Summer

strawberryjam.jpgThis is one of my favorite things to make at the peak of strawberry season. I like to go to my local farmer’s market near closing time when vendors often drop the price of fresh berries.

This recipe will work with almost any type of fruit, but you may need to increase the sugar depending on the tartness – blackberries and raspberries usually require a bit more, peaches and plums use a bit less.

Read all the instructions before starting this recipe – you’ll need a few things prepped and ready – such as sterilized jelly jars (just follow instructions on box for sterilizing jars).

It is also worth purchasing a canning kit which usually includes wide mouth funnel, magnetic lid lifter, vinyl coated jar lifter, jar wrench & vinyl coated tong. You can find them online for about $10 at The Kitchen Store.

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peachketchupI can, can you? Sure you can! Canning is not hard to do at all, especially if you pick a really easy project like canning fruit. This year I received a box of luscious peaches from Washington state. They were perfectly ripe, but a bit crushed in spots due to poor handling in transit. Instead of canning slices or halves, I used the fruit—some perfect and some not so perfect—to make peach ketchup!

Peach ketchup is a lovely peachy color, but it tastes very much like tomato ketchup. Taste it before you can it, and adjust the spices and sugar to suit yourself. Use really great tasting fruit, it should not be brown or overripe, but if it is soft in spots, that's ok. Use the tangy sweet and sour ketchup just as you would regular tomato ketchup. It’s particularly great on potatoes.

Sweet Preservation ia a great go-to resource for canning and freezing stone fruits, offering how-to-tips, recipes, health information, customizable canning jar labels and more.

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strawberrypieStrawberries, the most popular berry fruit, are in high season right now and I'm thoroughly enjoying eating them every which way. Strawberries have always been a special part of summer for me. I can hardly remember a summer that I didn't go strawberry picking with my family. At the pick-your-own farm we would eat them right off the bush. Their flavor is so concentrated when eaten warm, heated by the sunlight. Now I don't so much eat them off the bush, but instead try to come up with new ways to serve the fruit.

This summer I decided to make a tart instead of the traditional strawberry pie. This tart features a sweetened mascarpone cheese base, topped with macerated fresh strawberries, all glazed with a syrup of the reserved berry juices and a touch of balsamic vinegar. Except for the tart shell, there is no baking involved. So it's very easy to put together for a family party, picnic, or the upcoming fourth of July holiday. Celebrate summer with strawberries.

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ranier-cherries.jpgJust on the edge of the vegetable garden my Hungarian grandparents had on their Indiana farm was a cherry tree. The sprawling branches thick with leaves provided a welcome canopy on hot, sunny days — and a perfect climbing structure for fun-loving children.

I do remember climbing very carefully into the tree, not too high, but just far enough off the ground to be able to reach for ripe cherries that I would pop into my mouth, spitting the hard-as-stone pits onto the earth below. And, thus began my insatiable desire for sweet, rosy cherries.

Several years ago, I brought a handful of Rainier cherries home from the grocery store. I couldn’t resist their characteristic rosy blush with a warm, sunny undertone. I ate one. I was hooked. It was the sweetest, most delicious cherry I had ever eaten. The creamy colored flesh was juicy and much more flavorful than the traditional bing cherries I was used to eating. The Washington Rainier was cherry perfection.

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friedgreenbeans.jpgStill finding new ways to use up all my Farmer's Market finds.  I love green beans and always buy so many, I could eat them with every meal.

I made these up as a little pre-dinner appetizer and they disappeared.  They were fantastic.  The kids proclaimed they tasted just like French fries and gobbled them up. 

The beans are crunchy and crisp and because they are a vegetable, you feel a little less guilty popping them in your mouth!

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