Posted in Canning, Food, Sauces

Sweet and Spicy Pepper Relish

While waiting in the checkout line at a local grocery store this week, I noticed a monthly cookbook tucked into the magazine rack close to the register.  The front cover and title focused on “Canning and Preserving”.  It was a “Taste of Home” publication and I’ve always been a big fan of the reader provided recipe contributions showcased in the magazine. I’m a sucker for spending extra cash in the checkout lane so I threw the book in my cart.

 As I thumbed through my newly purchased mini-cookbook, a recipe for pepper relish caught my eye.  It looked simple and straightforward so I decided to purchase the ingredients to give it a try. 

The result, a sweet and spicy mixture that’s a perfect condiment for bratwurst links,  steak or baked chicken. Great with anything cooked on the grill…   It can also be used as a flavorful appetizer paired with cream cheese and crackers.



 Here’s the link to the recipe:  

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/autumn-pepper-relish/print

I changed the pepper ratio a bit, but not much…

Sweet and Spicy Pepper Relish

(Adapted for Taste of Home)

6 medium sweet red peppers 
2 medium green peppers

6 jalapeno peppers

4 medium Granny Smith apples (about 1-1/4 pounds)

2 medium pears (about 1 pound)

1 medium onion

3 tablespoons canning salt

2 cups white vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon fennel seed

Seed and coarsely chop peppers. Peel and cut apples, pears and onion into 1-in. pieces. Pulse in batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and toss. Let stand 6 hours. Rinse and drain well; blot dry with paper towels.
In a Dutch oven, combine drained pepper mixture, vinegar, sugars and fennel seed; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 40-45 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Carefully ladle hot mixture into eight hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.

Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 20 minutes. Remove jars and cool for 12 to 24 hours before removing the bands and storing in a cool, dry location.

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Food, Gifts, Toppings

Homemade Triple Berry Jam



Our family loves the taste of homemade jam.  In fact, store bought jam or jelly products just don’t cut it in our household anymore.  While it might seem a chore to cook and carefully process the product, new tools and techniques have truly made canning your own food quite easy.  Making freezer jam is also a great option for those wanting to assemble their own recipe in far less time.  

While I’d love to tell you that this is a secret family recipe, home food preservation involves a careful balance of ingredients and it’s something that I never fool around with.  I always choose and carefully follow a reputable recipe when I’m canning foods for my family.  The reason…these recipes have been well tested for food safety.  Processing times, ingredient quantity, and acidity levels have all been checked and rechecked to eliminate the possibility of food borne illness in the products we hope to safely store on our shelves.



Our favorite way to enjoy this scrumptious treat would be to have the jam slathered all over a great big slice of Irish Soda Bread. While  I’m fond of butter and jam, others in the family love the peanut butter and jam combination.  You can find the recipes for my Irish Soda Bread/Scones here and here



Getting back to the homemade jam, this delicious recipe is one that was carefully tested by Sure Jell, which is a fruit pectin company that makes a product to be used to thicken jams or jellies. You can find the recipe here.

I’ve always had great success with this low sugar recipe and the large fruit pieces in the jam make for a lovely texture and add to the delicious fresh flavor of the product.  



Posted in appetizers/snacks, Canning, Food, Gardening

Preserved Apple Slices

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This week I had the opportunity to attend a series of Master Home Food Preservation classes in central Indiana. I can’t even express my excitement over the valuable information that was shared during the week long certification class. We learned of techniques for freezing, water bath canning, drying, pickling, and pressure canning through PowerPoint slides and hands-on lab time.
It was a long, sometimes exhausting, week where I spent time with other classmates testing various techniques for preserving the best of the season. One important point that I would like to make about home food preservation is one that focuses on food safety…Never use a recipe that has not been tested by a reputable entity such as the USDA or Ball Canning. Use recipes that have been developed no earlier than 1995 as food science and technology specialists have shared new information that focuses on current food safety practices. The USDA is one of the only sources I use for my canning recipes. Here is the link for the National Center for Home Food Preservation/USDA canning recipe book.
You can download the whole book for free. The recipe for apple slices is on page 7. I can’t stress how important it is to use a laboratory tested recipe. It’s a matter of life and death! Botulism is no laughing matter so it’s important that you follow tested recipes exactly as they are written. Do not alter ingredients or quantities. Process as directed. I recommend using recipes as advised and then after you have opened a jar to serve the contents, make your adjustments to spice things up to favor your preference. Then, refrigerate and use up the quantity as directed.
For more information about home food preservation, visit the National Center’s website at http://nchfp.uga.edu.

Posted in Canning, Food, Gardening, Homemade Mixes, Toppings

Perfect Peach Freezer Jam

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While I have always been a traditional jam and jelly maker, I’m thrilled to find so many new products on the market that are meant to make jelly making so much easier and less time consuming. One such product is the instant pectin that Ball has developed specifically for freezer jam. I’ve made several jars in as little as 30 minutes. Those of you with young children can let them take a bigger role in the jelly making as there is no cooking involved. And the process is quick and simple. I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for home made goodness that is quick and simple.
I have included several screen shots of the peach freezer jam recipe calculator from the Ball/Fresh Preserving website so that you can see just how easy this is.
First, go to the Fresh Preserving website…
Here you will find a pectin calculator for your chosen jam or jelly flavor.
Now, find the fruit that you wish to use for your jam or jelly.

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Once you have chosen a fruit, choose whether you would like to make jam or jelly.

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Next, choose the type of pectin you will be using.

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The calculator will then calculate a recipe for you to follow. Super simple!

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Remember, you’ll want to use Instant Pectin…

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Also, this process is only meant for freezer jam. Store these jars in the freezer until you are ready to use them. Store them in the fridge after opening.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Food, Gardening, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box

Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars

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What to do with all of this delicious homemade jam? …Make Oat and Jam cookie bars!
Last week, we canned loads of Concord grapes and tucked the jars away for a year’s worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Thumbprint Cookies, and Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars. Yesterday, I made a small pan of the delicious bars and they were gone in a flash. As we start the new school week, I am going to double the recipe, individually wrap the bars, and tuck them in the fridge so they can easily be packed in the lunchbox.
Starting this week, my children will be adding a morning swim practice to their already long school day so they will leave before 5:30 am and won’t return until after 6:00 pm. This means packing breakfast, lunch, and after-school swim snack into the lunchbox. I usually stock the fridge and pantry with homemade peanut butter, lots of fruits and veggies, eggs, cheese, milk, whole grain bread, yogurt, snacks, and oat cereal so there is plenty to choose from. This recipe is quick and easy to assemble. Use any flavor jam to suit your family’s taste. M has suggested we make a peanut butter glaze to spread over the warm bars…haven’t tried it yet but sounds like a scrumptious idea!

Chewy Oat and Jam Cookie Bars

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2teaspoon baking soda
1/4teaspoon salt
1 cup Concord grape jam. (other flavors will work just as well)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8×8″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix dry ingredients in to the creamed mixture. Press 1 1/2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam over this layer. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam. Lightly sprinkle chopped pecans over the bars. Bake for 25-30 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Posted in Canning, Food, Gardening, glazes, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box, Toppings

Homemade Concord Grape Jam

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We have had a very successful grape growing season and have spent most of the holiday weekend making homemade Concord grape jam.
When our children were little, we used to pick produce like strawberries, blueberries, and apples together and then can the fruit as time allowed. Now that our days are a bit busier, it seems we have little time to do some of the things we so enjoyed years ago.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, our grape vines were bursting with beautiful ripe Concord grapes so we picked them all to prepare them for canning. M was a real trooper and helped me pick and prepare the grapes on Saturday. While we still have quite a few more jars to process, we have adopted a system that seems to work quite well so we should have everything processed soon. I have made two separate recipes to satisfy different family tastes. One that is a traditional Concord Grape Jam recipe and the other is a tart Reduced Sugar Concord Grape Spread that M seems to enjoy. I will post both for those that might be interested. These recipes are found on the Sure-Jel package and are tested as safe by Sure-Jel. Always use a reputable source (USDA, Ball, Sure-Jel, etc.) for recipes and follow strict food safety guidelines when home canning.

Homemade Concord Grape Jam

5-6 cups fresh grape juice (about 3 1/2 pounds of Concord grapes)
1 box of Sure-Jel pectin
7 cups sugar

First make the grape juice by washing 3 1/2 pounds of fresh Concord grapes.

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Mash grapes with a potato masher to break open the grape skins.

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Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 10 minutes. The cooking time starts only after the mixture has come to a boil.

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Strain to squeeze out all the juice with a sieve.

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In a large pan, put 5 cups of the juice. Add the fruit pectin to the juice; mix well. On high heat, bring to a full rolling boil, and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar all at once, and bring back to a full rolling boil, again boil hard for 1 minute stirring constantly. At this time, you can add 1 or 2 teaspoons of butter to help keep the foam down.

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Remove from heat, skim off foam and pour into hot jars; put on hot lids.
Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes.

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Reduced Sugar Concord Grape Spread

5 cups Concord Grape Juice
1 box of Ball (No Sugar or Reduced Sugar) pectin
1 cup sugar

Follow the directions as listed above. This makes a very tart, but slightly sweet version of Concord Grape jelly. You will notice that it is more of a spread than a jelly because of the reduced sugar content.

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Posted in Canning, Food, Gardening

It’s Pickin’ Time

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It’s Pickin’ Time!
Several years ago, we planted a few grape plants on a fence that divides our property from our neighbors. This is actually the first year that we have had success in growing a sizable crop of Concord grapes. In the past, as the late summer heat would coax the grapes to ripen, the deer would wait for the opportune time to mosey over to the vines and demolish the crop in one short evening. M and I would get giddy over the dark purple grapes that were just about ready to be picked and the very next day, they would be completely gone…ripped from the vines by the much more experienced deer.
As my husband was out mowing the lawn this weekend, he noticed that the majority of our grapes were just about ready to be harvested. M and I grabbed all of the available baskets and headed outdoors to pick our crop. We were delighted with the over abundance of fruit. My hubby even joined in knowing that we only had a small window of time to pick the fruit before the deer would come along and swallow up the lot.
This long holiday weekend will bring lots of late summer heat but I am anxious to get my grapes prepared to make batches of Concord grape jelly. While I have been canning for years, I have never tried processing seeded grapes to make jelly. I always rely on the Ball Blue Book to carefully and safely process canned goods. Since this is the first year that we have had a sizable crop, I have searched for recipes all over the Internet. I think I have settled on one or two that I will try. If any of you have a great grape jelly recipe or a few tips that you would like to share…please do so in the comments section of this post. I am hoping to successfully report back in a future post, news about the products of my labor.

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