Festive Raspberry Dressing & Vinegar

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Over the summer I did many canning project using raspberries. One that I started back in July was infusing white wine vinegar with fresh raspberries. Although this was probably done sometime in August, things were so hectic, I never got around to finishing it.

The other night I needed a special salad dressing to perk up a ho-hum salad at dinner. Remembering the raspberry vinegar steeping under the counter, I decided to finish up the Raspberry Infused Vinegar and whip up a batch of Creamy Raspberry Vinaigrette. These recipes can be found on Simply Grateful Canning and Simply Grateful Cooking.

Being able to use the projects I worked on over the summer now that it’s cold and sometimes dreary, means the world to both me and the family. Cranberries aren’t the only “festive” fruit to use this holiday season, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Michigan Concords – Another Casualty of Old Man Winter

I have been so busy with other things lately, that canning anything hasn’t made it onto my to do list, let alone crossed my mind. Last weekend, however, as some of my major projects have been winding down, I began wondering if Concord grapes were ready for picking yet.

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Friday morning I called the only farm within 50 miles for grape picking and found out grape season was already closed. WHAT! How could that be? Concords don’t usually even ripen until the beginning of October here in Michigan, how could the season already be done?

Well, apparently the harsh Michigan weather we endured last winter took its toll on the grape crops and the season was very short and not very plentiful. Discouraged, I began to look for farms that were further out, but still feasible. There were none.

My only other option was to start calling farmer’s markets and see if anyone had grapes I could buy. Monday morning I called my favorite farm, Verellen Farms, and found out they had Michigan Concords. I drove there immediately, and by 9 a.m. was back home with 3 pecks of Concords for processing.

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For two days now I’ve been working on grape juices, jams, spreads, and syrup. Check out Simply Grateful Canning for my posts on Concord Grape Juice Revisited, Updated, & Expanded – Cran Grape JuiceCran-Grape Syrup & Spread, and Cran-Grape Jam – Not Traditional.

I’ve got about a peck left and with that I think I might try an old-fashioned recipe for grape juice to compare it with the easy recipe I’ve done for two years now.

Michigan weather can be brutal, especially when it comes to fruit trees. Thankfully this year I was still able to get some Concords, enough to stock the pantry for a good year or more, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Zucchini Dreams

After being gifted with quite a few zucchini this past summer by friends and family, I am excited at the prospect of growing my very own next summer. I have heard from nearly everyone who has grown it that I’ll probably get more zucchini than I’ll know what to do with, but somehow I doubt that.

So much potential!

So much potential!

With the new recipe for Shredded Zucchini Faux Pineapple (found on Simply Grateful Canning) that I made this past summer, the Glazed Pineapple-Zucchini Upside Down Cupcakes (recipe found on Simply Grateful Cooking), and the many other recipes I have planned for all the shredded zucchini I froze in my new upright freezer, I can’t imagine having enough let alone too much. I even have two new recipes I’ve made up on my own that I didn’t have enough zucchini to test this year, so those are on my 2016 Canning To Do List — can’t wait.

For now, I’ll be dreaming of zucchini and hoping that growing this is as bountiful as my peppers were this year (912 and counting) and my cucumbers were last year (302 for the season). Just think what I’d be able to do with just a fraction of my cucumber total for 2014 — the possibilities are endless.

Dreaming and planning for the 2016 garden, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Where Does The Time Go?

I cannot believe it has been more than a month since my last post. It has been so very busy this past month and blogging is not the only aspect of my life that has been neglected.

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Between the garden, canning, remodeling Zeb’s room, cleaning out the clutter in the basement, and getting the kids back into some sort of routine with the onset of school again, it has been a challenge just to get dinner on the table and laundry on the line.

I have a journal with lists of posts for each of my blogs that need to be done and I can’t even look at it. It is far too overwhelming how many posts I am behind on. Simply Grateful Canning alone has at least 30 posts that I am behind on, not to mention all the gardening updates for Simply Grateful Gardener that I never got to and the new recipes (albeit few) that have piled up and are waiting to be shared on Simply Grateful Cooking.

At this point, trying to play catch-up seems pointless because my posts won’t be timely. Still, I did finally go take a look at how many hits I got while not posting, and the traffic was actually fairly consistent. People find my posts by Googling subjects that I write about click on the links. I guess how timely I am won’t really matter in the long run if it’s there when someone is looking for it at another time. Dealing with the no-blogging guilt however is another matter.

This morning I did finally make a post on Simply Grateful Gardener updating my pepper progress — Summer In The Pepper Mines. It gives a little insight as to what my time has been consumed with this past month and what continues to plague me.

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For now, I am going to try to get back into this by setting aside at least an hour a day to make a post of some sort and get back into the groove. I have missed this and have missed reading blogs as well.

My first post in more than month — for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Preserving Damson Plums – The Hot & Cold Of It

Besides canning plums for future consumption or projects, the other two methods of preserving them would be to either dehydrate or freeze them.

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With so many plums this year, I was able to try both methods. To find out about dehydrating plums see my post Dehydrating Damson Plums at Simply Grateful Canning.

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To find out about freezing plums check out Freezing Damson Plums also at Simply Grateful Canning.

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Getting down to the nitty-gritty with the plums. I have only one more canning project to post and then a really cool recipe using either fresh or frozen plums inspired by a dish my mother-in-law used to make for Hubby which was a recipe from his grandmother. Posts coming soon!

The excitement of almost being done with the plums is overwhelming. I can hardly sleep just thinking about not having a single plum to pit for another year. Of course for weeks I couldn’t sleep just thinking about all the plums I did have to pit, so maybe it’s just that I can’t sleep — the wonderful effects of menopause…but we’ll save that for yet another post.

For now, we are down to about five pounds of plums and counting, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Difference Between Juice, Nectar and Cider

Although I could find no official distinction online between juice, nectar, and cider, this is my take on it and the guidelines I use when deciding how to label drinks I process:

A juice is extracted by heating fruit and then straining out the pulp. It is thin and often clear.

A nectar is obtained by heating fruit, pureeing it, and running it through a food mill to extract any skin and seeds/pits. The final product is thick with pulp.

A cider is produced when juice is extracted from fruit by cold pressing and the end product is not heated or pasteurized.

This year was the first time I ever made nectar, see my post on Simply Grateful Canning for Plum Nectar and once I made one, I couldn’t wait to try others. There will be posts on several more in the next couple weeks.

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Although cider is certainly my first choice in processing methods for fruit, nectar runs a close second because it is so substantial in fruit and flavor. Something new for the pantry, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Grill Master – It’s All In The Sauce

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Growing up I was lived in a home where my father was the only person who barbecued. Mom was in charge of cooking in the kitchen, but whenever it came to grilling anything from hot dogs to prime rib roast, Dad was in charge.

The line of “men” being in charge at the grill wasn’t something that started with my father. His father and my mother’s father were also the Grill Masters at their homes and whenever we went to any family reunions on either side of the family, men were always the ones who hung around the barbecue pit, drinking beer, sneaking tastes, and chasing away any woman who came within ten feet of the hot coals.

For 20+ years I was comfortable with this barbecue hierarchy and never questioned it.

Then I moved out on my own and started dating my now husband, Hubby. While living on my own I never invested in a grill, but Hubby bought me a little hibachi for my balcony so we could grill steaks, burgers, or just about anything we wanted. While we dated, Hubby took care of the grilling. I don’t think it was because he wanted to do the grilling, but more because of my ignorance when it came to cooking anything anywhere other than the stove.

After we got married and I began accompanying Hubby to barbecues at his parent’s house however, it became immediately clear that things were very different in his family when it came to the “Rules of the Grill.” There were no men gathered around the grill, no beer drinking and comradery going on by the coals, and no taste testing hot off the grate. Nope, just my mother-in-law standing over the grill, sweating, cussing, and completely alienated from everyone else. Until the food was put on the table for everyone to enjoy, it was as if the grill and my mother-in-law didn’t exist.

Owning a barbecue for Hubby and I didn’t come until a few years after we got married, but when we did get one, I held my ground when it came to grilling.  I took care of the food preparation inside the house, and Hubby was to be in charge of the grilling. I never gave it much thought because he’d done it while we dated on our little hibachi at my apartment, but after we were married, his attitude changed. At one point he even pointed out to me that “His Father” didn’t have to grill — that “His Mother” did all the food prep including the grilling.

Being the so understanding and ever patient wife that I was back then (NOT), I quickly pointed out that he didn’t live in Oz anymore and here in the real world if he wanted to have a barbecue, he was going to have to do the grilling. At first he protested by burning practically everything he put on the grill, but I held my ground. A battle of wills that I knew was not going to end well…or at least with me being the victor.

Finally after many arguments and too many ruined meals, grilling became a thing of the past. Dinners were planned rather than barbecues and Hubby won. Or so he thought.

Summer is the time for grilling, but even in the dead of winter, a burger is just not a burger unless it’s cooked slowly over the hot grates of a grill. Hubby may have won the battle, but I was looking long-term and waging to win the war.

After a year or so of no grilling, Hubby began suggesting we grill on occasion. There was no argument, he just went to the grill, lit it up, and grilled. Then, because of the lack of tension between us, I also became far less averse to pitching in and grilling if I happened to plan a meal that included grilling during the week when he was working. I’d light the grill and get the meal almost done in time for his arrival and then he’d finish up while I put everything I’d made in the kitchen on the table.

This compromise on grilling has served us well for the past 20 years. Now however, because Hubby’s work schedule is in such upheaval (working from Monday morning 8 a.m. until Friday afternoon 4 p.m straight with only a short break to come home each day for dinner) I have taken to grilling completely. Dinner is done and on the table when he gets home. He still will grill if we have company, but for the most part, I have taken over the role as Grill Master

As with most things I attempt to do, taking on this new Grill Master role is not taken lightly. Now I am struggling to truly earn that title. At this point I’d have to say I am just barely scraping by, but I continue to work at it. One thing I have learned though is that success in this role has a lot to do with the tools you have to work with. Not just the grill itself or the utensils used, but also the selection of meats as well as the sauces used.

That being said, this year I have been experimenting with various recipes for homemade barbecue sauce. The one I made last year Sizzlin’ Plum Barbecue Sauce didn’t quite turn out how I’d wanted, so this year I tweaked the recipe to make it better (check out my post today on Simply Grateful Canning for the updated version Plum Barbecue Sauce Update). I’m also going to have posts on a few other sauces I’m working on, so keep a lookout.

Marriage can be a battle of wills, but realizing that compromise will serve your relationship better, is what holds you together, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Canning Is A Learning Process

One aspect of canning that I never get tired of is the fact that no matter how long I’ve been doing it, there is always something new to learn.

This year while canning whole plums I decided to take the time to test hot packing plums versus raw packing them. The results were surprising and enlightening, see today’s post on Simply Grateful Canning on Canning Whole Plums.

I am so glad I took the time to find out why one method might be better than the other and didn’t just take the quick, easy route (raw pack). Had I done that, I never would have realized that there is a better way and the reasons why it is better.

I never get tired of learning new things, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Serbian Peppers & Onions In Tomato Sauce

Today I posted a recipe for Satarasch, a Serbian side dish/condiment consisting of peppers, onions, and tomato sauce on Simply Grateful Canning.

Satarasch – Peppers & Onions in Tomato Sauce

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This is a staple at nearly every Serbian picnic we go to every summer and now I’ve canned it for the pantry shelves, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Recipe Catch-Up #2 – Raspberry Jalapeno Spread

When I saw this recipe for a jam combining raspberry with jalapeno peppers, I was intrigued. Thinking back to the Jalapeno Jelly I made last year I wondered if this would be something we would actually eat. Although the jalapeno jelly was good, the uses were limited to a few appetizer recipes or possibly on a bagel with cream cheese.

Being an extreme canner, I had to try it, even if it was only this once.

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Raspberry Jalapeno Spread

4 Cups Strained Raspberry Juice

1 Large Jalapeno Pepper

2 Cups Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with an equal amount of water

  • Mince the jalapeno pepper and depending on how spicy you want the jam, remove or add the seeds. The seeds will make it spicier.
  • Combine the raspberry juice jalapeno pepper, sugar and lemon juice in stock pot. Bring to near boil.
  • Add Clear Jel slurry and bring to boil for one minute or until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars. Wipe rims, adjust lids, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 7 – 8 oz. Jars

I began tasting this while the spread was cooking and at first the jalapeno taste was not noticeable. I saved a small portion in a bowl while processing the remaining and as it cooled the flavor of the jalapeno began to come through.

Using one jalapeno with no seeds gave it a slight pepper flavor with very little spice. If I were to make this again I would add a few seeds to the spread.

I’ve been eating this spread on toast and find it a unique change from my other spreads. I’m glad I tried this and now have something a little different to share with family and friends, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.