Saturday, October 27, 2012

Beautyberry Jelly

This week I took a notion to make some beautyberry jelly. Are you familar with the expression, took a notion?  It might just be "Tennessee talk". It means, decided to.

I have made it a couple of times before using this recipe from the Florida Native Plant Society's book.

I have two plants in my back yard. The plants grow into large indelicate-looking bushes. This picture of my plant shows the typical very pretty dark lavender color of the berries. I think there might be a red version too. Notice the unusual growing habit of the berries in clusters around the stem about every inch or so.

For those not familiar with the plant, here is a paragraph from the web site of the Florida Native Plant Society:  Introduction: Purple berries clinging around stems with bright green foliage make Callicarpa americana stand out from late summer to winter.  It is easy to see how beautyberry got its common name.  Don't let its looks fool you though; Callicarpa is more than just eye candy.  Callicarpa americana is useful medicinally and as food for wildlife and people.  American Beautyberry is not fussy about location, soil or light requirements.  This tough plant is an American Beauty in every sense of the word.  Its name comes from Greek: Kalli, means beautiful; Karpos means fruit.

I didn't have enough berries on my bushes for the recipe so I got some from a friend. She was ready to trim hers back and brought lots of branches about four feet long each.

So, yesterday morning as storm Sandy was coming up the coast I stood on the back porch and stripped off all the berries. I had second thoughts about whether I wanted to stay out there because the wind was very blustery and it was quite noisy under the trees.

The best way to strip the berries is to lay the branch across the bowl and do one clump at a time letting the berries fall into the bowl.
It is not a quick process to get a quart and a half of berries but, I finally did and moved into the kitchen.  The outside pictures shows the more natural color.

Boiling the berries and making the infusion goes quickly. Straining out the berries (I did mine through a cloth) is not my favorite part of the process.  Then, mixing the infusion, sure gel and sugar, and boiling it for a short time is all that's left.  Here you see my finished jelly syrup. Yes, it did not gel!  I remember what I made a few years back was not very thick jelly but this is more like thin syrup. It tastes good though, so I plan to use it for pancakes, ice cream, fruit salad and who knows what else. I wish it would retain the pretty purple color but this color is also pretty.

The infusion recipe makes enough to make two runs of jelly so I refrigerated what was left and today I was determined to have some beautyberry jelly, went to the store and got more sure gel, used two instead of one and now I have more jars of jelly syrup!

So, if you have beautyberries and wish to try making jelly you might want to find a different recipe! I think acidity has something to do with the gelling but I'm not sure. My disappointment is that I wanted to give some cute little jars of jelly to friends.  Maybe I could just pretend it was supposed to be syrup???  They would never know would they? Unless of course, they are reading this. Wouldn't you know, every jar sealed.  If you have ever preserved anything in jars you know the reward of hearing those lids, ping, ping, ping, one after the other.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Some Miscellaneous Fall.........

Our weather here in central Florida has been very fall like. In fact, yesterday after working outside for awhile and going inside it felt warmer inside than out. Just perfect autumn weather! I have been enjoying the fall look too and want to show you a little addition I made in the kitchen.

My little window above the sink has had, for a few years now,  a dotted swiss fabric "shade" that I made by using a tension rod through a casing at the top and leaving the panel very long in order to roll the excess fabric up on a tension rod there too.  The roll across the bottom really adds to the style. Up until now, I have had three black and white small checked fabric strips about 3 inches wide that goes all the way around the length of the curtain and ties at the bottom.

For fall I decided to make three new pieces from burlap and here is how it looks now. 

At first I just tied them and added a combination of two different colors of ribbon for trim. But, that just wasn't "doing it" for me so I found these little wire pumpkin place card holders in a drawer and thought they were a good addition but knew something more was still needed. I headed to Joann's and loved these very natural looking fall leaves and ta da.............finished! 

Just in case some of you missed seeing an earlier post that showed the group of three cups, one with a tiny bird nest, here is a shot of them. The cups would look better now if I had changed out the three ribbons but I just didn't feel that ambitious. Maybe they will get changed for Christmas. Or, maybe not. You can expect to see the burlap decor taking on a Christmas look.
Now, on to another subject. When I go to my monthly Orlando Area Historical Rose Society meeting I usually make a bouquet using some roses that happen to be blooming. For October I made it look a bit like an autumn arrangement by sticking some left over leaves in the vase.  And you will notice I also used the ribbon.


We always have refreshments at our meeting and this time I made some yummy Pumpkin Fluff Dip. It turned out to be a big hit!

I took gingersnaps and some graham crackers to serve it with.  Both of these are good choices for the dip taste. I will give you the simple recipe in case you might like to try it.
1 (16 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed.  1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix.  1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.
In a large bowl, mix together instant vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice.  Fold in the thawed frozen whipped topping.  Chill in the refrigerator until serving.
The recipe came from


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

September Girls Celebration.........


..........I am running behind with posting this. I was waiting to get a picture of the five of us (which I never got) who for years have celebrated our September birthdays with a special breakfast or brunch.  This year, once again it was a wonderful brunch prepared by Lynda. Since I didn't take my camera and didn't get the group picture, and the one taking pictures wasn't shown at all, I am going to proceed with what I do have.............

Lynda's beautiful table.  The glasses contain yummy strawberry smoothies.

If I had taken pictures I would have made close-ups of the neat things on her table. Lynda is all about details and that is what makes her table settings so special. Of course, the food was absolutely outstanding.
Here I am ready to hand out my gifts to the other four.
This is what I started with, instead of a bag. I got baskets at The Christmas Shop, half off.  I tied a mesh ribbon and a sprig of mums on each one to dress them up a little.

I gathered up several little items for my gift to the sweet ladies. Here is a mug rug, filled with spices which give a fall fragrance as the hot mug rests on it.

A little bottle with dangling fall charms also came from The Christmas Shop.
A homespun bag which was going to be filled with a baked item. Unfortunately the baking didn't get done and I had to go with plan B - a large German chocolate Candy bar purchased on the way to the celebration.
One of the little bags filled with fresh lavender from The Lavender Shop in my hometown of Jonesborough, Tennessee.  Some of you have seen some of these pictured on here before as I made a lot of them to give away earlier in the summer.
For Sarah
Each got one of the tags I have also made lots of for little gifts.

For Lynda

For Patsy
For Berry
When I got everything gathered up and ready I placed them in the baskets....
....and, used fall leaves like tissue paper to cover up the gifts.
Multiples are usually more impressive than a single.
I regret not remembering to take pictures of the really nice gifts from the other ladies before I scattered them out, ate one, etc!

The September Girls birthday celebration has become a very special time in the year. It is a pleasure to wish a happy birthday to such special ladies!  To see last years post go here -

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Autumn in the Dining Room.........

............I haven't posted the dining room fall look yet so, here it is. This is a  very small space but always filled to overflowing, no matter what season. 

Starting on the wall above one of the two buffets is this shelf which gets changed out with the changing seasons.  Extending beautiful wishes is a place card that I have used several times on the Thanksgiving table - one for each place setting.

The shelf always has two plates and these two do well for autumn.  And, the sparkling twigs are good at this season, too.  Speaking of sparkling, when I was much younger I would look at glitz and sparkles in decor, jewelry etc. and think, "only an old lady would like something gaudy like that"!  Now, that I am old all the gaudy stuff seems to have disappeared! *wink* *wink* ;)
I have loved having these glass vases for many years - this short one and......

.......a taller one.  They are less than an inch wide and about four inches across. They are solid except for the round "bow" part. I remember they were purchased on Park Avenue, Winter Park all those years ago. I am surprised that I still have them because they fall over very easy and have done so many times.

Just below the shelf I have tucked an autumn napkin in the menu holder.

On the left end of the buffet.  
More "sparkly" around a favorite candlestick which was a birthday gift from a friend awhile back.

The pumpkin stack that I made last year. I never did sew them together as they are easier to store individually and stay put without being attached.

The Christmas Shop had these half off ($5) a few weeks back. With my two and the ones my daughter has either one of us can have one at each place setting if we want to emphasis a nice dessert.  We have several tabletop items that we both invested in to "pool".
Pretty cupcakes look great in these.

A mixture of fake and real acorns in a Johnson Brothers small bowl.
My ornate crown took on a festive fall look.
On the wall above the other buffet, a Johnson Brothers square plate and cup. They made square plates before square was popular. Shadows are making the wall paint look a little strange but it is nice solid Kakai Shade, by Sherwin Williams.

Starting now on buffet #2 you see fall-looking table confetti under glass.

Here is my green velvet pumpkin and glass grapes which were new features last year.

Fall napkins and a bead adorned spreader in a cut glass dish. I won the spreader in a bunco game.

I can almost taste the homemade bread and herb butter!!!