Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wild Grape Jam

I have always wanted to make grape jam. I once made cranberry jam. It was easy and came out fantastic. I had some cranberries from a neighbor and made the jam with the free berries. I have not had free cranberries since. I will need to find a source for free or reduced cranberries this year, if I want to make additional jam. It should not be too difficult since I live around many bogs.

Getting back to the grape jam. I harvested about 3 pounds of wild grapes for my jam. I searched to web for an easy recipe but found most contained pectin. I did not want to buy pectin and knew that I could make them without the added ingredient. I stumbled onto the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website ( and found directions on how to make the jam. They have recipes with pectin and without. The process only took about and hour and a half to complete the jam. This included washing, sterilizing, cooking the grapes and the water bath. When I was finished I had 5 half pints of jam.

Having accomplished this, I feel quite proud of myself! I know there are many people who can 100's of jars each year but I have only done this one other time. I thought it would be very time consuming but found that I could do other things while the pints were in the water bath and multiple steps could be done at the same time (sterilizing the jars and boiling down the grapes). Will I do this again? You bet! Next time, I will start a little earlier in the season collecting my grapes, so the birds don't eat them all. Maybe next year my cultivated vine will produce some grapes which will add to my harvest.

This year I still have apples to think about. My daughter works at a pick-your-own apple orchard. I will have her ask about drops. If I can get a large crate of drops for a low price, I may make some applesauce to can and also freeze apples for my Thanksgiving pies.

My in-laws have about 30 eating pumpkins that they will split amongst the family. I wonder what I can do with those? Pumpkin seeds, pumpkin puree...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wild Grapes

Last week I decided to pick the wild grapes growing in my yard. Wild grapes are different than cultivated grapes. The wild grapes tend to grow sparsely...not in nice tight bunches. Also, the wild grapes are not normally within easy reach. Not deterred by this knowledge, I went out into my yard with my Kitchen Shears and a bowl to harvest the grapes. I waded into the weeds and overgrowth and harvested a small bowl of grapes. My thoughts ventured to grape jam...dozens of 1/2 pint jars of the delicious spread. I knew I did not have enough for my vision.

Who has wild grapes growing in their yard...or along the roadside? My in-laws! In fact, they have a grape vine in their backyard. The perfect place to stop! Off the girls and I went to visit Vavõ and Vavó. My mother-in-law said their vines did not produce anything this year. Not daunted, I went into the yard to check. Sure enough, the vines were empty. Then I detected the faint aroma of grapes. I looked up and spied some wild grapes. But how were we to get them?

My father-in-law seeing the four of us deep in thought, came over to help. Being the Portuguese farmer that he is (not really but a fabulous garden that is the envy of everyone in the neighborhood), he knew just what to do. He went into the shed and came out with a ladder and a fruit picker with a long handle. Armed with these tools, we climbed and pulled down the grape vines to fill up a bag. At first, my daughter complained about the bugs and debris falling from the vines. But, after picking a view grapes, she quickly got into the process. She insisted on climbing the ladder and pulling down the vines. Resisting the urge to keep her protected and afraid that she would fall, I swallowed my fear and let her climb the ladder and go at the vines. She had great success and fun pulling down the vines while her sister and I picked the grapes off the downed vines.

We had a really fun and productive time which yielded a small bag of grapes. In total we had 3 pounds of grapes. Now how to make some jam...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Family Celebration

My mother turned 70 yesterday. My sister thought we should go out to a restaurant to celebrate this milestone. I thought we should celebrate at home where we can relax and linger at the table. In addition to being more relaxed, it would be a better budget decision to have it at home. Volunteering my home, I set out to make a nice meal that I knew my mother would love.
The Menu
Cheese and Crackers

Stuffed Mushrooms: Sautéed onions, garlic, cheese and homemade bread crumbs
Boneless Pork Roast: Slow roasted for 3 hours with a rub of olive oil, seasoned salt and crushed garlic
Roasted Potatoes and Onions: Cubed potatoes (both red and white) and coarsely chopped onions seasoned with garlic, seasoned salt and olive oil. Cook in the pan with the roast about 1 hour before the roast is done.
Broccoli with Cheese Sauce: Sautéed broccoli with homemade cheese sauce
Turtle Fudge Skillet Cake with ice cream: Chocolate cake cooked in the skillet, frosted with melted chocolate and caramel.

The cost breakdown was about $40 for 13 people. In addition, we have leftovers which were split amongst the guests. The cost to go out to the restaurant would have been about $20 per person.

It did take a little bit of work on my part. I estimate that I spent about 1 1/2 hours of hands on time to make this celebration work. In my mind, this was a priceless celebration: very relaxed and fun time with my family. Instead of going out to a restaurant or function hall to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries, try doing the celebration at home.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Peppers and Eggs

I have not posted anything in several months. I am sorry and I will try to post on a weekly basis.

I am cooking at the Council on Aging today. This will be my Incredible Egg show. I love eggs and eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner (not in the same day). Today I will cook a Eggs and Peppers Sandwiches. This is something my mother used to make a lot when I was young. My husband loves egg sandwiches with linguica, peppers and onion.

How I make it: just saute onions, peppers, and garlic in a little oil until soft. Whip some eggs with a little milk, salt and peppers. Pour into saute pan. As the egg starts to set, tilt pan and lift egg to let the liquid egg flow under the solid egg. Cover and put on low heat. Once it is firm but still a little wet, add shredded cheese. Once cheese is melted, serve on french bread or rolls. I usually serve with a small salad.

I hope you enjoy this. This recipe is super quick and tastes great!