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FrostFenceYou know, as you get older, how you occasionally catch yourself saying or doing something you heard or saw your parents do, and you have that sinking feeling?  That “I’m doing that thing that I swore I’d never do. I’m turning into my parents” moment? Well, I think with the purchase of our last refrigerator, I’ve officially careened off the edge of that cliff. Read the rest of this entry »

FinishedWine

A finished chokecherry wine. One of the better wines we’ve made.

For the past 20 years or so, I’ve been lucky enough to live in quite a few towns with microbreweries. Boulder, Fort Collins and Durango Colorado, Missoula Montana, Spokane and Walla Walla Washington. In fact, it was a small brewery in Boulder that taught me that I actually liked beer. Read the rest of this entry »

RoastedTomatilloChipotleChipA friend of mine in Colorado Springs loves this recipe, as do his kids, so I make a few jars every year, some for him, some for me (sorry John, we ate the 2011 batch before I could mail it to you last winter). My husband, who is not a huge fan of the sweetness of tomatillos, does not eat this salsa with abandon, which is also good. It gives me a chance to have some. Read the rest of this entry »

chokecherryMy father grew up on a farm in rural Montana in the 1930’s (he was born in 1923). He was second to last of ten children. He used to tell me stories of growing up, one of which included how, as kids, they were so hungry for something fresh that they would eat chokecherries right off the tree. While there may have been some truth to the story (it was the depression, after all), I have also met his brothers. And given that they were the kind of brothers who would put a dead fish in your sleeping bag on a camping trip, my guess is a lot of the chokecherry eating was on a dare. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s the evaporator in action. I built it next to a fence so I could tie a tarp over the set-up to keep the rain out, which worked pretty well. You know how you can sit and watch a fire for hours? When boiling down sap, you get to do this and be productive at the same time! Note the slightly wonky block placement. Things moved around a bit with the heat from the fire. Keep an eye on your bricks and your pans or bad things could happen!

If you’ve been following along, then you know that the big new experiment this March has been to make syrup out of boxelder tree sap. You can store your sap in food grade containers for a few days until you are ready to boil, as long as you keep it cool. Fresh sap is like fresh milk. You want to treat it the same way. I happened to have a few 6 and 7 gallon water containers and a root cellar that is currently at 40 degrees, so it was easy to hold the sap for a few days. A food grade 55 gallon drum with a lid and a spigot would be ideal.  Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s what I needed for my set up. Taps, tubing, hammer to place taps (they don’t look like they will fit, but the tree is flexible and they do) and 5/16 drill bit (which I happened to already have).

Sometime last fall, I ran across a reference to making a tree syrup (ala Maple Syrup) from the sap of Boxelder trees. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making maple syrup. I love the idea of a readily available free sweetener, just out there in nature waiting for me to come along.  However, I figured it was a bucket list item that was going to go unkicked, as Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), the tree from which maple syrup is made, does not grow much west of eastern Kansas.  So when I heard about boxelder syrup, I was stoked. Read the rest of this entry »

My habit of late is to get up around 7:30 am, make a cup of tea, check email and Facebook, and read any interesting blogs. This morning, I saw a recipe for grape chili-pepper jelly. I wasn’t interested, both because I think grape jelly is mostly for people under the age of 10, and more importantly, I didn’t have any grapes.

Some of these dried chilies are well past their expiration date, but how do you tell, really?

What I do have is loads of apples. I’ve made apple-plum sauce, apple sauce, apple butter, and a lot of apple crisp. But still the apples keep coming. We picked the last of the tree just before our first really hard frost a few days ago. Read the rest of this entry »

The jar on the front right was the refrigerator batch. You can tell because the onions still look raw. You can also tell which ones were boiled in the brine before canning, as they are more translucent.

I have this depression era reaction to fresh abundant inexpensive produce. I buy a lot of it. Even if I don’t quite know what to do with it all. OK, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

Thus was the situation when I saw a 25 lb bag of Walla Walla Sweet Onions for the bargain basement price of $10 back in July. They were huge. They were just harvested. They were sweet and wonderful. The issue is that sweet onions (like Walla Walla, Maui and Vidalia) do not store for long periods of time. They are a seasonal item (which is part of why people go nuts for them).  Read the rest of this entry »

OK, this batch was made with dried cranberries, because I was out of raisins and the store is 40 minutes away round trip. Don’t tell anyone!

The winter of 5th grade, I was living in Coronado, California, a burg just south of San Diego that is 1/2 naval base. Having lived most of my life up to that point in rural Missouri and Idaho, the multiethnic, multilingual, cosmopolitan feel of Coronado was very new to me.

I was also on the cusp of puberty, and beginning to realize that the world did not totally revolve around me and my immediate needs and wants. If I paid attention, there was some really interesting stuff going on around me. And still being a kid, I could often observe the world quietly without anyone taking notice of me. Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful bountiful blackberries!

I have occasion to travel to Walla Walla Washington, and while there a few weeks ago, I could not help notice the HUGE banks of wild blackberry bushes along the creek at Rooks Park. It was going to be a banner year for blackberries.

I returned last week and on a still cool Tuesday morning at 7:30, armed with long sleeves,  long thick pants and a five gallon bucket, I got to work. I was serenaded by bull frogs, startled by a great blue heron lifting off, and generally given a variety of weird looks by the local walkers, joggers and bikers. The berries were JUST getting ripe. Ungloved fingers were necessary in order to judge ripeness (unripe berries, even when black, don’t release easily; overripe berries squish in your fingers).    Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Kleffner

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