Category Archives: Preserving

Putting up Plums

Ripe Santa Rosa Plums

Ripe Santa Rosa Plums

Just picked plums

Scoring Plums


Food Mill Plums
The Santa Rosa plums came ripe within the last two weeks. Looking into my canning notes, we hadn’t yet preserved anything this growing season(!), but the plums changed all that. We sat down the other Sunday to do our first batch of jam. I picked with gusto, I carried them into the house with gusto but as soon as I sat down to put the task to hand, all the wind was knocked out of my sails. Our plums are delicious but they are hidden behind a very bitter skin. I started peeling with a knife, but the knife was dull (a solveable problem, I know). Then I tried scoring the bottom, like tomatoes, and dunking them into hot water to let the skins separate from the meat of the fruit. It looked like it would work, but it didn’t. In fact it totally backfired. Not only did the skins not fully loosen, but by placing the bitter skinned plums in the boiling water, the bitterness soaked right through the fruit, making the whole batch bitter. Argh! Scott sharpened the knives and we sat down and hand peeled…for hours!

Then inspiration hit and for our second batch, we picked them, let them sit on the counter a few days to truly ripen and sent them through the food mill. Problem solved! Not only that, but after the fruit passes through the food mill, it’s smooth and thick enough that it only took a minute or two on the stove to let the sugar dissolve and then into trays to become handmade fruit roll ups. Hardly any hot cooking involved! Food mill, where have you been all of my life?

First entry into the 2014 Canning Log: 6-half pints of plum jam & 4 sheets of fruit rolls ups.


Filed under Fruit Trees, Preserving

Preserving Fish

The past couple of years Scott had really grown his passion for fishing. When salmon season starts, he takes a day off about once a month and wakes up at some ungodly hour to drive to a Sausalito dock to jump upon a fishing boat. Then out under the Golden Gate Bridge to take to the salty sea. On a good day he’ll bring back two 15-20lb salmon. We always eat well that night. Then some fillets go into the freezer and at least one fish a season will go to Angelos for smoking. Smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese and capers is well coveted in this house!
Last month when he came home with two fish, it was right on the heels of us smoking our second round of bacon when we thought, let’s give our own smoked salmon a try! Miracle upon miracles it worked! It is quite delicious and now we don’t have to pay for it to be smoked and we can control the amount of salt and know without a doubt that there aren’t nitrites in it.
Monday Scott went tuna fishing, as I mentioned that day, and came back with two 25lb bluefin tuna. Now unlike salmon fishing, where you stay near the coast, with tuna you need to go straight out into the ocean. Far out into the ocean. Far enough to make a wife nervous. He was gone from 2:30am until almost 9pm so we saved most of the butchering for the next day. He cut the tuna into steaks and we portioned them into dinner sized sections and vacuum sealed them.
Years ago we had a friend give us his home canned tuna. Now, canned fish does not look good in a glass jar at all. There is a reason the tuna you buy in the store is in a metal tin! However, it tasted absolutely delicious. Since we graduated into pressure canning world a few years ago, we decided to give it a try. The tuna went into clean jars packed with salt and olive oil and into the pressure canner for 100 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure.
12 meals worth of tuna steaks + 15 jars of tuna + 3 meals worth of fresh tuna last night and today = success

This might have been our most disappointing vegetable gardening year yet, but we won’t be swayed from stocking up our pantry full of summer’s bounty for the winter months.


Filed under Preserving

Baked Chiles Rellenos, Corn Harvest & Ponds


The baked chiles rellenos turned out great! We have chili rellenos a few times during the summer and they are without a doubt one of my favorite dinners. But they are a lot of work! This was a nice alternative and I could make it early in the day and pop it in the oven after soccer practice. It’s especially nice when your husband comes home early and makes a peach pie to bake with it! Anyway, recipe for baked chiles rellenos here.

We harvested all the corn this weekend. Five portions went into the freezer and the rest went into dinner.

The sunflower plant growing next to the corn just fell over. Much to bees dismay we cut off all the blooms and brought them inside.

Scott woke up yesterday and decided we needed a pond. A bunch of excited boys and a few hours later we have a pond. I’ll show you more pictures soon.

While the boys were out digging, the girl and I decided to finally, finally sew this little top I’ve had cut out for months. Instead of sleeves I made it sleeveless (this was supposed to be a summer shirt!), with bias bounding. It turned out cute and if luck is on our side it will fit next spring too. She grew five (!) inches in the last year, so she’d better get as much use out of it now.

Don’t forget, today is the last day of the $50 Pharmaca giveaway. Enter, enter, enter!

How was your weekend?


Filed under just picked, Preserving, Recipes

Notes on another Sunday of Preserving


Fueled by ample amounts of espresso (more on our coffee drinking habits soon), we decided to spend this Sunday, again, tackling those things that needed putting by. (sheep’s milk soap in the background! shepard neighbors make for good friends! More on beauty products soon too. I have been getting so many orders for my e-booklet lately and I’m so very appreciative of each and every one!) First up were the peaches. Another few trees are coming ripe on the other side of the house, so into the freezer in quarters they went along with others to be made into fruit leather.

Next up was 8 pints of apple sauce. Turns out we were able to round up enough Gravensteins to make a batch! Oh, it’s so delicious!

Green beans were blanched and frozen in portion sized sections. Do you have a FoodSaver? We use it regularly, I’ll talk about it soon. My writing has been quiet on this blog lately, but it isn’t for lack of activity. I do have a lot to share when and if I do get some more time to write! Anyway, the FoodSaver sucks all the air out of the bag and you are able to keep your food fresher for much longer in the freezer, which will be perfect for our storage of green beans.

This is our first successful year at growing cabbages and today I found three more in the garden. Into the crock for sauerkraut they went. We use Sandor Katz’s method in Wild Fermentation along with a packet of Vegetable Starter Culture from Cultures for Health, just to insure that it will ferment correctly. If this batch turns out anything like the last, it will be delicious!

Lastly, we also canned seven jars of pears too. I don’t know. I’m suspicious of canned pears. I have very vivid memories of the rare times my parents let me buy school cafeteria lunches. They always had canned fruit cocktail as ‘dessert’. It was totally disgusting, but I do remember that if we took our red milk straws, we could poke the pears with them. They’d fill up with pear and then we could blow the other end of the straw and shoot pear bits at each other. That’s my best memory of canned pears. All the rest go downhill after that. So, we’ll see about these. If they don’t fair well with us over winter, it’s back into the cider press next year! They are pretty there, floating in the syrup! Having that recording log inside our kitchen cabinet has already proved itself priceless! I’m keeping notes on such things as how many jars a full pot yields, how much sugar was used, and all sorts of other misc. notes I knew I’d forget. Since I wrote it on binder paper, I plan on transferring it into a binder at the end of the season to keep for next year.

Tonight, we’re exhausted and really enjoying our gin and tonics. If I don’t have to quarter and peel another piece of fruit again this summer, it will be a-okay by me! Now to get ready for a certain someone’s ninth birthday tomorrow!!


Filed under In the Kitchen, Preserving

A Week of Preserving Peaches


If you haven’t heard from us in a while, blame the peaches. While this year (again) might not yield a single jar of apple sauce or apple cider, the fruit tree world is making up for it in spades in peaches. These ten (!) peach trees are very happy this year and as a result we’re swimming in them. It’s a little ridiculous. Canned peaches, peach jam, peach cobbler, peach fruit roll ups, peach chutney, frozen peach segments. They’ve all been made this week in our kitchen. If we could completely nourish ourselves during the winter only in peaches, we’d be set.

I’m finally starting to get a firm handle on canning myself. In the past it was typically Scott’s job to do the actual canning, but after 10 years of watching, I started canning on my own last year and this year, I’ve canned each one of our 30+ jars of jam. It’s quite a satisfying feeling and not nearly as intimidating a project as I once thought it to be. Last year when I was first attempting it, I had to have the kitchen quite orderly, the kids out of the room and my entire focus on the task at hand. This year, I caught myself fishing out lids out of boiling water with cluttered counter tops and a two year old swinging around my legs. Not at all safe for the wee-one, I realize, but I’ve come a long way in canning confidence. We’ll work on safety at a later date.Oh, this is a few years old now, but if you need some cute labels for the top of your jars (my canning pet peeve is labels on the face of the jars…so hard to get off!) I have some free downloadable canning labels you are welcome to.


Filed under In the Kitchen, Preserving

Putting Food Up


Putting food up is a lot of work. These pears along with a couple more bags sat in the kitchen a week until I summoned the courage to sit and cut them all, lug out the heavier than heck cider press, grind them, press them and then make pear butter from the pressings.

Meanwhile Scott’s been slowly plugging away at making marinaras with the tomatoes. 5 quarts are in the pantry, only 19 more to make! A few years ago we made it a goal to put 24 quarts up, which would give us a spaghetti dinner every other week or so until the next tomato season. Just thinking about 19 more makes me want to take a nap. It’s so worth it though when you taste it. Home canned marinara is so much more delicious than anything you can buy. We upped our canning ability this year by investing in a pressure canner. Our first pressure canned experiment was salsa.

The corn was all harvested, but that’s easy to put up. Just cut it off the cob and into ziplocks for the freezer. I think this year our harvest should carry us most of the way through the winter.

I had to do a little surgery in one of my hives last week. Somehow, somewhere along the line, someone left a one inch gap between frames in the bottom box and the ladies filled that space up with comb. I spent all summer fretting over having to deal with it. At a recent beekeeping get together a wiser beekeeper encouraged me to just get in and take care of business and I did. Not only did the lovely ladies create an easy to pop out full wall of comb between the frames, but it was almost entirely empty of brood. Phew!

Last weekend my younger son and I went to a bee harvesting event where we helped harvest honey from three different colonies, all in different locations. We started with the honey from the Sonoma Garden Park. See the color above?

Well, we ended with honey from Glen Ellen, the next town north, just a few miles up the road for those not familiar with the area. Look how much darker it is! It’s a nice group of beekeepers we have here in Sonoma. Such interesting people. It was a good day.


Filed under beekeeping, Preserving

Inspiring way to store your produce

Wow, I’m so inspired by this video, look at the incredibly beautiful way she stores her vegetables. We have a fairly small fridge for American standards and I know as these boys grow older and hungrier, I’m going to have to get creative with food storage. Why aren’t these containers being sold yet?

I love how the basis behind her project is about saving traditional oral knowledge passed down generation by generation. You can read more at her website here.

More food storage suggestions.


Filed under Preserving

The mystery of the popping jam lids…

I feel so fortunate to have moved into a house with so many seasonal bouquet ingredients growing everywhere you look!

I just love this time of year, everything is so beautiful outside. We’ve been making a list of garden tasks that need to be done before winter sets in…the list, it’s long! Since we’ve moved in we haven’t been able to spend as much time getting the garden going as we had hoped. Our focus has been on the house and hopefully we can get all our projects done so that the next growing season we can turn our thoughts fully to the outside. Because our focus has been off the garden we haven’t had as much to put up or preserve. This time last year, we had 26 quart jars of tomato sauce put up. 16 jars of peaches, 10 bags of frozen nectarines, and well over a dozen jars of jam in the pantry, catsup, chutney’s, barbecue sauces etc. This year we maybe got a measly amount canned or frozen. Nothing went to waste, we ate or gave away all our fruit, but we just didn’t have the energy or produce to do more.

With the little we did get canned, we had a bit of a disaster. In fact what happen still remains a mystery. Last week, when our oldest was making his almond butter and jelly sandwich he ran out of jam. We reached for a new jar to find that the seal had popped. We reached for another one, that too had been broken. Seven jars, all their seals broken! These were all different jams, canned from different times of the year. As we tend to be a bit conservative on the food safety meter, we threw them all away, who knows how long they had been unsealed. Uhg. Then this past Sunday we were all sitting in the kitchen. Praire Home Companion was playing on the radio, I was cutting Scott’s hair, the boys were again packing their lunch snacks into little containers and we heard a loud ‘poink’ come from the pantry. Not again! Another jam lid popped.

Those of you who do their own canning, know that ‘ping’ sound that you hear when the jars seal. It’s a soul satisfying sound that gives you an inner happiness. A happiness to know that the job you did was successful, that you have worked to preserve a little bit of summer that will nourish your family in the dark months, that you are somehow connected to previous generations, oh I could go on and on. Hearing that ‘poink’ sound of a jar unsealing randomly in the pantry gives you pretty much the opposite feeling.

Do you have any idea why this happened? Our suspicion is that we got a bum package of lids. Only some of the lids have popped, so I don’t think it wasn’t some sort of atmospheric condition. It wasn’t a bad canning job, as they were different jams done over different times of the year. And this only happened with the small mouth jar lids, none of the large mouth lids have popped…yet! If you have any insight, I’d love to hear it.


Filed under Preserving

How to Make Apple Vinegar – so very easy


I have a new project for you to try this weekend, making apple vinegar. This is the second fruit vinegar I’ve made and its really tasty and so very easy to make. First thing is that you’ll have to make an apple pie or apple tart or apple sauce this weekend. Make anything where you need to core and peel the apples. Save those cores and peels and put them into a bowl. The number of peels or apples isn’t really important, just add enough water to cover the apple scraps by an inch or two. Add a 1/4 c. of sugar to the mix, cover with a small plate and weight it down. In my case I did this with a ramekin filled with water.

Let it sit out, covered with a tea towel (to keep flies from getting in) for a week, until the liquid darkens. Yes, a little mold will form on top, that’s okay. Really.

Just spoon it off. After a week, strain out the apples and pour the soon-to-be-vinegar into a canning jar, fit with a square of cheesecloth and canning lid. This allows the vinegar to breath as well as keeps it from touching the metal, otherwise the metal will corrode. Leave it alone in your pantry for 6 weeks and then you’ll have vinegar. So easy, isn’t it?

I learned this method in the book Wild Fermentation, which is a great book to own and refer to. Happy vinegar making!


Filed under Preserving, Recipes

on making apple cider


Tonight we made some more cider and tonight I brought my camera out with us. First, it starts with a huge amount of apples. As we were sitting together chopping apples into quarters and taking out any worms we saw, we remarked that the only way you’d be able to afford to make cider is if you had your own apples trees, because it takes a lot of apples to make cider! To buy apples for this endeavour would cost a fortune!

When I began researching apple presses I had narrowed it down to two, one from Happy Valley Cider Presses and the one we got from Pleasant Hill Grain (we got the MacIntosh press). There aren’t many reviews of apple cider presses out there, so we had to go on educated guesses and personal preferences. We in the end decided on the mostly metal construction with the oak tub, rather than the all pine construction. In hopes that we will live in this house forever, that means pressing a lot of cider and all metal construction seems more durable than pine. It was a little more expensive in the end, but I’m happy with our decision. This model came with a separate grinder, whereas the Happy Valley press came with a grinder that emptied straight into the tub, which I kind of liked the idea of, honestly. No worries though, this doesn’t seem to slow us down.

After quartering the apples, you send them through the grinder so that the press can extract the most juice as possible.

Then you place the grinds into a mesh bag which sits in the press and away you crank. What we also liked about this press is that the entire red metal top, folds down so that you can easily clean the tub and take the fruit in and out easily.

Isn’t the press beautiful? The grinder too, I think. There is something about well made, quality constructed, simple things that I find so beautiful. I want to put this press on a table for display.

Pressing cider is certainly a group effort. While one person presses, another person has to hold the jug to fill. This year I feel, we are just getting used to this contraption, what it can do, how the juice tastes, what different things we can press. Next year I want to host a cider pressing party.

Because like I said, you need an amazing amount of apples to make a small amount of cider, so we need all the help we can get! We’ve filled a few bottles for the freezer too. What fun! I doubt our family is immune to the stresses that every other family feels. We too worry about all sorts of things that other people are worrying about in this day and age, we get frusterated with our kids and each other. But there are times when we get to do something like this, that slows us down and makes us appreciate simple things, like cider, solid construction, each others company, and adds a little richness to our every day. And sometimes I think that’s what it’s all about. Adding that bit of beauty and richness into our daily lives, that makes it all worth living for. Cheers!


Filed under Fruit Trees, Preserving