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Smatterings

My friend told me about salad in a jar this week.  Did all of you already know about this?  You make a bunch of salads all at once in mason jars, and then, due to the way it’s layered and sealed, the salad is fresh and ready to go at a moment’s notice.  You just grab, dump, and eat, so you’re more likely to eat a salad even when you’re short on time vs. grabbing something processed.  Isn’t that brilliant?  I mean, if it actually works?  Yes, I am pulling out the mason jars this week.

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Speaking of mason jars, my plan for summer is to can and freeze fruits and vegetables while they’re in season.  I want to make strawberry preserves for the year, make enough tomato soup to get us through winter, and freeze vegetables for later use.  I have no clue how to do this in an efficient, smart way.  There is, for instance, limited freezer space.  Which vegetables get my freezer space, and which ones need to be preserved in a different way?  Can you freeze all vegetables?  Will they be mushy when I go to use them later?  How do I make strawberry preserves so we have them all year?  Anyone have good resources you can point me towards?

It is going to be practically little house on the prairie over here this summer.

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On a whim, I purchased chocolate milk in a glass bottle.  I bought it because I coveted the glass bottle, but the chocolate milk turned out to be amazing.  I served it for dessert.  And now I have a glass bottle to store my simple syrup.  Oh… because I’m making my own soda.

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Making my own soda seems like a poor use of my kitchen time — aren’t we supposed to drink water? — but if I am going to drink soda from time to time, I might as well make it myself.  I’m starting with homemade grenadine and then serving fancy Shirley Temples.  And then graduating to a host of flavoured simple syrups so I can mix them with carbonated water and whip up blueberry or blackberry sodas for all my friends.  I swear, this is a fantastic idea.

How long do simple syrups keep?  Is there anything I can do to extend their life?

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Lastly, something not food related in the least (except that I sometimes eat at the field), is that baseball season has started back up and the Wolvog has graduated to traditional Little League with kids pitching vs. a machine.  It is amazing to watch the kids in action.  I mean, the Wolvog was once this tiny peanut — only two pounds — and now he is stealing second base.  I wish the me now could talk to the me from back during that NICU time and show her the pictures I took this week.  “Look at this,” I’d tell her.  “Everything is going to be okay.  One day that kid is going to be big enough to play baseball and pick fruit for you.”  Would the me back then believe it?

16 comments

1 nicoleandmaggie { 04.30.14 at 9:05 am }

Pretty sure simple syrups keep forever. If they get crusty, you can probably do what you do with honey when it gets crusty (which I think involves a warm water bath).

DH sometimes makes his own ginger-ale.

2 Peg { 04.30.14 at 9:39 am }

You are very ambitious! I can’t wait to hear how it all works out. We are in our last year of little league with our 12 year old (crossing fingers he’ll make the 11-12 all star team) and our 7 year old started machine pitch which he is loving. Having real outs makes it so much more like real baseball. Despite our love for soccer in this house, there really is nothing like sitting in the bleachers on a warm spring/summer day watching your kid steal second.

3 LC { 04.30.14 at 10:54 am }

For preserving, I’d recommend htp://foodinjars.com which has the benefits of 1) small sized batches and 2) instructions for beginners.
My grandmother froze sweet corn every year and it was always SO MUCH better than canned/frozen from the store corn. But, it can be a little messy. I think this method works with a lot of veggies. Just blanch the vegetables, rinse in cold water and package into your freezing containers. For corn, you add the extra step of cutting it off the cob before freezing.

4 Tiara { 04.30.14 at 11:02 am }

I have zero advice on your Little House endeavours…but love you last paragraph, so precious.

5 Serenity { 04.30.14 at 2:43 pm }

I discovered canning last year – apple butter and pickled beets. And when I make a batch of spaghetti sauce, I put it mason jars and freeze it too.

But I have never heard of salad in a jar! I need to look into this.

6 Ana { 04.30.14 at 3:18 pm }

We make salads in Ziploc re-usable plastic containers and grab one each day for the week’s lunches. They keep surprisingly well. Mason jars are prettier, of course, but a bit heavy/precarious to throw in my backpack for the day.

7 Sara { 04.30.14 at 3:28 pm }

Loved the last paragraph, I think the same thing when I look at my almost 5 month old twin boys and how far they have come.

8 Kathy { 04.30.14 at 4:05 pm }

Preserving is making a comeback. Check the bookstores and internet for lots of tips. Workshops are being offered at the local farmers market where I live. Good luck and enjoy !

9 Justine { 04.30.14 at 9:16 pm }

I once had a book with all of the answers to these kinds of questions … if I can remember the name of it, I’ll let you know. (Though the internet will probably answer them better anyway.) I am in complete awe of your ambition.

10 GeekChic { 04.30.14 at 10:28 pm }

My husband the chef says a simple syrup that is in a sealed container will keep “forever”. It might crust like honey but that can be dealt with easily like nicoleandmaggie said.

To further prevent crusting or crystallizing do the following:

– keep it out of the fridge
– don’t store it near heat or moisture
– best place for storage is a cool, dry place like a root cellar in summer

Hope that helps.

11 Mali { 05.01.14 at 1:55 am }

I know this is off-topic, but I can never understand why in the US it is called canning, yet you do it in glass jars or bottles! Here, we call it “bottling” or simply “preserving.”

My mother used to do it with summer fruit (apricots, peaches, pears) and beetroot (yum), and always made her own jam. Mmmmm. Her raspberry jam was always so delicious. I’m afraid I don’t do any of this – there are only two of us, and it isn’t worth the effort. I even gave away the jars I was given for a wedding present (which I kind of regret now.)

12 marieke { 05.01.14 at 3:26 pm }

I use an Electric weckkettle and It works great, don’t know of they are sold in the is though…. the brand is weck aswell

13 marieke { 05.01.14 at 3:33 pm }

http://www.weckonline.com/en/ syrrups Just need enough sugar and clean bottlesand they keep for at least a year.

14 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.01.14 at 4:47 pm }

Your last paragraph made me smile and smile and smile.

You wouldn’t have been able to afford to believe it.

15 nonsequiturchica { 05.01.14 at 5:28 pm }

We have the Ball canning book and it’s awesome- highly recommended! If you have limited canning space, make strawberry preserves and can them instead of freezing them.

In terms of freezing veggies, get a vacuum sealer. It is the best way to keep veggies “fresh” while freezing them. For most you just blanche them before sealing and freezing.

16 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 05.02.14 at 12:49 pm }

The back-then you wouldn’t dare. And if she did (had have.. tense gets confusing with time travel) then right-now you wouldn’t have the same sense of disbelief.

(And then maybe you wouldn’t bother going back, and…)

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