Summer 2017 Day 2: Black Current & Strawberry Jam

Day 1: Macerating Strawberries

1 cup fresh black currants
3 cups water

4 cups fresh, local Oregon strawberries
2 T lemon juice
1.5 cups sugar
peel of one lemon

Black currants are high in pectin and will act as pectin in the jam. Cook 1 cup of currants with 3 cups water – bring it to a boil and then simmer for 20 – 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the juice.

Combine 6 cups washed, hulled and sliced strawberries in 1.5 cups sugar. You can also add the peel of 1 lemon lemon peel or some ginger. Macerate overnight in the fridge.

Next morning, remove the lemon or ginger if you added it. Add 2 T lemon juice and 3/4 cup of the currant juice. Bring to boil in heavy, wide pot.  The process may take 15 – 20 minutes but it could take closer to 25 minutes – it depends on the water content of the fruit.  I bring the temp up to about 221 degrees or use a cold sauces to check the gel.

Ladle the jam into sterile jars and seal using either a water bath or steam canner.

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Summer 2017 Day 1: Congratulations Kiddo

We had a small, family get together today to honor the high school graduation of our youngest son.  He will be studying music performance and music education at Portland State University in the fall on a music scholarship.

The weather was forecast into the high 90’s for the day, so we decided to abandon the barbecue idea and just go for some really nice, sliced ham, an assortment of artesian breads, some great salamis and several big, delicious wedges of cheese.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, and assortment of ships and crackers helped keep preparation simple and our favorite 7th Heaven Cake from JaCiva’s Bakery made it special.

Apparently, graduation decorations can not be purchased in June, at least in this area, so we had to improvise.  We used his graduation robe and sash in the entry and his diploma and mortarboard were displayed on the sideboard.  It’s amazing what you can do with curly ribbons. We used his school colors, hanging colorful ribbons from the light fixtures and the candlesticks……..

…….A nice homemade congratulatory banner was decorated with more curly ribbons.  This one was easy, I just hand lettered the message on some pieces of wood that I found in the clearance section of the craft store……..

………..The curly ribbons even made their way outside, joined by even more brightly colored ribbons – just to add a little festive color to the back yard.  Vintage quilts on the tables and lawn chairs and a galvanized tub full of icy cold drinks made the party feel county casual but festive…….

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Strawberry jam – no pectin

  • 1 lemon
  • 1020g strawberries
  • 4 cups sugar
  1. Rinse, dry and hull the strawberries. Cut them in halves or quarters.
  2. Combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl.   Cover with a towel and let macerate overnight.
  3. The next day, put the mixture in a saucepan and heat until the mixture just reaches a simmer. Let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. On the third day,  strain the mixture, collecting the syrup into a saucepan. Bring the syrup you’ve gathered to a boil, and let it boil for ten minutes (221°F).
  5. Add in the strained strawberries. Bring to a boil for another 5 minutes, stirring gently.
  6. Pour the jam into sterile jars and can using a water-bath or steam canner.
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Ricotta Cake with Blueberries


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup blueberries


Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. In another large bowl combine eggs, ricotta, vanilla extract, and butter. Slowly combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Once combined, gently fold in the blueberries, careful not break them. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for about 60 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven to cool before slicing and dusting with confectioners sugar.

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Road Trip Planning

We spent quite a long time planning the route for our Epic Summer 2017 Roadtrip. We looked at hours to drive in a day,  availability of accommodations, distance from the main travel route, and did it sound like an okay place to stay.  We ended up finding 13 great sounding properties – 12 from Airbnb and another from VRBO.

Our Route is Beavercreek > Twin Falls > Laramie > Des Moines > London > Montreal > Quebec City > Charlottetown > West Bath > Rochester > Fort Wayne > Eau Claire > Bismark > Missoula > Beavercreek.

Now we’re planning our route each day.  When should we leave? When will we arrive? Where should we eat? Should we take a picnic? Where should we stop for fun, shopping, site seeing?

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Our Epic, Family Road-Trip

Sometime around St. Patrick’s Day, I bumped into a Facebook post comparing a lovely little corner of the world to mother Ireland.  It resonated with me, seemed to be such a wild and beautiful place that I looked further.  It became clear that this place – green and rural, small-town and snowy, full of lobsters and Irish moss – might be the place for me to retire to when the time comes…..and thus began the plan for the ‘Epic, Gardner Family (minus one that hates riding in the car) Road-trip’ – – almost 8,000 miles to Prince Edward Island Canada.

Last night we booked the anchor property – the place we will stay for 7 nights – a charming 2 bedroom home located in Historic Downtown Charlottetown. It is a five minute walk to the shops, restaurants, and theatres Downtown Charlottetown has to offer. The historic Charlottetown Waterfront and the Charlottetown Event Grounds are only minutes away.

…..and so….the adventure begins.

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Our Cider Mill is finally Home – and in Need of Repair

Almost 20 years ago, we found a beautiful, old cider mill and press that someone wanted out of their backyard.  We offered them $85.00 and managed to get it into the truck and home.  We cleaned it up and it lived inside for a few year (mostly in the way), eventually making it out into the garage when our apple trees got big enough to make pressing viable.  It was still in the way so we made the decision to lend it to an environmental learning center in a neighboring school district until we had a better place for it.  We would take our apples there to press, they could use it for their harvest celebrations with kids, and they would see if they could find someone to fix the legs which were deteriorating.  Severl years on, we have never been able to coordinate getting our apples there, the kids love it, and the repairs have not happenes, if anything it’s worse (not their fault, just happend) so we’ve decided to bring her home.  What follows will be posts of our attempts at fixing her up back to the glory something that beautiful deserves.  This post will be the “before”.

Posted in May 2017 | Leave a comment

Lovely May Weekend

We had two days in a row with breaks from the rain……time to head outside and do a little gardening.  Yesterday was errands day, and then I was, I must admit, a little lazy.  Today, I was up with the sun, cleaned the house, straightened the refrigerator, and tended to the dairy chores.

I made…..

  • Viili Starter Culture (5200): A Finnish yoghurt variety, Viili is very mild and creamy, with a fairly thick consistency. It’s a versatile favorite that’s perfect on its own or in any yoghurt recipe.
  • Matsoni Starter Culture (5202):  Matsoni, from The Republic of Georgia, has a thin, custard-like texture with notes of honey. Its flavor is the most “yoghurty” and is a popular choice for frozen yoghurt.

I haven’t tried these cultures yet.  They incubate at room temperature and don’t require a yoghurt machine.

There was also……

A batch of the yoghurt I typically make, started from a store bought yoghurt.  This one I scald the milk to 175 degrees, cool it back to 115 degrees add the starter yoghurt and incubate for 5-6 hours.

The jar to the left is culturing milk kefir and the others on the right are cultures of crème fraîche.  The batch closest to the yoghurt maker is cream, the far right jar is milk.  Both were heated to 85 degrees before some crème fraîche starter was added.

I also find it hard to pass up butter making in the spring when the cream is so bright yellow from the new grass.  I had a little over 1 quarts of cream, and now I have a nice bit of delicious butter and a jar of buttermilk for cooking.

After the morning chill burned off, I made my way outside to put in the start of my new herb garden.  I’ve tried several spots around the house and they are either too far from the kitchen, too prone to being taken over by quack-grass or too close to too much dog hair.  I decided to try the bed in front of the garage.  It’s close to the front door, has a sidewalk acting as a quack-grass-barricade, and is protected from dog fur by the garage.  It also seemed to winter over my tiny Bay Tree and a Thyme plant from last summer when all of the others frozen in our record cold spell.

I put in fennel, dill, variegated oregano, green oregano, thyme, and sage. I was also able to pick up some violas last week on clearance for $0.40 so I added them to the window boxes of lettuce and nasturtium.  In addition, I potted up a clearance lavender and a pretty little lemon scented geranium.

The potatoes I put in a week of two ago have started coming up in the galvenized tub.  It will soon be time to add some extra soil.



Its beautiful and green outside.  The perfect time to add a little green inside the kitchen.  Fresh herbs and cress are tasty and beautiful.

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April (and her showers) coming to and end

Another weekend is coming to a close.  It’s been a busy one.

On Thursday afternoon I picked up a few more vegetable starts for the kailyaird.  I put broccoli, red cabbage, green cabbage, Hubbard squash, acorn squash, round zucchini, patty pan squash, fava beans, and another eggplant in the beds and planted a couple of pickling cucumbers in an old galvanized garbage can.  The onion starts still need to be planted as does the dill plant.   I also found a sweet little lavender on clearance that I need to find a pot for.

Saturday morning we rushed out to Forest Grove, OR for the OSAA State Solo/Ensemble Competition.  Our youngest had placed first in the district competition and was competing for the state title.  He played really well , coming 6th in the field of 21.  We were really proud of how well he did.

On the way home from the competition, Saturday, we  stopped by the farm to get milk.  I finally was able to get a photo of the dairy cow.  She’s lovely.

Down the road a bit, we stopped in Canby and picked up three peppers (chilis) – yet to be planted.  We also bought three nasturtiums for the window boxes.  I added some Romaine lettuce to the boxes and sprinkled around some additional nasturtium seeds.

Sunday morning we did a little grocery shopping and stopped by a thrift shop.  I found a really beautiful 1948 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedies, a beautifully carved pottery bowl, a Mahor face mug for Joe’s collection and a few wonderful candles.  I also bottled the hot sauce that’s been fermenting since October.

In the afternoon, we trimmed the water suckers from the apple and pear trees – probably no the right time of year, but Oh Well.



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Starting the Garden

The 2017 gardening season officially began this weekend.  I did a bit of weeding and planted the following:

  • lettuce – 1 start – back garden
  • garlic – 9 starts – back garden
  • kale – 1 start  back garden
  • zucchini – 1 start – kitchen garden
  • tomatoes – 4 starts – kitchen garden
  • strawberries – 6 starts – back garden
  • potatoes – 3 varities – greenhouse garden (red), galvenized tub (fingerling), kitchen garden (russett)
  • peas – seeds – kitchen garden
  • beets – seeds – kitchen garden
  • mesclun mix – seeds – kitchen garden
  • spinach – back garden
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