Garden Cooking forum: A families Gift Basket Mission

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Dec 7, 2014 8:13 AM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
This is the story of some friends who every year give away thousands upon thousands and even moe thousands of canned jam,s jellies, preserves, salsas, and a few other things.

They do this from the generosity of their hearts. Theirs is an operation that has grown over the years, but maybe you could consider doing something like it in your own neighborhood or community or hooking up to see what needs an on going organization needs.

Below I am typing their mission statement and the paper that comes along in these gift basket buckets. It's like 4 pages long, so I'll just keep adding to this post as I get the time, but your free to post any comments or any recipes that you may have or make too . It might give you some ideas of different things to try you didn't think about and your sharing gives folks even more possible ideas.

Ok, here we go:

Dear friends,

If you are reading this letter, you are probably holding a bucket, basket, or box of homemade preserves. Most of you will know the story behind these, but each year there are a few new people who are somewhat confused by the whole concept. This multipage letter is a description and explanation of the contents of your gift. I have often said that any gift that required this much instruction and explanation was probably not worth it. However, the basic story is that many years ago, as we had extra products in our garden, we began to look for ways to preserve them and gave them away at Christmas. That has grown each year. Now we use the excess from our garden, our friends and neighbor's gardens, and actually make trips to buy certain products when they are not available locally to make the thirty plus products we produce to give away at Christmas. While each of these products is made in small batch fashion by us in our canning kitchen, the raw product may travel several miles to our kitchen to be processed. This year, we processed products from as far away as Florida, Buena Vista, and north Georgia.

The bucket or basket itself often has more in it than one person or one family wants or may have products that you may not prefer. The idea of sharing is that you simply pass it on. If you have something you don't think you will like or don't need, please feel free to forward it to someone who might. it is our goal to share with as many people as possible during this Christmas season. What follows is a list of this year's crops and the products we produced from them:


The blueberries come from several plants that we have on our place and because they are irrigated, they did very well this year. We make a blueberry jelly, a blueberry jam and a blueberry vinegar.


Our peach crop is always ugly because we choose not to use a lot fo chemicals. However, this year it was fair as far as quantity. Around the first of July we go through Verbena , Alabama and the peach farms north of Montgomery, AL. This year farmers there saved us their ugly peaches and their over ripe peaches. We processed over 200 pounds from that visit. The resulting peach jelly and peach jam we think are pretty good this year. In addition, the first case of peaches every year is peeled and soaked in brandy. The peaches are then removed and a peach jam is made out of them that carries part of the brandy in it. This is brandied Peach jam. We started making this a few years ago and the demand for it has grown so that it is a much larger product production that it has been before, but we are still interested in your opinion.

Muscadines and Scuppernongs:

Muscadines and Scuppernongs are southern grapes, they will grow in the south. We have three large arbors at our house. Unfortunately, our vines did not produce well this year. The golden grape, which si the scuppernong, produced well locally and somewhat at our house and we were able to make scupprnong jelly with it. There was very little local production of the purple grape (muscadine) and in September we made a trip to north Ga. and to TN where production was good and brought back several cases of muscadines to make muscadine jelly. We hope you enjoy it. It is frequently requested.


Grapes are difficult to grow int he south because of the humidity. Over the years we have found one or two varieties that produce a true seeded concord grape. People tell us that it is different from the grape jelly in the store and we like to believe that. We hope you enjoy it.


Again, the fickle weather of this summer, and a late frost greatly affected the fig production. We were able to make several cases of traditional fig preserves which are figs slowly cooked in a sugared syrup, and we were able to make strawberry fig preserves. Of these two products, we probably made about 70% of our normal production so we do feel somewhat fortunate that, even with the decreased yield, we are still able to process somewhere between 40 and 50 gallons of figs this year.


We make two apple products. The first is apple butter which uses a recipe from the Dillard House in north Ga. We like the recipe because it is the only recipe we have that makes more than eight jars of product at a time, it is well received. We also make lemon apple preserves which are thin sliced lemons and thin sliced apples with sugar and fresh nutmeg. These have become more popular over the years and I think the apples this year were of local production, north Ga, production and even central TN crops.


Almost always in the south, there is an abundance of pears and sometimes we have to get very creative with how we use them. This year we made a spiced pear jam. This is a new product. This is the first year and we would like your feedback on how you like it. It is made with our pears and the spice is fresh ginger. We took our first sample jar to a church breakfast and it was quickly emptied so we felt it was probably good enough to make the list. The second product is also new. It is called pear honey. Pear honey is made by placing the pears through the cider press than adding some sugar and cooking it forever until it thickens. it is obviously meant for pancakes, et cetera. Frankly we made it because we could. If you find another use fo it, we would be very interested in it.


Plums are one of the first things to come in and they did very well this year. The spring rains were good for the plums as they were on the blueberries. Because production was early it was not affected by the mid summer heat or drought. This year, we used a combination of red and yellow plums for the juice extraction and we hope you like it.


This year, we made two salsas, our five pepper salsa which has corn, five different peppers, tomatoes and a small amount of hot pepper in it, has become one of our most requested products Later in July, we were able to make peach salsa and it has peach pieces in it and a mild peach flavor. Along the lines of tomato products, this year, for the first time in probably five or ten years, we made Aunt Nell's tomato ketchup. My Aunt Nell was quite a character and an excellent cook. She would labor for hours making homemade ketchup. She developed this recipe in Fl when people would bring her the extras from the tomato fields in the Tampa area. It is different from "store bought" ketchup. It has a cinnamon spice flavor and we hope you enjoy it. We hope our version of it is good enough to adequately honor our Aunt Nell.

Barbecue Sauces:

This year we made four barbecue sauces. Our family named barbecue sauce is our traditional ketchup based sauce using fruit juices and extracts. it is not hot. it is a sweet sauce. Our second sauce we make each year is called a Slow Burn Barbecue Sauce and a mustard base. it uses a habanero pepper extract so that the burn hots you on the second or third bite. It is fairly popular. We have some friends who tend to eat it with potato chips. About two years ago, we started making our version of Chicken Comer Barbecue Sauce. Chicken Comer was one of the first and best barbeque restaurants in our area. It is a mustard based thin sauce and I am still nto sure it is as good as the original but it is one of my favorites. This year, again, we made Apple Pie Moonshine Barbecue Sauce with the obvious ingredients mentioned. This si the second or third year we have made this and the following is growing, people are starting to request it and ask us to make it. It is, I think, best described as an acquired taste.

Starting here again


This year, our pepper crop was exceptional. In addition, our friends in BuenaVista brought peppers literally by the truckload. We have made mild pepper jelly, hot pepper jelly, both of which are in a scuppernong wine base, and a pepper sauce. The most logical thing we make is our family's special hot sauce and it deserves a paragraph unto itself and will be mentioned later.


This year we were able to make over 160 quarts of hot kosher dill pickles and about 150 jars of sweet fire pickles. The hot kosher pickles are cucumber spears that sit on garlic and a pepper from june until
December. They are best served cold. They are without a doubt, our most requested and popular product. Sometimes that causes a problem in that some of our friends have been known to borrow the hot kosher dills from our other friends buckets. We try to make enough to keep everybody happy. Sweet fire pickles are thin sliced cucumbers layered with sliced jalepeno in a sweet pickle sauce. They are especially good on sandwiches. Pickled okra which we started doing a few years ago for our own personal use has become more and more popular. this year okra came from multiple sources and we tended to be able to make only a few jars at a time as the right size okra became available but, over a long period of time, we were able to make quite a few jars. it is interesting how popular it is and we hope you enjoy it. Reuben pickles are named after my cousin, Reuben, who several years ago said, " I like the sweet fire but why don't you leave out the cucumbers?" They are sliced jalapeno peppers put up in a bread and butter pickle sauce.

Family special Hot sauce:

The final product we usually list is our family recipe hot sauce. This is without a doubt, the most extreme thing we make. Very few people can actually use it but everybody wants a bottle to share with somebody else. It is extremely hot to the point of being dangerous. The basic process is that we and out friends grow the hottest peppers which we can find which, over the last few years, have been scorpion and ghost peppers. They are placed in vinegar for two to six months and then on a breezy, cool Saturday morning, dressed in a redneck biological hazard suit, including gas mask duck taped in place, rubber gloves, and rubber boots, they are run through the juicer. Because I have become sensitive to the capstan gas that is released as they are centrifugally ground in the juicer, a family member stands upwind with an epi-pen in case I get in trouble. This year the four or five hours I spent in the outfit was uneventful. We actually bottled these, washed them three or four times outside, and had them in the house in the course of twelve hours. To the best of my knowledge, no human or animal was harmed in the making of the sauce this year which makes it a first. Use it with great caution. reserve it for company that won't leave or people that tend to brag to much.

As the list of products has gotten longer, the list of explanations has had to get smaller. The reason behind the basket and the bucket is simple. It is that our family would liek to share with you and your extended family family something that we hope you consider special. We choose to do it during Christmas season because that is still, in our minds and hearts, a time of giving and loving.

Dec 7, 2014 12:23 PM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
There are several things that sounded yummy to me which I think I would like to try and learn to do, such as the lemon apples preserve and the peach salsa. Sounds liek ti might be a good thign for this tender taste bud person.

So what kinds of things do some of you make? Please feel free to share. Got a special or an heirloom recipe you enjoy? Got your own modern twist on a simple recipe? Big Grin

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