Category Archives: preserving

3 recipes for lilac blossoms

 

I love how circumstances pop up and give you the opportunity to react. You can take in the good aspect of a scenario, let go of the bad, and create something beautiful. Or you can mope, waste your energy worrying, and miss out on the chance for innovation. It requires a choice and some action. I talk about the weather a lot here on this blog, but it is a very important component to our garden, our kitchen happenings, and the joy we share in our house. The recent snowstorm had me hustling: draping outdoor seedlings with pots, blankets, and plastic sheeting; dragging in the potted plants; setting up an indoor tomato seedling station; and harvesting ready-to-pick herbs, as fast as I could.

I was so excited that our tulips lasted so long this spring, unlike last year. And when our lilacs started to bloom a couple of days ago, I was beyond elated. Until the weather forecast. Temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and snow accumulations of up to ten inches were promised over Mother’s Day weekend. I pouted, put in an exercise DVD, pounded some coffee, and rolled up my sleeves. I was determined to capture the freshness spring, despite Mother Nature’s wintry rebellion.

Along with taking photographs of the spring garden, I clipped a few bunches of lilac blossoms, so that we could savor their aroma over the next few days. While perusing the posts on Punk Domestics, I came across a lovely post on lilac blossom scones. I immediately got up from the computer and clipped about 15 more bunches. My mind was racing with ideas to use and preserve these beautiful spring flowers.


Lilac Simple Syrup


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup lilac flowers, stems and green parts removed
  • 5-8 blueberries, for color

I started my lilac obsession this afternoon, by making some lilac simple syrup. I wasn’t quite sure how I would use this, but I definitely knew a cocktail was in order! Like other simple syrups, combine the water and sugar over medium heat on the stove. Heat until dissolved. Add the lilac flowers and simmer for 10 minutes. If you want a brightly hued syrup like mine, add about five blueberries. The color will pop and add a great dimension to your cocktails. Remove from heat, drain through a chinois or sieve, bottle, and store in the refrigerator.


The Lilac Haze


Combine ingredients, along with ice, in a shaker tin. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with either a lemon twist or a few lilac flowers, if you have some. This cocktail is vibrant, acidic, and floral. Similar to the Bee’s Knees cocktail, it is lemony and honeyed in its flavor profile. Perfect for spring sipping.

Mother’s Day at the restaurant was crazy, as expected. The books were stacked with well over 500 reservations, and guests were already lining up to be seated before our 4:00 opening time. I sneaked in phone calls to my mom, my two aunts, and my stepmother, before I suited up and started my evening. I am so grateful for the examples of strong, loving, determined, and creative women in my family. I took a moment to reflect on their roles in my life and mine in theirs, and then I continued my nine-hour, non-stop shift. The night went smoothly, despite the record-setting numbers, and I ended the evening with a delicious glass of Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2009. I am so happy we added this bubbly to our by-the-glass list; I think this may become my favorite, frequently visited sparkling rosé over the next few months.

So, back to the lilac scones. I saw a post on these scones on Kitchen Vignettes. I have cooked with lavender and have used nasturtium in my salads and have sprinkled sugared violas onto my cupcakes. I have never used lilac for culinary purposes, however, until today. Inspired by my cocktail creation, I tweaked this scone recipe, added vanilla and toasted almonds, and paired the scones with my dandelion marmalade, which I affectionately call, “marmalion.” I will write a post on that recipe in a few days. It is an exceptional way to deliciously deal with those pesky dandelion flowers in your yard.


Lilac Blossom Almond Scones


  • 3 cups flour, all-purpose
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken well
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted, chopped almonds
  • 1 cup lilac flowers

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the ingredients together. Cut the chilled butter into small cubes and toss into the dry mixture. Using your fingers and hands, work the butter into the flour mixture, until pea-sized lumps of butter are present. I really got a finger workout here. My dexterity for my piano-playing has increased, for sure!

Add the buttermilk, vanilla extract, almonds, and lilac blossoms. Fold together in the bowl. I kneaded the dough by hand, making sure to not over-work. Gather and roll the dough into a ball. Lightly flour the ball of dough and flatten it out, by hand, into a 1/2 inch thick disk. Cut the dough into triangles and place onto a greased baking sheet. Lightly dust with raw sugar. I greased my sheet with butter. Bake 12 to 16 minutes, until desired level of toastiness.

I served my scones, straight from the oven, alongside some of my recently crafted dandelion marmalade. It was a flower feast! It was a perfect pairing: the nutty, floral scones matched perfectly with the tart, orange and dandelion marmalade. I ate two and thought about having another. If you try making these recipes, let me know how they turn out! I know they are a little off the wall and “out there,” but I was so happy that I was able to capture the essence of our garden and enjoy it in a culinary interpretation.

It is nearing 2:00 in the morning, as I write this post. Somehow, I am not tired. I have less than three days, until I leave for France. I am not as prepared, as I would like to be, but I am seriously excited for the trip! Closing with some photos from the garden over the past five days, I wish you a wonderful week. Hug your mom {if she is here with you – if not, think on the positive memories you have shared together}, be grateful for the strong women in your life, appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Trust me, the beauty is there, even in the midst of clamor, destruction, unrest, or darkness. If you can’t do any of this, make yourself a lilac cocktail. You simply can’t go wrong there!

Cheers!

pickled spring strawberries + a refreshing gin cocktail

I am just emerging from an unintentional five-day-in-a-row staycation, and I can say I officially feel relaxed. Scratch that. I feel more invigorated. It was a slow week at work, so my current schedule reflected it {sadly, my next paycheck will reflect this quieter week, as well}. I find it challenging to stop and slow down and do nothing. These past few days, however, have been influential in getting me to do more of the “slowing down” stuff.

Slowing down and appreciating everything else that is happening, when I habitually bustle around, forget to breathe, and struggle with sleep. I feel like I successfully hit the “reset” button and am ready to get back to my schedule with a different and healthier perspective. On my first couple of days off, I found myself running into another room with an idea, getting distracted, forgetting why I came into the room in the first place, and looping back, only to greet the floor and sigh. Even cry. A lot. I felt like one of those wind-up dolls that smile and nod and circle and then collapse.

I am sitting here at my computer, listening to Foster the People’s latest album, sipping a glass of rosé {one that Steve wanted to save and declared as “hands-off” – oops!}, and trying to focus on the important things. What are those things to me? Taking the time to daily observe my garden’s progress, leaving my phone behind, refusing the urge to Instagram every moment, crafting a handwritten card instead of sending a choppy text, letting go of the should-haves and could-haves, and simply sitting still and noticing my thoughts and their patterns. I am really going to try and continue this intention, for the next few weeks are going to fly by, and I want to capture them and make them mine.

pickled strawberries with tarragonI just received the final confirmation for my trip to Burgundy, France, today, and I am beyond excited. I don’t even know what to expect. I will be leaving in less than two weeks and will be touring my absolute favorite wine region of France and visiting some of its most historic and heralded vineyard sites. I will miss Steve’s birthday, which is the 20th, but he is actually traveling to California for another wine-centric trip. I think I am excused from not being there for his celebration!

In the midst of all of my studying of Burgundy’s regions, making last-minute travel arrangements, poring over my lean bank statement, and fitting in my writing for the Kitchn, these past few days have been a blessing. I am actually happy that I took the time to do nothing, to stare up at the clouds, and to tinker around in my garden and kitchen, the places where I feel most at home.

freshly cut strawberries with tarragon, salt, pepperThe strawberries here have been spectacular; are you enjoying them, as well? I knew exactly what to do with the copious amounts of strawberries I picked up at the grocery the other day. I had been thumbing through Marisa McClellan‘s latest book, Preserving by the Pint, and noticed a recipe for pickled strawberries. I am always drawn to the weird and off-the-beaten-path type of recipes. Why didn’t I just make jam? Nope. I had to experiment with preserving strawberries in vinegar. And it worked out beautifully.

preserving by the pint, by marisa mcclellanI received this book from an inspirational friend in the food blogging community, Kristy Gardner, author of the site, She Eats. I had been eying Marisa’s book for quite a while, and I had even purchased a copy for a friend. I was elated, when I found out I had won Kristy’s giveaway on her blog. The book couldn’t arrive quickly enough! Once it hit my mailbox, I turned to page 47 and put my perfectly ripe strawberries to work.

strawberries, ready to slice


Quick Pickled Strawberries


This is Marisa’s recipe, here with her permission:

  • 1 dry quart strawberries {about 1 1/2 pounds or 680 grams}
  • 3/4 cup or 180 ml Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely milled sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs tarragon

After washing the strawberries, I removed the stems and leaves and cut the berries into halves. I quartered the larger berries. In a medium saucepan, I combined the vinegar, along with 1/3 cup of water, the sugar, salt, and cracked pepper. I set the saucepan over high heat and brought the mixture to a boil.

In a sterilized one-quart Mason jar, I added the tarragon sprigs. Fortunately, I could clip a couple of sprigs from the garden. I dropped in the sliced strawberries. Once the brine had boiled, I poured it into the jar and over the strawberries. Once the strawberry pickles had cooled, I placed a lid on the jar and stored it in the refrigerator, letting them rest and integrate overnight.

Marisa suggests incorporating the pickled strawberries into a salad or serving the berries in a glass of sparkling water. I will definitely make those options, but I was a little thirsty for something stronger that day, and gin was well within my reach.

sliced organic strawberries


Gin + Strawberry Shrub


  • 1 1/2 ounces St. George Terroir gin
  • 3/4 ounce mint simple syrup
  • 1 pickled strawberry {or 2, if you are daring!}
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • splash of soda water {optional}

In a shaker tin, muddle the strawberry. Add ice {about 4 or 5 cubes}, gin, mint simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake like crazy. Pour into a glass and garnish with a sprig of mint or strawberry slice. Finish with a little soda water, if you need a tamer and less vinegar-y cocktail. I prefer the refreshing punch of a vinegar cocktail, myself.

gin + pickled strawberries + mint simple syrup + freshly squeezed lime juice

mint in the garden

making mint simple syrupTo make the mint simple syrup, simply combine equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan {I usually make a batch of 1 cup water to 1 cup sugar}. Bring to a boil and let the sugar granules dissolve. Remove from heat and add about 4 mint sprigs. Steep until cool and strain, discarding the herbs. pickled strawberries and the finished gin cocktailI am definitely not alone on the vinegar-inspired cocktail kick. The Times published a great piece a couple of years ago on the rise in the use of vinegar in cocktails. In fact, I enjoyed my first vinegar drink, when I visited Portland last summer. I dined at the famed Pok Pok restaurant and enjoyed a tamarind drinking vinegar. It was simply pickled tamarind and soda – refreshing, vibrant, and different. I didn’t even miss the alcohol. I suggest tossing a pickled strawberry into a glass of soda water and adding the lime juice and mint simple syrup. Spring perfection!

Want to make your own drinking vinegar? Here is an excellent tutorial on making drinking vinegars or shrubs via the Kitchn, written by Emily Ho of Roots & Marvel.

Closing with some photos from the week. Have a great week ahead! I am adding a link at the bottom of this post, so that I can be included on Bloglovin’, making it even easier to follow my posts. And let me know if you are making any pickled or preserved garden goods {whoa, alliteration!}, yourselves!

Cheers,

Jayme

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how to make your own infused vodka with fruits + spices + herbs

Am I only one up late, perusing the pages of Pinterest, bookmarking recipes in my blog feed, and searching the likes of Foodgawker, Liqurious, and Tastespotting for the perfect fall or winter cocktails?  Beautifully constructed and tastefully paired cocktails can really set a table apart and send your dinner guests home with a memorable experience.  Better yet, creating a cocktail, using spirits you infused yourself, adds a personal touch, is an excellent conversation piece, and is equally self-rewarding!

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green tomato relish

Gardening is definitely not a picture-perfect hobby.  There are many days spent dealing with powdery mildew, battling against bugs, anguishing over produce stolen by squirrels, and contemplating how on earth I can’t just grow a consistent tomato crop.  This year, we have been blessed with a classic Indian summer in Colorado, where the shades of yellow and orange have lingered well into the month of November.  In fact, I am still growing French breakfast radishes and arugula outside right now!  I finally put most of the garden to rest about a week and a half ago, harvesting hot peppers, spinach, Swiss chard, copious amounts of herbs, and some delicate, green tomatoes.  Ahhh, green tomatoes.  What to do with them?  Last year, I tried frying them, yielding excellent results.  This year, I canned them and made green tomato relish.  It turned those tart, green tomatoes into a spreadable, herbaceous, sweet-and-savory condiment, which I will enjoy well into the cooler months.

My grandmother used to “put up” and preserve, but unfortunately, we never connected on this subject, when she was alive.  As a little girl, I didn’t have the questions for her that I have right now.  In her absence, I simply wing it or consult these books:  Food in Jars, Small-Batch Preserving, or Canning for a New Generation.  When she didn’t can her greenies, she purchased Ritter’s Green Tomato Relish, which is, sadly, no longer available.  I tried developing a very similar recipe, using the pre-frost green tomatoes from my garden, and the results were beyond satisfying.

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how to freeze summer tomatoes + life without a kitchen

For us, Labor Day was exactly what the holiday sounds like:  a day of actual labor and hard work.  I hope yours was much more relaxing; although, working hard is rewarding and satisfying in its own rite.  Today’s post might contain a lot more photos than usual, but posting them gives proof that gardening, harvesting, preserving, and cooking, again, is not dependent upon yard space or kitchen space.  Even though we are still existing without a finished kitchen, the garden continues to proliferate and demand our daily attention.  It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, challenging harvest season, but we’ve made it work…

Freezing Tomatoes:

  1. Select ripe, unblemished tomatoes.
  2. Thoroughly wash and remove stems and any bruised spots.
  3. Place tomatoes in the blender.  If tomatoes are large, slice in half for ease in the blender.  Blend away.
  4. Measure and pour the tomato mixture into freezer bags.  I measure out two cups per bag, so I can know exact amounts for a recipe.
  5. Remove the air from the bag {I use a straw here – #ghettostyle}, label with a Sharpie marker, and lay flat, horizontally in the freezer.  Once the bags have frozen, you can stand them up vertically, like a “filing system” in the freezer.

Tips for Freezing Tomatoes:

  • Freezing is fast and requires very little equipment – basically, a blender, a knife, freezer bags, and a Sharpie.
  • Preserving, in this method, keeps your kitchen heat-free, a bonus in the summer.
  • Use the thawed, puréed tomatoes in stews, soups, or sauces.  Don’t try substituting puréed, formerly frozen tomatoes, for a recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes, or else you’ll end up with mushy tomatoes.  Gross.
  • Try to use the frozen, puréed tomatoes within four to six months, for optimal flavor.  If you are ever in doubt that something in your freezer or pantry has expired, check out StillTasty, a great resource for determining the shelf lives of many foods.
  • Instead of taking the time to de-seed and de-skin beforehand, we choose to purée and freeze the entire tomato. The gel surrounding the seeds actually imparts more flavor than the flesh of the tomato.  The skins impart even more anti-oxidant properties.  Why limit your taste and your nutritional impact?  Read more about retaining the seeds and skins of the tomato here, via the Kitchn.

For today’s post, I am reflecting on the cue, suggested by You Grow Girl‘s “Grow-Write-Guild-Prompt-Eleven.”  I am joining the party a little over ten posts too late, but I am still on board with their concept of writing about your garden, capturing what is happening right now, and sharing mishaps, successes, recipes, and must-to-dos, along the way.

What was happening last year both in the garden and in the kitchen?  Well, like this summer, the tomatoes were pumping, and I had a kitchen, for one…  Without the ability to seriously can, this year, I am relegated to quick-pickling and freezing most of my produce.  I am almost ready to purchase another freezer; room is running out.  Black Krims always do well, but I have noticed that my early fertilizing has hindered my tomatoes’ fruit output later in the season.  I have learned, this year, to fertilize after the initial flowers have shown, and to prune large, unnecessary leaves, so that the plant can direct its energy to producing quality, limited tomatoes.  The key is to concentrate the plant’s energy to the task it has at hand.  I have also learned to plant vegetables with different vegetables; in other words, no monocultures.  Why?  Fewer diseases, better plant cohabitation, more efficient water usage, and better quality fruit production.

Crisp, toasted bagels, with sliced Black Krim tomatoes, goat cheese, basil, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of white truffle oil…this is my most favorite summer decadency.

How have I best used my abundance of heirloom tomatoes in my garden this summer?  By simply cutting them off the vine, washing them, slicing them up, and serving them alongside a chiffonade of basil, some crumbled Avalanche goat cheese, sea salt, cracked pepper, and a drizzle of white truffle oil.  I serve this on top of toasted “everything” bagels, and they are a memorable capture of summer’s bounty.  So easy…

And after a brief argument on where to plant the cool season crops and whether or not to include tomato seeds in the pasta sauce, we took a break to enjoy a shot of whiskey and a “pickle-back.”  The rich, savory component of the whiskey is accentuated by the briny, sharp, acidic pickle brine.  You may have some pickling brine left over, if you made some “quickles” last week.  Make this decadent and unique treat; you won’t be under-stimulated.  You might possibly be disappointed {I doubt it}, but it won’t be boring…at the very least, try something new, for once!

Next step in the garden, that afternoon:  snipping ripe basil and parsley leaves, washing them, and placing them into the dehydrator.  This was Steve’s job today.  My job was to collect the appropriate lighting necessary to capture the herb’s verdant nature and the energy in the moment.

With respect to herbs:  pick appropriately, wash, spin, dry, store, and repeat.  I absolutely love my very cheaply purchased dehydrator from Bed Bath & Beyond.  I have two of these, and I want two more.

Freshly picked Japanese “fairy tale” eggplant, ready to be de-stemmed and washed.

Washing our vegetables outside in the stockpot. Despite our lack of running water, we are able to wash our produce and preserve it.

We take all of our leftover water that was used for washing, boiling, and cooking, and we use it to water our newly planted drought-tolerant grasses and vegetables. #reduce #reuse #recycle …in that order!

Carrot top greens, onion skins, spinach stalks, used as stock components.

Making stock on the back porch, using a crock pot.

Purple cabbage head forming…ready in a couple of weeks.

Multi-colored heirloom carrots, pulled from the ground today.

Half-ripe cantaloupe…ready in about two weeks. This was a “happy accident” that we planted. When the school’s community garden received donated plants, this was one of the “left-overs” or the “not-planted.” There is only one fruit on the vine. Planting will be worth it, even if this is the only melon harvested.

Heirlooms from the garden plot:  Brandywines, Black Krims, German Johnsons…
#tomatobag

Community-supported flowers: water, cultivate, and pick appropriately.

Cosmos, sunflower, dill, marigolds…