...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


More Wild Foraging and Preserving

Wild Rose Hips
Vera and I went out this morning in search of more wild black raspberries.  The canes are mostly done bearing for the season; we came home with just a scant half cup.  In the process I found a trove of wild rose bushes that have finished blooming.  I collected just a handful of rose hips, but will likely go back soon.  When I told Ben about this find, he looked panicked.  On his (fortunately) short list of things I should never make again is Rose Hip Pie.  As an intern in East Troy in 2003, my host family gave me a bag of hand-picked, dried rose hips; I couldn't wait to use them.  I found a recipe for this unique dessert and got to work, but had no idea that rose hips had so many seeds.  We'd waited all evening to enjoy this sweet, but the first bite nearly ruined the night; it was completely inedible.  Straight into the garbage and onto the do-not-make list it went.  I used the rest of those rose hips for a winter tea because they have 200% of one's daily needs for Vitamin C; I'll likely do the same with this batch.

Queen Anne's Lace flowers
The rest of our foraging walk was pleasant--what a gorgeous Sunday by the lake!  'Tis the season for mullein, wild bergamot, jewelweed, and Queen Anne's Lace, which I've always wanted to use for jelly.  This wildflower, along with purple chicory, always reminds me of my childhood.  My mom gave me a recipe for these preserves years ago--long before I had any interest in wild foods--but it took me until today to make them.  QAL is a member of the umbelliferae family (think umbrella shaped flowers) along with carrots, parsnips, cilantro, dill, and the like so the steeped "tea" had a slight carrot-y undertone and was a yellowish color like most herbal tea.  Once I added the pectin, it turned more pinkish, a hue I found delicately attractive in the final product.

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly 
Makes 6 8-oz. jars

The original recipe says you can add pink coloring if desired, but I found that Pomona Universal Pectin naturally gave it that color.  Making herbal jellies is much simpler than fruit jellies because there's no jelly bag for straining.  You basically just pour the juice through a sieve.  

An antiquated pink Queen Anne's Lace jelly
18 large Queen Anne's Lace heads
4 c. water
1/4 c. bottled lemon juice
1 pkg. powdered pectin
3 1/2 c. + 2 T. granulated sugar (can sub. xylitol)

Bring water to boil.  Remove from heat.  Add flower heads (push them down into the water.)  Cover and steep 30 min.  Strain.  Put liquid into a 4-6 qt. pan.  Add lemon juice and pectin, stirring immediately.  Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir until mixture comes to a rolling boil.  Boil one minute longer, then remove from heat.  Skim. Pour into sterilized jars leaving 1/4" headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rim of jar.  Put treated lids in place and secure to finger-tightness.  Process in hot water bath for 5 min.  Let cool at room temp., label, date, and store in a cool, dark place.

Black currants
Summer Squash Pickles
This past week also found me preserving summer squash pickles in a curry ginger brine and black currant juice concentrate to dilute as juice this winter.  One of my major preserving goals this year is making more juice, something on which we tend to spend a lot at the co-op.  I bought the black currants from my friends Sandy and David at Pinehold Gardens and made a gorgeous deep dark syrupy juice.  Making homemade juice is nothing more than cooking the fruit in a little bit of water to prevent burning then extracting the juice like you would to make jelly.  You add your sweetener, fill jars, and process.
Filling the jars with juice
Jars of black currant juice concentrate

Veggies for Lottie's Birthday Box
I pulled the first carrots from our garden this weekend to add to a gift box we made for Vera's little girlfriend Lottie's first birthday party.  We knew she didn't need any new toys so I thought a box of fresh garden vegetables would be fun for the whole family.  Also took more garden photos this weekend.  It's a jungle out there!
Melon Trellis--it makes a beautiful garden arch

A baby watermelon

Trellis w/ Rattlesnake Beans (to be dried)

Ants of a Luffa Squash flower

Baby Eggplant

Pineapple Sage and Thyme

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