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Finds canning fun, relaxing

By Staff | Nov 14, 2014

AUDREY BROWN said making jelly for family and friends as well as local farmers’ market customers has been fun and rewarding when she takes to the kitchen at her family’s farm west of Merrill.



MERRILL – Audrey Brown smiled as she lifted the jars of jelly from the large metal pan on the stove in her metal-sided outdoor kitchen that’s separate from the farmhouse.

“Yes, canning down here rather than the house has made it considerably easier,” she said.

Dishes of wild plums shared counter space with a colorful assortment of peppers while raspberries simmered in a pan near by as Brown prepared for a busy weekend in the kitchen.

AUDREY BROWN pulls a jar of her jelly from a kettle after heat-sealing it.

Making jellies, she said, has been her effort to assist her son, Clint, 27, in his farmers market venture – C. Brown Gardens. It’s part of the family farming operation that includes corn and soybean production and a hormone/antibiotic-free Angus herd.

“It’s our way of being part of value-added agriculture and giving consumers the opportunity to buy local and fresh produce and meat,” Brown said. They participate in the Sioux City Farmers’ Market.

“When Clint first got involved and was too young to drive I kept thinking of what else I could do to help out,” Brown said. Making jelly from the garden’s produce seemed a logical answer.

Friends and family, plus market customers are among those who share the results of her hours in the kitchen.

“We as a family have enjoyed entertaining with dinners here, and naturally include the jellies in a variety of our family menus,” she said.

WILD PLUMS, colorful assorted peppers and white chocolate chips are but a few of the ingredients finding their way into Brown’s homemade jellies.

She said she grew up on a Paullina-area farm and has followed in the footsteps of her Swedish grandmother whose prize recipes were for Swedish bread.

“When my cousins and I decided we’d do a cookbook of Grandma’s recipes we asked her to help us out,” Brown said. “She said she just used a pinch of this, a pinch of that when she baked.”

Brown said there were the times (Grandmother) would say, “You won’t need that much butter,” or “Put another egg in there,” or, “You’ll know how much flour.”

“And we, of course, stood there with our measuring cups attempting to write the recipes down and figure them out,” Brown said. “And now when I get busy making jelly I find myself at times doing the same thing.

“I think something might make a good jelly if I add just a bit of say, cinnamon or a touch of cloves.”

She counts among her creations a fudge jelly and a new pumpkin jelly just in time for Thanksgiving.

She said she prefers to use chunks of fruit and, at times, whole blueberries or halved strawberries, making them more as preserves rather than jellies.

Ingredients not readily available in Clint’s garden are purchased locally whenever possible or found growing wild, such as plums and gooseberries.

They’ve also purchased grapes and apples from local vineyards and orchards.

Brown’s titles are as different as her contents, such as Blue Bomb jelly, a blueberry/Anaheim pepper combination.

The rewarding aspect of the jelly-making, she said, comes when someone comes back wanting more, saying it tastes like what their grandmother used to make.

The fun part, Brown said, is when she finds new uses for jellies in recipes selected for family gatherings.

“I’ve enjoyed using them in cheese balls or when cooking meat on the grill,” she said, “when using a jelly with onions and peppermint, or used as a condiment, with all the (flavors) coming from one jelly.

“The chocolate jelly chocolate raspberry, or chocolate cherry amaretto with a dollop of ice cream, can be a special dessert.

“Putting jelly into a recipe is a way for all of us to discover that jelly is no longer only for toast or an English muffin, but to add excitement to a number of things you may have on your menu.”

Pumpkin pecan butter

2 large cans pumpkin

1 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup apple juice

1/2 cup squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

8 cups sugar

Mix all in slow cooker, on high for 1 hour, then on low for 3 to 4 hours.

Stir every 30 minutes.

Cook to preferred consistency, then put in 8-ounce jars and hot water bath for 10 minute.

Makes around 13 jars. Can use as a topping, bread spread or fruit dip.

Spiced cheese ball

2 cups grated white cheddar or Gouda

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

4 ounces or more hot pepper spread (Brown prefers habanero gold)

In food processor, pulse the cheeses and then add the spread. Pulse until well blended.

Shape ball and chill for 30 minute. Coat the ball with ground pistachio seeds.

So easy, apple butter

Fill slow cooker with 12 to 15 peeled and cut apples. Can use mixed varieties.

4 cups sugar

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook on high 1 hour, then all day on low.

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