Blueberry Preserves

The husband and I went blueberry picking last weekend at Butler’s Orchard and hauled in a little over 12 lbs!

Fresh picked blueberries ~ Erins' DC Kitchen

So you know what that means? JAM! And more blueberry posts 🙂

Oddly enough, this is the first time I’ve made blueberry jam on my own versus just helping (loosely) my Mom make hers. (Thanks for peaking my interest in canning!)

Homemade Blueberry Jam~ Erin's DC Kitchen

So pretty isn’t it?

Homemade Blueberry Jam~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Right after I finished this batch, I had to turn around and leave for a business trip to Newport, RI and didn’t get to try any of it until this morning! It’s was so good, not overly sweet because I opted for a lower sugar recipe, and bursting with blueberry pieces.

Here is the recipe!

Erin’s Blueberry Jam

  • 5 cups crushed blueberries (it took around 9 cups of whole berries to get to 5 crushed)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 cups sugar (up to 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 6 tablespoons Ball powder pectin (or 1 box pectin, 49 to 57 g)

Makes about 7 to 8 eight ounce (250 ml) jars

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids. In a very large pot combine the berries and lemon juice. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add all the sugar and honey at once, then return to a full boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Ladle into prepared jars and leave 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Place on lids and bands, boil in the canner for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let stand 24 hours, during which time the lids should vacuum seal.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Need a more comprehensive breakdown of how to make jams? Read my step-by-step, soup to nuts guide to strawberry jam.

Weather Throwing a Curveball? DIY Plant Protection!

Protect Plants from the Cold - Erin's DC Kitchen

Don’t let fickle weather undue all the work you’ve put into your springtime garden; cold weather protection is easy (and cheap)! Why do you need to worry about protecting plants from the chill? Mostly because freezing/frost can kill plants. Also, unseasonably cold weather will weaken and stress tomato and pepper transplants. These are warm weather loving plants and in order to get them growing, flowering, and setting fruit in a healthy manner, you need to avoid stressing the plants.

Plants are really a lot like us- we are not happy when it is 75° and sunny and then the next day you wake up to a bone-chilling 35° morning.  (True story).

So here is a step by step guide to what I did to protect my plants, and it cost nothin’! You need some cheap garbage bags, I used our 13 gallon white Hefty’s– no drawstring or anything fancy- and a pair of scissors.

1)  Place bag on top of the plant cage, the closed bottom facing up.

on top before cutting

2) With the scissors, cut along the bottom seam to open up the bag and gently pull the bag down the cage until it touches the soil. Weigh down the edges of the bag with items found in your garden.

weighing down

3) Tie the edges of the bag in three places to the cage. I did this by tearing 2 inch long vertical strips along the top of the bag and tying  knots at the three places where the ring meets the cage. This keeps the top open to the sun.

Note: The bag is floppy because the edges haven’t been tied yet. Tying prevents floppiness, and it will look like the first pic in this post.

You’re done! Plants will stay safe with the bag warming the air around the plant and protecting them from wind. I leave these on during the day if the temperature doesn’t get to0 high, like above 70Âş, and of course, keep them on at night when the temp is dipping in the low 40’s and the 30’s.

Another option for covering plants is to use the plastic pot from a particularly large pepper or tomato transplant. Cut the bottom off and place over the plant, like so.

use leftover container

Now here is a picture of one of my marigolds, just for fun, 🙂

marigolds

Happy Gardening!

– Erin

Homemade Applesauce

Even though the summer garden bounty is gone, and mostly (hopefully)  put up, there are plenty of apples to preserve. I highly recommend using a combo of Stayman, Winesap and Granny Smith apples for sauce because they are sweet and tart at the same time with firm flesh that breaks down beautifully while cooking.

On left, chunky-cinnamon applesauce; on right, smooth applesauce

If you want to preserve this in jars, you can. However, you can also just freeze the applesauce in quart containers. Pull it out when you want to use it and let it thaw in the fridge.

I love heating the chunky-cinnamon applesauce up and eating it warm, it’s so comforting. 🙂 Or, you can use it in place of oil in baking to add more healthful flavor to cakes and muffins, like I did here.

This recipe is forgiving; if you are planning on freezing versus canning it, you can adjust the amounts of apples, sugar and spices to suit your taste. If you can the sauce, I suggest sticking more closely to the recipe- for safety purposes. I made two types of applesauce, both of which I canned.

Homemade Applesauce*

  • 8 lbs of peeled, cored and quartered apples

For Chunky-Cinnamon Applesauce:

  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbl fresh squeezed lemon juice

For Smooth Applesauce

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tbl fresh squeezed lemon juice

In an extra large saucepan, combine apples with just enough water to prevent sticking, Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes until the apples are tender and have broken down a bit. This time will vary greatly depending on the firmness of your apple.

Remove from heat. Split the apple mixture in half into two separate pots, one pot will be for chunky and one pot will be for smooth. For the smooth batch, puree the apple mixture in a food processor and return to the pan. Stir in the white sugar and the lemon juice. Stirring frequently, bring to a low boil. If canning, fill your jars now.

For the chunky batch, use a potato masher to break down the apple mixture a but, leaving some large apple pieces behind. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Stirring frequently, bring to a low boil. If canning, fill your jars now.

Process the filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. Remove, let cool and store.

*Note: This is for a split recipe, half chunky and half smooth. If canning, this will yield about 7 pint jars of applesauce.

Enjoy!

– Erin