Sunday, May 31, 2009

Strawberrys galore

*Tink* *tink* *tink*

The sounds of a job well done, as the cans cool on the table.

Over the holiday weekend, I canned 12 8oz jars of Strawberry Jelly, 6 8oz jars of Strawberry Topping, and 4 pint jars of Strawberry Preserves. There is also about 6 cups of sliced frozen berries for smoothies, and we still had some for shortcakes. For the Jelly, 14.5 cups crushed strawberries made enough juice for 3 batches of jelly. I have no idea how many I started with, other than 2 large trays (maybe 18 of those clamshells at the store?).

I've learned that water-bath canning isn't quite as hard as it seems, and that regular pectin takes a LOT of sugar to set the jellies.I've also discovered things ~not~ to do. Like, say, add the sugar with the pectin instead of later: It keeps the jelly from setting. So, I now have 6 jars of Strawberry Topping (aka, liquid Strawberry Jelly). Two are going to my grandparents - Grandpa will enjoy them!

Jam, jelly, preserves- Jam is crushed berries, Jelly is berry juice, and Preserves are whole berries in their own juice. The Strawberry Preserves have me thinking of Shortcake in January, the Raspberry Preserves of chocolate-raspberry cake :) Either could also be used for pancake topping. I try and think of what I can do with them as I make them - no point in canning something we won't use, and this will (hopefully) avoid blank moments when I'm looking for things to make!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Garden Pics

1.Top orange pot - Chocolate Mint
2.Underneath that is a very pretty volunteer plant. I have no idea what it is, but it gets no care (other than water), stays green, and cascades beautifully.
3.Right side is the 'prostrate rosemary.'

Chives - still growing strong, after several years and occasional cat snackings.

The volunteer garlic, with yet-un-sprouted lettuce seed.

Collards (orange pot) and Cabbage, in the green pot.

And the lettuce mix.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Balcony Garden

As I said, our balcony is covered - it gets full shade after the morning. After researching, I found out that my best chances for food success were leaf & root crops. Personal preference led me to heritage and organic varieties, so I planted an organic 'pot lettuce' mix, 'Grand Champion' Collards, 'Early Wonder Tall Top' beets, and 'Derby Day' cabbage. The experimental volunteer is the organic garlic I bought for cooking, until it sprouted - so it's in the dirt, and we'll see how it goes. The existing plants are chocolate mint, prostrate rosemary (it smells wonderful!) and chives.

So far, the herbs are happy, the lettuce is a happy tangled mess, and the collards & cabbage are doing well. The garlic is just peeking it's tips above the soil. The beets would have been much happier, I think, if I had read the directions right and planted them 8 weeks earlier than I did - for some reason I missed the 'plant 6 weeks before last frost' on the package, and planted them after that. Ah well.

Raspberrys for Winter

Recently there was a sale on raspberrys, so I bought enough for canning. I have to start somewhere, after all! So I bought some and went home to look for recipes. (Maybe I should do that the other way around next time?)

I found a recipe for preserves, and another for jam. I ended up making both recipes, and had a fair amount left over for snacking. Yum!

I couldn't believe how easy both recipes were. The preserves were started Saturday and canned Sunday; the jam was made Monday after work. It took longer for the water to heat up in the canner, than it did for the canning! The jam took about an hour from start to finish - heat, seal in jars, in the canner for 5 minutes, and out again. The preserves were about the same, but the recipe calls for leaving the cooked berries to 'bloom' overnight.

I made 7 half-pint jars raspberry jam, and 5 half-pints raspberry preserves. You can still see some berries floating in the preserves - great for deserts and pancakes! The jam will be for regular use; my estimate for a years use is 26 12 ounce jars, or 39 half-pints (8oz). 32 left to go!

Strawberries are in season now, and I plan on going to pick some for jams next weekend.


I'm starting this blog because I have not seen much, if any, information about homesteading in an apartment - there are a lot of great sites out there, but everyone seems to have yards or livestock. I have a shady balcony - great for catching breezes, not so much for catching sun with tomato plants.

I do a lot of crafting as well as cooking from scratch and using natural cleaners. Right now I'm learning to can food and knit. My guideline is "what would I do without electric?" or "what would I do if I couldn't drive to X?" It does lead to creativity!

I'm new at blogging, so comments and feed back are always welcome.

Thanks for stopping by!