What Charlie Sheen and I have in common, Winning

I won first prize at the DC State Fair jam & jelly contest!!!!

Blue ribbon!

Numero Uno!

Winning!

Ok, that’s enough. ūüôā ¬†Thank you for indulging my¬†excitement. ¬†Two weekends ago, DC held its third annual state fair in Barracks Row. Yes, this is an oxymoron as DC isn’t actually a state, but hey, we pay taxes and don’t have any Congressional representatives so can we at least enjoy this great American pastime?

I had been excited about the fair for a while but didn’t know what I wanted to make. ¬†I went over to the garden to pull out the dead tomato plants and check on the general state of things and saw I had a bumper crop of green Marconi peppers.¬†Light-bulb¬†moment! ¬†Hot, sweet and smokey green pepper jelly!

At the fair of course winning was on my mind, but I didn’t think it was a given. After intently watching the judges taste entries for an hour, they went for mine. Yes, the culminating moment… the first judge (who happens to be¬†interim¬†food editor of the Washington Post) samples some and¬†immediately¬†starts coughing and reaching for water.

Oh my God. Fail.  But then she flashes me the thumbs up. Ok, maybe it just went down the wrong pipe.

Another judge, a master gardener from the District, sampled and said “Oh, that’s good”. Score!!

Me and the winning jelly

I was so surprised when they announced the winner and called my name. Inside I was bursting but outside I was trying to act cool, like no big deal. Hahaha, that didn’t work out so well. When the Washington Post editor came over and asked me about the recipe and handed me her phone to input my contact info I really just got flustered.

I was fumbling with fat fingers and looked like I was¬†blatantly¬†ignoring the people coming up to me asking questions about the jelly¬†because¬†I was so intent on giving out my info. Ugh, I came across as a total ditz. Moving forward, I’m taking it as a lesson in how to be more poised and gracious when in the spotlight.

Alright, I know you are ready for the recipe, so here it is!

I dressed up my entry with burlap, jute and a tiny pepper on the side

Blue Ribbon Southern Lady Pepper Jelly

  • 4 1/4 cups finely diced green Marconi peppers
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (more if you like it hot)
  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 box Sure-Jell Low Sugar Pectin (1.75 ounces)
  • 6 half pint jelly jars
Prepare the jars, lids, bands and boiling water canner.  Slice the peppers and run through a food processor until finely diced. Combine the peppers, vinegar, a few pinches of the sugar and the pectin in a large saucepan. Bring to a hard boil, stirring frequently. Mix in the sugar, honey and ground chipotle pepper and continue cooking at a hard boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Skim off any foam if needed (I rarely do!). Using a funnel, pour the jelly into the prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process the jars for 10 minutes, remove and let cool.

Southern ladies used to serve hot pepper jellies with water crackers and cheese at lunches and afternoon teas so that inspired the name of my entry. This jelly is perfect with cream cheese and crackers, on a bagel, or even as a dipping sauce for roast pork.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Just wanted to share this, if you want to learn more about urban farming and how it can revitalize urban areas. Looking forward to watching this!

A HEALTHY LIFE FOR ME

Back in March I posted asking you to watch an upcoming Pilot that would be airing on PBS, Urban Farming.

It aired on April 4th and I thought I would share it here with you.  It truly is worth watching, its educational, inspirational, inventive and smart, click link below to watch. Please!

Urban Farming

I found the Detroit farmers evolution retrospective.  Tell me what you think.

What is Urban Farming?

The practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in, or around, a village, town or city.


Program: Food Forward
Episode: Pilot: Urban Farming
Food Forward: Urban Agriculture Across America is a half-hour, character-driven survey of urban farming across the country. The pilot episode for a 13-part series greenlit for PBS starting 2012, we meet the food rebels who are growing food right where we live‚Äďin cities. Lively animation starts us off asking some tough questions of industrial agriculture. Then‚Ķ

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How to Make Strawberry Jam

So as part of my interest in urban homesteading, I like making my own jams and applesauce.

Yes I know I’m hardly being a champion of self-reliance by making jam, but I’m doing what I can!!

Homemade Strawberry Jam

The first time I made jam I went into it 100% obsessed with doing it all “right”. I bought two books, a stater canning set, jars etc. I actually read one of the books, Putting Food By, cover to cover. Yes, it was a little over the top.

But companies in the home presevering industry totally try to freak you out by making it seem like if you make one wrong move while canning you’re going to kill your entire family with¬†Botulinum toxin.¬† Ya, stressful right?

So now you know why I was a little… cautious.

Obviously, I learned to do something right, because my husband and I have successfully ate our way through strawberry and blueberry jam as well as applesauce without any trips to the ER.

So for those of you interested in trying your hand at canning  I put together this illustrated step by step guide to make the process less mysterious and scary!*

Start with some fresh picked berries

I use the recipe on the Sure-Jell box, it calls for 8 cups of berries. To make washing easier, fill up your (clean) sink with water and add in the berries. Run your hand lightly over the berries to swirl them around.

Now you need to hull all the berries at once. Grab a berry outta the water and using one hand, gently grasp the berry at the bottom. Using a paring knife in the other hand, insert the tip just under the green stem and twirl the berry to cut the stem out.

See!

Note in the background, I set out a bowl to hold the stems.

Lay out baking sheets covered in paper towel (probably need 3), lay the hulled berries on here so excess water will drip off.

Once you’ve cleaned all the berries, you need to clean out the sink and then wash your canning lids, jars and bands in warm soapy water. Drain the sink again, and re-fill it with hot water. The jars need to stay warm until you ladle the cooked jam into it.

Put the lids into a small pot of hot water on the stove on low heat. These also need to stay very warm until the jam is ladled into the jars.

Fill you canning pot with water and turn the heat to high, it’s so large it takes a while to boil. Also set a full teakettle over medium heat too, as the water from the canning pot boils out, you’ll need to replace it with almost boiling water from the kettle.

Clean your work surface and set out ALL THE UTENSILS you need. Cooking jam goes fast, and you need to have everything at your fingertips.

Extra large bowl, pectin, potato masher and tongs are essentials

Measure your sugar, mash your berries and your halfway there ūüôā

Cook berries, sugar and pectin together at a full rolling boil (one that doesn’t disappear when you stir it). Watch the berries, but also start setting up your jars.

Sweet bubbling goodness

Once the jam has cooked according to the recipe you’re using (about 10 minutes) ladle into jars, leave some room at the top for the air to expand while it cooks a second time in the canner.

Top the jars with lids, gently screw on the bands, and then get those bad boys in the canner. I use this nifty basket to hold the jars and it makes for easy lifting. Cook the jars in the canner for the amount of time specific in your recipe!!! Yes, this matters.

Once the jars have fully cooled and self sealed (you will hear a pop as the lids compress while the jars cool, that’s how you know its working!) you have beautiful jars of yummy, preservative free jam. Just fruit, sugar and some love. ūüôā

Enjoy!

-Erin

Daily Question: What fruit jam is your favorite?

*Note: I do recommend buying Ball’s Blue Book for more detailed recipes, or you can use the recipes on the Sure-Jell box.