Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


lemon balm jellySuch a vulgar sounding word for something so sweet and innocent, isn't it? The canning season is under way and the first to make its debut this year would be lemon balm and mint jellies. Prepared separately, of course. Actually, you could combine the two as well but since I made two batches, I kept them separate, not sure how the hubster would like jelly made from weeds and sometimes he's a downright freak about all things minty though I seem to have tweaked that with this little batch of sweet, slippery delight. There's not much bread around these days because when you cook with a wood stove and the dog days of summer are long and lingering with 80+% humidity, baking bread is really not a sound option. Still, some flat bread in a skillet (made on the grill outside) is an option, or some good whole grain store-bought bread when we have it. Last and most always over-looked and under-appreciated, the cracker makes a suitable substitute because, you know, when you've gone to the trouble to make some jelly, you're not willing to wait until the next trip into the grocery to taste it!

lunchThis year's batch came out delightful. I tripled the strength of the tea and the lemony flavor really packs a punch this time. Same with the mint - as I'm finding that if you follow the recipes that call for, say, 2-3 cups of chopped herbs, the full flavor of them gets so diluted that your jelly really ends up tasting like sweetened grass. Oh, and because I'm including the recipe below I just wanted to note that I don't make 'low sugar' jellies. Jams hold much more potential for 'tinkering' with the sugar content but jellies are a little more stubborn and runny jelly is not worth all of the work that goes into filling the jars. It's not like we eat it by the gallon and not everyday so I've chosen to ignore my inclination to lower the sugar and just make a well-set, delicious, organically home-grown jelly that will make people smile and try to get on my good side so they can find my hidden stash(wink). We settled for the only thing we had, toast and crackers to go with the delicious lunch we shared today. Peach slices and lemon balm jelly on crackers (toast for some who don't like crackers) with a mozzarella/pasta salad dressed with fresh basil/thyme/lemon juice/olive oil/crushed garlic salad. We were stuffed because, as we often do with our meals that are held around enjoying our own grown and preserved food stuffs, we ate like pigs! OInk, oink.

Here's the recipe I've created by merging some I've found in books and on-line, and then tweaking it to make a jelly we all love. You can use any herbs, a combo of herbs, or some hot peppers to make a minty jalapeno jelly (use vinegar in place of lemon juice then)
5 cups chopped and packed fresh herbs (I used lemon balm for batch 1 and mint for batch 2)
1 1/2 packages pectin powder (sure-jell or the ball brand both work fine for me)
5 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Boil 6 cups of water and pour over the herbs, covering, and steep until water is cool. Strain liquid and squeeze the herbs to release all the flavor. Add lemon juice and pectin to herb tea and bring to a rolling boil, stirring regularly. Add sugar and return to boil, stirring, boil for a minute or two. Remove from heat, pour into jars and seal - water bath for 10 mns. at a boil.

end of the tour de fleeceAs the Tour De Fleece is drawing to its end, I seem to have gained some spinning momentum yet again. The Esmaralda batts from last week practically FORCED themselves on me so I had to stay up late last night spinning them up. The peacock (last month's installment for the Happy Hooves Batt Club) was a dream to spin and I harvested near 400 yards of dk wgt yarn from the 5.6 ozs. of batts that I spun - that dazzling pile of beauty will be pooled with some of the other black batts I've been spinning (Black Magic Woman, Blue Jay, etc) and, someday, be made into this. The singles of 'Galadriel' and 'Gold Dust Woman' are so squishy and soft and I am grateful to have re-captured my ability to spin a solid, soft, and great single. I'd been warned that when you learn to spin sock and lace wgt. yarns, it is hard to go back to a smooth, lofty, healthy single. 'Pfft!,' I said to that. Only, it was true. It took much practice and a replenishing of my favorite singles fiber - Cotswold - in the stash to get me back on the singles wagon again.

chaiI started a new pair of socks (I know, I hear the 'big deal' and loud sighs) but this one really is news- as I have wondered from my beloved dpn's to try the circular knitting method in Cat Bordhi's sock book. I fell in love with the Tibetan Long Socks. Funny thing is, I'd also fallen in love with the Chai yarn. I was all set to selfishly knit it for myself when SOMEONE with really big ole feet and a birthday the day after x-mas, mentioned ever so casually that he loves that colorway the best of all my hand-dyed sock yarns. Urgh (bangs head on cabinets) it is so hard to be good! But, good I will be. I look at it this way....the socks will be a gift....on loan. If I don't feel they are being properly loved, I will sneak them into my sock drawer and nary a word will be said about it, right? Bwah ha ha ha!