Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Venison Confit

Over Thanksgiving I received a gift of a couple of venison roasts from my brother-in-law, who works in northeast Ohio with a guy who hunts.  The roasts came from that coworker (thank you!) and my brother-in-law thought I would appreciate them.  I had decided that I would prepare one as a confit, using all the rendered duck fat I had left.  Today I set up the slow cooker with 7 cups of duck fat and a 3 pound roast.  I had to slice up the roast so that it would fit in the cooker and be submerged by the fat.  I let it cook all day and it was very good - moist and rich tasting.  As side dishes, I made a risotto with nettles and some of those suillus mushrooms, and sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic and cayenne pepper.

Happy New Year to all of us!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Notes on a Busy Week

The holiday distribution of all the canned goods has begun, and I've managed to get a few packages in the mail today as well.  I have one more package to finish and mail, and a few more to deliver, and I need to finish up the gifts for my work colleagues - I'm making a very large basket of foods for the nurses:  jams, salsa and chips, caponata and chips, coffee K-cups, chocolates, fruit, cheese and crackers.  Then I can distribute the neighborhood gifts, which I hope to do this weekend (it usually takes several trips).

As I've been working my way through the freezer I found a can of lobster meat, purchased when it was mismarked for $10 (usually it's much, much more!  I'd bought a few and this was the last one).  I decided to make lobster mac and cheese, which was lovely, and made not only dinner for Monday but lunch for yesterday and more for today.  

Today I'm making a batch of yogurt, which I'm hoping will go well.  It's been the case in the past that I have had to use a new starter yogurt after several batches.  Since I haven't had to do that in a while, every single time I wonder, will this be the time it doesn't grow?

I have about 36 jars going to work, and another 31 for friends and neighbors, and I keep adding to my list!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

NOW it's Ready

That gift list grows and grows as I remember more people I wanted to send treats to!

This morning I made another batch of cranberry-rhubarb compote, but on Roxanne's advice I added 3/8 tsp. of the crushed ghost peppers which gave it an excellent kick.  This yielded 9 cups and a single 4-oz. jar.  Now I can start making up some care packages to pop in the mail, and get the rest of the stash delivered.  Once I get some bows or ribbon or something!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Chocolate Sweet Potato Pie

Wow, it was awesome!

The only change I'd make is to add an extra ounce of chocolate chips into the sweet potato mix and leave them off the top.  I decided I didn't like the texture of the chips with the smooth pie filling.  Oh, and maple candied bacon just rocks.

You know how you taste something once and then spend forever trying to recreate it or find it again?  We've had this discussion before about bread and butter pickles but I also had this problem with chocolate sweet potato pie.  Many years ago we used to frequent a restaurant in Cambridge called Magnolias.  The food was always so good.  We went there so much that the waiters and the owners knew us.  Anyway, once they served this pie, with Chantilly whipped cream.  It was amazing.  We never caught it on the menu again, and it became one of those legendary foods for me.  I think with this recipe I might have finally succeeded.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Venison Meatballs

Yesterday I found this recipe for venison meatballs on Hank Shaw's website and I recalled that I had ground venison in the freezer.  I went to the butcher but was unable to get caul fat.  I did get uncured pancetta which was sliced very thinly which I used to wrap the meatballs.  I did have to make several other changes to the recipe:  I didn't have extra bacon or deer liver, so I just used 1.75 pounds of ground venison; I used turkey stock rather than beef stock because that was the richest stock I had, and I made gravy with the braising liquid/drippings and added sauteed hen of the woods mushrooms.

They were so good, the 13 year old asked if I could make them every single day!  (Sadly, even though the 9 year old helped me make them, they weren't a favorite.  At least 3/4 of us liked them.  Loved them, actually.)  And they were filling.  The recipe made 6 meatballs and we have one and a half left.  

Pie Crazy!

Tomorrow is the long anticipated family gathering and I've spent the last few days planning, wrapping, and baking.  Here's the finished products:
Apple, Pecan, and Chocolate Sweet Potato
The chocolate sweet potato pie came from this recipe but instead of using chocolate shavings, I mixed 2 oz of chocolate chips with the mashed sweet potatoes and then sprinkled mini chocolate chips on the top just before baking.  The pecan pie recipe came from here.  The maple candied bacon was made in 2 batches and crumbled so it will be ready to sprinkle on top.  I had a little, it was all I could do to not eat the whole thing.

After all the pies were made, I had enough leftover crust for 3 strawberry-rhubarb tarts (one was my breakfast...).

Later this afternoon, I will be trying to make venison meatballs for dinner.  Hopefully, yum!  I ended up buying uncured pancetta since the meat counter staff had never even heard of caul fat.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quick Batch of Turkey Stock

After dinner on Thanksgiving, I separated all the meat off the turkey bones before I put the bones away.  If I don't do that right away, it's so much harder to make stock when I want to.   Yesterday I took the bones and simmered them with celery, carrots, and some onion skins, plus salt, pepper and bay.  The stock was then put in the fridge until this morning so I could skim off the fat before canning.  Ultimately I had 10 pints of stock that I pressure canned for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  Now, the next time we have ducks, I can make turducken soup again!

Also this morning, I started a batch of yogurt.  When I get home from work around 3 am I will get that in the fridge as well.

In 6 days my extended family will be having our Thanksgiving/Birthday/Christmas celebration so, later in the week, I will make 3 pies.  Here's the plan:  Apple, Pecan, and Chocolate Sweet Potato with Bourbon whipped cream.  I will also make maple candied bacon sprinkles to put on the latter 2 pies when they are ready to be served.  Maybe that's too many flavors, but at least it'll be an optional topping...

Friday, November 28, 2014

So Very Full!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!  We had our feast this evening, complete with the turkey my husband roasted while I was at work.  Everything was ready when it was supposed to be and, while we ate, I popped the pies in the oven to warm up.

The apple pie wasn't the prettiest I've made, but I think the pumpkin pie more than made up for it.  They both tasted pretty awesome.  I even made whipped cream for them rather than using the canned stuff.  After the eight of us had our fill, there was half a pie of each flavor left.  And a loaf and a half of pumpkin bread.  And lots of turkey, and veggies, but the stuffing and the deviled eggs are all gone.  And then we all rolled into the living room to sit by the fire and play games.  How perfect is that?



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pie Prep

This year, I had not planned on us having a big Thanksgiving celebration.  My sister will be in town next week, and we all planned to do Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a family birthday all together in one big "do."  I scheduled myself to work Thanksgiving and, really, almost every day this week.  I'm home today, but worked the past 2 days, will work the next 2 days, and again on Sunday.  Then my husband's sister and her family asked if they could come visit for the holiday.  I said, as long as you don't mind that I'm working!  They didn't, and they're here, some of them, anyway.  Their kids are due to fly in tonight, snow permitting.

A few days ago I made the squash and creamed broccoli side dishes.  I will make the stuffing today.  Last night I made a pumpkin pie and this morning I made the apple pie.  And a few tarts.  I will show the finished pies tomorrow, when I can photograph them with all the feast trimmings, but here are the tarts which will be eaten by the kids for lunch, I'm certain.

For the crust I used half butter and half lard (regular, not leaf) and I cut down on the salt because the crust I made last night for the pumpkin pie seemed a little too salty.  I might have cut down too much, so for future reference maybe 3/4 tsp. in the batch is OK if using lard.  Half a teaspoon isn't enough.  The filling is 8 cortland apples, 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg.

I took the rest of the crust and made 2 little tarts with strawberry filling.  Rather than making the folded-over tarts I generally make, I thought I could make little tiny pie-shaped tarts as I had little tiny pie plates.  I think they came out pretty well, don't you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Maybe the Gift Stash is Ready?

Today, after the kids left for school, I pulled another pound of rhubarb and 2 bags of cranberries out of the freezer and made another double batch of Cranberry-Rhubarb Compote.  I did wish I had some habanero peppers to add to this batch so I could have some spicy compote, but I wasn't ready to go to the store.  Oh, well!  It's still pretty great without the habaneros.

I now have 65 jars in my gift stash, which I hope will be enough...although, I might need to make some more...wouldn't want to run out or anything....

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chicken Stock and Soup

Last night I roasted an 8 and a half pound chicken so after dinner there was plenty left over.  Today I took the bones, the carrots, onion and celery that had been roasted in the chicken, and 4 quarts of water and made stock.  I added salt, bay, parsley and peppercorns.  After about an hour, I had 8 pints of stock, which got canned for 20 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

I also made soup:  I sauteed carrots, leeks, celery, celeriac and all the leftover chicken meat, diced up, and then added 6 quarts of water, salt and pepper, and diced purple-top turnips.  I have a LOT of those turnips from the farm share and there isn't a lot of interest in eating them.  I figured I could slip a few of them into soup and no one would really know unless I told them.  Heh.

After the soup had simmered for a while, I took out 2 quarts and added orzo and let it cook.  That was lunch, with a lot left over that got frozen.  Even without canning it, the orzo absorbed so much liquid that it was almost solid!  The rest of the soup, the part without the orzo, went into jars:  3 quarts and 4 pints.  I am now out of quart jars again.  That's in the canner now, 90 minutes at 10 pounds.  The idea is that when I heat it up, I can add some sort of pasta or rice.  Egg noodles seem to be the favorite thing to add!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Day At Home

There is a lot going on today, for a day which had nothing scheduled.  We have our carpenter here doing some work.  The house next door is being torn down.  And I'm working on a bunch of projects of my own.

First, I popped the two sugar pumpkins in the oven, whole.  I pricked them with a fork a few times each and baked them at 350 for about 90 minutes.  Then I took the flesh and ran it through the food mill, finally using the pumpkin screen for the first time, and now have 3 bags of 2 cups of puree each in the freezer for pies.

Next, I made a batch of yogurt, which is down in the basement on the heating pad doing its thing.

Then I made a double batch of Cranberry-Rhubarb Compote to add to my gift stash.  I'll likely make another batch in a few days, but this made 9 jars to add to the stash.

I also ground up stale bread and made bread crumbs.  These come in handy when I want to make meatballs for dinner.  And it finally got the stale bread off my counter.

Tonight I'll roast a chicken for dinner and then, tomorrow, will make more chicken stock and maybe some soup.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sauerkraut, Hot Pack Method

A few weeks ago I'd started a small batch of sauerkraut.  By small batch, I mean less than 5 pounds of cabbage.  I have no idea how someone is supposed to HAVE 25 pounds of cabbage for a batch, let alone work with that much volume.  I think my crock would hold, at best, 10 pounds.  As it was, I forgot about it for a little while and when I went to check on it yesterday the water seal had evaporated.  The weights had a little mold on them but the sauerkraut was safely tucked under some outer leaves that were well in the brine.  I discarded the top layer, just in case.  It smelled and tasted like it should so I put it in the fridge until I had time to can it.  Which was this morning.

I heated the sauerkraut in a large pot and got it simmering.  Then I packed it into 3 pint and one half-pint jar and they are processing for 10 minutes in the boiling water canner.  After that, they will sit for 5 before I remove them.  I ate the tiny little bit that didn't fit into the jars.  Yum!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Venison Pie, Take Two

Now with less cursing!

I don't know what was really different about this crust and the last one.  Maybe the butter was more solid and that made the difference.  I used 1+1/2 sticks of butter, 1/2 cup of duck fat and 8 T. of cold water for each batch of crust, and made 2 batches because I split the venison mixture (which I made yesterday) between 2 standard pie plates rather than go the deep dish route.  Anyhow, it was a whole lot easier to work with and I powered through making 2 pies and 3 tarts.  Between our guests and ourselves we went through almost 1 pie and 2 cheese tarts.  So we have a venison pie and a cheese tart left, which will either be lunch or dinner in the next day or so.

As a side dish, I boiled and mashed all the rutabagas I had from the farm, with butter, milk and salt.  They're pretty awesome, actually.


Monday, November 3, 2014

How to Disguise Bactrim

Bactrim Suspension is nasty.  Artificially cherry flavored with a strong, long lasting aftertaste of medicine.  Unfortunately, sometimes it is the only option.  There are no chewables, and the tablets are LARGE.  So if your kid can't swallow the tablets, what are you to do?

Dose 1:  Straight.  A disaster.  Total meltdown.  Finally took it after threatening to take away the video games.

Dose 2: Mixed with some Nestle Quik.  Smelled chocolatey, did not affect the flavor a whit.

Dose 3: Crushed up 2 snack sized KitKats and mixed the Bactrim in.  Child actually smiled while eating it.

Dose 4: Mixed with 1 T. of strawberry mango jam.  Got it in, but barely.  Required spoon-feeding.

Dose 5:  Back to the KitKats.

Dose 6:  Made a smoothie with yogurt, honey, orange juice and banana.  Not bad.  Took too long to drink and we were about to miss the bus for school, left half behind so took half a dose straight (with a lot of fussing).  The second half of the next dose was mixed back into the smoothie, that will be Dose 7. 8.

Dose 7: Mixed with melty pumpkin ice cream.  Had to resort to the no video games threat again.

Dose 8: Back to the smoothie.  Had to add more honey and a little cinnamon.  Drank it really, really slowly.  Finished it, but barely made the bus.  Lots of fussing.

Dose 9:  KitKats.  It's Halloween, so we have lots.  No fussing at all.

Dose 10:  KitKats again.  Choosing the path of least resistance.

Dose 11: Mixed with honey; 1 teaspoon of honey to 2 teaspoons of medicine.  Not horrible, better when we also added some warmed milk.

Dose 12:  Baked into the last pancake in the batch.  Made the pancake pink.  As long as it was slathered with maple syrup, it was OK.  "The best so far," child said.  I cannot find any information about whether or not the antibiotic loses potency when heated.  I might ask a pharmacist.

Dose 13:  Mixed with a mashed up Reeses cup and Milky Way mini.  There wasn't anything to absorb the liquid of the medicine (no wafers!) so ultimately got a piece of cheese and dipped into what was left.  Weird.

Dose 14:  Last one!  Warmed milk, added the Bactrim and a generous spoonful of honey.  Somehow, this small amount (about 4 ounces) took half an hour to drink.  Warm milk and honey without the Bactrim goes down in approximately 45 seconds.  Even Dose 11 went down faster.

I did ask a pharmacist the baking question, she was going to look it up and call me back and I never heard anything more.  I guess there isn't any data out there about efficacy.

Ultimately, I think the KitKats were the easiest and most successful of the attempts to get this into my child.  Without even knowing it, we found something that absorbed a lot of the liquid and overpowered the taste enough to make it tolerable.  However, I do not advocate having 4 snack sized KitKats every day one is on a medication.  Hopefully this is the last time we will have to do this, and that my child will be more motivated to swallow larger pills.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Black Walnut and Banana

This morning the kids requested banana pancakes, which gave me an opportunity to use the maple syrup I had infused with black walnuts.  I'd been hoping to wait a month before trying it, but 2 weeks was certainly enough to give it a subtle walnutty taste.  I put more maple syrup in with the walnuts and set the jar back in the fridge for the next time.

It's snowing today, but I doubt it'll stick.  I have to head out for work at 4, so we're doing a lot of around-the-house things like cleaning.  And laundry.  And making yogurt.  And relaxing.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fresh Eggs for Jam!

These made it home safely in the pannier on my husband's bike!
Yesterday we received half a dozen eggs from my husband's coworker in return for a jar of jam I sent her way a few weeks ago.  Whenever we get fresh eggs like this, I try to use them for eating straight rather than baking, since we can appreciate their flavor better.  This morning we had soft boiled eggs with toast for breakfast.

Apparently, all summer long her 8 hens each laid an egg a day, so she was inundated with eggs.  However, all of the sudden they apparently decided to go on a holiday, or something, so after she'd promised me some, her hens stopped laying.  I don't mind.  They're worth the wait!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Venison Pie

As has been mentioned all week, I had a plan to make a venison pie.  I was following this recipe, which I altered just a little bit.  First of all, the juniper was OUT.  (You can find out why here, in case you were wondering.)  I didn't have Scottish ale, but I had my foraged hops homebrew, which is an ale.  I used foraged Dotted-stalk Suillus mushrooms.  And I made my own pastry instead of using puff pastry.

Ah, the pastry.  I had been trying to find an occasion to make a savory pie, so I could experiment with using the rendered duck fat to make a savory crust.  Now was my chance!  Since it melts at such a low temperature, I mixed it with butter:  2/3 butter to 1/3 duck.  Even then, it was the most fragile thing I've worked with, even with putting it in the freezer frequently to keep it cold.  It broke every time I tried to put it in the dish, which was probably too deep anyway.  I finally had to press the crust into the dish.  The top crust went better.  From a taste and texture perspective it was really, really good, but just not worth that much hassle.

The filling before adding the beer
I did, however, use the scraps to make a cheese tart, having figured correctly that the 9 year old wouldn't enjoy the meat pie as much as the rest of us.  It was obviously a hit as the kids almost came to blows trying to divvy it up.

The pie was served with baked carnival squash topped with truffle butter and a stir fry of tat soi and komatsuna greens.

Dotted-Stalk Suillus

About 4 quarts
Since I had a plan to make a venison pie, and the recipe I found called for "field mushrooms," I figured I'd look around the stables yesterday and see if there were any shaggy manes or puffballs I could use.  There weren't.  So I wandered around and looked at all the mushrooms.  I'd seen boletes there before, and I knew most of them are edible, so I thought I would try to see what I could find.  Well, I hit the jackpot.  There was a huge patch of bolete-type mushrooms.  The coloring and size were consistent with King Boletes.  But they didn't have the clubbed stem or the nice rounded cap.  They grew in clumps.  As they didn't turn blue when they were bruised, and the pores were not red or orange, two warning signs for potentially poisonous boletes, I picked them anyway.  A lot of them.

Once I got them home, I did a spore print and finally identified them as Dotted-Stalk Suillus.  My husband and I tasted some last night, fried in butter.  They tasted amazing!  Very meaty and rich.  I set aside some for that venison pie and figured I could dehydrate the rest in the oven.  I sliced up all the other mushrooms and laid them out on cooling racks that I then left in the oven overnight.  This morning, ALL those mushrooms fit into one pint sized ziplock bag.  I suspect they will last me a while.  I'll bet they make a nice stroganoff.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bartering

The 13 year old has been taking archery for a year, and we get supplies at an archery shop much closer to the stables than home.  I was there last Friday, picking up arrows, and joined in a conversation about deer season.  Somehow the conversation ended with the shop proprietor asking me if I'd like some venison.  I said, "If some venison fell into my lap, I wouldn't say 'no.'"  So he offered to bring me some, I offered to pay for it, and he said he'd just give it to me since he had to empty out his freezer in time for this season.

Well, I wasn't one to take something without at least some compensation, so the next day I went back with a cooler and some jars of preserves:  strawberry jam, hot pepper sauce, and eggplant caponata.  Unfortunately, he'd forgotten his cooler!  We made arrangements for me to stop by today and the venison is now in my possession.  I've never cooked venison before so this will be an interesting experiment!  Thus far, there has been a request for a pie, with which I shall try to comply.

I'm also in the middle of a jam for eggs barter as well with a woman who works with my husband.  He brought her a jar of jam from me (raspberry) and, when her hens cooperate, a dozen eggs will be coming our way.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Culturing, Fermenting, and Pickling

Yesterday was the last farm share installment for the year, which means that I have more potatoes and squashes and rutabagas than I know what to do with.  I also got a head of cabbage, lots of greens, more leeks, onions and garlic, some turnips and popcorn.  We can't have the popcorn until January because it has to cure.

This morning after a telephone meeting I made 2 things simultaneously:  a batch of yogurt (culturing) and a batch of sauerkraut (fermenting).  Last time I made the sauerkraut I forgot to set up the water seal on the crock and it rotted.  So I am trying again.  5 pounds of cabbage was shredded, mixed with 3+ T. of kosher salt, and I put some of the outer cabbage leaves over the top as I weighed it down.  Tomorrow I'll add the white wine and recheck the brine levels; I can add more if I need to, which is something I should have done the last time as well.

After that, since now I know I'm not getting any more beets from the farm, I pickled all the beets I had.  That came to 1 quart jar and 1 pint jar, which is just enough for Thanksgiving and to give more to my mother-in-law.  We don't eat a lot of beets otherwise.  Although maybe we should.... they are really good for you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quick Radish Pickles

The other day I was at a local bookstore and found a new canning book:  Preserving by the Pint.  It's nice because it's full of recipes that are for very small amounts of produce, the kind one gets from a CSA or farmer's market.  One of the recipes that sold me on the book was a recipe for pickled Hakurei turnips which, in turn, was based on Japanese pickled radish.

And I had a lot of Daikon radish in my fridge.  Why not reverse the recipe back to radishes?

Last night I peeled and then sliced the radishes with my mandolin and then salted them and let them sit for an hour.  Then I made the brine with rice vinegar, ginger, pepper and sugar and poured it over the radishes and put them in the fridge.  Today we ate some.  And ate some more.  And some more.  They were so good, I couldn't stop!

They are particularly good wrapped with arugula for even more bite. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Breakfast and Dinner

This morning, despite a slow/late start, found me making a peach kuchen for breakfast.  It was super easy, although if I'd planned it ahead of time I would have softened the butter overnight.  It used almost a quart of the peaches I canned in August.  My whole family wolfed it down in no time.

After speed-cleaning the house for an hour or so, we went out for the afternoon and watched the Head of the Charles.  The day was windy and chilly; I even brought out my alpaca scarf for the first time this season!  When the wind finally drove us off the shore of the river we slowly worked our way home.  At which point it was time to make dinner.

Garnished with field garlic and a nasturtium leaf from the yard.
The other day I had sauteed those shaggy mane and puffball mushrooms with shallots and garlic in butter.  Today I could put them with the milk, chicken stock, and sour cream required to make cream of wild mushroom soup.  I also made duck fat biscuits which we ate with local honey and various plum jellies from my pantry.  The soup was tasty and filling.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Have You Seen This?

My mother sent me several links to videos showing people using a drill to peel apples.  She said my brother had tried it and it had worked well for him.  I was intrigued.  I had to try it!  I had half a peck of apples waiting to become sauce.

video
All in all, it's easier than peeling them by hand, but it is probably not as easy as cooking them all up with the peels and then running them through the food mill.  Clean up is easier than with the food mill.  Regardless, it was pretty fun!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Black Walnuts

After letting the walnuts dry for a month, I cracked them open with a vise today.  Out of 20, only 3 were bad, which is a pretty good yield.  It definitely makes sense to get them directly off the tree when possible.  Note to self:  it also seems to be easier to crack them open if they dry longer.

Once I extracted the nuts from the shells I toasted them in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I ended up with about 3/4 cup of walnuts.  Last year, I put them into a pear conserve.  Not sure what I should do with them this year...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Braver With Each Success

Last week, when I picked those two shaggy mane mushrooms, I knew more were coming.  It was the right type of weather, and that particular spot had plenty before.  Boy, was I right!

Today the place was full of shaggy manes.  After my ride I went out and filled a basket with them.  I also found 2 decent sized puffballs, each a little larger than a baseball.  After dinner tonight, I sauteed everything in butter with some shallots and garlic and froze this as a base for soup in a few days.  The 13 year old has asked for a cream of mushroom soup and I am always happy to oblige.

I also made a batch of yogurt which worked perfectly for a change!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Done for Another Year

The Topsfield Fair ended yesterday and today I went and picked up my jars, the ribbons, and the cash prize ($16!).  I timed my trip up there so I could catch up with Roxanne, whom I missed on the day we were both there checking out who won what.  She brought me some ground up ghost peppers from her cousin.  I gave her a jar of mint jelly.  It was good to see her again!

The one thing that always makes me sad is that one jar of each flavor is wasted in the process of judging.  They open one, taste it a few times, and then don't refrigerate it.  Of course, it's gone bad by the time we get it back.  I do wish they could refrigerate all the open containers but it's probably just not feasible.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lamb Soup and Other Projects

This morning, after running out to the muffin store to get breakfast, I heated up the rest of the mixed foraged fruit juice, added 2 cups of sugar, and canned 3 quarts of juice.  Then we went outside to enjoy the beautiful day before coming back and doing more things around the house.

My husband spent the day preparing the walls of our 9 year old's room for painting.  It was a lot of work and they only got through part of the ceiling before they ran out of that paint and had to call it a day.  While they did that, I made a batch of chicken stock using the bones of a rotisserie chicken we had this week and canned 5 pints.

While the stock was in the canner, I brought out the Icelandic Lamb Soup I'd made yesterday and skimmed off all the fat.  Then I set it on the stove to warm up slowly and went outside to do some yard work.  You know that little strip of earth between the road and the sidewalk?  I've been trying for 11 years to plant things that grow.  Bulbs of various kinds, euonymus, daylilies, hostas.  Nothing really works out.  I have finally ceded control of that strip to the crabgrass that really wants to grow there.  So I moved the daylilies to other parts of my garden and cleaned it all up.  This way, I can mow it as often as needed and not have to dodge all the other plants.

After I finished up for the day, I went back inside and canned 2 quarts and 5 pints of the lamb soup.  This was happening around the time that my husband was running out of paint, so it seemed like a good time for everyone to stop and have dinner.  We had big bowls of soup with bread, sprinkled with some mushroom-infused Icelandic sea salt to round out the flavor.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Soup, Pie, and More Soup

Today started out rainy and cold.  It felt like a good day for soup, and I had two soup projects waiting for just such a day!

First I made a batch of that escarole soup, using a head of escarole from the farm.  Saute a package of sweet Italian sausages with minced garlic (2-4 cloves), then add 2 pints of stock and the escarole.  Let that simmer for about 10 minutes or so and add a can of cannellini beans.  Flavor the broth with parmesan cheese and serve with good bread.  That was lunch.  For three of us.  The 9 year old asked for homemade chicken noodle soup instead.  I just happened to have a quart in the freezer so I heated that up as well.

After lunch, I made a triple batch of Icelandic Lamb Soup using up a lot of farm share vegetables:  all the turnips, 4 potatoes, 3 leeks and a head of cabbage.  After removing the bones and returning the lamb to the pot, it's sitting overnight in the fridge.  Tomorrow I'll skim off the fat and can some and the rest will be dinner.

Very tall pie. I also made a strawberry jam tart.
Lastly, I made an apple pie, finally, with some of the apples from when we went picking a few weeks ago.  The apples must have been much larger than usual because although I used the same number of apples (9) the pie is so tremendously tall.  It looks like one of the pies we used to get a restaurant called Gregg's in Rhode Island - they were at least a foot tall!

There's more to do:  I need to make a batch of chicken stock, and can the juice I made the other day (some of which went into this morning's smoothies, which were wild blueberries +/- banana, homemade yogurt, local honey, and foraged mixed juice (grape, autumn olive, elderberry, crabapple)).  And, someday, I'll do tomato sauce again.  I have 5.5 gallons of tomatoes taking up space in my freezer.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Autumn Mushrooms and Other Things

Yesterday while I was at the stables I found 2 good sized Shaggy Mane mushrooms that seemed early enough in their lifespan that I could pick them and use them today.  One of them turned inky overnight but the other was just fine.  I made an omelet with that one mushroom, some onion, and a little too much cheese.  Yum!

Also last night I made a batch of yogurt with a new container of starter.  It came out perfect.  The last batch I'd made was too liquidy so it was used up in smoothies, which the 9 year old really enjoyed.  I'm not sure why when I save some of my yogurt and start a new batch with it I have more trouble than when I use a new container every time.  I wish I could figure it out - maybe I wait too long between batches?

Omelet, also with foraged plum jelly on the toast.
At the stables yesterday I noted that all the autumn olives, which I'd been gathering for a while, had vanished.  I guess there was a point at which they were exactly right and the birds came and ate them.  All of them.  So I took what I had already frozen, which was a quart, and cooked them with the other foraged berries I'd been saving, and made juice this morning:  grapes, elderberries, a few blackberries and a few crabapples.  The juice will sit overnight and tomorrow I'll add sugar and can it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Happy Happy!

Mint Jelly
Hooray for the Topsfield Fair!

First thing we did was make a beeline for the canning exhibition to find that I won a ribbon of some sort in every category I entered.  How exciting!  I was also pleased to see that Roxanne, the woman I met last year, won a whole bunch of ribbons as well.

After that we looked at the crafts displays, the kids learned how to do needle felting, and we ate a lot of fair food.  We checked out the giant pumpkin (1900 pounds), the painted pumpkin displays, the sheep, goats, and bees.  Oh, and the rabbits.  The rabbits are so docile.  Mocha would likely scoff at all of them for being so...tame.

Sweet Pickle Relish
We watched the K-9 exhibition and a pig race and headed home.  The Mounties were not riding today, which was too bad.  They put on a terrific show.

Peach Jam

Seedless Raspberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Friday, October 3, 2014

Spicy Gifts This Year

The farm share this year has been rather heavy on the hot peppers and I'd been saving them up to make a full batch of hot pepper sauce.  I think their season is about over and I had 32 banana peppers, enough for 3/4 of a batch.  Which I made this morning and the final result was 14
cups of hot pepper sauce, all of which is going into my gift stash.

I also had been accumulating tomatillos and was able to get those made into a full batch of salsa verde today - this came out to 2 pints and 1 cup of salsa.  Also going into the gift stash.  Hopefully I won't be scrambling in November this year, especially since I need about 60 jars worth!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Homebrew Showcase

The weekly Thursday evening happy hour event at my husband's work is occasionally a themed thing and this week it was a homebrew showcase.  We chose to name our beer "Minuteman UFO" as it was, technically, unfiltered, and the hops came from the Minuteman Bikeway.  Hence the logo.  It was well received.  He said about 5-6 people brought in homebrew but there were certainly more that 5-6 people at the happy hour.  All 24 bottles were consumed pretty quickly which was good because there was no way to get it home.  We still have a few large bottles left for ourselves, but it looks like it'll be time to start another batch soon.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple Picking Season

We went apple picking 2 days ago - to a different farm (Shelburne Farm) this time.  It was a family outing through my husband's workplace.  It's never a bad idea to check out other farms, and this one is closer and was pretty nice.  We came home with a half-bushel of Empires and Cortlands and I promptly took a nap because I was working overnight.

Today I made a batch of chunky applesauce:  12 Cortlands, 1.5 cups sugar and 1.5 cups water.  This made exactly 2 quarts.  I still have 6.5 quarts of applesauce left over from last year so I don't need to make as much this year.  There will be a lot of baking in the next few days...

Also this morning I started a new batch of yogurt.  It'll be done this evening when I get home from work. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Almost Out of Jars!

Really, I think I have maybe 8 empty jars left.

This morning I made a batch of garden salsa, finishing off the tomatoes and scallions at least.  Still have a whole lot of peppers.  Also in the fridge:  leeks, a bulb of fennel, dill, cilantro, parsley, mustard greens, arugula, beets, turnips, hot peppers, bok choi, carrots, cabbage, and kohlrabi.  The less perishable things are in baskets:  potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatillos, spaghetti squash (2), 1 acorn and 1 carnival squash.  The batch started with 3 pints of chopped tomatoes and this made about 7 cups of salsa, 3 pints were canned and the rest is in the fridge.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hardly Making a Dent

You should see my fridge.  Not only is the vegetable drawer stuffed with produce, the bottom 2 shelves are stuffed as well.  AND there is more in a basket on the table - all the squashes and potatoes and tomatillos.  Today I made another triple batch of eggplant caponata which came to 7 pints.  This is now in my gift stash.

A friend moved to a house that used to have a vineyard attached and has a lot of residual grape vines - Zinfandel and Concord, mostly.  Those Concord grapes were so sweet!  We brought home a bunch over the weekend and I've extracted almost 2 quarts of juice.  Later today I plan to heat it up, add sugar, and then put it back in the fridge for the kids to drink.  Grape juice is a bit of a novelty, since usually I don't buy juice.

Tonight for dinner I am going to make a soup with the head of escarole I got from the farm.  That'll be something new for us, and it'd be nice to eat some of the greens instead of giving it all to the bunny!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Foraging Many Things

Over the past few weeks I picked a lot of wild grapes at the stables.  In addition to a small bag of mixed foraged fruits (grapes, elderberries, and blackberries so far) I got over 3 pounds of grapes to make a batch of jelly.  Today I extracted the juice from the grapes and left it to drain for a few hours while I ran a few errands.

One of those errands was to check out the foraging on the bike path.  Last year I'd found hops growing wild on the path so I went back to get more.  I must have just missed the peak of the season as many of the flowers had turned brown but I was still able to find enough to add to a batch of beer.  I'm drying them now and then I'll put them in the freezer until we're ready to brew.  The other thing I grabbed was a bunch of black walnuts.  I drove over them with the car to get the husks off and brought them home to dry.  I got about 20 but I think a few might be bad.  I won't really know until they're ready to crack open.

After I got home, I finished the batch of grape jelly - 9 cups in total.  I only canned 8 cups, though, and the rest is in the fridge.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Too Many Tomatoes

This afternoon I went out to the farm and picked up the share.  Even though I didn't pick up everything, I came home with:  an acorn squash, 2 pounds of beets, leeks, scallions, a head of lettuce, 1 kohlrabi, 1 cabbage, 3 pounds of potatoes, 2 heads of garlic, 2 eggplant, 8 peppers, 10 hot peppers, dill, cilantro, parsley, green beans, a watermelon, a half-peck of apples, and way too many tomatoes.

Since skinning and canning the tomatoes last week turned out to be pretty easy, I decided to do that again.  I had a bunch of plum tomatoes and a bunch of small slicing ones.  I was able to get 2 quarts of each type, canned whole.

As to the rest, I think I might see how far we can get with just eating everything and then, before the next pick up, have another marathon canning session.

Last Call for Raspberries

After making a batch each of raspberry jam and syrup, I'd wanted to go back and get enough berries for one more batch of jam.  We always seem to run out of it faster than anything else and, since 2 jars go to the fair, I was already down.  Today was the day I'd set aside for this; my timing couldn't have been better!  The berries were terrific.  I was able to fill my bucket, which holds 5 pints, in half a row and about 30 minutes.  After paying for them and putting them in berry baskets, I went back and picked one more quart.  That was just the right amount as 3 quarts makes one batch of seedless jam and now we have some for eating!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Beach Plums

Last weekend, we went to the beach and flew kites for a while.  It was a perfect almost-Fall day, at least before it started to rain.  At least we were off the beach by then.  However, I noticed a fruit I'd never seen before and, after a minute, realized they had to be beach plums.  I took a little taste to confirm my suspicions and then, over the course of the afternoon, picked a few.  Half a pound, to be exact.

Clearly, this isn't enough to make a full batch of anything.  I put them in the freezer and thought about them for a few days and found I could make half a batch of jelly.  Today, that's sort of what I did.  Here's what I know:  it would have been smarter to pit them like cherries and then just make jam.  I boiled them with a little water and ran them through the food mill instead.  What happened?  Well the pits were too small and jammed the mill, so eventually I had to take the whole thing apart and then simmer the pits and pulp again.  This was strained and then I took out the pits by hand and put the pulp back into the pot.  When I had 2.25 cups of liquid and pulp I added half a package of powdered pectin and 3.25 cups of sugar.  This made 4 8-ounce jars of jam and a little leftover.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cleaning Up

One of those jars of tomatoes from the other day didn't seal so I put it in the fridge until I could get to the next batch of caponata.  Today's batch differs in that I had no celery or green olives so I used extra Kalamata olives and peppers instead.  This finishes off the eggplant and bell peppers I've had in the fridge from the farm.  This batch is going into eight 8-ounce jars so I can add to my gift stash, as it's time to really get moving on the holidays!

First thing I did this morning, though, was make a batch of yogurt.  I have discovered I like using yogurt from Green Mountain Creamery as a starter and I hadn't had a chance in a while to get to the store that sells it.  Now that's resting on the heating pad in the basement and it'll be done after dinner.

Something bad happened to the sauerkraut I was making; it seems it didn't make enough liquid from the cabbage and the salt and the top of it got all moldy.  Sadly, the only thing to do was to toss it.  I suppose I might get more cabbage from the farm but maybe the sauerkraut will have to wait until next year.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Avalanche of Tomatoes

For perspective, the bowl on the right is a LARGE salad bowl.
This week's farm share included lots of tomatoes.  LOTS.  A quart of cherry tomatoes, some Jolly tomatoes, and many, many larger ones.  I already have 5 gallons of tomatoes frozen to make tomato sauce and, I think, that's enough.  I thought maybe the Jollys would be good if they were canned whole and then I remember that I like using canned diced tomatoes for some of my stews and figured I could use the rest for that.

After skinning the tomatoes by immersing them in boiling water, I set aside the Jollys.  They fit into one quart jar.  The rest of the tomatoes were seeded and diced and they filled 3 quarts and 1 pint jar.  Each jar got some lemon juice and salt and then they were processed for 45 minutes in the boiling water canner.  I was worried that the lemon juice wouldn't get distributed evenly but I shouldn't have, the tomatoes shrink a bit and so all the liquid circulated nicely.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Before Work Scramble

I only had a few hours between when the kids left for school and I had to leave for work, so I quickly started a batch of Wine Kraut with the 2 heads of cabbage I'd accumulated.  They only weighed 3.6 pounds so that meant mixing the cabbage in the crock with 2 T. of salt and tomorrow I'll add 1/3 cup of white wine.  Sauerkraut is so easy - you just let it do it's thing and it's happier if you leave it alone!

I also took the last of my green beans and made 2 pints of Dilly Beans.  Each pint had half a large clove of garlic, a flower head and a sprig of dill, and 3 peppercorns.

Even with all this canning and fermenting, I still have a lot of produce left before tomorrow's pick up from the farm.  In the fridge:  peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, patty pan squashes, carrots, turnips, dill, parsley, and a melon.  I guess I'll go cut the melon now so it'll be less to do before breakfast.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Inundated!

With all the produce I've gotten in the last week, and not being home for dinner as much as I'd like, I had a plan to get a lot done today.  First, though, I had to go to the mall, which took HOURS.  Shopping is not my favorite activity, but at least I was mostly shopping for someone else.  Since I got home, I have barreled through a half-batch of Salsa Verde (2 cups, and I left the hot pepper seeds in, so this batch is HOT) and a triple batch of Eggplant Caponata.  I just pulled 7 pints out of the canner.  The tiny little bit that was left in the pot went into tonight's pasta sauce, which also included sautéed eggplant, onions and peppers.

I'm hopeful I can do some pickling of beans tomorrow morning before I need to head in to work, and maybe start a batch of sauerkraut.  Then I'll feel like I've made enough progress before the next batch comes from the farm, which will be Tuesday...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Promised Pie and a Whole Lot of Veggies

As I said last week, I owed my kids a pie.  Today I made a peach pie using 10 small peaches.  The crust was mostly Crisco with a little butter.  The berries came from the farm share and I thought they would make a nice garnish.  I must have been on to something because the 9 year old exclaimed, "Holy smokes!  It looks like something they serve at a fancy restaurant!"  Wow!

The farm share today was HUGE.  I had to carry it in 4 tote bags:  potatoes, onions, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes (LOTS of tomatoes), cherry tomatoes, kohlrabi, eggplant, peppers, hot peppers, parsley, dill, cilantro, tomatillos, blackberries, green beans, kale, turnips, spaghetti squash, watermelon, and then there were the things I skipped this week (flowers, husk cherries, other herbs).  After I got all this home and we were eating some of it for dinner, our mason arrived with more tomatoes, eggplant, celery, parsley, long green beans and Bishop Crown peppers.  I have a lot to do!

Tonight I made a batch of that hot pepper sauce I made last year.  I had 22 banana peppers which was about half a batch.  This is mixed with yellow mustard, vinegar, sugar and salt and then thickened with flour.  After that it is processed for 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.  This amount of peppers made 10.5 cups of hot sauce.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Camping is Best in Berry Season

While it's a little late in the season for some most berries, once we arrived at our campsite 2 days ago and set up the tents, we walked around to do some foraging.  Well, I walked.  The kids biked.  We went to the various sites I remembered that had berries with some luck.  I found one blueberry, very few partridge berries, lots of bunchberries, no wintergreen, but mostly blackberries.  We picked what looked good, got back to the campsite and had a little afternoon snack of foraged berries with sugar and cream. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Peaches, Hot and Cold

Hot pack and cold pack, that is.

After running a few errands this morning, one of which was to buy more lids, I made a second batch of peach jam.  I then set to work on putting up the rest of the peaches in syrup.  First I made 4 quarts of cold pack peaches.  Then I made a second batch of syrup and started working on the rest of the half-bushel while those processed in the canner.  Because I was done long before the canner was, I put all the peach slices in the hot syrup so, when it came time to put them in jars, they were a little smaller and fit into 3 quarts.  So, that's it for the half-bushel.  14 cups of jam and 7 quarts of sliced peaches in syrup.

I owe my kids a pie.  I'll buy more peaches next week (not by the half-bushel, though), and make one.

Early Morning Peach Jam

As in, I made it in the early morning....

I have a half-bushel of peaches to deal with and 36 hours to do it in, including time for sleeping and working.  So since I was getting up early anyway, I got up an hour earlier and made a batch of jam.  These peaches are huge, and it took less than 3 of them to get 4 cups of diced peaches.  I now have 7 jars of peach jam, 2 of which are for the fair.  I'll make another batch before I start putting up peaches in syrup, because peach jam goes quickly.

[For the fair:  4 cups peaches, 2 T. lemon juice, pectin, 5.5 cups sugar, maraschino cherries and almonds.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Now We're Cooking With Gas

Well, we've always been cooking with gas in this house.  However, today we had to get our gas service turned off while workers switched the lines to our house to modern, plastic ones.  They promised us it would only take a few hours and then the gas company would be "right out" to turn it all back on again.

The workers showed up at 7 am.  At around 11:30 they shut off the gas, finished their part, and moved on.  They said the guy would be there shortly.  Well, he showed up around 6:30 pm.  So, for that time, we were without a stove, a dryer, and hot water.  Couldn't have been a more awkward time as I had started a batch of pickle relish in the morning and went and bought a half bushel of peaches for canning.  

All I managed to do tonight was to finish the pickle relish:  Grandmother's Golden Relish in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  Instead of red and green peppers I used green peppers and red and yellow onions.  It's very sweet!  I got 8 and a half cups of relish.  Tomorrow I'll do what I can with the peaches.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

When it's your birthday, you want to do the things you enjoy, right?

The only thing I wanted to do was pick raspberries.  I checked out the raspberry farm website, learned they were opening for the season on the 23rd, and figured today would be a great day to pick.  Particularly as they are closed on Mondays.  I made a date with my family, including my visiting in-laws, and we planned to be there right when they open at 9.

They were closed.

Apparently it had cooled down enough that the raspberry ripening schedule was off so, after a disappointing first day, they decided to close for another week.  I hadn't rechecked their website so I didn't know this and it seems my email address never made it to their distribution list.  Well, I must have had quite the look of chagrin on my face that they let us go in and pick anyway.  5 pairs of hands picked over 9 pounds of raspberries in about an hour.  And the fields are just getting started!

Once we got home, I shooed everyone out of the kitchen and got to work with the food mill.  I pureed enough to get the 5 cups required for a batch of seedless jam.  I do expect to enter this one in the Fair, and, since I won that category last year, the pressure is on!  (Or not.  I plan to not stress too much.)  So, for future reference, 7 cups sugar and a package of powdered pectin.  After that I pureed another 6 cups and made 6 pints of raspberry syrup.  We haven't had that in ages. After all that we still had 2 quarts of berries left over!

Oh, did I mention that the day started with the doorbell ringing and there was our mason with more veggies, about to do a last little bit of work on our retaining wall?  He'd brought celery, eggplant, cucumbers and tomatoes.  Always welcome!

And, since I'm working Thursday, I picked up the farm share today.  And it was a LOT.  I came home with 1 quart sungold tomatoes, 1 quart plum tomatoes, 1 quart green beans, 8 banana peppers, dill, cilantro, 20 leaves of kale, 1 cabbage, 1 head of lettuce, 1 bunch of scallions, 2 head of garlic, 8 red onions, 12 other tomatoes, 2 pounds of cucumbers and 1 pound of patty pan squashes, 2 spaghetti squashes, 2 eggplant and 8 bell peppers, and I didn't even bother with the blackberries, husk cherries, flowers, parsley, or basil.

It was abundantly clear when I got home that if I didn't start canning immediately I would not be able to fit everything into my fridges.  So I made a batch of mild garden salsa:
2 quarts tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cups green peppers, chopped
2 cups scallions, chopped
2 poblano peppers, chopped
1/4 cup vinegar
1/6 cup sugar
2 T. Kosher salt
1 bunch cilantro
The cilantro was added after everything else was cooked and the immersion blender used to make it a little more thick and less chunky.  It was then canned immediately:  5 pints, 10 minutes in the canner.

Next I took some rainbow carrots which my parents had brought (from a farm near them we all adore) and the green beans and made Rainbow Pickles, which were the rainbow carrots and green beans prepared using the pickled carrots recipe from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving but without the hot peppers and using dill sprigs rather than the heads.

Lastly, I got the broccoli from last week and the potatoes and garlic from this week's share and have everything ready for dinner.  Which I shall not cook, it being my birthday.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Forgot to Mention...

Our super-hoppy beer was ready to drink when we returned, so we chilled a bottle and tried it out.  Half the batch is slated for the Homebrew Festival at my husband's workplace, which is fine with me as it is definitely more hoppy that I'm used to.  However, I have to admit that it's good, and I'd like to think that toasting the hops changed the color and flavor just a little bit.  Now I wish I'd kept some without the extra hops for comparison, but I will just be happy with what we made and save the scientific approach for another batch!

Zucchini Bread, Minus the Chocolate

Which, I'm pleased to report, was still a hit!

I doubled this recipe to make 24 muffins and a little heart-shaped zucchini cake.  The muffins on the edges of the oven got a little over-toasted so we just used forks and scooped out the middles.  This used up all my zucchini, including a little one that was growing on the zucchini plant my 9 year old brought home from a school project.  I'll take half a dozen to work and I don't think it's worth freezing any as they will likely be finished within a day!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Welcome Back, Here are Your Vegetables

While we were away, the farm share got picked up by various neighbors.  I was glad to know that people were enjoying it!  My first pick up since we got back was yesterday and, on top of another delivery of vegetables from the mason's garden, we find the fridge quite full again.

So far I have frozen over 1 gallon of tomatoes for sauce.  We've eaten a bunch of cucumbers, tomatoes, blackberries, and lettuce, and I made a tabouli salad with parsley, more tomatoes, onion and a little cucumber.  I gave away some kale and another cucumber.  Today I tackled the eggplant, celery, more tomatoes, onions and peppers by making a double batch of eggplant caponata.  The yield was 5.5 pints out of this batch.  I still have a ton of peppers, more onions, more lettuce and cherry tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, spaghetti squash, cilantro, dill, broccoli rabe, kale, turnips and hot peppers.  At least the rabbit won't go hungry in the next week if we can't get to it all!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Free Pears!

It's always great when Abigail's pear tree does well, because Abigail is kind enough to share the fruit with me when she has a surplus.  Even though the output peaked a week ago she had plenty left today for me.  I brought a jar of strawberry jam and came home with enough pears to make a batch of jam and still get 3 quarts of pears in light syrup.

I decided to combine the pears with raspberries for the jam.  The proportions were approximately equal:  2 cups of pears and 2 cups of crushed raspberries.  To this 4 cups of fruit I added 2 T. lemon juice and 5 cups of sugar plus 1 package of powdered pectin.  This made 6 8-oz jars of jam plus a little more.

Thanks, Abigail!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Easy and Efficient Travel Meals

The market in the rain
You've probably noticed that we like to travel.  We've been away, which explains the posting hiatus.  For half the time, we had apartments with small kitchens that were reasonably stocked with utensils and the like.  So we ate in, a lot, which meant shopping.

The extra stuffing just baked around the chicken
In the center of Zurich there is a farmer's market twice a week.  There are others, in other parts of the city, on different days.  I didn't want to spend every day at the market and I knew about this one so I made sure we got there when it was open.  We walked around, bought some cheese and bread for lunch, and then I found a wonderful stall full of terrific looking veggies.  I bought some green beans, and the proprietor threw in some tarragon.  That's just what they do when you buy green beans, I guess.  I had decided that the easiest thing for me to do was to roast a chicken for dinner that night, so I picked one up at the grocery on the way home.  I made stuffing out of leftover stale bread, some carrots, apples and onion, and the tarragon.  I hoped I was using a baking dish and not an ornamental serving dish to bake it.  All worked out in the end and it turned out beautifully.
Yum!

After dinner, I took the leftovers, some extra pasta from the previous night's dinner, and more carrot and onion and made soup, which was dinner on another day with more bread.  It was easy enough; I did have to buy salt and pepper.  At least there was that tarragon!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Keep An Open Mind

As I mentioned, yesterday I started a batch of curry pickles.  I've never had curry pickles before but I wanted some variety and (basically) had all the ingredients I needed.  So I thought I'd give them a try.  My husband was doubtful, but I think they'll be great.  Especially after the kitchen smelled like curry.  And sugar.  Mmmm.

Oh, yeah, the sugar.  The recipe (from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving) calls for white sugar but I didn't have any so I used brown sugar instead.  I ended up with 5 pints of pickles and for 2 of the jars I had to add a little extra cider vinegar to top them off. 

For dinner we had... more vegetables!  I made a skillet "ratatouille" by sautéing eggplant, zucchini, summer squash and peppers together and adding a can of diced tomatoes.  Now I'm left with a little more squash and peppers and a lot of greens.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In the Thick of It

Let's just say that a full farm share is a lot for a family of 4, even when there is canning involved.

Yesterday the share was picked up and our mason dropped off more goodies from his garden.  I came home from work around 9:30 last night to find a crazy amount of zucchini and other squashes, several pounds of cucumbers, a bulb of fennel, a lot of chard, some kale, a head of romaine lettuce, turnips, onions, snow and snap peas, an eggplant, a bunch of peppers, potatoes, and celery.  Obviously it was too late to do much last night so I started in pretty early this morning.

First, I made 4 loaves of chocolate zucchini bread.  I ran out of the sour cream the recipe calls for so I substituted chocolate yogurt.  It probably wasn't acidic enough but the bread still rose and they taste really good.

Next I sliced the cucumbers and onions and mixed them with pickling salt.  Tomorrow, after work, I will make a batch of Curry Pickle Slices - something I haven't tried before.  These are regular cukes, not pickling cukes but, considering they aren't waxed and are still relatively small, I think they will do just fine.

For dinner we ate the potatoes and some of the turnips baked in the oven with olive oil and parmesan cheese.  We also had all the snow and snap peas sautéed in a little oil.  And a big salad which finished off the Hakurei turnips and radishes.

I have a lot of squash left, plus the eggplant, peppers, kale, celery, lettuce, chard, and the fennel.  I don't really know what to do with fennel.  Even the rabbit isn't really a fan.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Squash with Squash Sauce

Ah, summertime.  Squash season.

Last week at the farm I could pick out 3 pounds of summer squash, so I picked patty pans.  They're my favorites, mainly because of their shapes.  It's not like they taste all that different from zucchini or summer squash.  Tonight I was going to go to the store but was just too tired, so I made dinner with what I had in the house:  a box of spaghetti, 3 pounds of patty pan squashes, some butternut squash pasta sauce, and cashews.

First I sautéed some chopped garlic scapes in oil, and then added the patty pans.  After a bit I sprinkled them with maple pepper and then, feeling we needed some protein, added about a cup of cashews.  When ready to serve they were topped with the butternut pasta sauce.  Super easy.  The cashews went really nicely with the sauce.  The next farm pickup is tomorrow and I still have some snow peas, turnips and kale left.  I've mostly made it through everything else.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hoppy Beer, Bottled

Today was a day of siphoning.

Not only did we bottle the beer, but we had to clean out the fishtank.  Which was a job and a half, let me tell you!  There were mineral deposits all over it, and under it, and on the light, and the lid, and in the pump, and on the bureau it sits on.  Fortunately, the minerals didn't damage the bureau.  We'll be more careful next time.

The beer was, surprisingly, less work.  The priming sugar was boiled with a little water and poured into the bottling bucket, then the beer was siphoned in from its carboy.  The hops stayed (mostly) behind.  We bottled 24 regular bottles to share at the Homebrew Showcase coming up at my husband's workplace, and 9 of the 1-liter bottles.  We had just enough for one more 12-ounce bottle; this will be the one we use to test the beer when we think it's ready.  Should be a few weeks.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Epic Stir Fry and Other Things

Yesterday's farm share consisted of 2 heads of lettuce, a bunch of kale, a head of napa cabbage, onions, little red turnips, 3 pounds of squash, 3 pounds of cucumbers, 2 quarts of fava beans, and 1 quart each of snow and snap peas, plus some flowers and herbs.  We didn't pick the herbs this time.  The kids and I brought it all home and I sent them outside to shell the fava beans and the snap peas, which were too big to eat whole.  Once I got everything cleaned, I took a few steps to work through all the veggies that were accumulating in the fridge.  I still had 2 heads of bok choi leftover, plus snow peas, scallions and some lettuce.  I started chopping away, and suddenly I had a huge bowl of stir fry ingredients:  cabbage, bok choy (all of it), snow peas, celery, scallions, and onions.  I made some rice and marinated some beef for the grill, and for dinner I fried all those veggies in the wok.  It cooked down a lot, thankfully, because the pile of veggies was initially bigger than the wok.  I drizzled them with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil at the end, and we ate a fair amount of it over the rice.  Plus we had a salad with some of the lettuce, Hakurei turnips, radishes, the blanched snap peas, a few mulberries, and some homemade croutons.
Fava beans

The fava beans got marinated again; 2 quarts of pods makes about 1 pint of beans and these will last for a while now.

This morning I pickled the cucumbers.  I specifically picked the smallest ones I could find so that we would have whole dills rather than slices.  I used a recipe from the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving, "Favorite Dill Pickles."  This made 3 quarts of pickles, but there are really only 4 cukes in each jar.

What's left?  Lots of lettuce, turnips, radishes, garlic scapes, kale, 3 pounds of patty pan squashes, snow peas, and some swiss chard and another zucchini my mason gave me.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Random Berry Find

On Sunday, when I was walking home from the subway, I happened upon a small patch of black raspberry bushes.  These are not things I usually find in my area; blackberries are much more plentiful.  Some were ripe but a lot weren't.  So I waited a few days and yesterday I brought the kids down there and we picked 1.5 cups of tiny little black raspberries.  Last night we ate them for dessert, with a little sugar and cream.  Yum.

I also need to work through all the vegetables I've been getting - my mason dropped off some celery, a large zucchini, and swiss chard.  I took that zucchini and one I had from the farm and made 3 loaves of chocolate zucchini bread.  Tonight I'll get the farm share again and I plan to have a big stir fry with a lot of the veggies I currently have from last week:  snow peas, scallions and bok choy.  And I suspect there will be a salad as well.  Mocha seems to like chard better than bok choy so there's some help there!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hoppy Beer, Now with Extra Hops!

Toasted hops
As I said in the previous post, I was in Ohio over the holiday weekend.  I got back this morning; everyone else is returning this evening but I have to work and I was concerned about airport delays.  Considering the havoc that the recent storms wrought on air travel, my fears are not entirely unfounded, so it was best to give myself the extra time at home.

It was time to do the second rack with the beer and add that foraged hops.  I toasted the hops in a warm oven for about 45 minutes and they lost a bit of their hoppy smell but took on a more toasted smell that could be (hopefully) interesting.  The beer itself had a potential alcohol at this point of 1.5% so something has sure been happening in that fermenter!  The specific gravity today is 1.010, also more like beer.

Cramming the dried hops into the tiny mouth of the carboy was a pain in the neck but I did finally get it all in there and siphoned the beer on top.  Now it's resting under my desk in the kitchen, fermenting some more and, with luck, doing something tasty with those hops.

Charter Fishing

Over the holiday weekend we went to visit my husband's family in Ohio.  I love going out there.  We always have a good time together, with lots of people, lots of food, and often we plan to do things I don't normally have time to do or quite possibly have never done before.  Yesterday we did something that fit both categories.

My brother-in-law chartered a boat to take us fishing on Lake Erie.  Six of us went:  My husband, the 12 year old, my brother-in-law, our niece and nephew, and me.  Between us we caught 31 walleyes (limit was 6 each) and 3 white bass that were just too big to toss back.

Look, see!  Dawn!
We got up before sunrise and made it to the boat dock over an hour away at literally the crack of dawn.  Turns out, I was the only one who was sufficiently caffeinated.  We had thought we'd be going all the way across the lake toward Canada but it turned out the fish were closer in and so, after not a very long ride, we started trolling.  I've only ever fished from a boat a few times, really:  Narragansett Bay, Galveston Bay, maybe one other place I'm forgetting.  This was FUN.  I don't know why I don't do this more often.  Oh, yeah, see paragraph one.

There were a lot of lulls in activity and then there were times when 3 of us were reeling in at the same time.  I am very proud to say that my 12 year old caught the 2 biggest fish of the day, although I didn't weigh them.  They were each over 2 feet long and very heavy.  Each of those fish could easily feed 6 people.  When we did divvy up the fish fillets I made sure I kept those (and marked them specifically) because I want my child to have the pleasure of eating self-caught fish.  The captain of the boat, Captain Popeye (I kid you not), made sure to get a picture with him in it, I'm sure it's good for business to see that a 12 year old caught a fish bigger than one's head.

31 Walleyes
All the fish that we didn't eat last night (probably 5 of the walleyes baked with some bread crumbs sprinkled on top and then in a sandwich bun with tartar sauce, mmmmm) were filleted, put in bags, and frozen.  My brother-in-law and I raced through them as quickly as possible - he'd cut the fillets off the fish and I'd take the skin off and get them bagged, with the help of my brother-in-law's brother.  I have 8 bags of fillets and 1 bag of little bits (cheek meat, pieces that succumbed to my less than perfect filleting, etc.) to make stew with.  The only hitch is that they are still in Ohio; it didn't seem like a good idea to try to take them on the plane so we'll either have them shipped or when someone drives out for a visit they'll bring them.