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!

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.


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!

Blackberry Bourbon Jam


Blackberry Mush in the Food Mill

Earlier this summer my mom brought my some blackberries from her yard and they were delicious, but after traveling all the way from North Carolina in the back of her car they were perfectly ripe when we got them and quickly started to down the soft, sticky slope of over ripeness. So, of course, I made jam. I could have made ordinary blackberry jam but we still had some of that in the pantry from last year so I decided to try something new– Blackberry Bourbon Jam. Its pretty good. A little weird. Very bourbony. If you don’t happen to live in the middle of Bourbon Country like I do you might want to use less bourbon for a more subtle flavor.


Blackberry Bourbon Jam

  • 6 cups  blackberries
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 3 TBS lemon syrup
  • 1/2TBS vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup bourbon (or less)

Combine sugar and blackberries in a pot and cook until the blackberries have fallen apart. Use a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. If you are feeling lazy you *can* skip this step but I don’t like the texture of blackberry jam with the seeds left in. They get stuck between my teeth.

Once you have a smooth, lovely syrup add your remaining ingredients.

Pour hot jam into jars and water bath process for at least 10minutes.


Note: I didn’t use pectin in this recipe and it turned out great. This may be because I used lemon syrup that happened to contain some of the lemon rind in addition to the juice (lemon rind naturally contains pectin), because I cooked it for a long time (it took me a while to decide on my ingredients so I just let it simmer while I was experimenting with adding a little of this, a little of that…) or because I added so much sugar. I’m not sure if it would set as well without pectin if I tried it again. I do usually add pectin to my jams to ensure a nice firm, spreadable texture without having to cook for a long time or add excessive  sugar (though let’s be honest it, I add a ton of sugar anyway. I like my jams to be sweet!) According to the handy dandy Ball Pectin Calculator you would want to use about 7.5 TBS of “Real Fruit Classic Pectin” for this recipe which I believe is equal to almost 4 packets of liquid pectin. That seems like a ton of pectin to me, though, so take that information with a grain of salt.




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!

Homemade Garlic Powder

Earlier this summer our friend Zhan Ye gave us several heads of garlic that he and his father grew in his garden. We have been enjoying using it in lots of different ways (like in pesto!) but one of my favorite uses of garlic is in chevre. The only things is…I don’t like fresh garlic in my chevre. The spiciness of it is just too much for me; I prefer garlic powder which has a milder and sweeter flavor more like cooked garlic. Lately I’ve been lamenting the fact that I take my fresh, homemade chevre and my garden fresh herbs and then I go and sprinkle a bunch of commercial garlic powder on it which contains who knows what preservatives and likely comes from half way around the world. It just seems a bit wrong, somehow! So I looked into making my own garlic powder and guess what? Its really easy! It would be even easier if I had a dehydrator, but I don’t, so I used the oven instead.

  1. Peel a bunch of garlic and slice it into very thin slices. Its best if they are all about the same thickness so that they will all dry at the same rate. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Lay your slices out in a single layer on some aluminum foil on a baking tray.
  3. Turn your oven down to its lowest setting. Mine is 170 which is still pretty hot, some ovens will go down to 120. I was worried that at 170 my oven might cook (and burn) rather than just dry so I left the oven door propped open a little bit with a wooden spoon. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Let the garlic slices dry out for several hours. I think mine took about 4 hours. If you have to leave the house or go to bed during this time just turn the oven off and shut the door, leaving the garlic inside. The heat retained in the oven will keep working until you come back and turn it back on!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Once the slices are 100% dry and not at all bendy, use a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder) to grind them into powder. Store in an airtight container*



See how simple? And if I had a real dehydrator and spice grinder it would be even easier! Discovering this “trick” makes me want to dry all sorts of things now. Making up mixes to flavor my chevre is just the tip of the iceberg….




*I only made a small quantity and plan on using it up really quickly. If you don’t plan on using it immediately I’d suggest storing it in the freezer. Even though it has been dehydrated there may still be some oils left in the garlic that could go rancid over time, especially if any extra humidity soaks into the powder. The reason that dried spices from the store last forever is due to the preservatives that are mixed in!



Today’s plans to work in the weed garden got cancelled due to rain. I’m grateful for the rain, though, we needed it. And its not like I don’t have plenty of other things to keep me busy and out of the rain! I’ve been noticing lately that the basil bushes are getting out of control and have been meaning to make pesto but kept forgetting to pick up pine nuts at the store. I wish I could do pesto without the nuts since that is always the one thing I don’t have on hand, plus they are expensive if I want to make a whole bunch of pesto at one time. But the pine nuts are so yummy so….whatcha gonna do? Chris usually makes the pesto but today I had him show me how he does it, step by step, and wrote down his recipe so I can make it myself in the future and so I can share it with you!


Pesto Recipe

*Note- Chris doesn’t use measurements when he is cooking but I tried to measure everything as he went along. All of these measurements are approximations which can be adjusted based on your preferences and the amount of flavor in the particular ingredients you are using. We like our pesto pretty potent, if you prefer a milder version add more cheese!


  • 1cup chopped basil, well packed (about 3 cups whole basil leaves, well packed– it shrinks a lot when you chop it!)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2c EVOO
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2c shredded Parmesan cheese


Start by roasting your pine nuts to give them extra flavor. Put them in a pan on the stove and gently swirl them around, tossing them occasionally, until they start to brown and smell good. You just want them to have a little bit of color but not get dark and burnt. You will know they are done when they smell warm and toasty but not burnt. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next, chop up your garlic and put it in a food processor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe use a Magic Bullet style food processor. With a small food processor like ours we have to add the basil and other ingredients about 1/4 cup at a time, with larger food processors you could probably add it all at once. Start by blending the garlic, basil and EVOO and then gradually add the salt, lemon juice,  pine nuts and finally the cheese.



Blend until everything is well mixed. The texture won’t be completely smooth but you shouldn’t have chunks or be able to distinguish the individual ingredients anymore. I.e. there shouldn’t be any hard bits of pine nut visible. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since I am planning to make a lot of pesto in the next week or so in order to take advantage of our basil explosion, I will be freezing most of it. I use my trusty ice-cube trays for this. Some people like to put a layer of EVOO on top of each cube to prevent the pesto from turning dark on the surface where it touches the air. Since I’m not going to be storing them in the trays (once frozen I’ll remove them and store in freezer bags) I don’t really see the point in doing this.

To use, defrost a couple of cubes and mix with pasta, spread on pizza or whatever. We like to sprinkle a bit of extra shredded Parmesan on top when serving because its pretty and adds some interesting texture.

Basil Syrup

basilsyrup2I had a delicious cocktail recently that was made with grapefruit juice, basil and vodka. I haven’t tried making it myself but plan to as soon as I remember to pick up grapefruit juice at the store! In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the basil component of the drink. As a summer cocktail I’d probably use fresh basil muddled with the fruit juice but in the winter and early spring when we don’t have a garden full of basil I’ll need another option. If you’ve been following my blog for long you’ll know where this is leading….Basil Simple Syrup! As you know I love simple syrups. They are such an easy way to preserve the fresh flavor of herbs, fruits and berries and can be used in so many ways. Just last night I had some of my mint simple syrup drizzled over chocolate pudding and it was heavenly!


Basil Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • two big handfuls of basil (or as much as you can stuff in the pot)

In a small pot, combine water and sugar and bring to a low boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add basil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for at least 10 minutes (I have forgotten and simmered it much longer, it turned out fine!). Pour into jars and store in the fridge or can for pantry storage. When you pour the syrup into the jars you probably won’t need to use a filter since the sugar coated leaves will form a sticky lump that will remain in the pot.


Now- what to use my Basil Syrup in first? Basil & Lime Highball? Basil Lemonade with my Lemon Syrup? Strawberry Basil Martini? It’s a good thing its Friday!