newsletter

Watermelon Rind Jelly

Ever since Almanzo’s older sister chided her younger brother for wasting his watermelon rind on his pig in Farmer Boy, I’ve wanted to try watermelon rind jelly. I mean seriously, what good is watermelon rind? Up until now, I’ve fed it to the chickens or put it on the compost pile but couldn’t help but wonder what old time deliciousness we were missing by tossing aside the rind.

So I finally tracked down a recipe and Mouse made some for the county fair.

Watermelon Rind Jelly

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cubed watermelon rind (not the hard green peel! Just the soft whitish green part you normally don’t eat.)
  • 3 ounces liquid pectin
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or ginger. I want to try that next!)
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar

Directions

  1. Puree watermelon rind in a blender.
  2. Add watermelon rind puree, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Add the liquid pectin and continue cooking for fifteen minutes. Stir to keep from burning and skim the foam.
  4. Remove from heat and process in a hot water bath.

Now we must wonder no more and our first batch turned out so good, I may buy our next melon for the rind.  Fortunately, I’ll never have to worry about what to do with all the left over red stuff.

(Unfortunately, my camera isn’t playing nicely with my computer or I’d share a picture of one of my children enjoying the juicy fruit. Maybe the one in which my 18 month old son is covered in seeds after a watermelon seed spitting war.)

Disclosure: The link is an affiliate link and I could theoretically earn a few cents from it. It’s never happened before, but you know. In theory, it could happen.

newsletter

Red clover jelly: recipes and reviews

We have a field of red clover, otherwise known as a pasture, on our property. I’m sure the bees will love it when they get here. The goats as well. Everyone seems to love clover and if you’ve ever sucked on those little purple flowers on the flower head, you know why. If not, well, I’m afraid you may not have had an adequate upbringing. Take a moment to find some nice red clover, pull it apart and share it with your children.

Anyway, it’s a flower and it’s edible so of course I had to make jelly out of it.

I wasn’t as sure of this one since clover has such a delicate flavor to begin with. It has neither the fragrance, nor the strength of lilac or black locust. That, and I had difficulty finding a recipe. If the jelly were all that good, it seems like it would be easier to find instructions on how to make it.

So I started out with the same basic infusion I used for lilac jelly, black locust blossom jelly and dandelion jelly.

For the clover infusion:

4 cups boiling water
4 cups clover flower heads (This part was way easier with clover. All parts of the plant are edible, and none of them particularly offensive. While it is beneficial to use only the actual flower head, a little green isn’t going to have a noticeable effect on the jelly.)

Place clover in a glass or stainless steel container, cover with boiling water and leave it steep overnight. Strain out flowers and squeeze out excess water, reserving liquid for the jelly.

For the clover jelly:

4 cups infusion (add water to replace what was lost in straining)
8 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 packages powdered pectin
8 cups sugar

Add lemon juice to the infusion, stir in pectin and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add the sugar all at once and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for one minute, skim and pour into jelly jars. Process like you would any other jelly. Here’s a great tutorial from Owlhaven.

I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor. It was light, but very pleasant. I loved the color, and lamented that I don’t seem to have the whole bubble free jelly thing down, yet. I tried pouring it into the jars quickly, but I think the real issue was that the jelly was already setting before I got it into the jars. You’re not really supposed to double recipes when using powdered pectin, or so I’ve heard. Maybe this is why? Or maybe I’ll just figure it out in time. No one around here really cares, anyway, so long as it tastes good on bread. And it does.

Then I found another recipe for an infusion. And of course I had to try it. Both with the juice and with the wine.

For the clover infusion:

5 cups apple juice or white wine
2 cups clover in a glass or stainless steel dish

Bring juice or wine to a boil and pour over clover. Cover and let sit until cool. Or, uh, overnight if you get busy and sort of forget about it. Strain and reserve liquid for the jelly.

For the clover jelly:

4 cups clover infusion
8 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
6 oz liquid pectin

Combine infusion, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as sugar has dissolved, stir in pectin. Return to a rolling boil for one minute. Remove from heat, skim foam and process like you would any other jelly in a hot water bath.

I was quite pleased with the results. The jelly was picture perfect. Clear, no bubbles and that perfect wiggle-on-your-spoon consistency. I don’t know if it was the liquid pectin (which is supposedly happier with the whole doubling thing), the juice/wine or just that I was more conscientious about skimming foam during the whole process rather than just at the end. Either way, the jelly was beautiful.

My daughter wants me to enter it in the fair.

The clover infusion made with apple juice ended up tasting like apple jelly. It was a good apple jelly, with a slight unidentifiable flavor that added more character than most apple jellies have, but it was still apple jelly. And all hints at character were mostly lost once you stopped licking the knife and tasted it on bread.

The infusion made with the wine, however, was quite interesting. Maybe it was just the wine, but it seemed to bring out the flavor of the clover and accent it well. And the interesting flavor carries over to the bread, as well, which is a nice bonus since I’m not in the habit of eating jelly by the spoon full.

A word of caution, however. That whole idea about alcohol burning off in cooking? It isn’t as true as you might like to believe. The jelly isn’t boiled long enough to be confident this is actually an alcohol free jelly. White cooking wine doesn’t have a particularly high alcohol content to begin with, but it is still good to keep in mind.

Note: If you go off in search of clover, remember to be sure it is clover that hasn’t been sprayed. Oh, and you can use any kind of clover. I just happen to have tons of red clover. If you don’t have tons, you can halve this recipe. It was doubled to begin with.

Happy jelly making!

newsletter

Capture the fragrance of spring with lilac jelly!

Nothing says spring quite like lilacs in bloom. For seven years, I enjoyed the lilac perfumed air that our single bush provided and now we have an entire hedge. I enjoy them so much in the yard, I have always been hesitant to cut them so it is perhaps a little odd that we have spent two days harvesting the delightful little flowers.

Except that I’m dying to plant something. . . anything. . . in my garden. We have so many plans for our little acreage but only so much money and time. Patience is proving my great test as I look at my untilled garden and wait.

And that’s when I discovered lilacs are not only beautiful and aromatic, they are edible. We went out for a sample. “Blech,” was the unanimous opinion. I think the children were expecting the sweetness of honeysuckle nectar. Instead, it was bitter. Reminding them of the sweetness of lemonade after the sugar was added, however, sent them scrambling for paper bags for the harvest.

After my initial hesitation to pick them passed, I found harvesting the tiny lilac flowers quite enjoyable. No matter how tall or short you are, there are flowers at eye level. No stretching or bending required. Pulling off all the green parts to discard proved a little tedious, but standing in the midst of that aroma made it more than worthwhile. Even the baby enjoyed pulling off handfuls and his little spot in the grass soon turned light purple with the shower of buds. Working alongside the fluttering of the butterflies and the buzzing of the bumblebees while the chickens occasionally peeked out of the hedge to see what we were up to proved rather enjoyable.

I began thinking what a lovely spring tradition this could become as I went inside with the first batch to start some lilac muffins. Heavenly, from start to finish. I always enjoy cooking with new ingredients, but the beauty of the blossoms when my four year old dumped them into the batter surprised me. We took a small taste and were pleasantly surprised. I don’t know how to describe the flavor, exactly, except that it is one of those subtle flavors. You know something is there but you can’t quite identify it, making the muffin interesting as well as flavorful.

I was surprised that the flowers turned brown while cooking, and that they turned the muffins a deep yellow, almost like saffron. Again, the flavor was subtle but intriguing. The children scarfed them down and decided this was definitely worth the work. They grabbed the MP3 player and spent the rest of the afternoon gathering lilac buds.

L.E.Fant and I made lilac sugar. I started making plans for a lilac tea when the sugar finishes in a couple weeks. Then I started the piece de resistance, the lilac jelly.

Lilac Jelly

4 cups lilac blossoms, green parts removed
4 cups boiling water
8 tablespoons lemon juice
2 packages powdered pectin
8 cups sugar

Rinse lilacs and place in a large glass or stainless steal container. Cover with boiling water, cover with a lid and let sit for 24 hours. This will make a nice lilac infusion which smells nice but doesn’t look anything like you would expect. It is murky and either greenish or brownish.

Strain the lilacs, squeezing out the excess water, and discard. Add lemon juice to the infusion, stir in pectin and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Add the sugar all at once and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for one minute, skim and pour into jelly jars.

Process like you would any other jelly. Here’s a great tutorial from Owlhaven.

Mom’s homemade lilac jelly scored rave reviews with the children. They all wanted seconds, Bear said it was 300 times better than any store bought jelly and Mouse said it was definitely worth the work of picking all those tiny flowers.

It isn’t quite the color you’d expect. I’ve read that some people actually add blueberry juice to their lilac jelly to make it more that light purple color normally associated with lilacs, but that seems so. . . I don’t know. . . artificial.

Did I mention how wonderful my kitchen smells? All fresh and springy and lilac-y?

I’ll definitely be making this again next year. Actually, I may be making it again as soon as I refresh my sugar supply!