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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Make Lemon Balm Jelly

If you ever decide to plant a lemon balm plant in your garden, you will soon find yourself searching the internet for something to do with it. The plants get rather large. So describe them as invasive. I wouldn’t use that word because invasive (to me) means that it replants itself. It just gets rather large, so be sure you have enough room for it. Becky at Simply Self Sufficiency has done a lot with Lemon Balm. Check out her website for more ideas.

For my first real venture into Lemon Balm, I decided to try the Jelly.

I started by soaking a thinly sliced lemon in 3 cups of water. I let that sit in the fridge overnight.
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I then strained the lemons from this water, brought it to a boil, added 4 tightly packed cups of lemon balm, and allowed that to simmer for about 15 minutes.
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I strained this mixture. Added 6 1/2 cups of sugar and brought to a rolling boil. I then added 6 tablespoons of powdered low-sugar Ball pectin. I boiled this until I had jelly set (using the spoon test).
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I removed from the heat, placed it in pint jars and water bathed for 10 minutes.
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I saved a little for immediate use.
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The Truth: I tried to cut the sugar in this recipe; using just half of the 6 1/2 cups. It didn’t work. I waited a few days and all I had was a syrup. So, I dumped all the jars back into the pot. Boiled, added more sugar and pectin until I was able to pass the jelly set spoon test. I can't tell you how much sugar I ended up adding, but I can say that I ended up with more than the 6 1/2 cups the recipe called for. Just add little by little until you are able to get jelly set.

Well worth it; it’s absolutely delicious! Everyone loved it. Take that overgrown Lemon Balm plant.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What’s for Thanksgiving Harvest

I failed to give you guys a garden tour this month. I did the tour, but the pictures didn’t come out so great; with the short days I haven’t been able to get better pictures.

But this week, I will share with you what was (and what may be) harvested for Thanksgiving.

1.8 lbs of broccoli, bunches of sage (to make rubbed sage), and an onion. I found this onion while cleaning out the summer crops. It was a seedling that had recently sprouted. I decided to see if it would bulb and this is what I got. I have a couple more still out there; I’ll pull at different times to see how they do.
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Now for what is ready to be harvested. Romaine and Red Sails lettuce. They are beautiful. I also have a few more heads of broccoli that have started to head (one of those not so great pictures I told you about).
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I also have a bed of turnip greens that could use a trimming. The gaps in the greens contain a small cabbage seedling. These are Seven Top turnips, so they won’t produce a useable bulb. The collard greens are also of a trimmable size. In front of the collards you can see the garlic tops. They are sizing up nicely and should have plenty of green tops before spring hits.
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Check out more harvests that are just in time for Thanksgiving at Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Make Rubbed Sage

One of the great Thanksgiving traditions is turkey and dressing. In the South, we don’t do stuffing….we do dressing. Dressing made from cornbread…..cornbread made from yellow cornmeal – not sweet cornbread either.

One of the main ingredients of dressing (other than the cornbread of course) is rubbed sage. Rubbed sage, is basically sage crumbled very fine so that it will distributed quite evenly throughout the dish.

Since I have a huge sage bush in the garden that could use a good trimming (see the before (1st) and after (2nd) photo); I decided to make my own this year.
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Here’s how it’s made:

Step 1
Harvest your sage. You shouldn’t harvest more than 1/3rd of the plant at a time. You can wash down your sage bush the day before you plan to harvest. This should get rid of any bugs or dirt that may be on it.
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Step 2
Dry your sage. You can air dry it or dry it in a dehydrator. I used a dehydrator. Sage is a low moisture herb, so it doesn’t take long to dry. I dried it for about two hours.
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Actually I split my harvest into two. I dried half of it in the dehydrator and the other half is air drying. I just want to see if there is a visible difference. I’ll update you once the air drying sage is done.

Step 3
Place your dried sage in a bowl and
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Crumble  the dried sage with your fingers.
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Step 4
Press the crumbled sage through a strainer. This will get it fine and crumbly and remove any left over stems or sage leaves that didn’t crumble.
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Step 5
Put the sage into a dry, sterilized jar. I ended up with 1 cup of rubbed sage.
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This sage plant cost me $3 in the spring. I would say that it has already paid me back. Have you seen the price of sage lately?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall’s First Harvest

Finally, a fall harvest. I didn’t get to post last week, so this is actually two weeks of  harvest.
The bean plants were probably harmed the most by the light frost we got, but that beans themselves showed no sign of damage. I’ve been harvesting them by the bowl to the tune of 8 lbs. You ate looking at Tendergreen Improved, Blue Lake, and Kentucky Wonder – in order shown.
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I also finally harvested that kohlrabi that was growing. It weighed in at an eight of a pound and was roasted in the oven with garlic and salt.
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Along with the green beans, I have been harvesting celery. Yes, celery. I left a celery plant in the middle of my tomato bed, so it was under the tomato jungle throughout the summer. Well it survived 100+ temps under there without bolting. I harvested from it a few weeks ago and again this week. Its still in the garden and I hope to harvest from it again. I chop my celery and dry it (for soups) and freeze it for casserole-type dishes (like dressing!).
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My  pepper plants were loaded with peppers when t he frost came. Thankfully the peppers themselves weren’t harmed. I harvested about 10 lbs of bell peppers; sliced-diced-and froze them for later use.
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I also harvested about 5 lbs of fish peppers. 5 lbs is a LOT because the peppers are slightly smaller than jalapenos. They sure make for a beautiful arrangement.

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Not pictured is a huge head of broccoli that weighed in at .8 lbs. My broccoli is doing very well this year. With almost all of the plants forming heads. I should be able to harvest two more this week. I hope the side shoot production is prolific. If not, I’d need two beds full of broccoli to cover this family’s broccoli requirements.

See what other gardeners are harvesting at Daphne's Harvest Monday.