Gin and Jelly (sounds like a rap song)

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Chokecherries by themselves are rather tart and cannot be eaten plain, however if you boil them with water then the juice can be turned into all sorts of delights!  Here are a few recipes for chokecherries to save the delightful taste of summer.

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Chokecherry Gin

Fill a half gallon canning jar with chokecherries

Add 3 cups of sugar (organic and raw preferably)

Fill jar with gin.

Let sit for at least two months.  Shake daily for the first week to dissolve sugar.

I don’t strain it until the liquid is below the fruit.  The color becomes a deep purple.

My friend, Sandy, adds more sugar half way through the waiting time and hers is quite spectacular.  I may do the same this year.  A nip of this concoction during the holidays or on a cold evening in front of the fire is very satisfying and very tasty.  Incredibly smooth and easy to drink, do keep in mind it is straight gin!  Make mixed drinks with it as well.  The gorgeous, festive color lends itself to fine holiday gifts.  Just pour into a decorative jar and arrange a ribbon about its neck.

Chokecherry Jelly

This, my dear friends, is the first time that my chokecherry jelly has set completely!  I have made a good deal of chokecherry syrup over the years unintentionally.  (Which is quite delicious blended with maple syrup and poured over waffles.)  My friend, Liza, brought me a magazine and in it was a recipe for chokecherry jelly which used two packets of liquid pectin rather than one as I had been doing.  And it worked.

This recipe is a variation of the one from the Fall 2014 Capper’s Farmer magazine.

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Place 1 quart of chokecherries in a saucepan and cover with about two inches of water.  Boil until the color is lovely and the seeds are all showing through the skin.  Strain liquid.

Put 3 cups of juice in pan.

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Add 6 1/2 cups of sugar (organic and raw preferably) and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla sea salt (optional).

Bring to rolling boil stirring constantly.

Add two packets of liquid pectin and return to boil.  Boil for two minutes.

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Take off heat and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Pour into half pint and/or 4 ounce jars.  Clean rim and replace lids.  Boil in large pan with water covering jars for 6 minutes.  12 minutes if you are in my neck of the woods.

Mmm…chokecherry jelly and peanut butter sandwiches, chokecherry jelly on biscuits, on toast, in oatmeal, in salad dressing, in barbeque sauce, in….

Our Farmstead in August (chokecherries, herbs, bees, and helpers)

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August is a beautiful time on a farm.  The daily rainfall (incredibly rare) has made this place look like an absolute Eden.  Allow me to give you a tour in photos with your morning coffee.

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This wouldn’t be Pumpkin Hollow Farm if there were no pumpkins.  Princess orange pumpkins and green pinstriped pumpkins are quickly filling the front yard.  Some have taken over the herbs.  Some have volunteered in the back pasture and in the mulch pile with the help of our neighborhood birds.

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We grow dozens of herbs for the medicines we make.  Our bees need not scurry far as they are immediately drawn to the medicine gardens.  Calendula (for mouthwash and skin conditions) mingles with Bidens Ticks (a strong anti-biotic when mixed with juniper berries).  Blue Lobelia masquerades as a prim and proper flower when its real superpower is in opening airways and has a place in my asthma medicine.  Funky red Monarda (also known as bee balm) is great in cold medicines and in my brain extracts.  Another picture of fluffy calendula brightens up the herb garden.

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The bees have been tremendously busy bringing in bloomers full of pollen from the sweet herbs surrounding them.  Should we get a bit of honey this year it will taste of summer and herbs.  Wild Herb Honey.

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Such bounty we have received from our dear gardens.  I was surprised to see that even though I stole their tomato cage and stopped watering them the shelling, snap, and snow peas all continued to grow.  I shall try to extend their season next year.  I did not expect them to survive through summer.  The tomatoes are growing with a new vibrancy now that the sun has started to show hot on their beds.  The green beans are irrepressible and the corn is taller than me.

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Another thing taller than me is the mullein.  We let it grow in the yard instead of mowing it down and it is a powerful tool in our artillery for everything from asthma, colds, nerve pain, and digestive disorders.  This herb is a gift!

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Another gift of August is chokecherries! So many people ask me what a chokecherry tastes like and I am ever surprised that a lot of folks have not tasted the sweet taste of chokecherry jelly.  They are not eaten plain.  A small bite will taste like a drying powder in the mouth.  They are boiled with water and the juice is used to make a myriad of recipes from chokecherry tapioca to chokecherry pudding (an American Indian tribe Crow recipe eaten with deer jerky) along with chokecherry jelly that my grandmother used to make and my new favorite, chokecherry gin, that my friend Sandy made!

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There is something magical about berry stained fingers.   A sense of place and of the earth, the warmth of the day, an adorable helper, and the promise of goods to eat during the winter create a peace only found on farms.

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Though we are as busy as our bee hive, we take time to see the flowers, smell the earth after rain, bask in the sunshine, and give thanks for nature’s gifts,

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and fully enjoy summer for winter’s winds will be knocking on our doors before we are ready!