Thursday, September 14, 2017

Free Apples

When I got home from work today, my neighbors across the street stopped by with an offer of apples. These are the Granny Smith apples I mentioned before, and their tree had produced over 40 pounds! They gave me 14 pounds of apples and those that hadn't spoiled (I only lost about 2 pounds) got cooked down into five quarts of applesauce. Since they didn't have a lot of inherent water content, I added about a pint of apple juice along with both brown and white sugar and some cinnamon. I just kept adding sugar and cinnamon until it tasted right. I'll be giving a quart back to them, and then I think I might have enough applesauce for the season. Which is too bad, because we're going apple picking on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Half Awake

Last night I worked an overnight shift and I haven't really slept yet. Instead, I'm cleaning up some of my farm share veggies by making salsa again. I had almost a pound of tomatillos which were converted, along with five serrano peppers, into a pint of salsa verde. I also had eight large plum tomatoes and those, plus a red bell pepper, some onion, and more jalapeños and serranos, became almost three pints of regular salsa. I also discovered that the overabundance of hot peppers from the farm share is a problem - they're starting to go bad faster than I can use them! I'll be giving away the habaneros tomorrow to someone who plans to make habanero infused maple syrup with them. I haven't been keeping the hot wax peppers because I have so much hot pepper sauce from last year, but I do have a lot of cherry bombs. I'd been planning on making toorshi with them but that never materialized and I don't really know what else to make. I could just pickle them, I suppose.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Last Minute Fix

Yesterday I was getting my entries ready for the fair, printing out the recipes and entry forms, and then I realized I'd made a mistake. You see, I entered a class that consists of three different kinds of jelly entered together. My mistake was, I had jams picked out, not jellies. I had two options: not enter the class (fine, but where's the fun in that?) or quickly make a few more batches of jelly. Today. When I have to enter everything tomorrow.

Yeah, you guessed it. I made jelly.

Lavender White Wine Jelly

3 ¼ cups white wine
2 T. dried lavender buds
¼ cup lemon juice
1 package Sure-Jell Pectin
4 ½ cups sugar

and

Rosemary Red Wine Jelly

3 ¼ cups red wine
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, about ¼ cup
½ cup lemon juice
1 package Sure-Jell Pectin
4 ½ cups sugar

Each of these were made with the same method: simmer the herbs in the wine for about 20 minutes then strain out the herbs. Boil the wine, pectin and lemon juice and then add the sugar. Boil hard for 2 minutes and then process in the boiling water canner for 10 minutes. They only make about 4-5 cups of jelly but that was enough to get some things for the fair and add to the gift stash. 

The third entry for this category will be elderberry jelly, which I made last month. Good thing I caught my error before tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sweet and Sauer

This morning it was finally time to can the sauerkraut I'd been fermenting. Every once in a while I still heard a "bloop" when air escaped from the crock (there's a water seal) but it'd been a few weeks and I needed to get it into jars so I could enter it in the fair. The sauerkraut was packed into three pint and two half-pint jars and processed for 20 minutes, once I brought the water to a boil. Because you pack the sauerkraut cold, it's important to not heat it too quickly or the jars will break. When I first opened the canner I was afraid a jar had broken but I guess I got lucky.

The next thing I did was make cookies. I'd been wanting to make some for the kids and the original plan was stymied by the lack of powdered sugar and my disinterest in going back outside. So I took the recipe I have for lemon sablées and altered it.

Pistachio-Lemon Cookies

12 ounces butter at room temperature
10-1/4 ounces sugar
2 eggs
3-1/2 ounces milk
1 tsp lemon extract
1-3/4 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 ounces finely ground pistachios (be careful not to turn them into paste)
19-3/4 ounces flour

Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Add milk and extract and beat until smooth again. Add the dry ingredients and mix until dough is combined. Pipe onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in rosettes, and top each cookie with a pistachio and a piece of candied lemon peel. Bake at 350˚F for 12-13 minutes, turning the baking sheet once during baking. 

I tried playing around with the shape when I piped the dough - I was trying to make seashells but ended up with what looked like winking hedgehogs (1 pistachio, 1 piece of lemon peel). And who has ever heard of a lemony winking hedgehog?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Did I Mention?

It's been a week and I never got to post about my fabulous birthday cake. My husband made it, with guidance from me. Here it is:

He took the sour cream chocolate cake that we all like so much and baked it in a bundt pan with a cream cheese and condensed milk filling. As the cake baked, the filling sunk in and the cake enveloped it. It was frosted with fudge frosting. And it was awesome.

We had a few friends join us for dinner and we had chicken kebabs, veggie kebabs, and also for dessert, fruit kebabs which the youngerchild made. Many things on skewers. For the chicken, I'd used the yogurt and honey marinade I like so much but added cardi and ground lime to make it even more Persian. It was a good addition.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Grape Goodness

Today I finally had time to make grape jelly from all that grape juice I extracted the other day. First I made two back-to-back batches of grape jelly (per batch: 5 cups juice, 7 cups sugar, 1 box Sure-Jell) which came to 18 cups or 11 jars. I used some half-pint jars and some pint jars and will enter two of the half-pints in the fair.

I had just over three quarts of juice left so I added four cups of sugar and heated the juice. I'm currently canning three quart jars of juice in the canner and saved the rest for the youngerchild to drink with dinner.

It's my weekend (and holiday) to work, so that may be all I have time for until Tuesday!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Spicy Salsa!

When I made the salsa to enter in the fair, I felt it was missing something. Pizazz, maybe. Certainly cilantro. Today I made another batch in which I used five jalapeños instead of three, and added 2T of cilantro. This made five cups of salsa and I gave one pint to my friend with whom I split the share. It has a nice kick this time. This will be the batch that goes to the fair.

Next I made salsa verde, using all the accumulated tomatillos and five serrano peppers. Also with a very nice kick! My friend got a 12-oz jar and I got the 8-oz jar.

Tomorrow I plan to make grape jelly. I have one other thing I want to make for the fair, a variation of toorshi, but to do that I have to get some other vegetables first. And I have to have time. That always helps...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wee Little Beasties

It has been a very long day (note the time of this post...it's currently 1:00 am on Wednesday). My day technically started on Monday, when I worked an overnight shift. I did sleep a little, in between pages, and yesterday a little after 7:00 am I headed home. After I had some coffee I started a batch of bread dough using Legion (beastie #1: saccharomyces cerevesiae, aka yeast) and took another short nap. I got up to go riding but my lesson was canceled so instead I took the youngerchild to lunch. While we were out I got a text from a friend saying he had Concord grapes to share. When I got back, after a while I was able to muster up enough energy to make a batch of yogurt (beastie #2: lactobacillus) and a batch of granola while I waited for the grapes.

After dinner, my friend arrived with a half-bushel of grapes (plus beastie #3: drosophila, aka fruit flies). Apparently they are from his mother's backyard and she gave him about three times as much so he was sharing. As they had been picked a few days ago I needed to get them juiced right away But I didn't get started on washing until after 10:00 pm. I've just finished sorting through them, extracting over a gallon of juice from most of them (I still have another small pot full to make into juice tomorrow).

As soon as I got the grapes on the stove I punched down my bread dough and shaped the loaves. It's cooler this week so the bread took longer to ferment. I'm wondering if it'll be proofed by the time I get up tomorrow.

The yogurt is still hanging out on the heating pad. I thought about dealing with it now, but I'm just too tired and I don't think a few more hours of incubating will hurt it. At least, I hope not!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Project Completion

Today I finished a batch of sweet relish I started yesterday. First you have to salt the vegetables and let them sit overnight or, in this case, about a full day before you rinse them and boil them with the syrup. This is a variation of "Grandma's Golden Relish" from The Ball Complete Book of Canning. The changes were that I used half cucumbers (3 cups) and half zucchini (3 cups) and that all the peppers were green. This made 7.5 cups of relish.

I added the white wine to the sauerkraut and also added a little brine since there wasn't enough liquid to cover the cabbage. Now it can ferment for a few weeks in its crock and I shouldn't have to worry about it.

Lastly, I used up three eggplants making "Pickled Eggplant with Mint" from Preserving by the Pint. I didn't have red wine vinegar so I used up my tarragon and champagne vinegars and then made up the difference with cider vinegar. I hope that works - it might be a little harsh. For the mint, I harvested a bunch of stems from my pot of mint in the backyard. Supposedly this is good with some feta cheese and olive oil so I'll have to try that this winter.

After all this work, I can now see the back of the fridge again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Another Big Day

Yesterday I picked up the farm share and I didn't have a lot of time to do anything with it. However, I have this entire afternoon to work through a few projects. I have one problem, though. Our computer died after a power failure (probably a power surge fried it) and I'm not sure how I'm going to print labels. So this quick post is just about the salsa that I made (4 cups, or half a recipe) and the canned beets I'm in the process of making (likely 3 quarts, but maybe 4, depending on how many beets fit in each jar). Then I'm going to test out the printer. For the record, this salsa is going to the fair, so here's the recipe:

1 quart tomatoes, cored and seeded
1 bell pepper
1 medium onion
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded
1 T. Kosher salt
2 t. sugar
2 T. vinegar

Broil the vegetables for about 10 minutes, turning once during the cooking time. When soft, add the salt, sugar and vinegar and process with an immersion blender to desired texture. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

The other thing I did this morning was start up a batch of sauerkraut using three heads of cabbage I have accumulated from the farm. I am considering entering sauerkraut in the fair, too, if it finishes its fermentation in time.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

More Gifts

This afternoon I stopped by a friend's house as she had offered me some pears from her tree. Like everything else around here, the fruit has been prolific. I brought her a jar of peach jam and took home a bagful of pears which I promptly turned into five quarts of pears in light syrup. This time I left the pears in halves so they took up more space. That being said, I could have had maybe two more pears total, a couple of the quarts have fewer pears than the others.

The other thing I did today was pressure can tomatoes and celery which my mason had dropped by. This was pretty simple - peel, core and chop the tomatoes and cook them down with sliced celery, then put them in quart jars with a little salt and pressure can them. That gave me two quarts to be used for cooking at some point.

Nothing Wasted

This morning I got up and made apple jelly with the juice I extracted yesterday. Seven cups of juice plus nine cups of sugar and a box of powdered pectin made eleven jars of clear, pink apple jelly. I'm pleased with the color; when I entered this in the fair two years ago the judges specifically mentioned they liked that it was pink. I have managed to get a similar color this year.

Since there were two cups of juice left, I diluted that with some water and added a half a cup of sugar and the next thing into the canner will be two pints of apple juice.

All that was left of that huge pile of apples was about a pint of skins, seeds, and pulp. That's pretty efficient.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Being Neighborly

Two of my neighbors have apple trees and they both have given me apples in past years. This year, one of them got a bag full of peaches and they plan to give me some of their apples in return; theirs are like Granny Smith apples and they're great for cooking. My other neighbor contacted me last week and suggested I come and pick some of their apples, which are more like Macintoshes. Two years ago my apple jelly made from their tree's fruit won first place in its class at the Fair. I'm hoping that works in my favor again this year!

In return for a large amount of apples (I should have weighed them out of curiosity, but I didn't) I brought them a pint jar of peach jam. They were pleased. So was I, except for standing on a shaky stepladder on a slanted driveway to pick apples. But we managed! Here are all the apples:
I quartered them all and cooked them with some water in two large pots and then let them drain over cheesecloth to get the juice. I ended up with a little more than two quarts of juice. The solids were then passed through the food mill to make applesauce. For three quarts of applesauce I used 1.5 cups of sugar. I did contemplate adding my honey instead, to make this super-uber-local applesauce, but I couldn't bear to part with what little honey I have for something that would mask the taste.

Tomorrow I will take the juice and make jelly. I need 7 cups, and I have about 9 cups. Not sure what to do with the rest, except maybe add some sugar and can it just as juice. We'll see.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dill Pickles of Various Kinds

This afternoon I picked up the farm share and, as my friend with whom I split it is away for a few days, I needed to deal with a larger portion of it. I also received some tomatoes, eggplant and celery from my mason. I do have a plan to can the tomatoes and celery and in the pressure canner but I didn't have enough time today. Instead, I made dilled carrots and beans and, when I ran out of those, one pint of dill cucumber pickles. All the vegetables were from today's share.

Since I made two jars of the carrots and beans very pretty, I will enter them in the fair. For later: 3 cups white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup kosher salt. Each pint jar had one head of dill, one dried chili pepper, and 1/2 of a clove of garlic. The carrots and beans were packed in so they alternated along the outside, like so:
These, plus the cucumbers, were processed for 10 minutes and then they rested for 5 before I took them out of the canner.

Also in the share: peppers, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce, beets, broccoli rabe, tomatillos, hot peppers, parsley, cilantro, dill, blackberries, cantaloupe, and tomatoes. I'm going to have to eat all the fruit before she comes back, but there is a lot for her to enjoy.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Elderberry Jelly

A month or so ago, I noticed a lot of elderberry flowers on a road nearby. They were on the edge of a marsh, a perfect place for elderberries to grow and grow well. I made a mental note to check them again toward the end of the summer. Usually around here they ripen in late August or early September. Not this year! I happened to be driving by yesterday morning after taking the youngerchild to camp and noticed lots of dark purple berries. Yesterday afternoon I went back and picked a whole bunch.

After I got home, I washed them, got them off the stems, and juiced them. I got a little over 5 cups of juice so I let that sit in the fridge overnight for the solids to settle. This morning, after a run to the hardware store for more jars, I made a batch of jelly. I used all the juice I had and, since it was more than the standard recipe (4 cups) I tweaked:

5+ cups elderberry juice
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
6 1/2 cups sugar

The yield here is 9 cups plus a little bit. As soon as they come out of the canner, I'm going to pick some more peaches.

And, since this jelly won in it's class last year in the fair, I think I won't enter it this year.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sigh

Today I had to make another quart of peaches in syrup because the elderchild opened up one of the jars for a friend who then didn't even eat them!

Yeah.

Also, I picked another 2.5 pounds off the tree making the running tally just about 41 pounds. There are still a few more out there.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Another Post About Peaches

Last night was my first overnight shift in over two years and, thankfully, it went well enough that I had energy this morning to do things. Like go to my riding lesson. And pick peaches. I pulled another 4 pounds off the tree (up to 38.3 pounds and there are probably another 6 or more pounds on the tree, at least that I can see) and brought a few to my riding instructor. The rest went into a peach-wild blueberry cobbler which we just had for dessert with peach ice cream.  I used the last cup of wild blueberries that we picked on Saturday.

I did spend a few minutes after my riding lesson to go hiking up the hill behind the stables for berries. Last year I started a long term project of foraging whatever berries grew at the stables and, when I get enough, I plan to make some sort of jam or jelly with them. Last year I filled a quart sized ziploc with blackberries, black raspberries, wild blueberries, and grapes. Mostly grapes. They're in the freezer. This year so far I've found both red and black raspberries, wild blueberries, and some blackberries which are just getting started. Most likely the bulk of the project will be grape based, but there will at least be a variety of berries in there to add some interesting flavor. Generally each week I get about 1/4 cup of berries. (This project is neither quick nor easy. Yes. I am patient.)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Winding Down a Little

Today we trimmed back the top branches of the peach tree, the ones that were hanging over the sidewalk because the tree is, well, horizontal. I've harvested all the peaches from those upper branches and now it's time to allow the sun to ripen the peaches closer to the trunk and the lower part of the tree in general.

Funny story, this morning the elderchild went out for a run and saw a squirrel, with a whole peach in its mouth, try to climb a telephone pole. Somehow it made it, periodically adjusting the peach. When it got to the wires at the top it tried but couldn't go on, clearly unbalanced. Instead, it made an incredible leap onto a nearby tree and made it. Still with the peach.

Actually, I'm somewhat surprised it took it away with it. Most often I find them gnawed upon and still attached to the tree, or half eaten on my front steps. Cheeky little monsters.

The harvest for today was 3.3 pounds (tally now up to 34.3 pounds) and I made another 6 cups of peach jam. I should not be running out of peach jam anytime soon!

Farmed, Foraged, Homegrown and Homemade (Redux)

This morning I got up early to make scones. The elderchild wanted something to take on an outing with friends and I wanted to do something with the last cup or so of wild blueberries. So I made peach-blueberry scones.

Farmed: nothing really, unless you count the peaches, which were also Homegrown.
Foraged: the blueberries
Homegrown: the peaches
Homemade: the yogurt in the batter, and the scones themselves.

I used a standard scone recipe that used buttermilk or yogurt and was lighter than some other recipes I've tried. For the fruit, I chopped up one small peach and then added about half a cup of blueberries. Instead of nutmeg in the batter I used ginger. I could have used crystallized ginger instead, then you might have actually tasted the ginger. Regardless, because this was a lighter batter, after turning it out on the countertop for a quick knead, I ended up using a scoop to make the scones rather than patting it all into a disk and then slicing. They baked for 15 minutes at 400˚F and smelled heavenly!

Now I've just finished up setting a batch of bread to proof. I'm going to try to pour a little melted butter into the loaves after I score them, just like those old commercials. It'll be interesting to see how that changes the bread.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Switching Gears

Today's blog post is not about peaches.

It's blueberry season, and this is the first weekend day we've had to go pick them in a while. So I dragged the family out of bed with the promise of muffins and we went to "our spot." Sometimes when we are there we see an older Ukrainian gentleman who is picking as well but we didn't see him today. We did see lots of people walking through there, more than previous years. They knew exactly what we were doing but no one seemed to care. In a little over 2 hours many busy hands gathered 20 cups of wild berries and got out of there before the rain came.

At home, I sorted and washed the berries and pulled off all the little stems that stayed behind. Then I made two batches of blueberry jam back to back so for the purposes of making labels I'm lumping them all together. Twelve jars in total, each batch was six cups of berries, four cups of sugar and a package of powdered pectin.

Six more cups of berries were set aside in the freezer for pancakes or other baking projects. The rest are being saved for tomorrow when I can make blueberry scones.

Maybe I'll toss a peach in them for good measure. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Still Going Strong

Yesterday I picked another 6 pounds of peaches off the tree (running tally now at 31 pounds!) and set them in a bag to ripen. I also started up a batch of peach ice cream by making a creme anglaise base but instead of 16 oz milk I used about 8-9 ounces of puréed peaches and then the rest was milk. This cured overnight to develop the flavor and then today when I got home I ran it through the ice cream maker. I added about 1 cup of chopped peaches at the end and it's now freezing solid so it'll be ready for dessert tonight.

Also this afternoon, I put up another 2 quarts of peaches in syrup. That makes 6 quarts, which is about what I wanted, so the next project might be another batch of jam or another crisp. Or maybe a pie. There are still so many more on the tree! I've even started giving some to the neighbors.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Thunderstorms

Today I was working at another nearby hospital, about 12 or so miles from my house. While I was at work the craziest thunderstorm occurred, with blinding rain, probably hail in some places, strong winds, and flash flooding. I was really worried it would destroy the rest of the peaches on the tree but here's the weird part - it missed our house entirely!

I didn't get home in time to pick more peaches today but yesterday I picked 7.5 pounds and, the day before, just about 2. That brings the tally to 25 pounds of peaches so far! This evening after dinner and a movie I processed another 2 quarts of peaches in syrup. I suspect I get more peaches per jar because they're smaller and they pack tighter. But I still would like to get at least another 2 quarts canned before they're all gone. There's been a request for another crisp and I plan to try to make peach ice cream tomorrow as well.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Continuing on the Peach Theme

Today's quick after-work project was peaches in syrup. I picked another 4 pounds off the tree (current tally: 15.5 pounds total) and peeled, pitted and sliced as many as were ripe enough. The peach slices sat in warm light syrup until I was done, and then I packed them into two quart jars and processed them. (25 minutes, rest for 5 minutes.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

This is Much Easier

When I buy peaches at the farm, I buy them by the half-bushel. And then I have about 24 hours to process them all before they go bad. It's stressful. With my tree, I'll probably end up with about the same amount of peaches but I am getting them a few at a time. This way, I can do a project each day and nothing is in danger of spoiling.

Today I pulled another 2.5 pounds off the tree, making a total of 11.5 pounds so far. And after some other yard work, I made another batch of peach jam, this time with crystallized ginger. So: 4 cups chopped peaches, 2 T. lemon juice, 1/4 cup crystallized ginger pieces, 1 box powdered pectin, and 5.5 cups sugar. You know, for the fair.

As I was chopping up the peaches I started thinking about peach ice cream. That might be my next project!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Another 5 Pounds

Today I pulled out a stepladder and picked another 5 pounds of peaches off the tree. Most are good sized peaches, some are quite small, and they all need a little time on the counter to ripen. Fortunately, I had some already ripening in the house, so those got put to use today to make a batch of jam.

Four cups of diced peaches, 5.5 cups sugar, 2 T. lemon juice and 1 package of powdered pectin. Since I didn't have a lot of half-pint jars, I filled 2 pint jars, 2 half-pint jars and one half-cup jar. Each jar got one or two maraschino cherries in it, depending upon the size of the jar. If I get enough for another batch (I should) I'll add some crystallized ginger. Once I get all the batches of jam done, I plan to start canning the peaches in syrup. One of these two batches will end up going to the fair, we'll just have to see which one is better.

The rest of the peaches that were reasonably ripe are going into a crisp for dessert tonight. Yum!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Peaches, From My Very Own Tree

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Starting to Pick Up

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

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

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

Back From Vacation

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

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

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

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

Oh, and the stars were just gorgeous.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fish Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

Chocolatey Treats

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

Chocolate covered brownie bites. Need I say more?

Cherries On Sale

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

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Strawberry Overload

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Better Year

It's shaping up to be a better year for fruit. We've had a lot of rain, and now the sun and heat are making things sweet. While I don't get a lot of strawberries from the front yard, after 5 trips to the mulberry tree in the back I extracted enough juice to make a batch of mulberry jelly. Just like before, I used 4 cups of juice, 3 T. lime juice, 5 cups of sugar and 1 package of powdered pectin. I think I may set aside jars of this for the fair. Now I can let the birds have the rest of the berries; whenever I went to pick they'd sit in the higher branches and squawk at me.

We're hoping to go strawberry picking tomorrow, bright and early. Well, I am hoping to go picking. I am bribing the family with gigantic muffins so they'll get up and come with me.

Also today, I'm making bread so by later tonight I should have three fresh loaves. I'm still managing to make that commitment; I truly haven't bought a loaf of sandwich bread since February of 2016. That makes me very happy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Getting Back into a Groove

After a slow winter and spring, mainly due to my general overwhelmedness, I'm finally starting up with some projects again. The farm share yesterday came with a large Napa cabbage and, after consulting with my friend, we decided it would be better if I made it into kimchi and then split that up. So this morning I started the brining process for the cabbage and tonight I'll get it set up to ferment.

Also today, I started a batch of yogurt. I was going to do that the other day and then discovered that the milk I'd purchased for it went bad because I'd waited too long. So now that's going until this evening as well, hopefully the yogurt I picked for a starter (Green Mountain Creamery Greek Yogurt) is a good choice.

The mulberry tree in the backyard is covered in berries this year and for the past two nights I've managed to pick enough berries to extract a cup of juice each time. Two more harvests like that and I'll have enough mulberry juice to make a batch of jelly. My strawberries in the front yard are few and far between, I am still competing with the chipmunks to get them first. And I still have to find some sort of netting to put over my peach tree to keep the birds and squirrels out. I'm hoping the chipmunks can't or won't climb that high...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Farm Season

The farm share started up last week and since it's been a cooler and rainy spring it's off to a slow start. Not that I mind. Last year was so hot and dry I'm grateful for all the rain. We were all worried when it was so hot this past February!

This year I'm splitting the share with a friend. It'll be good for both of us, I think. A full share can be so much food! So I'll likely do a little less canning from my share but it'll be less overwhelming.

Yesterday's share contained radishes, Hakurei turnips, spinach, arugula, herbs, snap peas, komatsuna greens, mustard greens and kale. My half of the share, except for the greens I'm giving to Mocha, basically made one terrific salad. I was able to snag a few ripe strawberries from my front garden, the ones the chipmunks hadn't found, and add those as well. Strawberry season should start in earnest next week!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fiddly

The other day we were going to a party and I wanted to make pretty cookies. I'd seen a picture somewhere of cookies where the dough was woven and then the cookies were cut out and they were adorable. I tried to recreate that.

I will never do it again.

The dough was too flexible and broke a lot, and I had a hard time making even strips. Some of the cookies came out looking like those woven buttons that were popular in the '60's and '70's. I finally gave up and made rounds scored with the tines of a fork. Some of those got sugar crystals and some didn't. It was a long afternoon.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Accomplishments

After making all that apricot jam, I left the canner out for a few days, hoping it would inspire me to work on those fiddleheads I'd bought. It did; today I pickled them and got three 8-ounce jars of garlic fiddlehead pickles. I followed this recipe but changed one thing, mainly that I used champagne vinegar rather than white wine vinegar. The champagne vinegar is from the batch I made a while back. Also, I'm not sure why it says not to submerge the jars when canning; I did submerge and can them the usual way and they sealed up perfectly.

A little blurry but you get the idea...
The other things I managed to get done today were to get the "yurt" ready for summer and wrap up the soaps I made last month with my friend. Several years ago I bought one of those backyard tent things that you can put a table and chairs in and then enjoy your dinner without all the mosquitos. Ours happens to be hexagonal so looks more like a yurt than anything, although I think it's officially a gazebo. Every year we have to hang up the curtains; I made the mistake one year of hanging them up too soon and the stormy spring weather tore off all the velcro straps so I wait now until the weather finally calms down and the pollen surges have passed.

My honey-beeswax-lavender-rosemary soaps finally finished curing and I wrapped them in parchment paper with little labels so we can either use them here or give as gifts. Two were already gifted so I only have six left. However, each bar lasts a fairly long time; and I still have other bars of soap from my friend to use here if I decide to give them all away.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Just Too Much

Have you ever had so much to do you didn't know where to begin?

Yes, of course you have. Well, it's been happening to me lately, which is part of why I haven't done a whole lot of cooking or canning projects. Sometimes, being busy is a good thing. It gets you going in the morning, out the door, and then it's easier to run your errands and get things done because you're already past that inertia. Sometimes, you either have more than that or just slightly less, at which point the path of least resistance is to sit on the couch and play video games and justify that you'll do that thing tomorrow. Over and over again.

So much so that I let an entire bag of Meyer lemons go bad because I kept putting off making curd. That I haven't even planned our summer vacation. That I have to be reminded to do the things I said I do. This is not like me.

Therefore, when I saw that apricots were on sale today I took that as an opportunity and bought a whole bunch. Enough to make a batch of apricot jam and a batch of apricot ginger jam. (I had fresh ginger in the house because I planned to make something with it and, you guessed it, never got around to it.) I'm hoping the apricot ginger jam is fair-worthy and I'll set two jars aside.

Maybe this is the kick I need to get moving. I certainly hope so.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Latest Projects, Frozen and Fresh

Yesterday, partly because it was Saturday and partly because my husband had just returned on a red-eye flight, no one really felt motivated to do anything. Sure, we went for a walk in the park, and did some chores, and I mowed the lawn, but no one had the energy for the grocery store. So I raided the freezer for dinner...

I took some garlic scape pesto and bittercress pesto and mixed them together with a little heavy cream, to make a sauce. There were portobello ravioli and butternut squash ravioli; I thought the pesto would go better with the portobellos. The youngerchild, not being a fan of mushrooms (or squash, for that matter) got steamed pork buns instead. It was a successful meal, and I even used the pesto sauce to dress up the plate for the buns. Just because it came from the freezer doesn't mean it can't look pretty!
Part of the reason I was tired yesterday was I spent a fair amount of time making brioche dough and pastry cream in anticipation of making cinnamon rolls this morning. The brioche dough, after it's fermentation, is refrigerated overnight to develop flavor. This morning I rolled it out, spread the pastry cream on it, added cinnamon, rolled them up and voilá:

Friday, May 5, 2017

Out of Practice

Preparing the Violet Infusion
Today I made the first batch of jelly for the season - violets. I'm really out of practice. I don't think I've canned anything for quite a while. The violets came from my yard, they finally bounced back from the landscaping work we did in the front of the house. It still took 4 separate gatherings to get enough violet infusion to make jelly.

Four cups of infusion, 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice, a box of powdered pectin and five cups of sugar. Yield: 12 4-oz jars of violet jelly plus some in the fridge for now. The youngerchild will be pleased.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Belated Birthday Cake Post

The youngerchild turned 12 the other day and we had a little party with the extended family. I hadn't made a cheesecake in a while, and that is what the youngerchild chose when given the option, so I made a NY style cheesecake with a chocolate graham cracker crust. However, that wasn't enough chocolate, so I made a little ganache and topped the cheesecake with the ganache and then sliced strawberries. While the cheesecake didn't crack as much as the one I made in school last year, it did crack a little, so the ganache did a nice job of hiding that.

Another New Skill

Two days ago I learned how to make soap. I have a couple of friends who make soap, one of whom sells her products. I had saved up some beeswax and honey for her and brought it over so we could make soap together.

First of all, apparently beeswax isn't the best ingredient for soap, at least not in large quantities. A quick web search suggested only 1-2% of the total oil weight should be beeswax so we used... 10g. And it was a challenge to melt it and incorporate it into the mix.

My friend showed me how to calculate the lye content, make the lye water, and measure out the oils. What we decided to do was to hold some of the water back, boil it, and use it to melt the beeswax. It sort of worked, but the minute we added it back in the wax would solidify so there were tiny little flecks of beeswax in the soap. I still think it worked reasonably well.

She wanted to make a soap with layers, so first we made the basic soap, which is white. She used palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil and that little bit of beeswax. When you mix in the lye and whisk and whisk, it turns white (begins the process of saponification). After we added the scents (lavender with a little rosemary) she divided it into three portions. To the second portion we added about a tablespoon of honey and the tiniest bit of turmeric. To the third, about a teaspoon of turmeric.

We poured the soaps one at a time into the molds, trying to keep the layers level in between. Then they sat, wrapped in towels, in an insulated bag, for two days. Today I picked up my oblong of soap, which looks beautiful, and cut it into eight bars. These will now sit for a month to finish the process of saponification and become lovely little bars of soap. They smell divine.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Treats

In the few days leading up to today, I was busy with work but also with baking. First, as a lunch box treat, I made Easter-themed Linzer cookies. In order to do this, I needed to get tiny little cookie cutters. Even with them being so small, the cookies needed to be a fairly large size to accommodate the challenges of asymmetric cut outs. Many of the rabbits broke, but here are some of the ones that made it:
The fillings were blueberry jam and strawberry lavender jam.

Today, in between Easter baskets, video games, an egg hunt and a walk to the grocery store, I made Puits D'amour (wells of love) out of quick puff pastry (butter, flour, salt and water, folded and rolled many times), lemon curd and meringue. Since they ended up being more oval than round, I took that as serendipity. They are egg shaped, after all.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Now I'm REALLY Confused

Today is a gorgeous, warm day, and I headed out to clean the hive up and get it tucked away. After all, the bees were dead, right?

Wrong.

I found the queen, still alive and kicking, with maybe 200 bees. Not enough to start a colony, I don't think. There was no evidence of any new brood. There was a LOT of honey. I decided to organize the hive a bit and removed all the burr comb, cross comb, and otherwise shaggy looking comb. I took some but not all of the honey. The bees even fanned a bit to let the rest know where the queen was. I tucked them all back in.

And then I contacted my mentor, who told me that was the right thing to do. Either they'll make it or they won't. He suggested I could get a new package and install them but I don't think I have the energy right now to make that happen. I'm going to let nature take its course.

Meanwhile, I'm busy extracting honey and rendering beeswax. And scratching my head at the tenacity of my hive. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

I Guess It Did

A month ago I reported that the bees were flying in the unseasonably warm weather, bringing in pollen and looking healthy. Sadly, we subsequently had a cold snap that maybe triggered the demise of the colony.

It's hard to know for sure. Were they weakened by the previous summer's drought? Probably. Maybe Queen Beatrix died for real this time. Anyway, after that cold weather, when it warmed up just a bit, I peeked through the window and saw one live bee carrying a dead one toward the entrance. I didn't see any more live bees; usually when light comes in the window they rush to it and that didn't happen. So I worried and I wondered if they were going to make it; maybe they just needed time to deal with that event and there were more in there that I couldn't see.

Nope. Yesterday I went again - it was 55 degrees and sunny, and they should have been flying around. I saw one live bee, sitting on the roof, and the hive floor had many dead bees. Even under the roof there were more dead bees, who all appeared normal to the eye, just dead.

On the advice of one of the beekeeping class instructors I have closed off the entrance to the hive to protect the honey that is still in there (they didn't run out, I can see some) and next week I'll open it all up and clean it out. I have a friend or two who make soap, and I can render the beeswax for them and save the honey for me.

This isn't the year for me to take on more projects so I won't get a new starter colony this year. I'll plan on the following year, if circumstances allow. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Birthday Boston Cream Pie

It's been a bit more hectic than usual in our household and I haven't had a lot of time for baking or any cooking, really. In fact, the elderchild commented on the amount of take-out we were eating! However, it was my husband's birthday and I needed to throw him a little party. So I made one of his favorite cakes: Boston Cream Pie.

For this, I used the go-to white cake recipe. Since we were not having cake on his actual birthday, I scooped out enough batter to make four cupcakes and frosted them with 1/4 of the recipe of fudge frosting. It was actually enough for only 3 cupcakes (apparently that day I was not good at math, I needed to make 1/3 of the recipe for 4 cupcakes) so I used the last of the saffron-white chocolate ganache from the profiteroles on mine. It was fine. Anyway, I made the cake in the tall ring from my culinary classes and stored the cake in the fridge until yesterday.

The next thing was to make the custard. I think that, after 30 years, my pots are finally starting to get thin on the bottom as things seem to burn more than they used to. Anyway, the custard had a very slight tinge of "toasted marshmallow" that maybe only I noticed. No one else seemed to care, anyway.

Last came the ganache: 54% chocolate with cream, butter and vanilla.

Then I trimmed the cake into two layers and tried to use my ring to make the cake look pretty. First I tried to put a layer of ganache on the chilled ring, but I'd trimmed the cake a little too small so there was a gap. I filled the gap and the middle of the two layers with the custard and then topped the whole thing with a layer of ganache and chilled it.

After I removed the ring, it looked way better than I had anticipated! I took the little bit of leftover ganache and piped some decorations then kept it chilled until almost time for dessert. After a dinner of cheese fondue, of course.

Not bad for my first attempt at Boston Cream Pie!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Snowy Pi Day

This year, for Pi Day, I was prepared. I bought some pears before the snowstorm and today, with the help of the elderchild, made a maple pear pie. After slicing the pears, I let them sit with 1/2 cup sugar while we made the crust. Then I drained the pears and boiled the juice with some maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch to thicken it. This was mixed back with the pears before filling the pie crust. Here's the finished pie.
Note the vents - the elderchild carved at least 11 digits of π into the crust!
We had some of our neighbors over to enjoy it with us, and it was terrific! Also I made a raspberry tart with the rest of the crust; that was an afternoon snack.

In addition to all that, while the storm was dumping eight inches of snow, and then rain, on us, I made a gallon of yogurt, a batch of cornbread, a batch of chili, and also did a whole bunch of laundry. Oh, yeah, and last night I made bread. All sorts of lovely food!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Profiteroles

Before the onslaught of illness, we were supposed to have dinner with friends at their house. I planned to make profiteroles, which are pate a choux puffs filled with ice cream and then topped with some sort of chocolate sauce. I made them, and then they hung out in the freezer until we finally all got well enough to reschedule.

Gougères
I wasn't sure how my oven would deal with pate a choux. It's not well sealed, and loses heat all the time, and I was afraid it would lose the moisture created in the first half of the baking process. Thankfully, it didn't, and I got 20 puffs made without much fuss. I used the rest of the pate a choux batter to make gougères by mixing in shredded cheese and some mustard and scooping the batter onto a baking sheet. These were amazing and got consumed within a few hours. Yum.

The next step was making rose flavored ice cream, just like I did for class a year ago. A custard base, with rose water added, then that rested in the fridge for a day. After that I churned it in the ice cream maker and, while it was still soft, piped it into the puffs. I know this isn't the usual way to do this, but I thought it might be interesting to have them filled this way. It did work out, although I had to move quickly to keep from being covered in melty rose-flavored ice cream!

These then lived in the freezer in an airtight container until last night. To top them off, I made a saffron-white chocolate ganache, with 4 ounces of white chocolate, 4 ounces of cream, a little butter, and a generous pinch of saffron (added after the cream was heated, before being added to the chocolate). By the time we got to dessert the ganache was the perfect pouring consistency. I also brought chocolate fudge sauce because I wasn't sure how the kids would like the saffron. We ended up all trying both. I think the saffron ganache was the better choice!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Comfort Foods, Again

There has been an unbroken circle of illness going around the house over the past two weeks. So much so that a lot of our plans have completely gone out the window. Such is winter, I guess.

Anyway, yesterday to ease unsettled tummies, I made chicken noodle soup. Actually, I made chicken and goose noodle soup, as I found both chicken and goose bones in the freezer. This won't be canned as it's needed now.

Today I made "kitchen sink cookies," meaning chocolate chip cookies but with anything and everything in them. Some of the things I'd been hoping to add had gone bad, including pretzels (really? yes, pretzels can apparently go bad) and peanuts, so here's what was in them: mini chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, coarsely chopped almonds, coconut flakes, craisins, raisins, and mini marshmallows. I should try to remember not to bake with marshmallows. They melt and caramelize before anything else bakes.

However, having a weekend in which I am stuck in the house helped me finish another project. Mocha, our rabbit, has a problem with textiles. By that I mean he finds some of them irresistible. So about a month ago my husband recovered the window seat. I took the leftover fabric, bought a contrasting but complementary fabric, some trim, and a few pillow forms and, very slowly, made replacement pillows. I finally got them all done today.

Just don't look too closely at the seams!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I Hope This Won't Mess Them Up

You might have heard, it's been unseasonably warm in Massachusetts so far. Today it was 65 degrees, last week it was in the 70's. And the bees have, thus far, survived the winter. Today I went out and had a peek.

I saw bees flying in with pollen, although I have no idea from what! (Maybe maples and crocuses?) Which implies that there is some sort of nectar somewhere. And I saw capped honey still so there may be some for me to take next month. Or later this month, if it stays warm. My plan to not feed them fondant this past winter seems to have worked out. There were no guarantees it would, but I think overall it was a mild enough winter.

Since January I've been taking a beekeeping class which has been a nice review for some of the things I already knew and I'm learning a bit more. One of the things I wanted to learn was the terminology and use of a Langstroth hive. Not that I'm going to get one, but when beekeepers talk about how to tend to a hive, they use Langstroth jargon and I don't always know how to extrapolate to my top bar hive. Now I have a bit of a better idea. I also have a connection with a top bar beekeeper who has said I can call him if I need help. I may tap him when I want to try to split my colony this year so I can figure out how to do it properly.

Here's wishing for a year without drought, and maybe I'll finally see what my hive can do under proper conditions.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mom

So my Mom had a birthday and I decided I would make her a cake. It took three days, if you consider I made the cake and then froze it for a day until I could do the rest. One of my favorite cakes from school was a white genoise cake with strawberries and kirsch flavored mousseline. I decided to make it with a chocolate genoise instead. The genoise was easy. (I used half of the recipe in the text, and that made enough for one cake. Perfect.) The rest used every pot I had: kirsch flavored syrup to soak the cake, pastry cream and buttercream for the mousseline. Here's the sink when I was done with all that:
I then chilled the cake and yesterday morning removed the ring (using the torch) and then decorated the top with more berries and a little chocolate. Then glazed the berries using apricot glaze mixed with a little strawberry jam.

Mom was pleased. 
I also brought the last baguette to their house and made garlic bread with it for dinner. It was phenomenal.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Blizzard and Baking

The other day we had a blizzard, dropping about 15 inches of snow on our area. After spending a few hours at work (I went REALLY early so I could be done before the worst of the snow started) I tried a second time to make baguettes. This time, I used a recipe from one of my culinary school pals but I used the school method of folding the dough every hour to build up the air pockets. I was also much more careful about overproofing. I may, in fact, have underproofed slightly but that is less of a problem in this case.
My friend has a different method for folding the dough and I'm going to try that next time and compare. Instead of the dough being flat, it's kept round and then the sides are folded up and over like flower petals. It'll be interesting to compare.

Last night another friend came over and we had the bread with my homemade paté, some cheeses, and a really terrific artichoke spread she brought with her. The bread sliced easily and had some nice air pockets but didn't have quite the crumb I was looking for. This is why I want to try the other method and see what I get.

I have another project I've been working on, but I won't be done with that one until later today and then I'll see how it all looks....

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Valentine Linzer Cookies

With Valentine's Day coming up, I needed to make some cookies for the kids. Thankfully, shortbread-type cookies work just fine in my oven and that's exactly what Linzer cookies are. I made them without almond flour so they were just regular flour, butter, sugar and egg yolks. I cut my recipe into a third and that made 22 cookies. I suppose could have made them smaller, but these felt just right.

The filling is strawberry lavender jam from my stash. Half are being frozen for now and the other half can be eaten in the next few days. Yum!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

First Attempt

The other day I learned how to make azuki bean paste from a friend. I brought some home and, since the youngerchild loves bean buns, tried to make my own.

Let's just say, they looked nothing like the photos on the webpage. They were edible. That's the nicest thing I can say about them. I didn't take photos.

So, for future attempts:
  1. Don't make the dough circles too thin
  2. Mash up the bean paste more
  3. Don't overproof
  4. Put down some sort of parchment or rice paper on the steamer first
  5. Don't let them touch each other in the steamer
I'm sure there are more things I could do better, but this is a start. I think I had ONE out of sixteen that looked like it was supposed to.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gooduckey Soup

Finally, I had all the ingredients amassed to make this soup! Usually it's turducken but this year we also had a goose, so I could play around a bit. Yesterday I made the turkey stock - two gallons of stock. Don't judge.

Here's the ingredients for this year's batch of poultry wonderfulness:

2 leeks, sliced
6 ribs celery, chopped
1 package each of portabella and shitake mushrooms, sliced
12 ounces oyster mushrooms, sliced
4 cups turkey meat
2 cups each duck meat and goose meat
1 cup wild rice
1/2 cup farro
4 quarts turkey stock
2 quarts duck stock
2 quarts goose stock
salt, pepper and tarragon to taste

Once the vegetables are sautéed, the meat and stock were added to the pot. This was brought to a boil and then simmered for at least 30 minutes. After that, the rice and farro were added and continued to simmer until done, about another 30 minutes. Super easy, as long as you have everything ready to go.

Now I have 14 pints of soup in the canner, and at least 3 more quarts in various containers in the fridge and the freezer. I can use the non-canned stuff for lunches at work over the next week and gradually start to dip into the canned ones later. 

Once these are done, I will can the rest of the turkey stock. Eight Nine(!) pints worth. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Year of the Rooster

Today is the Chinese New Year and a friend of ours was hosting a celebratory dinner/housewarming party. I wanted to make something at least remotely traditional and didn't have a lot of time. A quick Google search yielded various cookies and then I found a recipe for Chinese peanut candy. I've seen this stuff in Chinatown, little batons wrapped in plastic, always factory-made. I'd never even thought about making it from scratch. But it was so easy! The peanuts are roasted and then mixed with salt and five spice powder, then put on a baking sheet with sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. Then the sugar is cooked with water and a little vinegar for 16 minutes and poured over the top. When the sugar is poured, the candy is sprinkled with more sesame seeds and, after a few minutes, cut into pieces.

A few notes to self: the amount of the sugar wasn't enough, so while I doubled the recipe I should have tripled the sugar portion AND maybe use a little less of the red pepper flakes. It has a kick.

Another gift I brought for my friend was paté, made from a combination of chicken, duck and turkey livers. I'd saved a bunch of livers from all our various roast birds and ended up with 18 ounces of liver. That, when cooked with the shallots, garlic and duck fat, made two 12-oz loaves of paté. I made the paté a few days ago, using this recipe, and had frozen some of my share for later meals. I think my friend may do the same. Twelve ounces is a LOT of paté.

The other project for today was making turkey stock. I now have all the stocks I need to make Gooduckey soup, which I think I'll do tomorrow. I have a ton of turkey meat, some duck and some goose meat to go with all the stocks. I just want to pick up some more exotic mushrooms and then I'll have everything I need. I didn't can the turkey stock yet; I'll take what I need for the soup and then can the rest.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Snickerdoodles

Yesterday, I made a batch of snickerdoodles. They were so easy! But I used my #24 scoop, which was too much dough per cookie. It's my smallest scoop, and I thought I'd be OK. Not really. Some of the cookies ended up hexagonal because they ran into each other. I decided to try again.

Today's batch was a touch different. Rather than rolling them in cinnamon and sugar, I decided to use cardamom and sugar instead. Which meant, of course, that I needed to add some rosewater to the dough! I added a teaspoon of rosewater. Maybe not enough. It smelled great before baking but lost the rose flavor/scent after. The cardamom tasted great, though!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

*TINK*

That's the sound I hate to hear when I have the pressure canner going. It means something has gone awry!

For New Year's Day, we were coming back from skiing and a friend had purchased a goose with a plan that she would cook it at our house after we got back. THAT plan went off without a hitch. She found a terrific recipe for roast goose, complete with a gravy that was just OK until the last ingredient was added - minced goose liver. Then the gravy was phenomenal. And I'm not usually a gravy fan! (I'll admit, I had eyes on that liver so I could add it to the paté I'm making soon but, I agree, the gravy needed it more.) We saved all the bones to make stock and I set aside some chopped up meat in the freezer to make a different soup variation...Turgoosuck. Well, maybe the name still needs a little work.

Last week I took the bones out of the freezer and made stock. Four quarts of stock, to be exact. And I set them aside until I had time to can them. See, to make the soup, I need turkey, duck and goose stocks, and I can only really make one at a time. But I've been busy, so I haven't had the time I needed to can them. Until today. And only because the youngerchild is sick and wasn't in school and so isn't doing the usual afternoon activities. So. I took the stock, which was cold, skimmed off the fat and poured it into four quart jars. Which were also cold. I put cold water in the pressure canner, left the top off, and heated everything up together. This seemed to be going fine. Then I put the lid on, and continued to heat everything up until it started to vent steam. After it had vented steam for five minutes, I heard it.

TINK.

Sadly, I know what that means! I turned off the burner, undid the canner and, sure enough, one of the jars had snapped at the bottom. The TINK was from the jar pieces hitting each other in the canner. I had to take everything out, rinse out the canner, and put in new water. Which, now that the jars of stock were hot, had to be heated up before I could put the jars back in. Once everything seemed to be the same temperature, I put the jars (three of them) back in and am trying again.

So much for trying to be clever.

Also, I'm making duck stock today, and will can this as well. Then, all I'll need is time to make the turkey stock and then I can devote an afternoon to making soup. Turgoosuck soup. Durkeese? Gooduckey?