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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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White Bean and Collards Soup 

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Remember a few months back when I posted the collards recipe? Well since then I’ve become even more obsessed with Southern Food and have made collards like 10 times as part of my “practicing”. It’s great though! Collards freeze so well, I always have a stash of leftovers in my freezer for soups and easy meals!

This soup is one of my current favorites. It’s hearty, flavorful and and deeply comforting. It’s also one of those soups that I can toss together fairly effortlessly since I tend to usually have all the ingredients in my freezer or pantry. It’s also great for tossing leftover things into. I had some extra parmesan cheese rind and some tortellini that I used the first time I made this and I cannot imagine not using those again!

See that big white thing? It's the rind from some parmesan cheese I used. Never through that away. Freeze it and add to soup bases. Just remember to fish it out before you serve your soup.

See that big white thing? It’s the rind from some parmesan cheese I used. Never throw that away. Freeze it and add to soup bases. Just remember to fish it out before you serve your soup.

It also freezes really well. Since I do live alone I always have a crapton of leftovers. It’s great though because I ALWAYS have a selection of soup frozen in our deep freezer. If you ever got a cold and need some TLC in the form of soup, call your friendly neighborhood rancher and I’ll take care of you.

White Bean and Collards Soup

1 package of white beans
1 onion, chopped
5 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken or beef broth (I usually use chicken and it usually has hunks of chicken in it because that’s how I use up my chicken carcasses)
Leftover collards (including the sweet, sweet pot likker)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf (remember to fish that sucker out before you serve)
1 package tortellini (optional)

This step adds more flavor!

This step adds more flavor!

Soak the beans overnight in water. Rinse and discard any sub-par beans. Saute your onion and carrots in oil until they start to soften. Add garlic and stir. Add beans, leftover collards, broth and spices. Add water to cover all the ingredients if needed. Cover and simmer for one hour. Add tortellini and serve with some good crusty bread.

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Guest Post: Collards Greens Recipe

I met John a few weeks ago and we immediately bonded over our mutual love of food. He impressed me with his knowledge of heritage pork and all things gravy (a great mix, FYI). Since then, he’s been gracious enough to teach me more about Southern food and culture.

I was 30 kinds of excited when he taught me how to make these collards. I absolutely loved them. I have some in my fridge right now! I cannot believe this isn’t a “thing” out here. Seriously. I feel like it is important to share this magical concoction with as many people as I can, so I  asked John to author a post for this blog, you know, in the interest of education. Make these. Promise me? You need to try them, they are delicious.


 

Let’s Talk About Collards, Y’all…

Food is a huge part of southern culture, and the magical ways in which true southern country dishes, or soul food, are prepared are varied and complex. Recipes usually aren’t written down or gathered in great collections. This sacred knowledge is often times only accessible through the family cooking cult’s supreme leader; in my family, this is Granny. Granny is the culinary queen of Coosa County, Alabama and the patron saint of Rockford; the nearest town to our family farm. If she’s not on the front porch reading the Good Book and talking to her hummingbirds, then she’s in the kitchen rattling every pan she can get her hands on. If she’s not in the kitchen, then she’s probably at church because those are the only places this lady goes.

In our house, food is love. You know your Granny loves you because she makes an effort to see you smile every time you eat. Your Granny knows you love her because you eat the mound of savory beauty she piles on your plate. You eat all of it. You say thank you. Then you get some more.

One of my all time favorite loves that my Granny makes is collard greens. They grow very well in that area of the country, and because collards don’t mind being frozen or canned, they are a regular appearance on many a plate in the south throughout the year.

Greens.

Greens.

It has come to my attention, since moving to Northern California back in May, that the mighty collard is underutilized in this particular region of the country, and drastically under appreciated by everyone except the health nazis who think that greens should just be eaten raw, or even more appalling, juiced! Blasphemy, I say! Blasphemy! I feel obligated to share a true southern recipe for preparing collard greens. This is Granny’s way. She’d be so pissed if she knew I was doing this…

As I mentioned earlier, southern dishes like collard greens are prepared in many different ways, whether it be from region to region, family to family, or generation to generation. This is how I learned, and even though I am very much biased I’ve had them all, and I believe this is by far the best way to prepare the greens. If you don’t like what you get, try something else. Collards are magic food that can take on a bunch of different flavors, so don’t be afraid to mess around with flavors and spices you are more drawn to or comfortable with.

When I met Megan a few weeks ago we quickly found that we share a passion for eating, drinking, and cooking, and she has been kind enough to be my Chico culinary tour guide since then, showing me the best food and drink the area has to offer. Last Saturday, we went to the Saturday Market in Chico to peruse the goodies and plan a good meal for a beautiful but chilly day. As we were walking the rows of the market we came upon a stack of fresh kelly green collards sitting on a table and Megan turned around and informed me that she’d NEVER EATEN COLLARD GREENS!!! Her excitement and joy from learning that I know the way of the greens was enough to melt my cold dark heart and dishonor my family by giving away my Granny’s trade secret. We bought two bundles and decided to do the damn thing. We had a blast cooking up all kinds of stuff that day, but Megan was really impressed with the greens and asked me to share how to do these things right with all of you. So, here’s how you make Granny’s Collard Greens. Share them with somebody special!

Granny’s Collard Greens

Warm a medium to large pot to low-med heat. You can also use a big cast iron skillet if your heart so desires. Add some fat –
fatty thick cut bacon, bacon ends, bacon grease, smoked neck bones, butter, something…don’t be scared to get greasy. I prefer bacon ends or thick cuts of bacon, cut into small pieces. You want this to cook slowly and to maintain a soft texture so that you release the fat and smokiness. Low and slow is the way to go.
Let your choice of fat cook for about 10 – 15 minutes, stirring regularly

Mmmm, Table Mountain Ranch Pork bacon ends..

Mmmm, Table Mountain Ranch Pork bacon ends.

Add some garlic. 4 – 6 whole cloves should do the trick. Let your garlic sweat until it starts to soften. You don’t want it to fall apart just yet, so don’t let it go too long.
Add some broth. 2 to 3 cups of chicken broth is my go to. You can use beef or pork broths as well.
Heat on medium and let all that get aquatinted together for about 10 minutes.
Add some flavor:
go heavy on the smoked paprika
go heavy on the fresh ground black pepper
add half an onion. Just cut it in half and drop it in there. I prefer reds or vidalias.
add 1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. If you like tanginess use 1/2 cup, if not use 1/4. If you’re timid, just roll the dice and trust the southerner. I mean you no harm.
Stir and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Green prepping

Green prepping

Prep your greens:
Remove the leafy greens from the central stem. You can use a knife or scissors to cut them away, or you can go old school and simply tear them away by hand. Wash your damn greens. Even if they look clean, collards are a very porous plant that grows near the ground, so the leaves can absorb a lot of soil and grit. The best way to ensure they are clean is to fill your sink with cool water and then add your greens and a half cup of coarse salt. Gently bath the greens in the salty water then drain the sink and rinse the greens with fresh water. I’d even go so far as to spin them as well. Gritty greens are no good.
Add your greens:
Slowly add your washed greens in small handfuls at a time. Stir each handful into your broth and add more as they cook down. When all of your greens are in the pot you want it to look sorta soupy. There should be an ample amount of liquid allowing the greens to not be clumped together or weighing heavy on the bottom of the pan. Add some water or more broth if you think you need to. Continue gently stirring until all the greens begin to darken in color, usually about 5 minutes. Put a lid on it.
Come back and stir it in 20 minutes. Put the lid back on.
Come back and stir it in 20 minutes. Taste your broth. By this time, you should be able to get an idea of what your working with. You should have some tang, some spice, and some smoky fatty goodness going on in there. I usually add more paprika right here. Bring your heat back down to low-med, put the lid back on, and let the magic happen.
Continue checking and stirring every 20-30 minutes until all the green are very dark in color and soft in texture. When you taste them they should not be chewy or crispy or fibrous, but soft and savory. They should be ready to eat after about two hours of cooking.

Adding your greens, slowly.

Adding your greens, slowly.

Serving your greens:
I just slap em on the plate and go to town, but some people do prefer to add pepper sauce or hot sauce to theirs’. Do as you so please. I usually add some more pepper just because pepper is amazing, and a little salt can go a long way if you have undercooked or unevenly cooked your greens and are getting some bitter flavors in there.
Saving your greens:
Collard greens are amazing left over, so don’t throw them out if you don’t eat them all. In most cases, they will continue to ferment in that heavenly broth and continue to taste better and better over the next few days. They also can be frozen and stored away for entire seasons without losing anything with the time.
When you’ve had your fill of the greens be sure to keep the broth. The broth is called pot likker, and is the best soup base you could ever ask for. Some old country folks even drink it straight, you know, for vitality and what not.

A pot of green love.

A pot of green love.

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Individual No-Bake Ginger Nutella Cheesecake

A couple summers ago, I was obsessed with these. I made them every week, all the neighbors were gifted them, it was slightly ridiculous.  Then I burned out on them, I stopped making them, and honestly, I kinda forgot about them. Until a few days ago, when THE CRAVING came back. I’m posting them here because hopefully I can practice some moderation, not burn myself out on them and remember to make them more often.

Get in my belly!

Get in my belly!

Individual No-Bake Ginger Nutella Cheesecakes

Crust
Gingersnap Cookies (about half of an 10 ounce package)
1.5 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
1 package room temperature cream cheese
1 cup nutella
½ teaspoon running over vanilla extract
1 cup fresh whipped cream (I guess you could use that frozen stuff, but man, really?)

Ginger snaps are better as a crust anyway.

Ginger snaps are better as a crust anyway.

Use your cuisinart to pulverize the ginger snaps. Mix with butter (you might have to use more or less butter) until you get some cohesiveness with your crust. Add about 2 teaspoons of crust into the jar and use the back of a spoon or the mortar from your pestle to tamp it down firmly.

Tamping the crust, this is important! No one likes a loose crust.

Tamping the crust, this is important! No one likes a loose crust.

Meanwhile place the cream cheese, the Nutella and vanilla extract in your stand mixture and mix until blended. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Place the mixture in your jars and garnish with more whipped cream.

I could eat the creamcheese - nutella mixture with a spoon, as is, with no shame.

I could eat the cream cheese – nutella mixture with a spoon, as is, with no shame.

Serve immediately or put a lid on it, hide it under some vegetables in your refrigerator and eat it when no one else is home and won’t judge you.

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Pickled Garlic

Neighbor Pete brought me a big box of freshly harvested garlic a few weeks ago. I love garlic and use it in most meals when I can. One of my favorite things ever is to roast it in the oven or on the BBQ and eat it on good french bread. However, neighbor Pete brought me more garlic than I could use in a reasonable amount of time. So I had to get creative – I had to can it.

My huge ass box of delicious fresh garlic.

My huge ass box of delicious fresh garlic.

This is a super easy recipe! And so so so good! I could probably eat a jar of this myself without a problem.

Pickled Garlic 

6 cups peeled garlic cloves (do yourself a favor and buy the pre-peeled ones at Costco)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon canning salt
3 cups 5% vinegar
bay leaves

Peeled garlic. By hand. Such a pain. But so worth it in the end!

Peeled garlic. By hand. Such a pain. But so worth it in the end!

Peeling this much fresh garlic is not fun. I tried all the tricks, shaking it in the bowl, using that special garlic tube – nothing worked as well as peeling it by hand. After peeling 6 cups of garlic cloves by hand, I was not amused and my nails hurt!!! Just buy the pre-peeled stuff, trust me.

Yum.

Yum.

Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once you have your cloves peeled blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute. Pack your hot garlic into your sterilized, hot half pint jars with a bay leaf. Ladle the hot vinegar mixture over the garlic and leave ¼ inch headspace. Adjust your lids and process in a water canner for 10 minutes.

I almost ate this whole jar in one sitting. It's so mild and sweet! One of my favorite things!

I almost ate this whole jar in one sitting. It’s so mild and sweet! One of my favorite things!

Give it about two weeks to cure. And that is it! So easy and so good.

 

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Recipe: Ham Bone Split Pea Soup

Bones are a big deal in my household. They are never thrown away, ever! I use them in broths and soups.  They add so much flavor and texture it’d be such a waste not to use them. I feel very strongly about food waste. Somewhere, a farmer or rancher worked hard to raise that food on your plate, it’s an insult to everyone involved to flippantly waste it.

So good on a rainy day!

So good on a rainy day!

I had a lovely ham bone left over from a ham dinner I had this week. Ham bones are great because there are about 100 delicious soups you can make with them. After much agonizing I decided this bone would be a lovely split pea soup.  This is an easy and fairly cheap recipe to make, enjoy!

 

Ham Bone Split Pea Soup

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 meaty ham bone (Table Mountain Ranch pork is preferred)
  • 1 pound split peas
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • water
Yum......ham bone!

Yum……ham bone!

In a large pot, over medium heat, add bone, broth and peas. If the broth doesn’t cover the bone – add water until the bones is covered by liquid.

I love how this soup changes from brothy to thick!

I love how this soup changes from brothy to thick!

Bring to a boil. Meanwhile add onions to a frying pan and saute until translucent. Add smashed garlic and stir to mix. Add onions, potato, and carrots to your pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally for two hours or until the soup is thick and the peas have no form left. Mix in thyme. Remove bone (you might have to pick some meat off it), any unsavory meat pieces and bay leaves before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you have leftovers you migghhhtt need to add a whisper more water when reheating because this soup does have a tendency to thicken.

 

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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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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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Honey Fig Jam

As you know, we have fig trees. However picking those figs is a whole other story. Between the deer, birds, my pig, and our neighbor Pete, it’s tough to get a good crop. However this year I persevered and picked enough to make jam. But not any jam, this jam is pure Table Mountain Ranch. It uses both ranch fruit and ranch honey, a marriage made in heaven!

This is what a mission fig tree looks like.

This is what a mission fig tree looks like.

Honey Fig Jam

  • 4 cups roughly chopped fresh figs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 package pectin
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
Washed, stemmed, and chopped figs.

Washed, stemmed, and chopped figs.

Wash and de-stem your figs. Chop finely. Add the figs, lemon juice, and water in a large saucepan. Add pectin and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring often.

Cooked figs.

Cooked figs.

When the mixture has reached a full roiling boil, add the sugar and honey.

Sweet.

Sweet.

Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Skim foam, and ladle into processed jars leave 1/4 inch headspace. Process for in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

This is delicious, I swear!

This is delicious, I swear!

 

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