Friday, August 28, 2009

Just Plum Tasty!

I bet all of you have been hanging on the edge of your seats this summer, wondering "I wonder when Liz and Adam are going to start their canning adventures this summer? That's all they talked about last summer". Well, wait no further folks. We have begun. A little late, but better late than never. 

First off - I think a lot of canning endeavors are always a learning experience. That being said, there were some minor slip ups that I'm not sure yet if it will make a difference, but we'll see. 

Our first experience, was a repeat from last year: Peggy's Sunshine Dills. I will not repeat the story, b/c I know Matt and Maggie made these earlier this summer (and we made them last year), but they're so pretty. Here's a picture. 

The only problem with these is the discoloration (white and some gray) happening on some of the pickles. I've been reading the common canning problems index in the back of my Blue Book of Canning, and its most likely due to leaving too much of a headspace at the top of the jar before sealing. Peggy's Dills call for a flip of the jar everyday for 2 weeks, and when we flipped them upside-down the first day, we noticed some funky colors on the pickles.  When they say 1/8th of an inch, they mean it and that's why! I think they should still be fine to eat though. 

The stars of the show though are the Plum Sauce and Damson Plum Jam that I made from the plums in our backyard tree. A month or so ago, hundreds of little tiny plums became ripe fast and one big swoosh of the wind knocked buckets full down in our yard. Hence, the multiple plum preservation recipes.  

First thing is first, make sure you have EVERYTHING ready and at your finger tips. Your boiling water canner (on the right) boiling, your seals and lids soaking in hot water, your ladle, your tongs, stockpot, lots of tea towels.... it just makes everything easier when its all ready to go! Behold: 

Plum Sauce: 
4 lbs of plums
2 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp. mustard seed
2 tbsp. chopped green chili peppers
1x1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, minced
1 clove of garlic minced
1 tbsp. salt
1 c. cider vinegar

Wash plums, drain, pit and chop. Combine the remaining ingredients in a stockpot and bring to a boil, reduce heat.  Add the plums.  Cook until thick and syrupy (this may take a while, keep an eye on it and stir often).  Here it is a-cookin'!

I even used an immersion blender to chop up the hard stuff, just cause I wanted it smoother, but the recipe didn't call for that. Do what you want. Ladle hot sauce into sterile, hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe off the rims, place the seals and caps carefully.  Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (boil in water for 20 minutes).  

Damson Plum Jam: 
(Now, I really don't know for sure if what we have are Damson plums.  Mom seemed to think they might be. They are really tiny and very sweet. Quite good. I liked the look of this recipe, so I went for it. Now looking back, they might not be b/c I needed to add pectin, which the recipe did not call for originally.) 

5 c. coarsely chopped Damson plums
3 cups sugar (or more if different plums)
3/4 c. water
(possibly pectin and lemon juice if different plums - maybe use a whole different recipe all together...) 

Combine plums, sugar and water in a stockpot, bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cook rapidly to gelling point (this did not happen to me, so I panicked and added almost a full pouch of liquid pectin. This is where I may have went wrong b/c the jam isn't setting quite as nicely as I'd hoped. Lesson: make sure you have Damson plums, and all should go well). As the mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Remove from heat, skim foam off the to; if necessary.  Ladle into hot, sterile jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Adjust seals and bands carefully.  Process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.  


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Whistle While You Hike

Adam, baby and I had the privelage of going on a vacation this past week. We toured the Northern Cascades, as well as Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in British Columbia, Canada. 

We began the trip with a few nights camping, hiking and backpacking in the Northern Cascades National Park. We hiked to a beautiful little campground called "Neve" (right off the creek) where we dropped our packs and continued the hike up to Fourth of July Pass which gave us stunning views of the glaciers still in tact in the park. Sorry no photos - our camera was out of battery. Only one picture from this part of the trip (me gazing so photogenically at the sunbursts in the trees):

We continued our adventures further north in Canada, where we stayed in Whistler Village in British Columbia. There, we bought a two day lift pass for the "Peak to Peak" Alpine Express. Its the largest free standing gondola in the WORLD. It takes you from Blackcomb Mountain to Whistler Mountain (approximately 2.73 miles apart).  They just finished this project this past winter, so we were lucky to get to use it. It's just in time for the winter 2010 Vancouver Olympics. 

Once on the top, Adam and I hiked all around each mountain each day and became awestruck at how spectacular the sights were. It seemed so easy to get to do high alpine hiking without having to hike UP the mountain. The baby made its presence known to me by squirming around significantly during all hikes. Either he/she really likes it, or was mad at me. But, we are definitely in the stages of fetal movement - WOW!

The last part of the trip was camping near Mt. Baker. We had a perfect camping spot again near the "Nooksack River".  We just had enough time to view the mountain before the clouds rolled in for good: 

Friday, August 14, 2009

First Portraits...

Meet the new Oregon Holt Baby:

Kinda crazy huh? This baby will go with us on our trip up north to the North Cascades National Park and Whistler, BC. I sure do hope he/she likes the outdoors..... 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bearing Fruit


Pimento Padron


Our garden is actually hanging on pretty well. Above you'll see pictures of our Brandywine tomatoes, a Pimento Padron pepper and some arugula. I just started some fall vegetables today as well: Flashy Trout's Back romaine lettuce, more arugula, spinach, raddiccio and some broccoli. The Rudolph broccoli starts that I bought promised an "abundance of broccoli heads well into mid-december". We'll see! 

In other news, we've recently been up to Olympia, WA to attend a wedding of some dear friends, Meredith and Dan. It was a beautiful and intimate ceremony right on the Puget Sound. Here is a photo from that event.