally, in the second week of June, it was time to begin the summer of abundance of farm fresh organic vegetables.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was thinking something along the lines of leafy greens and onions. When arriving on pick up day, I realized I was partially correct, as there was just so so much more! We received garlic scapes, green onions, lettuce, Swiss chard, bok choy, radishes, and arugula. It was a lot more than I was expecting, and definitely a rush to eat it all before it went bad.

In the next week, we received a box similar to the first week, but with the addition of mixed greens, parsley, and kale.

We are very lucky as we receive a weekly newsletter from the farm ahead of time so as to know what to expect. This allows for ample time to plan meals around what we will be receiving. For example, this week, Jack and I made a homemade kale pizza, parsley pesto, and a tofu and bok choy stir fry.

As the weeks go by I will continue to post about all of the great foods we receive in our CSA box, and what we make with them.


Birthday Love

Last weekend was yet another weekend filled with traveling to Pennsylvania, but for fun reasons! My baby brother was graduating high school, and my sister was celebrating her 22nd birthday. In my family, birthdays always equal cake, but because the weekend was so jam packed with activities, my mom didn't have time to bake for my sister, so I took on the task. I wanted to use one of my newer cookbooks, so I chose a recipe from Organic and Chic, by Sarah Magid, though none of my ingredients ended up being organic. Anyway, my sister requested a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, so I used a "Blanca Cake" recipe with dark chocolate frosting and loads of rainbow sprinkles. The cake and frosting combination was delicious! The white cake was sweet and light with a hint of butter, and the sour cream in the chocolate frosting was the perfect offset for the sweet cake. I have since made this recipe again, but in cake form instead of cupcakes. It was a hit!

Be warned though, this cake takes a lot of egg whites!

Blanca Cake- adapted from Organic and Chic

2 cups organic APF
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 c) butter, softened
2 1/4 c sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 c whole milk
7 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside

In a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter, and 2 cups of sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl

In a small bowl, combine vanilla and milk and set aside.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk/vanilla mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

In a clean bowl, use a handmixer or a clean standing mixer to beat the egg whites of low speed until they become foamy. Slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and gradually increase the mixer speed to medium high. Beat until egg whites are shiny, with stiff glossy peaks. Be careful not to overbeat.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold 1/3 of egg whites into cake batter. Then, in 2 additions, fold in the remaining whites just until the streaks are incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Bake until the cakes are golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Cool for 20 minutes before taking out of pan.


First BBQ of the Season!

Memorial Day was so long ago, right? Well that was when Jack and I held our first BBQ of the season. Quite frankly I’ve been tied up in numerous graduations to even have a spare second to post about the fun time we had, with great food and drinks.

We hosted this grand ol’ affair in honor of a Monday off, and a goodbye to some good friends. The meal included grass fed beef burgers and brats, along with Sangria and Smore’s Brownies (another Joy the Baker recipe). The brownies were pretty good, all be it a little dry because I overcooked them. The Sangria however, was a hit, though not entirely homemade. This calls for a big shout out to Carlos Rossi and his $8 jug of sangria- along with some cut up oranges and grapes.  We all ate our first watermelon and corn on the cob of the season, and it was delicious! If this is how summer continues to be, it could quite possibly become the best ever.

I must say that while the meal was terrific, I was sad to see our friends leave for the armpit of the US called New Jersey. Thankfully they will be back next year, and we can have another wonderful Summer Feast.

Here is the recipe for Smore’s Brownies. Thank you Joy for your delicious recipe, but please note that brownies continue to cook when out of the oven, so do not overcook.

S’mores Brownies

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup graham cracker, roughly crushed with your hands
  • 12 big marshmallows (I used a bunch of little marshmallows because I had them on hand)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9×13-inch baking pan with 2-inch-high sides. Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl. Stir butter and chocolate in a medium sized bowl over a heavy saucepan of simmering water.  Stir chocolate and butter in this double boiler until melted and smooth.

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Stir in warm chocolate mixture, then dry ingredients. Fold in graham crackers.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Dot with 12 large marshmallows.  Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 30- 40 minutes.

Marshmallows will be browned and puffy but will deflate as the brownies cool.  Cool for at least 20 minutes than slice with a sharp knife, cleaning the knife with hot water if it gets too messy and sticky.  Serve or wrap individually in wax paper for storing.