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Two More Batches of Jam

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Yesterday was a busy day in the kitchen. I had planned on making a batch of both strawberry and blueberry jams. My wife had decided to do some full week meal prep the same day. Communication on each of our endeavors was, how should I say it, absent. We did manage to get our respective tasks done but I was crowding my timeline to get off to my evening workout at the gym! We were both successful!

Not an advertisement but a graphic visual of the low sugar pectin I have had so much luck and success with.

A short clip at an awkward angle of what a “full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down” looks like! It is a common question of novice Jam/Jelly makers.

The delicious foam scraped off of the jam after removing from the heat. I wonder if there is market for such a thing!

Finished product cooling and waiting for labels. I know, the pink towel really doesn’t lend itself to a quality “Good Housekeeping” type of food photo. I need to brush up on the technique.

I have at least two more batches of Strawberry Jam to make and blackberry season starts this week at Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland at my apiary location!

FYI, I inspected the bees out there yesterday and saw the most beautiful and large blackberries! Yes, just to ensure they were ripe, I sampled a couple before the birds had a chance!

TTFN

Bishop

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My Strawberry Jam

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I am about to give away the secret to making my very well received and highly praised, Strawberry Jam. A quote from one of my regular customers, “How can you go back to “Smucker’s” after tasting Bishop’s jam?”

Side Note – I have labeled it preserves in the past but a little research shows that I make jams!

Summary:

1.The differences between jam and preserves are:

2.Jam is made from chopped or crushed fruit.

3.Preserves are made from whole chunks of fruit.

4.Jam contains sugar, pectin, and lemon juice.

5.Preserves are only boiled in sugar.

6.Jam is allowed to jell.

7.Preserves are not jelled in the process of manufacturing.

http://www.differencebetween.net/object/comparisons-of-food-items/difference-between-jam-and-preserves/

It’s not that I do anything out of the ordinary to make my “jams”, other than the fact that every berry in the process is/was hand selected by me! In fact, 75% of the strawberries originate in my garden although I do supplement with strawberries picked, again, by me, at “Wood Duck Farm”, about 25 minutes north of Kingwood. They are grown, as are mine, with no chemicals of any sort.

Laying out some of the tools of the trade. Four cups of sugar minus 1/4 cup mixed with the pectin prior to cooking. I use the Sure Jell pectin for my jams, they are made with 1/3 less sugar than with regular pectin. A spoon to skim the foam and yes I rinse it off after every lick. Green handle magnet to save my pinkies. An 8 ounce ladle…It does help when filling 8 ounce jars. Jar tongs….indispensable for fishing jars out from the boiling hot water just prior to filling. Last but not least, my trusty old, at least 35 years old, canning funnel.

The start of the process; 1/4 cup sugar mixed with pectin and the measured volume of crushed strawberries, just a note here, follow the recipe very darned close!!!!! Too much of the fruit mixture or too little will impact the final results. I use a potato masher to, yes, mash up the fruit, so there are some nice chunks of berry in every jar, a dab of butter to help reduce the foaming. FYI – Not sure if it helps all that much but I can’t argue with the success of the final product.

Follow the recipe; bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, i.e., cannot be stirred down. Note the light pinkish foam around the edges.  Then add remaining sugar – 3 and 3/4 cups, return to full rolling boil for one minute….I just slowly count to 75 and it seems to work for me.

Skim the foam but don’t discard. You have several choices, place in a bowl, refrigerate and use as you would any jam or preserve, or, as my wife does, spread across an egg white & oatmeal frittata, or dig in with a spoon and place directly into your mouth…..my personal favorite!

Ready to can, foam has been skimmed, jars are in a boiling water bath for sanitation purposes, ladle and funnel are ready, magnetic stick finger saver, spoon (recently licked and rinsed properly)….use however you want and the jar lids in a bowl of very hot water to soften the seals.

Grab a hot jar, drain and fill to about 1/4 inch of the topic the jar with the strawberry jam mixture. FYI, there is a tool made to gauge that space but I rarely use it, wipe any excess Jam from rim of the jar, place the lid on and screw the metal band on snuggly.

Once all the jars are filled and sealed, return to the hot water bath, submerge the jars with at least one inch of water covering the jars. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, remove and allow to cool. If you have done a good job you will hear the lids pop down as the jars cool, indicating s good seal.

Next step, distribute and bring smiles to the faces of the recipients!

TTFN

Bishop

Strawberries, Beets and Other Musings

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Let’s start right out in the field.

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This was the first of three buckets I filled in about 20 minutes of picking. The result was 14 pounds of luscious hand picked berries. Wood Duck Farms just 25 minute north form Kingwood….Organically grown and very sweet. http://www.woodduckfarm.com/

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A little clean-up and sorting….I had intended to freeze all of the berries but as it was the day before Easter my bride suggested that I make a plate of the nicer looking berries for fresh eating at our Easter luncheon……Yes Dear! I still manged to sort, clean and slice up about 10 pounds for the freezer to be made into jam. I have picked enough for two batches from my garden so I will have plenty for gifts and for a sale or two or three or more.

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A few of the berries dedicated to our Easter  Luncheon

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Two batches of low sugar strawberry jam….Sure-Jell light recipe, pink box….just 4 cups of sugar per batch vs 6 cups of the regular recipe…..And three pints of Pickled Beets.

Side note on the beets….. I used about 12 medium sized beets and roasted them in the oven at 400 deg. F for 40 minutes inside of a foil pouch. Included in the pouch were 2 tsp olive oil, 2 peeled shallots and two sprigs of Rosemary. What a great aroma….peeled and thinly sliced the beets and layered them into the pint jars with Frenched Red onions….I also learned how to French to onions……old dogs can learn. The brine was boiled for a while to allow the spices to meld. Processed in boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 cups Tarragon wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp of pickling spice.

The bees are coming – can you hear the buzzzzzzzzzzz – 4 packages of bees from Navasota on Saturday April 14 and 6 NUC’s from Jennings, Louisiana on the 12th of April…..looks like I will be a busy boy this spring!

I have decided that my experimenting with banana growing is halting… not enough joy! lots of space consumed and the returns are minor….I need to do this in Belize…..OK – I can dream. I’ll stick with mostly tried and true….with an experiment or two along the way.

Hoisted a swarm trap up onto the big oak in the back yard today. A lot of reports coming in on the “Beek” forums here in Texas with success stories. I need to be careful and not exceed my self imposed limit of ….. No more than 25 hives.

Three more batches of strawberries in the freezer awaiting their fate….Jam is such a sweet fate…And more pickings everyday from my garden. A few asparagus sprouts are being snacked upon, more beets to be picked, snap peas for a bit longer, cucumbers and beans are climbing, potatoes in pots and a few quarts of blueberries in a few weeks. I should also haul in a big load of blueberries from Blakelock’s Berry Farm in a few weeks –  Yum.

 

TTFN

Bishop

Pomegranate Jelly

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I am very sure it won’t be as good as the Pomegranate Jelly that my Aunt Josie made – my first memories of her jelly are from Christmas time nearly 60 years ago. Just saying that phrase – “60 years ago” begins to make me feel a little old! My Uncle Jim was a Foreman for Western Water Works in Taft, CA. -( I think it is called West Kern Water District now….) Back to the pomegranate…..the main yard in Taft was surrounded by a hedge of pomegranate bushes. They seemed to ripen in the late fall which probably coincided with my Christmas season memories of Aunt Josie’s pomegranate jelly.

60 years ago I didn’t know much more about her jelly other than how wonderful it was on my toast! My forays into making jams and jellies is relatively recent, in the past 10-25 years or so. Key differences from those long ago times, Aunt Josie sealed hers with a cap of melted paraffin. I remember seeing a row of 6 or 7 jars on a table in the dining room adjacent to the kitchen. Almost every jar has a little dollop of jelly that had oozed through the wax somehow and …… if no one was looking I wiped my finger through it and into my mouth……probably considered unsanitary by today’s standards but I don’t believe anyone ever became ill.

Now, comparing my jelly to Aunt Josie’s. Several years ago I did make a batch from scratch – a lot of work to extract the seeds and squeeze and make jelly…..Today I took a shortcut. I bought some organic, unsweetened pomegranate juice. My batch from scratch was very much like my Aunt’s, both in color and flavor. My store bought juice resulted in a much darker jelly. My Aunt’s jelly was translucent, like rose pink tinted lens. My offering is dark crimson and only allows a hint of light to pass through the jars.

I terms of flavor….I would say my offering is a more robust and has a hearty pomegranate flavor – still, very pleasant. I made two batches, both resulted in approximately 6 – 8 oz. jars. Batch one was straight up pomegranate.

  • 3 1/2 cups juice
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 packet of Sure Jell brand low/no sugar pectin….pink package
  • 1 smidge of butter to reduce foaming.

I followed the Kraft website’s directions for pomegranate jelly. Jelled up very nicely.

Batch two. – I added two cinnamon sticks and steeped them in the pomegranate juice for about 15 minutes on very low heat. I left the sticks in as I added the Sure Jell pectin and brought the mix up to a full rolling boil. I removed the sticks and added the sugar and followed to recipe as written.

Both batches were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

In the photos shown below;

The single jar is a small 110 ml jar. In bright sunlight there is just a hint of light passing through. Dark and yummy.

The two batches shown side by side; on the right the Pomegranate Jelly and the left Pomegranate with Cinnamon.

Bee News;

Yesterday I drove out to Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland, 23 miles out from the house, to add a honey super to the hive out at the farm.

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Added the medium super yesterday on top of the two deep brood boxes. The girls are bringing in lots of pollen and upon close inspection those without pollen appear to have a bit of a swell to the abdomen. Hmmmmm, could it be Blueberry nectar or some other source? Note: Bumble bee hovering around the entrance before the girls chased it away.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

End of the Week

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It has been a busy week. The bees have occupied some of my time, weeds too much of my time, lovely carrots so sweet when roasted, removing the fading sugar snap peas…..replaced with English Cukes & Straight 8 cucumbers, two loaves of sourdough bread just pulled from the oven moments ago…….fortunately we are  not web-camming as the drool drips from the corners of my mouth, trimming back banana plants to maximize production, making strawberry jam, yard cleaning/kitchen table office cleaning……sister-in-law arriving this evening…..I am already tired and ready for my nap.

The bees, the queen and brood going back into the original top-bar hive over the weekend seems to have gone very well. The companion Langstroth hive is filling with honey!!!!!! Yee Haw! I am also helping the property owner get his garden up and going, feeding his chickens, harvesting eggs and mowing his grass. The things a beekeeper will do to for the host!

The split in Splendora on the “Cowboy” hive failed…..I feel guilty, as it was my mismanagement that lead to the failure. The only saving grace is another lesson learned to add to my prior mistakes. The remaining hive out there is doing well but may have earned a re-queening this coming fall. They are a bit defensive…..yes another one popped me in the face….on the nose.

Strawberry Jam. My “Goo” friend John’s daughter gives me the ultimate compliment for my strawberry jam – when she runs out of mine she falls back to “Smuckers”, she says mine is sooooo much better than store bought…..According to Brittany. I am a fan of the low sugar recipe from Sure-Jell light. Seems to let the taste of the berries shine through. I use Sure- Jell light for all my berry jams!

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The jam, cooked, ready to skim the foam prior to canning. The foam does not go to waste, my wife uses it on her egg-white/oatmeal frittatas.

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Six half pint jars and 3 – 45 ml jars for fun and gifts.

I have to share more about my carrots. As I have mentioned before, my soil has lots of clay but the adding of compost for four years has improved the soil, somewhat. I plant varieties that are shorter, stockier and tolerate the heavy soil better. Well, either a seed mix up or a rogue carrot in my patch. This guy was pretty hefty!

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Frame of reference – I have to order XXL beekeeper gloves and would love to find some XXXL gloves.

Just had to add a bee picture.

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There she is….tucking some pollen away. The symmetry is almost mind-blowing! I just marvel at what nature can accomplish.

Now, butter, knife, warm bread and some strawberry jam. Next slice, butter, knife, warm bread and honey.  Next slice, butter, knife and warm bread! Why can’t I lose any weight??????

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Proofed for 28 hours…..the sourdough flavor is outstanding!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Wild Harvest

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The lazy approach to this post. I have made jam from Texas wild dewberries and jelly with wild plums. I and anxious to add a jam or jelly from each to the wild Texas offerings from below. This is an article from Texas Parks and Wildlife, link included.

Use Texas’ bounty of native fruits for your next pie or jelly.

By Dyanne Fry Cortez

Illustrations By Clemente Guzman

http://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2013/aug/ed_3_wildharvest/

I still recall the summer I discovered mustang grapes.

I was 18 years old, working in a Youth Conservation Corps camp at Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery. One of our projects was clearing undergrowth from the Colorado River bank west of the rearing ponds.

When we started, the place was a jungle. It had huge, lovely shade trees, but they were hard to find in the tangle of weeds, shrubs and vines. Any visitor who wanted to bushwhack a path to the water risked a run-in with poison ivy. Within a week, nearly everyone on our crew had a rash.

Less hostile, but equally abundant, were the gray-green, heart-shaped leaves and twisty, grooved wood of wild grapevines. I’d seen them before (they’re everywhere in the Hill Country) but didn’t know they actually produced grapes until I glanced at a vine we’d just chopped down with our loppers and pruning saws. It was loaded with small clusters of round, deep-purple fruit.

Mustang Grapes

Mustang grapes make a zingy grape jam.

Assured by a supervisor that they were safe to eat, I picked one and gave it a try. Extremely tart, but it had a definite grape flavor. Within the fleshy outer skin, a sweetish blob of white pulp enclosed several seeds. I looked up and saw more grapes hanging in the trees. Not the kind of thing you’d eat by the handful, but they were so pretty. In my teenaged, tree-hugging heart, I just knew they had to be good for something.

On my next off-duty afternoon, I “rescued” a tub of mustang grapes from the riverbank and dropped them off at my mom’s house in Burnet. When my summer gig ended, I came home to jars of zingy grape jam.

Since then, I’ve spent many a July day in search of wild grapes. Along the way, I’ve gotten acquainted with dewberries, agarita berries and prickly pears. There are wild fruits all over Texas. Finding them, gathering them and turning them into something good to eat add up to a great recipe for connecting with the outdoors.

Free food, you say? I wouldn’t call it that. Some wild fruits grow in inconvenient places. Many are armed with thorns or other natural defenses. Some seasons produce abundant crops; other times, it takes a lot of foraging to gather a batch. And some harvests are followed by days of work in the kitchen.

Maybe it’s the challenge that attracts me. Or maybe that first spoonful of mustang jam gave me a lifelong taste for untamed flavor. Here’s a sampling of what Texas has to offer.

Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata)

Range: Edwards Plateau and Trans-Pecos, may appear in other areas
Harvest time: May to early June

agarita

Agarita

With sharp-pointed leaves and red berries, this hardy shrub resembles a holly, but actually belongs to the barberry family. Agarita grows under oak and elm trees, along fencerows and at the edges of wooded areas. Plants that get sun at least part of the day are more likely to produce fruit.

Picking agarita fruit is hard work. The berries are small, a quarter-inch or less, and well protected by the prickly foliage. My favorite way to harvest them is to spread a sheet on the ground and whack the bush with a broom handle or other suitable stick. Scraping branches with barbecue tongs works, too. You’ll lose some fruit in the dirt (but they’ll be enjoyed later by wild creatures), and you’ll get a lot of leaves and twigs mixed in with your harvest.

Back home, I dump the whole collection into a large cooking pot, fill it with water, and let it sit for several hours. Leaves and dirt sink to the bottom; berries float to the top, where I can scoop them out with a strainer. That’s the idea, anyway, and it sort of works. If I spend half a day picking and wind up with two gallons of cleaned fruit, I feel as if I’ve done well.

Agarita makes a pretty red jelly with a flavor all its own. I’ve also seen recipes for a sweetened juice cooler and an agarita wine.

Dewberry (Rubus trivialis)

Range: East and Central Texas, coastal river valleys
Harvest time: May

Dewberry Agarita

Dewberries

Dewberry is a wild blackberry that grows on a low, trailing vine. Its thorny stems and white, five-petaled flowers mark it as a member of the rose family. Berries start out green, then turn red, but are sweetest when they’re black and fully ripe. This is one wild fruit that’s good to eat right off the vine. It’s also good for pies, cobblers and preserves.

Botanist Scooter Cheatham, director of Useful Wild Plants Inc. and lead author of its multivolume encyclopedia, offers this tip for Texas wild harvesters: “When the dewberries are ripe, the green [mustang] grapes are coming along. If you can’t find enough dewberries, put in an equal amount of green grapes, and it makes a scrumptious cobbler.”

Mustang Grape (Vitis mustangensis)

Range: Eastern two-thirds of state
Harvest time: May through July

Several species of wild grapes are native to Texas. The tart, highly acidic mustang grape is the most common. It climbs trees and drapes itself over fences. Large, old vines can be found in wooded areas. I’ve gone hunting many times and found a good bit of fruit hanging too high to pick, even with a good ladder. When they’re within reach, grapes are easy to harvest. Pull them off the stem one by one, or clip clusters with a small pair of garden shears and remove the stems later. Wear latex gloves: the acid in the fruit can irritate skin and leave hands itching for days.

Guten Appetit!, a cookbook published by the Sophienburg Museum in New Braunfels, offers this advice on picking green grapes for preserves or cobbler: “Use grapes that are not mature, about the size of an English pea and before the seeds are hard.” For my own jam, I wait until they turn purple in July.

Other Vitis species grow in various parts of Texas. Wherever you live, there’s probably a vine nearby that could provide fruit for jam, jelly, cobbler or wine. All of our native grapes are dioecious, producing male and female flowers on separate plants. Only female vines will bear fruit.

Western Mayhaw (Crataegus opaca)

Range: East Texas near Louisiana state line
Harvest time: April through May

mayhaw

Western mayhaw

Mayhaw is a type of hawthorn, a small to medium-sized tree that flowers in spring and produces a cranberry-red fruit. It grows in acid soil along rivers and sloughs, often standing in shallow water, but will also grow on dry land. Jim McNeill, a jelly maker of long experience, had a grove of large mayhaws at his home in Nederland.

“They were probably in excess of 75 years old, but Hur­ricane Ike flattened them,” he says.

The fruit falls off when it’s ripe, and mayhaw pickers harvest it from the ground. McNeill would spread a sheet under his trees, catching the fall over several days. If spring rains come at the right time, some locals gather the fruit by taking boats up the backwater sloughs. Rising water lifts fruits that have fallen at the river’s edge, and people scoop them up with nets.

McNeill uses a three-pot steamer system to extract juice for jelly. “Raw mayhaw extract is so bitter it would roll your tongue,” he says, “but the jelly is tops, I gotta say. It’s about the best, other than maybe fig preserves.”

Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana)

Range: Central and South Texas, Coastal Plains and Big Bend area
Harvest time: Fall

persimmon

Texas persimmon

A small tree with attractive peeling bark, Texas persimmon produces black, tomato-shaped fruits about an inch across. As with the wild grapes, fruit appears only on female trees. Common persimmon (D. virginiana) grows in East Texas and makes a slightly larger, orange-colored fruit. Persimmons contain high levels of tannin and are not fit to eat until they fully ripen, begin to wrinkle and go soft.

“When they look bad, they’re actually good,” reports Scooter Cheatham.

Ripe fruit can be eaten fresh or baked into puddings and breads. I’ve seen recipes for persimmon jelly, but never had much luck getting it to jell.

Plums (Prunus species)

Range: Statewide
Harvest time: July through September

plum

Plums

Texas is home to several species of wild plums. The most common, perhaps, is the Chickasaw plum (P. angustifolia), a small tree that forms thickets on prairies and savannahs from East Texas to the Rolling Plains. The rose-colored plums can be picked and eaten right off the tree. Mexican plum (P. mexicana) trees grow larger, up to 35 feet, and are more likely to be found scattered among other trees in riparian woodlands. Its purple fruit is less palatable on its own, “but it makes wonderful preserves,” Cheatham says.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia species)

Range: Statewide
Harvest time: Late summer to fall

Prickly Pear Cactus

 

Prickly pear

It may take an expert to identify the particular species, but most Texans know a prickly pear when we see one. The plants produce showy flowers that mature into cylindrical fruits known variously as pears, cactus apples or tunas. The flattened stems are usually armed with wicked spines. The tunas have spines too: clusters of tiny stickers called glochids, more treacherous because they’re so easily overlooked. Tunas can be eaten fresh, but take care to peel them first.

When harvesting prickly pear tunas, it’s best to wear protective gloves, long pants and boots. Katy Hoskins, who grew up in the Trans-Pecos area and now lives in Sweetwater, uses barbecue tongs to pick tunas off the plant.

“Then I hold them with a meat fork and use a hand-held propane torch to sear off the spines,” she says. Prickly pear fruit makes a hot-pink jelly, a syrup for flavoring candy and drinks or a wine that turns golden yellow after a few months on the shelf.

The Responsible Gatherer

You don’t need a hunting license to stalk wild fruit. However, some practices followed by good hunters apply to gathering as well.

Know your target. Just like shooting the wrong bird can get you a stiff fine, sampling fruit from the wrong plant can make you sick, or worse. Don’t eat anything you can’t identify.

Respect the resource. Birds and wildlife eat wild fruits, too, so don’t take more than you can use. And don’t gather fruit or seeds from rare, threatened or endangered species.

Be careful where you pick. It’s against the law to collect plants or plant parts in state and national parks. Parks run by local governments may have similar rules. Picking on public roadsides is not recommended because of safety concerns. Your best bet is to collect on private property, with permission. If you don’t find any of these plants at your own place, check with a friend or relative who owns some land. Many people lack the time and inclination to harvest their own wild fruit, and are happy to let someone else do the work — especially if they get a pie or a jar of jam as part of the deal.

Recipes

Wild Plum Jelly

(From Janell Turner of Claude)

5½ cups prepared plum juice (see below)
6½ cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin
½ teaspoon butter or margarine

Start with about 5 pounds of plums. Remove pits; do not peel. Put in pot with 1½ cups water and cook until tender. Mash through colander to strain. Bring juice to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Measure 5½ cups juice into 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Measure sugar into separate bowl. Stir pectin into juice. Add butter. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugar. Bring back to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any foam with metal spoon. Ladle quickly into prepared jars.

Persimmon Chiffon Pie

Graham cracker crust
1 cup persimmon pulp
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup and ¼ cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ tsp salt

Beat pulp and egg yolks together. Mix 1/3 cup sugar, gelatin and salt in saucepan. Add pulp and yolk mixture to saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds up on a spoon. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add ¼ cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in the cooked persimmon mix, pile into graham cracker crust and chill.

Online Extra: More Recipes

About jellies and jams

When great-grandma made jelly, she cooked it until it jelled using the natural pectin in the fruit. That’s possible with many of the fruits mentioned here, but it’s tricky. When I’ve faced chiggers, rattlesnakes and Texas heat to harvest my fruit, I don’t take chances in the kitchen: I use powdered pectin (Sure-Jell and other brands). The basic cooking and canning instructions are in the box, so the recipes in this section won’t go into detail about that.

The challenge is getting your harvest to the cooking stage, then figuring out the right proportions of fruit, pectin and sugar – because the recipes in the box usually aren’t written for wild fruit.

Agarita Jelly

Place cleaned berries in a large pot and add enough water to cover fruit. Cook until berries start to pop open, or until they appear tender when pressed against the side of the pot with a spoon. Pour fruit and water into a jelly bag and let it drip overnight. It’s okay to squeeze the bag once or twice, gently. Combine one box of pectin with 6-1/2 cups juice and 7 cups of sugar.

Dyanne’s Low-Sugar Mustang Jam

I’ve made grape jam according to a standard Sure-Jell recipe (5 cups grapes, 7 cups sugar), but sometimes I like to dial back the sweetness and let the tart flavor really come through. This requires specially formulated pectin. It’s a little harder to find: look for a box labeled “light”, “low-sugar” or “no sugar.”

Wash grapes, add water to pot and boil for an hour or so. Pour mixture into a sieve and stir vigorously, forcing through quite a bit of pulp along with the juice. Discard seeds and leftover skins. Use one box low-sugar pectin, four cups pulverized fruit and 2-1/2 cups sugar.

Mayhaw Jelly

(Gail Smith, Harvest Time Farm Stand, Canyon Lake)

Cook mayhaw fruit, mash and strain. Use 4 cups juice to 1 box pectin and 5 cups sugar.

Prickly Pear Jelly

(Reprinted with permission from Native Plant Society of Texas News, July/August 1988)

Rub fruit with a heavy cloth to remove the tiny bristles. Or, better still, hold it over a flame and burn the bristles off. Wash and slice the fruit into a saucepan, then add 2 cups water for each cup of fruit. Cook until soft – don’t hurry! – and strain the juice through a jelly bag or several thicknesses of cheesecloth.

For jelly, use:
3 cups prickly pear juice
½ c lemon juice
1 package pectin
4-1/2 c sugar

Marmeladenkuchen (Marmalade Cake) with Green Grape Preserves

(From Guten Appetit!, Courtesy of Sophienburg Museum, New Braunfels)

Preserves
Pick stems and wash grapes (use grapes that are not mature, about the size of an English pea and before the seeds are hard). Put in large kettle with sugar, a pound of sugar for each pound of grapes. For 5 pounds of grapes, add 2 cups of water. Gently boil until a dark red in color, about 3 hours, stirring often.  Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

Cake
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
¾ cup milk
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt

Topping
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups pecan bits

Marmalade – 1 pint green grape preserves (see above)

Cream butter and sugar together; add eggs one at a time and beat. Add milk that has been combined with vanilla, alternately with flour which has been sifted together with salt and baking powder. Pour into a greased and floured pan (9” x 13” x 2”) and bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 30 minutes.

While cake is baking, prepare topping. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until light and foamy. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until very thick. Fold in vanilla and pecans. Remove cake from oven when done and spread marmalade over hot cake. Pour on topping and return to upper third of oven; bake until lightly brown and crusty. When cool, cut into squares and serve.

Mustang Sorbet

(Justin Arecchi, Justin’s Ice Cream, San Antonio)

Put 1-1/4 pounds cane sugar in large jug and fill with water to make 1 gallon. Stir and refrigerate overnight. Add 1 quart strained grape juice and freeze in ice cream freezer.

Berry Pudding

(Marie Offerman, New Braunfels)

Ingredients for 2 servings:
1 cup crushed dewberries (or any other berries)
2 to 3 T sugar
2T cornstarch mixed with cold water. Adding a small amount of berry juice won’t hurt.
Whipped cream

Combine sugar and crushed fruit in saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, being careful not to burn mixture. After sugar is melted and mixture starts to boil, stir a few spoonfuls into cornstarch/water mixture, then add that back to the saucepan. Continue stirring on low boil until pudding thickens. Put in bowls and cool. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Prickly Pear Juice – No-Cook Freezer Method

(Barton Hiatt, Dripping Springs)

Pick tunas when they are very ripe, almost ready to fall off the plant. Peeling is optional, because the tiny thorns will be filtered out in the final step. Mash thoroughly with wooden mallet and freeze, which will help break down remaining fibrous material. Thaw mash and push through a colander, then strain again through fine mesh. Juice from the first pressing will be very concentrated; it’s good for some recipes, don’t drink without diluting! You can get a second press from the same mash by adding water and putting it through the strainers again. Juice and concentrate can be frozen or used right away.

Prickly Pear Popsicles

(Courtesy of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture)

2 cups prickly pear juice
1 cup water
2T lemon juice concentrate
½ cup sugar or agave nectar

Blend juice and water; add lemon juice and sugar. Freeze in ice-pop makers.

Prickly Pear Punch

(Courtesy of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture)

Two 2-liter bottles lemon-lime soda
8 oz prickly pear juice concentrate
4 oz lemon juice concentrate (to taste)
10 sliced limes (to taste)
Ice (as much as possible)

 

Pepper Jellies

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I am doing some Fall clean up in the garden, pulling up the pepper plants, cucumber vines and pulling more of the ever present weeds.

I grew three types of pepper plants this summer. The most prolific of the trio was the Poblano pepper. The Serrano came in second and the Red Bell pepper was a very distant third. An outcome of the clean-up was a large number of peppers to be used/consumed. In the past I have used the poblanos as trading material at the local farmer’s market as well as trading for a dinner at one of the local Mexican restaurants. I need to qualify the comment about the Serrano pepper plant – three weeks ago it was loaded and I failed to harvest. The result today was barely enough to make a batch of Serrano Pepper Jelly. Poblanos to the rescue!

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Poblano on the right and Serrano the left.

First up this morning was the Serrano Pepper Jelly. It so tasty when completed. We mix it with soft cream cheese as a spicy dip. The use of store bought Red Bell Peppers creates a nice red hue and the bits of finely chopped pepper pieces creates a “confetti” look in the finished product. I don’t usually use liquid pectin when making jams and jellies but past pepper jelly efforts have made a less than firm set. No troubles with this recipe.

Serrano Pepper Jelly

Yields 7 8-oz jars or 14 4-oz jars

Ingredients 

§  1 cup chopped red bell pepper

§  1/2 cup chopped green Serrano peppers/Poblano peppers

§  5 cups white sugar

§  1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

§  1 (6 fluid ounce) container liquid pectin ( like to use Certo brand)

 

Directions 

Step 1: Sterilze jars, lids and rings according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Heat water in a Large pot or water canner.

Step 2: Remove stems, veins and most of the seeds of the bell and serrano peppers. Mince peppers in a food processor.

Step 3:  In a 5-quart pot over high heat, combine bell peppers, jalapenos, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil; boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.  Skim off any foam.

Step 4:  Stirring constantly, add the pectin and let mixture continue to cool for 3 minutes more.

Step 5: Pour into hot, sterilized jars and top with sterilized lids. Secure lids with bands and put back in pot hot water and boil for 5 mins.  Remove from water and allow jars to cool slowly, creating a vacuum seal.  Jars may make a popping noise as they cool.

 Tip: let cool, gently remove the rim and dry the lid and rings (do this very carefully) so that you do not get rusty lids.  Place rings back on but be sure not to screw too tightly then set overnight. Sometimes it has taken 2 weeks for this jelly to set so be patient.

This recipe makes 14 4-oz jars.  I like to put them in small jars because at this size they are a perfect addition to a cheese and cracker plate.  Isn’t the coloring gorgeous?  The flecks of peppers look like confetti.

http://www.marinhomestead.com/recipes/dessert/serrano-pepper-jelly/

I guarantee that it won’t take two weeks for this jelly to set. I had to use a spatula to get the jelly out of the pot when filling the last two jars from each batch. My yield was a little lower than the recipe – 11, 4 oz. jars. In the future I will smoke some of the Poblano peppers and make a “smoked” Poblano pepper jelly. I plan on using pecan wood…..a nice mellow wood. I have read that some that make Chipolte, smoked Jalapeno peppers, use mesquite for a stronger flavor. Maybe next time I’ll use the mesquite.

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Yummy Stuff.

 

TTFN

Bishop

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