Strawberry Jam

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I bought some delicious strawberries this week from some other local farmers.  Despite my daughter’s protests (she would have eaten them ALLLLL), I made strawberry jam for the first time in years.

On our farm, we usually make jams and jellies only from the fruit we produce.  But, we love having a source for local strawberries, since we don’t currently grow them ourselves.

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Making our canned products – jams, jellies, salsas, etc. – with local products is important to us.  Locally grown, locally made is our philosophy.  On a rare occasion, we might have to substitute something like onions in our salsa, but only when our local sources have run out (which isn’t often!).  And then, we look for the From the Land of Kansas tags on the onions in the grocery store, so we can at least buy from Kansas.

I used to be intimidated by making jam and jelly, but just like with anything, after a little practice, it’s no big deal.  For me, the there are really only two key factors to making jam.  The first is understanding the basics of home canning safety (check out freshpreserving.com for great information).  The second is understanding the role pectin plays in gelling your jam or jelly.  I didn’t take the time to understand this when I first started out.  If I had, it would have saved me a lot of frustration.

This is a really great article that explains how pectin works (plus, it’s really funny): https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/08/jam-making-101-pectin-sugar-gel-point.html

If you’re thinking about making some jam or jelly, don’t be scared! … just dive right in and give it a try.  Here are a few things I’ve learned (disclaimer, these are intended to be helpful hints, not a full-tutorial on home-canning).

Step 1: Prep your jars, lids, and rims (freshpreserving.com)

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Step 2: Place clean and de-stemmed fruit in pot.

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Step 3: Mash ’em up with a potato masher.  If you’re not always in a hurry like me, you can take the time to methodically chop your fruit.  But who has that kinda time?

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Step 4:  Add the pectin and turn up the heat!  It’s important with jam or jelly to continually monitor it.  But honestly, the entire stove-top process takes less than 10 minutes, so it’s not big deal.  Turn on Netflix.  Just keep stirring.

Step 5: (This is the part where if you want to pretend jam is health food …. look away)  Once the fruit and pectin has just begun to boil, add the sugar.  LOTS of sugar.  (But don’t feel bad!  The sugar is part of what keeps jams and jellies from spoiling!)

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Step 6: Stir the sugar until it is completely dissolved.  KEEP STIRRING.  This is the part where it is easy to get impatient, but don’t.  This part is critical.  Your mixture should reach a boil that cannot be stirred down.  I repeat, CANNOT BE STIRRED DOWN.  No flimsy boils – a full rolling boil.

Once it has reached this point, keep boiling (and stirring!) for a solid minute.  Cannot stress this enough.  Jam has to have enough time at that really high boil for the extra water to evaporate.  If the water hasn’t evaporated, the pectin can’t bind, and you will have runny jam.

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Step 7: Fill your hot, sterilized jars and follow your recipe’s processing instructions.

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Step 8: Slather on toast (or better yet, a biscuit!) and enjoy!

 

Helpful hints:

Use a good pot for jam-making.  A really good pot.  One with a thick base is best for keeping the heat evenly distributed and to keep it from heating too quickly.

Sometimes it’s helpful to wear long sleeves, especially for step 6, as boiling jam tends to pop.

Depending on what fruit you are working with, it can sometimes take up to a day to gel.  My tomato jam always takes longer to gel than others.  Don’t get discouraged if yours hasn’t gelled right away.  Just give it a little more time.

Make sure you use recipes from trusted sources.  It’s possible to make your own recipes once you understand the basics of jam-making and how pectin and sugar interacts with different fruits.

 

See?  Easy, right?  Homemade jam is simply the best!  Locally grown, locally made jam is even better.  🙂

 

 

 

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Last of the season

Well, they aren’t beautiful, but these jalapeños are the last of our summer produce. Getting ready to sort through them in order to turn the good ones into delicious blackberry jalapeño jam.

I’m a little sad that the summer growing season is over, but also a tad relieved. Ready for a little R ‘n’ R this winter!

2017 Holiday Gift Packages

December 19, 2017 Update:  We have had TREMENDOUS support for our holiday gift packages this year!  We want to thank everyone who has helped make this Christmas sales season a huge success for our farm.  We are no longer accepting orders for Christmas 2017.  We look forward to serving our customers in the new year!

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Last year, we had so much fun launching our first Christmas gift packages!  We have been working to make some tweaks to the products and process this year to make things even BETTER.  Our local flower shop, Timber Creek Floral and Gifts has been awesome at helping us prepare the packaging, and we are really proud of the way they look AND taste!

We have two basic packages we are offering this year, but we can customize a package for you if these aren’t exactlywhat you want.

Our Large Holiday Gift Package includes: one 2 pound local, raw honey, one pint local salsa, two local fruit jams/jellies, and one beeswax lip balm from our bees, all in a cute buffalo plaid crate.  Cost for the large basket is $36.

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The small package includes: a 1 pound jar of local, raw honey, one pint local salsa, and one jar of local fruit jam/jelly for $18.  Increase the 1 pound honey to 2 pound to make the price $24.

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In each gift basket, you can specify the following:

Salsa:

Mild, Medium, or Hot

 

Jams and Jellies:

Spiced Tomato Jam (sounds gross, tastes amazing! trust me!)

Elderberry Jelly

Blackberry Jam

Blackberry Jelly

Blackberry Jalapeno Jam

Apple/Grape Jelly

Grape Jelly

Aronia Jelly

Mixed Fruit Jelly

Point of clarification – jelly is made from fruit juice, so is therefor smooth and with no pulp.  Jam is made from the whole fruit, so it will contain chunks of fruit and seeds. All of our jams and jellies are made with produce from our farm, or from our friends’ farms nearby.

We can also change the gift tags to say Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays or whatever message you choose.

To streamline things this year, we have an online order form here –

Werner Creek Farm Holiday Gift Basket Order Form

We would also love to sell individual products, if that is more your style.  We have three sizes of honey – 2 pound for $12, 1 pound for $6, and half pound for $3.50.

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Pint jars of salsa are $7

Quart jars of salsa (mild only) for $12

Half pints of jam or jelly are $4.50.

Beeswax lip balm is $3

We also have 1/4 pint jars of beeswax hand balm available for $10.

The individual items aren’t on the order form, but just make a note in the instructions if you want to add on any of these items.

Please contact us with any questions you might have!  My email is slwerner8@yahoo.com and my cell is 620-222-5821.

 

 

 

 

Procrastination

I truly don’t know how this happens.  The plan is always to make jams and jellies all winter long to use up the fruit and juice from the summer before that we didn’t have time to use and stuck in the freezer.  And then somehow, it is the end of May and my freezer still looks like this:

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Part of the problem this year (I think) is that we had such a mild winter that we were never really stuck inside.  We sure got a lot done outside around the farm, but I didn’t get as much canning done as I needed to do.

So yesterday, I made a tiny dent in the juice we have frozen.

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The result?  Delicious elderberry jelly and apple/grape jelly.  Still have a ways to go, but at least I freed up a little room in the freezer.

Oh, and this year’s blackberries are already starting to ripen.  Another season begins!

Local Product Christmas Gift Baskets


I know, I know, Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet.  But, for the early Christmas shoppers, we are now offering Werner Creek Farm Christmas gift baskets!  Pictured above is the deluxe basket for $35 and includes:

2 pints of salsa – one medium and one mild heat

2 pound jar of honey

Two half-pints of jam or jelly.  Flavor options are:

Mixed berry jam

Tomato jam

Blackberry jam

Blackberry jelly

Elderberry jelly

Apple/grape jelly

Jalapeño jelly

Blackberry jalapeño jam

Honey also makes a great gift by itself!  New this fall are our 1/2 pound jars (on the right), which are perfect stocking stuffer size.


We also have smaller baskets available for $22.  They include:

One pint of salsa

One pound jar of honey

Two half pints jam or jelly

We will make individualized arrangements for pick-up or delivery in the Cowley County area.

Orders can be made by messaging us on Facebook, calling 222-5821, or commenting below.

Thanks for looking and Merry Christmas!

Year in Review

I never have as much time as I would like to write about our farm.  I always have a running list in my mind of the things I WANT to write about.  Only a small percentage of those make it here.

So, as the year winds down, I thought I would go through some highlights from the year, as well as fill in some gaps.

Highlight #1

We had baby pigs on our farm for the first time!  DSC_0446

Speaking of pigs, here is our sow Ruby.  Have you ever seen such a big pig??  I mean, she’s almost as tall as our 5-year-old.  Good thing she is friendly.

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Highlight #2

We expanded our goat herd with Salvador Perez (or Salvy), our little grey buck, and three more little females.  Sadly, we lost our littlest goat this past weekend.  Not quite sure what happened, but Gage worked and worked to save that little goat.

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We are getting ready to comb cashmere for the first time next year.  Excited to send our cashmere fiber off to the fiber mill and get back some beautiful yarn!

Speaking of yarn, my “knitter’s block” seems to be ebbing and flowing this year.  I certainly haven’t knitted as much as in past years, but I was determined to make this little dress for Willa for her 1 year birthday.  Luckily, it is big enough, she will be able to wear it for awhile.  🙂

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P.S.  Thanks, Amy Shepherd for the awesome pictures!

Back to the goats, something that happened this summer is that we almost lost Petunia, our little red goat – and our friendliest goat.  Gage was out in Western Kansas helping with wheat harvest when Petunia was bitten on the face by a copperhead snake.

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You can see how swollen her face is here.  It’s a miracle she survived!

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Seems like the crises always happen when Gage isn’t around …  Murphy’s law, I suppose.

Highlight #3

We hosted three groups on our farm this summer:

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…a Farm Bureau Day Camp

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…a summer Science and Adventure Camp

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… and the Kansas Rural Center high tunnel workshop.  We really enjoyed having so many people out to our farm this past year, and hope to continue this in the future.

Highlight #4

In the midst of the summer craziness, I somehow forgot to mention that we got a new kitten.

This is Charlie.

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He is a total spaz, but we like him.  He has been known to alternately jump into fire pits, and jump into outdoor showers.  He may not be the brightest cat we have ever had, but he sure is entertaining.  🙂

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Charlie is weird and wonderful, and luckily likes little kids.

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Highlight #5

We significantly expanded our beekeeping operation this year.  We nearly doubled our number of hives, now being at around 21.  We have big plans for the bees next year, and hope to expand even more.

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Incidentally, this is what a REALLY BAD bee sting looks like.  And also why I haven’t yet gotten my nerve up to start beekeeping with Gage.

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Highlight #6

We had a BUMPER year with our vegetables and fruits!  We rarely ran out for our faithful customers at farmers market …

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And had plenty left over to can …

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… And eat fresh.  Pretty sure this baby girl was alone responsible for eating an entire bushel of apples in the month of September.

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Applesauce for the pantry!

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Lots of Caprese Pizza‘s this summer!

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This fall, I have been experimenting with our fresh carrots.  So far this Glazed Carrot recipe is my favorite.  I will post the recipe soon.

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I’ve tried, tried, TRIED to find a good use for all of the green tomatoes we had in November.  Made this delicious looking green tomato pie.

It was NOT delicious.

Experimenting this year with the low tunnel we got from the Kansas Rural Center.  So far, we have been enjoying carrots, spinach, lettuce, and hopefully soon – cabbage.

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It’s good to have help when digging carrots.  🙂

Highlight #7

We added the fuzzy little Jack Jack livestock guardian to our family!

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He is just the best.  We love Jack Jack and have faith he will turn out to be a great guardian for our goats (even though some may argue he might be “over-socialized”)

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The kids love Jack Jack.

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Jack Jack loves the kids.  Maybe a little too much.  He will NOT leave Willa alone.  It is pretty cute.  Even when he plants himself right in front of her so she falls over him.

 

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I think he has already quadrupled in size from when we brought him home less than two months ago.  Jack Jack, what did we ever do without you!

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It’s been a great year on our farm!  Looking forward to an even better one in 2015!

Local Product Prizes

We were super excited to be called on to provide prizes for last weekend’s Elrod’s Cirque bike ride.  We sent 24 jars of jam – blackberry, raspberry, and mixed berry –  with race coordinator Bobby Smith to be handed out as prizes.

How cool that they wanted to use local products as prizes!  Thanks, Bobby!

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We will be selling the rest of our blackberry, raspberry, and tomato jam at farmers market starting NEXT WEEK!  Get excited!