Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pheasant Barley Soup

It's been a rough few days and my voice is only just coming back.  When I feel this way then soup is required.  I have plenty of things in the freezer for soup but they can wait.  Today I wanted to tend to those pheasant leftovers.

First, the stock:  I roasted the bones, some celery, carrots, and onion at 450 for almost an hour.  Then I boiled them in 6 pints of water, with bay, and a teaspoon each of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  (No, I did not sing Scarborough Fair even once!)  This simmered for 3 hours and was strained.

Then, the soup:  I cut up more onion, celery and carrot, our mirepoix, and browned them in olive oil.  To this I added the leftover pheasant meat and browned that slightly as well.  Then I added the stock, whatever meat I could get off the bones, chopped up leftover green beans, a package of dried porcini mushrooms and, after a while, 3/4 cup of pearled barley.  This simmered until all the barley was split and much of the liquid was absorbed.  The soup was seasoned with salt and pepper at the end.

Served with biscuits and blackberries, it was a filling meal.  The 7 year old even ate some of the broth!  That is a WIN.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve Feast

Not the most attractive of posed shots;
I suppose we could have at least finished setting the table!
Merry Christmas!

This year I am working over the Christmas holiday so I did the overnight on the 23rd and will work overnight tonight.  That left Christmas eve and morning so we had our "feast" last night.  Tonight we will have macaroni and cheese, but homemade, at least!

I had wanted to roast a duck but we got to the store and there were no ducks.  There were pheasants, so we decided to try that instead.  I combined a few recipes I found on the net and roasted 2 very tasty pheasants.  Here's how:

First the pheasants were brined for about 6 hours.  To make the brine I boiled 4 cups of water, 1/2 cup kosher salt, 6 bay leaves, and 2 T. sugar together and then soaked the pheasants in that.  They were then taken out, dried, and set in the fridge until the next day.   Each was stuffed with a small onion, a quarter of an apple and some sage and then bacon was draped over the breasts.  Then the birds were trussed and roasted for 15 minutes at 500 degrees.  After that, I dropped the oven temperature to 325-350 (hard to tell since my oven isn't very accurate) and roasted them for an additional 60 minutes or so, until the meat thermometer said 150.  About halfway through, I drizzled them with maple syrup.

Once they rested for 15 minutes they were carved.  I served them with red bliss potatoes, purple potatoes, carrots and parsnips roasted with thyme and rosemary.

Now we have some leftover pheasant meat in the fridge and bones in the freezer and a plan to make stock or soup in the near future.  Maybe pheasant will work as well as duck for a variation of the turducken soup?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spicy Holiday Giving

Habaneros!  Today I made another double batch of the Cranberry-Rhubarb compote but I added 4 chopped habanero peppers (minus the seeds).  And is it ever spicy!

This made 14 4-ounce jars and 3 8-ounce jars and, I'll have to look, but I think this makes my gift stash almost complete.  For now....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wintergreen Muffins

Over the past few weeks, I've been taking a lot of walks.  It's wintergreen season and I've been looking for berries.  I have found a few places that have wintergreen and a lot of places that don't.  But I am persistent!

In total, with help from my family, I amassed 77 berries.  Not enough to do anything substantial with.  But enough for something...right?  So I decided that today we would eat them, in muffin form.  First I made the batter from this recipe for chocolate muffins but I left out the chocolate chips.  I even got to use homemade plain yogurt that I made the other day.  (I hadn't made yogurt since last winter, there always seems to be something else to do...)  Then I put the wintergreen berries on the top of the muffins and baked them.

I had contemplated adding wintergreen extract but I wanted to see how much flavor the berries have on their own.  The answer is, not much initially, but then there is this faint wintergreen aftertaste that is really pleasant.  It was worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Finally I Have Some Time

I've been planning on working on my gift stash for a while but something always seems to get in the way.  So I set aside several hours this morning to try to make a dent in it.  I made two batches today - Maple Pear Ginger Jam and Cranberry Rhubarb Compote (same as last year).

For the Maple Pear Ginger jam I made a few changes from the first recipe attempt.  One change was that I added ginger (obviously).  I cut the pears larger and simmered them with some pear juice and 4 big chunks of fresh ginger.  When they were soft I removed the ginger, mashed the pears, and returned the ginger to the pot.  Then I added the lemon juice and the pectin and then, once it was boiling, the syrup and the sugar.  When it was time to can it I removed the ginger.  This made 5 cups and a little bit.

The Cranberry-Rhubarb Compote was easier since I had 1 pound of rhubarb already measured out in the freezer.  (There's that thinking ahead thing - isn't it great when it works?)  That plus 1 and a half bags of cranberries and 2 golden delicious apples made 9 cups of compote.  I now have 21 8-ounce jars and 31 4-ounce jars in the stash.  I might need more, but this is a significant improvement!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

So Very Full

This isn't even all the dishes we had, not to mention the 3 pies!
What a feast!

I hope that all of you had a very happy Thanksgiving!  


The turkey is stuffed and has been in the oven for 2 hours already.  Devil eggs made.  Potatoes peeled and ready to be boiled and mashed.  Apple and pumpkin pies are made.  Squash is in the fridge waiting to be reheated.  Pumpkin bread will be sliced.  The last jars of cranberry sauce and cranberry habanero jam were pulled out of the pantry.  The pickled beets and eggs are ready.  I have 3 or 4 other sides arriving with my guests.  We just need to set the table.  I am SO READY!

Can I go back to bed now?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Test Pie

Have you ever played around with a recipe for the first time and wondered if it would be good?  Especially if that recipe was for a special dinner like, oh, I don't know, Thanksgiving?

Fortunately, I had enough to make a second, smaller pie, and I can tell you that this recipe is terrific!

Pumpkin Pie
(makes 1 9-inch and 1 7-inch pie)

pie crust for two 1-crust pies (I used my standard crust)
1 sugar pumpkin, roasted, mashed and drained (3 cups)
3/4 c. sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c. egg nog
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ginger
3/8 tsp. allspice
3/8 tsp. nutmeg
4 eggs

Grease a 9 inch and a 7 inch pie plate.  Make the crust and place in the pie plates.  Mix the remaining ingredients until smooth and pour into the crusts.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then at 350 for 40-60 minutes until the pumpkin is set.  Cool briefly.

Devour half the smaller pie in one sitting.  (I had help with this part.)
Don't forget the strawberry tart with the leftover crust, for the 7 year old who won't eat pumpkin pie.  It will be appreciated!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Canning with Maple Syrup

In this house, only Vermont Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup will do.

It's expensive, though, so we plan ahead and make a day trip up to Vermont once every 1-2 years to buy it from the source.  Even in the stores up there it's pricey so we buy it straight from the farms.  Last time we found, for the first time, a reliable farm that had plenty in stock.  Dark is hard to come by most of the time, but not there.  We usually buy 2 gallons for ourselves, and then buy a few gallons for other people who wouldn't otherwise make the trip.  With one of those people, for one gallon I get smoked Alaskan salmon that her husband catches and smokes himself.  I think that is a very reasonable trade.

In case you're wondering, syrup does fine on the shelf in a cool place until you open it.  After that, it needs to be refrigerated or frozen.  If you have gallon jugs, like we do, freeze them.  It'll last up to a year that way.  Just thaw it and pour some into a smaller container so you have some ready.  Syrup shouldn't actually freeze, if the sugar content is high enough.  It just gets really thick.

This year we are planning to go in the days after Thanksgiving.  But I think that I may be buying 3 gallons for myself.  This is because I've decided that I should experiment more with cooking with syrup.  I started today by creating a jam recipe with maple syrup.

Maple Pear Jam

4.5 cups of minced pears (3-4 pears, roughly)
2 T. lemon juice
1 cup maple syrup
2 cups sugar
1 package low-sugar powdered pectin

Mix the pears with the lemon juice to prevent browning as you cut up all the pears.  Mix the pectin with 1/4 cup of sugar and then mix with the pears and lemon juice.  Cook until boiling.  Here's where I had a little trouble because there wasn't really any liquid in the pears so it didn't really boil.  Eventually I just added the syrup and sugar and brought all that to a boil.  (Warning!  It is super thick, and bubbles spatter quite high.  Stand back.)  Once it was at a rolling boil, keep that for 1 minute and then remove from heat.  This made 5 cups of jam, which I put into 10 half-cup jars.  I thought it might be a good addition to the gift stash.  

Things to consider:  adding star anise or cinnamon or almonds.  The maple flavor isn't too strong so I wouldn't want to overwhelm it; I think a vanilla bean might be too much.  Another idea is to simmer the pears in some water or pear juice and mash them before doing the rest.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Random Cooking Things

Haven't really done any canning lately, but I'm getting ready for Thanksgiving so I've been making pumpkin bread and thinking about when I'm going to make my pies.  Sadly, the squashes from the farm share didn't last - as in, we didn't eat them because they went bad - but the pumpkin did so I roasted it the other day and am saving that to make a pie.

Tonight for dinner we had crepes.  I wanted to make a link to this recipe because, so far, it's the best crepe recipe I've used.  We had goat cheese-apple(or pear)-salami and Nutella-banana and lemon curd with and without pear.  It was a light dinner because we had dim sum for lunch and practically rolled out of there, so we didn't really need anything heavy!

Last night we had mussels steamed in the last of my fish stock.  If there is one thing I won't be making and canning again, it's fish stock.  I really was hard-pressed to find a use for it.  So I sautéed onion and celery, added the 3 pints of fish stock and a bottle of beer, then steamed the mussels in that.  It only takes about 5-6 minutes to steam them.  They were good, but my favorite way to have mussels is steamed in tomato sauce with chorizo.  That's they way we always used to eat them when we went out to dinner where I grew up!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Soup in a Hurry

Well, the soup isn't really in a hurry, but I am.  I threw together a batch of beef and barley soup this afternoon, but I have to leave for work before the pressure canner will be done, so I will be instructing my husband in what to do before I leave.

When I make beef and barley soup, I generally start with a slow-cooker "osso buco" - beef shin slices browned and cooked in a slow-cooker with tomato sauce, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and sautéed carrots, celery and onion.  This one also had leeks.  Once we have dinner, the bones and whatever meat is left is saved with all the liquid and this serves as the base for the soup.  To that I add more sautéed onions, celery and carrots, along with garlic, 2 quarts of stock (chicken this time, since I had some in the freezer from the last time I made stock a week or so ago), a cup of red wine, about a cup of pearled barley, some worcestershire sauce, parsley, salt and pepper.  This simmers for about an hour and a half.

After taking some out so I have dinner at work for tonight, I put 5 pints in the pressure canner and the rest will get eaten by the family either tonight or tomorrow.  This one is popular, and it goes fast.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cranberries! Not.

It's really cold and it might snow a little today.  However, I'm still on the hunt for wintergreen berries so I went back to the same conservation area today but from the other entrance.  No wintergreen berries but I found another red berry that looked very much like an alpine cranberry, aka lingonberry.  But it was powdery inside, and I couldn't figure it out.  Was it just that there had been a frost?  Why was it so weird?

What did we ever do before we had smart phones?  I spent a little time right there in the woods looking it up and discovered that I did not have lingonberry but bearberry, aka Arctostaphylos uva-ursi.  Not inedible, but not tasty, and certainly not a lingonberry. Drat.

I came home and canned that chicken stock I made last week.  4 quart jars and 1 pint jar.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wintergreen Extract

Oh, yeah, I'm trying to see if the shoots will take root.
We only just discovered wintergreen, aka Eastern Teaberry, last spring while hiking in New Hampshire.  Apparently the berries are out now.  I was hoping to find some after reading Hank Shaw's blog entry about them.  He was even in Gloucester, which is not far.  But so far I've had no luck on finding berries.  I did, however, find a lot of leaves today.  So following the instructions on his blog, I am making wintergreen extract.  

I crammed a half-pint jar as full of leaves as I could and poured some vodka over it.  It will steep for at least a month and then I'll just leave it as is and use the extract in something.  That ice cream on his blog page looks rather tasty.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fried Chicken

On the long drive home from North Carolina my friend and I got talking about food.  Well, we talked about food a lot the whole week but specifically we discussed fried chicken.  She raved about her mother's fried chicken; it was simple and good and better than any commercially available fried chicken.  I decided to try it.  Emails were sent to her mother to make sure we had the correct instructions and last night, I made wonderful fried chicken.

Chicken, flour, salt and pepper.  Deep fried in oil and butter, 10 minutes a side.  That's it.

I have to admit, I have not really deep fried much.  It's just not something my mother did so I never really learned to do it or to incorporate it into my repertoire of go-to meals.  This wasn't hard, but it did take a while.  I'd have to time it better in the future, I think.  After the chicken was done I tossed potatoes and sweet potatoes in the oil and made french fries.  I also used this recipe to make cole slaw but I added half a teaspoon of celery seed which made it really nice.  Yum!  The cabbage and all the potatoes were from the farm share; I have 2 heads of cabbage left, plus turnips, leeks, and various squashes and pumpkins.

Since I cut the breast meat off the bones and had the back bone of the chicken still in the package, I tossed them in a pot with some water and vegetable scraps, salt, pepper, and bay.  This yielded 9 quarts of chicken stock which I will likely can in the next few days.  Just not today!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pre-Sandy Harvest

So, once again, we find ourselves waiting for a hurricane and wondering how bad it will be.  In anticipation I cleaned out the rooftop vegetable garden and came downstairs with a quart of green tomatoes.  There were a few more orange ones which I am leaving on the sill to ripen but those green ones just called out to be broiled.

I couldn't be simpler - just slice them and lay them on a baking sheet.  Then drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with oregano and goat cheese, and then a little final drizzle of olive oil.  Then you broil them for about 7 minutes.  Yum!

School was canceled, and we are all home today.  We're going to make some Halloween cookies.  I got a nifty mold from my mother-in-law that makes cookies which look like fingers!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Well, I finally did it.  I am a certified Wilderness First Responder, having just taken the Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals, aka WUMP.  I have been wanting to enroll in this course for two years now and, two days ago, I completed it.  (The first time I planned to do it I got jury duty so I held off, good thing, because I broke my hand right before I would have gone so I would have had to cancel anyway...)
Me on a backboard

It was really fun.  REALLY fun.  There were 19 students, some were people taking a month long EMT-B course with the final week in wilderness medicine, but there were 8 physicians and a nurse as well as other EMTs and paramedics who wanted to add to their skill sets.  The classroom sessions were jam packed with information and stories and then we would do scenario after scenario to reinforce the learning process.  We learned how to make traction splints out of sticks.  Cervical collars out of baseball caps.  How to roll people safely and how to warm them up if they get cold.  It's all about thinking outside the box and using whatever resources you have very creatively.  We practiced with a mass casualty incident and a night time rescue.  My friend and I slept in a tent for 5 nights and drove 2 days in each direction to get there and back.  The weather was perfect and the setting simply gorgeous (we were in Cullowhee, NC).  We even had a little time to go fishing but we didn't catch anything; it was relaxing nonetheless.

Foraging was sort of out of the question due to the time constraints and the location but I did find a tiny wild strawberry, some mint, some bittercress, and a few other greens.

We had to prepare all our own meals and my chili, stroganoff and baked beans were just the thing.  People started to ask, "What did you can for dinner today?"  I fielded a lot of questions about canning during the week.  They have a really nice set up there for cooking - a pavilion type area with picnic tables and a concrete slab at waist high for the camp stoves.  It was perfect.  The place was covered with ladybugs which were swarming at the time, and butterflies flitted about when it was warm.  The nights were cold, though, and I was grateful for my thermarest pad and wool blanket which I used under my sleeping bag for added insulation.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tuscan Nettle Soup

The other day, at the stables, I wasn't planning on getting any nettles.  I had a lot to do, I reasoned, and that would just add work.  Why would I add to my stress?

I must be a glutton for punishment.

After bringing home a bag full of nettle tips, I put them in the fridge until today, when I made a Tuscan soup.  I browned onion, leeks, carrots and celery and then added sweet Italian sausage.  To this I added 2 quarts of vegetable stock, 2 leaves of kale and all the nettles.  Then I added a large can of cannellini beans, a bay leaf, some salt and pepper, and thyme.  This simmered for about an hour and a half and was served with fresh French bread.  Very filling and tasty!

Turns out it wasn't as stressful as I thought it would be.  Once it was finally simmering.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Prep Day

In a few days I'm headed to a Wilderness Medicine course with a friend.  We've both been to conferences on the subject before but this is different.  This is several days of camping with hands-on experience.  And we have to bring our own gear and food.  I've set aside chili, ham and bean soup,  and sauerkraut, and today I'm making baked beans and will be canning some stroganoff later tonight.  Once I make it.

Last week I purchased 2 pounds of Jacob's Cattle Beans from Amazon.  Did you know you could get dried beans through Amazon?  You can get almost anything there.  Last night I soaked them and today I made the usual Boston baked beans with salt pork and onion - the recipe is from my Pillsbury cookbook.  They're in the canner right now - 8 pints in total.  I'll take 4 pints on the trip.  (80 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.)

I'm also organizing my clothes and my gear and will pack it all up tomorrow.  Fortunately my gear is, for the most part, in one place so finding it all and getting it packed shouldn't be a big deal.  I just have to make sure I have the emergency day pack filled to the course specifications.  Aside from sounding like a lot of fun, it's worth 43 continuing medical education credits (CMEs) and I need 50 per year.  One credit is equal to one hour of educational time.  Most conferences give you 20 at best, so this is terrific from that standpoint as well.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Freezer Clean-Out

This time I'm cleaning out the freezer because I want to, not because I have to.

I've been saving bags of vegetable peelings, ends, and the like to make vegetable stock so I brought out the lobster pot and 3 of those bags.  The variety of vegetable bits in there was really amazing to me; I could identify at least 15 different types of vegetables!  I filled the pot up to the top and simmered away.  While I was going through the freezer I found a ham bone with some meat on it I'd frozen to make soup.  Since I had the pressure canner out anyway I figured, why not?  I quick-soaked a bag of 16-bean mix and made ham and bean soup.  This had onions, leeks, celery, carrot, and poblano peppers in it, which gave it a little kick.  It does need a little more salt which I can add when I am ready to serve it.  The soup went into 5 quart jars and into the canner for 90 minutes.

Then I turned my attention back to the stock and strained it all.  My pressure canner holds a total of 16 pint jars and even with that I had 4 quarts of stock left.  I will likely make another batch of soup when I have time and use it as the base.  Currently it's in the freezer.

Now that Mocha is around, I should not be accumulating vegetable bits as quickly as he would gladly eat whatever kale stems and beet greens I feel like giving him.  I think I have plenty of stock, though, to last me for a year.

All this just in time to head out to the farm again!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Canning with a Companion

A couple of weeks ago, we adopted a pet.  His name is Mocha, and there has been a steep learning curve on everyone's part, including his.  He can now leap onto a rather high window seat in one bound, and trot along the back of the couch without falling most of the time and I think he now recognizes that the music stand is collapsable and he shouldn't jump on it.  The humans are learning that you can't just grab a bunny and pick it up, and that kevlar gloves are essential when you need to approach him when he's not in the mood.  (Do we remember the rabbit scene in Monty Python?  Yeah.  That.)

Today I'm home for the first time in a while and I had a peck of apples to make into applesauce.  So I dug out a baby gate and brought Mocha into the kitchen for the first time.  (He's litter trained and very good at it so I wasn't worried.)  He explored a fair amount while I cooked down the apples but once the motor on the food mill started going he stayed in a corner.  By the time I was ready to take him back, he was ready, too.  He didn't even try to run away when I went to pick him up.  I'm not sure he's going to want to repeat this adventure for a while but at least now we have another room in the house where he could roam.

I tried something different which was to try to put an entire peck of apples into one pot, so I'd cook some down and add some more.  It took way longer than if I'd just made 2 batches in series, so I won't be doing that again.  Regardless, I have 5 more quarts of applesauce and that might be it for the season; I won't know until I go back to the farm tomorrow and see if they have more apples.

Mocha likes almost any green we give him, especially arugula, so it's good that they have plenty in the farm share!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What a Mess!

In today's farm share:  3 pounds of beets.  Add that to the beets I already had and I really needed to can some beets.  They take up way too much room in the fridge!

Since I have a bunch of pickled beets, I thought I'd try pressure canning them.  I used the standard recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and had 4 quarts' worth.  But one of the jars cracked in the canner, which was an unpleasant surprise.  It cleaned up surprisingly quickly, and since the jar broke cleanly I was able to salvage the beets and put them in the fridge to eat now.  I think I know what happened, too.  I ran out of boiling water when I was filling the jars and, in the time it took for me to boil more, the bulk of the jar cooled too much.  Then, when I put it in the canner, the water it went into was too hot and so the jar cracked along the base.  The bottom of the jar just split right off!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Changed My Mind

After juicing those Concord grapes I had about 3 pints of juice.  Enough to drink, not enough to can, and more than enough to make a batch of jelly.  I'd planned to leave it as juice, but I changed my mind. I decided I could add to the gift stash by making a batch of grape jelly which is such a terrific dark purple and it tastes soooo good!

This time I used powdered pectin so the recipe called for 5 cups of juice and 7 cups of sugar.  I got 8 half-pint jars and 1 half-cup jar which is a good addition to the gift stash which, as you know, grows every year!  Last year I gave out about 50 or so jars of things, and this year promises to be no different.

Oh, yeah, and at the very last minute, while I was doing my 1-minute rolling boil, the doorbell rang.  I was hoping to ignore it but it rang again.  At 20 seconds left on the boil I turned off the stove and ran to the door and was greeted by a DHL driver who needed my signature.  For a box of tea.  Huh?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Checkerboard Cake

The task for this year's birthday cake was a checkerboard.  I hit upon using red velvet and chocolate as the 2 colors and made 2 layers of each cake.  Once the layers were cooled and had spent some time in the fridge, I cut them using pyrex bowls as guides.  Then I froze them to make them easier to work with.

Assembly involved popping the center circles out and making one or two cuts in the outer circles and fitting them around each other.  I used a fudge frosting to hold everything together and toothpicks to keep the rings from gapping too much while the frosting set.  This all went into the fridge overnight and then was frosted the next day.  I used 2 tubs of cream cheese frosting.  The first tub was used entirely as a crumb coat and to fill in the gaps between the layers (the red velvet cake didn't rise as high as the chocolate one) and the other tub made it look pretty.

It was only after I came up with my plan and executed it that I discovered that there is such a thing as a checkerboard cake mold which eliminates the need for all the cutting and assembly.  Oh, well, this was fun and challenging and it came out wonderfully anyway!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Local Grapes

A few days ago I heard from my friend with the grapes that she had plenty and I could come and pick them at any time.  (Thanks!)  I went today, in the rain, and got about 4 and a half pounds of concord grapes which were really sweet.  These got washed, and mashed, and cooked with water to make juice - I have plenty of jelly, so I think I'll just leave it as juice this time.  I even added the pint of concord grapes I picked at the stables and froze.  I think I have about 2 quarts of juice which could probably stand to be diluted a bit as it's rather strong.

In yesterday's farm share I received another half-peck of apples and I made another batch of sauce.  Both my kids are losing teeth right and left so can't eat whole apples right now anyway.  I had hoped this batch would be pink because the skins on the apples were pink but I guess I need a darker red color of apple in order to make a pink sauce.  Either way, the sauce is terrific and I got 2 quarts to add to the pantry.

The other things I'm working on today include a checkerboard cake for the 10 year old's upcoming birthday, and I'm going to roast a chicken for dinner, which has the added bonus of giving me bones with which to make stock.  Not that I'm running low, but my freezer is so full of vegetable scraps I need to do something soon!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Else to do with Nettles?

This is the time of year when, as the weather cools, the nettles start growing again.  Yesterday I picked a bunch of the tops of the plants; after blanching them it was about a cup.  But, other than soup and risotto, what else could I do with them?

Potato-nettle gratin!  I used 2 pounds of potatoes from my farm share and layered them with the nettles, salt and pepper, gruyere cheese and some half-and-half.  The recipe for potato gratin, from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop, calls for heavy cream, but I didn't have any.  Half-and-half never really does the right thing when it's heated, though, but I'm much more likely to have it on hand than cream.  Anyway, this was baked for about an hour at 375 degrees and it was terrific.  The nettles really worked with the nuttiness of the gruyere.  Served with a steak and an arugula and goat cheese salad, it was a perfect autumn side dish.  I will definitely make this again!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Must Be Nuts

But I think we already established that, right?

Last week I washed and hulled a bunch of black walnuts and I left the nuts to dry in the garage while I did other things.  When I thought they were dry enough I gathered them in a small plastic bin and today I shelled them.  Using a vise and a hammer.  Many of them were dried out inside so while I had enough nuts to fill the bin,

I only ended up with half a cup of walnuts that were edible.  These were roasted in the oven at 200 degrees for half an hour.  Then, what to do with them?

All roasted and ready to eat!
Yesterday in the farm share we got another half-peck of apples, mostly Macintoshes again.  I made a chunky sauce this time:  peeled and cubed, with 1 cup of sugar and a cup of water and cooked until it was the right consistency.  I took out one quart and then added the walnuts to what was left.  One quart of that is also in the canner and the rest, about 1.5 cups, will be served tonight with a pork roast.  I do like the flavor, more robust and fresh tasting compared to regular walnuts.  I think it'll go well with the roast, don't you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Last of the Peaches

This morning I asked my husband, "Should I make peach salsa or a pie?"  He looked at me with an expression that said, "Why is this even a question?"

Pie it is.

Look at that nice and flaky crust!
This was the first time I made a peach pie in my life.  In the theme of "everything is better when it's baked in a pie," I just have to say that this was fabulous.  It might even tie apple as my all time favorite pie flavor.  I used my standard pie crust recipe but decreased the salt to 1 teaspoon from 1.5 because the apple pie I made a week or so ago was a little salty.  I sliced 5 cups of peaches and mixed in half a cup of confectioner's sugar, 1/3 cup of flour and half a teaspoon of cinnamon.  I used the same baking times and temperatures as the apple pies:  cover the pie and bake 15 minutes at 425, then 15 minutes at 375, then remove the foil and bake another 30-40 minutes at 375.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Peaches and Walnuts

Over the past few days I've been getting some black walnuts from a tree I found in town.  We picked up a whole bunch of them and it's been hard for me to find some time to get them out of their green husks.  This afternoon I put them in a bucket with some gravel and water and swished them around until most of the husks were removed.  A lot of the work involved my fingernails; my gloves broke and now I have brown stains on my fingertips.  That's OK, it'll wear off eventually.  The nuts are in the garage drying out and then when I'm ready I'll crack them in a vise and hopefully will have enough to do something with.

The other project today was another bunch of peaches in syrup.  I had a little more time and energy so I managed to make 5 quarts.  I only have 7 peaches left from that big half-bushel and I'm contemplating a peach salsa.  Or maybe a pie.  Hard to say which one I'd rather have!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Up to My Elbows in Peaches

And, once again, I'm so happy I waited for the freestone peaches!

This morning, after the kids got on the bus and before I go to work, I put up 3 quarts of peaches.  This year I'm trying the hot pack method as it always looks so sad when I have a quart jar that is only half full of peaches.  They shrink less with the hot pack method.  At least, that's the hope.  They're still in the canner, so I won't know until later.

Instead of using the boiling water bath to get the skins off, these peaches are so large and easy to work with that I sliced them first and then pared off the skins.  It was so much simpler!  I got all the slices into a large bath of water and lemon juice and then heated them in batches in the syrup, and packed them into the jars.  (Note to self:  If the blue bowl is full, that's about 3 quarts.)  I have a little syrup left over so I'll save it for the next batch, which will likely be tomorrow afternoon since I'm getting home late tonight again and have to be at work at 7 am tomorrow.  I have the most erratic schedule for the next few weeks... considering the last 2 nights I got home at 1:30 am... and yes, I am thankful for coffee...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Peaches Tomorrow AND Today!

Well the farm came through and there was a half-bushel of freestone Elberta peaches waiting for me this morning.  I'm very happy!

The first project with them was a batch of peach jam.  My grandmother used to put one maraschino cherry and one whole almond (without the brown skin) into each jar so I do the same.  But isn't it cool that I can use my homemade maraschino cherries!  I now have 8 jars of jam and more in the fridge and the rest of the bushel will go to peaches in syrup.  Maybe some peach salsa if I get tired of peach wedges.

I'd pulled out 4 peaches but only used 3 for the jam (they're huge) so we ate one.  It was so ripe it was practically disintegrating in our mouths.  Yum!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Peaches Tomorrow, Apples Today

All summer I've been waiting to put up peaches.  Last summer I went to the farm closer to me but wasn't happy with the squishiness factor of the B-grade peaches I bought.  I decided to go back to the other farm, which was further away, and also decided to wait for the freestone peaches.  Well, they're in.

That's 4+ quarts of applesauce in my largest pot!
Yesterday morning I called to see if they would have any half-bushel boxes of the freestone peaches.  The farm staff left a message on my phone saying yes, they would, and they expected to have a lot.  So today I was in the area and stopped by at 11:30 am.  Only to find they were sold out!  I put my name in for them to reserve a box for me tomorrow and I'll go back there and get it.  It was a bit of a mob scene there as apple picking had begun and there were literally about a hundred cars.  Tomorrow promises to be no different.

To satisfy my need to can something, anything, today, while I had some time, I made another double batch of applesauce using most of the rest of the ones we picked last weekend and another half-peck of Macintoshes from the farm share.  I made 4 quarts of smooth sauce with white sugar.  This makes a total of 9 quarts so far.  I think I'll devote the rest of the apples I get this fall to making some chunky applesauce for those of us who like it.

And tomorrow, I'll go get some peaches.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Autumn Olives of My Very Own

Again with the collecting things!

Back in June we had gone on a foraging walk one evening and were introduced to autumn olives.  Once I knew what to look for, I was finding them more and more, and just waiting for those little berries to ripen.  In general they should be ripe in October around here, but because of the previously mentioned wonky weather patterns, they are ready now.  The plant at the stables has been rather meager, so I thought I'd just head on over to where those other plants were at the site of our foraging walk.

They were plentiful and sweet and I was prepared!  I collected about 4 cups in a ziploc bag and headed off to my next errand of the day.  It took about an hour to get that many.  I didn't have any more time and I was, at that point, quite done with stripping berries off their branches.  By the time I got home this evening I was rather distressed to learn that I needed 8 cups to make a decent batch of jam.  So I improvised a bit.

The standard Certo recipe for sour cherries is 4 cups of fruit to 2 packages of pectin.  After I simmered the autumn olives in water and ran them through the food mill, I had just over 2 cups.  That'll do!  I mixed those 2 cups of puree with 3 slightly heaping cups of sugar and 1 package of the pectin.  This, following standard techniques, made 4 8-ounce jars of jam and a little bit for tasting.  It tastes really wonderful; tart and like cranberry with a little less bite.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Accumulated Carrots

This morning I made dilled carrots with all the carrots I'd stashed from the farm share - just under 5 pounds.  This hasn't been a banner year for carrots, it seems.  We've gotten tons of onions, peppers, eggplant and squash, but really not a lot of tomatoes, carrots, or beets.  Every year is different.

Also, there has been no dill from the farm, so I had to buy some.  Which meant this batch has dill sprigs and not the flower heads.  It still works just the same.  I used my Korean red pepper this time, and made 4 pints with the red pepper and 1.5 pints without.  (That last half-pint is all the odd sized ends of the carrots, cut into pennies.)  I think 5.5 pints of dilled carrots will be enough for a year, anyway.

It's raining out today so any plans I might have had to do yard work or walk in the woods looking for berries is pretty much out of the question.  We're going to the stables later; maybe if it isn't raining I'll look there.  Last week I came home with a bunch of Concord grapes and a handful of autumn olives - not enough of either to do anything at all.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Elderberries! (I think...)

We just got back from our annual camping trip.  In opting for Labor Day weekend, we ended up camping much later than usual (but got a bonus day out of it!) and, with the weather being what it's been, the foraging was all wonky.

Gone were the blackberries which would have likely been abundant 3-4 weeks ago.  Long gone were the blueberries.  However, there was apple picking and a surprise find of elderberries.

I think they are elderberries.  I looked it up on my phone, confirmed from several different sources that I had elderberries and not water hemlock berries or devil's walking stick berries.  Neither of which is good to eat, but my husband felt that "Devil's Walking Stick Jam" was a great name for a jam.  Sigh.  I even crushed a berry to determine how many seeds were in it.  Everything checked out, so I picked every ripe elderberry I could find.  Don't worry, I left many unripe ones for the animals to eat or for the seeds to propagate or whatever normally happens to elderberries.

Even with all that, I came home with exactly one cup of berries.  The recipes all call for 8 cups, or 3 pounds, or some other crazy amount which was simply unattainable given the shrubs I found.  I pared down the old fashioned (pectin-free) recipe for 1 cup and made exactly one 8-ounce jar of jam.  Which I tasted, being the official taste tester of all things foraged.  It's a complex flavor, and I'm bound to like it because I'm just plain excited that I found something I wasn't expecting simply because I was open to the experience.

I've also made 2 batches of applesauce, which made 5 quarts, and I still have a lot of apples to work through.  I used entirely macintoshes for these batches but the first batch was slightly *ahem* caramelized, which made it a nice color.  The second batch got some cinnamon because it was a really strange green color.

While I have the canner out I'll can the rest of the sauerkraut that finished fermenting last week.  It's been in the fridge; we took some with us on the trip and it went so amazingly well with the Bauernwurst and the Nuremburgwurst we brought.

On the agenda this week:  dilled carrots from all the farm share carrots, an apple pie, maybe more applesauce, and to figure out something to do with all the tomatillos in the farm share.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Potato Leekie Lambie Sheepie Soup

There I was, sitting on a rock at the stables, letting the horse I'd just showered dry and graze in the sun, and I looked down and found a HUGE patch of sheep sorrel!  Yum!

A quick search with my iPhone suggested that I could make a potato sorrel soup and, oh, look!  I have leeks and shallots and garlic from the farm and oh, hey, here's some lamb's quarters instead of spinach!  I can make this soup, from one of the White House chefs!  Only with all farm share or foraged ingredients!  (Well, except for the butter and the spices...)

I picked a big bunch of sheep sorrel and about a cup, maybe a little less, of lamb's quarters leaves.  I grabbed a sprig of what I thought was thyme but turned out to be oregano, so I ended up not using it.  I followed the recipe otherwise exactly and created a yummy soup which I will take in a thermos to work tonight.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chicken of the Tree

I found one!  Hahahahaha!

I've been keeping my eyes out for a chicken mushroom ever since I realized they are edible.  Yesterday, on a walk with some friends, one presented itself.  To be fair, my friend saw it first.  It was way off the path and I was willing to walk through the poison ivy to get to it.  It's a huge one and I only took a little bit.

Since I was working overnight last night I felt that perhaps I should wait until after my shift to try a taste, since it has been known to make lips swell and people feel ill.  I confirmed that I had laetiporus cincinnatus, it was growing at the base of an oak tree and, according to the books, there really isn't anything else that looks like it.  I also brought home some boletes which turned out to be a large Frost's bolete and a couple of others which were equally non-edible, and some milk caps which may or may not have been edible but I wasn't about to try it.

I just got home a few minutes ago, broke off a bit and fried it in oil with a little shallot.  It sure does taste like chicken breast.  Now, what to do with the rest of it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Not Very Zen

Normally when I pick raspberries I zone out a bit.  It's a nice opportunity to be outside in the sun, the plants are tall enough that I can stand, and I spend more time thinking about life than I do about the berries I'm picking.

Yesterday, however, I had to concentrate.

The orb spider with the bee
Apparently there is some new fly that is wreaking havoc on the blueberries and raspberries around here.  So they asked us to take 2 buckets in to the fields, one for good berries and one for bad ones.  They want to get the bad ones out of the field.  That meant that every single berry had to be checked.  What normally would have taken us an hour took two, and I didn't get to zone out and ponder the greater mysteries of the world.  It is also early in the season so the berries that were ripe weren't as plentiful.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  It is wonderful to have organic raspberries to pick so close to my house.  It's just that the experience was different.

We did find an orb spider which had trapped a honey bee in its web.  I felt bad for the bee.  When we first found it, the bee was trying to free itself, and the spider was just hanging out in the middle of the web.  When we checked on it on the way out, the spider was still in the middle of the web but now it had the bee in its legs and was starting very slowly to wrap it up.  The kids and I watched that for a while.  We also saw a good sized garter snake.

The raspberry farm has been expanding lately; they used to just grow the berries but now they have some other produce and some chickens.  Who get fed a lot of overripe raspberries - the kids took our "bad berry bucket" out and gave them to the chickens.  They are beautiful, healthy looking birds who will eat out of one's hand.  And they sell eggs at their stand!  I'd still prefer to barter with someone for eggs, but this'll do.

Since it took longer than usual to get the berries, I didn't have time to make the batch of seedless raspberry jam I'd intended to make before I had to leave for work.  So I got out the food mill and ran the berries through until I got 4 cups of raspberry juice and puree and let the kids eat what was left of the berries, which wasn't much.  The puree was put in the fridge until I got home from work last night.  At 10 pm I made 8+ cups of seedless raspberry jelly following the Certo recipe.  I'm still using up all my stores of Certo in my effort to switch from liquid to powdered pectin.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What's that Smell?

Every joke about kimchi smelling bad while it ferments is absolutely....true.  We'd be sitting at the desk in the kitchen and, all of the sudden, a bit of foul air would waft over and we'd think, "Ugh!  What IS that?"  And then we'd realize it was the kimchi.  I can totally understand why traditionally it was fermented in the ground, far away from the house.  But while it smells bad, it tastes great!  (Provided you like that sort of thing.)

The recipe had said it would be ready in 3-6 days, but it also said it should be kept at 68 degrees the whole time.  That just wasn't possible in our house, so I figured it was a good bet that it'd be done by 3 days.  I tasted it this morning and it was perfect.  Even a little teeny bit crunchy.  I washed off the jar, since a lot of the brine had flowed out during the fermentation, put the lid on and tucked it in the fridge. Now I can have it whenever I want!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How Did You Make Vegetables Taste So Good?

Tonight, I made ratatouille.  It was fabulous.

My husband felt the need to re-enact the facial expressions of the restaurant critic in Ratatouille, and when that first bite went into his mouth, he legitimately made that happy face.  It was that good.

Overwhelmed by the veggies in the farm share, I used 2 summer squash, 2 zucchini, 3 eggplants, 3 onions, and all the plum tomatoes plus two from my garden to make it.  I followed Julia Child's recipe with only a few modifications:  leaving out the green peppers (used up in the pepper relish), frying the eggplant but not the squashes, and adding a can of tomatoes in thick puree because I needed more tomatoes.  I even laid out the veggies one by one, like in the movie.  This is one of those times when the vegetable dish looks as good as it tastes.

Everyone who ate it had 2 helpings, and that includes my parents and the 10 year old.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Spicy and Sweet

This morning I braved that Korean supermegamarket for the red pepper I needed to make my kimchi.  I needed four things when I went in there:  ginger, scallions, onions, and the red pepper powder.  I came out with four bags of groceries, and considered myself lucky!

For the kimchi, the cabbage was soaked in a brine last night and drained today, reserving the brine.  Then I mixed the cabbage with minced garlic, slivered scallions, a little sugar and salt, and the red pepper powder.  This was packed into a half-gallon jar and the brine poured over it, with the rest of the brine in a bag stuffed in the top.  Set aside to ferment, it claims it'll be ready in 3-6 days.

This afternoon I got to work on all those peppers.  I made a full batch of sweet pepper relish from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving, but used light green and dark green peppers rather than red and green.  Sadly, when they cook the greens converge into one dull olive color, much less festive than the last batch.  At the same time I made a half batch in which I threw all the hot peppers from the farm:  jalapeños, one tiny poblano, and 5 long evil-looking peppers which I think might be Thai hot peppers.  The final result is 3 pints of the sweet pepper relish and 3 cups of the spicy one, with 2 of those jars being the little 4 ounce ones which adds to my gift stash.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vegetable Overload

This week I got the full farm share because my brother and his family are away.  It's a little crazy how much food there is, and I didn't even get all the things in the fields!  I came home with:  a watermelon, a head of cabbage, 10 peppers, 3 eggplants, 4 summer squash, 2 pounds of potatoes, 5 onions, some kale, mustard greens, radishes, a head of red lettuce, 1 broccoli crown, 10 hot peppers, 1 pint of plum tomatoes, 1 pint of sungold cherry tomatoes, 1 striped german heirloom tomato, and a huge bunch of flowers (36 stems, I could have picked 60!).  There were supposed to be tomatillos or husk cherries but they were both pretty picked out, and I skipped the herbs.  The only disappointment was the watermelon, which wasn't ripe.  It seemed ripe when I chose it.  How does one know if it isn't?

After getting everything home and washing it all, I started another batch of sauerkraut using the same recipe as before.  I had 2 heads of cabbage (one from last week) totaling 6 pounds of cabbage.  I picked the larger one to make the sauerkraut and I'll use the smaller one to make kimchi.  Since I don't like caraway, I thought maybe I'd add some garlic to this batch so used the mandolin to slice 2 cloves of garlic paper-thin and added that to the cabbage and salt.  Later tonight I'll start the kimchi and tomorrow the spices get mixed in.

Since I seem to be up to my eyeballs in peppers, I will use the pepper relish recipe in The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving and add the hot peppers, so it'll be spicy.  I still have some of that sweet pepper relish left; this will be a nice contrast.  Maybe I can do that tomorrow after dinner.  I think I'll make eggplant parmesan and a big salad tomorrow night.

Coming up soon are peaches (I'm finally waiting for the freestone kind) and raspberries which, like everything else this year, are early.  

Friday, August 10, 2012


Yesterday in the farm share there were lots of little beets.  I always like to make pickled beets; usually I give half a batch to my mother-in-law since I know how much she likes them.  Pickled beets and eggs are now always on the Thanksgiving table, an addition to the sides with which I grew up, thanks to her.  So it's good to get those beets made every year.

Before we went on vacation I'd gotten a few beets; they were large enough that they would have to be cut in half.  But yesterday there was a whole basket of these little ones, about 1-2 inches in diameter, and it was part of the mix and match so I could take a lot.  I got enough that, when added to the ones in the fridge, I was able to make 3 quarts of pickled beets.

If you're using The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, just know that you need to double the liquid in the recipe.  I never have enough!  The other glitch was that I had to leave the house by a certain time, so I had to turn the canner off and run out the door and hope for the best.  It all seems to have worked out fine.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Two weeks ago I brought home 2 heads of cabbage from the farm share.  I had been thinking about trying to make sauerkraut and, if it worked, I might try kimchee in the future.  (I love kimchee.  It's probably my favorite part of Korean cuisine.)  But fermentation always seemed a little scary to me.  I know, I made fermented pickles before, and beer, but still it is intimidating.  This, however, went off without a hitch.

I used the recipe for "Wine Kraut" in The Joy of Pickling and a total of 3 pounds of cabbage.  I also left out the caraway seeds since I don't like them.  The entire recipe, therefore, was cabbage, salt, and white wine.  And it's been just doing its thing for 2 weeks, with no issues about scum or mold or any of the other potential pitfalls.

Halfway through the fermentation process, a Russian friend had a taste and proclaimed it very good.  That's reassuring, he has experience with fermenting food and knows what he's talking about.  He noted that basically, it's just a way of dealing with your food going bad, as in, "It's... fermented!  Yeah, that's it.  It's still good."

Today I processed it in the boiling water canner:  6 half-pint jars for 20 minutes and then I let them rest for 5 in the canner before I removed them.  There was a little leftover which I had for a snack.  I've never been much of a fan of store-bought sauerkraut.  This was light-years away.  Fabulous!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Green Tomato Ketchup

Now that I had 15 green tomatoes from the farm share, what was I to do with them?  I still have piccalilli and green tomato chutney from the last time and, while I like the green tomato chutney a lot, I just don't use that much chutney.  But there was this other recipe for green tomato ketchup and it seemed interesting and easy.

Well, easy is a relative term.  The steps were simple enough, but labor intensive.  And I made it harder on myself by making a terrible mess!  Note to self:  don't fill the blender more than halfway if you are blending something hot, and hold the lid on TIGHT.  Yeah, you can imagine what happened today in my kitchen.

Even after starting with slightly fewer tomatoes than the recipe required, and adjusting the ingredients accordingly, I ended up with more than the recipe said I should get - 6.5 pints, rather than 6, when I should have had about 5.5.  Not sure what happened there except maybe since I used the food mill instead of a wire strainer I got more liquid?  I am a little worried that I made runny ketchup so I hope that it gets thicker when it cools.

My husband thinks it looks like some sort of witch's potion.  Especially when it was bubbling slowly on the stove.  It does taste good and it was a good way to finish up my local honey which had crystallized and was no longer pourable. 

My Amazing Neighbor

We were invited to our neighbor's house yesterday to break bread.

This was no ordinary bread.  He had been planting rye grass in his yard and then got to wondering what would happen if he let it grow and harvested it?  Well, he let the whole yard grow and then, recently, harvested it with a scythe.  Then he threshed it.  And winnowed it.  And ground it.  And made bread.

It is (and was) a work of art!  I can't even begin to tell you how good it is.

In return, we brought some of the apricot ginger mulberry jam which not only tasted fabulous on the bread, the mulberry tree is across the street from his house.  Talk about eating local!

Friday, August 3, 2012


Yesterday at the farm share I was sad to discover that they have again been hit by tomato blight.  There was a huge pile of green tomatoes and a little blackboard with info about the blight.  Basically, there won't be any more tomatoes from the farm and if we have tomatoes at home we should not go near them until we'd changed clothes and showered.  I haven't seen any sign of it on my tomatoes at home, but I haven't really been around much to fuss over them.  That's probably for the best anyway.

The other night, to use up some of last week's share, I made a puttanesca sauce a la Lemony Snicket.  I sort of threw everything I could think of into it:  eggplant, bell pepper, arugula, garlic scapes, peas, every single milkweed caper I made, and a jar of sauce.  It came out quite tasty although I think, were I to do it again, I'd skip the peas.

Since this was the first week we were splitting the share, I have a more manageable amount of veggies.  I came home with lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, tat soi, summer squash, bell pepper, potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, cucumbers, parsley, and a little more winter savory (to dry).  We had a big salad of the greens (minus the tat soi, that's for today) with bell pepper, cucumber, raw corn, and the cold leftover roasted onions from a dish I made earlier in the week.  The onions drizzled with balsamic vinegar were just wonderful!

I have an overnight shift tonight so I'm not too excited about doing any major projects today, but hopefully before the weekend is out I'll make either green tomato ketchup or chutney or both, depending on how many tomatoes I have.  I think tonight for dinner I'll make an arugula risotto and fry up the squash and tat soi.  That will at least finish up the rapidly perishable items.  I still have kohlrabi and beets from before we left, 1 eggplant and 2 bell peppers from last week's share, and the rest of yesterday's to work through.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Preserved Garlic

It would appear that I have made garlic candy.

I'd found a recipe for preserved garlic on one of the blogs I follow, and had thought it sounded really good so I wanted to try it.  Yesterday at the farm there was "hardneck" garlic, and lots of it.  I grabbed 14 heads as it was part of the mix and match so you could take as much as you wanted as long as it fit in 2 big bowls.  I should have gotten a few more, as I only ended up with 4 cups of cloves, not 5.  Silly me, thinking 14 heads of garlic was sufficient!

After laboriously peeling all the cloves, I sent my husband to 3 different grocery stores to find sherry vinegar while I cooked the cloves in the olive oil and salt and then caramelized them with the sugar.  The addition of the vinegar deglazed the pan and made everything smell so rich and complex.  After I put up 3 half-pints of the garlic I scraped some of the sugary residue off the pan.  Garlic candy indeed!

In addition to this project, I made some tabouli salad and started a basic sauerkraut using a recipe for "Wine Kraut" from The Joy of Pickling.  It's fermenting, I hope.  Tomorrow I add some wine.  And then I wait.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Canning in Brasil

A fraction of Iguacu Falls
We just got back from vacation.  Today.  After 24 hours of travel.  We spent the past 2 weeks in Brasil, partly on our own and partly visiting my friends who go home every summer to be with their family.  It was:  lovely, foreign, chaotic, hot sometimes, cold sometimes, wet sometimes, friendly, loud and wonderful.  We spent 4 nights in Rio de Janeiro, 3 nights at Iguacu Falls, and 7 nights with our friends in small places that aren't even in the travel guides.  In that week we rented a car and drove on some roads that really shouldn't have little tiny VWs on them.  They require trucks with 4 wheel drive.  But, somehow, I managed to stay on those roads, over the rickety bridges of death, to see some beautiful farmland, fauna in the form of livestock, rheas, macaws, vultures, toucans, an owl, and other birds, and meet even more of our friends' extended family.

Cooking with Wilma
While hanging out with our friends, I gave the matriarch some homemade jams and jellies I'd lugged across Brasil which, miraculously, didn't break.  I made sure to bring things they don't have there:  violet jelly, wild blueberry jam, and the apricot-ginger-mulberry jam.  I brought 2 others for my friend's sister, who hosted us for 4 of the 7 nights - black locust flower jelly and strawberry margarita jam.  In return, I acquired a jar of very spicy peppers preserved in oil and a lesson in making doces (sweets) - including papaya-pineapple jam (Mamao-abacaxi, if you speak Portuguese.  I made some improvements in my language skills, but it still comes out more like Spanish).  Overall, the food was very tasty and the coffee was fabulous.

Wilma, one of many cousins I met, taught me to make 2 doces:  the mamao-abacaxi jam and a pineapple-coconut sweet.  The latter involves cooking fresh pineapple cubes with sugar, water, clove, cinnamon and shredded coconut in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes then letting it cool and boiling it some more just on the stove.  The former required 1 pineapple and 1 slightly firm papaya, they were shredded into a pot and 400 g of sugar were added.  This was cooked and cooked and cooked until it cooked down and became jam-like in consistency; clove and cinnamon were added at the last minute.  Then we put them in jars.  In general, they don't really do the whole boiling-water canner thing.  They put their sweets in recycled jars, and just flip them over and let them seal (or hope that they do).  The reason I didn't come home with a jar of the pineapple and coconut sweet was that the jar didn't seal.  Which is a bummer.  That was good.  There's another doce I like, it's pumpkin and coconut and you wouldn't think it would work, would you.  It totally does.  I did not learn how to make it, but I might try to figure it out.

I double-ziplocked the jars I did bring home, which was a good thing, because the peppers did leak a little, but I think they will be ok.  You can smell how hot they are when the closed jar is well over an inch from your nose!  The jars made it without breaking, well padded by clothes and paper towels.

Today we got off the plane, my father picked us up and brought us home, where my mother had very kindly gotten the house in order and made us a lasagna.  What a great re-introduction to reality!  It had been a long, long, series of flights and we were tired.  (Boston to Miami to Rio, then Rio to Foz do Iguacu, then Foz do Iguacu to Sao Paulo to Sao Jose do Rio Preto, then Sao Jose do Rio Preto to Sao Paulo to New York to Boston, with a 5 hour layover in NY.)  Then I dropped everything and went to the farm to pick up the share.  Between that and a few things in my own pots, I had the makings of a very fresh salad:  lettuce, arugula, cucumber, peas (they were from my pots, and a little old, but they were all we were going to get from those plants), bell pepper, strawberries and nasturtium flowers.  There's more to the farm share, but I'm hoping to have some posts on that in the next few days.

Brasil was wonderful, but it's good to be home, too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blueberry Jam

Everyone has been saying that since the weather has been so weird the blueberries would be ready early.  Today we tested that theory by heading out to our favorite wild blueberry spot to pick a bunch for jam and yes, "everyone" was right.  We got there around 10 am and were done around 12:30 (we could have picked more berries but the heat was doing us in!).  We even ran into the same Ukranian gentleman we ran into last year, at basically the same location.  All told, the 3 of us got just about 2 quarts of berries and even picked a few of what we think are huckleberries (we kept those separate for the purposes of jam-making).  Just enough to make a batch of jam, freeze a cup, and have a few to eat.

I'm not really clear on huckleberries.  What I recall is a pinky red berry that grows in the Pacific Northwest, that is called a huckleberry.  What seems to pass for huckleberries on the east coast are blue, look a bit like blueberries, but are seedier.  And not as sweet.  We're still not convinced.

Regardless, I now have 9 cups of very very tasty wild blueberry jam.  And I think that'll be it for the blueberries for another year.  Well, the at least the wild ones.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Working Through the Greens

This morning for breakfast I made cilantro pesto again (cilantro, lime juice, pecans, parmesan cheese, and olive oil) and had it on a soft boiled egg.  That was pretty yummy!

I then put together another tabouli salad - cucumber, garlic scapes, flat parsley, tomato and bulgur wheat.  This time I have coarse bulgur rather than fine, and it's amazing to me how much it changes the whole salad.  It looks much more like store bought tabouli (although I think it tastes much much better...).

Still have a lot of greens to go...I might end up blanching and freezing them if I don't get to them all in a reasonable amount of time!

Farm Share Stir Fry

It was my turn to go to the farm today to pick up the share and, well, I'm just overwhelmed with greens!

Here's the tally: 1 head of lettuce, 1 bowl spinach, 2 kohlrabi, 1 head bok choi, 4 squashes, 3 cucumbers, 6 beets with their greens, swiss chard, 1 bunch each of parsley and cilantro, 2 quarts of snap peas, 30 pods of fava beans and a quart of snow peas.  I was supposed to get other herbs and 15 flowers but it just seemed like too much.  Oh, and I got almost half a cup of mallow peas.

After extracting the mallow whites from the mallow peas, I made a salad and a stir fry for dinner.  The salad was the lettuce, some of the spinach, peas (the snow peas were older, so I just shucked out the peas as if they were shell peas) and cucumber.  To make the stir fry I marinated sliced beef in soy sauce with cornstarch, ginger and white pepper.  When I was ready, I fried it in the wok until it was just starting to get done and the sauce was thickening.  Then the vegetables were added:  garlic scapes, red pepper, snap peas, the boiled mallow peas and 2 of the squashes.  This was cooked for a few minutes until everything was tender and served over soba noodles.

In addition, I marinated the fava beans with chopped garlic scapes, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  That's for tomorrow.  After dinner, I made another batch of those mallow forgotten cookies, also for tomorrow.

This leaves me with:  bok choi, spinach, chard, beet greens, beets, kohlrabi, more snap peas, a cucumber, parsley, cilantro, and leftover salad.  We have a lot to cook/eat in the next few days!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Not a Banner Year

For mulberries, at least.  Not sure why, but every mulberry tree I've encountered this year has smaller, less numerous berries that are having ripening issues.  After not being at the tree for well over a week, this is all I got!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wild Edibles Walk

Last night we went for a walk.

There was a wild edibles guided walk at an organic farm nearby and we braved the risk of thunderstorms to go.  The storms held off.  Our guide, Russ Cohen, was knowledgeable and experienced in foraging.  We learned about several new (to us) plants and got a refresher on a few others.

The talk covered Asiatic Day Lily buds, cleaver plants, evening primrose, pokeweed and when not to eat it (which is most of the time), field mustard, sumac, black walnuts, autumn olives, milkweed, field garlic, blueberries and huckleberries, husk cherries, black locust flowers, acorns, jewelweed, wild lettuce, sweet fern, black raspberries, sheep sorrel, wood sorrel, and a few other things.  I hope my husband was taking notes.

Sheep Sorrel
I'm pretty fired up about autumn olives after eating a fruit leather he made from them.  We have permission to go back to the farm when it is open to harvest any of the "weeds" we want, so I think there will be a trip out there in our future...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Jambalaya" and Other Things

The freezer was getting rather full so I decided to use a few things to make some room.  I found some frozen chicken andouille sausages and created a jambalaya of sorts.  I browned some diced onion and celery and then added the napa cabbage from the farm share.  Once this was all fried a bit, with salt and pepper, I added 1 can of tomatoes in thick puree, 1 pint of my homemade tomato sauce, bay leaves, thyme, a bag of frozen okra, and the sausages.  After simmering for an hour, I chopped up the sausages and put them back in the pot, with a cup of rice.  This cooked for another 45 minutes and it was excellent.  That, plus a salad of snap peas, lettuce and arugula, has almost used up the farm share.

After dinner, I made a batch of vegetable stock.  I have a one gallon bag in the freezer for veggie scraps and I boiled them for an hour in 10 pints of water with peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt.  After 30 minutes in the pressure canner, there are now 10 more pints of stock - I've decided I like using vegetable stock for risotto.  It's rich without being heavy.

Oh, and we did a taste test on the capers.  Not as strongly flavored as store bought capers, and the texture is a little bit more delicate as well.  But they are tasty and will certainly be put to good use.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Forgotten Mallow Cookies

All those mallow peas I found at the farm share Thursday were put to good use yesterday.  I boiled them, following the instructions in Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas:  for each ounce of mallow peas, 3 ounces of water.  I had 2 ounces, give or take.  This resulted in a very small amount of mucilaginous liquid.  Once cooled, I made a meringue of sorts.  The boiled mallow peas were added to a stir fry I made for dinner from some tofu and more of the farm share veggies:  bok choi, snow peas, scallions, and arugula, served over udon noodles.

In his book, he says he found he needed to use one egg white to start the process of making mallow meringue, so I did the same.  I beat one egg white to the soft peak stage, added 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar and then started adding the mallow liquid ("whites," he calls them) and 2/3 c. sugar for the cookies.  Once this was beaten to the stiff peak stage, I added a teaspoon of vanilla and some chocolate chips.  This was then dropped by the spoonful onto parchment paper and placed in a 350 degree oven, and the oven was turned off.  Overnight, they became cookies!  Mallow cookies!  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crazy Hot Day at the Farm

Yesterday it was, in New England parlance, a "scorchah!"  At one point the exterior thermometer on my car registered 105.  And I stood in the hot sun at the farm and picked peas and strawberries.  It was grueling.  But, as always, worth it!

The share consisted of: 2 heads of lettuce, 1 bowl of arugula, 1 head of bok choi, 1 head of napa cabbage, 5 garlic scapes, 6 scallions, 1 pint strawberries, 1 pint snow peas, 1 quart snap peas, 1 quart shell peas, and herbs (I took another bunch of cilantro).  As a little bonus the mallow peas were plentiful and I picked about 1/4 cup.  I'm not sure what I'm doing with them yet, but I have them.  I kept all the veggies in the car with me so the air conditioning could keep them fresh(er) in that awful heat.

Dinner last night was a strawberry soup, made with mascarpone, mango juice, and honey, with a cilantro pesto on toast and a salad of arugula, lettuce and freshly shelled peas.  It was way too hot to cook and, on days like that, a cold meal is often best.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Update on the Capers

A couple of blog members have asked after the capers.  Just this morning I made the vinegar solution with white wine vinegar, thyme, sugar, water, and bay, and the capers are now resting in the fridge for a minimum of 3 days.  After that, I'll do a little taste test and compare them to store bought capers!

I also went and got a little more than a cup of mulberries to make a mulberry lime compote for the panna cotta I made for dessert today.  I think this is not going to be a stellar year for the mulberry tree; there are lots of berries but they seem to not be as large or ripening as evenly as previous years.  That's OK, it's not like we don't have a lot of jam in the house...

The other thing I did today was gather garlic mustard seeds.  I got a paper bag and some of the driest stalks of garlic mustard I could find, and let the seed pods shake around in the bag for a while.  I shucked the rest when I got home, and set aside about 2 T. of seeds.  While I'm not sure what I'll do with them, I think they might be an interesting addition to a pickle.  Any thoughts?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Capers Caper

It so happens that I am solo this weekend, so I took the car in to get the tires rotated and brought the bike along.  There is a narrow gauge rail trail near the tire dealership which has a lot of geocaches on it (Yes, I'm one of those people) so I thought I'd do something productive while I waited.  I have never seen so much poison ivy in my life.  But I did also see milkweed plants with buds and I remembered seeing this recipe for milkweed bud capers.  Why not?

I grabbed 3 clusters of buds, tucked them in the pannier, and biked away.

Now that I'm home, I can start the process.  The first step is to brine the buds for 3 days:
Incidentally, I did find 7 geocaches before the car was ready.  One of them took me a very long time and involved a LOT of poison ivy.  I think I might have some on my ankle....