Archive for the ‘jam’ Tag

07-11-2015 Journal – Garden Update!   Leave a comment

With warm weather finally arriving the garden is almost out of control.  Many of the plants that were previously damaged by my marauding skunk have recovered. Almost every pepper plant of which there are many are now blooming and others already have jalapeños that are ready to be harvested.

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The newly installed fence has completely stopped all of our little woodland friends from nosing around at night but there are indications that one of them has been testing the fence, trying to find a way in.  I could see tracks in the dew on the grass where the skunk has completely circled the garden checking every inch of the fence.  If he keeps this nonsense up I may be forced to remove him permanently.  I was hoping I could avoid bloodshed but maybe not.

The better-half’s flower gardens are in a constant state of color and are looking gorgeous.  She has such a large variety of flowers that there always seems to be something blooming somewhere on the property.

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After a two year wait I’ve begun to harvest my rhubarb.  During the better-half’s jam making frenzy last week it was used for the first time to make strawberry/rhubarb jam.  I had some of the finished product for breakfast yesterday and it was well worth waiting for.  It’s amazing that such an ugly plant can taste so damn good.

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Last evening we had guests for dinner which I prepared on the grill. The better-half’s dessert was a rhubarb/strawberry/blackberry/blueberry crisp.  It was even more delicious than it sounds. A nice big piece of that crisp with a huge dollop of Kool-Whip.  It just doesn’t get much better than that.

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At the rate the garden is growing we’ll soon be very busy with pickle making and canning.  Without a doubt this will be a year where everything exceeds all of our expectations.

07-07-205 Journal–Moving on to Summer!   Leave a comment

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‘Don’t look at this image, it might be against the law here in Maine.’

With the holiday weekend coming to an end summer has officially been declared here in Maine.  Even with that being said we still sat on the deck over the weekend in hoodies and sweatpants because it was a wee bit nippy. So it’s onward and upward to the many summer activities soon to come.

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‘Hot Bread & Butter Pickles’

We had a stay-at-home Fourth of July this year which we both found rather enjoyable. We relaxed on the deck until dark and then decided to be outlaws and lawbreakers.  For decades it was against the law in Maine to own or use fireworks. Two years ago the ban was lifted and fireworks stores sprung up overnight and everyone happily thought their future holidays could be celebrated with a little noise. Oh how wrong we were.

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‘Strawberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Rhubarb, and Triple Berry Jams’

It’s impossible for politicians, local or otherwise,  to keep their collective noses out of everyone’s business for more than a heartbeat.  The town politicos then began to play their silly little games by passing local ordnance to ban the use of fireworks once again. It’s just like a bunch of political morons on a power trip to pass another law that can’t be enforced.

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‘Smoking Hot Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salsa’

As dark ascended on the neighborhood the law breaking began in earnest.  It sounded like the first night of D-Day at Omaha Beach in Normandy.  Every neighbor was trying to out do the others and being the weak minded idiots that we are, we joined right in. Sparklers, Zippers, Rockets, Roman Candles . . . you name it and we had it.  All of that noise and law breaking going on and not one police car was ever seen.  They were probably sitting at home in their driveway while their kids set off their own fireworks.  It was a lot of fun, no injuries or deaths reported, and the cleanup the next day was only about twenty minutes.

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‘Honey & Maple Mead’

The remainder of the weekend we were kept very busy.  B & B pickles were made and canned, an assortment of jams were made and canned, and I finished my first batch of salsa for 2015. It yielded thirteen and a half quarts of a salsa that’ll make your head sweat.

We are definitely on a roll for 2015.

07-03-2015 Journal – Wine and Jam Day!   Leave a comment

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‘While we were working the cat was meditating.’

My last posting concerned our short but successful foray with strawberry picking.  Even though we only managed to pick three quarts before the rains came, we still considered it a moderate success.  It also succeeded in motivating my better-half into a jam making frenzy yesterday.  It required another trip to the food store for additional strawberries, blue berries, and black berries with rhubarb harvested from our garden as well. As you can see in this photo the rhubarb plants are out of control and trying desperately to take over the garden. 

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She worked diligently for five hours and the results were impressive.  She made one batch each of strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, and blueberry jam. She also completed two additional batches of tripleberry which has become a favorite of everyone (blackberry-blueberry-strawberry) who has tasted it.

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Of course I did my best to taste them all as they were being made, bobbing and weaving to avoid those painful hand slaps. They were all over-the-top delicious and I can’t wait to add the strawberry/rhubarb jam to my breakfast menu.

While she was completing the jam I was in another area of the house preparing to bottle my first experimental batch of wine for 2015. My goal was to make a wine unique to Maine and one never made by anyone else.  I thoroughly searched the net but could find no references to this type of mead. It was made from raw maple syrup and fresh honey. 

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The final product was a clear and sweet mead with a faint bouquet of maple. It was a good first effort and with some fine tuning of the recipe I may make it again soon.  I bottled three and a half gallons into various size bottles and kept one for myself. I always volunteer to be first to sample anything containing alcohol before giving it to others. 

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After two glasses I felt that special glow I’m always looking for.  Testing with my vinometer indicates an alcohol content between 7-8%, more than I anticipated.  All in all a really successful experiment.

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The batch was corked and capped and will go into storage for a few months and then be tasted again.  Most wine improves with age and I look forward to an older version of this mead to enjoy through the winter months.

07-01-2015 Journal–Strawberry Picking!   Leave a comment

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Even though it’s been raining off and on for a week we here in Maine must make the best of it.  It’s always been my policy that if I don’t have to shovel it, I’ll just sit back, relax, and enjoy it. 

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My better-half arrived home from work all excited about something.  I was then coerced into changing clothes and rushing out the door with a promise of a free meal at a restaurant later in the day.  I really didn’t feel  much like going out but if I can scrounge a free meal, what the hell.  We were on our way to meet with her daughter and grandsons to pick strawberries.  Control yourself, it’s not as exciting as it sounds.  This is one of those summer time activities that seem to be mandatory here in Maine. We also have apple picking, blueberry picking, and occasionally nose picking.

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My better-half the bargain hunter attempted to explain to me just how much money we’d be saving rather than buying the berries from a food store.  Instead of paying $3.00 a quart at a store we could spend our time driving to a distant farm (my car of course), picking the berries in our own little containers, and returning home. All of those thrills and we only had to pay $2.60 a quart.  On top of that we were being helped (I use this term loosely) by a two year old who ate more than he picked.  Yeah we saved money alright. . . . NOT.

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The farm was a little crowded and the skies were threatening rain again.  No sooner did we arrive when the daughter-in-law scooped up the kids and headed home.   I think she may have been way over her fun limit for the day. Since the primary reason for our outing was to see the kids we were left with nothing to do but pick berries.  For me that was a Lose-Lose situation.

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We managed to pick three quarts of berries, paid the money-saving price and escaped just as the rain began. This jam the better-half will be making tomorrow had better be the best damn jam she’s ever made.  On top of everything else I was screwed out of my promised free meal.  You just can’t trust anyone these days I guess.

09-27-2014 Journal Entry-Drinking Wine Before It’s Time!   Leave a comment

With most of the gardening chores completed things have slowed down around here a bit.  Who am I kidding?  We’re just killing time until the day the “Fair” opens.  That would be the Fair held every year in Fryeburg, Maine.  It’s by far the largest event in the state and it’s a week long party for the many thousands of attendees from all over the country.  We’ll be attending next week and it will be twelve hours of farm animals, large crowds, crazy good food, and hundreds and hundreds of photographs.  So like I said we’re just killing time until the Fair.

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Today I’ve been completing a number of small projects which required very little effort on my part.  As I was walking through the house I remembered one thing that I absolutely had to do sooner rather than later.  It was time for the Concord grape wine to be bottled.  It’s been almost three months in the making and the fermentation has finally stopped.

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The final product is a beautiful dry ruby red wine with an unbelievable bouquet. So it’s a half hour of washing bottles and making my usual mess.  I tend to be a bit clumsy and if I don’t spill at least one bottle of wine in the process I just don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.

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There’s nothing like siphoning wine through a little plastic tube, spilling it on the floor, down your leg, and onto nearby books, papers, and house pets. Curiosity may have killed the cat but in this house a good squirt of wine onto a persistently nosy cat is as good as it gets.

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After filling and corking nineteen bottles it was then time to put on the fancy gold PVC covers.  This requires a large pot of boiling water into which the bottle tops are quickly dipped causing the cover to shrink and seal the corks. It’s imperative that the bottle not remain in the hot water for more than a few seconds or there will be trouble. That truth became immediately evident when my first cool glass bottle was held into the boiling water for more than four or five seconds and the top exploded.  Now I’m down to eighteen bottles but with a much better understanding of things I shouldn’t do.

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I finished the remainder of the job but held back another bottle for the better-half and I to have with dinner.  I poured myself a large glassful and waited for her arrival from work.  I found out in the middle of the second glass that there was definitely a sufficient amount of alcohol in the wine.  I had a wonderful glow on which translated to my canceling dinner. There was no way I could safely cook without possibly burning down the house.

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When the better-half arrived home she drank a couple of mouthfuls of the wine, declared it delicious, and then immediately opened a beer (she isn’t much of a wine lover).  She made her own meal and I ended up having an off-the-cuff snack consisting of Wheat Thins, a dab of Smart Balance and peanut butter with a dash of triple berry jam.

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This batch of wine has passed my final acid test.  Any wine that can make me eat this slop for dinner  contains more than enough alcohol.  I tested it with my vinometer and it contain just a hair more than 9 percent.  That makes for an excellent batch of 18 proof red wine, more than enough to make almost any food edible.

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