Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Plum Jelly

This morning we got up early and, since I didn't have to go to work, and the kids were asleep, I decided that now was the time to make that plum jelly. It doesn't take long if the juice has already been extracted! I used 4 cups of the juice, which is really thick and syrupy, with 6.5 cups of sugar and 1 pouch of liquid pectin. This yielded 8 cups of jelly (2 pints, 4 half-pints) and it's nice and tart even with the sugar added.

Now, if only I could figure out a plan for the rest of the juice. I have about 4 cups left. I found a recipe that called for plum juice and crystallized ginger, but I am wondering what other options I have. I suppose I could freeze the juice until I have other fruits to combine it with, but where's the fun in that?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Suburban Gleaning

We went to visit my parents in RI over the weekend. As we drove to their house, 2 lots away I noticed red berries growing in a vacant lot. As soon as I could I went over there, carrying a container (hopeful, aren't I?), to see if they were something good to eat. To my surprise, they were black raspberries! The unripe ones had caught my eye, but there was a good amount of the ripe ones for us all to share.

The next day, I convinced my father that I could do something with the plums growing on his (mostly decorative) plum trees. He doesn't spray them or anything, and 2 years ago we had harvested a bunch and I extracted the juice and a lot of unmentionable critters. I attempted to make jelly with that small amount of juice but it came out more like fruit leather, and that was the end of that. This year we put down a tarp and with 3 adults and the occasional help from the 5 year old, harvested a LOT of plums. These were then washed, and I sliced each and every one, only keeping the ones without any of those aforementioned critters. Even with throwing a lot away, I filled a big pot with plums and still had an entire large bowl full of plums (which I eventually tossed, there were just too many). After boiling, straining, adding more hot water, straining some more, I ended up with about 2 quarts of juice. That's a lot of juice! I want to make plum jelly but I am also hoping to use some of the juice to make a plum sauce or BBQ sauce, but all the recipes I'm finding are for the pulp, not the juice. Can anyone help?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Farm Share Cooking

Just wanted to log in what I've done with last week's farm share. On Monday night we had friends over for dinner and I wanted to use my fresh veggies. We had a big salad, which boasted lettuce from the farm and radishes from my garden (whee!), swiss chard with a lemon and olive oil dressing (from the cookbook Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop), and quinoa with garlic scapes and spinach tossed in. For the latter, I cooked the scapes then toasted the quinoa (black and white) at the same time, then cooked in chicken broth. When it was done, I tossed in shredded spinach leaves and let them wilt. It was that easy. A little lemon juice on top finished it nicely. All of this went very well with the grilled salmon.

All I have left is snow peas and some garlic scapes. I will likely use them tomorrow for something. My sister in law gets the share this week, and then we start splitting. Oh, and my tomato plants, even the sad ones that aren't growing well, have tomatoes on them!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Zen of Mulberries

We've already established that I'm a little odd when it comes to unusual foods, right?

Yesterday I was walking past a conservation area on my way home from the subway when I saw something unusual. White mulberries, growing wild, overhanging the sidewalk. I knew white mulberries existed but I had never actually seen any before. I had to have some.

Today after I got home from work I went back to those 2 trees and picked a whole bunch of white mulberries. Once I got them home I headed up to the black mulberry tree on the corner, and picked what is likely to be my last quart of the season. I present to you now - the yin and yang of mulberries:Yeah. I'm pretty sure I'm nuts. But I'm OK with that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quadruple Berry Pie

I've been trying to figure out for a while what to do with all the berries in syrup I have lying around in jars. We don't go through them fast enough to really justify preserving berries this way in the future. But I still had a lot in the pantry. I got it in my head (uh oh, we know how this goes) to make a pie with all of them: mulberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. I used up all the berries: 3 pints of strawberries, 2 pints blueberries, and 1 half-pint each of raspberries and mulberries.

I have a confession to make - I'm not a big fan of measuring things perfectly. Or at all. I usually just gauge it by eye unless I really need to measure for some reason. Today I didn't even use any measuring cups at all. I tossed some cornstarch (roughly 1/4 cup) in a sauce pan, added maybe 1/2 cup of sugar and about a cup of the syrups from all those jars, mixed together, and made a thick slurry. I poured this over all the berries which had been drained and put in the pie shell. Then I topped the pie with the crust and crimped. I will admit that this time there was too much liquid in the pie and it is already spilling over (see the photo of the pie in the oven). But I'm sure it will be yummy so I don't really care so much if it's messy!Yup. Definitely messy. But it smells good...

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Fun with Mulberries

Yesterday I picked up the farm share: lettuce, spinach, chard, garlic scapes, shelling peas, snow peas, and strawberries. So dinner last night was chicken, quinoa tossed with raw peas and garlic scapes, and a big salad: lettuce, cucumber, peas, goat cheese, and mulberries. Yes, I went out to that tree again. And in 15 minutes got almost a full quart of berries. That tree gets better every year!

We were left after dinner with a large bowl of mulberries and another of strawberries. "Make a crisp!" requested the 8 year old. So, I got it ready last night and this morning got up, popped it in the oven, and went back to bed for 20 minutes. It was nice having warm crisp for breakfast. And all from berries picked by me!

Doesn't it look yummy?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Unusual Flavor Day

We've already canned mulberries with rhubarb and vanilla today, what other weirdness can we come up with? Well...

My in-laws had left 3 grapefruits in my fridge. Now, I like grapefruit, in theory. I like those little Sunkist fruit gels and, of those, my favorite flavor is grapefruit. I like the smell. I don't like eating them; the membranes are too tough, and they splash in my face when I try to eat them by halves. Not to mention, eating them in halves makes me feel as though I'm on a diet. (Maybe it's a learned aversion?)

So here are these grapefruits, metaphorically burning a hole in my fridge. And I hate wasting food. And if I'm not going to eat them, I highly doubt anyone else in the family is going to. I set about looking for something to do. I came across this recipe but, as I have probably previously mentioned, I'm not a big fan of marmalade. Then I found this recipe for grapefruit jelly. Those wheels in my brain started up again. I have another vanilla bean and I have rosewater. I even have a rose in the backyard from which I can grab a few petals to put in the jars. Voila!

Rose-Vanilla Grapefruit Jelly
3 cups grapefruit juice*
4 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
1 vanilla bean
2 drops red food coloring
2 T. rosewater

*I simmered the grapefruit with 1 and a half cups of water and then strained them through a cheesecloth to get the juice. The food coloring and the rosewater were added after the boiling step. This yielded 4 half-pint jars; I put 1/4 of the vanilla bean and 1 rose petal into each one.

Mulberry Time

This time of year, my whole family keeps an eye out for mulberry trees for me. There is one around the corner from me which has the largest and sweetest mulberries I've ever seen. We found another one at the local elementary school and picked some berries there before we were chased away by a thunderstorm. I froze those berries in anticipation of getting enough to make some sort of jam but, I must say, they are not as good as those from the tree around the corner. We made two trips to that tree, freezing each small haul, until I felt I had enough berries.

Today I did an experiment, sort of, and I hope it works out. I had a total of 4 cups of crushed mulberries and 2 heaping cups of chopped rhubarb (this is the last of the rhubarb for this year. Honest.). Certo recipes seem to use 1 package of Certo to 4 cups of fruit, so I could either use 1 or 2 packages or try to use 1.5 packages, I chose 1 package. My thought was that the mulberries and rhubarb, being less sweet than other fruits, might have more pectin in them. That's the gamble here; maybe it won't be as gelled as I'd like. Anyhow, here's today's recipe:

Mulberry-Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam
4 cups crushed mulberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
7 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half, sliced open
1 package Certo

This made 9 half-pints, almost exactly. Processed in the boiling water canner for 10 minutes. It has a very strong vanilla taste and smell. Mmm.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Farm is Back!

Our farm share started up again last week. For the first few weeks my sister-in-law and I are alternating weeks and not splitting; it just seemed easier that way. This week it was my turn so there I was, in my dress clothes and hiking boots, in the mud, picking strawberries and peas. Thanks to the share, tonight's menu is:

Stir fried chicken, snow peas and spinach with garlic scapes
Salad with red and green lettuce, snap peas, strawberries, radishes (from the farm) and cukes and mozzarella cheese (from the store)
Extra strawberries for dessert

Yippee! Glad to be getting great local produce again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Second Chance

This morning I received an email saying that I had a second chance at the sausage making class. It turns out that the seller decided to do exactly what "Looking Forward" had suggested in the comment yesterday. There are now going to be 2 separate one-on-one sessions since there was such high interest. After a little deliberation with my husband, we signed me up.

What sort of sausage should I make?

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Lost on eBay

Our town has been running a huge fundraiser recently, trying to deal with a $4 million deficit in the school budget. It's meant to be a one-year attempt to hold off some of the pain and buy the school district some time to come up with a better solution. Appropriately, it's called "Bridge the Gap" and, from what I hear, we're not the only town doing this sort of thing lately. The goal is $1 million by tonight. As of yesterday, they were at $418,410. Long way to go.

One of the fundraising efforts has been an on line auction, which closes tonight. The only thing I really wanted to bid on was a 3-hour sausage making course, basically a one-on-one tutorial from someone who knows what they're doing. Who knew I would end up in a bidding war? I mean, it's sausages. I'm kinda weird and was looking forward to learning that skill. I didn't think anyone else was! Well, I lost. What was listed as having a $75 value is going for $405, and not to me. Ultimately, though, the schools will win; not only is that other person paying $405, I decided to just donate additional cash to the fund which will get matched by my husband's company.

What I didn't think about until after the auction had already started was that I should have put up a canning lesson to be auctioned off. I'll remember that for future fundraisers; I am sure there will be many.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tales from the doctors diary....

I'm an old friend of the Canning Doc. Sometimes when I visit, the CD (that's short for Canning Doc) feels the need to put me to work. So, off we went in the wee hours of the morning to personally greet a field of strawberries and jalapenos. Now, I can't say if the plants were happy about the plans the CD had for them. I sure that if I could, you would probably think that I was insane. None-the-less, we proceeded to coax these little red bundles of sweet berry goodness into our baskets. (Ok, I am aware that a strawberry is not a berry. Its an aggregate-accessory fruit. But "sweet accessory goodness" just does not have the same ring to it.) The jalapenos put up a bit of a fight, as expected, but in the end they, well, lets just say that they are in the jars. We don't need to get into the details.

After collecting the specimens, the CD took me to her canning facility. Its quite an impressive operation. Strawberries and jalapenos were flying all over the place. It seemed we were being assaulted by an army of red and green. To the untrained eye, you may have thought they were going to win. But, don't be fooled. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to put one over on the CD. She effortlessly dealt her justice on each and every last one of the invaders.

After the dust settled, we counted up the spoils: Six jars of strawberry jam, eight jars of strawberry-jalapeno jam, five quarts of strawberry lemonade, and one strawberry-rhubarb pie. Oh, I guess I forgot the tale of the rhubarb. That is a story for another time!