Sunday, September 10, 2017

Catching Up: Sour Cherry & Plum Jelly; Other News

It's a Sunday afternoon in early September.  The house is quiet.  My four cats have found various places to snooze away the day.  The fat orange is on the couch, on a blanket my mom made.  The grumpy grey is in a peach box, lined with fleece blankets.  The two youngest are curled up together on my bed, on a pile of clean laundry.  Of course.  There is a stack of dirty dishes in the sink that should be washed, and more laundry that should be folded, but that can wait.  I've been out of the hospital for 12 days now, and every day I feel a little better, but having a giant ovarian cyst removed is still my excuse for saving the dishes for when I feel like it.  And for napping during the middle of the day.  And for eating an extra scoop of ice cream.  

I've known about the cyst since the middle of May, when an ultrasound confirmed that something was indeed up with my insides.  After being told it was 9 cm by 7 cm, I began calling it "the orange", but in reality it was more jumbo grapefruit material.  I first felt like something was wrong about a year ago, when I was having constant aches in my left hip and near my belly button.  I felt like it was a muscle thing, and after seeing my doctor in November, she did too.  I wish then that I would have got a scan, instead of putting it off and denying that something was up.  After a winter and early spring of much complaining and worrying, I went to a different doctor this time, and she ordered an ultrasound immediately.  I was just about to wheel out of town on my Alberta book tour, way back in May, when the call came on my cellphone that the doctor wanted to see me immediately.  Not the call anyone wants to get, right?  I swung off the highway and turned back into the city.  My doctor said I have a humongous cyst that needs removal for fear it could burst.  But, it looked benign, praise Jesus.  After follow up appointments with my surgeon, a date was booked and last Tuesday, the beast was removed.  Because it was so giant, it had completely engulfed the left ovary, so that had to go too, along with the fallopian tube.  Everything on the right side looks good, hallelujah.  I'm not one for hospitals, and I was pretty freaked out.  Thank goodness my sweet guy was with me all the way, though I know he was just as freaked out about it as I was.  It's a scary thing, lying on the operating table, in that cold, cold room as the IV goes in and the mask covers your face as you drift off into something like sleep but not.  I woke up in a daze, shivering from the cold and the shock.  I couldn't get warm, and the nurse had to pile on the warm blankets until my teeth stopped chattering. The pain was sharp, but manageable.  Morphine helped.  So does seeing the face of my love after I was wheeled out of recovery.  His big blue gray eyes were full of relief and love, and his hand felt so good to hold.  He brought me flowers and chocolate (he's pretty much, perfect, right?) and a card with a little picture he drew of us and our life.  My sensitive soul has met its match, and I count my lucky stars every day that this gem of a guy is my guy. 

I was lucky.  I only had to be in the hospital for one night.  My vitals were good, and I was moving around okay.  Peeing was not a problem (hooray!), and there was nothing to really worry about.  My mom drove me home and stayed with me for 8 days.  She cooked meals and fed the cats and took care of yard business and washed dishes and laundry and made me tea and was my constant companion.  When she left, just a few days ago, the house felt empty without her.  So grateful for her loving care, I know that every day I am blessed to have her as my mom.  I'm on my own now, and the pain is gone for the most part, though I'm still taking it relatively easy and just doing some light stuff around the house.  My fella has litter box duty, and when he's not in the field, he's here with me.  Not lifting anything too heavy is important, so my fat cat Sunny doesn't get the squeezes he's used to!  Because the surgery was done laparoscopically, thank god, I should be back to my normal self pretty quickly, and back to work at the end of the month.  I'll see the surgeon in a few days for a follow up appointment, and all should be well, though I do want to ask him how "the orange" could contain hair and oil.  Ewwwwww!  Anyway, this is quite the long saga.  Thanks for sticking with me all the way!  Let's talk about food now!  

Way back in July I was in full on canning mode for an article I was writing for a magazine.  This delicious sour cherry plum jelly didn't make the cut due to space issues, so I thought I would share it here with you.  I used frozen fruit from last summer, and the jelly turned out just lovely - something to think about if you have these fruits in your freezer and you don't know what to do with them.  The best part?  I didn't pit the fruit, because I'm way too lazy for that.  

After the recipe for the jelly, I have some links to recipes I made this summer for various publications.  If I'm not busy writing here on my blog, trust me, I'm busy writing elsewhere.  I hope you are enjoying these last days of summer.  And remember, don't let the summer stars fade without making a single wish.  xoxo RenĂ©e

Sour Cherry and Plum Jelly with Vanilla and Cardamom

This is a smashing combination of flavours, and the lovely, jewel-like colour speaks for itself. A big batch of jelly does take a little time, but one taste and you’ll know it was worth it. Perfect on hot, buttered toast, spread between layers of cake, or slathered on a scone, this recipe is a keeper. Works well with frozen sour cherries and plums, too.    

3 lbs (1.5 Kg) ripe plums, skins on, unpitted if small plums, pitted if large plums
3 lbs (1.5 Kg) ripe sour cherries, unpitted
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) water
Juice of 2 lemons
36 cardamom pods, crushed in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder
1 pkg (57 g) powdered pectin
6 1/2 cups (1.625 L) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract

1. Line 2 tall juice pitchers with cheesecloth. Adhere with clothes pins.  Fill a canner about 1/3 full with water.  
2. Bring plums, sour cherries, water, lemon juice, and cardamom to a boil in large pot over high heat. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer until fruit is soft, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Pour the plum mixture into the juice pitchers. Without pressing on the fruit, let the mixture drain until all juice has strained into the pitchers, about 45 minutes. If needed, add water to make 5 3/4 cups of juice.   
4. Return the juice to the pot with pectin, and bring to a full, rolling boil over high heat until the mixture doesn't stop bubbling when stirred.  Bring the water in the canner to a boil.
5. Stir in the sugar and return mixture to a full, rolling boil. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove the pot from heat, stir in the vanilla and skim off any foam from the top.  While the jelly boils, sterilize the jars, lids and rings.  
6. Ladle the jelly (use a wide mouth funnel) into eight half pint (250 mL) hot, sterilized jars, filling them to within 1/4 inch of their rims. Cover each jar with a lid and screw on the ring, not too tightly.  
7. Place the jars in the canner and process  for 15 minutes, beginning timing when water comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and remove canner lid. Allow jars to rest in hot water 5 minutes.
8. Remove the jars from the canner and let cool on the counter for 24 hours.  You should hear a pop when they are sealed, and the centre of each lid does not spring up when pressed.  Makes eight half pint (250 mL) jars.  

Got lots of corn?  Make these smoked salmon and roasted corn fritters!  

Peaches are still lingering here, and nothing beats a good cobbler.  

I love a good cold noodle salad and this one uses up loads of veg and has a pretty darn good peanut dressing. 

One night my love made me dinner and I had to write about it.  

Sour cherry pie.  That is all. 

Peaches and basil, together forever in this bruschetta.  

This barley salad is similar to tabbouleh, and every bit as delicious. 

I was obsessed with overnight oats for awhile.  So good!  

It's never too late in the season to grill pizza

This scallion and chive dip made my life, and was my excuse to purchase potato chips.

I made a baked brie with red wine mushrooms for the kind folks at Mushrooms Canada.  Addictive!

There's loads of great recipes for lentils in this latest issue of Lentils for Every Season, which I happily contributed to.  These brownies are especially awesome!

I made tomato jam, onion jam, and brown sugar berry jam for Culinaire Magazine.  Love preserving all the things!   

And, lastly, SaskMustard and I built a cookbook together!  I wrote the recipes and did all of the photography for the #MyMustard Recipe Book.  We launched it early August, on National Mustard Day of course, and I couldn't be more proud of it.  If you would like a copy, it's free, but you would have to pay $10 for shipping.  Message me if you're interested and I can hook you up.  And remember to follow along on my social media to stay up to date on all my action! 


  1. I was gunna ask you to lug a big sac of flour for me, but I guess you can't do that now. *SIGH* Glad to hear you're on the road to recovery!


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