Preserving the Harvest – Raspberry Chocolate Sundae Topper

raspberry chocolateIt is harvest time at here at the farm. Or perhaps I should save summer harvest because it seems like I am harvesting year round. Right now, I’ve got buckets and buckets of blueberries and raspberries. Well, I have buckets as long as I beat out the peahens and the dogs. I didn’t even know dogs would eat blueberries straight off the blueberry bushes until I watched my dogs do it. Silly puppies.

I still have pints of blueberry and raspberry jams from last summer, so I wanted to find some different ways to preserve the berries. For the raspberries, I came across a recipe for a sinful ice cream topper in the Ball preserving book – a chocolate raspberry sundae topper. The recipe calls for:


    • 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder (make sure it is unsweetened)
    • 6 Tbsp Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin
    • 4-1/2 cups crushed red raspberries (measure after crushing)
    • 6-3/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 Tbsp. lemon juice
    • 6 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands


So, the first step is to prepare you boiling water canner. This is your large pot with water added. Add a canning rack or a round cake cooling rack to the bottom so the jars are lifted off of the bottom. Fill partway with water. If you have hard water, you can add a splash of white distilled vinegar to keep residue from forming on the jars, or just plan on wiping them off when you are doing. Add the jars to the water and heat to simmering but do not bring to a boil. Keep in mind you are going to want the water to be at least 1 and 1/2 inches over the jars when they are full and being processed.

When the water is hot, scoop a little in a bowl and add the jar lids. Set bands aside.

For the sundae topper, place the cocoa powder and the pectin in a small glass bowl and combine. Set aside. In a non-reactive sauce pan, add the crushed raspberries and lemon juice. Whisk in the pectin/cocoa mixture until dissolved. Bring mixture to boil over high heat.  Add sugar all at once, and return mixture to full roiling boil stirring constantly. Keep a full roiling boil for 1 minute, stirring. At end of minute, remove from heat.  The mixture will be richly, deeply red and glassy.  See the picture of my topper in the pot.

Skim foam off if desired. Let sit 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle into the jars (remove them from the water first and set on counter on top of dish rag or cloth). Leave 1/4 inch headspace. Center lids (warmed in water) on jar and place screw bands, tightening until “finger tip” tight.

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (adjust for altitude). Turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes. Remove jars and set on counter top on top of dish rag. Let sit 24 hours and check seal.

If seal is good, label and store. To use, warm and put on ice cream. Or use in a crepe or on pancakes. The topper is sinfully delicious and rich.

Land of Fruits and Nuts – Preserving the Harvest – Day 2 – Orange & Whiskey Marmalade

Calamondin Citrus OrangesSo, having successfully made and canned strawberry jam (see my blog post on Day 1), I was ready to move on and try something to preserve the actual harvest. And boy do we have oranges. There are many mature orange trees on the Land of Fruits and Nuts. I don’t know what kind of oranges, but we have tons. And I was told you must remove all the fruit from the tree each spring so I figured I would tackle one tree, harvest the fruit and do some pruning. And then can the harvest.

Well, the harvest netted bags and bags of oranges – most of which were taken by a friend to be donated to a food bank. But I kept some of the oranges to try my hand at making marmalade.

I really wanted to make a whiskey marmalade. I have quite a fondness for whiskey – American whiskey to be frank. My current favorite is Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach Whiskey (YUM!) (although I am also stuck on Apple Pie Moonshine). I wanted to mellow out the marmalade with whiskey but I couldn’t find a recipe designed for whiskey until I hit upon one in Preserve It!.  The recipe was for “Clementine and Whiskey Marmalade” and while I don’t know whether or not I had clementines, I just used the oranges I had picked. I am pretty sure that they were NOT clementines.

It came out okay, but I found the recipe instructions to be a bit confusing and incomplete. For example, if you read the recipe literally, it doesn’t tell you to put the lids on until after you have processed the jars in the water bath. That would be a complete and utter disaster! Also, you are supposed to juice the oranges before cutting the peel, and then use water to cover the orange pieces. Seems to me you should use the juice and I’m going to try that. In any event, here is the recipe:

  • 2 lbs (900 g) organic clementines, scrubbed, rinsed, halved, seeds removed
  • juice of 2 large lemons
  • 4 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp whiskey (I used Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach)
  1. Prepare your jars for water bath canning. I made 4 1/2 pint jars with this recipe. The recipe says it makes about 3 medium jars or 2 and 1/4 pounds. If you need help on prepping, see my Day 1 post.
  2. Either juice the clementines and then shred the skins with a sharp knife or put in food processor and chop until shredded but not mush. I started by juicing and making nice slivers with my sharp knife, but quickly gave up and stuck in the food processor.
  3. Place chopped fruit in a preserving pan and add 3 cups of water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook gently until rind has softened (30 minutes or more). Next time I am going to use any juice (assuming I juice first as opposed to using the food processor).
  4. Add lemon juice and sugar. Cook over low heat, continuously stirring, until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Turn the heat up to bring to a boil. Keep at rolling boil, stirring constantly, until gel point is reached. This took my stovetop FOREVER – really, 40 minutes I think.
  6. Take off of heat and stir in whiskey. I added 2 to 3 tbsp, but hey, that’s me!
  7. Place into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add lids (that have been properly warmed) and screw tops (finger tighten). Place and process in water bath for 5 minutes. Remove and place on towel. Let sit for 24 hours and check seal.

This is a more traditional marmalade as my mom says, with the bitterness of the orange present. I am going to try adding whiskey to a sweet marmalade for my next batch of oranges. I only have 6 more trees at least to depopulate of fruit – lots of opportunities for experimenting.



TheSmartMama up for Top 25 Eco Friendly Moms

Circle of Moms is looking for the top 25 eco-friendly mom bloggers. And I would love to be included. But right now, I’m way behind. So, please, go vote for me – TheSmartMama – just click on the circle below. It will take you to the list of sites up for the listing, and you need to scroll down to me – TheSmartMama.

You can vote one time per day through April 17, 2011. Thanks so much!

#ecowed Twitter party with ecomom: Entertaining the Family for Spring Holidays

This Wednesday’s #ecowed Twitter party will focus on Entertaining the Family for Spring Holidays the eco-friendly way. We will be tweeting green partying for Spring with our sponsor ecomom on April 6, 2011, from 7 to 8 pm Pacific (that’s 10 to 11 pm Eastern). Our special guest expert is the wonderful Gigi Lee Chang, founder and CEO of Plum Organics.

ecomom is sponsoring a series of #ecowed Twitter parties in support of ecomom’s fabulous contest to win a $75,000 Healthy  Home Makeover. That’s right – one lucky family will win a newly refreshed and healthy home. This is week two – and it is about the garden and the family room. I love gardening, so I’m particularly excited about this party.

And spring is the time to think about a newly refreshed and healthy home! Spring always makes me want to clean out the old, go green with the new, and invite people over for parties! So we will be talking with the founder of Plum Organics, Gigi Lee Chang, about how to entertain the family eco-friendly style. We will be talking about simplicity, food and celebrating new life!

As always, we’ve got prizes. Our fabulous sponsor ecomom is providing three (3) $20 gift certificates to the ecomom website, and a $100 gift certificate as the grand prize! Woot! To be eligible to win, you must (1) leave a comment on this blog with your Twitter handle and (2) participate in the Twitter party (don’t forget to use the #ecowed hashtag). If you haven’t participated in a Twitter party before, here’s a run down on how to participate in a Twitter party

Tweet with you on April 6, 2011 from 7 to 8 pm Pacific. Don’t forget to follow me, our sponsor @ecomom and @ecomomkimberly, and our guest expert @plumorganics.

The Smart Mama Gets Her Gun on Good Day LA

Okay, so here I am on Good Day LA talking about lead, cadmium and other safety concerns when it comes to toys. I thought I had done so well, but watching the clip, I realized I misspoke a couple of times. It was 3,800 ppm not 38,000 ppm the Niton XRF was detecting – 3,800 ppm amounts to 0.38%. Oh well!

But, I did get to emphasize how toys are safer than ever in the US. And, more importantly, I got to plug the Handmade Toy Alliance

From my behind the scenes view, everybody associated with the show was wonderful. The hosts were gracious and really fun.

How Much Lead is in Your Toys?:

Project Mom Casting – TheSmartMama Throws Her Blog Into The Ring

Project Mom Casting is looking for a few good women bloggers. And I’m going to toss my blog in the ring.

If you haven’t met me, I’m Jennifer Taggart. I blog as TheSmartMama. I’m a mom of 2, an attorney specializing in environmental and consumer product law, author of Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure, former environmental engineer, co-founder of 3 Green Angels, XRF wielding fierce non toxic green mama.

My blog grew out of my story that begin when my mom handed me Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring more than 25 years ago. The chapter that started with the silenced frogs because of DDT moved me to take action to be green. I took small steps – annoying my parents with reminders to turn off the lights and conserve water. I went to college and studied to become an environmental engineer. I worked as an environmental engineer – first as an intern at East Bay Municipal Utility District working on the toxic air emission program and then for Rocketdyne. I went to law school at night while working full time to practice environmental law.

I wanted to save the polar bears and the whales. But my efforts weren’t focused on me personally – it was all for a greater good.

I got married.

I tried to have kids. I had two miscarriages. Unexplained miscarriages.

I started questioning what I was eating, what I was slathering on my skin, what I was using to store my food. Were any of these things contributing to the miscarriages?

And then I got pregnant and stayed pregnant. The very global idea of being green became extremely personal. I did not want to expose my baby-to-be to mercury (in contaminated seafood), bisphenol a (in certain plastics and canned food linings), phthalates (in virtually all synthetic scents, including cleaning products and beauty products), and more. I started using my experience and education to read labels and to question the products I was using and to figure out how I could reduce my toxic chemical exposure and our children’s toxic chemical exposure.

When I was in a car accident with my son to be at 29 weeks, and I faced the risk of having him prematurely, I realized I would do just about anything to protect him.

And when he was born, I realized I would do anything to protect him.

And if I was willing to do that, then why would I expose him to toxic chemicals when alternatives exist? Why would I expose him to the 1,4 dioxane in Johnson & Johnson’s Head to Toe Baby Wash when I could use a product without 1,4 dioxane? Why would I use plastics that leach bisphenol A when I could use alternatives without BPA?

I’m not a helicopter mom by any stretch of the imagination. Anybody who knows me knows I’m not. But when it comes to toxic chemicals in our products when they are ready available alternates, why would I choose to expose my children?

At my new mom breastfeeding class at The Pump Station, I found out that the information I had gathered was of interest to other moms. So I started talking about, and then teaching classes on reducing toxic chemical exposures, and then I wrote the book and started the blog to share what I knew. And how you can reduce or eliminate toxic chemical exposures with simple steps. You don’t have to spend lots of money. Something as simple as taking off your shoes can reduce your toxic chemical exposure.

My journey continues as I call out companies and products for greenwashing. As I work with other moms to unite our voices for real change – such as eliminating environmental causes of cancer.

I’ve also launched a business related to my blog, and I use a Niton XRF analyzer to test consumer products for lead, cadmium and more. My XRF testing was part of the CPSC’s consideration to initiate a recall of 12 million McDonald’s Shrek glasses.

I use my blog and twitter (@thesmartmama) to promote my brand and my book as well as to inform and educate about toxic chemical exposures and the very easy simple steps anybody can do to reduce or eliminate those exposures.

I’m trying to change the world we live in. To reduce or eliminate toxic chemical exposures. To have parents have enough information to make informed choices. My goal is to eliminate lead as the top preventable environmental childhood poison – there is no reason our children should continue to suffer the effects of lead exposure – and to reduce or elimate childhood toxic chemical exposure from household cleaners, pesticides, beauty products and more. 

So, that’s me. I think my journey would be amazing as part of Project Mom Casting. I’ve definitely got  opinions, which of course, makes for exciting reality tv. So, pick me!

Welcome to the new blog!

After much angst, I’m finally ready to launch the new blog. Sorry for the long delay – during the process, my site was hacked and, well, it took a bit to get the porn spam cleaned up. So, it has been a month since I posted last but I’ll be posting regularly again now! Woot!

Mama Got Her Gun on Fox & Friends

jennifertaggartfoxandfriendsI can’t believe I never blogged about this. Really can’t believe it. So, just a little bit late, I’m excited to announce that I appeared on Fox & Friends on July 18, 2009. I was supposed to talk about chemicals in common household products and simple steps to reduce exposure, but we got a little bit hung up on the Niton XRF analyzer and lead in toys and other consumer products.

So, here’s the clip of my little bit more than 3 minutes of fame.

Yep, mama got her gun on TV.

SIGG does leach bisphenol A & Big Bottle Swap

A curious note in the SIGG saga involving its liners and bisphenol A (BPA) is that SIGG’s pre-August 2008 epoxy liners apparently leach BPA.

According to a news article, Frederick Vom Saal, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri, found that hormone disruptor BPA does leach from the old SIGG liners, just at levels below the “level of quantitation” used by SIGG in its test reports. Remember? As I’ve posted about before, SIGG only tested at levels above 2 parts per billion (ppb). So below that number, SIGG couldn’t say whether or not leaching occurred. And to be frank, that’s why I never recommended SIGG and always stuck with stainless. Because aluminum must be lined, and those linings historically have contained BPA. SIGG wouldn’t disclose its proprietary lining so I wouldn’t recommend SIGG or any other aluminum bottle.

The problem with SIGG is that it claimed no leaching above 2 ppb. But the details of that claim got lost in the shuffle with consumers, and consumers assumed no leaching equaled no BPA. And SIGG took advantage of that assumption, dramatically increasing sales.

But below that level of 2 ppb, nobody knew what happened with SIGG bottles. Vom Saal states that he did test SIGG, and found that the bottles leached below 2 ppb. And Vom Saal, and others like him, believe that BPA’s hormone disrupting effects occur at the parts per trillion (ppt) level.

If you haven’t read about the SIGG/BPA controversy, suffice it to say that when SIGG admitted in a company letter posted online a little bit more than a week ago that its pre-August 2008 bottles had BPA in their liner, a tempest was created. Consumers were upset. Bloggers posted harsh criticism of SIGG, expressing feelings of betrayal by the company lauded for its perceived greenness.

Yesterday, SIGG posted another letter on its website. This new letter from SIGG’s chief executive officer Steve Wasik states that the first letter “may have missed the mark.”  Boy is that an understatement! The letter states that while “SIGG never marketed the former liner as ‘BPA Free’ [SIGG] should have done a better job of both clearly communicating about [its] liner as well as policing others who may have misunderstood the SIGG message.”

Hello? Personally, I think SIGG continues to mislead consumers by relying now on the claim that it never promoted its bottles as BPA free. SIGG actively let others do that, and reaped the benefits, as detailed by Z Recommends in a most excellent blog post.

Wasik admitted surprise over the harsh response in a telephone interview reported by The Associated Press. I don’t believe he didn’t anticipate such a reaction. He told Z Recommends that he knew about BPA in the liner in 2006, and he should have told the public, not demand retractions from the Organic Consumer Association and the Environmental Working Group in March 2007 about BPA in SIGG liners. And SIGG certainly should not MOCK concerned moms.

Want to dump your SIGG? You can – SIGG will swap it out for a new bottle, you just have to pay shipping.

Want to switch out of SIGG completely? You wouldn’t be alone. A lot of people are angry at SIGG. TheSoftLanding is hosting the Big Bottle Swap – you can swap your aluminum SIGG for a stainless steel bottle. Use the form, send your old aluminum SIGGs to TheSoftLanding, and you’ll get a 30% off coupon to buy new stainless steel bottles. And TheSoftLanding will properly recycle the old SIGG bottles. A pretty good deal.

Demonstrating Homemade Cleaning Recipes on BetterTV

I’ve been absent from my blog for a bit because I’ve been doing some exciting activities to promote my book. One of those exciting activities was an appearance on to demonstate some homemade cleaning recipes. Here I am demonstrating how to clean your microwave, how to pull up grease stains from carpet, how to make an all purpose cleaner and how to make a soft scrub all without conventional cleaners.

And, I have to say, the BetterTV people rock. So check it out.

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