Monday, May 14, 2012

Sweet Dill Pickle Relish

I am adapting this from a Mennonite recipe that makes about a years supply of relish, so have patience with me! To make about 8 quarts of relish, you need about a gallon of pickles AFTER they're chopped. If was making this for a lifetime supply of relish it would work, but I don't have that much storage space!

This is what I came up with. I bought a gallon of large, ballpark style pickles from the grocery store and a bag of onions so I could play with the proportions.

About 6 large pickles chopped in a food processor makes about two cups of ground pickles. Two small onions chopped makes about one-half cup of ground onions. This produced 3 pint jars of relish. So here is my final draft of the adapted recipe. To make 6 pints of relish.

  • 12 jumbo pickles (a one gallon container)
  • 4 white onions
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon of tumeric
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard seed
  • 1/4 cup salt for wilting pickles
Chop pickles and onions in food processor. Not to a puree, but close.
Place in a large bowl, add salt and let sit for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, strain off excess juice through a cheesecloth or very fine colander.
Place the mixture into a large cooking pot. Add sugar, vinegar, and spices. Heat until it begins to boil.
Place into pint jars, the recipe should make about 6 pints.
Boil in water bath canner for 10 minutes to seal lids.
Let cool overnight and use "prn"!

Redneck Tomato Garden using 5 Gallon Buckets

To create a tomato container garden you are going to need:
  • 1 five gallon bucket per plant
  • peat or compost
  • fillers such as empty water bottles or soda cans or even beer cans will work
  • drill
  • small to medium growing tomato plants (I used Roma tomatoes)
  • water
  • sunshine
For the good ole' upright tomato plantings.

First dig some empty cans or plastic bottles out of your recycle bin.  Busch Light cans work just as good as any!
Drill 5-6 holes in the bottom of the bucket for water drainage.
Then fill your five gallon bucket up till there is about 12 inches of space left for dirt.
Add your compost or potting soil up to about 5 inches from the top.
Place your plant in the center of the bucket.
Cover roots and stem with soil up to the top of the bucket.  It will pack down after a few waterings and you may want to add more soil.

Plant in a location that will get at least 12 hours of sun a day.
Water every 7-10 days if needed.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Easy 3-Ingredient Strawberry Jam

My grandmother makes the best strawberry jam, store-bought jam doesn't even compare...seriously!   So naturally I thought her recipe was a family secret, or used magical strawberries, and was super labor-intensive to produce such awesome jam.   Nope, she told me that it was just three ingredients that (with a food processor) only took us about 20 minutes to make the first time we made it together.

I will never eat store-bought jam again!

Here is the rediculously easy ingredient list:
  1. 2 quarts of strawberries
  2. 4 cups of sugar
  3. 1 package of Certo liquid fruit pectin
The directions are pretty simple and after you do it once you probably won't even have to look at the instructions that come in the Certo box!

  • Cap the strawberries, wash, and chop (not puree) in a food processor for just a few beats.   You still want them to be kinda chunky
  • Put the chopped strawberries into a large bowl and add your sugar.
  • Add the Certo liquid pectin and stir it in well.
  • Quickly (before the pectin starts to set up) divide your mixture out into your jelly jars.   Cap them, let them set up for a few hours, then they are ready to use!   Place the extra jars into the freezer for future use or give to friends and family as a cute, homemade gift.

I don't have a ton of freezer space so I like to go ahead and put them in a water bath canner to seal the lids.   About 10 minutes in boiling water does the trick, then I can keep them in the cupboard at room temp for up to 1 year.   Great tasting and made with love!   Doesn't get much better than that!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wagon Wheel Herb Garden

This weekend we were fortunate enough to be able to attend the Spring Planting Festival at Baker Creek Seed Co. in Mansfield, MO. There were so many booths with fragrant herbs and tons of varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Not to even mention the flowers! It was difficult to decide what exactly it was we needed to bring home! Luckily I had a good idea of what I was wanting for my veggie and herb garden.

After looking online at herbs that would grow well here in Arkansas, I decided that I wanted to put in a perennial herb garden. There are several kinds of herbs that will overwinter here and can be enjoyed year after year.

I decided on four kinds of herbs that I use the most:
  1. Lavender
  2. Sage
  3. Oregano
  4. Rosemary (a specially hardy variety - Hill Hardy)
In the other two spokes, I transplanted some dill and lemon basil that I had started from seed earlier this year.  They aren't perennial, but I didn't want to leave the two spokes empty!

One of the problems with herbs, especially ones that are perennial, is that they can become invasive. So where to put them? Not in my butterfly garden or vegetable garden or in the middle of my yard! Also, they dont really like to be watered much or put in rich soil or fertilized. They need full sun and need to be planted in the ground because the soil in containers wouldn't be insulating enough for the plant's roots in the winter. So we decided on making another raised bed just for the herbs. This one we did not use railroad ties, though, we bought an old iron wagon wheel from a local flea market for cheap!

Thus the wagon wheel satisfied our needs; good drainage, not-so-great soil, room to spread without restraint, plus it has the added bonus of looking pretty cool in the yard!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mulberry Wine

Our first adventure into the world of wine making starts with the discovery of a large Mulberry tree in the front yard of the house we purchased just last year.  Of course, last year we were so busy moving in and painting and cleaning that we did not even notice the tree...until this year when it literally began raining mulberries on my husband while he was mowing the lawn.

Here is the first chapter in our adventure.

April 2012:

Finding the tree, harvesting the berries (it is a fruit not a berry, in fact) and trying to figure out how to begin wine making from scratch.

After some research, (God bless eHow) we found that to make about 1 gallon of wine using the siphon-hose and bucket method, we would need about 5-6 pounds of ripe fruit per gallon of wine.  Well, there goes our vineyard idea, we would need many, many more mature trees than we have!  So we will begin by doing a bit of experimenting.

We placed a plastic sheet underneath the (very tall) tree to begin catching the berries as they dropped to the ground.  After a day or so we had about half of a 5 gallon bucket full.  Ok so we won't have to pick these by hand and we can use not-so-perfect berries...sweet.  We though that was good enough to work with, so we got online and began looking for a reasonably priced complete wine-making kit to get us started.

We decided on the One Gallon Wine Making Kit from

The kit will be in after a few days and we can begin the second leg of our journey!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hot Pepper Jelly

We are big fans of hot pepper jelly.  You know, the kind you spread out over cream cheese and eat on crackers, especially around the holidays.  We also like to use it marinade pork tenderloin, we put on our toast with butter and we also use it as a dipping sauce for pork steaks.

This year one of my goals is make some hot pepper jelly from the fresh peppers grown in my own home garden. 

My mom loves the stuff and I thought it would be good to do a trial run with some store bought peppers and give her a couple of jars for Mother's Day. 

This was my first attempt and it turned out pretty well!

To make this recipe you will need:
  • 4 twelve ounce or 6 eight ounce glass jelly jars
  • water bath canner (or just a tall chilli pot would work for such a small number of jars)
  • pectin (in the canning aisle), use 2 three ounce packs of the liquid or one pack of the powder
  • about 8 medium sized jalepenos about 1/3 cup when chopped
  • two sweet bell peppers (any color) about 2/3 cup when chopped
  • 2 and 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • food coloring (optional)
  • 6 cups of sugar
  • canning funnel

Begin by chopping up all of the peppers very finely using a blender or food chopper. 
At this time start your water bath or large pot on high heat so the water will be almost boiling by the time you are ready to put in your jelly jars.
Combine the peppers, 6 cups of sugar and apple cider vinegar in a large pot, stir constantly until a rolling boil.
Decrease the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture out into a colander. 
Save about two tablespoonsful of the peppers to add back to the mixture, discard the rest.
Bring mixture to a boil, add pectin and food coloring and boil for 1 minute.
I used just a few drops of red food coloring, but you can also use green, or any color you want for that matter!
Funnel into the jelly jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headroom.
Put the lids on the jars "fingertip tight".
Place in the boiling water bath.  Boil for 10 minutes, or longer if you can tell the lids still havent "popped" and sealed shut.

Remove the jars from the bath, turn upside down and let cool overnight.
They next day you can put them in the cupboard for storing or put in the fridge for immediate use!