Jam Recipe: Blueberry-Orange Spice
Living in West Michigan provides us with an abundance of fresh fruit mid-summer to fall. Strawberries begin to show up in farm stands and the market late may, then cherries at the end of June, and finally blueberries mid-July.
It's canning season;that time of the year when you wonder why in the world you planted that many tomato, jalapeño and squash plants?! After a long and often dreary winter, the anticipation of planting and tending to a large garden full of vibrant fruits and vegetables is extremely enticing to all garden savvy Midwesterners. In our giddiness for warm weather and green growth, we often forget that at the end of a very brief (sadly) warm and sunny summer, we are left with more vegetables than one family of four could ever eat! What do we do? We can! Canning preserves that sun-kissed real vegetable taste that many of us crave in the long winter months. A bright jar of fresh fruits and vegetables that gives us the hope that spring will come once again and endurance to brave the long cold winters.
Raspberry picking season is finally upon us! Sweet, juicy, ripe red raspberries that beg to be eaten right from the plant. Those berries that do make it home usually are eaten by the handful or frozen on sheet trays, bagged and labeled for the long winter months ahead. But..... what do you do when your plants gave you more than you can handle, or when that 5 pound box called out to you at the farmers market? Make jam of course!
Rhubarb is a versatile fruit. The plant itself is nothing spectacular; huge leaves cover bright red and pink stalks. One plant can produce many pounds of rhubarb, and more than one plant can take over your garden. The leaves are toxic to humans and pets, but the stalk is beautiful and tart. The extreme tartness of fresh rhubarb begs for the addition of sugar and it is perfectly suited for sweet applications. Ginger Rhubarb compote can be utilized in a variety of ways. Here are a few of my favorites...
I come from a long line of proud military men and women. The fourth of July is the perfect time to celebrate our country's independence and the men and women who fight to continue to keep our freedom.
Growing up in Michigan was very family centric, especially when the holidays came around. Fourth of July was certainly no exception. The day usually began with a city parade, floats and candy, along with the red, white and blue decorated bicycles passing by as we sat on the curb waiting to scramble into the street to gather the treats. We sat until the last float passed us by, and proudly gathered up all of our sweets and headed to a family picnic at the lake. Hamburgers, hotdogs and potato salad were always the typical picnic fare. It was the one time of year my grandmother would bring out the two liters of soda. Weeks later she would try to convince one of her unsuspecting family members to lug home the exact same bottle of soda, only now they were incredibly flat from sitting half-opened on the picnic table.
I recently walked into the grocery store and was immediately greeted by the sweet aroma of strawberries. The sweet smell instantly transported me back to Southern California. The strawberry fields in Carlsbad were in full production this time of year. The kids and I loved to gather up our beach gear, put the top down on the jeep and head to the coast for a day of sun, sand and strawberry picking. Many of the sweet berries never quite made it home, but those that did usually ended up in a simple fruit salad or even homemade jam to savor during the winter months.
The new Grand Rapids Farmers market officially opened here in Michigan this past weekend! I love the farmers market; the sights, the smells and the people that gather to purchase fresh picked fruits and vegetables and baked goods. I love that small business owners, local farmers and the occasional home cook are given the opportunity to support themselves and grow their businesses. I even love the crowds.... But what I love most of all is the inspiration I gather from wandering the different vendors. It's magical.
As a child, I spent a good amount of time at my grandparents’ home. One of my most vivid memories of my days spent with them was the crisp fall mornings and afternoons my grandmother spent canning. She would can dozens of quarts of home grown tomatoes, corn and grape jelly. The grape jelly was always my favorite, made from huge silver skin grapes that grew on vines along the back row of the garden. Not all of the grapes made it into the jars that lined her kitchen counter. A few were eaten by my brothers and I, and more than a few were used as projectiles.
Sunday is family day in our family -- a time to relax and enjoy one another's company. While living in San Diego, Sundays meant we ventured out to explore places or attractions we had not enjoyed before; a new farmers market, Legoland, Disneyland, various dog parks and beaches. Living in So. California was one big adventure, however I love being back in the Midwest! The pace is slower, the people friendlier, I actually know my neighbor (and have spoken to them) and the cider is real!! I know you are probably thinking, "Has she lost it? The cider is real?!"