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....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Remember how I learned how to make sausages a few years back?  I'd purchased the lesson in an auction to benefit our school system.  Well, it was time for me to return the favor.  For our PTO silent auction, I volunteered a canning lesson.  It was purchased by another parent in town and, today, we got together to make a batch of jam.

She'd requested low sugar jam so today was my first experience with the low sugar Sure-Jell.  Let me just say it worked terrifically!  The plan had been strawberry jam (I picked some yesterday up at the pick your own place in preparation) but we ran out so topped off the required 6 cups of fruit with some apricots.  While this was all being prepared (and it went off without a hitch) we discussed boiling water vs. pressure canning, pickles, tomatoes, various recipes, and being creative within the basic rules.

After my student left with her flat of very tasty and wonderfully fragrant strawberry apricot jam, I made a creative batch of my own.  I'd noticed that the mulberry tree around the corner was getting ripe, so I went out at 5:30 am (yes, you read that right) to pick some.  In the rain.  Why, yes, I am crazy.  I got about a pint.  I found that there are fewer cars then, therefore, fewer gawkers.  I found more hanging over my car at the grocery store, an they were larger and sweeter, and I got about a half-pint of those.  These (crushed), plus 5 apricots, and 2 T. minced fresh ginger went into a pot, with 1/3 c. lemon juice, 5.75 cups sugar, and 2 packages of Certo.  I'm not messing around with the Certo anymore.  I'm going to continue to double up until it's gone.

I now have 7.5 cups of Ginger Apricot Mulberry Jam.

Strawberry Margaritas, Take Two

The strawberry margarita jam didn't set, even after a few days.  I'm getting a little tired of this; it only seems to happen with the liquid pectin.  Maybe I should move to powdered pectin and move on.  Regardless, I opened all the jars today and put 7.5 cups of jam in a pot.  I brought it to a boil, added 22.5 T. sugar (3 T. per cup of jam), some more lime juice, and another package of Certo.  This boiled for the requisite one minute and yielded 8.5 cups of jam (Magic?  No, it's just the extra sugar...)

This batch will set, I know this from playing with the jam in the pot - it set on the spoon, on the sides of the pot, and in a little bit I put in the fridge.  It hasn't lost its margarita-y-ness, either.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

Sorry, no pictures.  We inhaled it.  Yes, it's that good.

Here's the recipe:  2 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp. salt,  and 2 T. sugar, sifted together.  Add 1.5 cups heavy cream, mix and press lightly into an 8 inch ungreased square pan and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Top with whipped cream and strawberries mixed with sugar (to make a light syrup).

Fun fact for the day:  if you leave heavy cream in the fridge for a while, say, a week, the fat settles out and makes... butter!  How awesome is that?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

There's a Strawberry Festival at My House!

Looking ahead at my schedule for the next few weeks, it actually made sense to drag everyone out of bed at 6:30 this morning to go strawberry picking.  The farm I usually frequent had a notice on their website that because it was so crowded yesterday, they expected to be picked out by mid-morning.  I insisted we leave earlier than originally planned.

And, then, we waited in a line of cars (we were third, but only because the people in front of us lost their place when they decided they could maybe go when the two cars in front of them were waiting.  Hah.) and hurried to the fields, where the picking was...glorious!  We netted 13+ pounds of berries, which is about 9 quarts, in about 25 minutes.  We visited the goats, chickens and rabbits, ate strawberry donuts (which were still warm, mmmm) and drove home.  All before 9 am, and in lovely 70-ish degree weather.

Since then, I have made a batch of strawberry jam (8 half-pints), strawberry margarita jam (8 half-pints), a double batch of strawberry lemonade concentrate (5 quarts), a strawberry rhubarb pie, 2 blueberry tarts with the leftover pie crust, mac and cheese for lunch, and I am soaking rice and marinating meat for dinner. Plus a quart and a bit of berries for eating and another quart washed, sliced, and mixed with sugar for tomorrow, when I make shortcake.  All that, and I had to wait for my husband to get back from the grocery store with more sugar, lemon juice, limes, and other key ingredients.  (He went by bike, and even after putting all the groceries in his panniers, the bread was unscathed.  Maybe I will try to bike in the future.)

In the past, I'd had trouble with the strawberry jam setting up.  I think some of it had to do with jar size and maybe also the type of pectin I use.  Today I tried the powdered pectin rather than the liquid, just for this batch.  It did set up, so that is reassuring.  The strawberry margarita jam isn't setting as quickly, but I think the alcohol in it slows things down.  It did work last year....

Huh.  For a day that was supposed to be the day we did nothing, we sure are doing a lot!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Season of Good Salads

The farm is back!  Today was the first pick up day for the CSA and I have been so excited waiting for it.  Since I started getting a farm share, I've gotten so picky about vegetables that we almost never have salad any other time of the year.

Today's share was:  1 bowl of arugula, 1 bunch of Hakurei turnips, 20 garlic scapes, 1 pint of strawberries and bunches of herbs.  (For that last one, I picked a bunch of cilantro.  The other options were dill and oregano and I didn't see myself using any of them in the near future.)  As an added bonus, we (the 10 year old and I) found mallow peas lurking at the end of the row of cilantro.  We picked as many of those as we could find.  Even with spending a lot of time picking strawberries, buying honey and honey sticks, and wandering all over trying to find the herbs, we managed to get out of there just as the thunder started to sound.

Generally, in the beginning of the season, we get through most of the share in one meal; today was no exception.  We had a salad of arugula, turnips, mallow peas, cilantro, strawberries, and goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar:
 The rest of the arugula was blanched and used in a risotto, which incorporated the last of the goat cheese (instead of the mascarpone the recipe calls for) and some parmesan in addition to 2 pints of vegetable stock.  I also used garlic scapes instead of shallots.  Served with a steak and some red wine, it was simple and wonderful.
I love the farm.

Friday, June 1, 2012


There are a lot of really great blogs out there, with some incredible recipes.  I was inspired by Hunter Angler Gardener Cook to make a panna cotta and fruit compote for it.  I was also interested in trying to recreate a coconut milk based seafood stew I had in a restaurant, and found this recipe, which I altered slightly and came up with a really terrific dinner.  Here's what I did:

For the panna cotta, I made half the recipe since I only had four ramekins.  This set up in the fridge while I prepped for dinner.  [2 cups heavy cream, 1/4 cup sugar, heated in the microwave until very warm.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla.  Mix 1 packet unflavored gelatin with 3 T. cold water, pour the hot cream over it and stir.  Chill in oiled ramekins for at least 2 hours.]  The compote was blackberries and blueberries mixed with 4 T. lime juice, 1/3 cup of sugar, and simmered for 15 minutes (based on Hank Shaw's mulberry key lime compote).  Then I added the cornstarch and cooked it 5 minutes more and let it cool.

To make the stew, I started with the chowder recipe but changed the fish and added rice noodles.  Before I ran a few errands I chopped 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 3 carrots, 1 onion, and some garlic, and set it aside.  I had bought half a pound each of swordfish, scallops and squid and a pound of little necks.  I cut the scallops in half, chopped the squid and swordfish and cleaned the little necks and set everything aside.  To the sauteed vegetables and spices I added 1 pint of lobster stock, 1 pint of light cream, and 1 can of coconut milk.  I did not add the tomato paste because the lobster stock had been made with a tomato base.  Once I got everything simmering, I added all the seafood except the little necks and simmered for 5 minutes.  Then I added the little necks and a package of rice noodles and simmered for 12 minutes until the little necks opened.  It tasted amazing and, because the noodles absorbed a lot of liquid, became more of a stew than a chowder.  Garnished with parsley and cilantro, it was a very filling meal.

 Getting the panna cotta out of the ramekins was a little challenging but I finally got the hang of it.  A little compote spooned around it and some garnish, and voila!  Perfection.