Saturday, August 13, 2011

Birthdays and Beets

Today is my friend Jessica's birthday. In honor of this special day, I thought I'd share a recipe that combines several of the items she dislikes most: beets, cabbage, hot, humid conditions and grilled meat. I gave her the heads up about it. Still waiting to hear how many jars I should wrap up for her for the big day.

I'm a relatively new beet-lover. They seem to grow well in our garden and we usually find ourselves with an overabundance of them. This awesome smoked beet recipe from Jamie Oliver is my favorite way to prepare them for eating. However, last year, we had eaten all the beets we could manage and still found ourselves with more. So, I turned to my favorite canning cookbook and found this recipe for Red Root Relish. I had most of the ingredients on hand, so I decided to give it a try. We weren't really sure what we were going to do with it at the time.

Soon after I made it, we discovered some great bratwurst at our downtown farm market. They are made by Neil Smith of Garden Gate Farm. The bratwurst and relish go together perfectly. This year, when we ordered a pork half from Garden Gate, we had them make all of the sausage into bratwurst. Yesterday, I decided to make a new batch of relish, as we were running a little low. This recipe is fairly simple and straight forward, especially when compared to some of my past canning projects.

(From the Ball Book of Home Preserving)
(makes 4 pints)

4 c. peeled, diced cooked beets
4c. finely chopped red cabbage
3 c. white vinegar
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. finely chopped onions
1 c. seeded, finely chopped red bell pepper
1 T. prepared horseradish
1 T. salt

First, you 'll need to cook the beets. Clean, trim and cover them with water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and boil gently until tender. Mine took about 35 minutes. Rinse in cold water, cool slightly, peel and chop.

Next, you'll need to prepare your canning supplies. My canner takes a LONG time to come to a boil on my glass cooktop. (I believe you are not actually supposed to can on a glass cooktop. An alarm usually sounds when I do. I'm not sure if it's the heat or the weight; but, I always ignore it. What can I say? I live life on the edge.) Wash your jars, rings and lids in warm, soapy water. You'll sterilize them later.

In a large saucepan, combine all of the above ingredients and bring them to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When you're relish is almost done, place your jars, lids and rings into your boiling canner water to heat and sterilize them.

Ladle hot relish into hot jars, remove air bubbles with a butter knife and adjust head space to 1/2 inch. Wipe your jar rims clean and screw on your lids. Place jars in your canner and bring water back up to a boil. Process for 15 minutes, then remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes before removing your jars.

Allow them to cool undisturbed. When you hear the lids pop, you will know your jars are sealed. When the jars are completely cool, you can wrap them and give them to friends as birthday gifts.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pillows for My Pals

Annalise was born and I fell off the craft wagon...HARD! Not a fan of her crib, bassinet or any other sort of baby entertaining device, she has definitely occupied my time and hands for the last three months. I spend much more time dusting her crib for cobwebs than I do changing her sheets.

A few weeks before Annalise was born, I made Aidan a pillowcase with gears all over it for his body pillow. It serves dual purpose as a snuggling device and bed/wall crack plug. Addie has been waiting very patiently for her "princess pillow". She picked the fabric out weeks ago. I washed it right away; but, never seemed to find time for anything more.

Tuesday evening, Annalise actually managed to fall asleep in her crib. The other two were already in bed, so I decided to go for it. My sewing area is just a few feet from her crib and the room was very dim. I very quietly ironed, measured and cut my fabric in the dark. She was still snoozing away so I decided to try the sewing machine. Surprisingly, she slept right through it!

It was a small and easy project; but, it felt good to actually accomplish something. Addie found the pillow when she woke up the next morning and has been snuggling with it ever since.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finding Our Thrill...

A few days ago we made our third annual trip to the Dexter Blueberry Farm. It's one of our favorite summer activities; and, as always, we picked enough blueberries to feed a small country. My parents were visiting for the week so they came along to help with the picking. Last year, we picked about thirty pounds of berries and I made several batches of blueberry jam and blueberry butter. Since I still had a good supply of jam, we downsized to twenty-one pounds.

The farm provides big buckets and long ropes for picking. You can either tie your bucket around your waist like a belt or wear it as a super-blingy blueberry necklace. Since I was already wearing Annalise in the carrier, I opted for the blueberry belt. The picking was a little slower this trip than it has been in the past. Last year, we went later in August; and, you could literally pull off handfuls of berries. We still managed a pretty good haul with everyone picking. We lasted a little over an hour before Addie decided she had DEFINITELY had enough blueberry picking. She was, in no particular order, "tired, hungry, thirsty, hot, dirty, muddy, scared, bored and mosquito-bitten", or so she claimed.

We chilled out in the shade for a few minutes and then took our berries over for a weigh-in. At $1.60 a pound, the berries were well worth the effort. Aidan was VERY proud of his bucket of blueberries and insisted that it be placed in it's own bag and not mixed in with the rest of our crappy berries.

My mom made an awesome blueberry pie that evening that we enjoyed after a night of house-hunting. The next day, we made a few batches of blueberry muffins, some blueberry ice cream and a pitcher of sangria (recipe coming soon) with the berries. I froze six big ziplocs of berries to use later in muffins and smoothies. They freeze really nicely if you spread them out on lined cookie sheets to freeze individually before you dump them into the bag. We shared more with friends and are still working our way through two more giant bags. If you have any good blueberry recipes, please share them!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lake Erie ROCKS!

I mentioned in my last posting that our family brought home LOTS of rocks from our recent trip to Lake Erie. They are currently living in random buckets, jars and boxes all around the garage and back yard. I find them sorted by size, soaking in tubs of water and even stacked in little towers that I imagine some passing druids have left on my patio.

All of the rock-collecting blame can't rest on the kids alone, though. I did my fair share of rock gathering on vacation. Aidan is really interested in spelling words lately so I decided to make the kids a set of alphabet rocks based on a tutorial I saw that used rub-on letters. I gathered a big bucket of small smooth stones of various shapes and sizes. We had lots of leftover paint from a rock-painting project so I just decided to paint my letters. (Also, there was not a Joann's in site.)

I made a set for each of them and they turned out pretty cute. The kids seemed to like them and played with them a good bit during the last few days of vacation. They are currently living in a bowl on the dining room table. They are a great reminder of our recent vacation and awesome pre-dinner entertainment for everyone!