Sunday, November 22, 2020

A New Twist for Making Mustang Grape Jam or Jelly

Many years ago my family tried making jam from our wild mustang grapes that grow along an old farm fence, with varying degrees of success. I wanted a low sugar jam but even when using low sugar pectin, getting the correct consistency eluded me. I was not an accomplished jelly maker, in fact making a jam from my grapes was my first and second attempts at it. Mustang grape seeds are difficult to separate from the pulp and the skins and juice can irritate one's fingers. My son was especially sensitive. After a couple of seasons with only so so success and life getting rather busy, we did not make any again until this year. The years in between saw me give grapes to others who were interested in trying or were used to working with mustang grapes.

This past summer we had a very large harvest coming in and for a variety of reasons, the usual suspects could not take the time to put up jelly or make other things like ice cream from my grapes, so I went in search of what I hoped would be a fool proof recipe. I stumbled on one recipe that intriqued me. It used chia seeds instead of pectin to set the jam. It was not designed specifically for mustang grapes but I thought I should be able to adapt it.

While the seeds still took an annoying amount of time to separate from the grape pulp, this method worked very well. The basic steps I took were to measure out 12 ounces of grapes after removing them from their stems and then separating the pulps into one saucepan and the skins into another one. Each saucepan was simmered for 5-10 minutes while covered and pressed with a slotted spoon regularly, especially the pulps to help free the seeds. Before beginning to simmer the pulps, I added 2-3 Tbsp of water to keep them from burning and help break down the pulps so they would release their seeds more easily. Additional water may be needed during simmering. After the skins have softened and released some juice I poured the contents of that saucepan into my VitaMix and blended until mostly smooth. After the pulps simmered I separated out the seeds before adding the skin mixture and 3 Tbsp of honey. Once everything was stirred together I added 2 Tbsp of chia seeds, stirred until incorporated and let set for 5 minutes before putting the jam into jars.

I hope to get faster at separating the seeds from the pulp, but this recipe is definitely something I look forward to making again next summer when my grapes begin ripening around the 4th of July.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Happy Holidays Virtual Artisan Market

For almost a decade I have participated in a holiday market in downtown Arlington. This year, the group decided not to temp fate and moved ourselves online. Since you won't get to see us or our creations in person this year, we beefed up our online presence so you could learn more about us and our processes. We added videos, lots of product photos and more. There is also a contact form for you to submit questions to any of the artisans. You will find plenty to browse through at the Happy Holidays Virtual Artisan Market, as well as in the online shops of the participating artisans. I hope you will stop in.

While I will miss seeing customers in person, I hope to still be able to help you find unique gifts for those on your list or something special for yourself. Since I will not be manning the store each day this year I will have more time if you want to inquire about custom work. I had an inquiry just this weekend to see if I could make a listing of mine with a different color crystal accent. I'm happy to say that I could and have just posted that custom listing for purchase. Let me know if you are looking for something specific that I might be able to create for you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Beautyberry Jelly Experiment

Midsummer when I was looking for alternate mustang grape jelly or jam recipes, I came across a recipe for making American Beautyberry Jelly. I bookmarked the article and hoped for a good set on my beautyberry bush this year. I had never considered it anything other than ornamental so I was excited to see how they would be to put up.

Beautyberries are about an eighth of an inch in diameter and set in clusters stacked along arching branches. They are bright purple and the birds like them. I harvested a batch of berries the first weekend in October. The birds had started on a couple of branches of berries. I left those alone and picked six cups of beautyberries. It was a bit tedious. It takes A LOT of those tiny berries to make six cups. There were plenty left for the birds however, in fact as I am writing this about a month later, there are still plenty.

Except for using a chinois instead of cheesecloth, we pretty much followed the recipe to a T for the first batch. It made lovely jelly but it was also a bit sweeter than we usually gravitate to so we changed up the second batch a bit. We halved the sugar, added some lemon juice and used low sugar pectin. This made it more to our tastes and I wrote down some notes for the next year if we have the time to make it again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Join Me and Other Local Artisans in The Etsy Market Hosted by the DFW Etsy Artisans Team

A dozen artisans are part of the DFW Etsy Artisans team (an independent team of artisans who sell their creations on that is hosting one of the virtual Etsy Markets this year. The Etsy Market: DFW Etsy Artisans will run from 6pm Friday, Nov. 6 through 6pm Sunday Nov. 8, 2020.

There will be opportunities to watch live streaming sessions with different makers. Check out the schedule on the event page. You can see a preview of which Etsy shops are participating, including my EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic shops, by flipping through the lookbook below.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Holographic Photographic Art Pegasus Sticker

Even though I have not keep up with my blog posts with one exception for about eight months, I was able to create some new items during that time. I started out by sewing masks for friends and family. I completed some new magnets, started a couple of projects that are still in the works (one item for me and one item design for sale) and added another sticker to my sticker offerings. A couple of pieces of my photographic art were in a virtual show over the summer and some pieces made it into in person exhibits this fall.

Today I want to share some information with you about my stickers. This is a new product for me. I created the artwork for my first sticker just before the end of last year. Early this year I had some produced from that artwork. Even though I have had them for a while, this will be the first time for me to share my dragonfly decals with you on my blog. They are supposed to be very weather resistant and able to go through the dishwasher if you attach them to something like a travel mug. I have been testing out the weather resistance of the dragonfly sticker in my garden. I attached one to each side of a ceramic disk made for me by my friend, owner of CiCi House of Clay, and hung the ornamentation from a hook. It has been there for months. The water still beads up on it and the colors are good.

I created my second sticker a couple of months later. Instead of an image on an oval sticker like the dragonfly, I decided to try a holgraphic die cut sticker. I thought a flying horse would make a good candidate for this type of sticker. I started with some images I took of a flying horse model. I digitally created essentially a line drawing from one of those images that I used as the basis for the sticker. The printer added the holographic magic. Watch the short video clip below to see how the rainbow of the visible light spectrum plays across the decal depending on the angle of the light falling on it. These decals are available in my EclecticSkeptic Etsy shop.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Summer Vegetable Recap

As I am sure it did for many people, 2020 allowed me to focus on some things that I have wanted to do the past several years but barely or never got around to. I am still trying to get to all of the weeding in my gardens that needs to be done from years of some degree of neglect, but I have made a lot of progress.

In addition to my flower garden, I was able to focus on a couple of small vegetable patches I have not tended for a while. As you read in my previous post, I had quite a crop of basil this year. In this post you can see pictures of some of the other vegetables I had success with, green beans, summer squash, cucumbers, eggplant and a second small crop of asparagus after the early September rains.
In addition to eating them fresh, some of the cucumbers were made into quick pickles. Many of the eggplant flowers dropped off but the fruits we got were delicious. The pole beans did not set much before the hot summer temperatures set in but we got a bumper crop after the temps went below 90 degrees again. Some of those were canned and some frozen because we could not eat them fast enough. The squash did not produce as much as I expected but we did pick some yellow summer squash, golden zucchini and regular zucchini. In addition we enjoyed cherry tomatoes and small sweet peppers. While we did not grow enough produce to supply our needs, we relished the fresh picked additions to our food supply

Monday, May 25, 2020

Food Art - Creative Serving Receptacle

My basil crop was growing well and I needed to pick and use it. After making a good sized batch of pesto there was still quite a bit ready for use on the plants so I tasked my husband with finding a recipe that uses a lot of it. (Basil continues to grow well if it is harvested before it goes to seed. I had already pinched the flowers off once and preferred to harvest instead of pinch with as large as the plants were.) He found some Asian recipes but did not have all of the flavoring components needed. This all happened just before our once every two weeks shopping in this time of trying to limit potential exposure during the coronavirus pandemic. For our next shopping trip we headed for one of the large Asian markets in town. Unknown to me on the list was also a pineapple fried rice recipe's ingredients that my husband had made note of from one of the foodie channels he follows.

Trying to be efficient gathering what is on your shopping list is a challenge when visiting a store you are not very familiar with. We only had to ask twice where something was. After getting home and putting away the groceries my husband asked if I would like fried rice for lunch. He did not have to twist my arm for my affirmative reply. He got busy cooking and I went off to work on something. When called for lunch I was presented with a very creative serving dish full of pineapple fried rice topped with a parrot. It turns out the fried rice video had included a bit on making a pineapple parrot decorated bowl to serve the rice in. I had to take some photos so I could share this bit of food art. And yes, the fried rice was delicious.

What about the basil I started off talking about? That recipe might be dinner tonight.