I don’t know if its all the rain, or our raised beds, or what, but our cucumbers have been growing like wild this summer. They have gotten so heavy that I’ve had to prop their trellis up with poles so they don’t squish it! As much as I love a cucumber & chevre sandwich, I hit my limit on raw cucumber pretty quickly.  And that’s when I know its time to make pickles.

cuc sandwich

I love making pickles because they are so easy and make a great gift. Whenever we are invited to someone’s house I like to bring a little something as gift, and often its a jar of handmade pickles (is that weird?). When I’ve made them in the past they were good at first but after a couple of months they become too soft. And since the whole point of canning veggies is to be able to enjoy them year round, this just won’t do. I looked into it and learned about lime-pickling, where you soak your cucumbers in a lime solution for several hours, then in ice water for several hours (or over night) and it makes your pickles much more crisp. So this time, that is what I’m doing and I’m using this tutorial:

Lime Pickling Tutorial


Yesterday, some of the neighborhood kids helped me pick a big bucket full of pickles during a break in the rain which I then sliced up and put in a lime bath to soak all afternoon.


Then in the evening I drained them and put them in bowls of ice water in the fridge to spend the night.


Today I drained them and soaked them in ice water again for a few more hours and then finally drained and rinsed them. Now for the fun part. I made up three different types of pickling juice (brine?). Chris likes dill pickles so I did one pot of the basic dill pickle recipe I posted about last year. I had several request for bread and butter pickles, which are my pickle of choice as well, so I did a big pot using Mrs. Wage’s Zesty Bread & Butter Pickle mix. And finally, for comparison, I did a small pot using a variation of Emeril’s Sweet & Spicy Pickle recipe.


While these were cooking, I packed my pint and half pint jars with cucumbers and slices of onion. Each jar also got a dash of Pickle Crisp Granules. Then the jars destined to become dill pickles got about a teaspoon of chopped garlic and a head of fresh dill. A couple of jars of each recipe also got a couple of dried jalapenos, as an experiment, because Alicia said she wanted “Hot & Sweets” which I think are kind of like bread & butter’s, but spicy. I don’t have any fresh jalapenos in the garden yet, so I used dried. It’ll be interesting to taste the results!


Once the jar were stuffed full I poured in the hot liquid, screwed on the lids and canned them in a water bath for 10min.


All done! The dill pickle juice is clear and the bread and butter pickles are more yellow because of the turmeric.


You can see the dried jalapenos in some of the jars.


Now we just have to wait two weeks and then, hopefully, we will have some nice crunchy pickles!



Don’t forget, I’m not a canning expert and my posts are just meant to give you an idea of what I did, not teach you how to can. Before you do any canning of your own please read this post.

Mulberry Shrub

mulberryshrubcocktail2It is mulberry season here and our three mulberry trees pour down a deluge of berries when you shake their branches. Aside from making a big mess when you walk on them barefoot, mulberries are good for eating too! You can make jams, pies or just about anything else out of them that you’d use other berries for. Today we used them to make a “shrub”. No, not the type you use for landscaping. This type of shrub is an old fashioned way of preserving fresh fruits and berries that has recently come back in vogue. The trendiest bars now offer homemade shrubs on their cocktail menus! Shrubs are often called “summer in a bottle” because they capture the bright, fresh fruity flavors of summer and preserve them to enjoy anytime.

There are two basic ways to create shrubs- the hot method and the cold method. The cold method takes time and since we were wanted to be able to enjoy this shrub immediately we opted for the hot method. The flavor and balance of this shrub will improve over time, but is ready to use immediately.

Mulberry Shrub

In a pot on the stove, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup mulberries and the zest of 3/4 of a lemon. Bring to a boil and then simmer until berries are fully broken down. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. Once cool, strain to remove mulberry seeds and skins. Pour into a mason jar and store in the fridge.

Mulberry Shrub Whiskey Cocktail

2T Mulberry Shrub muddled with a fresh basil leaf, a squeeze of lemon, a splash of bitters and a splash of whiskey. Add crushed ice. Top with whiskey.

We have used Alberta Dark Rye (Canadian whiskey) and Knob Creek bourbon. Experiment and decide what you like best!

Soap Making Notes – Full Flock Soap with Marigold & Mulberry

Goat milk soap (cold process) made with calendula (marigold) infused oil and dried mulberry powder/ mulberry seed as an exfoliantDSC_0515

  • 1oz Lanolin
  • 2oz Castor Oil
  • 4oz Shea Butter
  • 4oz Cocoa Butter
  • 8oz Coconut Oil
  • 14oz Olive Oil (infused with dried calendula)
  • 4.5oz Lye
  • 9oz frozen goat milk
  • 4T dried mulberry powder & seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ylang ylang essential oil
  • dried calendula petals and mulberry powder for topping


To make the infused olive oil I soaked dried calendula petals in olive oil for about 2 weeks and then strained out most of the plant material. I left some of the petals as an experiment to see what they are like in the soap– mostly they seem to have been dissolved by the lye but some may remain to provide extra exfoliating.

The mulberry powder/seeds were made by crushing ripe mulberries from our mulberry bush, pressing out the juice and then drying in the dehydrator. Once the mash was completely dry I powdered it in a spice grinder. The fleshy part turned into a fine powder but the seeds kept their shape. The seeds remind me of poppy seeds and will be a nice exfoliant. Those are the dark specks you can see in the soap. I had hoped that the mulberry powder would turn the oil pink but as you can see it didn’t have any affect on the color of the soap. Next I think I’ll try infusing oil with mulberries to see if I can extract the color that way.


Most of the soap went into a 2 lb loaf mold but I put a little bit in a single-bar sheep mold as an experiment to see how this soap recipe works in fancy molds.

Preserving Bits of This and That – Part 2: Dehydration

Now that milking has begun, and therefore cheese making has begun, I’m starting to think about what sorts of things I can add to chevre for flavor. My all time favorite is still fresh dill, garlic, salt and a pinch of sugar but I’ve been experimenting with other flavors as well. Most of the time I use at least a few dried ingredients, especially garlic and onion. Yes, you can use fresh raw onion and garlic but in my opinion the flavor is too strong and harsh. I much prefer the flavor of dried garlic and onion which is much more like to roasted or cooked garlic and onion than raw. So yesterday I chopped up an onion and some garlic that I had previously roasted, covered in olive oil and then froze and put them in my dehydrator.





I didn’t take any pictures of them before dehydrating, but you can probably use your imagination. I dried them on a low heat setting for a long time (overnight). If you don’t dry them long enough they will create a mushy paste when you try to grind them rather than a powder.

I use an old coffee grinder for grinding my dried herbs/spices/etc. It works really well but one my complaint is that its difficult to clean. When grinding garlic and onion its really important that I get it VERY clean before using the grinder for something milder like herbs or something that would taste horrible with garlic like citrus rind.


Powdered dehydrated lime zest and lime simple syrup

Since I had the dehydrator running anyway, I decided to throw a few other things on to dry (and cleaned out the fridge and fruit basket as well). We had a bag of limes that were starting to get some age on them so I cut off the outer rind and dried it, and then used the juice to make syrup. I also found a bunch of carrots in the fridge that needed to be used up so I sliced them up really thinly with a vegetable peeler and dried them up. They made a really pretty orange powder. This may seem like a weird thing to make, but carrot powder actually adds a nice bit of depth to herb and spice mixes. When a little is used in a mix you don’t really taste “carrot”, it just makes the mix taste kind of “gardeny”. It’ll be interesting to see how the bright orange color affects the color of the cheese!


Lime zest, orange zest, carrot powder, garlic powder, onion powder

Finally, I chopped up some left over fish that had been in the fridge just a little bit too long and dehydrated it. Anytime we have left over cooked meat I toss the scraps in the dehydrator and it makes the best dog treats. Both dogs have been very attentive and well behaved today — all I have to do is shake my little mason jar of treats and they come running! 2015-05-20 14.51.37 Oh and I almost forgot. I found a jar of bread and butter pickles in the fridge that was nearly empty and taking up valuable shelf space so I decided to experiment a bit and see what would happen if I dried them. They have the consistency of gummy bears but taste like pickles and I can’t decide if they are delicious or disgusting. DSC_0408

Hard Cider Update

2014-09-17 21.32.25

My cider stopped bubbling a few days ago, indicating that the yeast had produced so much alcohol that the cider was now too alcoholic for the yeast to survive. Rather careless and short sighted of the yeast, really. I gave it a few more days to sit still without bubbling to let as much of the dead yeast and cider sediment settle to the bottom of the jugs as possible and this evening Chris helped me siphon off the liquid into a glass jar, add some more sugar and then put it into bottles.We measured the alcohol content while we had it in the glass jug and it looks like its 7-8% alcohol. Hard cider is normally around 4%…oops! Before starting Christ and I had a disagreement about the type of yeast to use. I had read to use wine yeast (which is what I ended up using) but he thought it would be better to use beer yeast. Now I understand why– beer yeast is killed off at a lower alcohol content so it stops fermenting sooner resulting in a lower alcohol content and more sugars left in the cider. Due to the wine yeast used, this batch will end up being very strong and also very dry because so much of the sugar (both naturally occurring in the cider and added at the beginning of the process) was turned into alcohol. For my next batch I may try a beer yeast so that I’ll have a sweeter and less alcoholic cider. Generally, I like drier ciders though so I’m not displeased by these results!

2014-09-17 21.46.37

While a lot of dead yeast was left behind, there should still be a bit of live, active yeast left – somehow managing to survive its its newly alcoholic environment- to eat up the sugar we added. Since the cider is now in capped bottles rather than air-locked (i.e. air can escape but can’t get back in and cause contamination) this second round of fermentation will result in bubbles trapped inside the bottles– i.e. carbonation! We just added a little bit of sugar- 1oz for a gallon of cider- because we don’t want too much carbonation or else the bottles will explode. Most of the carbonation fermenting should occur within the first three days so I’m planning to pop the top on a bottle Saturday evening and see what its like. If its done, the rest will go in the fridge to halt any further fermenting and if it needs a bit more bubble then I’ll leave the bottles out for a bit longer.

2014-09-17 21.46.59

Now I just need to find a good source of inexpensive fresh cider. The cider I used is REALLY yummy but not inexpensive. I’d like to try a batch with a less expensive cider and see how different the resulting hard cider is. Cider is easy to make and there is some satisfaction in knowing you did it yourself, but with angry orchard on the shelves for $9 for a 6 pack, spending $7+ plus sugar and yeast for 9 bottles isn’t saving me much money. If only apple trees didn’t take years to grow…or maybe I could just find a friend with an orchard!

p.s. Out of curiosity, I tried making hard cider out of some cider I got from the grocery store. It wasn’t very expensive but it tasted good. Unlike the fresh, local cider it had some preservatives in it. I put in the same yeast and sugar as the first batch, let it sit, and guess what? no bubbles. The preservatives totally killed my yeast. While we were bottling today I checked the alcohol content on the grocery store jug and, as suspected, there was none. Now I just have a jug of cider with dead yeast floating in it that has been on the counter for a week. Oddly enough, it still tastes the same as it did when I bought it…

Hard Cider

Cider Ingredients

Today marks the beginning of my first experiment with making alcohol! I got some really yummy fresh pressed apple cider at a local orchard today, added a bit of yeast, popped an air lock on it and now…we wait. Hopefully I’ll have something tasty- and boozy- in about a month.

I followed these guidelines.

Hard Cider

  • 1 gallon fresh apple cider (pasteurized)
  • 1 packet of yeast (I used K1-V116 because it was the only wine yeast they had at the store)
  • 1/2 cup normal white sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic demerara cane sugar

Pour off a cup of cider and rehydrate one packet of yeast for about 15 minutes. Stir to dissolve the yeast and add back to the jug. Add sugar and mix well. Divide jug between two sterilized half-gallon glass bottles (growlers). Cap with an airlock. Let sit for one month.

After one month it’ll be tine for the second ferment. I’ll pour the cider off into a new jug, top it off with from fresh juice and maybe add something fun like some fruit or ginger, replace the airlock and let it sit another couple of weeks or months until it tastes good or I just can’t wait any longer. Since I’m doing such a small amount in this trial run I probably won’t bother with bottling it at that point and will just throw a party* and drink it all.


*by throw a party I mean invite one or two friends over and get drunk off of hard cider. Since the cider will probably be ready right around my 30th birthday, we’ll call it a birthday party.

Grape Jelly

This is a simple recipe but its great for when your husband buys a giant container of grapes from Sam’s but forgets that you only eat green grapes, not purple, and then he only eats a few handfuls before they start getting wrinkles. When I lived in NC my father in law had wild grape bushes near his house and he would bring me big bags full of grapes and they made the most wonderful jelly. The Sam’s grape jelly isn’t as good, but its a lot like grape jelly off the shelf and prevents the sad waste of dead grapes in the back of the fridge.

Grape Jelly

  • 4 cups of whole grapes
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 packet pectin (2.5T)

Fills 3 jam (1/2 pint) jars


In a pot on the stove cook your grapes in the water. You can toss them in whole or, if you want them to cook faster, chop them in half first. Use a large spoon to smoosh the grapes as they cook until you have grape mush. Run this through a food mill to remove the seeds (if there are any) and skins.

I like to get as much grape juice out as possible so I will run the mash through the food mill, return it to the pot to cook some more and then put it through the food mill again to make sure I get as much good stuff out of the skins as possible. What you’ll have left is grape juice. I’ve heard of people making grape jelly by buying grape juice and starting with that, but it seems a little silly to me to buy grape juice for jelly making. Why not just buy grape jelly?

From my 4 cups of grapes + 1/2 cup of water I ended up with 2 cups of grape juice. If your grapes are more or less juicy your amount may vary. If so, adjust the amount of sugar and pectin in proportion to the amount of juice you are using.

Into your pot of juice add your sugar and cook, stirring, until it is fully dissolved. Now bring your jelly up to a rolling boil, add pectin and continue to boil and stir for a full minute.

Pour hot jelly into jars and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.



Remember that I am not an expert at food preservation, so while you are welcome to be inspired by my experiments please do you research on safe food preservation techniques first!

Eat At Your Own Risk

Lately I’ve been posting about canning and fermenting a lot and included some of my own recipes. Please note, though, that I am by no means an expert at preserving food. I frequently refer to things as “experiments” because that is exactly what they are– a good outcome is not guaranteed! If you’d like to use my recipes please go right ahead but do so with the knowledge that a) you may not have the same results as me and b) what you do end up with MAY NOT BE SAFE TO EAT. Clearly, I have yet to kill myself or anyone that I’ve fed my canned and/or fermented foods to but that doesn’t guarantee their safety. Please do not ever follow a recipe you find online for preserving foods without first doing some research into safe food preservation. The National Center for Food Preservation is my go-to source for safe food preservation practices. The Ball Blue Book also has a great reputation though I haven’t used it myself. Most of my canning experience is with water bath canning so I generally only can foods with high levels of sugar (jams/jellies) or acid (pickles, tomatoes) and always water bath for a minimum of 10 minutes (longer if the center for food preservation recommends it).

Fermented foods can be upsetting to some digestive systems even if they are technically safe to eat. If you don’t normally eat fermented or probiotic rich foods its generally best to start with small quantities or be prepared for a bit of digestive unrest (i.e. lots of gas and frequent trips to the restroom). This doesn’t mean the food has gone bad, just that your body needs to adjust to a new diet. If there is one thing that my sheep and goats have taught me is that its important to change diets slowly to give the digestive system to adapt. Thankfully a sudden change is much less likely to kill a human than a goat!

If in doubt, recipes for canned goods can always be kept in the fridge or freezer for extra safety and/or can be cooked prior to eating.


Fermented Tomato Powder

2014-08-31 02.54.20This is one experiment which is neither a failure or a success but somewhere in the middle. Yes, I turned tomatoes into powder but it doesn’t have as much tomato flavor as I expected it to have and I haven’t found a great use for it yet.

I was inspired by this recipe. I packed a bunch of very ripe tomatoes into a jar and left it to sit on my porch for a while. Actually I kind of forgot about it and left it out there for 8 days. I got lots of bubbling but because it was packed tightly and sealed I didn’t have anything nasty growing in it when I finally opened it up.




I decided that I didn’t want to mess around with making a bunch of little balls so I just spread the fermented tomato mush out on a pan and set my oven on its lowest temperature setting and let it dry. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ideally I would have used a dehydrator with a temperature setting for this step so that I could make sure that I dehydrated it at a cool enough temperature so as to not harm the healthy probiotics that the fermenting created. Since I don’t have a dehydrator I used my oven on its lowest temp setting with the door propped open slightly to lower the temp even more. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once the tomato mush was completely dry I used a mortar and pestle to grind it up. I ended up with some powder and some flakes. If I’d wanted a finer powder I could have used a spice grinder (or coffee grinder). 2014-08-31 02.54.06You can see in this picture how a big quart sized jar full of tomatoes shrank down to less than half of a spice jar of tomato flakes. Because the flavor isn’t amazing and it produces so little, I’m not sure if I’ll repeat this experiment or not. It would most likely work better with paste tomatoes which have less liquid but this year we didn’t grow any. I’ll definitely be growing paste tomatoes next year so that I can make tomato paste and thicker sauce and may try dehydrating it again then!


Remember that I am not an expert at food preservation, so while you are welcome to be inspired by my experiments please do you research on safe food preservation techniques first!

Pepper Jelly

2014-08-21 17.17.32We finally succeeded in growing bell peppers this year which, when combined with the jalapenos that we always have good luck with, gives us everything we need to make pepper jelly! We always get lots of requests for pepper jelly from friends and family and we like to keep some around for ourselves (its great on chevre!) but it takes a LOT of peppers. Next year I really need to make sure that we plant more especially since I’ve discovered that it works just fine to pop them in the freezer until I have enough ripe peppers – and enough time- to make a batch of jelly.


2014-08-21 17.17.38




Pepper Jelly

1.5 cups of finely chopped bell peppers plus one pepper set aside for garnishing

1.25 cups of finely chopped jalapenos plus eight peppers set aside for garnishing

5 cups sugar

1.25cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 pack liquid pectin


Chopped Peppers

Chop all of your peppers, removing seeds, except for the ones set aside for garnishing.

Pepper Jelly Cooking

Combine chopped peppers, sugar and vinegar in a pot and cook until the peppers look like this photo.

garnishing peppers

While your jelly is cooking, chop your garnishing peppers.

Bring to a rolling boil and add pectin, stir while boiling for a minute and then remove from heat.

Pour through a sieve into glass jars, removing all the cooked bits of pepper.


Add a couple of spoon fulls of garnishing peppers to each jar.

Process using waterbath canning method.

As your jars are cooling on the counter, flip them over or shake them occasionally to redistribute the garnish peppers. If you don’t do this, they will all float to the top where you can’t see them. For an attractive jar and an even distribution of pepper chunks in your jelly you need to catch the jars when they are still fluid enough for the pepper chunks to move around, but thick enough that they won’t rise back to the top!


Remember that I am not an expert at food preservation, so while you are welcome to be inspired by my experiments please do you research on safe food preservation techniques first!