Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wild Blueberry Ice Cream

Blueberry creme anglaise chilling
Today the elderchild and I put together the blueberry ice cream. First we made the base: I puréed a cup of berries and topped off the volume with milk to get 16 ounces. To this we added 6 ounces cream, 8 egg yolks and 5 ounces of sugar to make a creme anglaise. It was a nice purple color. It rested in the fridge until later in the afternoon when we ran it through the ice cream maker, adding the half-cup of frozen blueberries I'd set aside yesterday. This then waited in the freezer until it set and it was time to have dessert!

I'm very pleased with how the pie filling worked this time - it wasn't runny and since these were fresh wild berries they held their shape well. It didn't look as though the filling was jam which is how I think store bought blueberry pies often look, due to being made from frozen berries.
Not the best photo, but you get the idea...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

New Toy

As early as we could manage, the elderchild and I went to pick wild blueberries. I'd purchased a new toy in the hopes that it would go faster: a blueberry rake. It was also going to be 100˚F today so we left the house at 6 am and were done picking a half-gallon of blueberries by 8:30 am. It was already 90˚F when we left!

Anyway, the rake worked fairly well when the bushes were almost completely ripe. If they weren't, the rake would pull off the unripe berries as well, so I resorted to hand-picking when I came across a bush that was not entirely ripe. It did well even though wild blueberries are smaller. I'd been worried it would miss a bunch of berries or they'd fall out after but it seemed to work just fine.

Over the course of the day, the elderchild and I made a pie out of most of the berries (6 cups worth) and I set aside some to make blueberry ice cream tomorrow. The pie is for dessert tomorrow with the ice cream. Mmm.

For the filling, instead of tapioca I made a base of cornstarch, water, sugar and spices and then poured it over the berries. This seems to have worked much better than the tapioca; my main complaint had been that you could still see the little pearls with the tapioca. This crust is half butter and half shortening as I wanted to see what it does for the texture.

I taught the elderchild how to make a proper lattice, and now the pie is cooling and smelling wonderful!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bread and Bread and Butter Pickles

We went down to Washington, DC, for a few days. The elderchild was there for camp so we brought the youngerchild and spent a few days showing them around. Among all the monuments and museums, the highlight was seeing the space shuttle Discovery on display in Virginia as part of the National Air and Space Museum. Worth the trip. We've now seen two of the four shuttles on display around the country. There are so many crazy aircraft there: military, commercial, and general enthusiast alike, some even made from kits. It's amazing some of those things actually flew.

Honorable mention goes to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. It's beautifully done; the bulk of the top floor exhibit compares and contrasts different Nations' beliefs with regard to the cardinal directions and what they represent. It's too much to go into here but it's another museum that probably doesn't get as many visitors as, say, the Museum of Natural History, but should.

Anyway, we got back at 3 pm today and my husband and I dashed out to pick up the farm share. Apparently there is still a cucumber bonanza happening and there were unlimited cucumbers again. I took a bunch of pickling cukes, enough this time to make a batch of spicy bread and butter pickles. The recipe:

3 pounds pickling cukes
2 white onions (about 3/4 pound)
3 Hungarian Hot Wax peppers
1/4 cup Kosher salt
2 1/4 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed

The cucumbers, onions and peppers were thinly sliced and tossed with the salt. These were covered with ice cubes and set aside for 3 hours. After that, the rest of the ingredients were boiled, the drained vegetables were added, and brought to a boil. They were processed for 10 minutes and rested for 3 before I brought them out. I'm hoping to take some to the fair. The total yield was 4.5 pints.

Also tonight I brought out Legion for the first time in a while. I'd meant to feed it before we went to DC but time got away from me. Legion was not happy. After removing the top layer that had oversoured, I took out what I needed for bread and am starting the slow process of revitalizing it. I hope it has enough life in it to ferment the dough I made this evening, the culture is currently in a warm place and is VERY slowly bubbling, so I know something still lives in there. It may mean that the bread will have to ferment for longer, I'll check it in the morning and see.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Well, They're In

Last night, my husband finished the new hive stand and we set it up around dusk so we could be out there without gear and the bees would be mostly turning in for the night. Also it's been raining a lot lately so my goal all week had been to get the bees in the nuc colony into my new hive today, the first day it was going to be reliably sunny. We leveled the hive and got the nuc turned in the correct direction so they could adapt to the direction of the hive - I had anticipated that the window on the hive was on the same wall relative to the entrance as my original hive and so turned the nuc colony around. But when I set it up I was surprised to realize the window was on the opposite side! That way I could have the entrances both facing south and both windows would be accessible to me when I stood between the hives. That's actually a better scenario, since the entrances should face south whenever possible.

Today I was able to fully transfer the combs into the new hive. The legs are longer on this stand so it's higher, which is better for me. I don't have a photo yet; I can't take photos with my bee gloves on and the bees were really agitated so I'm going to wait a few days and then take pictures. They did seem calmer as soon as I started moving away but it's going to take a while for all the bees to figure out how to get into their new home.

Good news, though, in that I found larva and capped worker brood cells, continued evidence of a healthy queen Phoebee. I still haven't actually seen her, but I might when they calm down and I can really start to see what is going on. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I Guess I'm Going For It

Today I ordered a second beehive.

I went out this morning to check on the bees. It'd been a little over 3 weeks since I'd seen them last. The main hive was docile and polite, had plenty of room, plenty of honey, and evidence of a laying queen. I found larvae and capped brood. The average time from egg to adult for a worker bee is 21 days so any capped brood I saw had to have started their existence after the last time I checked in. They're doing fine. They will need to be fed starting next month. It's likely that queen is Beeyonce, even without her makeup.

The nuc colony was also looking healthy. They were more aggressive, had built comb all the way to the back of the nuc box, and I found honey and capped brood. I couldn't look very long because they we rather unhappy. Some of the bees even attacked and flew into my smoker. Anyway, using the same logic as above, I reasoned there must be a laying queen in there somewhere I just haven't yet found. Phoebee.

Checking in with my mentor, he confirmed my suspicious and suggested the nuc colony may feel cramped for space. Based on his recommendation, it was time to decide once and for all if I wanted to manage two hives. Most beekeepers seem to think this is a good idea. I decided I should go for it so I ordered another hive.

It should be here next week. With luck, we can get a stand built for it over the weekend. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Back In Town

For the past two weeks we missed out on the farm share because we were away. In the interim, there must have been a cucumber boom because today at the share pick-up the sign said, "Unlimited Cucumbers." I grabbed a bunch of pickling cukes but they were too large for making crunchy dills or bread and butter pickles. They were not too large for half-sours, though.

Using my fermentation crock and doubling the recipe for half-sours in The Joy of Pickling, I just set up all the cucumbers with 2 T. of dill seed, 2 dried chili peppers, 1/2 tsp each of coriander seed and peppercorns, crushed, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, and 12 cups of brine (this was 4 times the recipe amount, but required so I could use the weights to sink the cucumbers). They should be ready in about a week.

The rest of the farm share included cabbage, Napa cabbage, eggplant, zucchini and summer squash, carrots, lettuce, green beans, flowers, parsley and other herbs. Lately every time I've gone to pick up the share a thunderstorm has come through and today was no exception. It started to rain after I got all the green beans but before I could get all the herbs. I decided I could skip the cilantro and dill this week (although in retrospect it'd have been nice to have a few dill heads for the pickles) and we made it back to the car just in time to watch the skies open up and drench everything and everyone except us!

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Each of my children did really well on their report cards this year (straight A's!) so each got to pick how they wanted to celebrate. The elderchild chose ice cream so we had an outing to the local ice cream parlor. The youngerchild wanted, you guessed it, cheesecake.

I was worried I was running out of graham cracker crumbs so when my husband went to the store I asked for some kind of cookie I could use instead, in case I ran out. He came back with ladyfingers, the dry and crunchy kind. I wasn't sure that would work for crumbs. As it turned out I had enough crumbs, but I decided I could still use the ladyfingers:

Then, once the cheesecake was baked, I had this:

Finally, I made chocolate sauce and poured it over the top. After letting it run through the gaps between the ladyfingers, I chilled it for a few minutes to let it set before I put cut strawberries on top. (The last of this week's strawberries from the farm share.)

Congratulations to both of you for a great school year!