You can grow your own food. And we can help!

Jellies for the farm fair

Aug 02, 2010

New Jersey has been very sweltering this summer, which has made gardening a big chore rather then a delight.
As usual, like years previous the farm fair opens in the latter end of July. I had pondered if this year would be a year I wouldn't enter my herbal and fruit jellies. As the days came closer, my dear friend Fran called and gave me more encouragement to enter. "Please," she said.

Fran said, "Jeannie you are the only one that enters unique jellies and jam's that make the judges stand back and think." She said, with out your eclectic mixtures, the rest are just run of the mill, blue berry, strawberry, apple etc". With Fran's encouragement, it did get my creative ideas flowing. However, I also pondered the words,"eclectic" and the meaning of that word.

On a hot July day I revamped my creative self and set a path to making herbal and fruit jellies. Out to the grocery store to buy sugar, jars, pectin and over ripened fruit. It was blueberry season in New Jersey, so my first jam was Blueberry and Lemon Thyme, it came out wonderfully. Next came a Orange and Rosemary Jelly(awesome on grilled chicken). After a day of making two cases of each type of jelly, on a 100 degree day- with no A/C. It was time to rest.

The next day my mind was racing about "what" could I make next. A friend had left a big bottle of Merlot wine, I don't drink wine, so I felt it was time to do something interesting with the left overs. I heated the wine slowly and added 4 big sprigs of fresh Rosemary and let steep for an hour. Then followed the process on the pectin container, this jelly is wonderful on rye crackers or with some rare roast beef. Two cases of the Merlot and Rosemary will make fine Christmas gifts this year.

Morning three, found me looking in my garden for more ideas. I was harvesting some hot peppers and thought, a nice hot pepper jelly would be fun. Then a Thai theme came to mind. I made a tea of lemon grass and Thai basil. I let it steep for 3 hours to get all the good flavors out of the herbs. I chopped up some hot peppers and proceeded to make a hot pepper jelly with lemon grass and Thai basil tea mixture. I knew this would ~rock the socks~ off the judges.

On a stinking hot, hot, hot, day in July, I drove my products to enter them in the farm fair. My friend Fran, was waiting at the entry table with a big smile, even in the 100 degree heat. Fran said,"I knew you would not let us down." As I filled out my entry cards, Fran just enjoyed telling everyone "this is my friend Jeannie, she is an herbalist and Master Gardener." Folks gathered as they saw my eclectic mixtures of jellies and jam's and commenting on the variety A local newspaper reporter interviewed me and asked "where do you get your idea's for your mixtures". My reply," from my garden, early in the morning as it whispers to me."

My gifts that came from my garden enabled me to win 4 blue ribbons. The heat of this summers garden season as taught me many lessons, but also rewarded me in so many ways. In the sweltering sweaty heat of this year, I still came out a winner!


Nice story Jeannie. My wife makes lots of preserves, I don't think it has occured to her to use herbs for flavor in them.
ejmac, I adore the flavors of many herbs, it can change the taste of something from being Ok-- to "Wonderful". I love bluebery jelly, but add lemon thyme and it becomes "awesome"!. There are so many wonderful mixes, like Lime with mint, apple and lemon grass, peach with lemon balm, grape with thyme,red pepper with sage,strawberry with chocolate mint, or peach with pineapple sage. These mixes can the culinary palate. Happy experminting!!
Please give us the recipes or at least a list of what & when to mix the ingredient for these wonders from your garden. You may enjoy checking out "Preserving the harvest","Backyard Kitchen Herbalists" & "Berry Growers". I am getting Blueberries & Raspberries,a few blackberries, but they do not last long enough to make jellies. I want to try some herbal vinegers & pickles this year.
-- with herbs & berries that I wonder if maybe you make them with less sugar than usual? I am always watching for traditional tastes that more than satisfy with less sugar. Thank you for describing your steeping processes. I'll bet your hot kitchen smells heavenly!
Hi Jessica, I have been making wild grape with thyme jelly, and rosemary orange jelly for over 30 years! Also apple is a great base for your mint jelly too. You can get pectin that needs no sugar- check Nichol's Catalog, out of Oregon, or even check at your local health food or whole foods market. I do not make jellies anymore- too much sweetness, even without the sugar. I am going to try and continue one tradition- making my Mom's peach marmalade. We grew up with a peach tree and it was her speciality- she made it right up to her last Summer alive. I will use it as a glaze or sauce ingredient for game or poultry. As for Rosemary orange flavor- I still use it for one of my specialities, from days of managing restaurants in the area. Rosemary Orange Chicken. I brown a boneless, skinless chicken breast; half per person, then put them in the oven at 350, to hold while I finish the sauce. I saute shallots and garlic- I love to use a lot, but for two servings, I use at least one medium sized shallo,t and one large clove of garlic- in fresh butter, then when they are soft, but not browned, I add 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier or other orange liquer to de-glaze the pan and losen all the little bits of good stuff (like that technicial term?? LOL!) from the bottom of the pan. I then add one cup of fresh squeezed orange juice, and a teaspoon ( or more if you like)of fresh, minced rosemary (measured after mincing). I reduce the liquid in the pan to about 1/2, and then add back to pan, the chicken breasts and any juices that accumultated while it was in the oven. Use a pinch of good quality sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Taste the sauce and if it is too thin, cook a little longer , until it coats the chicken breast nicely. Not too much sugar- especially if served with quinoa pilaf, and a quick summer saute of zuchinni and tomatoes in olive oil, with a little of that fresh basil, while we still have it. For those afraid of alcohol in your food for health reasons- the alcohol cooks off during the reduction process. Using real butter, especially if it is from organically raised, grass feed, Jersey cows, will give you a nice portion of healthy fat too! You can stir a tablespoon through, just before serving. You also could do this with a skin on chicken breast, for your fat needs, but they do not work as well with this recipe, so go for the butter.
Hi Susan I have printed your recipe and will have a go with it at the weekend. It sounds really yummy. Thankyou. Glenn
My belief is that those that have chosen not to have alcohol in their lives, also have chose to not indulge in the flavor. Being a mother of a child who has chosen sobrity, I have also honored the wishes of that child to not have it in their foods. If one checks A.A. and other substance abuse information, total abstinence is required to stay on a healthy, clean"life path". Other's in our world have made a religious choice,to not place alcohol in their bodies, so the thought of burned off alcohol is also not an option. With so many wonderful alternative choices of flavorful liquids to use, deglazing can be achieved easily with fruit juices, vegetable juices, stocks and more.
Is not wine alcohol? What is the difference using that? Please explain. Thanks. Susan
Booze is booze, some choose NOT to use. My belief is , if it is wine, it is alcohol. Per your wording in your post. Not more of an explaination is really needed.
Jessica, I am glad the info about steeping was helpful. It helps infuse the oils of the herbs to marry nicely with the flavors of the fruits or the wine I choose. Steeping also gives me a few minutes to get a cold drink of water or make a quick phone call. Happy Harvest time Jeannie
This comment is why I am confused - why is wine okay to use in a recipe- as above, if it was so objectionable to use another form of alcohol in the recipe I posted. Or are you saying, that, only if the person has a health problem with alochol, should they not use foods cooked with them?
Re-reading through the post, as to not find myself perplexed. I have made a statement that I choose not to use any alcohol, wine or any other to deglaze. To be helpful in those that choose not to "use".
Jessica, I do use a low ester or low methyl pectin, which uses little or no sugar to cause a jelling action. This product can be bought through the "Ball Company" and I find it in my grocery store, with the canning products. I have also worked with Agar-Agar, which works so nicely. Here is a recipe I used for the Orange & Rosemary Jelly 13 oranges, juiced-(3 cups of regular orange juice) 4 teaspoon agar agar 1/2 cup sugar 1 lemon (lemon juice) 3 springs of rosemary Place juice of the oranges in a sauce pan, reserving 5 tablespoons,in a small container. Dissolve the agar agar in the reserved juice(in small container) till it melts. Pour sugar in rest of orange juice in the sauce pan and slowly heat to melt the sugar. Stir dissolved agar in cooked sugar and orange juice mixture, heat throughly, add rosemary and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and add in lemon juice, remove rosemary sprigs. Pour hot jelly in hot, clean jars and seal them. This jelly comes out such a pretty clear and bright color. I adore adding this to a gift basket for the holidays.
So many good recipes depend so much on the method ... It's nice to know about the bright, clear color! I think I might also try this method starting with a juice & pulp mix from Nanking Cherries, which have intense flavor & make a light Vermillion Chinese Red colored juice.
OH WOW!! I bet that will be an awesome jelly,, and the color will be wonderful. Please take pics and post them!!
I know some Nanking bush-trees that still haven't been picked. Some garden friends made Nanking Cherry wine & bottled with a tall, thin neck that set off the Chinese Red. Makes me think it could be a tasty, beautiful vinegar, especially served in an optional shaker-bottle with fruity salads. I need to get a digital camera - any suggestions? I want a camera with good resolution & find myself baffled between expert advice & my dear E who gets cheap, tiny cameras that take even better photos! - because she's a world traveler & they regularly go missing or break. I did use David's photo instructions successfully & posted a couple of things - one a nice map of Kenya to help visualize the working environment of KGI's Kenya partner.
Okay, you guys got me on this one- what is a Nanking Cherry and where do they grow? I love all kinds of cherries and would love to find a variety that can grow in my some what shaded property. Since it is late in the season, is this a true cherry? It sounds like a beautiful fruit. By the color description alone, I think I would like to make it into a vinegar or even a liquer. Thanks, Susan :-) Scroll down ... I have never seen Nanking Cherry growing in a somewhat shaded location - always full sun. A nursery such as Forest Farm online would have expert advice on shade tolerance. Nanking Cherry is truly cherry-like in its small size, shape, skin texture, general flavor & relatively large pit. It is different from other cherries in that it is the same Chinese Red color throughout. i guess Bing Cherries are the same dark red throughout. Nanking Cherry can be an exceptionally beautiful arching vase-shaped 9' shrub, as it was in my hedgerow. It is nearly the first thing to bloom in the spring & early prunings for shape can be forced in a vase before warm spring arrives. It is easy to pick because the branches are limber & can be pulled over without damage. The cherries grow thick & tight to the branches - think corn on the cob. :-)
I know where there are a few bushes of them at a local park, I went by today and picked about 2 gallons of them. Spent the afternoon doing some research on them. WOW-- they are wonderful in the medicinal field(good for vit C, bladder infections, and skin issues) I want to make some jelly from them, but maybe tomorrow go back and pick more for making tinctures. Thank for sending me on such an informative hunt,, and new learning! I'll post pics soon
It is good to appreciate the full value of all the plants we grow.
Thanks for your description of the tree- now I know what they are. I will have to keep my eyes open. Thanks! By the size of it, I may have a spot for for it too. We had to take down some damaged trees this Summer and I think there is a space with sufficient sun and room for one.
It is a huge incentive to finish-up !!! this sedentary computer work - which is also foundation work for more active projects in gardening & growing. Your "having a spot" reminds me of the grumping some of us have been doing re our old town - to the effect that there are too many trees, as compared to a decade ago. Rare is the house in the historic part of town that has sun enough for a vegetable garden. And although our town has a lot of rare & wonderful speciman trees, the new trees tend to be generic Aspens & Conifers - of the kind planted in thick groves on borders & birms by the Resort & major land developers. In addition, the solar intrusion/screening happening everywhere is actionable, according to solar access ordinances from yesteryear. And that is my contribution to age-ism for the day!
I really do love my trees, and we have some beautiful old oaks on the property. Our town has some other beautiful old trees as well- and I hate to lose any of them. We are getting some signs that our oaks may be getting the blight that has been effecting many of the oaks in this area- I hope not. There is one on my next door neighbor's side of the fence, that has to be a couple of hundred years old- that one thankfully, seems to be healthy. We have a lot of Swamp maples too. They are a pain in the butt tree-with the shallow root system and also relatively short life spans. However, our yard is a good ten degrees cooler because of those trees, and we can set out side when others have to run for the air conditioning. So, while I would like to be able to grow more sun loving plants, I do appreciate the trees and their contribution, not only to my life, but to the planet's. Besides, my container garden mini- farm worked out really well this year, so I think I can live with the balance. I hope that the excitement and push to use solar energy never outweights the recognition of the value of trees. And that is my old person's contribution for the day! LOL! Susan
- I once spent the entire month of September collecting seeds from the specimen trees in town. There is one huge old pale-blue conifer with long, swooping pagoda-like branches that is so rare & beautiful I have never seen it pictured or described. It still has branches all the way down the trunk - no one in it's long history has ever cut it higher for landscaping convenience. Nice to know the present owner will never cut the branches up higher or sell that house! :-) It is safe for a few more decades ...
Nothing upsets me more than seeing old, beautiful trees coming down for development or because a new owner of a property doesn't like trees. That conifer sounds wonderful. I have been taking my dog for walks, since it not only is better exercise for me, but good socialization for her as well. The bonus has been seeing some of the magnificant old growth trees all through the town. And like your Blue Conifer, some of these varieties are no longer being planted. Or they are so old, I do not recognize them, especially the Conifers! I can identify a plant doing 50 on the highway, but I am not a tree expert - in fact I still get frustrated because I do not know what the name of tree is more than any plants. Doesn't mean I do not love them just the same.
"Nothing upsets me more than seeing old, beautiful trees coming down for development or because a new owner of a property doesn't like trees." Susan, I agree & won't dampen our spirits today by describing foolish cases. A lot of the magnificent old trees in our town came from the care & selection of plant loving individuals in the Thomas Jefferson tradition. What I objected to in my first comment is the proliferation of generic Aspen & Conifer monoculture-plantings that seem to say "privacy without planning = privilege." Who knows? The rare pale-blue conifer with the magnificent, towering Pagoda gesture may have been brought to Idaho as a seedling by the Chinese who came to work on the early railroads & silver mines. We have a part of town by the river that is still called China Gardens for the Chinese who lived there & grew vegetables they sold from horse-drawn carts. I haven't biked over to see if China Gardens still has sun ...
More info here.
I love to find insider-first-hand-info about propogating plants. This site tells us that seed-grown Nanking Cherries are more dought-resistant & why! I wouldn't worry about Nanking Cherries not coming true from seed - in all I've tasted I never met a bush that tasted different. With an origin in "the far east of Russia" the old Nanking Cherry bush/small trees around here could also have arrived as seeds with the Chinese workers. "How do I propagate the Nanking Cherry? If you don't mind the plants not breeding true, seeds are easiest (and will grow a long, drought-resistant taproot, absent in plants grown from cuttings.) Remove the seeds from the pulp, air dry slightly, then stratify for three months. Seedlings bear by the third year. Alternatively, take softwood cuttings when the fruit is ripening, treat the base with rooting hormone, then keep the cuttings under a mist. Or take 8 to 12 inch hardwood cuttings of one year old wood, planting in well-drained soil in the fall or spring."
OH WOW!! I bet that will be an awesome jelly,, and the color will be wonderful. Please take pics and post them!!
I had forgotten all about agar- agar. Thanks for reminding me- it is really good for making a vegetarian "jello" too. Susan
Herbal Vinegars are wonderful to make, especially at harvest time. I love making Italian blends,(basil, oregano, thyme and garlic) or a mexican blend(cilantro, hot peppers,and garlic) or a nice mix of (sliced oranges,garlic, hot peppers, marjoram and basil). To make vinegars is a very simple process. I adore making them for holiday gift giving.

Add comment

Log in or register to post comments



Join our e-list to stay in touch




Praise for KGI:

"A group that can get
things done"

-Mother Nature Network

"One of the web's best sources of gardening info"
-Washington Post 

"The meeting place of the world's gardeners"
-WorldWatch Institute

more here



About us:

KGI is a nonprofit community of over 30,000 people who are growing some of our own food and helping others to do the same.  

Join our mailing list:


Connect with us:

Contact us:

Kitchen Gardeners International
3 Powderhorn Drive,
Scarborough, ME, 04074, USA
(207) 956-0606