Monday, January 30, 2012

Vanilla Bean: That's what's up.

Have you seen the prices of vanilla beans?! Friggin expensive dudes! 

It was at my favorite store, the same store where I met chatty old dude (see last blog), that I set out on a mission to find vanilla beans.  Up until now I mostly used vanilla in it's extract form. I was scoping out the store for like, ever, and didn't find any vanilla beans.  So I decided to hit up the produce chicks.

Me: "Yo, my sources say you've got vanilla beans stored up in the joint.  Where are they?"

Produce chick: "Vanilla bean, what vanilla bean? I didn't even know they came in bean form."

Me: "Lies! All Lies!"  **picks up banana and smashes under boot**

Produce chick: "Look, I know you need the bean but all we have is extract".

Me: "I hope that is one thing you are right about".

After that....intense encounter, I set out to prove her wrong and it was 30 minutes later in spice section that I laid my weary eyes upon the Madagascar Vanilla Bean.  It was mine, all mine, for $20 for 2 friggin beans?!  Hmmm, what would my husband say if I spent $20 for 2 beans?  Even Jack got a better deal.  The reason they are so crazy expensive is because they are only grown in Indonesia and supposedly it's super labor intensive cause the pods come from orchids.

So, recently a friend of mine gave me the beautiful gift of homemade vanilla extract, as pictured above.  And guess what?  There were real vanilla beans inside.  I was like "girl, do you know how expensive these things are!?" and she was all like "I, know right!  I bought mine online".   So, instead of staging a vanilla bean hold-up, I'm just gonna order some online.

Anyone have good sources I can buy from?  I want quality beans yo.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

#4 Sweet sour, sweet sour, sweet sour Grapefruit Marmalade

Today I popped into a local supermarket to pick up a few items and had a strange encounter.  I had just gotten into the check out line and was picking up my favorite trashy magazine to skim (sometimes I even pick longer lines so I have more time to read).  Anyways a older man switches lines and just as I'm getting ready to drool over Heidi Klum's and Seals split he decides to start a conversation that went something like this:

old dude: The lady in the other line was using a whole bunch of coupons.  Ya know how much money you can save using coupons?

me: oh yea, a lot i bet.

old dude: yea, once i was at walmarts and this lady bought a whole buncha stuff, like carts full an I asked her how much she paid and she said 9 bucks!  She had 4 kids I don't have any kids, I'm single cause I don't want any women taking my money.

me: oh okay (trying to hide my wedding ring so he doesn't think I'm out to steal men's money).

old dude: you know, it's like 60/40. Women take 60%!

me: oh wow, i didn't know that.

Now, this is the best part of the whole conversation because the day before my husband and I were picking out a type of cereal.  I am a huge fan of Golden Oh's cause they don't get soggy and my husband likes the Special K, cause i think he feels healthy eating it, but it get uber soggy fast (ew).  Anyways I didn't get my Golden Oh's that day cause they were in the "kids section", next to Trix and Lucky Charms and now I'm supposed to eat like an adult and have soggy cereal **pouts**.  So to continue my story:

old dude: yea, hey have you tried this cereal? (holds up a box of Golden Oh's) it doesn't get soggy like cheerio's.

me: (trying not to sound too excited) "I completely agree"!

The conversation ended there cause then he started chatting up the cash register girl.  I was like "hey back off girl, this is my old chatty dude".  Then again he may have been on speed.

So let's get into this thing we call marmalade.  Firstly, it is an excellent word that sounds like what it means.  When I hear marmalade I think lemonade, both are sweet but have a sour pucker to it. Oh and  while making this delightful marm, you must listen to this song:

Adapted from The Cosmic Cowgirl.

5 Florida Ruby Reds
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
6 cups of sugar
2 vanilla beans

Halve grapefruits and place in a huge mofo of a pot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer for 2 hours. This makes the grapefruit rind nice and soft and I believe draws out some of the bitterness. Make sure you add water if water level gets critical (ie, grapefruits are not covered).  Drain water. They will look like this:

Soggy grapefruit= good, soggy cereal=bad
Then chunk up the grapefruit and remove seeds.  Put rinds/pith (white part)/flesh all into a food chopper upper. Chopper Up until it's as smooth/chunky as you want. See how chunky mine is?

Now you take all that chunky grapefruit and put it back in the huge mofo pot, along with 8 cups of sugar, 2 vanilla beans, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.  It'll look something like this:

Now stir it all together an make everything be friends with each other.  Then I let it simmer for about 30 minutes while stirring occasionally.  Once it is to the consistency and sweetness, to your little hearts content, take your sterilized jars fill em up and then process in a water bath for 15 minutes. 
I think I used really big grapefruits or something.
You checkin out my Vanilla Bean?

This marm is absolutely wonderful, especially if you like grapefruit.  Actually, if you don't like the taste of grapefruit you probably won't enjoy this, which is quite a shame.  I just ate some spread on toast with a bit of cream cheese, and it was eye-crossing good.  Leaves a great bitter/sour aftertaste. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

# 3 Meyer Lemon Honey Jelly

Meyer Lemons are the new cool kids in the produce section. Meyer Lemon this, Meyer Lemon that, blah, blah, blah. At first I resisted, but it's like that cool girl who is so gosh darn sweet that you can't help wanting to be friends with her (like me, hah!).

They are different from all other lemons in that they are a little more sweet and smaller. So I decided to try em in a nice smooth jelly.  This is kind of my first try at a jelly and it was purty easy since I didn't have to strain anything.

Here is the lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, and sugar all in a hot little pot. Then I boiled this sucker and dumped in 3 ounces of pectin.  I let her boil for a little while longer till nice and thick.  Got my new kilner jar ready and ladled this sweet concoction in.  Interesting tid-bit here; when I dipped to cool ladle into the hot jelly it kinda stuck on the ladle and made a congealed chunk.

Ta-da!  Okay, my neighbors might think I'm a weirdo cause I'm always taking pictures of preserves on my windowsill but it's because I like when they have a little light from behind.  It just looks so gosh darn purty.  Well here is the recipe!

12 Meyer Lemons or 2/3 a cup of Meyer Lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups honey
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 3-ounce package liquid pectin

Juice and zest lemons.  Combine juice, zest, honey, sugar, and water in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and stir frequently.  While boiling add in the pectin and combine.  Once you have reached 220 degrees remove the pot and ladle into sanitized jars.  Process according to elevation approx: 10+ minutes. Good for you, you made some jelly!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kilner Jars

Now, I am still a newbie when it comes to canning and I am enjoying the learning process.  The other day I was at TJ Maxx. Just wandering around, and I came across 2 Kilner Jars.  I'd never seen these types of jars. So I proceeded to read the insert that said these jars can be used for water baths!  Cool, So I bought 2.  One was a pint size and the other was larger.

I used the smaller one today for a lemon honey jelly (my #3) and followed the directions.  See these jars have a rubber ring that you have to remove before boiling the jar to sanitize.  Then you replace the ring when you are ready to process.

There are things I liked about them and things I wish were different.  I liked their darling appearance and glass lid.  I didn't like the bulkiness. When I was removing the jar from the process bath it slipped from the tongs grasp and fell back in, luckily nothing broke.  I would definitely buy more Kilner Jars but in smaller sizes. Their website is great too!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

#2 Plum Jam

I like the word plum and I like plums.  So I was thinking of doing a plum chutney but I was feeling a little spiced out.  One thing I am really starting to learn is to can what is in season, right now it's citrus so my next can jam will include some citrus:-)

3 pints or 6 half pints

16 plums chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (about 6 cups)

3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup sugar

1 package of pectin

Combine chopped plums, lemon juice, and pectin into 5 quart pot.  Cook over medium heat until the plums start to sweat and get all juicy.  Once softened add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling dump the sugar and honey in. Give it a good stir and then let jam reduce to thick consistency.  Take sterilized jars and fill with hot jam and process for at least 10 mins (if at sea level).

Friday, January 20, 2012

First real snow fall!

Last night we had our first real snow fall since moving to Rhode Island.  Needless to say this Florida girl was awfully excited.  The most beautiful thing is when everything is covered in pure white, the streets, grass, trees, it's amazing what gifts mother nature gives us.  It's nice experiencing the changes in the seasons.  In Florida we don't get a real winter or even an autumn.  Everything is green year round!

This weekend I am planning on using the Meyer Lemons I bought last week and I think I might try the Meyer lemon cranberry jelly that was seen on The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking.  I still need to blog about the plum jam I made last weekend, it came out sooo smooth and set nicely!

#1 Raisin-Haters Apple Chutney

Whew, kicking off the year with a spicy and sweet Chutney.  I got this recipe from Tart and Sweet and at first glance I thought " a jam?" but here's the thing a Chutney is entirely different from jam.  It's hearty, it's savory, it's spicy, it's.....delicious.

This is a great beginner chutney too because it's main base is apples.  Apples are safe, it's hard to screw up apples AND if you do you don't feel bad cause they are so gosh darn cheap.


1 pound (about 2 large) apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ghee, clarified butter or canola oil
1/4 cup minced white onion
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
1 teaspoon chile flakes
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Red Flame or other raisin

Mix apples and lemon juice to prevent browning.  In a medium saucepan heat the ghee/canola oil, onion, cumin, salt, mustard seed, chile flakes and ginger.  Cook until onions are translucent while stirring occasionally. Raise heat to medium and stir in brown sugar.  Let simmer and reduce for about 30 minutes. Stir in raisins.  Ladle into hot jars and process according to elevation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Welcome to my blog!

I want to begin by stating the purpose of this blog is to give back to the jammers, the canners, the marmaladers, even the chutnyiests. 

This year I am commiting myself to making at least 1 jam, jelly, chutney, heck maybe I'll get crazy and try for a Marmalade one week.  Pretty much anything that can be processed and deemed safe through the water bath method.

I can safely say that I am inspired by the self sufficient type of people and I hope that this interest in the simpler way of life continues to grow. In addition to my goal of 52 I am going to grow a small garden with hopes of canning it's delicious veggies!