Michigan Tart Cherries – The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Tart cherry season here in Michigan has been open for about two weeks. Last weekend we made a family outing of picking cherries and raspberries. The picking was easy because the fruit was very plentiful. If the family hadn’t spent more time arguing than picking, we probably would have been done a lot sooner, but then it just wouldn’t have been a true “family” outing if that were the case.

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Why is it that we can’t have just one family outing where everyone gets along? If I go out with Grace alone or Zeb alone or Hubby alone, everything is great. We have a good time, we laugh, we relate, we make some great memories. Throw anyone else into the mix though and it’s a constant battle. There’s teasing and picking on, ganging up, and bullying. By the end, actually it doesn’t even take that long, at least someone isn’t talking, someone is grumpy, and I’m left wondering why I even suggested we go out as a family!

The silence was deafening!

The silence was deafening!

I thought as the kids got older they’d mellow and we’d fall into an easy, getting-along stage. At ages 20 and 22, we haven’t gotten there yet. Perhaps Hubby at 53 and me at 48 are the problem. Who knows?

Actually though, for all the fighting and bantering, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone home. While they all got into their little tiffs and exchanges of words, I kept my distance and enjoyed the day with each of them individually. I didn’t dare try to converse with more than one of them at a time. Separately they were fine. It was just as a group things weren’t going to mesh. So when we got home Grace wasn’t speaking to Hubby, Hubby wasn’t speaking to Zeb, and everyone was still speaking to me. That works for me!

Oh well, what’s the saying “This too shall pass.” I sure hope so. Growing pains aren’t much fun on family outings or vacations.

With the 20 pounds of cherries we managed to pick I’ve been busy canning. Recipes for Danish Cherry Sauce and Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Filling can be found at Simply Grateful Canning. I’ve also updated the Fruit Page to include sections for all the recipes from Simply Grateful Housewife and Simply Grateful Canning for Sweet Cherry Canning Recipes and Tart Cherry Canning Recipes. Check them out if you need some ideas for canning either of these fruits.

Michigan cherries are some of the best and picking them every year has become a tradition for me. It’s unfortunate the family couldn’t set aside their differences and make the most of the time we had together, but I didn’t let them ruin it for me. Family dynamics aren’t always easy, but taking them in stride helps ease the pain a bit, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

What to do with those beets!

Planting beets has become somewhat of a tradition here at our house. For the past three years now I have enjoyed success with growing beets and because of this it was only natural that I would plant them again this year. The trouble with this is the pantry is already full of canned and pickled beets. Not that they’ll go bad or anything, but there is only so much space in the pantry and beets have taken up their allotment.

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Yesterdays Beet Harvest

In the past I’ve done four things with the beets we’ve harvested from the garden:

  1. Pickled Beets
  2. Canned Beets
  3. Beet Jelly
  4. And the last is Beet-Horseradish Relish which I made last year for the first time.

I posted the recipe for the Beet-Horseradish Relish on Simply Grateful Canning if you’d like to check it out.

Besides making the relish I also decided to try and make the most of the beet greens. We aren’t too big on eating a big variety of greens around here, but when I read I could freeze them and use them to make stock I figured what’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d end up throwing out a batch of stock if it didn’t taste good. The only precaution I read was that the beet greens would probably turn the stock reddish or brownish depending on what kind of stock you were making. No worries, I can deal with that and if it gives the stock another dimension of flavor, well that’s just an added bonus on top of the added nutrients.

The process for freezing beet greens is posted on Simply Grateful Canning Making The Most Of Your Beets, if you’re interested.

I plan on planting another crop in August for the fall. Why? I’m not really sure, but when I’ve had as difficult a time in the garden as I have had this year, I need a little gardening success. I might can them or perhaps I’ll just give them to the neighbors. Either way they won’t go to waste, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Does anyone have other ideas for canning or using beets?

Rebel With A Cause – Pressure Canning Against The Rules

I don’t always break the rules when canning, especially when it comes to pressure canning, but sometimes there are just no other options.

Such is the case when it comes to me, pressure canning, and using my glass top stove.

It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to use my “highly recommended against” glass top stove, although it is certainly easier than any other option, but when it is all you have that works, what other option is there?

So I am a rebel, again.

Good news though. It works. I don’t know why it is recommended against, but using my glass top stove has proven to be the easiest, most fool-proof method of pressure canning than any other I have tried and as long as I have a glass top stove, it will be my go to heating choice. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning Pressure Canning on a Glass Top Stove  for the complete story.

I’ve been working on canning beans all week and have two more days still to go. Then it’s out to the garden to get some spring crops started, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Stocking The Pantry – Banana Bread in Jars

The time has finally come to begin restocking the pantry. Throughout the past three months tons of canned goods have been flying off the shelves. Boxes are filling up in the garage with empty canning jars and there are definitely some major gaps forming in various areas of the pantry.

Although I won’t be able to do anything about goods I can during the summer months from home-grown or locally grown produce for quite a few months, I can definitely work on canning projects that aren’t contingent on seasonal foods. There are a lot of these sort of projects.

This morning seeing as I had some bananas that were well past their prime, too ripe for freezing even, I decided to whip up a batch of canned banana breads. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning – Canning Banana Bread.

Only six of the seven made it to the pantry. I had to test one you know — it’s the law! Even so, six jars more in the pantry, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas the time did come to can

Fresh pineapple marmalade and jam.

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A few weeks ago a local grocery store had a sale on extra-large fresh pineapples — $.99 each. So being the ever vigilant bargain hunter, I bought 16 of them. What could I possibly do with 16 pineapples you wonder? Well, can them of course.

Now pineapples aren’t typically ready to eat right when you bring them home, at least this hasn’t been my experience. This being the case and knowing that I wasn’t going to be in a position to can them right away, I picked out pineapples as green as they came.

For two weeks they sat on my dining room table waiting, ripening, until a few days ago. As I entered the dining room, the sweet smell of pineapple overwhelmed me and I knew right away it was time to set to work.

Some of my favorite things to can with fresh pineapple include crushed pineapple or using the juice in sweet & sour sauce, but with this batch of pineapples I decided to start with some Fresh Pineapple Jam and a Mixed Winter Fruit Marmalade, both recipes can be found at Simply Grateful Canning.

These recipes made only a dent in my pineapples, so I’ve got lots more things I can make, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

PS:  Happy New Year!

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.

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 Rantings Of A Burned Out Canner!

Every morning when I come downstairs from a restless nights sleep, I know exactly what is waiting for me, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Canning season has been in full swing for what seems like FOREVER now and the house, the kids, Hubby, and especially myself are really starting to suffer for it. As I trudged down the stairs this morning, dreading what I knew was waiting for me in the kitchen, as well as every other room in the house, the first thing that popped into my head was:

I want a clean stove!

Is that really too much to ask for? Can having a clean stove be something I will only dream about or is it something that might actually, possibly, just maybe happen some day in my life before we have to replace it for the third time because I’ve burned yet another one out?

Don’t get me wrong, I do clean my stove. Not as often as I should, or probably as often as most people do, but it does get clean. The trouble with cleaning it though is that gosh darn it if it doesn’t just get completely dirty again. And we are not just talking a spill here or a drip there. No, we are talking totally and completely unrecognizably stained, burned and splattered.

I don’t think I’m a messy person. I wouldn’t consider myself to be flippant when it comes to cleaning up messes, but my stove is NEVER, and I don’t use that word lightly, clean. Even when it’s clean, it’s not really clean. There is always just a subtle streak, a tiny spot, or because this stove is now several years old those black marks that just won’t come off there to mock me. Is it a curse? Am I the only one who can’t seem to have one day when her stove is clean for more than the ten minutes between meal preparation, canning projects, or kitchen endeavors?

Realizing that a clean stove just might be too much to ask, I began to think about all the other things that I want, and the list was HUMONGOUS!

  • I want a kitchen floor that I can walk on barefoot and not have to worry about crunching, sticking, or slipping.
  • I want kitchen cabinets without food drips all down the front of them.
  • I want empty counter space. Yep, either the counters are filled with full canning jars, empty canning jars, stacks of dishes to be cleaned, pots and pans to be scoured, or food to be processed.
  • I want a kitchen table without crumbs all over it because no one thought to shake out the tablecloth after the last five dinners I made.
  • I want a kitchen sink that isn’t already full of dishes soaking or stacked so high you can’t even use the faucet.

Then I moved from the kitchen:

  • I want coffee and end tables that aren’t covered and stacked with recipes, note books full of notes on future blog posts, gardening books, and all sorts of papers strewn on every table and taking up every cushion on the couch.
  • I want to know what color my carpeting is. I think we have navy blue, but for all the dust, lint, dog toys and hair, and other paraphernalia all over it I just can’t be sure. Doesn’t anyone around here know what a vacuum is – oh yeah, that’s my job. Okay then, I want my carpet vacuumed.
  • I want to know what watching television without a ½ inch of dust on it is like.
  • I want to know who keeps putting all those cobwebs in every corner and in every crevice imaginable.
  • I want the stack of ironing sitting on the fireplace to magically be done and all the baskets of unfolded laundry folded and put away.

Moving upstairs:

  • I want the sheets on every bed to get a washing that is too long overdue.
  • I want all the work that needs to be done in Zeb’s room behind me: The border on his ceiling needs removing, the walls need to be primed and repainted (including the ceiling and closet), his videos, trophies, and anything on his dressers or bookshelves need to be boxed so we can throw out his old “little boy” furniture to make way for his new bedroom set being delivered in a couple of weeks, we need to remove the old carpet and put in the new, and I need to find new bedding, make a new window treatment, and all the finishing touches a remodeled room requires. I want it done before he turns 22, which is in a few months, but in reality I have less than a month to get all the prep work done before the furniture arrives.
  • I want to wash my windows. Yes, you read that correctly. I WANT to wash my windows. I hate washing windows but at this point the prospect of washing them appeals to me. I basically only streak them, but I want clean windows so I’m willing to streak them as only I can and clean the tracks too! Of course the reason I want to clean windows now, when it isn’t really a priority, is probably because there is no way in the world I’m going to do it. When I actually have the time for such a project, I will hate every minute of it, but if I went upstairs right now and started cleaning any window, I think I’d find some sort of distorted comfort in it.

Miscellaneous:

  • I want a fresh cup of coffee. I have been drinking out of the same pot of coffee, just reheating it, for the past three days now. A fresh cup of coffee sounds so good right now, but a luxury that cannot be – BECAUSE I’D NEED A CLEAN SPOT ON THE COUNTER IN ORDER TO MAKE IT!
  • I want all the shoes that everyone just tosses off and leaves in the entrance to the laundry room put away where they belong. Let me qualify that by saying “put away by the people who tossed them there” and not by me!
  • I want someone to walk Bell. Although it does give me a reprieve from everything overwhelming me here in the house, it would sure be nice to have someone else take her for a change.
  • I want dinner done. No matter what I do all day long, dinner is the one thing that absolutely, positively, without fail has to get done TOO! Not in leu of, but along with. How nice it would be to actually spend a day just making dinner and not have to worry about everything else on my perpetual to do list.
  • I want the gardens to be cleaned out. The cucumbers and peas are done and need to be cleared to make way for spring crops and there are several gardens that need revamping for next year as well.
  • I want all the peppers and tomatoes waiting to be harvested picked and processed, the pumpkins pureed and frozen and the corn dried. Actually at this point I just want the peppers and tomatoes to STOP. The peppers especially seeing as I can’t figure out anything to do with them and there are at least a few hundred more peppers out there to pick.

Is all this really too much to ask?

Oh, and I want a stocked, full pantry. Wait. I forgot…the pantry.

Yes, this is stocked and overflowing. A testament of where my time has gone, what I’ve been doing, and why everything else in our house seems to be in complete upheaval and an utter disaster. So is this the price I have to pay for a full pantry?

The argument could be made to pace myself. How??? Fruits and vegetables wait for no one. The window of opportunity for preserving is so short that it is impossible to stop and smell the roses. So the only thing to do is push forward and keep telling myself “this too shall pass.”

Still, what I wouldn’t do for a fresh cup of coffee right about now, and with that I’ll sign off – Simply Grateful.