Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bee and Farm Updates

Close up of bees with capped cells (pupae) and larvae
First, the bees: I pulled out a comb again today - I really took my time and was able to get a good look at one of the combs. While I couldn't see any eggs, I certainly could see larva and capped cells. I took a few photos and was able to study them later to make sure there weren't any mites or anything bad. I also wore only the medical gloves as I'd felt too clumsy with the gardening gloves, that seemed to go fine. Whenever the bees would get agitated, I would stop and stay very still and the bees would eventually settle down. I don't think I crushed any trying to get it all closed again, either. I consider that a win.

Second, the farm: today's share consisted of 1 bunch each of komatsuna and collard greens, one head of spring garlic, 6 garlic scapes, 1 bunch scallions, 3 heads of lettuce, 3 quarts shell peas, 1 quart each snap and snow peas, 35-45 fava beans (but someone who didn't want hers gave me her share of favas, too, so I picked 82 pods), dill and cilantro and 1 pint of strawberries, if you could find any. I picked very few berries, less than a cup I think.
Honey in the upper left, just a bit!

When I got home, I shelled the favas and the peas while sitting outside and enjoying the breeze. The favas were blanched and are waiting to be made into baghali polo (rice with fava beans and dill) and the peas were cooked tonight with chopped garlic scapes and then finished with salt, butter and dill. For dinner we assembled our own salads: lettuce, carrots, mulberries (from my tree), strawberries, Hakurei turnips, sliced meats (chicken, pork, or sausages) and the cooked peas. I used more of that champagne vinaigrette which works really well with peas.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Finally, Mulberries

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been hoping to make mulberry jelly, exclusively from my own tree. Well, I managed it, but it took about a week to get enough mulberries to do it. Every time I got a bunch of berries, I juiced them and saved the juice. As of tonight, I finally managed to get 4 cups of juice.

The mulberry juice was mixed with 3 T. lime juice, 1 package powdered Sure-Jell pectin, and 5 cups of sugar. Processed the usual way, this yielded 7 cups of jelly. I'm setting aside 2 jars to enter into the Fair, in the "other jelly" category. Two years ago my Rose Hip Jelly got an honorable mention in that category. So far, I have 2 entries set aside - this and the strawberry jam.

It's a Party!

Yesterday I had my family over for a BBQ. Well, since it was raining the whole time, it was more of a sit down meal that involved the grill. Regardless, in the spirit of BBQs we had hot dogs and sausages (mostly German, and all from Karl's Sausage Kitchen, truly a hidden gem in our area), pickles, sauerkraut, various salads, fruit and a pie. Of all that, these were the home canned items: pickled carrots, dilly beans, dill pickle spears, sauerkraut, and green tomato ketchup.

I made another batch of that strangolopreti dumpling, with kale and arugula this time. They came out different and I'm not sure why - maybe the bread wasn't soft enough, not sure. Maybe the kale wasn't chopped finely enough. Still, they were popular, and went quickly.

Also, I made the pie. (Of course!) In the morning I got it baked and made a bonus strawberry tart as well, which was breakfast. Despite the cornstarch the pie was very runny - I might have to use tapioca next time - and I think maybe I didn't bake it long enough because some of the rhubarb was a little tough. Still tasted pretty awesome, even if we had to eat it in bowls.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Crazy Amount of Strawberries

Bright and early this morning my family went strawberry picking. Some of us were more chipper about it than others. It was a gorgeous morning and in a very short amount of time we picked 17 pounds of strawberries.

Yes, 17. I've done this before. But because of the weather these berries were not going to last even 24 hours. I had to get them "processed." Today.

In 8 hours I made: 1 batch strawberry jam (which is better than the previous batch so I think I'll enter this one in the fair, not the other), 1 batch strawberry margarita jam, 1 batch strawberry rhubarb jam, 1 batch strawberry jalapeno jam*, 1 batch strawberry lemon marmalade, 1 batch strawberries with sugar for another shortcake, a chocolate shortcake for said strawberry shortcake, a pie crust, set aside the strawberries and rhubarb for the filling (I'll roll out the crust and bake the pie tomorrow), washed some for eating now and refrigerated the rest (about a quart) for smoothies tomorrow.

Also, I picked whatever mulberries I could off our tree, as there is a storm coming through and they're all going to get knocked off anyway. And my husband and I assembled new patio furniture.

I am officially exhausted!

*There are a couple of people in my life who love the strawberry jalapeno jam so much that whenever I make a batch I set aside a jar for each of them. Not that it lasts long. One of these friends can eat the entire 8 ounce jar of this jam in 5 minutes. Straight. Just with a spoon. I've seen her do it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fish Stew

This is something I've been meaning to make for a while. I had that bag of walleye bits in the freezer and, for some reason, today felt like the day to make fish stew. Don't ask me why.

The recipe was one of the ones I make up as I go along. I sauteed sliced onion, minced garlic and chopped celery and then added 2 pints of tomato sauce. This was then simmered with bay, salt, pepper, and 10 sprigs of cilantro (from yesterday's farm share). About 10 minutes before dinnertime, I tossed in all the fish (thawed, of course) and let it cook in the sauce. At the last minute, I added about half a teaspoon of cumin and adjusted the salt and pepper to taste. Served over couscous, it was just terrific!

Strawberries and Garlic

No, not together. That would be silly.

Yesterday's farm share distribution included more strawberries (2 quarts) and more garlic scapes (16) which, added to the previous distributions, meant I had about 40 garlic scapes and clearly not enough time to use them. Since I still had garlic scape pesto in the freezer, as well as chopped scapes, I decided to pickle them using the recipe in Preserving By the Pint. I had enough scapes to make 3 jars instead of 2, and they're in the canner right now.

When I went to the farm yesterday, I brought the 13 year old, who was the one who picked all the berries. The request was for a strawberry shortcake, and I obliged, of course! This time we remembered to take a photo before we inhaled the shortcakes. That was dessert last night and breakfast today. Mmm.

The rest of the share consisted of broccoli, kale, arugula, Hakurei turnips (we'd just finally finished the ones from the previous 2 weeks), Napa cabbage, dill, cilantro, snow peas, snap peas, shelling peas and fava beans. As soon as I got home, I blanched the fava beans and marinated them and they'll be good on a salad. We also shelled the peas and they were part of dinner last night, mixed with leftover corn and tossed with some of that champagne vinaigrette I'd made earlier. I also made these: strangolapreti (courtesy of Hank Shaw's blog post) using some of the arugula and the rest of the komatsuna greens. Even the rabbit gives us a dirty look when we try to feed him the komatsuna. Made into a dumpling it was much more innocuous. The dumplings are tasty and filling and not hard to make. What a great recipe!

The plan for tonight's dinner is to make a fish stew with the walleye bits I'd frozen after we went fishing last summer. I will use a pint jar or two of tomato sauce, the fresh cilantro, and whatever else I feel like tossing in - I'm going to wing it on this one, I think.  Also I'm still working on getting enough mulberry juice for a batch of jelly - I have 3 cups so far and need one more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Permanently Stained

Our mulberry tree is in full production mode, and I'm hoping to be able to make a batch of something without having to resort to the tree on the corner of the block. It'll take a few trips, I think, as I was able to get 3 cups of plump berries today and there are still tons more waiting to ripen. My husband and I have decided we don't really like the texture of the berries in jam, so I'm trying jelly instead. 3 cups of fruit, simmered and crushed with a little water, made 1 cup of juice. I need at least 3.5 cups of juice. I'll be doing this again in a few days.
If you think this looks bad, you should see my jelly bag, which is now rather purple. Despite soap.