Crabapple and Wild Grape Jam

There are a lot of crabapple trees in my neighborhood. Even though they were planted for ornamental purposes, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat the fruit! The tree behind our house produces apples the size of cherries, and I’ve found some trees on a nearby street that have fruit the size of small plums. There are also loads of wild grapes growing around the edge of the nearby woods. Both this year and last we’ve made a delicious jam by combining these two fruits.


To make jam, I cook and puree each type of fruit separately before combining them. Crabapples are really easy to deal with. Rinse them, then dump them in a pot, and cover them about halfway up with water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until the fruit is soft, about 20-30 minutes. Put the fruit through a food mill to remove the seeds and peels, then measure the puree.


Processing wild grapes is a bit more tedious, but worth the effort, especially if it’s something you only do once a year. You have to pick over the bunches to separate the ripe grapes from the green ones and the hard, dried up ones. Put the ripe grapes in a pot, crush with a potato masher and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, put through a food mill, and measure the puree.


If you start with about 2/3 of a colander full of each kind of fruit, you should end up with about 5 cups of puree, total. Combine the puree of both fruits in a pot. To 5 cups of puree, add 3 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly until done. After about 5 minutes check for doneness (put a saucer in the freezer before you start cooking; to test the jam, put spoonful of jam on the saucer, return to the freezer for 1 more minute, then check. If it’s ready, it should hold its shape in a spoon.) The crabapples are so full of pectin that this jam cooks quickly; 5 – 10 minutes should be plenty of time. Ladle the hot jam into clean, hot canning jars and process in a boiling water bath or put in the freezer when cool. Makes 6 half-pints. Really tasty on toast or as a condiment for meat.


If you don’t have access to wild grapes or if you just don’t feel like dealing with them, 100% crabapple jam is also delicious.


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Celebrate Zucchini

Sneak Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day is a little over a week away. You could “celebrate” by “sharing” the bounties of your harvest with your neighbors when they’re not looking. Or you could enjoy all that zucchini yourself. Here are some ways to do it:

  • Make zucchini bread
  • Make zucchini sausage soup
  • Make zucchini pancakes – grate 2 medium zucchini (2 cups grated), mix with 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup flour, salt and pepper to taste. Fry on a pancake griddle.
  • Add grated zucchini to an omelet
  • Add grated zucchini to a green salad
  • Saute sliced zucchini with garlic, onions, and chopped tomatoes. Add mushrooms if you have them. Serve over spaghetti with grated cheese.
  • Make ratatouille – you will also need eggplant and green peppers for this
  • Add to a stir fry
  • Use sliced zucchini as a pizza topping
  • Make a zucchini quiche
  • Add diced zucchini to a summer vegetable soup
  • Roast in the oven with onions, garlic, and any other vegetables you have on hand, such as potatoes, green beans, or carrots. Twenty to thirty minutes in a 375 degree oven should be about right.

OK, those are some ideas to get you started. They should work with all kinds of summer squash, not just zucchini. So, leave your porch unlocked on August 8, invite that zucchini in, and get cooking.







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Zucchini Soup

Here’s a tasty way to enjoy the zucchini from your garden.


Zucchini Sausage Soup

  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped.
  • 1  28 oz. can diced tomatoes (or equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes)
  • 4 cups broth (I use homemade vegetable broth, but you can use whatever you have on hand)
  • 5 cups diced zucchini (about 2 medium-large)
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp. fennel seed
  • Water
  • Salt

In a large pot, brown the sausage in a little bit of oil. Add the onion and continue cooking until translucent. Add the tomatoes, broth, zucchini, basil, and fennel seed. If you happen to have a fennel bulb on hand, you can chop that up and add it, too. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and let simmer until the zucchini is cooked, adding water as necessary. Add salt to taste.




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My Herb Garden

I don’t have a lot of space for gardening where I live now. In fact, pretty much the only place I can plant things is around the sides of the house, and much of that area is shady. (There is also the deck, where I am currently experimenting with container gardening, but that’s a subject for a future post.)  Fortunately herbs are easy to grow in the space I have available.

Some herbs, such as peppermint, lemon balm, and bee balm, (all members of the mint family), can take some shade. I have lemon balm and peppermint growing around a lilac bush, where they seem to be quite happy.


Both plants make delicious teas and have other culinary uses  as well. I have enjoyed peppermint in minty pasta, added chopped peppermint to a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and my next experiment will be a layer cake flavored with chopped mint. And I have lots more ideas to explore.

On the sunny side of the house, I planted oregano, which I mostly use fresh in salads and to flavor tomato sauce, and I dry some for winter use as well.


I also have a patch of chives there, delicious in salads, biscuits, and many other dishes, and some bee balm, which makes a fragrant tea.


This is lovage, which has been described as having a taste similar to celery. It sort of does. The leaves and stems can be used in place of celery in soups and stews, and I also like it in salads. Next to it, I planted a couple of salad burnet plants. Pretty much the only use I know for that is as its name implies – a salad herb. It has a flavor reminiscent of cucumber. I also have some basil growing in pots by the front door. And that’s my herb garden.

Herbs are easy to grow. Even if the only space you have is a flower pot in a sunny window, you have the opportunity to enjoy a bit of fresh, local food, the fruits of your own labor!


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Minty Pasta

Last summer, some peppermint  I had planted in front of the house was looking somewhat distressed , so I moved it to the back of the house and gave it a place by the lilac bush. Its new home seems to suit it so well that in less than a year it has spread out quite a bit and doesn’t seem ready to stop spreading any time soon. Which is why I went searching online for new culinary uses for peppermint. In my search I came across several recipes for peppermint pasta — a far cry from the peppermint teas and peppermint sweets you might expect to find. I had to try it. I’m glad I did. Here’s my version:


Minty Pasta

1/2 pound any kind of pasta

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups peppermint leaves

3 oz. grated cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta following package directions. Saute  the garlic and onion in a little bit of olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the wine and cook another minute or two. Add the peppermint leaves and cook, stirring, just until wilted, one or two minutes more. Toss together with the cheese and pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Some people complain about peppermint in their gardens because of its tendency to take over. But I say give it its own corner of the garden and let it fly. Then you’ll have plenty available for experimenting with new ideas like minty pasta.


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Chive Biscuits

We got a large handful of chives in the CSA basket this week. Plus they are growing abundantly in our garden.



Looks like it’s time to bake chive biscuits. It’s easy. Just add 1/2 cup of chopped chives to any biscuit recipe. Or, use the recipe below. You can chop the chives with a cutting board and knife, but I find it easiest to hold the bunch in my hand and snip with scissors. Don’t forget to include the buds and flowers, but chop them fine as their taste can be quite strong.

Chive Biscuits

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

4 T butter

1/2 cup chopped chives

2/3 cup milk

Combine the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter. Stir in the chives. Add the milk and stir briefly until the dough comes together. Knead lightly. Roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter or the rim of a drinking glass dipped in flour. Baked on a greased cookie sheet at 400 for 12-15 minutes. Makes approximately 10 biscuits.



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Spruce Tip Poundcake

Spruce tips are tasty and apparently loaded with vitamin C, and since they are abundant where I live, I am always looking for ways to cook with them. Spruce tips are the new growth that emerges at the end of the branches in the spring. They are light green and tender. Later in the season, as they darken, they lose their tenderness and are not so pleasant to eat.


I’ve had fun with spruce tip syrup and spruce tip shortbread. This year I decided to try making a spruce tip poundcake.  It came out pretty good, with a delicate spruce flavor. Here’s the recipe.

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

3/4 cup sugar

5 T butter

1/2 t vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup spruce tips, chopped

Combine the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and beat well. Add the eggs one at time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the yogurt. Fold in the spruce tips. Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 for about 50 minutes, until golden brown.


I used a food processor to chop the spruce tips. You could do it with scissors or a knife instead, but I think that would be quite tedious. Next time I might try adding a full cup of spruce tips for a slightly stronger flavor. But I don’t want to overdo it. Too strong a spruce flavor would not be good, I think.

Here’s the local analysis:

Local – spruce tips (harvested in my neighborhood), eggs and butter (from local producers, bought at the co-op), yogurt (homemade from local milk)

Non-local – flour, baking soda and powder, salt, sugar, vanilla





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Dandelion Greens Soup

This is a tasty dish you can make with an ingredient that is probably growing right outside your back door.


Dandelions are everywhere, but be careful where you harvest them from. Only take them from places where you know no herbicides or pesticides have been used.

Since the greens are so close to the ground, I find it easiest to just dig up the whole plant by the root. You can add the roots to the soup if you wish. Usually you will find little flower buds nestled in where the leaves meet the roots. These are delicious, so add them to your soup, too. Rinse the greens and buds in several changes of cold water to get all the grit out. Then chop them as you would kale or any other green.

Dandelion Greens Soup

1 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium potatoes, sliced

2 cups broth

2 cups (or more) water

1/2 cup white wine

6 cups chopped dandelion greens

2 cooked sausages, sliced (optional)

salt and pepper

In a large pot, saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and saute a few more minutes. Add the broth, 2 cups of water, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about ten minutes. Add the greens and the sausage and more water as needed, and simmer about 5 more minutes, until the greens are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In the batch I made last night, I used nettle tea (the cooking water leftover from nettles I cooked the other day) but any kind of vegetable broth, or chicken or beef broth, would work as well. For the sausage, I used chicken garlic sausage but I am sure other kinds of sausage would be good too, or bacon.


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The First Herbs of Spring

Seventy degree weather today is rapidly melting what was left of the snow from our April Fool’s Day snowstorm. Now the little bits of life that have been hibernating under the ground all winter are starting to reappear. In the herb garden today I found the tips of chives pushing their way up through the soil, and some tiny salad burnet leaves spreading open. There was just enough to snip off and toss into a salad I was making.


They added a fresh taste of spring to the rice salad, which also included some of the carrots I got at the farm stand last week.


Carrot Rice Salad

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 large carrot, grated

2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, salad burnet, mint, parsley, whatever you have available)

2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup raisins

balsamic vinegar

salt to taste

Toss together the rice, carrots, herbs, ginger, walnuts, and raisins. Add the vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time until you get a taste you like. Add salt. This tastes best if chilled before serving.

You can use lemon, lime, or orange juice in place of the vinegar. You can also add a tablespoon of olive oil if you like.


Local analysis of today’s salad:

Local – carrots (from farm stand), herbs (from my garden)

Non local – rice, ginger, walnuts, raisins, vinegar, salt



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Carrot Cookies

I picked up some rather hefty carrots at the farm stand this week.


They just seemed to be crying out, “Grate us up and bake something with us.” So I did. I decided on these carrot cookies:

Carrot Cookies

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup flour (all purpose, whole wheat, or a combination)

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

a pinch of salt

2 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup of add-ins (raisins, chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, trail mix, shredded coconut — in any combination you like)

Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, butter, and vanilla. Stir in the maple syrup. Add the dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Fold in the carrots and then the add-ins.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie slightly. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.


Here’s the local analysis:

Local – carrots (from the farm stand) egg and butter (bought at the co-op, from local farms) maple syrup (from a local farm)

Non local – oats, flour, baking powder, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, raisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds

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