Friday, October 11, 2019

Personal Pies

The weather has not been kind this last week as far as the farm share is concerned. The tomato plants died in the frost so this was likely the last week for any tomatoes. The raspberries aren't getting enough sun to ripen so there were very few to pick. It took a while but my husband and I were able to get almost a full half-pint of berries. They weren't very pretty, or big, or even necessarily at the peak of ripeness. After giving half to my friend as her part of the share, I had a tiny amount of berries. What to do?

What I did have was a little bit of leftover pie crust dough from last weekend. I rolled it out and lined four small ramekins with crust. Then I divided up the raspberries and a handful of blueberries I also had in the house, sprinkled on some sugar mixed with cornstarch and cinnamon, and added a top crust. These were baked, uncovered, in a 350˚F oven for about 35 minutes. Voilá, instant personal pies!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Fair News

After baking for days, this morning I had everything almost ready to bring up to the fair. I'd made bread, again, and an apple pie, and apricot ginger muffins, and my favorite pie, chocolate sweet potato with maple candied bacon and bourbon whipped cream. I finished the whipped cream, crumbled the bacon onto the pie and then coated it with whipped cream and a last little sprinkle of bacon. Then we were off to Topsfield.

After dropping off the baked goods we checked out the canning winners. I'm pleased to report that, out of 15 entries, I placed in all 15! Best in show went to my friend for a mango conserve that sounds really tasty. Here's my list:

  1. First Place for sauerkraut, salsa verde, sweet relish (the pepper one), stone fruit jam, mulberry ginger jelly, and peach jam. I was really hoping that peach jam would win, it was, in my opinion, terrific.
  2. Second Place for canned whole tomatoes, dill pickles, pickled beets and sliced peaches in syrup.
  3. Third Place for the peach salsa, sweet pickles and blackberry jam.
  4. Honorable Mention for the spicy cranberry rhubarb conserve and the zucchini bread and butter pickles.

Next we went to the beekeeping exhibits and checked out the baking with honey competition. Of all my entries (five in total) the scones, brownies, bread and peach salsa all won Second Place and the banana bread won Third.

Then it was time for the judging of the entries in the food department. I was hopeful because for the last two years I'd entered one category each year and placed first. This time I entered four categories and crossed my fingers. In the muffin category I received an Honorable Mention (there were only four entries, so at first I thought it was just because I came in fourth but later I discovered that not all classes had an Honorable Mention awarded so the judges did feel it was worthy enough for that). In the two-crust pie competition I placed third out of five entries. In the bread category I placed third out of eight. Sadly, my favorite pie, the sweet potato one, didn't win anything at all. I must admit I was disappointed, particularly because that is the one I worked the most on. The one thing I wish they'd change is to give an opportunity for feedback. I'm not sure how we can improve if we don't know what the judges liked or didn't like about an entry.

Anyway, that's about all we did other than watch a duck race and see the bunnies. Then it was time to head home so the youngerchild could do homework. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Almost Ready

Not pictured: Banana Bread
The Baking with Honey entries have been delivered to the fairgrounds. I have been up since 5 am baking bread, making Earl Grey white chocolate ganache (for the scones) and generally getting everything ready. I'm super tired, as I only went to bed at 1 am!

See, I got home from my first shift at my new job at 12:30 am and then I needed to form the loaves of bread and get them proofing. Prior experience has taught me they don't need that long to proof and so I set my alarm for 5 am. That was perfect timing. The bread got baked, it smelled lovely (tasted lovely, too. I may or may not have eaten almost half a loaf just now for lunch....) and I had enough time to coat the scones with ganache, cut the brownies, get everything wrapped up and loaded in the car.

After I dropped the youngerchild off at the bus stop I went to my riding lesson at which I almost got kicked; the horse I've been riding lately gets rather anxious when being tacked up but is fine basically the rest of the time so I'm learning how to avoid his teeth and hooves while still getting him ready. I was able to scoot out of the way this time! As soon as my lesson was over I drove straight to Topsfield and got all my entries checked in. Then I headed home and got cleaned up.

Now I have to plan the entries in the regular Foods Department competitions. I entered in 4 categories: yeast bread, muffins, 2-crust pie and 1-crust pie. All that baking will happen on Saturday. Sunday we'll head up to the fair and I'll see how well my entries did!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

And So the Baking Begins

The Topsfield Fair opens this weekend. 

My canning entries have been in for weeks. The Beekeeping and Honey Division entries are due Thursday and the Foods Department entries will be brought up on Sunday when we go to the fair. we're going on Sunday this year because we do have school commitments on Saturday and each day of that first weekend has different baking categories in which to compete.

Regardless, I need to do the Baking with Honey entries as those are due first. Today I made a batch of Honey Fudge Brownies and also a loaf of Banana Bread. Both recipes are from The Vermont Beekeeper's Cookbook, from which I found last year's prizewinning Honey Cheesecake recipe. I won't cut the brownies until it's time to bring them up on Thursday. Each of these items seemed to be things I could cool and wrap and refrigerate without the flavor or texture being affected. Tomorrow I'll make the honey scones and start the bread dough. I already have a jar of Peach Salsa which was made with honey so I thought I'd try to enter that as well.

Monday, September 30, 2019

A Different Technique

Last year I foraged a lot of black walnuts, ran them under the car tires to get the husks off, and left them to dry in the garage. Then I forgot about them until they were rather unpleasant to deal with. I decided that this year, if I did get more black walnuts, I would be more proactive.

On Thursday I foraged about 5 dozen nuts. I was lucky to find a branch that had fallen off the tree but was loaded with nuts which, while not fully ripe, are hopefully ripe enough. I tried driving over a few and crushed the nuts entirely so I had to find a different technique to remove the husks. I found a suggestion to blanch them and then they would be more easy to slip off. I guess that is if the husks are fully ripe. However, I did blanch them and used a paring knife to remove the husks and they are now drying on the boiler in the basement. In a month I will try to crack them open and see if it was worth it.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Spaghetti Sauce

For a while now I've been meaning to make spaghetti sauce. Since I've been on a roll with plum tomatoes from the farm share, I thought this week I could try this recipe for spaghetti sauce and make a few jars. Yesterday I picked about 13 pounds of plum tomatoes and today, while waiting to get my chimney swept, I started a half batch. It took roughly four hours to cook to the right consistency and then a while to get it all canned (mainly because I had to take the youngerchild back to school for a club meeting which is a 40 minute round-trip so I had to wait until I got back to actually boil the water in the canner).

Ultimately I ended up with a little more than four quarts of sauce. I quite like it, I do think the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce add depth and a little punch to the flavor. Plus, I used a bunch of onions and peppers from the share so that helped make a dent in the huge piles of vegetables I've accumulated over the past few weeks.

The other thing I did today was make a compound butter with duck fat. To properly experience this glorious creation we made corn bread for dinner and it was, indeed, lovely.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

State of Well Bee-ing

It's a gorgeous day and, after a short hike and some baking, I went out to inspect the hives. The bees have been swarming my currently flowering ivy with gusto so while most of them were occupied it seemed like a good time. I am pleased to report that I saw both Beeyoncé and Hebee. Hebee's colony is doing better in general, they have more honey but about the same amount of brood. They both were fairly well behaved, even though my smoker was not, and I think things are looking good.