This post is going to ramble a bit. Consider yourself warned.
I am not a huge fan of summer weather. Maryland summers are humid, hot, sticky, stormy… I am more of a spring and fall weather kinda girl. That being said, summer really is the best season ever. The days are longer, schedules free up, activities are more active… and my favorite… the food! My garden has been doing really well this year. And just like last year, I want to really expand my planting area in the future. I only did a little expansion this year, mainly because I didn’t want to fork over too much cash money.
I’ve got 10 tomato plants, peas, strawberries, green beans, lettuce, peppers… all sorts of goodies. And what I don’t grow in my garden, I have been really enjoying shopping for at local farmers markets! It’s great to eat local foods and to support small businesses and farmers.
I am so lucky that we have a farmers market ON CAMPUS at the University of Maryland. Every Wednesday I walk over and buy delicious, fresh goodies. This week I bought blueberries, raspberries and tomatoes. Did I mention we also have a sustainable food truck!?! I bought a lamb sandwich and fresh lemonade. It was AMAZING. The vendors sell so much yummy stuff (hormone-free meats, fresh-baked pastries, dipping sauces, fresh eggs…). You name it, you can probably find it there — well, as long as it is in season.
As if that wasn’t awesome enough, Howard County offers a traveling farmers market. I’ve only gone once at the beginning of the season, but it too was a great experience. I bought fresh eggs and some yummy greens. Fresh eggs are amazing. I want my own chickens… too bad my dog would probably play with them to death.
I’ve really gotten into eating fresh, organic produce lately so I am going to interrupt my own post to share some awesome blogs I’ve stumbled upon recently and I love. If you are interested at all in eating organic or less processed foods, check out these three awesome blogs: Food Babe, 100 Days of Real Food & Deliciously Organic. I’ve got a whole organic chicken in our crockpot cooking for dinner tonight using a recipe from 100 Days of Real Food. My step sister also has an impressive blog about eating healthy: Fuel My Family. They are all awesome — check ’em out.
Also, don’t worry. I’m not about to turn this into a health food blog. Just figured I’d share since I started rambling about vegetables today 🙂
OK, back to farmers markets.
The real reason I wanted to write this post was to talk about how Dana, my bff, has started selling her baked goods at a farmers market in Laurel! That’s right, Little King’s Confections will be at the Main Street Farmers Market EVERY THURSDAY! I am so proud of her 🙂
OK, ramble almost over. See that logo on Dana’s booth? Yup, I designed it. It was really simple to do in Adobe Illustrator. I used the fonts Lavenderia for “Little King’s” and Code Light for “Confections.” The crown was a free clip art that I swapped from black to white. It is adorable 🙂
I got the most random appliance for Christmas (I asked for it, btw) — a jelly and jam maker! I absolutely love making homemade jams and jellies and thought I’d share a recipe or two with you guys.
Today I made strawberry jam. It’s the hubby’s favorite and it is so soooo delicious. I like making my own because I don’t have to put nearly as much sugar in it as the store-bought jellies. Plus, it is tastier.
Here’s what you need (yes, real measurements! I know, that’s crazy coming from me.):
2 lbs Strawberries
1 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp pectin
3/4 cup sugar
Before I start I should add that this recipe will work on the stove as well. The jam maker is preset to make jam or jelly and has a stirrer in the middle so nothing burns. It’s just a glorified pot. (But it is awesome!)
First, cut up your strawberries into little bits. If you like your jam chunkier, leave some bigger chunks of the fruit.
Next, mash your berries with a potato masher to get some of the juices loose and the strawberries extra squishy.
Add your strawberries, butter and pectin to your jam maker and turn it on. In my jam maker, the preset time for jam is 21 minutes. If you make it on the stove, cook on medium heat for about the same amount of time.
Side note: I had no idea what pectin was before I started experimenting with my jam maker, so here’s what I’ve learned. Pectin is a natural substance found in apples that helps fruit to gel up. For fruits with a lot of pectin in them, you do not have to add pectin to make the jam or jelly (although it doesn’t hurt). Berries don’t have a lot of pectin, so you need the added stuff. I buy mine on Amazon.
After 4 minutes, add in your sugar. Cover and walk away and let the pot do its work.
Come back in 21 minutes to a steamy pot full of delicious jam. If you want to can your jam, do it immediately while the jam is still boiling hot and you won’t have to boil your jars to seal them. Simply place your seal and your lid onto the can after it is full, then flip it upside down. The heat from the jar’s contents will seal the jar and make it last for about a year.
The jam will also burn badly if you spill it on yourself. I learned this the hard way after spilling a bunch of boiling peach jam on my hand. Be careful!!!
If you are going to use some right away, plop it into a container and place it in the fridge. Once it is cool, try it out!
(Don’t just my white bread. … It’s what the hubby likes and mine was out :p)
The main reason I am sharing this recipe is that when I got my jelly and jam maker it came with a recipe book. This recipe book called for a ton more pectin (which is expensive) and a TON more sugar. I’m talking three cups. Gross. I think the recipe I have here is a really good one that I plan to use from now on with this jam.
Saturday was a blur. I participated in the Trash to Treasure Green Craft Fair and had a great time. A big “thank you” to those who stopped by the fair, and an even bigger “thank you” to by best friend Dana, my sister and my mom for stopping by and keeping me company throughout the day. Fairs are exhausting and having you there to help was really great.
Sunday was a blur. We made applesauce. All. Day. Long.
Seriously. Emily and I got to Dad’s house around 8:30 a.m. and immediately got to work making applesauce. We worked hard all day long, finally finishing up at 5:45 p.m. The hard work was worth it because we ended up with 72 jars of homemade deliciousness.
If you ever want to try making applesauce, I totally recommend it. It’s hard work, but it is also fun, smells amazing and tastes even better than it smells.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Apples: Duh. We used 3 bushels of apples (Two bushels of Red Delicious; One bushel of Golden Delicious) for 72 jars. Depending on how many you want to make… well, you do the math.
Alcohol: We used Brandy this year. In years past, my dad has used Amaretto. Try what you’d like. The Brandy is the bomb, though. I definitely recommend it.
Making applesauce is a many-step process. First, clean your apples and take all of the stickers off. If you want some extra fun, toss your apples into the sink. It doesn’t matter if they bruise, and it is great fun throwing fruit!
It is also important to sanitize your canning jars. We ran ours through the dishwasher, but you can also boil them. Clean your rings and lids, too.
Once your apples are clean and your jars are ready to go, it is safe to start cutting up your apples. I cut my apples into quarters, slicing through the core. Then I cut out any seeds and halved the slice. Set your apples aside until you have enough to steam.
Put your apples into a pot and fill the bottom with a few inches of water. Since apples have a lot of water in them, you don’t need to fully boil them to make them mushy. A little steaming goes a long way.
For this part, we used a regular-sized kitchen pot and a larger stock pot so we could have two going at one time. Talk about efficient.
Once your apples are super mushy, it is time to put them through the apple grinder. I’m not sure if that is the official term, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say it’s not. You get the idea though.
The “grinder” has three important parts to note. First, there is the top where you put the apples in and mash them down into the processor. You can fill the white tub all the way with apples, but be careful not to splash the water onto yourself because it is HOT! We learned this the hard way.
Next, there is the sieve where the applesauce comes out. That is the portion with the large bowl right underneath of it. Finally, above the smaller bowl is where the peels come out. This contraption is awesome and such a time saver since you don’t have to peel all of your apples!
Once we had enough apples steamed to start making sauce, we put pots and pots full of them through the grinder. A few tips: Be gentle when mashing the apples down into the processor because stuff will go flying. Also, send the peels through a couple of extra times before tossing them. You can get a little bit more applesauce out of them!
Once you have a big ol’ bowl full of applesauce, it’s time to add your extras in. We don’t measure in our family, so just add what seems right to you. It’s the Bauer way. Here are a few of the concoctions we came up with:
1. Plain Jane applesauce: Applesauce, sugar and cinnamon (We added red hots to most batches of this, too. And, sometimes we put in vanilla!)
2. Brown Sugar applesauce: Applesauce and brown sugar — hold the cinnamon
3. Boozy Sauce: Applesauce, sugar, cinnamon and Brandy (We also added red hots to this)
4. Peppermint Sauce: Applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, crushed-up candy cane and red hots
5. Holiday Boozy Sauce: Applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, Brandy, red hots and crushed-up candy canes (This one is AMAZING. Seriously, it’s so freakin’ delicious)
6. Pear Sauce: Instead of apples (or in addition to apples), do this same process with pears. Add sugar and cinnamon!
7. Cranberry Sauce: Applesauce, cranberries (send these through the grinder), sugar and cinnamon
For any of these recipes, you can sub out sugar with Splenda. That tasted great, too.
Once your applesauce is mixed up in your bowl, transfer it into a mason jar using the jar funnel and a ladle.
You can also add red hots to the top of the jar before adding your lid.
Here’s a few important things to remember. 1. Leave about an inch or so of head room at the top of your jar. Do not fill your jar to the tippy top. 2. Make sure there is no residue on the top or sides of your jar where your lid will seat or it will not seal properly. 3. As you make different batches of applesauce (one or two bowls = batch), write on the lids in permanent marker what type they are so you can tell later on.
As you are getting ready to can your applesauce, soak your sanitized lids and rings in hot water. This helps them seal to the jar.
Place your warmed lid on top of your jar, then the canning ring around it. Do not screw it on too tightly or your jar won’t seal. Then, place them into boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes.
When they’ve boiled long enough, grab your jabs using a jar grabber (again, probably not a technical term), and place them onto a drying rack or on a towel. Don’t place them directly onto a cool counter because the temperature differential could cause them to break.
Here’s the most important thing — make sure your jars actually seal! When you set them aside to cool they will often make a single popping sound as they seal. That is GREAT! How do you know if they are sealed? Well, if you can press on the lid and it moves up and down and makes a clicking sound, it isn’t sealed. A sealed lid won’t move much and will have seemingly been sucked downward into the jar. If your jar doesn’t seal properly, your applesauce will spoil. We had to re-seal a bunch of jars — definitely invest in real Ball Mason jars and lids and avoid cheap knock-offs. Our cheap lids didn’t seal well at all and we ended up redoing most of them using Ball lids instead.
Once your jars are sealed, store them until it is time to gift, gift, gift! Like I said earlier, we made 72 different-sized jars. I took home 27. SWEEEEET.
I plan on making labels for mine before I gift them to friends, family and coworkers for the holidays. I also hope to make this a family tradition each year. My Dad used to do it years ago and I finally got him to do it again this year and teach me and Em how… I really hope we keep this tradition going. I love family time and I love me some homemade applesauce.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and encourage you to check out my sweet video at the top of the post. Yes, it’s a goofy DIY by yours truly. I think it turned out pretty well!
Thanks for stopping by.
And seriously… try the Holiday Boozy Sauce. You won’t regret it 🙂