Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sweet Cherry Chutney

One of my favorite things of all is Peach Chutney.   Lily and I can go through a jar ourselves.  It's lovely with sliced apples and brie.   Or poured over pork chops and slow cooked.  I like it with 2 tsps of red pepper flakes, which gives it just enough heat, but not too much for me.   You can add more or less to taste.

I had a few bags of sweet cherries left and decided to try my favorite chutney recipe with cherries instead of peaches.    It was lovely!   Here's what I did.

Sweet Cherry Chutney

  • 8 Cups pitted sweet cherries, sliced in half
  • 2 T mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp - T red pepper flakes  [I like 2 tsp]
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 1/2 Cup white wine vinegar [I use my own homemade white wine vinegar]
  • 1/4 Cup crystallized ginger, chopped up [That's a handful of ginger pieces, if you don't want to cram it into a cup measure.]
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 Cup raisins 
Combine ingredients and cook down until enough liquid boils off that you can drag a spoon/spatula across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a dry place for a second before the juices flow again.   Take your time.    The cherries were pretty juicy, so I let it cook on low, with a simmering bubble, for a couple of hours. 

For more recipes as easy as these, check out my ebook on the sidebar.  A Simple Jar of Jam: 180+ recipes & variations for jam using low sugar pectin.  Every purchase goes a long way toward supporting the blog.   Thank you!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sweet Cherry Vanilla Jam

This year I added 20 lbs of sweet cherries to my fruit order and was thrilled at how fabulous they were.   Sweet cherries travel much better than sour cherries [which often arrive brown and running with juice, though delicious.]  Sweet cherries store well, stay firm and the extra few days gave us time to finish the peaches, which arrived first, and deal with the sour cherries and berries.   It was a very busy couple of weeks.   I washed the sweet cherries and put them in ziplocks stacked flat in the fridge.   It was easy to grab a bag in the morning, set it out and I confess we ate many many of those cherries fresh before I had a chance to make anything with them.

But I did make a couple of things with them and the first on the list was a batch or two [or three] of Sweet Cherry Vanilla Jam.  

It. Was. Heaven.   Like my favorite clafouti without the custard.    Soooo good.   Make some of this.  [Put it on chocolate cake.   Or just eat it with a spoon right out of the jar.]

Sweet Cherry Vanilla Jam

4 cups pitted sweet cherries, cut in half
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and then sliced open lengthwise
1/2 cup low sugar pectin [Dutch Gel All Natural Lite is my favorite]
1 cup sugar

Put the cherries, water, vanilla and pectin in a large pot.   Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  When the jam reaches a hard boil [that bubbles like crazy even when you're stirring constantly], time it for 1 minute.    Add the sugar, stir constantly and return it to a hard boil.   Time it for one minute.   Turn off the heat, ladle into jars.   We process the jam in 1/2 pint jars for 15 minutes.   Yield:  2.5 - 3 pints.

For more recipes as easy as these, check out my ebook on the sidebar.  A Simple Jar of Jam: 180+ recipes & variations for jam using low sugar pectin.  Every purchase goes a long way toward supporting the blog.   Thank you!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cherry Pie Filling with Perma Flo

Once again, I attempted to make cherry pie filling with Perma Flo and this year it totally worked!

We pitted the cherries and then let them sit while we made the Mixed Berry Pie Filling I told you about in the last post.   The juices flowed.   I added a bit extra perma flo to compensate.  This year the bottles are packed with fruit and the sauce is perfectly thick.   So delicious!

Sour Cherry Pie Filling with Perma Flo

1 gallon sour cherries, pitted
6 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Perma Flo

Mix the sugar and the Perma Flo well in a bowl.   Put the cherries and all their juice in a large pot.  Mix in the sugar/Perma Flo combination and stir well.   Bring to a boil stirring constantly.   The sauce will become clear when it reaches the boil.   Make sure it boils!   As you're stirring, watch for stray pits and pull them out with a spoon.  Once the filling is boiling, put it in jars.   We processed ours for 30 minutes.

Yield:  5-6 quarts of pie filling.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Berry Pie Filling with Perma-Flo

We've been so busy this summer. It seems that all the fruit got ready at once. Within a week, we had bushels of peaches, cherries, blueberries and raspberries. So much goodness all at one time! I got together with one of my sisters for a day and we blasted out dozens of quarts of pie fillings. Peach Vanilla, Spiced Peach, Sour Cherry, Mixed Berry.... So, so delicious. One of the tricks of making berry pie fillings for canning is making sure that everything is heated enough, but that the berries aren't stirred so much that they are completely broken down in the process. Not to worry, I had a plan. Heat 1/4 of the berries with water, smash them to bits for as much juice as possible, then add the perma-flo and make the sauce. Once the sauce was done, then add the berries and heat through stirring gently. Bring back to a boil and can. It worked perfectly!!  

Berry Pie Filling with Perma-Flo

1 gallon red raspberries and black raspberries mixed
1 quart water
2 cups sugar
1 cup Perma Flo

Mix the sugar and Perma Flo and set aside.   Put the water and 1 quart of the berries in a large pot and smash the berries with a potato masher to release the juice.   Add the sugar and Perma Flo and stir well.   Heat the mixture until it boils, stirring constantly.   When it boils, it will become clear and thick.   When the sauce is clear and bubbling, add the rest of the berries and fold them gently in.  You don't want to break them all up.   Once the mix is boiling again, it's ready to go into the jars.

We processed the jars for 30 minutes for canning.

Yeild: 4-5 quarts of pie filling.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Asparagus Fruit

These are the tiny fruit of the asparagus plant.

So cute.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Indigo Rose Tomato

Seriously, how cute are these baby tomatoes?   They are Indigo Rose tomatoes.   Eric brought them home to me when the puppy ate the containers of baby tomatoes I had grown myself.   We weren't sure how many I'd be able to save, so he got several -  whatever looked interesting.  

I can't wait to see this one ripe.   I hope it tastes as good as it looks.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Elderberry Flowers

My elderberries are flowering and they are glorious.    Glorious, I tell you.

They make me so happy.

I learned something important about elderberries this year.   They don't like mulch.  
I thought it would be a great idea to put a mushroom bed under them.   They're in just the right place, with just the right dampness and so I put a thick layer of mulch seeded with Stropharia mycelium under the elderberries and within two weeks I started noticing yellowing leaves.  

I did some research and learned that elderberries have a shallow root system and they like it that way.   I figured the mulch was making them very unhappy, so I dug it all up and carted it away to the shady side of the chicken coop.   Within two weeks, the yellowing leaves were greening up and I had buds forming.   Elderberries saved!

I also noticed a huge bush blooming near the creek in a wilder place on our property.   Lily investigated and it looks like in a year or two it will spread out the right direction and we'll be able to reach them from one of our paths.  

Finally, after 15 years of trying, I'll have elderberries here.   I can taste the jelly already.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Lily took these pics.

It has rained here a lot this year.   Rain can be a pain but it's important to know how to deal with rain.   Because all-sunshine makes a desert. And let's face it. Sometimes it rains.   A lot.

And sometimes you get hurt.   And sometimes people are jerks.   And sometimes bad stuff happens.   And sometimes it's really bad. 
I fear we are raising a generation of children who think that all difficult things can and should be avoided.    No pain, no risk, no frustration, no disappointment.   And they're trying to legislate it now.  Like you can make laws that take the risk out of real life.

I've got news for them:   Real life doesn't work that way.   If you want to be a grown up, you're going to have to accept that a full life comes with risk, injury, pain, disappointment, anger and frustration.

It is foolish to believe that these things can be eliminated from life.  The history of humanity is pretty much evidence that it can't be done.

It is a mark of maturity to learn how to deal with them well.  To cope.  To regain balance.

Pain can be a real blessing.   Work and sweat and discomfort and risk and frustration and anger can all be real blessings.  It is a powerful thing to learn how to deal with them. 

You don't need someone to rescue you from the difficult things in life.   You just need practice dealing with them and an understanding that sometimes it's messy.  Suit up and be the superhero in your own life.

Monday, June 22, 2015

White Sweet Clover

The white sweet clover is blooming now and bees are working it.   The sumac is ready to bloom, the asclepias is just starting.   I figure we have a couple more weeks of good flow here, provided it doesn't rain so much the bees can't get out to it.

Then I'm going to have to feed the bees for a while.  I'm working on a bucket system.   Stay tuned.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bearding Bees

When it gets hot, as it has been here lately,  the bees hang out on the sides of the hive.  They like the shadier places - under the tops, on the sides, in the handles, and at the edge of the bottoms.   They hang in clusters that look like beards, which is why it's called 'bearding'.

They do this to free up space on the inside of the hive for more efficient cooling.   Bees at both entrances fan air in or out and bees on the interior walls fan the air in one direction to circulate air efficiently.    This is how they can control the inside temps so well so that the brood temps stay stable.

The number of bees on the outsides of the hives can give a clue to the strength of the hive.   These are all first season colonies. You can see that the tallest hive has quite a few bees.  It was started from a nuc.   The long hive on the left has even more bees, but the design of the long hive gives a lot more interior space for them to be, so instead of bearding, they hang out in the far left end of the hive, where there is some extra space.

The beeyard smells like honey right now.   The catalpas have been blooming and we have some just close enough that the bees are busy busy busy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Peas Don't Mind Onions

The verdict is in.    Peas and onions tolerate each other just fine as companion plants.

If you've been following the tale of the accidental pea/onion companion planting, then you know that I decided to test whether the companion planting charts [see sidebar for links] were right about peas and onions not getting along.

I planted peas in four beds.  In one bed I planted the peas within a few inches of the row of onions.

They grew.   And grew.   And grew.  Those peas are the best, tallest and most prolific peas in the garden.

Not because I planted them so very close to the onions though!   This happened to be the bed where we had last dumped the contents of the chicken coop.   It was the fabulous soil that made the difference.   I believe the onions had no effect at all, one way or the other.

I'm thinking that maybe the 'Don't-plant-peas-with-onions' myth was started by someone who just had bad luck that year and made an assumption.   That assumption got put into print and then it took on a life of its own.   It happens.   

Which is why all claims about companion plants should be taken with a large grain of salt.   It's much more important to focus on good fertile soil than it is too worry about companion plants.   Once your soil is in good shape, then your plants will fight off a lot of diseases and pests on their own and you can start to think about other things to plant with them to help marigolds with squash to help drive off the multitudes of squash bugs we have here.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

More New Colors: Blue Peacock

...And another new colorway for the summer! 

This one was the result of a collaboration with a client who wanted one of the other colorways tweaked a bit.   So I tweaked....

...and totally fell in love with the result.   Blue Peacock is one of my new favorite colorways.

Pic above: Sparrow cotton/rayon yarn, Silk Bamboo yarn, Moonbeam rayon ribbon, Stella raw silk yarn.

Pic right:  Moonbeam, large skein, rayon ribbon yarn. 

All of these yarns are on Etsy now....

Friday, June 12, 2015

New Colors: Red Oak

Every so often I get the urge to play with color in the studio and work up some more colorways.   I've got two in the works.

This is one is Red Oak.   I've been thinking about it for a long time.   Earthy reds, rust, brown and purple.   

Pic above:  superwash tencel roving, Moonbeam rayon ribbon, Nuthatch cabled yarn, Stella raw silk yarn.

Right:  Firefly yarn - superwash wool/tencel fingering weight.   My favorite yarn ever.

All of these yarns are available in my Etsy shop, right now.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

June Color and Dyeing Classes

There is still time to sign up for a class with me this month.

Saturday, June 27, 2015
9am - 5pm
Includes lunch!
White Violet Center
St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana
[just west of Terre Haute]

Morning:   Color Harmonies
Afternoon:  Dyeing protein/animal fibers

You can register for one or both classes here:

These are some of the most fun classes I teach all year!  In the morning we do a review of basic color theory, then talk about common color harmonies and learn about using color tools and then we start our own color notebooks!   It's a great time - full of laughter, learning and friendship.

In the afternoon, I take you step by step through the dyeing process so that you can learn to dye your own fibers at home.   We focus on protein/animal fibers in this class, using safe and easy-to-use acid dyes.    It's a great time and you'll go home with an armload of your own hand dyed yarns for projects. 

Details and registration information at the White Violet website here:

Come for one class or come for all day!  I hope to see you there!
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