Monday, June 29, 2015

Blueberry Raspberry Jam

Blueberry Raspberry Jam
Adding the whole berries at the end of the cooking process makes for a nice chunky jam. Using the ratio of 1:2/3 cup (berries to sugar) allows the ripe fruit taste to come through. Estimate about 2 pints of berries for 1 pint of jam. Yields 6 pint jars.

Fresh Ripe Organic Blueberries, 750 gm ( 26.5 oz) = 562 gm (20 oz) + 188 gm (6.5 oz) (set aside)
Fresh Ripe Organic Raspberries, 750 gm ( 26.5 oz) = 562 gm (20 oz) + 188 gm (6.5 oz) (set aside)
Granulated Sugar, 1000 gm (35 oz)
Organic Lemon, 1, zest & 1 Tbsp of Juice
Kirschwasser, 2 oz (60 ml)

Useful Equipment
Long handled spoon
Large heavy bottom Dutch Oven
Zester for Lemon
Mesh skimmer or spoon to skim off foam and small bowl of water to dump the foam
Jars for canning with lids and bands
Canning Pot for water bath 

  1. Place metal spoons or plate into freezer.
  2. Wash inside and outside of canning jars with lids and bands (estimate a pint jar per two pints of berries). 
  3. Bake jars (tops open) at 250ºF (121ºC) for 30 minutes. In a small pot over low heat, simmer the lids until needed. Lay out a clean cloth to wipe jar rims after filling. 
  4. Pick over the fruit and discard any unripe berries, stems, leaves, critters, or mold. Fill a bowl with water and swish the berries around-- prevents damage from the faucet's stream to the delicate fruit. Arrange in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to prevent bruising and dry.
  5. Near the stove, set aside a quarter of the berries, 375 gm (13 oz), to add at the end.
  6. In a large heavy bottom pot with a wide rim such as a dutch oven over low heat, add berries and occasionally stir to soften the fruit and draw out the pectin until it comes to a simmer, 5 to 7 minutes. 
  7. Continuing over low heat, add the sugar, lemon juice, and a bit of lemon zest. Stir into berries until dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Increase heat (medium high to high depending on the heat source) to boil rapidly, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the jelling point is reached, 15 to 20 minutes- see the next step below. Skim foam off the top as needed.
  9. After 15  minutes begin to test for the jelling point by placing a bit of the hot jam onto a spoon or plate from the freezer. If the jam runs, continue to cook and recheck after a minute, if the jam runs in a sheet and crinkles when pushed up, the jelling point has been reached.
  10. Add the remaining whole berries and return to boil until the berries are translucent and just hold their shape, about 1 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Skim off any foam. 
  11. Gently stir the Kirschwasser into the jam. 
  12. Allow to cool and thicken to let the whole fruit pieces to remain disbursed, 10 to 12 minutes.
  13. Ladle warm jam into clean sterilized jars with a 1/4-inch of head space. Wipe rims with clean damp cloth. Apply lids and seal with bands- tighten bands to just finger tight.
  14. Place jars in a pot with a rack and enough water to cover the jars by about an inch. Bring water to boil and process for 5 minutes. Start the timer when the water begins to boil. Refer to manufacturers instructions for specific canning details for either the waterbath or oven method. 
  15. Remove jars from the water and place on a surface (wood, folded cloth, newspapers, silicon mat, etc.) to cool. Tighten the bands. Allow to sit undisturbed and to cool completely. 
  16. Label jars/lids with the date and contents.
  17. Check the seals. Any unsealed jars must be used within a few days and stored in the fridge. 
  18. Store jars in a cool dry place and use within 1 year.
At the table
Eat jam on sandwiches with brie, french toast, oatmeal, yogurt, scones, waffles, salad dressing, etc.

Blueberries and Raspberries cooking

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don't dis the political things, but understand their limitations."

Grace Boggs

Friday, June 12, 2015


Oh do I feel this!

"I have no idea if Malcolm Gladwell is onto something with the “10,000-hour rule” — the notion that this is the time required for the acquisition of perfected expertise in a particular field — but I am sure grind is underappreciated in our feel-good culture. Don’t sweat the details, but do sweat." 
Roger Cohen

"Want to be happy? Mow the lawn. Collect the dead leaves. Paint the room. Do the dishes. Get a job. Labor until fatigue is in your very bones. Persist day after day. Be stoical. Never whine. Think less about the why of what you do than getting it done."
Roger Cohen

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lessons from a Funeral

In no particular order, these are some of the thoughts that have stuck with me these past days with the passing of my mother-in-law.

1. “How old was she? Was she sick? Oh, it was expected right?” I’ve cluelessly said some version of this myself. No, I wasn’t expecting it though I was expecting it because she was sick, but I can’t really believe someone’s gone until they're gone which then feels unexpected and out of no where. She was gone before she was gone, but it was important to me to witness that last little bit of the going and then it still felt like a surprise.

2. “I’m sorry for your loss,” is enough. Get comfortable for an awkward millisecond, I’ll come ‘round.

3. Don’t lay your loss on me right then and there, I’m staggering already.

4. Flowers are for the living. Have all the dang flowers you need, beauty helps in these moment.

5. Rituals, friends, community, and random people with their stories of, “She helped me,” helped me. Eventually, you have to stagger out on your own two feet, but there’s a time for support. Later, years later, it’ll catch you off guard, but for right now, closure, a way to say goodbye, and an opportunity to share the grief are enough.

6. I thought my father-in-law was going to die watching my mother-in-law die. It pained him to see her suffer, but it almost killed him too. Dying is grueling. Pace yourself. The living must rest, relax, chill, take a break, eat good food, go for a long walks, you just have to do it especially when accompanying the dying.

7. My mother-in-law was a dynamic woman who made lots of things happen in her life. I had moments of doubt that she always meant well, but I see clearly now that she always had good intentions. It occurs to me to trust that most who cross your path, mean well. Second guessing is a waste of energy.

8. Photos collages recollect all of the times, roles, and parts that the departed have played in life. It’s good to gather and assemble a lifetime of photos.

9. I’m avoiding the cards. More cards have arrived than at Christmas. It’s a little overwhelming. I’ve stacked them up for my husband, but he hasn’t opened them either. I’m slightly afraid of the grief that will be shared or maybe it’s the dazzling sentiments that I’m ducking. Who knows.

10. Every person who came, wow, just wow, it means a lot. When my husband’s college buddies, who were also in our wedding, walked into the church for the funeral, I lost my composure.

11. You get through the messy stuff of life because other people don’t let you fall through the cracks even though you are surrounded by flesh eating sinkholes. See above.

12. In the end your body is just a vessel for your soul or whatever it is you call the difference between a corpse and someone you love. You don’t take the body with you. I realized it’s ok if it’s got holes in it or parts missing. I thought the body was way more important than it turned out to be. It eventually fails and falls away, it's part of life. Be an organ donor.

13. My mother-in-law nearly died during the fall, but she came back, though her body no longer worked very well. However, she gracefully accepted the changes as she tried to recoup her physical strength. I seriously doubt I could be as magnanimous as her. Honey, let me go the first time round, and I know I’m being selfish in asking for this. Those extra months she got really helped me appreciate what she was going to have to do to get back to a level of activity. When it’s my turn, have mercy on me, let me go. She was a saint, I'm an ogre- no testing necessary, I'm confessing now.

14. In life, we need less stuff. I’m as guilty as the next person for having stuff in my closet and life that just takes up space. I don’t care why you love it, but only keep ithe stuff you love. Otherwise, thank the unloved stuff and pass it on.

15. It’s never what you think will do you in that does you in. Was it the chemo or the cancer? I tell you this, it wasn’t the Piña colada, exercise program, or cruise to the northern climes that did it. I’m not saying smoke the smokes, but do live a little, you can’t take it with you.

16. It’s going to take me a while to write thank you notes. I don't want to think about it all for a while.

17. That was physically an exhausting experience. I could easily spend a week in hibernation. I have pains that I've never had before. I’m definitely an introvert.

18. Every face, every smile, every nod felt like encouragement. I couldn’t have done it without all of you. Thank you for making the path brighter and the way, lighter.

19. The day of the funeral, I played my Moody Mama playlist. R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and Sade’s “By Your Side” helped.

20. My kiddo had a nightmare shortly after the funeral. She couldn't go back to sleep so she got up uncharacteristically early. I didn't press, but a few days later, she told me about her nightmare. She said, "Someone stole Square Pig  (her "lovey"), and I couldn't get it back. When I woke up, I wasn't holding even one of my stuffys." Oh! Crackle my heart. Death snatches our loveys from us,  and we don't get them back.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


"You see imaginative story telling consists of telling a number of lies in order to convey a truth; it is a rearrangement of falsehoods which, if it is done honestly, results in verity."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cookies & Asparagus

My husband has the sort of job that whatever kind of day you're having, the kids he works with have had it worse. On my "I'm a lunatic" days this can help me reset. On my "I'm a grump" days this can frustrate me. The days in between those kinds of days, I feel blessed to have had a childhood where someone baked cookies for me, my mother made me invite all the kids I played with to my birthday parties, and the people around me were consistent and loving despite my annoying tendencies that stubbornly remain to this day- see reference to lunatic and grump. 

How could one feel grumpy with azaleas in bloom? I manage. Spring colds and a loved one on a ventilator help.

In spite of my stuffed head, I rousted myself from the house to check out the first week at the Chesterhill Produce Auction. The pickings were slim, but the eggs, asparagus, and rhubarb were plentiful! 

It amazes me what grows in this area- plenty. The seasons are sometimes short so with asparagus, you must act quickly if you want to make pickles. I also saw The Under Secretary of Agriculture and got interviewed by a Korean journalist about rhubarb. 

Here's the asparagus, potatoes, and bacon quiche I made for dinner.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Problem with Spring

Spring makes me glad all over again that we have long cold dark days that ripen into flaming petals of outrageous colors, visual performances onstage of words written in the late night hours, and of little girls leaping in tutus with steps learned week after week during the long months of buildup. Every spring as the tulips wave their colorful hellos from the beds, I think, "I'm planting more bulbs in fall." Every fall, I fail to plant the hundreds of tulips I had envisioned seeing in spring. The problem with spring is that you have to do the work in the dark days to get to the sunny ones.