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Friday, September 29, 2017

Prepping for the Holiday Season

The thing about soap making is, you can't just decide to make soap a day or two before you need it. You have to plan and prepare for the day or event in which you'll need it because it takes several weeks for soap to fully cure. Therefore, I've been busy lately replenishing my soap stocks for the coming holidays.

Now, I'm not one for pumpkin shaped soap or soap with embedded snowmen, but I do like to try something new this time of year and this year I have several things up my sleeve.

To begin with, I'm implementing new labeling! My previous labels were a little laborious if I had a lot of soap to brand. The new labels will be a little more colorful and although I spent HOURS getting the alignment correct, now that it is, I can easily print out a sheet or two quickly if needed.

It's also this time of year that I review my mainstay soaps; the soaps I carry all the time. It's when I determine what works and what hasn't. My Pepperwood soap will be phased out so if you are a fan of that one, grab a few bars before they're gone for good.

Also being phased out is my Honey Hopped soap. I love the scent of this soap and will use the cassia essential oil in another bar (I'm leaning towards adding it to the Mug-o-Beer Bar) but I really love the fresh goats' milk vs the hops in soap. Again, if you want to try it, grab a few bars before they're gone for good.

Now, let me introduce you to the new lineup: Pine Tar Goats' Milk Soap made with real pine tar and fresh goats' milk!

Pine tar has been used in skincare and hair care products for over a century. It helps relieve the symptoms of  eczema, dry skin, psoriasis, bug bitesand itchy skin in general. It's also great as a shampoo to treat dandruff or inflammation of the scalp.

Yes, pine tar has a very distinctive scent, very much like tar and pine (go figure), which helps fight body odor. To this soap, I've added cedarwood and amyris essential oils to play up the outdoorsy, woodsy scent.  Look for it in the online store in a couple weeks.

Also new, will be my Oatmeal Ginger Goats' Milk Soap. This will be another soothing skin bar and I'm really excited about it! I'm making it tomorrow and the plan is to use finely ground oatmeal, a little turmeric (to provide a pretty orange color), fresh goats' milk, and grated ginger to the top. This bar will be scented with ginger and cassia essential oils. I'll be sure to post pictures when it's complete.

Both new bars will be available in a few weeks and in time for holiday shopping! Remember, orders over $29 ship free! Use your computer or access the new mobile friendly site to place your order!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Cornelian Cherry Jam

Once we planted a tree...

My sister picked it out. At the time, my sister and I owned the duplex I live in now. Sadly, she passed away 4 years ago last Saturday. The tree we planted survived though and thrived.

It's a Cornelian Cherry and if you have never heard of it before you're not alone. It's of the dogwood family and in the spring it blooms with beautiful yellow flowers.

In the summer though, it's loaded with small, bright red, cherries that resemble a coffee berry.

According to Wikipedia, the tree is native to southern Europe (from France to Ukraine) and south western Asia including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

The cherry's taste is very tart, almost sour, and they are ripe once they turn bright red and drop to the ground. The seed of the cherry accounts for over half it's size.

Last year, during my Home and Patio Sale, the tree was bursting with cherries when a lady approached to ask if she could pick the fruit. At the time, I was surprised anyone ate the fruit but she told me how it made wonderful jams. As she picked her fill of cherries, I decided next year I'd try my hand at cherry jam.

Fast forward a year and armed with a bed sheet and a colander, I went out to the cherry tree early last Saturday morning and started shaking the branches so the berries would fall on the sheet. It took less than 30 minutes to fill the colander (about 12 cups of berries).

I washed the cherries and set them aside as I was waiting the arrival of my food millfrom Amazon; I had no intention of pitting all those cherries one at a time. I was also waiting on a new canner and rackas I wanted to seal the jars of jam in a hot water bath.

Thankfully my food mill arrived later that day, however, by Sunday afternoon my canner had not. Since the day was predicted to be 100 degrees and I had to go to work the next day, I decided to get started on the jam and make due with tongs and a deep pot I had.

I brought the cherries to boil in about 5 cups of water for approximately 4 minutes. I then scooped out the cherries a cup or two at a time, placed them in my food mill, and started to remove the pits.

I'm not going to lie, removing the pits from the cherries even with the food mill, was hard work and probably accounts for why you don't see a lot of cherry jam around. It wasn't long work, just hard work, and in about 20 minutes I had pitted all my cherries, yielding about 6 cups of cherry sauce.

To this sauce, I added 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 3 cups sugar. I've read recipes that actually call for 8 cups of sugar! I couldn't bring myself to add that much, besides I didn't have it. I boiled the jam for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I had my jars and lids in the hot water bath sterilizing.

Using a soup ladle I filled the hot jars with the hot cherry jam, put the lids on, and set them back in the hot water bath to seal for approximately 3-5 minutes.

Although most cherries don't contain a lot of pectin, these particular cherries do and the jam set up nicely.

The finished jam is a beautiful red color and has a nice lightly tart flavor. I think the cherry flavor is great on it's own however next year I think I may add a few habanero peppers to it for a little kick. Now if the weather would just cool down, I could make some homemade bread to eat with it!

Just a reminder, Lora's Beauty is celebrating the launch of the mobile friendly website and Labor Day! Get $5 off any order of $25 or more until September 5 (discount taken automatically!)