Thursday, September 25, 2014

Prickly Pear Jelly and Syrup, how to process prickly pears a little easier!

I've been making Prickly Pear Jelly again, and looked on the internet for a good syrup recipe to make this year. After reading several recipes that require pealing the fruit, I've decided to put my recipe on the blog in case someone would like a new idea for making it that I think is easier. First of all, picking prickly pear fruit requires some special care, because there are spines and glochids, or tiny hairlike spines that seem to have a poison in them and burn like fire about an hour after they get into the skin. I use heavy leather gloves, BBQ tongs and plastic buckets. Sometimes I even wear thinner rubber gloves under the leather ones, just to keep the stickers out. Use the tongs to pick the fruit, and be careful not to step too close to the plant, the spines almost jump out at you! Once they are picked, I pour them onto a metal screen designed for screening gravel, but you can put them on bare ground as well. Then I use a propane torch to burn off the spines and glochids, rolling the fruit until I've torched all sides of the fruit. It's so much easier than cutting off the skin! Hold the torch about 6" above the fruit as you burn off the stickers and it will not burn them. Once the fruit is prepped, I rinse it off and put it into a big pot, cover them with water, to about 1-2 inches above the fruit. Boil it for 1/2 hour to an hour. I usually process 10-20 lbs at a time, so it should take less time with less fruit. Once the fruit is soft, use a long sharp knife to cut them open, while in the pot. The skin is tough so the knife helps open them up and let the juices flow. Then use a potato masher to mash the fruit well, and low-boil for another 1/2 hour. Use a strainer to separate fruit from the juice, discard fruit. If you have a spaghetti pot with a set-in strainer, put the fruit in that first,and once it's boiled you can pull it right out! Otherwise use a colander covered with cheesecloth. Then I simmer to low-boil the juice until it reduces by about 1/3 to 1/2, or until it has a nice strong flavor. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. It will be fruity and slightly bitter. At this point you can use the juice for jelly or syrup. This way to process the fruit may take a little longer, but is much easier on your hands than cutting and handling the fruit. Prepare 10 1/2 pint jars by washing and sterilizing them, prepare either a water bath pot or, my favorite, a steam canner. If using the steam canner, you can wash the jars and place them upside down in the steam canner on low heat while cooking the jelly. They will be sterilized and ready for use! Mine is a 'Back to Basics' brand, but I'm sure there are others to choose from. Prickly Pear Jelly Makes 10 1/2 pint jars 8 cups prickly pear juice 1 cup low-sugar powder pectin; Ball has a large jar of pectin that I really like, one jar will do one batch 1/2 cup lemon juice 1 Tbsp butter if desired, to reduce foam 6 cups sugar For spicy jelly, add 2-3 tablespoons of jalapeno puree. 1-2 jalapenos pureed in a food processor gives the jelly a nice little kick and really brings a great flavor. Place prickly pear juice, pectin, lemon juice, butter and jalapenos into a large pot, bring to rolling boil stirring occasionally. Slowly add sugar, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a hard boil, stirring constantly, boil for one minute. Turn off heat, and ladle into sterilized 1/2 pint jars. I haven't made syrup, but you can use a basic syrup recipe from any canning book, using the juice instead of water. I googled syrup and found several interesting recipes as well, give that a try!

Friday, January 31, 2014

So Many Changes

I haven't written in my blog for so long, I've forgotten how to use blogspot! The past two weeks have been so hard, I decided I need to write a few things down before I forget the timeline. January 16, 2o14, Mom had a serious stroke. She had a 'mini-stroke' on December 3, and it was such a shock when it happened again. I went over about 9:30 Thursday morning, and she was sitting in her recliner, just staring out the window. She had a very 'flat affect', meaning very little expression on her face. I asked her what happened, and it took her several seconds to respond. She said she had fallen and hit her head when she got up to go to the bathroom. As she was leaving the bathroom, she fell against the doorjamb and hit the side of her head, bounced off and hit the other side of the doorjamb, again bumping her head. So there were 3 hits to the head, I thought, which could account for her behavior. I was assessing the situation and continued to talk with her, becoming more worried by the moment. I called her doctor and explained what happened, and they sent us to the emergency room. We found out that Mom had a stroke, but it was quite a shock to me when the doctor was doing a stroke assessment; she had no numbness or paralyzation on any limbs, but she couldn't see his fingers wiggling at her on the left side. He sent for a neurologist, who did a more thorough assessment, and it quickly became clear that the stroke had damaged her brain's ability to interpret the messages the left eye was sending. The doctors and nurses seem to think this damage may be permanent, which means she can no longer drive. Her swallowing was also affected somewhat, but that cleared up pretty quickly. By the next day she was returning to normal thinking and responses, which was a huge relief to me. She was very unsteady on her feet and having difficulty with her new vision problems, so I pushed to have her admitted to a good rehabilitation hospital. The doctor recommended Mountain Valley Rehab in Prescott Valley, and they moved her Friday evening. Allison drove through the night Friday night, spent a few hours sleeping at Megann's before picking me up to drive to P.V. Dear Allie stayed with Mom from Saturday until Tuesday, helping her with everything she needed except walking, the hospital was insistent that one of their employees had to be with her getting in and out of bed, to the bathroom, etc. Allison made it so much easier for Mom and for me by being there. Mountain Valley had her doing some kind of therapy 3 hours a day for 10 days, especially teaching her how to compensate for the vision problems. Tuesday January 28 I drove her from Prescott Valley to St Johns, AZ, to her new home at the Hinkson Assisted Living center. Thank goodness my cousin Marvin Haines came up from Mesa and went with me, he was so much help getting Mom in and out of the car, and even drove quite a bit. Mom decided it was time for her to live somewhere with more care available. It's really hard to see her leave here, but I know my sister Debbie will take good care of her there. Besides, 4 of Debbie's kids, and 20 grandkids live in St Johns, so Mom will have a lot more family there to spend time with her. This has been a huge adjustment for her, but she is determined to make it work out. She is an amazing woman!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cooking, cleanin' and sewing

Lately I've been sewing, drying foods and clearing out clutter. It's nice to get things out of the house that haven't been used for a long time, and send it on to a new life with someone else. We have some great 2nd hand stores that support organizations such as St Vincent de Paul's and the Old Town Mission, so I try to send most of my things to them. Two big bags of clothing, several flower vases and even some silk flowers are off to the 2nd hand store. Right now I'm making a skylight cover for Heather's house for the front room. It's nice for the winter, but makes it really hot in the summer, so hopefully this will help. The project before that was a button-up shirt for David as a father's day gift, then an apron and pot holders for my niece, Franki's graduation. She loves to cook! I want to make me a nice caftan-style dress for casual wear around the house, but pretty enough to wear out if I want. Since it's a little too hot to do any canning, I've been drying apples, celery and next will be peppers. I want to make 'dinner in a jar' recipes. I found them on Chef Tess' blog, and they are so interesting. Done in bulk, they use freeze-dried meats, dried vegies, etc. Put together in quart canning jars, all you have to do is dump them in a pan to cook. I'll let you know how it works out.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's been too long!

Man, I haven't written in this blog for months, so sorry! Seems I've lost my attention to Facebook, and it's games. That, holidays, sewing, family- it just distracted me for a while.

We had a wonderful visit with Dakota last month, she was here for a week before school started again. Now that Nic and Gina have moved into their own apartment, she won't be staying with us much any more. I hope to have her spend the night at least once when she comes out to visit though. I made her a pair of pajamas with my new Bernina sewing machine. Yes, I'm pretty excited, David gave me a beautiful machine that does embroidery as well as regular sewing. I've been taking the free classes to learn how to use it fully, and can't wait to start some more clothing and home decor stuff.

Whitney Houston died yesterday, it's such a shock. She was only 48, and left an 18 year old daughter behind. I don't know what happened, but it saddens me greatly, she was so talented, and her demons started taking her down a very dark path. This is what I wrote on facebook:

My thoughts on Whitney Houston's life, and death. We all have amazing talents and character flaws. Even the smallest of us has something to offer to others. No-one is perfect- Whitney had a perfect voice, and we were so happy to share her gift, but she also had flaws and challenges few knew about. Do our flaws or sins negate what we offer to the world? No, of course not, thus the joy and pain of life. The best we can do is continue to strengthen our talents and improve our weaknesses. Sometimes our dark sides overcome our strengths, but it still doesn't diminish whatever good we have brought into this world. Luckily, most of us don't have our dirty laundry aired before the whole world, and can have some dignity in our trials. Rest in peace Whitney, and thanks for your beautiful music in my life.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Busy Fall

I helped Mom drive the motor home back from Nevada last month, and we stayed with Allison for several days along the way. Whitney got tickets for Women's Conference, and we met her friend there. There's no fee, but you do have to have a ticket to get in. It was so wonderful to sit in the Conference center and listen to such inspired people speak, and share their testimonies. Thanks Whitney!

On our slow drive home we also stopped at the Barton's, and had a good visit with Sharry and Dave. He is recovering well from his terrible accident. He broke a vertebra in his back, crushed his leg, bruised the brain- when his parachute collapsed in May. It's amazing he survived, and he's already back to work. A little slower than he used to be, his leg is still healing, but an incredible comeback.

While we were traveling, I found peaches! I bought 2 boxes of fresh, yummy Utah peaches, and bottled a case, and made jam with the rest. So tasty! My niece Megan brought some apples by last week; they are from Garland's, in Oak Creek canyon. We made applesauce with them, plus a few were dried with cinnamon-sugar on them.

Click picture below to see album!

Christmas 2008

Carthage Jail & Nauvoo Temple