Choke Cherry Jelly

Bowls full enough

Tree full

Last Friday when it was too cold to have the pool open, meaning Paulina was home in the afternoon, and my Aunt Glenda was still in Phoenix, Paulina and I took two medium sized bowls and went to Glenda’s to pick the choke cherries. I normally don’t bother her tree, but after I had posted the pictures of our little tree, and she commented that someone should pick hers, I took that for permission. We filled those bowls as you can see on the picture, and still left plenty behind for another picker.

Mashing the cherries

It took until Sunday afternoon before we got to the actual canning part. It should have been sooner, but things never quite work out on the weekends. Here is what we did. We washed the cherries in a strainer and carefully picked out all of the stems that were still on. Next we put all the cleaned cherries into a large pot and put them on the stove on medium to heat up and eventually boil. As they got hotter, we took the potato masher that we reserve for canning purposes and mashed them down.

stirring in the cone

Eventually–well after the jars were washed and the counter was cleared of all the other dirty dishes, we got to the stage of running them through the canning cone. I don’t know what the exact name is for this thing, but to me it is the cone. I also have an original from back in the day so to speak. You can buy these new again. I am not sure how old this one is, I bought it used when we were first married, so I have had it fairly close to 35 years and have used it every year we had a garden. Because of the high stain value of choke cherries, I made sure everything we used was either glass or stainless steel. I should have checked the dish towels more carefully or insisted on paper. In the clean up, I found that my “like new” dish towel that I use to cover the bread dough was in the clean up mix and now after treatment has three blue spots on it. Oh well, nothing nice ever keeps that way it seems.

So the next phase was actually making the jelly. The recipe which I took from my New Salem Band Cookbook that I purchased many years ago while taking a writing workshop in Bismarck. I bought it from a workshop classmate whose daughter was in that band, but introvert me, I never kept track of her name. Anyway, the recipe verifies with the one from the Sur-Jell box.

boiling up the syrup

In the jars.

Chokecherry Jelly: 5 cups chokecherry juice, 7 cups of sugar, 1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin. In a large kettle mix juice and pectin. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Add sugar and again bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Boil 1 minute or until 2 strands come together when poured from a spoon. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal. The Sure-Jell box said this would make 9 cups. Ha Ha!! I read and followed the instructions right up to the word occasionally. Apparently long words are getting hard for me to understand, or at the best, my patience for long instructions is fading. I stirred constantly and did not stop the boil at 1 minute. I kept trying to figure out how we were going to make it turn into a strand. I kept thinking of the consistency of hard candy. Ah-Duh! Jelly or Jam is to be spreadable. I am afraid of opening the jars. I think we might have the consistency of a firm jello, or perhaps a chewable jolly rancher. At the worst, Paulina and I are thinking we will reserve this for making those cookies that call for a jelly in the center. Who knows they might be rather good.

We were able to keep a nearly full pint of just syrup. That was put in a jar and set in the fridge to use as ice cream topping. I am looking forward to that. When I was little I always hated that because I wanted chocolate and we didn’t buy chocolate because we had chokecherry. Now I understand what a treat we had.

 

National S’mores Day

Fire pit

Full moon

This morning on the Today Show, I learned that it is National S’mores Day. Hurrah!! I think. I am now wondering if it is also National Fire Pit night because to celebrate and to have S’mores you certainly need a fire pit or a bonfire or something with fire. Of course the news show this morning showed lots of ways to eat the graham cracker/chocolate/melted marshmallow mess in all sorts of ways including in your kitchen with the marshmallows melted over candles. I would not recommend that unless you have the fire department and your insurance on speed dial, and then I might not confess what caused the trouble. They also showed examples of how some fancy restaurants are now creating desserts with those flavors in mind.

Well here in our town just south of the North Dakota/South Dakota border we tend to eat them outside huddled around a fir pit of some sort. We sit on lawn chairs, drink pop (no soda around here) or coffee or even some have a beer now and then. We put our marshmallows on long forks with wooden handles that we bought at some large department store, and we compare our preferred methods of cooking them. Some of us let the buggers start on fire and peel off the charcoal and eat the goo. Others toast it carefully until it is just a bubbly brown, and a few throw the burned up mess in the fire and start over. We watch the moon rise over the dike and comment on the breeze that often blows the smoke in our face. We notice things like the bats flying overhead eating up the mosquitos as they go. We listen for the sound of the owls hooting in the dusk, and we complain about the cars and pickup trucks that speed past the intersection with mufflers that would have gotten them pulled over in the middle 1970’s when we were teenagers.

That is life in our small town. Some days I want to run away to a bigger city to live close to the grandchildren. Sometimes I want to blare the Simon and Garfunkel song: “Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town” out the window. And sometimes I want to ask the people who appoint themselves in charge of this and that exactly from where do they get their ideas. And I realize that if you want to win the war you have to be very strategic about picking your battles. I believe I have chosen mine, now I just need to get to work on it, and when I am finished, I will share it with you here, but until that time, I will keep it to myself, and just sit in my yard, especially today on National Day of celebrating S’Mores, and I will enjoy what is right here in front of me at this time. Enjoy your day!!

Garden progress: fruit trees

Ripe choke cherries

Lots of choke cherries

The other day when I was out in the garden, I took a walk around the yard and checked on the trees. I found that the chokecherry trees are producing this year and the birds have not eaten all of them off yet. This morning James picked the tree that is fully ripe, hopefully we will get to the others before the birds do.

 

apples

plums

The apple tree has lots of apples, unusual to have two years in a row of good produce around here. The apples are pretty small this year, and I suppose that is because it was so dry early on. I am not sure if that really makes a difference, but it seems to be this year because the plums are also really small. The good news about the plums is that so far we have not seen any of the webs indicating that little worm in the fruit. I would appreciate getting enough of a crop to make some jelly. The hard part will be that they won’t ripen until after school starts and I am in the middle of that long-term substituting situation. Well it will be good to be busy and to be paid.

Not much else to mention here. We had our first meal from the garden today. I made some stir fry that included the peas that were picked a few days ago. We also put half of a zucchini into it, and James and Paulina ate that part of the stir fry. I dislike how soft and soggy zucchini gets when cooked in stir-fry. I ate the other half of the zucchini grilled with Cajun spice on it, oh yummy!! We had fresh peaches and fresh strawberries for dessert. I don’t think that I will need to nibble on chips this evening, hurrah!! Today is my last day of lounging around. Tomorrow starts my serious effort to drop 5-10 pounds before I have to squeeze into dress clothes five days a week. Yikes this could be a major challenge. Hope you are enjoying the rest of the summer.

Health benefits of coffee

Coffee leads to longer life and better health A study responsible for these findings was led by Veronica W. Setiawan of the University of Southern California. The National Cancer Institute funded study followed 180,000 people of different races for an average of 16 years. The second study, led by Marc J. Gunter of the International […]

via Want to live for 100 years? Coffee may be part of the answer. — Town

Meanwhile “back at the ranch”

Paulina’s Bundt cake

James and I returned home a little after 4, or so it was by the time we unloaded everything from the van. We had to stop and eat and shop just a bit before coming back. According to Paulina there is not a thing in the house to eat. So we made a short stop to get the items she absolutely had to have: bread, milk, freeze pops (which were sold out) sunscreen for the face and food in general. When we got home we found that the things she mentioned really were gone, but there was plenty of food in the pantry and the fridge, not to mention the freezer. She did make a Bundt cake with blueberries and peaches. There was a little left, and it is quite good. She always makes up her own version of how to make this concoction, so I never try to copy it.

James trying to water the potatoes.

Cosmos and weeds are taking over the carrots and beets.

As I am writing this rain drops are hitting the north side of the house. I sure hope that is all that hits. The day was horrible today. It was 102 on the bank clock and temperature sign at one point and when we stepped out of the van in front of the house it was oppressive. It was hot in Baltimore, but never quite like what we had here today. I already have a sore throat from the air-conditioner in the can and the house and the stores. One of the biggest things I noticed on our trip was that the places in Baltimore had a reasonable temperature instead of super cold like we usually have here. I really believe that the cities must be more climate and finance conscious and don’t really over do with their thermostats like we do. Perhaps we in this wide open rural area really are more wasteful because we have all this room and in essence all this plenty. I may have to examine that in a message at some point.

Squirrel getting a drink

At any rate, the state of the garden and the yards and the flowers is not real good after a couple of days in triple digits. Paulina did what she could to water and keep after some of it, but we really need to get in with the hoe and the gloves and take away all the weeds that are taking water from the plants that are being stunted. Even the little critters are coming to the pond for a drink. I am seeing a mission in that part too, in terms of giving a glass of water to a little one. I know, I know, Jesus meant that for children, but part of our new mission statement includes taking care of creation, so I am counting it.

Eating out

Seafood feast

Salmon BLT

Crispy chicken salad

Much of what we did at Synod was eating out. Mostly just James and me, a few times as a group.

Easter weekend

I started this post on the Saturday before Easter, as in four days ago. I just can’t seem to get myself to take the time to sit by the computer and posting from my iPad is just not so easy or appealing. My age is beginning to show when it comes to technology. I frankly don’t enjoy watching television or movies on a 5×7 screen and I don’t like listening to music from my phone. I am not saying that the quality is bad, but when you grew up in the 70’s where everyone was into giant sized speakers hanging from the wall in perfect balance, and you tried like the dickens to afford a larger television because you were so happy to finally get away from black and white and have color, well…it is just different.

I always talk about being from the generation who touch the generation that survived the Dirty Thirty’s. My children can talk about being from the generation who touch the generation who began life with a black and white television. My has life changed. So below is what I was going to post last Saturday.

“What a weekend! I have been trying to put together a message for Easter Sunday and I can’t get past the second page. This afternoon, I couldn’t get past the first page without falling asleep in my chair. Good grief, you would think I had been up all night and that I was over worked. I admit it has been a long two weeks and there has been some stress, but I have really not been in the direct recipient of  any of it. In some ways, I feel more like one on the fringes, and I feel like it is selfish of me to feel stressed about any of it.”

For those of you who need a short recap, I was in Phoenix for a two short days at the beginning of the month because my uncle died, then we were running here and there after track meets both those we coach and one for our youngest daughter. The night of her meet, we all gathered to celebrate my big 60th birthday (a tish early) at a nephew’s pizza shop, Fire Flour Pizza, in Bismarck. Then we were back to track meet status until our oldest daughter called to say the twins were on the way. It was an unscheduled C-section the day after my actual birthday. The twins are a bit early, but it was a good decision and now they are able to grow and finish off their development with some pretty good eyes watching them.

Raja sitting at my feet today.

James and I spent one over night in Bismarck and then headed back to our home and all the things that entails. Vic and Nate and that set of grandkids was here for the weekend as was Paulina who brought Jessica’s dog, Raja. She had quite a trip too. They had a track and field meet in Aberdeen which from Jamestown to Aberdeen to here is a triangular sort of issue and would have made for lots of driving had she gone on the team bus. So, she opted for the drive herself with the dog in the car version, then she was able to come straight home from the meet. She got to Eureka in time to meet us at The Stop after Maundy Thursday services, which technically is a no-no. The jist of that service is to go home alone in silence and think about your life until Sunday. As you can tell, it is one of my least favorite days of the church year.

So Good Friday was wait for the Dickinson crew and Saturday was dye eggs with Jaxon and hang out with the family. We dug a ham and a bag of frozen potatoes that I picked up hither and yon from the freezer and that was our delicious Easter dinner after a church service that was like no other. We had several visitors as we do each year, but we also had two families that no one knew come in and join us. It was wonderful, and hopefully we didn’t scare them off from never coming back. James said at least one of them seemed to be enjoying the message, so hopefully….! I have resigned myself to the idea that we will not be adding members, so you never know.

Well, in a nut shell that is what we have been doing as of late. Hopefully, I can get to some of my work in the house and a few posts that have been on the back burner. I am not sure how far I will get before June. We have a full schedule of track and field meets as long as the weather cooperates. We have a wonderful set of junior high athletes and I just hope we do right for them. Paulina has some meets we might get to attend and this Saturday, we are planning to make a trip to Bismarck and hope to peek on the new grandchildren. Jessica started a Caring Bridges site, so we are able to keep up with their progress from afar. But, nothing like the first hand version.

Well, enough for now. I really need to get to the church office sometime today. We have a board meeting tonight and I should maybe get a report ready for it…. Yikes!!

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