Fresh From the Gardens at the Garden Show in McKinney

The Garden Show in McKinney was a great event!

There were a variety of vendors who were eager and ready to greet you and envelope you in the world of gardening.  I had an awesome time visiting all of the vendors and learning about their products or services. Even bought myself a bunch of fresh, organic herbs…they smelled amazing! The speakers were so informative and passionate about their topics that it motivated you just hearing them speak. I felt honored to be able to share my passion of canning!

Though there was a lot of hustle and bustle leading up to the event and I even lost my voice a bit, I enjoyed every minute of it! From chatting it up with canning enthusiasts to hopefully gaining new canning friends in my seminar “Preserving Your Harvest”, my weekend in McKinney was well worth it.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Garden Show in McKinney and stopped by my booth or joined me for one of my “Preserving Your Harvest” presentations!  It was great meeting so many people and visiting all of the vendors at the show.


Let’s Make a Conserve

I have an extensive library of both old and new canning books, magazines and recipes that I have collected over the years, and I still refer to several of my old books from time to time for a good throwback recipe. I discovered several of my favorite conserve recipes in some of these classic canning books. One of my books is titled “Putting Food By” – which is what they used to call it back in the day when my Great Grandmother, Mother Dear, we called her “Mu-dear” was growing grapevines and canning all sorts of things from her garden. What great memories. I remember sitting on her front porch shelling a bushel of purple hull peas, which were then canned or frozen.


Conserves look just like jam and they have the same consistency, except they take it up a notch or two. A Conserve is made with a combination of fruits, including citrus, nuts and/or raisins. Conserves are excellent paired with meat and poultry dishes, and also very good as a topping for desserts –or just on a good biscuit.

I’ve canned quite a few combinations of conserve recipes over the years, but my favorite by far is Peach and Orange Conserve with Slivered Almonds. I know I have made hundreds of jars of this Conserve.

There are now some very interesting contemporary combinations that I plan to try. Some include the use of cardamom and pistachio nuts. Here are some other combinations for Conserves to think about.

Apple-Sour Cherry Conserve With Toasted Almonds
Cranberry and Orange Conserve with Chopped Pecans
Fig, Orange and Pistachio Conserve
Cranberry Apple Conserve with Walnuts
Cranberry Pear Conserve with Fresh Ginger
Rhubarb-Strawberry Conserve
Apricot and Pineapple Conserve
Pear and Orange Conserve
Tomato-Apple Conserve
Cantaloupe-Peach Conserve
Gooseberry Conserve

Check out my Peach and Orange Conserve Recipe.


Sealing Summer in a Jar

Every summer I really look forward to canning something from my garden, eating something fresh or canned from my mom and dad’s garden, or just grabbing some amazing organic produce from one of my favorite markets or farmers to can.  I grew up always having a jar of something available to pull out of the pantry during those cold winter months when it was no longer available and have carried that tradition forward for many years.

I recently canned a few of my favorite recipes including peach and orange conserve, strawberry jam, mango chutney, and of course my signature salsa.

Since I grow and cook with so many fresh herbs, which I also use when cooking for my clients, it just makes sense for me to have an interest in creating my own herb infused jams, jellies, chutneys and condiments that I can pair with some of the great dishes I prepare. So now I am experimenting with some really good herb infused jams, jellies, chutneys and even some dessert drizzles that you can use on those “gotta treat yourself  kind of things,” like on pound cake, ice cream, Belgian waffles, or French toast!

I also made some Cucumber Mint Jelly and the combination of the fresh cucumber juice and the mint is amazing.  I used pickling cucumbers from my garden and extracted the juice using my juicer.

So what to do with Cucumber-Mint Jelly?  How about a glaze on grilled lamb chops.  I had to try this and it was delicious.  Check out the picture.  I know it’s also going to be good on Salmon.  You can also mix it with cream cheese and cut up some fresh vegetables to dip in with.

This is a very exciting time for me. I’ve been canning and preserving for over 25 years and am having a blast watching a new generation begin to embrace this wonderful “lost art of canning” that has been such a big part of my life as long as I can remember. As a Personal Chef, I am also enjoying pairing so many of my condiments with meals that I prepare for my clients. I have so much more to share, so stay tuned…

Cucumber-Mint Jelly Recipe

Want to learn more? Host a Fresh From the Gardens Canning Party in your own home with 10 or more of your friends or family. And check out my short “Five Reasons” video on why you should learn Canning.

Book your holiday canning party now! October 17 through November 14.


Chef Sandra is in a Pickle!

I have been growing pickling cucumbers for many years and make a mean bread and butter pickle – recipe courtesy of my mom. I also like to make dill spears, and use my cucumbers in relishes too. Cucumbers are great for pickling, tossing in salads, or just eating straight off the vine. Of course to make a good pickle, you have to first start by using fresh firm pickling cucumbers. And you MUST use pickling cucumbers for pickles and not salad or “slicing cucumbers”. You cannot make pickles using slicing cucumbers.  If you are fortunate to live near a farmer’s market, that is always a good option, but look for local farmers and ask when the cucumbers were picked.

Cucumbers like warm, humid weather; loose, organic soil; and plenty of sunlight. They grow well in most regions of the United States and do especially well in the South which is why I have had such good success here in Texas. These photos were from my spring garden earlier this year.



How to Plant Cucumbers

Cucumbers may be planted in hills or rows about 1 inch deep and thinned as needed. Since cucumbers are a vine crop, they usually require a lot of space. In large gardens, cucumber vines may spread throughout rows; within smaller gardens, cucumbers may be trained for climbing on a fence or trellis. Training cucumbers on a fence or trellis will reduce space and lift the fruit off the soil. This method also can provide your garden with a neater appearance. The bush or compact varieties work well for growing in small spaces or even in containers, although I recommend a lot more space.

Purchasing Cucumber Seeds Locally

Cucumber seeds are plentiful from any garden center or nursery, or places like Home Depot, Loews, Walmart, and some hardware stores. I like Calloway’s Nursery (great resource if you live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area to locate the Calloway’s near you. Or you can do a search for a garden center in your area.   Like any good garden center, Calloway’s always has a garden expert available to answer your gardening questions. And they also offer free weekly workshops and if you join the garden club, you get regular updates on weekly sales, workshops, etc.

Purchasing Organic Cucumber Seeds Online

I now use organic seeds. My sister Agnes and my Niece Kelli (and her son Alex also love to garden), and we have been sharing organic seeds that we purchase online. It takes only a few seeds for a huge yield, especially with things like squash!! Squash will totally take over your garden if you are not careful so don’t use many seeds. My basil, oregano and cilantro have all seeded, and I was able to save seeds from each of them for planting next Spring. And if you should purchase an organic vegetable like butternut squash for example, you can remove the seeds before you roast your squash, dry the seeds and then replant them in your garden at a later date. Be on the lookout for a blog about Butternut squash!!

Here are a couple of resources for purchasing organic cucumber seeds, including pickling cucumbers as well as a list of the different varieties of cucumbers for pickling. I am always amazed by the many different varieties.

Recipes using Pickling Cucumbers

I still eat a version of this simple, yet very flavorful fresh cucumber salad when I go home to visit my parents. In fact, there is always some sort of homemade condiment on our table. Usually chow chow relish, sliced tomatoes and onions in a vinaigrette dressing, or something else fresh. My dad grows pickling cucumbers Spring and Fall. We have often eaten an entire salad from our family garden, including bibb lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, bulb onions, parsley, fresh dill. Below is my version of my dad’s cucumber salad.

Chef Sandra’s Simple Cucumber and Tomato Salad