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Colors of Summer

Favorite Colors of Summer:

Blue

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Freezing blueberries is easy. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a sheet of foil, then lay a kitchen towel on top. Rinse a whole bunch of just picked berries or just bought berries. Transfer them to the towel. Give a little shake to give the towel a chance to absorb all the excess water. Carefully remove the towel. Pull out enough berries to have just one layer of berries in the tray. Freeze until firm and then transfer to a plastic bag for safe keeping in the freezer.

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What do you do with the blueberries you pulled out of the tray? Why, eat them, of course! I still have probably 8 pounds of blueberries to get through. It’s a good thing blueberries keep well in the fridge.

Red.
This is possibly our all time favorite color so far this season.

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The boys kept saying over and over how this is their favorite shade of red. I agree. I loved watching them work together to pit all 6.5 pounds of cherries that we picked. Having little helpers around is really great.

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We made the sour cherry jam that I made last year, only I doubled the recipe and added 2 tablespoons of kirsch at the end. Booze=yum! We had enough cherries for jam and a tray to freeze for later.

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The jam is heavenly when combined with greek yogurt. Summer color doesn’t get much better than this. What’s your favorite color of summer so far?

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Score: Me – 2, Apples – 4

It has been over a week since we went apple picking. If you’ll remember, we had 8 half bushels. Well, we gave away 2, so we had 6 left. After a week, we still have 4. We have probably eaten the equivalent of a half bushel or maybe a little less. In any case, here’s what you can get from approximately one half bushel of apples:

1 apple cake–This was the first thing I made using the apples and the first time I used this recipe. It was good and I loved the fact that the apples did not have to be peeled, BUT the cake took about 30 minutes longer to bake than the recipe suggested. Either my apples were too big or the recipe was wrong. In any case, if you want to make this, just know it will bake longer, or you could try a 9 inch pan instead.

2 apple breads–The dough looks like a crazy mess when you put it in the pan, but turns out to be nicely rustic-looking after it is baked. I imagine this would make really good french toast.

3 quarts of apple sauce-these were made from the leftover pulpy apples that I got from making jelly-easy and so economical too! These are destined for the freezer.

4 batches of dried apples – each jar contains 7-8 apples and each batch takes 12 hours in the oven to dry. I put them in when the boys go to bed and take them out when I get up in the morning. I may write up a little post on how to do this–would anyone be interested?

5 well, there isn’t a 5 of anything, though I did briefly think about making 5 caramel apples just so I could have something to list under the number 5–I clearly did not get around to it.

6 jars of apple jelly-I am proudest of these stained-glass beauties. Making jelly is more magical than making jam. Plus, it takes me back to my childhood. Did anyone else grow up on apple jelly? We always had it in the house. Most people I know grew up on grape jelly or strawberry jam. I am the only one I know who grew up on apple jelly.

Well, there you have it–all from one overflowing half bushel of apples. I have four more. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! Does anyone have a favorite apple recipe you would recommend? The more apples a recipe uses, the more likely I will be to try it!

Flipping Out

Today I am so excited I could just burst!  I had an entire blog post written up for today already, but I’m going to save that for another day because I’ve made three exciting discoveries lately that I just have to share with you.

The first, I sorta already shared last week.  Did you think I was kidding when I said I was going to go out and look for another wooden spatula?  Well, actually, I did not go out specifically looking for a wooden spatula, but when I happened to find one, I immediately snatched it up.  This one I found in this fun gift shop in Hampden that is just a few doors over from one of our favorite restaurants in town.  There were matching spoons and other things, but I only got the spatula and I love it already.  See?

Isn’t it perfect?

Secondly, I am planning today to make some more tomato sauce.  Last weekend, I bought a 25lb box of them and made 7 jars right away with about half of the tomatoes.  The rest I have been storing to make some more sauce when I had some time.  Do you want to know how I’ve been storing them?  This is the second exciting discovery.  Look.

Yes, they’re in the freezer.  When I made the first batch of sauce, the pot looked like this.

The tomatoes go in the pot, skin, seeds, and all.  I simmered it for a long time and then put it all through the food mill.  This is supposed to be an easy way to cook the tomatoes and then get all the skin and seeds out of your sauce quickly.  That did not happen for me.  It took me an Hour to put those tomatoes through the mill.  I’m not really sure why, but it was just a pain.  Maybe I need a new food mill, maybe my tomatoes weren’t ripe enough, I don’t know.  What I do know, is that I had a sore shoulder afterwards and I did not want to do that again.  So, I looked around discovered that some people put their tomatoes in the freezer to help get the skin off more easily.  And you know what?  It works like a charm!  I love it!  Even my kids can do it.

I considered just leaving them in the freezer to use whenever I needed tomatoes, but we don’t really have the freezer space to spare for that.  If you want a step by step (really, there’s only two steps–it’s so easy) go take a look at this video.

Now, my third exciting discovery has just about had me dancing for joy in the streets.  You know how I like to make jam?  Well, I also love to look at cookbooks.  So, when I saw The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook at the library, I picked it up.

At first glance, it is an amazing collection of recipes and I especially love how the recipes make A Lot of jam.  Now, since I already know how to can stuff, I sorta skipped over the how-to-can stuff section at the beginning of the book.  But, when a recipe I was reading had an interesting set of steps, I decided to look in the technique chapters to see if she had an explanation for this.  I didn’t find the answer to the question I had, but I found something else that may revolutionize the way I can.  Forever.  In fact, this is so good, I can hardly believe that it would work.

Brace yourself for this one.  She cans her stuff in the oven. The Oven!   I had to read it three times to make sure I was reading it right.  Then, I went to the person in the house who knows all about heat things–the husband.  And you know what he said?  “Yeah, that should work. ”

Now, I must warn you, I have done a little research and this method is not recommended by the USDA or any government agency that gives canning advice.  From what I can gather, it’s all about whether the food inside the jar reaches the correct temperature for the required amount of time.  The variations in ovens and conductivity of air versus water are the main issues.  That being said, there seems to be a lot of controversy about it, but apparently, many small companies that make and sell jam use this method.  Also, after talking to the husband some more, I felt confident that this method is no more risky than the boiling water method, provided you keep everything as hot as possible and all utensils as clean as possible.

Well, I’m no expert and I can’t tell you how to can your stuff, but I gave it a try last night with some peach butter and my jars sealed just fine (though one of them did take awhile, but this has happened with the boiling water method as well).  It was extremely easy–no boiling water!

And, you can fit more jars in the oven.  Really, only time will tell if these jars will keep as long as others that I’ve canned.  I’ll have to let you know next year if it worked, but I am excited to have discovered this method and I Really hope it works!