Category Archives: Food Preserving

Herbal Vinegar Basics

French tarragon is used for culinary purposes.

French tarragon is used for culinary purposes.

Tarragon or other herb flavored vinegars are easy and inexpensive to make and provide a simple, appetizing way to add flavor to salad dressings, marinades, and every day meals. Tasty, distinctive, flavored vinegars can also be added to roasted vegetables, drizzled over fish, splashed into a soup, stew or stir-fry for added flavor, or to baste chicken while it bakes.

The process requires few ingredients, basic equipment, and very little time. Homemade vinegars make a special and unique gift for any occasion. If you don’t have tarragon, try basil, Rosemary, thyme, dill, sage or parsley in an herbal vinegar.  Or try several different versions.

Fill jar with fresh herbs

Fill jar with fresh herbs


  • 1-2 cups of French tarragon leaves, fresh and loosely packed – more herbs, more flavor
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or rice wine vinegar
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, optional

(Additional herb sprig for decoration when bottling)


1. Wash tarragon (or herbs) the night before, if needed, so herbs, freshly harvested in the morning, will maintain maximum flavor. Gather herbs in the morning, after the dew has dried. Bruise tarragon or herbs with the back of a chef knife, with a mortar and pestle or crumple herbs by hand to release maximum flavor.
2. Fill a dry sterilized  jar with tarragon or herbs of choice. (A quick run through the dishwasher
herbal+vinegars3. Pack a one quart jar with the herbs and pour the vinegar over the herbs. Cover the container with a plastic lid and leave for 2—3 weeks. This will draw out the flavor of the tarragon into the vinegar.  (Two-piece lids will work, but be aware vinegar will react with the metal screw bands)
4. Line a fine wire-mesh strainer with a paper coffee filter or cheese cloth. Pour vinegar mixture through the strainer into a large measuring cup, discarding the herbs.
5. Fill dry, attractive sterilized glass bottles with a fresh herb sprig, and add strained vinegar. Tightly seal the bottles with nonmetallic lids or corks; store the herbal vinegar in a cool dark place.

Dress fresh salad greens with herbal vinaigraitte

Dress fresh salad greens with vinaigrette



3 Tbsp. tarragon vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 Cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. minced fresh tarragon or 1 tbsp. dried, crumbled

In a bowl whisk together the vinegar, salt, and pepper; add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the vinaigrette until it is emulsified. Stir in tarragon. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Options for Pairing Vinegars and Herbs

White wine vinegar goes well with many herbs and is perfect for herbs or flower petals that produce color. Dill, basil, tarragon, chervil, mints, and lemon balm are well-suited to white wine vinegar.

Red wine vinegar adds a rich flavor and pairs well with sage, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.

Be creative:  mix and match herbs and garlic according to taste!

Bottles for herbal vinegars are available at Paonia Farm and Home

Bottles for herbal vinegars are available at Paonia Farm and Home

Time to Harvest Fresh Herbs

Fragrant, savory, aromatic herbs enhance flavors ocooked food without salt.

Fragrant, savory, aromatic herbs enhance flavors of cooked food without salt

How to Harvest Fresh Herbs and other Helpful Tips
  • Preserve the maximum flavor and color of homegrown herbs by cutting the plant on a sunny day after the dew is dried from the leaves.
  • Wash herbs, if possible, before harvesting to preserve maximum amounts of the precious essential oil component of the leaves.
  • Usually most herbs thrive when they are harvested multiple times or frequently harvested. Cut the herbs back in June or July by about half with scissors or a sharp knife and you may have another complete harvest to reap come Fall. In the Fall, herbs can be cut back to a few inches above the ground.  Here is a delicious, easy, flavorful vinaigrette for seasonal salads:
  • Sweet Basil Vinaigrette
    • 1-2 cups packed, fresh basil leaves to taste.
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    • ¾ cup canola oil
    • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whirl all the ingredients in a blender until smooth, about one minute.  Store in a one pint jar.

  • Hang small bundles of herbs on a line with clothes pins

    Hang small bundles of herbs on a line with clothes pins

    Although fresh is always best, extra leaves and stalks can be dried. Freshly picked herbs should be used right away, or dried upside down in small bundles in a dark, dry place.

  • Harvest herbs at peak flavor because it will surpass the dried herb in quality and flavor.
  • When the herbs are thoroughly dry, 3-5 days up to two weeks, strip the leaves off the stalks and crush them to a fine texture to use in cooking. Tea leaves can be kept whole.
  • A small jar of commercially dried herbs averages $6.00 for small containers. Think of the savings if you harvest more and the gifts you could make!
  • Paonia Farm and Home has a huge assortment of containers for storing dried herbs, making herbal gifts and even herbal vinegars.

    Various sized decorative jars for storing herbs and other seasonings

    Various sized decorative jars for storing herbs and other seasonings

Small tins can be used for dried herbs and gifts.

Small tins can be used for dried herbs and gifts.

Small decorative jars for herbs and making gifts.

Small decorative jars for herbs and making gifts.

    • Use herbs for flavor and reduce the need for salt and sugar! Allow the bounty of tasty herbs to encourage new creative and delicious cooking experiments. No more ho-hum dishes.
    • Herbs provide can be used in tasty teas, or garnishes for other drinks.

• Pick a small nosegay of herbs to scent your kitchen as you cook.
• Tiny bouquets of fresh herbs can be used for a hostess gift.fresh herbs

Old Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Traditional Apple Cake with a twist!

Old Fashioned Apple

Old Fashioned Apple Cake, recipe from King Arthur Flour


  • 2 1/3 cups  All-Purpose Flour or whole wheat pastry flour (pack freshly milled flour)
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  •  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger and ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup  unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups peeled, cored, chopped apple, about 4 large whole apples – tart is best
  • 1 cup diced toasted walnuts or pecans
    Tart apples are delicious in baked goods.

    Tart apples are delicious in baked goods.


  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


1) Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ pan.

2) To make the cake: Mix all of the ingredients except the apples and nuts in a large bowl.

3) Beat until well combined; the mixture will be very stiff, and may even be crumbly.

4) Add the apples and nuts, and mix until the apples release some of their juice and the stiff mixture becomes a thick batter, somewhere between cookie dough and brownie batter in consistency.

5) Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it with your wet fingers.

6) Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few wet crumbs clinging to it.

7) Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool completely; don’t remove the cake from the pan.

8) To make the frosting: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts.

9) Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.

10) After 10 minutes, stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat well; if the mixture appears too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar. Spread on the cake while frosting is still warm.

Helpful Tips:

  • To toast nuts, place them in a single layer in a cake pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 6 to 9 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell “toasty.”
  • To guarantee lump-free frosting, sift confectioners’ sugar before adding to the butter mixture. Usually all the lumps disappear as you beat the frosting; but to guarantee no lumps at all, sift the sugar first.

 Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Autumn, the Hush before Winter

Orchard Valley Farms in the Fall

Orchard Valley Farms in the Fall

Autumn is the hush before winter” says an insightful French proverb. In Colorado, we can expect to experience warm, dry days keeping us outside enjoying the last days of summer.   However, oldtimers aren’t surprised by an unexpected early snowfall or freeze.  Breathe in all the delightful Fall weather whatever is dished up because winter is coming way too soon.

Meanwhile, here is a Fall check list for gardeners:


The nights are cooling down. The question is to protect your plants or let them go.  Cold temperatures certainly will affect  plant health.

As a rule, light frosts happen with temperatures around 32 degrees, down to about 28 degrees. Hard frosts occur below 28 degrees.

Fall Garden Growing Guidelines:end_of_season_tomato_trellis_plants_620

• Warm-season crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, basil) need consistent 55-degree temperatures or higher to grow and ripen properly.  If a frost is expected it might be time to pull these plants and call it for the season until next year.

• Semi-hardy cool-season crops (beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, cauliflower, potatoes, parsley) grow in minimum daytime temperatures of 40 degrees and higher. They cannot withstand hard frost without some kind of covering or protection.

• Hardy cool-season crops (cabbage, broccoli, onions, radishes, spinach, turnips, peas) grow in BasicColdFrame40-degree daytime temperatures and can handle some frosty nights without protection.

• To extend the season, both hardy and semi-hardy cool-season vegetables will need cold frames  to keep them growing through the fall.

Covering Crops

• Have some lightweight sheets or floating row covers on hand to cover when lower temperatures are predicted. Plastic transfers cold to the plant, so use only on top of sheets (for extra warmth or rain/snow protection). Covers must extend over the entire plant and be secured to the ground to keep heat trapped inside. Be sure to remove covers the next day when it warms up. More info about extending the season is found at the CSU extension site.

Harvesting Guidelines

  • If you are not covering tomato plants, harvest the  tomatoes prior to frost — look for mature green tomatoes (dull, light green in color) or ones that are beginning to develop color. Wrap each in newspapers until ripe or place on a rack in a room with 65-70 degree temperatures. Light is not necessary for ripening, although some light will help with the color intensity. Keep them off a sunny window seal to ripen; they’ll get too hot and turn mushy.
  • Summer and winter squash are both warm-season crops and will not survive fall frosts. Summer squash includes zucchini, patty-pan or scallop, yellow straight or crookneck and taste best when harvested when they are immature with undeveloped seeds inside. They need to be harvested often and only last about a week in the refrigerator.

    Glorious and colorful assortment of winter squash

    Glorious and colorful assortment of winter squash

  • Winter squash includes butternut, buttercup, hubbard, acorn, and many pumpkin varieties. The opposite of summer squash, they are harvested when fully mature, and the fruit has developed a hard skin. This helps them store for many weeks in a cool, dry, dark place. A great indicator is to harvest winter squash and pumpkins when a fingernail cannot easily puncture the rind. Leave a two-inch piece of stem attached to the fruit.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle with Tattler

Tattler Lids are Reuseable

Tattler Lids are Reuseable

  • TATTLER canning lids provide a cost effective alternative to metal lids, as well as a safe, and environmentally friendly product for your home food preservation. TATTLER lids are BPA free!
  • Tattler Reusable Canning lids are which are made in America.
  • TATTLER lids are especially desirable for acid foods, pickles, peppers, tomatoes, etc, since they will not corrode.
  • Tattler lids are perfect for the home canner who wish to Reduce, Reuse, and Recyle and save time and money.

Key Benefits:

Canned Peaches with Tattler Lids

Canned Peaches with Tattler Lids


  • Dishwasher Safe!
  • Indefinitely reusable
  • Uses standard canning processes
  • No food spoilage due to acid corrosion
  • FDA approved materials
  • Use with Pressure or water bath canning methods.
  • Made of a food grade product known as (POM) or Acetal Copolymer

Tips For Best Results:

Tattler and Traditional Lids

Tattler and Traditional Lids

1. Inspect top of jar for cracks and nicks.
2. Wash, rinse and sterilize jars. Scald lids and rubber rings. Leave in water until ready to use.
3. Fill jars as indicated per canning instructions for that food type.
4. Wipe top of jar after filling. Place lid and rubber ring combination on jar.
5. Screw band on jar loosely. Center lid on jar and hold in place with finger while you finish tightening the metal band. THEN TURN BACK 1/4 INCH. Product must be allowed to vent during processing.
6. Process as per instructions for various foods.
8. When jars have cooled, remove metal band and determine by feel if lids are securely sealed. Sealed jars may be stored without metal bands if desired.
9. When removing lid gently insert table knife between rubber and jar to release seal – DO NOT USE SHARP KNIFE.
10. Wash plastic lids and rubber rings, rinse, dry and store for future use. Do not save any rubber ring which is cut or deformed.

Save money when canning with reuseable lids and rings

Save money when canning with reuseable lids and rings

TATTLER reuseable lids and rings are available at Paonia Farm and Home Supply along with all your other canning needs.