Sunday it’s supposed to hit 90 degrees!!! Pure heaven for this Arizona desert rat and high time to make sun tea. My favorite way to make this popular summer drink is to take a couple of bags of high quality black tea and throw in a generous handful of fresh herbs. You can use traditional mint or go wild with oregano or a fennel blend is nice too. Let steep until a honey color then put in the fridge and serve over ice.
I have been experimenting with herbal caramels for a while and the possibilities are endless. You can use almost any herb such as rosemary, thyme or lavender. I tried using green fennel seeds and the buttery sweet licorice result is delectable.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, (one stick)
- 1/2 cup evaporated or regular milk
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Your favorite herbs
Keep cooking, 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 244°. If you don’t have a thermometer you can drop a small amount into ice water and when it forms a soft ball it’s ready.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and pour into your buttered pan. Once cooled slightly add herbs on top.
When cool, cut into squares and wrap in waxed paper. These keep best in the fridge.
The apples on my front parking strip are starting to fall and it’s time to do something with those apples! Over the years I have made apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie filling and several other types of apple based products. The thing that my family likes the most are dried apples. These can be added to morning oatmeal, put in cookies and muffins or just grabbed as a quick snack. What I like about going the dried apple route is that they are quick and easy to make.
It’s wonderful to pull out a jar of home-grown, home-canned pickled beets for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. They are very easy to make, so get your canning supplies ready…
First you pick the beets.
Then you either cut the tops off to stir fry or, if you have goats or chickens, they love them too!
Once you’ve removed the tops and trimmed off the long tap root, simmer the beets until they are tender, which you can test by piercing them with a fork. Peel them, then cut them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. I have a tool that gives them a pretty wavy edge.
Pack the slices into sterile jars and add in about a teaspoon of pickling spice. Make up a pickling solution of 3 1/2 cups vinegar to 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pickling salt. Be sure to use 5%, store bought vinegar as acidity levels can vary in homemade vinegar. It’s the acid in the solution that will keep your food safe.
Fill to within about a half inch of the top. Then seal up and boil in a water bath for 30 minutes. This will help to ensure that the beets are truly safe to eat.
- 1.5 cups of flour
- .5 cup very cold water
- 1 tsp salt, play with this so it is to your taste, I am using less salt
- dash sugar
- 1/8 c rosemary chopped
- 1/8 c olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and put a pan for water in the bottom of the oven.
First put flour, salt, sugar and rosemary in a food processor fitted with the cutting blade and pulse to blend.
Next add the oil and pulse to blend. Add the water in a stream until the dough comes together and run for about twenty seconds.
Turn the dough out and knead to a smooth ball. Divide it into four pieces and cover with a cloth to let rest for five minutes.
Roll each section in a pasta roller. The next to thinnest one tastes very good.
Cut into sheets and place on parchment paper. Spray with water water and sprinkle with herbs.
Put parchment paper directly into the oven on a baking stone, add a half cup of water to the pan in the bottom. Turn crackers from front to back after about two minutes. Watch them closely as they burn easily. You just want a hint of brown.
With all the heat this summer the plums are ripening sooner than usual. Yippee!
I never really understood the term “plum crazy” until this year’s banner harvest; I can’t stop picking when there is ripe, juicy fruit to be had and every possible space is covered with some plum related project.
“Are you nearly done?” asked my daughter somewhat plaintively through a fruit fly induced haze. “Uh getting closer” I said as I stirred up a new batch of plum wine. “So what are these projects?” you ask with trepidation.
Have you ever seen the part in Forest Gump where Bubba talks about everything you can do with shrimp? Here’s the plum version: “You can make plum torte, plum jam, plum sauce, frozen plums, dried plums, pickled plums, plums in brandy, plum sauce and this is only the beginning!”
Here is a lovely plum sauce made by putting plums face down on a cookie sheet covered with melted butter and a bit of sugar in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. When the skins easily come off it’s ready to go.
To dry plums you can either quarter them or pit them, push them out flat and put them skin side down on a dehydrator tray. It takes about 24 hours for them to try to the point they won’t mold.
Each year I make plum tortes with a recipe from the New York Times. These tortes are super easy to make and freeze beautifully.
Here is the recipe for an absolutely wonderful blue plum conserve from my Mother’s 1946 version of the Joy of Cooking. I use the Italian prune plums but Damson plums work equally well. This recipe does have walnut meats and be aware that there is some concern about canning preserves made with nuts. I have never had a problem but do want to let you know about this.
Blue Plum Conserve
- 2 oranges
- 1 lemon
- 1 and a 1/4 pounds of raisins
- 9 cups sugar
- 5 pounds blue plums
- 1/2 pound broken walnut meats
Peel and chop the thin rind from the oranges and lemon and put it in a large bowl. Chop up the pulp from the citrus fruits and add this and any juice to the bowl. Next add in the raisins and the sugar. Pit, slice and add in the plums. Mix well then place in a large pot and cook until thick. Be careful to stir continuously or your mixture will burn. Add in the walnut meats. Cook ten more minutes then put into sterile jars. You can then water bath can your preserve if you so desire.
Year before last when we had an insane amount of fruit I did a plum wine. It actually turned out to be more of a brandy and while quite strong, we liked it.
Streissguth Gardens is a hidden garden located just west of St. James Cathedral on Capitol Hill in Seattle. A family labor of love this delightful public park is open for strolling.
A summer staple for my family is a hearty garden fresh potato salad. We have this sustaining dish with almost every outdoor meal and prepare it for guests as well.
Walking through the garden I found onions, nasturtium flowers, peas, purple potatoes and new eggs from the hens. Ready for 4th of July picnics it’s time for a fresh as can be garden potato salad! Best of all you don’t need to leave your yard and head to the grocery store.
- Roam your garden and pick what’s ripe.
- Make the vinaigrette dressing with a dollop of Dijon mustard, a clove of garlic, red wine vinegar, a bit of salt and olive oil.
- Quarter and boil your potatoes, drain them and put them in the bowl.
- I add the eggs in with the potatoes to hard boil as the cooking time is about the same. Peel and slice the eggs.
- Add in whatever other tasty items you can find in your garden.
- Drizzle with the dressing and enjoy.
Anise hyssop is a lovely plant that grows well in our climate. This edible licorice flavored member of the mint family can be grown from seed, divided from another plant or purchased at a nursery.
Here are some of its many uses:
- Cut flowers
- Dried flowers – the flower heads dry to a pretty navy blue
- Pot pourri – it blends well with lavender and lemon balm
- Tea – it makes a nice tea on its own or can be combined with lemon balm and/or chamomile, it is reputed to calm nerves
- Addition to fruit salad – the minced leaves add zest
- Flavoring for sweet breads or cookies – mince flowers and add them to the dough for an anise touch
- Sprig in a glass of ice tea – simple but tasty
This plant will self seed and it’s roots will run underground as will other members of the mint family but it is not invasive. It is beloved by rabbits but supposedly avoided by deer.
Let me know if you find other delicious uses for this delicate herb!