New green “Perfection” Ball jars & pickles!

As you probably know (if you actually read my blog- do people do that anymore?), and as you can probably tell, I’ve been “canning” for awhile now. Yes- I’m one of those insufferable people who doesn’t buy Mason jars for crafting or wedding centerpieces, but for their actual purpose: preserving food.

What a snob!

Whiskey pickles in green "Perfection" limited edition Ball jars.

And through all of this canning trial and error that I’ve done over the past 5 years, I’ve discovered some things. I’ve made A LOT of pickles. Tons. Even before I grew my own cucumbers I made jar after jar after jar each year. Pickles are best in pint or quart jars (unless they’re bread & butter pickles, you can cram them into some 8-oz. jars or even some Collection Elite® “squat” pint jars if need be). I prefer quart/pint jars with a shoulder to keep the cukes down in the jar and not floating up too high. And that the prettiest pickles are made in the new green limited edition “Perfection” jars!

Whiskey pickles in green "Perfection" limited edition Ball jars.

I bought a case of the Ball® quart sized green Heritage collection “Perfection” jars specifically because I knew they’d be perfect (no pun intended) for pickling. They were hard to find near me- which is odd, because I was able to get the blue and purple ones just fine! So I ordered them on freshpreserving.com. I also ordered some plastic screw-on lids because Jay’s favorite pickles are fermented Kosher dills that don’t get processed, so why waste the two-piece lids?

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Another year older (and deeper in debt) …plus donuts.

Happy birthday to me! So, I am officially 34 years old! Holy balls. Time fucking flies, man. All you youngin’s out there, take heed. The years begin to move by so quickly you won’t have time to even comprehend it. Yes- another year has passed, and what a year it was! As the song says “Another year (day) older and deeper in debt…”

We faced illness and overcame it. We got married, and we bought a house. Here’s Lola (one of my favorite birthday gifts ever) at home, in her natural habitat: the kitchen.

Lola the mixer, at home.(Painting by the lovely and talented Mrs. Christine Comis-Villareal)

 

Lots of things can happen in one year, clearly. Lots of good, maybe some bad. But it all balances out in the end. I decided to skip the “Life List” this year, because honestly? After all the bullshit this year I’m just glad to be here- literally and figuratively. I’m thankful for so many things & people, thankful that I’m healthy and here to celebrate another birthday.

I’m also thankful for donuts.

Baked chocolate donuts with pink icing!

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Triple stone-fruit breakfast crisp.

What’s better than one type of stone fruit? Three.

Triple variety stone fruit breakfast crisp.

I know you all know that I’ve had cherries out the yin yang lately. You’re probably like “Enough with the cherries, biatch.” But dudes. I got so many from the Washington State Fruit Commission and Rainier Fruit Company, that after making green tea & jasmine cherry jam and cherries in syrup and even after making Pimm’s cherry pies and plain ol’ cherry sauce (that recipe is coming), I STILL had some left! I froze a bunch that were nearing death to use at a later date, and THEN I got a new shipment of peaches (& nectarines) from Washington State… and later that night I saw some beautiful Italian plums in the market, and I knew what their ultimate fate would be.

A fresh, bright stone fruit breakfast crisp. Oats & brown sugar & nutmeg, oh my.

Triple stone fruit breakfast crisp.

To be clear: it’s actually just a regular ol’ fruit crisp. I just decided since I had a whole lot of Chobani vanilla yogurt that it would make an excellent breakfast crisp. So I upped the oats a little. You know, oats. Oatmeal. Breakfast.

Whatever.

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Blueberry and mint honey jam.

Blueberry mint & honey jam.

You’re probably really freakin’ tired of jam right now, aren’t you? I know. I hear ya. It’s hard though, cause there’s all this beautiful fruit out there- the berries, man! THE BERRIES! -and preserving them to eat over the winter is one of the best ways to use ’em. Even if this isn’t the most long-term jam in terms of stability, it’s still worth it.

So excuse me for overdosing on jam lately.

Plus, you know, I’ve said this before- when I get anxious or upset, I bake/preserve/cook/etc. And unfortunately, I’ve had a few occasions recently to feel that way about, so therefore jam. Jam- all day, every day. Deal with it!

Blueberry and mint honey jam.

Plus, this one is really cool because it’s sugar-free. It’s made with only honey, no sugar. Just blueberries, honey, lemon juice and mint leaves. That’s all, folks. And you can also use Agave nectar if you prefer!

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Bachelor’s jam.

Just when you think you’ve made almost every kind of jam there is, you find a new one. Or at least, thats my story anyway. I present to you today, “Bachelor’s jam”; one of the oldest kinds of fruit preservation there is. Yep. You read that correctly. One of the oldest. And might I add- the easiest.

Bachelor's jam, aka rumtopf. Fruit layered with sugar and soaked in alcohol.

In Germany, it’s known as rumtopf (rum pot). Perhaps you’ve heard of that. Let’s see what Wikipedia says:

Rumtopf (Danish: Romkrukke), which literally means rum pot, is a German and Danish dessert, traditionally eaten around Christmas.[1] Once a popular traditional dessert, Rumtopf has become rather unfashionable in recent years.[2]

A mixture of various kinds of fruit, high-strength rum, often Stroh’s, and sugar is filled into a large stoneware pot (the eponymous rum pot) and matured for several months until the fruit is very soft and completely saturated with rum. Suitable fruit includes berries, cherries, plums and apricots. Not all fruits are appropriate for Rumtopf, and the overproof rum should be of only 100-110 proof (50-55% alcohol by volume), which is not commonly available at retail in all regions, but can be prepared by blending more common commercially available 151 proof and 80 proof rums.[3][4][5]

Traditionally, the pot is set up in a cool and dark place in Spring, and different kinds of ripe fruit are added to it over the months as they come in season. The fruit is thereby preserved to be eaten in Winter, when the Rumtopf is matured.

Bachelor's jam, or rumtopf.

In France? It’s known as confiture de vieux garçon, or bachelor’s jam. And sometimes it’s even called “officer’s jam” (which is even better & more appropriate for us!). I happen to think that’s a far more intriguing name, so that’s what I’m going with.

In order to make this, there is little to no effort on your part. Seriously. If you can chop fruit, and you have both alcohol and sugar in your possession, then you can make this. No canning required. You don’t even need to add herbs or spices or fancy stuff; it’s fine on it’s own. And best part? NO COOKING. At ALL. Not even turning on a burner on the stove!

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Mini cherry Pimm’s pies.

Mini cherry pies with Pimm's liqueur.

I told you. I have had a lot of cherries. I received an amazingly large shipment of beautiful Northwest cherries from Rainier Fruit Co, and while I used most of them for canning and preserving, there were a decent amount that got too soft or weren’t right for that purpose. And that’s okay- it happens! They were excellent for eating fresh right out of the bag. But I needed to bake.

You know how that is. When you just have to bake something, even if it is 90º?

Well, yeah. That happens to me, anyway. So I decided to bake up some mini cherry pies… with a twist: I added some Pimm’s No. 1 Cup to them.

Pimm's cherry pies.

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Surprise in the garden: Black swallowtail caterpillars!

…just when you think you’ve seen it all…

In today’s edition of “Things I’ve Found in the Garden,” we have quite the intriguing specimen. Imagine this: it’s a hot summer weekend day. Your parents are over having drinks on the porch waiting for a barbecue, you’re watering the garden, leisurely taking some pictures of Indy…

Indy in the backyard.

And of course taking artsy pictures of your tomatoes that you will edit & filter to look like they’re right out of 1970 (because Photoshop)…

When all of a sudden, your husband calls you over, his voice sounding slightly surprised and a little skeptical, to see some “bugs” on the dill. So you walk over, completely expecting to see those crazy looking candy-striped leafhoppers that are irritating the hell out of you (and your eggplants) when you look at where he’s pointing and see this:

Black swallowtail caterpillar on Fernleaf dill.

Freakin’ caterpillars! Not that many, maybe about 5 or 6, spread out all over the Fernleaf dill. Now, one thing you should know about me is that I am a geek. A total nerd. A science and history-specific geeky nerd person. So this stuff, this nature & science stuff, it totally gets me going.

So immediately I do a Google, and come to find out some very interesting facts-

The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), also called the American Swallowtail or Parsnip Swallowtail,[1] is a butterfly found throughout much of North America. It is the state butterfly of Oklahoma. An extremely similar-appearing species, Papilio joanae, occurs in the Ozark Mountains region, but it appears to be closely related to Papilio machaon, rather than P. polyxenes. The species is named after the figure in Greek mythology, Polyxena (pron.: /pəˈlɪksɨnə/; Greek: Πολυξένη), who was the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.

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