Tag Archives | The Urban Farm Handbook

Sustainable Eat’s August Urban Farm Handbook Challenge – Food Preservation Edition

The Urban Farm Handbook

Back in February, Annette from Sustainable Eats got in touch, asking me if I’d participate in her Urban Farm Handbook challenge in August. I said yes and now, a head-spinningly fast six months later, it’s my turn to issue a Food Preservation challenge.

So here’s what I’d like you UFH challenge folks (and anyone else who wants to play along) to try. Invent your own small batch jam recipe. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to ask people who are doing an urban farm challenge to think small during the height of canning season, but once you can piece together a small recipe, it will open up your brain and help you think creatively (though still safely) about your food preservation.

I realize that this sounds impossibly scary for some of you, particularly since we regularly hear from a number of sources that creating our own canning recipes is a big, fat no-no. However, here’s the thing. When you start with high acid fruits (and that’s the vast majority of them), and you add just a sweetener (sugar, honey or maple syrup all have the right chemical make-up to work well in this context) and you limit your flavor boosters to just a pinch of herb or spice, it’s really hard to create an unsafe product (though make sure to read through to the end of this post for the list of fruits that need more aggressive acidification).

lemon verbena

Start with a pound or so of fruit. Chop or mash it and measure how much you have. Add half as much sugar or maple syrup, or just a third of the volume of honey (it’s sweeter than the other two). Stir to combine and cook over fairly high heat in a stainless steel frying pan, stirring all the time. A low, wide pan will have the jam cooking down in ten minutes or less.

Add a splash of lemon juice if the sweetness needs balancing. A pinch of cinnamon is good if you want warmth. Star anise is tasty, as is a bit of vanilla bean, a few lemon verbena leaves or even a little freshly ground black pepper.

checking doneness

When you can draw a line through the cooking jam with your spatula and it holds it for a moment or two, it is done. Scrape the jam into small jars. They can be processed in a boiling water bath canner or just refrigerated.

Note: There are a few fruits that need to be acidified like tomatoes to ensure their safety. These are asian pears, white peaches and nectarines, figs, melons and tropical fruit. For every two cups of fruit pulp, add one tablespoon bottled lemon juice.

There are prizes for participating in the challenge. At the end of the month, Annette will publish a post in which everyone who participated can link up and then have a chance to win. Here’s what you could get:

Now, start canning!

Comments { 47 }

Books: The Urban Farm Handbook

The Urban Farm Handbook

It has always been a dream of mine to have a little farm. When I was four years old, adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would say, “A farmer.” I imagined myself in overalls and a red plaid shirt, spending my days playing in the soil. I realize, my childhood vision of farming doesn’t actually line up with the reality of the profession.

Life took a number of turns and farming never became my path. Instead, when I became old enough to make my own choices, I moved to a city and into an apartment without even a stitch of outdoor space.

The Urban Farm Handbook

Most of the time I am entirely at peace with the way things have worked out (after all, apartment living hasn’t stopped me from canning my little heart out). However, in the springtime, I feel a yearning to plant seeds in the dirt and help them grow. Still, I dream of having a little bit of outdoor space someday, to plant a garden and maybe even have a chicken or two (my husband is firmly against the idea of livestock).

One of the way I feed this longing to plant and raise and grow is by reading stories from other folks who are doing it. At the moment, my favorite farming and homesteading book is The Urban Farm Handbook by Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols. What’s so great about this volume is that for me, it is both an aspirational volume and useful hand book in the present day.

The Urban Farm Handbook

In addition to being full of all of someday useful information about chickens, backyard dairy and how to get the most food out of your city plot, it’s also bursting with recipes and techniques that I can implement in my apartment-based life. It has a lengthy food preservation section, as well as information on grinding grain at home, making butter/yogurt/cheese and even homemade soap and lotion.

There’s also a section on building food community, bartering and creating your own buying clubs. I know author Annette has done a great deal of work in building a buying club in her area of the Pacific Northwest and I’m certain that the advice and experiences she in folded into this volume will help lots of other folks do something similar in their areas.

The Urban Farm Handbook

The other thing that I love about this book is that it has a number of producer profiles. I have always found it fascinating to learn about the lives of the people who nurture the stuff we eat and this volume contains a number of them.

Finally, those of you who are looking to dig more deeply into the subject of urban farming and self-sustainability will love the resources section in the very back of the book. The authors have been incredibly generous in gathering up all the books, websites and sources for chickens, goats and grain that they’ve spent years acquiring into just a few pages.

The Urban Farm Handbook

All year, Annette is going to be hosting an Urban Farm Handbook Challenge and there’s still time to sign up. Each month as a different theme designed to help you learn how to take steps towards greater sustainability. I’m going to be helping out a bit this August during canning month and I’m looking forward to it! Click over to Sustainable Eats to learn more.

Comments { 19 }