Strawberry, Thyme, Rosemary, Balsamic Vinegar, Black Pepper Jam (that’s a long one)

It’s 94 degrees in Columbus Ohio.  Standing over a hot stove to make jam was probably not the smartest thing in the world – but when strawberries call…

My running pal, Shawn-sation, came over for a jam session.  Shawn is the collaborator on jams such as “The 14 miler”, “The 4 miler”, “Slap your momma strawberry jam” as well as the persimmon mishap of 2010 (we wont talk about that one).


Fast stirring

1TB Rosemary

1TB Thyme

5 1/2 C. Sugar

5 C. Strawberries

1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar

A healthy hello of black pepper – 10 chunky turns on the pepper mill

4TB Powdered Pectin

1Tb Butter

Add all ingredients except the sugar. Stir until boiling. Add the sugar.  Bring it to a boil again and let it ride for about 1 minute (until jam thickens).  I usually accidentally/on purpose drip some on the counter and test it by running my finger through.  If it doesn’t lose it’s shape right away – then you’re good-to-go.

Follow the usual procedure for packing the jars and using the water bath (process in water bath for 10 minutes).

This jam is super good with goat cheese…mmmmmnnnn goat cheese. Next time, I plan to go a little heavier on the herbs and the pepper.  I was afraid of over powering the strawberries.  I love this jam so much, I can see using it as a regular breakfast jam – Ka Pow!


Hot cha cha hot sauce

I have accepted the fact that this year was a tomato failure. The squirrels had a daily buffet of my garden, but they certainly left my hot peppers alone.  I’ve done several hot pepper jams this year. Today I decided to try my hand at a hot sauce.

Burn your face off

Here’s how you do it.

Cut the stems off your peppers and puree in a food processor or blender.  You can make this entire sauce in the food processor. Warning: Do not touch with your hands – and for pete sakes, don’t touch your eyes! You’ll be sorry! I didn’t have any gloves so I put my hands in sandwich bags.

My pepper puree made about 3-3 1/2 cups

2 cups white vinegar

2 Tablespoons of kosher salt

2 Cloves of garlic

Dump into a sauce pan, and bring to a boil.  Process cans as usual. That’s it!

My hot sauce is green – looks kind of cool.

Did you know, Tabasco sauce is fermented for 3 years before sale?  I don’t have that kind of patience.

Pantalones en fuego: grilled corn salsa

Hot hot hot!  Hold on to your hats – or your pants as the case may be.

2 dozen ears of corn

Random mix of hot peppers from the garden

2 red peppers

3 jalapenos

4 scotch bonnets

2 habeneros

2 tiny purple peppers

1 head of garlic

3 c. tomatoes

3 limes

2 bunches of cilantro

2 Tb salt

1/2 c. apple cider vinegar

1 onion

Loyal assistant, Shawn

This recipe is a mash-up of several I found on the internet.  I had the urge for a smokey hot, mix.  This salsa is the ticket.  Shuck the corn and brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Keep the fire low when cooking on the grill.  Flip frequently for approximately 15 minutes until you have a nice char. Do the same with the whole peppers and the tomatoes (the tomatoes need only about 5 minutes).  Stab each tomato before putting it on the grill so they don’t explode.

When the veggies are grilled, set aside and allow everything to cool.  Take advantage of the grill being on and cook up some italian sausages or something (I was starving!)  Wrap a clove of garlic in foil with some olive oil.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes to roast. Once everything is cool to the touch, zip the corn off the cob.  Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and peel the tomatoes.  Slap chop (infomercial style) the hot peppers and chunk chop the tomatoes. If you’re feeling zesty, slap chop the onion too (or regular chop if you’re a loser). Cut up the roasted garlic and combine everything into a massive pot.

Safety first!  Although you probably have the urge to keep this salsa as fresh as possible and not cook it – don’t!  The salsa must be hot when you put it in the jars or else you will die.  Well, you probably wont die, but your jars will likely explode when you put them into the water bath. No one wins with exploding jars (believe me, I’ve blown up a jar or two).

Add all the ingredients into the pot except the cilantro.  Bring to a boil and add the cilantro at the last-minute.  Salt to taste. Keep a delicious Eddy’s Coconut Popsicle ready in case your mouth catches on fire when you sample.  Use your tried and true water bath method when canning.

A farmer once told me: "If you trip on the way from the field to the house after you picked some corn - your corn isn't fresh enough." Moral of the story. Buy local, fresh corn from the guy that grew it. Hopefully he didn't trip on the way to the market.

Blueberry Hot Pepper Jam

Last year my favorite jam was a peach jalapeno.  Aunt Luanne gave me a massive bag of hot peppers when I was at the farm last weekend.  As everyone knows with fresh produce , the clock starts ticking as soon as those peppers leave the plant.  I had 2 containers of blueberries that I bought last week. Blueberries + Hot Peppers = Love.  I think I may have found this years new favorite jam.

Code Red Warning!

For goodness gracious – wear gloves!  One little drop of hot pepper juice in a small paper cut and your hand burns for the rest of the night.  Never ever ever touch your eyes.  Pretend hot peppers are like poison ivy.  They can seriously rock your world. (Visualize me giving you a serious face and pointing my finger directly at you).

1 cup hot peppers cut small (pulse them in the food processor if you have one). If you want this super hot, leave the seeds in.  I left them in and it’s not for the weak of taste bud.  I personally love it super spicy.

3 cups of blueberries

6 cups of sugar

2 packages of liquid pectin

In a large pot, mash-up the blueberries and the peppers with a potato masher over medium-high heat and bring it to a bubble. Stir in the sugar and mix constantly.  Once it’s to a full boil again, stir in the 2 packages of pectin and cook for an additional minute.  (Full boil means that the bubbles cannot be stirred down). Remove from heat and process jars.

Of course – follow the rules for safe food preservation in jars. 10 minutes is all it takes in the water bath.

Jar of blueberry hot pepper jam dumped over goat cheese = instant “fancy” appetizer.  I will probably eat it for breakfast too.  Nothing opens your eyes in the morning better than a little spice.  Zing!

I’m definitely entering this into the fair.  I hope the judges can handle some heat.


Strawberry Rhubarb Canned Pie Filling

True to my style – I excessively purchased 2 flats of strawberries from Rhodes Farm at the North Market Farmers Market this weekend. These berries were amazing and at the peak of ripeness (aka would turn moldy if I didn’t act quickly and either freeze, eat, or can them). The bad/good news: I had approximately 8 freezer bags of strawberries from last year after my misguided purchase of 4 flats in 2010!  I apparently never learn. I had to finish off those frozen berries before I could make room for the new ones.  I canned 20+ jars of jam yesterday to clear out the 2010 stash of frozen strawberries. Today I hit the pie filling to finish off 2010 and ring in the 2011 strawberry bonanza.

2010 and 2011 strawberries are getting along just fine

Here’s how it’s done:

I wish I could give you exact measurements, but alas – I cannot.  I’ll give you the gist.  This recipe doesn’t need to be an exact science.  If you have fresh berries – cool.  If you have frozen – sweet.  There’s no real way to lose. The Ball canning jar website is a good place to start in regards to learning about canning basics. My recipe will give you the guts of the jars.  Use the website to learn how to prepare and seal the jars.

Before you start.  Put on real shoes.  Canning takes a super long time and your feet need support.  I like to wear my running shoes. My aunt burnt her foot while canning barefoot before – not good. I wear a visor or a headband.  Steam will make your hair crazy and you’ll want to keep adjusting your ponytail.  Don’t do it! You’ll get strawberry goo in your hair.

It's sweaty work

You need:

  1. 2 massive (I mean MASSIVE) pots
  2. Pint or quart jars with rings and lids (just get a case of each – you’ll use them throughout the summer)
  3. Ladle
  4.  Canning funnel
  5. Crappy clothes (you will totally stain stuff)
  6. A million dish cloths
  7. Strawberries and rhubarb
  8. 1 lemon
  9. Cornstarch
  10. Sugar
  11. Long handled tongs
  12. Pot holders
  13. Can lifting tongs
  14. Canning rack (Ball sells a starter kit with everything you need)
  15. Plans to wash the kitchen floor
  16. Sense of humor

Start water in one of the massive pots and bring to a boil.  You’ll need this to process the cans to create a seal. This link will take you to the Ball website. Follow the directions and it’ll teach you how to use a water bath.

If using frozen berries – thaw and use the juice to build 9 cups of liquid.  If you don’t have enough juice – you can use water.  If you’re only working with fresh berries, you won’t have any juice.  You can use just water – maybe about 4 1/2 cups.

I used 1 quart of fresh berries and 5 freezer bags of frozen.  If using all fresh – I would go for about 7-8 quarts.  Just buy a flat from a farm.  It’ll be more expensive than the store, but it’s worth it to give the cash to the guy with dirt under his nails. I cut up 8 stalks of rhubarb.  I love rhubarb so it’s about a 1/3 of the mixture. Frozen berries condense down in the freezing process.  The fresh berries will cook down a bit. If you’re going to make a huge mess in your kitchen – you should go big in my opinion.

Pour the liquid/juice into a big (bigger than you would think) pot.  Add 1 cup of corn starch and 3ish cups of sugar.  I like my pies to be a little more tart.  You may want to add more sugar.  Stir non-stop on medium high heat until the liquid thickens.  Seriously, stir non-stop or the cornstarch will make slimy, white, chunks – gross! 

Add all the berries and the rhubarb to the thick liquid and bring it to a light boil. Squeeze in lemon juice. Ladle the hot mixture into the prepared jars. Be super super careful.  This is when the splashing of the boiling water and the dripping of the hot sugary lava like liquid starts to happen.

At this point – I wish I was savvy enough to put together a video montage that showed the actual canning process.  Boring.

Here’s the good stuff.  It made 6 quart jars and 2 pint jars. It also made a massive mess of my stove top. In the juice gathering process – I dumped about a cup down my leg. Burnt on sugary stuff makes for not fun cleanup.  Was it worth it? Yes.  Will I be happy to have this in an emergency pie situation? Yes.  Did I get a facial from the steam? Yes.  Do I feel like a bad ass for canning in 90 degree weather. Yes.  Mission accomplished.