Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homemade Jam with Local Produce

Today I was at the hardware store looking for some possibilities to trellis some of my veggies when I came across these...
Jars for Jam!!!
So I decided that it would be a great idea to make some jam!!! I will try to give clear enough directions so that you too can enjoy some yummy homemade jam for you and your friends!
Since it just so happens that it is Tuesday that meant that the farmers market on Kings Drive was open so after I got the jars I made my way there to get some homegrown berries! At this point I wasn't quite sure what kind I was going to make but when I got there I decided to make Strawberry! Now lets get down to business...

  • 1 Gallon Strawberries
  • 1 Pint Blueberries
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple
  • 1 Large Navel Orange
  • 1 Lemon
  • 5 Cups Sugar
Here is what I got...locally grown and organic produce (also much cheaper than the local grocery strore)
All the Ingredients

  1. Wash the strawberries in cold water and remove the green parts!!! Cut them in halves or quarters depending on how chunky you want your jam, I did it watching Wimbledon which made it more tolerable!
  2. Dump the strawberries into a large pot (a dutch oven would be optimal but I do not have one) and pour all of the sugar on top and combine! It seems like a lot of sugar but trust me it isn't! You can also substitute Splenda or Truvia if you want!
  3. Turn the stove on medium and then add the juice of one orange and the zest of a lemon as well as half of a lemon juiced! 
  4. Mixing the Sugar
    Let the mixture come to a rolling boil, you want it to boil fast so that you can extract the natural pectin from the fruit!
  5. Add the blueberries and apple...chop the apple into a relatively fine chop and mix it all together!
  6. Let the mixture maintain a boil and let cook for about 20-30 minutes being careful to make sure that it does not boil over because it would be a big big big sticky mess!
  7. Scoop off the foam that forms on the top of the jam...it is not a very good consistency in your jam, but taste it because it is really really yummy! I saved mine in a little cup and put it on a biscuit!
  8. Now for the fun part...putting it in the jars to preserve it! Now you dont have to do this if you just want to eat it within about 2 weeks! You can put it in a tupperware in the fridge and you are good to go but I wanted to preserve mine to share with friends! So first wash and sterilize the jars in hot water and get them all ready!
  9. Fill the jars until there is about 1/2 an inch at the top of the jar so that the air has space to leave!
  10. Put the lids on and place the jars in a pot of boiling water for 5-10 minutes! Make sure that the water is covering the tops and be careful when you take them out because they are HOT!!! 
  11. Finally...let the jam cool to room temperature (probably overnight) and then enjoy! I put little labels on mine and some twine for decoration!

Looking Good

Done Cooking
Foam on Top
Washed Jars
Filled Jars

Lids On Tight 
Boil To Seal 
Britney's Homemade Jam
Give Away To Friends

Now all of these directions may seem hard but really it is SO SO SO easy and such a great way to utilize and support local farming! I haven't tried the jam yet so hopefully it solidifies correctly and if it is half as yummy as the foam it will be a major success! I wanted to make a jam using the natural pectin in the fruit (hence why I added the apple which has lots of pectin) instead of adding pectin separately because that gets kinda tricky! Well I hope this post will encourage the inner chef in all of you...let me know how your jam turns out!
Oh if you want some jam let me know :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Saying Goodbye to the Teaching Garden at Queens University

Today was my last day interning at school...and by interning I mean doing what I love to do, gardening!
Since May I have been taking care of the garden, weeding, watering planting and maintaining experiments and have absolutely enjoyed every minute of it! Tomorrow I will be relinquishing my duties to another nerdy gardener and I am sorta sad about it :(
So I figured I would post some pictures to my blog to show how beautiful the garden at school is!
Teaching Garden at Queens University 

A few plants...
Big Bush Tomato Plant
Butterfly Garden

Potato I Planted

Experiment On Light and Plant Growth

Sweet Potato, Pumpkin and Cucumber
I think that everyone should have a garden that they can groom and take care of! The amazing part is seeing that with just a little TLC you can watch something grow from a seed to a beautiful flower and then even to a fruit or veggie that you can enjoy, spit the seed out, and watch it all over again!
Happy Gardening!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Who says Saturdays are for relaxing?

Well I have never had a blog before but I figured that I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone (not that I would actually kill an animal)...kill some of my summer boredom and maybe post something interesting that someone else may benefit from!

So since it was Saturday and my day off I decided to tackle a project that I have been collecting supplies for a while to do, turning a pallet into a garden planter for my patio garden!
I got the idea from lifeonthebalcony.com but I think I will just post what I did so it is easy to follow :)
Here is the finished product!

Yay!!! My Pallet Planter
  • Pallet (in good condition) in any size that fits your area
  • Staple Gun
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Landscaping Cloth
  • Plants and Soil

First things first, get the pallet ready! I had to actually get two pallets so that I could utilize the wood from both! One my teacher gave me and the other one I got from Lowes, now my experience was that
I had to speak to about 5 different people at Lowes but eventually they gave me a pallet free of charge which was really nice :) So after I lugged these huge things upstairs (insert boyfriend) we had to do a few quick fixes! My boyfriend took two of the boards off one of the pallets and nailed them into the other one so that we had five boards on the planting side! 

Now comes the part that I absolutely loved...using the staple gun!!! So after you get the pallet to your liking (I left mine kinda old looking and chose the darker pieces of wood) it is time to grab that landscaping fabric and the staple gun! With the boyfriend helping me we did two layers of fabric over the back and sides and used about 500 staples! Hahaha!!! I got a little staple gun happy but you really do need to make sure that the back fabric is securely on so that you dont have a soil blowout! That would be a complete mess and something I do not want to clean up! After I was done sweating for about an hour this is what we have...
It may be hard to see but there is black fabric on the back!
Pallet After Fabric Was Stapled On
I wish I had taken more pictures of me stapling (mostly for audience amusement) but the 90 degree weather was making it a little difficult to concentrate!

Now comes the fun and creative part because you can add pretty much what ever kinds of flowers you want! I chose some begonias and little succulents for the front slats and some taller purple plants (can't remember the name) and cucumber and squash as well! Yes I planted veggies in the top because cucumbers and squash are vines and I am hoping they will climb up the trellis :)

Filling the pallet took a little bit of time, probably about 2 hours and 2 trips to Home Depot until it was finally finished! The way I did it was to lay the pallet on the ground and first plant the top flowers...
Top Flowers First!
Then I began pouring in the soil and then organized the flowers in the way I thought looked best and packed, packed, packed in the soil! You have to make sure it is really really tight so that when you tip it up the soil (and plants) do NOT fall out! Here are some more pictures of planting:
Starting the Soil

All Done!
 Now that I finally finished this wonderful project I had to pick it up and put it into place with the help of the boyfriend again because this is a two person project and this sucker is HEAVY! Oh and you should leave it on the ground after watering it thoroughly for at least a week...but I couldn't wait to get it up and see what it looked like!!! Hope you will try this and definitely look at lifeonthebalcony.com for more detailed info!
Here are some final pictures of the finished product on my wonderfully large patio at my very little apartment!
LOVE my Garden!
Proud of This :)

Look at the Pretty Colors it Adds

Gravity has Spoken