Cucumber Mint Jelly

Some time ago I bought a Better Homes and Gardens magazine with jam and jelly recipes in it.   Lots of good stuff!  I love cucumbers and I love mint so this combination really intrigued me.  Interestingly, most of my brothers hate mint.  They won’t even use mint toothpaste.  And I think some of them probably don’t like cucumbers either.  My kitchen smelled wonderful while I was making this jelly.  A friend came in while it was cooking and the first thing she said was, “your house smells like cucumbers.”  This recipe was very easy and it’s something you can make year round.

Ingredients:

3 large cucumbers

7 cups of sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

1 6-oz package liquid fruit pectin (both envelopes)

1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves

a drop of green food color

Peel and cut the cucumbers into chunks.  No need to remove the seeds.  Purée them in a food processor or blender.

Press the purée through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.  You want to recover 1 1/2 cups of cucumber juice.

You pretty much waste most of the cucumber.

In a heavy saucepan combine the cucumber juice, sugar, and vinegar.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar.

Quickly stir in both packets of pectin and the mint.  Bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly.  Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat.  Use a metal spoon and skim off any foam and remove the mint.  Add a drop of green food color.  The “natural” color is not appetizing.  While I was making the jelly I had this bright idea that a mint leaf in each jar would be really pretty.  As you remove the mint from the pot you realize, as I did, that this would not be a good idea.

Ladle hot jelly into hot sterilized half pint jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rims, adjust lids and screw on the bands.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Start the timer when the water comes to a boil.  Remove jars and allow to cool completely on a heavy towel or wire racks.

Makes 6 half pints.

I love the finished product!  The day I made the jelly we had lamb chops for dinner so I could showcase the cucumber mint jelly.

NOTE:  Try a spoonful of cucumber mint jelly, some tonic water and good gin or vodka for an amazing cocktail.  Zap the jelly for a few seconds in the microwave, add the alcohol, ice and stir in the tonic.

Cheers!

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Four Bean Salad

We’ve all made 3-Bean Salad in the past or at least seen it on salad bars.  It has the mild pickled taste that most people like and it is easy to throw together.  I first tasted this particular version of the salad when a friend brought it over and we shared a small dish with our lunch.  This salad has an extra bean and a little twist that gives it a unique taste.  I coudn’t put my finger on it until my friend sent me the recipe and I realized it was the toasted sesame oil.  This is now my new favorite bean salad.

Ingredients:

1 15oz can of black beans

1 15oz can of garbanzo beans

1 15oz can of kidney beans

1 15oz can of green beans (I used a pint of my home canned)

1 small onion sliced thin (sweet or red)

3/4 cup of sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

salt and pepper to taste

Ok.  This is pretty simple.  Open the 4 cans of beans and drain.

Whisk together the sugar, oils and vinegars.

In a large bowl combine the beans and sliced onion.  Add the dressing and toss.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sample some, of course.

Refrigerate and serve chilled.  If you need a passing dish for a potluck or a simple side for a barbeque this salad is perfect and so easy to make.

Enjoy!

My friend’s recipe included 1/2 tsp of tarragon.  I omitted it because it is not one of my favorite herbs.  But if it’s a favorite of yours, by all means add it.  James Beard, a very famous chef and cookbook author, is quoted as saying, “I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”  That quote doesn’t make me like it any more.  Tarragon is one of the herbs considered essential in French cooking.  I used to think I was part French until I sent my DNA to Ancestory.com.     Perhaps my dislike of tarragon should have been my first clue that I’ve no French in my DNA. And I think this recipe is great without the tarragon.

NOTE:  You can change up your beans based on personal preference or what you have on hand.  I have a friend who dislikes kidney beans so she could substitute butter beans, cannalini beans or navy beans.