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archive for canning

patience rewarded

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Recipe: blueberry jam

We’re just a couple weeks away from summer and everyone I know is busy doing stuff. I can’t keep track of who is where and doing what and when anymore (forget about keeping track on Facebook, the only thing in my feed the past few days has been the Red Wedding). We have been working on so many things around here that the local flora has been popping up like a surprise party.


suprise! gold banner



Last year, when I started on my canning kick, I felt like I was in a frenzy to grab up the local peaches and ripe strawberries and ripe local luscious wonderful tomatoes. But when I said (in my head) that I would like to make some blueberry jam, I found that organic blueberries were prohibitively expensive. At $6 a pint, one batch of jam would cost me $36 for the blueberries alone. Screw that, I said to myself. Besides, I had a hundred pounds of tomatoes to can. No blueberry jam.

My friend, Laura, gave me a heads up on a one-day special at Whole Foods Boulder last Friday: $1.99 per pint of organic blueberries. Hello?! I was in town that day. I bought a case. Weekend project: blueberry jam.


you are mine

six pints of blueberries

all you need: sugar, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, pectin, and blueberries



The first thing to do is squish the blueberries. I tried mashing them with a heavy meat tenderizer and they sort of went zipping out of the bowl. I set the meat tenderizer down and decided to squash them by hand, one by one. The point is to break the skin so the juices release and come into contact with the sugar otherwise the sugar will be too dry and may burn during the jamming process. It’s a good activity for non-skilled associates (children, spouses, other relations, friends, even strangers), but I don’t recommend asking the dog to help. I found it to be rather therapeutic. Also, my fingers didn’t stain (much) because blueberry guts are almost colorless and the skins didn’t seem to release much of their deep color on my hands.

i’m crushing your head (who remembers that skit?!)

mix the sugar with the crushed berries

zest and juice the lemon while the berries boil



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a tale of two seasons

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Recipe: strawberry vanilla jam

Some people can become really bent out of shape when winter gets all up in their spring. I’m not one of those people. I’m used to straddling two seasons at any given time because I live at the boundary of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. In the mountains, we are usually dawdling behind the flats come springtime with our snows and cold temperatures in contrast to their colorful spring blooms and flowering trees. Then we plunge headfirst into autumn and first snowstorms as their mosquito-bitten legs still strut around in shorts, flip flops, and summer. The great thing is to be able to leave one season and enter another in the span of 30 minutes and the canyon that separates the mountains from the flats.


the morning the storm cleared out

so colorado



A recent storm plastered the whole area with snow. Winter here. Winter there. I haven’t skied it yet as there has been a lot going on lately like routine mammograms and ultrasounds (which came back clear – booyah!), work, friends visiting from out of town, and heaps of paperwork. It’s all good. All good.

working with helliemae’s this week

met up with dear aran for a nice walk and talk around chautauqua park in boulder



It was only two weeks ago that I was complaining about those little liar strawberries in the store – organic, dark red that turned out to be flavorless with the texture of styrofoam. I should have known better, but I am an ever hopeful individual. I bought another quart this week and they were juicy, sweet, perfumey. Local strawberries still have a few months to go in Colorado, but I’m already looking forward to making more jam come June. Strawberries are one of my favorite things to come with the warmer months. Last year I canned several batches of this strawberry vanilla jam to give as gifts since Jeremy and I rarely consume jam. If only I had known.

sugar, vanilla beans, strawberries, lemons, pectin

hull and cut the strawberries



Turns out that Jeremy is a fiend for this jam. This one in particular. I would sometimes have one or two jars that didn’t seal properly during the canning process, so they would go into the refrigerator to serve at breakfast when we had house guests. And I noticed that the peach jams remained untouched (remember, the boy doesn’t eat stone fruits) and the strawberry vanilla jams would empty in no time.

split and gut the vanilla bean

macerate the strawberries in vanilla bean and sugar

stir it all together and let refrigerate overnight



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birthday weekend

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Recipe: hot giardiniera pickled peppers

Over the past several years, if I’m not out shooting the fall colors on my birthday, I’m out on recon for the fall colors on my birthday. Sometimes my birthday coincides with the first day of autumn and I’ve always loved that. I couldn’t wait for the heat to GO AWAY in southern Virginia. Luckily, I have more pleasant associations with it now: fall colors, cooler weather, sometimes a freak early snow storm (yes please!). But I’m almost always working through my birthday and this year was no exception. Jeremy decided to drive 5.5 hours to Crested Butte this weekend to nominally celebrate my birthday, see the fall colors with me, and get a little mountain biking in. It was a lovely weekend and a most happy birthday.


birthday morning near red mountain pass (iphone)

working on building a respectable layer of dirt on the car (iphone)



Dinner is always a moving target and dictated by the whims of the weather. It just so happened that sunset was a bust on my birthday, releasing me a little earlier than usual. My thoughts turned to what was good to eat in town. In Crested Butte, there is a lot that is good, but my favorite restaurant is The Lobar for sushi. So we went there to celebrate with a low key, but fabulous dinner.

hamachi sashimi

dragon scales (spicy tuna wrapped in shiso leaves and tempura fried)

seared scallop slices with lime, cilantro, sriracha



With Jeremy’s return home on Monday, I’m pretty much back to my quick, affordable, and convenient meals of cold salads, sandwiches, and fruit. I come prepared with a cooler, nalgene bottles (for ice and water – especially when the motel rooms don’t have refrigerators), dishes and utensils for one, sponge and dishsoap, dishtowels… What I failed to bring was a jar of my pickled hot peppers, the stuff that makes sandwiches magically delicious.

celery, carrots, red bell peppers, jalapenos, serranos, olives, cauliflower

you’ll also need: white vinegar, pickling spices, sugar, and pickling salt



My obsession with pickled hot peppers has been in the making all my life, but the peppers that really pushed me over the edge were the hot giardiniera from Snarf’s. Snarf’s is my favorite sandwich shop in Boulder (they have several stores in the Denver metro area) and it’s in no small part due to those tantalizing peppers. I have been researching different recipes for the past couple of years, but didn’t start making them until this summer… because I learned how to can.

chop, chop, chop

spicy chop chop chop



The first recipe I tried was one that had the intention of imitating the Snarf’s hot giardiniera (I don’t know about you, but giardiniera always makes me think of the word giardia, which is unfortunate). I doubled the recipe in crazy anticipation of pickled hot pepper love. Step-wise it is easy. Most of what is involved is chopping the vegetables and brining them. And when you brine the vegetables, you essentially do nothing for 12-18 hours – right on!

make the brining liquid (salt and water)

add the vegetables to the brine



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