Monthly Archives: August 2011

Blueberry Lassi

Mr. Radar has a breakfast conundrum. As in, he is anti-breakfast.  He claims coffee is his “morning food.” As if coffee can even be considered a food!  A few weeks ago, I noticed his pants beginning to gape at the waist. Already skinny as a rail to the point of non-existence, I felt the need to snap into action.  I became determined to feed him a good breakfast.  It was my personal mission. I tried everything from muesli, fruit, oatmeal, even quinoa. All no dice. He’d eat a few bites and hurry off.

But finally, I found the lassi. Portable, fresh and sweet.  I thought I’d use a little reverse psychology on Mr. Radar just in case. After so many failures, I wanted this one to stick. So I first fed him the lassi in the afternoon. He drank it all up. Next morning, I introduced the lassi again. “Since you liked it so much yesterday, I made it for you again.”  Game, set, match. Hilary Bee: 1 Mr. Radar: 0

Blueberry Lassi

Makes two 8 oz servings

1 1/2 cups of unflavored yogurt (not Greek Yogurt)

1 1/4 cup blueberries

1/4 tsp fresh ginger, grated

2 tablespoons of honey

Handful of ice cubes

Combine the yogurt, blueberries, ginger and honey in the blender. Give it a good pulse. Add the ice cubes and blend until smooth, no more than a minute.

Pour into chilled glasses and enjoy. Or you can make ahead.  I make Mr. Radar’s lassi at night, put it in a travel mug and store in the coldest part of our refrigerator. Works for me!



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Peaches in Honeyed Syrup

The end of summer is approaching and the local peaches will be gone. Here’s a recipe for bottled summer, a fresh way to store your peaches to enjoy this fall, winter and spring. They make a great topping for yogurt or rice pudding.

They also make a pretty mean peach shortcake…

Peaches in Honeyed Syrup

Adapted from Put ‘Em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton

For the Peaches:

10 lbs peaches, preferably freestone (I found this to be about 18 peaches, but make sure to weigh it out)

500 mg Vitamin C (6 tablets, crushed)

3 quarts cold water

4 cups ice

For the Syrup:

6 3/4 cups water

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup raw honey

(1) Prepare all of the jars, lids and rings that you will use. Make sure that they have been properly sterilized in a water bath.

(2) In a large glass bowl, combine the vitamin C and the 3 quarters of cold water. Whisk to combine, then add the ice. This solution will prevent the peaches from browning, and ensure they stay firm, even if stored for an entire year.

(3) Bring a stock pot of water to boil. Blanch the whole peaches for 30 seconds, a few a time.  Drop the peaches into the prepared ice/acid bath. After you have blanched all the peaches, skin the peaches. You can cut the peaches into halves or segment them. (I segmented them). Place the cut fruit back in the bath to avoid browning.

(4) Drain the peaches. Pack them into jars. You want to be gentle so that the peaches don’t break apart, but make sure you get as many pieces in each jar as possible while leaving enough head space.

(5) Combine the 6 /34 cups water, sugar, and honey in a saucepan.* Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat. Make sure to stir occasionally so that the sugar is dissolved. Allow to boil 2-3minutes, until the mixture looks cohesive. It will be only a little bit thicker than water, but sticky when it cools. Pour the hot syrup over the peaches. Make sure that the syrup completely covers the peaches by 1/2 of an inch. You’ll want to leave another 1/2 inch of head space between the liquid and the lid.  Tap the jars gently (or swirl them, as Sherri suggests). Apply the lids and rings.

(6) Process in a water bath for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and take off the lid of the pot. Allow the jars to sit in the hot water another five minutes.  The next day, check the seals. If the seals are good, store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.**

* It is easy to vary this recipe by adding herbs to the syrup while it is cooking.  In the picture, I flavored my syrup with 1 tablespoon of lavender buds. I’ve also tried this recipe flavored with chunks of fresh ginger and vanilla beans.

**For long term storage, I prefer to use my basement. If you don’t have one, pick a dark cupboard that is not close to your dishwasher or oven.


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Lavender Vanilla Rice Pudding

Rice pudding, my very very favorite dessert breakfast. I never get around to eating rice pudding for dessert- being rice, and milk and a tiny bit of sugar, it seems more like porridge than pudding. Delicious, delicious porridge. But still porridge.

I use arborio rice, the same kind of rice used to make risotto. It naturally thickens, eliminating the need for cream or even whole milk!

Lavender Vanilla Rice Pudding

Adapted from Deb Perleman, SmittenKitchen

4 Cups Milk (I use 2%)  Whole Milk lends a richer taste, but don’t use skim!

1/2 Cup Arborio Rice

1/4 cup Natural Cane Sugar

1/2 Vanilla Bean, split

3 Stems of Culinary Lavender

Combine everything in a large saucepan. Gently bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, making sure none of the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan. Don’t turn away from the pan for too long, or else a skin will form and the milk will boil over.  Cook for about 35-40 minutes, until the pudding is thick and silky. The rice should be soft and will have doubled in size.

Use tongs to pick out the vanilla bean and lavender stems. Some of the buds will be in the pudding- but that’s good! So let those be.

*As always, Nicole shot this lovely pudding. And then she added bunny ears. I did not approve.


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New Products!

Here’s a peak at some of Thistle’s new products. Some will be available on Etsy soon and all are available for direct order.

Vegan Soft Sugar Cookies with Coconut Buttercream Rosettes

Lavender Shortbreads available on Etsy soon!

Blueberry Cherry Preserves, available on Etsy Soon!

Vanilla Whoopie Pies

Cherry Hazelnut Granola, available on Etsy soon!

Thanks Nicole Hodac! We had a record number of 700 photos this time around!


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Jamming Basics: Two Recipes to Start

You’ve patiently listened to me yammer on about food safety, canning tools and other tips. If you’re still around, I’ve got two wonderful recipes for you. One is my very own standard Raspberry Jam recipe which I’ve developed over a few years. The other is a Zucchini Pickle recipe I’ve adapted from Food in Jars. A note about the raspberry jam: I have not added commercial pectin to this recipe, as there is enough pectin in raspberries to make a nice set. I use a tiny bit more sugar instead of adding extra pectin. Both the jam and the pickles can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to a year. I like to keep mine in my cellar.

Hilary’s Raspberry Jam

Makes 4-5 half-pint jars, depending on the juiciness of the berries

2 pounds Red Raspberries

4 1/2 cups Granulated Cane Sugar, warmed

1 lemon, juiced

1. Prepare a water bath, and sterilize six jars, lids, and rings (or use Weck rubber seals). Sterilize any other equipment you plan to use- like funnel, measuring cup, etc.
2. Pour the raspberries in a large non-reactive pot (I use a 10 quart stainless steel jam pan). Gently heat the fruit on low, pressing the fruit against the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the raspberries are very tender and have released their juices.

3.  Take 1 full cup of the mixture and pour it through a fine mesh sieve. This filters out some of the seeds- so the jam is lightly seeded. Add the deseeded mixture back into the pan.

4. Add the sugar and stir over low heat, until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil rapidly for about 10-15 minutes, or until the jam passes the wrinkle test or reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer.

5. Allow the mixture to rest two-three minutes off the heat. (Wait until the jam stops bubbling. You want the jam to be hot when jarred, but not boiling).  Divide mixture into the sterilized jars. Place the lids and screw on the rings. Process in a water bath, at a gentle boil,  for 10 minutes. Make sure to start the time when the water returns to a boil, not when you place the jars in the bath.

Garlic & Dill Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Pickles are made in the exact same way as cucumber pickles. You can make Bread & Butter zucchini pickles as well as dill pickles, like in this recipe.

Adapted from Marisa McLellan,

Yields about 8 Pints

8 1/2 cups (2 quarts) of Zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch coins (you can used whatever variety of zucchini- green, striped, yellow)

4 cups Apple Cider Vinegar

4 cups Water

5 tablespoons Kosher Salt (Diamond Brand, please!)

16 cloves of garlic, peeled*

2 teaspoons of Red Pepper flake, about 1/4 a teaspoon a jar

9 teaspoons of Dill seeds, 1 heaping teaspoon per jar

4 teaspoons Black Peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon per jar

1. Wash the zucchini very thoroughly. I like to wash them in a bath of water with about 1 tablespoon of white vinegar added in, to remove any dust or pesticides that might be lurking on the outside of the zucchini.

2. In a large saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a simmer.

3. Get 8 pint size jars, and place two cloves of garlic, a heaping teaspoon of Dill, 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flake and 1/2 teaspoon of Black Peppercorns in each jar.

4.  Place the zucchini slices inside the jars. Arrange them so that the zucchini coins are packed tightly, but are not damaged.

5. Pour the vinegar brine into each jar, make sure the zucchini are covered, but leave about 1/2 an inch of head space.Wipe the rims, top of with the lids and tighten the jars. (Not too tight, though or the jars will crack in the water bath!)

6.  Process at a gentle boil in the water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and allow them to cool. Make sure to check the seals before moving them to a cool, dark place for storage.

*To remove garlic skins, place garlic cloves in boiling water for about 1 minute. The skins should remove easily without damaging the clove.

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Jamming Basics: Resources

If you are just getting started with jam, I think it is important to have a few food safety fundamentals under your belt.  So I’m giving you a list of fundamentals and the resources you need before making your next batch.

The Principle: Use Fruit at the Peak Season

The Resource: Local Harvest, Epicurious

The USDA recommends using the freshest fruit possible for jam. I try to make jam about 1 day after I have procured the fruit. You should use tender berries, like raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries as soon as possible. Allow stone fruits like peaches, plums and nectarines to ripen for a day before preserving them.  Use Local Harvest to search for farm stands, Upick farms and Farmer’s Markets near you. Got a friend with a peach tree? Ask if they will share their bounty. Not sure what is in season where you are? Check out the Epicurious Peak-Season Map.

The Principle: Start with a modern, reliable recipe

The Resource: Canning Books, Blogs

I know that heirloom recipes are en vogue. Over the years, our understanding of food safety and food preservation has evolved. Canning is science and science advances! Modern recipes are safer and more reliable than recipes even from the 1980s and 1990s. For example, in the 1980s it became popular to process jars in the dishwasher. We know now that this is unsafe and does not kill all Botulinum bacteria. And chances are, somebody learned that lesson the hard way. Avoid methods like open kettle canning, paraffin wax seals, and steam canners.

It is also not recommended to double jam recipes. This is because the cooking time needed is excessive. If you want to double a batch, simply make two batches. Believe me, it will take less time to make two smaller batches than one big one.

Books I like:

Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton- Very clear How-Tos and Great Starter Recipes

Canning for a New Generation– For recipes that are a little different, but with clear instructions. This book will help build your jamming confidence!

You Can Can– Very basic. I like it a bit better than the standard Ball Book of Canning.

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects– This is the craftier, more creative side of jamming. If you want to use your jam as gifts or make edible gifts, this is the book for you.

Blogs I like:

Food in Jars– I think Marisa’s blog is fantastic and empowering. I have tried quite a few of her recipes and loved them. She also has an excellent list of resources, teaches jamming classes in Philadelphia and has a ‘Canning 101’ series on her blog.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen– Mrs. Wheelbarrow has great recipes, helpful tips. She is also of Charcutepalooza fame. Mrs. Wheelbarrow teachings canning and preserving classes in the Washington D.C. area.

The Principle: Preventing Bacteria Growth

The Resource: USDA National Center for Home Food Preservation

Over at the USDA, they have a downloadable guide on the Principles of Canning. Amongst the most important information in this guide is why it is important to process jams, jellies, and pickles at the proper temperature. The main reason: to kill Botulinum Bacteria.  For this you  need two things (1) Acid or a Pressure Cooker and (2) A Vacuum Seal.  This guide does a nice job of explaining the difference between a low-acid food (like preserved carrots, for example) and a high acid food (like raspberry jam).  Most jams, jellies, marmalades, and fruit butters are considered high-acid. They should be processed in a water bath canner. Low-acid foods must be processed in a pressure cooker and often contain added acid, like vinegar. An example of this would be pickles.  Processing time will vary depending on the fruit used, so follow the USDA guidelines.

The Principle: Pectin & the Proper Set

The Resource: Pomona, Certo, Ball

Pectin is a water-soluble fiber. When heated and combined with sugar, the pectin and sugar bond creating a tight set. Pectin naturally occurs in most fruit and it is what makes jams and jellies gel together. BUT you do not always need to use commercial pectin to get jam to set. In fact, I only use pectin for fruits that have very little. Apples and red currants contain the most pectin, while cherries contain very little.

Jam reaches a boiling point at 212, and typical setting or gelling point is 220 degrees Fahrenheit. I like to use a thermometer and the cold plate trick.  Place a dollop of jam on a frozen plate. Allow to sit for a few seconds. Press on the jam. Does it wrinkle? Run down the plate? If it wrinkles or doesn’t budge, the jam is definitely done. If it running down the plate, cook for longer. Sometimes, inexplicably, jam does not set. This can be very frustrating. My advice is to jar it anyway. Chances are that it will set while in the jars or during the water bath. If it still doesn’t gel, don’t fret. Runny jam is still delicious.

The major producer of commercial pectin is Certo. Certo is made by food giant Kraft. It is generally a reliable product, but it is one of the only games in town, so I have found that Certo is a little different from year to year. The pros to Certo is that it comes in liquid form, is easy to use, and is readily available at all major grocery stores and super centers. Ball also has their own brand of pectin, but I have never tried it. Please let me know if you do.

I prefer to use either Pomona or homemade pectin, which is made from tart apples. Pomona is particularly useful in making low sugar jams and jellies, as the pectin is actually activated by calcium instead of sugar. So if you are diabetic and would like to eat some homemade jam, try the Pomona.

Have any questions? Leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer any questions about jamming and canning you might have.

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Jamming Basics: The Equipment

You may have noticed that I like to make jam. Like a lot.  Dayton FOX45 asked me to put together a segment on jamming basics. I thought I’d pass on some of my knowledge and helpful links to you! (And to those of you who have found me via Dayton’s News Source.) This is the first part of my three part blog series. Look for posts on Jamming Resources Thursday and an Easy Beginner’s Jam recipe for Friday.

You Need the Right Equipment to Jam!

There is not a lot of wiggle room in terms of equipment. You need at least the bare necessities to make lasting jam safely. Here is a list of equipment that I use to create jam for Thistle.

(1) A large, non-reactive pot. The wider the better. Jam made in a wider pan will cook more quickly (water evaporates faster) and will have a deeper flavor because more fruit comes in direct contact with the heat source than in a narrower pan. Some prefer a dutch oven or copper jam pan. I prefer to use a stainless steel Maslin pan, like this one.

(2) Water Bath Canner. If you are just getting started, go with this kit from Ball, as it will include other useful tools.

(3) Funnel, Lid Magnet, and Jar Lifter. These are the three essentials. The basic kit from Ball will do, but I use this stainless steel set from Norpro.

(4) Seives. I do not use a jelly bag, and advise you not to, either. You can place a cheese cloth inside a conical sieve. Sieves are more multipurpose and I hate having singular use items in my kitchen. I go with the  Chinois strainer to make jellies.

(5) Candy thermometer. Jam reaches a boiling point at 212 degrees. The setting point for most jams is 220 degrees, though there is variation in this. Some jams will set well before they reach 220. But without a reliable thermometer, it is harder to tell. There are tricks and tips, which I’ll share later.

(6) Kitchen Scale. It is more reliable to weigh the fruit and sugar to ensure a proper ratio. Without the right ratio of sugar, acid and fruit the jam will not set or may not last!

(7) Jars. Start with basic Ball jars. Once you get comfortable with jamming, you can move up to Weck jars and cellophane seals, as the Europeans do. I’m still experimenting with this method of canning myself.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There is a lot of specialty equipment out there. If you are just getting into canning and jamming, start with the basics I have listed above, learn what techniques and tools you like, and buy equipment that suits your needs.

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