Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jam / Fruit Cake and More from The Garden

Dear Folks,

I have written about my "jam bread" before.  When I realized I had 3 dozen jars of my own homemade jam plus other gifts, I decided I needed to find a way to use them up faster.  When you look at a typical fruit bread "cake" (sometimes called quick breads) it is flour, salt, sugar, fat, baking powder, some liquid and fruit and nuts.  I decided to experiment a couple of years ago and discovered I could use jam as the "fruit and liquid" to create a moist and delicious cake.

With the holidays coming I wanted to try two things:  to create a fruit cake which everyone would love and to bake them in canning jars and "can" them for keeping. Below I will give you the basic recipe and the additions added to make a more filled "fruit cake" like you usually see.

Canned cake.  I read a blog post by a sustainable farmer and thought I needed to try that.  I did "can"  one of my batches last spring and it turned out "okay".  I say that because it did keep - I opened a jar one month later and the cake was just as I sealed it up baking day.  The problem was the bottom burned some.

Back to the drawing board as they say.  The old fashioned way of making cakes in cans was to put the can in a pan with boiling water while baking - bingo!  Burning problem solved.

Getting the right amount of batter in the jar is the next challenge.  Too much and it will overflow.  In the pictures you will see 2 sets.  One I filled just a hair over half way and the other about 3/4.  I reasoned that if the more filled one "domed" I could just "squish" it down with the lid, and that worked great.

The next phase will be whether the seals (I heard all the nice pops) worked well and the cake keeps.  In one month I will open 1 each of the half filled and 3/4 filled and see if they are okay (no mold etc.)  Meanwhile we are enjoying the rest of them and sharing them with friends.  They are delicious, moist and filled with fruit and nuts.

You need to make sure you have the new lids ready for when you pull the pans out of the oven.  You need to cap IMMEDIATELY to create the safe seal.

You can make this cake in a loaf pan.  If you decide you want to can them, make sure you WIPE the edges of the jars before putting in the oven, so you have a clean surface when you put the lids on to create the perfect seal.

Baking time is going to be different depending on the size of the jars you choose to use and how much you fill them.  In this case the half filled jars were ready in 45 minutes,  The more filled jar needed another 5 minutes.  Over all plan on 45-60 minutes depending on the jar you use.  The toothpick should come out clean but not squeeky clean.

I doubled the batch you see in the pictures

Jam/Fruit Cake
I try to use organic ingredients like flour, sugar etc. where available

2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of oil (I like avocado but any of your favorite could be used)
1 1/5 cups of jam
1 cup of chopped nuts

To the recipe shown I also added 3/4 cup of pumpkin seeds and 3/4 cup of chopped candied roselle petals - I wanted the red and green to show in the finished cake.  See my post on Roselle and candying the petals - they have a lovely cranberry flavor.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If using loaf pan, grease and set aside - this recipe makes one typical loaf.  After batter is made pour into pan and bake 45-50 minutes.

If canning, make sure your mason jars are squeeky clean, you can put in boiling water for 5 minutes to ensure they are sterilized and place upside down on a towel while you prepare the batter.  Have new lids and a ring for each jar ready.  I would recommend going with either an 8 ounce or 16 ounce jar - not bigger.  Have a towel on the counter where you will put the hot jars.

Have one or two oven pans which will hold the jars and boiling water.  While the oven heats up and you are preparing the batter, bring a pot of water to boil.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, add the sugar and oil and beat well.  Stir into the flour mix.  When combined well add the jam and nuts and stir well to combine.  If adding more nuts and fruit add now and stir well, they will thicken the batter more.

Spray each jar with cooking spray or grease with butter.  Using either 2 spoons or a large scoop fill jars between half and 3/4 full.  Wipe edges of the jars very well with a wet cloth.  Place jars in pan spacing them evenly out.  Pull out the oven rack part way, place the pan in the center of the rack and carefully add boiling water to the pan about half way up.  Slide in the rack and bake for 45 - 60 minutes.  Test at 45 with a toothpick.

When done, quickly remove each jar, cap it tightly and put it on the towel for cooling.  Let cool.  You should hear all the caps ping.  If any do not or they do not seal, make sure to use that jar up first.

I will post again in a month when I open the jars to check on their stability.

IN The Garden

My sweet potato patch and a tomato plant that went crazy once the temperatures dropped out of the 100s is loaded with green tomatoes and I'm harvesting a few tomatoes every day.

I will be checking the sweet potatoes to see what is a good size for this weekend and Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile I have been using the sweet potato leaves for salads, soups and sandwiches.

It is that time of year when our Pineapple Guava fruit is ripening.  This is a crazy fruit to gauge when ripe, so we finally just decided that if it is on the ground and bright green it is ripe.  The flavor is like a slightly astringent kiwi.  You cut them in half and use a spoon to scoop out the fruit.

Microwave meals are a quick breakfast or lunch for us when it is just the two of us.  This is my crust-less quiche or you could think of it as a Frittata.  Use a microwave safe bowl.

Microwave Quiche for Two
2 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
2/3 cups of shredded cheese of your choice
1/2 to 1 cup of shredded greens / herbs (I used sweet potato leaves, basil, and some chopped I'Ioti onions)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional:  Chopped cooked bacon, ham or in my case I used some chopped salami

Grease bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs well and stir in everything else. If the batter looks a little too thick add a tablespoon or two more of milk. Pour into grease bowl, and microwave for 4 minutes, but watch - every microwave is a bit different.  It will puff up and then collapse a bit when you remove it.  It will be VERY hot because of the cheese, so be careful.

Divide and plate up with fruit on the side for a nice light meal.

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Just for fun -- if you are a fan of Pinterest - I have several boards where I post fun ideas, recycle or using herbs.  Click here.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

December Planting & Gardening Tips

Dear Folks,

December brings not only holidays but gardening maintenance and the continuing opportunity to successive sow your winter vegetables and herbs.

Keep kitchen "trash" recycling in mind.  You can replant celery, leek, and scallion roots to get a second harvest.  Pictured is a celery root taken November 11th - I planted it November 6th after soaking for a couple of days.  I do grow celery but when I don't have it in the garden, I buy organic and replant the root.

Successive sow sugar peas, leaf lettuces and greens, carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, cilantro, chervil, dill and parsley for a continuous crop.  Pictured is the flower of my Magnolia Blossom Sugar pea - isn't it gorgeous!

December is the time to prune or cut back some of your perennials.  Around December 15th, cut asparagus back to the ground.  Your deciduous trees should be pruned and shaped by December 31st to get it done before they burst into bloom again.

Don't wait until all the leaves drop off, sometimes nature does not cooperate getting all the leaves out of the way.  I always laugh when the "fall" of our fig tree leaves occurs, all at once (mostly) on a windy December day (not October!) and we walk out to the garden to find a HUGE pile of leaves under or near the fig tree.

Plants you DO NOT prune are tender perennials which may sustain frost damage, but are not killed.  Leave the damage parts on to act as a protective "blanket" until spring when the soil begins to warm again.

My Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin is still green, but really healthy.  While checking it out, I discovered some new "possible" baby pumpkins, and watched for the blossom to open up and discovered bees working the blossom, but I still got a q-tip and helped some too.  Pictures of the pumpkin, baby pumpkin with flower waiting to be pollinated, male flower and the bees doing their thing.

Baby Pumpkin & Flower
Holiday time can be stressful. Your edible garden can be an oasis from stress.  With citrus fruit ripening like yellow and orange ornaments, pansies blooming, and dill waving in the breeze, winter is only a state of mind here in the Desert Southwest.

Male Pumpkin Flower
November through January can be a ‘rainy’ season for the desert. You can usually hold off on regular watering if you have received a half inch or more of rain within 2 days of normal watering days (except for trees unless you receive 1 inch or more).  Make good use of your water meter to determine soil moisture. 

If rains are heavy this month, in addition to foregoing some water days, you may need to put down Ironite or Green Sand to compensate for mineral bonding "chlorosis" (which makes iron unavailable to the plants) due to both the excess water and the cold soil.  Ironite is not a fertilizer so it will not burn plants -- apply to the drip line (edge) of tree canopy.

Watering Guide:
As the temperatures rise or decrease, a guide (this is only a guide! make use of your moisture meter to check moisture content of soil) For mature gardens would be:
    70s water every 5-6 days for all but trees
    80s water every 4-5 days for all but trees
    90s water every 3-4 days for all but trees
    100s water every 2-3 days for all but trees

Garden Design tip - if you are considering laying out a new garden, use Ironite to 'draw' the garden layout on the soil, easy and safe.

Peach tree borer pests - consider using  "dormant oil" or "horticulture oil" spray on trunks to soil line (not branches) after pruning deciduous trees.

December PLANTING:

Bok Choy
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit, Bare Root
Fruit Trees
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Ornamental Cabbage/Kale (Brassica Oleracea)
Peppers (seed)
Primrose (Primula Vulgaris)
Watermelon (by seed December 15 and after)


Carnation (Dianthus)
English Daisy
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Scented Geraniums
Stocks (Matthiola)
Sweet William (Dianthus)
Sweet Alyssum

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen!

You can purchase my books or calendars through links on the side bar here on the blog.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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