The art of smoothie making

I am a dedicated smoothie drinker.

Almost everyday I guzzle down a 16 oz concoction of awesomeness juice. And because you can make a smoothie out of pretty much anything, the flavor profile is extensive. I have a pretty strict list of base ingredients tho, for different reasons.

I build the base of my smoothie pretty much the same way every time. I aim for 32 oz total, and split it in between two servings. I start with my supplements, juices, yogurt and leafy greens. For this smoothie, I used the following:

  • Stoneyfield plain whole milk yogurt – I don’t believe in low fat hype. In researching for myself, I have found that the fats in whole milk products, are good for you in moderation. I don’t eat dairy at every meal, but I don’t actively keep it out of my diet. I believe in the power of real, whole fat yogurt, cheese and butter. Even better when raw.
  • Pineapple juice- has a nice sweetening quality. It has also been known to help aid in digestion, has anti inflammatory properties and lots of vitamin c
  • Bolthouse Farms 100% carrot juice- carrot juice is shown to help in breast milk production. I like this type because there is absolutely no additives. It’s really just carrots.
  • Brewers yeast- this is for the help in breast milk production as well. It gives the smoothie almost a malt like texture. It’s also a good source of vitamin b, protien and chromium.
  • Chia seeds- I get this bag at SAMs club for under ten bucks. They’re a true super food. Omega 3s, Antioxidants, proteins, Vitamins… And they help you feel fuller longer.
  • Baby spinach- I just really like spinach. You could use really any greenery. Kale or a mix of spring greens would be good also.

This is the first round

First things first- juice. I immediately put in a total of 8 oz of juice. Next I add one tablespoon each of Brewers yeast and chia seeds.

By putting the juice in first and then the supplements, it will help get it well mixed

Next, I add a cup of spinach and a half cup of yogurt.
The weight of the yogurt holds the powder, seeds and spinach down so they get really well incorporated.

This way the spinach will be weighed down by the yogurt and will get completely chopped up

So, at this point I give the blender a quick pulse, to start chopping the spinach. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than spinach bits.
Now it’s time to really play with the flavor. At this point, I use only frozen fruits and berries. This way I can skip the ice, still have a nice thick smoothie and it’s gonna be cold.

I also save a lot of money by only buying stuff like Avocados, ginger, mangos, etc on sale. I only buy bananas when they’re “overripe” and are on deep discount. We also pick our own berries every season- this way they are cheap, plentiful and we get to choose our own. This is extremely valuable to us as most berries you buy in market aren’t actually ripe. A perfectly ripe strawberry is red all the way thru and much sweeter, compared to a market strawberry.

We process and freeze all of these things. It really cuts down the cost of eating healthy.

In this smoothie I decided to go berry berry banana – taste has a big to do about this but so does nutrition.

  • Avocado – healthy fats, vitamins a, b, c and k
  • Strawberries – manganese, dietary fiber, more vitamins
  • Raspberries – Vitamin k and magnesium
  • Banana – more manganese, vitamins, fiber and obviously potassium
  • Ginger – vitamins and minerals. Also adds a nice spice to it.

Here is my round of frozen add ins.

I also put the smaller stuff on bottom and my banana on top. Just breaks up more easily in my experience.

Here it is preblend…. not very smooth.

When using a blender, always go for the vortex. When you have a vortex, you know your blender is doing its job.

Not quite the amount I was aiming for

Since I didn’t get the 32 oz I was aiming for, I grabbed my apple juice. I add this in to get the desired amount and help thin it out a bit more.

Taa Daa! I’ll get what I want now

Add in the juice, and blend until completely smooth.

The smoothie vortex- this means the blender is doing it’s job

And here it is, the finished product. Two thick, cold smoothies.

I drink one and store the other in the fridge over night to have as brunch the next day.

I got these cups from Kmart, and the straw and lid from Walmart. Both are Ball products. We use them a lot- like when we are having a fire out back. The lids keeps any ashes or bugs out of the beverage in question and look pretty snazzy. Best part of the lid and straw is that they fit any regular mouth jar.

So there you have it- my fool proof how to smoothify your fruits and stuff.

I’m off to the next thing. Not sure what it is, but I’ll figure that out soon enough.

Until next time, have a wicked good afternoon.

“Lactation cookies” is not a very cool name.

I love breastfeeding my little girl. I feel like a nature goddess earth mama, capable of performing miracles. However, it’s not as easy as that. I had to really work hard to get my supply going. I tried EVERYTHING that I heard that seemed at least a little reasonable. Including about 4 different cookie recipes. They all worked, but not for my taste buds.

The first had SO much butter that the cookies were oily. The second ended up kinda bland. The problems kept going from there. So I did what any competent adult would do. I started playing.

What resulted is a cookie that is kinda cake, kinda oatmeal bar, kinda trail mixish. But in the end, if it looks like a cookie, call it a cookie. A lactation cookie.

Sounds delish, right?

They totally are.

Even my husband eats them. And he knows what they are for. And he could care less.

That’s a winning recipe in my book.

So, for this recipe you will need the following ingredients:

  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups flour- I use unbleached all purpose white.
  •  4 tbsp brewer’s yeast
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 & 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup regular peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup raisins

I like to get all my mixins together before starting.

Preheat your oven to 350. Don’t forget to do this, especially if your oven is a 30 year old electric oven that thinks it’s running 50 degrees hotter then it actually is.

I recommend this type of brewers yeast. It has a very mild flavor. I find this brand at an all natural grocer.

In a small bowl, combine brewers yeast, ground flax seed and water. It will become a thick paste. Make sure to mix this thoroughly.

Pretty appetizing, right?

In another medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Put this aside for now.

I use King Arthur brand flour, store brand baking soda and Morton salt.

In a large bowl, combine the softened butter, applesauce and brown sugar. Use a blender on low speed to mix these together.

I regularly substitute applesauce for oil or butter in recipes.

We make our own applesauce every year. In fact, we noticed that apples are starting to ripen already. We have quite a few things we do with apples every year. But that’s some other time.

I think that a regular hand blender is best for this type of job.

Next is to add the eggs, and blend those in completely.

Those eggs are literally 24 hours old. Perk of owning backyard chickens

After those are mixed in, grab your yeast and flax seed mix. Throw that in and use your blender to mix well.

oh so yummy.

Now, put in the tsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 cup peanut butter. Use your blender, one last time and make sure this is all mixed in very well.

It gets better looking, I swear

Ok, so it’s time to to ditch the blender in favor of your handy rubber spatula. Mr. Gillis and I own 5 of these in different sizes and shapes, for good reason. They are awesome. I am personally obsessed with the fact that it’s one solid piece.

You want to have nightmares? Go grab your two piece spatula, and take it apart. Proceed to throw it away and go get yourself some silicone or rubber ones like ours.

Wait for it…

Fold it in, slowly at first so you don’t end up with a face full of flour. It will take a couple minutes, but soon it looks like this.

Almost normal looking cookie dough!

Put in the oatmeal, raisins and chocolate chips. Fold these all in until they are really well incorporated. And there is a lot of wiggle room with the chocolate chips and raisins. I think craisins and walnuts would be worth a try. Or butterscotch chips and pecans. Ohhhh, we have cinnamon chips that I think would be worth a try….

Just make sure you use the three cups of uncooked old fashioned oats. The dough needs the stability.

This is when it looks more granola bar then cookie to me

Once everything is all mixed in, get ready. This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so I bake a dozen and portion and freeze the rest. The cookies are best fresh so don’t make them all at once. Seriously. This yielded 77 cookies total.

Here it is, finally ready to be baked

Grab a spoon and dish out your cookies on a VERY LIGHTLY greased cookie sheet.

Bake in your totally preheated to 350 degree oven, for 12 to 15 minutes. While your cookies are baking, get out another cookie sheet, line it with freezer paper, and portion out cookies. Since you’re freezing them, you can put them a lot closer to eachother.

I ended up with three of these baking sheets full .

Check the cookies in your oven often after the ten minute mark. You want them to be brown at the edges before you pull them out.

Just out of the oven.

Let them cool on the pan for five minutes and then transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Enjoy one, or three, while still warm with a cup of coffee or tea.

Seriously, eat a couple of these right off the wite rack. they are best fresh and warm

Meanwhile, don’t forget your freezer cookies. I store mine in a Tupperware container. I’ve had them keep for up to three weeks, but that’s because I eat them by then, not because they go bad.

To cook the frozen cookies, heat your oven to 350. Pop the still frozen cookies on your baking sheet. Cook for 15 – 17 minutes or until edges are browned.
Do not let these cookie thaw before cooking.

So there you have it. I keep these around as a healthier-ish snack instead of grabbing for other stuff (I’m looking at you Nutella fudge). I still have a whopping 30 lbs to lose to get to my pre-pregnancy weight… But breast feeding is hungry business. So these help and I don’t feel so bad indulging a little.

Another way I pseudo indulge is my brunch smoothie. But I make it in a way that it’s super healthy. And that is the topic of my next blog- the art of making a perfect smoothie. It’s a little more complicated then throw stuff in a blender and smash some buttons. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Until next time- have a wicked good day.

Some like it hot, some like it cold

Our little girl is almost three months old now, and we have been a breastfeeding success story so far. But it didn’t start out so well. The first 10 days were terrifying to me. She was losing weight instead of gaining. And I knew, deep in my gut, my milk wasn’t coming in. So I took matters into my own hands. 

I researched all sorts of old timey wives tales about what foods and supplements would help me. The same basic things kept popping up.

  • Fenugreek
  • Steel cut or old fashioned oats
  • Flax seed
  • Brewers yeast
  • Mothers milk tea
  • Lots of water

Fenugreek didn’t work for me or izzybug, it made us both feel gross. Plus I found one website that said not to take it if you were on any kind of thyroid medication. So I discontinued use immediately. 

I invested in a couple boxes of mothers milk tea, and settled on an organic one. I just sweeten it with a little bit of honey. I do only drink one cup a day, but I make it a 16 oz cup made with two tea bags. 

I also drink a brunch time smoothie everyday. The art of the perfect smoothie will have to wait, but it is important for today’s post to point out that I use whole milk yogurt, ground flax seed and Brewers yeast in my smoothies. 

I make a point to drink AT LEAST 64 oz of water every 24 hour period. This is extremely important, and the more you drink the better.

But for today I am giving up one of my two lactation recipes. I think eating this porridge for breakfast most days, really boosts my production and also gives me a nice full feeling. 

Honey Raisin Porridge

For this recipe you’ll need 

  • 1/2 cup Old fashioned or steel cut oats
  • 1/2 cup rinsed Quinoa
  • 1/2 cup Ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup Raisins
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • Honey 

 

Not pictured is the honey- it doesnt come in til the end

  
In a medium sauce pan, on medium to high heat, mix together the old fashioned oats, rinsed quinoa, milk, water, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg with a wisk until they are thoroughly incoporated. Get the mix to a high simmer, wisking pretty frequently. 

Once at a high simmer, turn the heat to low and cover. Let this go for 15 minutes, stirring every couple minutes. 

You want to make sure the spices don’t lump together, they are almost impossible to break up once it thickens

 
 If you like a softer porridge, let it go another minute or two. I like mine a little stiffer so I only go 14 minutes.

Once the porridge is cooked, wisk in your ground flax seed and raisins. Mix together well.

I could almost eat another bowl just looking at it

  
Serve warm with a little additional milk to thin it up and some honey. This recipe makes 4 portions equaling out to about 275 calories per portion. 

  

Typical breakfast for a weekday

 
I put leftovers in some sturdy Tupperware and it lasts nicely. It reheats easily in the microwave. 

So this is my nice, sensible breakfast recipe. For my next post I’ll be doing something a little more fun. Cookies!

So until then, have a wicked good afternoon.

A little blog about failure.

Sometimes, no matter how badly you want something, or how hard you work at it, you fail. 

Recently, Mr. Gillis and I, spent two weeks making jams, dilly beans and fudges to sell at a festival in Machias, Maine called the blueberry festival. This is a festival that’s been going on for 40 years, and has always been a local economic boom for the town and surrounding areas. We have taken part for 5 out of the last 6 years. 

This year, we failed to meet our sales goals. By a lot. 

It is always disappointing to work hard… And I mean pulling late nights and early mornings, to accomplish something that you’re proud of, and have it just…. Well flail. 

Our day started out on a high note. We had the truck packed the night before. We were on the road only ten minutes later then planned, which anyone with a 12 week old baby knows is an accomplishment of its own. We arrived on time, got set up and sat. 

And people walked by. 

But no one walked by us. 

We watched as hundreds of potential customers just kept going by without a single glance our way. For every thirty people that wandered by, we had one drop by our tent. Anyone that works festivals knows a sad reality. If only one in every thirty are looking, even less are buying. 

Now, we did makes some sales. We had some new and interesting products that people knew they wouldn’t find in other tents. But it’s hard to feel good about a dozen sales when you were prepared for a hundred. 

But that’s our goal this week. To feel good about what we accomplished the last two weeks getting ready for the festival. To be happy that we ran into some old friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. To be proud of how well our little girl did hanging out with us all day. To be happy that we have plenty of jam and jellies made to gift our families for Christmas. 

It’s all about the recovery, after everything is said and done. 

Failure isn’t about not meeting your goals or expectations. Failure is about learning how to be better prepared for the next time. 

So until next time, have a wicked good day. 

The beginning of the end

Summer is not my favorite season.

It’s barely tolerable, in my honest opinion. This shouldn’t surprise anyone really… I like living in Maine because, most of the time, it’s not hot.

But part of what makes summer okay is the crazy amounts of berries that grow around our area. So far this year we’ve harvested strawberries from a farm in Monticello, raspberries from an abandoned property here in our town,  and blueberries from DownEast. Now, the last of the berries are finally coming in.

Blackberries.

My husband picked these this morning

Sweet, tart, tangy, juicy blackberries. There’s an old place in town that burnt a few years back, and out behind the old chicken condominium is a fairly large patch of blackberries. There is also another good size patch behind my husband’s office.  Nothing tastes better then free food. But more on that in another post.

So, you’d think that we’d let them all come in before we start picking, but no sir. Because we have a jam recipe that only needs one cup of blackberries.

Our triple berry jam.

It’s pretty simple. It’s half blueberry, quarter strawberry and quarter blackberry. And its delicious.


So get your jamming and canning equipment out and follow along.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups crushed blueberries
  • 1 cup crushed strawberries
  • 1 cup crushed blackberries
  • 1 packet of Certo opened and standing upright in a cup
  • 6 cups of sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

This is one of those times I bring out my handy immersion blender. I like to really break down the berries so the taste is consistent.

Once you have your berries blended, throw them, your lemon juice and sugar into your jamming pot. On a high heat, while stirring constantly, get it boiling. Add in your single pack of Certo. Get it back to boiling and set a timer for 1 minute. Keep stirring until the timer goes off.

Process the jam into your jars. Get them into your awaiting canner, and let them go for 10 minutes.

A tasty way to get some extra omegas in your diet would be to add a 1/4 cup chia seeds in with the berries. It also makes for a slightly thicker jam because of the seeds gelling properties.

Well, there she is, in all its delicious glory. I use the same ratios of berries to make a pie. But that’s another time.

I already know what’s coming next. It’s going to be a long one because tomorrow is Machias’ annual Blueberry Festival!

Pretty exciting…. so until then, have a wicked good afternoon.

Putting the Dill in DillyBean!

The beans are in! This is a REALLY happy time of year for us, because it means DILLY BEANS! And we like them spicy. And dilly. It took me about a hour to pick our beautiful bag of beans. We planted two huge rows this year, mostly a bush bean called the provider. They certainly live up to their name as long as you keep picking them. 

 

Green Bean Jungle

  

Baby Beans!

 

We also planted a burgundy bean for the first time this year. These are officially my favorite things to photograph right now. Even though there aren’t any burgundy beans in with the dilly beans, I couldn’t resist putting these up. They are about a week behind the providers. 

 

Burgundy String Bean

  

I’ve always thought bean blossoms were so pretty

  

The beans will turn purple as they mature. they are supposed to keep their color even after cooked.

 

Ok, so enough of the garden. It’s time to make some Dilly Beans!

Now, making dilly beans, or any pickle really, is about ratios. We start our recipe based on 2 pounds of prepped beans. When we made them last night, we actually had 3 pounds, so we adjusted for that. 

You will need 

  • quart jars, bands and lids- we prefer wide mouth jars for pickling
  • your water bath canner
  • A big pot for the pickling mixture
  • Jar grabber

For the pickling liquid, based on the two pounds of beans, you’ll have to go go get yourself the following:

  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons canning/pickling salt

So this is your pickling mixture. Get your big pot out, and mix these all together. Since we had three pounds of prepped beans we used 6 cups each water and vinegar, and 4.5 tablespoons canning salt.  

For packing the jars, you’ll need 

  • Lots of fresh dill, about 6 good size sprigs per jar
  • Garlic cloves, cut in halves, 2 per jar
  • Dried hot peppers of your choice, 2 per jar
  • 1 tsp of crushed red peppers per jar
  • Your beans, ends trimmed off

 

My bean cutting setup consists of my beans, a bowl for trimmed dilly beans, a bowl for beans to small or irregular for pickling, and my compost bucket.

  

The larger beans are perfect for pickling, the smaller ones are great for blanching and freezing for winter meals

  

Beans, ends trimmed and then cut to size. The beans cut into thirds on the other side of the board are for blanching and freezing as regular beans

  

We trim the stems off our dill, so it takes up less room in the jar.

  

Everything gathered, prepped and ready to go. We use two types of chili peppers, that’s why they are seperate from eachother. We put one of each in each jar.

 

Now that you have gathered everything and gotten it all prepped, it’s time to make sure your jars, bands and lids are cleaned and ready to go. Also, it is time to get your vinegar mixture boiling. It really won’t take long, so make sure you have everything else pretty well set up and ready. 

Once your pickling mixture is close to a rolling boil, it’s time to start packing your jars. First goes in a pepper, one tsp of crushed red peppers, 4 sprigs of dill, and two pieces of your cut up garlic.  

There is something wonderful about a ball jar getting ready to be filled with the fruits of your labor

Now, pack that jar full of your cut green beans. The more beans you can fit, the less liquid you need. You want them packed in there pretty tightly so they don’t float around. Once your beans are in, throw in another chili pepper and another 2 sprigs of dill. After your jar is full of all the goodies, it’s time to fill it with your boiling pickling mixture. Make sure to tap the side of the jar to encourage any air pockets to float up to the top and burst. 

Beans packed in, ready to be transformed

Clean the rim of the jar and wipe the rim and the lid dry. Put on the lid, secure with a band and move onto the next jar. Once all your beans are gone, put your jars in your waiting canner and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner and place somewhere undisturbed for 12 hours. Check to see if the lids sealed and if any of them didn’t seal, put the jar in your fridge immediately. 

Three pounds of beans equaled out to 8 wide mouth quarts of dilly beans and a nice sized bag of beans for the freezer as well. 

So that’s it- our highly coveted dilly bean recipe. We’ve been making these for years, and boy do they go well with a nice cold beer. We let them sit for at least a month before cracking open the jar. You can wait longer, but I wouldn’t open them any sooner.

Now that that’s covered, I will let you know, the next blog is special to my heart. Otherwise, I am leaving it a surprise. But I will hint that you’ll need blueberries again…

Until that time, have a wicked good day. 

    Oh, the possibilities. 

    When you have an over abundance of a harvest, do you make the same thing in excess, because you know it works, it tastes good and you’ll probably use it all, and even if you don’t, you can give some away…. Or do you branch out… Try something new, odd.. Maybe even a little weird?

    In my personal opinion- When in doubt, always choose new, odd and maybe even a little weird. It’s a regretless desicion when you have 25 lbs of blueberries to do something with, and you can only eat so much blueberry pie. 

    It is with this mindset, that we approach these recipes. We have two different types of spiced blueberry jam we are making this year. The first is going to be a Blueberry Serrano Pepper Jam. This is a new and exciting recipe for us- exciting because we are using peppers from our own garden.  

    Our very own serrano peppers- and a chocolate sweet pepper

     
    The second is a standard blueberry jam infused with a blend of warm holiday spices. This is one we discovered almost by accident last year, while trying to make blueberry chutney. The jam was a keeper, the chutney, not so much. It’s kinda like blueberry pie in a jar, sans crust.

    For the Blueberry Serrano Pepper Jam you will need

    • 4 cups of crushed berries
    • 7 cups of sugar
    • 1/4 cup diced hot pepper – discard the seeds if you like a milder spice. We left ours in, and Mr. Gillis swears he barely tastes the heat. 
    • 1/4 cup diced sweet pepper
    • 1 full box of Certo(2 pouches)
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice

    The essentials

      Also, grab all your canning supplies. 

      Now, in your jamming pot, mix together your berries, peppers, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Once at a boil, add in your Certo. Bring that back to another rolling boil. Put your kitchen timer on for 1 minute. 

       

      Looks just like regular blueberry jam, except with little green bombs of fire.

       
      Once that goes off, it’s time to boogey and get it into your jars. Process in your canner for 10 minutes. Enjoy on anything.

      Now, the second jam, the blueberry pie jam, is… Well, it’s sweet, a little tangy, aromatic and spiced with the holy trio- cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Time to gather your ingredients. 

      • 4 cups crushed blueberries
      • 6 cups white sugar
      • 1 cup brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
      • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
      • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon 
      • 1/2 tbsp ground nutmeg
      • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger root
      • 1 whole box Certo (2 pouches)

      In your jamming pot, add everything but the Certo. While stirring constantly, let it get to that all important rolling boil. Add in the Certo, get it back to boil. Set your timer for one minute, keep stirring the entire time. 

      Once the timer goes off, get the jam into your jars, get the jars into your canner and process for 10 minutes. 

      We didn’t get any pictures of this batch because we had a very fussy 11 week old that didn’t care that we had already gotten started. It happens. 

      Well we are just about done with our blueberry harvest. It’s all frozen at least. I’m trying to talk Mr. Gillis into a blueberry sauce or maybe a blueberry moxie jam. But, for now, our green beans are coming in. Which leads  me to the topic of my next post- Spicy Dilly Beans! 

      Until that time- have a wicked good evening.

      It’s all about that jam

      We could be considered odd for this, but we only can food at night. It’s hot, sweaty, steamy work and doing it in the heat of a Maine August day is silly to us. So we wait til about 9 pm, a while after the sun has gone down, and the heat of the day has dissipated. Only then do we turn the water on.

      For today, I am going to talk about freezing blueberries and making regular blueberry jam, which we did last night. And will be doing again tonight. Tomorrow we will be taking a beak from regular blueberry stuff, but more on that in a little bit.

      So, on the subject of freezing berries, I am a bit of an expert. I am not even bragging. Mr. Gillis and I have got this down to a science. We are serious about keeping our harvests until the next harvest. Our deep freezer is full of this years strawberries and raspberries already. So time to throw some blueberries  in there as well.

      For freezing berries for ease of use later, you need a few things other than clean berries.

      • Cookie sheets
      • Freezer paper
      • Bags
      • (Look Ma, I learned how to use bullets!)

      We use a food saver so we can get the bags airtight and sealed properly. We both believe this has been a hugely beneficial investment. We freeze and save so much food and this machine really cuts down on any freezer burn.

      So, get your cookie sheets in a row. Grab your freezer paper and cut out your pieces so that they are a little bit larger then the pans.

      Since the paper is larger then the sheet, it makes for easier handling later

      Now, grab your berries and spread them out. You can put a little bit more then a single layer, because blueberries freeze so well. They are super easy to break apart.

      Three cookie sheets full and ready to go into the freezer.

      Now find a place in your freezer, and throw them in. They’ll need to be in there  for about 2 to 3 hours in order to be frozen all the way thru.

      A look into the depths… I am pretty good at finding more room tho.

      This is when we get out our food saver. We make up a rather large bag and put all three trays into it.

      This bag will be about 10 inches long

      When the berries are completely frozen, take the edges of the freezer paper and pull them towards the middle forming a circle. Put one open end inside your bag, and carefully lift the other side of the bag. If everything is in its place, your berries will just roll on down and into the bag.

      It can be a little difficult to get the berries to stay in the paper.

      This bag will hold three trays of berries

      Then we turn the machine on, and let it do its work. You end up with a bag of frozen berries that you can easily scoop out in smaller portions.

      Our giant bag of frozen berries, air sucked out and sealed tight.

      Now, repeat. We usually end up with about 8 of these bags.

      So, with that done, we move onto making our standard blueberry jam. This is a pretty fool proof recipe, as we use the Official Certo instructions for this one. They are included in every box, and we even keep a copy on our fridge.

      For the jam, you’ll need:

      • A full box of Certo (it has two packs inside)
      • 7 cups of sugar
      • 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice – usually one medium lemon
      • 4 and 1/2 cups of crushed blueberries – you’ll need about 8 cups of whole berries to get this.

      For tools you’ll need :

      • A large pot
      • A small pot
      • A water bath canner (we use our pressure canner, just without the gauge and weight)
      • A funnel
      • Jars, bands and lids
      • Paper towels
      • A ladle
      • A rubber spatula
      • A metal spoon
      • A jar grabber
      • A medium bowl
      • Immersion blender

      To start, you need to fill your canner with enough water to cover your jars. Get that onto your stove top and going so that the water will be boiling when you need it.

      Next, take your small pot, fill it with some water and get that on the stovetop as well. This water needs to be nice and hot for the lids to go in. It helps to relax the rubber in the seal which will help the tops pop once they come out of the canner.

      The water isnt boiling, more of a hard simmer.

      Now is time for some dishes. Get your jars, rims and lids. Wash them all with soap and hot water. Rinse them all really well. Fill one bay of your sink with really hot water. Put your jars and bands in the water so they stay hot while you’re making the jam. Your lids are going to go in the small pot of hot water.

      Hot jars, patiently awaiting their jam

      So now the real fun begins. Grab your bowl and immersion blender. Throw your berries into the bowl. Use the immersion blender to crush the berries and get this juices flowing.

      An immersion blender is pretty essential for these types of things.

       

      These berries are now blended and ready to become jam

      In your large pot, combine 2 TBSP Lemon juice, 4 and 1/2 cups crushed blueberries and 7 cups of sugar. Mix well and turn your stove onto medium/high heat. This mixture needs to be stirred pretty much constantly so it won’t burn. This is where the rubber spatula comes in handy.

      Our perfect for blueberry jam measuring cup

       

      This is actually 3 lemons worth of juice.

      This is the blueberries and lemon juice

       

      I swear , there are berries underneath all that sugar

      Everything all mixed together. Use the spatula to scrape the sides as you stir.

      Open up your packs of Certo so that it will be ready for you when you need it. We put ours in a coffee cup off to the side so it’s close but not in the way.

      Our Certo.. and the zucchini bread in the background was a good snack between batches.

      Next, grab your paper towels, ladle, funnel and metal spoon. You’ll need at least three paper towels, one wet and two dry.

      This is how we setup our canning area. I use another wet paper towel under my jar to give a non slip surface. It also makes cleanup easier.

      Now, back to the pot full of sugar and berries. Stir this on a medium/high heat until it gets to a bubbling boil. Once it gets to a hard boil, add in the two packs of Certo. This is will calm down the boil for a minute or two. Keep stirring constantly. Once it gets back to a hard boil, put 1 minute on your timer and stir until it beeps.

      I swear, this is at a rolling boil.

      Take your jam off the heat and get ready to really work. It is pretty important to get the jam into the jars before it cools to much. Grab your ladle and start filling your jar. Once it is about a half inch from the top, stop. Do not fill your jar to the brim! It will not seal.

      The captions on the following pictures explain the process pretty thoroughly.

      Here it is! Our first full jar of blueberry jam for the season.

       

      Use your wet paper towel to clean the rim of the jar.

      Use one of your dry paper towels to dry the rim and the lid before putting it on

       

      Cover the jar with the lid, and secure the lid with a band.

      This is a Ball tool that helps to secure the band to the right tightness to help ensure your jar seals.

       

      The click of the arm lets you know it is at the pefect tightness.

      For canning, this Ball tool is SO worth the $10 you’ll spend on it. We have 99% seal rate. It takes the guess work out of it completely. We even got ours on clearance at a Tractor Supply Company.
      Now, continue filling your jars, until you’ve scraped your pot clean. We usually end up with 10 or 11 jars. When all your jars are full, cleaned and covered, put them in your canner using your jar grabber. After you’ve got them all in, put the lid on your canner and start a timer for ten minutes. While the canner is doing its thing, this is a good time to lick the spoon.

      The real reason people make jam … to clean the pot with their tongues

      When the timer goes off, use your jar grabber to get the jars back out. Put them some place where the can be undisturbed for 24 hours.

      So that’s it. How we deal with an overabundance of berries.

      Whew, what a long post tho. It actually took me two days to write it. I think I will be sticking to one topic posts from now on.  Like my next two posts, which will be off shoots of this one. I have two special blueberry jam recipes, but they are not for the faint of heart. First we will be doing a sweet and spicy Blueberry Serrano Pepper jam and after that a Holiday Spiced Blueberry jam.

      So until that time, have a wicked good evening.

      Blueberry leaves are like glitter

      We are done winnowing the berries. It took about a hour per box, and my wonderful hubby had to set up our winnower on our back porch so he could work thru a rainstorm, but it’s done.

      Mr. Gillis taking care of blueberries in the rain.

      Mr. Gillis taking care of blueberries in the rain.

      The upside, we can move on to the next phase in cleaning them. The downside, I will be finding blueberry leaves everywhere for days. Possibly weeks.

      Yup- found this little sucker in my living room.

      Yup- found this little sucker in my living room.

      The glitter of the berry world. But it is a small, tiny annoyance to live with in order to take part in what is The Downeast’s second most valuable commodity.

      So, next is the deep clean. This will get rid of the green berries, random stems and other icky-ness. For this you’ll need a flat surface, a towel that’s a little on the rough side, a bowl to catch the clean berries and a box about 8 inches high. For a flat surface, we used our trusty window screen.

      It is a pretty simple set up. The box goes on one end, the bowl on the other. The flat surface goes on top. The angle that’s created helps move the good berries along to the bowl.

      Before the towel goes on

      Before the towel goes on

      Now, throw that towel on top, and roll up the edges as the picture below shows. The sides being rolled will guide your berries right where they need to go.

      The towel should be on the rougher side. All the better to catch the stems.

      The towel should be on the rougher side. All the better to catch the stems.

      Guess what time it is! We transferred our berries from the big box to much smaller bowl. Now just dump some berries on the towel and go to town. It’s best to do this in small batches, like winnowing.

      Mr. Gillis pouring berries onto the towel

      Mr. Gillis pouring berries onto the towel

      If you used a window screen like we did, tap the underside gently and the berries will start sorting themselves as they roll down. You’ll still have to pick the bad ones out, but they’re a lot easier to see, and your hands stay cleaner.

      The towel catches the majority of grossness.

      The towel catches the majority of grossness.

      It’s a process, for sure, but well worth it when you end up with this-

      After the second cleaning and washing.

      After the second cleaning and washing.

      Well, since that’s done, it is officially time to figure out what to do with your berries. Our berries will be frozen, jammed, sauced and possibly relished. But more on that next time.

      No, seriously. We’re making several batches of blueberry jam tonight. That, and how I freeze berries for long term storage, will be the topic of the next blog.

      So until that time, have a wicked good evening.

      Blueberry Fields Forever

      Recently, we went on our yearly excursion to the blueberry fields of Columbia- Downeast, Maine. These fields are owned by a friend of the family, and we have an arrangement- We rake blueberries to our hearts content and we give him canned goods and zucchini bread.

      So my darling hubby and I packed up the munchkin and got on the road. We made a quick pit stop to pick up my mom and nephew, and hit the fields around 10 am. My mom and I have raked a lot of blueberries in our lives, so we filled the boxes while Mr. Gillis hung out with the kids. My nephew is almost 5, but our daughter is only 10 weeks old, so he pushed her stroller, while he helped my nephew pick wildflowers to give to my mom.

      Wildflowers for Grammy

      They also did do some raking themselves.

      Hard at work.

      Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with some ice cream. It was a pretty great way to spend the morning. But we had 4 boxes of blueberries that needed to be cleaned, so it was homeward bound for us.

      2015 blueberries

      2015 blueberries

      So to the nitty gritty of this post- how on earth do we get that many berries cleaned before they go bad? Well the short answer is, we don’t. We freeze a box after being winnowed, for future use as chicken snacks. Blueberries are one of their favorites.

      But that does leave us with 3 other boxes to clean out for jams and my personal stash of freezer berries. So, the setup requires a few things. We use a couple of sawhorses, 2 large totes, two boards, a large box fan, an old screen from a window, and a container to catch the clean berries.

      My husband set this up- he is always very handy.

      Our homemade winnower.

      Our homemade winnower.

      What he does is set up the sawhorses a few feet apart. Next he places one tote in between them. Then he uses the boards to brace the box fan. The screen goes on top of the sawhorses. The other tote is used to hold up the container that is ready and waiting for your now cleaner blueberries. I say cleaner, because this only gets rid of most of the leaves. You’ll still need our next setup to get out the underripe berries.

      Now, place your berries in small amounts on the screen while the fan is on its highest speed. Swish the berries around with your hands gently, or even shake or tap the screen lightly, and watch the leaves whirl on up and away. This works best when berries are newly picked and firm.

      Cleaning away.

      Cleaning away.

      When the berries are sufficiently leafless, lift your screen at an angle and carefully tap the berries into your container.

      Cleaner berries, ready to go to the next process

      Cleaner berries, ready to go to the next process

      Now, repeat until you’ve cleaned a good amount of berries. I usually keep going until an entire container is done, take a break and go back for some more cleaning.

      As you can see, the leaves are mostly gone.

      As you can see, the leaves are mostly gone.

      This is before and after the fan treatment. Yea for a successful winnowing!

      Next up for those berries is the deep clean. But it will have to wait til my next post.. I have a lot more winnowing to do.

      Until that time- have a wicked good evening.