Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rhubarb Mint Jam!

One of the first plants that pioneers planted on homesteads was Rhubarb, and it often outlived the homestead occupants.  The house may be gone but you can still find the Rhubarb.  I planted some last year for the first time because it is one of those plants that you do not need to keep replanting.  As far as I am concerned, the easier to garden, the better!  Not to mention I make a killer strawberry rhubarb pie!

I have several kinds of mint but the one I like the most is one I found in Northern Michigan.  We were at the border of Canada taking a boat tour.  Outside of the facility was some scraggly wild plants.  I noticed one that looked like mint so I reached down and grabbed a bit.  Sure enough it was mint.  I dug up a few of the plants and we drove back to Tennessee with wild mint in a Dixie cup.  It now grows profusely in my garden.

While the wild fruit is still weeks away from being ripe, I had a desire to can something!  Rhubarb and mint are the two plants that are ready to be picked in my garden so I decided to make Rhubarb Mint Jam.  It tastes sweet and citrusy and minty all rolled into one, a very nice combination!

Rhubarb Mint Jam


3/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 lbs of rhubarb, chopped
1 package powdered pectin
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 drop green food coloring (optional)


Start water bath canner to boil.  By the time the jam is complete, the canner should be ready.

In a saucepan, add water, mint and 1 cup of sugar.  Bring to a simmer for ten minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare rhubarb and put into a larger pot.  Prepare jars and lids, and measure out 5 1/2 cups sugar to be added later.  When mint mixture is finished steeping, place a fine mesh strainer over the pot with rhubarb and strain the mint mixture onto the rhubarb.  Discard the mint leaves.

Cook the rhubarb and mint syrup until rhubarb is soft.  Stir often.  Add the pectin and continue boiling and stirring for two minutes.   Add the remaining sugar and food coloring (optional, but it is included in the photo above) and boil for one minute more.

Pour into sterilized jars and seal.  Water bath for 10 minutes.  Makes about 9 half pints.

Altered from original recipe at Homespun Seasonal Living.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

May Foraging Finds!

May is a great month for foraging in Middle Tennessee!  Everything has come to life.  There are lots of flowers and the beginning of many berries and fruits.  Mulberries are nearly ready, crab apples are now small on the trees, and wild grapes have formed their shape.  It's a perfect time to pick out where your wild blackberries are growing because there are currently white blooms on the bushes.
Ground Ivy is growing profusely! Strong herb in the mint family.
Edible Lawn Daisy!
White Clover Flower, great for salads or dried for tea or making flour.
Pineapple Weed, smells like pineapple and makes a wonderful tea or cheesecake!

Curly Dock, leaves are a great potherb, seeds will eventually turn red and can be used for flour.
Red Clover, tastier than white clover but more elusive!
Tulip Poplar tree, you can drink the sweet nectar in the tulip "cups".
Honeysuckle is in full bloom.  You can make Honeysuckle Jelly and Syrup with the flower.
Milkweed.  It has multiple edible parts but I prefer the unopened flower buds which should show up anytime.  They taste like asparagus and you can dehydrate them! Make sure the back of the leaves are fuzzy and the stem is hollow to be sure you have the right plant.
Thistle.  Use gloves.  The best part is the center of the leaves after the prickly parts are cut away.  Very tasty but a real pain to get!
Plantain, popping up everywhere!
My favorite find this month!  Lamb's Quarters, Chenopodium album (pronounced with a hard k sound as in key-no-po-dee-um), a wonderful wild edible often described as better than spinach!  I had given up hope finding it in Middle Tennessee and here it is in the middle of a soccer field. Go figure.
Yellow Water Iris, aka Flag Iris, Iris pseudacorus, while not edible does have an important function.  It cleans the water (though this plant is considered a noxious foreign interloper).  See the watercress in the picture?  Upper left. Watercress is starting to bloom with little white flowers.  You can still pick it, but it has lost that traditional "watercress" look.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dehydrating Ground Ivy To Be Used As Herb

Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, is an aromatic creeping perennial in the mint family Lamiaceae. It is also known as gill-over-the-ground, creeping charlie, field balm, catsfoot, alehoof, tunhoof, and run-away-robin.  Chances are you have it in your back yard.  It has a strong flavor described as a cross between sage and rosemary.  It can easily be dried and used in cooking.  It is particularly good with pork dishes.  My husband, who is not a fan or sage and rosemary, says that he prefers this herb to both of those.  However, some people will have a strong aversion to it.  It's a love/hate kind of plant.

Start by locating the plant in an area that is free of pesticides and not used by pets.  It is one of the very first plants to arrive in spring.  My ground ivy showed up in my herb bed and because I liked it, it never left! Clip as much as you like or pull out by the roots.  It comes back.

Wash and then tie the cut ends together with twine.  

Hang in an out of the way area to dry for about two weeks.  Attics and garages are great.
Dried Ground Ivy
Once crispy, remove the string and use your fingers to slide the leaves off of the stem into a bowl.  
Stems with leaves removed.  Toss or compost.
Grind the leaves.  I use a small coffee grinder.

Now it is ready to be used!  It will keep as long as any other herb.  Because it is so easy to acquire, you could replace it every year.  I actually prefer the dried version over fresh.  There is a subtle muted change in the flavor.
Ground ground ivy!  It looks a lot like oregano.

Here's what you can do with it!  Baked turkey seasoned with olive oil, ground ivy and garlic salt!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

White Clover Flower Flour

White Clover Flower Flour
White clover, Trifloium repens, is prolific in the mid-south right now.  There are fields of it.  With such abundance, one might wonder what can be done with it?  These little beauties can be made into flour!  It is in the pea family and edible from root to blossom.  It is also highly nutritious and high in protein and fiber!  The flowers can also be used to make tea or as an addition to a salad.  However, some people are allergic to clover so try just a little to begin.

Making it into flour is very easy.  Be sure to locate your flowers in an area that is not frequented by pets nor sprayed for weeds.  When picking the flower, just pick the flower head, leaving the stem behind.  It will make it easier later.  Rinse and dehydrate the flowers.  This can be done in a dehydrator, a low oven, or even in your car on a hot day.

Dried White Clover Flowers
You then take your dried flowers and grind.  I used a small coffee bean grinder, but I have seen it done in a blender as well.


You might wonder what the flour is like?  It has a pleasant green smell to it, like mild peas. Anything you cook with it will turn green.  It would lend itself to a savory dish like crackers more so than a sweet dish, though even that is pleasant.  Due to the desire of more people to go gluten free, you can now purchase green pea flour and even find recipes online.  This flour can easily be substituted in any of those recipes.

I made St. Patrick's Clover and White Chocolate Cookies!

Cookies are actually green.
St. Patrick's Clover and White Chocolate Cookies


1 cup butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white clover flour
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 12 oz bag white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream together the butter and both sugars. Once smooth, add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl mix the remaining dry ingredients together except chocolate chips.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients together until well blended. Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop medium size balls of dough onto a cookie sheet (about 24). Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

 My kids say these are very good dipped in milk, but are a little too nutritious!

For those interested, about a one gallon baggie full will produce just over a cup of flour after the flowers are dried and ground.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Slow Cooker Ham and Beans with Wild Garlic Chives

I love after major holidays when whole sliced hams go on sale.  I will buy as many as can fit in my freezer.  I know that each ham is worth at least four dinners for my family of five: sliced ham, ham stroganoff, ham and spinach quiche and finally, ham and beans with the meaty ham bone.  The ham and beans dish is one of my favorites and disappears in our house quickly. You can substitute a package of diced ham or ham hocks if necessary.

Slow Cooker Ham and Beans with Wild Garlic Chives


1 lb of white beans, presoaked over night 
1 meaty ham bone, or package of diced ham or ham hocks
2 sprigs of Rosemary, chopped
Handful of wild garlic chives, chopped
Broth, about three pints
Salt and pepper


Add ham bone to slow cooker. Add drained beans around bone. Add Rosemary and chives. Pour broth over ingredients until completely covered. Mix.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with corn bread and chow chow!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Turkey, Anyone?

You can totally hunt wild turkey, and it would be so fitting for this blog.  But I didn't.  Instead I bought six frozen young turkeys (12 lbs each) this week at GFS for .49 per lb.  I definitely did not have room in my freezer for turkeys so I decided to can them.  Yes, I spent my week baking and boiling six turkeys.  Phew! We will be eating turkey for the next year.  However, considering I only spent around $36, I think that is a great deal!  It will make throwing together dinner so easy.

To can turkey, all you do is cook it, cut it up, put the chunks in clean jars, pour either water or broth over them and pressure can them at 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts at 10 lbs.  I chose to use broth which I made by boiling the bones plus balsamic vinegar, a couple of pieces of ham hock (to give it a smoky flavor), and some wild seasoning (garlic mustard, dandelion greens, garlic chives).  If anyone is interested, you can fully cook a turkey in two hours by boiling it, so long as you have a pot big enough!  I cooked two of them this way and really could not tell a difference in the meat after skinning and cutting.  You can use the broth from this cooking method to can as well.

Six young turkeys produced 34 pints of turkey and 28 pints of broth.  I have an additional three sets of turkey bones in the freezer for future broth making, which I would have done, but ran out of steam!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Science Experiments in Progress...

I am trying my hand a wine making!  These should be ready by Christmas, maybe...  The two on the left in the back are made from peach syrup from our peach trees.  Back right is dandelion wine and the two in the front are made from Black Locust Tree blossoms.  If they turn out, I will share the recipe.  If not, compost for them!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dandelion Syrup!

Here is a recipe for Dandelion Syrup that you can use to make Dandelion Honey Mead or just as a wonderful addition to pancakes!  It tastes like honey.

Dandelion Syrup


3 cups Dandelion petals, green base portion removed
3 cups water
6 cups sugar
1/4 c lemon juice


Gather the flowers and remove the green portion. You will need 6 cups of flowers to get 3 cups of petals. The easiest way to remove the green portion is to clip it off with scissors. A little green remaining is okay. Too much green will make it bitter.

Bring water to boil and remove from heat. Add flowers. Mix well. Refrigerate overnight.

Strain liquid and add to pot. Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce to simmer for desired thickness.

Pour into hot sterilized jars filling to 1/4" headspace. Wipe rims and add lids and rings. Process 10 minutes in hot water bath.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Easy Dandelion Honey Mead!

My Danish grandfather used to make wine. He had mountains of equipment and a perfect temperature wine cave. It was wonderful to visit on hot days.  I wish I had paid more attention to the wine making process when he would explain it in his Danish accent.  His wine was always served at family dinners, and it was excellent. Wine making is a fantastic hobby and tradition, and one I hope to continue and even teach my kids. It is also a survival skill. During the Middle Ages, people's main beverage was mead or wine as the process makes water drinkable and palatable.

Dandelions are in full force right now so it's a good time to start a batch!  You first need to make dandelion syrup. There are numerous recipes available. This batch was started at the beginning of the year with syrup that my daughter and I canned last summer.

This is an easy recipe and a great one for beginners as it does not require any super special equipment.

Dandelion Honey Mead


1 gallon spring water
Bottles came from Hobby Lobby
2 lbs honey
8 oz dandelion syrup
1 teaspoon loose tea
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup apple peels (or sliced oranges for different flavor)
2 whole cloves
1 pack yeast (like what you use for baking)

Stick pin
Rubber band


Pour out half the water into a pot. Add ingredients. Shake. Add additional water back in but leave a little space at the top.

Stick balloon with pin several times. Put on top of jug and place rubber band around rim to secure. Within a day the balloon will begin to inflate. If it gets too large release the air and add a few more holes.  Draw a happy face on your balloon for fun!  Put on your counter for six to eight weeks and enjoy watching the bubbles!  Occasionally shake to mix, especially in the beginning.  When the bubbles stop, strain into your containers (or rack) and age six months.  You can rack again if you prefer for more clarity. I did not and you can see what mine looks like. There is a just bit of sediment at the bottom so I may before serving.

This is strong and would definitely intoxicate you.  It tastes like a field of flowers. You would think with so much sweetener that it would be sweet, but it is only mildly so.

Optional:  You can add 20 raisins for a change in flavor before fermenting.