Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fig Preserves

Finally, our fig tree produced enough fruit to make a jar of sweet preserves or jam.  We've eaten quite a few and shared some with cardinals and wrens.  We have had the fig tree for several years and it has provided shade for the garage and a place for birds to build nests.  But I have heard that fruit trees need time to develop and for the grower to be patient.  I was most anxious to make this fig preserve:  

I halved some and left the most ripe ones whole to make 4 cups to put in the pot for making my jams.

Then I added 2 cups of sugar; half a lemon, sliced and diced; 3/4 cup of water; a small pinch of sea salt; and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.

I brought this to a boil, turned down the heat, and let it simmer while stirring often. I  let it simmer until rather thick.  Cooking time?  I used more than 1/2 hour and less than 1.  It all depends on the simmering.  But stirring often to prevent the jam from burning was most important

I spoon checked for "doneness" by serving up a spoonful of the preserves on a small dish.  If it was too runny, the preserves or jam needed additional simmering.

When this jam was ready, it was sweet!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, June 26, 2015

From Garden to Table

It is too far gone into the heat of the summer to do any gardening.  The shelves at the nurseries and garden shops are bare but for Rose Mary and flowers.

Here at the Back Forty, we get up at crack of dawn to brew coffee and while it's brewing we venture out into the garden to  fight mosquitoes and bugs to harvest what we planted and sowed earlier this spring.

After removing the dark skin from the eggplant and slicing the fruit, I let the the slices soak in water to lessen the bitterness.  I will use them in an Eggplant Parmesan.

While the eggplant is soaking, I brown ground beef; slice and dice tomatoes, onions, and peppers

I arrange the eggplant, beef, and the vegetables in an oven proof container; pour over tomato sauce to cover, top it off with shredded cheese, and finally put the casserole into the microwave oven to cook for 18 minutes.  I have a meal for two that lasts several days.

When the silk on the corn is brown and dry, the corn is ready to be picked.  I shuck the corn, blanch the nicest looking ears for a few minutes, cool under running tap water, bag them, and put them into the already packed freezer.  The less attractive ears, but wicked good Silver Queens, are put in the fridge to be cooked and eaten soon.

The peppers may be cut into strips, put in a bag and into the freezer.  No blanching is necessary; only removing the seeds.  It will be a fine compliment to fried onions later.

I am still able to pull a few red and yellow onions from the ground but the weather is much too hot for them:  they are cooking outside!

A simple but delicious salad is made by halving the small tomatoes; removing skin and seeds from a cucumber and cutting it into "half moons" and mixing them together.  For a dressing, I mix vinegar and oil with cayenne pepper and ground black pepper, a tad of salt, and sugar (!) to taste.  How sweet it is!

We are sharing our bounty and we are eating well from the garden at our table.
Hope that you are enjoying your garden and your vegetables.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day 2015

Today is Father's Day and I'd like to take the opportunity to wish all fathers a very Happy and Blessed Day.  You are all so awesome and you mean so much to the children.  You make such a difference.

HOWEVER, this day is tinged with the recent killings of nine members participating in a Bible Study in the Father's House.  They had invited a stranger to be with them.  They showed such grace and hospitality.  They didn't turn him away telling him that he may be in the wrong church.

For an hour, this stranger sat among them and all of a sudden he pulls out a gun and shoots nine of  them.  This happened in my Father's House where I should feel free and safe.

On this special day, let's all pray for peace and harmony and let it begin with me.

Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Peach Sangria

The end of a long, hot, and busy week is coming to a close; the end of a long spring is also coming to an end in a few hours; and what better way than to celebrate but with a sweet and delicious Peach Sangria?

I started by heating 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar, stirring until the sugar was dissolved.  I let it cool in the fridge while I was slicing two medium peaches, leaving the skin on, and putting the slices in a tall wine glass and in a Mason Jar.

I divided up the still warm sugar solution to pour into the glasses, and here comes the interesting part:

I poured a healthy shot of Peach Brandy into the glasses and topped it off with white wine.   This is supposed to chill in the fridge for two hours.

Nah, not in this case.  I added ice to the liquid and a straw and gave it a stir and a taste.  Yum!

I invited my husband to come and sit with me on the shady porch and have Peach Sangria.

Enjoy your Midsummer Eve.
Drink Responsibly.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Peach Wine

I still had peaches available to me so I decided to make peach wine.  Peaches by themselves do not have much taste and I tried to add some spice to the wine but it will be several months before it'll be time to taste the result of my brew.


About 4 lbs (2 kilograms) of washed, pitted, and scored/sliced/diced peaches
1 lbs (0.5 kilogram) of granulated sugar
1 large handful of raisins (optional)
Sprigs of mint (optional)
1 large cinnamon stick (optional)
1 gal (about 4 liter) of boiling water
Brewer's Yeast

Since my jam making had come to an end, I used the large enameled pot for the diced peaches, the sugar, the raisins, and the spice.  I boiled the water and poured it over the peaches and stirred until the sugar was dissolved.

Finally, I covered the pot with a kitchen towel and put it in the bathtub where I am brewing the strawberry wine.

I plan to stir the peaches once a day for the next week and then remove the peaches and conserve the liquid, pour it back into the pot, cover it, and set it back into the bathtub for another week.

At this time, I will add about 1/5th of the Brewer's Yeast after mixing it in a little bit of warm water.

(One packet of yeast is good for 5 gallons of wine.)  I'm still not sure how much yeast I will use, more than a teaspoon but less than a table spoon.  How is that for an accurate measurement?

After the yeast is added, I will make an airlock and let it sit for the next 6 months.

Airlock:  Using one end of a plastic tube inserted (airtight) into the pot of wine (not reaching the liquid) and the other end inserted into a crock of water.  This is to let the air/fermentation out and keeping germs from entering.

Stick with me, I have one more day left in this otherwise peachy week.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Peachy Jam

My peachy week continues with making a batch of peach jam for this season.  What do you do to make a 1/2 bushel of peaches disappear?  Needless to say, we have done a pretty good job of eating them  But let me recapture the jam making.  Here it goes:

6 lbs peaches, that is about 3 kilograms
1 lemon
4 cups of granulated sugar
A scant 3/4 cup of water
1 large stick of cinnamon (optional)

To peel the peaches, I thinly scored the peaches from one end to the other.  Then I made two scores around the peach which gave me nice bits of peaches for making the jam.  I put the peaches in my large enameled jam pot.

I cut the lemon in half, squeezed the lemon juice over the peaches and cut up the lemon in strips and added that to the pot as well.  I measured out 4 cups of sugar ( about 8 dl) and 3/4 cups of water and also added that to the pot.

I fired up the cook stove and let the peaches come to a boil and turned it down to a gentle simmer, stirring often.  You do not want this jam to burn.  The jam simmered for a long, long time until it started to thicken and jelling.  The long cooking time was due to no artificial pectin in this batch.

The test of doneness:  Dip out a spoonful of jam onto a small cold plate.  If it does not run, the jam is ready.

I finally poured the jam into an assortment of clean jars, poured hot wax on top to seal the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.  I put the tops on, wiped the jars, and put them into the cupboard.  (I should have labeled the jars.)  Until next year. . .

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Fresh Peaches in a Sugar Solution

On one of the hottest days of the season, I ventured downtown to the Farmer's Market to buy peaches to eat, to preserve, to make jam, and perhaps wine.  With all that in mind, I got 1/2 a bushel of still rather firm South Carolina peaches and went to work.

Light Sugar Solution:  I used 6 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar,.and added a stick of cinnamon and a handful of whole cloves.  I heated the water/sugar solution and set it aside when the sugar was dissolved. It did not take long for it to get heated and dissolved.

Peeling Peaches: Dip peaches in boiling water for 20 to 40 seconds.  Cool in cold water or ice water.  Peel when cool enough to handle.

Preparing the peaches:  I used 10 - 12 medium sized peaches.  I first removed the skin and I cut them up any way I could and filled three pints with peaches and poured the sugar solution into the jars.  I dipped a spoon into the jars and stirred gently to remove air bubbles.

Water Bath:  I put a dish towel in the bottom of a large and deep pot and put the three jars into the pot. making sure that they were wrapped in dish towels to avoid rattling against each other and possibly breaking.

The jars were covered with water and came to a gentle boil and I set the clock for twenty (20) minutes.  When the time was up, I emptied the water and carefully removed the jars and tightened the lids.
The lids did not move which meant that the jars can be stored in the cabinet.  If the lids had moved, I would have stored the jars in the fridge.

I was quite happy with the result but I could have packed the peaches tighter still.  I still have the sugar solution available.

Hot packing the peaches:  I had plenty of sugar solution and peaches left so I decided to peel and slice the peaches the best I could.  I brought the sugar solution to boil and dropped in the peaches and let them come to simmer for five (5) minutes.  I proceeded by filling the jars with the hot peaches and the solution and gave them a water bath for ten (10) minutes.

I only got two jars of the hot packed peaches but I had enough left over for a cup of the peaches to taste.  On the second batch of making the peach preserves, I skipped dipping the peaches in hot water to peel them when cool:  I just peeled them.  I am happy with the outcome.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A few Flag Etiquettes

In honor of the American National Flag Day, I would like to share a few do's and don'ts with you when it comes to proudly flying the flag.

Rule Number One:  Never fly a tattered and faded flag.  Many companies and organizations offer to properly dispose the flag.  If that is not available, dispose your flag by burning is respectfully in a ceremony.

Rule Number Two:  Only fly the flag from sunrise to sunset.  If you like to fly the flag during night time, it should be lighted. A timed spotlight will do nicely.

Rule Number Three:  If the flag is flown at half mast, it should first be hoisted to the top and then lowered to half mast.  When taken down, the flag should again be hoisted to the top and then slowly lowered.

Rule Number Four:  If another nation's flag is flown alongside the American flag, they should be flown on separate poles, same heights, and the flags should be of equal size; however, the American flag should have the place of honor.  (It's kind of tricky for me to figure out which is the right side.  From whose view?)

Rule Number Five:  If state flags, college and community etc.flags are also to be flown, the national flag has the place of honor and the other flags are usually placed on lower poles.

There is nothing that says that you can't fly your flag at half mast to honor the passing of a loved one.  It is on your property and thus does not adhere to presidential decrees or suggestions.

When the flag is taken down, it should never touch the ground.  Also note that when the flag is folded into a triangle, it is folded thirteen times.   It is not necessary to do so, but fold the flag respectfully.

Keep in mind:  "The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing."  Section 8 of the Flag Code.

Thank you for visiting my blog and fly your flag proudly.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Today's harvest is eggplants.  We have four plants and they are producing rather nicely although the plants have been knocked down by winds and suffered from dry weather.  I really don't know what to do with the eggplants:  I tried freezing them one year but they ended up too soggy.

I do have a good tip:  When the eggplants are cut up or sliced up, soak them in water for about half an hour before making your dish.  It takes some of the bitterness out of them.

I usually make Eggplant Parmesan in a casserole.  I slice and trim the eggplant and put in a greased oven proof glass container.  In layers, I add browned ground meat, onions, and tomatoes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Use whatever else you like or have available.  It is a rather hearty meal.

Black Beauties

These eggplants are going with my husband to the Senior Activity Center.  They liked the eggplants last year much more than I.  It is a blessing for me to give away the vegetables:  I would dislike it, if they ended up on the compost pile.  So the Seniors are doing me a favor while they enjoy newly harvested vegetables.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Preserving Tomatoes

At this time, we have large red and yellow tomatoes ripening much faster than we can pick and consume.  We try to pick them while they still show a hint of green and let them fully ripen on the kitchen table.  Our fresh tomatoes are never put into the refrigerator; however, some of the tomatoes end up in the freezer for using later.

For freezing, we select the firmest and most flawless of the tomatoes.  The other day, I put whole tomatoes with the skin intact into the freezer, no blanching necessary.  You may want to put the tomatoes on a cookie sheet, put them into the freezer, and then put them into a bag and back into the freezer.

To remove the skin from the tomatoes, immerse them into boiling water for no longer than a minute or until the skin rupture.  Remove them from the hot water, chill under cold tap water, and let the tomatoes cool until you can handle them without burning your fingers.

Gently remove the skin, put the tomatoes on a cookie sheet and into the freezer, remove when frozen, bag them, and put them back into the freezer for use at a later time.

You may use whole tomatoes with skin or without skin for freezing.  Yo may slice and dice them--whatever suits you best and put them into the freezer.  I prefer skinless tomatoes.  How about you?

When the tomatoes are thawed, the are mushy; therefore, they are best used in stews, soups, gumbos, spaghetti sauces and in other dishes that call for tomatoes.

When using tomatoes with skin, you might find the skin a little bit hard, difficult, or annoying to eat in an otherwise smooth dish.

You may also want to make juice by quartering or even cut into eights and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, then press through a sieve to strain.  I don't mind if I have small bits of tomatoes in my juice.  I would store this in the fridge and use within a short time.  I can't quite see putting the juice into the freezer.

Check out the "National Center for Home Food Preservation" for additional information.

Thank you for visiting my blog.