Backyard Bounty: Rhubarb Jelly recipe

For the past six weeks I have watched our three giant rhubarb plants steadily spread their wings and grow, and grow, and grow in the back yard.

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With leaves so big they block the stalks like the canopy of a rain forest, I have been pulling them back and peeking for weeks at the progress, and now, they are finally ready to harvest.

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Last weekend I did a first cutting, and this weekend a second. Sunday afternoon I got to dicing and made a batch of rhubarb jelly, the first canning of this summer. I used this recipe http://www.rhubarb-central.com/rhubarb-jelly.html as a base but made some adjustments based on my previous experiences making jelly last summer.

Rhubarb Jelly

Ingredients

Yield= (3) 8 oz. jars

  • 4 cups rhubarb, chopped into, small, 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 pouch powdered lower-sugar pectin
  • 1/2 tsp. butter or margarine

In a non-reactive pan, combine the rhubarb and water.

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Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, and remove from heat.

Process the above mixture through a cheesecloth strainer, allowing juice to drip.

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***To prepare strainer:

  • Transfer liquid into a bowl and rinse out the pot you boiled the rhubarb in.
  • Place one layer of cheesecloth over top of the pot side to side and secure with a rubber band.

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  • Place a second layer of cheesecloth over the first from top to bottom and secure with another rubber band.

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  • Now place the cooked rhubarb on the cheesecloth and drain juice into the pot.

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Press firmly with wooden spoon to get out as much juice as possible.

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  • When finished, scrape off rhubarb into trash/compost and THEN remove the cheesecloth so there are no accidents in spilling rhubarb chunks into the juice.???????????????????????????????
  • Measure juice, and if necessary, add water to yield 1 3/4 cups rhubarb juice. I added another 1/2 cup water.

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Place three clean 8 oz. jars, discs, and lids in boiling water and boil hard for 5 minutes to sterilize the jars.

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Transfer to a dish towel.

In a large, deep, non reactive pan, combine the rhubarb juice and all the sugar, and mix well to combine.

Over high heat, bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

To reduce foaming, add the butter or margarine.

Add the entire pectin pouch.

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Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, and quickly skim off foam, if necessary.

Immediately pour the jelly into the hot jars, leaving about
1/4″ headspace at the top of the jar.

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Seal jars firmly and leave to rest of dish towel until cool. You should hear each jar seal with a “pop” within a few hours.

Place jars in refrigerator overnight before bed.

In the next 24 hours, your jelly should set!

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I do not boil my jars again once they are filled with jelly, as many recipes call for. I have had bad luck doing this in the past, where my jelly never sets, and I’m not sure why (I made some awesome cherry mojitos with my jelly syrup, though!) I also don’t leave the jars out overnight on the counter to set, again I have had set-failures doing this. Putting it in the fridge works for me–it sets up within the next 1-2 days doing this. In addition, I typically use 2 cups of sugar mixed in with the fruit regardless of how much sugar the recipe calls for, and have always had success doing this. I just can’t justify adding 3.5 cups of sugar when 2 cups can work. As for storage, I keep the jars in the fridge and freeze the jars I know I won’t use within a month. These tweaks are simply what works for me at this time, and at this elevation, it may not work for all.

By Noon today my jelly was semi-set, spreadable, yet still a little runny. I busted open a jar and ate some off the spoon and it was fabulous! I am definitely planning to make another batch.

Spinach Artichoke and Venison Sausage Alfredo

Wishing You a Happy Easter

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This wreath is the perfect blank canvas, an all-seasons wreath. It is perched outside my front door, and I change the decorations on it with the seasons and holidays. Both the wreath and this vintage egg-flower Easter basket (with 1968 handwritten in marker on the bottom!)  came from the Opportunity Shop, the local thrift store that uses the money it makes to provide grants to local non-profits. Pretty neat, truly passing the buck and creating opportunities for many people in many different ways.

On to the meal. With Spring Break upon us, it has been nice having some time in the evening to cook when I get home and not relying on the crockpot or piecing together meals with random leftover–not that random leftovers are bad, but regularly grazing on leftovers is not really a good habit to get into. With a large bag of fresh spinach and venison breakfast sausage that needed to be cooked or else, I came up with Spinach Artichoke and Venison Sausage Alfredo. The venison sausage is breakfast sausage, made from ground deer, ground pork butts, and this Breakfast Sausage Seasoning Kit. For more information on making your own breakfast sausage, check out this post.

Serves 2

  • 4 oz. dry spaghetti
  • 1 cup cooked, crumbled vension breakfast sausage
  • 2 Tbsp. diced green onion
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup half and half (I use fat free)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 6 oz. quartered marinated artichoke hearts
  • 2 tsp. margarine or butter
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 cups baby spinach, packed
  • salt and pepper

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1. Melt butter and olive oil in frying pan. Add in green onion, spinach, artichoke hearts, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute on medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 2 minutes.

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???????????????????????????????The green onions are from the garden last summer. After harvesting them, I cleaned and roughly diced them, and then put them in the freezer in an empty pop bottle. Throughout the year when I need to use them, I just shake them out frozen. Thank you, Pinterest!

2. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain water and rinse. Then add 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese to the pasta, saving the remaining 1/4 cup for later. ???????????????????????????????

3. Add chicken broth and half and half to the frying pan with the vegetables and cook on medium-low for another 2-3 minutes to make a sauce.

4. To the skillet, add crumbled breakfast sausage. I had cooked my sausage the day before because I was worried that it was going bad. If you need to, cook and crumble the sausage in a small frying pan at this point.

5. Now add the pasta into the skillet with the vegetables. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan over top and stir gently to combine???????????????????????????????

Scoop up a bowl and enjoy!  ???????????????????????????????

I like to know how what I am eating stacks up, so here are theNutrition Stats according to Livestrong. This recipe makes 3.5 cups.

Per 7 oz. (almost 1 cup) serving: http://www.livestrong.com/recipes/spinach-artichoke-elk-sausage-alfredo/

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Salsa Ranch Elk Taco Salad

Serves 1-4

Taco Meat:

  • 1/4 c diced yellow onion
  • 1 lb ground elk
  • 1/2 pkg. of taco seasoning- I use this recipe

Per Salad:

  • 1.5 c. romaine salad blend
  • 2 T. salsa ranch dressing (Bolthouse Farms brand or homemade)
  • 1 T. medium-heat salsa
  • shredded cheddar, as desired
  • crushed tortilla chips, as desired
  1.  Make the taco meat: Brown onion in medium frying pan and add in ground elk meat. Simmer on medium, stirring occassionally, until meat is no longer pink.
  2. Add in taco seasoning and stir to combine. Simmer another 2 minutes.
  3. Assemble the salads: place 1.5 c romaine into a bowl and top with ground meat, salsa ranch dressing, shredded cheese, salsa, and a few crushed tortilla chips. The Bolthouse Farms brand of salsa ranch yogurt dressing is tangy and creamy, and at only 45 calories per 2 Tablespoons, you can really pour it on!.

 

Elk Barley Soup

This wholesome soup is perfect for cold, snowy nights and makes great leftovers for lunches. I simmered mine low for about 45 minutes on the stove in a large, old army stockpot because I didn’t have much time, but this soup would work well in the crockpot, too.

Elk Barley Soup

Makes 6 servings

  • 1/2 lb. ground elk
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4.5 c. water
  • 1/2 c Medium Pearled Barley, uncooked
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 c sliced celery
  • 1/2 c sliced carrots
  • 1/2 c green beans
  • 1/4 c canned corn (totally optional, I needed to use it up)
  • 1 can consomme beef broth
  • 3 slices cooked bacon, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. bay leaves, crushed OR 1 bay leaf whole

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1. Brown meat in a frying pan, add in onion and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender.

2. Add meat mixture into stockpot or crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Simmer on the stovetop for 45 minutes- 1 hour, OR cook in crockpot on LOW 4 hours.

3. You can add more water if soup becomes too thick from the barley absorbing the liquid, although I did not need to.

 

 

 

Elk Chili

This has been home for the past 4 days for me while we have been elk hunting with friends. I had to return to work on Wedneday, but everyone else stayed in for a full week. It has been a snowy, fun-filled trip, ending with two nice bulls harvested, many more we were privileged to see, and a week full of great memories. This was the final trip for the horses this year, who are now officially on “vacation” for the winter, and Jade was a good camp dog, even joining me INSIDE my sleeping bag for the first night.

Last week before going out of town on a conference, I made one of my staple cold-weather recipes, chili, knowing there would be a few days of leftovers. Ground elk, venison, or beef all work great in this.

Elk Chili

Serves 6-8

  • 1 lb ground elk
  • 14 oz. can red beans (around here they are called “chili-ettes”)
  • 4 oz can diced green chilis, drained
  • ~ 8 oz. fresh tomatoes, diced (I used our garden tomatoes that had ripened up) OR 3/4 can diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • taco seasoning– I use Kittencal’s taco seasoning recipe from food.com
  • 1/4 c medium salsa
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/8 tsp.pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tsp. cumin
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1.5 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. Worcestshire
  • cheddar cheese & green onion–optional

1. Brown ground elk and season with taco seasoning. While meat is cooking, chop vegetables.

2. Dump meat into crockpot and add in remaining ingredients.

3. Cook in crockpot on LOW 4-6 hours. (My crockpot gets very hot on low, so adjust accordingly). Garnish with cheddar cheese and green onions.

4. Refrigerate leftovers once cool. We like using leftovers in scrambled eggs, in tortillas w/ cheese and salsa, or on hot dogs.

Crockpot Lasagna with Ground Elk

I have recently begun working an extra two hours per day tutoring, and four days per week I now find myself not getting home until 6 pm. By this time, we are hungry, and if dinner can’t be ready in about 10 minutes, I either want to eat leftovers or have something waiting for me when I walk through the door. My crockpot, a $3 yard sale steal, has made a quick re-entry into my life after lying dormant most of the summer, and I am currently making at least one crockpot meal per week. While I enjoy cooking and find it relaxing, when I am short on time, nothing is better than dumping your ingredients in the crockpot and knowing you will have dinner ready when you walk in the door.

I found a straight-forward recipe  from food.com and decided it was time to try lasagna in the crockpot. We waste no food in our house, and I am very conscious of using or freezing leftovers if not eaten within a day or two. I found myself with a leftover cooked elk burger, a mason jar of tomato puree I had frozen earlier, and a bunch of brown-paper-bag-ripened tomatoes from our garden ready to be used.

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Crockpot Lasagna with Ground Elk

Serves 2-3

16 oz. spaghetti sauce– I make my sauce and use “My Mama Iuliucci’s ‘Don’t Skip a Step Spaghetti Sauce’ “  as the basis of my sauce but I do skip a few steps…lol

4 oz. or more ground elk, crumbled (beef or venison would be fine, too)

~ 1.5 c Italian blend cheese

~ 1/2 c Parmesan cheese

~1.5 c 2% Cottage Cheese

Italian seasoning

3-6 No-cook lasagna noodles, depending on size of crockpot

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1. If using homemade, make spaghetti sauce, add in ground elk, and simmer in crockkpot for 3 hours on low. No need to dirty another pan! My sauce was made of what I had on hand and based off the above recipe: 16 oz. tomato puree, diced cherry tomatoes, onion, parmesan cheese, minced garlic, garlic pepper, sugar, salt, Italian seasoning, and parsley. I did not measure exactly.

2. Next, I scooped out 2/3 of the sauce, and left a layer on the bottom of the crockpot.

3. Next, I ran home during my 15 minute break between jobs, and layered non-cooked lasagna noodles (broken to fit the circular crockpot), spread them with cottage cheese, then sprinkled shredded Italian blend cheese and parmesan on top. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.

4. Repeat this process two more times–sauce, noodles, cheeses, Italian seasoning– and add a little extra cheese on the top and final layer.

5. Make sure your noodles are totally covered with sauce/cottage cheese so they cook and are not hard.

6. I only cooked my lasagna for 2.5 hours on HIGH in the crockpot and it was juuuust done. If I had had more time, I would cook it on LOW as recommended for 4-6 hours.

7. Serve with salad, and enjoy!