Beverages, Canning, condiment, Desserts, Recipes

Berry Recipes

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It is berry season for all those berries that grow on canes.  I have raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, and Loganberries in the garden, and they bear in that order.  The raspberries are almost finished (until fall, when another variety will start to bear), the boysenberries also are nearly done, and the blackberries are just getting started.  Loganberries will start ripening in mid-to-late August.

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I’ve posted berry recipes before, but I’m gathering the links together for you, so you can more easily find what you might be looking for.  In some cases, you might have to scroll down (or read down) to find the recipe at the end of a post.

Blackberry Cordial and Syrup

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I just made a batch of blackberry cordial and a batch of mixed berry cordial (Logan berries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blackberries), and the mixed berry cordial is delicious.  This recipe will work with any berry juice.

Raspberry Cordial, Jam, Vinegar

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And a reason to make blackberry jam or jelly, Blackberry and Wine Poached Pears

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And a recipe to use your berry-infused vinegar in, Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

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And finally, since I just made a different version of blackberry syrup, I’m going to post the recipe here, with a few notes.

Blackberry Syrup

4 cups of blackberry juice

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of agave nectar/syrup

Simmer the blackberry juice and sugar together for 8 minutes, then add the agave nectar and boil for 2 more minutes.  Keep at a low simmer while ladling into hot, sterilized jars (pints, quarts, or half-pints) and add flats and rings.  Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

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Note:  My old syrup recipe, in the first link above, called for light corn syrup, a cup.  This recipe makes delicious pancake syrup (or it can be used in cocktails or spritzers), but with the concerns about corn syrup today, I went looking for a new recipe.  I found the one above that uses agave nectar, one cup, and it’s really good.  However, when I compared calorie and sugars numbers between corn syrup and agave, I was somewhat surprised.  Light corn syrup contains 5 grams of sugars per tablespoon and 15 grams of carbohydrates.  Agave nectar contains 16 grams of sugars and 16 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon.  Of course, corn syrup is problematic for other reasons, but if you’re just counting calories, it’s a bit of surprise that the syrup made with corn syrup has fewer calories than the one made with agave nectar.

The choice is yours:  both recipes make an excellent syrup for pancakes, cocktails and spritzers, or to drizzle over ice cream sundaes or mix up in a milk shake, or stir into some thick Greek yogurt . . . . What would you put it on?

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Garden and Greenhouse

A Re-purposed Tool

When I started this blog a couple of years ago, one of my first posts (maybe the second?) was about my favorite tools. One of those favorite tools was my old wire lawn chair. I found a new use for my chair/tool today. It’s a garlic dryer!

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Some of this garlic is too small and will be replanted. (Some has already been replanted).

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It was all started from seed, some two years ago and some three years ago. I did get some nice bulbs though, and the big ones all went through the larger rectangles on the chair’s back. The smaller ones went through the spaces on the seat. The chair is in the shadiest place on the property, the patio behind the big oak tree in the front of the house. The sun will never reach it there.

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It’s important to keep curing garlic out of the sun, as I discovered on my return from Crescent City last week. I had put the chair with the first batch of dug garlic in the shade of the apple tree, but one bulb had fallen through the grid, unobserved. I found it when I got back home. It had fallen where it was exposed to the sun and it looked almost as if it had been frozen. Sunlight adversely affects curing garlic, so it’s important to keep it out of the sun as it is drying.

I have a bit more garlic to gather, so it’s good that I have room on the chair to slot it in!

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When this garlic has dried a day or so, I’ll brush the dirt off the roots and let it continue to cure for several weeks. And then, I’m going to attempt braids for the first time. This is the first time I’ve had enough garlic to even try braids. And I don’t think I’m going to be buying any $3/lb garlic this winter, so yippee!

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Products

Back to the Bar

No, it’s not what you might think! I have been promising to write this soap post for some time. What with one surgery or ailment after another, this piece has taken a backseat far longer than I intended. But I really want to share with you, my friends, what a difference going back to bar soap, particularly homemade bar soap, has made in my skin.

Last fall, I took a little trip all on my ownsome, over into Nevada and then up into Oregon, before coming down to Crescent City, California and then home. During that trip, I noticed that my hands, which were so dry and chapped and cracked from gardening, canning, and processing fruit, began to improve. At first, I thought maybe it was getting away from the hard water we have here at home. Our well water tastes great, but it’s full of minerals, and I always thought that was why my hands were so dry here. But the water through Nevada and much of eastern Oregon was just as hard, and my hands were less dry, less cracked and chapped. I began to realize that the reason my skin was improving had nothing to do with the water. It was the soap.

Yes, those little bars of cheap motel soap were helping my hands rehydrate and heal. It was something of a revelation. For years, I’d been using antibacterial liquid soap on my hands and liquid body wash in the shower. I started using antibacterial soaps when they first came out, when my kids were little and colds were constant. Antibacterial soaps have their place, don’t get me wrong. If somebody in my house has a cold, I want that person to be washing his or her hands with antibacterial soap. After certain actions in the bathroom, I want to use, and I want others to use, antibacterial soap. I’m sure you get my drift—enough said on that score.

But there are many times throughout the day when I wash my hands and don’t need antibacterial action. I just need to remove something sticky or greasy from my hands while cooking, or some good clean dirt from the garden before I make a sandwich. This is where I’ve discovered just how much of a difference bar soap can make. Even a cheap bar soap like you find in a motel room.

Why? Because of the fat content in the soap. Bar soaps are always made with some kind of fat. Commercially produced soaps usually use vegetable fats. That’s why the soap doesn’t dry out your hands as much—it’s not stripping your skin of your own natural oils, and it’s actually adding a little fat (which turns out to be a barrier against bacteria). But when I discovered handmade, homemade soaps, the bar was raised to a whole new level.

Let me tell you about a soap-maker extraordinaire named Shannon Luzum, of Stacked Stone Farm. Shannon makes a soap called Gardener’s Hands that is exceptionally good for people like me, who have our hands in the dirt all the time. (Yes, I wear gloves, and still my hands get filthy. I don’t mind—I’m getting my beneficial soil microbes.) But there’s a point where that dirt needs to come off, and Shannon’s handmade, homemade, luxuriously fatty soap with ground walnut shells in it does the job. And after my hands are clean, they don’t feel dry. They actually feel moisturized. It’s truly amazing stuff, and I will never be without Gardener’s Hands soap from Stacked Stone Farm as long as Shannon continues to make it.

Shannon also gave me a little inside dope about soap.  “Liquid soaps contain alcohol, which dries the skin,” she says.  (I can attest to that.) She continues: “They also add preservatives due to the water content of the mixture. Homemade soap contains natural glycerin that is produced as part of the saponification process. The glycerin is awesome for skin. Commercial soap makers remove the glycerin and sell it to the public in lotion. Thus they sell two products.”  This is why homemade soap is so much better for your skin than commercially-produced soaps–it still contains the glycerin.  And I have to say, I have needed far less lotion (some days, none at all) on my hands and feet than I did before I switched back to bar soap.

I’m getting ready to try some of Shannon’s goat milk and lavender soap. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m thinking it will be good for my dry arms and legs. I have been using a commercially produced, French-milled soap made with vegetable oils on my dry legs and feet with a scrubbing sleeve, and I’ve seen great improvement in my skin. I know Shannon’s soap is going to work even better because the fats are higher quality, the glycerin is still in the soap, and it will nourish my skin even more.

Shannon also makes some salves and other products. I really like her Sore Muscle Rub, which is gently warming and soothing on my arthritic hands and inflamed shoulder, but I am in love with her Boo-Boo Salve.

Let me tell you about Boo-Boo Salve. It is darn near a miracle of healing. I bought it for my husband’s sore, split fingers, but he put it on his dresser and was forgetting to use it at night.  I moved it onto the bathroom counter where he’d remember to use it after he brushed his teeth when getting ready for bed, and where I could use it too.

One night, I came in from the garden with several mosquito bites. Now, I’m the person who gets huge, swollen bumps that itch for days and turn into sores when a mosquito gets me. I noticed on the label of the Boo-Boo Salve that it was good for bug bites, so I put a dab on each bite. None of them ever itched after that! And in the morning, they were nearly invisible. By the end of the next day, after a reapplication, I didn’t know I’d ever been bitten! Whoopee! I started putting the salve on minor scrapes and scratches I’d collected in the garden, and healing was faster than with any antibiotic salve I’ve ever used, like Neosporin or Polysporin. So when my grandkids were visiting, and both got scratched or scraped on something, I applied the Boo-Boo Salve, assuring them that it wouldn’t sting (always their fear when they get a boo-boo—that the medicine will hurt worse than the injury). They were pretty happy when it turned out I was telling the truth.

Then my son came over to get some plants from me, and we walked around back where the mosquitoes like to hang out, even in the day, and he got back in his truck with three bites on his arm.

“Hang on a minute,” I said, and ran back in the house for the Boo-Boo Salve. “The kids told me about this,” he said. I put a little dab on each bite, and he went home. The next day, he called me. “My bites never itched and are already dried up. Can you put some of that salve on Bryce’s arm when he comes over today?” he said. “He’s got some monster bites that are really bugging him.”

I doctored Bryce with Boo-Boo Salve and his bites went away. He’s such a believer in Boo-Boo Salve that when we went on vacation together recently, he showed up at the travel trailer door with a story about a spill from his bike and a request for some Boo-Boo Salve on his boo-boos. I’ve ordered a jar for my son and his family, because with a kid like Bryce, they’re gonna need it. My brother’s nickname for Bryce is “Crash.”

While we were on vacation, I used some sunscreen on my chest that plugged up some pores and caused a big pimple. Yeah, I know, totally gross at my age. But guess what? Boo-Boo Salve worked on that pimple too. And when I was sitting at the picnic table one evening at dinner, I felt a sharp sting on my lower calf. Later, I found a red spot there that got increasingly infected. It never itched, but it did make a nasty pustule, so I’m thinking it was probably a spider bite. I had to drain the pustule and put peroxide on it, and then some Boo-Boo Salve. That little miracle in a jar had that bite healing within a day. Spider bites can be very nasty, so I am so glad I had the salve with me on vacation.

Just this week, after weeding my tomatoes for 6 ½ hours, stupidly without sunscreen, I had a bad sunburn on my right shoulder. I put some aloe vera gel on it, but that didn’t help much. Boo-Boo Salve made it feel much better. (I’m wondering if Shannon ought to rename this product: “Miracle in a Jar.”) I highly recommend Shannon’s Boo-Boo Salve as well as her soaps. Check out the offerings at Stacked Stone Farm. You will surely find something useful.

I know a few other soapmakers who are making wonderful homemade soaps for sale. Boni Hester creates works of art in soap that would grace any guest bath. I hope to have some shortly for mine.  You can see her wonderful work on her Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1433011163595425&_rdr.  I’m unable to find another link for Boni’s work, but if you Facebook (and who doesn’t), you should be able to find her.  You’ll be amazed at what she can create in soap!

Another soaper, Donna Joan Batten, makes soaps from her goats’ milk. Her production at Gotcha Goat’s Milk Soap is temporarily shut down while she moves operations, but check out her website at http://www.gotchagoatmilksoap.net  and consider placing an order when she’s back up and running again. I’m eager to try some of Donna’s soaps, too.

Patti Franklin Mintz at Hummingbird Hill Handmade Soaps also makes gorgeous and fun soaps.  See her soap  at http://hummingbirdhillhandmadesoaps.com.

Each soaper is unique in her products, so I’m ordering different kinds to try.  I’m just in love with homemade, handmade soap!  (And I have to add, I’m not writing this blog because any of these soapers are paying me to rave about their soap.  I don’t endorse any products for payment in money or kind.  If I like something, I want to tell you about it!  If an advertisement appears on my blog, it’s because Word Press puts it there.  That’s the price of free hosting.)

If you have the chance to buy handmade, homemade soap, don’t pass it up. You’ll be amazed at the benefits homemade bar soap will bring to your skin. Go back to the bar!

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