I’m baaaaaccccccckkkkkkkkkkk

Well I want to be back anyway. I have dozens of started-but-not-finished posts that I should dust off, add some photos, and post. Buuuttttt instead I’m gonna go ahead and share one of my favorite holiday recipes because I feel you’ve earned it. And it is super easy and involves cranberries and rum.

Without further ado, I offer you my top secret recipe…

Cranberry Infused Rum

You need exactly two ingredients:

1. Bag of cranberries

2. Rum (or any kind of booze you want)

– Chop the cranberries (I use my pampered chef chopper because it is easy but you can also just use a knife. The goal is to just rough up the cranberries so the skins are pierced.) Put chopped berries into a jar – I guess it is about a cup of chopped berries.
– Fill the jar with rum


– Put a lid on the jar and wait a few days.
I also recommend saving your rum bottle so you can re-use it for the flavored rum.

After the berries have infused for a few days (or as long as you want to wait), strain out the berries.
In my experience, there’s no wrong way to enjoy cranberry rum. One of my favorites is to serve it in ginger ale with a lime garnish.



Black Raspberry Goodness

It’s that time of year again… the black raspberries are ripe. This spring I was busy tearing apart the house so I didn’t get out there to cut down the invasive species surrounding the raspberry jungle. It is bad out there right now. Nettles. Poison ivy. Buckthorn. Russian olive. Lots of other weeds. (Does anyone else hear how necessary goats are out here??) But… those little black juicy morsels make it worth braving the jungle for. They started ripening last week. I’ve only done a bit of peripheral picking and introduced a couple cute nephews to the magic of black raspberries. The Hobbit couldn’t cram them into his mouth fast enough.

Monday night was my first time to go out prepared to take on the jungle. Long pants, shoes, socks, bug spray, long sleeves. I got half a German Park bucket full before it started raining. Black raspberry picking is slow. The very definition of slow food really. They are tiny. They are covered with pickers. They are in a jungle. And they are completely delicious. Sometimes we all need to slow down a bit and savor the goodness of summer.

I used the last of the rum in the cupboard to start some of them infusing. (Note to self: buy more rum).

Then I made cobbler which my cousin and I had for breakfast. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this before but it bears repeating if you have any fresh berries of any kind sitting around. It is incredibly easy, not too sweet (because I’ve cut a lot of sugar from the original recipe) and buttery goodness in every bite. Believe me, you want some.

Fresh Berry Cobbler

  • 2 1/2 cups berries (I used mostly black raspberries with a few mulberries– but whatever you have will work)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I cut the sugar from the original recipe a lot! If you are using more tart berries, add more in)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Mix berries and sugar together and let them sit while you put the rest of it together. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add milk and stir. Add melted butter and mix together.

Put the batter into an ungreased 8×8 pan (ish). Glop the berry/sugar mixture over the top (or just mix it together- I’ve done it both ways). Bake the big pan for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Top with ice cream if you like. Eat it for breakfast (it is practically a health food, right?? Something about antioxidants and organic, locally sourced berries). There’s no wrong way to eat it. Ready go.

Update: I bought more rum. Who wants to come over for black raspberry cocktails? 

Reenie Recommends

bruschettaIt is September in my country and the tomatoes are ripening in my garden and at farm markets everywhere. ‘Tis the season for Bruschetta. And I have to say, my friend makes the BEST bruschetta in the world. You seriously want to just sit on down in her comfy chairs next to the pool with a glass of red wine and eat the entire bowl of bruschetta, one crispy toast slice at a time. I’m not even kidding. Okay even without the red wine and comfy chairs you want to just eat through the entire bowl of it! She gives the recipe here and it is super easy to make. Ready, set, go.

Paired with this, I love me some Olive Oil Bread from the Artesian Bread in Five Minutes a Day book. I love the book for so many reasons, but mostly because it makes it so simple to make a batch of dough, put it in the fridge, and bake it as needed. This is super useful if you’re a single person like me who doesn’t go through bread all that fast, unless of course, there’s a bowl of that bruschetta sitting around. And then I’m going to recommend baking it all immediately and inviting a crowd so you don’t eat it all yourself.

What are you drooling over right now?


Homemade Pectin

DSC_2347In my quest to grow all the things and/or use all the things already growing, I found this interesting blog post showing how to make your own pectin. I realized last year that my nephew who is allergic to corn products cannot eat jam made with commercial pectin because it contains corn products. Last year I tried making strawberry jam without pectin — well it certainly contained no pectin, but it was a lot runnier than I’d like. Still acceptable when said nephew came over and needed jam, but not the best thing I’ve ever done. This year I made a batch of black raspberry jam sans pectin, which worked wonderfully but because you have to cook it down so much, it used a lot of those precious berries for very little jam. Not sure it was worth it although I’m sure my little buddy will enjoy it, as will I.

Enter the idea that you can make your own pectin. From crabapples grown on your own trees (which would otherwise go to waste). Naturally I had to try it. I did mostly follow the instructions provided here but for posterity’s sake, here’s the steps I followed:
  • I picked a bucket full of crapapples (while throwing the ball for the puppy as a bonus)
  • I washed and pulled off leaves and stems and tossed mushy ones. This was honestly the most time consuming part of this project and I got a little bored.
  • Then I filled two stockpots with around four inches of water and then added the washed crabapples.
  • Boiled them down for awhile (I can’t possibly be expected to keep track of these things- I was washing my floors, getting the puppy out of trouble, and general tasking around the house). But it was probably half an hour? I wandered through the kitchen stirring occasionally and checking to see how mushy the crabapples had gotten.
  • Once they were good and mushy, with the skins splitting, I strained them through an old t-shirt in a bucket. I let it drip maybe 15 minutes and then threw the mushy apple flesh into the compost.
  • Then I did the pectin test from the website, which was just as simple as she says. You put rubbing alcohol into a small bowl, add a spoonful of the pectin, let it cool and see if it firms up. It firmed right up so I could move on without any more cooking down.
  • Pour hot pectin into hot sterilized jars (pulled them right out of a steamy dishwasher). Put on lids and rings.  The jars seemed to seal right up – although I was uneasy about not canning them in a hot water bath**.
  • Voila! Canned pectin.
  • Now I need to find something to make jam with to see how well it works.
I’m here to tell you it is possible and really quite simple. For the cost of $0 and an hour or two of my time, I canned 6 pints of pectin from the crabapples that already grow in my yard. Not bad at all. (If you would like this same self sufficient feeling and pectin without corn products, please come take some crabapples from my yard- there’s plenty to go around!)

**The only thing I felt not so great about was the canning part. On the blog I read, she said just heat the pectin up and then used heated jars. I did both and they seemed sealed, but a couple days later, one of the jars had mold on the top of it. Hmmm. I hot water bath canned the rest (which looked fine) because I wanted to be sure there was a good seal. No trouble from there on out.

Tonight I used some of my homemade pectin for jam tonight and it worked! I should mention that it uses a lot of the homemade pectin per batch of jam though. The recommendation is 4-6 T. of homemade pectin for every cup of prepared fruit. So I made peach black raspberry jam with 5 cups of fruit, so I used 6 T. pectin x 5 c. fruit = 30 T. pectin / 16 T. per cup = 1.875 c. pectin. (And because I’m a hack I used 2 whole cups which seemed to do the trick.)

Life in the Jungle

DSC_4152 I’m beginning to feel a bit like Bubba Gump in the movie Forrest Gump. If you are not interested in the trivial happenings in my corner of the world or the millions of things you can do with black raspberries, read no further.

It is black raspberry season again at the Litttle House in the Hill. It is basically the one month of the year where I rejoice in the amount of untamed jungle because it is the one month where that jungle pays off big time. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: black raspberries are totally worth the hype! They may be small and unimpressive to look at, but these little berries pack a punch with taste. So delicious.

So every day lately I get home from work, change into long pants I don’t mind getting stained, long sleeves, a hat, my yard shoes, and I coat myself in bug spray. I’m hoping the anti-oxidants found in black raspberries counteract the carcinogens I spray onto myself in order to pick them. It seems like a fair trade really.
Black raspberry picking is not as idyllic as it sounds. Sure, we all like my photos of the container full of those delicious morsels. But it isn’t as easy as it looks. Part of the reason black raspberries are so happy in my particular corner of the world is that they love untamed jungle. spiderSo the black raspberry brambles are surrounded by buckthorn, russian olive, and weeds of all kinds, not to mention poison ivy growing at the base of them. The bushes themselves are very thorny so you thrust your hand in for a clump of berries and end up covered with scratches. They stain your hands. They also stain your face when you swipe those swarming mosquitos away from your face. As it turns out, mosquitos love berry jungles. They are in swarms out there (thus the bug spray) and even that doesn’t keep them completely away and they buzz in your face while you’re picking and occasionally bite your ears, your hands, and land on your cheeks (thus the berry stained face I spoke of). You will also encounter a lot of daddy long legs spiders. They seem to prefer to hang out in the berry patch. When you disturb them, they scurry away to another bush and are harmless, but kind of shocking if you aren’t expecting them.
DSC_4187Basically, I come back from the jungle with a delicious haul of berries, and covered with berry stains, scratches, and bug bites, and a great sense of peace and restored balance. Maybe God gave me this berry jungle to help combat the insanity of construction season at work. An hour in the berry jungle and though I’m a mess, I’ve found my equilibrium again and am ready for what comes next. I also LOVE harvesting things from my very own yard to eat / drink / preserve – makes me feel just a bit like Laura Ingalls Wilder. #earthycrunchyleanings

So far I’ve made the following with the black raspberries this season:DSC_4200

Black Raspberry Jam 
I followed this recipe and it worked great. I like that you don’t need pectin, you just boil the berries long enough and it thickens right up. The only disappointment making straight up black raspberry jam is that it takes a lot of berries to just make a couple jars of jam. Maybe not worth it? I now want to try black raspberry peach jam, because that sounds heavenly. Stay tuned.

DSC_4194Black raspberry infused rum and vodka
Like in my previous post about my new experiment of infusing all the alcohol, you basically just put black raspberries (washed) into liquor. I put about 2-3 inches into a quart mason jar, cover it with liquor, and wait about two weeks, shaking occasionally. Then you strain off the berries (and make drunken cobbler, or eat over ice cream, or something), and you’ve got wonderful black raspberry vodka / rum / etc.

Black Raspberry Shrub
Based loosely on this recipe, but with my own spin.
4 cups of black raspberries (with a few mulberries)
4 cups of sugar
4 cups apple cider vinegar
I mixed the berries and sugar and let them sit maybe an hour or two, and then because I couldn’t wait for the juice to naturally seep out of the berries, I popped them in a sauce pan and cooked them for a bit and then strained the juice through cheesecloth to get rid of all the seeds / pulp. I then added 4 cups of apple cider vinegar. I mixed it together and hoped for the best. Honestly I’m not much of a vinegar person. I mean I clean with it all the time, but I don’t drink it so this seemed like a stretch. Tonight I decided to see if it was a waste of berries and I made myself a cocktail. 1 shot shrub mix, 1 shot  strawberry infused vodka, ice and off brand sprite. It really is amazingly tasty! I don’t taste the vinegar exactly but it somehow deepens the flavor of the fruits and wow. Yes. Go try this. Or better yet, come over and try it with me.

Canned Black Raspberries in light syrup
Rinse black raspberries and remove any leaves or icky berries
Pack pint or half pint jars with them
Make light sugar syrup (1 c. sugar to 4 c. water – cooked just long enough to dissolve the sugar)
Pour light sugar syrup over the berries, leaving 1 inch headspace
Wash rims of the jars, put on new canning jar lids and rings
Can in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Let cool and check the lids to make sure they sealed.
Delicious!!!! I like this on ice cream, pancakes, etc.

Black Raspberry Syrup DSC_4158
4 c. black raspberries
8 c. water
3 c. sugar
Boil together and simmer on low for awhile, stirring occasionally. Strain out pulp and seeds with cheese cloth. Jar syrup and can in a hot water bath 15 minutes. You could cook this down a lot longer for a thicker syrup but the thin syrup tastes delicious so I don’t bother.

Black Raspberry Char

A few words of warning: black raspberries stain. EVERYTHING. Clothes, fingers, faces, dishtowels, pot holders, anything they touch. Don’t use your best dishtowels when dealing with them.

And there you have it so far. I’m sure I’ll come up with more to say before black raspberry season is done.

crazy daze

More black raspberries

canned raspIn case you’ve never had black raspberries, let me just tell you they are the tastiest little morsels you are likely to find. Not large, over inflated, tasteless fruit you might find in a grocery store carton. Instead they are small, delectable, flavorful berries that make it worth the bug bites and scratches you will inevitably get while picking them.

Yesterday afternoon found me up to my waist in black raspberry bushes trying to pick every last one. There are some I simply cannot reach which is always disappointing. At my house, the raspberry bushes are entangled in jungle so of course I find myself planning for clearing all of the jungle from around the berry bushes and somehow maintaining my own private black raspberry collection. It will undoubtedly be harder than it looks but seems like a worthwhile pursuit- but I believe I will wait till the berries are finished lest a single one be wasted.

In the past few years, raspberries have become one of my favorite fruits to preserve by canning. Raspberries invariably get mushy when frozen, though still tasty. Canning raspberries is easier than you think, it saves the freezer space for other things, and the berries keep their shape much better.

I should also mention that in the past, I’ve done this with just regular raspberries- either picked myself at a local U-pick farm or bought at a farmer’s market. This is my first year doing black raspberries from my very own jungle.  So don’t let a lack of your very own jungle stop you from trying this. You won’t regret it. Not even a little.

Here’s how to do it:
1. Wash the berries
2. Fill the jar with berries (I like half pint jars for this). You don’t want to smash the berries down, just fill the jar with as many berries as possible without smushing.
3. Make sugar syrup. 4 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar. Cook until sugar is dissolved.
4. Pour syrup over the berries and tap to get the bubbles out. Leave the usual headspace (I like to fill to where the lid rings begin). Once you tap the jar a few times to get the bubbles out, you have to top the syrup off again now that it has filled the voids.
5. Wipe jar rims, put on lids and rings, and can in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
6. Let them cool and check the lids for seal. Label your jars.

Voila! Canned raspberries (black, red, or any color that suits your fancy). I like to use canned raspberries as a treat poured over pancakes or waffles, and it is amazing over ice cream or angel food cake. You can also strain off the syrup (and use that for the above mentioned uses) and use the berries for baking.

Warning: Black raspberries stain badly. My advice is to wear clothes that you won’t cry over if they get some juice on them, and for heaven’s sake, don’t put them on the good dishtowel when you pull them out of the canner (some juice inevitably gets out) because that towel will never be the same (even knowing better, I made that mistake). So don your stained old canning apron, grab a rag towel, and get cooking!

Yesterday’s load of berries yielded six half-pints of black raspberries canned, 1 quarter-pint of mulberries canned (I’ve never done mulberries before so this jar is my experiment), lots of in the field nibbling, and another jar for something else. And there are still many, many berries left to ripen!! I love summer! And berries! And preserving that vibrant summery taste for the cold, dark days of winter!

Living off the land

black raspberry yumEven I am kind of bored of fence posts (unintentional pun), so I thought I’d change it up a bit today to rave about the black raspberries. The thing is, when you buy a jungle, there is always more jungle to deal with. It’s on your list, that pickery, buckthorney, virginia creepiery, poison ivyey fenceline (the one that already has a fence along it). Anyway, I’ve been noticing more and more black raspberry plants in all the overgrown areas that remain on my to-do list.

Inspired by my friend who had her own black raspberry expedition today, this evening, after hauling my mandatory three tarps full of brush to the burn pile, I decided to see if any of mine were ripe. Mmmmm. There were a fair amount of ripe ones and lots left to ripen. It is going to be a tasty few weeks over here on the hill.

photo (13) I also picked a bunch of mulberries (because the neighbor’s mulberry trees hang low over my jungley property line) and threw them in with the black raspberries. They are the same color and all told I got about 3 cups of berries. And that was with eating a bunch of them while I picked.

Of course I debated jamming them, eating them all right then and there, black raspberry syrup, … and settled on black raspberry / mulberry cobbler. I based it on this recipe, found through Pinterest. Let me assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

Black Raspberry / Mulberry Cobbler

  • 2 1/2 cups berries (I used about 70 / 30 black raspberries to mulberries– but whatever you have will work)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I cut the sugar from the original recipe and probably could have cut it further)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Mix berries and sugar together and let them sit while you put the rest of it together. The original recipe calls for 20 minutes- I was not nearly that patient and let them sit exactly 4.5 minutes while I mixed the other ingredients and then in they went. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add milk and stir. Add melted butter and mix together.

Put the batter into an ungreased 8×8 pan (or two small ramekins and a round 8″ casserole pan you have sitting around). Glop the berry / sugar mixture over the top. Bake the big pan for 45 (ish) minutes until the crust is golden brown. The ramekins took around 15 minutes to bake.

It was amazing. Buttery, berry fresh, and completely amazing. Quick, find yourself a berry patch and get baking!!