Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Rose Petal Jelly

After finding this recipe for Rose Petal Jelly that calls for using native Nootka rose blossoms, and after having recently admired the fragrant blossoms, I decided to throw my agenda out the door and make the most of the moment in the waning days of May.  I’ve never made jelly before, but am familiar with the process from jam-making.  Somehow it all came together.  My favorite part was watching the rose petal “tea” turn from a pale yellowish color to a lovely rose color.  This is because the molecule, an anthocyanin, that gives the petals their rose color changes hue with changing pH. 

I was hoping for a stronger rose flavor, as the kitchen really did smell like a perfume factory for a while there, however I did make a double patch, so it took a lot more boiling to reach the jelling point.  Since the essential oils that are responsible for the scent, and also the flavor profile, are highly volatile they boil off quickly.  I suspect that adding rose otto right before canning would punctuate the flavor.  I may try a recipe that incorporates this next time. 

This was a fun recipe to make and the byproduct (the jelly) possesses both beauty and subtle flavor that will no doubt entice me to continue working toward the perfect jar of rose petal jelly.

Any roses can be used to make rose petal jelly.  All roses are edible, but do take care to use ones that are organically grown.  Wild roses have a unique scent that I have always found endearing.

Rose Petal Jelly

Yield:  5 half-pint jars
3 ½ cups water
1 cup, lightly packed fresh rose petals or 1/3 cup dried rose petals
2 whole cloves (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
1 box powdered pectin
4 cups sugar
·         Boil water.  Remove from heat and add rose petals and cloves.  Steep for 10 minutes.
·         Strain into a tall pan for jelly making.   Add lemon juice and pectin, stirring until pectin is dissolved.  The color of the mixture will turn rose colored with the addition of  the acidic lemon juice.
·         Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Boil until mixture reaches 220 - 222° F, as indicated by a candy thermometer, or until it passes the “cold spoon test.*”

*Sheet or spoon test
"Dip a cool metal spoon into the boiling jelly mixture. Raise the spoon out of the steam, about 12 inches above the pan. Turn the spoon so the liquid runs off the side. The jelly is done when the syrup forms two drops that flow together and sheet or hang off the edge of the spoon. See Figure 1." 

Friday, January 08, 2010

Little Cups of Chocolate

It seems like it is always during the shortest days of the year that I get an overwhelming craving for chocolate and find myself with an inexplicable shortage of chocolate bars in the cupboard. My solution is easy and completely satisfying -- Chocolate Pots de Creme
1 cup cream or half-n-half
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
Heat cream with chocolate until chocolate melts.
Slowly pour half the chocolate mixture into egg yolks.
Return everything back to the pan and heat for 2 minutes.
Stir in vanilla and immediately pour into dessert cups.
You can top it with whipped cream, etc. if you like.
For those who have followed this blog, I have a lot of explaining to do. I know. I decided to take a sabbatical from blogging last year. I didn't really plan for it to be an entire year, though. 2009 was, in a word, brutal. May 2010 be a much merrier year for all!


Friday, October 24, 2008

Frozen Green

I took this photo this week while I was outside harvesting some salad greens in the morning. There's nothing quite like picking your evening's salad with numb fingers. But at least it was picturesque.

I found a great article on foraging for salad greens among the garden weeds, which expands upon one of my regular reader's suggestions regarding chickweed (thank you, Ericswan). In the article, Arthur Lee Jacobson, a Seattle-based horticulture author, insists that he never buys lettuce. It's no secret that wild plants contain more health-protective nutrients, but I also recently found out that during the Great Depression desperate people reverted to eating the leaves and roots of just such weeds. You may be surprised which weeds are edible, I know that I was.

Touching on this note, I also stumbled upon a great blog entry at Peak Oil Blues about the difference between being "green" and being, what is now described as "brown." Brown is essentially the extreme of being green, to the point of shunning consumerism.

With the economy the way it is, I invision more and more people becoming "brown" without necessarily doing it for environmental reasons and I could also see those who would-be "green" opting for "brown" or maybe they'd prefer to call themselves "frozen green?"

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Harvest Mostly In

Last night was our first freeze of the season. I scrambled to take in everything I could that I had not already brought in. As dusk hit and daylight quickly receded, I was pulling bean pods half-blindly. I noticed myself relying more on my sense of touch and less on straining my eyes to discern bean pods from stalks and felted leaves. While I may not have picked every last pod, I did fill a 2 gallon bucket to over-brimming.

The best part of my evening was actually sitting and removing the yin yang beans from their pods. After so many days this week of absorbing current economic events, it was relaxing to sit by a warm fire and watch my harvest amount to a humble, yet substantial hill of beans.

About a week ago, before regular rains returned to our area, I brought in the Indian corn to dry. I can't really explain to you how magical it was to pull back the different hued husks and find jewel-toned kernels shining in unpredictable colors beneath. That was quite a memorable moment.

There are still apples to be brought in from the frosts and fall veggies to be transplanted into their winter beds. The garden season is nearing a close but it remains a race to the finish.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Sleepy Bees

I once had a friend who was fascinated by sleeping bumble bees. She would step out into her garden in the morning and marvel at them all, clutching their preferred blossoms, their fuzzy bodies often glistening with dew. She said she wanted to reach out and pet them and that if she did that they would "grumble" like they were groggy and grumpy and didn't quite want to be woken up yet.

I've been feeling sort of like a sleepy bumble bee lately. As though I've been working all day to the point of dozing off in the middle of my work and that I am waiting for the sun to warm me back up -- to give me the energy to keep going.

Sometimes the people in our lives can have the warming effects that the sun has upon the slumbering bumblebees. Our friends and family can see our visions and our toils and shine new light on our paths. Last month we were delightfully awoken to a visit from PeakEngineer and his lovely wife and beautiful child. More than just energy, they brought with them some synergy of perception that has strengthened our resolve. Because while they have wisely found an amazing community of like-minded individuals in which to live, my husband and I have plunged forward to go it alone. That was not a reasoned decision on our part to do it this way, just a decision to do what we felt we could when we had the opportunity. And while we have found people who share our core beliefs in a simpler lifestyle, our bigger picture views are not always the same.

Shortly after our delightful awakening, we had a visit from my grandmother. She looked at our yet unpolished projects and immediately saw the long-term dream. There was no doubt in her mind as to what we were doing or why and her enthusiasm was contagious.

And so, back into our projects we have plied ourselves. For all the disappointment of a lack-luster growing season, a few too many wild predators, and the aggravation of shortening days, we at least know that we aren't completely nuts, even if we have bought the farm.

But in the words of (yes, the ever-philosophical) Steve Miller* "you've got to go through hell, before you get to heaven."

*of the Steve Miller band, of course. ;)

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Brewing Up Some . . . Veggies?

If you still have a Starbucks in your neighborhood, and you've been working on your green thumb, you might want to stop in for a bit of an unusual to-go item -- used coffee grounds.

Spent coffee grounds aren't just a great addition to your compost pile, they also make a nutritious and, oddly enough, lingeringly fragrant garden mulch. The benefits of using grounds as a mulch, beyond the typical moisure-retentive and soil cooling effects of other mulches, are the rapid release of nutrients (most notably nitrogen, but also calcium, magnesium and potassium) and slug and snail deterrence.

Mulching with grounds will noticeably perk up any of your sulky or neglected plants and help prevent late blight in tomatoes.

Starbucks policy is to give "customers*" grounds for free on a first come-first served basis. When I asked around at locally owned (non-Starbucks) coffee shops, I quickly found out that most had pre-arrangements with other gardeners.

If the Starbucks store in your area does not already pre-package their grounds for your use, the baristas will give you their trash bags full of grounds. These bags do not contain any wastes that are not compostable and typically only consist of grounds. After making several requests for used grounds, the Starbucks we visit most regularly has begun to bag them in the nifty packaging pictured above. Honestly, I don't mind the grounds in a trash bag (no unecessary bags or extra labor), but if it helps get the message out to other customers and gardeners, then I am willing to cope with the spiffy packaging.

* I have never been asked to purchase anything in order to take away the spent grounds. After all, we gardeners are doing them a service by recycling the grounds and greening their image. It's a win-win for everyone.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Know Your Friends

July has offered us many interesting guests. I'm hoping for a relatively quiet August and time to update this blog.

For now, I just wanted to share a chart that I found on identifying beneficial insects in their various stages of life. Often, what looks like a frighteningly nasty little bugger is really a teenage version of an insect ally.


Friday, June 20, 2008

When you buy over $200 worth of seeds . . .

. . . you plant over $200 worth of seeds. And when your soil is rocky you do most of your digging with a pick axe. That's what I've been up to. Racing one bed at a time. Mind you, some of my beds are raised and filled with imported soil, just not all of them. This doesn't even bring into discussion all of the bareroot trees we had to get into the ground before summer drought season. So I'm entrenched in a garden battle.

I'd like to appologize to readers for the lack of continuity on this blog.

Ericswan had an interesting comment on my previous post about the health properties of a common garden weed -- chickweed. It is worth a read.

I'd also like to point readers over to The Easy Garden, which is a new forum for all things garden-related, aimed at helping new gardeners get themselves well-rooted. This is an off-shoot of The Backyard Chicken forum, which I highly recommend to anyone who raises poultry or is interested in learning about poultry husbandry.

I hope everyone's gardens are coming along! Let me know how yours is growing!