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Category Archives: Preserve

Preserve is anything that I put up i.e. jams, pickles, frozen vegetables.

Oktoberfest inspired meal

My little town just wrapped up their annual Oktoberfest celebration this past weekend. It’s the one thing in fall that people look forward to most, outside of football.

While not a fully German Oktoberfest, it definitely is a Ohio German-Catholic Oktoberfest. Plenty of beer (domestic, served in half gallon jugs), brats and tenderloins to go around. And Ohio State football on a large screen. Oompah bands play polkas throughout the fest, and there are plenty of fellow in lederhosen. Of course, there are typical small-town fest activities: Little Miss Oktoberfest, A Walk Through History, 10k run, arts & crafts and a parade. But it’s mostly an excuse to visit with friends, drink beer, and grab a bite.

It’s also an excuse for me to try German food. I’ve had some here and there in the past. I’m surprised I haven’t had more. I had a grandmother who came over on the boat. She wanted to be American, so all I remember that was close to “traditional” was ox tail soup. Which I’m sure I hated as a young girl. Now, I occasionally get a hankering to dabble in my heritage, usually around this time of year. There’s something about German food that screams ‘Fall” to me. It could be all that schnitzel, spaetzle, stews and cabbage. Hearty food.

This time around I opted for a non-traditional snack with traditional flavors, and an easy German stew. Both are super easy. Heck, the first one doesn’t even require measuring!

Pickled Beets & Goat Cheese on Rye Toast

  • Sliced rye bread, toasted lightly (1-2 slices per person)
  • Soft goat cheese (about 1/2 Tbsp per slice)
  • Pickled beets, sliced (enough to cover bread)

Spread goat cheese on the toast, and top with slices of beet. (I feel silly even typing instructions, this is so easy…but tasty!)

note: I made my own pickled beets using caraway, mustard and dill seeds as the spice blend.


adapted from

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic,chopped
  • 1/4 lb bacon, chopped
  • 2 lb stew beef, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp bacon fat, or butter
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 c beef broth
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried marjoram
  •  salt & pepper to taste
  • egg noodles, or spaetzle

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat fat or butter until melted. Add beef in small batches  and brown on all sides, but not cooked through. Set aside. In the same pot, add bacon, onion, red pepper and garlic, and saute until they begin to brown, about 10 min. Return beef to pot add sprinkle with paprika. Whisk in the tomato paste until thoroughly blended. Add enough broth just to cover and bring to a boil, stirring the whole time. Add the rest of the broth a little at a time, bringing it to a boil each time. Reduce heat and simmer about 1 1/2 hour. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over egg noddles (buttered, if you like) or spaetzle.

Hoist a mug of beer and enjoy!


The Feast Nearby….and in my kitchen.

The Feast Nearby is a wonderful book by Robin Mather. The book’s subtitle, How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week), says it all. I identify, in my own way, with this book. I went through a divorce a few years back that left me with a mound of debt.Along the way to now, I was a room and went through bankruptcy. Now, I am proudly living on my own in my studio apartment (with not a single credit card).

I highly recommend this book.

I’ve begun to make my own food. I can’t really afford to eat out or buy certain things.I make things out of a desire to know what I’m eating, in addition to knowing that homemade food is a heck of a lot cheaper in many cases. Right now, the yeasty smell of bread rising fills my apartment. I’ve made bread on many occasions as well as crackers, broth, sauerkraut, pickles, relishes and pickles, canned countless tomatoes, and dried corn (for throwing into winter stews). I fill my pantry with dried pasta and beans. And spices. I always try to have on hand onions, garlic, potatoes, tinned tuna and some sort of cheese. I feel that with what I have on hand, I can whip up any number of meals.

Dried corn for winter

Later tonight, I plan to try my hand at chutney. I love Major Grey Mango chutney, but don’t often justify the purchase. I have plums. I’m going to try plum chutney. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, yesterday, I made zucchini relish. It’s quite similar in taste to cucumber relish, and is a great way to use that glut of zucchini. All it takes is patience to chop it fine. I use relish frequently on sandwiches and in salads. Try this.

Zucchini Relish

Zucchini relish

Ball Blue Book® guide to preserving

makes about 4 half-pints

  • 2 c chopped zucchini (about 3 medium)
  • 1 c chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1/2 c chopped sweet green pepper (about 1 small)
  • 1/2 c chopped sweet red pepper (about 1 small)
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 cup cider vinegar

Combine zucchini, onion, green and red peppers; sprinkle with salt; cover with cold water. Let stand 2 hours. Drain; rinse and drain thoroughly. Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables; simmer 10 minutes. Pack hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust 2-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

After a long day on cleaning and canning, I made a dessert for my fella. He loves blueberry pie. So I made a blueberry crostada, a rustic pie. It is SO simple; I wanted to share it with you all.

Blueberry Crostata

Crostada, a rustic blueberry pie



  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • about 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (for crust)

Mix flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Cut butter into cubes and toss with flour mixture. With a fork or pastry blender, cut butter into the flour until it’s the size of small peas. Mix the water in by the tablespoon until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.


  • 1 pint blueberries, washed, stems removed
  • zest of one lemon, grated
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Dry off blueberries and toss in a bowl with, lemon zest, sugar and flour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out crust into circle. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Spoon berries in to the center of the dough, leaving a 2″ border around the edge. Fold dough up around the berries. Brush edge with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Place in pre-heated oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream. Happy Summer! Serves: 4-6

The last days of summer…peach-vanilla-bourbon jam

In the last few weeks I have been doing a lot of canning. Well, at least a lot for me. Between work and school, it’s hard to fit in a canning session. I usually do it late at night when I get home from work. I set some jars in the canner and attend to my classes (I take them online). Most of my caning has been tomatoes. I put up a bunch because that is the one pantry staple I cannot live with out. I’m always using caned tomatoes for something. Chili, pasta, stews, soups. You name it. I have about 5 quarts and about 20 pints. Even though I live alone, that’s not enough. Now, I just have to find room for them in this tiny kitchen. Looks like I’ll be tucking them behind glasses and dishes.


I wanted to do more pickles, but I haven’t gotten around to getting more cucumbers. Although, I just came across a wonderful sounding recipe for Ploughman’s Pickle (fall veggies!) in Karen Solomon’s new book, Can It, Pickle It, Smoke It. Mmmm, pickled fall veggies… I sense quite a few projects from that book.

In the meantime, I had some increasingly sad looking peaches in the refrigerator that need to be dealt with. I thought about chutney, but I never did gather all the ingredients. What I did have was the right stuff for jam. Namely Peach-vanilla-bourbon jam. I ended up adapting jam recipes from a few different recipes, but generally they were the same. Peaches, sugar, lemon juice, pectin, plus something. I used a recipe from Canning, a Better Homes & Gardens special magazine, as the basis for this jam.

Peach-Vanilla-Bourbon jam

adapted from Canning, BH&G, Nectarine and Vanilla Bean Jam

  • 4 c chopped, peeled ripe nectarines (I used peaches)
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 7 c sugar
  • 1/4 c bourbon
  • 3 oz packet liquid fruit pectin

In a 6-8 quart heavy pot, combine nectarines and lemon juice. Using a potato masher, crush the nectarines to create a pulp. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into the pot. Stir in the vanilla bean pods and the sugar. Bring mixture to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Add bourbon.

Peaches, vanilla, bourbon...and a whole lotta sugar.

Increase heat to medium-high; bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in pectin. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat. Quickly skim off foam with a metal spoon. Remove and discard vanilla bean.

Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims; adjust lids.

Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 5 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on a wire rack.  Makes 6 half pints.

It seems like this jam and the end of the tomatoes marks the end of summer. Time to switch gears and start thinking of sauerkraut and applesauce, bread and soups. Kinda sad… But I’ll have the gifts of summer on my shelves all winter long.

So pretty!

I think this jam looks so pretty and jewel-like. Some lucky friend or family member just may get a jar for Christmas…


Pickles, 2 ways

Today, I canned my first pickles of the summer. I only had a handful of pickling cucumbers and zucchini, so I decided to make a couple small batches. I read recently in Better Homes & Gardens special magazine, Canning, a recipe for Bread and Butter Zucchini pickles, and I wanted to try them. I also wanted to make a batch of garlic dills.  I found an easy recipe for those over at Food in Jars. I had to do a bit of math, considering I had a considerably smaller amount of produce than either recipe called for.  But it was good enough for a trial batch of each!

Side note: who thought it funny to have produce so prolific during the summer so we’d have to stand over a hot stove canning it during the hottest time of year?


I’m looking forward to giving these a try. I’m going to give them at least a week before I crack open a jar (though I did sneak an onion piece from the bread and butters. Mmmm). But I will let you know in a future post. In the meantime,I have to get this finished so I can crawl back to the couch. Whoever thought it funny about the canning during summer business also blessed me with a sore throat and stuffy sinuses. Bleh.

So, here are the recipes I used. I’m posting the full recipe as it was printed, not the adjustments I made. Any adjustments to canning recipes need to be done carefully as to not alter the formula. It could disastrous.

Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles

Sliced zucchini & onions. Looks like a pretty salad.

Better Homes & Gardens Canning

  • 3 1/2 lb medium zucchini
  • 1 c thinly sliced, halved onion (1 large)
  • 3 Tbsp pickling salt
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 c cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1) Wash zucchini. Slice of blossom and stem ends. Cut zucchini into 1/4-inch thick slices. Measure 12 c zucchini slices.

2) In an extra-large, nonmetal bowl combine the 12 c zucchini and 1 c onion slices. Sprinkle with salt; toss gently to coat. Top with 2 inches of crushed ice. Weigh down mixture with a heavy plate. Allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

3) Remove any remaining ice in zucchini mixture. Transfer mixture to a colander set in sink; drain.

4) In a 5 to 6 quart stainless steel, enamel, or nonstick heavy pot, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, peppercorns, and turmeric. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add zucchini mixture. Return to boiling, stirring frequently; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

5) Ladle hot mixture into hot, sterilized pint jars,leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims; adjust lids.

6) Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks. Makes 5 pints.


Garlic Dill Pickles


Makes approximately 8 pints (total yield varies depending on size of cucumbers)

Spices for the dills. Awaiting the cucumbers.

2 overflowing quarts of pickling cucumbers, sliced into fat coins*
4 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
5 tablespoons pickling salt
16 garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar)**
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar (2 teaspoons total)
1 teaspoon dill seed per jar (8 teaspoons total)
½ teaspoon black peppercorns per jar (4 teaspoons total)

I added a bay leaf to each jar. I wanted that bit of flavor-

Wash and slice the cucumbers.

In a large saucepot, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer.

Arrange jars on counter and dole out the spices to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. You don’t want to damage the cukes, but you do want them packed tight.

Pour the brine into the jar, leaving ½ inch headspace.

Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

When 10 minutes are up, promptly remove the jars from the pot and allow them to cool on the countertop. When the jars are cool, check the seals (by pushing/tapping on the lid).

Pickles can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

If you want to skip the boiling water process, these pickles are also wonderful as refrigerator pickles. Just pop the jars into the fridge once they’re cool.

Pretty pickles.




Today marked a special place in the foodie year. Today was the first tomato project of the year. I made salsa. Well, let me clarify, I made Ball’s Fiesta Salsa. Just add tomatoes. It actually tastes pretty good. You see, I have horrible luck making salsa from scratch. It usually turns out way too vinegary for me (which is usually not a problem-I love vinegar), or it’s quite bland. I’m constantly on the lookout for new salsa recipes. I’m also very picky when it comes to salsa. Tomatoes, onion, a bit of jalapeño and cilantro. No corn or chunks of sweet pepper. I suppose I’m a bit of a purist. But I want what I want; I’m the one eating it, right?

Anyhow, back to Ball’s salsa. It’s not much of a recipe, but I’m going to post it to show how easy it is to put up salsa. This is great for new canners.

Ball® Fiesta Salsa

makes 4 pints or 8 half pints

1 pkg Ball Fiesta Salsa Mix

4 lbs fresh tomatoes (about 12 medium) to yield 9 c finely diced, or 5 cans (14.5 oz) petite diced

Optional, hot pepper flakes or sauce, to taste.

1. Combine tomatoes and contents of package in a large saucepan.

2. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

3. Prepare canner jars and lids, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

5. Process in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes (adjusting for altitude), timing when water returns to boil.

That’s it. So easy. I don’t even have a canning pot with a rack. I use my stockpot with an old washcloth on the bottom to cushion the jars. I do, however, have the canning tool kit, something that makes canning life so nice. It consists of a jar lifter (those jars are HOT), a magnetic lid lifter (those are HOT too), and a device that measures headspace and gets out bubbles.

So, for those that are new at canning, go ahead and give it a try. For those who have canning down, this is a quick and easy gift idea. Enjoy!

The beginning of strawberry season…

It’s Easter Sunday, and I thought I should probably post something since it’s been over a week. I spent the weekend out of town with my BF’s fam, so I didn’t get to cook anything. However, Friday I managed to can a small batch of strawberry-vanilla jam. I had only 2 pints of berries, so this was more of experimentation more than anything. I’ve never really put up jam, other than a half-hearted attempt at marmalade earlier this year.

Strawberries are just starting to come into season around here. I have many plans involving these lovely berries, jams, syrups and leather, just to name a few. I tell ya, I cannot wait until the local U-pick farm opens in a couple weeks. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my first jam success story.Beautiful jars

I originally found a recipe for this jam on, but her version called for liquid pectin, which I did not have. I went on a search for other strawberry jam recipes that called for powdered pectin. Obviously, there are plenty of those, but the recipe I kept going back to was from Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton. I ended up making a mash-up of the two.

Strawberry-Vanilla JamMacerating berries

adapted from and put ’em up

4 c strawberries, hulled and chopped

2 c sugar

2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Toss strawberries, sugar and broken up vanilla bean in a large bowl to macerate overnight. (Mine sat for 2 days in the refrigerator)

Transfer the mixture to a large non-reactive sauce pan. Be sure to pick out the vanilla bean pieces. Bring the berries to a boil, crushing and stirring to release more juice. How small you crush them  depends on your taste. Stir in the lemon juice. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the jam reached desired thickness, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam.Boiling berries

To can, ladle into 1/2 pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

* this recipe made 7 1/2 pint jars.

Awaiting jars