Food Projects

I haven’t posted much, mainly because I’ve been busy…kids, work, life, yada, yada, yada. Here’s a recap of all my recent food projects that keep me up at midnight, poring over a vat of boiling water, because late at night is my only available time to geek out on food preservation…

My first foray into the wild microbial world of funky fermentation began with yogurt. It was stupidly easy, delicious, thick, creamy and rich…

But nothing compares to the supreme fermented funkiness of sauerkraut. I made two different batches- one with red cabbage and one with Napa. I enjoyed them both, but found the Napa cabbage so alluring, I want to take it a step further and make Kimchi. Kraut is serious stuff. I gorged on it and unwittingly went into detox mode (in the form of a rash)…I consulted my good friend who is wise in the ways of fermentation and she told me that is was very normal. She advised me to start with a little bit at a time and work my way up to more…I’ll write more later about my new found love for fermentation- it’s honestly fascinating and ridiculously good for you. Horrrrrayyy Microbes!!!

Early Stages of Sauerkraut.

The kids attended a summer school program and they helped plant and nurture a bountiful garden. They brought home pounds of zucchini and with their zucchini-phobia, I knew I had to can it. So I canned a zesty zucchini relish- red bell peppers, onions, garlic, fresh nutmeg and fresh horseradish, vinegar and a dash of cayenne. How good would it be on a hot dog? Yum.

Zucchini Relish

Our friend who runs a small farm in our town, generously dropped by with a TON of apples, pears and plums. So thankful for good friends who share their bounty and give me canning projects to obsess over…

Apples, Plums and Pears (courtesy of Smithneck Farms)

This is my Tart Plum Jam with Cardamom and Vanilla. I’m not confident about it. It sounds damn good, but I think it may be too tart and I added too much cardamom….And I think I put the vanilla in too late, thus not burning off the alcohol in the extract…So perhaps I should call it Drunken Tart Plum Jam with Too Much Cardamom.  Live and learn, live and learn.

Tart Plum Jam with Cardamom and Vanilla.

Then the pears…I could have poured myself a tall glass of the liquid that the pears were in…

Brandied Spiced Pears

Apples! How I love me some apples. I made a standard apple butter that seriously tastes like apple pie in a jar.  Then I made a variation on the apple butter…Brown Butter and Sage Apple Butter….Two sticks of butter and snipped fresh sage….Now I’ve always believed two things: 1. Bacon makes everything better. 2. Butter makes everything even better. Now I’ll add in: Sage makes apple butter better. (try saying that three times).

I got a second pear delivery from my friend and made vanilla honey pear butter (the big jar in the middle).


I’m a sucker for chutneys. Spicy, sweet, sour. I add extra garlic because like bacon and butter, garlic makes everything better too. Here’s my Pear Cranberry Chutney. I’m going to bust this one out on Thanksgiving with the turkey, that’s for damn sure.

Pear Cranberry Chutney

Jam making can be hit or miss. My friend dropped by green plums and I figured I would just make a jam with the mountain of whole vanilla beans I have on hand. With canning, you do have to consider appearances, just as you would consider plating when you present a dish. Obtusely, I assumed the jam would be the hue of a green jewel- like a lovely tourmaline…Needless to say it looks like a fuzzy green sweater I purchased at thrift store when I was 15 during my punk-rock/grunge phase.  And that’s not a good thing when describing jam. So, in the spirit of humility, I present my Puce Plum Jam:

Puce Plum Jam. Ug.

I have some more plums from my neighbor. But I’m done with these vexing plum jams. I think I’m going to make a Chinese Plum Sauce and call it a day.

Next foodie project I shall embark on:


I’ll start with some basic mozzarella and see where that takes me.

And that reminds me…Number 5: everything is better with cheese.

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4 thoughts on “Food Projects

  1. Karen says:

    I can’t believe how busy you have been. Everything sounds wonderful, especially your pear cranberry chutney and the brown butter and sage apple butter. About how many apples did you use to the two sticks of butter?

    • Hi Karen- I had about 17 pounds of apples! I split it in half and made 1/2 batch of regular applebutter and 1/2 batch of the sage butter apple butter. So, it was about 8 pounds (about 24 medium apples) and I used 1 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of snipped sage. One thing I figured out later on is that it might not be shelf stable- you’re not supposed to can butter, fats, oils, etc. But, I did get this recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens canning magazine…I emailed the editors to see if it was shelf stable and have yet to hear back. I am keeping it in my fridge just to be safe!

      Here is the recipe from another blog if you’d like:

      I altered it to be a butter, so I cooked it A LOT longer till it was thick and did not “weep” (water did not separate from the butter when I put it on a cold plate).

      It’s so dang good. Very unexpected flavors, but so so good! Enjoy!

  2. Elise says:

    Jenna I am still loving your blog! You need to write a book. The image I have of you as a former-suburbia-tattooed-OC-sailor-mouth-Ladera-environmental-activist turned gourmet-canning-housewife-goat mama Jenna is pretty much awesome and seriously enhances sitting at a computer doing accounting all day! My favorite magazine is Sunset and your blog reads like a great issue of Sunset. We miss you guys and seriously hope to visit you all someday!

  3. Julie says:

    I can say from personal experience that vanilla honey pear butter is yummy! Did you put ginger in it? Please tell me you put ginger in it!

    On a related note, Lily’s first grade teacher requires that once a month they turn a small homework assignment into a 3 minute presentation. Lily turned “what is ripe now?” into “how to make pear butter” and taught her class how to do just that. She also took them samples. She earned an A. Perhaps your kids can also trade fruit butter for grades! 😉 lol

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