Canning, Craft Projects, Events

A bridal shower for my best friend

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting a bridal shower for my best friend. The bridesmaids and I decided on a pumpkin/fall themed shower, and it was beautiful, as was the bride-to-be. I’ve known Dana longer than I’ve known my little sister, so she is family to me. I love her like a sister and was so excited to throw her a shower that I knew she’d love.

bride

The decorations and favors were my favorite part, which is probably no surprise. We decided on a fall/falling-in-love themed shower early on, so for decorations we used pumpkins, flowers, gourds, etc. Emma made the cutest bride and groom pumpkins:

brideandgroom-pumpkin

I carved a pumpkin (with a steak knife… don’t do that, btw) to use as a vase for the centerpiece on my fireplace mantel. And Emma made an adorable “Falling in Love” banner to hang there, too. Isn’t it adorable?!?

mantel

With decor that cute, we had to have Dana open her gifts there.

fireplace

And she got a lot of gifts. That girl is loved!

giftss
Dana is a baker & chocolatier, so food was a big deal at the shower. We had a shmorgishborg or fall goodies: mini pumpkin pies, pumpkin rolls, apple pie dip, spice cake…

food

Dana’s future-mother-in-law made a beautiful cake, too.

Cake

For games, we played the “Don’t say wedding” game. Dana’s mom, Jen, was the winner — she is a champ at that game. It is impressive!

wedding-game

We also tried a game I’d never played at a shower before, so for a lack of better name I’ll call it the “Paper Plate Bride” game. Here’s the gist. Everyone takes a paper plate and puts it on their head:

plate-game-2

Then someone (me) tells everyone what to draw. They cannot look at their plate.

plate-game-1

I had them draw:

  • a line
  • a bride standing on the line
  • a veil on her head
  • a bouquet in her hands
  • a church next to the bride

At the end of the game, we did eliminations.

plate-game

I had everyone put their plate in the air. Then started running through the elimination. “Leave your plate in the air if the bride is standing on the line.” *plates go down* “Leave your plate in the air if the veil is on her head.” *plates go down* “Leave your plate int he air if the bouquet is in her hands.” *plates go down* … and you get the idea. It was so funny to watch.

wining-plate

We turned the winning plate into Dana’s ribbon bouquet.

dana

For favors and prizes, I made canned goods. Probably not too, shocking, huh? I also design the cutest labels for them all!

CAnned-Good-Favors

I also had signs throughout the house noting the different stations. Everything matched. I loved it.

sign

date-night-jar

My gift to Dana was a kitchen towel cake — I’ll share a tutorial on this soon — and it was one of my the best things I’ve ever made, if I do say so myself.

prizes-cake

It even had pumpkin salt & pepper shakers as cake toppers!! OMG THE CUTENESS!

It was a wonderful day for a wonderful bride. The bridesmaids made it spectacular. Here we are with our favorite bride-to-be!

bridesmaids

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Canning, Recipes

Shiro Plum Jam – a.k.a. Sour Patch Kids Jam

Have you ever heard of a Shiro Plum? Me either. Not until I stumbled upon them at my local farmers market this weekend. I love buying fruits and veggies to can at the farmers market and went last Sunday morning to pick up peaches for a batch of peach  butter (yum). I noticed these bright yellow plums with an irresistible price tag: $1/pint. I had no idea what they were or what I would make, but I took five pints home with me.

Shiro PlumsEver

After I bought them, I heard the man at the farmstand tell another customer that the Shiro Plums are sour — I was nervous, but excited to try to make something delicious with them.

After finishing up a batch of pasta sauce and a batch of peach butter (yes, I was a canning overachiever last weekend), I started working on the Shiro Plum jam. I looked up recipes online, but most called for way more plums than I’d purchased and vanilla bean. I don’t stock that in my kitchen, so I scrapped those ideas.

Instead, I looked to my trusty canning book, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. If you like canning and you don’t own this book, buy it! No, I do not get money from sharing this book with you — although Ball should pay me to be their spokesperson. I’d rock it.

Anyway, I digress. I found a plum jam recipe and decided to go for it, knowing it wasn’t meant for the Shiro variety. Here is my tweaked version of the Ball plum jam recipe.

  • 5 lbs. of Shiro Plums
  • 50 grams of powdered pectin
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 8 cups of sugar

Five pounds of plums gets you about 5-6 cups of plum pulp. To get the plum pulp, all you need to do is break the skin of the Shiro Plum and squeeze the pulp out. It is super easy, super slimy and super fun. Remove the peels. Remove the pit. No blanching necessary.

When all of your plums are pitted and peeled, I suggest putting your pulp through a food processor. Just pulse it a few times, no need to pulverize it. I suggest doing this because the pulp of the Shiro plum can be a bit stringy — sort of like the stringy pulp of pumpkins.

Then, boil your pulp w/ the half cup of water. When it reaches a boil, turn down the heat and whisk in your pectin. When your pectin has been added back in, add in your 8 cups of sugar. You are probably thinking, “Dear sweet lord, that is diabetes in a pot.” Well, yeah. It is Just don’t eat it all yourself and you’ll be fine. It’s definitely more sugar than a lot of the Ball recipes call for, but I didn’t want to stray especially since the plums are more sour than normal plums.

Cook the jam until it starts to thicken. I learned a trick from my trusty canning book — put a plate in the freezer and let it chill. When you want to test the stage of your jam, place a spoonful on the cold plate, then run your finger through it. If the jam parts like the Red Sea and stays parted — congrats, you are the Moses of jam and it is ready to can! If it closes back up immediately, it need to cook longer before it is ready to set.

Shiro Jam

I canned the jam in 10 8-oz. jars. TEN. That means I paid about $.50 per jar (I’d calculate w/ sugar and pectin added, but I hate math). That’s pretty darn good. Process your jars in your water bath for 10 minutes, then take those bad boys out and they are good to go.

I saved a little of the jam so I could try it without needed to pop open a jar and it is so yummy. SO YUMMY. It tastes like Mother Nature’s version of Sour Patch Kids.

shiro jam2

Ever heard of Shiro Plums? Ever made jam from it? I only saw a recipe or two online using Shiro Plums, so I’m interested to hear if anyone else has discovered these little yellow beauties.

Canning, Garden, Recipes

Mint Jelly

I’ve wanted to make mint jelly for the past few years, but never grew enough mint to make it happen. Mint is basically a tasty weed and takes over a garden, so I’ve never planted mine in the ground. Just in a small pot… and even though I have a green thumb in my garden, I have blacker than black thumb for potted plants.

Lucky me, my neighbor offered me a bunch of hers this past weekend, so I got to try my hand at making some jelly! The recipe I followed was from my Ball recipe book  — I highly recommend their home preserving book. It’s one of my favorites! (I get no money from the sale of this book, in case you care) — and I doubled it to make 9 jars instead of 4 or 5.

The mint jelly recipe was a cool one to try for me because I usually make jam. With jam, you use the whole fruit. With jelly, you are using just the liquid. So I got to use a fancy jelly straining bag for the first time! (nerd alert!)

After boiling the mint leaves in water for a bit, I poured the entire mixture into the jelly bag, which then separated the leaves from the mint water mixture.

mintjelly-straining-web

Once I got the amount I needed, I put it back into the pot and added in the sugar, lemon juice and liquid pectin.

A few things I learned:

1. Mint jelly is only green if you add food coloring. Otherwise, it’s a yellow-y color.

2. Even if you aren’t making a huge batch of jam or jelly, use a big pot! I have a stock pot, but opted for a smaller pot for this batch of jelly. HUGE mistake. The jelly bubbled over at one point and has permanently (or so it seems) stickied my stove. Joy.

3. Follow the recipe, even if your jelly isn’t super jelly-like when it is suggesting you take it off the heat. I have a hard time with this because in my mind it needs to be jelly before it is canned. But once your jelly cools and sits for a few days, it will gel up perfectly. If you over boil, it will be rubbery and gross. Listen to the experts — they know what they are talking about (mostly).

By doubling my recipe, I was able to get nine jars of mint jelly.

mintjelly-web

I got a text from my mom (my biggest jelly and jam fan) this morning saying how good the jelly was on her lamb dinner last night. Glad to have found another recipe that I like for canning.

All in all, this took me about 2.5 hours from start to finish, start being taking out supplies and picking the mint, finish being clean-up and jar storage. Not bad.