Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Peaches, From My Very Own Tree

This is my peach tree.
Yes, that's right. The thing hanging over the wall.
Astute observers will notice that it has a problem. It's growing horizontally instead of vertically. Clearly it doesn't have long for this world, but I'm hanging on to it to get my one and only peach harvest from it. I planted it 2 years ago. Last year there was a late frost that killed all the buds. This year it came back with a vengeance, so much so that the weight of the peaches pulled the tree over, breaking the root base and basically endangering passers-by. But there are peaches on it! About a half-bushel's worth and, today, I made my first batch of jam with them.

There is netting over the tree to keep out the birds, but it doesn't keep out the chipmunks, who eat half a peach and then run away. I pick what I can that are just starting to yield a bit to pressure and let them ripen in a bag on the counter. So far, I've gotten about 4 pounds.

Today's jam was inspired by the beautiful blackberries in yesterday's farm share. I decided to make a Blackberry Peach Jam:  1 pint of blackberries, 3 cups chopped peaches, 2 T. lemon juice, 1 box powdered pectin, and 6.5 cups of sugar. The blackberries were crushed as they cooked a bit. This made 8.5 pints of jam. I might enter some in the fair. Or not. One pint will go to my friend with whom I'm splitting the share, since she didn't get any blackberries this week because she was out of town.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Starting to Pick Up

Obviously, since we were away last week, we missed the farm share. This week, there were more squashes and carrots and fewer greens. And the volume increased dramatically. Here's what I'm keeping as my half:

1 pound cucumbers, already fermenting into half-sours
1 head of lettuce
1 head of green cabbage
1 qt. blackberries (half for eating, half for making peach-blackberry jam, using the peaches from my tree which are just starting to get ripe)
.75 lbs carrots
1 eggplant
2 pounds beets, which I will pickle and give some to my friend
1 bunch parsley

The cucumbers were washed, shoved in a jar with crushed coriander seeds, crushed mixed peppercorns, garlic, bay, and dill seeds and then a brine (1/2 T. Kosher salt per cup of water) poured over top. They're now sitting with a bag of brine on top, and will take about a week to ferment. 

Back From Vacation

Last week, we went canoeing in the wilds of Maine. It was not as remote as some trips, but it was remote enough for us, I think! Four days without cell phone coverage, and our only connection to the world was one-way - we carried a Spot GPS device and had it programmed to send a "We're OK" email at the push of a button. So every day went sent out a ping to our families and enjoyed unplugging for a while.

From a food perspective, because we were in canoes, we brought a Coleman grill and actual meat products in addition to dehydrated meals. We ended up eating the dehydrated meals as side dishes although there were a few desserts and breakfast items as well which we saved for when our cooler was no longer cool and we'd used up all our eggs and things. Before we left, I baked 3 loaves of bread. One got eaten while it was still warm and the other two I sliced and brought with us, so we could have sandwiches every day. The first day we pulled to the side of the river and made sandwiches on our laps, and the current gradually floated us to the other side of the river while we ate. It was pretty fun. For the other days, I made the sandwiches ahead of time and had them in the cooler for when it was time to eat.

The wildlife we saw was amazing! We came across a family of moose, several deer, and some of us saw a moose swimming across the river early in the morning. We also saw a mother otter with two babies, many loons, a few bald eagles and a golden eagle, and lots of kingfishers. Also ducks and common mergansers. One night I woke up to a moose splashing around in the river, when I tried to see it and wake up the rest of the family it heard me and bugled a few times and took off. There were moose prints at one of our campsites. We even saw a shrew or star nosed mole swimming across one of the streams we paddled.

When I got back, the first thing I needed to do was bake more bread. Since I didn't have any eggs in the house, I used cream for the wash on top before baking. It's fine, but egg is better! Here is some of the bread, with my new oven mitt:

Oh, and the stars were just gorgeous.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fish Week

While the youngerchild, who despises fish, is away at camp, the rest of us are having a fish-only week.

Sunday we were in Rhode Island and had clam cakes while enjoying the Crescent Park Carousel. I grew up about 3 miles away from there and used to ride that carousel with my friends all the time. We got skilled enough to catch 4 rings with each pass, by leaning really far out and catching one ring with each finger. As you might imagine, that increased our odds of catching the brass ring. But enough reminiscing! Rhode Island clam cakes are a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. I love 'em. One summer as teenagers, empowered with cars, my friends and I hit every little dinky clam shack on the East Bay side of the state, looking for the best ones. There was a tiny little broken down looking place on Route 6 near a tidal stream, in my opinion those were the best. I don't even remember if the place had a name. Anyhow. Sunday. Clam cakes.

Monday was some of the walleye we'd caught and frozen. I had two bags left, with three filets each. Now we're down to one. Baked with some butter and Ritz cracker crumbs and some herbs. Topped with a shallot cream sauce and served with roasted garlic scapes and a salad with just lettuce, Hakurei turnips, and pickled fiddleheads.

Last night, after I worked for 14 hours, we had sushi from our favorite Japanese restaurant in town. Too tired to cook.

Tonight, I just steamed 3 pounds of mussels and they were amazing!  Briefly: dice and sauté one shallot and one clove of garlic. Add and sauté one link of chorizo, sliced. Add 1 pint Persian spiced tomato sauce (coriander, cumin and lime) and about a cup of water and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and steam for 5 minutes. Voilá. Served with french bread to soak up the liquid. And a nice white wine.

Tomorrow night we will grill some salmon which is currently marinating. Then the youngerchild comes back and there will be, sadly, less fish on the menu.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Chocolatey Treats

We had a BBQ today, with many tasty foods, including lots of my canned goods. Oh, and this:

Chocolate covered brownie bites. Need I say more?

Cherries On Sale

Anytime I see cherries on sale, I think about making maraschino cherries. I was down to two jars and since they are only ever that plentiful this time of year, it was my only opportunity to make a batch. Over the past few days, about 5 pounds of cherries have been pitted, brined, and soaked in syrup. This morning, a day later than I should have done this, I drained them and reboiled the syrup, adding the almond extract as the last step. Out of this I got 5 pints of maraschino cherries which are currently in the canner.

The main reason I delayed a day in getting these processed completely was that I was working this past weekend and it was so amazingly busy. I spent almost 12 hours at work on Saturday and about 11 on Sunday. Usually, with this job, my weekend shifts can be completed in 8-9 hours, so this was very atypical! Anyway, I was just so tired I couldn't bring myself to get up 90 minutes earlier to get these done yesterday morning. And yesterday evening was spent working in the yard while it was a little cooler and before it got dark. It's starting to look like a yard again!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Strawberry Overload

We started this day bright and early by going strawberry picking. Halfway to the farm (a good 30 miles away) I realized I was supposed to ping a friend to see if she wanted to go with us. Sorry, Sue, if you're reading this! I totally spaced!

Anyway, we were brought via hayride to a field that had not yet been picked this year. How awesome. We hardly moved, and yet we picked 17 pounds of strawberries. They were beautiful and large and tasty! After returning from the fields, we had strawberry doughnuts and headed home. I had to stop at the store to get sugar, and a few other essentials, and when we got home I got to work.

Strawberries to eat - the ones on the top of the heap, the least crushed.
Strawberries mixed with sugar for the shortcake. (The shortcake itself is currently in the oven.)
Strawberry jam - 9 cups.
Strawberry rhubarb jam - 1 pound of rhubarb and 2.5 cups of strawberry purée - 8.5 cups.
Swans on the pond
Strawberry soup - 1 quart of berries, 8 ounces of cream cheese, some mango juice drink and some honey. That was lunch.

At this point, we went out for an hour long canoe trip in the local pond. They only started renting canoes and kayaks on the weekends last week, and since we have an ambitious canoe trip ahead of us, I wanted everyone to get some practice.

Another stop at the store, to get a few more things, so I could make:

Strawberry Maple Smooch - kind of a strawberry maple syrup thing for cakes or ice cream or pancakes.
Strawberry Jalapeño jam - 4 cups strawberry purée and 1 cup diced jalapeño peppers - 7.5 cups.
Strawberry Lemon Marmalade - 7 cups.

I still have about 1.5 quarts of berries left for something. I plan to make strawberry pancakes for breakfast. I am setting aside 2 jars each of the plain strawberry, the strawberry rhubarb and the strawberry jalapeño jams for the fair. I may change my mind, but at least I've got some things to enter.

And, I have to make burgers for dinner. But I'm taking a break. It's only 5:30 pm.