Boozy Infusions and a Homemade Strawberry Daiquiri

If you enjoy the occasional cocktail, as I do, a great way to improve a cheap bottle of vodka (or I bet this would be good with gin too) is to infuse the vodka with your favourite berry or fruit. It’s so simple, and so delicious. All you need to do is fill a jar about 3/4 full with the fruit of your choice, and cover with vodka. If you like, you can first add a bit of sugar to the fruit, shake the jar to cover the fruit, let sit a few minutes, and then add the vodka. I did this only with the rhubarb, because it helps draw the moisture out of the rhubarb a bit more. Most berries are plenty sweet and give up their juices easily, so in my opinion don’t need the added sugar.

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Close the jars, give them a shake, and wait. The strawberry and raspberry that I made actually tasted pretty good after only a few days, but I’d leave rhubarb a bit longer. I left them all a couple of weeks before straining. Occasionally, when you pass them and think of it, give the jar a shake.

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Gorgeous!

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Taste it every few days, or just leave it for a couple weeks. After the taste of the vodka meets your satisfaction, strain the fruit through cheesecloth or or a coffee filter.

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Straining the rhubarb vodka.

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A few weeks later, host a delightful cocktail party! 😉 Mix with tonic water and enjoy.

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With the vodka soaked strawberries I decided to make a homemade daiquiri. All I did was combine the berries with about 8 ice cubes, a splash of lime juice, and a tiny bit of sugar and blended it up in the blender. Oh man. So good. I could probably use the blueberries for something delicious too, but the rhubarb I’m not sure. Add it to a pie?

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Infuse your booze!

A “berry” good weekend – things to do with strawberries

Believe it or not, strawberry season is wrapping up here next week! So sad! However, I did do a pretty good job taking advantage of the berries this year. We bought a chest freezer, so I’ve frozen a bunch, and I did some dehydrating, canning, and wine making with the rest last weekend. A berry good weekend indeed. For many of you, berry season is probably just beginning, but whether this is your last week, or first, here is some inspiration for things to do with your berries.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling – my first blog post ever, and still one of my favourite recipes. The universe is telling us to put these two awesome items together by having them mature at the same time – you should really listen.

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Strawberry Fruit Leather – Since this post, I’ve learned adding some apple sauce or other more fibrous fruit helps with the cracking and crispiness issue. But I also still love it with just strawberries.

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Strawberry jam – a classic favourite of course. Or on the wilder side, add some wine to your jam and try this strawberry pinot noir jam.

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Strawberry wine – heck yes! It’s really not as hard as it seems by the length of the post. You should really really try it. Shorter, point form directions coming soon to entice you more, since not all of you have the attention span for this novel of a post.

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Or a non-alcoholic beverage  (or alcohol optional I should say) – strawberry lemonade concentrate!

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Got a couple handfuls left over still? Flavour some vinegar (or vodka? Post coming soon on that, but it’s basically the same as vinegar)

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Now go, quickly, before they are gone!! Pick some berries! Eat some berries! Can some berries! Dry some berries! Love the berries! And don’t forget to eat some fresh – sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in preservation.  And lay off the caffeine! (Oh wait, that one’s for me.)

Strawberry Freezer Jam

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Freezer jam is a super quick and easy alternative to making canned jam. I love canning, and think everyone should learn how (do it, do it now!!) but there are also a few advantages to freezer jam. First, you don’t have to cook the berries at all. This means you can keep a little more of the natural consistency and taste of the uncooked berries. It’s also faster, and you don’t need a canner, jar lifter or anything like that. I think it’s a great gateway into canned jams, although I did about a million jars of canned jam before ever trying it. But, if you have a little bit of extra freezer space, all you need is the jars, pectin and the berries to make quick an easy freezer jam.

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Ingredients:
4 cups crushed fruit
1.5 cups sugar
1 packet freezer jam pectin

For this endeavor I used Mrs. Wages freezer jam pectin, but Ball and many other brands also make freezer jam pectin.

First, wash, hull and crush the berries.

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Separately, combine the sugar and pectin together and stir to evenly mix them.

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Stir in the crushed berries and then continue to stir the jam for 3 minutes.

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Now all you do is pour it in jars. Leave a half inch or so of head space for the jam to expand when it freezes. Put on the lids and bands. Let it set up at room temperature for a half hour or so prior to freezing it.  You can leave it longer if you want, just not longer than 24 hours. After that just pop it into the fridge or freezer. It will keep around 3 weeks in the refrigerator or a year in the freezer.

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Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Now you really have no excuse to buy store bought jam anymore. This takes under a half hour and yields about 5 jars.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Strawberries and rhubarb are perfect for each other – a delicious match of sweet and tart! This recipe calls for a 1:1 ratio of strawberries to rhubarb, but you are welcome to do a little less rhubarb if you want. I love the tartness of it though, and would actually recommend doing this with a reduced sugar pectin and less sugar to really let the rhubarb shine. Here are the ingredients as written in the  Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but the low sugar sure jell does 6 cups of berries to 4 cups sugar, so I think I’d go for that level of sweetness next time.

Ingredients:
2 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 package powdered fruit pectin
5.5 cups granulated sugar

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Step one for this jam is preparing the canner, jars and lids. It’s another pectin recipe so is a quick one. This will yield about 6-7 half pints.

Mix together the crushed strawberries, rhubarb, pectin, and lemon juice in a deep stainless steel saucepan. Measure out the sugar and set it aside so it can be added all at once.

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Bring the jam to a boil over high heat. Stir, stir, stir! Once boiling, dump in the sugar and return to a boil. Once at a full boil, maintain for one minute, remove from heat, skim foam and fill jars.

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Fill the jars, leaving a quarter inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids, and tighten bands finger tip tight. Place filled jars in the canner, covered by at least 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a full rolling boil, and process for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, wipe clean, label and store.

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Such a beautiful and delicious jam!

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Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam is the very first recipe in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 8, and for good reason. It’s a delicious, but simple recipe and a great place to start if you are just learning to can. Most fruit and berry jams with added pectin are done very similarly to this, so it’s definitely a great first recipe. We actually had a first time canner with us on this adventure and I think it was a great success – we made 30 jars for wedding favours for Kiki’s upcoming wedding! While Oregon berries aren’t ready just yet, California ones are coming in hot!

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Ingredients:
8 ish cups whole strawberries
7 cups granulated sugar
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 package regular powdered fruit pectin

Here’s how we made it:
Prepare the canner, jars and lids. This recipe will yield around 8 half pints. Doubling jam isn’t usually recommended because it can affect the set of your jam, so we did multiple batches of this jam instead, one with added vanilla for a fun twist!

Measure the sugar into a bowl and set it aside so it can be added all at once when it is time. Does this sound like too much sugar to you? Ya, me too. Luckily Ball and other companies also have low and no sugar pectin. Get a jar of that and follow those directions for lower sugar jams. The Ball one at least works for anywhere from no sugar to a half cup per two jar batch. So 1/4 cup per half pint jar. But it’s flexible which is super awesome. The instructions work for anywhere from 2-10 jars and sugar is adjustable. Those delicious local berries really don’t need much added sugar so being able to add it to taste is great.

Rinse the berries, and hull them. One layer at a time, mash the berries with a potato masher, and pour the mash into a liquid measuring cup. You want 5 cups of mashed berries total. Crazy Kiki didn’t have a potato masher so you can also use the blender. But you DO NOT want a puree. You want a chunky mash, so just do maybe a cup of berries at a time and give it a quick pulse.

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Once you have 5 cups of mash in a large pot add your lemon juice, and whisk in the pectin to dissolve. If you want a fun modification of this recipe, you can add a half of a vanilla bean at this point to make strawberry vanilla jam. Just put it in now and remove before filling the jars.

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Turn the burner on to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Once at a full rolling boil, add the sugar all at once. Return to a full rolling boil that you can’t stir down. Time one minute of boil, stirring constantly. After one minute, remove the jam from the heat, and skim off any foam. This jam tends to get quite foamy so it’s actually worth it to skim.

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Remove the hot jars from the canner, and fill each jar, leaving a quarter inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids finger tip tight, and place the jars in the canner covered by at least 1-2 inches of water.

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Process the jars for 10 minutes, starting the time when the water is at a full rolling boil. After 10 minutes turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and wait 5 minutes before removing the jars to a hot pad or towel. Leave the jars undisturbed for 12-24 hours, check the seals, remove the bands, wipe clean, label and store.

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Spiced Cranberry Jam

Christmas time means cranberries! They are on sale and we always end up with too many. So, with all those leftover cranberries we made spiced cranberry jam! If you have leftover cranberry sauce, or leftover cranberries, this is a great way to use them. Thanks to Marisa from food in jars for this recipe.

Ingredients:
3 pounds fresh cranberries
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups apple cider
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Here’s how we made it:

Rinse the cranberries in a colander.

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In a large pot combine the cranberries, apple cider, juices, zest and sugar. Heat over high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Cook until most of the cranberries have popped and the mixture begins to thicken. Meanwhile prepare the canner, jars and lids with 9 or 10 half pint jars.

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Once most of the cranberries have popped add in the spices and adjust to taste if you desire.

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Continue to thicken to the desired consistency.

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Fill hot jars leaving a quarter inch head space. Wipe rims, place the lids on the jars and tighten finger tip tight. Place jars in canner, ensuring that they are covered by at least an inch of water. Bring to a full rolling boil and process for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel.

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Wait 12-24 hours, remove the lids, wipe down the jars and store! Makes the perfect holiday gift for someone you love.

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Cranberry Juice

Making your own cranberry juice is so darn easy – and cranberry season in here! All you need is cranberries and water, and a little sweetener if you desire.

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First, rinse the cranberries and pick out any yucky ones.

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Then combine however many cups you have with equal parts of water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat and boil for 5 or so minutes. You want them to start popping and once they mostly all have, it’s time to stain. I like to crush them a little bit too with the back of my stirring spoon to release more flavour.

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Remove from the heat and strain. If you are fancy enough to have a jelly bag you can use that. If you’re like me just strain into a deep pot using your regular strainer covered with a couple layers of cheese cloth. Let it drip for a couple hours to get all the juices.

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When it’s been nearly 2 hours, prepare the canner, jars and lids. Then bring the cranberry juice back up to heat. You want to bring it to 190F without boiling it. At this point you can sweeten the juice to taste, if desired. Once you reach 190, sustain it for about 5 minutes and then fill the jars.

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I went for the blue anniversary jars since it is the end of the season and they FINALLY put them on sale! Woohoo my waiting paid off. Fill jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and place the jars in the canner covered by at least 1-2 inches of water. Process at a full rolling boil for 15 minutes for both pints and quarts. After 15 minutes, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars. ping. ping. ping!

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After 12-24 hours, remove bands, label and store. mmmmm home made juice!

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If you are having a party, or feeling like a twist on your cranberry juice, make a little cranberry martini with it! Sugar the rim, mix vodka, cranberry and ice, and voila!

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