Old-Fashioned Apple Jelly

My favorite orchard in North Alabama announced last call on apples over the weekend.

The trees are no longer producing quality fruits, and apple season is ending as the first frosts are threaten the South. This doesn’t mean you have to wait another year for that tasty autumn flavor! Nothing is as delightful (nor as cozy) as homemade jelly topping hot, flaky biscuits on a cold weekend for breakfast, brunch or even supper with the family!

Fresh Picked Orchard Apples

Apple jelly, while a little time-consuming, is really quite worth the small amount of work as you savor each bite throughout the year. I stepped out of my comfort zone this year and made our apple jelly without commercial pectin.

Did you know commercial pectin is actually a derivative of apples? This delicious fruit is loaded with natural sugars which make it an ideal experiment for old-fashioned jelly making.

Old Fashioned Apple Jelly

Taking about 6 pounds of Granny Smith and Rome Beauty apples, I chopped them up (core and all) and placed in a large stock pot with six cups of water. When choosing apples for your jelly keep in mind that tart apples (Granny Smith, Fuji, Honey Crisp) have more pectin. Also, the more an apple ripens, the less pectin it will have, so choose slightly underripe apples. This is where picking your own at an orchard comes in handy!

Apple Jelly Prep

I allowed my apple mixture to simmer about 25 minutes until the apples were nice and soft. Lining a colander with cheese cloth over a large bowl, I carefully and slowly poured the entire pot of apples and juice into it, allowing the juices to start draining so I didn’t overfill. I had about 7 cups of juice, which is slightly more than you need for this recipe.

Pulp for Apple Jelly

{Save what’s left, chill and drink it. The taste is unforgettably delicious !}

Fresh Apple Juice

Next, I added the juice to a large stockpot along with sugar and lemon juice, then brought it all to a boil. Even though your juice mixture might hit the 220° mark fairly quick, working without commercial pectin can be tricky. Test the jelly several times to see if it’s going to gel. Keep stirring it, so that it does not boil over while you’re waiting! To test for gel I took a cold spoon and dipped it into the boiling jelly, then dropped it over a cold plate. If the jelly forms a gel or began dripping very slowly, it’s probably ready. This was my first time making jelly without pectin, so there was a lot of uncertainty in my judgement!

Apple Jelly in Weck jars

Once the jelly was ready, I ladled it into sterilized jars, sealed with bands and lids, then processed in a water bath to seal them up for future use.

homemade apple jelly

Click Old Fashion Apple Jelly for the full, printable recipe.

Audley opened a jar the next day to top a Bojangles biscuit and deemed it absolutely perfect ! His seal of approval is all I need.

How do you preserve your favorite harvest flavors for later use? I would love to hear what your favorite ways to extend the season!

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Easy Bookshelf Makeover

Writing has not been at the top of my agenda these last two and a half months since moving and I apologize.  In between traveling for wedding showers and Proms, arranging our new home (thankfully all of our painting was finished before we moved in), graduation events, final wedding plans, helping the boy with his Marine recruitment (I’ll tell you about that later), and single mommin’ it while hubby is in Savannah for three months I’ve actually been having fun with a couple small DIY projects.

Bookshelf Styling

All of these projects have been fairly simple; mostly involving paint and organization.  I don’t know about you, but that’s my kind of stress-free DIY and a great way to take a break from the craziness of teenage mom life!

My favorite makeover project was a bookcase that I have not loved for many years now.  Before we moved I shared a picture of it on Instagram and asked opinions for making it over.

Before Project

My monstrosity of a bookshelf that desperately needed a little TLC

Overwhelmingly the response was PAINT IT!  Painting a piece of furniture is such an easy and inexpensive makeover when you are redecorating.

So, before unpacking the first round of books, I painted it.

Using Annie Sloan chalk paint in Old White and waxes that I already owned, this midnight project (I don’t sleep well when hubby is gone) paired with Netflix took about three nights to complete.

Chalk Paint

I painted three coats of the chalk paint which is rare when using chalk paints, but the shelf had only ever been stained without a sealer.  This caused the paint to really soak in!  Who knew that made a difference?

Chalk Paint Shelf

After my coats of paint were completely dry, I used a soft cloth to apply a layer of clear wax and followed it with antiquing wax 24 hours later.

Chalk Paint Project

Using a soft cloth really made waxing the shelf easier in my opinion.  I’ve never been able to master the art of waxing with a brush, but I like the look of the wax having been rubbed on and blended so much more.

I love to organize my books by subject or theme, so it only seemed right that this shelf should hold my largest collection of books; my cookbooks.

Chalk paint Bookshelf

Our wall color in the den is marigold, so I am using accents with blue and white.  For this shelf I used my English tea pots and plates for decorating.

I don’t like to cram books into a shelf so that it looks stuffed, so this was perfect for holding all of my cookbooks as well as a little decor to compliment them.

Chalk Paint Bookcase 2

A glimpse of the 1940’s sofa that will also be in this room

Right now this shelf is in our den.  The rest of the room is not really together as it houses furniture from the 1880’s, 1910, 1940’s, 1960’s, and a couple of modern pieces, so now I am tasked with pulling it all together! That ought to be a challenge and may actually involve rearranging a couple of rooms to make it all work.  Many of these pieces are family heirlooms, so they aren’t something I want to paint.  Hopefully it’ll all be together soon and I can share a finished room!

If you want a glimpse of all the excitement going on in our lives right now, be sure to follow me on Instagram or Facebook!

Until next time,

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Beginning My Autumn Decorating

With temperatures still hovering in the upper 80’s and 90’s I am really struggling to find my fall decorating mojo.  Despite things going slow around here I did sit down to craft a little “wreath” for our fireplace in the living room last week.

Using an old picture frame (that was originally painted red), an adorable little elf, wheat, wooden sprigs, berry garland along with a small pumpkin and pinecones, I managed to assemble a sweet and super simple little piece that has my soul bursting to add even more autumn touches around the house!

Nothing like getting down and creating something no matter how simple it may be!

Nothing like getting down and creating something no matter how simple it may be to get you in a festive spirit!

After spraying my formerly red frame with Gold Krylon stone textured finish paint I picked up off the clearance rack at Michael’s, I let it sit 48 hours to completely dry.  Southern humidity has a way of messing with paint, so I didn’t want to take any chances with my frame.

I didn’t have a huge amount of accents to add to my frame.  I wanted to keep it simple and festive, so that is exactly what I did.  Using a hot glue gun to attach elements, I created a corner of autumn accents that featured my little elf as the centerpiece.

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My floral elements were all found at Michael’s Craft Store and were marked 40% off.

I attached my elf using floral wire that wrapped around his waist under his jacket as to not damage him when I take the wreath down at the end of the season.

I debated quite a bit about adding ribbon, but after looking at the partially finished wreath decided that a festive bow in the top corner finished it off quite nicely.

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As I previously mentioned, I am just getting started on my decorating this season.  Our fireplace area is quite large and does not have a mantle, so the “wreath” seems a little lost.  I am busy trying to come up with a few ideas to highlight the area and make it a focal point as we entertain this season.

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If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!  Decorating a hearth can be a challenge when it doesn’t have a mantle.

OH! If you like my little Elf, he is by a company called Raz.  You can purchase them online (trendytree.com), but I found mine in a sweet little holiday shop in downtown Hendersonville, NC.  I love to shop local, so I will be returning for more holiday goodies as the seasons change.

I hope that you have a fabulous week!

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A Little Indoor Garden

After oh-so-many false starts, it seems spring has sprung bringing April showers and what appears to be hope for gorgeous May flowers.

While recovering from surgery I have truly missed playing in my gardens; pruning rose bushes, weeding beds and planting early spring blooms.  Audley has been a gem keeping me occupied and distracted from some of the things I would really rather be doing, and has even gone so far as to tackle some of my favorite spring activities himself.

But one of the sweetest things he did for me was to bring a little gardening in the house for me to enjoy.

Spring blooms for an indoor container garen to brighten someone's day.

Spring blooms for an indoor container garden to brighten someone’s day.

Choosing a few early spring plants that included miniature daffodils, primrose, African daisy and a silver leaf annual, I was able to play in the dirt and enjoy a bit of gardening without putting myself in a position that the doctor definitely would not approve!  Making an indoor garden box was super easy and fairly quick to put together.

Creating an easy indoor garden

For this little project I took a tool caddy that I assembled & stained from a kit that Home Depot donated to the attendees at last years Haven Conference in Atlanta.  Audley drilled holes in the base of the box for drainage purposes.

Creating a means of drainage in container gardening prevents water from remaining inside the pot/container and souring or causing your the roots of your plants to rot.  The stentch is ridiculous!

Creating a means of drainage in container gardening prevents water from remaining inside the pot/container and souring or causing the roots of your plants to rot. The stench is ridiculous!

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First, I added Miracle Grow potting soil about 2/3 of the way full.

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I removed the plants from their pots and broke up the compacted dirt and roots from their bases before planting them in the little tool caddy.

Breaking up the roots just a little to stimulate growth.

Breaking up the roots just a little to stimulate growth.

Finally, I arranged them in a way that I found appealing, watered well, and then placed them on my coffee table to enjoy the blooms for a couple of weeks.

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By using a mixture of perennials and annuals, I can plant the daffodils to bloom out in the yard next spring, and add the silver-leafed foliage to other container gardens to last throughout the summer.

That’s it.

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Easy, Peasy.

Bright and cheery.

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And if your aren’t supposed to be doing certain chores, you can have your kiddos do most of the clean-up which makes it even more fun!

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What I liked best about this quick little project was that not only was it easy and enjoyable, it would make a great gift for someone else to enjoy if they are having to stay at home and recover from an illness or surgery.  It’s a cheerful and lasting gift.

As for me, I was released from the doctor three days ago for light workouts and housework.  While I am sure my version of light and the doctor’s are not on the same wavelength, I do plan to ease back into the things I enjoy, including outdoor gardening!  Audley and I are planning to attack our raised beds this weekend, so stay tuned for a little herb and vegetable inspiration!

Happy Wednesday to you!

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