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arts & crafts

Favorite Things 2016 – A Gift Guide

Oh, yes, friends. It is that time of the year again! Time of a list of stuff I love, aka The Aghag’s gift guide for difficult people. Now I have this set up where all you have to do is click on the picture and it should take you to the corresponding shop. These are all products I use and love and I am not being paid to say that!

My 11 Favorite Things of 2016

  • First on my list is a Traeger grill. Look at it as an investment. A glorious investment in your mouth’s happiness. Your life will be better for this purchase. I use mine weekly, everything from smoking to grilling to just sticking my face in it and taking a big whiff. Yes, they are pricey but quality costs! And they make smoking more of a fun activity then an all day, make sure your fire is right, it’s not right, no, wait, it’s right, chore.
Really, they are awesome.

Really, they are awesome.

  • As I keep repeating, I went to the South a lot this year. I loved it. I fell in love with good BBQ. It changed me. So if you are gonna pull that trigger and get a Traeger, might as well get some bomb-ass seasoning! Enter: Dreamland. They are right, “ain’t nothing like ’em nowhere!’. Sadly I only have a few more uses of my BBQ seasoning left. I’m deeply afraid of getting on that website to order more. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up with a whole bunch of ribs and a nana puddin’ getting delivered.
Sigh..... I would be a very happy camper if I got to go back again.

Sigh….. I would be a very happy camper if I got to go back again.

  • The Classy Trailer and I have been friends on Facebook for years. She thoughtfully sent me a beautiful memorial necklace a few years ago when my loyal cowdog of 16 years died. It was such a meaningful gesture to me. Anyway this year she sent me an awesome pig necklace! I have a collection of agriculture themed jewelry. It’s a great conversation starter when I am out doing the Megan Aghag show. The Classy Trailer has great handmade gifts for your agriculture/animal enthusiast in your life!
TheClassyTrailer's pig!

TheClassyTrailer’s pig!

  • I’ve been following Alyson Thomas for years now. I stumbled across her on twitter when she was asking butchers about cuts of meat. Her art – Drywell Art is my jam. Food and booze. I have several of her meat themed pieces. I especially love her pig work! I love to give her art out as gifts to my foodie friends. Plus I got to meet her in real life at the Renegade Craft Fair, and she was super cool!
Support art!

Support art!

  • Years ago I went to the Renegade Craft Fair in San Fransisco. It was like Etsy came to life. It was lots of fun and I picked up some great Christmas gifts for both myself and my family. My favorite thing is a feed bag purse I purchased from Selina Vaughan. I loved them so much I bought two! One for me and one for my Mom. We both used them for years and years. I use mine every time I go to an agriculture conference and always get tons of compliments.
Check her stuff out, so cute!

Check her stuff out, so cute!

  • Big things happen this year. I met my cooking idol, Alton Brown. Good Eats was a popular show when I was in college and I watched it regularly. I love how Alton uses a science based approach to explain the why’s and how’s of cooking. That tickles my fancy. When I saw he was going to be signing his new cookbook in California, I scheduled a day off, borrowed my Mom’s car (driving a truck in the city is a big cup of no fun) and went to meet him! And you know what? It was everything I thought it would be. He was warm and charming and he is still my celebrity crush. Aside from all of that, this is a great cookbook. Everything I’ve made has been amazing. Totally a great gift for your favorite Foodie.
This was one of my top 2016 moments.

This was one of my top 2016 moments.

Favorite cookbook right now!

Favorite cookbook right now!

  • I am a picky little thing when it comes to water bottles. I don’t like it when my water gets warm. I don’t like it when I can taste metal. I don’t like it when the part I put my lips on is exposed to “the outside”. I also hate using plastic water bottle once, then throwing them away (we actually recycle, but still!). But since I am outside so much during the summer I do need water with me or I shrivel all up. And that’s simply no fun at all. Swell is my favorite water bottle of all time. It keeps things cold, or hot for way longer than it takes me to drink it. The cap covers where I put my mouth so I have no fear of putting my lips in cow poo! And it doesn’t make the liquid taste like metal. Perfect gift for your favorite ranchster.
  • Speaking of water…..I’m bringing this one back from last year because I still love it. Once you go bidet you can’t go back. This bidet attaches right onto your toilet and is amazing. I installed it myself in about 10 minutes and never looked back.
Don't question me. Just buy it.

Don’t question me. Just buy it.

  • My summer was rough. I worked hard. I drove a lot. I dealt with some deep shit, both literally and figuratively. By the time October rolled around, my mantra was “I worked damn hard, if I want something, I earned it, damn it”. This ring was one of those things I wanted. It matched my beautiful bag I got for my birthday. A local artist made it. And it was shiny! I like shiny things! Unfortunately, J Daily doesn’t seem to have an Esty store. But she does have an email address jdailydesign@yahoo.com. She had many beautiful and unique rings, earrings, necklaces – shoot her an email, check out her stuff, you won’t be sorry!
J Dailey Design

J Dailey Design

  • If you didn’t notice this was an election year. While post of the posts on social media were pretty horrible; but there was one shiny, hilarious light! The Liberal Redneck and the WellRED Comedy Tour. Trae is funny. His videos talk about very serious issues in a funny way. I like that. But hey, don’t believe me check one out. After watching his videos I really wanted to see him perform, and turns out, he was playing about a hour away from me! I saw the show, and loved it! All three guys were hilarious! And they hung out after their show and met their fans! So cool! Plus Trae follows me on Twitter now.  I got their book after the I saw the show, and again, really enjoyed it. It’d be a great gift for your liberal and not so liberal friends!
I made the WellRED Comedy guys laugh.

I made the WellRED Comedy guys laugh.

The Liberal Redneck Manifesto

The Liberal Redneck Manifesto

  • Booze is always a popular gift during the Holidays. I mean it’s one of the few things you can get someone who has everything! And this particular alcohol is extra good. Lassen Cider is a new Chico, Ca business. He makes a mean cider from local, heirloom apples the traditional way. He gives the leftover apple pulp to my pigs and cattle, so he is being extra sustainable. I’ve had all three ciders he has available right now, and I must say, I am a fan. Unfortunately, you can only this cider is you are a Northern California native. Hunt some down, you won’t be mad about it!
Lassen Cider

Lassen Cider

There you go friends. Did I miss anything? What tickled your fancy this year? Care to share? Leave me a comment and hopefully I can feature it next year!

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Herbed Fig Lemon Jam

The figs are ripe here at the ranch again. I hate it. But I love it. Why? Because I don’t like figs. I don’t like to eat them, I don’t like to pick them and I don’t like to waste them. So I force myself out to the fig trees, battling star thistles and rattlesnakes, and pick until I am covered in itchy fig sap and bleeding from thistle pokes, just for the sake of jam.

Garden fresh!

Garden fresh!

When jam and jelly get involved, I love it! Figs make awesome preserves, jam and pickles and they are free!!!! I usually make 3 or 4 different fig recipes a year. My friends love figs, so I know what everyone is getting for Christmas! I needed to expand my recipe collection this year and since I still had meyer lemons, this was the perfect recipe to try! I actually ate this jam and *gasp* kinda liked it even with the figs! The thyme adds something different, which I liked a great deal.

Herbed Fig Lemon Jam

3 pounds figs
1 meyer lemon
4 cups sugar
¼ lemon juice
2 cups water
Thyme springs

Boiling jam. It smells so good!

Boiling jam. It smells so good!

Cut figs into chunks. I like a good variety of big and little, I think it gives it a nice consistency. Carefully cut the lemon into quarters, removing seeds and proceed to cut the quarters crosswise. Mix the figs, lemon and sugar into a large saucepan. Add lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil without stirring. (It’s so hard!!! I know.)

Let cool to room temperature, place a lid on your pan and chill overnight to 12 hours. Bring mixture back to a boil until the lemon is translucent and the mixture has thickened. Add thyme sprigs to mixture and continue boiling until the mixture can pass the frozen plate test. When it does skim foam and discard thyme sprigs.

Fill sterilized jars until 1/4 inch headspace and process in a boiling water for 10 minutes.

A very nice snack!

A very nice snack!

Also try:

Balsamic Figs

Fig Jam 

Fig Preserves 

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Pickled Mission Figs


We have several mission fig trees growing wild on the ranch. As a little kid, I spent a massive amount of time climbing and hanging out in the huge, cool fig tree canopies. I have lovely memories of my cousins coming over and playing with me as well, so figs always remind me of that. And pig enemas, but that is for a different post.img_5199

Around the first of August, when the main crop of missions ripen, I get to picking and canning. I’m not a fan of eating figs because of the pig thing I mentioned above, but I enjoy picking them because it reminds me of being a kid. Plus anything I can grow or glean needs to be canned or pickled, because it does.

Last summer I tried this recipe and everyone loved it. I was told these figs were great as a snack, with charcuterie, on salads, etc. I made them again this year just to compliment my charcuterie plates and so I could blog the recipe for you.

 Pickled Mission Figs *

  • 4 quarts firm, ripe figs
  • 5 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
Figs soaking in their hot water bath.

Figs soaking in their hot water bath.

Boil water and pour over figs, let stand until cool. Combine 3 cups of sugar and 2 quarts of water and heat until the sugar dissolves. And the figs and gently cook for 30 minutes.  Add 2 cups sugar and vinegar. Tie spices (except for the vanilla bean just thrown that right in with the figs after you slice it open) in a spice bag and add to the figs. Simmer for about an hour.

Despite the hot vinegar, this does smell good.

Despite the hot vinegar, this does smell good.

Cover the figs and let stand in a cool place for 12-24 hours.  Bring back up to a simmer. Pack the figs into sterilized pint or quart jars. leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process 15 minutes in boiling-water canner.

Pickled figs

Pickled figs

 

You might also want to try:

Homemade Balsamic Figs

Pickled Figs 

Mrs. Little’s Pickled Figs

*based on the Ball Blue Canning Book recipe

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Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Jam

Recently, our local blueberry farm opened their gates to the U-pick crowd. Well, being the foodie I am, I had to go. My friend and I loaded up and spent a scant hour picking a bucket of blueberries. I was then faced with the daunting task of making several pounds of blueberries into stuff before they went bad. I succeeded. I ate a whole bunch, then I pickled a whole bunch, then I made this wonderful jam, and the rest I froze for pancakes.

This is what a blueberry farm in Northern California looks like.

This is what a blueberry farm in Northern California looks like.

I think this is now my third favorite jam I make. Which is really saying something since I think I make close to 30 different kinds (I don’t have a problem). I used Meyer Lemons because we have several trees here on the ranch, so they are free in addition to being delicious.

The spoils of my picking! Glorious!

The spoils of my picking! Glorious!

Blueberry Meyer Lemon Jam*

  • 3 cups blueberries, mashed to make about 2 1/2 cups
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1.5 tsps. Meyer Lemon zest, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. Meyer Lemon juice
  • A whisper of butter (to prevent foaming)
  • 1 package (3 oz) liquid pectin
Blueberries, lemon zest and juice ready to be made into jammy goodness.

Blueberries, lemon zest and juice ready to be made into jammy goodness.

Add blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, butter and juice in a jam pot. Bring to a roiling boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Add pectin and boil hard for one minute.  Remove from heat. Add to sterilized jars and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

This jam would be breathtaking on a scone, cheesecake or even on toast. It’s light, crisp with a hint of tart. It’s lovely and I ended up making two batches because it’s going to make great gifts.

IMG_3666

*based on Southern Living’s recipe

You also might wanna try:

Blueberry Jam with Mint

Blueberry Mojito Jam 

 

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7 of my Favorite Things 2015

Welcome to my new annual post where I share some of my favorite things from the past year. They say word of mouth is the best advertisement, so maybe Lucchese will throw me a bone and hook me up with some boots (ha ha). Maybe this will help with your Christmas shopping. Without further ado let’s start! I’ve made it easy to check out each of these items, I’ve linked back to their respective websites, so happy shopping!

  1. Obviously my Lucchese boots made this list. I have several (cough, cough) pairs of cowboy boots. My Lucchese are by far the most comfortable and eye catching. I wear them when I want to be noticed and they never fail me.
My Luccheses. Love.

My Luccheses. Love.

 2. My Dogeared necklace. I’m a big fan of quirky, handmade or unusual jewelry. Not only are they cool, it’s a good conversation starter. My WTF (where’s the food without the farmer) necklace has started all kinds of conversations about food and farming. My favorite place to buy Dogeared jewelry is at my local shop called Ruby’s.

Because sometimes a Girl needs to be reminded that she is a badass.

Because sometimes a Girl needs to be reminded that she is a badass.

3. I received Marrakesh Endz Argan and Hemp Oil Therapy in one of the beauty boxes I get every month. I have fine, long, blonde hair so a detangler/leave-in conditioner is a must for me especially because working outside like I do has a tendency to really dry out my hair. This stuff is miracle in a bottle and it smells good. It makes me have shiny princess hair and I dig that.

Hair crack.

Hair crack.

  1. When I went to Europe I experienced bidet use for the first time. I now understand why they think we are dirty Americans. Once you go bidet you can’t go back. This bidet attaches right onto your toilet and is amazing. I installed it myself in about 10 minutes and never looked back. 
    Don't question me. Just buy it.

    Don’t question me. Just buy it.

    5. The knife I didn’t know I needed. I used my havalon for everything. From skinning things to castrating things. I feel like a surgeon and I like it. You don’t sharpen the blade, you put on a new one. It’s a great gift for the outdoors man or woman in your life. 

I love my havalon.

I love my havalon.



6. Umai Dry kit. I’ve wanted to learn how to do charcuterie for years. It has intimidated me though. Something about giving myself e.coli or something. So when this company contacted me about doing a review for this blog, I was all about it. I made lomo, prosciuttini and bresaola – it was delicious. This is a great product to learn with. I highly recommend it.

Bresaola

Bresaola

7. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory – I read this book last year, but it stayed with me. It talks about an fact of life most of us won’t talk about, death. It’s done with humor and a frankness that I really appreciated.

by Caitlin Doughty

by Caitlin Doughty

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UMAi Dry – Lomo Part I

One of the perks of having a blog is sometimes companies contact you to review a product. I’m pretty picky about what products I’ll review, it generally has to fit into the wine, meat or boots categories. Back in May I was contacted by the UMAi Dry company. I had never heard of them before, but once I lurked them a whisper, I got super excited. This was right up my alley.

My UMAi charcuterie kit.

My UMAi charcuterie kit.

You see, ever since I’ve gotten into heritage pork, I’ve developed an intense interest in charcuterie. I really want to make some superior pork products. You know, like super fancy iberian ham that I can’t afford. But I have a healthy fear of listeria and other food born illnesses. That’s why I’ve been rather hesitant to dip my toes into the cured meat party.

My loin before and after the cure was applied.

My loin before and after the cure was applied.

UMAi Dry sent me a kit with everything I needed (except the meat) to make my own charcuterie. I started with Lomo because it took the least amount of time to cure. I figured I would work my way up to prosciutto and bresaola as my confidence grew.

My cure mixture.

My cure mixture.

I was able to watch some videos before I actually started the curing process. Their website had plenty of resources. Which made me feel pretty confident about what I was about to do and definitely took much of my hesitation about this away. I went to my local butcher shop, and bought my pork loin. Next time I will use my own pork, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw this up before I do that.

After my loin cured for two weeks and then in it's coat of paprika.

After my loin cured for two weeks and then in it’s coat of paprika.

Once the pork was purchased, it was as easy as mixing all the ingredients together, rubbing it on the meat and leaving it alone. No intense math, no fancy equipment I can’t afford, nothing scary at all! To quote the great Tom Petty “the waiting is the hardest part.”

My Lomo in the special curing bag included in the kit.

My Lomo in the special curing bag included in the kit.

In three weeks my Lomo will be done. I’m already planning the wine and cheese-board that will accompany my cured pork product. In the meantime I’m going to start my prosciutto and bresaola! I’ll keep you all updated on how things go!

My Lomo resting in my refrigerator for four weeks.

My Lomo resting in my refrigerator for four weeks.

I’ve had fun with this kit. I’ve already learned a lot about charcuterie, and can’t wait to get more involved. This kit is perfect for someone like me, someone that has an intense interest in cured meats, but is just a little too timid to jump right in. My next blog will cover the taste of my lomo and my full review of this UMAi Dry product.

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Recipe: Meyer Vanilla Lemonade

One of the many benefits of living in California is the citrus!!!! Because of this I have a collections of dwarf citrus trees in my front yard. I have several Meyer lemon trees because they are my favorite. Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and mandarin or orange. They are sweeter than your average lemon and have a thinner skin. One of my favorite things to do with these lemons is make lemonade.

Lemonade in my AgHag chalice.

Lemonade in my AgHag chalice.

Meyer-Vanilla Lemonade

6 to 7 Meyer lemons (about one cup of juice, although I prefer one cup running over)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar*
5 cups water, divided
Ice

This smells like sunshine.

This smells like sunshine.

Bring one cup of water and sugar to a boil to make a simple syrup. Remove from heat and cool. Squeeze lemons, making sure to remove the seeds.
Add cooled simple syrup, lemon juice, and water into a pitcher and mix well. Serve over ice and with a lemon slice.

*Vanilla sugar is just sugar that I keep in a jar with a few gutted vanilla beans. It’s lovely for pastries, drinks and baked goods. It has a slight vanilla flavor that really compliments most things. You could add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the lemonade if you are using plain sugar. But I highly recommend getting a jar of vanilla sugar going for your pantry.

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Recipe: The Best Freaking Snack Mix Ever aka “AgHag Chex Mix”

If you are into “clean” eating, low calorie, or unprocessed food, move along, nothing to see here. However, if you are into delicious snack food, that brings you a great sense of joy and happiness, you are in the right place.

Chex mix has always brought me inner food peace. From my Great Aunt Mary’s mix as a child, to the stuff you buy in the store, I have never met a chex mix I didn’t love. Whenever I have felt ill or not hungry, chex mix can usually be counted on to make me feel better. It’s my spirit food animal. If I am ever on death row, this will be requested as part of my last meal.

Oh, chex mix, how I love you.

Oh, chex mix, how I love you.

Lately I have been on a huge Chex Mix kick. I’ve been making about a batch a week. My friends are getting care packages of it. Every time I make it just a whisper different. You see, that is the beauty of making your own chex mix. You can do anything you want! You can add your favorite things! This is currently how I am making my favorite batch.

AgHag Chex Mix

For “The Mix”

3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
2 cups cheese-its
2 cups Bugles
2 cups cheerios (I prefer the store brand actually, it has more nutritional value, read the label!)
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup cashews
2 cup pretzels

 For “The Sauce”

1 cube of butter
1/2 cup worcestershire
1/4 cup hot sauce (tapatio, rooster sauce or tabasco sauce work just fine)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 package of ranch mix (keep this separate)

Don't make it all pretty like this, just dump it in a big pile, it makes it easier to mix. I did this purely for a pretty photo.

Don’t make it all pretty like this, just dump it in a big pile, it makes it easier to mix. I did this purely for a pretty photo.

 

1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

2. Melt the butter. Add the next 7 ingredients for the sauce to your melted butter.

3. In a large 9×13 sheet cake pan, mix together all 9 of the cereals, nuts and chips.

4. Toss “the sauce” and “the mix” together until coated. Be gentle, as you don’t want to crush your cereals. After everything is coated, open up your ranch mix and gently sprinkle that over your sheet pan, gently toss again.

Step 4: the dry ranch mix being incorporated. This is an important step, don't skip it!

Step 4: the dry ranch mix being incorporated. This is an important step, don’t skip it!

 

5. Bake for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.

6. Store in an airtight container, that is if you have any left.

Again, Friends, use this recipe only for good. It has great and powerful juju. It is also perfect for Ranch Days, soccer games, movies, Super Bowls and field trips.

 

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Cold Blue Mountain: NPR, Tiny Desk and World Domination

Cold Blue Mountain by Michelle Camy

Cold Blue Mountain by Michelle Camy

Do you remember last summer when I posted the blog about my friends in the band Cold Blue Mountain? When they made a video and let me cook AND be in it?

So.much.fun. Beef, beer and bikinis!

So.much.fun. Beef, beer and bikinis!

They did it again! You see NPR is having a contest – the winner gets to play in the NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series, so CBM took the plunge and entered! Guess what?

NPR even tweeted at Cold Blue Mountain, it was pretty exciting.

NPR even tweeted at Cold Blue Mountain, it was pretty exciting.

They were the first metal entry and actually made it on NPR’s music page! Talk about fame! I mean, I know I am super bias, but I think they should win (if they do win, I am so leaving the ranch to go with them I can watch! (they don’t know that yet, so shhhhhhh)).

The Tiny Desk video:

Even if they don’t win, they are still doing some pretty exciting stuff! They are about to embark on huge tour! They are leaving the safe and warm embrace of Chico, California to share their musical talents with most of the United States. I am so excited for them, but kinda bummed that they are going to be gone so long! I’m going to be lonely.

If you get the chance, I recommend you catch a show! Or at least go hang out with them. Despite this being pretty heavy screaming music, these are pretty much some of the nicest guys ever. Plus I worry about them and will need updates to make sure they are doing well, washing their socks, underwear and beards.

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Apricot Jalapeno Jam

My friend Aaron and I, this year! (We've been friends for like over a decade now!)

My friend Aaron and I, this year! (We’ve been friends for, like, over a decade now!)

Everyone needs a friend like Aaron. Aaron is my friend from college that everyone liked and everyone knew. For some reason, he stayed friends with me and pretty much fulfills my happy place when it comes to food. He works in production agriculture so he hooks this girl up with wonderful things like walnuts, oils, and apricots! I try and keep him elbow deep in jam and jelly – everyone seems happy so far.

Aaron apricots! I spent a good two weeks processing these, it was dreamy!

Aaron apricots! I spent a good two weeks processing these, it was dreamy!

Aaron got me something like 40 pounds of apricots this year. I love apricots, they are sweet little golden nuggets of warm delicious goodness. They made a fabulous jam. And jam I did! I made plain apricot, ginger, vanilla, but the best was apricot jalapeno! Something about sweet and spicy brings me joy. 

Apricot-Jalapeno Jam 

  • 3  cups finely chopped apricots (about 25 medium)
  • ½ cup minced jalapeno
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 3-oz pouch liquid pectin
  • 1/2 tsp butter (optional, it keeps the foam down)
  • 5-3/4 cups sugar

 

Instead of chopping the jalapenos and apricots, I just toss them in my trusty cuisinart.

Instead of chopping the jalapenos and apricots, I just toss them in my trusty cuisinart.

Mix apricots, jalapeno, lemon juice and sugar in large saucepan. Add butter. Bring to a rolling boil, one that cannot be stirred down. Add pectin and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and skim any foam. Place in jars, adjust lids and bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

The best jam I made all summer, hands down. It tastes like summer!

The best jam I made all summer, hands down. It tastes like summer! This makes about 7 half pints.

Serve this jam on cream cheese with wheat thins, or as a marinade on chicken or pork. It’s so good!

Adapted from here.

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