Category Archives: Spices & Sauces

A Case of the Red, White, and BLUES

And by blues, I mean blueberries!  Around this time each year I am reminded just how much I love those tiny indigo berries!  Not only do they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, but they are also anti-inflammatory, which is a key driver of all chronic diseases!


Everyone knows that fresh is best and it’s a no-brainer that blueberries consumed raw is when they best deliver their peak power-house performance!  Wanting to save them to be enjoyed throughout the year I started spinning my preservation wheels and came up with two very delicious recipes!  If you’re looking for something quick and dirty, then the compote recipe is the one for you.  If you have the luxury of time and can commit to some babysitting, then this no pectin jam is the way to go!  These recipes are interchangeable, so if you prefer a blueberry lemon jam or a blueberry vanilla compote then just swap out the cooking times!

blueberry compote

Blueberry Lemon Compote – yields 9 half-pints

11 cups of blueberries

Grated zest and juice of one lemon

1/3 cup honey

1 cup sugar

In a large pot combine blueberries, zest, juice, sugar, and honey over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce to low heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  Ladle compote into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and adjust two-piece lids to fingertip-tight.  Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove canner from heat, wait 5 minutes and then remove jars and allow seals to set for 12-24 hours.

Blueberry Vanilla Jam – yields 4 half-pints

11 cups of blueberries

juice from 1/2 lemon

1/3 cup honey

1 cup sugar

1 Madagascar vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

In a large pot combine blueberries, juice, sugar, honey, vanilla bean and seeds and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce to low heat and simmer for 45 minutes; skim off any foam that develops.  Ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and adjust two-piece lids to fingertip-tight.  Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove canner from heat, wait 5 minutes and then remove jars and allow seals to set for 12-24 hours.

After canning both recipes I still had quite a few blueberries left over.  Seeing as how my freezer is full of strawberries I decided to can the remaining berries in a light simple syrup.

Blueberries in Light Syrup


1 cup of sugar for every 4 cups of water

Dissolve sugar in water over medium heat.  Fill hot pint jars with blueberries and fill with sugar-water leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Wipe rims and adjust two-piece lids to fingertip-tight.  Process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove canner from heat, wait 5 minutes and then remove jars and allow seals to set for 12-24 hours.

These jars of berries will really come in handy when it’s cold outside and I want to heat things up with a bit of pie and cobbler making!

Images and content copyright © 2013 Danielle R Limoge.

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Strawberry Fields Part 1: Compote

Two weeks ago I ventured across the river to my friend’s farm.  There, I spent my Sunday morning alone in the quiet fields picking the essence of Summer: sun-ripened, perfectly sweetened strawberries.  Last Sunday I did the exact same thing.  In total my efforts yielded 50 quarts, which translated into hours and hours of washing, hulling, and preserving Summer’s most sought after fruit!

quart containers

In preparation for the harvest I was planning on bringing home, I started formulating my plan of action.  I had already decided that half of my fruitage would end up frozen to be enjoyed in the off-season, and there was definitely going to be a lot of shortcake baking taking place, which eliminated several more quarts.  Now, what to do with the rest?  After flipping through my collection of food preservation books, I finally narrowed it down to three mouth-watering recipes.  First up: strawberry orange compote.  Oh yes!

strawberry compote jar-spoonStrawberry Orange Compote – yields 8 half-pint jars

4 quarts of strawberries, hulled and quartered

grated zest and juice of one lemon

grated zest and juice of one orange

2 cups granulated sugar

In a large pot combine strawberries, sugar, orange and lemon juices and their zest; bring to a simmer over med-high heat, stirring often.  Lower the heat to a minimum and gently simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.  You will end up with a slightly reduced, but still runny mixture.

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4″ headspace; remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and adjust two-piece lids to fingertip-tight.  Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes, adjust for elevation.

strawberries & sauce

So far my favorite way to enjoy this slightly sweetened sauce is drizzled over a bowl of creamy vanilla bean ice cream.  Absolute heaven if you ask me!

ice cream & sauce

I also canned a batch where I excluded the zest, therefore reducing the pectin content, which resulted in a slightly looser, but equally delicious sauce.


Images and content copyright © 2013 Danielle R Limoge. Recipe adapted from Tart and Sweet – 101 canning and pickling recipes for the modern kitchen by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler.

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Eggplant Marinara

The end is near.  Tonight’s forecast is calling for freezing temperatures.  This makes me sad.  Very, very sad.  The only silver lining is the sweet anticipation of those soon-to-be-arriving 2012 seed catalogs.

Knowing my summer-loving nightshade vegetables will not survive after tonight’s freeze,  I began harvesting all the remaining peppers, eggplants and tomatoes.  (I only had one tomato since late blight and flooding really took a toll on my garden this year.)  Now, what does one do will all those veggies?  Why one makes eggplant marinara of course!

Eggplant Marinara – yields approximately 4 quarts of sauce

5 ping tung eggplants, sliced into 1″ rounds, about 2 pounds

4 purple beauty peppers, chopped – these are a smaller variety, so 2 medium peppers will work just as well.

1 onion, chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, sliced

1 qt canned tomatoes, I used my Amish paste

1 qt tomato sauce, you can substitute a 29 oz can of tomato sauce if you don’t can your own

6 oz tomato paste

1/3 cup brown sugar

several sprigs fresh oregano, chopped

a handful fresh basil, chopped

1 cup red wine

1 tbsp fresh-ground pepper corns

2 tbsp salt

olive oil

In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium heat; sauté onion and garlic ’til onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Add canned tomatoes (along with their liquid), peppers, eggplant, tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, wine, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit before puréeing with an immersion blender.  Ladle into quart containers and freeze.

I really enjoy this sauce on a bed of freshly made pasta, rice, or lentils.

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge.

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Vanilla-Maple Applesauce

Typically, when it comes to applesauce, I’m a no-frills kinda gal.  I cook a blend of apples, send them through the food mill, and then into the canner they go.  No sugar.  No spices.  Just delicious, naked apples, sweetened by Mother Nature.  What can I say, I like my applesauce to taste like, well, apples.

This year, in keeping with tradition, I made a batch of plain-jane applesauce.  Then, I made a batch of knock-your-socks-off awesomesause.  Yes, you read that right, awesomesauce.  It. Is. Dessert. Worthy.

Vanilla-Maple Applesauce

20 apples, I used Honeycrisp and Rambo

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

4 tbsp vanilla extract

1 Madagascar vanilla bean

1/4 cup lemon juice

Core unpeeled apples and place them in a large stainless steel pot with about an inch of water.  Cook apples over med-high heat (stirring often) ’til apples are soft, about 20 minutes.  Run cooked apples through a food mill to remove skins.  Return sauce to a clean pot.  If you want unsweetened applesauce, it is at this time you will ladle into hot, clean jars and process in a boiling-water bath: 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.  If you have a mix of jar sizes, process them all for the longest time.

Split vanilla bean lengthwise; using the back of your knife, scrape out the seeds.  Add seeds and vanilla bean to the applesauce along with vanilla extract and gently simmer on med-low heat for 15 minutes.  Stir often.  Add sugar, maple syrup, and lemon juice, cook an additional 10 minutes.  Remove vanilla bean and ladle applesauce into hot, clean jars and process in a boiling-water bath for 20 minutes.  Yields 7 pints.

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge. Recipe adapted from Tigress in a Jam and Toronto Tasting Notes.


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Ketchup and fries? Yes, please!

When August gifted me with well over 100 pounds of tomatoes (all at once, mind you), I had to get serious about putting them up, and fast!  I immediately headed to the library and checked out every post millennial book on food preservation not currently housed in my collection.  Because food safety guidelines are constantly changing, anything written before 2000 is now considered out of date.  **See note at the bottom of the post**

While flipping pages contemplating recipes, I came across one for catsup.  I find ketchup (or catsup) to be a take it or leave it condiment.  I’m just not a huge fan.  In college, I dated a guy who put it on everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.  Gross.  Honestly, I find it to be too sweet and lacking in, oh, I don’t know, maybe TOMATO flavor!  I thought the time had come for a little ketchup redemption, especially since the first listed ingredient would not be HFC!


1 cup white vinegar

1-1/2 inch stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces

1-1/2 tsp whole cloves

1 tsp celery seed

8 pounds of paste-type tomatoes

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/4 tsp ground red pepper

1-1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sure jell cook-type

In a small saucepan combine vinegar, cinnamon stick, cloves, and celery seed.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat; transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Wash tomatoes.  Remove stem ends and cores; cut the tomatoes into quarters and place into a colander to drain.  You can discard the liquid or keep it for cooking purposes, which is what I did.

Place tomatoes in a large stainless steel pot, add onion and ground red pepper; bring to a boil, cook uncovered, stirring often for 15 minutes.  Press tomato mixture through a food mill or sieve; discard seeds and skins.  Return pureed tomato mixture to pot, stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling; reduce heat.  Boil gently, uncovered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.

Strain vinegar mixture into tomato mixture; discard spices.  Add lemon juice and salt.  Simmer uncovered about 30 minutes or ’til desired consistency is achieved.  After I did the final cook-down, my mixture was still too runny for ketchup.  If I continued cooking, I would have ended up with one half-pint, so I added 1/4 cup cook-type sure jell.  Because sure jell tends to clump when added without mixing with sugar, I used my immersion blender to blend everything into a smooth consistency.  I continued cooking on med-low heat ’til the sure jell thickened, about 5 minutes.

Ladle ketchup  into hot, sterile half-pint jars, leaving 1/8 headspace.  Wipe rims; adjust two-piece lids to fingertip-tight and process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove jars from canner and cool on wire racks, undisturbed, for 12-24 hours.  Yields 4 half-pints.

Rosemary & Garlic Potato Wedges

4 med potatoes, unpeeled

3 cloves of garlic, minced

large sprig of fresh rosemary, minced

olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.  *KITCHEN SHORTCUT*  Using an apple slicer/corer, cut potatoes into wedges, slice the “potato core” in half, lengthwise.  Place potato wedges, garlic, and rosemary into a medium bowl and drizzle on a bit of olive oil.  Using your hands, lightly toss to coat evenly; sprinkle on salt and pepper and gently toss again.  Lightly grease a 4-sided baking sheet (or baking dish with olive oil), arrange potato wedges in a single-layer, and bake for one hour, turning half way through.

**The USDA/NCHFP’s guidelines are constantly evolving due to repetitive laboratory testing.  What were once acceptable canning practices, like using flour as a thickening agent or adding dairy products to pre-canned recipes, are no longer considered safe.  If you do use an older recipe, make sure all ingredients and directions are compatible with current acceptable canning procedures.  If you are unsure or have a question, be sure to check with your local extension office.  Remember, safety first!

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge. Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Garden Presents: America’s All Time Favorite Canning & Preserving Recipes.

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Sour Cherry Vinaigrette

I haven’t used store-bought dressings in years.  Why would you want to buy something that is so easy to make right in your kitchen?  I’m a big fan of vinaigrettes and usually whip one up featuring the current seasonal fruit.  Since cherrypalooza has been taking place in my kitchen it only seemed appropriate to dress my summer salad with a sour cherry vinaigrette!

Sour Cherry Vinaigrette  This is my go-to base when making any vinaigrette.

1/2 cup pitted and destemmed sour cherries

2 tbsp honey or agave

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 c neutral oil such as canola or vegetable

salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a tall container and puree with an immersion blender.  You can also combine everything in the bowl of a food processor.  If you don’t have either, chop cherries into very small pieces and whisk everything together.  Store any unused dressing in the fridge for up to 5 days.

I’m down to the last of my home-grown salads for a while.  The one pictured above consisted of flame lettuce, broccoli, cream sausage tomatoes, carrots, peas and beets.  I sprinkled on some feta, walnuts and sunflower seeds too.  I’m going to seed some of my large containers with Tom Thumb lettuce.  I never do well container gardening since they dry out so fast, but I’m going to give it another try.  Tom Thumb is pretty heat tolerant, so if I position the containers where they only receive morning sun they may be okay!


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Garlic Scape Pesto

I’m a sucker for pesto: basil, cilantro, walnuts, or pine nuts, doesn’t much matter because I love it all!  So just imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon one made from garlic scapes.  🙂

Garlic Scape Pestoadapted from the Washington Post

2 cup garlic scapes, cut into 1/4 inch slices

2/3 cup walnuts

1-1/2 cups olive oil

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tsp salt

black pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor combine scapes and walnuts, puree until smooth.  Slowly drizzle olive oil into the bowl and continue to process ’til well incorporated.  Transfer to a medium bowl, add parm, salt, and pepper.  Add to cooked pasta, sautéed vegetables, omelets, mashed potatoes, or spread on pizza as a substitute for red sauce!  Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a year… if it lasts that long!


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Pumpkin Spice

There’s no mistaking it, Turkey Day goes down this week! Of all the holidays Thanksgiving truly is my favorite. Yes, it even surpasses the enchanting horror that is Halloween. Thanksgiving, for me, is the only holiday that really makes sense. It’s a time when families’ gather round a shared table for a day full of laughing, loving and giving thanks. Or stuffing yourself to the point of uncomfortable gluttony, followed by brief periods of unconsciousness caused by tryptophan induced comas and then maybe a bit of footballing, probably from the safety and warmth found on the couch!
The other reason I fancy Thanksgiving is the perpetual olfactory excitement produced by the unmistakable spice blend that is Fall. Cinnamon. Ginger. Nutmeg. Cloves.
Danielle’s Pumpkin Spice Blend
1 Tbsp + 1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Ginger
1 Tsp Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Cloves

The above combination is my recipe for pumpkin spice, it makes a little over 2 Tbsp. I usually make several batches and place it in a container, this way I have an ample supply on hand to get me through Fall and all things pumpkin!


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Sauce, of the Tomato Persuasion

Well, I did it. I made and canned tomato sauce and to be quite honest, I don’t think I’m gonna do it again. It was a big, messy, pain in my ass that took hours, especially since we experienced a power outage during the cook down. Just look at my messy stove!!

For 2 hours my sauce sat there idle. Why did the power go out you ask? Not from the storm, which turned out to be light rain, some thunder, and a little bit of wind, but due to the fact some idiot drove their car into a pole and wiped out the power. It had been very hot and very dry for WEEKS and we all know (apparently not) that the oil in the asphalt makes its way to the surface. Then when it rains the roads become extremely slick. That was annoyance number one. Then there was the fact that 3 days later I was still soaking and scrubbing the bottom of my heavy-duty 16 quart stock pot trying to clean off the burnt sauce. I ended up resorting to the use of my hand sander. Worked like a charm!

All of that work and I still end up with a measly count of 16 pints of ridiculously bangin’ sauce! I used the recipe from the Ball Blue Book for Canning and made some slight adjustments. I used a blend of chippilinni and stuttgarter onions and instead of pepper flakes I used my mombasa powder.

I prefer a chunky sauce so I blanched the tomatoes to remove the skins and then quartered them. The recipe called for quartering, cooking and then running it through a food mill. Seeing as how I did not want to lose my chunks of garlic and onion so I skipped that step.

I dehydrated my ‘mater skins and then attempted to powder them for future use in soups. Yeah, that didn’t work so well. Try as I might to lead a low impact waste not want not kind of life, sometimes I fail. I could not get the leathery skins to chop in my grinder so I gave the mortar and pastel approach a whirl, nope. In the end they were composted, so on the green scale it still evens out.

Seasoned Tomato Sauce –  from the Ball Blue Book

45 lbs of tomatoes
6 cups chopped onions
12 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp oregano
6 bay leaves
1/4 cup salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tsp crushed red pepper (I subbed mombasa powder)
bottled lemon juice

Quarter tomatoes and set aside. I blanched mine then removed the core and skins. Saute onion and garlic in oil in a large sauce pot. Add tomatoes and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves. Press mixture through a food mill or sieve, discard seeds and skins (I skipped this step). Cook pulp in a large uncovered sauce pot over med-high heat until sauce thickens, stirring to prevent sticking. Reduce volume by one half for a thick sauce. Add 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice per quart jar and 1 Tbsp per pint jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Wipe rims and adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 35 minutes and quarts 40 minutes in BWB.

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Best Taco Seasoning Starter…Evah!

I say “starter” because you can, and should, add additional spices to suit your own tastes and recipe needs. I like to add a touch of mombasa for an extra spicy kick, as well as brown sugar and a touch of cocoa powder. Red pepper flakes are a nice addition too.

Taco Seasoning
 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
 1/4 Tsp Onion Powder
 1/4 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 Tsp Oregano
 1/4 Tsp  Cayenne Powder
 1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cumin
 1/2 Tsp Paprika
 1 Tsp Black Pepper
 1 Tsp Sea Salt

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