Friday, May 29, 2015

Strawberry Wine

Last time I made wine, my husband threatened to throw me and the wine out of the house.  "It smells like a darn brewery," he kept saying.  Apparently, it did not deter me because here I go again--savoring the last of the strawberries and celebrating the beginning of the summer:  I am making fermented strawberry wine..


3 1/2 lbs strawberries, washed, hulled, and somewhat squashed
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 1/2 lbs granulated sugar
1 gal of boiling water

Sprigs of Rosemary and Mint , optional
Handful of raisins, also optional

I mixed the ingredients together in a food grade bucket (from Lowe's), poured the boiling water over the strawberry concoction, and covered the bucket with a kitchen towel. For the next week, I stirred the mix once a day for a few minutes.

When the week was up, I separated the pulp from the liquid by covering a large pot with husband's clean undershirt (cheesecloth will also do) and poured, discarded the pulp and the shirt, poured the liquid back into the bucket, and covered the bucket with the kitchen towel.  Again, for the following week, I stirred once a day for a few minutes.

After the second week was up, I again separated the pulp/sediments.  After returning the liquid to the bucket, I put an airlock on the lid covering the bucket and put the bucket in the bathtub where it will remain for the next three (3) months, undisturbed.

When this time comes to an end, it is time to pour the strawberry wine into bottles after again separate the sediments to get a clear liquid.  Depending on how clear the wine will be at this time, I may have to wait another few days or a week for the sediments to settle and then pour into bottles and let the wine rest for a year.  Yes, that is one (1) year according to Peggy Filippone's recipe in

Airlock:  I drilled a small hole into the lid that is bought separately from Lowe's for the food grade bucket.  The hole is small enough to accommodate a fish tank tube.  I wrapped a rubber band around the tube on either side of the lid to make it air tight.  One end of the tubing is supposed to let the fermenting air/fumes out of the bucket.  The other end of the tubing is inserted in a bowl filled with water to prevent air from going back into the bucket.

It's going to be a long wait.
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Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Every Thursday morning, area veterans meet at a local eatery for breakfast at a Beach location not too far from the Back Forty Garden.  I am told that they have a good ol' time reminiscing, shooting the breeze, and telling war stories. They are known as the Jax Vets starting out with a handful and with word travelling fast, the group now has a "Table for 30" and still growing.

A retired USN diver, Sam Hearth, made a stand for the flag with various emblems representing the Armed Services placed at the foot of the stand and the pole holder  is covered with handsome macrame.  Before breakfast, the Pledge of Allegiance is said followed by a prayer.  (See Shorelines/ Jacksonville. com  Community)

From time to time, I have written about Matt Litrell, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq during his enlistment.  He decided to ride across the country on a horse, from Camp Lejuene NC to Camp Pendelton CA, to bring awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and raise money for the Semper Fi Fund.  Keep following Matt on FaceBook "The Long Trail Home."  A while back, Matt wrote:

"I've noticed a lot of talk lately about the flag.  Apparently it's become a source of contention to some people in this country and I've noticed people commenting on how the flag flies at the ranch.  Of course the flag flies and will always fly proudly at Valhalla Ranch.

In my opinion the flag isn't a political argument, it's not racist or left vs right or anything else.  That flag is the banner of a nation that has stood out from the rest of the world since its inception.  Those that have taken up arms for her have done so not for any politician but for the sake of what that flag means.

To me, my ancestors and grandparents fought under that flag, my heroes growing up fought under that flag when it was incredibly unpopular to do so.

When I see that standard whip as it's being carried around a rodeo arena brings a tear to my eye and a chill to my spine because regardless of what or where we are as a nation that flag has always flown and it has covered the coffins of the best of us that didn't make it back home.

I don't fly the flag for Washington or any politician.  I fly it because it's my standard and one I will always defend and it's the one my brothers fought under.  So red, white, and blue will proudly wave every day at Valhalla Ranch."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fried Corn

The sweet Silver Queen corn is growing in garden; yellow, white, and bi-colored corn are at the grocery stores; and any corn is available at the Farmer's Market--now is the season for corn and it is inexpensive too.  There is nothing sweeter than cooked corn with basil.  It is sweet and nothing else is needed.  But, have you heard of fried corn?

We recently went to a Family Reunion in Virginia and there are some good cooks in the Spain family.  We talked and reminisced over plates laden with food and Cousin Betsy asked if I had tasted her fried corn.  No, I had not and I told her I had never heard of fried corn.  She was surprised.

Betsy said that you removed the corn kernels and scraped the cob to get the milky juice, then you fried it in bacon grease.  I was impressed with how simple that sounded.

When I came home, I fried about half a packet of bacon (6 oz) and removed the bacon and some of the grease.

 I removed the kernels from the cob while the bacon was sizzling in the pan.  In addition, I finely chopped up some green pepper harvested from my garden.  I also pulled up an onion with a beautiful bloom (for table decoration) and also finely chopped the onion.  Finely, I chopped up some basil, too.

I carefully dropped the onions and pepper into the heated bacon grease (I didn't need much grease, no reason to indulge), stirred it around and added the corn and mixed well.  For how long?

I prefer the vegetables to be on the crispy side. I stirred until the vegetables were heated through and through; dished the corn up and served it with the bacon to my husband.  He nodded in approval and I must say, it tasted pretty good.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Saving Zucchini and Squash Seeds

The zucchini and squash plants do take up a lot of room in the garden.  Last year, my vegetables suffered from blossom end rot which is a calcium deficiency corrected by adding calcium nitrate.  The nitrate made the plants grow green and tall and I am about to harvest the vegetables.

Last year, I cubed the squashes, blanched them, chilled them, drained them, bagged them, and put in the freezer.  Honestly, I am not particularly fond of those kinds frozen vegetables but they are good in stews and soups, even in a vegetable medley.

I also made patty cakes from grated squash by adding an egg or two, flour and milk, seasoning, and fried them them in heart healthy canola oil until golden brown.

I made breads from both zucchini and yellow squash by adding eggs, milk, flour, soda and baking powder and whatever else is required to make bread.

This year, I am a bit pressed for time but I read somewhere that I could grate the squashes, bag them, and put them in the freezer to use for baking bread later.  This sounds like an excellent way to save the vegetables and there is no need for blanching and chilling, just grating.  Of course, I grate the vegetables with skin and seeds.  There is much moisture in these vegetables and that will reduce the need for liquid when baking.  I am looking forward to try this myself.

Another way of saving the squashes for another season is to save the seeds.  The most important fact to remember in doing so is to make sure that you planted open-pollinated seeds or plants (heirloom).  This is usually marked on the seed packets.

If other seeds and plants are used, you may not get good producing plants when the saved seeds are planted.  It may grow and bloom but the vegetable will be inadequate.

To save the seeds, select very mature squashes, cut them in half, and carefully scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  Carefully, rinse off the membranes and put the seeds on a paper towel on a plate and let dry in a cool place. When completely dry, put the seeds in a glass jar (my preference), label and store in your kitchen cabinet for next season.

Saving the seeds are catching:  Try this with cucumbers and melons.   It is easy to get carried away.

Source me and where you will find a long list of vegetables and how to save their seeds and much more.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Homemade Cake

There is so much to do in May:  fertilizing the lawn and the citrus trees, stringing up the butter beans, cultivating between the rows of corn to keep the weed down, and the list goes on and on.  Such is the life of a gardener.

There are also so many holidays, graduations, and other events in May and we just celebrated Mother's Day.  My husband and I were invited to visit with my granddaughter and her family for that special occasion.  I told her that I was going to buy a ready made cake for Mother's Day and that she could select what she wanted.  "Why don't we bake a cake, just like we did last year? she asked.  I was surprised that she had a happy memory of last year's cake.  It must have been important.

While she was in school, we set out in search of cake bottoms and we came away with four of them from Publix.  They were rather thin, but we had the beginnings of a homemade cake.

We picked the granddaughter up after school and on the way to the motel, we stopped by a grocery store and we let her choose the frosting.  It was going to be chocolate on chocolate.  Yum!

We choose a pink and lavender sheet of letters and numbers so that she could text "Happy Mother's Day."

In addition, small bags of pink and lavender "pearls" caught her eye and they would make for additional decoration.

We went to the motel, rolled up our sleeves, and spread strawberry jam between the layers of cake to break up the monotony of chocolate.  Granddaughter did the rest.  At one time, the cake was covered with "pearls".  You couldn't see the text!

My granddaughter and me, too, had fun making the cake.  It gave her a sense of accomplishing something.  Furthermore, her mother was very much impressed.  We were all proud of the cake maker.  Besides, the cake tasted pretty good.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

May Plantings

We are definitely fast approaching the end season for spring plantings in Northern Florida.  The other day, I found that the garden centers still have cantaloupe, water melon, and cucumber seedlings available but  I bought a packet of Yellow Wax Beans to sow which will take about 6 days to germinate and about 40 - 60 days to mature.

Egg plants are still available in different stages from small seedlings to full grown plants.  The egg plants in my garden are blooming.  Okra is coming up but some of it needs to be re-sown.  I'll soak the seeds in water until tomorrow morning.  I don't exactly know what is going on with that patch.

We bought a 1/2 bushel of sweet potatoes earlier this spring and we didn't eat them all.  I have two potatoes sitting on the kitchen table and they have sprouted.  It is time to find a spot for them.  If nothing else, they make beautiful sprawling greenery.

The cherry tomatoes are blooming and producing.  Cherry tomatoes may be put out in the garden or grown in containers on the porch.

The corn is in the meadow, so to speak, and the lima beans are searching for stings to climb on.  They have been side dressed and are doing very well.  The weeds are also under control, believe it or not.  It may be temporary.  Remember that corn is heavy feeders so fertilize often with a garden fertilizer, thin the corn out--leaving one plant in each "hill", and by all means hill them up for better and more room to grow in.

To recap what to plant or sow in May in northern Florida:  Beans, egg plants, okra, peanuts, Southern peas, sweet potatoes and cherry tomatoes.  Snap beans may also be sown in the fall.

Southern peas and peanuts make good ground cover.  There are a variety of so called Southern peas and I like any of them as ground cover when the growing season is over for the spring/summer.  The peanuts grow to knee high and have small yellow blooms.  They look nice as a border plant.  The peanuts grow under ground.  In any case, I don't want the garden not to produce and I dislike to give way for weeds.

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