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Lime-Mint Creamy Salad Dressing

peppermint leaves peppermint leaves (photo by jhy)
You will need:
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar or sugar substitute
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream OR 1/2 c. yogurt
You can use the cream for a fuller flavor, or the yogurt to keep things light.

Combine 1 T. mint (peppermint, spearmint, etc.) with the sugar in a small bowl and crush the mint against the side of the bowl with a spoon. Stir in the lime juice and continue to crush the mixture until the mint juices are released. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

Press the mint extract through a sieve and discard the crushed leaves. Slowly add the juice to the cream/yogurt. Add the remaining T. of chopped mint. Mix well.

For good flavor allow this to sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Overnight is best.

This dressing is good on a cole slaw of green and Savoy cabbage, cucumber and onion.

The first time I made this, I didn't discard the crushed leaves, but just mixed them in. It seemed to be fine.

Preparing Elderberries for Use

Elderberries make great juice, jelly, and pies. However, they are a really labor-intensive fruit. The berries are less than 1/4 inch across, usually closer to 1/8 inch.

However, it's one of my favorite flavors, so it's worth the work to me to do something with some fruits most years.

Watch the video to actually see how the fruits can be removed from the stems. Basically, you want to wash them, dry, and roll them off the heads.

Some people like to freeze the heads before they remove the berries. I tried this. It did make the berries come off easier, but it also made the stems brittle so I got more bits of stem in the bucket of berries that I didn't want to have to sort again. You can choose which "evil" you are willing to accept.

No-Mess Elderberry Juice

canned elderberry juice elderberry juice right after processing (photo by jhy)
You will need: elderberries- 1 c for each quart
3/8 c. sugar, or 1/8 c sugar and 1/4 c sugar substitute for each quart
quart canning jars
lids, rings
canner
jar lifter, potholders, etc

This method of making juice does not result in a beverage you can drink immediately, but it's incredibly easy. You have to wait a few months to drink the juice.

I've used this method of making juice with several different kinds of fruit, but this post will focus on elderberry. It is very easy, except for the task of taking the elderberries off their stems.

Wash and sterilize as many quart jars as you think you will need. You can cover with a clean towel and let them rest until you have the fruit ready.

You'll need one cup of clean elderberries for each quart. Try to remove all the small purple stems, but it won't matter if you miss a few.

dry pack elderberry juice elderberries and sweetener, before adding boiling water (photo by jhy)
Set water to boil- enough to fill all the jars you plan to use. Then, in each quart jar put 1 c of berries and 3/8 c of sweetener. This can be all sugar, or part sugar and part substitute. I have not tried it with all sugar substitute, but it would probably work since there is no texture issue in this recipe as there is with baking.

Fill jars with boiling water, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Clean rim, put on lids and rings. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. See basic instructions for hot water bath canning. canning.

The just-processed juice will be clear to translucent. When the jars have cooled, remove rings and place the juice in a pantry or somewhere to store for at least three months before opening. Over this time, the juice will develop.

When you open a jar, strain and remove the remaining fruit. The juice is then ready to drink.

3B Muffins (Butternut, Buckwheat, Blueberry)

buckwheat butternut squash blueberry muffins 3B muffins (photo by jhy)

You will need:
  • 1 1/3 c white flour
  • 3/4 c buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c sugar (or go half and half with substitute)
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1-2 eggs (1 large is plenty or you can use 2 small to medium)
  • 1 c mashed butternut squash
  • 1/2 c milk (fat free works fine)
  • finely grated peel from 1/2 an orange
  • juice from 1/2 an orange (about 1/4 c)
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 3/4 c blueberries (wild or cultivated)
  • rolled oats
2 bowls
spoon
measuring cups, spoons, etc
muffin pans for regular size (2 1/2 inch) muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare 12 muffin cups. You can insert liners, but for less bread loss on the paper, try How to Bake Muffins that Won't Stick to the Pan.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients and mix well.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquid all at once. Stir batter just until all dry ingredients are moistened. It will be lumpy. One secret to tender muffins is to not overmix.

Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon into muffin cups. Sprinkle a few rolled oats on top of each and press lightly to help them stick.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until inserted tester comes out clean, cool slightly and remove from pans.


These muffins are one of our favorites. The buckwheat is a dark, nutty grain and the squash keeps it moist. I've also made this with pumpkin. In the fall I usually prepare a number of one-cup packs of squash and put in the freezer for these muffins next blueberry season. I almost always double the recipe.




Watercress- Any Season for Your Salad

watercress growing in a stream watercress growing in a stream (photo by jhy)

Watercress is a member of the mustard family that can be found and harvested year round. Even in the Northern states, if there is open water in a stream you might find watercress available for picking.

It has a spicy flavor, and the leaves are great to add to salads. Watercress is nutritionally rich, having iron, calcium and folic acid, vitamins A and C, and it is high in iron.

The one thing to watch out for is the quality of the water source where you pick it. If it's growing in a contaminated stream there will be bacteria adhering to the leaves. Always be sure to wash the leaves in potable water. If the stream smells bad, or is downstream of something like a cow pasture, it's best to pass over that source.

I have found that the flavor varies from time to time and place to place. The leaves pictured above look just like any other bunch of watercress, but they weren't very spicy at all.


Canning Apple Cider

canned apple cider canned apple cider (photo by jhy)
You will need: apple cider
quart canning jars
lids and rings
canner
jar lifter
funnel
paper towel
utensils

Canning apple cider is one method to preserve the goodness of cider all winter. The ones I canned have a small amount of floating "stuff" on top, but I can easily strain that out when they are opened. It's the result of not skimming the foam quite completely enough.

Prepare canning jars by washing and sterilizing. Then fill with hot apple cider leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Follow general directions for hot water bath canning, and process for 20 minutes.

Remove from water, cool, remove rings, label and store.



Pasteurizing Fresh Apple Cider


apple cider at 180 degrees apple cider at 180 F (photo by jhy)
You will need: fresh homemade apple cider
large kettle
jelly thermometer

If:
  • you have concerns about your fresh cider being safe
  • you want to store it for a week or so
  • you plan to can the cider
you need to pasteurize it.

This simply means to raise the temperature high enough to kill most bacteria. It is not necessary to boil it, as this can change the flavor of some foods (for example, pasteurized milk is not boiled). The critical temperature is 180 degrees F (82 degrees C).

Put the cider in a large kettle, and clip a jelly thermometer on the side. Be sure that the bulb of the thermometer does not rest on the bottom of the pan. At least an inch clearance is good.

Heat the cider over medium high heat until the correct temperature is reached. Skim off the foam with a metal spoon. If you are going to can it, pour immediately into hot glass jars. If you are going to store it, you may need to let it cool. Particularly if you are putting it in plastic containers.




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