Apple Ginger Butter: The Food in Jars September Mastery Challenge

Last year, I made spiced peach butter, and it was absolutely delicious. I feel as if I’ve been hoarding it in my cupboard, afraid to open it. The next-to-last time I had opened a jar, one of my foster kiddos basically drank it, and I didn’t get any of it. So, I’ve been a little wary of opening one of the few remaining delectable jars until I had the time and opportunity to make something equally tempting to replace them. In that vein, I had been looking forward to this month’s Food in Jars mastery challenge because I was hoping to make pumpkin butter, which seemed a delicious way to welcome autumn.

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Vermont Maple Pickles: The August Food In Jars Mastery Challenge

When I read that August’s challenge was low temperature pasteurization or steam canning, I was equally clueless about both options. What the heck? I knew that pasteurization was something done to milk, and since I make cheese, I know how to see out milks that have been only just pasteurized so I can successfully make cheese. I didn’t think the August skill would have much to do with milk though. Similarly, I know how to steam vegetables, but I definitely didn’t know an iota about using steam to can anything.

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18 pounds of peaches, Unknown Quantities of Veggies, and 33 Mason Jars

My husband and I didn’t make our traditional grocery shopping list when we headed out to the farmers’ market at 7:00 a.m. We usually plan our meals and make the shopping list the night before so we’re armed with an attack plan and don’t get too suckered in by the piles of gorgeous vegetables, fruits, baked goods, and even wine! We head to the farmers’ market first to support local farmers and buy fresh regional produce before we head to our local grocery store to stock up on whatever else we might need that week, such as milk or yogurt. Every now and then when we’re at the farmers’ market, we buy something unexpected. Once, it was several beautiful blueberry bushes. This Saturday, we bought 18 pounds of peach seconds.

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What to Do with an Abundance of Green Beans: The Hot-Pack Mastery Challenge

We planted three beds of green beans this year, all different varieties. My Landreth Bush Beans hit the ground running, and we ate delicious fresh green beans in stir fries and as sides before I admitted defeat and canned two quarts of them using the raw-pack method. Now, my Cherokee Trail of Tear and Purple Podded pole beans are producing an equally abundant amount of green beans just in time for the July Food in Jars Mastery Challenge for Hot Pack Preserving.

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Blueberry Maple Jam: A Food-In-Jars-Mastery-Challenge Project

I was beelining to the hold for pick-up shelf at my local library when I passed a display called something akin to “Learn a New Hobby This Summer!” Or maybe it was “Books Designed to Entice Rachel to Stop and Learn a Gazillion New Skills and Improve Others.” Either way, the display title was enough for me to ditch my beeline and spend several minutes flipping through various crafty themed books.

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Lemon Cukes: Cold Pack Preserving Mastery Challenge

My food-preservation skills have definitely increased since I first tackled marmalade in January with only the vague suspicion that marmalade had something to do with citrus. Similarly, I wasn’t sure what cold pack preserving was, but I knew it had something to do with preserving food that was… umm… cold? Yes, definitely cold.

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Putting Myself in a Pickling State

“Why would you pickle a perfectly good strawberry?” My mother asked me.

Moments earlier, she’d been telling me that I had become a better cook than her (which I protest—adamantly so), and I had texted her a picture of my latest project:  pickled strawberries. In the jars, the strawberries looked like rubies against darkness of the balsamic vinegar. I had been rather enamored with their appearance, which is what prompted me to send her the picture. Without knowing what was in the jars, she suggested that the picture was proof I was a better cook. (Again, proposition rejected!)

Once I told her what I had done to those 2½ pound of perfectly good strawberries though, I lost all credibility and comments about my cooking prowess ceased.

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