Wednesday, August 11, 2010

That is one big flower!!!

I have been in love with Dahlia flowers, ever since a trip while I was a little girl to Campobella Island, Canada, right off the coast of Maine.  Than luckily enough one summer while living on my own, I found a Mansion that would sell them off the side of the road for Charity.  I would stop and buy a bunch in a Mason Jar every week for my desk at work!!

How nice would it be to be able to have rows and rows of flowers:

Below is my small Dahlia Paradise:

I am lucky enough to have 2 successful rows of Dahlia's, and another very slow growing row (I started it too late).  As of right now, I have three plants in bloom as beautifully shown above.  I am hoping that I can show you some more dahlia blooms by the end of the summer!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Making Jelly with a big check

I have been wanting to try canning for some time.  When I was younger I would make Jam with my Dad:  Strawberry, Blueberry, and Peach.  I must of enjoyed it, because I have been wanting to make some Jam for a while.

While I did not make Jam..I made something just as great:  Cranberry Jalapeno Jelly.

The recipe was very easy to follow, and was very exact which helps when you are tackling something you are not so comfortable with.

1.  Place the jars, and bands in the dishwasher.  (everything I have read says not to place the lids in the dishwasher..I did).  I used the small 4 oz jelly jars, as they make nice gifts, and I am not fast on going through jelly, this way I figured I would always have fresh jelly in my near future. 

2.  Start the big pot of water, that you are going to be boiling the jars in.  I also did not have any fancy big pots, another reason why I used the 4 oz jars.  I knew they would fit in my standard pot at home.

3.  The jalapeno's were not bad to deal with.  What I did was I cut the head off (stem) and than cut around the seeds.  If any seeds or ribs were left in the pepper after this, I just rinsed it under water.  I have to say I felt no burning of the eyes, but I was very careful, and always washed my hands when I was done cutting all of the peppers.

4.  As the peppers did not need to be minced, I just through them in the blender with cranberry juice, the next step was easy.

5.  Now the straining part, I feel that I was very creative.  I jused skewers to hold the cheese cloth in place, and was careful not to pour to fast, that the mixture would not be able to properly go through the cheese cloth.

6.  Now you pour the mixture you strained into a lovely pot (I used the word lovely as this describes my Le Creuset Pot)  Add the vinegar, stir in the sugar.  Now I have a glass stove stop, so I was careful not to get sugar on the top.  I know it will ruin the top, but not exactly sure how or why...I just have been warned by Mr. P. 

7.  I just kept stirring the above, and stirring, I did not want any problems with this jelly.  I wanted perfection!

8.  Next you add the pectin, and you are almost done. 

9.  Good thing for me, my jars were nice and hot in the dry cycle in the dish washer, and my pot of water was boiling nicely.  (I did have to keep adding water to the pot while I was making the jelly to keep the water level up)

10.  What I did not realize that this skimming thing was so tough.  Well not tough, just time consuming.  Below is what I had to tackle.  I was trying for perfection so the skimming took me about 10 minutes.

11.  This is the goop that came off..not to I am glad I spent so much time skimming.  What I did was I used a wooden spoon, and kept bringing the nasty goop to the side, than dumped it into a bowl.  I did need to wash my spoon off half way as the goop was hardening on to the spoon, and I felt hurting me reaching my full potentional of a beautifully skimmed pot.

12.  So this is what I got.

An almost perfectly skimmed pot

13.  Next you need to fill the jars, once you place the jelly in, wipe the side and the top where the lid will go very clean.  I used a warm paper towel...

14.  Place the lid on the center, than I placed the band on the top, pushed down a little and started to screw the cap on.  This is not as easy as it sounds as the jars are hot, and the jelly is hot.  You need to be careful, I used a pot holder, this helped a lot.

15.  Once I had six done, I placed them in the hot water bath, for the time prescribed in the recipe.  I used tongs (and not canning tongs) to place them in the water.  And the same tongs, to place the hot jars on a beach towel to dry, pop, and be perfectly sealed.

16.  The sounds of those little pops were so nice.  I have to say for me most of them happend in the first 5 minutes, which was exciting, and those little pops were each an encouragement to try another type of jelly.

17.  I repeated the above of taking a jar out of the dish washer, closing the dish washer quickly for the hot air to not escape, filling the jars, wiping the jars, placing the lid, screwing the band, for 18 times.  I did a total of 3 water baths.

18.  Overall this recipe was great, I had a good time, and made that big check off my summer to do list.

The recipe came from someone at Taste of Home..

I have to say I felt quite accomplished once I tackled this jelly, and it helps that it tastes delicious.