Category Archives: condiments and sides

Wild Grape Jelly

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Autumn is here.

That means wild grapes are ripening.

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Vitis labrusca (fox grape) grows all over New England. The fruit is large and sweet, perfect for making jelly. Wild grapes contain polyphenols and antioxidants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and limit inflammation.

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After a morning of foraging, we came home with about 4 cups of wild grapes, a large bowl of autumn olive berries and some beautiful acorns we found with the cap still attached, which we plan to do crafts with.

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To make the jelly, we first have to crush the fruit with a potato masher. The pulp simmers in a 1/4 cup of water for about 15 minutes.

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After straining out the pulp and letting the juice sit overnight, sugar is added and the mixture is boiled until it becomes thick. It’s then poured into mason jars and refrigerated.

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Wild Grape Jelly 

from Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons

  • 4 cups wild grapes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Wash and stem the fruit. Place in a saucepan and crush with a potato masher.  Add water, cover and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. Strain out the juice and discard the pulp and seeds.

Let the juice sit overnight to let the tartrate crystallize and settle to the bottom of the container or cling to the sides. If it crystallizes in the jelly, it will make it gritty.

Carefully pour off the juice into a measuring glass. Use an equal amount of sugar. (If you have 1 1/2 cups of juice, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar.) Bring to a rapid boil and boil until it is thickened. When you pull the spoon out, a few drops of jelly will drip and the final drip will hang off the spoon, that’s when you have yourself jelly. Pour into mason jars and seal.


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Gram’s Macaroni Salad

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When I was growing up, we moved around a lot. My mother and I lived with my grandparents off and on for a while. That paved the way for my Gram and I to share a bond like no other. We have always been close and even now, 180 miles apart, we make time to chat on the phone three times a week.

My grandmother is full of generosity and would give away her last penny to a stranger. While growing up she taught me manners, like saying please and thank you and placing my napkin on my lap. Most weeks she would bring over a grocery bag full of my favorite foods. Even when I was on my own she would send me on my way with bags full of food, clothes, dishes and towels; anything I needed.  She simply enjoys helping others, especially when it’s her children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

My Gram loves the color purple, Elvis Presley and dancing.  She makes time for her friends, goes to the great-grand-kids’ ball games, remembers to send cards for every occasion and is a blessing to us all.

Over the years she has become known for a few choice dishes. Her Chocolate Pudding Pie at Thanksgiving, her Beef Stew and American Chop Suey during the winter months and her Macaroni Salad at summer barbecues.

This is her recipe (halved) for the Macaroni Salad that is requested by us kids at every summer function, whether it’s a Father’s Day cookout or a graduation party.

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Macaroni Salad

  • ½  lb. of macaroni pasta
  • 2 large spoonfuls of mayonnaise, maybe more
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • ½ large cucumber, diced
  • ½ of a green pepper, diced
  • 1 can of tuna fish
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Prepare macaroni according to package. Let cool completely. Dice the vegetables and strain the water from the tuna fish. In a large bowl, combine cooled pasta, tuna fish, vegetables and enough mayonnaise to moisten.  Place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for an hour. Enjoy :)

 

 

Fried Green Tomatoes

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The farmer’s market was a short drive from our home. Sunday morning was the perfect time for shopping with grass underfoot and the smell of smoking beef in the air. Organic raw smoothies brought the day together as well as my very first purchase of green tomatoes. Oxen Hill Farm, a USDA Organic farm in Suffield, CT was in attendance and we snagged the tomatoes as well as some lemon cucumbers (aptly named for the shape and color, not the flavor).

As a child of the late eighties and early nineties, the first thing that came to mind when thinking “green tomatoes” was the movie Fried Green Tomatoes with Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates.

So, naturally I found a recipe and went to work.

The final result reminded me a little of Japanese tempura but the tomatoes lent sweetness that you wouldn’t otherwise find.

Fried Green Tomatoes

adapted from Southern Living website

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 medium sized green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch discs.
  • Peanut oil for frying

Pour peanut oil into a cast iron skillet until oil is a half inch deep. Place skillet on medium high heat. Combine the egg and buttermilk in a bowl. Combine 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in another bowl. Place remaining 1/4 cup flour in a third bowl. Coat tomato slice in flour, then dip into egg mixture and then into cornmeal. Fry three slices at a time until brown. Sprinkle slices with remaining salt. Enjoy :)

 

 

 

 

Homemade Maple Syrup

We are the proud owners of a massive sugar maple tree. Do you know what that means?! We can tap it and start sappin’!

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This endeaver started in the fall when we confirmed the tree’s identity.

We waited for our local hardware store to receive the taps in and purchased a few, along with a couple of metal buckets.

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Ask any sugarmaker and they’ll tell you that there’s no definite date to start your operation. We waited for warmer days with temperatures still below freezing at night.

When the day was right, Thomas drilled the tap holes. We used two because the tree is so large. The sap began to flow immediately. We have been collecting about 2-3 gallons a day.  Now, that may not seem like much when it takes 40 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of syrup. But it is certainly enough for our family of three. We have been boiling it down everyday. We first filter out the bits of bark and bugs that might have wandered in using cheese cloth. We boil it down and then filter again to remove the impurities. The sap can spoil. If it isn’t boiled down the day it has run, it should be refrigerated or kept in the snow outside in a shaded area.

boiling sap

Most sugar houses use a hydrometer to test the sugar content. If you have a home operation, a candy thermometer should suffice. When the temperature of the sap reaches 7.1 degrees F above the boiling point of water you will have syrup. We have been keeping an eye on it and when it spikes above what it was, we call it a day.

We have enjoyed our homemade maple syrup on waffles and pancakes thus far. Our first sappin’ season has been a hit!

Homemade Maple syrup

Marcy

Homemade Pickles

The other day we were at the grocery store and my little man asked if we could get some pickles. I said, “of course!” We crouched down to see which ones we wanted and I took a look at the ingredients. Yellow 5 was one of the ingredients. Check out this very informative website about labels.

So, I said “let’s make our own!” He was happy with that idea.

We came home with cucumbers, dill weed and vinegar.

cucumber pickles

The first step was washing and slicing the cucumbers. I added three cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of dill weed.

Bring water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil, just until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Let it cool a little and then pour it over the cucumbers. Place this in a sealable bowl (non-metal) and put in the refrigerator. After a few days they will have their distinctive dill flavor and they will be good for up to two months sealed in the refrigerator.

Homemade Dill Pickles

  • 4 pickling cucumbers, sliced
  • 1 tsp. dill weed (dried)
  • 3 small cloves of garlic
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1/2 Tbs. sugar

pickles